A little over a month ago, I had the joy of opening my farm to a hundred or so strangers over the course of one beautiful summer weekend. Our farm was part of Soil Sisters: a celebration of Wisconsin farms and rural life. (Head to Edible Madison f you want to hear the rambling story of how we wound up being a part of this fantastic event).
It was magical. Exactly the kind of weekend every farmer with a dream of building community fantasizes about: a weekend where the farm fills with people and they are all genuinely interested in what you are doing. They are all so truly captivated by what you are doing that you can’t talk too much. They ask questions (the right questions, the hard questions, the questions that show they really pay attention and aren’t just wrapped up in the romantic idea of it all) and they even listen for the answers. It didn’t matter if we were talking soil, recipes, or bookkeeping. They were totally engrossed.
On the Saturday of this long Soil Sisters weekend, I hosted my first workshop on the farm. It was a food styling workshop that evolved into much more: into a narration of why I love my blog, why I love taking photos of food and why I love Instagram. It has little to do with likes, follows and trends, and much to do with getting people back in their kitchens. I love being a part of the good in this world. Through our CSA, our farm newsletters, this blog and my constant snapping of #foodporn, we’re helping people find excitement and joy in preparing good food. That, that is a very good feeling.
At the workshop, we cooked together for hours baking two tomato pies, whipping up eggplant salad toasts and tossing together a salad of cherry tomatoes with fresh herbs, cucumber and avocado. We snapped photos all along the way. I beamed as I watched people who typically feared tomatoes (for all the same reasons I had disliked them not so very long ago) ask for a second piece of pie. And the icing on the cake, Midwest Living was there to shoot the whole thing.
Yes, our farm has been a busy, busy place this summer. We hosted a UW law school student group and a collection of enthusiastic food bloggers. We held a potluck, a brunch, all-day farm tours and a food stand. Soon there will be a dinner, and in a few short weeks a pizza night to celebrate all the good people who help make our dreams come alive. There will even be a five-course fundraising dinner in late October. Yes, the farm has been busy, busy. In addition to all these events, moving a home and a handful of wedding, we somehow managed to raise a farm: to grow vegetables on three acres and feed 70+ families.
As I stand in my kitchen listening to Frank Sinatra, drinking my favorite gose and retesting the tomato pie from the joyful Soil Sisters workshop of a month ago, I can hardly imagine how much life changes on the farm in five short weeks. We went from running a hundred miles per hour to a much calmer pace. Music and alcohol– on a Monday! Recipe testing and photography! I’m calling it the September slow down and it’s just the most welcome thing. It’s been a great season, but this pace feels right. Each day is a little more relaxed than the last and we’re diving back into all the things we ignored for months when farming was all-consuming. Things like dancing terribly in the kitchen and cooking slowly.
This tomato pie is a tribute to the end of summer. You can feel it in the air. Fall has arrived. The cherry tomatoes are miraculously still going strong, but it’s week eight for them and we know they won’t last much longer. (But we’re also getting a little sick of them so we’ve got to get creative). Cherry tomatoes sink into a billowy bed of ricotta and egg, their juices soaking into the pie and enhancing the flavor. It’s equal parts fresh and rich, savory and comforting. Leeks, garlic, parsley, basil and fennel join together to remind us that cool as the nights may be, it’s still an abundant time of year. It’s summer meets fall. It’s September. It’s perfect.
RICOTTA & CHERRY TOMATO PIE
Takes 1 hour, 40 minutes
Buttermilk Pie Crust (recipe below) or store-bought crust
3 cups, halved cherry tomatoes
2 teaspoons Kosher salt, divided
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon roughly chopped fennel fronds
2 tablespoons roughly chopped parsley
2 tablespoons roughly chopped basil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium leek, white and green parts only, cut in half and thiny sliced
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- If making the pie dough from scratch, start with that. (Instructions below). Get dough chilling in the freezer while preparing the rest of the pie. (Don’t leave it in there any longer than an hour).
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Line a baking sheet with a double layer of paper towels. Add halved cherry tomatoes (cut side up) and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon Kosher salt. Let sit for at least 20 minutes so your pie doesn’t end up too juicy.
- In a medium bowl, combine remaining ingredients and remaining Kosher salt. Set aside.
- Remove pie dough from freezer, roll out on a well-floured surface into a 12-inch circle. Transfer to a 9-inch shallow pie pan. Let any extra dough hang over the edge of the pan. Line with foil and fill with pie weights, rice or dried beans. Bake for 10 minutes, remove foil and bake 5 minutes longer.
- Add 2/3 of the ricotta mixture to the pre-baked pie crust. Dab cherry tomatoes with paper towel to whisk away the majority of the moisture and add to pie. Top with remaining ricotta mixture. Spread with a spatula so it’s even. Bake for 50 minutes until center is set. If the crust gets too dark, shield with aluminum foil.
- Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes. Serve warm!
Buttermilk Pie Crust:
1-1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 cup butter, cut into pieces and chilled
1/4 cup buttermilk
- Combine flour, sugar and salt in a medium bowl.
- Add butter and cut in with a pastry cutter or two forks until resembles a course meal. Add buttermilk and stir to combine. Turn out on a lightly floured counter and knead gently until doughs come together. Wrap in plastic and store in freezer until ready to use.