Who doesn't know Terry Kay? And if you know him, you just gotta love him. The dimpled and bearded Georgia-born writer of 12 novels was named 2012 Author of the Year in June by the Georgia Writers Association, the fourth time he's been honored by the group and a year after receiving its Lifetime Achievement Award. This time, he won for the short story, "The Greats of Cuttercane" released last year.
Three of his novels have been made into Hallmark Hall of Fame movies: "To Dance with the White Dog," "The Valley of Light" and "The Runaway." His first novel - "The Year the Lights Came On" - was published in 1976 and chronicles the coming of electricity to northeast Georgia from the perspective of 11-year-old Colin Wynn. Twice, Kay's been named by Georgia Trend Magazine as one of Georgia's most powerful and influential people. In 2007, he won the Stanley W. Lindberg Award for outstanding contributions to the literary heritage of Georgia. So Terry Kay knows what he's doing.
He tried his hand at several jobs before settling into a lifetime's work as an author. At one time, he enjoyed fame as a fearless and peerless theater reviewer and interviewed the likes of the Beatles, Elvis, John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Gregory Peck, Alfred Hitchcock, Sidney Poitier, Michael Caine and Harry Belafonte. He most relishes the telling of the story about his interview with Ann-Margret. Each time, it's embellished a little bit more than the last, as only a guy with a boy's heart might tell it.
Sorry, Terry, but it's your tomato pie recipe that lives on in my heart as much as anything you've written. Many years ago, we lunched at his kitchen table where I had my first bite of this delicacy. The recipe wasn't original to Terry, but had been shared with him by a dear friend. "I, of course, had to tinker with it, much in the same manner of an editor working over a manuscript," he emailed me recently. "In that regard, cooks and editors have more in common than cooks and writers."
In my book, pardon the pun, there's nothing that redeems July's fiery temperatures and strangling humidity more than the deluge of homegrown and locally grown tomatoes that finally pour forth from carefully tended gardens and fields. I am not a gardener, so I bow at the feet of those whose hands deliver the richly flavored, red-fleshed globes into my own over-eager hands.
Here's Terry's recipe to try on your own:
• One unbaked pie crust rolled out from a store-bought box; three or four large tomatoes; one medium chopped green pepper; just a few very thin slices of sweet onion; one teaspoon dry basil; garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste; three-fourths c. mayonnaise; three-fourths c. grated sharp cheddar cheese and three-fourths c. grated Swiss cheese. (Terry says he's used both fresh basil and garlic but still prefers the taste of dry basil and garlic powder.)
• Unfold pie shell into dish, spike with a fork and bake 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees until slightly brown. Remove from oven and let cool. Peel and slice tomatoes and place them into pie shell. Sprinkle chopped green pepper and onions over tomatoes. Add salt, pepper, garlic powder and dry basil. Mix cheeses and mayonnaise together and spread over tomato filling. Bake approximately 45 minutes at 350 degrees.
"The original recipe did not call for chopped green peppers or onion," Terry wrote, "but I like the taste and even a little mildly hot pepper. Also, the original recipe called for sharp cheddar cheese; I mix cheddar (sharp, medium or mild) with grated Swiss or whatever I have. A suggestion: Don't be afraid of using more basil since basil and tomato are perfect together. Be generous with garlic powder if you like garlic, and though the recipe calls for mayonnaise, don't forget the salt." Mmm-mmm good!
When I shared the basics of this recipe with Christina Norman of Noring Farms a couple of years ago, tomato pie was something entirely new to her, but man-oh-man, she's made it her own specialty. She and her assistant Carly turn out as many as 40 in one baking, and they fly out the doors like Frisbees in a competitive match. Her ingredients include tomatoes, of course; oregano, basil, cheddar, mozzarella and ricotta cheeses, mayonnaise, salt, pepper and secret spices.
I've seen tomato pie eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It's good hot when the cheese strings and oozes, but it's perfectly acceptable at room temperature or cold, if you're famished, desperate or just greedy for the taste of perfect tomatoes and cheeses. Hey, Terry, might there be a cookbook in the works?
Barbara Morgan is a Covington resident with a background in newspaper journalism, state government and politics.