It seems everyone has a variation of this tomato pie, and well they should; it's great. Laurie Colwin, in More Home Cooking, gives a narrative version similar to the one here that uses canned tomatoes, making it an easy year-round recipe. Lee Bailey's charming little book Tomatoes offers a great version, as did Gourmet Magazine in some long lost issue; that recipe was passed on to me word-of-mouth by a friend of a friend, who made it all summer long, he told me. Here I add my version to the lot.
Sift or mix together the flour, pepper, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and the baking powder. Either by hand using a pastry blender or in a food processor, quickly work the butter into the flour mixture so that it has the consistency of coarse-grain sand. If using a food processor, add the milk, pulse quickly two or three times—until the dough just barely comes together—and then turn out onto a floured surface. If working by hand, make a small well in the center of the flour, pour the milk in, and then mix quickly with a fork until the dough comes together but is still soft and sticky. Turn onto a floured surface.
Knead the dough for about thirty seconds and then let it rest for 10 minutes. Cut the dough in half, roll out one half to fit a 10 inch pie pan, and line the pan with it. Cover the surface of the pie with a layer of tomatoes, sprinkle with a little salt, and add a sparse layer of fresh basil leaves; repeat for a second, third, and fourth layer. Top with the grated cheese.
Thin the mayonnaise with the juice of 1/2 lemon and spread it over the surface. Quickly roll out the reserved dough, fit it over the pie, and seal the edges by pinching them together. Cut several slits in the dough to allow steam to escape and brush the surface with the heavy cream. Bake in a 350 degree oven until the pie is hot all the way through and the crust is golden, about 25—30 minutes. Let rest for 15 minutes before serving. Cut in wedges and garnish each slice with a sprig of fresh basil.
Copyright 1996 by Michele Anna Jordan, author of The Good Cook's Book of Tomatoes. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.
Check out Michele Anna Jordan's latest book: The World Is a Kitchen: Cooking Your Way Through Culture
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