Midnight Ramble

Living in Nashville amongst so many amazingly talented musical legends has its ups and downs. Mostly ups but getting to see (and know) some of these musicians so up close and personal at the end of their lives sort of puts you a little closer to the devastation of their loss when they pass on. Last week Levon Helm passed away and although he wasn’t from Nashville, he had affected so many of our lives and many of us felt the gravity of his loss on the music community. His daughter and wife released a statement to let the world know he was nearing the end of this part of his journey and I felt like everyone was sort of holding their own personal vigil, preparing ourselves for his last breath. We’ve filled our house with his songs and the music of The Band ever since.

Levon's Ramble at the Ryman 7/18/07. Not a good photo, but the only one I have.

I have to admit that I was a bit of a late-comer to the music of The Band. I mean, sure I knew their songs. Who doesn’t? But I didn’t know much about the band until I met Grant  twelve years ago. I quickly caught up and instantly fell in love with The Last Waltz and it is now one of our Thanksgiving traditions to watch it every year. We so wished we could have made it to upstate New York to one of his famous Midnight Rambles. We did, however, get to see his first Ramble at the Ryman in July of 2007. What a treat. Any show at the Ryman is a treat but this one was magical and filled with so much great energy. Levon Helm lived a rich life and definitely left this world an amazing gift. I am forever grateful.

There’s really no way to transition from Levon Helm to Coconut Chess Pie, but here it goes anyway. I finally got a chance to add coconut to Chess Pie. It was so delicious! It goes something like this…

Coconut Chess Pie
3 eggs
½ cup unsalted butter
1 ½ tsp white vinegar
1 ½ cup cane sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 Tbsp. cornmeal
1/2 -1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes, toasted and loosely chopped

Cream the butter and sugar, add the eggs one at a time. Add vinegar, vanilla and the cornmeal. Stir gently and then pour in unbaked pie shell, homemade of course. Sprinkle the toasted coconut flakes on top. Bake at 325 for 45 minutes.


The Lady Smokey Supreme

A few weeks ago, I was in the mood to invent a new classic sandwich. Big task. Grant had a big gig schedule one weekend day- a show down on lower Broadway from 4:00-8:00pm and then had to drive straight up to Kentucky to play another 4 hour show an hour later. I thought it would be easier on him (and kind of fun for me) if I picked him up and had sandwiches packed. I came up with this plan in my head and had days to figure out what to make. It was fun. I wanted a fall/winter sandwich with some meat but that also had lots of veggies. Like a one-pot wonder meal but in the form of a sandwich.

Grant named my new creation, The Lady Smokey Supreme! It went like this…

Lady Smokey Supreme
makes 2 sandwiches

Cowboy (uncured) Hickory or Apple Smoked Bacon (I tried both!)
4 slices Fancy, Artisan Bread (I used Provence Rosemary & Olive Oil.)
2 Portabella Mushroom Caps, sliced in 1” strips
¼ red onion, sliced in thin rounds
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
2-3 tsp Balsamic Vinegar
Sea Salt & Black Pepper to taste
Cave-Aged Gruyere Cheese, sliced
Roasted Red Peppers
4 Romaine Leaves, cleaned and dried

Heat oven to 375. Place mushroom and onion slices in a baking dish that has been rubbed with olive oil. Sprinkle with a little more olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Bake in the oven for about half an hour. Meanwhile, cook bacon in an iron skillet. Once done, drain on paper towels. Slice bread and cheese and place cheese on two of the pieces. Once the mushrooms and onions are done, remove from oven and place bread on a baking sheet to toast. Once toasted and cheese melted, remove from oven. Layer the bacon, mushrooms, onions, red pepper, and lettuce. Enjoy!

Provence's Rosemary Olive Oil Bread makes a good sandwich!

Steamed asparagus with a sprinkle of lemon & homemade pickled okra from the garden make perfect accompaniments to any sandwich!

Also, I was asked to teach a gourmet club how to make pie! I took my friend Catherine with me and we had so much fun. She took some great photos. I thought this would be a good place to post them. I am in desperate need of some new pie recipes. New ideas and experiments soon to follow.

Everything Good, is Good Again!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Real Country Music and Yummy Fall Food

So,  Nashville just finished celebrating the Americana Music Association’s annual hoo-haw. I always enjoy this week in Nashville as many of my favorite bands and musicians are in town and out and about. We were so busy this week that we actually missed most of the festivities. I did make it out to the Station Inn for the celebrated album release of Jon Byrd’s, Down at The Well of Wishes. It’s a damn fine album so be sure to check it out.

Jon Byrd with Eric Brace and with whole band, Station Inn, October 11, 2011.

And, we went to Grimey’s Americanarama party outside, behind the record store! What fun!

Derek Hoke, Nikki Lane, Chris Scruggs, Paul Burch, and Rose!

Americana is a fairly new term in the world of music genres. It seems to include all of those bands I once termed, “Alt. Country” but also welcomes some other roots sub-genres. I understand the ease of having one umbrella label to lump all these tiny categories in together but I’ve noticed many times lately that a favorite new song I love will be labeled Americana but yet is so obviously country. I realize this Americana label probably benefits the artist in that many people who have distanced themselves from “new country” now run screaming from the country label. But, I don’t want to roll over so quickly and relinquish the term “country”. I think it makes more sense to rename all the new country. Let’s just call it, “Suburbia.” Then we can take the term country back.

I missed the awards show this year but apparently, you can hear it all here. There were some great nominees this year, as always. Justin Townes Earl’s song, Harlem River Blues, won Best Song. This performance with Jason Isbell on David Letterman awhile back was pretty awesome.

The weather in Nashville this weekend is perfect right now. Fall is in full swing. It is my favorite time of year.

There’s a light breeze rustling through the slightly turning leaves and the temperatures have dropped to the 50’s and 60’s. All the Fall produce is ripe and beautiful.

I made some pumpkin bread this week. It was nice. I kept wishing I could remember to bring home some cream cheese to smear on top.

Pumpkin Pecan Bread
makes 1 loaf

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
½ cup all purpose flour
½  teaspoon of salt
1 cup cane sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup pumpkin puree
½  cup buttermilk
2 eggs, beaten
¼  cup melted butter
¼  teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1  teaspoon freshly grated ginger (I keep it frozen and then use a microplane to grate)
½  cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350°F. In a bowl, stir together the flour, salt, sugar, and baking soda. Mix the pumpkin puree, melted butter, eggs, buttermilk, and spices together. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and then stir in the nuts. Pour into a well-buttered 9x5x3 inch loaf pan. Bake 50-60 minutes until the center of the loaf comes out clean when a cake tester (or toothpick) is inserted. Turn the loaf out of the pan and let cool on a rack.

And we roasted up a bunch of pumpkin to make a soup. It was pretty tasty with parmesan croutons! Here’s the recipe I came up with…

Roasted Pumpkin & Caramelized Onion Soup

1 pie medium pumpkin
3-4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4-6 cloves garlic (place in oven with pumpkin for last half hour)
2 ½ red or vidalia onions (I had a variety of both), chopped
4 cups stock
1-2 tsp herbs de Provence (I added a little extra fresh rosemary)
seat salt and black pepper to taste

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cut pumpkin into pieces, clean out seeds (You can reserve them and wash them and dust with sea salt and bake on a cookie sheet later to make roasted pumpkin seeds!!!), rub with olive oil and roast in oven for about 45 minutes (until it forks done). Meanwhile, heat olive oil in stock pan. Add onions and a pinch of salt. Cook onions, stirring occasionally, until they begin to turn light toasty brown. Once pumpkin is done, cool and scoop out of the skin. Place roasted pumpkin in a blender and add a cup or two of the stock. Blend until smooth. Add the pureed pumpkin and roasted garlic to the onion pot, along with the remaining stock. Add herbs de Provence and salt and pepper to taste.

You could also top with a little creme fraise, grated cheese, or pumpkin seeds. We served this soup with a nice salad of beets, tamari pumpkin seeds, and Rogue River Smoky blue cheese. Yum!

Also, we enjoyed the leftover soup with some chicken Andouille sausages. Grant sauteed the sliced sausage up with some garlic and then added it to the soup!

And, I’ll end with this simple pie recipe that my friend Brad helped me come up with a couple years ago.

Pear Apple Gruyere Pie

2 dough balls (please never use store bought pie dough!) *
mix of 5-7 pears and apples, pealed, and sliced thin
1 cup raw cane sugar
1 Tbsp flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ cup (+ 1 cup for dough balls) cave-aged Gruyere cheese
1 egg white

Roll out dough ball and place in pie plate. Mix pears with sugar, flour, cinnamon and pour into pie shell. Sprinkle the Gruyere on top. Roll out second dough ball and lay on top of pie. Trim edges and use your index fingers and thumb to pinch edge. Cut a few slits in top to let air escape while pie bakes. Brush top of pie with egg white. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes and then lower oven temperature to 350 and bake for another 35 minutes.

*For the pie dough-
(This recipe was given to me by a friend of ours in Seattle who was a pastry chef.  They key to a good pie is in the crust!)

Makes a double crust for a ten inch pie, or 2 ten inch tart shells.

2 cups all purpose unbleached flour (I use White Lilly)
8 oz (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes (I use organic butter)
1 cup finely grated cave-aged Gruyere cheese
1/2 tsp sea salt
6-8 tablespoons ice water

Place flour, butter, and salt in food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse 24 times.  (I just use my hands instead of a food processor and it works just fine!  You get a good work out and there’s less to clean up.  If you use your hands, be gentle- your objective is to make the butter into little crumbs or grains, not to mush it all together, do not over mix.)  The largest pieces of butter should be the size of grains of rice.  Transfer mixture from food processor to large bowl.  Lightly mix in cheese. Sprinkle with 6 T of ice water.  Make your hand into a claw as if you are trying to grab a basketball one handed, and using your rigid claw hand, stir dough briefly until the liquid is incorporated.  Squeeze a handful of dough in your palm.  It should have just enough moisture to stay together.  If it seems dry and crumbly, add more water a teaspoonful at a time until you can squeeze it into a ball that doesn’t crumble when broken apart. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for at least 15 minutes.  Roll out onto floured surface as quickly as you can.  Balls of dough can be stored in fridge for a week or you can also freeze them.

It seems I’ve fallen behind on my posts. I sometimes run out of time to put all the recipes and photos together. I have also been guest blogging on our good friend, Dolan Geiman’s blog. Dolan is a great artist. Check his site out here and buy some art here! (Art is good for our souls, makes our world a prettier place, supports talented, creative people, and makes awesome gifts!) And, you can read all my guest posts here.

I’ll end this post with this new country song from Pistol Annies. These women have it going on!

Happy Fall Y’all!

Family + Food = Vacation!

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

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

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

Greenville's downtown Saturday farmer's market.

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

Mom's kitchen.

Mom’s Brown Sugar Pound Cake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ollie helped with the dessert assemblage!

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

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

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

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

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


Cake & Pie

I grew up on TV variety shows so my childhood is comprised of many memories of duets- from Hee-Haw’s Hager Twins to all the great country music sounds of Johnny & June, Conway & Loretta, Young Dolly & Porter, George & Tammy, Dolly & Kenny and Barbara Mandrel with everyone else… Below is a photo of me with the Hager Twins when I bravely went up to meet them one night at the Belcourt Theater a couple years before they died. It was at this meeting that Grant walked up and said, “Hey, get your hands off my wife!” to which one of then replied, “You definitely married up!” Teehee!

Here’s a classic duet from Johnny & June on the Ralph Emery show back in 1967 (before my time, although just barely!)…

And this is one of my favorite musical duet couples:

And one more from those super awkward years…

Fast forward now to 2011… We recently had the pleasure of going to the cd release for a new duo, Rhonda Vincent & Gene Watson!

These two are the real deal! Gene Watson is one fine songwriter from Texas who is probably best known for his classic country song, “Farewell Party.” Rhonda Vincent is a great bluegrass singer and player. Their new cd, “Your Money and My Good Looks” came out on June 7 which just so happens to be the anniversary of the day we arrived in Nashville 5 years ago! Their release party at Ernest Tubb’s Texas Troubadour Theatre was a great way to celebrate.

Another favorite Nashville duo this year is Kort which is the musical collaboration of Cortney Tidwell and Lambchop’s Kurt Wagner. Their album is called, “Invariable Heartache,” and is a collection of cover songs from the now-defunct country label, Chart records, which was run by Tidwell’s grandfather.

Hear the story here:

These two have golden voices that sound great together and create quite a charming album that is currently on my favorites list.

I’ll end this post with a little muffin recipe I just came up with. They’re pretty yummy and full of goodness.

Tropical Banana Muffins

4 Tbsp unsalted butter (at room temperature)
½ cup cane sugar
2 eggs
2-3 ripe bananas mashed
1 mango, chopped
½ cup coconut milk
⅓ cup coconut flakes
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp freshly grated ginger
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp sea salt

Heat oven to 375 degrees. With a mixer, cream the butter until light and fluffy. Add sugar and continue to mix. Add eggs in, one at a time. Stir in bananas, mango, coconut flakes and milk, vanilla and ginger. Add flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir briefly. Spoon into prepared muffin cups. Bake for 25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Happy Birthday Waylon!

I love Waylon Jennings. There, I said it. I am reluctant to blog about my love of Waylon for fear of not appropriately conveying my feelings or somehow coming off sounding like a big cornball super fan but here it goes anyway… Of all the classic old school country musicians, Waylon is the one I most closely connect with. That cut-time drum beat just puts a smile on my face every single time. Any bad day is made better when I put my Nashville Rebel cds on. It started out as the music but now, it is so much more than just the music. After becoming close friends with folks who were near and dear to Waylon, I feel a true sense of kindred spirit.

Waylon grew up in Littlefield, Texas. He started out working in radio and began playing guitar. He became friends with Buddy Holly, played bass for him, and toured with him in the late 1950’s. Lucky for all of us, Waylon was not on that ill-fated plane trip that took Holly’s life. Waylon ended up in Arizona where he became a local celebrity with weekly gigs in a Phoenix bar. It was there that Bobby Bare first heard him and spread word to Nashville of his talents and unique sound.

Waylon moved to Nashville and took the world by storm but Waylon did things the way he wanted to do them, the way he felt was right. This attitude gave him his “outlaw” persona as he paved the way for many others who had their own ideas and didn’t want the cookie-cutter “Nashville Sound.” He used the musicians he wanted to use and gave those deserving a chance. He cared so deeply about those close to him.

Waylon was a really good man with a huge heart who left the world with some amazing music. For this, I am truly thankful. And in honor of what would have been his 74th Birthday, June 15th, I decided to cook up some of his favorite foods.

Beef seems an important ingredient in Texas cooking and Waylon, being a true Texan, loved chicken-fried steak. I happened to be living in Washington when the most recent publicized US (originating from WA) Mad Cow scare hit. I read way too many articles on the subject and decided right then and there that I could no longer support the commercial beef industry. Only in the last few weeks have I found beef in which I trust the source and know to be independently processed. I decided to allow it back in my diet, very minimally and under close scrutiny, and to Grant’s delight! So with this, I decided to cook up Waylon’s favorite dish. It went something like this.

Chicken Fried Steak
Serves 2

2 sirloin steaks
2 cups buttermilk
1 egg
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
dash of cayenne pepper
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
¼ cup grape seed oil
½ cup all purpose flour
dash of cayenne pepper
sea salt and black pepper to taste

Pound the steaks flat. Mix buttermilk, egg, spices together in a bowl. Soak steaks in buttermilk mixture for about an hour. Heat skillet to medium heat. Add grape seed oil (enough to fill your skillet ¼ inch deep). In another bowl, mix flour with another dash of cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. Take steak out of buttermilk soak and place in flour mixture. Coat on both sides and place in skillet. Cook steak about 6-7 minutes on both sides. Pull out of skillet and drain on paper towels.

You can then make a milk gravy by adding flour to the leftover oil in skillet. Whisk together to blend, add salt, pepper, and milk and continue to whisk until desired thickness. Delicious over mashed potatoes and if you have any leftover gravy, you can serve with homemade biscuits the next morning!!!

We served the chicken fried steak with buttermilk mashed potatoes, milk gravy and artichokes (just in season and another Waylon favorite!).

And by the way, artichokes are an edible variety of thistle, in the sunflower family. They are shown to improve blood sugar control in diabetics and have been found to benefit heart activity and the gastrointestinal tract. Good thing, considering Grant and I decided after this meal that this definitely needs to be a once a year kind of a meal. In fact, we’ve decided to have this meal every June 15th from here on out! And we toasted the man who inspired it several times with this delicious red wine.

It should also be noted that the doggers LOVE the smell of chicken fried steak!

If Waylon were still with us, I would delight in making him lots and lots of pies. I think he might like Buttermilk Pie. Here’s my latest variation on this classic southern recipe made with Olive & Sinclair chocolate which is handmade in Nashville, minutes from our house.

Olive & Sinclair Chocolate Buttermilk Pie

1 pie dough ball (Please never used store-bought!)
3 eggs
1½ cup organic cane sugar
½ cup organic unsalted butter
1 heaping tsp vanilla
½ cup buttermilk
¼ tsp cinnamon
½ Olive & Sinclair sea salt chocolate bar

Let the butter get to room temperature. Mix eggs, sugar, and butter together. Add vanilla, cinnamon and buttermilk. Place in uncooked, prepared pie shell. Shave chocolate bar over top. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 325 and bake for another 40-45 minutes.

Now go listen to some Waylon and give thanks for his contribution to this world! The Ernest Tubb Record Shop has an amazing collection of box sets available. You can also find Waylon merch at this site.


I’ve been enjoying the heck out of these 13 year cicadas. They are so entertaining! I have a full photo account of their once- every 13 years- visit here.

We have also been enjoying our first Spring bottle of French Rosé. Nothing ushers in the warm weather better. Those Frenchmen really nailed it with that one. Lots of people shy away from the Rosés because they fear they are too fruity and sweet but the French Rosé is nice and dry. It is the perfect accompaniment to summer meals. Grant picked this one up at our favorite neighborhood shop, Woodland Wine Merchant.

I’ve been trying to get back on track with some healthy eating and with all the summer veggies on their way, it should be fun and easy!

There is tons of local kale available now and I keep trying to find more and more ways to slip it into our meals. Kale chips are one easy and fun way to enjoy kale. You can buy them but they are so expensive and they are so simple to make. I found this great recipe from Smitten Kitchen and pretty much followed her directions. I tossed a little olive oil, sea salt, and nutritional yeast on some organic Red Russian Kale from Delvin Farms, spread it out on a cookie sheet and baked at 300 for 30 minutes. We even crumbled some over popcorn one night. Yum!

We enjoyed this fancy (and chocked full of healthy goodness) slaw with Teriyaki salmon and some sweet brown rice with toasted sesame seeds. This was one of those meals that just made my body feel so clean and energized!

Fancy Tasting Asian Slaw
1 small green cabbage, finely chopped
1 small handful fresh parsley, finely chopped
a few big kale leaves, de-stemmed, chopped finely
1 carrot, grated
3-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1” fresh fresh ginger, finely grated
1 shallot, finely chopped

for the dressing:
2 tsp Umeboshi paste
2 tsp Nama Shoyu
3 tsp Mirin rice wine
3 Tbsp brown rice vinegar
3 Tbsp grape seed oil

Mix all vegetables together in a big bowl. Mix all dressing ingredients together with a fork or whisk and pour on top of veggies. Stir.

The other day, I overheard my co-worker mention that his wife liked to top turkey burgers with a yellow squash mixture. I didn’t even get the recipe or hear more than that one sentence and I could not stop thinking about it. One of my favorite summer vegetable dishes has always been yellow squash sauteed with Vidalia onions. I had to make it! Another co-worker gave me some garlic scapes today so I incorporated some of those in, too. Scapes are the tender green tops of young garlic. They are milder but really fresh and delicious.

Turkey Burgers with Squash & Onions
serves 3
1 lb ground turkey
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 small Vidalia onion, sliced in rings
1 yellow squash, sliced on an angle
1 zucchini squash, sliced length-wise
garlic scapes, chopped thin
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
whole wheat hamburger buns (we used local Provence)
Aged goat gouda (I used local Noble Springs Dairy Southall Gouda!)
grainy mustard

Saute the onions, squash, scapes in a pan, stirring occasionally. Salt & Pepper to taste. Set aside. Mix the ground turkey with the garlic powder and onion powder, salt & pepper. Grill or cook in a skillet on the stove. Place sliced cheese on bun and warm in oven or on grill. Place turkey burger on bun and top with sauteed veggies. Smear some grainy mustard on the top half of the bun and enjoy!

We enjoyed these burgers with some homemade potato chips!

Hand-Cut Oven Chips
serves 3
2 large Russet potatoes, washed and thinly sliced
1 cup brown rice vinegar
grape seed oil
sea salt freshly ground black pepper

Heat oven to 450. Fill a medium sized bowl with water and then add vinegar and stir. Place sliced potatoes (with skin on) in water and vinegar mixture. Place potatoes in one layer on a baking sheet lined with grape seed oil. Bake for 10 minutes. Flip them over (if they are thin enough, this is not necessary) and bake for another 5 minutes. Remove with a spatula and drain on a plate with paper towels on it. Repeat this process until all potatoes are cooked.

Know what else is totally awesome right now? STRAWBERRIES! All the local, organic ones are in and oh, so delicious.

My friend Meg gave me her Grandmother’s Buttermilk Pie recipe. It is so simple and very delicious. I rarely even eat much pie (yet I make them all the time) but there are a couple varieties that I do really love. This is one of them. I used local eggs and buttermilk, so fresh and delicious. The only thing I really changed about her recipe was the addition of the cinnamon and nutmeg. Then I topped with local, organic strawberries.

Buttermilk Pie with Fresh Strawberries
1 pie dough ball (Please never used store-bought!)
3 eggs
1 ½ cup organic cane sugar
½ cup organic unsalted butter
1 heaping tsp vanilla
½ cup buttermilk
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg

Mix eggs, sugar, and butter together. Add vanilla and buttermilk. Place in uncooked, prepared pie shell. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 325 and bake for another 40-45 minutes. Serve with fresh, sliced strawberries on top or to the side.

I’m still hooked on that NY Times Flat & Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe I found in Saveur and I wrote about months ago. I keep varying it, though, and my latest variation involved local Olive & Sinclair Sea Salt Chocolate and Coffee Chocolate bars with the special ingredient of fresh mint from the garden! I just chopped it up and threw it in. It was delicious.

Falling behind on my music posts but Allison and I have been busy planning the first Red Barn Round-Up of the season…

Songs of Spring, Farmer’s Market Dinners, and Channeling the Greek Isles

I have to admit, for a moment there I was worried the climate change was all coming to a head and I feared I would never make it out of winter to feel the warmth of the sun again. OK, that is an exaggeration, I will admit. I know it isn’t THAT cold but it has been rough this winter for us Southerners. This morning as I walked through Shelby Bottoms with the doggers, though, we heard the wild, deafening, mating songs of the toads and now I know that Spring is indeed on the way! That’s southern country singing at its finest! I know that soon all the other crazy summer sounds of the South will fill the air and comfort me.

I can’t help but feel that our recent culinary experimentation- channeling the food of the Greek islands- has had something to do with that. We’ve been real busy day dreaming of warmer climates which has led to many Greek salads and Mediterranean inspired dishes. It all started with those lemon roasted potatoes a few weeks back. Two of my favorite ingredients lately have been these: lemon stuffed olives which we have to order by mail and Tennessee’s own Bonnie Blue Farm marinated goat’s milk feta.

We created this chicken recipe below and ate it with some good crusty bread and a Greek salad made with the aforementioned olives and feta along with some red onion, red pepper, olive oil, lemon, fresh parsley, salt and pepper.

I Wish I Was In The Greek Isles Chicken
serves 2

2 Springer Mt. Farms chicken breasts
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
6 garlic cloves, peeled
1½ tsp sea salt
1½ tsp fresh ground black pepper
juice of ½ lemon
3 tsp dried oregano
½ white onion, chopped
1 Tbsp capers
1 cup canned whole tomatoes
1 pinch of sugar

Coat the chicken breasts with 2 Tbsp olive oil, garlic cloves, ½ tsp of the salt and pepper, the lemon juice and 1 tsp oregano. Let sit for 1-2 hours. Heat olive oil in an iron skillet on medium high. Add onions and saute until soft but not browned. Add the chicken and marinade into pan. Brown the chicken breasts on one side for about 3-5 minutes. Flip. Add the remaining ingredients, squishing the tomatoes in your hands as you add them to the skillet. Add more lemon, the remaining oregano, salt & pepper to taste. Turn heat down to medium low, cover pan and cook 10-12 minutes until chicken is done and sauce has reduced somewhat.

We ate this yummy dinner the other night just before heading out to FooBar to catch the Hackensaw Boys from Virginia. We heard their first album about seven or eight years ago while living in Seattle and really fell in love with their sound. They are a fun fast mix of old timey hillbilly music and bluegrass. We sort of lost track of them but they’ve had a couple albums out since and were on tour to support a new release called, “The Old Sound of Music Vol.1 ” They put on a fun show and we’ve been enjoying the new album ever since.

Hackensaw Boys at FooBar 02/05/2011

I’ve always heard about the Franklin Farmer’s Market but it happens every Saturday morning and until just recently, I had to work on Saturday mornings. We finally checked it out and were delighted to discover a cart with handmade cinnamon sugar donuts amongst our favorite local farmers such as Delvin Farms, Hatcher Family Dairy, and Noble Springs Dairy goat milk cheese.We had lunch at Gulf Pride Seafood in the Factory… The gumbo and shrimp po boy sandwich were  delicious! Thanks Kristin, for the recommendation! We then came home and made a Farmer’s Market Dinner with all our local finds.

We made fried chicken with local chicken from West Wind Farm, roasted potatoes and turnips from Delvin Farms, and coleslaw with cabbage from Delvin Farms. Grant made a tomato gravy for a complete Southern dinner! We’ve seen several variations for tomato gravy. We opt for the non-Italian version. He simply made a rue with Hatcher Family Dairy homemade butter (this was the key ingredient!) and White Lily flour. He added some tomato paste and hot sauce to the chicken stock that he then added to the rue.

I talk about Shrimp & Grits often and Grant has his favorite way of preparing this classic Southern dish but we keep thinking of new ways to incorporate leftovers and I am starting to think that perhaps all leftovers lead to Shrimp & Grits because that tomato gravy made the perfect base for Shrimp & Grits!

Another new recipe I came up with recently is this one for Cranberry Rosemary Walnut Bread. I love buying extra cranberries at Thanksgiving and freezing them to use later in the year as they aren’t always easy to find during non-Thanksgiving times. So many recipes pair cranberries with citrus but I am not such a big fan of this combination. I was thinking about rosemary and how it is in season all year ’round here and that it might be nice to add a savory characteristic to a classic sweet bread.

(By the way- I got a new ceramic loaf pan. Giada De Laurentiis has a new line of cookware available at Target. You know, the woman with the simple Italian cooking show on the Food Network. She’s beautiful and the whole time you are watching you can’t stop thinking, “How is this woman so skinny? There’s no way she eats her own cooking!” Well, I am super excited about her bakeware. Go check it out!)

Cranberry Walnut Rosemary Bread

makes 1 large loaf

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup White Lily all purpose flour
½ tsp sea salt (I used homemade rosemary salt)
1 ½ tsp baking powder (I used homemade)
½ tsp baking soda
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp fresh chopped rosemary
2 eggs, beaten
¾ cup organic cane sugar
¼ organic brown sugar
¼ cup melted butter, cooled
¾ cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chopped fresh (or frozen) cranberries

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease and flour loaf pan.
2. In a medium bowl,mix together flour, baking powder, soda, salt, nuts, and rosemary.
3. In a mixing bowl, mix eggs and sugar until combined. Add buttermilk, butter, and vanilla.
4. Slowly add flour mixture to wet ingredients and stir with a spatula until just combined. Add cranberries.
5. Pour batter into loaf pan and bake for 45-60 minutes or until a toothpick entered into the center of the loaf comes out clean.

I’ll close this post as I usually do, with a pie..

We were invited to a Super Bowl Party. You can’t grow up in the South without knowing at least the basics of football but I don’t really follow it now as an adult. We do, however, have lots of friends now who are all Green Bay Packer fans so I decided to make an Apple Cheddar Pie (green apples and yellow cheese- for Wisconsin and Green Bay color scheme, get it?). I think it helped make up for the fact that we aren’t football fans. It went something like this…

Apple Cheddar Pie

2 cups all purpose flour (I use White Lily)
2 sticks unsalted organic butter
6-7 Tbsp ice water
1 ½ cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
5 granny smith apples
1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
¾ cup organic cane sugar

Pie Dough
(Makes a double crust for a ten inch pie, or 2 ten inch tart shells.)

Place flour, butter, and salt in food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse 24 times. (I use my hands instead of a food processor and it works just fine!  You get a good work out and there’s less to clean up.  If you use your hands, be gentle- your objective is to make the butter into little crumbs or grains, not to mush it all together, do not over mix. Slow down.) The largest pieces of butter should be the size of grains of rice. Transfer mixture from food processor to large bowl. Mix grated cheese in. Sprinkle with 6 T of ice water. Make your hand into a claw as if you are trying to grab a basketball one handed, and using your rigid claw hand, stir dough briefly until the liquid is incorporated. Squeeze a handful of dough in your palm. It should have just enough moisture to stay together. If it seems dry and crumbly, add more water a teaspoon at a time until you can squeeze it into a ball that doesn’t crumble when broken apart. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for at least 15 minutes. Roll out onto floured surface as quickly as you can. Keep the second dough ball in the fridge until you are ready for it.

Peel the apples. Cut, core, and chop them. Mix them with the lemon juice and sugar and pour into pie shell. Roll second pie dough out and lay over top of the pie. Pinch the edges and cut a few slits in the top with a sharp knife. Using a pastry brush, brush the top with an egg white. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes and then 350 for 35 minutes.

Happy Eating and go support your local music scene!

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!!