Lobster and Corn Arancini

Clearly I am not in control of my life any longer.  Between work, the trips, my food writing class, the boot camp exercise class (that I might add is about to kill me),  and the house and all it involves, I cannot find any time to do any thing.  It’s a sad state of affairs, when I have to schedule time to complete the one thing I love to do…this blog.

This past weekend was one of the first in many that I have been able to devote a couple of hours to myself, so I decided to finalize a couple of ideas I’ve been working on.  It was me and my kitchen, alone at last.  Me and my kitchen along with cheese, rice, lobster and corn.  It can’t get any more romantic than that….just don’t tell my husband I said so.

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I love Arancini. You know them; they’re those cute little cheesy rice balls.  I can’t seem to ever have enough of them and a while back I got this obscure idea to add lobster to the recipe.  And what goes better with lobster than corn?

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With the combination of flavors, all the ingredients made for a very tasty dinner.  What I loved was the sweetness of the lobster and corn combined with the creaminess of the cheese and rice but it all had the crunch from the outside crust.  Yes, my friends, an Arancini affair had begun.  I even invited my husband to come along for the taste train of love, of which I believe he thoroughly enjoyed, given that he ate four of them.

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Make a date with your kitchen and try these cheesy rice balls.  You’ll love them as much as I did, with or without the husband involved.  Just don’t tell him I said so.

Star rating is a huge YUM!

The Best Meatloaf

Meatloaf.  We all have our favorites.  The funny thing is our favorite is typically the one we make ourselves.  If someone makes a meatloaf, it’s always the best and you can’t tell them any different.  I have to include myself in that segment of the population.  My husband and I each have our own meatloaf recipe and of course we each think ours, individually,  is the best.

Until last night that is.  We have thrown away our respective recipes and we now have the best meatloaf recipe.  Ev-VER-rrrrr!  Well, in our own humble opinion, that is.

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Meatloaf is as subjective a topic as a macaroni and cheese recipe.  We all have that recipe that our mom made, one that has passed down through the generations, or even one that we have created ourselves based on what we like and don’t like to add in.  There is not one recipe that is exactly the same as someone else’s.  Meatloaf is a personal odyssey of originality and taste, a symphony of meats, cheeses and vegetables.  That is why we all love it and we all love the one we make ourselves.

This particular recipe, adapted from a show I saw on the Food Network, was in a category of the best eaten comfort foods. The meatloaf had been selected by Ina Garten  from Tavern 1770..  Since it was meatloaf it seemed almost mandatory that I make my own personal stamp on it, and so I did.

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Although my husband thoroughly coated his with a layer of ketchup, we both agreed that this was the best we had ever made or had.  I will, however, have to be understanding of the fact you may not agree with our opinion..  You may not even want to try this recipe because you might still hold on to the fact that yours is the best….and perhaps it is.  But I would challenge you to give this a try….just for something different.  It’s full of flavor, moist and hearty all at the same time. And,  I can assure you, that while you may not think it’s the “best” in your home,  you will still want to keep it as a really good back-up.

Be forewarned, the next time someone asks me if I have a good recipe for meatloaf, I am going to say yes.  Yes, I actually do have the best meatloaf recipe.

The Best Meatloaf

Course Entree
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground veal (preferably naturally raised)
  • 1 pound ground pork (preferably naturally raised)
  • 1 pound ground beef (preferably naturally raised)
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh chives, plus 1 teaspoon for the sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh fresh thyme, plus 1 teaspoon for the sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley, plus 1 teaspoon for the sauce
  • 3 large eggs (preferably organic)
  • 1 1/3 cups finely ground Panko
  • 2/3 cup whole milk I used goat's milk
  • 2 Tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 Tablespoon freshly ground pepper
  • 4 cloves roasted garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • Olive oil
  • 2 stalks celery finely diced
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 2 cups chicken or beef stock
  • 8-10 roasted garlic cloves
  • 3 Tablespoons butter, at room temperature

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

  2. Place the veal, pork, beef, chives, thyme, parsley, eggs, Panko, milk, roasted garlic, Pecorino Romano, salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl.

  3. Heat a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat and film it with extra virgin olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the celery and onion to the pan and cook, stirring until softened. When the mixture is cooled, add it to the other ingredients in the mixing bowl.

  4. Using clean hands, mix the ingredients until well combined and everything is evenly distributed. Place a piece of parchment paper on a sheet pan with sides at least 1 1/2 inches high.

  5. Place the meat on the sheet pan and pat it and punch it down to reduce any air pockets. Shape the meat into a loaf (about 14 1/2 inches long, 5 inches wide and 2 inches high.)

  6. Place the sheet pan in the oven and bake 40 to 50 minutes or until a meat thermometer indicates an internal temperature of 155 to 160 degrees. Remove the meatloaf from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes.

  7. Meanwhile for the sauce, combine the broth, roasted garlic cloves and butter over medium-high heat and simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until lightly thickened. Add 1 teaspoon each of the chopped chives, parsley and thyme.

  8. Slice the meatloaf and place pieces in the sauce for 3 to 4 minutes. Place on serving plates and top with sauce.

French Onion Soup

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed it like I have but everything we do in life lately seems to be all about the new and improved, the bigger and better version of what has already been done.  Most movies are remakes of classics, technology is something we all must have the newest version of and the old version is usually only six months old.  Even restaurants and chefs have to try to do something new with the old and revered.  Maybe I’m just getting older but sometimes I don’t want the new and improved.  I want the classic, the thing that’s been tested time and again and can stand on its own merit.

I want French Onion Soup.

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I could have done this the easy way and gone to some restaurant, but I don’t think even they take the time to do it right, as it always seems bland and tasteless.  It’s a classic and deserves the respect and the time needed to make it wonderfully satisfying and flavorful.  I turned to the one person I knew that gave it that respect, the one person that started us all down the road of loving food.

I turned to Julia Child and Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

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Don’t be intimidated by this book or the fact that Julia is the guru of fine cooking.  She makes everything so simple to follow.  She also uses wine and cognac in this recipe, so if you’re anything like me, you like it already!

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To do this right it is a process.  You can’t skimp on the time or the effort it takes.  If you do you will lose the richness and the flavor it gives you.  This is one of those recipes where you will again take the first spoonful, close your eyes and savor the deep beef broth, the sweetness of the onions and the texture of the toast.  The only word you will be able to usher in a soft breath is “YUM”.

It’s that good.

Pesto Crusted Roasted Pork Rack

Thanksgiving is over.  Finally!!  I was really looking forward to the holiday but after a week of leftovers it’s about time it’s done.  Turkey, turkey gravy, turkey soup, turkey sandwiches and turkey hash.  Don’t get me wrong….I have always loved turkey but after a week of trying to use it all up, I was certain that I would not be eating turkey again for a very long time!

That being said, it is time for something different.  So I decided to do something a little out of the box….at least that was what I had thought..  I have never been one that liked pork chops, but the husband has always liked them.  Since I am the one in the kitchen most of the time, I have usually won that battle.

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Out shopping one day, we came across a pork rack.  A little different that the standard thick ugly pork chop I had grown up with, so I decided to give it a chance.  The husband was feeling happy.

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Not knowing the best way to make it, I did Google my idea and came up with a recipe from the Craig Mostyn Group.  Although I had never heard of this site I gave it a shot and oh boy, was I glad I did.  The pork was moist and so very flavorful.  Not the pork chops that I had come to know from the past.  I served it with roasted potatoes and wilted greens and it tasted like a dinner I would have served at a party for guests…but incredibly easy.

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I always say, when you’re tired of turkey….eat pork chops.

Pesto Crusted Pork Rack

Course Entree
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1/12-3 pound pound pork rack
  • 1 cup basil pesto (homemade or if in a pinch I use Harris Teeter’s brand)
  • 1 cup Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F

  2. Trim pork and clean bones. Wrap bones in foil to protect.

  3. Combine pesto, Parmesan, panko and olive oil in a bowl. Mix well.

  4. Press mixture into a thick crust over the entire roast. Weigh roast and cook for 25 minutes per 1.1 pound or approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.

  5. Allow roast to sit for at least 10 minutes prior to serving.

A Lighter Stuffed Pepper

This is my favorite time of year.  THE HOLIDAYS!  It’s about good friends, good times and good food.  (Good parties aren’t really so bad either).  Christmas is actually my favorite, with Thanksgiving a close second as far as food and parties go, but I really do love the Thanksgiving leftovers.  (I know there are more out there like me, so admit it)  Seriously, I could cook everything up, skip the dinner and just save all the food for the next day.  That is how much I love it.

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The standard turkey sandwich is one of the best ways to go, but my mom’s turkey rice soup is pretty incredible too.  The only problem is I have so many leftovers left over, that it becomes boring with the choices I have to use them all up.  I think, however, I may have stumbled on a pretty good addition to the leftover madness that ensues.

This is a recipe that I have worked out with turkey sausage and the recipe follows.  An alternative of course would be to use the equivalent of chopped turkey. If you do use the chopped turkey, it may tend to be a bit on the drier side so definitely add a bit more olive oil to the mix when you’re cooking it with the onions.  You could also add a bit of leftover gravy to keep it moist.  The options are endless!  I also used Tatsoi, which is a hardy green, sort of like a spinach or kale relative.  If you can’t find it (I found mine at the farmer’s market) you can always substitute with spinach or kale.

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The fun thing about this is you can really use anything you want.  Stuffed peppers are typically made with rice and ground beef and lots of cheese, but I’m trying to go the heart healthy way more often, so this is why I decided on this formula.  Get creative and use those leftovers up!  After all, it’s going to be another whole year before we can do this again!

A Lighter Stuffed Pepper

Course Entree
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4 large bell peppers, cleaned out of membranes and top removed.
  • 1 cup Israel couscous, cooked according to directions
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup diced tomatoes (if using canned, drain first)
  • 1/2 cup chopped Tatsoi (you can also use spinach or kale)
  • 1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup grated asiago, cheddar or cheese of choice (optional) for topping

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

  2. Bring a pot of water (enough to cover peppers) to a boil.

  3. Place peppers in the boiling water and boil for 5 minutes. Remove and set aside.

  4. Cook couscous according to directions. Set aside.

  5. Add a small amount of cooking oil to a pan and add turkey sausage. Cook for about 5 minutes or until brown and break into small pieces.

  6. Add onions and garlic and cook for another 5 minutes until onions are soft.

  7. Add diced tomatoes and heat through for another 2 to 3 minutes.

  8. Add reserved couscous and stir into sausage mixture until well combined.

  9. Remove from heat and add goat cheese and Tatsoi. Stir to combine.

  10. Season with salt and pepper.

  11. Fill reserved bell peppers with sausage mixture, packing slightly. Top with additional cheese if desired.

  12. Place in a casserole dish small enough to fit tightly so they don’t fall over and bake for about 20 minutes until heated through. (they can be frozen at this point if you choose)

  13. Serve immediately.

What’s in the Pantry?

Let’s face it.  There are always going to be those times where you just don’t feel you can find another minute to get things done.  For the last two weeks, it seems I did not have any time at all.  I had been overwhelmed with baking (cheesecakes for a friend), taking a continuing education course for my profession (it certainly would have helped if I had not waited until the last-minute), food judging for the area home shows and the list goes on and on.

The other night I came home and my husband asked me what was for dinner.  I just looked at him, probably like a deer in headlights.  I hadn’t even considered dinner and now it was already late.  I didn’t want to go back out to the grocery store, so we had to figure out something.  That’s when operation pantry surprise went into action.

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We have always kept something in the pantry we can work with.  You never know if there would be people collecting for a food drive or the electricity is going to go out.  I took a look in the pantry to see how my creative juices were going to flow.  I had soup, noodles, canned chicken and a jar of roasted vegetables.  The creativity started to flow.

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I was able to put together a meal that was easy, fairly quick and satisfying for the family.  The next time you don’t have time, but you have hungry eyes waiting for you to feed them, don’t order a pizza.  Look in your pantry and see what you can find.  I’ll bet it will be something good.

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Sunday Dunk

It was a Sunday afternoon and it was cold and rainy.  Fall was definitely here and the weather was definitely matching my mood.  Football games were on and I really didn’t want to spend my day cleaning (even though we all know that is what I should have done), so I started focusing on what I could make for dinner.  When in doubt, cook.

It was a perfect day for comfort food, but I wanted something different from my standard go-to pasta dish.  I didn’t feel like soup and I was really over cooking chili.  And then that momentary flash-back occurred and I remembered the garlic show I had seen the day before.  There were a couple of dishes that I liked but didn’t like either of them enough to make one.  I did however like parts of them enough to combine them and create a dish that was exactly what I was looking for.  A warm, comforting, sit on the couch and dunk dish.

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Who doesn’t like garlic?  This was a perfect combination of a warm soup, a hearty dish and the feel good that you get from a pasta.

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You could easily pour this over pasta or rice, even mashed potatoes and make a nice dinner out of it. For me, however, sitting there dunking my crusty bread loaf into the roasted garlic yumminess was the inside tailgating atmosphere I had been looking for.

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The Patriots won a great game and much to my husband’s disappointment the Giants lost….again.  It can’t get any better than that.

 

Smokey Chicken Stuffed Shells

It seems like I’ve been out of commission for a little while, although it’s only been a week.  I have no excuse except the cool crisp air has made me want to go to bed earlier.  It’s darker in the morning when I wake up and darker in the evening so my evenings feel shorted.

What is great about this however, is I love the Fall!  I want to have a fire in the fireplace, wear sweaters and cook comfort food.  I’m seriously ready to wear jeans and boots but living in the south I feel ridiculous doing that now….especially when everyone else is still wearing shorts and flip-flops.

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The one thing I can do when it’s colder in the evening is make a satisfying dinner that makes the soul warm.  That usually involves some form of pasta because I am apparently a carb freak, but in trying to make it semi healthy, I have adapted this recipe so I don’t feel so guilty.

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Leaves are changing color, nights are cool and despite the fact that your neighbors are still wearing flip-flops, you can still enjoy the Fall with comfort.  That will include a satisfying dinner.

So turn up the air, put on a sweater and enjoy!

Smokey Chicken Stuffed Shells

Course Entree
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour

Ingredients

  • 4 links chicken sausage ( I use the garlic and roasted red pepper from Whole Foods)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed chopped basil
  • 1/2 cup chopped fire roasted tomatoes, drained
  • 1 12 ounce package jumbo pasta shells, cooked according to package directions
  • 1 pound whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 large egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cloves garlic, minced
  • 12 ounces chopped roasted red pepper, drained
  • 4 ounces chopped fire roasted tomatoes, drained
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • juice of 1/2 lemon

Instructions

  1. Remove the chicken sausage from casings and cook over medium heat, breaking into small bite size pieces with the back of a wooden spoon. Add onion, garlic and paprika and cook for 2 more minutes. Add tomatoes and basil, mixing in well and set aside.

  2. Mix together ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, beaten egg, Add chicken mixture and combine well.

  3. Stuff cooked shells with chicken and cheese mixture and place in a baking dish.

  4. Bring the oil to medium heat in a saucepot. Sweat the onions until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and sweat until fragrant, about one more minute. Stir in the peppers and tomatoes. Simmer for 5 minutes. Working in batches, process the sauce on high in a food processor until smooth. Return the sauce to the pot, reduce the heat to low and whisk in the cream. Remove the heat an stir in the lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.

  5. Pour sauce over pasta shells and top with grated parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 15 to 20 minutes or until bubbly and hot.

  6. Serve immediately.

Fried Green Tomatoes

Green TomatoesI grew up in the North where things like okra, hush puppies and fried green tomatoes were a foreign language.  The first time I even heard about fried green tomatoes was when the movie by the same name came out.  I watched it, and I saw the things she was putting on the plates and I wondered at the time why anyone in their right mind would want to eat something like that.  Fried tomatoes?

Living in the south you have to adjust….most times in a good way.  What’s that saying?  When in Rome…..?  I’ve been here long enough that I feel I am a southerner, so when the time came a few years ago and I saw Fried Green Tomatoes on the menu, I had to try them.  Well, either the southern humidity finally got to me or we were on to something good.  Fried Green Tomatoes?  OH YES!

As it usually is in my world, once I like something, I have to try to make it.  And it has must right.  I have tried many recipes but I believe I have finally got one that has become my favorite.  With a few tweaks here and there I have adapted this from Southern Living to a point where I think it’s worth sharing.   It’s got a nice tang, a little spice and a lot of crunch and you can always add a garlic aioli or basil mayonnaise for added enjoyment.

So for you Yankees…..you may have won the war, but you’re missing out on some good eating.   I hope you try this because you will be glad you did.

Bon Appétit Y’all!

Fried Green Tomatoes

Course Entree, Side Dish
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 Tablespoon hot sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worchestershire sauce
  • 1 cup all purpose flour, divided
  • 1 cup panko crumbs
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 6 medium green tomatoes, cut into 1/3-inch slices
  • Canola or Vegetable oil
  • Salt to taste

Instructions

  1. Combine eggs and next 3 ingredients. Set aside.
  2. Combine 1/2 cup all purpose flour and , panko, salt and pepper in a shallow bowl or pan.
  3. Dredge tomato slices in remaining 1/2 cup flour, dip in egg mixture, and dredge in panko mixture.
  4. Pour oil to a depth of 1/4 to 1/2 inch in a large cast iron skillet, heat to 375 degrees. Drop tomatoes, in batches, into hot oil, and cook 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels or a rack. Sprinkle hot tomatoes with salt.
  5. (You can keep cooked tomatoes warm at 250 degrees in the oven).

Tomato and Onion Pie

There is nothing better than tomatoes.  I love walking to the garden and picking a sun-kissed tomato off the vine, sprinkle it with a little salt and bite into it, tasting the acidic sweetness and feel the juices run down my chin.  Or, I slice them and place them between two pieces of bread with gobs of mayonnaise.  I purée them into sauce or bake them into a dessert tart tatin.  There are just so many ways to enjoy ripe tomatoes.

And now we have tomato pie.

I remember a few years ago at a girls’ night having my first taste of a tomato pie.  A friend had brought it and I’m ashamed (or happy?)  to say I went back for seconds and wanted thirds, it was that good.  After that night I never really thought of it again unless I’d see a recipe about it.  I would rip it out of the magazine and add it to the stack of “someday I’m going to make this” pile.

This year was different.  From the moment we planted the garden, I decided I was going to make a tomato pie.  Of course every time I thought about it we were eating something else or not at home.  Finally however, last weekend I put my foot down and I made ” The Pie.”

It was like the sun had risen, the stars came out and fireworks lit up the sky.  I don’t think a word was spoken between us because we were just too busy eating.  In fact with my son and husband at the helm, leftovers didn’t exist since the entire pie had been eaten.  This definitely is one of those recipes that you will make over and over and always get rave reviews on.

So, while you’re standing in your garden and feeling the warmth of the sun,  tomato juices running down your chin and staining your shirt, remember to save yourself a few of those tomatoes so you can make a Tomato Pie.  It will be well worth the sacrifice.

Tomato and Onion Pie

Prep Time 50 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 50 minutes

Ingredients

PIECRUST

  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into pieces
  • 4 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3-4 Tablespoons ice cold water

(optional- you can add 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese)

FILLING

  • 6 or about 2 1/4 pounds large tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1 Tablespoons oil
  • 1 small onion, sliced thin
  • 2 leeks, whites only sliced thin
  • 10 sundried tomatoes chopped
  • 1 cup Gruyere cheese, shredded and divided
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded, and divided
  • 1 cup Fontina cheese, shredded, and divided
  • 1/4-1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • assorted herbs, minced (basil, thyme, chives, oregano, etc)

Instructions

  1. TO PREPARE PIE CRUST

Process first 4 ingredients in a food processor until mixture resembles a coarse meal. With processor running, gradually add 3 tablespoons ice-cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Process until dough forms a ball and leaves the side of the bowl. Add up to 1 tablespoon more water if necessary. Shape dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill 30 minutes.

  1. Unwrap dough and place on a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle lightly with flour and roll dough to 1/8 inch thickness.

  2. Preheat oven to 425°F. Press dough into a 9-inch pie plate. Trim dough 1 inch larger than the diameter of the pie plate. Fold overhanging dough under along the rim of the pie plate. Chill 30 more minutes until firm.

  3. Line pie crust with aluminum foil. Fill with pie weights and foil. (this will keep the crust from bubbling up) Place on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove weights and foil. Bake 5 minutes or until browned. Cool completely on a wire rack. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F.

  4. ***see note below

TO PREPARE FILLING

  1. Place sliced tomatoes in a single layer on paper towels. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and let stand for 15-20 minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, sauté onions and leeks and 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper each in hot oil over medium heat until they are tender and lightly browned.

  3. Pat tomatoes dry with a paper towel. Layer tomatoes, onions, sun-dried tomatoes, 1/2 of the cheese and herbs. Repeat.

  4. Combine the remainder 1/2 cups of cheeses with the mayonnaise and spread over pie.

  5. Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes until lightly browned. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

  6. ***note*** for a quicker process you can use refrigerated dough or frozen dough by following package directions.

  7. you can also drizzle pie with a pesto sauce or vinaigrette if desired.

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