How’s The World Treating You

Charlie Louvin at Grimey's 2007.

Tonight, Nashville is mourning the loss of one of its own, Mister Charlie Louvin. I’ll never forget the first time I saw him play live. I believe it was three years ago. He had a new album out and our friend Mike was elated to have him play in his record shop. It was quite crowded but we arrived early and were standing right in front so I could get some photos. As he sang, I noticed a shiny penny on the floor right between Charlie and me. After he played, he reached down, picked up the penny, handed it to me and said, “Don’t say I never gave you anything.” I still have that penny from Charlie Louvin but he gave me so much more- the songs he created with brother Ira years ago will live on forever. Their beautiful harmonies set the bar pretty high for aspiring songbirds. His stage banter was sometimes unsettling- off color jokes, sexist remarks- you never knew what was going to come out of that man’s mouth but when the music started, you suddenly knew the world was truly blessed by his presence.

Charlie's 80th Birthday party at Ernest Tubb's Midnight Jamboree 07/07/2007.

Thank you, Charlie Louvin, and I hope you left knowing just how much better the world is because of your musical contributions.

(And now I plan to write about food that Charlie Louvin would have probably hated!)

On to some cooking… Winter is kicking my butt this year! I have been freezing cold and it just seems more difficult to eat healthy in the winter months. There are not as many yummy fresh seasonal fruits and veggies available to choose from and with the colder temperatures, I think I get an unconscious urge to bulk up with comfort foods.

I try not to eat too many soy products but in moderation, soy can be a healthy substitute for meat and there are many health benefits to eating fermented soy in the form of miso or tofu. We have been experimenting some these past couple of weeks. Here are a few simple recipes we came up with. Grant is the genius behind this first one…

Pan Roasted- Miso Marinated Salmon

2 Tbsp red miso
2 Tbsp tamari
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2-3 Tbsp warm water
2 pieces salmon
1 tsp olive oil

Mix all ingredients together to form a saucey paste. Place marinade in a bowl and place salmon, skin side down in the marinade for one hour. Flip salmon over for another hour. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Place salmon in a cast-iron skillet or any other oven proof dish with a drizzle of olive oil on the bottom to prevent sticking. Roast salmon, skin side down with some of the miso paste on top for approximately 10 minutes. Add more miso paste to top of salmon and then set under high broiler for about 2 minutes until top is brown and bubbly.

Miso Soup

Miso soup can be as easy to make as adding a spoonful of miso to some hot water! This seems too easy for me so I usually have a more elaborate plan… I like to saute onions, tofu, mushrooms, and garlic and then add some Nama Shoyu, brown rice vinegar… In a separate pot, heat some water for noodles. Add in soba noodles. When the noodles are almost done, add in a couple big spoonfuls of miso. Next, add sauteed veggies and some frozen corn. Add some spinach leaves & cilantro and eat it up!

Next, I offer up a few tofu recipes. I will admit, I don’t love tofu by itself and these recipes aren’t the healthiest ways to eat tofu but they do make the tofu taste pretty yummy! One of my very first introductions to eating tofu was when I was in college and living in Athens, Georgia. One of the hippest vegetarian restaurants (then and now), The Grit, serves up good ol’ Southern food but vegetarian style. One of their most popular dishes is the Grit-style Tofu. You can find this and many more yummy vegetarian recipes in their cookbook.

Grit-Style Tofu

1 block firm tofu
grape seed oil
Tamari or Nama Shoyu
Nutritional yeast

Cut tofu in cubes. Lightly oil a skillet and place over high heat. Allow oil to heat slightly and then add tofu. Saute, tossing with a spatula until evenly lightly golden brown. Sprinkle lightly with the tamari and saute briefly to further brown tofu. Remove from skillet, draining and discarding any excess oil.

Rinse and wipe skillet dry. Lightly oil skillet and place over high heat. Allow oil to become very hot. Saute tofu again, tossing with a spatula until evenly browned. Sprinkle with tamari to taste. Sprinkle with nutritional yeast to coat, tossing vigorously. Saute for a few seconds and then remove from heat.

Grit Style Tofu with vegetables and brown rice.

Because tofu is most commonly used in Asian cooking, I sometimes forget about cooking it in other styles. I came up with this next recipe as a way to broaden my thinking of tofu. I think it turned out quite nicely. We’ve been really hungry for Mediterranean food lately (and wishing for a Mediterranean climate!). There was a Greek restaurant in Seattle called Yanni’s that served the most amazing lemon roasted potatoes. We think of those potatoes quite often. They were the main inspiration for this dish. We served the potatoes and tofu steaks with a Greek salad.

Greek Style Tofu Steaks with Lemon Potatoes
Serves 2

1 block tofu, cut into 2 thin blocks approx. 1” thick
1 cup flour
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp salt (I used homemade rosemary sea salt)
freshly ground black pepper
grape seed oil

Mix flour with spices. Coat tofu steaks with flour mixture. Get skillet hot, add grape seed oil (2-3 Tbsp). Add tofu steaks to skillet and brown on each side, using tongs to flip.


Lemon Roasted Potatoes

4-6 red potatoes, washed
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp sea salt (or less)
freshly ground black pepper
1-2 tsp water

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Cut potatoes into cubes. Place in a baking dish with olive oil. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon on top and toss with salt and pepper. Add 1 tsp water. Place in oven, stirring every 15 minutes. After half an hour, add more lemon juice. Roast for a total of 45 minutes to an hour.

And for my last tofu trick… this dish was inspired by a dish we had at a Chinese restaurant long ago.

Chinese Style Tofu with Mushrooms & Baby Bok Choy

1 block extra firm tofu, cut into little triangles
1-2 cups flour
1 tsp 5 Spice
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp white pepper
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp fresh ground black pepper
3 Tbsp grape seed oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
2 cups mixed mushrooms (shiitakes, chantrells, button…), sliced
3 bunches baby bok choy, chopped
2 Tbsp Nama Shoyu
2 Tbsp Mirin (rice wine)
1 Tbsp organic cane sugar
1 Tbsp organic corn starch
2 Tbsp water

Cut tofu into triangles. Mix flour with next 5 ingredients in a medium size bowl. Heat pan on the stove on medium high. Add 2 Tbsp grape seed oil. Coat tofu wedges in flour mixture and place in oil. Brown tofu on both sides and then place on paper towel to drain. In another pan (or same one, cleaned), heat 1 Tbsp grape seed oil. Add onion and saute. Add in garlic, mushrooms, and bok choy. Add in Nama Shoyu, Mirin, and stir. Mix corn starch with water and sugar. Add tofu back into the pan and coat with the vegetables and sauce. Add corn starch mixture. Stir. Serve over brown jasmine rice.

All week, we’ve been totally enjoying Espresso Banana Muffins for breakfast. I found this recipe in Heidi Swanson’s cookbook, Super Natural Cooking. They are delicious!

And, I will close with another cookie recipe. This is another variation of those yummy Flat & Chewy Cookies from the Saveur and NY Times cookbook that I blogged about a few weeks back. I think the secret to making really delicious and much healthier food is using really good quality ingredients. I think you can really taste and feel a difference.

Pistachio & Cacao Cookies

1 cup packed organic brown sugar
1 cup organic cane sugar
2 sticks unsalted organic butter, softened
2 eggs
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
2 cups flour (White Lily’s the best!)
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp. baking soda
⅓ cup raw cacao powder
1 cup roughly chopped raw pistachios

In a bowl, beat sugars and butter with a mixer on medium speed until fluffy, 1–2 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time; beat in vanilla. Add flour, salt, soda and stir in. Add cacao and nuts. Mix until just combined. Chill. Once batter is cold, form into 3 small logs about ¾”-1” thick. Wrap in plastic and keep in refrigerator or you can freeze.

Heat oven to 350°. Slice dough logs into ½” thick discs and transfer to parchment paper–lined baking sheets spaced 3″ apart, and gently flatten. Bake 12-14 minutes.

Over and out… hey, which reminds me that I should blog about my love of Trucker Music soon!!

Low Country Cookin’

We love the South Carolina Low Country and all the gastronomical goodness that accompanies it. Some years back, while still living in Seattle, Grant stumbled across an article in a wine magazine about Low Country cooking which featured some recipes from Loius Osteen’s book, Charleston Cuisine. We tried a few of the recipes and they were delicious! About a year later, a dear friend of ours was getting married in the Low Country and during our visit to Pawley’s Island, we were able to dine at Louis Osteen’s restaurant and we bought his book, pictured above. A few of his recipes quickly became staples for us such as his Baked Sweet Onion Rice which I will include here. We serve this all the time and everyone always raves about it. It makes great left overs, too.

Baked Rice With Wadmalaw Sweets

Serves 6-8
Ingredients:
4 tbsp unsalted butter
8 cups sliced sweet onions
2 cups minced shallots
1 bay leaf (we use 3-4)
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 cups stock
1 cup long grain white, such as basmiti
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350. Heat butter in an ovenproof skillet with a cover over medium  heat. Add the onions and shallots and saute, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until onions are translucent. Add bay leaves, thyme, and stock and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add rice and stir to mix well. Cover and transfer to a preheated oven for 18-20 minutes or until the rice is cooked through and the liquid is absorbed. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Gently fluff rice with a fork before serving.

One of the best things about this super side dish, is all the amazing dishes you will be inspired to create to accompany it! Grant made this yummy BBQ Shrimp last night to accompany our Sweet Onion Rice. It was a perfect Sunday night dinner.

And, back to Louis Osteen… A few months back I was thinking about him and decided to do a google search and find out what he was up to. Turns out he and his wife just moved to Nashville and he is now cooking here, as part of the new BBQ restaurant in the 12th South neighborhood, Blind Pig. Psychic? I think so! We are anxious to see what culinary delights he brings to Nashville.

Continuing the Southern culinary inspirations, we have had some delicious fried green tomatoes lately- Monell’s served up some amazing little sweet ones when my Dad was in town a couple weeks ago. Everyone has them on the menu right now because we all have them in our gardens. I came home from work last Saturday and Grant had fancy Southern BLTs waiting for me. They included- red leaf butter lettuce, crispy bacon, green tomatoes from the garden coated with corn meal and spices and gently fried, Big Smokey’s special sandwich sauce, and rosemary bread. Delicious!

And you know what makes a great sandwich side dish? Roasted okra! Yes, we still have local fresh okra thanks to the late, hot summer we had.

I’ll end this post as I usually do- on a sweet note. People seem to like my pies and I really enjoy making pies but have to admit that pies are not my favorite dessert. I don’t eat many sweets but when I do, my favorite dessert is cookies.

Lately, I am obsessed with cookies- more specifically, my friend Rebekah’s cookies. She is the pastry chef at City House and she keeps showing up with bags of her cookies every time I see her and these are the best cookies in the world. I can’t stop day dreaming and obsessing about them. She has inspired me to want to be a better cookie baker so I have started trying to make all the good recipes I can find. I am in search of the perfect cookie recipes! Until I figure that out and have some of my own recipes, be sure to check out her amazing recipe for fancy gourmet Peanut Butter Moon Pies! Heavenly…

Recipes for My Brother-In-Law

My Sister broke her foot last week. If you know my Sis, it is hard to imagine her sitting still allowing people to help her as she is usually on the go and in her spare time, can often be found helping women deliver babies on the side of the road, rescuing battered women from gas stations, or saving neglected pups from an unforeseen doom at any given moment. My brother-in-law is a good cook but I thought he could use some more suggestions for quick and easy dinner recipes especially now. So, this post is for him. Meanwhile, we’ll try to help out a few more people in need while she is relegated to the sofa and hobbling around on one foot so the world won’t get too out of balance.

My favorite recipe of last week was a Summer Seafood Cioppino. We went to Margot for our 8th Wedding Anniversary dinner a couple weeks ago and I had a similar dish there and I guess this dish was inspired mostly by that meal. It seemed a good way to use more of the tomatoes from our garden, as well. I bought three different pieces of fish- talapia, cod, and grouper. I chopped up all the veggies and the fish and then let Grant throw it all together and cook it to perfection! Grant is a super great cook. He started cooking as a kid, with his Mom, as a way to get out of cleaning (haha!), and then in college he cooked at a sorority house for his part time job. He’s much faster and more skilled than I but we make a good team as I love coming up with the ideas and shopping for the food and preparing the ingredients. Anyway, back to the Cioppino…

We used chopped vidalia onion, sliced green pepper from the garden, a variety of chopped tomatoes from the garden, 3-4 cloves of garlic thinly sliced, thinly sliced yellow squash, and chopped flat leaf parsley. Also good to have on hand- crusty bread, some aged gouda (Reypanaer 2 year old is my current favorite!) and some dry white wine.

Grant sauteed up the onion in a little olive oil and then added the garlic, squash, and pepper. He then dredged the fish pieces in a little flour mixed with sea salt, garlic powder, chili powder, black pepper, smoky paprika, a little saffron, and thyme and placed it in the same pan. He sauteed that up and then added the tomatoes, some dry white wine, some chicken stock (fish stock would have been ideal), and then simmered. He added in the fresh parsley at the end.

We served it with some steamed asparagus!

It was so delicious, fresh and summery with the use of fresh tomatoes and much lighter  than the winter NW Cioppino version we are accustomed to. Also, the addition of squash gave it a Southern vibe. Leftovers made for a perfect lunch the next day. We just mixed the leftover asparagus right in!

I have to write about pesto again, too- not because it is something I truly love or can’t get enough of, but simply a good way to use up all of my fresh herbs from the garden. (Special note to said Brother-In-Law: you don’t have to use any of those foods y’all can’t eat to make pesto. You can keep it really simple and just use herbs, garlic, sea salt, black pepper and olive oil blended together. You can also add some good Parmesan Reggiano if desired. Maybe you already do that?) So, I’ve been trying my darnedest to come up with more uses for pesto so as to not waste all of that which I made so as to not waste all those beautiful herbs! Here are a few ways we have come up with (I have already posted some of these ideas but wanted to form a more concise thought on this and have them all together):

Pesto makes a wonderful salad dressing base to which you can add a little balsamic or lemon, sugar, and a tab bit more olive oil to:

Use it on toast for an appetizer or lunch, on sandwiches, or on homemade pizzas.

Use it on top of grilled chicken, pork, or fish.

Blend it in to pasta or rice.

Slather pesto over roasted or grilled veggies!

Or blend it into eggs…

Which brings me to breakfast. We were reminded this weekend that breakfast makes a great dinner, too! Here’s our newest pancake recipe- Blueberry Corn Cakes! This recipe is based on the recipe Grant uses for his buttermilk pancakes which he got from Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock’s cookbook, The Gift of Southern Cooking, which Bray gave us years back. This is one of our favorite go-to cookbooks. We have found so many yummy recipes here. I often get the ideas here and then try to make them a little healthier.

Blueberry Corn Cakes

1/2 cup fine corn meal
1/2 all purpose flour (White Lily)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp baking soda (Bob’s Red Mill)
1 egg
3 tbsp melted butter (organic, unsalted)
1 1/4  cup buttermilk (up to 1 1/2 cup, you can adjust for consistency)
fresh blueberries

Combine the dry ingredients in one bowl, give it a quick whisk. Combine the buttermilk and egg in another bowl with a whisk. Slowly whisk in the melted butter into the buttermilk and egg bowl. Mix the wet and dry ingredient together just briefly, until well blended. Do not over mix. Heat large skillet or griddle over medium heat and grease very lightly with a little butter. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of batter for each pancake and then drop 10-12 blueberries in each one. Cook until bubbles appear on top. Flip the pancakes and cook for 30 seconds longer.
Serve hot with butter and maple syrup!

We used stone ground corn meal we bought at the same little mill in Virginia where we found those yummy grits!

We’ve still been able to get local, organic blueberries and they have become a staple for us! My favorite way to eat them (besides just popping them in my mouth!) is to mix them with some plain Greek style yogurt.

And, one final easy dinner recipe for my Brother-In-Law that Grant came up with… Bratwurst Sandwiches. These are man sandwiches but ladies like them, too!

The main fancy ingredient was the special roasted tomato jam he made to put on them which was so amazing, you really can make any kind of sandwich and put this magical ingredient on top and be completely satisfied!

He sauteed up some red onions with the brats…

Here’s the recipe…

Big Smokey’s Fancy Bratwurst Sandwiches

Roasted Tomato Jam:
8 small golden roma tomatoes from the garden, roasted with a little olive oil
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp organic cane sugar
Sea salt
Black pepper
Garlic powder

Red onion, sauteed in a little olive oil
Bratwursts
Sauerkraut
Provolone cheese
Sandwich buns

And the final sandwich looked like this:

Happy cooking!

Me Oh My Oh…

It’s ‘Mater season! Tennessee is having an extremely hot summer so our yield is lower than normal and many are splitting but the ones we are lucky to get are super tasty this year! Oh, and the basil and sage are rockin’! So, I try to incorporate those ingredients whenever possible.

I made a tomato veggie quiche one morning, cheddar sage biscuits with fresh tomato slices another morning and we’ve been tearing fresh basil up and adding it to our salads as we did above, served with grilled salmon and homemade croutons.

Here’s my biscuit recipe:

Cheddar Sage Biscuits

2 cups White Lily self-rising flour
an extra tsp baking soda
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter
2/3-3/4 cup buttermilk
1 cup grated sharp cheddar
a bunch of fresh sage, chopped
freshly ground black pepper

Heat oven to 500 degrees. Combine flour and baking soda in a bowl. Cut butter into pieces and add to bowl. Mix with hands gently until the butter is in crumbs the size of peas. Add the cheese and sage. 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. Grind pepper over dough. Cut using a biscuit cutter. Place on cookie sheet. Bake 6-8 minutes or until golden on tops.

Speaking of pesto, Grant and I both get a little bored with it so I tried to make it a little different. I used basil, spinach, garlic cloves, parmesan reggiano, salt pepper, olive oil, and toasted South Carolina pecans.  We tried coming up with some different ways to use it since we had so much. We made pesto toasts a few time which turned out to be a lovely and delicious appetizer or accompaniment to an antipasto plate. We also made a simple dish of cappellini pasta, pesto, and tomatoes from the garden with parmesan reggiano shaved on top. Another good use of pesto is mixing some in with rice for a nice side dish.

And, my favorite beverage lately is, basil lemonade! It is so delicious and very thirst quenching.

This month’s been busy- Grant’s had lots of gigage and a new job, we had a fun family visit and my Birthday! Grant made me a delicious Birthday breakfast casserole and instead of cake, homemade peanut ice cream!!! It was so delicious. Below, is the recipe. The next day, our friend Kristin brought over homemade Crawfish Pie (Me Oh My Oh!) which was amazing. Food is always a good gift.

Peanut Butter Swirl Ice Cream

This recipe is based on one in Bruce Weinstein’s The Ice Cream Book (William Morrow and Company, 1999) and we found it in Saveur, issue #86.

1 cup milk
3⁄4 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 cup smooth natural peanut butter
1 1⁄2 cups heavy cream
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup salted, roasted, shelled peanuts, chopped

1. Heat milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until just hot. Meanwhile, beat sugar and eggs together in a medium bowl until thick and pale yellow.

2. Gradually whisk hot milk into egg mixture in bowl, then pour milk–egg mixture into saucepan. Return saucepan to medium-low heat and cook custard, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until it is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon, about 5 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat and stir in 1⁄2 cup of the peanut butter. Strain custard into a large bowl, let cool briefly, stirring often, then stir in cream and vanilla. Cover and refrigerate until cold, 6–8 hours.

3. Process mixture in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions, adding 1⁄2 cup of the chopped nuts to the ice cream 30 seconds before it has finished churning. Transfer to a bowl, quickly swirl in remaining 1⁄2 cup peanut butter, cover, and freeze until hard. Serve ice cream sprinkled with the remaining 1⁄2 cup nuts.

Also from one of our Saveur magazines, I made a Sofrito. I was trying to find a good use of all the peppers that we have from our garden. The recipe says this is traditionally used as a base for soups or sauces. We sauteed some chicken and onions and topped those with some of the Sofrito and served it with pesto rice and a salad for a completely green themed meal! The flavors were really nice together. We enjoyed this meal listening to a new cd Kristin brought over for us by a young Irish fellow, Garreth Dunlop. Check him out!

Sofrito

1⁄4 lb. aji dulce chiles or Italian frying peppers,
stemmed, seeded, and roughly chopped
8 sprigs cilantro
6 leaves flat-leaf parsley
1 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded,
and chopped
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp. vegetable oil

1. Combine all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and purée, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, until a semicoarse paste forms, about 1 minute. Refrigerate the sofrito for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 3 months.

For my Birthday, we went in search of South Carolina peaches as those are the very best! Luckily, we didn’t have to travel far. We bought a big basket at the Nashville Farmer’s Market. Pies of the last couple of weeks were- peach and blueberry, peach with pecan crumble top, blueberry with crumble top, and a plum custard. Our friends Catherine and Aaron just gave us a couple of bags of figs from their yard with the assignment to come up with a fig pie recipe! I’m excited to work on that.

I’ll end with a photo of my favorite summer wine which we like to get at our favorite neighborhood wine store, Woodland Wine Merchants. (They have an awesome website, check it out!!!) This wine is affordable, delicious and very food friendly.

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.

Spring is Here!

Spring in Tennessee is exciting!

Everything is starting to bloom, all the local produce crops are starting to come in, people are beginning to emerge from hibernation and the fun has begun! Most of my musical enjoyment this past week came from films at the Nashville Film Festival! A couple of favorites were Pickin’ & Grinnin’ and “Do It Again.” Also exciting Spring events happening this week were Earth Day and Record Store Day!

As soon as the warm weather starts, we crave more salads. Last week we made this one with Romaine lettuce, mandarin oranges, red carrots (which are amazingly beautiful!), white radishes (which are a tad bit sweet), and super delicious Holboldt Fog cheese. We like this salad with a simple honey vinaigrette and topped with toasted walnuts.

And, thanks to our friend Nancy who turned us on to the NY Times 101 Simple Salads, we have tons of new super easy and delicious salad ideas!

Other great Spring vegetables that I’m excited about… Artichokes and Asparagus (here served with a Soy Sauce Chicken Thigh)!

Spring is a transition season as we move gently (hopefully) into the warmer temperatures. It seems too warm for soups but with our busy schedules lately, I’ve still been excited about making some one-pot comfort meals that we can eat on throughout the week. I realized we had all the ingredients for a Jambalaya or maybe I should call it a Jambalaya-inspired dish as I didn’t follow a recipe. I also made it a little healthier by using brown rice and chicken andouille sausage and served it with some steamed broccoli with a squeeze of lemon on top.

And then tonight we got inspired to make one of our all-time favorites… a recipe from my home state, South Carolina low-country Shrimp & Grits! Bacon is an essential ingredient and we do make it with bacon sometimes but tonight we made it with veggies and shrimp as that is what we had on hand. And, it’s nice to know we can make it well for our fishaterian friends when necessary.

I use only real stone-ground grits, often that I have had my Sis or my friend Angela mail me from Charleston. I add a few extra ingredients to my grits- local Hatcher Family Dairy buttermilk and some sharp cheddar.

While the grits were cooking, we started cooking some collards. We sauteed a little finely chopped onion and garlic in a little olive oil with a small amount of balsamic vinegar and a little stock.

Next, in another pan, we started sauteing onions, red pepper, mushrooms (portabella and some button), garlic, shrimp (mixed with some garlic and flour), and a few tomatoes. We seasoned it with salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper.

We like to layer the greens, grits, and shrimp & veggies in a bowl for serving. It was delicious and really easy to cook.

And the best part about having left-overs with this meal is that we can now have grits for breakfast! My favorite way to have them for breakfast is with a little maple syrup and hot sauce. I know, it is a little strange but I love it. It is cheesey, hot, salty, and sweet!

Fridayitis…

Around our house, we tend to get a little wave of the blahs most Friday evenings… we’re tired from the week and ready for the weekend but not quite energized for it yet. Anyway, this Friday was no exception. Grant was gigging and would be home for a late dinner. I got a sudden urge to cook something exciting but didn’t want to spend too much money. I found a really beautiful fennel bulb and bought some tilapia. I looked on the internet for a pasta sauce with fresh fennel. I found a really simple one and then, of course, altered it a bit. It went something like this…

1 fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced

olive oil

very finely chopped red onion (I sauteed it a little as I don’t like raw red onion)

Lady Smokey’s orange fennel sea salt

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano

I mixed all these ingredients together and then combined with capellini pasta. (For store bought, I really like Montebello brand from Italy. It is organic and very affordable. It’s the best!) Grant cooked the tilapia which we ate on the side. He did a classic lemon-garlic-butter-lightly dusted with flour thing… it was delicious!