If you’ve ever visited the rural beauty that is Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, perhaps you’ve headed east on M-134 after passing St. Ignace and dropped into a small community on the northern coast of Lake Huron called Hessel. Facing the 36 Les Cheneaux Islands, you can’t visit Hessel without paying homage to Pickle Point, the local gift shop filled with Northern Michigan art and trinkets, children’s toys and knitting provisions. Tucked in a corner, you’ll find a stack of maize-colored cookbooks, proudly bearing a triple-winner gold stamp from the Benjamin Franklin Book Awards on the cover. Hollyhocks and Radishes: Mrs. Chard’s Almanac Cookbook, written by Bonnie Stuart Mickelson, is based on the stories and recipes inspired by the neighborhood produce stand once run by Mrs. Judy Chard in the Les Cheneaux area.
While house-sitting for my mother this month in Michigan, I found her copy of Hollyhocks and Radishes on a pantry shelf, dedicated and signed by Bonnie, herself, back in 1998. I began to thumb through the pages, recalling how I was raised on these recipes. Much inspiration for my own recipes in Crate Cooking has come from this book. Yellow squash and sweet corn sautéed on August weeknights, chili sauce canned in half-pint jars, apple crisp at Thanksgiving and baked shoe peg corn in the dead of winter are some Streit family favorites.
Organized by season, in the “Vegetables from a Midsummer’s Garden” chapter lives a recipe for Scalloped Tomatoes, canned tomatoes (home-canned was likely the intention) smashed and topped with with a crust of bread crumbs and grated Parmesan cheese and baked until browned. Since it would be a shame to waste all of these September Michigan tomatoes we have during this crazy-hot Indian Summer, I thought I’d update this recipe with fresh tomatoes and use Simple Croutons in place of the bread crumbs. And, yes I’m actually going to say this, when you’ve got such great flavors with fresh tomatoes and basil you don’t always need to top them with cheese.
Here’s my updated version of Bonnie’s Scalloped Tomatoes. Essentially a baked version of Panzanella, I find it’s best served warm with just a few fresh basil leaves to brighten the flavor.
And if you’re planning a trip to Hessel, do stop by Pickle Point and also enjoy a meal at The Les Cheneaux Culinary School.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Generously butter a 2 1/2-quart gratin or shallow baking dish.
Combine Simple Tomato Salad and Simple Croutons in a large bowl. Pour mixture into prepared gratin or baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until tomatoes are bubbly and croutons are golden brown. Garnish with fresh basil leaves and serve warm.
More recipes from our Summer Crate