Songs of Spring, Farmer’s Market Dinners, and Channeling the Greek Isles

I have to admit, for a moment there I was worried the climate change was all coming to a head and I feared I would never make it out of winter to feel the warmth of the sun again. OK, that is an exaggeration, I will admit. I know it isn’t THAT cold but it has been rough this winter for us Southerners. This morning as I walked through Shelby Bottoms with the doggers, though, we heard the wild, deafening, mating songs of the toads and now I know that Spring is indeed on the way! That’s southern country singing at its finest! I know that soon all the other crazy summer sounds of the South will fill the air and comfort me.

I can’t help but feel that our recent culinary experimentation- channeling the food of the Greek islands- has had something to do with that. We’ve been real busy day dreaming of warmer climates which has led to many Greek salads and Mediterranean inspired dishes. It all started with those lemon roasted potatoes a few weeks back. Two of my favorite ingredients lately have been these: lemon stuffed olives which we have to order by mail and Tennessee’s own Bonnie Blue Farm marinated goat’s milk feta.

We created this chicken recipe below and ate it with some good crusty bread and a Greek salad made with the aforementioned olives and feta along with some red onion, red pepper, olive oil, lemon, fresh parsley, salt and pepper.

I Wish I Was In The Greek Isles Chicken
serves 2

Ingredients:
2 Springer Mt. Farms chicken breasts
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
6 garlic cloves, peeled
1½ tsp sea salt
1½ tsp fresh ground black pepper
juice of ½ lemon
3 tsp dried oregano
½ white onion, chopped
1 Tbsp capers
1 cup canned whole tomatoes
1 pinch of sugar

Directions:
Coat the chicken breasts with 2 Tbsp olive oil, garlic cloves, ½ tsp of the salt and pepper, the lemon juice and 1 tsp oregano. Let sit for 1-2 hours. Heat olive oil in an iron skillet on medium high. Add onions and saute until soft but not browned. Add the chicken and marinade into pan. Brown the chicken breasts on one side for about 3-5 minutes. Flip. Add the remaining ingredients, squishing the tomatoes in your hands as you add them to the skillet. Add more lemon, the remaining oregano, salt & pepper to taste. Turn heat down to medium low, cover pan and cook 10-12 minutes until chicken is done and sauce has reduced somewhat.

We ate this yummy dinner the other night just before heading out to FooBar to catch the Hackensaw Boys from Virginia. We heard their first album about seven or eight years ago while living in Seattle and really fell in love with their sound. They are a fun fast mix of old timey hillbilly music and bluegrass. We sort of lost track of them but they’ve had a couple albums out since and were on tour to support a new release called, “The Old Sound of Music Vol.1 ” They put on a fun show and we’ve been enjoying the new album ever since.

Hackensaw Boys at FooBar 02/05/2011

I’ve always heard about the Franklin Farmer’s Market but it happens every Saturday morning and until just recently, I had to work on Saturday mornings. We finally checked it out and were delighted to discover a cart with handmade cinnamon sugar donuts amongst our favorite local farmers such as Delvin Farms, Hatcher Family Dairy, and Noble Springs Dairy goat milk cheese.We had lunch at Gulf Pride Seafood in the Factory… The gumbo and shrimp po boy sandwich were  delicious! Thanks Kristin, for the recommendation! We then came home and made a Farmer’s Market Dinner with all our local finds.

We made fried chicken with local chicken from West Wind Farm, roasted potatoes and turnips from Delvin Farms, and coleslaw with cabbage from Delvin Farms. Grant made a tomato gravy for a complete Southern dinner! We’ve seen several variations for tomato gravy. We opt for the non-Italian version. He simply made a rue with Hatcher Family Dairy homemade butter (this was the key ingredient!) and White Lily flour. He added some tomato paste and hot sauce to the chicken stock that he then added to the rue.

I talk about Shrimp & Grits often and Grant has his favorite way of preparing this classic Southern dish but we keep thinking of new ways to incorporate leftovers and I am starting to think that perhaps all leftovers lead to Shrimp & Grits because that tomato gravy made the perfect base for Shrimp & Grits!

Another new recipe I came up with recently is this one for Cranberry Rosemary Walnut Bread. I love buying extra cranberries at Thanksgiving and freezing them to use later in the year as they aren’t always easy to find during non-Thanksgiving times. So many recipes pair cranberries with citrus but I am not such a big fan of this combination. I was thinking about rosemary and how it is in season all year ’round here and that it might be nice to add a savory characteristic to a classic sweet bread.

(By the way- I got a new ceramic loaf pan. Giada De Laurentiis has a new line of cookware available at Target. You know, the woman with the simple Italian cooking show on the Food Network. She’s beautiful and the whole time you are watching you can’t stop thinking, “How is this woman so skinny? There’s no way she eats her own cooking!” Well, I am super excited about her bakeware. Go check it out!)

Cranberry Walnut Rosemary Bread

makes 1 large loaf

Ingredients:
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup White Lily all purpose flour
½ tsp sea salt (I used homemade rosemary salt)
1 ½ tsp baking powder (I used homemade)
½ tsp baking soda
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp fresh chopped rosemary
2 eggs, beaten
¾ cup organic cane sugar
¼ organic brown sugar
¼ cup melted butter, cooled
¾ cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chopped fresh (or frozen) cranberries

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease and flour loaf pan.
2. In a medium bowl,mix together flour, baking powder, soda, salt, nuts, and rosemary.
3. In a mixing bowl, mix eggs and sugar until combined. Add buttermilk, butter, and vanilla.
4. Slowly add flour mixture to wet ingredients and stir with a spatula until just combined. Add cranberries.
5. Pour batter into loaf pan and bake for 45-60 minutes or until a toothpick entered into the center of the loaf comes out clean.

I’ll close this post as I usually do, with a pie..

We were invited to a Super Bowl Party. You can’t grow up in the South without knowing at least the basics of football but I don’t really follow it now as an adult. We do, however, have lots of friends now who are all Green Bay Packer fans so I decided to make an Apple Cheddar Pie (green apples and yellow cheese- for Wisconsin and Green Bay color scheme, get it?). I think it helped make up for the fact that we aren’t football fans. It went something like this…

Apple Cheddar Pie

Ingredients:
2 cups all purpose flour (I use White Lily)
2 sticks unsalted organic butter
6-7 Tbsp ice water
1 ½ cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
5 granny smith apples
1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
¾ cup organic cane sugar

Pie Dough
(Makes a double crust for a ten inch pie, or 2 ten inch tart shells.)

Place flour, butter, and salt in food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse 24 times. (I use my hands instead of a food processor and it works just fine!  You get a good work out and there’s less to clean up.  If you use your hands, be gentle- your objective is to make the butter into little crumbs or grains, not to mush it all together, do not over mix. Slow down.) The largest pieces of butter should be the size of grains of rice. Transfer mixture from food processor to large bowl. Mix grated cheese in. Sprinkle with 6 T of ice water. Make your hand into a claw as if you are trying to grab a basketball one handed, and using your rigid claw hand, stir dough briefly until the liquid is incorporated. Squeeze a handful of dough in your palm. It should have just enough moisture to stay together. If it seems dry and crumbly, add more water a teaspoon at a time until you can squeeze it into a ball that doesn’t crumble when broken apart. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for at least 15 minutes. Roll out onto floured surface as quickly as you can. Keep the second dough ball in the fridge until you are ready for it.

Pie
Peel the apples. Cut, core, and chop them. Mix them with the lemon juice and sugar and pour into pie shell. Roll second pie dough out and lay over top of the pie. Pinch the edges and cut a few slits in the top with a sharp knife. Using a pastry brush, brush the top with an egg white. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes and then 350 for 35 minutes.

Happy Eating and go support your local music scene!

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