Archive for the ‘Sides’ Category

Sweet and Tangy Brussels Sprouts and Sweet Potatoes

February 10, 2013

Ok, I know this sounds kind of weird.  Maybe it is. I’m getting down to the end of items in my fridge and that always breeds some unique combinations.  This one really worked out though.  If you struggle a little with brussels sprouts you might find that adding the sweet potatoes will get you over the hump.  That said, I’m not a proponent of wasting your time, energy and calories eating things you hate.  (I’ve given up making salmon at home for this very reason).  Feel free to use just the sweet potatoes or just the sprouts.  Your call.  I like the mix.

Sweet and Tangy Sprouts and Potatoes

There’s not really a recipe for this.  I steamed some sprouts on the stove top while I roasted some diced sweet potato in the oven.  I threw everything in a cast iron skillet with some bacon grease.  Often you’ll see recipes that include one or the other of these vegetables with bacon or pancetta or some such so that’s where the bacon grease thing came from.  Feel free to use olive or canola oil or butter if you prefer.  Stir them around in the hot oil until you get a little browning on everything then turn the heat off.  Cast iron will hold heat a long time so don’t worry about things getting cold.

The sauce is a combination of maple syrup, stone ground mustard, dijon mustard, Worchestershire sauce and balsamic vinegar.  Sweet and tangy.  Just stir it together and add a little more of this or that until it tastes good to you.



Spaghetti Squash with Lemon and Capers

December 31, 2012

The holiday season is finally wrapping up so I’m looking for ways to, without suffering too much, rid myself of the few pounds I gained.  I’ll be turning to soups and vegetables over the next few weeks to help with that.  I started with a spaghetti squash.  I’m not a huge fan of spaghetti squash, particularly not as a substitute for actual spaghetti.  I did have one serving of this with spaghetti sauce on it, reminding me what a poor substitute it is for pasta.  Had to find something else to do with the rest.  And there was a lot of “the rest.”  Fortunately I was invited for an impromptu pot luck with a couple of friends so I had a chance to try this out on them without risking a lot of leftovers.

Spaghetti squash

Turns out leftovers were not a worry.  This is really good.  Well, of course it’s really good.  It’s a brown butter sauce.  Not so much a health food, but I maintain that butter sauce on spaghetti squash is still better for you than butter sauce on most other things.  Really I think this is more of a summer dish.  It calls for a little zucchini and a little chopped tomato.  It’s December and those things just don’t taste good so far out of season so I left them out.  To be completely honest I was going to include a few diced canned tomatoes, to the point that a friend went to pick them up for me and dropped them by the house (thank you!!), and then I forgot them.  I think that was fine, maybe even better.  I halved the spaghetti squash and most of the other ingredients, but kept full amounts, plus a little, of the red bell pepper and parsley.

There’s only one thing that makes this the tiniest bit tricky – browning the butter.  You have to watch it every second.  If you don’t it will burn and you’ll have to start over.  There’s no saving burned butter.  Swirl it around the pan occasionally as it browns.  Keep the heat relatively low.  Be patient.  There’s no rushing browned butter.  It’s worth it though.  It has a much richer flavor than just melted butter.  I used salted butter, as I do with everything, which is fine. I still added a touch of salt. You need it for balance.

The flavors in this are fantastic.  You get citrus and brine from the lemon and capers.  You get sweetness from the squash and red bell pepper.  You get a pop of fresh green flavor from the parsley.  A little salt and a little fresh cracked black pepper.  Done.  And awesome.  And pretty.  And a little bit sophisticated.  This definitely goes in the list of things to serve to guests.

Good? So much better than I dared hope.  Really good.
Easy? Yep, just watch the butter.
Good for company? It sure went fast at dinner, so yes.
Special shopping? Nope. Capers will be on the aisle with the pickles in any grocery store.

Spaghetti Squash with Lemon and Capers


1 large spaghetti squash
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons sweet butter
1 tablespoons capers, drained
1/3 cup diced red bell pepper
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 C chopped parsley leaves
Salt and pepper


Cut squash in 1/2 lengthwise and scoop out all seeds. Place the squash cut side down on a sheet pan or cookie sheet and cover with foil. Place in the oven and cook until the rind is slightly soft or gives with a little pressure, about 20 minutes. When it’s done, scrape the meat out with a fork and reserve, keeping warm.

In a hot skillet, melt the butter, add the olive oil and continue to cook until dark brown. Add the capers and bell pepper to stop the butter from cooking any further, and cook, stirring, until tender. Stir in the lemon juice and parsley and season with salt and pepper.

In a large mixing bowl mix the squash and butter sauce and serve.

Vegetarian Black Beans and Collards

December 17, 2012

It’s vegan night!  I thought I was having company for dinner and my planned guest is a vegan, at least temporarily.  By the time I found out he wasn’t able to make it dinner was mostly done.  After yesterday’s pork fest (ribs at football and pulled pork at dinner) I can definitely use something on the lighter side.  I usually put a little meat in my black beans and in my collards so this is new for me.  Good for me!  And just plain good.

Vegetarian Black Beans and Collards

I didn’t have a ton of time for cooking today and I didn’t plan ahead so I used canned black beans instead of soaking my own.  I have no problem with that.  Canned beans are perfectly acceptable.  It’s what you do with them that counts.  I cooked mine with bell pepper, onion, garlic, poblano pepper, vegetable stock and Goya seasoning.  Super yum.  The collards I did do from scratch, but with a very different pot liquor than my usual ham hock/smoked turkey variety.  I used olive oil, vegetable stock, garlic powder, salt and Tabasco.  Again, yum.

I served these side by side over rice, but by then end of the meal I just mixed everything together and added a little extra Tabasco for some kick.  I gotta say, this was a really good dinner.  And my arteries thank me!

Good? So good.
Easy? Absolutely.
Good for company? Definitely. It’s just as easy to make a lot as a little.
Special shopping? Nope. You’ll find the Goya seasoning in the int’l section of most grocery stores.

Vegetarian Black Beans and Collards


6 T olive oil, divided
3 C vegetable stock, divided
1 large onion, diced, divided
2 bunches collards, stemmed and chopped
1 t garlic powder
1 T Tabasco
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 poblano or jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
2 packets Goya seasoning


Add 3 T oil, 2 C stock, 1/2 of the chopped onions, garlic powder and Tabasco to a large stock pot. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Add the chopped collards and simmer, covered, 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Heat remaining 3 T oil in a large saute pan. When the oil begins to shimmer add bell pepper, poblano, remaining chopped onion and garlic. Saute 5-7 minutes, until vegetables soften. Add black beans, remaining cup of stock and Goya seasoning. Simmer uncovered 30 minutes.

Serve everything over rice, white or brown. Top with Tabasco to taste.

Cranberry Sauce

December 9, 2012

Ok, so I’m a little late on the Cranberry Sauce.  Fresh cranberries are all over the place so I keep looking for ways to use them.  Yesterday I found a recipe for an Autumn Cranberry Beef Stew.  It called for whole berry cranberry sauce so I decided to make my own.  Good call.

This is an Alton Brown recipe. You may have noticed that you don’t see a lot of those on here. I just find him annoying. And yes, that does influence the recipe choices I make. But I wanted to give this a shot because it’s sweetened with honey instead of sugar. That means my nephew could have some if he wanted. So, you may be seeing this again at Christmas. Well, you won’t, but my family might.

Cranberry Sauce

This is good stuff.  And wicked easy.  Just berries, fruit juice and honey.  They key, if you want it to set up like regular cranberry sauce, is to follow the directions.  Think of it like candy making, only easier.  You make the syrup, add the berries and wait for the magic to happen.  Cranberries have enough pectin in them that if you do it right they’ll gel on their own.  Just be sure you don’t overcook it.  If you do the pectin breaks down and the sauce won’t set up.  It’ll still taste good so don’t throw it out, but if you want to be able to slice it be sure you watch the clock.

Not much else to say except that this is better than any cranberry sauce you’ll buy.  Of course it won’t have those ridges on the side of the cranberry sauce like the log that comes out of the can.  If that’s important to you just put it in a can to set up!

Good? You bet.
Easy? Much easier than I thought.
Good for company? Sure. Or just to keep around. Or for gifts.
Special shopping? Fresh cranberries are only available for a short while so just be sure the mood to make it strikes you at the right time.

Cranberry Sauce


1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 cup 100 percent cranberry juice, not cocktail
1 cup honey
1 pound fresh cranberries, approximately 4 cups


Wash the cranberries and discard any soft or wrinkled ones.

Combine the orange juice, cranberry juice and honey in a 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the cranberries and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries burst and the mixture thickens. Do not cook for more than 15 minutes as the pectin will start to break down and the sauce will not set as well. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes.

Carefully spoon the cranberry sauce into a 3 cup mold. Place in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours and up to overnight.

Remove from the refrigerator, overturn the mold and slide out the sauce. Slice and serve.

Potato, Turnip, and Black Kale Baeckeoffe

October 5, 2012

It’s Fall! (In spite of this week’s fairly Summer-like temps in central VA).  And it’s October so we’ll say that this recipe is in honor of Oktoberfest.  It’s also in honor of the fact that I’m home and actually had time to cook.  Good thing – this takes a long time.  Here’s the ‘baeckeoffe’ explanation from for those of you who are a little rusty on your Germanic Alsatian dialects.  “Translated from the Germanic Alsatian dialect, baeckeoffe means “baker’s oven,” as it was traditionally a dish that was brought to the local baker to cook in his oven. Classic versions are loaded with meat, but our vegetarian riff is equally hearty and rich.”  I’ve never had a version loaded with meat, but I’d be willing to give that a shot.

Let’s start with the substitutions.  I try not to make many subs on dishes that are new to me and generally unfamiliar as a combination of ingredients.  The original recipe called for spinach. That seemed a little wimpy with the potatoes and turnips.  I bought some lacinato kale at the farmers’ market last weekend that I still needed to use.  That seemed like a good fit.  I also didn’t have any heavy cream.  Seemed silly to buy an 8 ounce container when I only needed 2.  I substituted 2% milk with just a little low fat cream cheese melted in.  I think both substitutions were fine, but with the kale I probably could have used more of the milk mixture.  It was just a little tough even after an hour in the oven.

Flavor wise this dish is a tiny bit on the bitter side.  Kale, turnips and Gruyere are all on the sharp side.  Clearly the idea is that they will balance with the potato, mushrooms and carmelized onions.  Not quite.  I didn’t have nearly enough mushrooms and onions.  They represent the creamy and sweet parts of this dish, respectively.  I made about 1/2 a recipe of this dish, but only had 1/4 of the mushrooms I needed.  I won’t make that mistake again.  And given how much onions cook down when they carmelize I would have been happier had I used the amount called for in the full recipe.  Ditto the milk mixture.  Of course the other way to cut down on the bitterness would be to use 2 layers of potatoes instead of one potato layer and one turnip layer.

One note about managing the time it takes to do this.  First, note that it bakes for an hour after it’s all put together so account for that before you start.  I’d guess you could put the whole thing together a day before you bake it. Also, while the recipe calls for you to do the mushrooms, wipe the pan and then start the onions.  That’s silly.  Use two pans and do them simultaneously.    Definitely you could make the onions and the mushrooms ahead of time – a day or two.  That will reduce your prep time a lot.  You’ll just want to warm the mushrooms before you try to spread them in the dish.

Overall this dish is a lot of trouble to make.  I knew that going in which is why I waited until a Friday.  Still, I’m not convinced that the trouble you have to go to is made up for by the enjoyment of the dish.  I’m not quite ready to write it off, but I’ll admit to some disappointment.  The reviews just raved about it.  No rave from me.  Just an “ok with potential.”  Maybe I’ll try to find one of those recipes with some meat in it to add a new dimension to the flavor.  That said, I’d make the mushrooms over and over again.  They’d be amazing in little gratin dishes.  You could mix them into cooked pasta.  You could stuff chicken with them.  That’s worth taking away from this even if you never try the whole thing.

Good? Ok, but has potential
Easy? Not so much
Good for company? As a side, maybe
Special shopping? Nothing exotic here

Potato, Turnip, and Black Kale Baeckeoffe


1 tablespoon butter, divided
8 oz sliced mushroom caps
1 clove minced garlic
1/2 cup white wine
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 tsp thyme 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
2 tablespoons 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, divided
2 cups vertically sliced onion (about 2 medium onions)
1 small Yukon gold potato, peeled and cut into (1/4-inch-thick) slices
2 cups black kale, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1 small turnip, peeled and cut into (1/8-inch-thick) slices
1/4 cup milk
1 t neufchatel cheese
1/4 cup shredded Gruyère cheese


Preheat oven to 350°.

Melt 1/2 T of butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms to pan, and sauté 2 minutes or until lightly browned. Stir in garlic; sauté 30 seconds. Add wine; cook 2 minutes. Add parsley, thyme, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes. Uncover and cook 6 minutes or until liquid almost evaporates. Remove from heat. Add 1 T cream cheese, stirring until cheese melts. Set aside.

As you start the mushrooms, heat pan over medium-high heat. Add 1/2 T of butter, melt. Add onion; saute for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium; continue cooking for 25-30 minutes or until deep golden brown, stirring frequently. Set aside.

Heat milk and remaining tablespoon of cream cheese. Whisk until smooth. Keep warm.

Coat a lidded baking dish with cooking spray. Arrange potato slices in dish, and top with kale. Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper evenly over kale. Spoon the mushroom mixture over black pepper, and arrange turnip slices over mushroom mixture. Top with caramelized onions; sprinkle with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Pour milk mixture over onions and sprinkle evenly with Gruyère cheese. Cover and bake at 350° for 40 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender and cheese begins to brown.

Hoppin’ John – Not Just for New Year’s Anymore

October 1, 2012

Recently a friend inquired about my “death row meal.”  I didn’t list Hoppin’ John, but I might have to add it to the list.  This has everything going for it today.  It’s cool and gloomy out so this is a perfect comfort food.  Black-eyed peas are in season so I got them fresh at the farmers’ market on Saturday when I got the turnips.  Of course when you get turnips at the farmers’ market they come with the greens still attached – bonus!  The pepper plants around here are still producing – another check mark for South of the James market.  Dinner scores high on the “buy local” scale.  It’s mostly veggies and rice so it scores high on the cheap scale too.  I used smoked turkey instead of ham hock so it’s not bad on the healthy scale either.  Hoppin’ John is a good luck food for New Year’s, but maybe it will bring a little luck to the beginning of October too.

If you take a look at my New Year’s version of this dish you’ll note that it takes a couple of hours to put together.  This is a Monday and not a holiday so I didn’t have 2 hours.  It’s hard to rush the pot liquor, but I decided that 45 minutes was long enough.  In that time I was able to get all of the stemming and chopping of the greens and the chopping of the peppers and onions done.  A few things worked in my favor too.  The black eyed peas were very fresh – just a few days out of the field.  The fresher they are the faster they cook.  And the turnip greens were a little wilty so they cooked quickly also.  I used white rice instead of brown so that’s half time there too.  I cooked the rice in the black eyed pea water so it was almost boiling when I started.  I know, now I’m reaching, but I was hungry!

One note about this.  If you’re going to bother to make the pot liquor and stem and chop greens do lots of them.  You can always freeze the leftovers or eat them plain at another meal.  Ditto with the black eyed peas if you’re using fresh ones.  Go ahead and cook them all.  Mash the leftovers for black eyed pea cakes or serve them as a side dish.

My only complaint about Hoppin’ John is that my kitchen is a disaster. It takes four pots to put this together:  one for the greens, one for the rice, one for the peas and one for the peppers and onions.  You can use that last one to combine everything at the end.  It’s a great combination of flavors (earthy, green, smoky, sweet and salty) and textures.  Serve it with a little sweet cornbread and plenty of butter on the side.  And, of course, a big pitcher of tea.

Good? This is a favorite food of mine so it’s much better than good.
Easy? Not exactly. There are lots of things happening simultaneously.
Good for company? Absolutely. Who doesn’t need a little extra luck?
Special shopping? Nope, if you’re lucky you’ll hit the farmers’ market jackpot like I did.

Hoppin’ John


1-1 1/2 gallons of water
1 smoked turkey wing
2 T salt
1/4 t cayenne
greens from one bunch of turnips, stemmed and chopped
2 T butter
1 C fresh black eyed peas
1 T olive oil
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 onion, diced
2 garlic gloves, minced
1/2 C cooked rice


In a large pot heat the water and turkey wing to a boil. Add 2 T salt and cayenne. Simmer 45 minutes. Add chopped greens and 2 T butter. Simmer until greens are soft. Remove the turkey wing and pull the meat from the bone. Chop the meat finely. Discard the skin and bone.

In a small pot cover black eyed peas with water and bring to a boil. Simmer until peas are tender, but not mushy. Keep warm.

In a medium stock pot heat olive oil until it shimmers. Add peppers, onions and garlic. Saute until tender, but still crunchy.

Use a slotted spoon to dish 1/2 of the greens into the peppers and onions. Repeat with 1/2 or more of the black eyed peas. Add the rice and chopped smoked turkey. Toss gently to mix. Serve with Tabasco.

Butternut Squash Risotto with Mushrooms

August 26, 2012

I know that a lot of folks are trying to eat vegetarian at least one night a week.  Here’s a vegan contribution from my kitchen to yours.  There aren’t many vegan dishes that come out of this kitchen.  I’m a big believer in an “all things in moderation and sometimes a splurge” approach to eating.  This nice thing about this dish is that it almost feels like a splurge.  Risotto always feels just a little decadent with its rich creaminess and this one is finished with truffle salt to put it over the top.  No meat, no cheese, but all kinds of good.

I spent a fair amount of time this evening trying to come up with a risotto that would use up the other half of the butternut squash from yesterday along with the vegetable broth I made yesterday, a bunch of lacinato kale and a bunch of baby bella mushrooms.  Absolutely I could have used all those things, but then I found a different use for the kale so you’ll see that tomorrow.  I settled for three out of four.  I made this as easy on myself as possible.  I cooked the squash in the microwave and just used the pulp instead of making a real puree.  I quartered the mushrooms instead of slicing them.  It was faster and gave the mushrooms a little more presence in the dish.  Half an onion and one clove of garlic, both diced, and a little olive oil.  That’s it.

A lot of folks are intimidated by risotto.  I certainly didn’t grown up eating it.  It’s not difficult.  It just takes a little love and care.  Generally speaking when you make risotto you make the creamy rice first and then starting adding the extras.   That means that you stay by the stove stirring and adding liquid a little at a time for 40-50 minutes.  It’s perfect for those nights when what you really need is a chance to be by yourself and drink a glass of wine.  Also perfect for those nights when everyone is gathered in the kitchen talking.  You can stir while you get caught up on the day.

This risotto is very mild and smooth.  Elegant is a good word for it.  The squash is a little sweet, but not too.  The mushrooms add a dark taste and meaty texture.  The fresh parsley is much more than a garnish here.  It adds a bright green punch to the flavor.  I just needed a little richness to round out the flavors.  Fortunately some friends brought me some truffle salt for my birthday.  It was the perfect finishing touch.  A little salty, a little pungent.  A little goes a long way.  And it’s wonderful.  With the truffle salt I didn’t need to add the usually parmesan for finishing.  Definitely worth a try if this is a new flavor for you.

I’m not looking to convert anyone to vegetarianism, or veganism, but since most of us are watching our pennies and our waistlines this is a yummy way to do both.

Good? Very good.
Easy? Yes, just time consuming.
Good for company? Absolutely.
Special shopping? The truffle salt came from a specialty food store. You can get it from Dean & Deluca or order from

Butternut Squash Risotto with Mushrooms


Pulp from 1/2 butternut squash
1 t olive oil
4-5 oz baby bella mushrooms, quartered
3 C vegetable stock, warmed
1 T olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped fine
1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 C arborio rice
1/3 C white wine
3 T chopped fresh parsley
1/8 t truffle salt


Place butternut squash half, free of seeds, cut side down in a microwaveable dish. Add enough water to cover the bottom of the dish about 1/4 inch. Microwave on high 4-5 minutes, or until squash is soft enough to be scooped out with a spoon. Set aside.
Heat 1 t olive oil in a skillet. Add the mushrooms and saute until they are tender and brown on all sides.
Heat vegetable stock in a small pot and keep hot.
Add olive oil to a small stock pot and heat until it shimmers. Add onion and garlic. Saute 1-2 minutes.
Add arborio rice and stir to coat. Add 1/3 C white wine and stir until the liquid is almost absorbed. Add warm stock to rice 1/2 C at a time. Stir constantly between each stock addition until the liquid is almost absorbed. Continue until the rice is nearly al dente.
Stir in squash pulp, mushrooms and 1/4 C of remaining stock. Cook until rice is al dente.
Remove from heat and stir in parsley. Stir in truffle salt.

Potatoes with Olive and Sundried Tomato Tapenade

August 18, 2012

I’ve had this recipe on my radar for several weeks.  I’m not eating a lot of potatoes right now so I had to wait for an occasion to share them with a group.  Potluck with the girls last night was the perfect opportunity.  You serve these at room temperature so they’re perfect for a potluck or picnic.  And no mayonnaise so it’s okay if they sit out.

I’ll confess that I’m mostly not a fan of sundried tomatoes.  For this recipe I used the packaged kind that you reconstitute with water instead of the bottled kind with the tomatoes packed in oil.  And I didn’t do all the chopping by hand.  I was short on time so I used the mini chopper instead.  I used roasted garlic instead of raw because I had it.  I left out the cherry tomatoes because I didn’t have them.  I didn’t have white wine vinegar so I used red wine vinegar.  That all seemed to work fine.  I used a mix of small white and red potatoes from the farmers’ market and topped everything off with basil from my garden. 

As with all potato salads you want to use a potato that will hold together well when it’s fully cooked.  I cooked the potatoes whole and then quartered them to reduce my risk of overcooking them.  I tend to overcook them.  As for the tapenade, there are pros and cons to making it in a food processor.  On the pro side it’s fast and it coats the potatoes evenly like a dressing.  On the con side it’s a black dressing so frankly the dish isn’t great to look at.  It’s good to taste, though.  It’s tangy and briny; then starchy and smooth; and finishes with the green and sweet of the basil.  For a pretty simple potato salad the flavors are wonderfully complex.

Near as I can tell it was a hit at potluck.  I’d make it again.  I might add a touch of salt and a touch of lemon zest just to brighten things up.  Definitely worth keeping on your list of things to take to a cookout!

Good? Very good.
Easy? Pretty easy.
Good for company? Absolutely.
Special shopping? Nope.

Potatoes with Olive and Sundried Tomato Tapenade


2 pounds small red potatoes
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/4 cup oil-packed or reconsituted sun-dried tomato halves, drained
1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
1 tablespoon extravirgin olive oil
2 cloves roasted garlic
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Place potatoes in a large saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until tender; drain. Cool slightly; cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks. Place in a large bowl; toss with vinegar and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cool completely.
Combine tomatoes, olives, basil, oil, and garlic in a small food processor. Process until smooth. Add olive mixture, pepper, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt to potatoes; toss gently to combine.

Tomato Onion Pie

August 12, 2012

I can’t believe this is my first tomato pie of the summer, but it is.  Criminal.  This is just the best stuff.  My motivation for putting it together was an invitation to “Lobsterpalooza” with some friends.  That’s right, a bunch of folks gathered around a table picking lobsters on a Saturday night.  It’s pretty hard to beat.  I wanted to take something worthy of the occasion.  There are a million ways to make tomato pie and pretty much any recipe you choose will be about the best thing you’ve ever eaten provided you get good tomatoes.  My hat is off to the folks at Rocking F Farm in Hanover County for  growing fantastic Hanover tomatoes and selling them at a very reasonable price.

Because I was cooking for 10 people I made this tomato pie in a casserole dish instead of a deep dish pie pan.  I used a store bought crust, one and a half of them actually, because Pillsbury is good at pie crust and I am not.  I’ve learned to live with that.  I started with an Emeril Lagasse recipe and made a few adjustments.  I left out the thyme because I don’t like it in this.  I used extra sharp cheddar instead of fontina because in my world tomato pie has cheddar in it.  I left off the Parmesan because I just didn’t need it.  I did like that this recipe uses less egg and mayonnaise than some without sacrificing any of the flavor.  And if you know me then you know that the key to the whole thing is that the mayo has to be Duke’s.

A few tips for making a good tomato pie.  Do not try to make this in the Winter.  It’s tomato pie so the tomatoes really matter.  Get good fresh ones.  They should be ripe, but firm enough that they slice easily.  Leave yourself plenty of time.  You pre-bake the crust.  The finished dish bakes for an hour and sits for another 30 minutes before you can cut into it and expect it to keep its shape.  Think lasagna timing.  The process is pretty similar.  You get all your ingredients together and put them in the pan in layers.  If you’ve made an actual pie then by all means cut it into slices.  If you make it in a casserole dish you can cut it into squares or serve it with a big spoon.  Just make sure you get all the way to the crust when you serve it.  Otherwise you’ll miss the flaky, buttery goodness at the bottom of the pan.

This pie has lots of cheese, sweet onions, fresh basil and just enough eggs and mayonnise to hold it together.  It doesn’t get much better than that. Two regrets:   one, in my haste to get out the door I didn’t remember to take a picture and two, I didn’t make enough to have leftovers to bring home.  It got rave reviews from the Lobsterpalooza crowd.  It’s hard to imagine a tomato pie that would get anything less than a rave.  Happy, happy summer food!

Good? So amazingly good.
Easy? Let’s call it intermediate. Lots of steps and lots of time.
Good for company? You’ll be the hit of any party.
Special shopping? Get farmers’ market tomatoes or, better yet, ones from your own garden!

Tomato Onion Pie


Note: These are the ingredients for 1 deep dish pie. I used half again as much to make a 9X13 pan full.
2 pounds ripe tomatoes, sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup panko
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 egg
1 cup thinly sliced Vidalia onions
3 tablespoons chiffonade fresh basil
3/4 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
3/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Roll out the pie crust on a lightly floured surface to fit a deep 9 or 10-inch pie pan. Place the pastry in the pie pan and crimp edges decoratively. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes, then line with aluminum foil. Fill with pie weights and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until lightly golden around the edges. Remove foil and pie weights, and return to the oven for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack to cool.
Slice the tomatoes, discarding the stem and root ends, into 1/4-inch slices and lightly season with the salt and pepper.

Sprinkle about 1/3 of the bread crumbs in the bottom of the pie crust. In a small bowl combine the mayonnaise with the egg and stir until smooth. Place a layer of tomatoes in the bottom of the piecrust over the breadcrumbs, using about half of the tomatoes, then top with half of the sliced onions. Drizzle with half of the mayonnaise mixture, half of the basil, half of the cheddar and half of the mozzarella cheeses. Top with half of the remaining breadcrumbs then top with the remaining tomato slices, remaining onions, remaining cheddar and mozzarella, remaining mayonnaise mixture, and remaining basil. Top with the remaining bread crumbs and drizzle with the olive oil.

Place in the oven and bake until bubbly hot and golden brown, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Roasted Garlic Green Beans

August 9, 2012

This isn’t so much a recipe as a big thank you to my garden.  I’ve been pretty neglectful of the garden this year.  I do throw a little water its way most days, but I have to admit that I stopped weeding in the hideous heat of late June.  Even other than the mistreatment at my hands the garden has had a tough summer.  Heavy downpours, absurdly strong winds, excessive heat even for Virginia.  I thought it had given up, but this week it’s making a comeback!

I went out tonight to pick a few Juliet tomatoes and ended up with a bunch of those, some squash, a cucumber, a poblano pepper and enough green beans to have for dinner.  I know I’ve said it before, but there’s something special about eating something less than an hour after it’s picked. I decided on the green beans for tonight.  A couple of minutes in boiling water and a quick rinse in cold water to set the beautiful green color.  Then a very simple preparation so I could really taste the beans.  A two minute saute in olive oil with some roasted garlic and a little kosher salt.  So, so good.  Now I remember why I planted the garden in the first place.

Good? So, so good.
Easy? So, so easy (unless you count the growing part).
Good for company? Absolutely. Nothing says love like homegrown vegetables.
Special shopping? Not really any shopping.