Fried Red Tomatoes in Cream Sauce

I love tomatoes … all kinds.  I have family and friends who detest tomatoes ... all kinds!  So has been the reputation of the tomato forever!  When and how did the tomato ever find its way to the United States?  That too is a big ‘forever’ question!

It is believed that tomatoes were cultivated in South and Central America as early as 7000 BCE.  Mesoamericans can be attributed with the domestication of beans, squash, cocoa, chili peppers, avocados, corn, tomatoes and … turkeys!  The big question is how those foods traveled from Central America to many other places!    It is possible that the tomato’s trip was routed through the Caribbean Islands into what we now know as Florida and the Carolinas.  It is possible that the Spanish carried the tomatoes back to Spain … then on through Europe and Asia.  Some European pioneers to the Americas brought tomatoes with them.

Before that time, however, tomatoes were considered poison in Europe.  The first known written record of the tomato dates to 1554.  Italians were growing them and eating them.  A couple decades later, the English and Spanish grew them, but primarily for looks and not as a food.  Tomatoes were  thought to be poison, but we know now that it was the acid from the tomato interacting with a pewter plate that actually caused lead poisoning.  Poor folks who didn’t have pewter plates, could eat them!  The rich folks were the ones being poisoned!

By the mid-1700s, tomatoes were being grown and eaten in many European countries, but especially in Italy!   We know that Thomas Jefferson grew tomatoes in his Virginia gardens in 1781.  A French refugee from Santo Domingo introduced them to Philadelphia in 1789.    In 1802, an immigrant Italian painter introduced them to Salem, Massachusetts.   By the mid-1800s, tomatoes were commonly grown in the the northeastern part of the United States.

As I was searching for articles about tomatoes in pioneer times, I found an article written by Iva Dingwall.  Iva was born in 1877 on her grandparents’ farm in Minnesota, a place where she lived her whole life.  The stories she tells are about her Grandmother and how she prepared food during that later part of the 19th Century.   She mentions tomatoes many times.  She tells how much she and her siblings enjoyed eating them right out of the garden.  She tells  about her grandmother’s use of vinegar on fresh vegetables, including tomatoes.  She writes of tomato pies, both red and green.  Historic documents tell us that not all those German settlers in Minnesota appreciated tomatoes as much as their French and Italian counterparts in other parts of the country, but clearly this family did!

Tomatoes are among the first vegetables to have been canned commercially.  The American Civil War was a turning point for commercial canneries.  Both armies needed canned foods.  After the War, tomatoes were among the most commonly requested so from that point on, Americans began eating tomatoes … fresh and canned.

Tomato recipes fill the cookbooks of my favorite vintage period … the 1950s and 60s!  My memories of those times are of thick slices of tomatoes on a white platter with a green rim around it.  That platter graced our dinner table … which was our supper table … every evening.  I also remember Mother’s big kettles simmering away with stewed tomatoes that she canned.  If we were lucky all of the big jars sealed, otherwise we’d hear an explosion in the middle of the night!  We made lots of ‘Fire and Ice’ salad of tomatoes, onions and cucumbers in a vinaigrette.   What we never did, however, was fry a green or a red tomato!  Those delicious things were never on our menu.

Late one afternoon, I walked into my Aunt’s kitchen to help her fix food for her card club that was coming for supper and games! Her little tiny living room was filled with a couple card tables and chairs.  There was hardly room to move between the tables, but it was going to be my job to help serve food!

Sissy (my daddy’s little sister, so we called her Sissy) was making something she’d seen in a magazine and something that I had never seen.  She was hollowing out whole tomatoes and filling them with tuna salad!  That was … and still is … a pretty common thing, but certainly was not in my childhood home!  Tuna salad was meant to be eaten between two pieces of soft white bread!  I went home determined to make that for my Dad’s lunch.  Mother laughed at me, but Daddy ate it and bragged about it!   Daddy was a carpenter who came home for lunch, and he was treated on that day with ‘girl food’!!!!!  

In one of my vintage cookbooks, I found a recipe for something I’d never thought about doing.  I fixed it for my lunch the other day and it will now be a regular dish.  The recipe called for canned milk, and that is what I used!  I hope you’ll try this.

Breaded Tomatoes in Cream Sauce

Mix together ¾ cup corn meal with ¼ cup flour.  Add a generous dash of salt and pepper to the mixture.  Cut bright red tomatoes in ¾ inch slices and dip them in corn meal coating both sides well.  Gently fry the tomato slices in bacon grease until crispy brown on each side.

I actually fried some bacon in order to have it with this dish, but I also keep a jar of bacon grease in the fridge.  After all the tomato slices are fried and removed to a serving platter, make a cream sauce.   You need to have at least 2 Tablespoons of bacon grease in the skillet.  If you don’t, add a little butter or oil.  Blend in 2 Tablespoons of flour to make a roux, then gently pour in a 15 ounce can have evaporated milk.  Add lots of pepper to the sauce and pour it over the tomato slices.

This is delicious!

I'll be sharing this with a couple blog parties, so make sure you check my list on my sidebar.  This is a post that is part of my 2020 Vintage Vegetables project.  If you'd like to see similar posts, just click the menu button.

Crescent Rolls!

Popular foods often carry the names of people and places. Waldorf Salad was first created at New York’s Waldorf Hotel. Food historians suggest that the Crab Looie (Louis) was named after French King Louis XIV who was known for his enormous amounts of food he could eat! Tootsie Rolls were named after inventor Leo Hirschfeld's daughter Clara, whose nickname was Tootsie! 

Other foods are created to commemorate events in history. Coronation Cake was created in 1953 to commemorate Queen Elizabeth’s coronation. Napoleon’s field chef created Chicken Morengo, named to celebrate the Battle of Morengo, a Napoleonic victory of June 1800.

One of my favorite pieces of food lore pertains to the crescent roll or ‘croissant’. The crescent roll is shaped to looked like the crescent moon on the Ottoman flag of the 1600s. The Turks tried to acquire Europe for over 300 years and in the second siege of Vienna, they attempted to dig tunnels under the city walls. Bakers in the city … who worked through the night … heard them tunneling and alerted their army. Polish King John III arrived in time. Manned by just half the number of soldiers that the Turks had, his army saved Vienna. The bakers were instructed to bake something special, so the people could celebrate the victory. The chose the shape of the crescent moon depicted on the Turkish flag … so each time a resident took a bite … they could celebrate defeating (biting) the enemy!

A hundred years later, Austrian-born Marie-Antoinette was responsible for associating the croissant with France. She was homesick, so her bakers made them for her! We typically associate the roll with French cuisine, but it really began its journey in Austria!

My dad used to say that Mother started making really good biscuits after they came out in cans! That meant, of course, that she didn’t make good biscuits! In my childhood (that last child of five), I don’t remember her making any kind of bread, biscuits or rolls from scratch. She was capable, she just didn’t do it! We had canned biscuits, but we never had the very popular crescent rolls that Pillsbury introduced to the market in 1965. They introduced the ‘dough boy’ the same year! Crescent rolls came to the grocery stores during my favorite vintage period!

We love crescent rolls in my family, but I love them for more reasons than filling the Sunday Dinner breadbasket! I love creating other things using the puff pastry as the foundation.  Seldom does one of my appetizer spreads not include something made with crescent roll puff pastry.  Most home cooks that are my age fell in love with the easy puff pastry vege pizza that showed up in magazine ads in the 1970s. Two cans of crescent rolls pressed into a baking sheet, baked and cooled. A couple blocks of cream cheese spread over the pastry with some seasoning added … then topped with chopped fresh vegetables and cheddar cheese. I can taste it as I describe it.

Over the years, I have learned that you can fill crescent rolls with lots of things, bake them and you magically have great appetizers! Now that Pillsbury also produces the sheet of puff pastry, it is even easier to create magic! The following recipes are just that!

Spicy Beef Crescents

Prepare a pound of ground beef as you would for tacos, using a seasoning mix. Let the meat cool completely before assembling the crescents. One pound of meat will fill 2 cans of crescent rolls. Unroll each triangle of dough, place a portion of meat on the wide end and roll it up. Bake at 375 degrees until they are brown. You can serve them whole or slice them to reveal the spiral of meat … which is the most attractive way to serve them.

They are better served with a little sauce, spread or dip. We enjoy the following Guacamole.

Corn and Tomato Guacamole 

Cut the kernels off two ears of fresh corn. Cut a large tomato into half inch chunks. Gently mash a whole avocado. Combine these ingredients with a teaspoon of lime juice and a dash of sriracha. Finish with a heaping Tablespoon of chopped cilantro or chopped Mexican tarragon. This is a perfect topper for a bite of the Spicy Beef Crescents!

Caramelized Carrot and Zucchini Tart 

This recipe uses one can of the crescent roll style puff pastry sheet. If you have a tart pan that it fits, use it. Otherwise, you can lay a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet, place the pastry on it and crimp the edges to hold the filling.

Cut 2 carrots into slices or cubes. Cut a small zucchini into slices of cubes. Cut just a few chunks of a sweet onion. Scallions work, too. This is great with some fresh herbs added. Basil, sage, thyme, rosemary and oregano work well.

In a Tablespoon of olive oil or flavored olive oil, sauté the vegetables until they start to caramelize. Add the herbs at the end of cooking. Let everything cool.

The actually filling for this tart is simple. Mix 1 egg with 1 1/2 cups of cottage cheese. Add a little salt, pepper and a sprinkle of nutmeg. Pour this into the tart shell. Place the caramelized vegetables over the filling. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until the center puffs up and the edges are brown. The amount of vegetables you use will determine the length of time to bake. Top with a few extra fresh herbs and let it cool considerably before cutting and serving.

This post is a part of my 2020 Vintage Vegetables project. If you’d like to see additional articles, just click the menu tab. I’ll also be sharing with a few blog parties so check the list on my sidebar. Enjoy!


There are lots of popular foods today … that were also very popular during my favorite vintage period of the 1950s and 60s. Cheeseballs are on that list! Even though there are zillions of varieties of flavored cheeses and lots of premade cheeseballs on the market today, my family still really enjoys homemade cheeseballs! There is one recipe from the 1960s that I still make at least once a year … during my Christmas cooking binges. I’ll share that recipe today, but I plan to share another favorite, too.

The creation of cheese dates to the earliest of times. Archaeologists have found remnants of cheese in tombs that are 3200 years old. Cheese is mentioned in Biblical text. 13th century monks in Capua, Italy created mozzarella cheese, originally made with buffalo milk. Soft creamy cheese, sometimes pressed into a mold and sometimes shaped roughly into a ball, is found on Tudor menus. American pioneers made cheese similar to what we know as cottage cheese or ricotta cheese and instructions for ‘dressing’ it details ways to wrap the cheese in herbs so the cheese absorbs those flavors. Thomas Jefferson penned a recipe for making cheese using rennet. Kraft’s patent for Philadelphia Cream Cheese is dated 1801. Over the years, as I’ve researched cheese, the best story I’ve found is about cheese in Andrew Jackson’s White House.

President Andrew Jackson received a 1400-pound block of cheese as a gift from New York dairymen. It measured three feet thick and four feet in diameter. The cheese was kept in the White House cellar for a year to age and ripen. History tells us that some of the employees described it as “an evil-smelling horror”! Nonetheless, the President decided to share it with Washington D.C. businesses and offices declared a holiday and 10,000 cheese-lovers stormed the White House. By the time the last guest had gone, the cheese stand was empty and the cheese had been transferred to the carpets, walls, drapes and furniture. The “evil smell” remained in the East Room for months!

In 1944 Columnist for the Minneapolis Star Virginia Safford profiled women in Minneapolis for her book, Food of My Friends. Safford told food stories by describing each hostess and their signature dish. Mrs. Selmber E. Ellertson inspired the cheese ball entry. Cheeseballs became even more popular as post-war American families began socializing again. There is a recipe for a cheeseball in one of my 1940s cookbooks, but it is a simple combination of Kraft pimento cheese (in the little jar that repurposes as a juice glass) combined with a block of Philadelphia Cream Cheese, rolled in fresh parsley.

The advent of ‘Sociables’, an appetizer cracker produced by Nabisco came about in 1962. Two years later, my all-time favorite ‘Chicken in a Biskit’ crackers came to the party scene! Many other varieties followed and with them came back of the box recipes for CHEESEBALLS! What a great way to sell crackers! Nabisco probably didn’t realize that their marketing ploy would impact the cocktail party foodways of America! I’m glad it did.

One of those recipes is my annual Christmastime favorite and here’s the recipe!

French Onion Cheeseball 

1 8-ounce block of cream cheese
1 stick of butter
8 ounces shredded Muenster cheese
8 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
1 packet of Lipton’s French Onion Soup mix
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Chopped pecans or walnuts

How easy is this? Make sure the cream cheese and butter are at room temperature. I recommend grating your own Muenster and cheddar instead of buying bags of shredded cheese. In the old days, we mixed this together with an electric mixer. Today, throw it all in a food processor and you are done in just a couple minutes. If the mixture seems a little too thick, just add a few drops of milk. Form a roll or a ball with the mixture and roll it in chopped nuts. Refrigerate it until you are ready to serve it, but let it set out about an hour to soften before actually serving it.

Years ago, I hosted a dinner party for girlfriends that was themed “American First Ladies” and one of the recipes I used was a cheeseball from Rosalynn Carter’s days in the White House.

When they were first married, (later U.S. President) Jimmy Carter taught Rosalynn some of his favorite recipes. Mrs. Carter became an enthusiastic cook and often times, they prepared meals together. While living in Atlanta in the Governor’s Mansion, Mrs. Carter enrolled in a local cooking school to enhance her culinary skills. She became adept at serving as the State Hostess, which eased the transition into her role as First Lady.

Rosalynn Carter’s Cheese Ring 

1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, finely shredded
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup chopped pecans
½ cup very finely chopped onion
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Dash of cayenne pepper
One 12-ounce jar strawberry preserves

In a big mixing bowl, combine the cheese, mayonnaise, chopped nuts and onions. Add the peppers and continue to blend. Press the mixture into a 3-cup ring mold. Refrigerate for at least two hours. To serve, unmold the ring and fill the center with the strawberry preserves. Serve with buttery or pretzel crackers.

I’m posting this as a part of my 2020 Vintage Vege project. This is one of the ‘other old stuff’ items! Enjoy!

Cabbage Rolls - New Twist

For those of us with European roots, many of our family comfort foods found their origins in what we refer to, today, as the Middle East. Christian crusaders and dealers along the trade routes carried these foodways into European countries 1500 years ago. Additionally, explorers like Marco Polo are responsible for having carried the spices of the Far East back to Europe, so the combination of all the activity along the ancient Royal Route and Silk Route contributed to the creation of the hodgepodge of foods that are all linked together, while being distinctly different!

Cabbage rolls fall into that category! Food historians have a heyday identifying the real origin of cabbage rolls! Many cultures claim ownership!

Home cooks in Eastern European countries (Poland, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria) make similar recipes and celebrate Christmas Holidays with this meal. According to Once Upon a, Jewish recipes for what is called ‘holishkls’ include raisins, brown sugar, lemon and tomato with ground meat. They are served during their religious fall harvest festival. All the names are different, and the ingredients range from including chopped mint and paprika to including dill. Some are served with a tomato sauce and others are served with a side of sour cream. Some of the names are linked to the French recipe for actual pigeons or doves wrapped in cabbage leaves. Many call cabbage rolls ‘little pigeons’ or ‘little doves’, even though the meat is ground beef, pork or lamb. Some are browned and brazed and other recipes call for steaming.

One recipe includes serving the cabbage rolls with a drizzle of lingonberry jam. Does that sound unusual? Without detailing the history of Sweden’s Charles XII and Russia’s Peter the Great, just know that Peter had 45,000 soldiers and Charles only had 14,000. Charles and some of his soldiers escaped a losing battle and self-exiled in Turkey. While in Turkey, Charles XII grew to love Dolmas, stuffed grape leaves. After returning to Sweden, Charles shared the recipe and gave birth to Kåldolmar – the Swedish Cabbage Roll. We can date an early recipe to 1755, when a cookbook by Cajsa Warg was published. The dish is so popular, a special day is designated to celebrate it. November 30th (also the day Charles died in battle in 1718) is the ‘Day of the Cabbage Roll’!

European immigrants brought their own versions of cabbage roll recipes with them to America. Recipes show up in most early American cookbooks and continue to make the pages of comfort food cookbooks today. In my favorite vintage period, the 1950s, the recipes ranged from using pickled cabbage leaves … to smothering the rolls with stewed tomatoes … to topping the rolls with shredded cabbage or Sauer kraut … to adding a final topping of sour cream. In my childhood home, our cabbage rolls were smothered in stewed tomatoes and Mother’s home-canned stewed tomatoes always included celery seed, mustard seed and a little bit of sugar. Mama could turn a pound of ground beef into enough filling for 12 – 16 cabbage rolls!

I make my cabbage rolls the same way Mother made them! My husband and my daddy could nearly eat their weight in those cabbage rolls and if they were still at my table, I’d never change my method! However, I wanted to try something different so this week I stuffed cabbage leaves with a lightly flavored rice mixture. Try this and serve it with a grilled chicken breast and a few slices of field ripened tomato. You will love it.

Lemon Tarragon Stuffed Cabbage Leaves

Cabbage Rolls:
6 cabbage leaves
1 cup jasmine rice
Lemon infused olive oil
1 Tablespoon chopped Mexican Tarragon
1 lemon
1 egg
½ cup shredded Swiss cheese

2 T butter
2 T flour
2 cups Half and Half
Zest from half a lemon
Salt and pepper

Remove the outer six cabbage leaves and place them in boiling water for a couple minutes. Remove and drain. The leaves should be pliable.

Sauté the rice in a Tablespoon of lemon infused oil. When the rice begins to brown, add 2 cups of water and cook the rice on a simmer (with a lid) until it is done. Let the rice cool slightly before adding the cheese, egg and tarragon. Prepare the cabbage leaves by cutting the thick central stem from each leaf. Roll a scoop of rice in each leaf, folding the sides in before you roll. In a couple Tablespoons of lemon infused oil, gently brown the rolls in a heavy skillet. Add a cup of water to the skillet; slice half the lemon and place a slice of lemon on each roll; put the lid on the skillet and steam the cabbage rolls for 25 minutes. Remove the cabbage rolls to a serving platter and make the sauce in the same skillet.

Add 2 Tablespoons of butter to the skillet and when it melts, stir in 2 Tablespoons of flour. Let the roux cook for a couple minutes, then whisk in the Half and Half. Add the zest and the juice of half the lemon and cook until the sauce thickens. Serve the sauce with the cabbage rolls.

These cabbage rolls are flavorful, but not too rich and filling. They make a nice side dish served with grilled meat.

This post is part of my 2020 Vintage Vegetable project. If you’d like to read similar articles, just click the menu button. I’ll be sharing with some blog parties, so take a look at my list on the sidebar … and click through to see the partiers! Happy 4th of July! Let Freedom Ring!

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