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Saturday
Aug162008

heirloom tomato pizza: a summer treat from the 'tomato lady'

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Each year at our farmer’s market in Takoma Park, I buy heirloom tomatoes from the tall, athletic woman with the kind eyes at Calvert's Gift. Her name is Gina, but I affectionately call her ‘Tomato Lady.’

She's an heirloom fanatic, and for all the right reasons: Heirloom tomatoes look and taste like they did a hundred years ago when they were first cultivated. They are mangled, discolored, lumpy and they taste sweeter and better than the uniformly red, perfectly round hybrids I usually see at the grocery store.

I visit Tomato Lady every year so that I can gather up a few pounds of the sweetest, ugliest tomatoes she has to make fresh tomato pizza.

I didn't know exactly when the tomatoes would appear this summer so I visited her several times last month, each time asking, "Are the tomatoes here yet?"

"Not yet,” she said the first time, “but we have some lovely garlic pigtails!”

I wanted tomatoes.

By late-July, her story changed. “They were here this morning!” she said, then paused. “Where were you?"

"Sleeping." I looked at my watch. It was noon.

There went another weekend.

When August arrived, Tomato Lady and I were back on track. Her stand was filled with lumpy, yellow-green-red, ripe, juicy tomatoes, even after noon and I was finally able to make my favorite pizza.

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On a recent trip, I snatched up a carton of odd-shaped tomatoes, went home, and made the dish that has become a summer tradition -- heirloom tomato pizza.

I make it two ways. The first pizza is topped with fresh mozzarella, capers, fresh basil, and toasted pine nuts. The second pizza is made with oil cured olives, grilled red onion, sun-dried tomatoes, and feta. I can never tell which one I like better, so I always make them both.


Heirloom Tomato Pizza Two Ways

Serves 4 (each pie serves 2)

Basil Way

1 dough recipe (see below)
1 cup basil leaves
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/8 cup capers, drained
3/4 cups diced fresh mozzarella
2 large heirloom tomatoes, sliced thinly
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Olive oil

Prepare dough as described below. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place one layer sliced tomatoes on top. Sprinkle the sugar, salt, and pepper over the tomatoes and drizzle with olive oil.


Bake for 12 minutes. While still steaming hot, layer the pizza with mozzarella, capers, pine nuts, and basil. Slice and serve.

Olive Way

1 dough recipe
2 large heirloom tomatoes
10 - 15 olives cured oil and sliced
1 red onion, sliced 1/8 inch thick and grilled for three minutes on each side
1/2 cup crumbled feta
1/4 cup sundried tomatoes, slices thinly
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Olive oil

Prepare dough as described below. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place one layer sliced tomatoes on top. Sprinkle the sugar, salt, and pepper over the tomatoes and drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 12 minutes. While still steaming hot, layer the feta, sun dried tomatoes, olives, and onions. Slice and serve.

Dough recipe

1-1/2 cup flour
1 tablespoon dried yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 - 2 tablespoons olive oil

Combine all ingredients into a medium size bowl. Mix together until a dough forms. You may need to use your hands to gather all bits into one ball. Flour a large cutting board. Knead the dough for about three minutes. Coat a medium-sized bowl with olive oil spray and set the ball of dough inside. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place for one hour.

Remove the dough from the bowl and knead for about three minutes. Using a flour-coated rolling pin, roll out the dough onto a floured cutting board to the size and shape of a 12-inch circle.

Place the dough on a round baking sheet or pizza stone if you have one. If you're using a baking sheet, you will probably need to pinch the sides of the dough to keep the dough from spilling over the ledge of the pan. I use my thumb to lift a piece and then pinch it shut with my forefinger. This technique has the side benefit of allowing the olive oil and tomato juices to collect in the dough, rather than run off onto the pan.



Reader Comments (3)

I have recently discovered the unique and impossibly refreshing taste of heirloom tomatoes. I can't believe I went practically my whole life without this delicious food. Your pictures and recipes made my mouth water and have also inspired me to take a trip to the market! Thanks!

August 18, 2008 | Unregistered Commentermegkrug

Those really do look like fantastic tomatoes! I'm very jealous. Nice tart/pizza. I usually don't like sauceless pizzas but I could see how this would be delicious!

August 19, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterHillary

Thanks, Megan! I had the same feeling when I discovered heirloom tomatoes. I've never actually liked fresh tomatoes very much but these are an exception.

Thanks, Hillary! The fresh pizza concept definitely calls for the best tomatoes. I love this pizza so much that I've never even tried making a regular style pizza with tomato sauce.

August 19, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAngela

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