i really love summer. i love the sunshine, the long days, the breezy nights, the clear blue skies, the singing birds, the endless barbecues, the crowded farmer’s markets. i know, you’re gagging a bit, but summer really agrees with me. you can just smell it – clean air, green grass, warm rain, people just loving life. even in boston, where folks are about as rude as they come and it’s hard to drive anywhere without wanting to take a baseball bat to some hipster’s bicycle (yeah yeah, i have road rage, what do you want), you can still manage to enjoy the season.
summer’s got all the best foods, for real – berries, tomatoes, cherries, figs, corn, watermelon, fresh herbs. i really need to move back to california soon so i can grow my own citrus, avocados, artichokes…i can still buy them here, but it’s not the same. i live for the day that i can have my very own lemon tree.
the thing is, autumn is actually my favorite season. and this time of year, right now – the end of august, the beginning of school, just when the nights are thinking about getting cooler and you can see the trees wondering when their leaves will start to turn – i think it’s the most beautiful time of the year. the days are still long and lazy, but things are getting just a bit cooler, the humidity starts to fade and you can smell autumn just around the corner.
but. with the approach of autumn, i can’t ever separate my glory in the season from the coming dread of winter. i just hate the cold, the snow, the dreary grey skies, the layer and layers of sweaters, the dry skin, the cabin fever. i do not belong here in boston, where everybody manages to get even crankier and my latent anger issues and general bitchiness come out in full force. i don’t want to shovel snow, or fall down the icy stairs, or constantly be sick. i don’t want to buy mealy grocery store tomatoes from chile or make soup over and over. i see the leaves begin to change and i can’t help but get a little depressed, knowing that even the smell of autumn (the best smell ever, forever) won’t cheer me up.
but you know what does cheer me up? super buttery, flaky, cheesy buttermilk biscuits. and you know what makes them even better? rolling them out into a pie crust, then topping them with fresh tomatoes, basil, and tons of cheese. and baking it. and eating it with a fork out of the pan because it’s too delicious to plate.
i made these biscuits for my final project for my baking class, and i don’t want to brag, but people could not stop eating them. they’re super tender, flaky, and have millions and millions of calories – but don’t let that stop you. just don’t eat for a few days afterwards and you’ll be fine. few things will really make these biscuits better – except, of course, making them into an end-of-summer cure-for-the-blues tomato, cheddar and basil pie. enjoy with an ice cold beer, plenty of friends, and a healthy dose of summer sunshine.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
2 lbs assorted tomatoes, cored and sliced
2 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 scallion, trimmed and diced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 tbsp fresh basil, cut into chiffonade
begin by making the crust: in the bowl of a mixer, combine flour, baking powder and salt. keeping the mixer on low, gradually add chopped butter until butter is the size of peas. whisk the buttermilk and egg together, then dump in quickly to flour and butter mixture, stirring on low until just combined. add grated cheese until combined, then remove onto a floured surface. knead several times until smooth, then roll out with floured rolling pin to an 11-12 inch round. fold into quarters and transfer into 9 inch glass pie pan, then gently unfold crust, press into bottom of dish and cover with a dry cloth until ready to fill.
for the filling, lay tomato slices out onto a baking sheet lined with paper towels. lay additional paper towels over the top, allowing the tomatoes to drain for about 30 minutes. preheat oven to 425 degrees. combine cheeses into small bowl, then remove 1/4 cup and reserve for topping. in another small bowl, combine scallion, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper.
sprinkle a small handful of cheese onto the bottom of the crust, then top with a layer of tomatoes. add about half of the oil mixture, then top with half of the cheese. add another layer of tomatoes and the rest of the oil. sprinkle a bit of the basil on top. add any remaining tomatoes (i still had a few leftover after the pan was filled, so save your prettiest slices for this last layer), then top with the reserved 1/4 cup of cheese and the remainder of the basil. fold overhanging crust onto the top layer of filling – i created a rustic hexagon shape, but you can do whatever you like the look of best.
bake until crust is golden and cheese is a light golden brown, about 35-40 minutes. check halfway through baking to make sure the crust isn’t getting too dark – top with loose foil if necessary to keep crust a lighter color. allow the pie to rest for at least an hour before serving, up to 3 hours if needed.