Winter tomatoes are anemic shadows of the hearty summer variety. I won’t deign to buy them in winter, unless desperation drives me to it. Sometimes in winter, I’ll get Roma tomatoes at the store; their showy red pulls my attention from the bloodless tomatoes beside them.
In summer, it’s a different story. I step out my back door, pull tomatoes right off the vine, slice them and put them on bread. The drippier, the better.
For me, growing up in the South, summer and tomatoes are intertwined. I remember sweltering days when my mother drove us to the swimming pool for relief from the heat. We’d stop by the Farmer’s Market on the way and men fanned themselves with their straw hats as we picked through their tomatoes.
Neighbors would come by my parents’ house with a bag of tomatoes from their over-productive gardens and stay for a visit on the screened porch under the whirring ceiling fans.
Nowadays, you can still drive through any small, Southern town and see roadside carts filled with okra, snap beans, corn, and tomatoes.
One of my favorite summer treats is tomato pie. I’ll eat it hot from the oven or even eat it straight from the fridge for breakfast.
4 tomatoes, peeled and sliced
10 fresh, chopped basil leaves
1/2 cup chopped green onion
1 frozen deep-dish pie crust (9 inches)
1 cup grated mozzarella
1 cup grated cheddar
1 cup mayonnaise
Salt and pepper to taste.
Bake pie crust according to package directions. For the pie, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Put your peeled, sliced tomatoes in a colander and sprinkle with salt. Drain in colander for 10 minutes. Pat with paper towels to remove excess liquid (and prevent the pie from being soggy.)
Layer in the pie shell as follows: tomato slices, basil, green onion. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix together the grated cheeses and mayonnaise and spread the mixture on the top of the tomato/basil/green onions.
Bake for 30 minutes or until the pie is light brown. Cool.
The Memphis Barbeque Series, by Riley Adams (Elizabeth Spann Craig) will be released May 2010 from Berkley Prime Crime.
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