Pari passu. I know a good term when I run up on it– that is, one I can adopt for my own purposes. Pari passu, used extensively in legal matters, is a Latin phrase that literally means "with an equal step" or "on equal footing.” In the kitchen, pari passu offers a pleasant shared experience instead of what can become a solitary time consuming chore. I take it to mean “I do the cooking; you do the dishes”. It means “I’ll set the table; you open the wine.” It means “You cooked last weekend; I’ll cook this one”. This past Saturday night pari passu was “You cook the fish; I’ll handle the vegetables.”
I’m not a natural cook. I wouldn’t know to put salt in the grits unless the recipe called for it. My talent is to know where to go for recipes and advice on all things culinary. The cookbooks in my kitchen are well-used and loved and each cookbook written by Ina Garten, Sara Foster, the Lee Brothers and Robert St. John proudly occupies a shelf of honor. For my contribution to our Saturday night meal, I turned to Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, for some fresh ideas for winter vegetables. In the dead of winter, tomatoes and basil are the stuff of which dreams are made. Her recipe for Scalloped Tomatoes or Tomato Pie (as we call it in the Deep South) is one suited for "cold weather cooking" and calls for grocery-store plum tomatoes, available all winter long. This delicious dish can be prepared in advance and baked before dinner. Along with roasted fennel,haricots verts and fingerling potatoes, a Caesar salad (a special request by my friend John) and butternut squash soup, the Tomato Pie was a tasty reminder of summer.
My companion was so intrigued by the idea of Tomato Pie he forgot the tuna steaks ... so we happily enjoyed a colorful vegetable plate for dinner. And all things being equal, pari pussu that is, it was a lovely meal.
By Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa “How Easy Is That?”)
5 tablespoons good olive oil, divided
2 cups (1/2 inch) diced bread from a round rustic bread, crusts removed
3 pounds plum tomatoes, ½ inch diced (14 – 16 tomatoes)
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup julienned fresh basil leaves, lightly packed
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large (12-inch) sauté pan over medium heat. Add the bread cubes and stir to coat with the oil. Cook over medium to medium-high heat for 5 minutes stirring often, until the cubes are evenly browned.
Meanwhile, combine the tomatoes, garlic, sugar, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add the tomato mixture to the bread cubes and continue to cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the basil.
Pour the tomato mixture into a shallow (6 to 8 cup) baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with the Parmesan cheese and drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until the top is browned and the tomatoes are bubbly. Serve hot or warm.