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Weekday Dinner Inspirations: Leah Chase's Scalloped Tomatoes and more

Mon | Meatless meal

A bowl of Cajun Red Rice & Beans with a slab of corn bread is a mighty fine vegetarian dinner. To make the beans, saute 1 small chopped onion, 1/2 bell pepper, 2 minced garlic cloves and two ribs celery in olive oil, for about 5 minutes. Add two cans drained and rinsed red beans and 1 can diced tomatoes bring to simmer and stir in 1 1/2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning and 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano. Cook on low for about 10 minutes, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with cooked rice and hot sauce.

Tues | Left Coast Southern

My serious go-to dinner is Shrimp & Grits. There's a dozen ways to make this low-county classic, but here's how a West Coast girl does it: Fry five strips of bacon; set aside and keep at least 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat in the pan. While the bacon is cooking, I let the peeled shrimp sit with a dusting of paprika and start the cheese grits, making them according to package instructions but using half water and half whole milk. I like extra-sharp cheese. Saute shrimp until just pink in bacon fat. To serve, scoop grits into a shallow serving bowl, top with shrimp and garnish with crumbled bacon and sliced scallions. (Breakfast leftovers: Cheese grits topped with a fried or scrambled egg.

Wed | Rotisserie chicken

Leah Chase's Cold Weather Cooking is one of the many cookbooks I brought to Florida when I moved here 20 years ago this month. While I've made many recipes from the book, I hadn't tried her Scalloped Tomatoes (recipe below) until recently. Completely delicious and so smart as a side for rotisserie chicken.

Thurs | It's pizza night

Make a flavorful Caprese Pizza, starting with a pound of pizza dough, thawed. Stretch it in an oblong shape on a baking sheet, then brush with olive oil. Mix 1 cup of ricotta cheese with about 1/3 cup of prepared pesto and spread it over uncooked dough. Top with slices of fresh mozzarella and sliced tomatoes in single layer. Bake for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees, until crust is golden. Sprinkle with chopped fresh basil as soon as you take pizza out of oven, and let it sit for at least 5 minutes before cutting.

Fri | Pork on a stick

If the weather permits, head outside tonight to grill Mojo Pork Skewers. Before leaving the house in the a.m., cube boneless pork chops and put them in a store-bought mojo marinade. When ready to grill, thread them on skewers alternately with chunks of onion and green pepper. Grill over medium high heat for about 10 to 12 minutes total, turning several times during cooking. Serve with fruit salad and a rice studded with sliced scallions.

Janet K. Keeler can be reached at or (727) 893-8586.


Leah Chase's Scalloped Tomatoes

5 tablespoons olive oil, divided use

2 cups (½-inch diced) French bread, preferably a crusty baguette

16 plum tomatoes, cut ½-inch dice, about 2 ½ pounds

1 tablespoon minced garlic

(3 cloves)

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

½ cup julienned basil leaves, lightly packed

1 tablespoon sugar (optional)

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large (12 inches) saute pan over medium heat. Add the bread cubes and stir to coat with the oil. Cook over medium to medium-high heat for 5 minutes, stirring often, until the cubes are evenly browned. Add the tomatoes and garlic to the pan and continue to cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, add the basil and remove from the heat. Taste and if it seems very acidic add 1 tablespoon sugar.

Pour the tomato mixture into a shallow (6- to 8-cup) baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with the Parmesan cheese and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the top is browned and the tomatoes are bubbly. Serve hot or warm.

Serves 6.

Source: Cold Weather Cooking by Leah Chase (Workman, 1990)

Weekday Dinner Inspirations: Leah Chase's Scalloped Tomatoes and more 09/18/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 18, 2012 2:24pm]
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