Lambasted with overbearing news coverage and every expert’s opinion as to the cause of essentially unexplainable human cruelty, media withdrawal may be the best alternative to implosion from overexposure.
When you live in a family where the most important question every morning is “What’s for dinner?” seeking refuge in the kitchen makes perfect sense. At this time of year, cooking projects are happily devised and managed because the summer season choices for fresh, delicious dishes are endless.
Multitudes of tomato varieties are available right now and Tomato Veggie Pie serves as a wonderful host for the tomato of your choice. Any type of tomato briefly simmered in butter, joined by other fresh vegetables, basil, garlic, and a touch of champagne vinegar, creates the base for a pie which serves as a light lunch or a side dish for dinner.
Tomato Veggie Pie
1-9 inch deep dish frozen pie crust
2 Tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 zucchini squash- sliced
1 cup fresh mushrooms- sliced
2 tomatoes- peeled and cut into chunks
Seasonings of your choice – Salt, pepper, basil, thyme, oregano, garlic, etc.
1 teaspoon champagne vinegar
2 eggs- beaten
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese- grated
1. Let the crust thaw for a few minutes. Prick the sides and bottom with a fork or small knife.
2. Bake the crust at 400 for about six to ten minutes or until it is lightly browned. The crust should cool while the rest of the pie is prepared.
3. Sauté the onion and zucchini in the butter.
4. Add the other vegetables and seasonings. Simmer for about ten minutes.
5. Allow the simmered mixture to cool and then stir in the eggs.
6. Pour the mixture into the crust.
7. Sprinkle the cheese over the top of the pie.
8. Bake at 425 for about 25 to 30 minutes. The pie should
bubble all over and be evenly browned.
• For a richer crust, spread four ounces of softened cream cheese over the baked crust before adding the filling.
• Be creative with your vegetables and cheese. Yellow squash works well in combination with or in lieu of the zucchini. The mushrooms can be left out. Smoked Gouda cheese or a packaged blend adds a nice touch.
• Let the pie set up for about 30 minutes before serving.
• The distinct flavors of this pie increase if it is made the day before it will be eaten. Refrigerate it and reheat before serving.
• Balsamic vinegar gives this pie a distinctive taste in place of the champagne vinegar. But it will discolor the vegetables. White wine vinegar can be substituted for the champagne vinegar.
Basic yellow squash takes the leading role in Becky Nelson’s Old-Fashioned Squash. This is a traditional family recipe which pre-dates conveniences like cream of mushroom soup and uses saltine crackers instead. Its simple flavor and texture easily recalls a grandmother’s Sunday family dinner regular menu item.
6 medium yellow squash- sliced
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese- grated
10 crumbled saltine crackers
1/2 cup milk
6 Tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon grated onion
1. Boil the squash in a small amount of water until it is soft.
2. Mix all the other ingredients in a bowl and add the squash.
3. Bake in a casserole dish at 350 for about thirty minutes.
• The onion must be grated.
• Doubling this recipe works well and the end result will be light and fluffy.
While preparing summer vegetables opens the door to welcome nutrition and essential good taste, the fruits of summer shine in sweet cobblers that sooth and delight. This celebrated dessert appears in a range of forms and the recipes are usually easy, basically requiring ingredients which are found in most pantries. Cobblers offer an ideal project to enjoy with a youngster who has also retreated to the kitchen.
In 2003 Clif and Maureen Holt opened Little Savannah Restaurant and Bar in Birmingham‘s Forest Park neighborhood. The Holts describe their unique restaurant as a “neighborhood Southern Bistro” and serve scrumptious farm-to-table dinners and brunches with sincere warmth, gracious charm, and an ease noted by their dress code — “Casual Attire Required: Please Remove Jacket and Tie Upon Arrival.”
On Wednesday evenings from mid- May through August, Little Savannah presents its “Community Farm Table.” This three-course, locally sourced, family style supper includes among its guests the farmer or other person who provided some of the menu offerings.
Several years ago the Holts appeared at Pepper Place Saturday Market in Birmingham as the featured chefs. With peaches and blueberries from that morning’s market, they prepared the duo fruit cobbler and shared samples with market customers. With a few basic ingredients and local fruit, this slightly crunchy cobbler quickly comes together for a fine finish to any meal.
Little Savannah Peach and Blueberry Cobbler
6 peaches — peeled and cut up
1/4 cup sugar- for sweetening peaches
1 pint blueberries
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of each: cinnamon, freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup whole milk
4 ounces melted butter
1. Sprinkle the peaches with one fourth cup of sugar. Add less or no sugar
if the peaches are real sweet.
2. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and spices in a bowl. Add the
milk and the melted butter.
3. Put the peaches in the baking dish and pour the batter over them.
4. Add the blueberries.
5. Bake at 400 for about 45 minutes or until the middle of the cobbler is firm and the top is evenly browned.
Prudence Hilburn’s Strawberry Cobbler is a mere drop in the bottomless bucket of her incredible recipe repertoire. Just reading her recipes will make your soul smile, even if you just finished a huge meal.
A native of Piedmont, Ala., Prudence has led a multifaceted food life.
When she was named a finalist in the 1963 Pillsbury Bake-Off, many of her friends and family could not believe it. She explained, “In fact, a few of them giggled when they heard it, because they could remember how I had to struggle sometimes just to get a meal on the table.” However, the bake-off was a mere first step in her 50-year culinary journey.
Since those very early days, Prudence has become a genuine food celebrity with impressive credentials — studies in France with Simone Beck, who co-authored Mastering the Art of French Cooking with Julia Child, staff member of Peter Kump’s New York Cooking School, six-time Pillsbury Bake-Off finalist, author of 11 cookbooks, spokesperson for the Pillsbury Company and Domino Sugar, national television personality, syndicated newspaper columnist, and cooking class teacher. Today, at 76, she still functions at full throttle.
Prudence’s mother was well-known for her cobblers, but strawberry cobbler, often made with family-grown strawberries, was her forte. Prudence reminisced in a recent column, “When I was growing up, I would see my mother pull out that old bent pan, and know we were about to enjoy her strawberry cobbler.” The crust for this recipe is well worth the few minutes it requires and it is certainly the crowning glory of a juicy, taste treat which may turn out to be the best cobbler you have ever eaten.
A Variation on
4 cups fresh strawberries- sliced
Juice from 1/2 large lemon
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 Tablespoon flour
6 Tablespoons butter
1 and 1/4 cups self-rising flour
1/3 cup shortening
3 to 4 Tablespoons ice water
2 Tablespoons butter- melted
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1. Place the strawberries in a baking bowl and stir in the lemon juice.
2. Combine the sugar and flour and mix well. Sprinkle the mixture over the
strawberries. Dot with butter.
3. To make the crust, combine the flour and shortening with your hands or a
pastry blender until the mixture looks like cornmeal with a few small lumps of
shortening. Add water, one tablespoon at a time, until you can shape the dough
into a ball. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface. Fit the crust over
the cobbler. Make several slits in it, brush it with the melted butter, and
sprinkle the sugar over the top.
4. Bake at 350 for about 45-50 minutes or until the filling is bubbly and the crust is golden brown.
• The original version of the recipe included one half cup of water combined with the strawberries rather than the lemon juice. It also called for one cup of white sugar rather than one half cup of brown sugar. You may want to adjust the amount of sugar according to the sweetness of the strawberries.
•Be sure to use self-rising flour in the crust.
•Served warm, this cobbler stands on its own and needs no company. However, you can top it with vanilla ice cream for extra decadence.
Today or any day, save your sanity in the kitchen. It is as easy as homemade Tomato Veggie Pie.
Margaret Dabbs is a freelance columnist who resides in Jasper. Her column appears every other Wednesday in the Lifestyles section. Comments and suggestions are welcomed by contacting Dabbs at 205-387-2890.