Most of our experience with Connecticut is to drive through it. We know they filmed Mystic Pizza, it's where you live if you go to Yale, and Martha Stewart lived there for many years. When Tracey Medeiros sent us a copy of The Connecticut Farm Table Cookbook we told her we knew nothing about Connecticut but we are fond of tables, so we gave it a look.
We loved her book, The Vermont Farm Table Cookbook. In The Connecticut Farm Table Cookbook Medeiros teams up with Christy Colasurdo and they follows a similar format. They introduce us to farmers who are providing ingredients to restaurants in the area who use the farm's bounty in their recipes. There is an inherent problem with cookbooks like these. Farmers produce these exquisite fruits, vegetables, animals, herbs, eggs, and other goodies. We see them on the page. The chef takes the ingredients and turns out beautiful restaurant fare.
Here is the problem. You want to pull that tomato off the page, slice it and eat it. You want to poach a single egg right in front of the chicken that laid it. You want eat those berries one at a time. The farmer's fare is so wonderful that the thought of doing much to it seems sad. On the other hand, you have trained chefs who see that produce as one step in an elaborate recipe. At some point you want to scream, "Stop tarting up those carrots and let me eat them!" Medeiros and Colasurdo do a good job at crossing the divide with the stories of both sides.
The most interesting thing about a book like this is the diversity. Today, it is virtually impossible to stand in any geographic spot in America and not find excellent dinning within a stones throw. Yes, Virginia, there is pizza in Mystic, but there is also soup with pistou, eggplant chutney, onion and kale frittatas, gazpacho, pear smoothies, and more Southern recipes, than in most cookbooks. If one looked only at the table of contents and then asked to name the state these recipes come from, most people would head south of the Mason-Dixon. Like this offering from Dish Bar & Grill. The tomatoes are from farmer David Zemelsky, of Starlight Gardens, Durham.
Heirloom Tomato Pie
5 medium-large mixed heirloom tomatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds), tough cores removed and cut into 1/2-inch slices
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into small cues
4 tablespoons ice water or as needed
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, plus more for garnish
1 1/2 cups (about 5 ounces) shredded Fontina cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 200°F. Line one or two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. To make the tomatoes: Place the tomatoes on the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with oil and salt to taste, and bake for 2 hours. Set aside to cool.
3. Meanwhile, to make the crust: Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. With a pastry blender or fork, cut the butter into the flour until just crumbly. Add the water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and mix until the dough just comes together. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and form into a disk. Wrap the disk in a plastic wrap and refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
4. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the disk into a 12-inch round. Transfer to a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate or 9-inch tart pan with 2-inch sides and removable bottom. Using your fingers, press back into the crust any pieces of dough that have fallen off. Trim the excess dough just at the level of the edge of the pie plate. With a fork, pierce the bottom of the crust. Place the crust in the refrigerator and chill for at least 30 minutes.
5. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the piecrust on a baking sheet, line the dough with foil, and fill with dried beans. Bake the crust until the edges are golden brown, about 20 minutes. Remove the foil and beans and continue to bake until the crust is golden brow all over, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
6. To add the fillings: Increase the temperature to 375°F. Gently pat the tomatoes dry with paper towels. Arrange a layer of the tomato slices, overlapping as needed, in the bottom of the pie shell. Spread a think, even layer of the mayonnaise over the top; the sprinkle evenly with about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the basil and about 1/2 cup of the cheese. Repeat the layering with the remaining ingredients, ending with any leftover cheese.
7. Bake until the tomatoes, cheese, and the crust are golden brown, about 1 hour. Let rest for 1 hour. Garnish with basil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cut into slices and serve warm.
Note: This pie can also be made using a double crust.
As you can see, this, like many of the recipes are a bit "chefy" but then the recipes come from restaurant chefs, so how else would they be? What is truly wonderful about this cookbook is seeing the quality of cooking that takes place in towns big and small across Connecticut, like much of America. Too often the media would lead us to believe that truly great chefs and restaurants are located in New York or California and yet there are amazing restaurants and produce providers tucked into little hamlets everywhere. That bodes well for our culinary appetite.
Don't let "Connecticut" in the title discourage you from buying this book if you are living in California, or Kentucky, or anyplace else. Oliver Parini's photographs are stunning, the stories are universal, and the food is great!