Columns by John

John Brown has been a wine and food columnist in West Virginia since the 1980’s. His regular columns appear in the Charleston (WV) Gazette-Mail under the title Vines & Vittles and in The State Journal - a statewide business weekly


During winters when I was growing up in the Northview section of Clarksburg, I remember being forced to eat food I thought had been grown in tin cans. When I refused to eat the limp and tasteless vegetables and fruit that oozed from these metal containers, I was required to sit at the dinner table until I relented, and choked down a forkful of the despicable stuff.

I suppose there was some sort of nutritional benefit to consuming canned veggies and fruit back then, but I would have preferred starvation, a paddling from Dad or even being whacked on the knuckles again by Sister Grimalda for talking during class at St. James Grade School – a medieval, penal institution where I served more time in detention than in the classroom.

But summertime was a different story because all the adults in my Italian American family had vegetable gardens and fruit trees. None of my twenty or so first cousins – or I – had to be forced to eat freshly grown family produce. But we preferred to poach the cherries, tomatoes or apples from the vines and trees my family members so lovingly tended, and then had to protect from the horde of hungry and larcenous kids who would not wait for the bounty to ripen.

Kids today, though, don’t have to eat anything from a can – even in winter. With internationally transported fruits and veggies available year-round, the only thing worth consuming from a can now is a cold beverage. And with everything currently at peak harvest in our neck of the woods, there is no better time than now to enjoy the cornucopia of freshly grown edibles. So today, I’m going to provide you with a recipe that takes advantage of many of these fresh and abundant vegetables.

Teala (pronounced Tea-aa-lah) is an Italian vegetable casserole that is a spicy, delicious, one-pot, no-meat meal that is taken to another level with an accompanying bottle of wine. And Teala is an equal opportunity dish when it comes to wine since it pairs equally well with both reds and whites. If I’m using a red wine to accompany Teala, I prefer to sip light to medium-bodied bottles such as Valpolicella or Barbera.

But Teala really shines when it is paired with white wine that features herbaceous and citrus flavors with a touch of minerality. Those flavor components are especially present in many California sauvignon blancs, and in Arneis, a white wine from northern Italy. Here are two of my favorite white wines to accompany Teala.

2022 St. Supéry Estate Vineyards Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($26) – I visited this winery a few years back and was very impressed with their entire portfolio. However, I was especially pleased with the St. Supery Napa Sauvignon Blanc. The wine is bright and crisp, and features flavors of citrus with nuances of herbs and grass. It stands up to, and enhances, the savory summer casserole we call Teala.

2020 Damilano Lange Arneis ($24) – This northern Italian white is a fresh, herbaceous wine with flavors of ripe pears and citrus, and aromas of minerals and grass. It’s a lovely mouthful of wine that is not only a seamless match to the Teala, but also refreshes the palate and tames some of the zesty, spicy flavors in the dish.




Two medium sized zucchinis, peeled and cut into 1/8-inch thick rounds
Two medium sized yellow squash cut into 1/8-inch thick rounds
Three medium sized potatoes peeled and cut into 1/8-inch thick rounds
One medium sized onion, hot banana pepper and red bell pepper cut into thin vertical slices
Two ripe red tomatoes sliced thinly
One small bunch of parsley and one handful of basil chopped together
Four cloves of minced garlic
One third cup of unseasoned bread crumbs
One half cup of grated pecorino-romano cheese
One cup of grated mozzarella
Four ounces extra virgin olive oil
One teaspoon each of salt and freshly ground black pepper


Drizzle olive oil on the bottom of a casserole dish and rub all over
Layer the potatoes to cover the bottom of the dish
Top with salt, pepper, herbs, onions, garlic, peppers, breadcrumbs, cheese and drizzled oil
Layer zucchini and repeat the step above
Layer yellow squash and repeat toppings
Repeat above, including potatoes, until the casserole is full
Top layer should be drizzled only with olive oil, breadcrumbs and cheese
Cover with aluminum foil and place in a 375F oven
Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes covered and last 15 minutes uncovered to brown top
Allow Teala to rest for 20 minutes before serving

*The dish will make a lot of liquid, so you may wish to drain some before servin

John Brown is also a novelist. His latest book, Augie’s World, is a sequel to his debut novel, Augie’s War. Both novels are available in print and audio at Amazon. You can find out more about his novels and wine columns at


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