Tomato Milpa Pie
Lesley Telléz’s new book, Eat Mexico, has been lauded by none other than both Rick Bayless and Maricel Presilla, two Mexican authorities we know and trust. I hadn’t been familiar with Lesley before but after reading her book I will now be paying attention. She runs tours throughout Mexico and Eat Mexicois indeed like a travelogue written by someone who knows the ins and outs of those hidden away gems that always seem to have the best food. This is the food residents of Mexico eat. This Tomato Milpa Pie couldn’t be easier and is perfect for late summer and early fall when tomatoes are often at their best. It’s a cheesy pie with juicy fresh tomato and dotted with corn kernels. The fresh cilantro adds a refreshing note; don’t leave it out. And don’t miss her Dark Chocolate Chicharrón Cookies featuring pork cracklings.
Excerpted with permission. Eat Mexicoby Lesley Telléz. Published by Kyle Books 2015.
I hadn’t heard of tomato pie until I married my husband, whose family is from South Carolina. It’s a typical Southern dish of fresh tomatoes sliced and layered in a cooked piecrust. The tomatoes are blanketed with cheese and mayonnaise, then baked. To help round the dish out, I like throwing in squash and corn, two items traditionally found in the Mexican farming plot known as a milpa, an ancient multi-crop farming system, in which three items—beans, squash and corn—are farmed together to work synergistically. I don’t use beans in this recipe, but a sprinkle of cooked black or pinto beans might be fun, now that I think about it.
- 11/4 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- ½ cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter
- 2 pounds fresh, ripe tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ medium onion, chopped
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 small Mexican squash or zucchini, cut into thin half-moons
- 1 heaping cup fresh corn kernels
- ⅓ cup mayonnaise
- 1 cup shredded Monterrey Jack cheese, or a mix of Monterrey Jack and Swiss
- ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
- Fill a small bowl with ½ cup water and add a few ice cubes.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and sugar. Using a pastry blender, or two knives, cut in the butter until it breaks into uneven, more-or-less pea-shaped pieces. Add 1 tablespoon ice water at a time to the mixture, until the dough just comes together when squeezed. Shape the dough into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Flatten into a disk and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (You can freeze the dough for less time if you’re in a hurry, but if you over freeze, the dough will be impossible to roll out.)
- Place the dough on a well-floured workspace. With a floured rolling pin, roll the dough into an 11-inch circle, gently peeling the dough off the workspace and rotating in a circle as needed. Transfer the dough to a 9-inch pie plate and trim off any excess.
- Pinch or crimp the ends. If the crust has softened too much and feels greasy, place it in the refrigerator to chill for about 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400°F. Cover the piecrust with a layer of foil (this will prevent it from browning too soon in the oven), and weigh it down with a layer of dried beans. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for 5 to 10 minutes more, until the crust is golden brown. Let cool while you make the filling, and lower the oven to 350°F.
- Slice the tomatoes into ¼-inch slices and sprinkle with salt (you can blanch and peel them, first, if you’re picky about skins). Place in a colander and let sit for at least 20 minutes to help the tomatoes release their juices, which will make the pie less soggy.
- Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until aromatic, about 30 seconds.
- Stir in the squash and corn and cook until the squash is just tender, 6 to 7 minutes. Season with salt and set aside.
- Pat the tomatoes dry with paper towels. Mix together the mayonnaise and cheese in a small bowl. Place half of the tomatoes in an even layer in the cooled piecrust. Top with half of the squash mixture, and a sprinkle of cilantro. Repeat layers with remaining tomatoes and squash, then slather the mayonnaise-cheese mixture evenly over the top.
- Bake for about 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Let the pie cool slightly, then serve warm. The pie is best the day it’s made—it will become soggy in the fridge.
Lesley’s Tips: This recipe traditionally calls for much more mayonnaise, but I’ve cut back to save a few calories. This means the topping is more mottled than smooth. It’s still delicious. Any cheese would work here— mozzarella, Gruyère, Swiss. Or mix them up.