Last fall I spent an evening with a group of smart, successful, tuned-in, connected and world-traveling folks. Somehow, the talk turned to strawberries and someone complained that lately, strawberries were 'expensive' and 'not that good'. (Strawberries in October? Well yes, if you live in the southern hemisphere!) I broached the idea of the 'locavore' movement, the '100-mile diet' (want to know your 100-mile radius? try this 100-mile calculator) and the concept of eating seasonally -- all greeted with mostly blank looks. The strawberry-buyer (who's also a year-round blueberry- and apple-buyer) asked with a look of dubiousness, "What would we eat, in the winter?"
That's the question, isn't it? Our worldwide food distribution system masks the seasonality of fresh produce. Because strawberries are sold year-round, this otherwise smart, savvy person had no understanding that there's a brief spring window for strawberries, when they taste best, are most plentiful and least costly. And when the 'real' strawberry season ends, a seasonal eater moves onto the next seasonal something, grateful for both.
As I peeled the tomatoes for this old-fashioned green tomato pie, I realized how perfectly it exemplifies the concept of eating seasonally. In the Midwest at the first of July, the rhubarb and strawberries are past, the peaches not quite ripe, the apples still green. But we do have green tomatoes -- let's make pie!
UPDATE: I have since learned that the 'season' for green tomatoes is not early in the season but very, very late. Green tomatoes are their sweetest when just touched by frost. They'll no longer ripen and so must be eaten green so not to go to waste. I love the thriftiness! More recipes for tomatoes, scroll down for green tomatoes.
GREEN TOMATO PIE
Time to table: 3 hours
Pastry for a two-crust pie
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups green tomatoes, peeled and slice thin and small (check the photo, those pieces are way too big)
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
Egg wash of 1 egg yolk whisked with 1 tablespoon water
Place one oven rack on the bottom, the other in the center. Preheat oven to 375F. Roll bottom crust and refrigerate. In a bowl, stir together the sugar, salt, cinnamon and vanilla. Stir in the tomatoes as they're prepped. Roll the top crust. Pour the tomato mixture into the bottom crust, dot with butter. Arrange top crust over top and seal and crimp the edges. Vent the top crust, then brush the flat portion of the top crust (not the edges) with egg wash.
Place the pie on the bottom rack and bake for 20 minutes. Move to center rack and bake for 20 minutes. Cover the edges with a pie rim and bake for another 20 minutes or until top crust is brown and bottom crust is golden. Let cool to set before serving.
~ more recipes for desserts with vegetables ~
~ more recipes for pies & tarts from Kitchen Parade, my food column ~