The Luscious Last Local Tomato
I know I am not the only person eating tomatoes several times a day during tomato season. There is no substitute for the flavor of a tomato in season. And in the Pacific Northwest, tomato season can last into late Fall because our summers don’t really begin until late July.
This is a delicious trick of Mother Nature. In the Fall, when those who eat tomatoes out of season are buying bland substitutes from across the globe, we continue to get the very best intensely flavored vine ripened varieties of tomatoes.
The added benefit from an artistic point of view, are the brilliant reds, greens, oranges and yellows among the muted colors of the Fall veggies. And as if that wasn’t enough, the abundance is amazing: Mother Nature stores extra energy so she can offer up as many tomatoes as possible before the tomato bar closes for the season! I particularly look forward to buying extremely reasonable flats of big misshapen and colorful Heirlooms late September thru late October. I quarter, roast, and freeze these for use all winter, but that’s another post!
At the end of the season when the flavors peak they may not look their best, so I transform them into into a beautiful and delicious tart which uses the equally abundant zucchini. I found this recipe in the New York Times about 15 years ago. It is called “Connie’s Tomato Zucchini Pie” although I have long since lost any reference as to who Connie may be. I think she will forgive me.
This is originally a pie recipe, but somewhere in the distant tomato past I began making it as a tart. I love the flaky buttery taste of the tart crust layered with the other flavors, as well as the way it looks! If using a tart crust it should be blind baked. The pie shell version calls for an unbaked crust.
Either way, tart or pie, I think you will agree it’s a Grande Finale for the last tomatoes of the season!
Connie’s Tomato Zucchini Pie (if using pie shell, amounts in parentheses)
1 9 1/2-10″ blind baked tart shell* or unbaked pie shell
1/2 cup Dijon mustard (1/3)
3/4 lb. mozzarella thinly sliced (1 lb.)
4 medium firm ripe tomatoes (5)
2 medium zucchini thinly sliced (2 large)
1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic divided, or to taste-I use 3 cloves!
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, or 1 tsp fresh finely chopped or to taste divided
2 tablespoons fresh chopped basil, or 1 tablespoon dried, divided (if using fresh basil only chop 1 tablespoon at a time to prevent browning)
Salt and Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (2 tablespoons)
• Preheat oven to 400° with a baking sheet.
• Spread mustard evenly over the bottom of the shell.
• Cover completely with mozzarella.
• Sprinkle 1/2 of the garlic, oregano and basil on top of the cheese.
• Beginning at the outer edge of the shell, make layered overlapping rows of tomato and zucchini slices, alternating for color.
• Sprinkle the top evenly with the remaining garlic, oregano, and dried basil. If using fresh basil sprinkle the remaining on before serving.
• Season to taste with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with extra virgin olive oil.
• Put the tart on the baking sheet (for a tart I recommend using pie shields for the first 20 minutes) and bake 30 min. (For the pie version bake 40 min.)
If using fresh basil, cool before serving and sprinkle with remaining basil finely chopped.
*I use Rose Levy Beranbaum’s “Basic Flaky Pie Crust” from the Pie and Pastry Bible. I love this crust!