Big Smokey Cooks!

Grill Master Grant

Grill Master Grant

So, I’ve been a lazy cook lately, mainly repeating old favorites or making simple meals but lucky for me, Grant (also known as Big Smokey when he plays guitar!) has been picking up the slack in our household. I feel very fortunate to have a partner who not only enjoys eating with me but also, he can cook! He came up with these two great new meaty recipes. I wanted to post these right away as he incorporated many of the yummy late summer veggies we’ve been getting here in middle Tennessee right now. Enjoy!

Mediterranean Chicken Wings with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes served with Herbed Mashed Potatoes and Sautéed Green Beans with Mushrooms.

Mediterranean Chicken Wings with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes served alongside Herbed Mashed Potatoes (Chives and Parsley) and Sautéed Green Beans with Shishito Peppers & Mushrooms.

Mediterranean Chicken Wings with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
1 dozen Chicken Drumettes
1/4 cup Olive Oil
Juice of 2 small Lemons
5 cloves Garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tsp Sea Salt (more to taste, if necessary)
1/4 tsp ground Black Pepper
2 Tbsp fresh Oregano, chopped
10-15 medium sized Cherry Tomatoes

Mix all ingredients, except chicken and tomatoes, in a large bowl. Add chicken drumettes, mix, and cover. Set in fridge for about an hour. Preheat oven to 400. Place chicken in a large iron skillet or baking dish. Arrange tomatoes between chicken drumettes, evenly spread out. Place in oven and roast for 25-30 minutes. Turn oven to a high broil for approximately 5-7 minutes, until the tops of the chicken and tomatoes have turned a golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Chicken Wings cooking.

Chicken Wings, cooking

Chicken Wings Meal Final-2

We’ve recently come to love shishito peppers. Many local Nashville restaurants have been featuring them on their menus which caught our attention. In addition to a small plant in our own raised bed garden, our lovely CSA, through Double N Urban Farm, has had a beautiful crop of them this year so we’ve enjoyed quite a few this summer and found so many fun ways to incorporate them into our meals. Below, is one of the most recent ways.

Shishito Peppers and Garlic

Shishito Peppers and Garlic

Big Smokey’s Steak with Shishito Peppers
Steak:
Nicely marbled grass-fed New York or Ribeye steak (we got ours from local, Creek Bend Farm)
Rub generously with sea salt, pepper, garlic powder, chili powder. Set aside for 30-45 minutes at room temperature. Prep your grill. (You can cook them indoors, stove top, by using a cast iron skillet on medium high heat if unable to use an outdoor grill.)

Preheat oven to 400.

Peppers:
20-25 Shishito Peppers, destemmed
4-5 Garlic Cloves, sliced
2 Tbsp Butter
3 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
2 Tbsp Honey
Salt and pepper to season

Shishito Garlic Cooking

Pre-heat roasting pan and add butter, peppers, garlic, and seasonings. Roast for approximately 20 minutes until peppers start to brown. Turn and shake pan occasionally. Do this while steak is grilling. When the steak is done to your liking, pull the steak off the grill to rest. Add cider vinegar and honey to peppers, mix well, and roast for a few more minutes. Slice steak across the grain and arrange on a serving platter. Mix the steak juices with the peppers and sprinkle over sliced steak.

Steak with Shishito Peppers

Steak with Shishito Peppers served on a bed of sautéed kale.

Wine Pairing: Serve with a nice Rioja or Argentinian Malbec.

And here’s a salad I came up with to serve alongside the steak.

Steak Meal Final

Fennel & Grapefruit Salad
1 Grapefruit, peeled and cut into sections
½ Fennel Bulb, cut into slivers
¼ cup Fennel Fronds, chopped
5 Romaine Leaves, chopped
¼ cup Roasted Pistachios
1 small chunk of Feta, crumbled
Drizzle of Balsamic Vinegar
Sea Salt

Mix all ingredients together and toss. Add a pinch of salt and drizzle with vinegar.

Fennel Grapefruit Salad

Fennel and Grapefruit Salad

And, since these are mostly Grant’s recipes, I must include a new favorite bluegrass album that has been one of Grant’s favorite albums of the summer- Hot Rize’s 2014 release, “When I’m Free.” Formed in the late 1970’s, Hot Rize got it’s name from the leavening ingredient found in Martha White flour, a common sponsor of the old country shows way back in the day. We were lucky to have the opportunity to see Hot Rize back in July at the Ryman Auditorium for their special Thursday night Bluegrass Jam series. These talented A-list performers (individually and together as a band) put on quite a show.

Hot Rize, Ryman Auditorium. July, 2015.

Hot Rize, Ryman Auditorium. July, 2015.

Be sure to check out this album, if you haven’t. It’s a good one!

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In Celebration of the Tomato

1-Tomatoes

I have proclaimed this every year since I moved back to the south and I will do it again- southern tomatoes are the best tomatoes in the world! It’s true. Our neighborhood in Nashville believes in this so much that it hosts the Tomato Art Festival which grows in numbers of attendees every year. With it happening this coming weekend, I thought it was a good time to post some of our favorite tomato recipes from this summer. And just in case you need more ideas, here is the link to last year’s recipes.

Tomatoes are perfect on their own. Growing up, a small plate of sliced tomatoes and cucumbers was always on the dinner table throughout the summer. This year, Grant and I have been enjoying this simple salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, peaches, lemon basil from our garden, and sea salt and pepper.

2-Tom Cuke Peach Salad

I am afraid I didn’t write out actual recipes for most of these tomato creations this time. But, here are the ideas. They are all super easy and the ingredients are all so awesome, they are pretty hard to mess up no matter what measurements you use.

3-Bread Salad

I used to make this bread salad all the time, so much so that I think I got a little tired of it. I rediscovered it as a way to use up lots of leftover Bella Nashville sourdough bread. First, cut up leftover bread into cubes. Heat a large iron skillet. Add some butter. Toss in the bread cubes and saute to make croutons. You can toss anything in this salad- cucumbers, tomatoes, steamed green beans, olives, capers, basil, oregano, parsley, thyme, red onion, chopped garlic, peppers, scallions… add the homemade croutons and sprinkle with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Salt and pepper if needed. Enjoy! If you need a real recipe to follow, Ina Garten has a great one here.

4-Chicken Eggplant Parmesan

We had so many tomatoes and little eggplants in our CSA box one week that we made a Chicken Eggplant Parmesan. It was so beautiful and super yummy. We didn’t follow a recipe. First we roasted up all the tomatoes with some garlic and a little olive oil in a baking dish at 400 degrees in the oven. Once they got all nice and roasted, we pulled them out and added in a bunch of fresh herbs from our garden and ground them in a little food processor. Voila- the sauce was ready! I sliced the eggplants and brushed them with olive oil and roasted those in the oven on a baking sheet until they were slightly brown. Next, we flattened two chicken breasts and cut them into pieces. We dipped them in egg and lightly coated them with a flour mixture and lightly fried them in an iron skillet. Then, we layered all the elements and added some Parmesan Reggiano and baked in the oven at 375 for 20-30 minutes.

5-Grit Stuffed Squash

I used some leftover cheese grits and roasted cherry tomatoes to come up with this next recipe. We had so many patty pan squash in our CSA basket and I had seen some recipes recently for stuffed patty pan squash that I decided to give it a try. Using the cheese grits as a base, I added a little crumbled bacon, roasted cherry tomatoes, some of the squash I cut out of the patty pans, fresh herbs, sauteed onion and garlic. I mixed it all together, stuffed it into the squash, topped with cheese, and baked in the oven.

6-Mac Cheese Prep

Some of my favorite ingredients to mix with tomatoes are cheese and bacon! I had this idea for a decadent Macaroni & Cheese for about a week and finally had time to make it. It was delicious! I used a fun new cheese (to me) that I got at The Bloomy Rind called Suffolk Punch from Parrish Hill Creamery in Vermont. I used this recipe for Mac & Cheese, below, that is an adaptation of a recipe from my Sister. I pulled the dish out of the oven a little early and added tomato slices, crumbled bacon, and I also topped the Mac & Cheese with some Pecorino to give it some sharpness. I then placed it back in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Delicious!

Mac & Cheese
olive oil
2 cups macaroni (I use Montebello brand)
2-3 cups grated cheese (I use combination of sharp cheddar & gruyere usually)
1 tsp butter (to coat bottom of baking dish)
1 tsp salt
1-2 tsp hot sauce
2 tsp dry mustard
2 eggs
2 cups milk

Cook pasta until al dente. Drain and blanch with cold water. Cover bottom of buttered baking dish with 1/2 of pasta. Spread 1/2 of the cheese over. Repeat. Beat eggs, milk, and spices together. Pour over. Bake at 375 for about 30 minutes.

7-Mac Cheese

I served it with some green beans from my cousin Johnny’s garden that I steamed and then sauteed with a little olive oil and mixed herbed nuts and some sauteed yellow squash and Vidalia onions!

7-Mac & Cheese

A musical highlight for us this summer was an outdoor concert at the Frist Art Museum one evening a couple weeks ago of Marty Stuart and his band, The Fabulous Superlatives. The show coincided with Marty’s photography which is on exhibit there now. I have so much respect for the man and his art. What a fun way to spend a summer evening (and celebrate my birthday!).

MS-1

MS-2

Go listen to some Mary Stuart music and be sure to check out his many books of photography. They’ve got a new album in the works and I can’t wait!

Korean Garlic Ginger Deliciousness (3 Ways) & The Music of Luke Bell

3 ways

So, as I have stated before, Korean food is sort of new to our tastebuds. Neither Grant nor I experienced it much before moving to Nashville eight years ago. Don’t get me wrong- Nashville is not a city, in any way, known for its Korean food but somehow, we found a little joint that probably serves up pretty good Korean food. I say, “pretty good” because I am certain there are so many better places in the world to get great Korean food. But for us, it was good enough to entice us into a new cuisine and we’ve been experimenting around with Korean flavors at home ever since.

We experienced our very own Korean Thanksgiving last year and since then, have been expanding on that idea to include chicken, catfish, and a vegetarian option of mushrooms with tempeh. So basically, it is just a variation on a similar theme but I loved them all and wanted to keep track of them here.

First off, you’ll need kimchi. Grant has tried making it once and we have experimented with several store bought varieties. They were all delicious in different ways. Once I have a great homemade recipe, I will post it.

Kimchi

You will also need these two delicious sauces…

Sauces

Ginger-Scallion Sauce (this sauce is a necessity!)
2½ cups Scallions, thinly sliced, both green and white parts
½ cup Fresh Ginger, peeled and finely chopped
¼ cup Grapeseed Oil
1½ tsp Tamari
1 tsp Sherry Vinegar
½ tsp Sea Salt, or to taste

Mix all ingredients together and serve in a bowl.

Ssam Sauce (this sauce is optional)
2 Tbsp Fermented Bean-and- Chili Paste (Ssamjang, available in many Asian markets, and online)
1 Tbsp Chili Paste (Kochujang, available in many Asian markets, and online)
½ cup Sherry Vinegar
½ cup Grapeseed Oil

Mix all ingredients together and serve in a bowl.

Tempeh-3

Korean Garlic Ginger Mushrooms & Tempeh
Serves 3
2 Tbsp Mirin
2 Tbsp fresh Ginger, grated
3 Tbsp Tamari or Shoyu
2 cloves Garlic, finely chopped
a couple drops of Sesame Oil
8 oz Soy Tempeh, cut into cubes
6 Mushrooms (any variety), sliced
Grape Seed Oil

In a small bowl, combine the mirin, ginger, 2 Tbsp tamari, garlic, and sesame oil and whisk into a sauce. Set aside. Heat a skillet and add a little oil. Add the mushrooms and tempeh (you can also just use vegetable or tofu in place of the tempeh). Sprinkle with remaining tamari. When the mushrooms are soft and reduced and the tempeh has browned a little and firm, turn the heat down to low. Add the sauce to coat and cook down for a couple minutes.

Serve with both sauces, butter lettuce, kimchi, and rice. You can make little lettuce wrap bundles and vary what toppings you use in each. This is a really fun (yet somewhat messy) way to eat it and each little wrap can be slightly different. We also served sliced cooked carrots with black bean sauce and a tiny bit of molasses in addition to a marinated cucumber salad.

Carrots

Korean Garlic Ginger Chicken
serves 2-3
2 Tbsp Mirin
2 Tbsp fresh Ginger, grated
3 Tbsp Tamari or Shoyu
2 cloves Garlic, finely chopped
a couple drops of Sesame Oil
2 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts, each cut into 4 pieces
Grape Seed Oil

In a small bowl, combine the mirin, ginger, tamari, garlic, and sesame oil and whisk into a sauce. Use the sauce as a marinade for the chicken and soak for approximately 30 minutes. Heat a skillet and add a little oil. Add the chicken. Cook the chicken for about 5-6 minutes on each side, until it is lightly brown on each side. Add the sauce (which you marinaded the chicken in) to coat and cook down for a few minutes.

We served the chicken with both sauces, kimchi mashed potatoes and sauteed spinach with tamari and sesame seeds.

Kimchi Pots & Ses Spin

Korean Garlic Ginger Catfish
Serves 2
2 Tbsp Mirin
2 Tbsp fresh Ginger, grated
3 Tbsp Tamari or Shoyu
2 cloves Garlic, finely chopped
a couple drops of Sesame Oil
¾-1lb Catfish Fillets, chopped into big chunks
Grape Seed Oil

catfish 2

In a small bowl, combine the mirin, ginger, tamari, garlic, and sesame oil and whisk into a sauce. Use the sauce as a marinade for the catfish and soak for approximately 15-30 minutes. Heat a skillet and add a little oil. Add the catfish. Cook the catfish for about 3 minutes on each side, until it is lightly brown on each side. Add the sauce (which you marinaded the catfish in) to coat and cook down for a few minutes.

We served the catfish with butter lettuce, kimchi, and rice and made lettuce wraps for this one, too. We also had roasted Brussels sprouts on the side.

Brussels

Catfish

Leftovers of any of these are always good just piled on top of each other in a bowl. Yum!

Leftovers

Here’s another awesome new country (*real country*) album out. This one is from another fellow we became acquainted with through the magic that is Santa’s Pub named Luke Bell. In fact, Luke had his cd release at Santa’s and what a fun party it was. He got a friend of his to roast a goat all day and there were tacos, guest singers, and dancing.

Luke Bell at his cd release party, June 2014.

Luke Bell at his cd release party, June 2014.

This is Luke’s second album out. It is titled, Don’t Mind If I Do, and as the title suggests, he’s a little bit sassy yet very laid back, down to earth, and really nice. Luke grew up working on a Wyoming ranch. He has a deep appreciation of old school country and has aligned himself with like minded folks here in Nashville. The new album has many danceable songs- two-stepping tunes, waltzes, and even a little yodeling. You can buy his new album here.

And… Kelsey Waldon‘s new album came out this week! Everyone is talking about The Gold Mine. You can read Rolling Stone Country’s review here and buy a copy for yourself here.

tumblr_n54cladNMr1qzkmx3o1_500

Colorful Winter

Lulu the hound dog in one of her favorite snuggling spots.

Lulu the hound dog in one of her favorite snuggling spots.

Look at all these colors- colorful snuggling, colorful cooking! I love colorful meals and we’ve been lucky to find so many colorful veggies lately. It makes me really happy.

2- Colorful

I had someone ask me recently, “You have a soup blog, right?” Guilty. It seems last summer I had an herb blog and now, a soup blog. I do like my soups. They are so super easy to make, loaded with nourishing veggies, and so easy to eat. A big pot means we can have it for dinner and leftovers for lunches throughout the week. Plus, they are delicious. I got obsessed this week thinking about roasted vegetable soups. The roasted flavor creates an added layer. I made a batch of Banana Bread this week and had some coconut milk left over. That was the inspiration for this soup- one cup of coconut milk that I didn’t want to waste. It had a slight Indian spice to it but mostly, it was just delicious.

3-SwtPotSoup

Simple Roasted Sweet Potato Soup
4-6 servings

  • 1 Yellow Onion, cut in half and then quartered
  • 2 medium sized Sweet Potatoes, peeled and cut into 1” pieces
  • 2 medium sized Red Potatoes, peeled and cut into 1” pieces
  • ½ Red Pepper, cut into 1” pieces
  • Olive Oil
  • Sea Salt & Black Pepper
  • 5 cloves Garlic, with skin on
  • 1 cup Coconut Milk
  • 4 cups Stock (I used chicken stock but vegetable would be good as well.)
  • 1 tsp Smoked Paprika
  • 1 ½ tsp Curry Powder
  • 1 small bunch Cilantro, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh Parsley

Preheat oven to 400. In a large baking dish, add the onion, potatoes, and red pepper. Drizzle with olive oil, salt & pepper. Mix together. Bake for 30 minutes. Stir. Add the garlic and place a little more olive oil on the garlic. Roast for 20-30 more minutes. Meanwhile, heat a soup pot on the stove at medium heat. Add the stock, paprika, curry, cilantro, and parsley. Remove the vegetables from the oven and blend with 1 cup of coconut milk. Whisk the blended veggies together with the broth and cook for a few more minutes.

This next dinner came about because I wanted to make Creamy Tomato Cashew Soup but realized I didn’t have all the ingredients. I made it anyway and then it wasn’t quite right. I thought about what I could do to it to make it better for a day and then Grant and I decided to turn it into a sauce with meatballs. I know people who make great Italian meatballs are vehemently opposed to using ground turkey but we chose to use it here to keep the recipe leaner. It turned out really well. Here’s the final recipe.

4-turkey meatballs

Turkey Meatballs in a Vegetable Nut Ragu
Serves 4

  • ½ cup blend of- raw Cashews, Walnuts, Pumpkin Seeds, Sunflower Seeds
  • ½ cup Water
  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil or Ghee
  • ½ small Red Onion, finely chopped
  • 2 big Carrots, finely chopped
  • 1 clove Garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 cups Diced Canned Tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsp Tomato Paste
  • 1 Tbsp Dried Italian Herbs (I used an Italian herb blend from Frontier that I love but any would work- basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, etc…)
  • 2 Tbsp Fresh Parsley, chopped
  • Sea Salt & Black Pepper to taste

Toast the nuts and seeds. Cool. Blend in a blender with water. Set aside. Heat a soup pot on medium and add oil or ghee. Add onions. Cook, stirring, for about 4 minutes or so. Add garlic and carrots. Cook for another few minutes. Add tomatoes. Stir and cook for about 10-15 minutes. Add tomato paste, herbs and seasonings. In small batches, blend the tomato mixture in the blender with the nut milk and then return to the pot to heat through a few more minutes.

Meatballs

  • 1 lb ground Turkey
  • 1 large Shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves Garlic, crushed and chopped
  • 2 Tbsp Italian seasoning mix
  • 1 tsp Sea Salt
  • ½ tsp Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 -2 Tbsp Olive Oil

In a medium size bowl, mix the ground turkey with the shallots, garlic, and seasonings. Once it is evenly mixed, form into small meatballs (we like ours about an inch in diameter). Heat a large skillet on medium high and add the oil. Place the meatballs in the skillet and cook on both sides until lightly brown and cooked through. Add the sauce to the skillet, on top of the meatballs. Cook for a few more minutes. Serve the sauce with meatballs over cooked pasta and sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano. We served a simple salad on the side and washed it all down with a glass of red wine.

I haven’t been posting many sweet recipes lately. I still make pies from time to time for others but we have sort of lost our sweet teeth. And once you don’t eat much sugar, you don’t really ever crave it. When I do want sweets, it is usually in the form of a cookie or a little piece of good chocolate. I found these great Theo chocolate bars (one of my favorite chocolate companies whose chocolate factory just so happens to be on the street I lived on years ago in Seattle!) on sale at several grocery stores this month. The Salted Almond chocolate bars are so good. Luckily, I had a couple stowed away in the cupboard when it came time to figure out a cookie recipe to make for a dear friend’s birthday last week. Here’s what I came up with.

5-chocolate bar

This recipe was adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s, “Our Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies.” It is our new favorite! There is nothing better than a perfect cookie.

Chocolate Almond Cookies
Makes about 3 dozen

  • ½ cup Cane Sugar
  • ½ cup Brown Sugar
  • 1 stick Unsalted Butter, cold, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • ½ tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 ¼ cups All-Purpose Flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup raw Almonds, toasted and chopped
  • 1 Theo Salted Chocolate Almond Bar, chopped
  • Parchment Paper (for storing and baking)

Preheat to 300. Beat the sugars and butter together until smooth. Mix in the egg, vanilla, and baking soda. Add the flour and salt and mix them into the batter. Mix in the chocolate and the almonds. I like to divide the batter into 3-4 balls and, on a piece of parchment paper, form each ball into a log about 1” in diameter. I then wrap each cookie dough log up in the parchment and place in a plastic bag. You can keep them in the refrigerator for up to a week or freeze them for months. When you are ready to bake some, simply slice them off and place the slices on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 18 minutes, or until pale golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

6-cookies

It seems many of our friends and neighbors are all working on new albums. There are many in the works and I can’t wait! For now, keeping with the colorful theme- in name and sound- I have been listening to a local band I became aware of last Spring, Great Peacock.

Great Peacock at a neighborhood gathering one Saturday in June, 2013.

Great Peacock at a neighborhood gathering one Saturday in June, 2013.

Great Peacock’s Blount Floyd and Andrew Nelson combine a bold harmony-driven sound, nicely crafted songs inspired by their upbringing in the South- Alabama and Mississippi respectfully, lots of energy, and a love of old country music to create some really fun songs. I’ll close with this video they put out in December, of their single, Tennessee.

Party Food & A Salad

Chicken Wings & Salad I sort of love chicken wings! No one ever wants to order them out with me and I really never do either because of the guilt. They are nasty-good. But, ever so often, I find some chicken wings in a store from a well-sourced place and I bring them home and Grant makes some for me. He prepares them a little bit healthier than what we’d find in a restaurant. They are way tastier, too! I thought it’d be a good time to share it with it being Super Bowl Weekend and all (Go Seahawks!).

Big Smokey’s BBQ Chicken Wings
Dry Rub:

  • ½ cup Cane Sugar
  • ½ cup Sea Salt
  • 2 Tbsp Garlic Powder
  • 2 Tbsp Ground Black Pepper
  • 4 Tbsp Chili Powder
  • 18-24 Chicken Wings

Mix rub ingredients together and rub liberally over chicken wings. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Sauce:

  • ½ Cup Cider Vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp Butter
  • 1 Cup Ketchup
  • 4 Tbsp Guava Paste (or 3 Tbsp Molasses)
  • 3 Tbsp Brown Sugar
  • 1 Tbsp Salt
  • 2 Tbsp Black Pepper
  • 1 Tbsp Mustard
  • 2 Tbsp Worchestershire Sauce
  • Tabasco Sauce to taste

Warm all ingredients together in a sauce over medium low heat until guava paste breaks up and melts (approx 15 minutes) then put aside.

Preheat oven to 375. Heat a large iron skillet on the stove over medium high heat. Add a tablespoon of bacon fat or oil of choice. When fat is smoking, place wings in pan, and cook until golden brown on both sides. Take off of heat and baste with the sauce and cook in the oven for 25 minutes basting and turning a few times. Remove from oven and let cool for 5-10 minutes. Enjoy!

Chicken Wings

Now, sometimes we keep some of the Big Smokey’s Dry Rub mixture up in the cupboard but the other day we ran out and I happened to have some local, Rhino Rub seasoning blend. I used that and it works great! If you live in Nashville, check it out! You can find it at The Turnip Truck.

I came up with this salad to go with the Big Smokey’s BBQ Chicken Wings and it was so delicious, we ate it three more times in the next few weeks without the chicken. Below is the original recipe and then, the two alternate vegetarian-friendly meal options.

Celery Salad

Celery & Blue Cheese Salad
Serves 2-4 (depending on serving size- whether it is a side salad or an entree)

  • 2 Carrots, chopped
  • 2 Celery Ribs, chopped
  • 4 Radishes, sliced
  • 1 Shallot, finely sliced
  • Small handful of fresh Parsley, chopped
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Sherry Vinegar
  • Romaine Hearts (1 small head or half of a large head)
  • Olive Oil
  • 2 oz Blue Cheese (Point Reyes or Maytag), crumbled

Mix the chopped carrots, celery, shallot, and parsley in a big bowl. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and vinegar (not too much, maybe a Tbsp or so). Mix together well. Wash and dry the romaine. Chop into small pieces and add to the mix. Add more vinegar to taste, drizzle with a tiny bit of extra virgin olive oil, and sprinkle the blue cheese crumbs on top.

The very next night, I needed to have this salad again and we still had all the ingredients but we didn’t want to have more chicken wings so instead, I toasted some mixed raw nuts in an iron skillet. As they began to get slightly toasted, I mixed in about ½ Tbsp melted butter with a tsp or two of the same dry-rub spices Grant had made the BBQ wings with. I removed the nuts from the pan and let them cool in a bowl. Then I tossed them into the salad above.

Celery Salad wNuts

And then the following week, I made the same salad (without the nuts) and served it with roasted acorn squash which I again seasoned the same way as the chicken wings and the nuts had been. I simply cut the squash in half, put a pat of butter in each half and sprinkled with the dry-rub spice blend. Then, I roasted some seeds- sunflower and pumpkin- in an iron skillet dry. Once they started to get hot, I added in about a teaspoon of maple syrup and a dash of sea salt. I topped the cooked squash with these little salty and sweet seeds. It was delicious and pretty nutritious.

Acorn Squash

Happy eating y’all!

Hibernating for the Winter

29- Nesting

Winter is in full swing and all I want to do is hibernate. It’s the perfect time for nesting- working on all those art projects I never have time to complete, trying to catch up on all of our house projects, finally making time to see some art exhibits around town, the books I’ve been wanting to read, the movies I’ve been wanting to see, and lots of cooking. Hibernating requires some good comfort food. I have always taken great comfort in Asian food. All types really. Here are a few of our favorites of the last few weeks.

29- Miso 1

Miso Soup
1-2 tsp Toasted Sesame Oil
1 small Yellow Onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves Garlic, thinly sliced
4 oz Shiitake Mushrooms, sliced
1 Tbsp Brown Rice Vinegar
2 Tbsp Tamari
8 cups Broth (I used 4 cups chicken, 4 cups water)
4-5 oz Udon Noodles
1 cup Frozen Peas
1 cup frozen Corn
Fresh Ginger
1-2 Baby Bok Choy, sliced
8-10 Shrimp, peeled with tails left on (optional)
4 Tbsp Red Miso
1 bunch Cilantro, chopped
3-4 Scallions, chopped

29- Miso 2

Heat a skillet and then add the sesame oil. Add the onion and stir. Cook until the onion begins to soften. Add garlic. Stir. Add the mushrooms. Stir. Add the vinegar and 1 Tbsp tamari and then add the peas and corn. Stir. Turn off the heat and let sit while you prepare the broth. Heat the broth in a large Dutch oven or soup pot. Add the ginger and 1 Tbsp tamari. Bring to a boil. Add the noodles. Turn heat down to medium. Cook for 8-10 minutes, until noodles are soft. Add the onion and mushroom mixture to the broth. If using shrimp, add that next and cook only until done (4-5 minutes). Add bok choy. Turn the heat down a little more and add the miso (you never want to allow the miso to boil as it is fermented and the high heat will kill the living fermented goodness and you will lose nutritional value). Once miso has dissolved, spoon into bowls. Top with Cilantro, scallions, and Srircha (or hot sauce of choice).

29- Kale

And here’s another Kale Salad with a bit of an Asian slant to it. It is a nice accompaniment to soup or to one of our new favorite ways to eat catfish- Teriyaki Catfish. Back in Seattle, Teriyaki was a weekly staple and there were so many yummy places to grab some great Teriyaki on the go.

29- Kale & Catfish

Asian Kale Salad
For the Dressing:
1 clove Garlic
2 Scallions
1 small bunch Fresh Cilantro
1 Tbsp Tamari
1 Tbsp Toasted Sesame Oil
3 Tbsp Brown Rice Vinegar
1 Clementine, peel removed
1-2 tsp Honey

Kale or Kale-Romaine mix
Sea Salt
Carrots, chopped
Radishes, chopped

Mix all the ingredients for the dressing together in a mini food-processor, grinder or blender. Clean the kale and remove the center veins. Chop the kale leaves in thin bite-size strips and place in bowl. Sprinkle a little salt over and gently massage the kale leaves. Set aside. Chop the carrots, radishes, and romaine if you are using it. Add to the kale. Pour the dressing over and mix.

And about those Clementines- I keep buying those cute little wooden crates filled with them. I usually give a few away and Grant and I both eat a couple a day but there are still always so many that I’ve been dreaming up recipes to incorporate them. Here is another that I adapted from a recipe I found on the internet.

29- Broccoli

Clementine Chicken with Broccoli
Serves 4
For the Sauce:
1 ½ cups Water
Juice + Zest of 1 Clementine
Juice of half a Lemon
⅓ cup Brown Rice Vinegar
3 Tbsp Tamari
½  cup Brown Sugar
1 Tbsp Fresh Ginger, grated
3 cloves Garlic, crushed
3 Green Onions, chopped
½-1 tsp Red Pepper Flakes

2 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts, cut into small pieces
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp Black Sesame Seeds
½ tsp Sea Salt
½ tsp Black Pepper
2-3 Tbsp Grapeseed Oil
1 small Yellow Onion, chopped
1 bunch Broccoli, cut into bite-size pieces

Pour all ingredients for the sauce into a saucepan and set over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat, and cool 10 to 15 minutes. Place the chicken pieces into a bowl. When the sauce has cooled, pour 1 cup of it over the chicken, stir to coat, and cover. Let the chicken marinate in the refrigerator for 1-3 hours. Reserve the remaining sauce. In another bowl, mix the flour, sesame seeds, salt, and pepper. Add the marinated chicken pieces and stir to coat the chicken. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Place chicken into the skillet, and brown on both sides. Place chicken on a plate lined with paper towels to drain excess oil. Clean the bottom of the skillet. Heat the skillet (or wok) and add 1 Tbsp oil. Saute the onion, stirring, until it begins to soften. Add the broccoli and stir and then add the sauce. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Mix together the cornstarch and 2 tablespoons water and then stir into the sauce. Reduce heat to medium low, add the chicken pieces, and simmer, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve over brown rice.

29- Broccoli Chicken

My hibernation has included plenty of tunes on the hi-fi and the low-fi- I’ve been really enjoying Eddie Stubbs’ week night show and listening to the Opry at the Ryman shows as heard through good ole’ WSM 650 AM. I haven’t been out to see as much live music the last couple of months but I hope to catch up soon.

29- Santas

Sundays are my favorite lately for live old school country music. Grant’s been playing with some great young musicians at a funky, smoke-filled double wide called Santa’s Pub. They call themselves Santa’s Ice Cold Pickers and they play 7-9pm. I’ve really enjoyed their sets. There is a whole new group of country music performers and appreciators and I’ve heard some songs I don’t usually hear down on lower Broadway. After their set, Grant and I try to make it over to The Stone Fox where Chris Scruggs holds court with the old timers (and a few youngsters with old souls) he calls them The Air Castle All-Stars. (I have some better photos of them here from when they played at my and Allison’s Red Barn Round-Up party back in November.)

29- Chris & Billy

There we get to hear Billy Robinson on steel playing the same songs he once played with Red Foley, Carl Smith, and even Hank Williams way back in the day. We also get to hear Buddy Spicher on fiddle who has recorded with all the great legends. These guys are the best of the best and that we get to just stop by to hear them play for a little while on a Sunday night truly amazes me.

I’ll close with this fruit nut bread I came up with. It is actually pretty low-fat. I adapted a weight watchers recipe actually, that I found on-line. I love the combination of dried apricots with oats. It is technically a banana bread but came out as a dense fruit bread. In perfect Johnson fashion, we found a way to make it less healthy and enjoyed it the most sliced and toasted with a pat of butter.

29- Fruity Oat Bread

Fruity Oat Bread
1 cup Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
1 cup Rolled Oats
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Cinnamon
½ tsp Sea Salt
3-4 Bananas, very ripe
1/2 cup Mascobado Cane (or Dark Brown Sugar)
2 large egg whites
¼ cup Plain Greek Yogurt
¾ -1 cup chopped Dried Apricots
1 tsp Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a loaf pan and set aside. In medium bowl, stir together flour, oats, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. In separate medium bowl, mash bananas with fork. Add sugar and mixing until smooth. Beat in egg whites and yogurt. Combine wet and dry ingredients together for a somewhat smooth consistency. Mix in apricots. Pour into an olive oil greased loaf pan and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until baking wire (or toothpick) comes out clean when inserted in the middle of the loaf.

Oh Hello January

1-Cranberries

Every Thanksgiving and Christmas, I stock up on bags of fresh cranberries. It seems you can never find them any other time of year so I get so excited and buy three or four bags and freeze some. I start out really good, planning things to make. I usually make a loaf or two of Cranberry Bread but then forget about them until the next Thanksgiving when I bring home excess bags to stockpile in the freezer, only to find last years stash. Yikes. So, when I came across this recipe as I tried to figure out what to cook for dinner the other night, I was delighted! I got the idea from Miss Edna Lewis but altered it significantly. Here is what I came up with. I served it with Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Carrots.

2- pork chops

Smothered Pork Chops with Cranberries
Serves 2

2 Boneless Center Cut Pork Chops
2 Tbsp Butter or Olive Oil
1 onion, sliced
5 cloves garlic quartered
1 cup cranberries (fresh or frozen)
¼ cup Maple Syrup
2 tsp fresh Rosemary, chopped
Sea Salt & freshly ground Black Pepper
¼ cup chicken stock
Salt, Pepper, and Flour

Wash and pat dry pork chops, dust with salt, pepper and flour, and set aside at room temperature.  Melt butter in iron skillet over medium high heat and brown the pork chops on each side. Remove chops and set aside. Place onion in pan and cook until translucent, then add garlic, herbs, cranberries, maple syrup and stock. Cook for a few minutes. Then reintroduce the pork chops turn heat to low and simmer until pork chops are done, sauce is reduced and cranberries burst (approximately 10 minutes).

3- cranberry pork chops

I haven’t been making as many soups this winter. Maybe because it hasn’t been as cold yet. I did get a hankering for Chili the other day, though. This has been my basic chili recipe for the last couple of years.  I always just sort of make it up but it almost always ends up this way. This time, I decided to jot it down so it’ll be a little easier the next time.

Turkey Chili with lots of toppin's!

Turkey Chili with lots of toppin’s!

Turkey Chili
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 medium White Onion, chopped
4 cloves Garlic, minced
1 Green Bell Pepper, chopped
1 Jalapeno Pepper, finely chopped
1 lb Ground Turkey
3-4 Tbsp Mexican Chili Powder
1 Tbsp Ground Cumin
1 Tbsp Oregano
1 tsp Sea Salt
2 Tbsp Ground Raw Cacao
14 oz can Whole Tomatoes, crushed with your hands
14 oz can Kidney Beans
14 oz can Pinto Beans
2 cups Chicken Stock
Fresh Chopped Cilantro to top
Shredded Cheese (Sharp Cheddar, Jack, or Jalapeno Jack) to top
Plain Greek Yogurt to top

Heat oil in a Dutch oven. Add onion and saute until it begins to soften. Add garlic and peppers. Continue cooking and stirring. Add turkey and chili powder, cumin, oregano, and salt. Stir. Add the ground cacao, tomatoes, and beans. Stir. Cook for a couple minutes and then add the stock. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Serve with cilantro, cheese, and yogurt.

Here’s a quick dinner idea Grant came up with one night before the holidays. It is very southern and quite delicious. Catfish has become our main fish of choice down here in the South. As far as safe sustainable seafood goes, it’s a pretty good choice for this region of the country. There are a couple of places we have found in town that we can get locally, or at least, regionally farmed catfish. (This seafood watch list is a great resource.) And, catfish is tasty! Give it a try.

5- Pecan Catfish
Pecan Crusted Catfish
Serves 2
½ cups roasted Pecans
½ cup flour
1 tsp Paprika or Chili Powder
½ tsp Cayenne Pepper
1 tsp Dried Oregano
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1 tsp Sea Salt
½ tsp Ground Black Pepper
2 tsp Fresh Thyme
1 Tbsp Fresh Parsley leaves
2 catfish fillets, cut into 4 pieces each
2 cups Buttermilk
4 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Preheat oven to 375. Roast pecans in a skillet or on a cookie sheet until fragrant and lightly toasted. In a little food processor, grind the pecans with the flour, spices and herbs. If you do not have a food processor, you can just chop everything extra-fine and mix together well. Place the buttermilk in a bowl and then soak catfish in buttermilk. Place the ground pecan mixture in a separate bowl. Place olive oil in the bottom of an iron skillet and bring up to medium heat on a stove.  One by one, remove catfish pieces from buttermilk and roll into pecan mixture to coat and fry until golden brown (approx 4-5 mins per side.)  Drain on paper towels for a minute and serve.
6- kale

One of our favorite, easy salads these last few months has been this raw kale salad. It makes me feel so good and totally energized! It is a perfect side salad for winter, too, and goes nicely alongside soups or casseroles.

Winter Kale Salad
1 bunch Kale, washed, center veins cut out, and thinly chopped
1 Apple, cored and chopped
2 Carrots, chopped
¼ cup Currants
small handful of fresh Parsley, chopped
Sea Salt & freshly ground Black Pepper
Balsamic Vinegar
Olive Oil
½ cup chopped Toasted Hazelnuts
optional- a small wedge of Blue Cheese

Place the kale in a big bowl. Sprinkle with salt and gently massage the kale a few times. Let sit while you prepare the other ingredients. Mix in the apples, carrots, currants, and parsley. Sprinkle in a small drizzle of vinegar and oil, season with salt and pepper, and then toss the nuts on top. Also nice, is to crumble some blue cheese on top.

I have a few other recipes for favorite greens coming out on Dolan Geiman’s blog later this week. And if you visit, be sure to check out his newest art. 2013 might be a good year to broaden your art collection! He has some amazing pieces.

I am looking forward to all the exciting music adventures 2013 holds in store. One friend of ours who has a new album coming out real soon and whose musical future I am anxiously awaiting to unfold before us is… Sturgill Simpson.

Sturgill Simpson January 2012

Sturgill Simpson January 2012

I was trying to hold off mentioning him in my blog until his new album has been released but dang if I just can’t wait any longer. By golly, he’s the real deal. As he said so well at his last live show I saw, “If you think you don’t like country music then maybe you’ve never heard real country music.”

Sturgill Simpson at The High Watt, Nashville. January 19, 2013.

Sturgill Simpson at The High Watt, Nashville. January 19, 2013.

He is from Kentucky and has this amazing old-school voice that falls somewhere in between Ralph Stanley and maybe Waylon Jennings. It is very unique and powerful. He writes some great songs, too. He’s opened some shows for Jamie Johnson and just recently, he and his band have opened for Dwight Yoakam. His new album will come out in June. I hate that the world has to wait so long to hear it but I’ve heard it and let me tell you, it’s worth the wait. For now, you can check out this song he has on the old youtube. It’s one of my favs.

OK… back to hibernation for the winter.

Sauerkraut, Asian Comfort Food, and Bobby Bare

Winter dog walk at Shelby Bottoms.

Winter dog walk at Shelby Bottoms.

Oh winter doldrums… It gets dark so early now and it seems harder to cram so much into one evening suddenly. Cooking dinner seems more of a chore lately. This will pass. Even harder than cooking is posting all these ideas and recipes of what we have cooked but here goes quite a variety of ideas and a few recipes. No real theme to this, just trying to find inspiration for winter vegetables and keep it all interesting. Grant has found great joy in making sauerkraut. It is so easy! I had one simple class with the king of fermentation, Sandor Katz, bought Grant a little book, and voila! Our favorite way to eat it has been on top of salads and on top of cheese toast!

kraut

And in an effort to curb my grocery buying addiction, I have made a concerted effort to figure out random things to make with whatever I find in our kitchen. This first one was created out of that. With lots of help from googling ingredients to see what I could come up with, I came upon this blog called, One Perfect Bite, which had a recipe for Spanish Meatballs. I changed it a bit to fit what I had and here is what I came up with.

Spanish Meatballs-1

Spanish Meatballs
1 pound Ground Turkey
4 Green Onions, thinly sliced
2 cloves Garlic, finely chopped
1 small Pimento
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan Cheese
1 large egg yolk
2 tsp fresh Thyme leaves
1/2 tsp Salt + Salt to taste
1/2 tsp freshly cracked Black Pepper + Pepper to taste
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 14 oz can whole tomatoes, drained
2 Tbsp Red Wine
2 tsp fresh chopped Rosemary
2 tsp fresh chopped Parsley
Pinch of sugar

Place ground turkey, green onions, garlic, pimento, cheese, egg yolk, thyme, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Mix gently to combine. Shape into 12 equal sized meatballs. Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Saute meatballs, turning several times, until brown, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, wine, sugar, rosemary, and parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook, covered, over low heat for 15 minutes until tomatoes are thicker and meatballs are cooked through. Serve hot.

Spanish Meatballs-2

Again out of necessity in using what we had, I made this salad to accompany the Spanish Meatballs.

Mushroom Salad-1

Sauteed Mushroom Salad
2 Tbsp extra-virgin Olive Oil, divided
1 Shallot, chopped
1 pound White Mushrooms, quartered or sliced thick
1 tsp chopped fresh Thyme
¼ cup Red Wine
¼ cup Tamari
1 tsp Lemon Juice or Balsamic Vinegar
1 tsp fresh Parsley
Sea Salt and Black Pepper to taste
Big Bowl of Salad Greens
thinly sliced Red Onion
optional shaved or grated Parmesan Reggiano or Manchego cheese to top

Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring, until they release their juices. Add thyme and stir and then add the wine and tamari and cook until mostly evaporated, about 3 minutes. Remove the mushrooms from the pan and let cool in a bowl. Pour the liquid and shallots from the pan in a small bowl and mix with another Tbsp olive oil, lemon juice (or vinegar), parsley, salt and pepper to make the dressing for the salad. Mix the greens, red onion, and mushrooms together and pour dressing over. Top with cheese, if using.

Mushroom Salad

Winter weather makes me crave Asian dishes, too. Our buddy Chris, who is Australian, told us about his favorite Malaysian soup that he always eats in Australia whenever he is sick. Grant went and found all the ingredients and we all cooked together. It was a vegetarian curry soup called Laksa with Bean Curd.

Laksa-1

No recipes just yet as we combined a few and it seems to be similar to a Thai curry soup in that you can always make it slightly different and incorporate whatever vegetables you have but I thought I should post this pretty picture to remind me. We also got to hear a sneak peak of Chris’ forthcoming album due out next year. Let’s just say that we’re all in for a real treat!

Laksa-2

And speaking of Thai Curry, that was on the menu at our house recently. We made  a delicious red curry with salmon, three kinds of little potatoes (purple, gold, and white), tons of veggies, and coconut milk.

Curry-1

Curry-2

I’ll end this post on a comforting note. This Chinese dish, Red Cooked Pork, has become one of our favorite comforts on cold rainy days. Grant has made this a few times now and each time, it gets better! Once you have all the ingredients, it is quite easy.

Red Cooked Pork 1

Red Cooked Pork      
1 Tbsp Grapeseed Oil
4 Scallions
2 Cloves Garlic
1” piece of Fresh Ginger
2 cups stock
½ cup Tamari
½ cup Rice Wine Vinegar
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Star Anise
1 (3 inch) Cinnamon Stick
1 3-4 lb Pork Tenderloin

Heat the oil in a large, heavy Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add half the scallions, garlic, and ginger and toss together in the oil until heated through, about 1 minute. Add the stock, tamari, rice wine, brown sugar, anise, and cinnamon stick. Bring to boil, then add the pork. Flip the meat to cover it with liquid. Reduce the heat and cover the pan. Simmer, turning the meat every hour and basting it, until it’s fork tender, 3 to 4 hours. Remove the meat from the pan and spoon off the fat from the pan juices. The meat will sort of fall apart. Serve with the pan juices, over rice. Sprinkle the top with the remaining scallions.

Red Cooked Pork 2

Red Cooked Pork over rice with braised cabbage, served on a Dolan Geiman hand printed table cloth! Get your very own here.

And speaking of comfort, I have been listening over and over to the new Bobby Bare album, Darker Than Light. It isn’t even because of Grant having to learn the songs, although HE DOES! I am thrilled and so proud that Grant is getting the opportunity to play guitar for Bare. It’s the music he truly loves and he is honored to get to play them with such a legend.

Left- Grant with Bobby Bare This is a phone photo taken by Jared Manzo taken after they recorded a Daytrotter session with him, and the only photo on my blog that I did not take. Right is Bare at Music City Roots October 2012.

Left- Grant with Bobby Bare. This is a phone photo taken by Jared Manzo after they recorded a Daytrotter session with him last week, and the only photo on my blog that I did not take. On the right is Bare at Music City Roots at the Loveless Barn in October 2012.

I had heard of Bobby Bare but didn’t know many of his hits until about eight years ago when we were still living in Seattle. I had become a huge fan of Bare, Jr. who manages to play out in Seattle a few times a year it seems. I must have seen his show about a dozen times. Well, one time through, he was backing his Dad in support of his last album, The Moon Was Blue (which is also great!). My friend Sue and I went together and we were right up front at the Showbox that night. I instantly became an even bigger fan of Bare Senior! His voice is so strong and he’s just the coolest man. This new album is an album of folk songs- his interpretations of songs by artists such as Bob Dylan, Lead Belly, Alejandro Escovedo, and a couple of Bare originals. I highly recommend it. It will make a great holiday gift but be sure to get one for yourself, too.

Don’t let the stress of the holidays bring you down. Stay strong and enjoy visits with family and friends over good food and music!

Thanksgiving Feast Re-Cap!

Oh no, I am so sad that I have fallen behind in the blog posts. I have so many photos of food and recipe ideas floating out there on my computer, in my head and around our kitchen. As I take some time to gather them up and put them together, I thought it would be a good idea to first post our Thanksgiving memories here before I forget.

Due to work schedules (I always have to work the day after and Grant usually plays a gig on Thanksgiving Day), we have stayed at home in Nashville for Thanksgiving for the last five or six years. Some years, my family has come to us. Other years, our good friends Lew & Shirley (who appreciate eating as much as we do thankfully) have visited us from Seattle for Thanksgiving. This year, we had sort of just planned to stay home and cook for ourselves and rest from a busy fall schedule. Our friends Molly, Jacob, and Reno sent us a lovely email the week before and invited us to join them. We know they love food as much as we do so this seemed a perfect fit.

The Smokey’s Fixin’s- Texas Tandies, Pumpkin Pie with a Pecan Crumble Top, and Broccoli Casserole.

Classic Southern fav- Seven Layer Salad

We all cooked- some family favorite recipes and some new- and met at Jacob & Molly’s house for an amazing Thanksgiving outdoors! That’s right, the weather was so perfect, we were able to eat outside and then enjoy some guitar picking by the fire! They were perfect hosts, had cooked so much all day and we had a lovely, relaxing day with them. Below are two recipes that I just had to post so we don’t forget them…

Homemade Chex Mix & Molly’s Holiday Sangria

The first one is something Molly came up with. I had never thought of having Sangria in the winter months, let alone for a holiday meal, but this was so perfect. It is so beautiful and festive, too. She found several recipes online and came up with her version that went like this-

Molly’s Holiday Sangria
1 cup water
1 cup cane sugar
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 large cinnamon stick
4 allspice berries
3 whole cloves
2 cups whole fresh cranberries
2 apples, diced
1 bottle Spanish Tempranillo
1/3 cup ruby port
1/3 cup Cointreau
1/3 cup cranberry juice

In a saucepan, mix the water, sugar, crushed red pepper, cinnamon, allspice, and cloves. Simmer over moderately low heat for 15 minutes. Strain into a bowl and add the cranberries and apples. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Strain the fruit, reserving the spiced syrup. In a large pitcher, mix the wine, port, Cointreau, cranberry juice, fruit and 3/4 cup of the spiced syrup. Refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour. Serve over ice.

Now Grant has cooked quite a few turkeys and he is a great cook. He tasted Jacob’s turkey and instantly realized this was one of the best he had ever tasted. It was Jacob’ first turkey, too. It was a perfectly cooked turkey and made the meal. Here’s the recipe he sent me-

Jacob Jones’ Thanksgiving Turkey

Ok, here goes, super simple….
Make sure the bird is not frozen. If it is, thaw it out in the fridge for a day or two.

Make the brine:
1 bottle Apple Juice
1 can Pineapple Juice
2 cups Kosher Salt
1/4 cup Brown Sugar
Fresh Rosemary
1 gallon Water

Brine the turkey completely covered in the fridge or someplace cold for about an hour per pound over night. The next day, rinse the turkey off and paper towel dry inside and out. This is very important so that you don’t steam the turkey. Season the entire outside of the bird with salt and pepper.  Place the turkey breast down on a roasting rack in a roasting pan. If you don’t have a rack and are using a disposable foil roasting pan (as I do), just use some long carrots in the bottom of the pan, they will keep the bird off the hot surface and act as a rack*. Take an entire package of center cut bacon and place it on top of the bird in rows. Add an inch or two of the brine liquid to the roasting pan. Add 5 to 10 fresh garlic cloves to the liquid. Sauté 1 cup onion and 1 cup chopped carrots on a skillet over medium for about 10 minutes until they are fragrant. Use a little butter or oil. Once done, let them cool and stuff into the cavity of the bird. Stuff the cavity of the bird with fresh rosemary, thyme, and sage.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place the turkey on the lowest level of the oven rack.  Roast for about 15 minutes per pound or until the internal temp of the bird is 155. About half way through, turn the turkey over breast side up and baste with the brine liquid. Add some fresh rosemary to the top and place an oil soaked cheese cloth on the breast to trap moisture. About an hour before the bird is done, remove the cheese cloth.

Make sure the bird sits on the counter 30 to 45 minutes tinted in foil so it can seal in the juices and finish cooking.

Carve table side.  Cover in gravy. Enjoy.

* Ahem, Lady Smokey would like to note that these carrots were amazing! Bacon cooked carrots are a new favorite! YUM!

Look at all those colors!!!

We were stuffed and so happy after this amazing meal. Poor Grant had to go play guitar for four hours and I had every intention of joining him for some holiday Honky-Tonkin’ but I couldn’t leave the sofa. Somehow, though, we recovered a couple days later and managed to want more turkey and still had a few ideas brewing that we hadn’t had the opportunity to cook yet so on Sunday, our day off together, we had our own little celebration with more Texas Tandies (a Johnson family holiday tradition!).

Texas Tandies go best with Champagne or a Hard Apple Cider!

We made a stuffed turkey breast and a few fall sides for Sunday super. Grant made a yummy cornbread, apple, pecan dressing and then pounded out a deboned turkey breast, rolled it up with dressing inside, and tied it up with twine.

Making Dressing with homemade cornbread!

He dusted the outside with flour and browned each side in a dutch oven on the stove. He then cooked it in the oven. Once it was done, he sliced it. It was beautiful and really tasty!

The Stuffed Turkey Breast

We ate this with cooked carrots (with onions in a little bacon fat- thanks to Jacob for that idea!), roasted Brussels Sprouts, and fresh cranberry sauce. Yum!

We topped the evening off with some Pecan Shortbread and the beginning of Christmas Music Season! What a collection we have. New this year is a collection of holiday tunes from our neighborhood. You can pick up a copy of it for yourself here and all the proceeds go to help the National Health Care for the Homeless Council. We finished the weekend off with our annual viewing of The Last Waltz. We are truly thankful to have so many good friends and family and such amazing good food and music in our lives.

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.”