Sunday, August 21, 2011

Here Comes the Sun Gold and an Heirloom Tomato Pie

About midway through the summer, I come to the realization that I have pretty much failed in my intent to volunteer more often at Restoration Farm. There are any number of issues that tend to dissuade me, and if I shared them, you’d roll your eyes. You might even accuse me of being a “fair weather farmer.” A valid accusation, I agree. But, the upcoming Saturday forecast promises brilliant sunshine, a gentle breeze and no humidity. That means no excuses.

I arrive shortly after 8 a.m. and Leslie, one of the regular volunteers, takes me to the tomato field for harvesting. It is more like a six-foot-tall, green maze of thick vines, and volunteers are scattered throughout the corridors picking quarter-sized cherry tomatoes. My job is to gather the Sun Gold tomatoes.

Leslie is clear. “We only pick tomatoes that are orange. The vines are covered with clusters of bite-sized tomatoes, shimmering in the morning dew. It’s not hard to identify those sun-kissed spheres.

There are hundreds to be picked. Here and there, we all snatch a bite. The tomatoes are impossibly sweet, like penny candy. This is what the sun must taste like. I pick one at a time, and you can feel the juice pressing against the taut skin as if the tomato is about to burst.

The only distraction to this otherwise bucolic experience is a pack of particularly aggressive flies that seem to be attacking all of our ankles. It becomes a process of pluck (tomato) and swat (fly). Perhaps the flies are a biting reminder of my poor track record as a volunteer. Yet at the same time, the spectacular colors of the tomato field dazzle. One wonders what Monet would have done with this scene.

I turn a corner of the maze of vines and encounter Head Grower Caroline’s grandfather George, whom I haven’t run into all summer. His skin is rich brown from a season in the sun, working the fields. He is picking with some urgency. So many tomatoes are ripening, and if they are not gathered soon, they will drop from the vine.

At the distribution tent, there are several quarts of cherry tomatoes for each member and flats overflowing with every color of heirloom tomatoes. It is a reminder that each season has its own character. Perhaps the berries were fleeting, but right now tomato amore is abundant.

I was one of many smitten with this recipe for Heirloom Tomato Pie when it appeared on the cover of Food Network Magazine in June.

I use the Sun Gold tomatoes as a sweet garnish to this pie of rich cheese filling and thin layers of brilliantly-colored tomatoes. A cornmeal pie crust and smoky manchego cheese surround the tomatoes with savory flavor.

It’s fancy and time consuming, and probably something I should have made for company, but it’s perhaps a little complicated to assemble when one is entertaining. Regardless of the occasion, with swirls of purple, gold, lime green and red and a sweet touch of Sun Gold, the pie is a fitting tribute to the bold legacy of heirloom color that graces our summer season.

©2011 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved


~~louise~~ said...

Happy Sunday, T.W!

Doesn't that pie look stellar!

I think you did a wonderful job this year getting your hands wet in the ever daunting task of "restoration." Each year you will improve. I just know it!

I sampled my very first Sun Gold thanks to my friend Katie who let me forage in her garden yesterday. They sure are delectable rays of sunshine! I'm waiting patiently to harvest my one lone plant of heirlooms, which I'm sorry to say I don't recall its name. I had three and only one made it. Which one is yet to be discovered:)

Thank you so much for sharing...

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Of course, you are helping Restoration Farm by telling the stories that allow all of us to share in the stewardship of this farm and others in our own communities. Not the same as picking, perhaps, but equally valuable. And how lovely that the farm grows a variety of heirlooms!

Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

Share that gorgeous pie with company? Afraid not! I want the entire thing for myself with a big cold glass of wine. I saw that pie with the cornmeal pie crust in the same magazine and purchased it with the intention of making it myself. I never got around to it and now I'm sorry after seeing your beauty.

Tomatoes are my favorite food and I almost cry when summer is over. You certainly came home with a fantastic harvest today. Our little gold pear grape tomatoes are ready to be picked. I tasted a German Johnson for the first time last week and it was very good, but it will never take the place in my mind of the Cherokee Purple.

Maris (In Good Taste) said...

That is one very magnificence pie!

Diana Leto said...

I've been on a pie kick lately and I have to say your pie looks simply delicious! I must share this beauty on FB!

I recently tried my first heirloom tomato (yummy!!) but I want to find these Sun Gold tomatoes and try my hand at this recipe! The Restoration Farm seems so peaceful and cheerfully sunny. Your trip must have been a lot of fun. Beautiful photography too!

Thanks for sharing this. It made my morning :)

Kalyn Denny said...

I wish I had a big slice of that pie for breakfast! I think sun gold tomatoes need to go on my list for next year's garden; thanks for sharing!

Kat said...

The pie looks divine!

tasteofbeirut said...

Again you crack me up with your "pluck and swat" , I could just picture you plucking and swating in a cadence. George looks like a happy fellow.
I could eat all these tomatoes and some and of course that pie!

Mary Bergfeld said...

That gorgeous pie is what summer harvest is all about. It really looks delicious and I love the cornmeal crust that's used in its assembly. Now, from the sublime to the ridiculous. If you knot several sheets of fabric softener together and tie them around your ankles, I suspect no self respecting insect will come near you. It's a seeing is believing thing, but it does work. I hope you have a great day. Blessings...Mary

veron said...

that pie looks gorgeous! I've never had tomato pie, but cheese and tomato definitely a winning combination.

Foodiewife said...

Sungolds are my favorite tomato. They are so sweet! Beautiful pie crust, lovely presentation.

Gloria Baker said...

Love these little tomatos! Are amazing and I love your crust! gloria

Kathy said...

That pie is beautiful! I am so amazed at the tomato plants at the Restoration Farm. It is so hot and dry here in my part of Texas that there's not many thriving green gardens. I have been enjoying your accounts all year!

Deana Sidney said...

Oye... it's been one of those weeks... kicking back and looking at this post just made me smile. Great recipe and what fun to be a part of gathering dinner's ingredients. That pie is so beautiful. Love the manchego addition. I so wish I could pick with you!

Aarthi said...

First time here....This looks so yummy...Love to have a slice of it.Thanks for the recipe..

Do check my blog too..