Home Grown Chef: Tomatoes

written by Thor Erickson | illustrations by Isaac Peterson

Home Grown Chef Thor Erickson Oregon Chef
Few things are more satisfying than taking a bite of a ripe tomato in the height of the season. One of those things is taking a bite of a ripe tomato that you grew yourself.

Admittedly, growing a tomato in Oregon isn’t easy. Warm summer days are great for growing the luscious fruit, but the chilly nights can wreak havoc on the temperamental vines. After twenty five years of trying, I remain, for the most part, unsuccessful at growing a flavorful, vine-ripened Oregon garden tomato.

I’ve been given all sorts of advice, solicited and not, about what to do to care for these sensitive plants, including: “When the tomatoes are green, dig ’em up and hang ‘em upside down in yer shed.” “Take last year’s dead plants, sew them into a quilt, and use that quilt to cover them at night.” “Make a tea out of coffee grinds, egg shells and deer urine, and when the moon is full, sprinkle the tea on the north side of each plant.”

Without recourse, I put skepticism aside and made several attempts at following some of this folksy advice to no avail. I decided to rely simply on sunshine, water, and soil. Lo and behold, by simply relying on these three elements of nature, every year when September rolls around I have more tomatoes, in all degrees of ripeness, than I know what to do with.

Whether they are green, yellow, red, or anywhere in between, I’ve found that roasting them always brings about more flavor and sweetness. This tomato pie is a tasty way to celebrate your efforts.

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Roasted Tomato Pie

Oregon tomato
Makes six to eight servings

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
1½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
¾ teaspoons kosher salt
1½ sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into ¼-inch pieces
6 tablespoons ice water
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

15 medium or 10 large tomatoes (about 5 pounds), cored
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
4 tablespoon mayonnaise
Juice of ½ lemon
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup grated Oregon sharp cheddar cheese

Make the crust: In a food processor, combine the flour, herbs, black pepper and salt. Add the butter and pulse until the butter is no larger than a small pea, about six 1-second pulses. Add the water a little at a time, pulsing between additions until the mixture rides up the sides of the food processor bowl. Turn the crumbly dough out onto a large sheet of plastic wrap and fold closed. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let rest for 1 hour in the fridge.

Roast the tomatoes: Adjust one oven rack to the upper-middle position and one to the lower-middle position and preheat the oven to 300°. Halve the tomatoes crosswise and remove the seeds to create a tomato shell. Halve the tomatoes lengthwise into quarters. Place all of the tomato pieces in a large bowl. Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil and salt, and toss to combine. Place a wire rack onto each of 2 large baking sheets. Place the tomatoes cut side down on the racks and roast until they are slightly dried, and shriveled, about 2 hours. Remove the baking sheets from the oven. When the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, remove the peels and discard.

Raise the oven temperature to 400° and adjust one oven rack to the lowest position for the crust. While the tomatoes are roasting, roll the pie dough between 2 sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper until it is a 14-inch circle about ¼-inch thick. Remove the top piece of plastic wrap and turn the dough over onto a parchment paper-lined, rimmed baking sheet. Remove the other sheet of plastic wrap. Gently place the dough in a pie pan. Tuck in the edges and make it pretty. Refrigerate the dough for at least 20 minutes. In a large mixing bowl, combine Dijon mustard, mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt, pepper and grated cheese. Set aside.

Oregon tomato
Use a pastry brush to spread 1/4 cup of olive oil over the chilled crust. Bake the crust on the bottom rack until it is golden brown around the edges, 18 to 20 minutes. Remove the crust from the oven and lay the roasted tomatoes on top with the edge of each slightly overlapping the next. Carefully place about 4 teaspoonfuls of the mayonnaise-cheese mixture over the tomatoes. Keep making layers of tomatoes covered with mayonnaise-cheese mixture until all of the remaining tomatoes cover the top. Return the pie to the bottom rack and bake until the underside of the crust is browned, and the top is golden and bubbling, about 15 to 18 minutes longer. Remove from the oven. Let cool for 15 to 20 minutes and enjoy.


Oregon heirloom tomato


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