By Vera Stewart | Photos by Amy J. Owen
As a young girl, I remember dreaming about my wedding and asking my mother if I could look at her scrapbook from her engagement and wedding, something I did very often. As a college student, I could only imagine having your wedding picture in Town & Country Magazine, and in looking through those photos, I became even more intrigued with the beauty and elegance of my mother’s home wedding in James, Ga., outside of Gray, in June 1940. The home, then her grandmother’s, was the site of her grandmother’s wedding in 1880.
In my career as a caterer, my passion for home weddings was probably sparked by the pages of this old scrapbook. The elegance of each home, the expansive and well-manicured yards, and the backdrops created from the trees and other features on the grounds created the perfect landscape. Each was certainly a “one-of-a-kind” wedding experience for that bride and her family.
Creating the perfect menu for such an occasion was many times prompted by the style of the plates being used, the silver that was probably multigenerational and the linens that were possibly used by a lineage of brides. For the luncheon described here, we are featuring two favorites from The VeryVera Cookbook and two that will be in Vera’s OCCASIONS.
Bridesmaids’ luncheons or teas could be more manageable occasions for most hosts and are certainly the sort of occasion that could be mastered by a hostess who has an eye for detail and creativity. In the case of this luncheon, I chose a day to celebrate and honor my mother yet again. The attendees were all her great-granddaughters. To keep in line with “something old and something new,” I engaged Kat McCall, giving her a color palette and a request for the invitation and place cards to represent a more modern twist. The favors, retrieved from a lovely visit to Angevine’s in Surrey Center, were the perfect “old” as a keepsake to remember Betty Stewart, who would have been 103 at the time of this luncheon. The table setting, designed by Ashley Kelley with assistance from Design Images in Surrey Center, was certainly in keeping with the beautifully restored home at 602 Milledge Road, and the festive wedding veil drapes to the chairs added a whimsical touch.
Pictured: Alvin Wingfield, Amelia Stewart and Betty Stewart Wingfield, June 18,1940
… Something New
Here are some of Vera’s recipes.
TOMATO PIE is the savory king of the pie family — the rooster, you might say. Creamy, savory, flaky and hearty, this pie works at any time of year. Roma tomatoes hold up perfectly through baking and maintain their structure without falling apart. This VeryVera favorite sold out every day.
Makes: 1 pie, serves 6-8 people
Prep Time: 20 to 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
• 3 or 4 Roma tomatoes, sliced 1⁄2-inch thick
• Salt, to taste
• Ground black pepper, to taste
• 1⁄2 cup Parmesan cheese, hand-shredded
• 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, hand-shredded
• 1 cup Hellmann’s® mayonnaise
• 1 frozen pie shell
• 1⁄4 cup green onions, sliced
• 1⁄4 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
2. Place the sliced tomatoes on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
3. Mix both cheeses and mayonnaise together.
4. Place the first layer of tomatoes in the pie shell, completely covering the bottom. Cut a tomato slice in half to completely cover the bottom if need be. Sprinkle with a third of the green onions and basil, and spread a third of the cheese mixture on top.
5. Repeat with two more layers. On the final layer, be sure to let the tomatoes show through the cheese.
6. Bake for 30 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbling.
Note: For leftovers, slice and plate. Heat individual slices in the microwave in 30-second intervals until heated through.
This simple dish works well as a side dish, appetizer, or even as the bread accompaniment to a salad!
Prep Time: 15m Cook Time: 10m Serves: 15 people
24-30 stalks fresh asparagus 1 loaf white bread
Hellman’s mayonnaise Butter
Parmesan, freshly grated
- Blanch asparagus in boiling water for about 5 minutes, then immediately transfer to an ice water bath.
- Drain asparagus when cooled.
- Trim crust from bread. Roll flat with rolling pin.
- Spread with coat of mayonnaise.
- Trim asparagus from tip end to a little longer than bread. Roll up inside the white bread, jelly roll fashion.
- Dip into, or brush on melted butter and roll in parmesan cheese.
- Place on sheet pan to freeze. Store in Ziploc bags after frozen.
- When ready to use, place on a sheet pan in a preheated 400-degree F oven and bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.
- Serve full length as a side accompaniment or cut in half as a two-bite appetizer.
This is a perfect appetizer and will have your guests wondering “What is this?” It’s very inexpensive and makes about 100 bite sized sandwiches!
1 Bunch Carrots – peeled and chopped into one-inch chunks
1/2 cup ground pecans Hellman’s Mayonnaise to taste 1 tsp. Garlic Salt
Loaf of white bread
- Place carrot chunks in the blender and cover with water. Pulse until you have a very fine consistency on the carrots.
- Pour into a strainer/colander and drain. Press excess water out with your hands and place in a mixing bowl.
- Add the finely ground pecan sand enough mayonnaise to hold the mixture together.
- Add the garlic salt and mix well.
- Trim crusts from white bread slices and roll very flat with a rolling pin.
- Lightly spread mayonnaise on each slice.
- Spread a thin layer of the carrot mixture and roll up in a jelly roll fashion.
- Cutinto 1/2″-3/4″ slices for a bite sized sandwich.
- Cover the sandwiches with a damp paper towel as you work, to keep them moist and keep on there once refrigerated.
- The sandwiches will hold well for 24 hours.
LEMON-ROSEMARY SHORTBREAD BARS
Bake Time: 43 to 48 minutes Yield: 2 1⁄2 dozen bars
2 cups all-purpose flour
1⁄2 cup sifted powdered sugar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary 1⁄4 teaspoon salt
3⁄4 cup unsalted butter, cubed
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1⁄2 cup sifted powdered sugar 2 teaspoons whole milk
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and prepare a 9×13-inch pan with baking spray.
- Combine the flour, powdered sugar, rosemary, and salt in a large mixing bowl.
- Cut in the 3⁄4 cup butter with a pastry blender until the mixture is crumbly. Spoon the mixture into the greased pan and press firmly and evenly into the bottom. Bake for 18 minutes until the crust is lightly browned. Set aside and cool.
- In a small bowl, combine the 1/3 cup flour and baking powder. Stir well.
- In a separate large bowl, combine the eggs, granulated sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and butter. Stir well.
- Stir the flour mixture into the wet mixture. Combine thoroughly.
- Pour the mixture over the cooled crust.
- Place in the oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until set. Let cool completely on a wire rack.
- While the bars are cooling, prepare the icing for the top.
- Combine the 1⁄2 cup powdered sugar and milk. Stir until smooth.
- Spoon into a small resealable bag; seal bag. Using scissors, cut a tiny hole in one corner of the bag.
- Drizzle the icing over the uncut bars. Let stand until set and cut into bars.
Makes: 6 salads
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 to 20 minutes
3 cups spring mix lettuce blend
1⁄3 cup Candied Pecans (page 60) 3⁄4 cup blue cheese crumbles
3⁄4 cup dried cranberries
3⁄4 cup mandarin oranges Balsamic vinaigrette
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons Hellmann’s® mayonnaise 2 tablespoons water
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil Kosher salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
Arrange the lettuce on salad plates, and sprinkle the pecans, blue cheese, cranberries, and oranges on top of each salad.
Blend the balsamic vinegar, mayonnaise, water, garlic, mustard, and brown sugar together in a blender. Slowly add the olive oil until all ingredients are mixed well. Salt and pepper the dressing to taste.
Preheat the oven to 325°F and line a sheet pan with parchment paper. In a large saucepan, bring the water to a boil over medium heat.
Add the granulated sugar and let it dissolve.
Once the sugar is dissolved, pour in the pecans and stir.
Let the pecans cook, stirring every few minutes. The liquid will begin to thicken.
When most of the liquid has cooked out, the pecans will be shiny and sticky. Remove from the cooktop.
Spread the pecans on the prepared sheet pan.
Place in the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes or until they are not shiny and look frosty.
Let the pecans cool and break apart before serving on the salad.
Silver: Angevine’s | Stationery: Kat McCall | Table: Ashley Kelley
Appears in the February/March 2021 issue of Augusta Magazine.