Mid-Summer in Nashville

I absolutely love all the fresh summer vegetables and one of my favorite meals is cooked vegetables, sliced tomatoes & cucumbers on the side, and a big piece of homemade cornbread. This is my favorite southern meal and always reminds me of my grandmother. Sometimes, though, it gets hard to keep up with what’s coming out of the garden and every meal starts to look similar to the last meal.

Plate by S.C. artist Laura Jones. Tomato grown in my back yard with starts from Eaton Creek Organics in Joelton, TN.

We have tomatoes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I usually get inspired to cook some Italian dishes to spice things up- basil gets made into a million varieties of pesto and tomatoes into many different sauce varieties. This week I was craving something totally different. I started to think about the lowcountry of South Carolina (in part due to one of my very dearest friends, Angela Halfacre’s new book, A Delicate Balance, which I received in the mail this week) and the African, Gullah in particular, influence in lowcountry cooking. I had a very loose idea of what I wanted to make and at the last minute decided to add some Garam Masala, too, which sort of took it all in a different direction. Somehow, though, it worked. Here is what I came up with…

Culturally Diverse Chicken
serves 3
1 Tbsp Olive or Grapeseed Oil
1 Vidalia Onion, sliced in half rings
1 Green Bell Pepper, sliced
1 Tbsp Butter
2 Cloves Garlic, chopped
2 Chicken Breasts, cut each into 3 long pieces
about 1 Tbsp Garam Masala
¼ cup Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Tbsp water
½ cup Flame Raisins
½ cup Peanuts, roasted and salted
1 cup Cherry Tomatoes
2 Tbsp Fresh Parsley, chopped
Salt & Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375. In an iron skillet, cook onions in oil. Once they begin to soften, add peppers and garlic. Cook for a couple minutes and then move vegetables to the side of the pan. Add the butter. Add the chicken. Cook for a few minutes on each side to brown. Sprinkle the chicken with the Garam Masala. Add the vinegar and water. Pile raisins, peanuts, and tomatoes on top, sprinkle with parsley, and then place the skillet in the oven for about 20 minutes or until chicken is done and tomatoes have begun to burst. Serve with roasted okra!

Last week we were saddened by the passing of Ms. Kitty Wells, the undisputed Queen of Country Music! What an incredible woman she was.

Country Music Hall of Fame’s Kitty Wells exhibit. June 2009. Left to right: Johnny Wright’s Nudie suit, a great black & white photo of Kitty, & Kitty’s guitar.

Sadly, I never got the opportunity to see her in person but I cherished knowing that for the last six years, we lived about a mile from her house. Sometimes I would plan my route just so I could drive by and see the big tour bus that belonged to her and husband Johnny Wright that sat beside their house. Eddie Stubbs had an amazing tribute to her on his radio show last week which has been archived. You can listen to that here. And here is a great article our friend Barry Mazur wrote about Kitty Wells for the Wall Street Journal a few years back.

BR549 July 28, 2012

On a happy, live musical note, last night BR549 reunited for a show with Old Crow Medicine Show at the Woods Amphitheater at Fontanel, the former home of Barbara Mandrell. They were amazing, of course. I’m a big fan of Chuck Mead period but to get to see this reunion was really special. They had a great, high-energy set and then joined OCMS after their set for three songs together. I was thrilled they chose a song made popular by Barbara Mandrell (and written by fellow East Nashvillian Kye Fleming & Dennis Morgan), which ironically seems applicable to all of us still, “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool.”

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