This morning as I sat on the deck with my tea and enjoyed my close-up view of an especially extravagant hummingbird show, I got to thinking about this column and what I would share with you this week. 

When I started writing about food many years ago, I wanted to keep the recipes simple and to the point. Fancy has its place in the world, but let’s face it, most of us don’t make every day a party. Much of the time, we’re just looking for something tasty that’s economical and easy and to prepare.

It’s fun to try all those new-fangled cooking techniques on the internet, but there’s something comforting and familiar about rifling through our beat-up cookbooks and recipe card files. When we do that, I believe we’re looking for more than a recipe; we’re searching for a memory. And as we melt the butter, slice the tomatoes or beat the eggs, we’re thinking of the first time we ate that delicious thing; who made it for us; whose kitchen we were in. Perhaps we remember the conversation, the laughter and the warmth. 

For instance, the first time I ate Buttered Cod was at my friend Leona’s table. Ten minutes after the ferry had deposited me on Matinicus Island, a young fisherman showed up at her door with a great big piece of cod wrapped in newspaper. He had heard Leona had a visitor, and he wanted to impress. 

She whipped out her trusty cast iron skillet, melted butter and sautéed that cod in the time it took me to slice the homemade bread, cucumbers and tomatoes I’d brought from Rockland. The evening would have been perfect if Leona, who was 80 at the time, hadn’t beaten me so soundly at Scrabble. 

Another dish that brings back fond memories is Tomato Pie. My cousin Donna introduced me to this delight during one of her annual summer visits. Now we make the pie together every year, eating the leftovers between swimming, reading and taking turns napping in the hammock. It’s important to note that we think the tomato pie is best at room temperature. We do re-heat it gently in the oven to have with scrambled eggs for breakfast.  

For those of you with a fondness for blueberry cake, this is the only one you should ever bake, according to my adopted Maine mother, Mabel. Yes, separating the eggs and whipping the whites is worth the trouble and please, don’t use those giant show-offy blueberries from away. They just won’t do. Eat this cake plain and hot out of the oven, saving the embellishments for another time. If there are leftovers, split a piece in half length-wise, butter it up and grill it in the cast iron skillet to have with your eggs in the morning. 

If you have the good fortune to have both leftover tomato pie and grilled blueberry cake for breakfast, that, my friend, is the beginning to a stellar day.

Buttered Cod

1 1/2 lbs. thick cod fillets

6 tbsp. butter, cut into 6 pats

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper

1/2 tsp. paprika

Lemon slices

Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once the butter melts, add cod to the skillet and cook 2 minutes. Turn heat down to medium. Turn cod over and top with remaining butter and seasonings. Cook another 3-4 minutes. Remove immediately to a plate and serve with lemon. Yield: 4-6 servings.

Cousin Donna’s Tomato Pie

4-6 large ripe tomatoes

12- 16 ounce block pepper jack cheese, shredded

1 tbsp. fresh basil and/or 1 tbsp. fresh oregano 

1 tsp. salt

1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs

3 tbsp. butter

Unbaked pastry for 1 deep-dish pie shell

A couple hours before you’re ready to make the pie, slice tomatoes as thinly as possible and place on layers of paper towels to drain. Cover with more paper towels and press gently. You may have to change the paper towels to get the tomatoes dry enough.

Place large baking sheet in oven and preheat the oven and baking sheet to 400 degrees. 

Place pastry in deep-dish pie dish. Layer tomato slices, grated cheese, salt and herbs in pastry-lined dish. Sprinkle top with more cheese and bread crumbs and dot with butter. 

Bake on heated baking sheet for 30-60 minutes until tomatoes are very soft and the pie is bubbling and golden. The time will vary depending on how thick your pie is. Allow to cool before serving. Yield: 8 servings.

Mabel’s Blueberry Cake

2 eggs, separated

1 cup sugar

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 cup shortening

1 tsp. vanilla

1 1/2 cups sifted flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1/3 cup whole milk

1 1/2 cups fresh Maine blueberries (shaken with a tsp. of flour to coat)

Beat egg whites until stiff. Add about 1/4 cup sugar and beat in until sugar is dissolved. 

Beat shortening, adding salt and vanilla and add remaining sugar gradually. Add egg yolks and beat until light and creamy. Sift flour and baking powder together and add to other ingredients alternately with milk. Fold in egg whites, then gently stir in flour-coated blueberries. 

Spoon batter into a buttered 8×8-inch glass baking pan. Sprinkle top of batter with sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes. Yield: 6-8 servings. 

Your questions and comments are always welcome and will be answered. Send your letters to [email protected]