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Yes, tomatoes grow in the Arizona desert in the summer!

I can’t pin point the time or place that I realized what I always called pizza, as in pizza pie, was being referred to as simply “pie”. I still hesitate to make the adjustment. It’s not that I don’t hold the baker of fermented pizza dough (mixed from imported triple-o flour, or flour from wheat grown and milled locally, then baked to order in a wood burning brick oven) in high esteem. I do. It’s simply that for me, the image brought on by the word pie is and always will be all American, and apple (O.K.maybe lemon meringue, chocolate, blueberry or rhubarb), and sitting on a Norman Rockwell windowsill to cool.

With the exception of the tomato pie. The one I recall fondly because hey, it was my first. That tomato pie was made with pre-made, grocery store pie crust, already rolled and ready to bake in its shiny aluminum pan. The inside brimmed and bubbled with a filling of sliced summer tomatoes, cheddar cheese mixed with mayo, sliced scallions, and a crisp butter drenched Ritz cracker crumb topping. The crust was always soggy after baking, but I didn’t know enough to care. I loved it and the summer I found the recipe, I baked it and took it to every backyard picnic I was invited to.

Since that time, I’ve mastered pie dough, or pastry crust if you must. I know the difference between a pâte brisée and a pâte sucrée. For a savory filling, Cheddar and mayo with Ritz cracker crust doesn’t hold the same sway anymore. But give me a sniff of the sweet earthy smell of summer tomatoes and all I think about is that cheesy tomato pie.

Tomato, Gruyère, and Swiss Cheese Pie

Step 1: Roll dough 1/2 inch larger than pie or tart pan with removable bottom. Trim excess by rolling over top edge of pan with rolling pin. Chill dough in refrigerator until cold to touch and prep remaining ingredients.

Note: These are indeed individual pies, which some would argue are tartlets. Call them what you like, for me they are defined by their summer tomato sweetness and gooey melted cheese.

Step 2: Slice tomatoes, grate cheese, wash and dry fresh herbs. I used basil, you might have some thyme, rosemary or even chives growing outside your door-use what tastes good to you with tomatoes and your choice of cheese.

Step 3: Brush bottom of dough with whole grain Dijon mustard. Add fresh basil leaves or other fresh herbs. Top herbs and mustard with a generous mound of grated Gruyère and Swiss Cheese. (Here is another place to play with the pie-try some feta, mozzarella, or a nice fresh chèvre.)

Step 4: Top 1st layer of cheese with sliced tomatoes. Add 2nd layer of cheese and mound over tomatoes. Sprinkle with fresh ground black pepper and a grating of nutmeg if using swiss style cheese or try some Herbs de Provence.

Step 5: Place filled pie on a baking sheet lined with parchment or foil. Bake in a 375 F oven, 22 minutes for the individual pies, until bubbly and cheese begins to brown.

Step 6: Place pie or tart pan on a can- this makes releasing the side easy-if the side doesn’t slide down instantly give it a little tap. Remove from can with a wide rigid spatula. Place pie on plate and garnish with fresh snipped herbs or micro-greens.

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