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Simple Cooking: Tomato Pie

By Melissa Wiley in Food on Aug 13, 2014 7:00PM

Laurie Colwin wrote fearlessly about happiness. She gave it texture and shape and sometimes filled it with fruit for those hungry for some happiness of their own. The late novelist’s recipes double as memoir, putting all cooking instructions in cozy narrative form. More Home Cooking, her second nonfiction book and that detailing how to make tomato pie, was published posthumously after she died from a heart attack in Manhattan at the age of 48 in 1992. Rereading her, though, she still sounds so near. Just see how this recipe ends:

“It is hard to describe how delicious this [tomato pie] is, especially on a hot day with a glass of magnificent iced tea in a beautiful setting, but it would doubtless be just as scrumptious on a cold day in your warm kitchen with a cup of coffee."

There was only one Laurie Colwin, but fortunately there can be any number of iterations of tomato pie. Colwin cites a woman named Mary owning a teashop in Salisbury, Connecticut as her recipe’s source. The following, however, diverges slightly from that. Colwin used cheddar where I substitute leftover goat cheese, overspreading the tomatoes like icing over a cake. I also admittedly deployed some filo dough handy in my freezer where Laurie made her own crust. In any case, whether served hot or cold, this savory pie not only keeps your stock of tomatoes from going to seed but holds some share of happiness in a pan for as long as you can resist licking it clean.


1 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ stick butter
½ cup milk


2 pounds fresh cherry tomatoes, halved
1 onion, chopped
3 to 4 tablespoons chopped basil, chives and scallions
½ cup Parmesan cheese
½ cup goat cheese
¼ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
1 ¼ teaspoon pepper
1 ¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Preheat oven to 425° F. To make the crust, stir flour, butter and baking powder together in a bowl until the mixture resembles coarse oatmeal. Gradually stir in milk until dough forms a ball. Knead gently. Roll out the dough on a floured surface and use to line a 9-inch pie plate, folding overhanging dough underneath the plate’s rim. Chill 30 minutes or until firm.

Line either homemade crust or floured filo dough with aluminum foil. Fill with rice or dried beans to keep the crust from bubbling. Place on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet and bake at 425° for 20 minutes. Then remove rice or beans and foil. Bake 5 minutes more or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheet on a wire rack for 30 minutes and reduce oven temperature to 350°.

Arrange halved cherry tomatoes on paper towels and sprinkle with salt and lemon juice. Let stand for 10 minutes until moisture is absorbed. In the meantime, sauté chopped onion and 1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper in hot oil in a skillet splashed with grapeseed oil over medium heat until onions are tender. Pat tomatoes dry with a paper towel. Then create three layers tomatoes, cooked onion and herbs inside the crust, seasoning each layer with pepper. In bowl, mix cheeses and mayonnaise before spreading over fillings.

Bake at 350° for 30 minutes, keeping edges wrapped with foil to prevent burning. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature and remember what Laurie once said: “No one who cooks, cooks alone.”