‘Mater Pie

Nothing screams SOUTHERN! and SUMMER! louder than a fresh baked tomato pie. Whether you grow your own, have good friends that like to share their harvest, or enjoy trips to the Farmer’s Market – a great tomato pie recipe should be in your repertoire. Ironically, after my mom brought over these about-to-burst-from-ripe-juicy-goodness tomatoes, I realized I didn’t have a tomato pie recipe….because I had never actually made a tomato pie.

tomatoes

So I go where any searching chef (ok, so I’m not a chef, I’m a home cook…but I like the alliteration, so I’m rolling with it) goes for new recipes – the Interwebs. A quick Google* search for “tomato pie” yields a ton of recipes….where to begin? First on the list was a Paula Deen recipe – a ton of basil, but otherwise didn’t look too exciting. Next up, Simply Recipes – similar to the first, but with the addition of onions, and hot sauce. Getting better! Moving down the line, Taste of Home introduced bacon – now that’s what I’m talking about!

But then this search came to a screeching halt. I was looking for differences and uniqueness among the recipes, and I wasn’t expecting this gleaming commonality. I’d only looked at 3 recipes, but so far all three included my arch-nemesis – Mayonnaise! You’ve GOT to be kidding me….please don’t tell me the goopy grossness is a key ingredient to a good tomato pie. I’ve never detected it’s presence in any savory slice (apparently I’m on an alliteration kick….) of ‘mater pie I’d previously consumed…. So I went straight to a reliable source – Southern Living. And there it was….mayonnaise…. Alright, I concede…mayo will be an ingredient in this pie. But I will make damn sure that not one of my taste buds will ever know! Mayo aside, the SL recipe looked the best.

Tomato Pie

It started with a bacon and sour cream whole wheat crust. Yes, they actually crumbled 8 slices of bacon and put it in the crust. I reserved my bacon (and only 3 slices) for the filling. The choice is yours on that one. But the sour cream (in lieu of water) was appealing. Despite being a slightly temperamental dough to work with (just work slowly while rolling and transferring to your pie plate), the result was ideal – light, flaky and full of flavor.

The filling looked pretty good too – sliced tomatoes, a blend of fresh herbs, and a mayonnaise and cheese spread. With the addition of the bacon and some lightly caramelized onions, this was rounding out to be my ideal tomato pie. Also, SL had a unique addition – apple cider vinegar to the mayo/cheese mixture. Perfect! Exchange that for a little balsamic, and I knew that mayo taste would be obliterated.

After almost an hour in the oven, the kitchen aromas were intense. The Man came home and instantly started drooling over the cooling pie. Then I dropped the bomb – we have to wait at least two hours. Like any pie, cutting in too soon will result in a soupy mess. It was hard, but we held out! And it was absolutely worth the wait! Enjoy :)

Tomato Pie2

*Google is used as a verb here. I actually use Yahoo! for searching.

Sour Cream Crust

  • 1 1/4 C. whole wheat flour
  • 1 C. self-rising flour
  • 1 C. butter, cubed
  • 3/4 C. sour cream

In a food processor, pulse flours until combined. Add in butter, pulse until consistency of small peas. Add in sour cream, 1/4 cup at a time, until thoroughly incorporated. Do not over work. Wrap in plastic wrap, form into a disk, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough out into a 13 inch round. Transfer to a lightly greased pie plate, and crimp the edges. Refrigerate until needed (at least 30 minutes).

‘Mater Pie

  • Sour cream crust
  • 2 1/4 lb. tomatoes (divided)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3 slices bacon, chopped
  • 2 onions, sliced into rings
  • 1/2 C. mayonnaise
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 C. cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 C. mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 C. parmesan cheese, grated
  • 3 – 4 T. fresh chopped herbs (parsley, basil, oregano, thyme, chives)
  • 1 T. balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 1/2 T. cornmeal

Cut 2 lb. tomatoes into 1/4-inch-thick slices, and remove seeds. Place tomatoes in a single layer on paper towels; sprinkle with 1 tsp. salt. Let stand 30 minutes.

Brown bacon in a skillet. Remove and set aside. Pour off most of bacon fat, and saute onions until soft and lightly caramelized (about 10 minutes).

In a small bowl, combine mayo, egg, cheeses, herbs, salt and pepper.

To assemble : Remove formed pie dough from fridge. Sprinkle dough with cornmeal. Layer in 1/2 of tomatoes, slightly overlapping. Spoon in half of onions and half of the bacon. Spread 1/2 of cheese mixture evenly over tomatoes. Repeat layers. Top with remaining 1/4 pound of tomatoes (that have not been salted). Season with fresh cracked pepper.

Bake at 425F for 40-45 minutes. Cover edges with foil, if needed to protect crust. Allow pie to cool for 1-2 hours before serving.

Recipe adapted from Southern Living Tomato, Cheddar and Bacon Pie

Whole Wheat & Seed Bread

I was in dire need of some good whole wheat bread yesterday – and the grocery store bakery just wasn’t delivering on all my cravings. I wanted rich and nutty aromas, a bread chock full of nutrients, and deliciously guilt-free. So to the kitchen I went, to concoct the bread my mouth was watering for.

Whole Wheat & Seed BreadYes, this is healthy bread that’s full of bird seed  flax and sesame seeds. But it’s also good bread. It can side a bowl of soup, goes great with butter and honey, or can be the ideal ends (and middle…) to a fantastic Club Sandwich. Something a little like this :club Sandwich

Whole Wheat & Seed Bread

  • 1 1/2 C. warm water
  • 1 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 1 T. honey
  • 1 tsp. coarse sea salt
  • 1/4 C. rolled oats
  • 1/4 C. flax seeds
  • 1/4 C. sunflower seeds (roasted)
  • 1/4 C. sliced almonds
  • 2 – 3 C. whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp. olive oil

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine water, yeast and honey. Allow to proof for 5 minutes. Add in salt, oats, flax, sunflower seeds, and almonds. Mix on low with the dough hook for 1 minute. Add in 2 cups of flour and stir on low until combined (scrape down sides of the bowl as needed). If needed, add in more flour 1/4 cup at a time. Dough will be tacky, but should form a ball and pull away from the sides of the bowl. Pour in oil while mixer is running. With the mixer on medium-low, knead for 7 to 10 minutes.

Place dough into a lightly oiled bowl, and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 1 1/2 hours. Punch down dough, lightly knead in the bowl for 2 to 3 minutes. Place dough into an oiled loaf pan, and  allow to rise until dough crowns over pan by 1 inch (about 1 hour).

Bake bread at 375F for 30 – 35 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes on a rack before removing from pan.

Club Sandwich

Layer, from bottom to top :

  • Toasted bread
  • 1 slice cheddar cheese
  • 2 slices deli meat (rotisserie-style chicken)
  • Bibb lettuce
  • Tomato, thick sliced
  • Toasted bread with mayonnaise
  • 1 slice Swiss cheese
  • 2 slices bacon
  • 1 egg, over easy
  • Toasted bread with whole grain mustard

Chicken Ragu

After a quick sear and a long simmer, the chicken in this ragu will melt in your mouth. A little wine adds flavor to the sauce (a glass for the chef doesn’t hurt either!) and the fact that this dish is economical is the icing on the cake (or the cheese on your spaghetti…)

Chicken Ragu

I like to use boneless skinless chicken thighs for this dish. They are butterflied open (making them thin and quicker cooking) and the dark meat is so tender and flavorful. Not to mention that thighs are much cheaper than breasts. Lightly season the meat and pan sear both sides. You aren’t trying to cook the chicken through, you just want a little brown on them. The meat will finish cooking (and fall to shreds) in the sauce.

Browning Chicken

Once you’ve got the meat browned (you may need to cook the pieces in batches) it’s time for the onions. Don’t worry about any chicken or brown bits that have stuck to the bottom of the pan – put the onions right on top. Moisture from the onions will help pull some of it up (and a douse of red wine will finish the rest!) Cook the onions for about 10 minutes, or until softened.
Saute OnionsTime to reach for the wine (the bottle, not your glass…) and pour in about 1/4 cup to deglaze the pan. Use your spoon to scrape up all the stuck on bits, and then bring the wine up to a simmer. It’s best to let it cook for a few minutes before adding anything else – this will allow the alcohol to cook out and the wine flavor to concentrate. Now you may be wondering what kind of  “red” wine to use. Personally, I’m not real picky about wine…in fact, we tend to go with cheap or on sale (or my favorite of all cheap and on sale). Avoid a sweet red, or anything labeled “table wine”. But anything you already have on hand (or wouldn’t mind drinking) will work great.

Deglaze with wine

Now everybody in the pot – tomatoes, chicken stock (boxed stock is perfectly fine here), brown sugar, seasonings and chicken. Stir it up (make sure the chicken is covered) and bring it up to a simmer. Put a lid on the sauce and reduce the heat to low. You want the pot to be slowly simmering – not boiling. One to two bubbles surfacing for second is ideal. After the first hour, you’ll want to remove the lid to allow some of the moisture to evaporate.

Chicken back in the pot

For the best results, the chicken needs to simmer for about 3 hours. I know, this is a long time – the long slow cooking helps keep the chicken tender and juicy, while turning it into bite sized shreds. But if you don’t happen to have 3 hours before dinner time, there are a few shortcuts that work great as well. Option 1 – dice up your meat. Obviously smaller pieces cook faster. I would season, sear, them cut into 1 inch pieces. Option 2 – use chicken that’s already cooked. But depending on how the chicken was previously cooked, will yield different results. Leftovers from a Beer Can Chicken, a store bought rotisserie chicken, or meat left from making stock would be best.

Long simmer

Every so often (half hour or so) you will want to give your pot a stir. Your chicken may need a little encouragement – use your spoon to gently break it apart. If you are worried the pieces aren’t shredding in a timely manner, feel free to pull it out and shred with two forks.

Once your chicken has successfully broken down, and your taste buds are drooling, it’s time for the pasta (yay, finally!). I like linguine for this sauce. The flat noodles are more substantial than say an angel hair, and the texture goes well with the sauce. Boil it up, drain it, then add it to the sauce. Let it cook for a few more minutes, to allow the sauce and pasta to become one. To serve, add a little torn basil, parmesan cheese, and fresh black pepper.

Chicken Ragu

Chicken Ragu

  • 1 1/2 Lbs. Boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 T. Cajun seasoning
  • 1 T. Italian seasoning
  • 1 T. Olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 C. Red wine
  • 1 C. Chicken stock
  • 1 box Pomi strained tomatoes (or large can of pureed tomatoes)
  • 1 T. Brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. Salt
  • 1 tsp. Black pepper
  • 1 lb. Linguine

Combine cajun and Italian seasonings and lightly coat both sides of chicken. In a dutch oven, brown chicken in olive oil (do not worry about cooking through). Remove chicken from pan.

In same pot, saute onions until soft. Add in garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Deglaze the pot with the wine. Use a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the pot. Allow wine to simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Add in stock, tomatoes, brown sugar, salt, pepper and chicken. Bring to a simmer, cover, and reduce to low.

After 1 hour, remove lid. With a wooden spoon, gently break apart chicken. Simmer for 3 hours. Stir and break up chicken every half hour.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and add to sauce. Allow to cook in sauce for 5 minutes before serving.

Greek Pasta Salad

 

And for the pasta portion of tonight’s Gyro Burger dinner – Greek Pasta Salad. Colorful and flavorful, this is a zingy dish that goes great as a side. Or have it for a quick filling lunch!
Greek Pasta Salad

Greek Pasta Salad

  • 12 Oz. tri-color rotini pasta
  • 1/2 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 C. red onion, diced
  • 1/2 cucumber; peeled, seeded and diced
  • 1/4 C. Spanish olives, sliced
  • 1 T. capers
  • 2 T. feta cheese, diced or crumbled
  • Greek dressing

Cook pasta according to package directions, drain and set aside. Combine all other ingredients except for cheese and dressing. Toss to combine. Then add in pasta and dressing. Thoroughly coat pasta and vegetables. Allow to cool for 15 to 20 minutes before adding in feta cheese. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Greek Dressing

  • 1 T. fresh oregano
  • 1 T. Italian parsley
  • 1 T. lemon zest
  • 1 T. lemon juice
  • 1 T. honey
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 C. red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 C. olive oil

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth.

Greek Pasta Salad

B.L.(A)T.

Whether for a filling lunch or a quick supper, a BLT (bacon, lettuce, tomato) sandwich is good to have in your repertoire. Juicy ripe tomatoes, thick-cut bacon, and crisp greens on a crusty baguette. Adding a little garlic herb butter (in lieu of mayonnaise) and some sliced avocado takes this classic up a notch.

BLT with Avocado

Slice your bread almost in half (this makes for easier eating) and spread the inside with garlic herb butter. Put the bread butter-side down in a heated nonstick pan (you could also grill the bread or use the broiler in the oven). Press it down some, to make sure it gets evenly toasted.

garlic herb butterGarlic Bread

Now it’s just a matter of layering in the B, L, A, and T. This is easier said than done. That freshly grilled bread smells real good, and it’s tempting at this point to abandon sandwich and just eat garlic bread for dinner….if you decide to go down this path of garlicky good-ness, I suggest you serve your bread with a nice side salad. Crisp greens, tomato, avocado and crumbled bacon maybe?

Tomato & Pesto Pizza

For you purists out there, here is a more traditional pizza….

tomato and pesto pizza

Being that it is January, my tomato and basil selections are extremely disappointing. So I’m using canned tomatoes and store bought pesto. In the spring, when my Basil plants are big and happy, we’ll talk more about pesto.

tomato and pesto

For more details about pizza dough and baking pizza, please check out my Thai Chicken Pizza post. Enjoy!

Pizza Dough (for one pizza)

  • 1 C. flour
  • 1/2 tsp. yeast
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 – 1/3 C. warm water

Combine flour, yeast and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Slowly add water until you reach desired consistency. Turn to “stir” and knead for 7 – 10 minutes. Dump into oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise for until doubled in volume. Punch down dough, and divide into balls (one for each pizza). Cover until ready to use.

Tomato & Pesto Pizza

  • Pizza dough
  • Diced tomatoes, fresh or canned
  • 2 – 3 T. pesto, fresh or store-bought
  • mozzarella cheese, freshly grated

Preheat gas grill and pizza stone on high heat. Spread dough out on a floured pizza peel. Shimmy, to ensure it is not sticking. Spread the pesto evenly around the crust. Scatter the tomatoes and cheese evenly. Transfer to the pizza stone, and lower heat to medium. Allow to cook for 10 -12 minutes, until cheese is bubbly and dough is cooked through. Transfer back to the peel. Allow to cool for 5 – 10 minutes before cutting.

Spicy Tomato Soup

spicy tomato soup

Spicy Tomato Soup is a quick, easy, flavorful soup with just the right ammount of heat to warm you up on a cold day. Start to finish is about 30 minutes. Paired with a nice crusty bread (or my favorite, rosemary focaccia bread), this hearty soup is nutritious and filling. I can’t take any credit for this one – it is a Giada De Laurentiis recipe.

  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 Cups chicken stock
  • 1 – 26 ounce jar marinara sauce (use your favorite brand)
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 – 16 ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 Cup of pasta (anything small)
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, heat up 2 Tablespoons of olive oil on medium high. Add in the carrots and onion until softened. Then add in the garlic, half of the red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, and cook for 2 minutes. Pour in marinara, and chicken stock. Bring to a boil and add in pasta and beans. Reduce to a simmer and allow to cook for 20 minutes. Half way through simmering, check for seasonings. Add salt, pepper and red pepper as needed.

Not Your Kids’ Grilled Cheese

When you think grilled cheese, what comes to mind? White sandwich bread? A little butter? Processed American cheese? Oh good – then your expectations are real low. And do I have a treat for you – I add bacon! Ok, it’s a little better than that…

The complete recipe, with measurements can be found at the bottom of the post

What makes a plain grilled cheese sandwich a good grilled cheese sandwich is shredded cheese and fresh bread. The possibilities of cheesy combos is endless, but the foundation is the same – good bread, good cheese. Tonight we are having avocado, bacon, and tomato on country white bread.

On a whim, I decided to dehydrate the tomatoes. I already had the oven on low (I was making spicy Chex mix to take to a friend’s party) and decided to pop in the sliced tomatoes. I can’t tell you exactly how long they cooked for….about an hour on 300F. Could you skip this step? Of course. You could also peel open a slice of plastic cheese and be halfway done ;)
dehydrated tomatoes

Choose your favorite cheeses to shred. I used equal parts sharp white cheddar and pepper jack, and a handful of fresh parmesan. Colby jack, mozzarella, gouda, Swiss – all would work well here. You will need 2 to 4 ounces per sandwich, depending on how cheesy you want it.

For ease of turning and eating, I like to mash the avocado and spread it on the bread like butter. Add a little lime to keep it fresh, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

avocado

Slice your bread about 3/4 inch thick, and get all your ingredients prepared. I slather a generous amount of avocado on each slice, followed by the tomatoes, bacon, and finally the mound of cheese. Remember that this will melt down – so don’t be shy. If you are reading this post in advance, it’s best to wrap assembled sandwiches in plastic, and keep them in the fridge for an hour (or more). This will help the ingredients mingle and hold together during the cooking process. If you don’t have extra time, add more cheese….because you are likely to lose some to the frying pan.

assembly

Preheat a nonstick skillet on medium, and spray lightly with cooking spray (or just use the same pan that you cooked the bacon in, like I did. Drained of most of the fat, of course). Coat one side of the sandwich (the one closest to the cheese) with a thin layer of softened butter, and put it butter side down into the skillet. Check your bread often, you want it golden and crisp. Coat the top side with butter, so that it’s ready for flipping.

grilling

Once your bottom bread is to the desired color, flip your sandwich over. Now just wait patiently….but if the sandwich seems to be cooking too quickly (bread is browning, cheese isn’t melting) lower the heat and put a loose fitting lid over the sandwich for a few minutes.

grilled cheese

  • 4 slices bread, cut 3/4 inch thick
  • 4 – 8 ounces cheese, grated
  • 4 slices thick cut bacon, cooked
  • One avocado, mashed
  • Juice of half a lime
  • Freshest tomato, sliced and dehydrated (optional)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Butter

Spread mashed avocado onto each slice of bread. Layer tomato, bacon, and cheese onto one slice of bread per sandwich. Top with second slice of bread. Coat top slice of bread (closest to cheese) with thin layer of butter. Grill in a preheated non-stick pan until golden. Butter second slice of bread and flip. Remove from heat once both sides are golden and cheese is melted through.