In Celebration of the Tomato

1-Tomatoes

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

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

2-Tom Cuke Peach Salad

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

3-Bread Salad

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

4-Chicken Eggplant Parmesan

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

5-Grit Stuffed Squash

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

6-Mac Cheese Prep

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

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

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

7-Mac Cheese

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

7-Mac & Cheese

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

MS-1

MS-2

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

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Summer Dill Recipes & Pedal Steel Awesomeness

001

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.

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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.

Potatoes

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

Salad

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

Beans

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.

buddyemmons

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