Summer Dill Recipes & Pedal Steel Awesomeness


For the past few years, we have had a raised garden bed. In years past, we’ve planted squash, tomatoes, cukes, okra, and always a few herbs. What usually happens is, as the summer progresses we get busy and our beautiful little garden grows faster and faster and suddenly, it turns into a jungle and we get completely overwhelmed. This year, we decided to sign up for our friends’ CSA and take a step back on our own garden. We only planted herbs and sunflowers which has been much more manageable. And we’ve eaten so many herbs and found so many new uses for all of them.


Here are a few of our current favorite recipes using fresh dill. Dill is a member of the parsley family and a native to the Mediterranean region. In addition to all the many culinary uses, it also has some health benefits. The leaves have been known to stimulate the appetite and settle digestion, induce sleep, clear up halitosis, and it also has a high vitamin content.

Dill flowers

Grant came up with most of these. He’s a wizard in the kitchen! We usually discuss them together and come up with a good plan but this first one was all him.

Smashed Dill Potatoes
8 small-medium Red Potatoes
4 Tbsp Butter
3 Tbsp Fresh Dill, roughly chopped
Salt & Pepper

Boil the potatoes whole in a large pan until done, approximately 20 minutes or so. Drain immediately. Run the potatoes under cool water to stop cooking process. Set aside. Let cool. In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium high heat. Take each potato and smash them slightly between both hands until they are somewhat flattened. Place potatoes in the pan of butter. Season with salt and pepper to your liking as they cook. Let the potatoes get a deep golden brown and then flip. You can add a little more butter if necessary to keep the pan from getting too dry. When the potatoes are done, sprinkle in the chopped dill. Adjust seasoning if needed. Serve.


Smashed Dill Potatoes

We eat so many salads in the summer. Usually we just make a simple herbed vinaigrette type of dressing. Every once in awhile, though, a creamy dressing is delicious! This dill dressing was so yummy, we made it twice in the last couple of weeks- once served with a simple cucumber and tomato salad and another time with smoked salmon and homemade croutons made with leftover Bella sourdough bread.

Salad bowl

Fresh Dill Dressing
3 sprigs Fresh Dill, finely chopped
1 Tbsp Fresh Chives, finely chopped
1 clove Garlic, finely chopped
2 Tbsp Greek Yogurt
2 Tbsp Mayonnaise
3+ Tbsp Buttermilk
Salt & Pepper


Combine all ingredients in a small food processor. Add more buttermilk if it seems too thick. Salt and pepper to taste. Makes enough for one big salad or you can use it as a dip for raw vegetables.

Salad w Salmon

We tend to use mostly the leaves or fronds of the dill plant. It is common to use the flowers with the seeds for pickling. The flowering part has a much stronger flavor and can be a bit bitter to taste. I love the beautiful flowers in the garden, though. They look like fireworks!

Dill backlit

Refrigerator Pickled Dill Green Beans
Makes 3 pint jars
1-2 lbs Green Beans, trimmed (enough to fit into 3 pint jars)
3 cloves Garlic, sliced
3 sprigs of Fresh Dill
1-3 tsp Red Pepper Flakes (depending on how hot you like it)
1 tsp Black Peppercorns
5 cups White or Cider Vinegar (or a combination of both)
5 cups Water
1/4 cup Salt


Place 1 sliced garlic clove and 1 sprig of dill in each jar. Divide the pepper flakes and peppercorns between each jar. Fill each jar with the beans. Boil the vinegar, water, and salt until the salt has dissolved. Immediately fill each jar with the brine. Let cool, cover, and refrigerate. They are usually ready to eat after a day and should stay good in the refrigerator for about a month.

This has become one of our favorite ways to eat salmon. It is so simple and fresh and perfect for summer.

Salmon marinating

Salmon Marinated in Vodka & Dill
Serves 4
1 lb. Salmon Filets
1/4 cup Olive Oil
1/4 cup Vodka
2 Tbsp Fresh Dill, chopped
2 cloves Garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp ground Black Pepper

Salmon Cooking

Whisk together oil, vodka, dill, garlic, salt & pepper in a bowl to create a marinade. Place salmon in the marinade, flesh side down. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 2 hours. Remove salmon from the marinade (but save the marinade) and grill, broil, or pan-fry the salmon flesh side down until flesh is browned (4-5 minutes) and then flip over and finish cooking skin side down for another few minutes. For the last 2 minutes, pour the marinade over the salmon.

And for a refreshing cocktail or after dinner sip…

Cucumber Dill Aquavit
1 750 ml bottle high quality Vodka (Absolute or Tito’s)
1/2 medium sized Cucumber, sliced thinly and then chopped
4 sprigs fresh Dill

Empty a few ounces of vodka out of the bottle (maybe make yourself a nice Vodka Tonic to start?). Add the dill and cucumber to the bottle with remaining vodka. Let it steep for a few days, up to one week. Then, strain out the vodka and discard the cucumber and dill. Freeze the vodka. Sip as is or make a delicious cocktail out of the Aquavit.

Poster for the Nashville event.

Poster for the Nashville event.

This week we are going to a benefit for The Nikki Mitchell Foundation. I’ve mentioned our beautiful friend Nikki many times. This week marks the anniversary of her passing and we are thrilled that her friend Rhonda continues her courageous fight for pancreatic cancer awareness. On the bill for the concert this week, among others, is Chris Stapleton. He is a great writer in town. We first took notice of his incredible voice when he was with The Steeldrivers. I started thinking about him and looked up to see all of his recordings. I noticed he was on a Buddy Emmons Tribute album that came out last year. It’s a fun album. You can check it out here. This reminded me of the time I was lucky enough to see Buddy play with Johnny Bush (for free!) at the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree about 6 or 7 years ago.


And then that made me think about our friend Brett Resnick. He’s turning into one hot-shot pedal steel player.

Brett at Santas

We met Brett, also, at Santa’s Pub. He is a fantastic new player and over the last year and a half since we’ve known him, we’ve seen him continue to get better and better. You can see him playing with all sorts of folks around town. He’s also been featured on several new albums I have mentioned over the last few months.

BrettResnick 3-29-14


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.


You will also need these two delicious 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.


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.


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.



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


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.


Don’t Forget to Eat Your Veggies!

Photo 1- Carrots & Beets

We’ve been eating so many vegetables lately. We always have but the last few months, I decided to challenge myself to just add more and more so that each meal is packed with vitamins and nutrients. I want to really see a difference in how I feel because of what I am eating- but I still want eating to be fun. This can sometimes be a bit of a challenge in the winter when not as much good local produce is available but I’ve really enjoyed the winter veggies I have found- especially those root veggies! This first salad is so colorful and it is all raw and made me feel so good.

Raw Beet & Carrot Salad with Horseradish Vinaigrette
4 Carrots, cut into matchsticks
2 Beets, sliced into rounds and then into matchsticks
1 bunch Cilantro
1 Tbsp Prepared Horseradish
2 cloves Garlic
juice of 1 Lime
½ Avocado
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 Tbsp Water
1 tsp Honey
Sea Salt

Place the carrots and beets in a big bowl. Mix all the other ingredients together in a blender or food processor. Pour the vinaigrette over the beets and carrots and stir.

Photo 2- Beet Salad

This next salad has been a favorite of ours the last couple weeks. I got the idea from our dear friend Ali Marie, half of the super couple behind Dolan Geiman Art. I write for their blog once a month and in between blog posts and real life visits, we share recipe ideas. I altered it a bit just simply based on what we had in our kitchen. She likes to use spinach and add green onions to hers and uses a ginger vinaigrette on top. I added kale, garlic, lemon, and parsley all of which we eat a ton of. I decided to call it a chop salad sort of mockingly. I have always thought the name “chop salad” was funny and when I was a cheese monger back in Seattle, I had to also slice deli meat. Older wealthy women would come in and tell me they were making a “chop salad” and as they said those words, they all seemed to make a chopping motion with their hand. But since this salad does require lots of fine chopping, it seemed an appropriate name. The mint gives it a refreshing feel and a hint of Spring. It is so tasty!

Photo 3- Salad

Spring is Coming Chop Salad
3 Carrots, finely chopped
4-6 Radish, finely chopped
1 clove Garlic, crushed and finely chopped
3-5 Kale Leaves, washed well, middle vein/stem removed, and finely chopped
6 Romaine Leaves, washed well and finely chopped
small handful of Fresh Mint, finely chopped
small handful of Fresh Parsley, finely chopped
1 big Lemon Wedge
Sea Salt & freshly ground Black Pepper
a dozen or so Toasted Almonds, chopped
a small piece of Parmesan Reggiano, chopped

Mix all the vegetables together in a big bowl. Season with salt and pepper and squeeze the lemon over. Toss. Add the almonds and cheese. Enjoy!

Speaking of Dolan Geiman’s blog, this next recipe originally appeared here (along with some other one-pot meals) a few weeks ago but I’ve made it about three times since so I thought I should share it here as well. I sometimes grocery shop for a woman in our neighborhood who isn’t able to get out much. One day she needed some lima beans and explained how she was going to prepare them which gave me the basic idea for this next soup recipe. I added the lemon and herbs. It is so very simple to make and quite delicious.

Photo 4- Lima Bean Soup

Lima Bean Soup with Bacon and Lemon
3-4 slices of Bacon (I used Cowboy Apple Smoked Bacon), cut into small pieces
1 Yellow Onion, chopped fine
juice of ½ a Lemon
small bunch of Fresh Thyme
7 cups Lima Beans (I used frozen)
1 sprig Fresh Rosemary
4 cups Vegetable Stock
Sea Salt & Freshly Ground Black Pepper

In a Dutch oven or soup pot, cook the bacon pieces on medium heat until almost done. Add the onion and stir. Cook until the onion is soft. Add the lemon juice and herbs, stirring to mix well. Add the beans and stir well. Cook for a few minutes and then add the stock and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer for about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Growing up (and still to this day), my Mom makes a yummy dish called, Party Potatoes. It is super naughty and delicious- mashed Russet potatoes mixed with french onion dip, sour cream, and then covered with grated cheddar cheese and baked in the oven. The other day, Grant and I tried out this roast chicken recipe from one of our recent Saveur magazines. They recommend serving it with herbed french fries. In our own weird way of trying to make ourselves think we were eating healthier, we decided to instead, slice the potatoes really thin with a mandoline and layer them with onions and use the same herbs suggested for the homemade fries. Then (this is where we turned and made it naughty again) we topped the dish with Comte, a French cheese similar to Gruyere. The result was delicious and reminded us of my Mom’s Party Potatoes so we named this new concoction, French Party Potatoes. It goes like this…

Photo 5- French Party Pots

French Party Potatoes
1 tsp Olive Oil
2 Russet Potatoes, very thinly sliced
1 small White Onion, very thinly sliced
1 small bunch Fresh Thyme, finely chopped (reserve one sprig for garnishing the top)
5 Tbsp Butter
¼ cup Chicken Stock
Sea Salt & freshly ground Black Pepper to taste
½ – 1 cup Comte, grated

Preheat oven to 475. Layer the potatoes, onions, thyme, salt, pepper and then place tiny pats of butter on top. Repeat layering until you have filled the dish with several layers. Pour the broth in and bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and top with cheese and a sprig of thyme. Place in the oven and cook for 15-20 minutes more until top is brown and most of the liquid has been absorbed.

I wanted to make a big pot of yummy, comforting Risotto one evening recently but I was more in an Asian food mood. I sort of hate the word “fusion” and most implications associated with it but loved the idea of this end result. So as to not conjure up ideas of restaurants with “fusion” concepts on their menu, I didn’t call this a risotto but that is in fact how I prepared this dish, just as I would have a classic risotto. It was really delicious served on top of some steamed asparagus with a little squeeze of lemon on top and a piece of Coho Salmon that had been marinated in nama shoyu (or tamari or soy sauce) and brown rice vinegar. It made for quite a colorful meal.

Photo 6- Thai Rice

Ooey Gooey Thai Rice
5 cups Vegetable Stock
1 can Coconut Milk
4 tsp Red Curry
1 tsp Roasted Red Chili Paste (optional)
2 Tbsp Brown Rice Vinegar (or lime juice)
2 Tbsp Fish Sauce
2 Tbsp Grapeseed Oil
1 Onion, finely chopped
3 cloves Garlic, crushed and chopped
1 Green Pepper, chopped
2 cups Arborio Rice
½ cup White Wine
2 Roma Tomatoes, chopped
1 small bunch Cilantro, chopped
Sea Salt & Black Pepper to taste
Red Pepper Flakes (optional)

First, make sure to do all the prep work necessary for the rest of the meal as you will need to stir for quite a long time to pull this dish off. Place the stock, coconut milk, red curry, chili paste, vinegar, and fish sauce in a pan. Heat on medium heat and then simmer. Heat a large pan or Dutch Oven on medium heat. Add the oil. Add the onion and cook for a few minutes, until it begins to soften. Add the garlic and pepper and stir. Add the rice and stir. Add the wine and stir. Gradually begin to add stock in, about half a cup at a time and continue to stir. Stir until most of the liquid is absorbed. Add another addition of stock and stir until most of the liquid is absorbed. Repeat this process until the mixture is creamy and a bit loose; the rice should still have some chew to it. The process will take about 20-30 minutes. Right when you think you are getting close, add the tomatoes, half of the cilantro (save the other half to sprinkle over the plate before serving), and the salt and pepper. Stir. Let sit for a few minutes and then serve.

This recipe made a huge pot of rice. We had enough leftovers for at least 2 more dinners later in the week. One night we made rice cakes, sauteed Brussels sprouts and iron skillet steak.

Photo 7- Rice Leftover 1

The second time, we enjoyed rice cakes again but with beets cooked with the greens and a soft fried egg on top. Despite the Asian flavors, it had a nice Mediterranean feel to it. Yum, yum, and yum!

Photo 8- Leftover Rice 2

Oh, and while we’re talking about fish, I ended up making homemade fish sticks by accident, sort of. We decided that since we cook fancy and fun meals all year long, for Valentine’s Day, we would not not do what everyone else was doing and instead we would not cook. We would revert to one of both of our childhood comfort meals- fish sticks! Ha. I was going to buy the healthier version but decided not to worry about it and go get Grant’s favorite brand, Van de Kamp’s. Apparently, these are not available in our neighborhood Kroger. So, I spent nearly 45 minutes looking for them. I finally tried to settle for one of the other brands but made the mistake of reading their ingredients. Agh! I just couldn’t buy them, especially to celebrate a holiday about love. So, neurotic as I am, I then scurried through the store and found TN farm-raised catfish and came home and spent the rest of the “relaxing” evening making homemade fishsticks! They looked more like catfish “fingers” but this brought to mind images from Okie Noodling so I decided to just call them fish sticks.

Photo 9- Fishsticks 1

Homemade Fish Sticks
1 cup All-Purpose Flour
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
1/2 tsp Smoked Paprika
1 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
1/4 tsp Black Pepper
2 Eggs, beaten
1/2 cup Bread Crumbs (of course I made it difficult and made my own but you can use Panko)
1 lb Catfish Fillets, cut into 2” strips

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the flour in one bowl and mix with the seasonings. Place the beaten eggs in another bowl. Place the bread crumbs in a third bowl. Dip each fish strip in the flour, then the egg, and then the breadcrumbs. Next, place the fish strips on a well-buttered baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, flipping them over halfway through.

Homemade Catfish Sticks, Macaroni & Cheese, and Peas.

Homemade Catfish Sticks, Macaroni & Cheese, and Peas.

February was filled with a little too much sugar as talented friends baked sweet confections to celebrate Mardi Gras.

Photo 11- Feb Desserts

Our friend Nicole makes the most delicious King Cakes and our friend Krysta makes her Polish grandmother’s recipe for Paczkis every Fat Tuesday, one day only. We got to her house just in time to have a bite of the very last one…

Photo 12- Cookies

And then I got addicted to this wonderful recipe for Sorghum Graham Cookies that my pastry chef friend, Rebekah, shared with me for a December blog post. They are amazing with this delicious Jim Beam Rye.

And I’ll end this post with a musical recommendation- Canadian Daniel Romano. He came through Nashville last week and jump started my musical outings. They’d been a little sparse lately but not because there wasn’t any to go see. I feel like a turtle who has just decided to poke my head out of my shell.

Photo 13- Daniel Romano

Definitely catch his show if he comes through your town. He has crafted some really clever songs and is quite a fancy dresser to boot!

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


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!


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.


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!


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.



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!

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!

Family + Food = Vacation!

Money is tight these days. Our summer “vacations” have been as simple as a nice dinner out, fun with visitors, or country drives. We also managed to get in a couple recent family visits. One such trip to upstate South Carolina to visit my family produced some excellent culinary memories for me. My Sis took me out for an early Birthday celebration at one of the best restaurants the South has to offer, American Grocer, in Greenville, S.C. (recently reviewed in Garden & Gun’s profile on Greenville, too). We had an amazing meal. They source as much local produce and meat as possible. Their menu is well thought out and very seasonal. Each course was paired with a special wine selected especially for us. The service was stellar and the food divine. What a treat- I love this place!

Sadly, the only photos I captured. I was too preoccupied with the food!

The next morning, my brother-in-law took me to the big farmer’s market in the old, newly renovated downtown area of Greenville. He warned me ahead of time, “It isn’t that big really.” Boy was I surprised. This was one of largest local farmer’s markets I have ever seen! True to Greenville’s nature, it seemed well organized, too, with little printed banners for each farmer’s stall. There was a fantastic looking stall with homemade pasta, tons of heirloom tomatoes, corn, artisan cheese, and some of those famous South Carolina peaches- a personal favorite of mine. I also realized Greenville has a couple other weekly farmer’s markets- a “slow food” one and an organic one at the Shi Center for Sustainability at Furman University. Go Greenville!

Greenville's downtown Saturday farmer's market.

The next day, I got to help my Mom make one of her famous pound cake recipes! Growing up, we spent many weekends in the mountains of Virginia with my Mom’s family. She would always bake a homemade pound cake to take my Nana. One of my favorites was her brown sugar pound cake with caramel icing! Not being much of a cake baker myself, I thought it was high time for me to start learning all of her secrets so I asked her to let me help her bake one. We had so much fun! And, we decided to serve it that night with some of those S.C. peaches I had brought her from the farmer’s market. Delicious!

Mom's kitchen.

Mom’s Brown Sugar Pound Cake

½ lb butter
½ cup vegetable shortening
1 box and 1 cup brown sugar
5 eggs
1 cup milk
3 ½ cups flour
½ tsp baking powder
1 ¼ tsp vanilla extract

Bake in well greased and floured tube pan at 325 degrees for 1 ½ hours.
(I don’t usually use vegetable shortening but I am not an experienced cake baker and haven’t yet experimented with ways around this… stay tuned for more details or if you have any suggestions, please let me know.)

A week ago, we returned from a trip to the Pacific Northwest.

Old familiar views on the drive over to West Seattle. The Mountain taunted and teased us!

The impetus for our trip was to visit Grant’s ailing parents so the majority of our time was spent with family but we so seldom get to visit the great Pacific Northwest that we managed to get at least short visits in with most of our favorite PNW people. We just so happened to be there the most beautiful week of the entire year which made us even more homesick.

And true to our nature, we somehow managed to cram in many delicious meals…

We were only in Seattle for two whole days really, one on each end of our visit, and I think we spent a good bit of that time sipping coffee and enjoying food with family and friends. Right off the plane, Bray & Kathy whisked me off to Volunteer Park Cafe for a delicious fig, caramelized onion jam, and gorgonzola pizza accompanied by this amazing fennel artichoke salad which was followed by my first visit to Molly Moon’s for ice cream (In case you were wondering, I had the salted caramel which was divine!). Oh how I miss these type of gatherings with these two over food.

Before heading up to Whidbey Island to visit the family the next day, Bray took me to Eltana in Capitol Hill for wood fired bagels with the most delicious spreads! My favorite was the fava bean mint. I grabbed a dozen bagels and a yummy apricot fig compote to take to enjoy with Grant’s family.

A little while later, for a belated anniversary dinner, Grant and I stopped in the International District for some salt & pepper squid, hand-shaved barley green noodles, and the best Chinese green beans at one of our old favorite spots, Shanghai Garden. Grant says this place has been around since he was a kid.

The majority of our visit was spent with family up on Whidbey Island, which was a perfect retreat from our 90-100 degree summer in Nashville. I’ve always loved the Skagit Valley area on the drive from Seattle to Whidbey Island but this trip cemented my love!

Up on Whidbey Island, we shopped at the Coupeville farmer’s market where we bought perfect blueberries and the biggest blackberries we have ever seen! These made the most perfect pies to take to Grant’s parents.

Our niece Adrienne just got accepted to Whitman College in Walla Walla where it is customary to send each incoming freshman a box of Walla Walla sweet onions. My sister-in-law had a field day with these and fried up the most delicious, light onion rings I have ever tasted!

Being back at the ocean, we had lots of delicious fresh seafood!

Those world famous Penn Cove Mussels are from Whidbey Island. I love that area!

One night we went to an art opening at a friend’s gallery in Anacortes and got dinner at Adrift. We had clams and halibut, at last! (We don’t typically ever eat these in middle Tennessee.)

Grant even managed to squeeze in time for a gig with Knut Bell at the Conway Pub. I love Conway! And not only did I get to hear that great big Skagit Valley voice of Knut’s and see Grant tear it up on guitar in his home territory, but I also had fried oysters for the first time. Ohh, they were really good and apparently, Conway Pub’s specialty.

The day before we left to return to Tennessee, we crammed in lunch at a new restaurant all our friends have bragged about- Revel in Fremont. This is a modern take on Korean food and oh, so delicious. This last day was so fun food filled that it was like two vacations in one!

Then later that evening, our friends Lewis & Shirley cooked up a feast for us. First we had an afternoon cocktail. Shirley concocted this refreshing (and slightly decadent) peach cocktail which I think she said was inspired by a feature on a cooking show she had recently seen. She named it, “Kentucky Peach Potion” in honor of her sister who had just recently visited from Kentucky.

Shirley’s Kentucky Peach Potion
serves 4
½ can sweetened condensed milk
1 tray sweet tea ice cubes (obviously, make these ahead of time)
2 peaches, pealed and sliced
4 oz (1/4 cup) Maker’s Mark bourbon
4 big mint leaves, chopped + a few more leaves for garnish
1 Tbsp honey or agave

Mix all in a blender and pour into a pretty glass. Top with a mint leaf.

We had one more seafood treat before returning to land-locked Tennessee, locally caught grilled King salmon with an arugula pistachio compound butter that Lew had whipped up. It was beautiful and paired so nicely with the fish. They served it up with simply blanched green cauliflower they had picked up at the farmer’s market and Grant’s favorite smashed potatoes. Lew was kind enough to share his compound butter recipe with us. I believe this recipe was originally from a Sunset Magazine.

Arugula & Pistachio Compound Butter
1/4 cup shelled, roasted unsalted pistachios
1 cup arugula
1/4 cup butter, softened.

Whirl pistachios and arugula in a food processor until minced.  Add butter and whirl until smooth, scraping down inside of bowl as needed. He added salt and then formed it into a log and wrapped it in parchment paper.

Lew & Shirley didn’t know what we were going to cook before we all went to one of our favorite grocery stores ever, The Ballard Market, for ingredients that day. At some point along the way, Shirley insisted they make Pavlova for dessert. With the sweetest, kindest, high voice, she kept saying, “PAVLOOOOVAH!” I couldn’t wait to taste this masterpiece. This recipe came from one of their many cookbooks, The Gourmet Cookbook by Ruth Reichl. (I chose to leave the description in from the cookbook because I thought it was so funny!) By the way, this dessert was named after the Russian ballet dancer, Anna Pavlova.

With billows of soft whipped cream, crunchy meringue and smooth fruits, these pavlovas feel like a miracle in the mouth, slipping smoothly from one sensation to another.  The vinegar in the meringue makes it crispy outside while it stays chewy within.  Although this Australian classic will be welcomed wherever it goes, its ruffly white beauty makes it the perfect production for a bridal shower.

4 large egg whites, left at room temperature for 30 minutes
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cram of tartar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp distilled white vinegar
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp vanilla extract

for whipped topping:
1 1/2 cups very cold heavy cream
2 Tbsp confectioners’ sugar (optional)

Put rack in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 250 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. Beat egg whites, salt and cream of tartar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until whites just hold soft peaks.  Add the granulated sugar a little at a time, beating at low speed, then beat at high speed until meringue holds stiff, glossy peaks, about 2 minutes.  Beat in vinegar, cornstarch and vanilla. With back of a spoon, spread meringue into 3 1/2-inch rounds on baking sheet, making a slight depression in center of each (to hold fruit).  Bake until crisp on outside but soft in middle, about 1 hour. (Lewis cooks it until it is slightly brown because he likes the texture better that way and Lew is one smart cookie when it comes to food and coffee so just do it the way he does!) Carefully peel parchment from meringues and cool meringues on a rack for at least 20 minutes. (They let theirs cool and the parchment peeled off just fine.) Beat cream with confectioners’ sugar, if using, in a large bowl until it just holds stiff peas.  Serve meringues topped with fruit ad whipped cream. (Shirley likes the fruit cooked down just a bit first. They used blackberries and peaches. It was yummy!)

Ollie helped with the dessert assemblage!

For way more detailed foodie info from the great Pacific Northwest (and beyond!), you must spend some time with one of my very best buddy’s blog- Bray Hayden blog.

And speaking of Greenville… our friend and Greenville native, Nikki Lane has a killer new video out. It’s part cool biker-chic and part Hee-Haw Honey. Check it out!

Plus, we were blessed to have Nikki and the amazing Carey Kotsionis play our little Red Barn Round-Up last month. You can find both of their music here:
Nikki Lane
Carey Kotsionis

Oh, I so typed way too much here. I think I was just trying to make up for all that time between posts! If you happen to have read all the way to the end you must truly be a good friend. I promise to work on short and simple informative posts from here on out!

Happy vacation, whether you actually get to travel or not.

Anxiously Awaiting Those Summer Vegetables…

Spring is rapidly moving into Summer as the cicada songs continue to fill the Nashville air and last evening, one lone lightning bug appeared in our yard. The local neighborhood farmer’s markets are just starting up and now we sit and anxiously await as the summer produce comes rolling in! Here’s a sampling of what we’ve been cooking up in the mean time…

I’ve really been on a salad dressing kick lately.

Beet & Humboldt Fog cheese salad with Herby Tangerine Vinaigrette

As a child growing up in South Carolina, we spent many weekends and weeks during the summer visiting my grandparents in rural Virginia. Papa had a huge farm with lots of yummy vegetables. Nana made a big pan of cornbread and cooked up all those veggies every day at noon for dinner. (Super was a snack and usually eaten around 5pm). On Sundays she even made homemade fried chicken! One thing she always had was a simple salad made of fresh lettuce from the garden and spring onions with a drizzle of warm vinaigrette consisting of apple cider vinegar, a little sugar, vegetable oil, salt and pepper. The warm vinaigrette would very gently wilt some of the lettuce. This always smelled so good to me but as a child yet I never ate it because I wouldn’t eat raw onions. As an adult, I have often thought back on that simple salad as I would really enjoy it now. Last weekend while visiting my Mom, she had lettuce from Mary Bauld’s garden and some spring onions from her garden so I suggested she make it as I wasn’t even really sure how Nana made the vinaigrette. It was delicious! We added cucumbers at my request.

A simple delight and a nice accompaniment to all those great summer vegetables. The vinegar just feels so cleansing, too. It is so easy to eat a more vegetarian diet during the summer.

What’s delicious with grilled meat, almost as tasty as mashed potatoes but way more nutritious, and orange all over? Butternut Squash Mash! I keep trying to come up with delicious and different ways to enjoy squash. I dearly love yellow summer squash but I am not a huge fan of other squash and neither is Grant, yet, squash is so nutritious and very plentiful and it is easy to find locally grown so we really want to incorporate more into our diet. Here’s a super easy, delicious side dish that lends itself easily to many exciting variations. The squash gets so soft when roasted that it isn’t even necessary to add stock or milk to thin it out before mashing. I used herbs and roasted garlic to spice it up but you could also use some blue cheese or gruyere, add some caramelized sweet onions, etc…

Butternut Squash Mash

1 butternut squash, cut in half with seeds scooped out
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
5 cloves roasted garlic
herbs de Provence
sea salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 450. Place squash halves face down in an oven proof baking dish and fill with about 1” water. Roast in oven for about 45 minutes. About 15 minutes into the roasting, place a head of garlic (with the top cut off and a little olive oil drizzled over) into the oven on a piece of foil, a dish or on a cookie sheet. Remove squash and garlic from oven and discard the remaining water from the dish. Turn the squash over, let cool a little. Be careful, it will be very hot. Scoop out the insides of the squash into a bowl. Add butter, 5 cloves of the roasted garlic. Toss in a few pinches of herbs de Provence, salt, and pepper. Mash squash and stir to mix it all together.

Another great for you but not always the tastiest of ingredients to us is quinoa. Grant, in particular, is not fond of quinoa so from time to time, I try to come up with some new way to disguise it. Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) was the principal grain of the Incas. (It’s ancient!) Botanically, however, it isn’t really a grain at all. It belongs to the Chenopodium family which also includes beets, spinach, chard, and sugar beets. It is very easy and quick to prepare and it is packed with numerous health benefits. It is known as a high energy food and easy to digest. Quinoa offers a great amount of high quality protein and amino acids. It has more calcium than milk and it is rich in minerals. The below recipe even got Grant’s approval, although, I’m pretty sure one could mix any number of ingredients, stuff it in a pepper, and top with cheese and the end result would be quite satisfying.

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers
I cooked up the quinoa following the directions on the package. I used red quinoa, which is really pretty. I sauteed some onion and mixed it and the quinoa with the following- frozen corn, raw chopped spinach, a can of diced green chilis, chopped cherry tomatoes, sea salt and pepper, ground cumin, and some grated sharp cheddar cheese. I cut the peppers in half and then stuffed each half with the mixture. I then placed the peppers in a baking dish, covered with foil, and baked at 350 for 45 minutes to an hour. I then removed the foil and topped each with a little more shredded cheese and baked for about 10-15 minutes more. These made for a colorful and quite tasty little side dish!

Oh asparagus, how I love you! Every Spring, I can never get enough. Asparagus originated in the desert regions of North Africa and was used medicinally long before it was enjoyed as a vegetable. The Greeks and Romans used it for relieving pain from toothaches and for preventing bee stings. The actual medicinal property of asparagus is a substance called asparagine. It is nature’s most effective kidney diuretic, breaking up any oxalic and uric acid crystals stored in the kidneys and muscles and eliminating them through the urine (thus the sometimes strong odor in urine!). Asparagus helps to fight against cancer as it is chocked full of vitamins A and C, as well as folic acid and Vitamins B1, B2, and B3. That’s a lot of B! We love asparagus simply steamed with some lemon, salt and pepper but we also throw it into salads and risottos such as in this recipe below…

Seafood Risotto
serves 4-6

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 small Vidalia onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
2 cups arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
6 cups chicken or seafood stock
12 Asparagus spears, cut in small pieces
fresh herbs (I used parsley & thyme), chopped
zest of 1 lemon
1-1 ½ cups Parmesan Reggiano, grated
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 can baby clams (mix the juice with the stock)
12-16 fresh (or freshly thawed) shrimp
½ lb fresh bay scallops
juice of half a lemon

The key to cooking risotto is to stir constantly so be sure to have all ingredients prepped ahead of time. Heat stock in medium sauce pan. Add sea salt and pepper and the clam juice. Stir. Once it comes to a boil, lower temperature to simmer. Heat oil in large flat pan on medium heat. Add onion and saute. Add garlic and mushrooms. Stir. Cook for a couple minutes. Add rice. Stir. Add wine and stir until wine is absorbed. Gradually begin to add stock in, about half a cup at a time and continue to stir. Stir until most of the liquid is absorbed. Add another addition of stock and stir until most of the liquid is absorbed. Repeat this process until the mixture is creamy and a bit loose; the rice should still have some chew to it. The process will take about 20 minutes. Right when you think you are getting close, add the asparagus. Meanwhile, in another sauce pan, heat butter and add the seafood in. Add the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Add chopped herbs, lemon zest, and parmesan to risotto and stir. Once seafood is done, add it to risotto.

Seafood Risotto served with slow cooked sliced carrots and shallots in butter.

Don’t forget that left over risotto makes yummy risotto cakes!!!

I found the first peaches of the season and made some peach and blackberry pies for my family while in S.C.!

This week we look forward to our buddy, Knut Bell’s return to Nashville. You can read more about this great big old school country voice from the Pacific Northwest on Grant’s blog here.

Knut Bell- Nashville, April 2011

For The Good Times

2009- Ray Price talking with Eddie Stubbs @ CMHF on his friendship and work with Hank Williams.

We moved to Nashville five years ago in June. My sister got us tickets to our very first show at the Ryman Auditorium for my Birthday that July. We saw the amazing Ray Price! It was such an exciting night. We got all dressed up. Our seats were perfect- right up front on the floor and a little to the left side. As we walked in and got situated on our pew, the older woman beside me leaned over and said, “They let you in? Did they card y’all?” I have to admit, I did feel like a spring chicken in that crowd. Ray Price is one of our favorites so we knew we needed to see him but we had no idea his voice was still so strong at 80 years old (he’s 85 now and still going strong). What an amazing voice and a backing band of top notch A-list players that would have made any performer jealous. Our friend Buddy Spicher was one of several fiddle players.

Here’s a youtube find from the same year of one of my favorite Ray Price songs…

And here’s a clip I found from 1962 which features Buddy Emmons on pedal steel!

A few weeks ago, Grant got the opportunity to play with an incredible steel guitar player named Danny Muhammad. Danny Muhammad is one of Ray Price’s steel players.

Danny & Grant playing with Sarah Gayle Meech @ Bluegrass Inn

What a treat to get to see him play. He is such an amazing player and looks like he has so much fun. Danny is a little more animated than most pedal steel players. As I listened to him play, I was reminded of the very first time Grant and I saw Danny Muhammad back when we first moved to Nashville and Danny was playing in one of the honky-tonks down on Lower Broadway. He had a telecaster strapped to his chest, a pedal steel in front of him, and a sandwich in one hand. We remembered being totally impressed with his ability to multi-task AND play pedal steel so well! This, my friends, brings me to the food portion of my blog (nice transition, eh?)…

Grant just celebrated a Birthday and we have a tradition of allowing the Birthday person to make all the decisions for the whole week- the important decisions such as what to eat and what fun we should get into! Grant loves fish sandwiches so I decided it was time for me to learn how to make a good fish sandwich. They were quite delicious. Here’s what I did…

Fish Sandwiches
2-4 pieces Talapia
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup medium corn meal
1 Tbsp sea salt
1 Tbsp black pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cane sugar
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk
dash Tabasco
grapeseed oil for frying

Mix flour, corn meal, and spices (salt-sugar) in a bowl. (Note: All these spices can be adjusted to your taste.) In another bowl, mix together egg, buttermilk, and hot sauce. Heat oil in a frying pan on medium high. Dip fish in buttermilk mixture and then in the flour mixture. Place in hot oil. Fry fish for about 3 minutes on each side- until coating is golden brown. Serve on a good quality bun with mustard, pickles, onion, lettuce, and tomato. Extra hot sauce is advised! 😉

And with these yummy Provence sandwich rolls left, we came up with another new sandwich, a Gruyere pickle sandwich, using cave-aged Gruyere, mini dill pickles sliced, and a good grainy mustard. It was delicious!!!

I’ve been really excited about making salad dressings lately, too. These organic Cara Cara oranges are making me really happy lately. I used these to make this delicious simple salad. I steamed some beets to accompany the salad (I didn’t want them to turn the salad red so I served them on the side). I used some of the orange in the dressing and then cut some up to throw in the salad as well. Also good with this salad was some Noble Springs Dairy’s Southall Gouda, an aged goat’s milk gouda. Deeelicious!

Citrus Vinaigrette
1 handful/ bunch fresh parsley
a few big glugs of extra virgin olive oil
juice of ¼ lemon + 3 sections of orange
1 Tbsp honey
1 tsp blasamic vinegar
¼ tsp fennel seeds
grated orange zest
sea salt and black pepper to taste

Blend all ingredients together. I used a mini food processor.

We also made a slightly different version using sultana raisins in place of the oranges and omited the lemon juice and fennel seeds. I shredded carrots in the salad which was reminiscent of the grated carrot raisin salad I remember my Mother fixing as a child.

Grant and I came up with a new biscuit, too. We added cinnamon and sugar to our usual recipe to create a yummy sweet version.

Cinnamon Raisin Biscuits
2 cups White Lily all purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter
2/3-3/4 cup buttermilk
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon

for topping:
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Heat oven to 500 degrees. Combine flour and baking powder in a bowl. Add the brown sugar and cinnamon. Cut butter into pieces and add to bowl. Mix with hands gently until the butter is in crumbs the size of peas. Blend in buttermilk and gently mix in but do not over mix. Turn dough onto floured surface. Knead gently 2-3 times. Roll dough to 1/2″ thickness. Cut using a biscuit cutter. Place on cookie sheet. Mix the ingredients for the topping and then brush over biscuits with a pastry brush. Bake 6-8 minutes or until golden on tops.

Mini biscuits are great to take to a brunch with friends.