Summer’s Bounty Over Labor Day Weekend

While I am saddened that the unofficial summer has come to an end, boy did we luck out with the weather for the Labor Day Weekend! And to celebrate the season’s bounty, our menu for the holiday bash highlighted just-picked sugar-and-butter corn, a variety of ripe tomatoes, and lots of fresh herbs for a backyard barbecue with guests Paula and Mike Graham, and Karen and Ed Mortka. Let the party begin!

As dusk settled, Karen, Ed, Russ, Paula and Mike enjoyed a glass of wine.

For starters we prepared a Tomato and Mozzarella Tart. Our secrets for a great tomato tart? See recipe at end of blog…

The Tomato Mozzarella Tart fresh from the oven.

Just as the tart was being pulled from the oven, a wonderful aroma wafted through the downstairs as all four guests arrived simultaneously—perfect timing! The Grahams brought a tasty appetizer of almond encrusted Blue Cheese Ballswhich they both marveled at the fact that they arrived intact—while the Mortkas supplied a mouth-watering homemade Dutch Apple Pie.

The Grahams almond-encrusted blue cheese balls. 
Tossed salad with a punch of color and flavor from the farm stand pear tomatoes.
Sides of tossed salad, corn sauté and tomato vinaigrette.
And the “pièce de résistance” perfectly grilled flank steak with chunky tomato-basil vinaigrette.

Mediterranean-Style Flank Steak with Chunky Tomato-Basil Vinaigrette
(recipe posted in Aug. 19, 2015 blog,

Two flank steaks marinating in olive oil and herbs.

Karen and Russ making sure not to overcook the steaks.

The steak recipe calls for the meat to be marinated for 20 minutes, and while last time we marinated it for one hour, this time we increased the time to almost 8 hours—making a big difference in flavor, all to the good, because everyone oohed and ahhed! For the chopped fresh aromatic herbs we used a mix of thyme, rosemary and marjoram—the sage had already been harvested for dehydrating a few days prior.

Ed and Karen getting cozy.

Mike and Paula content to enjoy the perfect evening.

Yours Truly looking like a human candle with the flame directly above my head!

Karen Mortka cutting into her homemade apple pie.

Men will be boys… when you give them the leeway…

…And women always show class 😉

Ed waves goodbye as only he can… until next time my friends!

Here are the recipes for the corn sauté and tomato tart:

Corn Sauté with Black Beans and Red Pepper

To create this corn side dish with rich, toasted flavor, strip the corn from the cobs when they are raw and then cook the kernels in a nearly smoking skillet. It is important not to stir the corn for a few minutes to give it a chance to brown. Once the corn is cooked, mix in plenty of salty, savory ingredients to balance the sweetness. Finally, an acidic component rounds out the dish. Even though the recipe states it serves 4 to 6, we doubled the ingredient amounts for our party of six.


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped fine
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 jalapeño chile, stemmed, seeded, and minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed
  • 3 ears corn, kernels cut from cobs (3 cups)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2-3 tablespoons lime juice (2 limes)


  1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion, pepper, and jalapeño; cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, 4 to 6 minutes. Add garlic, cumin, and ¼ teaspoon salt and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add beans and cook until warmed through, about 1 minute. Transfer black bean mixture to large bowl and wipe out skillet.
  2. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in now-empty skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add corn and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, without stirring, until corn is browned on bottom and beginning to pop, about 3 minutes. Stir and continue to cook, stirring once or twice, until corn is spotty brown all over, 2 to 3 minutes longer. Transfer corn to bowl with black bean mixture.
  3. Stir in cilantro and 2 tablespoons lime juice. Season with salt and remaining lime juice to taste. Serve.

Cooking the onion, red pepper and jalapeño first.

Sautéing the corn kernels before combining with other ingredients.

Tomato Mozzarella Tart

We use a two-step baking method for a flaky yet rigid crust, then “waterproofed” it with egg wash and layers of two kinds of cheese. We salt sliced tomatoes for 30 minutes to remove excess juice, then gently press them with paper towels. Baking the tart at 425 degrees quickly melted the cheese and preserved the tomatoes’ meaty texture.

Thawing the frozen puff pastry in the refrigerator overnight will help prevent cracking while unfolding it. (Although we unthawed it for a few hours on the kitchen countertop.) Be sure to use a low-moisture supermarket mozzarella sold in block form, not fresh water-packed mozzarella. If you prefer to do some advanced preparation, the tart shell can be pre-baked through step 1, cooled to room temperature, wrapped in plastic wrap, and kept at room temperature for up to two days before being topped and baked with the mozzarella and tomatoes.


  • Flour, unbleached all-purpose, for work surface
  • 1 box frozen puff pastry (Pepperidge Farm, 1.1 pound), thawed in box in refrigerator overnight
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 cup)
  • 1 pound plum tomatoes (about 3 to 4 medium), cored and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • Salt
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces whole-milk mozzarella cheese, shredded (2 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil


  1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Dust work surface with flour and unfold both pieces puff pastry onto work surface. Following illustrations below, form 1 large sheet with border, using beaten egg as directed. Sprinkle Parmesan evenly over shell; using fork, uniformly and thoroughly poke holes in shell. Bake 13 to 15 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees; continue to bake until golden brown and crisp, 13 to 15 minutes longer. Transfer to wire rack; increase oven temperature to 425 degrees.
  2. While shell bakes, place tomato slices in single layer on double layer paper towels and sprinkle evenly with 1/2 teaspoon salt; let stand 30 minutes. Place second double layer paper towels on top of tomatoes and press firmly to dry tomatoes. Combine garlic, olive oil, and pinch each salt and pepper in small bowl; set aside.
  3. Sprinkle mozzarella evenly over warm (or cool, if made ahead) baked shell. Shingle tomato slices widthwise on top of cheese (about 4 slices per row); brush tomatoes with garlic oil. Bake until shell is deep golden brown and cheese is melted, 15 to 17 minutes. Cool on wire rack 5 minutes, sprinkle with basil, slide onto cutting board or serving platter, cut into pieces, and serve.

How-to pictorial:









Oh, and the leftovers from the entire meal made for a fabulous poolside luncheon at the Country Club pool the next day! Several patrons were eyeballing our feast and wondered where we got it…


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