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INTRODUCTION

If you find yourself traveling in South Carolina, stop to eat where the ''locals'' hang out, the Okra Grill in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.  Mount Pleasant is near Charleston, S.C.  Chef Linda Weiss eats there often and recently stopped by to lend a hand in the kitchen and find out Chef Tony Page's secret.  Gardeners will not be surprised at what she learned.  She discovered that Chef Tony is an advocate for freshly grown local produce (and even locally ground flour).  Blueberry Cream Cheese Pie and two tomato recipes are on the menu this week.

---Anne K Moore September 11, 2009---

GUEST CHEF TONY PAGE, OKRA GRILL
Mount Pleasant, South Carolina

by Chef Linda Weiss
Photographs by Robert Shober

Last Sunday I had the opportunity to cook for the second time with Tony Page of Page's Okra Grill in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. It was quite a treat for me since I eat there quite often. I think it means something when people keep going back to the same place because the food is so good.

I wanted to know what made this food so much better than at some of the other places. The answer was simple, as I discovered while I wandered through the kitchen. Tony told me that he uses fresh local produce. It was obvious that he's not only an advocate for what is locally grown, but he also uses the best ingredients that he can find, whether it's green beans or flour, as I would soon learn when I scooped in the flour bin to make a caramel cake.

Locally grown does make a difference. For those of us who don't have a garden large enough for everything we want to grow, we buy local at the Farmers Market. Some of the farmers that I buy from have been farming their entire lives. That's all they've ever done. And, their livelihood has come from the produce grown on the family farm.

We have so much to look forward to in our fall produce with sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and all the fall and winter greens like cabbage, collards and turnips that I can hardly wait for it to get cool. So, look for more greens recipes along with a pumpkin cheesecake, and easy sweet potatoes coming up soon.

In the meantime, I'd love to share the sweet treat recipe for Blueberry Cream Cheese Pie that Tony and I made on Sunday. We also made tomato pie because we still have plenty of fresh tomatoes available here, so the recipe for the savory pie is below as well.  It has a secret that makes it the best, or at least my family says it's the best.  I've also included a grape tomato recipe for you to try.

If you'd like the caramel cake recipe that we used, please do let us know and I will gladly send it to you. It's the old-fashioned yellow cake with cooked sugar icing. Tony told me that his restaurant patrons liked it so much that he is to call one of them when we make it again!

Blueberry Cream Cheese Pie

1 pre-made graham cracker pie shell
1 (8-ounce) package 1/3 less fat cream cheese
1-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 pint or 2 cups blueberries
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Whipped cream garnish

Using a wire whisk on the mixer beat the cream cheese with the confectioners' sugar and vanilla, until creamy and smooth. Pour into the graham cracker pie shell. Refrigerate until ready to add the blueberries. In a medium saucepan, add 1 cup of the blueberries, sugar and cornstarch. Cook until blueberries are thickened, about 3-5 minutes. Add the remaining blueberries and stir well. Set aside to cool. Pour the cooled blueberry mixture on top of the cream cheese and refrigerate.

Use 1 cup cream and whip until thickened. Gradually add 4 tablespoons sugar and continue beating until soft peaks form. Use 2-3 tablespoons whipped cream to top each serving of pie. Store in refrigerator.

Note: If you'd like a little zing, try some lemon zest in the blueberries to taste.

Tomato Pie

I was on a mini-vacation in Portland, Maine. As usual, I was wandering through a used book store looking around when I came across a ''1955 Congressional Record Cookbook.'' I was so surprised to find tomato pie in the book. It was a little different from the tomato pie that we make today with ready-made piecrust, because the pie in 1955 had a biscuit crust, and didn't have basil. All the recipes in the book were hand-written. I was just fascinated by this book, so I bought it. What a treasure it is. I have found so many recipes in the book that I thought were fairly new, but cooks were making them before 1955!

1 pre-baked 9 inch pie crust
1-1/2 to 2 ripe tomatoes, peeled
1 tablespoon dried basil or 3 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
1 small to medium sweet onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups grated sharp Cheddar cheese
3/4-1 cup mayonnaise
Salt and pepper to taste

Blind bake the pie crust according to package direction. Cool.

Peel tomatoes, slice into -3/4 inch slices and set aside to drain.

Place tomatoes in the pie shell in ONE layer (this is the secret), top with chopped onion and salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with basil.

Mix cheese and mayonnaise and spread over the onions to make a top crust from edge to edge of the piecrust. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes. The pie will be bubbly in the center so make sure you cook it long enough. Wait 20 minutes before serving.

*Small tomato pies can be made in tart pans using the same method as above. These are great for tea parties.

Sauteed Tomatoes

2 cups grape tomatoes
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper to taste
Favorite herbs such as thyme or basil

Melt butter in skillet until sizzling. Add grape tomatoes. Saute until tender. Salt and pepper to taste. Add fresh herbs just before removing from heat. Serve hot.

---Linda Weiss attended La Varenne at The Greenbrier and Le Cordon Bleu of Paris' Catering School. She is a member of The James Beard Foundation in New York and the Southern Foodways Alliance at Ole Miss. Linda's first book, Memories From Home, Cooking with Family & Friends

is available at www.Amazon.com or at her website   Linda currently is a freelance magazine and newspaper writer, has been the Food Editor for three magazines, as well as a cooking teacher and a frequent television cooking show guest.  Visit her website:   www.cheflindaweiss.com and her blog:  www.lindaallaboutfood.blogspot.com ---

 

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