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Posts Tagged ‘vegetarian’

Harvest Meal

August 24, 2012 56 comments

Harvest Basket + 5 Ingredients

We often have pantry meals – we make something for dinner out of just what we have in the pantry (and maybe add a few things from the refrigerator and/or freezer). These meals can be creative. Sometimes we just don’t want to go to the grocery store or farmers market, this is a good alternative. Well this week, I went outside and harvested a basket of veggies from the garden: tomatoes, spaghetti squash, green beans, onions, bell peppers, cucumbers, celery, and herbs. I decided to make a “harvest meal,” using the ingredients in the basket plus 5 kitchen staples: olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper.

I made a quick marinara sauce to top the spaghetti squash and served it with sautéed green beans, and a chopped salad. It was a tasty meal, made even better because we grew the veggies! We’ve only been gardening for two years, so it’s still a treat when we harvest. I don’t really have recipes and exact measurements, just guidelines. Hope you are enjoying the summer bounty! It’s time to think about a fall garden.

Spaghetti Squash with Marinara Sauce

Olive oil

Onions, chopped

Celery leaves and stems, chopped

Bell peppers, chopped

Tomatoes, chopped

Salt and pepper

Fresh herbs (basil, parsley, oregano)

Balsamic vinegar

Spaghetti squash pasta (see the next recipe)

Parmesan cheese

Heat some olive oil in a pan; add the onions, celery, and bell peppers. Sauté until tender. Add the tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Cook until the tomatoes are tender. You can mash some of the tomatoes with a fork or potato masher or even use an immersion blender. Depends on the texture you prefer. Stir in a splash of balsamic vinegar and the fresh herbs. Serve over the spaghetti squash with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

Spaghetti Squash “Pasta”

1 medium spaghetti squash

You can bake spaghetti squash in the oven at 350º F for 45 minute to an hour, until tender. However, it is August and I prefer not to heat up the house by using the oven for this. The microwave does a fine job.

You can cook spaghetti squash whole, but I prefer to cut them. Wash the outside of the squash. Dry it thoroughly. The rind is tough so it can be a little tricky to cut, so use care when cutting it. Wrap it in a towel, place it on a cutting board and use a large knife to slice it lengthwise from stem to end. Then use a spoon or a sturdy ice cream scoop to scoop out the seeds and the stringy stuff. This is similar to how you clean a butternut squash or a pumpkin.

Place the two halves cut side up in a microwave safe container (I use a Pyrex pie plate). Fill the cavities with water. Pour a little extra water in the bottom of the container. Microwave on high for 5 minutes. Rotate the squash halves and pour a little more water over the cut edges – this keeps them from drying out. Microwave another 5 minutes. Let them rest for about 5 more minutes. Then, use a fork to shred the squash so that it looks like strands of spaghetti.

Finished Meal

Green Beans

Green beans, washed and snapped (if needed)

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Fresh herbs (basil, parsley, oregano)

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan or wok. Stir in the green beans. Sauté until slightly tender (I like them with a little bite). Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and fresh herbs.

Chopped Salad

Tomatoes, chopped

Cucumbers, chopped

Onions, chopped

Celery leaves, chopped

Olive oil

Balsamic vinegar

Salt and pepper

Parmesan cheese

Fresh herbs (basil, parsley, oregano)

Toss the vegetables in a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, Parmesan cheese, and fresh herbs. Toss well. Serve.

 

Blogiversary!

July 30, 2012 14 comments

Bread and Butter Pickles

Today marks the 1 year anniversary of  The Flaming Pot Holder (and it is my 46th birthday)! Thank you all for reading my posts, trying the recipes, commenting on the recipes, sampling my food/drinks, offering excellent feedback, sharing my blog with friends, etc. I truly appreciate it! I have thoroughly enjoyed the past year. I am looking forward to the upcoming year and some changes to the blog – weekly postings, categorizing the recipes, revamping the look of the blog, improving my photographs, and creating a Facebook page for the blog. All in due time :)

This blog started with a tribute to my mom – recreating her cornbread recipe. Today’s post is also about my mom, this time her incredible Bread and Butter Pickles. The pickles in the photo were actually made by my mom. Mom made me a batch for my birthday in 2009. She shared a few jars with friends, but the rest of the batch was mine. Best. Gift. Ever! Mom’s friend Ursula had an extra jar from my mom and she gave it to me. We are down to the last jar and a half and we are savoring every bite.

I have never made these pickles by myself. Over the years, I helped my mom countless times. When our second set of cucumber plants start producing, I’ll make my very own batch. Hope you enjoy mom’s recipe for bread and butter pickles. They are a wonderful accompaniment to a garden-fresh veggie dinner with cornbread!

Bread and Butter Pickles (Print recipe)

Vegetables:

9 cucumbers, washed, NOT peeled

6 medium white onions

1 green bell pepper

1 red bell pepper

6 garlic cloves

⅓ cup salt

Ice

Wash the cucumbers, do not peel them. Peel the onions. Wash and core the bell peppers. Peel the garlic. Slice the vegetables thin (either a mandolin or a food processor would work well and save some time). Layer the vegetables with ice and salt. End with a layer of salt on top. Cover with a lid or a clean towel. Let everything sit for at least 3 hours (or overnight). Drain thoroughly. Make the pickling mixture:

Pickling Mixture:

3 cups distilled white vinegar

5 cups sugar

1½ teaspoons turmeric

1½ teaspoons celery seed

2 tablespoons mustard seeds

Combine the ingredients and pour the mixture over the drained vegetables. Heat to boiling only (stirring every now and then). Ladle into 8 sterile pint jars. Process according to your canner’s instructions. Wait one month after canning before serving. Makes: 8 pints.

Three Handwritings – Grandmom, Dad, and Mom?

 

Tomatoes

July 18, 2012 4 comments

Tomatoes from Our Garden

One of my favorite things about summer is fresh tomatoes! I’m not a fan of the heat and humidity in Alabama, but they certainly make wonderful growing conditions for tomatoes. In our second year of gardening, we are growing several varieties of tomatoes – Cherokee Purple, Chello (yellow/orange cherry), Mr. Stripey (orange and yellow), Arkansas Traveler (pink), Green Grape, Black Cherry Tomato, and Jubilee (yellow and orange). Quite the colorful harvest!

My favorite ways to eat fresh tomatoes – salsa, pasta sauce, soup, salad, and sandwiches! Or, just eat them plain! Growing up, tomato sandwiches were an almost daily fixture in the summer. I like traditional tomato sandwiches, but my favorite is a toasted, open-faced sandwich. Growing up, we called it a Summer Sandwich. Matt and I enjoyed our first sandwich a few weeks ago. Tastes even better when you grown the tomatoes in your garden! The sandwiches are especially good if you are local and can purchase FredBread. Great bread baked in downtown Huntsville, by a guy named Jeff!

I haven’t included any measurements in the “recipe.” This is just a general guideline. Feel free to customize it to your tastes. Hope you like it!

Summer Sandwich
(a.k.a. Toasted Open-Faced Tomato
Sandwich)

Bread

Mayo

Mustard

Tomatoes, sliced

Salt and Pepper

Onions, sliced

Herbs, fresh or dried, basil, parsley, etc.

Cheese

Slice bread. Spread with mayo and mustard. Top with sliced tomatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add onion slices. Top with herbs. Cover with cheese. Toast in a preheated 350º F toaster oven (or regular oven) until the cheese melts. Sprinkle with a few extra fresh herbs if you want. Serve and enjoy the taste of summer!

Cocktails and Kale

June 9, 2012 3 comments

Three Cocktails + Kale Chips = Friday Night

Cocktails and Kale…Today’s odd sounding post is courtesy of  a lazy Friday evening spent at home on our patio. We bought some delicious fresh kale from Tune Farm at the Greene Street Market on Thursday night and we still had strawberries from Dennison’s Farm so it seemed like a natural fit. Well, not strawberries and kale together (but it might not be the worst combination). Instead, we had strawberry cocktails served with oven baked crispy kale chips. In the last post, I shared several recipes for simple syrup. Those recipes will come in handy in the strawberry cocktails. The drinks feature strawberries because they are still so plentiful, fresh, and delicious. However, the drinks would also be good with blackberries, raspberries, or blueberries. These recipes also make wonderful non-alcoholic spritzers.

The drink recipes call for a muddler  and muddling. So, what is a muddler? It is a bartender’s tool, similar to a pestle, used to mash things (muddling). If you do not have a muddler, you can use a fork, the back of a spoon, or even a potato masher (though it probably won’t fit in a glass). I’ve used my lemon reamer and the pestle from our chinois conical strainer to muddle the ingredients. I’ve also thought about using my porridge spurtle. Yes, we have a porridge spurtle. What is a porridge spurtle? A wooden tool of Scottish origin used to stir porridge. We bought a hand-carved spurtle several years ago at the Monte Sano Art Show. We have yet to use it to stir porridge :).

Note: Each recipe makes two drinks. You can muddle and make the drinks in individual glasses, in a cocktail shaker, or even in a large pitcher if you are multiplying the recipe. The directions are for making two drinks directly in the glasses; however, feel free to change if you are using a cocktail shaker or making a pitcher.

Back to the drinks and snacks…these cocktails are light and refreshing, perfect for this early summer-like weather. The crispy kale chips are a crunchy, earthy, and salty balance to the drinks. Enjoy and have a happy weekend…

Strawberry Basil Refresher

Strawberry Basil Refresher

8 strawberries, hulled and sliced (or mashed)

2 tablespoons simple syrup (plain, strawberry, basil, or citrus)

8 fresh basil leaves, torn

2 teaspoons lemon juice

2 ounces rum (I prefer white rum for this drink)

Crushed ice

Club soda

Garnish: 2 whole strawberries, 2 lemon wedges (or slices), and 2 sprigs of fresh basil

Serves: 2

Equally divide the strawberries, simple syrup, basil, and lemon juice between the two glasses. Use a muddler to mash everything together. Add rum and crushed ice. Stir. Then fill the glass with soda water. Stir again. Garnish with a strawberry, lemon wedge (I forgot the lemon wedge in the photo!), and basil.

Strawberry Mojito

Strawberry Mojito

8 strawberries, hulled and sliced (or mashed)

4 tablespoons mint simple syrup (or plain or berry simple syrup)

2 tablespoons lime juice

6 fresh mint leaves, torn

2 ounces rum (I prefer white rum for this drink)

Club soda

Crushed ice

Garnish: 2 whole strawberries, 2 limes wedges, and 2 sprigs of fresh mint

Serves: 2

Equally divide the strawberries, simple syrup, lime juice, and mint between the two glasses. Use a muddler to mash everything together. Add rum and crushed ice. Stir. Then fill the glass with soda water. Stir again. Garnish with a lime wedge, strawberry, and/or mint leaf.

Non-alcoholic version: Just omit the rum. You can add a few extra berries and lime if you want to intensify the flavor. Also, feel free to omit the syrup if you are watching your sugar intake.

Strawberry Mule

Strawberry Mule

This is one of my favorite summer beverages. I especially like how they make it at Amendment XXI; however, it is just as tasty when made at home. It might even be better! You will want to use a strong ginger brew if you can find it. I like Reed’s Ginger Brew. In Huntsville, you can buy Reed’s at Garden Cove, Earth Fare, Foods for Life, and The Fresh Market (I believe they carry it). If you can’t find Reed’s or you think it is too gingery, then regular ginger ale would be fine. 

8 strawberries, hulled and sliced (or mashed)

2 tablespoons fresh citrus juice (lime or lemon juice)

2 tablespoons simple syrup (plain, berry, ginger, whatever you prefer)

2 ounces vodka (plain or citrus)

Crushed ice

2-6 ounces ginger brew (or ginger ale)

Garnish: 2 whole strawberries and 2 lemon or lime wedges

Serves: 2

Equally divide the strawberries, citrus juice, and simple syrup between the two glasses. Use a muddler to mash everything together. Add vodka and crushed ice. Stir. Then fill the glass with ginger brew. Stir again. Garnish with a strawberry and a citrus wedge.

Non-alcoholic version: Just omit the vodka. You can add a few extra berries and citrus if you want to intensify the flavor. Also, feel free to omit the syrup if you are watching your sugar intake. If this is the case, then you can use sugar-free ginger ale. You can even substitute club soda for the ginger ale and add some freshly grated ginger if you prefer.

Kale Chips

Oven Baked Kale Chips

1 bunch of fresh kale

Olive oil

Salt*

Preheat oven to 350º F. Line a baking sheet (or two) with parchment paper.

Wash and drain the kale. Remove tough stems. Chop or tear into medium-sized semi-uniform pieces. I like a few “extra crispy” small chips so uniform is a relative term. Dry the kale – I roll the washed and chopped leaves in a clean kitchen towel. The drier the leaves, the crisper the chips.

Place the dry kale in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil. If you have an olive oil sprayer or mister that would be great (I need to replace our broken one). Toss so the kale is coated evenly. Spread the kale into a single layer on the pan(s).

Bake for 10 minutes. Remove pan(s) from oven. Don’t worry if the kale has shrunk and looks funny. It will be delicious! Stir. Rearrange in a single layer. Sprinkle lightly with salt. If you used two baking sheets, now would be a good time to rotate the sheets (especially if your oven is as uneven as our oven). Bake another 10 to 15 minutes until crispy (not burned). Sprinkle with a little more salt it you want. If they look a little greasy, you can drain them on a paper towel or a clean brown paper bag. Otherwise, you can cool them on a rack. I skip this cooling step, because I prefer them right out of the oven. As they age, they can get a bit soggy so please store in an airtight container.

*Note: I wait until half-way through to sprinkle with salt. If you add it too early, it can bring out water in the kale while it bakes. Actually, this could make it steam.

Variations:  sprinkle with cayenne pepper, cracked black pepper, finely grated Parmesan cheese, nutritional yeast flakes, lemon pepper, Greek seasoning, etc.

The End of a Nice Evening

 

Veggie Medley

May 24, 2012 4 comments

I am not a fan of the summer heat in Alabama; however, I LOVE the food that such a climate makes possible! This week, we still have salad fixings in our garden. We also have the first of our hot peppers and we have lots of green tomatoes!  I’ve never seen so many tomatoes so early in the growing season.

The farmers markets are packed with people buying fresh produce. We went to the Madison City Farmer’s Market on Saturday and bought rainbow Swiss chard, new red potatoes, purple onions, green beans, peaches, and golden zucchini. We had fresh vegetables for dinner last night – sautéed chard with purple onions, a vegetable medley, and roasted asparagus (we bought that at Publix). And for dessert, we had sliced peaches and strawberries with a bit of whipped cream, sprinkled with gluten-free gingersnap cookie crumbs.

This vegetable medley recipe is my take on a classic Southern dish – green beans and potatoes. Typically, when you order green beans and potatoes at a Meat and Three (that’s what you call a restaurant that serves plate lunches), they are cooked with bacon and they can be a little mushy because they are cooked a long time.

More about Meat and Three restaurants…
At these restaurants, you often get a choice of a meat entrée and three side dishes (the choices can vary daily). Or, you can just get a veggie plate (my meal of choice). I thought these restaurants were all over the U.S., but then my husband Matt (“The Yankee”) told me it was regional. Who knew?!? Guess it is closest to a cafeteria, diner, or a dive in other parts of the country. Some of my favorite veggie sides include turnip greens, collards, black eyed peas, crowder peas, purple hull peas, squash casserole, green beans and potatoes, boiled okra, candied yams (a.k.a. glazed sweet potatoes), mashed potatoes, creamed corn, boiled cabbage, tomatoes and okra, fried okra, fried green tomatoes, and macaroni and cheese. I also love that at many Meat & Three restaurants, fruit cobbler (or banana pudding, a.k.a. nanner puddin’) counts as a vegetable. Also, congealed salad (a.k.a. Jell-O), tomato aspic (essentially, tomato Jell-O), and deviled eggs are also considered “sides.” Only in the South! Meals are served with an obligatory sweet tea. In this regard I am a Yankee and prefer unsweetened iced tea. There goes my southern cred (if there is such a thing!).

Unfortunately the food choices at many Meat and Three restaurants are not very healthy. Often, the dishes are cooked with lard or bacon, and lots of salt. In moderation and on rare occasions, these restaurants are fine. However, many people eat at these places every day. I think the sugar, salt, fat, and large portions are contributing factors to the obesity epidemic in the South. But you don’t need all the sugar, salt, and fat to have delicious Southern food. I am thankful there are nationally acclaimed chefs that are changing the perception of Southern cuisine. I am a big fan of two Southern chefs in the Birmingham area:  Frank Stitt and Chris Hastings. Both are James Beard award winners and their restaurants prove that Southern food can be delicious and not over-the-top unhealthy.

Don’t get me wrong, I can cook unhealthy Southern fare; Paula Deen has nothing on me. However, I am making an effort to prepare healthier versions of the dishes I loved as a child. So, I decided to make a lighter version of the green beans and potatoes side, using fresh produce from the farmer’s market. It’s not the same as the side you might get at Mama Annie’s, G’s Country Kitchen, or Blue Plate Cafe, but it is good. I hope you will agree.

Farmer’s Market Veggie Medley:

¼ to ½ cup chopped onion or shallot (I used 1 small purple onion)

1 tablespoon butter (or olive oil)

6 cups water

1 teaspoon salt (feel free to use less or omit if you are watching your sodium intake)

3 cups green beans, in 1-inch pieces (I think it was a pint container)

1½ cups chopped new potatoes (I used red and left most of the skin)

1½ cups chopped golden zucchini (or green zucchini, patty pan, or summer squash)

Salt and pepper (black or red), to taste

Chopped parsley or dill, optional garnish

In a frying pan, sauté the chopped onion in butter or oil. In a large pot, bring 6 cups of water to a boil. Add the salt. Stir in the green beans. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the potatoes and stir. Cover and simmer 5 minutes. Add the zucchini and stir. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to strain out the veggies and add to the onions in the frying pan. Stir. Add a little of the cooking water (a.k.a pot likker or pot liquor) if you prefer more “sauce.” Add some more salt and pepper to taste (if you want). Serves: 4-6.

 

Spring Salad

May 19, 2012 2 comments

We are novice organic gardeners. We buy organic seeds and plants when we can and we don’t use pesticides. Instead, we use cayenne pepper, Dr. Bronner’s peppermint soap, garlic, and diatomaceous earth. We also plant marigolds, mint, onions, and nasturtiums for bug control. We still have more bugs than we’d care to have, but the birds don’t seem to mind. There are lots of baby birds at the Smith-Jordan house and we’re enjoying bird watching. This photo includes our blue jay, chickadee, and woodpecker babies. The baby titmouse and cardinal are too elusive to capture on film.

We’ve been in our house for 2½ years. Since it was a new home, with a cleared lot, we have lots of sunshine and a blank canvas. We are slowly transforming the back yard into an edible landscape. So far, we have five raised vegetable beds (yay Matt!), one herb bed, one sweet potato straw “cage” (my summer experiment), two fig trees, and two containers of tomatoes. We are currently transitioning from our spring garden to our summer garden. We still have sugar snap peas, several varieties of lettuce, radishes, and purple mustard greens. The carrots are coming in slowly. Soon, we’ll harvest tomatoes, peppers, onions, leeks, cucumbers, and patty pan squashes. We’ll have to wait until the end of summer for the sweet potatoes and butternut squash.

We are enjoying lots of fresh salads. This week, we went to a birthday party for a friend. We brought a spring salad with a strawberry habanero balsamic vinaigrette. It was tasty with an interesting combination of flavors – sweet, bitter, and spicy. We picked the carrots, radishes, peas, and greens from our garden and bought the strawberries at the Madison Farmer’s Market. It doesn’t get much fresher than that!

The strawberry balsamic vinaigrette recipe is originally from Rachael Ray (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/rachael-ray/green-salad-with-strawberry-balsamic-vinaigrette-recipe/index.html). I used the strawberry jam and strawberry habanero jam I made a few weeks ago in the dressing. I also made a few more changes to the original recipe to suit our tastes. This recipe is scalable, you can make it for two or twelve people, just adjust the quantities in the original recipe which serves 6-8. Be flexible with the fruit and vegetables that you add to the greens, use whatever you like, that is in season. Hope you enjoy experimenting with different flavor combinations…

Spring Salad

2 tablespoons strawberry habanero jam*

3 tablespoons (1.5 ounces) balsamic vinegar

½ cup oil**

2 teaspoons water

Salt and pepper, to taste

8 cups mixed greens

½ cup pea pods, strings removed

½ cup carrots, sliced thinly

½ cup radishes, sliced thinly

1 cup strawberries, sliced thinly

Place jam in a measuring cup or in a small bowl. Whisk in the balsamic vinegar. Then add the oil and water. Whisk until you get a nice thick dressing (you might need to add a bit more water if it is too thick). Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour over the greens and veggies in a large salad bowl. Toss. Add the strawberries at the end to prevent them from breaking into pieces. Serve. Makes 6-8 servings.

Notes and Variations:

*Jam:  If you only have strawberry jam, that is fine. The habanero just adds a little extra kick. Raspberry preserves, orange marmalade, or blueberry jam would also work.

**Oil: You can use extra virgin olive oil or a combination of olive oil, sunflower oil, canola oil, or vegetable oil. Whatever you prefer is fine.

Possible variations: Add toasted pecans, slivered almonds, walnuts, dried cherries, or dried cranberries (especially if fresh strawberries are not in season).

Onion and Thyme Tart

Want a recipe for a quiche-like tart that tastes like French onion soup? Well, this onion and thyme tart might be for you. It is a perfect vegetarian dinner or brunch when served with a nice mesclun salad. We had a fresh-picked salad with our dinner. This was not the prettiest tart I’ve made, but it was good. Looking forward to having the leftovers for brunch. This is the dish I served when we had a blind installing party at our “new” house. Matt and I bought our house when it was at about 85% completion. There were no window treatments when we moved. Matt put up darkening shades in the bedrooms and a stained glass window in the kitchen. But other than that, naked windows – not pretty. A year later, still no window treatments. To be fair, we had lots of stuff happen the first few months after we bought the house – had major surgery, Mom died, we got married(!), had frostbite (yes, in Alabama), had a pseudo femoral aneurysm, broke my foot, etc. Decorating wasn’t exactly our top priority. After a year, when things finally settled down, we decided it was time to change that.

We looked into buying wooden shutters to match the style of the house. Wow, those are expensive and not easy to install when you have goofy sized windows (many thanks to our builder!). We then looked at Costco and we were shocked at the price of blinds plus installation. That’s where they get you – the installation! We knew two couples who had just bought blinds and they suggested we look at J.C. Penney. They even offered to help us install them (did I mention that Matt and I are not the handiest folks?). We went to JCP and picked out the perfect Levolor top down/bottom up blinds. About a week later, the boxes arrived! It was time for installation. Marshall, Melanie, Richard, and Sherry came over with their drills. I made us dinner: an onion tart, salad, dessert, and Prosecco. I cooked while our friends worked with Matt to install the blinds. In two hours they were all hung! It is so nice having handy friends with drills (and the extra privacy is nice too)!  Hope you like the recipe; it is great for serving at “work parties.”

Onion and Thyme Tart

Crust for 9-inch tart pan (your favorite recipe)*

2 tablespoons butter (or canola oil)

2 pounds onions (about 6 cups sliced)**

2-3 sprigs fresh thyme (I removed the leaves and chopped them)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 large eggs, beaten

½ cup half-and-half

½ teaspoon ground black pepper (or ¼ teaspoon white pepper, if you prefer)

Dash of grated nutmeg

¼ cup grated Gruyère cheese (Swiss, Emmentaler, or Parmesan cheese also works)

Preheat the oven to 375º. Grease a 9-inch tart pan with butter or nonstick cooking spray. Place the tart pan on a sheet pan. If there are any gaps in your pan, it will prevent a mess in your oven and it also promotes even baking. You might even want to cover the sheet pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil as an extra precaution. My pan isn’t very nice and it leaks. Line the tart pan with the crust. Finish the edges so it looks pretty, I’m not very good at this, so I won’t offer any suggestions :).

Blind-bake (pre-bake) the pie shell. Cut a piece of aluminum foil that is larger than the tart pan. Lightly grease one side of the foil. Gently press the foil, with the greased side down, into the tart shell. Fill the shell with pie weights. What are pie weights? They are little ceramic or stainless steel balls that are sold for blind-baking pie crusts. They are fairly expensive so I keep a bag of dried peas just for this purpose.

Bake for about 25 minutes on the middle rack of the preheated oven. Remove the tart shell from the oven. Carefully gather the edges of the foil and remove the foil with the weights (dried peas). Return crust to the oven and bake another 5 minutes until lightly golden brown.

While the crust is pre-baking you can work on “sweating” the onions. They aren’t quite caramelized but they are a nice golden brown. In a large skillet that has a lid, melt the butter. Add the sliced onions, thyme, and salt. Stir to “break up” some of the large pieces of onions. Cover with the lid and cook on medium high heat for about 15 minutes. You want the onions to sweat out any excess liquid. Stir. Turn the heat to low, cover, and cook another 20 minutes. Stir a few times during this process and see how much liquid there is remaining. If there is a pool of liquid, then keep uncovered and cook until golden brown. If there is no pool of liquid, you can keep it covered. If you are like me, you might get impatient with this step, please resist turning up the heat. In an instant, 30 minutes of work can turn into a burned goo. I turned the temperature up to medium, turned my back to fiddle with something else, and almost burned my onions!

Once the onions are golden, remove from the heat and cool. To speed up the process, I remove them from the pan, and put them in a bowl that is large enough to hold the onions, the eggs, and the half-and-half.

After the onions cool, add the eggs, half-and-half, pepper, and nutmeg. Mix until just combined. Pour into the baked tart shell. Sprinkle with grated cheese. Bake for about 20 more minutes. You want it golden brown and not too jiggly. Cool on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes. Once cool, remove the tart pan ring. Slice and serve. Makes 6 to 8 servings

*Crust: Homemade crust is the best, but sometimes you just want a shortcut. When I want a quick tart, then I use a refrigerated pre-rolled crust. I like Immaculate Baking Company’s pie crust. Locally, in Huntsville, you can get them at Earth Fare and sometimes The Fresh Market. When I see them on sale, I buy a few and keep them in the freezer. If you want to make this really simple and you do not have a tart pan, you could use a regular pie plate or frozen crust already in a pie plate. The result would just be more quiche-like than tart. But it would still be tasty.

**Onions: Use plain yellow or white onions. It is tempting to use one of the sweet varieties that is abundant now, but they don’t work as well. I’ve tried this tart with Vidalia onions and they are too sweet with too much moisture. Not sure about purple onions, haven’t tried them. Two pounds of onions is about five medium onions. To be sure, just weigh them at the market and buy between 1½-2 pounds. Sounds like a lot of onions, but they cook down. You want uniform onion slices so they cook evenly. The easiest way I’ve found to do this is to cut the onion in half from root to stem. Then you get a nice level surface that makes cutting easier. After cutting in half, peel the onion, and slice into ¼-inch slices.