While unloading the five huge heirloom tomatoes from our CSA last week my mind, and pallet, were overwhelmed by a food memory from many years ago – tomato pie. This was a real treat back in my dairy days – layers of tomatoes, melted cheese and flaky, buttery crust. Not only was tomato pie a dairy laden mess, it was also a FAR cry from the well-balanced, low-fat meals I now eat. But maybe I could find a recipe for a low-fat, vegan version? I consulted my wall of vegan cookbooks. Nothing. Ok, how about the vegetarian books? Nothing again. The regular cookbooks? Still a whole lot of nothing. Google didn’t reveal much in the way of Vegan Tomato Pie that was not loaded with fat. I wandered back to my kitchen to consult with the tomatoes.
For Thanksgiving last year I made a curry spiced lentil pie that used polenta for the crust. And early in the year I made a vegan lasagna that used a tofu “ricotta” cheese. I looked at the pile of heirlooms on the counter…. It was risky to use these beauties in a “Belle Improvisational Meal” as my improvised dinners run a 75% success rate, but I was feeling adventurous and tomato pie sounded like the perfect light summer dinner. So I drew up a plan of attack – polenta crust with thinly sliced heirloom tomatoes layered with sautéed Vidalia onion, fresh basil, and a tofu ricotta “cheese.”
The end result was spectacular! The delicacy of the heirloom tomatoes really stood out against the sautéed onion and the fresh basil. Even Jay praised the tofu ricotta. To top it off, it plated really well thanks to the firm polenta crust and really showed off all the colors in the tomatoes. And the best part – the recipe is low-fat meaning you can have seconds with minimal guilt!
First, cook your polenta according to package directions using about 1/2 to 1/4 the recommended salt (too much salty polenta will not help the tomatoes be the center attention in this dish)
Pour the cooked polenta into a 9×9 inch baking dish that has been sprayed with non-stick spray (I prefer the Spectrum brand grape seed spray oil)
Using a food processor, mix the tofu, nutritional yeast, dried onions, 1 tablespoon olive oil and fresh garlic. Add salt and pepper to taste.
As your polenta crust cools, and the flavors of the “ricotta” meld, saute the sliced onions in a Tablespoon of olive oil for about five minutes, until translucent.
Meanwhile, wash and thinly slice your tomatoes. A good knife is really helps in this step.
Assemble your pie in this order:
polenta layer base
1 layer tomatoes
1 layer tomatoes
Top with another layer of tomatoes and then cover with bread crumbs.
OPTIONAL: Jay and I felt this recipe needed a bit more salt, as I did not add much to the ricotta. If you are a fan of salt, lightly salt each layer of tomatoes. Use care in how much you salt, though, as you do not want to overpower the tomatoes.
Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake another 15 minutes, or until bubbly. Serve with a fresh salad, crusty garlic bread and a glass of crisp Pinot Gris.