Thai Basil!

Our little raised bed garden is rocking this year. We got some organic basil and tomato starts from Tallahassee May of Turnbull Creek Farm and Tana Comer of Eaton Creek Organics. The basil, especially, is booming! The intense heat wave last week, though, gave us a scare so I went and picked a bunch of it all at once and was forced to make some pesto. I usually make a few jars of pesto every year. I’ll freeze some and give some away. I have several posts (and here) from years past about all the different ways I have found to use pesto. To be quite honest, I get a little tired of pesto now but I love growing basil because it does so well and I love the taste of it and pesto is such a good way to use all the excess. I often try either not using nuts or varying the type of nuts and always seem to make it different each time just to keep myself interested in the idea of pesto. I was thrilled to come up with this new recipe last week which is totally different from the classic and incorporates two different types of basil- Thai Purple and Lemon Basil.

Thai Pesto
Thai Basil (the purple leaves)
Lemon Basil
1-3 Cloves of Garlic (I used one big one)
Red Pepper Flakes
Olive Oil
Sea Salt

Marinade for Chicken
½ cup Rice Vinegar
½ cup Tamari (or soy sauce)
2 Cloves Garlic, chopped
1 tsp Thai Green Curry Paste
2 Tbsp Raw Cane Sugar

Several Kale Leaves
Juice of ½ Lime
Sea Salt
Several Romaine Leaves (although you could use any leafy green mix really)
1 Carrot, chopped
1 Lemon Cucumber, sliced
Cilantro & Basil Leaves, chopped
Black Pepper

Make the pesto and place in a jar in the refrigerator. I did not include measurements because it isn’t exact and can be very flexible. I just used a small bowl of thai basil, a small handful of the lemon basil, and a handful of cilantro. I only used as much olive oil needed to keep it all wet and keep my little grinder happy. Add sea salt and red pepper flakes to taste.

Mix up the marinade and then place the chicken in it and in the refrigerator for a couple hours. Meanwhile, make the salad. I like to mix the kale in the bowl first with the lime juice and salt. Massage it with your fingers or with a fork. Let it sit for a few minutes while you prepare the other salad ingredients. Then mix all the salad ingredients together and set aside while you prepare the chicken. Remove the chicken from the marinade, lightly dust with flour, and the fry it up in the grapeseed oil. Once you flip the chicken pieces, top each with a little of the Thai pesto so it can warm up on top of the chicken. Serve the chicken strips on the salad greens.

I made this same recipe again using salmon. I marinated 2 pieces of salmon for an hour. I cut up some onions and sauteed them in an iron skillet. Once the onions were almost done, I pushed them to the sides of the pan and placed the salmon in the middle of the pan, flesh side down. I cooked it for 5 minutes on medium and then flipped them to skin side down.

I poured the marinade in the pan and topped each piece of salmon with Thai pesto. I cooked for 1 minute on this side and then turned the stove off and let sit for about 5 minutes.

This meal was accompanied by a bottle of Uriondo Bizaiko Txakolina, a white wine from Spain, which I found at Woodland Wine Merchant. Yum!

I served the salmon and onions over brown rice. I topped the plate with chopped basil and green onions. Delicious!


Everything Good, is Good Again!

With Thanksgiving only a couple weeks behind us, it seems an appropriate time to reflect on leftovers. We had so much feasting with our buddies Lewis & Shirley who spent Thanksgiving week with us. We all love to cook and eat so that is exactly what we did, all week long.

I had two new recipes I came up with this year. One was for a Roasted Cranberry Fig Conserve. We ate the leftovers for days afterwards and it is perfect on sandwiches or as a side to most anything.

Roasted Cranberry Fig Conserve
1 ½ cup chopped dried black mission figs
1 cup port
3 cups fresh cranberries
½ cup raw cane sugar
1 splash balsamic vinegar
½ onion finely chopped
1 splash olive oil
1 tsp dried rosemary
sea salt

Place the figs in a sauce pan with the port. Bring to a boil and then simmer until it gets thick and some of the liquid has been cooked down. Mix with all remaining ingredients and place in a casserole or roasting dish and place in oven on 400 for about 45 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally.

Grant and I even made a topping for turkey meatloaf the following week using the last of the this Cranberry Fig Conserve as our base- mixing it with tomatoes and seasonings.

Turkey meatloaf served here with steamed broccoli and roasted sweet potatoes.

Also new this year was our Thanksgiving dessert. I usually stick to pies but Shirley wanted a sweet potato cheese cake so that is exactly what we made, well, sort of… I think I lost my springform pan in the big flood and Shirley left her recipe at home so we decided to make a tart instead. We looked up a bunch of different recipes online and then came up with our own version. We decided on a gingersnap crust but I forgot to get gingersnaps at the market so I decided to make my own. I found a great recipe for them on Smitten Kitchen’s blog here and we made them the night before Thanksgiving along with the corn bread Grant used to make our Cornbread Pecan Bacon Dressing.

Sweet Potato Cream Cheese Tart
3 cups crushed gingersnaps
½ cup roasted pecans, chopped finely
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 pound cream cheese, softened
2 sweet potatoes roasted, skin removed (about 1 lb)
½ cup light brown sugar
¼ cup maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of allspice
1 egg

To make the crust: Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. In a mixing bowl, combine the gingersnap crumbs with the melted butter and toss together until the mixture clumps together. Pat the mixture into the base and slightly up the sides of eight 4 1/2inch tart pans. Bake for about 7 minutes, or until crisp.

To make the filling: In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine all the filling ingredients. Pour the filling into the tart pan and return to the oven. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the center is just firm to the touch. Cool to room temperature, then chill for up to 2 hours or overnight before serving.

Grant smoked our turkey this year and it was the best I have ever had! He basically treated it like pulled pork and it just fell off the bone. He made tomato gravy to accompany it which was so delicious with the smoked flavor of the turkey. We recently read the article in Garden & Gun about the Louisiana tradition of making gumbo from the Thanksgiving turkey leftovers and we could not stop thinking about it, having just returned from a quick trip to New Orleans. It was amazing! The smoked turkey was perfect and I had some okra from the garden that I was frozen so we threw some in. This was a perfect way to eat up leftover turkey!

Another great way to eat up your leftover turkey (or roast chicken as was the case here, a few weeks back) is to make Turkey or Chicken & Dumplings! Just cook up some onions, garlic, celery and the stock made from the chicken or turkey bones. (I like to add in a little creme fraise!) Add the shredded chicken or turkey and make a batch of herbed biscuits and spoon batter on top of broth until the biscuits cook up. Delicious.

One of our most common ways to incorporate leftovers into a brand new meal- and believe me, this works for just about anything- is to make Enchiladas! In this case, I just layered all the ingredients instead of actually rolling the tortillas.

Or an even lazier, condensed version of our Enchilada Casserole is what happened this afternoon. We had leftovers from vegetarian taco night- a sweet potato and pinto mixture, sauteed green peppers and onions, spinach, homemade corn tortillas, and some avocado mixed with Greek yogurt. Grant fried the corn tortilla strips and then made a sort of hash, similar to Chilaquiles, and we topped with the avocado/ yogurt sauce. Instant lunch. Delicious!

And what to do with leftover mashed potatoes? Make potato cakes! And, just so you know, potato cakes make an excellent egg companion for breakfast! The leftover Benton’s Prosciutto (that’s right, those Thanksgiving green beans pictured at top were sporting a little crisped Benton’s Prosciutto on top!) made those scrambled eggs quite decadent.

Not to suggest in any way that Ms. Wanda Jackson is a “left over” but I would most certainly like to mention her and I definitely do mean to say that she was great and is still really great. Jack White produced and supported her in a new album release titled, Party Ain’t Over and friends of ours, Heath Haynes & The Hi-Dollars, have been touring with her as her live back-up band. We saw them recently and she is amazing! The guys were pretty awesome, too. Yay Wanda! You can get a copy of her album here.

Wanda Jackson at Robert's Western World. 10/11

Also once and still great is the amazing Glen Campbell. He has a new album out, Ghost on The Canvas, and is in the middle of his final musical tour, The Good-Bye Tour, which he launched as the news of his Alzheimer’s became public. We had the good fortune of seeing him perform with Jimmy Webb and the Nashville Symphony a couple years back and again, a week ago, at The Ryman Auditorium, one of my very favorite places in the entire world.

Glen Campbell with daughter Ashley at the Ryman. 11/30/11

It was a powerful show. We knew going into it that it would be a little sad so I had mentally prepared myself for that. I couldn’t stop crying when they brought the lights up for the first song, Gentle On My Mind! Incredible! And then Wichita Lineman was amazing! But overall, I had a real sense of happiness about the whole night. I felt such a strong sense of performer/fan bond in the room as if we were all there to support him doing this to the end and him really loving what he does and wanting to say good-bye. His kid’s band was his backing band and they were very patient and helped him through. They offered great support. It was similar to watching an aging and forgetful older relative stumble a bit which some people thought was just sad but I felt it was a powerful and graceful way to end. I guess it partially depends on your outlook towards illness and dying maybe? And I tend to gravitate towards finding a positive way to view things ultimately, so… He was great and seemed so happy to be singing those songs that he loves so much and seemed so appreciative we were all there. He sang and played all of our old favorites and some new songs with great energy. One favorite moment for me was when he was singing Rhinestone Cowboy, he had the entire Ryman Auditorium singing with him and in the middle, he yelled, “I LOVE THIS SONG!” So perfect. If you get the opportunity to say good-bye to Glen Campbell, I suggest you take it.

End of the Summer…

I can’t believe how fast this summer has come and (almost) gone. I thought it would be a good idea to post a couple of my favorite new concoctions we came up with this summer.

Grant came up with this one-pot wonder one night as a way to eat up all of our veggies from the garden. This is pure comfort food!

Big Smokey’s Southern Chicken Bog

3-4 chicken thighs, bone and skin on
¼ cup flour
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp onion powder
sea salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp bacon fat or butter
1 small red, orange or yellow pepper, chopped
½ Vidalia onion, chopped
6-8 okra, cut in slices
3 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 Tbsp dried chopped rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 ½ cup white Basmati rice
3 cups stock

Heat a cast iron skillet on medium. Add bacon fat when pan is hot. While pan is heating, mix flour, spices, salt & pepper together in a bowl. Dredge chicken thighs in flour mixture. (Save flour mixture for use with okra.) Once pan is hot and bacon fat is sizzling, add chicken skin side down. Cook for 5-6 minutes, until skin side is a dark golden brown. Turn chicken over and continue to cook 5 more minutes. Put chicken aside. Add onion and pepper to pan. Dredge okra in remaining flour mixture and add to pan. Cook until onion and pepper is soft and okra is slightly brown. Add chopped tomato, rosemary, bay leaf, and cook for 5 more minutes until tomato starts to break down. Stir in rice. Salt and pepper a little more to taste. Nestle the chicken back into the mixture, skin side up. Add 2 cups of the stock. Reduce the heat to medium low. Let cook 15 minutes or until the rice has absorbed all the stock. Stir mixture without turning the chicken. Add the remaining cup of stock and cook for 10 more minutes until rice is done to taste. Optional- last two minutes, turn pan on medium high and cook until a dark brown crust forms on the bottom of the rice (Lady Smokey is especially fond of how this makes a yummy crispy rice crust!). Remove pan from heat and let cool for 5 minutes. One pot wonder or serve with a side salad! Hot sauce is recommended. YUM!

And another meaty dish, this was inspired by our new found love of tomato gravy.

Tomato Smothered Chicken Fried Pork Chops
Serves 3

3 boneless pork chops
2 cups buttermilk
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
dash of cayenne pepper
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
¼ cup grape seed oil
½ cup all purpose flour
dash of cayenne pepper
sea salt and black pepper to taste
2-3 fresh tomatoes, chopped

Heat oven to 400 degrees. You will want to use an iron skillet (or wide, oven proof skillet). Mix buttermilk and spices together in a bowl. Soak pork chops in buttermilk mixture for about an hour. Heat skillet to medium heat. Add grape seed oil (enough to fill your skillet ¼ inch deep). In another bowl, mix flour with another dash of cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. Take the pork chops out of the buttermilk soak and place in flour mixture. Coat on both sides and place in skillet. Cook pork chops until golden brown on both sides (about 5 minutes on each side). Move pork chops to sides of pan. Add 2 Tbsp flour to middle of pan and stir in, mixing flour thoroughly to the oil in the pan to form a rue. Once you have a nice rue formed, add 2-3 chopped tomatoes. Place iron skillet in the oven for 10 more minutes to finish the pork and give the tomatoes time to break down. Place pork chop on a plate and spoon the tomato gravy over top.

Tomato Smothered Pork served with asparagus and sauteed corn.

We have so many friends who have new albums out or coming out in the next few weeks. It is very exciting and I look forward to listening to them all. This week, however, we were thrilled to get to see Connie Smith again and pick up a copy of her new album and her first release in 15 years, Long Line of Heartaches.

Connie Smith and guitarist Rick Wright at Grimey's Record Store August 2011.

One of the greatest voices in classic country music, Connie Smith grew up in West Virginia and Ohio. Bill Anderson first heard Connie Smith sing in a talent competition back in 1963 and he invited her to come sing in Nashville. She recorded the classic hits, “Once A Day” and “Cincinnati, Ohio,” and after almost a decade of country music stardom and hit songs, Connie left the spotlight to pursue motherhood and a gospel music career but remained an influential figure in country music. Dolly Parton once said that Connie Smith is the best female country singer. Many would agree. She also seems like a beautiful woman- inside and out. Locally, Connie Smith often performs on The Grand Ole Opry, with her husband of almost 15 years, Marty Stuart, on his  t.v. show on the RFD network, and she occasionally plays with her band, The Sun Downers (featuring the amazing Rick Wright on guitar), at the Station Inn. This month she is the Artist In Residency at the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Truck Stops & Diners

With the July 4th holiday upon us, I thought it appropriate to talk about truck stops and diners. What’s more American than truck stops and diners? Well, actually, this post is neither about truck stops or diners but rather, truckin’ songs and diner food! And of course it really won’t include any real diner food but rather, my healthier version of what I like to think is diner food.

So, I figured out way back that I am a “Middle Person” which in my definition means, I am a very tee-tiny, infinite percent of the population that does not fit into any specific category in regards to everything. In school, I always had a friend from this group, a friend from that group. In fact I don’t even really like groups so that’s probably why I have never been successful at belonging to any of them. Kind of the Groucho Marx idea of not wanting to belong to any group that would have me as a member… or maybe it just seems way too limiting to get categorized into one group when there are so many with such varying tastes. Maybe it is a commitment issue? Anyway, along with this, I think, comes a skewed vision of what is popular with the general public. For instance, whenever there is an event I am super excited about, I just know it will sell out and I get really worried about not being able to get in for fear it will be too crowded and then the reality of this situation almost always results in the opposite and there is a small handful of other “Middle People” present. I’d say this might also be the case for the way I feel about one particular sub-genre of country music, truckin’ songs. I absolutely LOVE truckin’ songs and for the life of me can’t understand why this tiny sub-genre never made it out of that sub category. And the other day, after listening to truckin’ songs all day, and contemplating this crazy, amazing “sub-genre” (the quotes are really meant to denote some eye-rolling on my part), I was trying to come up with a way to single-handedly bring it back into the country music forefront. I don’t understand why this can’t happen honestly, with the 1980’s ballad sound resurfacing under the disguise of “new country” and all. It seems completely reasonable from this Middle Person’s point-of-view. If we could somehow tap it into the electric car theme or bio-diesel/ Willie Nelson Truck Stop concept and craft some new eco-friendly lyrics or something, I think it might really catch on.

Anyway, back to the topic- truckin’ songs.

For anyone not familiar with truckin’ songs, they are simply songs about truck driving. More important than the topic, to me though, is the amazing group of artists who have had some great songs about trucks! Also what usually catches my attention more than the words about trucks (which are always completely awesome on a ridiculous level) are the amazing guitar riffs and the sound of a truckin’ song.

They’ve been around since the 1930’s but seemed to have their little moment of popularity in the 1960’s and one of the most famous of the truckin’ songs is Dave Dudley’s ”Six Days on the Road’ which came out in 1963 (and features one Mister Buddy Spicher on fiddle!).

And here’s another classic from Del Reeves here.

Here’s a totally awesome one from The Willis Brothers which is a clip from the 1965 film, “40 Acre Feud.”

Even girls like to sing truckin’ songs. This is a classic from Ms. Kay Adams.

Thanks to the likes of Dale Watson, Chuck Mead and BR549, Junior Brown, Jon Byrd, Knut Bell,  truckin’ songs can still be heard!!! Some of these guys are even writing new truckin’ songs. Here’s an original from our friend Knut Bell who is the big country voice of the Pacific NW!

There are plenty of amazing truckin’ song compilation albums- easy to find in old country album collections. There’s also a great record label out of NY called, Diesel Only, that put out a cd box set of truckin’ songs from 1939-1969.

There is a collection of painstakingly ridiculous spoken word songs from 1970’s that were almost like little movies in and of themselves… I find these difficult to hear over and over when listening to my (awesome and amazing) truckin’ song play list Grant made for me but when you get caught off guard by one while driving around town, as I did today when WSM played Red Sovine’s “Teddy Bear,” it can turn a bad day into a glorious day!

To add to my obsession, I’ve been watching lots of Truckin’ movies lately. Netflix has quite a collection (starring the likes of Jerry Reed, Kris Kristofferson, Peter Fonda!). Every good truckin’ movie has plenty of truck stops and diners. Diners make me think of meatloaf.

As a child, my Mom made meatloaf pretty often. It was always delicious. She often served it with corn or succotash. Her best friend, Mary Bauld, always served her meatloaf with fried potatoes which were naughty delicious! Mom and Mary Bauld had a few unspoken cooking competitions going and us kids were the judges. Grant and I don’t eat much beef anymore but sometimes we do need meatloaf so we make turkey meatloaf, using a combination of my Mom’s recipe and Ms. Loretta Lynn’s from her cookbook, You’re Cookin’ it Country. It goes something like this…

Big & Lady Smokey’s Turkey Meatloaf
2 lbs ground turkey
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 egg, beaten
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1-2 slices of whole grain bread, finely crushed
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried basil
sea salt and fresh ground pepper
1 cup ketchup (you could make your own with canned tomatoes, tomato paste, little vinegar, and some molasses)
¼ cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp Sriracha hot sauce (or your favorite hot sauce)

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl mix together the turkey, onion, egg, garlic, bread crumbs, and seasonings. Shape the mixture and place in a loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour. In a small bowl combine ketchup, hot sauce, and brown sugar and pour over the meatloaf. Bake for an additional 30 minutes.

Meatloaf served with sauteed fresh corn off the cob; squash, zucchini, and Vidalia onions; and cucumbers and dill from the garden with a little brown rice vinegar, salt and pepper!

And don’t forget that leftover meatloaf makes a great sandwich!

Grant usually makes me Sunday brunch and he just recently mastered frittatas! Dang, he’s good! The other morning he said, “This one has a super secret Southern ingredient!” Here’s the recipe…

Tater Tot Frittata
1 Vidalia onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 small yellow crookneck squash, cut into rounds
2 slices think cut bacon, chopped
5 or 6 mushrooms, sliced
1 cup tater tots, baked in oven
6 eggs
splash of milk
½ cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
sea salt & black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350. Use a good skillet or omelet pan. Heat pan on stove top on medium heat. Cook bacon until mostly crisp. Remove bacon and put to the side. Leave bacon fat in pan. Add onion, garlic, squash, and mushrooms. Saute over medium heat until done. Beat eggs in a bowl with a splash of milk. Add egg mixture to veggies. Cook for about 3 minutes until eggs have partially set. Fold over once. Add bacon crumbles and tater tots. Add cheese to top. Put whole pan in oven. Cook for approximately 5-7 minutes until eggs have fully set. Put broiler on high and continue to bake until top is slightly brown and bubbly. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes.

I made a mess of cherry pies recently for our first Red Barn Round-Up of the summer, which coincidentally had many truckin’ songs sung by Jon Byrd and Heath Haynes!!!

Now, though, the fresh summer fruit is rolling on in… Hoping to make many summer fruit pies and finally learn how to can but now, we are enjoying some delicious Pimm’s cups (completely un-American, haha!) with cucumbers from the garden. Happy 4th!

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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!

Thankful for Food!

Thanksgiving 2010

I couldn’t let my memories of Thanksgiving go undocumented! One of my favorite things about the holidays is cooking and eating and Lord knows we did our share this past week. Grant and I have had so many family and friend visits these past few months, we decided to spend this Thanksgiving with each other and spent the entire day cooking and eating in our pjs. Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do on Thanksgiving anyway?

Leftovers. Bird's eye view.

We enjoyed a classic NW breakfast consisting of bagels (from our awesome new neighborhood bagel shop, Bagel Face Bakery), cream cheese, and lox while thinking of Grant’s family in the great Pacific Northwest. (Notice Lighthouse Roasters’ coffee mug for added, purely coincidental, effect!)

For a lunch snack, we had the perfect appetizer which has been a tradition in Grant’s family for quite awhile- Texas Tandies! Grant’s Mom got the recipe for these from a family friend in Texas and they quickly became a family favorite. My family likes them now, too!

Texas Tandies

2 cups grated sharp cheddar
1 stick chilled butter
1 cup of flour
pinch of sea salt to taste
pinch of cayenne to taste
½ tsp Tabasco
1 tsp of Worchester
2 Tbsp Water

Cut chilled butter into small pieces and mix with flour until grainy. Add cheese, salt, and cayenne.  Mix liquids and sprinkle into mixture until dough just holds together.  Form into two balls and wrap with plastic.  Refrigerate for 1-2 hours. Pre-heat oven to 350 and roll out dough onto a floured surface.  Cut out with a small round cookie cutter and gently press a pecan onto each cookie… Bake at 350 for 12 minutes or so. Let them cool for about ½ an hour (if possible!).
Good with Ice Cold Beer or Bollinger!

Since it was just the two of us, Grant decided to get a turkey breast rather than an entire turkey. He de-boned it and flattened it and then stuffed it with the most amazing dressing ever. Recipe soon to follow…

He first seared the turkey in an iron skillet on the stove and then cooked it in the oven until done. It was super delicious!!!

As is customary in my family, we had way too many side dishes but I just couldn’t narrow it down. I made roasted carrots and parsnips and glazed them with a mixture of butter, honey,  balsamic vinegar, and a little sea salt and black pepper. They were super simple, very pretty and quite delicious.

We also made Brussels Sprouts seasoned with a tiny bit of Spanish chorizo! Grant is a genius for coming up with this!

We tried a completely new idea of a dish for us, too, Braised Leeks. They were interesting and went well with the mashed potatoes and gravy but weren’t the most amazing thing we had ever tasted by any stretch of the imagination. As for those mashed potatoes, I tried to channel my step dad, Larry, who makes the best mashed potatoes, and therefore, did not skimp on the butter! They were delightfully fluffy and a perfect vehicle for the gravy.

Now about that dressing… Grant got this recipe spot on this year. It was the perfect blend of sweet and savory, moist and crispy, nutty and fruity. He used some to stuff the turkey breast and the rest, he cooked in a baking dish and we ate on the side.

Apricot Pecan Dressing

2 tsp butter (or bacon fat)
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 cups hearty Artisanal bread (we used a crusty rosemary bread), cut into cubes
1-2 cups chicken stock
2 Tbsp fresh sage, chopped
½ cup pecans, coarsely chopped
¼ cup dried apricots, chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Saute onion, garlic, and celery in butter until soft. Mix bread cubes, sage, pecans, and apricots together in a large bowl. Add the onions, garlic, celery and mix thoroughly. Add stock until mixture is well moistened but not too wet.  Adjust seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. Place mixture in a baking dish and bake for 30 minutes covered and then 30 more minutes uncovered to crisp the top.

Oh, and there was wine. We enjoyed a lovely Oregon Pinot Noir from A to Z and a pumpkin pie with pecan crumble for dessert.

I know there are many pecan pie fans out there and I have a great recipe for it which I adapted from an Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock recipe but I much prefer pumpkin pie. Since there are only two of us, I decided to try to combine the two holiday favorites and created a pumpkin pie with a pecan crumble top. It worked quite well. So well, that I ended up taking one down to Robert’s Western World Thanksgiving night and two more to our last Red Barn Round-Up of the year this past Sunday. What a great Round-Up it was as we were fortunate enough to have the very musically talented and artistically savvy Julie Lee perform as well as Mister Paul Burch. If you haven’t heard their latest albums, the holidays are the perfect time because both would make excellent gifts! And while you are at it, you can also buy some of Julie’s art work! What better time to support local art?

So here is the pumpkin pie recipe. Please remember to make your own crust. You can find my recipe here.

Pumpkin Pie with Pecan Crumble Top

1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
1 tsp freshly ground ginger
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp arrowroot (or cornstarch)
1 1/2 cups of roasted pumpkin, pureed
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 extra large eggs
1 cup coconut milk

for crumble top:
1 cup pecans, toasted & ground
½ cup flour
½ cup sugar (I use organic cane sugar)
½ cup unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the pumpkin open and into four wedges, clean the seeds out (I roasted them up with a little salt for a yummy snack!), cut the strings out and rub the inside with a little olive oil and place face down in a baking dish. Bake for about an hour, until the pumpkin is tender when forked. Once cooled, scoop out the flesh and mix well in a blender or food processor. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Stir together brown sugar, salt, arrowroot. Add the pumpkin, vanilla, maple syrup, eggs and mix well. Then, add the coconut milk and gently stir. Pour into the unbaked pie shell. Bake for 15 minutes and then turn oven down to 350 degrees for another 40 minutes (set timer for 20 minutes, though, as you will need to add the crumble top!).

Make the crumble top. Grind roasted pecans in a food processor or chop very finely. You can then add the other ingredients to the food processor or mix by hand. Be very careful and open oven door and quickly but gently crumble the topping over the pumpkin pie. Bake for the remainder 20 minutes or until pie is set.

Lots of good music coming up this month so I should have lots to report… I am also super excited about a new cookbook we picked up at McCay’s used books this past weekend. It has recipes of Barcelona! If we can’t visit Spain, at least we can eat like we did.

Enjoy all your holiday baking!

Chi-Town Eats and Comfort Food

We just returned from a long weekend in Chicago. Grant played a gig there with Derek Hoke and we decided to make a long weekend out of it. We had so much fun visiting lots of different friends and exploring the Art Institute and Bucktown Arts Fest where lots of our buddies were showing their art all weekend. We didn’t really plan ahead. In fact, we did not research anything beforehand which is odd for us but we just let it all happen. We ended up finding lots of good food anyway. Our first night there, we explored Chinatown with our buddy Ed. We had yummy food and cocktails (Mai Tais!) at Cantonesia. The firemen recommended it and firemen always seem to know about good food. After dinner, we watched as they filmed Transformer 3 down the street.

Ah, real Chinese food!… The next day we had an Anthony Bourdain moment for lunch as we ate famous pork sandwiches from Maxwell Street Depot in Bridgeport, where we were staying. Our friend Joe recommended it. Apparently, this is a Chicago establishment. Some even say it is run by the mob! They had great fries and literally, it was a pork chop on a bun- bone and all!

Our friends Jon & Sally met us at one of their favorite spots, Cafe Central, which serves Puerto Rican food. We got there first and I was looking at the menu thinking “this place is a mistake” as it just seemed like any old diner. Luckily, I was wrong. It was delicious. I had an amazing chicken and rice dish and we had some fried plantains that were delicious!

After traveling around town on the L one day and exploring the Art Institute, we jumped back on the L and headed up to Wicker Park. The train let us off and voila, a noodle house stood in our midst. Penny’s Noodles, turns out, is a favorite of many of our Chicago friends. What a lucky find!

And on our last morning there, our friends Dolan and Ali Marie took us to brunch at Toast in Bucktown. This place was amazing! They have stuffed French toast!

So, for not having done any research, I’d say we fared pretty well in Chicago. We hope to go back soon so we welcome suggestions of favorite restaurants for future visits.

Oh, and there was music of course… Derek and Grant borrowed the Waco Brothers’ rhythm section for a great set of music at the Bucktown Arts Fest. Next, our friend Jon led us up north to Skokie so we could visit with friends from Seattle, The Presidents of the United States of America, who were playing the Skokie Silent Film Festival. Who knew we’d end up in Skokie? We had noticed that Dave Alvin was playing across town, too, and it is always hard to pass up a chance to see Dave so we drove all the way back down to Fitzgerald’s in Berwyn where we got to surprise another friend from Seattle, Christy, who is a Guilty Woman extraordinaire. If you haven’t seen Dave Alvin and the Guilty Women, you should. They are amazing! He’s assembled some of the most talented women in music now for his backing band and they will blow your mind!

The temperatures in Tennessee finally broke and with temperatures in the upper 80’s and low 90’s, everyone suddenly thinks Fall is on the way. This and battling bad colds at our house has made us crave more comfort food! Here’s a Chicken Pot Pie I concocted last week that turned out really well.

Chicken Pot Pie

2 chicken breasts
10-15 cloves garlic, peeled
4 red potatoes, cut into small wedges
herbs de Provence
sea salt
black pepper
olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 Vidalia onion, chopped
1/2 cup all purpose flour
4 cups organic free-range chicken stock
1 carrot, diced
1 big handful green beans, trimmed and cut in small pieces
8-10 mushrooms, sliced
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
2 cups self-rising White Lily flour
1/4 cup unsalted, organic butter
3/4 cup buttermilk

Heat oven to 350. Place chicken, garlic cloves, and potatoes on baking sheet, rub with olive oil, and sprinkle with herbs de Provence, salt, and pepper. Roast in the oven for 35 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat the chicken stock. In a large skillet or Dutch oven, melt the butter and a little olive oil and saute the onions over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until translucent. Add the flour and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the hot chicken stock to the sauce. Simmer over low heat for 1 more minute, stirring, until thick. Add in the carrots, green beans, and mushrooms. Add 2 teaspoons salt and about 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Add the cubed chicken, potatoes, garlic and fresh parsley. Mix well. Pour into an oven safe dish.

Next, make the biscuit topping! Place self-rising flour in a bowl. Cut the butter into pieces and then with your hands, slowly mix the butter into the flour. Try to get the butter into tiny pieces, resembling rice grains. Work this slowly, not to over mix. Add the buttermilk and quickly stir with your hands. Use a large spoon and place “spoon biscuits” on top of your chicken mixture. Be sure to leave room in between biscuits. I used such a big dish that I needed to make 2 batches of biscuits in order to have enough to top it. (And, if you happen to have extra dough, you can make a pan of biscuits for tomorrow’s breakfast!)

Bake at 375 for about 45 minutes.

Also a favorite while I was a sicky was a Chicken Tortilla soup Grant made with leftover whole roasted chicken. It was loaded with fresh garlic and green chilies and was very delicious and nourishing. Garlic is so good for boosting your immune system and fighting infection!

Chicken Tortilla Soup

1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 leftover roasted chicken, skinned, boned, & chopped
10-20 whole cloves garlic, peeled
1 onion, diced
1 jalapeno, seeded & diced
1 can Hatch diced green chilies
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 tbsp cumin powder
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp oregano
1 lime
sea salt & black pepper to taste
leftover corn tortillas, cut into strips (or tortilla chips)
Queso Fresco (or Jack cheese)
fresh cilantro, chopped

Saute the garlic in the olive oil and butter until it is browned and starts to soften. Add onions. Saute until soft. Add peppers and saute until soft. Add chicken and saute until warm. Add spices and mix thoroughly. Add stock. Bring to boil and then simmer 1/2 an hour up to 2 hours. Add juice of 1/2 lime before serving. Garnish bowls of soup with tortillas, cheese, cilantro and wedges of lime.

Speaking of being sick, I stayed home from work one day and watched the food channel all day long! One of the recipes that caught my eye was a tandori style chicken Rachel Ray made. Even better, though, was the okra dish Grant made up to accompany it. It was spicy and yummy!

OKRA MASALA (of sorts)

2 Yukon Gold potatoes
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp garlic powder
sea salt
20-30 small okra
1/2 vidalia onion
2 Anaheim peppers from the garden, sliced
2-3 small tomatoes from the garden, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
smoked paprika
1/2″ fresh ginger, grated
1/2 cup chicken (or veggie) stock
juice of 1 lime

Par-boil the potatoes, whole. Set aside. Once cooled, cube.

Clean and cut the okra. Mix flour with curry powder, garlic powder,
and a little sea salt. Dredge the okra in the flour mixture. Fry it up
in olive oil. Put aside to drain.

In same pan, add a little butter to the olive oil. Sautee up the diced
Yukon Gold potatoes and chopped onion. Next add in peppers from the
garden,  garlic. Let it cook a few minutes. Add chopped tomatoes,
turmeric, cumin, smoked paprika, fresh ginger, and corriander, chicken
stock and lime juice. Next add the okra back in.

And, with summer winding down we’ve been trying to cook as much as we can with all the summer veggies still available. Hurry up, the okra won’t be around for much longer. We made one more pot of gumbo! Gumbo-rific!

The local, fresh blueberries are almost gone, too. I made a few more blueberry pies last week.

Turns out my favorite music to make pies to is a little box set by The Browns called, “A Country Music Odyssey” which is amazing! We just saw Jim Ed Brown perform on Ernest Tubb’s Midnight Jamboree and his voice is so good and strong. He’s quite funny, as well. He’s a real gem! Or as they like to say here in Music City, “He’s an American Treasure.” I’ll end this post with one of my favorite youtube videos of The Browns…

Stuff It!

The summer heat is almost unbearable this go-around. My brain has started to feel like it is turning to mush. Thank God for air conditioning! Yes, it is way too hot to be eating soup in Tennessee but I found a recipe I had to make- thank you Heidi Swanson for your 101 Cookbooks blog. She has a lovely summer squash soup recipe which Grant and I have renamed, Creamy Potato and Summer Squash Soup. I know, way too long of a recipe title, however, I think you can get more people excited about this little concoction with a name change. Grant isn’t a huge squash fan nor does he understand my need to eat soup when it is 100 degrees of sticky, humid heat outside either. Luckily he was starving as he came home the other day and would have probably eaten anything. Once he tasted this delicious soup, however, he declared it his second top favorite soup I’ve ever made! I served it with a spinach salad made with homemade pesto dressing! I rarely ever do this but, I actually followed the soup recipe pretty much word for word so I will not post it here but please check out Heidi Swanson’s blog and the recipe here.

Earlier in the week, I made some homemade corn tortillas and Grant made some yummy Migas Tacos which we served with watermelon margaritas! It was delicious!

Yesterday, I knew I would be cooking dinner as Grant had an afternoon gig so all day, I kept thinking about ingredients trying to decide what to make. I knew we had some chicken breasts, along with some yummy mushroom varieties- portobello and beech, vidalia onions, spinach, a little piece of Rogue Creamery Smoky Blue, and a little wedge of brie. I grabbed some asparagus on my way home and decided to try my hand at stuffing chicken breasts! I looked on the internet just to get the method down and then this is what I came up with:

Smokey Stuffed Chicken Breasts
1 tbsp unsalted butter
2-3 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 small vidalia onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 portobello mushrooms, cut into cubes
a handful of beech mushrooms
some chopped spinach (maybe 2 cups)
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, flattened
a few glugs of red wine
small piece of Rogue Creamery Smoky Blue cheese (or another blue), crumbled
small piece of brie, cubed
smoked sea salt (or any sea salt)
fresh ground black pepper
fresh chives, chopped

Sautee onion in olive oil and butter. Add garlic and stir. Add mushrooms and cook for about 3-4 minutes on medium heat. Add some red wine (maybe 2 tbsp). Turn off the heat and add spinach. Place mixture in a bowl. Place the chicken breasts in a ziplock bag and pound with an iron skillet (or kitchen mallet) while you allow the vegetable mixture to cool. Once it has cooled a little, add the cheese. Take a spoonful of the mixture and place in the middle of the chicken breast. Roll the chicken over the mixture as best you can and use toothpicks to secure chicken. Place olive oil in skillet. Place chicken in skillet. Cook chicken, flipping it over once browned. Add another glug of wine to keep chicken from sticking. Add in extra vegetable mixture. Cover skillet to give chicken a little more time to cook through. Remove from heat, sprinkle with chopped chives and serve with the delicious wine you used in the recipe!

We enjoyed our stuffed chicken with this yummy Austrian wine we purchased from Woodland Wine Merchants, while listening to Lyle Lovett‘s new album, Natural Forces. (By the way, Lyle’s website is sharp! These are some of my favorite photos. Very inspiring.)

Figs. I’ll end this post with figs.

Our friend Aaron wanted me to come up with a good fig pie recipe. He was really thinking of a pudding pie and for my next fig pie, I will work on this however, with it being so hot and the figs so fresh, I wanted to do something simple. So, while listening to some Justin Townes Earl, I just used a big bowl of fresh figs, 1/2 cup of organic cane sugar, about 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, and 2 tablespoons of flour. I used one dough ball for the bottom crust and another to make a lattice top. I baked it for 15 minutes at 425 and then lowering the over temperature to 350 for another 35 minutes. I think the simplicity was just right for the delicacy of the figs. Pure goodness.

Big weekend coming up with a trip to the Farmer’s Market, pie making, another Red Barn Round-Up party, and some good music next week! Hoping for cooler temperatures.

Tennessee Stomp

Bray was here last week and we had such a great visit. You can see and read all about her Southern gastronomic finds on her blog. Give her a week or so, though, as she’s still traveling but in the meantime, you can read all about her Seattle and Portland finds. She has a beautiful site. Luckily she has been to Nashville several times before because it was the weekend of July 4th. Holidays in Nashville are a little sleepy compared to all the other days of the year. We did manage to hear Grant play with Jon Byrd one day and get in some 4th of July honky-tonkin’. Plus, we went kayaking on the Duck River and we made her a traditional all-American meal of… Fish Tacos!!! Heehee.

We finally found a good non-genetically modified corn masa made from Bob’s Red Mill and it makes delicious fresh corn tortillas! Grant made the best talapia and sauteed onion filling which we topped with avocados, salsa, cabbage, and creme fraiche.

I’ve been listening to Welder, the new cd from the lovely, talented and hysterically funny Elizabeth Cook. I loved her last album, Balls, but this one is even better, in my opinion. She is a super smart, funny and a genuinely warm-hearted Southerner and this new album shows all those sides of her personality in rare form. She’s doing it all her own way which I love and admire. Quick, go buy her new cd NOW! You can thank me later.

Elizabeth Cook, Tim Carroll, Elizabeth's Dad at The Station Inn Welder cd release May 2010

SO, I have a produce addiction. I can’t stop buying fresh local produce. I walk past it and have to buy it. I LOVE SUMMER for this very reason- everything tastes so good. You hardly have to even cook at all- you just eat it raw or mix a couple fruits or veggies together and voila, dinner is served! I realized that with all I had picked up at the Farmer’s Market, The Turnip Truck, and then what has finally started to ripen in our own little garden, we had a surplus so my brain went into overdrive and I came up with some new recipes. Here is what we’ve been eating…

We’ve been enjoying grilled sandwiches with grilled bread, eggplant, and zucchini; fresh basil from the garden; heirloom cherry tomatoes; local goat’s milk feta; cucumbers; and raw fermented carrots. YUM!

I have been totally inspired by tomatoes! I forgot how good tomatoes are until I moved back to the south a few years back. You’ve never fully tasted how good a tomato can be until you’ve had a southern tomato. We also have a prolific amount of basil in our garden right now so the other day, noticing we had some salad greens that needed to be eaten and also some chicken breasts, I made a yummy tomato basil dressing by sauteing some chopped tomatoes and garlic and then adding in a little brown sugar, salt, pepper, apple cider vinegar, and extra virgin olive oil.

I then made a batter to dunk the chicken into (I should have soaked it for a couple hours but didn’t plan ahead) consisting of buttermilk, an egg, and some hot sauce. I made a flour mixture of White Lily flour, thyme from the garden, paprika, salt and pepper. I dunked the chicken in the egg batter and then in the flour mixture and fried it in some grape seed oil on med high heat.

Finally, I topped the salad with fried chicken and homemade tomato basil dressing! Delicious! The leftover dressing made a great marinade and cooking base for shrimp the next day.

And then I was trying to figure out a great way to eat all this summer squash we’ve acquired. Here’s my newest risotto creation- Southern Summer Risotto! I first roasted some cut tomatoes and garlic in the oven at 400 degrees for about 20-30 minutes. I then pureed that with some vegetable stock, adding a teaspoon of sugar and some salt and fresh ground pepper. I used this for my stock needed for making the risotto. Next I sauteed a Vidalia onion that I had cut into half rings and all of my summer squash that I had cut in rounds.

Then I started making my risotto in a separate pan. Once the risotto was just about done, I mixed in some shredded Parmesan Reggiano and then poured the risotto into a bowl with the squash and onions. I stirred it gently and then added fresh chopped basil. The essence of summer in the South all mixed up in the form of a risotto! I thought it was brilliant. We enjoyed it with some sauteed shrimp that had been marinating in the leftover tomato basil dressing I made the night before. This turned out to be a beautiful tomato infused dinner.

I will close with another new cd recommendation and the title of this post, Tennessee Stomp by Hillbilly Casino! These guys are some of the nicest, most talented, most energetic, and hard working musicians in Nashville who are also doing it all their way. Their new cd is really fun and although it has leanings towards rock-a-billy, it is much more layered and less genre-oriented than that. One of my favorite songs is a song about John Rich getting his comeuppance down on Broadway. This song features backing vocals from Dale Watson. You’re going to want to own a copy of this cd, too, so go buy it now! We went to their cd release party last night at FooBar in which Nashville’s latest genre crossover craze, Country Metal, made its debut with the band Motorhome! They are awesome. OK, I am a little biased as Grant provides the Country element of the band. You probably need to check them out for yourself.

And, to end on a sweet culinary note… We usually are treated to homemade cinnamon roll goodness only once a year as my Mom traditionally blesses us all with her amazing rolls. These are a treat and as we’ve gotten older, we look forward to these just as we did presents as kids. Well, we truly got Christmas in July this weekend when our friend Geoff Firebaugh from Hillbilly Casino invited us over for some of his wife, Mel’s cinnamon rolls. They were vegan with a coffee icing on top. He had talked them up so much that Grant and I both feared they couldn’t possibly live up to the anticipation but they exceeded our expectations and were fabulous! Thank you Mel!

And what’s better than ending on a sweet note? How about two sweet notes, kind of like second dessert! I have a cookbook that my Mom made for me comprised of all of her recipes and our family recipes. This book is one of those things I would grab if there was an emergency and I only had time to grab a few personal belongings. It is that special. One of the recipes in it is my Granddaddy’s second wife’s (we called her Mother Margaret) recipe for Apple Pie. It is a custard type pie. I make it often and it has become one of our favorites which is odd because it is the only good thing Mother Margaret ever cooked. She was known for her lime green jello salads and her version of Hamburger Helper which we referred to, lovingly and never to her face, as Opossum Helper because she cooked it so long the pasta began to break down. Anyway, this pie is good! With all the berries in season, however, I had no desire to make an apple pie so one day, in the shower, it hit me- what if I made a strawberry custard pie?! So, I tried it. It was pretty good- especially for not looking at any pre-existing recipes beforehand. I think I can come up with a better one maybe but for now, we are enjoying this one. Recipe is as follows.

Strawberry Custard Pie

1 cup organic cane sugar
3 tbsp flour
2 eggs beaten
1/2 cup melted unsalted organic butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups cut strawberries

See recipe for pie dough from May post. Please don’t use a store-bought crust. Mix sugar and flour together and then add melted butter and eggs. Add cinnamon and vanilla and then stir in strawberries. Pour into unbaked pie crust. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes. Reduce oven heat to 350 and bake for 30-35 minutes.

Roundin’ Up Some Fun!

OH, a week of the summer blahs and then…

Our first Red Barn Round-Up of the summer was last week and it was a perfect Round-Up. I mean, what Round-Up isn’t perfect at the Red Barn? Oh, wait- the one that got canceled because of a snow storm, that one wasn’t perfect. Anyway, I digress. This particular Round-Up was most certainly perfect. Our musical guest was the crazy talented Chris Scruggs who besides being able to play most any instrument extremely well and having a great new album out of his own music, also surrounds himself with some of Nashville’s most revered country and bluegrass musicians. We were so lucky!

First of all there was our friend and neighbor, Buddy Spicher who is a legendary fiddler.

He is amazing and he gives really great hugs! Just to give you a tiny glimpse of Buddy’s history, I found this amazing old footage:

Buddy has played with everyone including these fine folks- Webb Pierce, Ray Price, Bill Monroe, Kitty Wells, Jimmy Martin, Hank Snow, Bob Wills, Hank Thompson, The Rolling Stones, Crystal Gayle, The Osborne Brothers, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson- just to name a few. He is a Nashville Cat for sure!

On steel guitar was Billy Robinson who is a member of The Steel Guitar Hall of Fame.

Billy was also a member of The Grand Ole Opry band for many years and traveled the world over playing with the likes of Hank Williams, George Morgan, Hank Snow, Little Jimmy Dickens and Carl Smith. I think Billy and his wife Carolyn will become Red Barn Round-Up regulars! (I sure hope so.)

Also in Chris’ band was one of Grant’s heros, Andy Reiss, on guitar. Andy is a top Nashville session player and one of the very best in town. He is a Grammy nominated member of the great Western Swing band, The Time Jumpers. On bass was IBMA’s bass player of the year countless times, Mike Bub. Mike is also a top session player who spent 13 years on the road with Del McCoury and has played with just about everybody who is anybody in town. He just so happens to also be a neighbor. And on rhythm guitar was Rob Price who is also a well sought after session player and can often be found playing bass for Gail Davies.

Words cannot even appropriately describe how delighted we were to have these musicians play for us and our little party. What an amazing day in the neighborhood!

And if the music wasn’t enough, everyone brought food! I made a couple mixed berry pies- blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries.

There was Allison’s key lime pies, Zana’s cupcakes, Leah’s banana pudding, Catherine’s famous corn dip, Holly’s jalapeno pimento cheese, fried chicken, and so many other amazing dishes! One of my favorite salads was a simple one made of- watermelon, cucumbers, jalapenos, and fresh mint! I can’t stop thinking about it!

The rest of the week, Grant took over as head chef at our house but I was there to document. Never fear, the camera was near. Speaking of which, you wouldn’t believe the patience Grant has gained. Poor Grant. Many a night he has to wait to take his first bite as I capture the perfect photograph of our food. If you know Grant and his love of food and his kinetic energy, you understand how amazing this must be. Thanks Grant! So, back to his amazing culinary creations…  I bought a whole (Springer Mountain Farms) chicken this week and Grant smoked it to perfection. He dry rubbed the chicken in his special Big Smokey spice rub and let it sit over night. He then smoked it over mesquite for 3 hours. Next he sauced it with a homemade sauce (see ingredients below) and let it stand in foil for about half an hour.

To accompany the chicken, he made a yummy red & green cabbage with shredded carrots slaw and some bbq kidney beans. He soaked the kidney beans in water for a day and then boiled them to get them a little softer and to the right texture. He roasted some cherry tomatoes at 375 for about 30-40 minutes and then pureed them in the pan with a whisk and deglazed the pan by adding some cane sugar, apple cider vinegar and a little molasses (sort of a homemade ketchup). He sauteed chopped green bell pepper and onion in an iron skillet with a tiny bit of bacon fat (you can substitute a teaspoon of butter). He then put the beans (with a of the little bean juice), the sauteed veggies, the homemade tomatoes in a casserole dish with some sea salt, black pepper, dry mustard, and garlic powder. He baked it for about 2 hours at 300. They were delicious and kidney beans are super nutritious!

Also on our plates this week were green peppers from our garden, the first peaches from South Carolina (because those are the very best- thanks Seth!), and kale from Delvin Farms!

And speaking of the Delvins, I also got some of these delicious little red potatoes that magically are yellow on the inside and so buttery and delicious. Grant sauteed them up and we had them with sauteed kale and chicken sausages one night.

All for now- but looking forward to some fun weekend music, cooking and eating! And I will close this post with my favorite refreshing cocktail concoction of the week.