A Picnic of Old Memories

Celebration

I just returned from a family visit in South Carolina where we celebrated my wonderful mother and step-father during the week marking their 25th wedding anniversary and his 80th birthday, where we were surrounded by so many dear old family friends. It made me very nostalgic and thankful for a small loving community that nurtured me as I grew up. In fact, it wasn’t until the moment I was surrounded by these beautiful friends of my parents, some of whom I have known my whole life, that I even realized how really special it was to have had this opportunity and how incredible it is to have these connections that hold so many of my memories and link special family life moments together.

Mom & Mary Bauld, January 2015

I am especially thankful for Mom’s 55 year old friendship with Mary Bauld. Mary is her first name, Bauld her last name but I don’t know of a single person who doesn’t always call her, “Mary Bauld.” Mary Bauld and her husband Bob met Mom and Dad in West Virginia back before any of them lived in South Carolina. They became best friends and have never strayed. They are very different from each other yet have a long history and a strong bond. They live one street apart. They have shared all important life events, good times and bad, and always been there for each other. They talk a couple times a week and go bowling every Thursday morning with a women’s bowling league, always followed by lunch and grocery shopping. Mary Bauld has four children and now many grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Here I am with my Sis and Janet & Barbara, Mary Bauld's youngest girls.

Here I am with my Sis and Janet & Barbara, Mary Bauld’s youngest girls.

Growing up, I spent many hours after school and many summers hanging out at the Bauld house. Janet, the youngest of Mary Bauld’s children is two years younger than me. We learned to swim together and let me tell you, we owned that lake at the Clemson YMCA! We spent countless hours playing Barbies and watching the Bionic Woman. At my house, we became experts at furniture gymnastics and created all sorts of culinary delights as my Mom sat quietly reading in the next room, allowing us to experiment. It was common to compare our mothers’ cooking- they each did things slightly different. They both made delicious meatloaf- Mary Bauld always served hers with fried potatoes and Mom always served hers with Succotash. They both bragged about their sweet tea and dared us kids to say whose was better. Mom’s cooking was slightly more southern and Mary Bauld sometimes cooked up special Spanish recipes from her family such as Cabbage Rolls. One time, Mary Bauld served me a peanut butter and lettuce sandwich for lunch which was weird and I have never let her forget it. One recipe Mom learned to make from Mary Bauld was Pepperoni Rolls, a favorite from the area of West Virginia that Mary Bauld grew up in. I didn’t realize what a regional food a Pepperoni Roll was to West Virginia until a couple of years ago when I read an article about it. And I have even discovered that there is a website dedicated to the Pepperoni Roll here.

Pepperoni Rolls

Well, I grew up and stopped eating beef and got particular about all meat really. It wasn’t until we started shopping at our local Porter Road Butcher that I even really thought about eating Pepperoni Rolls again. They make their own version of pepperoni they call Porteroni from local grass-fed beef with no funny stuff in it. I had a brilliant idea to take some home with me on one of my recent visits so Mom and I could make Pepperoni Rolls together. She humored me.

Porteroni

She had just recently started making one of our very favorite relatives, my great aunt Judy’s yeast rolls again so we used that recipe, too. (I found out that the childhood Pepperoni Rolls were usually made with Pillsbury Hot Roll Mix.) Here’s the recipe we followed…

Judy's Roll Recipe

The instructions aren’t so clear to me and I couldn’t remember exactly how she made it all happen so I had to get some clarification from Mom and I made a minor change in my version as I don’t particularly like to use vegetable shortening (I just don’t understand it and it kind of freaks me out.), so I substituted butter here. I think you could also use the Spectrum organic vegetable shortening or coconut oil just fine.

Here is the recipe I came up with, hopefully easier to understand with a few pictures for better clarification. By the way, those are Mom’s hands and my Nana’s rolling pin in those photos.

Pepperoni Rolls
2 cups Warm Water
2 packages Dry Yeast
½ cup Sugar
2 tsp Salt
¼ cup Unsalted Butter, softened
1 Egg
6 ½ – 7 cups Flour
1 lb Pepperoni (roughly)

Place the warm water (not hot, just tepid) in a bowl and add the yeast. Dissolve the yeast. Stir in the sugar, salt, butter, and the egg. Use an electric mixer to mix gently. Add 3 cups flour to the bowl. Make sure all ingredients are incorporated. Then, stir by hand and add 3 ½ more cups flour. The dough will be sort of sticky and loose. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth (or a lid with a small hole in it) and place in refrigerator. The next day, take the bowl out and uncover. Let it come to room temperature and rise a little.

After the dough rises, place the dough on a floured surface, kneading to bring together. Cut the dough into about 20-24 pieces (this recipe makes many for sharing!). Gently form each piece of dough into a ball, incorporating more flour as needed. Cut the pepperoni (or Porteroni) into strips, about 2 ½”- 3” long and ¼” wide roughly. Preheat oven to 350. Roll each ball out into a circle, about ¼” thick. Place a pepperoni stick on the round, about one third of the diameter and fold the dough over. Then place another pepperoni stick on the dough and fold over again. Tuck the ends under gently so the ends will be all sealed. Place rolls on a baking sheet and bake at 350 for approximately 20 minutes, or until golden brown and done.

Momma Rolling Dough

Ready to go in the oven!

Ready to go in the oven!

If you don’t eat meat or aren’t interested in Pepperoni Rolls, this recipe makes great dinner rolls, too. Mom always serves them at the holidays. Simply use a round biscuit cutter to cut circles and then fold them over, in half, before baking. That’s the way Aunt Judy always did it.

And of course, you can use any pepperoni you choose. This is not necessarily a healthier version but just one I feel better about because it was made with all real ingredients that I trusted by people I know. Sometimes, you just need to revisit those great old recipes you grew up on.

And I couldn’t think of any better music to represent this post than this wonderful new release, Picnic in the Sky, from our friends Jeni and Billy because their music has been described as Appalachain Folk Music which precisely describes the music from the area where Mom and Mary Bauld grew up in the hills of Virginia and West Virginia.

Jeni & Billy

Jeni & Billy

I first met Jeni and Billy at our Red Barn Round-Up parties and love running into them in the neighborhood- that is, when they happen to be home. They spend quite a lot of time working out on the road, giving house concerts and playing music festivals. You can follow their journey and read their beautiful tales on their website and blogs.

J&B Playing

Jeni & Billy singing a duet at the Red Barn Round-Up, April 2013.

J&B at RBR

Jeni & Billy with Grant playing his big green Gretsch in the backing band!

Jeni and Billy are some of the sweetest, most genuine people I have ever met- in song and in real life. In fact, I went online to purchase their newest release today to listen to while I wrote this post and instantly received an email from them with the subject line, “You Wonderful Person, Thank You!” And then, I swear to God, they drove through the snow to drop off a real copy of the cd for me to have, as well. It totally made my day. So, not only will buying your own copy of their cd (here!) make you feel really special but once you listen to it you will be incredibly happy for all the new music you just added to your life and for supporting their art. Their songs are so wonderful and for me personally, bring to mind so many beautiful images of my childhood visits to Mom’s family in southwestern Virginia.

I will close with this live video of Jeni & Billy performing their song, Reckoning Day.

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Boiled Peanuts and Country Music

Boiled Peanuts-2

Growing up in South Carolina, hand-written “boiled peanuts” signs on the side of the road were a constant visual. The landscape is dotted with them and nearly every convenience store has a crock pot simmering with boiled peanuts. There was never a shortage, however, I never ate them as a youngster. In fact, I thought they were gross without even ever trying them. Shameful. It wasn’t until I brought my Pacific Northwestern born and bred soon-to-be husband to the south for the first time nearly fifteen years ago that I actually tried them, as I had to give him a complete southern experience. It was then that I realized how good they actually are.

When we first moved to Nashville eight years ago, we stumbled across a big bag of green peanuts at the farmer’s market and Grant was excited to make his own boiled peanuts. He did and they were delicious. But then we never saw green peanuts again until just the other day. Come to find out, you can also make these with dried peanuts in the shell which are much easier to find.

Green Peanuts

Green Peanuts

Here’s Grant’s recipe. They are so good, we ate the whole pound in one sitting!

Hot & Smoky Boiled Peanuts
1 lb Green Peanuts
2 Tbsp Smoked Sea Salt
1 Tbsp Sea Salt
1 tsp Black Pepper
1 tsp Smoked Paprika
½ tsp Cayenne

Mix spices in a pot of water. Add Peanuts. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 2-3 hours.

Boiling Peanuts

Boiling Peanuts

Boiled peanuts make me think of road trips and speaking of road trips, our friend and fellow Nashvillian, JP Harris, is one of the hardest working road dogs we know and he has a brand new album out! His music is country- I mean real honky-tonk country and very fun (I’m talking like Jerry Reed fun), and he’s one of the nicest guys around. You can pick up his new album, Home Is Where the Hurt Is, from Cow Island Music here. And you can be sure to hear JP Harris & The Tough Choices live because they are always on tour. You can see a full list of all the live dates on his website, here.

JP Harris & The Tough Choices at the Basement. March 2014.

JP Harris & The Tough Choices at the Basement. March 2014.

Also, I am anxiously awaiting the new release from Margo Price. I’ve mentioned Margo before, here, back when her band Buffalo Clover’s latest cd was released. Margo has had a side country band for sometime now called Margo & The Pricetags. They were always fun but it wasn’t until she decided to make that her main musical focus that I really took notice. That’s become one of my favorite things about having lived in Nashville just as long as I have- I get to follow along and watch as many songwriters and musicians discover who they are and begin to hone in on their talents. It all starts to unfold right in front of you and it is so exciting to be a part of.

Margo Price with Mark Sloan on guitar. Basement, March 2014.

Margo Price with Mark Sloan on guitar. Basement, March 2014.

So far, Margo & The Pricetags have recorded a single titled, Since You Put Me Down, and she is currently working on a full album. Rolling Stone Country just posted her first video for that single and you can see it, below. It blew me away. I can’t wait to hear more, Margo! (And also, you can find out more about Erin Rae who lends beautiful backing vocals on this song here. You will hear much more about her on this blog and elsewhere soon, too. We love Erin!)

Fall is here. It is officially soup making weather! More recipes and music recommendations coming soon…

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!

Chuck Mead & Dressed Eggs

Potluck

Growing up in the South, deviled eggs were a part of every Easter celebration, always found at potlucks and cookouts, and were always made basically the same way- eggs, mayonnaise, a little mustard, and pickle relish with a dusting of paprika on top. My Uncle Joe made the best deviled eggs! He never held back on the mayo and always salt and peppered them just right.

Dressed Eggs-1

In Tennessee, we’ve learned that deviled eggs are referred to as, “dressed eggs” because they are often served at church picnics and potlucks and presumably, it just isn’t proper to talk about the devil while in church (especially while eating something so delicious!).

I haven’t made many dressed eggs of my own but I have seen so many different versions in cooking magazines lately that I started concocting my own versions in my head. I finally came up with these two varieties- one using avocado and cilantro and one using kimchi which we always seem to have in our refrigerator as of late. We enjoyed them with some sauteed collards from our CSA and this recipe from awhile back for Herby Pecan Baked Chicken (only it being summer now, I substituted all the dried herbs for fresh and added 3 cloves of garlic in with the nuts and herbs which was delicious).

Kimchi Dressed Eggs
6 Eggs
½ tsp Salt
¼ cup chopped Kimchi (with a little of the liquid)
1 Tbsp Mayonnaise
Srircha Hot Sauce
Sesame Seeds

Avocado Dressed Eggs
6 Eggs
½ tsp Salt
½ Avocado
1 Tbsp Mayonnaise
½ tsp Lime Juice
Salt & Pepper to taste
Cilantro (a little bit chopped to mix in the egg yolk mixture and a small piece to garnish each of the 12 egg halves)

Eggs

Put the eggs in a saucepan and pour water over them to cover them by 1-2 inches. With the stove on high heat, bring the water to a full rolling boil and then immediately turn the heat off. Remove the saucepan from the burner and cover with a lid. Let sit for exactly 10 minutes. Pour the hot water out of the pan and rinse the eggs with cold water to stop all cooking. Roll the eggs around to crack the shells. Place in a bowl. When the eggs are cool enough to handle, gently peel the eggs under running cold water. Cut them in half lengthwise. Scoop out the yolks and place in a bowl, placing the egg whites on a separate plate. Mix in all the ingredients for each specific variety above. Spoon in the mixture into the egg whites. Top the Kimchi Dressed Eggs with a tiny dollop of Srircha and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Top the Avocado Dressed Eggs with a piece of cilantro.

Dressed Eggs 2 ways

Speaking of potlucks, we had some potluck recipes featured in the May issue of Country Living. And while my recipes on this blog are typically made a little healthier than the usual way to make things, these recipes do not hold back on the fat! You will be sure to please all your friends and neighbors this summer with these recipes. Here’s the link. We had lots of fun having them visit.

Getting our recipes photographed.

Getting our recipes photographed.

Chuck Mead singing a song with the lovely & talented Sarah Gayle Meech at the Red Barn Round-Up party back when Country Living visited.

A couple of weeks ago, we got to see Million Dollar Quartet, the traveling Tony award winning Broadway musical that our Nashville buddy Chuck Mead brilliantly directed the music for and our NYC buddy Corey Kaiser stars in as Carl Perkin’s brother and bass player, Jay Perkins. The show was in Nashville for about a week down at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center. It was fabulous!

Chuck & The Grassy Knoll Boys, October 2012.

Chuck & The Grassy Knoll Boys, October 2012.

Chuck Mead also has a brand spankin’ new album out called Free State Serenade and it is on heavy rotation at our house. I love his music- his songs with his long-time band BR549, a well as his solo releases with his current band, his Grassy Knoll Boys. Those Grassy Knoll Boys kick some serious ass! Chuck writes fun, good-timing songs and has a huge knowledge and respect for the history of music. This album seems a little more unique, a little more personal and heart felt. Every song was written for Chuck’s home state of Kansas. You can purchase his new album here.

Metamodern Sounds in Country Music by Sturgill Simpson.

Metamodern Sounds in Country Music by Sturgill Simpson.

A couple of other country albums that we’ve been digging are Sturgill Simpson’s second album, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music. Sturgill is super talented, a true original, one of the nicest folks around, and I am thrilled that people are taking notice! You can purchase the new album and other cool merchandise here. He puts on a great live show so be sure to catch him when you can.

Carter Girl by Carlene Carter.

Carter Girl by Carlene Carter.

We’ve also been enjoying the new release from Carlene Carter titled, Carter Girl. The daughter of country music legends, June Carter and Carl Smith, her new release is a beautiful album covering three generations of Carter family songs. Guest vocals on this new release include Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Elizabeth Cook, and Vince Gill. You can buy it here.

May your summer nights be filled with delicious food and good music!

NIKKI & RAY

It’s taken me a few weeks to pay tribute here to the one and only, the great Ray Price- not because he wasn’t worthy or I didn’t care. It is quite the opposite. I felt a strong fondness for Mr. Price. He was one of our true musical heroes. When my husband Grant and I first moved to Nashville, we visited the Ryman Auditorium and went on the tour. We had our photo made up on that stage and we knew then that it is one of the coolest places on earth.

Photo 1- G&K Ryman

That’s us on the Opry stage back in 2006!

I remember saying to Grant, “Maybe one day you’ll play on this stage, right here where it all began.” And sure enough, one year to the day of us arriving in Nashville, Grant got to play guitar on that stage.

Photo 2- Grant at Ryman

Grant performing on the stage of the Ryman Auditorium with Jon Langford at Marty Stuart’s Late Night Jam. June, 2007.

Our very first concert at the Ryman, though, was in September of 2006. My sister got us tickets to see Ray Price for my birthday and our new friend from the neighborhood, Buddy Spicher, was up there on stage playing fiddle. Grant and I got all dressed up and were so excited to be there. We arrived anxious and excited, walked in and squeezed into our seats on our pew in the 6th row. The woman beside me looked up at us and said, “They let you in? Did they card you?” In our thirties, we were some of the only “youngsters” there. It was an amazing show. Ray’s voice was still, at age 80, so strong and wonderful. The band sounded top-notch, of course.

Photo 3- Ray at Ryman

Ray Price on stage at the Ryman Auditorium. September, 2006.

We got to see Ray Price another time, about a year later, at the “new” Opry house while he was on tour with Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard. They called it “The Last of the Breed Tour.” I always hated that title, it sounds so sad… But, those three together? We felt so incredibly lucky to experience that.

Eddie Stubbs interviewing Ray Price at the CMHF with Hank looking on.

Eddie Stubbs interviewing Ray Price at the CMHF with Hank looking on.

A few years later we went to a special talk with Ray Price at the Country Music Hall of Fame which coincided with the Hank Williams family exhibition. You see, Ray Price had been Hank’s friend and roommate at the end of Hank’s life. He had witnessed Hank’s life first hand. That had a lot to do with why he lived such a clean life.

Ray Price left this world on December 16th at the age of 87 due to his illness with pancreatic cancer. Unfortunately, he wasn’t the only soul we lost to to pancreatic cancer this year.

I once asked our dear friend Nikki which one of Waylon’s songs was her favorite and this was her answer. It’s one of my favorites, too. I didn’t know a whole lot about Waylon when we first moved to Nashville nearly 8 years ago. But upon our arrival, I quickly learned so much about many musicians and country legends. I was quite eager to learn but even if I wasn’t, it seems impossible to live here and not learn about these larger-than-life musical personalities as their history is so much apart of the environment here. I love it. Waylon quickly became one of my favorites.

I first met Nikki on one of the saddest days of my life, the day the mighty Mister Moses died back in 2007. Moses was one of my soul mates and best friends. He was one of the coolest dogs ever. Seriously. I mean, anyone who knew him would say the same. That is not a biased opinion. It’s a fact.

Photo 5- Moses

Anyway, one morning Moses suddenly collapsed and had to be rushed to the 24-hour emergency pet clinic. As I waited all day in doom and gloom to find out that Moses would never be able to leave, this bright ray of sunshine (named Nikki, wearing a Waylon t-shirt) entered the waiting room for about an hour. It was if she was sent there to comfort us all and offer support as she waited for her big cat Shinery to get some stitches. She wanted to know all about Moses. She gave me her card and told me to keep in touch. A couple weeks later I emailed her to tell her that Moses had passed away but how nice it had been to meet her. (To this day, I believe it was Moses who arranged our meeting. He knew I needed to know her.) Next thing I knew, Grant and I were meeting Nikki for lunch. We met her at the Waylon office as Nikki was Waylon’s business manager and she drove us to lunch in Waylon’s old Cadillac. We had so much fun. That was one of many meals we shared and a friendship was born through our shared love of dogs, food, and music.

Photo 6- Lunch w Nikki

Nikki, Lucy, and me with Waylon’s Cadillac.

Besides being a real-life hero, always living life to the fullest and encouraging those around her to do the same, she was an amazing friend. She was spread thin between all her animals (she rescued anyone who needed to be rescued!); her long and steadfast career with Waylon Jennings music; her hobbies which included flying planes and fly fishing; creating a new community for good food, friendship, and music down in Normandy, Tennessee, she still managed to make time for good friends.

Photo 7- Nikki & Buddies

Photo 8- Nikki & Cafe

Nikki at the River Cafe in Normandy, the cafe she and her brother Mike started.

She always made each of her friends feel as if they were of utmost importance to her and always introduced every friend by one of their strengths. I came to realize that she always lit up every room, not just that waiting room at the emergency pet clinic. She told the best stories about growing up in Texas, all of her many careers and adventures, and all the characters she met along the way. There was even one about Ray Price- them both being from Texas and all.

We didn’t get to spend nearly enough time getting to know Nikki but every moment we had with her was memorable and really special. When we first found out she had pancreatic cancer a few years back, I was just sick. The pain was real and in the middle of my gut. It just ached for days. But Nikki kept living and I began to believe she would be with us for a long time. She accomplished more in the last few years than many of us ever do. Somehow she was able to add the hospital visits and the time for treatments into all she was already juggling.

Sadly, we lost Nikki in June to pancreatic cancer but not before she planned her own memorial service and you know what, it was a wonderful celebration of life and she was right there with us. I could feel her presence. In the last email I have from Nikki in the weeks before she passed away she wrote, “Your love and energy is always felt and will be with me forever and ever!!” Even then, she was trying to lift me up and since her death, I feel her friendship all the time. Our friendship has just taken on a different form and even though I don’t physically have her here, I sense her presence with us so often. It feels like her presence is even bigger and more spread out now and I can just carry her around with me all the time. I feel her encouragement and strive to be a better person because of her.

Our last dinner with Nikki, we all cooked a giant Paella down in Normandy. April 2013.

Our last dinner with Nikki, we all cooked a giant Paella down in Normandy. April 2013.

The other day I was remembering the pecan muffins Nikki started making awhile back. She kept trying them out. She brought us some when she came to visit and then made them for us one time when we spent the night down in Normandy with her. I never asked her for the recipe because I knew she had plans for these. The other day it occurred to me to ask her friend Rhonda if she had the recipe and lucky for me, the recipe had belonged to Rhonda’s Mother and she gave me permission to share it here. These are especially good with a cup of coffee. They make the perfect breakfast treat for house guests but are rich so they also make a nice little dessert.

Photo 10- Muffin Batter

Pecan Mini-Muffins
Makes 2 ½ dozen
1 cup Brown Sugar, packed
½ cup All Purpose Flour
1 cup Finely Chopped Pecans
⅔ cup Unsalted Butter, softened
2 Eggs
Dash of Salt

Preheat oven to 350 and grease mini-muffin tins. Combine sugar, flour, nuts and set aside. Mix together butter, eggs, and salt and then stir into the dry mixture. Stir just until moist. Fill the muffin tins ⅔ full. Bake for 20-25 minutes, depending on the oven. You can check to see that the center of one is done by inserting a cake tester or a toothpick. It it comes out clear, they are done. Remove immediately and cool.

Photo 11- Pecan Muffins

I want to close with this link to The Nikki Mitchell Foundation. Nikki’s friend and flying partner, Rhonda who helped care for Nikki throughout her illness, quit her job this summer and founded this organization to continue Nikki’s work in bringing awareness to pancreatic cancer. Two years ago, Nikki organized the first of many benefits to raise awareness to her cause down in Normandy called, Full Moon Full Of Life. It was a way to raise money for this important cause while creating a musical event that was affordable for the community of Normandy, so everyone could bring the whole family.

Full Moon, Full of Life benefit in Normandy, October 2012.

Full Moon, Full of Life benefit in Normandy, October 2012.

So, not only did Nikki and Ray have Texas, country music, and (very sadly) pancreatic cancer in common, they both fill some of our most cherished Nashville memories. We will continue to listen to Ray and our friendship with Nikki will never end.

A Little Late to the Tomato Party…

platter of maters

Wait, here I am! Always late to the party. Actually, if it were a literal party, I would be right on time. I think that’s a Southern trait. However, the party I am referring to is the tomato celebration in our East Nashville neighborhood. I am not a big festival goer so I don’t always make it there in person but The Tomato Art Festival has made our neighborhood famous. We do have some of the best tomatoes in these parts. I love that. My friend Melissa over at Corbin in the Dell won first place and second place in the bruschetta recipe contest at the festival for her yummy recipes! I feel so lucky that she lives right around the corner and I got to sample one of the winning recipes, HO’ Chetta (made with hoe cakes instead of bread and mostly ingredients from her backyard garden), the night before. DELICIOUS!

HO'Chetta

Melissa Corbin’s prize winning entry at the Tomato Art Fest, “HO’ Chetta.”

I have a few more tomato recipes of my own that I’ve been meaning to post. We just returned from a dear friend’s wedding and visiting family in the PNW where the tomatoes were just getting good. Hopefully it isn’t too late for you to enjoy some delicious homegrown tomatoes but if so, you can make use of all those canned tomatoes you put up…

Grits

This first recipe seemed a good way to use the late summer tomatoes that aren’t quite as delicious as the early summer ones. I just love roasted tomatoes. They add so much flavor and excitement to many different dishes. I throw them in everything. I served these Roasted Tomato Grits with some sauteed mixed vegetables from the garden (peppers, onions, okra, and corn) seasoned with smoked paprika and some sauteed kale with a tiny bit of shoyu (or tamari or soy sauce) and then garlic and quince paste thrown in at the end.

Roasted Tomato Grits
(serves 4)
Tomatoes (the equivalent of about 2 cups chopped, I used some cherry tomatoes and 1 large yellow tomato from our garden)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Tbsp Butter
1 small Vidalia Onion, finely chopped
1 cup White Stone Ground Grits
3 cups Water
1 cup Buttermilk
2 oz Beechers Flagship Cheese, grated (or a sharp cheddar will do)
3 Tbsp Fresh Herbs, chopped (Basil, Oregano, Parsley, Thyme)
Sea Salt & Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice small tomatoes in half and larger tomatoes in 1” chunks. Place tomatoes in an oven safe baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil. Roast until they are nice and caramelized but be sure to stir occasionally so they don’t stick or get too dry. Once the tomatoes are out of the oven and a little cooled, chop them a little more. Meanwhile, heat saucepan on medium and add butter. Once the butter begins to brown, add the onion. Cook until translucent. Add the grits and stir. Add the water. Reduce heat to a simmer. Stir occasionally so grits do not stick to bottom of pan. Once most of the water has been absorbed and the grits are thicker, add the buttermilk. Stir. Cook for a few more minutes until the grits are the consistency you like. Add the cheese. Stir. Add the tomatoes and fresh herbs and stir. Salt and pepper to taste.

I had a birthday a few weeks ago so Grant made me one of my favorites, Fried Chicken with Tomato Gravy.

friedchicken

Well it was delicious. We enjoyed it with a Basil Cole Slaw that Grant came up with on the spot. (That’s right, we still have plenty of basil!) Here is his recipe.

Basil Slaw

Basil Cole Slaw
½ head Green Cabbage
¼ cup chopped Fresh Basil
¼ cup chopped Fresh Parsley
1 clove finely chopped Garlic
¼ cup Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Tbsp Cooking Sherry
2 Tbsp Cane Sugar
1 Tbsp Salt
Black Pepper to taste

Chop the cabbage finely. Chop the fresh herbs and mix with the cabbage in a big bowl. In a small bowl whisk together the remaining ingredients to form a dressing. Pour the dressing over the cabbage mixture. Stir well. Let sit for at least half an hour. Serve.

We made the leftover Fried Chicken and Tomato Gravy into a sort of hash and served that over homemade biscuits with the slaw on the side. I love when leftovers can be reinvented!

_MG_6288

Lady Smokey Biscuits
3 cups All Purpose Soft Wheat Flour (White Lily)
2 Tbsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Sea Salt
10 Tbsp Unsalted Butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled
1 1/4 cups Buttermilk

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Mix the salt and baking powder with the flour and then add the chilled butter in a medium mixing bowl. Work the butter into the flour with your fingertips until the butter pieces are a little larger than an English pea, but not larger than a lima bean. Work quickly so that the heat of your hands won’t melt the butter. Pour in all of the buttermilk and, using light pressure, fold the mixture a few times until it holds together. Don’t overmix. In order to make light biscuits, it is important to work the dough as little as possible. Turn the dough out onto a floured board and fold it quickly and gently 4-6 times, just enough to get all the ingredients mixed. Sprinkle a little flour under the dough so that it won’t stick to the board and lightly dust the top of the dough so that it won’t stick to the rolling pin. Roll the dough out to about ½” thickness. Cut the dough into 2-inch rounds, place on an ungreased baking sheet, and bake in the preheated oven for about 11-12 minutes. I like the biscuits to be crispy and brown on the top and bottom, but not dry in the middle.

Listening to the Opry on WSM now. You can, too, every Friday and Saturday night. I will close with this recipe for Tomato Pie I made to take to a Tomato Sandwich Potluck a couple weeks back.

tomatoes

tomatoes in pie
Tomato Crumble Top Pie

1 Dough Ball (Remember to never use store bought please.)
Tomatoes (I chose a variety of small Heirlooms but you can use any variety really. If using big ones, just cut them into bite sized pieces.)
2 Tbsp Corn Meal
Fresh Herbs (I used 3 Tbsp total, a combination of basil, oregano, and parsley.)
Sea Salt & Black Pepper to taste
½ cup All Purpose Unbleached White Lily Flour
½ cup Corn Meal
6 Tbsp Unsalted Butter, cut into slices
1 cup Cheese (I used a mix of sharp cheddar and Parmesan Reggiano.)

Preheat oven to 375. Roll out the dough, form into a pie plate, and scallop the edges. Place in the freezer for about 10 minutes. I find this helps the edges keep their form a little better once you place the pie in the oven. Cut the tomatoes in half (or if using larger ones, cut into smaller pieces) and mix with 2 Tbsp corn meal, salt, pepper, and chopped herbs. Place in pie shell. Mix the next few ingredients with your hands or a food processor to form crumbs and cover the tomatoes. Place the pie in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour, or until golden on top and the tomatoes have burst but are not too runny.

I made mini ones in tiny Mason jars, too.

I made mini ones in tiny Mason jars, too.

The little ones are great served as a side dish with some summer veggies!

The little ones are great served as a side dish with some summer veggies!

Enjoy the last of the summer crops!

Eating Herbs While Listening to New Albums

Basil

Herbs! I have been cooking with so many herbs. I planted herbs in about half of our raised bed garden this summer and it is so nice to walk out to the back yard and come in with all the herbs I need for my meal. We throw them in everything. We toss them in salads, soups, veggie dishes, sauces, and even iced tea and lemonade. Below are a few of our favorite current dishes we came up with over the last few weeks. Herbs, while being super tasty, also provide many health benefits to the body. There’s power in those herbs! Plus, they smell amazing.

Cilantro

I made this Chimichurri type sauce as an accompaniment to a sliced Bella (their bread is delicious!) baguette one weekend recently when we had company visiting. We realized this would be excellent on top of grilled vegetables, meat, or fish. We later used it on top of a local skirt steak from our neighborhood Porter Road Butcher. You can use any herbs you have really and I added a little piece of a jalapeno pepper to give it some kick!

Baguette

Cilantro & Parsley Chimichurri
1 large bunch fresh Parsley
1 large bunch fresh Cilantro
1 small bunch fresh Oregano
⅓ Jalapeno Pepper
3 cloves fresh Garlic
juice of ¼ Lemon
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (enough to cover the herbs)
Sea Salt & Black Pepper to taste

Grind all together in a food processor (I have a mini one and use it all the time. If you find yourself without one, you can just chop everything really well and mix thoroughly). Store unused in the refrigerator.

Chimichurri Steak

This next recipe is based very loosely on a Trader Joe dip that a friend of mine used to always serve at parties. I really liked the flavors and eventually created this based on my memory of that. It is yummy with cherry tomatoes and pita chips.

Cilantro Pecan Dip

Cilantro Pecan Dip
1 big bunch Fresh Cilantro
2 cloves Garlic
½ cup Roasted Raw Pecan Halves
8 oz Neufchatel Cheese (or Cream Cheese)
¼ cup (give or take a little) Buttermilk
½ – 1 tsp Sea Salt
¼ tsp Black Pepper

Grind all together in a food processor (Again, if you find yourself without one, you can just chop everything really well and mix thoroughly.)

Grant made me breakfast last weekend and came up with these lovely herby roasted potatoes. Served here with Spinach Eggs and Porter Road Breakfast Sausages. Mmm…

Herby Potatoes

Roasted Potatoes with Fresh Herbs & Garlic
10-12 Fingerling Potatoes, sliced into rounds
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 Tbsp Butter, cut into small pieces
Fresh Herbs (2 large Sage leaves, small bunch Thyme, small bunch basil), chopped
2 cloves Garlic, chopped
Sea Salt & Black Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400. Toss potato slices with the olive oil and butter and space evenly, in one layer, on a baking sheet or oven proof dish. Place dish in oven and roast for 30-40 minutes, until potatoes are golden brown. Remove from the oven and toss in the herbs and garlic. Salt and pepper to taste. Place the dish back in the oven for 5 more minutes. Serve.

I love summer squash and one of my very favorite things to make each summer is 101 Cookbooks’ recipe for Buttermilk Squash Soup. I know, soup in the summer doesn’t sound so appealing in the hot south, but this recipe is so yummy and comforting that it works.

I wasn’t setting out to change her recipe by any means. It really is perfect the way it is, however, I found myself in for the day, ready to cook, and with no cumin seeds, which is one of the main ingredients. So, I adapted her original recipe to fit the herbs I had in the garden. I was skeptical but it turned out really well so I decided to post it. This would be great for lunch or served in little cups as an appetizer for the perfect Southern summer dinner. By the way, be sure to find some organic squash if you don’t have any from your own garden. It is one of those crops (along with zucchini, corn, soy, beets…) that has been contaminated and overtaken by GMO seeds so unless you have organic, there’s no telling what you might be eating.

Summer Squash Soup

Summer Squash Soup
3 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
1 medium Vidalia Onion, chopped
3 medium Red Potatoes, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
2 ½ lbs (estimate, I used 5 medium sized) Yellow Summer Squash, cut into 1/2-inch slices
4 cups Vegetable Stock
1 cup Buttermilk (I used local Hatcher Buttermilk which is delicious!)
3 Garlic Cloves
1 bunch of Chives, chopped (I had to use dried, about 1-2 tsp, all I had…)
1 big handful of Mixed Herbs from the garden (Basil, Oregano, Thyme)
Sea Salt and Black Pepper to taste

In a soup pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions and a teaspoon or so of salt. Saute for a few minutes, or until the onions start to get translucent. Stir in the potatoes and cook for 10 minutes. Add the squash and cook another 5-10 minutes. Stir in the stock and bring to a boil. Add in the chopped garlic and herbs. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender, roughly another 20-25 minutes. Remove the soup from heat, puree completely with blender, return to the stove top and then stir in the buttermilk. Taste and add more salt if needed.

Tofu

My friend and I have recently declared Mondays to be “Wild Cow Mondays” and tend to eat there for lunch most Mondays. It sure brightens up a usually hard work day and kick starts a week of healthy eating. In addition to having some of the yummiest vegetarian food in town, serving lots of local and organic veggies, Wild Cow makes the best tofu dishes. It has made me suddenly way more excited about cooking with tofu. Also, The Turnip Truck carries Farm Soy Tofu made in Tennessee out at The Farm so knowing I can buy locally made tofu from a source I can trust is nice. A block of this tofu in the refrigerator and all that basil in the garden inspired me to make this Italian-style tofu dish. It was again one of those dishes that came about because of the ingredients I had on hand. It was a bit of work but totally worth it. We really enjoyed it.

Parmesan Tofu

Parmesan Crusted Tofu With Roasted Tomato Sauce
Serves 4
For the Sauce:
Tomatoes, cut in half (I used nearly a pint of Delvin Farms’ Juliettes + a few whole canned ones that I had leftover)
1 Vidalia Onion, peeled and cut into chunks
3-4 cloves Garlic (keep in skin to roast, squeeze out of skin with a fork- be careful, it is hot- after and discard the skin)
Olive Oil for drizzling
Balsamic Vinegar for drizzling
¼ cup chopped Fresh Herbs

1 block Tofu, cut in ½” slices and patted dry
⅓ -½ cup chopped Fresh Herbs (Parsley, Basil, Oregano, Thyme)
⅓ cup Fine White Cornmeal (local Falls Mills makes a great one)
1 cup finely grated Parmesan Reggiano (a little less than ¼ lb piece)
1 Egg, beaten
2-3 Tbsp Buttermilk
Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper to taste
6 small Peppers (or 1 big Bell), sliced
6 Mushrooms, sliced
3 handfuls of Fresh Spinach

More Parmesan Reggiano grated on top for garnish

Tomato Sauce-1

Tomato Sauce-2

Heat the oven to 400. In an ovenproof baking dish, place the tomatoes, onions, and garlic in and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Roast for about 40 minutes. Remove from oven and cool slightly. Place in a food processor or blender and blend. Place in a pan on the stove on low. Add the herbs and stir.

peppers

Cut the peppers, mushrooms, spinach and herbs and set aside. Cut the tofu into 8 slices, about ½” thick, and place on a towel to drain. Pat dry. In a medium bowl, mix the herbs, cornmeal, herbs, and cheese. Add some salt and pepper (or you can season as you are cooking). In a small bowl mix 1 egg with buttermilk. Heat a skillet. Add a couple Tbsp olive oil. Dip each piece of tofu in the egg mixture and then coat with the cheese mixture. Place each in the skillet. I used an iron skillet and did 2 batches as to not crowd the tofu. After a few minutes, flip each piece of tofu over and cook for a few more minutes. Remove from the skillet and place on a paper towel to drain some of the oil off. Add a tad more olive oil and then saute the peppers and mushrooms. Add the spinach and herbs. Salt and pepper to taste.

Saute Veggies

To serve, place the sauteed veggies on plates. Place 2 slices of tofu over the veggies and then spoon some sauce on top of the tofu. Top with grated cheese if desired.

Tofu final

We’ve had a bit of a rough Summer so far, losing Grant’s Dad and a sweet dear friend of ours two weeks apart. In addition, we’ve been wanting to stay in with our elderly pup whose health is a bit compromised. All of this has made us feel like anti-social homebodies and we haven’t seen much live music at all. The small upside, however, is that we’ve finally had time to listen to many new albums that just came out. My top four favorites for this week are-

1. Jason Isbell’s Southeastern is an excellent follow up from his last studio recording (and one of my favorites) Here We Rest. You can hear him here talk all about it and perform a few cuts from it on Fresh Air with Terry Gross that aired this week. The more I listen to this album, the more I love it, which is usually the case with Jason’s songs. He is an incredible writer. He’s one of those rare artists who is equally dynamic- whether singing in a large venue with his full band or in a tiny room with just his guitar. This guy’s going places. And if you live in Nashville, be sure to get tickets to his Ryman show in August. Caitlin Rose is opening. What an incredible show that will be!

2. Kelly Willis & Bruce Robison‘s  Cheater’s Game is a really nice collection of their favorite love songs. Both of their voices are so beautiful on their own and together, they really can sing the duets. I love the uniqueness of this group of songs and it is nice to have some new favorite country duets to add to my ongoing playlist.

3. Son Volt’s Honky Tonk. If you’re like me and your favorite Son Volt song (and quite possibly the only one you can really think of) is, “May The Wind Take Your Troubles Away”, then you will love this album. They brought the twang back.

4. A nice compilation of John Denver songs titled, The Music Is You: A Tribute to John Denver put out by ATO Records. This album is a good reminder of how great a song writer John Denver was. This is a collection of some of his best songs with a diverse mix of some interesting folks singing them. I became aware of it because WSM had been playing Take Me Home sung by Emmylou Harris and Brandi Carlile. The first time I heard it, I actually didn’t like it and it totally caught me off guard but the second time, I loved it and needed to hear it again and again. Eventually I fell in love with the whole album.

I’ll close with this video of Kelly Willis & Bruce Robison singing Border Radio written by Dave Alvin & The Blasters.

Oh Hello January

1-Cranberries

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

2- pork chops

Smothered Pork Chops with Cranberries
Serves 2

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

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

3- cranberry pork chops

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

Turkey Chili with lots of toppin's!

Turkey Chili with lots of toppin’s!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sturgill Simpson January 2012

Sturgill Simpson January 2012

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

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

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

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

OK… back to hibernation for the winter.

OKRA, TOMATOES, AND CUKES! OH MY!

We’ve been growing okra every summer since we moved to Nashville. Okra loves the heat which is why it was impossible to grow it up in the Pacific NW when we lived there. Okra is great for sauteing up with tomatoes and corn or cooking it into some gumbo. Our two favorite ways to prepare okra have become pickling it and roasting it which is about as simple as you can get. Roasting it takes away the sometimes unpleasant slimey texture which can be present. It also brings out a great almost nutty and corn flavor. And, it is incredibly easy. All you do it wash it, dry it, lay it out in a roasting dish, sprinkle with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and then roast it up. I usually roast it at 400 for about 15-20 minutes. It makes a great side dish to just about everything.

Southern tomatoes are the best in the world and I honestly love them but about this time every summer, I start to feel a bit overwhelmed by them. We can’t eat the raw ones fast enough so I start roasting them up, too! I roast them with onions and fresh herbs and sometimes I add garlic or squash. Once roasted, you can throw them in a jar and in the fridge. I still haven’t started canning and I so admire all my friends who do. I promise I will soon. I used to fear it but now I think I’m just lazy.

We use roasted tomatoes all the time- in risotto, salads, egg dishes, on sandwiches… the possibilities are endless. To make the easiest pasta sauce in the world I just puree the roasted tomatoes and top with cheese. It makes a killer pizza sauce or lasagna, too!

Summer Squash Risotto, Corn Crust Pizza, Veggie Lasagna- all made with roasted tomatoes!

And, my third favorite summer veggie… cucumbers! My favorites are the Kirby pickling cukes. Since I was a child, we have always just had a bowl of them sliced with a little salt on the dinner table to accompany most summer meals.

Grant and I will sometimes throw a splash of vinegar and some sliced onions in and then every once in awhile we get even fancier and make refrigerator pickles in which we slice the cukes and onions and place in a jar. We boil some vinegar and water and throw in some dill, peppercorns, and garlic and then pour over the cukes. These last in the refrigerator for a few weeks. They make the perfect pre-dinner snack.

These lemon cucumbers cut in wedges made pretty pickles!

A favorite side to enjoy with all these summer veggies is always a pan of cornbread! We always have leftovers so often times we will toast a piece with cheese on it for breakfast. The other day, we came up with this Cornbread Strata which was delicious!

Simply cube up the leftover cornbread. Saute some summer veggies in an iron skillet. Pour a bowl of about 7 eggs mixed with some grated cheese on top. Add the cubed cornbread and bake in the oven at 350 for 20 minutes or until eggs are firm and top is slightly golden.

The temperatures have cooled down here in Nashville for a few days so I plan to enjoy my brand new bottle tree from the comfort of our hammock while I dream of all the yummy food to make with the first of the fall harvest to soon arrive!

In Case you Didn’t Know- It’s Waylon Appreciation Month!

Last year on June 15th, Grant and I celebrated Waylon’s birthday by making a dinner of all his favorite foods which included chicken fried steak. (Yeah, I’m a proud superfan.) This year, being his 75th Birthday, we celebrated by going to several Waylon Birthday bashes all around town.

It all started for me when my friend Allison and I drove down to our dear friend, Nikki’s restaurant, Normandy River Cafe, which is right near the pristine Duck River and around the corner from The Dickel Distillery. Nikki is one of the most amazing people I have ever met and she has poured so much love into this restaurant. Her brother Mike is the pit master. These two Texans serve up a good meal. They also have live music in the cafe most Saturday nights which is why Allison and I made a special trip a couple weeks ago. We saw members of Waylon’s band in their own band, Waymore’s Outlaws. It was incredible to see Richie Albright right there in front of me pounding out that cut-time beat Waylon’s songs are famous for. Also great were bassman Jerry “Jigger” Bridges and steel guitarist Fred Newell. Tommy Townsend plays lead guitar and sings. He does a good job of delivering Waylon’s songs in his own voice. I swear during one song, I felt Waylon’s presence. He would have been proud. It was a great night of music and delicious food.

Under all that hair, is one Shooter Jennings. I wasn’t in a good spot for photos but you can see more here.

The next week, Shooter hosted a Birthday bash for his Dad at the Greenhouse bar in Green Hills. We heard songs from Leroy Powell, Whitey Morgan, Leroy Virgil of Hellbound Glory, our buddy Sturgill Simpson, Jamey Johnson, and Shooter himself. It was a fun night. All of the musicians played some of Waylon’s hits and a few songs of their own. Then a couple days after his Birthday, on Father’s Day, Robert’s Western World hosted a Waylon Birthday Party and raised money for The Waylon Fund for Diabetes Research. All contributions to the fund went to the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), one of the nation’s premier non-profit biomedical research institutes. Once again, Waymore’s Outlaws played. It was so awesome to see them up there on that stage.

Richie Albright, Jesse Lee Jones (owner Robert’s), Waymore’s Outlaws at Robert’s Western World June 17, 2012.

No Chicken Fried Steak this year however, as usual, we have been cooking many meals listening to our favorite Waylon tunes. Here’s some highlights from last week.

Grilled Asparagus & Peach Salad
1 bunch Asparagus
3 Peaches, peeled and halved
Fresh Chevre
½ cup Balsamic Vinegar
1 tsp Brown Sugar
Black pepper
Fresh Basil leaves, chopped

Grill the asparagus and peach halves. Set aside. In a small saucepan, cook vinegar with brown sugar and pepper. Bring to a boil and then simmer until it begins to get slightly thicker (20-30 minutes). Arrange grilled asparagus and peaches on a plate (I cut both down a little so they would be easier to eat.) and sprinkle with crumbled chevre and basil. Drizzle with vinaigrette.

Another favorite dish of ours from the grill is this recipe for BBQ Cabbage. I believe Grant first got the idea from a Saveur magazine years ago. It goes really nicely with BBQ Chicken and Skillet Beans!

BBQ Cabbage
½ Green Cabbage, cored
4 Tbsp unsalted Butter, softened
1 Tbsp Sea Salt
½ Tbsp Black Pepper
1 Tbsp Chile Powder
1 Tbsp Garlic Powder
3 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
Heavy Duty Foil

Make a compound butter paste by mixing together all the ingredients except the cabbage. Rub about a quarter of the compound butter on the outside of the cabbage and then rub the rest of the mixture onto the top side of the cabbage. Wrap in heavy duty foil and then place on the grill indirectly over the heat and smoke for about 90 minutes with the lid down. The cabbage should be soft when you press it. Let sit for 10 minutes to cool and then unwrap and chop it well. Place in a bowl. Salt and pepper to taste, if needed. It might be good with hot sauce, too!

Grant uses a chimney to start the lump charcoal and then adds soaked hickory chips!

Now go listen to some Waylon and make a donation to The Waylon Fund for Diabetes Research.