I was going to start this by saying that I had not married into a typical Southern family but to tell you the truth, I can't think of one typical Southern home. Here in the South you can be from the Lowcountry, the Midlands or the Mountains. Three different ways of life, three different Southern twang lingering after each word. Three different ways of seeing the sun shine bright and to make a tomato pie.
I married into a Southern family with history and well, more history. My family is nomad in comparison with a history of adaptation, made colorful by the people in it and the countries we come from. I married a guy with a keen ability to retain only the goodness of the past to move into the present. He understands that I will adapt both our traditions to keep connected to my family and call his, my home. The Lowcountry does feel like home to me now. I have embraced its food, its ingredients, the seasons (sort of) that bring picnics at the beach in December and ripe juicy tomatoes in March. And tomato pies.
I had never had a tomato pie until I met my mother in law. Actually, I met the pie first. Bill brought it to a picnic date and I also fell in love with my future family that day. If she wanted to tie me up to South Carolina through its culinary traditions, she had me at "another slice honey?" Juicy tomato slices in a buttery crust, happily nested in a creamy filling with plenty of basil, garlic and topped with a generous handful of sharp cheddar.
Nothing that my doctor would be thrilled about. Nothing that my brain, deeply anchored in its own culinary ways, could compute. Nothing that I would admit craving as soon as Spring rolls around. And yet, I could not control my will power and had another generous slice. I felt completely and utterly happy, satisfied and calm. Giddy from my brain to my toes. From a tomato pie. Alright...and from the man before me.
That very same day, I vowed to do something my grandmother and mother had advised years before: never ever, under any circumstance try to replicate that pie. I had now entered the potential "it's not quite like when my mom makes it" territory. I ain't no fool...Instead I decided to create my own version. The one adapting ingredients we have here to flavors and tastes from back home. A different approach to the same theme. A Tomato galette with homemade ricotta and plenty of oregano. A drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of parmesan.
Heirloom Tomato Galette:
Serves 4 to 6:
For the crust:
1 1/4 cup Jeanne's all purpose gluten free flour mix (or regular all purpose flour if not gluten free)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
110 gr cold butter (1 stick)
1/4 cup icy cold water
For the ricotta filling:
1 cup ricotta (I use this recipe to make homemade ricotta)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano
3 to 4 heirloom tomatoes
1 tablespoon parmesan
2 teaspoons olive oil
Prepare the crust:
In the bowl of a food processor, (or follow the same instructions if doing by hand), pulse together the flour, salt and oregano until incorporated. Add the butter and pulse until the butter resembles small peas and is evenly incorporated. Gradually, stream in the cold water until the flour just comes together. Turn the mixture out onto your work surface and form into a 2-inch thick, round disk. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes (or overnight) before rolling out.
Preheat the oven to 350F and position a rack in the center.
Prepare the filling:
In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together and keep refrigerated until ready to use.
Slice the tomatoes and spread them out on layers of paper towels to drain some of their moisture out while you roll out the pastry.
On a large surface area, well floured, roll out the pastry dough to a 10-inch circle, spread the ricotta filling but not all the way to the edge. Leave a 2-inch border of pastry all around. Layer the tomatoes on top. Gather the edges of the pastry dough, pleating as you go with your fingertips (don't worry about being even - these are free form. Imperfections are wonderful anyways...). Sprinkle the tomatoes with parmesan. Bake for about 40 to 50 minutes. Let cool slightly, drizzle with the olive oil, some more oregano and serve.