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A few weeks ago some friends of mine sent me home with a grocery bag full of fresh garden tomatoes. I was visiting them in Denver from my mountain home in Steamboat Springs, a difference of nearly 2,000 ft. in elevation gain which often makes the difference of 10-15 degrees in the summertime. What this means in home gardener speak is that I have approximately 64 frost free days in the mountains versus the average 151 frost free days that Denver gets and given that tomatoes take, on average, 70-85 days from plant to harvest, growing them in the mountain region can be difficult. Or, at least that’s the excuse I am leaning on as I near the end of the gardening season with not nearly the tomato output as the one they sent me home with in one day.
As I was driving home with my loot, I was trying to think of the best way to use it and the idea of a tomato pie popped into my head. A dish savory enough to serve as dinner and one that would showcase the gorgeous colors of the tomatoes. I don’t often think of myself as the baking type. I’m sort of ho-hum on the whole precision requirement that baking requires, but my switch to a plant-based diet, has me rethinking what you can do with the right ingredients in just the right combinations and I think I am starting to get the hang of it.
This dish features a simple homemade dairy-free, vegan pie crust. I love that it gives the dish a rustic look although I think that has more to do with my baking skills than any true intention. This is a simple pie crust recipe that you can use for a number of different recipes. Of course, if you’d like to make this easier you can find store-bought pie crusts. Or, if you want to get more creative, you could add some more savory flavorings to the crust — perhaps some herbs and garlic. To make the recipe vegan, I used my cashew cream sauce as the filling with a few enhancements to make the flavor a little richer and then layered in sliced tomatoes with thinly sliced sautéed onions and garlic and then topped the pie with julienned fresh basil and shredded parsley.
While the tomato pie was baking, I tossed a quick and simple spinach salad with tomatoes, cucumbers and hemp seeds with a simple olive oil and apple cider vinegar dressing.
Plant Based Tomato Pie
Looking for new and different ways to use those beautiful heirloom tomatoes? This plant-based (dairy free) tomato pie is a savory dish where summer ripe tomatoes complement a creamy cashew sauce for a meal that's sure to please even the fiercest of vegan critics. Don't be daunted by the long prep time. There's a lot of down time in this recipe, but you will need to plan ahead to allow your cashews to soak for at least 8 hours.
- Step 1 Prepare the cashew cream sauce according to the basic recipe then add the nutritional yeast (for a cheesy flavor) and lemon juice (to brighten the sauce).
- Step 2 Combine flour, salt and pepper into your food processor and pulse briefly to combine. Add the chunks of cold butter gradually and continue to pulse until well combined. Slowly add the ice water 1 tablespoon at a time while pulsing until a dough forms. Wrap dough in a small piece of plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 30-40 minutes.
- Step 3 While the dough is chilling, remove the core and thickly slice the heirloom tomatoes. Lay the slices on a paper towel covered plate and sprinkle with 1 t. of salt to draw out the moisture.
- Step 4 Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
- Step 5 While the tomatoes are prepping, thinly slice the shallots and garlic. Heat the olive oil in a small skillet. When shimmering, add the thinly sliced shallots. Turn the heat down to a low setting so as to slowly sweat the onions and not burn them, about 8-10 minutes. You do not want the onions to soften, but not brown at this stage. Add the garlic when 3-4 minutes are remaining.
- Step 6 While the shallots and garlic are cooking, remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll it out on a lightly floured surface. Press into a pie plate and trim edges. Pre-bake the pie crust for 10-12 minutes. Allow the crust to cool for 10-15 minutes after pre-baking. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees.
- Step 7 Place 1 layer of sliced tomatoes and 1/2 of the shallots and garlic in the cooled crust. Pour the cashew cream sauce over the tomatoes, shallots and garlic. Then, add another layer of sliced tomatoes, shallots and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Bake the tomato pie for 35-40 minutes. The tomatoes should begin to darken and shrink while the shallots and garlic will begin to brown.
- Step 8 Remove the pie from the oven and add the ribboned basil and roughly chopped parsley. Return the pie to the oven for an additional 5-10 minutes of baking. This will allow the herbs to bake into the pie, but not to burn.
- Step 9 Remove the pie from the oven and allow to cool for 15-20 minutes before serving.