Dreamy Creamy Cauliflower Casserole

I wasn’t prepared to love this as much as I did. Try it. You will see for yourself!

Yesterday, I started over on my keto program. I had been doing it in earnest all the way through Lent and then poof, I fell off the wagon. I could blame it on the fact that I am a potato chip addict and every time I visit my mother she insists on putting out bowl after bowl of junk food. Every Thursday she puts out a bowl of chips, a bowl of Cheetos, a bowl of Doritos, etc. Then she chides me until I humor her and eat some. (Anyone else have a person like this around?) In her defense, she’s in her mid-eighties and she’s hard-wired like this. Plus, I should have better will power.

I like to start my projects on Mondays, so yesterday was the day to re-invest in the keto lifestyle. Sunday night I planned out my weekly menu and last night was the night to try the cauliflower casserole! Honestly, I wasn’t expecting it to turn out as delicious as it did! Charlie and I both got up this morning talking about how great it was and how neither of us felt hungry for breakfast.

The instructions and the ingredients are very basic, so here you will see only the last steps. This is what it looked like all mixed together prior to adding the cheese and bacon toppings. I could have just baked it like this and it would have been great.

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Add the remainder of the cheese on top:

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Then add the last of the bacon. Don’t skip this step. The extra bacon makes the house smell divine and it adds a little bit more of a smokey flavor to the dish.

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Here it is freshly out of the oven. I didn’t wait for it to get really brown.

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Dreamy Creamy Cauliflower Casserole (serves 8)
Ingredients:
1 head fresh cauliflower
8 oz. cheddar cheese, freshly grated, divided
8 oz. Monterey Jack cheese, freshly grated, divided
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
¾ cup full fat cream
2 bunches green onion, chopped
6 pieces of bacon, cooked
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
Salt & Pepper to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut the cauliflower into bite-sized florets. Place in a microwave safe bowl with a half cup of water and cover. Microwave on high 4-5 minutes until cauliflower is steamed through. (I took mine out at about 4 minutes because I wanted it to still have a bite to it. Keep in mind, it is still going to be baked.) Drain into a colander.

Cook the bacon (I used the microwave for mine), chop it up and set it aside.

In a separate bowl, combine 8 oz. softened cream cheese with 6 oz. each of the cheddar and Jack cheeses, salt and pepper, and garlic. Add the cream a little bit at a time until the mixture is combined. Add the bacon (reserve 1 ½ Tablespoons for the top) and green onion; then add it all to the cauliflower. Stir gently to combine. Pour into a baking dish.

Smooth the surface with a spatula. Sprinkle the remaining cheese and bacon over the top.

Bake uncovered for 25 minutes or until brown and bubbly.

PS- If you don’t feel like grating your own cheese, you may substitute with pre-shredded. Keep in mind that pre-shredded cheese never has the same flavor as freshly grated.


Nutrition information:

1 serving is 1/8th of the casserole.

Calories: 379, Fat: 27g, Net carbs: 8, Total carbs: 10, Protein: 23g,Fiber: 2g


Here is another cauliflower recipe that I adore.


Seriously, does anyone else out there have a person who is constantly trying to sabotage your eating plan? How do you handle it?

 

 

Seriously, Spaghetti alle Vongole!

This dish was so fun to make and turned out so beautifully, I can’t stop smiling about it. This would be great to serve fora dinner party! Don’t forget the bread!

I seriously cannot believe I made this dish! To me, there is something so beautiful about simple food. Basically this dish is clams in a white sauce with tomatoes over pasta. It doesn’t get more basic. I adore the way seafood looks, especially clams and mussels, and this dish is a wizz-bang-show-stopper! I mean, just look at the colors! I loved every part of making this meal and I certainly plan on doing it again!

We started at the fish market. I am a clam virgin so I relied on the fish monger to explain them to me. Turns out, clams are not cheap, so he suggested we buy just the meat to get more bang for our money. I wanted the real deal, so we bought both. I can’t imagine making this dish without the clams in their shells; it’s half the fun!

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As soon as we got home, I put them in a bowl of cold water, sprinkled in some semolina, and let them sit in the refrigerator until dinner. Supposedly, the semolina makes the clams open up and spit out any sand they might be holding onto. (Black pepper works as well.)

Step one of this dish was to prepare my ingredients. I sliced half of my tomatoes and left the other half whole; chopped my parsley; then I smashed my garlic and prepared my pasta and set it aside. (They say to wait until the last minute to chop the parsley so it is as fresh as possible. I’ll do that next time. I was nervous about making this dish so I wanted everything prepared ahead.)

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When I was ready, I heated my olive oil to medium, and then added in the garlic and red pepper flakes. This cooked until fragrant (oh and it was a beautiful aroma!) about two minutes.

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Then came the tomatoes. (Isn’t this pretty? I loved the colors!) The point here is to blister them in the oil. It takes about five minutes.

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Here is a silly video of the tomatoes blistering:

Next comes the wine! I used a Sauvignon Blanc. They say to only cook with a wine you would drink so I followed the rules to the letter. This was left to come up to a boil. (Took about a minute.)

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The clams go in next! Then the pot gets covered for two minutes in order to steam them. (I swear to you, I’m feeling giddy typing this out. I had some much fun doing this!)

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I was a little bit uncertain about when to add the extra clam meat, so I opted to wait until I could see the clams starting to open. I was really afraid of over-cooking them. No one wants to bite into a rubber clam!

Here they have started to open up, so this is the point where I dropped in the other clam meat.

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This is another silly video that captures my giddiness!

Finally, it’s time to add in the pasta. We used angel hair pasta, which is our favorite. The recipe calls for spaghetti or linguine, but I ignored that part. The important part was not to cook the pasta all the way through because it continues to cook in the sauce. Thankfully, I managed to get it right.

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Lastly, the fresh parsley goes in, the heat goes off and then the cheese goes on.

Voila! How gorgeous is this!!!

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Ingredients:
Kosher salt
12 ounces spaghetti or linguine (we used angel hair pasta)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for finishing
8 cloves garlic, smashed
1/4 teaspoon crushed hot pepper flakes
8 ounces very small cherry tomatoes, roughly crushed with your hands, or regular cherry tomatoes, halved (I sliced half of the tomatoes in half and left the other whole & I didn’t crush them.)
1 cup dry white wine (I used Kendall Jackson Sauvignon Blanc)
48 tiny clams such as cockles or vongole (We used 24 clams & a pound of frozen clam meat, thawed)
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley, plus more for serving
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Directions:
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a generous amount of salt (salty like the sea!) and the pasta and stir to separate. Cook until a few minutes shy of al dente, then drain.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant and sizzling, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the pepper flakes and tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes are slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil for 1 minute. Add the clams and cover for 2 to 3 minutes. Uncover and cook, stirring, until the clams open. Discard unopened clams.

Add the pasta to the skillet along with the parsley, cheese and butter. Cook, tossing and stirring and drizzling with olive oil, until the pasta is cooked through and the sauce is silky and thickened. Serve drizzled with oil and sprinkled with cheese and parsley.

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: If you don’t serve this with a loaf of crusty bread, you will seriously regret it!

How do I know this? We forgot and seriously regretted it! The sauce is divine and crusty bread would have been perfect for sopping it up!

Somewhat Blackened Sword Fish -OOH LA LA!

Every time I make fish at home, I amaze myself. It isn’t because I think I’m a fabulous cook; it’s because I grew up hating all fish. As an adult, I’ve realized I probably hated it because it was never served in our home. (My Mom was afraid of cooking it. ) Sword fish is one of my favorites now. Here is how we prepared it the other night…

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I had assembled this tray (above) with all the pretty vegetables in order to try Delicata Squash for the very first time. Since I wasn’t sure what the squash would taste like (because I’d never made that variety before), I wanted to make something that had a little bit of kick to it.

Ordinarily when we make sword fish, I like to flavor it with cilantro and lime, but since I was in search of “kick”, I opted for a little bit of spice and a little bit of black. Sword fish is very forgiving and almost impossible to screw up!

The first thing I did was melt 3 Tbsp. butter in my little measuring cup. To it, I added some cayenne, some bourbon smoked salt, chili flakes, onion powder, smokey paprika, and garlic. I didn’t measure this, but I will attempt to give you some help.

Let it get all melted and then turn off the heat and let it sit.

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Meanwhile, I’ve had my sword fish filets sitting on the counter for about 20 minutes. I like them a little close (but still cool) to room temperature before I cook them.

Heat a cast iron skillet to medium-high. Add 1 Tbsp. REAL butter and 1.5 Tbsp. olive oil. Let it heat to a shimmer and then place in the fillets. Then pour the spiced butter mixture over the top. I had debated on making this totally blackened fish, in which case I would have dipped the fillets in the butter and then coated them on both sides with a dry rub, but I decided on this route instead.

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I let these cook for 5 minutes on each side, then I did the unthinkable: I added MORE butter to the top! You can skip this step if you are afraid. After this, I simply sprinkled more seasoning on each side and poof, this fish is done!

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The finished product!

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Delicious! I should also mention here that if you have a Trader Joe’s in your area, this is a great place to find fish for two. We regularly shop in their frozen fish section because you can buy small portions (usually two fillets per vacuum package) of lots of different fishes. (and no, they did not pay me to say this, it’s just a fact.) We really like the swordfish, salmon, cod and tuna!

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Ingredients:
2 Sword Fish Fillets
4-6 Tbsp. butter (yes, I used that much. You don’t have to if you are sckeeeeeeeerd.)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tea. Smoky paprika
½ tea Cayenne pepper
1 tea. Chili powder
½ tea. Bourbon smoked salt
2 tea. Minced garlic
1 tea. Onion powder
½ tea. Chili flakes

Directions:
Melt 3 Tbsp. butter. Add the spices to it and stir.
Preheat cast iron pan to medium high.
Melt 1 Tbsp. butter and 1 Tbsp. olive oil in the pan until shimmery.
Add the fillets.
Pour spiced butter over the top of each fillet.
Cook five minutes each side.
Turn the fish over, sprinkle with a little more seasoning, and cook each side about 2 minutes more. (Optional: add more butter prior to adding more seasoning!)

Vegetable Couscous Stuffed Acorn Squash! Pretty Food!

Once upon a time around Thanksgiving time, we catered a huge interfaith meal. Because there were many different religious dietary restrictions, it was important that we offered a vegetarian option. As per usual, I wanted the food to be beautiful and colorful, so we came up with this recipe for stuffed acorn squash! I was beyond thrilled with the result!

Last year around this time we were contracted to contribute a vegetarian dish for an Interfaith meal hosted by the church where I am employed. We knew we wanted to make something eye-catching utilitizing a Fall vegetable. Say hello to my friend, Mr. Acorn Squash.

I literally went to the store and searched for something colorful to stuff it with and I found this tri-colored pearl couscous. (Thank you, Lucky’s Market!)

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Next, I knew I needed more than just couscous to make it an actual vegetarian dish. Well, to be honest, the squash and the couscous would have been fine, but it wasn’t enough for me. I decided to sauté some yummy vegetables to add into the squash, so I stocked up on onions, carrots, a few butternut squash, dried cranberries, slivered almonds, etc. I literally just thought about things that I love and went from there.

Next, I needed my big, strong hubba hubba hubby, Charlie, to open each squash and scoop out the innards! Don’t worry, I will reduce this recipe so you aren’t feeding 150 people with it! <<grin>> He also sliced off a bit of the bottom so they would sit on a plate without wobbling.

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After the squash have been halved and scooped out, they go in a pan with a little water, (cut side down) to bake until almost soft. (To make these for the family, you can absolutely do this step in the microwave to save time.)

Then it’s a matter of sautéing the vegetables, (I used squash, onion, carrots, cranberries, toasted almonds) preparing the couscous according to package directions and combining all…then stuffing the squash. Here is my bowl combining my sautéed ingredients with my toasted almonds.

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Here is the couscous combined with the sautéed vegetables and toasted almonds stuffed inside the acorn squash.

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Here, I have spooned in the stuffing.

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And finally, it goes back into the oven, sprinkled with fresh seasonings and then it comes out looking like a work of art! (So colorful!) If you are looking for something new to take to your Thanksgiving pot luck dinner, try this. It looks like you’ve spent hours, yet it’s super easy. You could even prepare all of this a day or two in advance, then bake just before you leave for your event OR before you have your event. These will do well stored warm in a baking dish covered with foil.

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Pretty, aren’t they?


Ingredients:

4 acorn squash, washed, cut in half, seeds scooped out.

1 Package tri-colored pearl couscous (or whatever your favorite happens to be) prepared according to pkg directions.

2 Tbsp Olive oil

2 Tbsp butter

2-3 fresh sage leaves chopped

2 carrots peeled & sliced.

1 large onion diced

1/2 butternut squash, peeled, and cubed (save time and buy this already diced from the market)

1/2 c Toasted almonds

1/2 c Dried cranberries (chopped dried apricots would be great in there too or even yellow raisins)

Salt & pepper

1/2 freshly chopped Italian parsley

1/2 c freshly grated cheese of your choice. (I used Asiago/Regiano)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400

  1. Prepare tri-colored couscous according to package directions, set aside.
  2. Dice all of the vegetables (except the butternut squash) and sauté (until tender) in half the olive oil and half the butter. Season with salt and pepper and the sage. Just prior to finishing, toss in the cranberries to soften them.
  3. When the vegetables are tender, remove to a bowl, clean out your skillet and dry roast the almonds over medium high heat for about 2 minutes until fragrant. Add to the vegetables.
  4. Put the butternut squash in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper, pour out onto sheet tray, bake 20-25 minutes.

Prepare the squash:

  1. Wash the acorn squash, cut in half, scoop out the seeds.
  2. Brush the cut sides and the cavity with olive oil. Sprinkle them with salt & pepper& garlic
  3. Place cut side down in a large roasting pan
  4. Roast in the oven for one hour until tender and still holding their shape.

Prepare the stuffing:

  1. In a bowl, combine the couscous with the roasted butternut squash and the sautéed vegetables and cranberries.
  2. Stir in the parsley
  3. Spoon into the cooked acorn squashes.
  4. Sprinkle the tops with freshly grated cheese of your choice. I like Asiago, but you can use what you like.
  5. Place back in oven uncovered for about 5-8 minutes until just heated through.
  6. Garnish with more parsley.

Enjoy!

Fall into Pork Chops & Apples!

Every now and then my husband pops off to the market alone.  He often loves to find and bring home bone-in pork chops that are thick-cut and gigantic! The last time he came home with them, I was remembering the episode of “The Brady Bunch”, where Peter and the whole gang kept repeating the phrase, “Pork chopppppssssss and applesauuuuuuce! That’s right, pork choppppssssss and applesauuuuuuuce!” I had never actually tried to make pork chops with any type of apple; so here you have what happened next!

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Every now and then my husband pops off to the market alone.  He often loves to find and bring home bone-in pork chops that are thick-cut and gigantic! The last time he came home with them, I was remembering the episode of “The Brady Bunch”, where Peter and the whole gang kept repeating the phrase, “Pork chopppppssssss and applesauuuuuuce! That’s right, pork choppppssssss and applesauuuuuuuce!” I had never actually tried to make pork chops with any type of apple; so here you have what happened next!

I have often heard that Granny Smith apples are the best for cooking, so I popped out to the market and picked up a few, then I cored them, sliced them and held them in a water bath (to prevent browning).

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Salt and pepper both sides of the chops.

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Sear in butter and olive oil until golden brown.

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See? This is starting to look yummy!

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Pay no attention to that last photo with the apples on top. The apples go on the BOTTOM of the pan. I just forgot to save the correct photo! LOL!


Ingredients:

  • 4 bone-in pork chops
  • 3 Granny Smith Apples
  • 6 tablespoons REAL butter (Down with substitutes!)
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Peel, core & slice the apples. Place in a bowl and cover with water until ready to use.
  3. Salt & pepper the chops, then sear them in 2 Tbsp butter using a medium high cast iron skillet.
  4. Grease a 9 X 12 baking dish.
  5. Line the bottom with the apple slices.
  6. Mix brown sugar and cinnamon, sprinkle over the apples. Break up the 2 Tbsp. butter into pea sized little bits and sprinkle them over the apples and sugar mixture.
  7. Place the chops on top of the apples and sprinkle the remaining butter (broken into bits) over the chops.
  8. Cover with foil and bake for 1 1/2 hours.

 

Grilled Cilantro Lime Swordfish

I confess that I used to hate fish but I think it’s only because I’d never tasted really good fish! Now that my husband and I are trying to eat more healthfully, we make it all the time and I’m loving it. This sword fish recipe is simple with just a couple of ingredients and it takes just a few minutes to make!

I just realized my husband and I are eating a LOT of fish lately! At least once a week, we used our cast-iron grill pan to make some delicious sword fish! We season this all sorts of ways, but one of our favorites is with cilantro and lime. (Go figure. Seems like these are our favorite flavors lately!)

So many people are afraid of cooking fish at home, especially things like sword fish, that can be a little pricey. I did not grow up in a household that ever, even one time, cooked fish. I suspect my Mom was afraid of it. I was never a fish fan until I met my husband and we began our quest to eat healthier. What I have found is that fish is actually the quickest, easiest meal to make on a week night. The worst thing you can do to a fish is to over-cook it, so I usually pick a hearty variety, like this sword fish. I am also picky about taste and even mouth-feel. Anything that’s slimy or that has a strong “fishy” taste, doesn’t make it to my mouth. I absolutely love tuna and cod and swordfish. I wish I loved salmon, but it’s falls on the “fishier”side, so I don’t make it often.

Anyway, start with your sword fish filets. I usually take mine out of the refrigerator about a half hour prior to cooking. Coat both sides with olive oil, about 1/4 c. Cilantro, zest of a couple of limes, juice of a couple of limes, and of course, salt and pepper.

At this point I let the fish just rest in the juice for 15 minutes, then I flip them and let them rest for 15 minutes more.

Then I heat my grill pan to medium-high. Add 2 Tbsp real butter and about 1 Tbsp of your favorite cooking oil.

Sear the fish on the first side (about four minutes), then when it releases from the pan easily, flip it to sear the second side (about 4 minutes). Then I turn the heat down about medium and let the fish cook all the way through. (Time depends on how large your filets are.)

And here you have the finished product. You can tell it’s ready when you see it starts to flake! YUMMY!!


Ingredients:

2 large swordfish filets

4 Tbsp olive oil

1-2 Tbsp butter

2 limes (zest & juice)

1/2 c. Chopped fresh cilantro

Salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

Coat fish with olive oil (both sides)

In a bowl, mix 1 Tbsp olive oil, cilantro, lime juice, lime zest, and salt and pepper. Pour over the fish, then turn the fish so both sides get the marinade.

Let rest for 15 minutes, turn over and let rest 15 more.

Heat a grill pan to medium high. Coat it with olive oil and butter.

Sear both sides of the fish for 4 minutes or until it easily releases from the pan.

Turn the heat down to medium, continue cooking fish until it’s flakey.

Oh You’re SUCH a TART! Tomato Tarts!

A little while back I catered a Birthday party and was asked to be sure and include a vegetarian option. My mind immediately went to these tarts because they are so beautiful (and fun to prepare!).

A little while back I catered a Birthday party and was asked to be sure and include a vegetarian option. My mind immediately went to these tarts because they are so beautiful (and fun to prepare!). I started researching recipes which resulted in a LOT of tarts being made and sampled! In the end, I made up my own recipe, which I will share with you!

Keep these things in mind as the Holidays approach us. They are show-stoppers at any party and the best part is they can be eaten warm, cold or even at room temperature! (Did I mention they are insanely delicious?) I didn’t really  photograph the entire process, so you will have to rely on the recipe and the instructions at the bottom of the page.

I think there are two stand-out, must-do things when you are making tarts.

  1. Slice your vegetables very thinly, sprinkle them with salt and allow them to hang out on a rack for at least 30 minutes before you assemble. Then pat them with paper towels. You want them as dry as possible.
  2. Pre-bake your crusts. I used pre-made roll out pie crust and also puff pastry. I pre-baked both to avoid soggy tarts. (More instructions on this below.)

 

See what I mean about how pretty they are? Since I was making these for a large party, I also worked on making them full sheet tray sized and they turned out beautifully as well.

 

You will probably wonder why I took the trouble to cut my fresh Mozzarella into hearts when it would melt anyway? My favorite shape is the heart and I just wanted all of the Mozzarella to be uniform. PLUS, it’s pretty, right? I like everything I make to start out from my heart and this certainly did!

 

I wasn’t kidding around when I said I made a TON of these things. Everything you see here are samples that my husband and I either ate ourselves or we gave away to the neighbors until we settled on the tastes we liked best!

 

These that were done with puffed pastry were the winners! The one on the right wasn’t intended to look like this. I was going to make the entire thing covered in veggie roses (you can see a few of them made it) but at the last minute I realized I’d sliced my vegetables too thick. Rather than flip out over it, I made it into an abstract design. I loved it and my clients did, too.  The one of the left was also just delightful; simple zucchini and tomatoes.


Ingredients:

  • 4 Tablespoons Butter
  • 2 whole Large Onions, Halved And Sliced Thin
  • Salt And Pepper, to taste
  • 2 whole prepared Pie Crusts (or 1 Good Sized Homemade Crust) **
  • 1-1/2 cup Grated Fontina Cheese
  • 1/4 cup Grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup Grated Swiss cheese
  • 1/2 cup full fat ricotta cheese (I didn’t say this was low cal!)
  • 2 cups Cherry Tomatoes (I always look for the ones that come in all colors), Washed And Dried (more If Needed) I keep most of them whole but slice some in half if you want to have fun with your design.
  • 6 Roma Tomatoes sliced as thin as possible.(more if needed)
  • 4 Zucchini sliced as thin as possible.
  • 20 whole Basil Leaves, Chiffonade (more if needed)
  • Zest of one or two lemons.
  • a teeny tiny couple of pinches of nutmeg

Directions:

Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the butter, onions, salt, and pepper and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and deep golden brown. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 450 F.
After you’ve sliced your veggies, lay them out on paper towel and sprinkle them with salt. Let them sit there at LEAST 30 minutes. After that, blot them dry with paper towels and set aside.

Put both pie crusts together and squish into a ball, knead it to combine them, then roll into one large, thin crust. (Trust me. I tried to use both crusts separate and then pinch them together and it just doesn’t work as well.) Lay onto a shallow quarter sheet pan, a tart pan, or cut in half and use 2 standard pie pans. Add the lemon zest and tiny bit of nutmeg to the cheeses and then sprinkle on in a single layer, then lay on the caramelized onions, then arrange your vegetables in whatever design you like over the cheese.

Bake the tart for 15 to 18 minutes, watching carefully to make sure the crust doesn’t burn. (The tomatoes should be starting to burst apart, with some dark/roasted areas on the skin, and the crust should be deep golden brown.) If the crust is getting brown too fast, reduce the heat to 425 F. Or cover it with foil.

Remove the tart from the oven and allow it to sit for 5 minutes. Sprinkle the basil all over the top. Cut into squares and serve!

** You can use puffed pastry in place of the pie crust; just be sure to pre-bake it. You will need to use a piece of parchment paper cut to leave about an inch of crust. Then use some dried beans or pie weights so the pastry will not puff up where you want to build the tart.