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    Emily Malone

    culinary arts grad. nutrition facts lover. vegetarian chef. marathon runner. country music maniac. failed dog trainer. barre fanatic. loving mama.

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    A Look Back.



Easy As (Tomato) Pie.

Last week when we were going over my schedule and plans for the next few weeks at the farm, my boss told me that she needed me to come up with a healthy recipe for tomato pie.  I was slightly embarrassed to tell her that, while I was always happy to healthify a recipe, I had no clue was a tomato pie was.  Apparently it is a classic southern dish?  I’m sure someone out there can clue me in.

Through the power of Google, I started looking at tomato pie recipes to figure out the basic components of the dish.  Before I could create a healthy version, I needed to figure out the original!  From what I could tell, tomato pie is basically a mixture of tomatoes, basil, and a few other things baked in a pie crust and slathered with a heavy mixture of mayonnaise and a lot of cheese.  Eeek.

I found a few ideas I thought would work to lighten up the pie, and then I got to work.  I started by slicing up a few big tomatoes, and laying them out between paper towels to dry them out a bit.

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I didn’t want all of the excess liquid from the tomatoes to make the crust soggy of the pie too runny.

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One of the healthy specifications given to me by my boss was to make a pie crust without using any flour.  I considered a few different options, and ultimately settled on making the crust out of cooked brown rice. 

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Did I tell you guys that I convinced my boss to order a rice cooker for the farm?  That’s how much I love this thing!  (Rice cooker post coming up soon – stay tuned!)

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I combined a little over a cup of the cooked rice with 2 tbsp pesto, 1 tbsp parmesan cheese, and 1 whole egg.

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And then things got messy.  Mixed it all up until it was well combined…

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And pressed it into the bottom and sides of a 9’’ pie dish.

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Popped it into a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes, and said a short prayer.

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In the meantime, I got the filling ready for the pie.  I am a BIG onion fan, so you may notice that they creep into a lot of my recipes.  Typically at home I only use white onions, but here at the farm we only have the red guys.  Cooking with them this summer as made me appreciate red onions for their own distinct flavor.  I think they are WAY too strong raw, but I actually really like them cooked.

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So speaking of cooked – I diced them up and tossed them into a hot sauté pan to soften and brown them.

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And by the time that was done, my crust was ready!  Pictures don’t show you the fact that this thing was literally bubbling from the parmesan.

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Between the pesto and the parmesan, it smelled amazing.  The edges had gotten a little bit crispy, and the melted cheese helped the base hold together pretty well.  I crossed my fingers that it would turn out to be an okay base for my pie. 

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With my crust r
eady, it was time to assemble the main dish.  I started with a base of cooked red onions…

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And then added a layer of thinly sliced tomatoes.

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Topped that with a sprinkle of freshly chopped sweet and purple basil, and gave it a drizzle of delicious pesto sauce.

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Because the focus of this pie was to be healthy, instead of adding extra layer of cheese, I added extra layers of tomatoes to bulk it up.  One more layer of delicious sliced tomatoes…

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And the final cheese mixture on top – 1/4 cup grated parmesan, 1/4 cup grated gruyere, and 3 tbsp veganaise spread.  Veganaise isn’t typically something I have at home, but we use it on the farm as a mayonnaise substitute.  It didn’t seem like much cheesy topping when I put it on, but I knew it would distribute once it was melted in the oven.

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Topped it off with one last sprinkle of fresh basil and a little pinch of salt, and then popped it into the oven at 350 degrees…

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Forty minutes later?  Tomato pie!

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The final product looked and SMELLED amazing!

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It sort of reminded me of a quiche without eggs.  Sounds good to me!

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Once the pie had cooled, the dinner plates were assembled for the farm owners to take with them to their other apartment.  And since the pie had been sliced into at that point, I figured it only made sense that I had a piece. 

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Tasting is as much a part of the learning experience as cooking, right?

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Having never had the “real” tomato pie myself, I can’t promise that this is a representative recreation.  But I can assure you that it was completely delicious and I wanted to eat the whole thing. 

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The brown rice crust held up pretty well.  Even though it wasn’t crispy and crunchy like a traditional flour crust, it still gave stability to the dish, as well as great flavor from the cheese and pesto. 

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Hopefully my boss thinks my recreation was as successful as I did!  I would definitely make this again for a brunch or lunch the next time we have friends or family visiting. 

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One thing is for sure – I am not leaving the south without learning all of these classic southern dishes!  In fact, tomorrow I’ll be making more Un-Fried Green Tomatoes – stay tuned…

Are there any other classic southern dishes that need a healthy makeover?

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85 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Sarena (The Non Dairy Queen)     at 8:49 pm

I love making healthy versions of southern classics! Now I have the challenge of making them dairy, gluten and soy free! Life in the kitchen never gets boring here. Your pie looks delicious!

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking     at 8:50 pm

MMmm, it looks delicious!

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Ashley Solomon @ Nourishing the Soul     at 9:00 pm

Shrimp and grits?

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Alicia @Culinary Bliss     at 9:05 pm

This is gorgeous and I’m totally making it. I’m going to try it with cherry tomatoes and shallots instead :D
I *love* the flavor of Veganaise, btw. It’s great on sandwiches and in salads. I prefer it over any other store mayo. Yum!

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Sheila Viers | Live Well 360     at 9:16 pm

Wow, what a cool idea with the rice. This looks really yummy.

How about biscuits and gravy?? :-)

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Daniel     at 9:28 pm

I second the biscuits and gravy! I made a vegan version two weekends ago and I’d really like to see your take on healthifying it! :D

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Pure2Raw Twins     at 9:38 pm

Tomato pie looks great! I have never heard of it either, but you did a great job :) I love the idea of using rice as the crust!

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emily (too)     at 9:43 pm

Speaking of the Unfried Green Tomatoes….thank you sooooo much for linking to that recipe! I made them tonight and my husband and I were in love.

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Emily @ The Front Burner Blog Reply:

Oh yay – I think they are amaaaaazing!

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Lisa (bakebikeblog)     at 9:56 pm

Congratulations on this wonderful ‘healthy-fied’ dish! I have seen ‘rice crusts’ a few times now and must set about making one!

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Chelsey     at 9:57 pm

You led me on with those tomato pictures!!!!! I got sooo excited – and then was still excited because that tomato pie looked amazing!! What a great idea!

I CAN’T WAAAAIIIIT FOR FRIED GREEN TOMATOOOOESSS!!

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Emily @ The Front Burner Blog Reply:

I made them today and actually thought of you the entire time I was eating them. “Chelsey will be sooo excited!” :) Post coming in the morning…

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Chelsey Reply:

YESSSSSS!!!!

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lauren     at 10:33 pm

YES! shrimp and cheese grits!!!!

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Emily     at 10:51 pm

Looks good! I love to make quiche with potato crust…just grated potatoes and a little oil to hold it together. It gets so crispy and delicious in the oven!

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Emily @ The Front Burner Blog Reply:

Oh YUM – that sounds delicious! I might try that next…

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Dorry     at 10:57 pm

Scrumptious! I need a rice cooker! Can’t wait to read your post about them – maybe I can register for one on my wedding registry?!

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Annie@stronghealthyfit     at 11:54 pm

Oh my. I will probably make that soon :-)

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Amber K     at 12:10 am

Being from the Pacific NW, I had never heard of this either. It sure sounds interesting!

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Janine     at 12:17 am

Any suggestions for a substitution for pesto? My son is allergic to pine nuts.

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Jackie (Peaces of Earth) Reply:

You can make pesto with walnuts!

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Emily @ The Front Burner Blog Reply:

Any other type of mild nut would work. Macadamias are very similar in creaminess to pine nuts!

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Vanessa     at 12:39 am

How about corn fritters? Imagine fried creamed corn.
Things that come to mind when I think of the south: cornbread, bbq, fried pickles, fried okra, hushpuppies, are just to name a few.

I’ve never heard of tomato pie either! Your’s looks sooo good! I don’t even care for tomatoes that much either. :)

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Jackie (Peaces of Earth)     at 3:30 am

I would have NEVER thought to use brown rice in the crust. That pie looks so so good. I don’t think you can really go wrong with tomatoes and basil.

I’m not a Southerner, but I used to love hushpuppies!

[Reply]

Emily @ The Front Burner Blog Reply:

Agreed. Tomatoes + basil = SUMMER!!

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Stacey @ Tipping the (Kitchen!) Scales     at 5:16 am

You are so creative and don’t even let a little thing like not knowing what something is, stop you!!

Your food always looks good but no need to tell you that, I’m sure you already know!

[Reply]

Emily @ The Front Burner Blog Reply:

After years and years of being afraid to screw things up and burn things, I finally just decided to get comfortable with playing with food. What’s the worst that can happen? :)

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Kate     at 5:30 am

Being a Kiwi I’ve never heard of tomato pie, but your version looks so tasty. I can’t wait until tomatoes are back in season here!

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Kendel @ Eating Abroad     at 5:31 am

How much fun to spend your days recreating recipes in a healthy way, and to get paid for it! I’ve never heard of tomato pie either, but yours looks and sounds delicious!

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Emily @ The Front Burner Blog Reply:

Getting “paid” is a relative term… :) But yes, it is wooooonderful to cook and do what I love all day long!

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afarmerinthedell.wordpress.com     at 6:54 am

Hi Emily!

I love your blog. Your recipes are so inspiring and I have been trying quite a few of them! I work on an organic farm in Concord, MA and your blog inspired me to document my adventures out here. Keep up the great work!
p.s. I am training for a marathon this fall as well! running in the summer heat is definitely the pits!

[Reply]

Emily @ The Front Burner Blog Reply:

That’s awesome! I’m so glad you found the blog. Good luck with your training!

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Ann @ Appalachian Appetites     at 7:13 am

Buttermilk biscuits…Fruit cobbler…Mac ‘n’ Cheese…Squash Casserole…heck, any casserole needs a makeover :) They are traditionally super cheesy and fattening no matter the base of the casserole. My husband is from New England and had never had a casserole until he met me…He swears he puts on weight just by looking at them at family gatherings!

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Red Head, Yellow Dog     at 8:33 am

that looks sooo good! definitely want to make this! and I had never heard of tomato pie either!

can’t wait for your post about rice cookers!

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Sarah K. @ The Pajama Chef     at 8:47 am

that rice crust looks great!

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Brittany (A Healthy Slice of Life)     at 9:19 am

That looks amazing!! How do you come up with these ideas?!

I adore my mom’s squash casserole, but I believe it’s about 90% butter and bread crumbs… it could use a makeover! :)

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Emily @ The Front Burner Blog Reply:

I do a lot of GOOGLING, and look to other folks for inspiration – then I make my changes based on what we have on the farm and what’s growing outside my window! :)

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Lindsay @ The Ketchup Diaries     at 9:27 am

Being from Massachusetts, I have NEVER heard of tomato pie either. My first thought was mushy tomatoes in a pie crust, but this has completely change my outlook. In fact, I think I am obsessed with this recipe. Although, I can’t imagine them being better than the black bean burgers. It’s not possible. Can you cook for me at HLS? I kid, I kid (maybe)!

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Emily @ The Front Burner Blog Reply:

I will put together your deli sandwich for you. :) The tomato pie really did turn out good – I had my own reservations too.

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Teri [a foodie stays fit]     at 9:32 am

That looks awesome! I’ve tried a bite of tomato pie since I’ve moved to Nc and don’t really like it. But this pie looks delicious! Great idea on the brown rice crust.

Now, is there anyway to healthify hushpuppies??

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Emily @ The Front Burner Blog Reply:

I was thinking about hushpuppies – they are one of my favorites. Maybe I’ll play with it next week…

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Angie     at 10:31 am

I read this post right before bed last night. I then had a dream that you came to a dinner party at my house and brought baked rocks. Literally, rocks.. but they tasted good.

Just wanted to share with you!

[Reply]

Emily @ The Front Burner Blog Reply:

Hahahhhahaha :) Why did I bring you ROCKS!?! I mean of all the things! I hope you don’t subconsciously think my food is awful. :)

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Nancy     at 11:00 am

Oh yum! That looks like the greatest thing on earth. Wish I had the time to make something like this for dinner. C’est la vie. I guess our life is just too full right now!

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Erin @ A Girl and Her Mutt     at 11:39 am

This looks fantastic! With all the tomatoes I have at my house this is a must.

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Smita     at 11:56 am

The pie looks yumm! I cant wait to make it. But I am a vegetarian – no eggs. What can I use to substitute egg in the crust? Flaxmeal? will the crust hold together?

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Emily @ The Front Burner Blog Reply:

I thought about not using the egg when I was making it, to appeal to our vegan friends, but I didn’t have enough time at work to mess up and start over. You could try doing the flax-egg trick, or even just leave it out all together and add a little extra cheese to melt and combine?

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Sophie     at 12:07 pm

Tomato pie is easy peasy! I’m from Mississippi and I’ve never seen a tomato pie with mayo! I normally just use homemade pie crust, layer the bottom with mozzarella, layer of tomatoes, then sprinkle basil on the top!

Maybe you could change up some of the fried foods? Fried fish, fried okra? This may not be Southern (or maybe it is, I’ve lived here all my life so sometimes it’s hard to tell!), but how about Chicken Spaghetti (the kind that’s normally made with Velvetta)?

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Emily @ The Front Burner Blog Reply:

Hmmm most of the recipes I looked at had mayo in them. Mozzarella would be good too! I have NO idea what Chicken Spaghetti is! :)

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Meagan     at 1:51 pm

Parm cheese is love.

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Emily @ The Front Burner Blog Reply:

Agreed. I just can’t quit it.

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Meagan Reply:

There’s no need to quit it, it’s delicious!

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Emily B     at 1:58 pm

Are you going to be posting this recipe because it looks ahhh-mazing!!!!!

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Caitlyn @ A Spoonful of Life     at 2:04 pm

The rice crust is a neat idea. It looks so good!

PS I made your Three-Grain Chewy Energy Bars and really like them! Great texture and taste!

[Reply]

Emily @ The Front Burner Blog Reply:

I’m so glad you liked the energy bars! I LOVE them.

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Natalie Rae     at 2:10 pm

I just email this recipe to my fiance in Iraq- sounds so good- You keep inspiring us with healhty and delicious things to make when he comes home- home cook here I come! :) Thanks!

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Shari     at 2:18 pm

Wow, so creative! This looks great. I will have to try. If I do soon, I will definitely mention you in my blog. I just discovered your blog and it is so cute! Check mine out, i’m still new at this whole thing: chicagocuisinecritique.blogspot.com

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Emily @ The Front Burner Blog Reply:

Great, thanks! :)

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Kaitlin With Honey     at 2:33 pm

I’m not from the south, but thanks to you, I’m learning all of these amazing southern recipes and my cooking repertoire will soon have a southern infusion!

[Reply]

Emily @ The Front Burner Blog Reply:

I’m learning them right there with you! :)

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Robyn @ Wannabe Writer Runner     at 3:38 pm

I’m thoroughly impressed! And I’ve never heard of tomato pie either!

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Liv     at 4:06 pm

As a Mississippi girl, I’ve loved seeing your takes on Southern classics! If you’re interested, here’s my mom’s tomato tart/pie recipe that I tried a while back:
http://livbites.com/2010/02/15/out-of-town-guests-and-goodies/

[Reply]

Emily @ The Front Burner Blog Reply:

Awesome, thank you! :)

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karin     at 4:28 pm

Looks so delicious! I so want to make this!

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Brandy     at 5:06 pm

Oh, oh, oh…..think a polenta crust would work?! :) I’m a Texas girl, and I reinvent all sorts of “family” recipes (which generally contain bacon dripping which my grama to-this-day keeps a container of on the stove). I consider it a personal challenge every holiday to make an old classic into an lighter, healthier dish just to see if anyone notices/complains. :)

[Reply]

Emily @ The Front Burner Blog Reply:

OOhhh yes I bet it WOULD work, if you cook it ahead of time enough so that it is crispy. Eeek the bacon drippings – makes my hair stand up! :)

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Brandy Reply:

Yeah, sorry about that. :) It’s graphic….but she’s nearly 76, and it’s how she was raised. I did introduce her to olive oil though! She was amazed and has been using it more and more. Small victories.

[Reply]

Allie     at 5:20 pm

i love the brown rice crust idea!! totally going to try that.

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Maria     at 7:52 pm

This all looks amazing… must get into the kitchen and make asap!

Maria
kaleandcupcakes.wordpress.com

[Reply]

Emilyeatsclean     at 9:57 pm

I’m a born and raised Southern girl and have NEVER heard of a tomato pie….strange! Looks delicious, though! :)

[Reply]

Alice     at 10:26 pm

Wow, impressive!

[Reply]

Julie @ Peanut Butter Fingers     at 9:53 am

oh my gosh that looks amazing!!! so, so creative!

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Larissa     at 5:58 pm

this looks so good so i made it tonight for dinner! i changed out one thing since my whole family had to eat it i just used two pieces of old bread toasted on the bottom instead of rice :) thanks so much for this awesome recipe!

[Reply]

kATH     at 9:57 pm

YUM! Love that crust idea!

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kevin     at 11:34 pm

how about that rice cooker post?

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Stacy     at 3:17 pm

I grew up and still live in the south and honestly, I have never heard of tomato pie. But what you made sure looks good so I will have to try it out! Some of my favorite southern foods that could use healthy makeovers are mac and cheese and fried okra.

[Reply]

Life's Tasty Adventures » Blog Archive » How To Deal With Overwhelming Situations     at 6:28 pm

[...] cranked out Emily‘s healthy version of Tomato Pie! I had an abundance of tomatoes due to a tomato recipe I made last week in which I bought too many [...]

Stressed, I Guess « Jess Finds Balance     at 8:39 pm

[...] was Emily’s tomato pie. We made ours with polenta and it was soooo good! I topped mine with chopped fresh [...]

That's What Your Mum Said» Blog Archive » More awesome food     at 11:00 pm

[...] Easy as Tomato Pie at Daily Garnish [...]

Laura (Blogging Over Thyme)     at 6:55 pm

Oh my god! This looks so good. Love the idea of using a pesto brown rice as a crust–that is so creative. I might need to make this ASAP.

[Reply]

Cindy Robinson     at 2:25 pm

I have had my eye on this puppy for so long, that I’m finally going to make it!!! Tomatoes, fresh basil oh my, I cannot wait. I also can’t wait to see the look on my husband’s face…uuhhh you’re making what?? He still thinks “organic” means “soy” oh boys! ;)

[Reply]

Mirta Brady     at 10:38 am

loved it, the concept of the rice as the crust had me hooked for the rest of the recipe! tasted great.

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kcjfdoentiv     at 8:29 am

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[Reply]

mamaoffiveboys     at 2:11 pm

I live in L.A. {lower Alabama} and I just made my tomato pie for our church pie auction on Sunday as it is always a “hot item” for bid- LOL. Our pastor has had a heart attack {not from MY cooking} and I am in charge of making something for the family next week. This is his favorite item that I make and now I have found a version that I can use to make him a heart healthy pie! I love the brown rice idea. I have made it without any crust and just put in a pie dish but rice… genius. Thank You!

[Reply]

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