It’s hot as blue blazes in Georgia. Last weekend the heat index was 110°. That’s just unbelievable. And, the nights? The nights have been positively wet and thick with heat. Unbearable.

I remember when I was a very young girl my grandparents did not have air conditioning. It sounds so primitive doesn’t it? Yes, of course, they had indoor plumbing! No jokes about me being a hick. Not having AC in a place that can feel like it is as hot as 110° is pretty serious stuff. Meme would sprinkle the sheets with baby powder. Oscillating fans, window fans, and the massive and terrifyingly large attic fan ran at all hours of the day and night. The attic fan was controlled by a switch in the hall closet. It was situated in the center of the house in the ceiling; once the switch was flipped the levered doors would groan open, the motor would hum, and the blades would begin to twirl- thump, thump – as the brass blades pushed the air.

Hot dry summers make for uncomfortable people, but it is pretty much heaven for tomatoes. As long as there is enough water to prevent them from drying up and dying, tomatoes love the heat. Hot dry summers make for intensely flavored tomatoes, not watery or thin-flavored. Same with corn. What grows together goes together and those veggies like it hot.

If you are around next weekend in Atlanta the folks over at JCT kitchen are throwing the 2nd annual Killer Tomato Fest for Georgia Organics. Good food and drink for a good cause. I’ll be up in chilly Maine teaching at Stonewall Kitchen, so if you are in that neck of the woods, stop in and say hello.

The recipes below are perfect for right now, at least down South. The first is from Bon Appétit, Y’all and is just simple goodness.

If you would like to participate in testing, the second one, Old-Fashioned Tomato Pie, is for my next book, Basic to Brilliant, Y’all: Recipes and Recollections from a Southern Culinary Journey. I thought I would put it out there for testing and see what everyone thinks.

There’s a testing sheet at the end and if you wish, you can please send to me at I really learned a lot from the Spicy Pulled Pork Recipe Testing Experiment.

So, looking forward to hearing what everyone has to say about my Old-Fashioned Tomato Pie!

Thanks in advance!
Bon Appétit, Y’all!
Best VA

Corn Soup with Tomato Garnish
Serves 4 to 6

Dede always preferred to plant his corn patch in the fruitful black soil at the river’s edge. He taught me that when corn is ripe and ready to be picked, the silk at the top of the ear should be dark brown, almost black. It is not unusual to see people peeling back the husks in search of ears with perfect rows of kernels. Just take a peek to make sure the ear is full and free of worms, but keep the husk on to keep the corn moist and sweet.

Do not bother with this recipe unless it is summer and you can make it with fresh corn and the best tomatoes, preferably heirloom. You will only be disappointed. Heirloom tomatoes, varieties passed down through generations by farmers and gardeners the world over, come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and tastes. If you cannot find heirlooms, this garnish would also be delicious with any ripe tomato from your garden or market.

Scraped kernels from 6 ears fresh sweet corn (about 3 cups) cobs reserved and cut in half
4 cups chicken stock or low-fat, reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon corn oil, preferably unrefined
1 onion, preferably Vidalia, chopped
1 clove garlic, very finely chopped
1 russet potato, peeled and finely chopped
1 tablespoon fine yellow cornmeal
Bouquet garni (2 sprigs of flat-leaf parsley, 2 sprigs of thyme, 1 bay leaf, preferably fresh, 6 whole black peppercorns, tied together in cheesecloth)
2 to 3 heirloom tomatoes, cored, seeded, and chopped
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs (such as parsley, tarragon, or basil)
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream (optional)

To make the corn stock, in a saucepan, combine the corncobs and chicken stock and bring to a boil over medium heat. Decrease the heat to low and simmer until the stock has taken on a light corn flavor, about 10 minutes. Remove the corncobs, strain the stock into a bowl, and set aside.

To prepare the soup, in the same saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat and cook the onion until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 45 to 60 seconds. Add the corn kernels, potato, and cornmeal. Add enough of the corncob-infused stock to cover. Add the bouquet garni and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Decrease the heat to low and simmer until the chopped potato is tender, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, to prepare the garnish, combine the tomatoes and any juices, olive oil, and herbs. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

To finish the soup, in the saucepan, using an immersion blender, puree the soup. Or ladle the soup into a blender and puree until smooth a little at a time. Leave it coarse and chunky if you prefer a more rustic soup, or puree until smooth for a more elegant soup. Stir in the cream and reheat. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. To serve, spoon into bowls and top with the tomato garnish. Serve immediately.

Old-Fashioned Tomato Pie
Makes 1 9-inch pie

Here’s a recipe for my next book, Basic to Brilliant, Y’all: Recipes and Recollections from a Southern Culinary Journey. I’d love to hear what you think, so if anyone wants to give it a try and let me know, please do.

1 (9-inch) pie shell lined with your favorite pie crust or puff pastry (1/2 recipe of Pâte Brisée, see below)
4 to 5 garden ripe tomatoes, preferably heirloom, cored and thinly sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt, for sprinkling
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 sweet onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup mixed freshly chopped herbs such as chives, parsley, and basil
1/2 cup freshly grated Gruyère
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1/4 cup mayonnaise
freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oven to 375° F. Line the shell with foil and fill with pie weights, dried beans, or rice. Bake in the lower third of the oven for 20 minutes. Carefully remove the weights and foil. Return to the oven and bake for 10 minutes more or until light golden. Remove to cool in the pan on a wire rack.

Reduce oven temperature to 350° F. Place the tomatoes on a rack in the sink in 1 layer. Sprinkle with salt and allow to drain for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in the skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and season with salt and pepper. Cook until clear and translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. (Don’t skip this step! Not cooking the onion can make the pie soggy and wet.)

Layer the tomato slices, cooked onion, and herb in the pie shell. Season each layer with pepper. Combine the grated cheeses and mayonnaise together. Spread mixture on top of the tomatoes and bake for 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to a rack to cool. Serve warm or room temperature.

Pâte Brisée
Makes 1 double-crust or 2 single-crust 9- to 10-inch pies

Pie crust is one of those terrifying things for most people, but the difference in a homemade crust and a rolled pre-manufactured butterless tube of tasteless dough are night and day. If you like to cook, it’s very much worth over coming your fears. Try the real thing.

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon fine salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
1/4 to ½ cup ice water

In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, salt, and sugar. Add butter, and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, 8 to 10 seconds.

With machine running, add ice water in a slow, steady stream. Pulse until dough holds together without being sticky; be careful not to process more than 30 seconds. (To test, squeeze a small amount together: If it is crumbly, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time.)

Divide dough into two equal disks and wrap in plastic. Transfer to the refrigerator, and chill until firm, at least 30 minutes. Dough may be stored tightly wrapped in plastic film and frozen up to 1 month.


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RECIPE TITLE: Old-Fashioned Tomato Pie
Basic to Brilliant »
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Copyright © Virginia Willis Culinary Productions, LLC 2010

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