Thanks to our friends Sarah & Preston, we have a new favorite weekly dinner staple which we call Vietnamese Rice Salad. Sarah and Preston had us over to dinner a couple months ago and served us this wonderful dinner of grilled chicken and jalapenos served over rice with fresh raw vegetables and this delicious homemade Vietnamese sauce (Nuoc Mam Cham). We left their house with our bellies full and the recipe in our hands and have literally made it about half a dozen times since.
It is so easy to make and lends itself to many different variations so we never tire of it. You can make it with grilled vegetables, any type of grilled meat, or Tofu. And leftovers are great the next day for lunch! With Sarah and Preston’s permission, I want to share the recipe here. The sauce is based on one of our favorite Vietnamese dishes- Bun Bowl- and Preston tried many different recipes he found before settling on this excellent version. This one is adapted from this recipe here.
Vietnamese Rice Salad Sauce
1 1/2 cup Coconut Water
6 tsp Brown Rice Vinegar
6 Tbsp Organic Raw Cane Sugar
8 Tbsp Fish Sauce
6 Tbsp fresh Lime Juice
4 cloves fresh Garlic, chopped
1 fresh (or dried but reconstituted) Red Chili Pepper deseeded and finely chopped (or a Tbsp Sriracha sauce)
Mix the coconut water, vinegar, and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove pan from heat and let cool. Add fish sauce, lime juice, and garlic. Store the sauce in a jar in the refrigerator until ready to use.
For the salad, grill vegetables and/or meat- we vary it every time. Sometimes we marinate chicken or fish in a teriyaki sauce or rub it with a simple dry rub before grilling. Grilled or pan seared shrimp is yummy. Portabello mushrooms drizzled with sesame oil and Tamari (or soy sauce) before grilling are also great. Also, grilled peppers, squash, and asparagus work well. One variation also included roasted Brussels Sprouts with the rice and grilled meal. Remove meat and vegetables from the grill, chop, serve on a bed of rice, and then top with chopped tomatoes, matchstick carrot sticks, sliced avocados, chopped cilantro, chopped cucumbers, etc. Pour some of the sauce on top. Enjoy!
Both these wines, above, that Grant picked out were strong pairings and are good, affordable choices for spring.
We are also very thankful for Sarah in providing us with some of our favorite new music! She has a brand new album out called, Tennessee Love Song. The Nashville album release is this Tuesday, April 7th at the Nashville Palace 7:30-8:30. This is Sarah Gayle Meech‘s second full length release. Sarah and Preston moved here about five years ago and she quickly began getting gigs playing on Lower Broadway. Grant played guitar for her for a couple of years and often I would hang out downtown watching their entire 4 hour set. Sarah is a great band leader who can work the crowd. She knows those old country classics and can very seamlessly throw her originals into the mix. She still plays regularly at Robert’s, Layla’s, and the Nashville Palace and has been touring lots lately, as well.
Sarah released her first cd a couple years ago. This second release is a great follow up. Listening to it, I can hear real confidence in her songwriting and her voice. And it is about real love songs- about place and person. There are also some really fun tunes that make me want to dance, like Watermelon and Root Beer. Below is the awesome video.
It’s been awhile since I’ve seen an entire Sarah Gayle Meech set of originals so I am really looking forward to her show this week. Hope to see you there! You can purchase her new cd there or HERE.
I grew up quite shy and have a tiny voice. Grant, my husband, has a big voice and has never met a stranger. When we first starting dating, he delighted in exclaiming odd, random phrases to me in public. I quickly adjusted and expanded the limits of what easily embarrasses me. All for love! One of his most common phrases to exclaim in our favorite Seattle markets was, “I LOVE NUTS!” I got used to it. In fact, probably the entire grocery staff did as well. Heehee. And it is true, we do love nuts- just about every kind- raw, roasted, ground into a delicious nut butter, and tossed in recipes. They are a common snack for us. Our favorite way to enjoy them is this recipe I have posted before.
I recently found need for a sweet pecan recipe and decided to use maple syrup. I’m pretty sure this is the vegetarian equivalent to maple smoked bacon. They were delicious. We ate them on their own, used them in a Roasted Beet Salad with an aged goat cheese, chopped some and tossed them with rosemary and fried shallots to top a Pumpkin Risotto, and that was just in the first two weeks. This recipe will be around for a long while. So here it is.
Maple Roasted Nuts
1 cup Raw Nuts (Pecans are especially good for this but any nut or a mix will do.)
1 Tbsp pure Grade B Maple Syrup
In a bowl, mix the nuts with the maple syrup. Sprinkle with salt. Place in an iron skillet over medium heat. Stir often. Get nuts nice and toasty. Be careful not to let them burn. Remove from heat and let cool in a bowl. They get a little stuck together so just break apart with your hands or a fork. Enjoy! The possibilities are endless.
Maple Roasted Pecans mixed with Fried Shallots and Rosemary atop a Pumpkin Risotto!
I also wanted to share this little family cobbler recipe. I was home in South Carolina this summer, visiting my Mom. She kept talking about us making a peach cobbler which we ended up not getting to but I later asked her what recipe she was thinking of. It is an old family recipe she had pulled out and been making lately. Apparently, my grandmother and great aunts up in Virginia used to make it all the time when I was little but I only have a vague memory of it. The ingredients are quite simple- 1 cup self-rising flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup milk, and 1 stick of melted butter. My Mom jotted them down for me on a little slip of paper. I brought it back to Tennessee with me and meant to make it for weeks. Well, the peaches went out of season and all of a sudden I found myself with a bowl full of fresh plums.
I thought this would be a perfect time to try that recipe. I, of course, set out to alter the recipe and as I started cooking realized I wasn’t quite clear on the method as there were no directions so I called her in the middle of baking to get it all worked out. I later realized in talking to my friend Melissa over at Corbin in the Dell that this was almost identical to one of her cobbler recipes which she made for me on my birthday back in the summer. She bakes hers in a shallow dish which definitely seemed right, although, Grant and I agreed that we also liked this cakier version which was a result of me using a small dish. That, however, made it less cobbler-like. We kept trying to figure out what to call it. It was sort of a pudding cake or a plum right-side-up cake (because we didn’t flip it). What we knew for certain was, it was delicious. We’ll keep playing around with this one. For now, here is the recipe I came up with for the plums.
Plum Right-Side-Up (On the Bottom) Cake
4 Plums, sliced with skin on
1 cup All Purpose unbleached White Lily Flour
1 ½ tsp Baking Powder
½ tsp Salt
1 cup Muscovado Sugar
1 cup Buttermilk
1 stick unsalted organic Butter
½ tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Vanilla
Preheat oven to 350. Lay the sliced plums in the bottom of a baking dish. (Mine was a round, smallish dish… Maybe 9” in diameter.) In a bowl, mix the flour with the baking powder and salt. In another bowl, mix the sugar and melted butter together. Stir in the milk, cinnamon, and vanilla. Add the flour mixture and stir well. Pour the batter over the plums and bake for 45 minutes or until the cake is cooked all the way through and brown on top.
I will close with a new music suggestion. I have been enjoying a new release of Bakersfield songs that Vince Gill put out with pedal steeler, Paul Franklin. These two guys are solid Nashville players. I often wonder what will happen when the last of the older classic country musicians are all dead and gone. Vince Gill is one of the first people who comes to mind in helping to fill that void. He seems like an upstanding, all-around nice guy with loads of talent and a real respect for the older generation of country music musicians. He’s very down to earth, thoughtful, and smart. Paul Franklin is a top-notch pedal steel player.
The Time Jumpers at the Cumberland Caverns for the show Bluegrass Underground. February 2012.
Both of them play with the Grammy nominated super group, The Time Jumpers who play every Monday night (when they are in town) in Nashville at 3rd & Lindsley. You can buy their new album, Bakersfield, here and listen to a great interview about it on NPR, here.
I really like this time of year as the seasons transition from summer to fall. We use up all the last of the summer vegetables and start to mix in some of the fall harvest vegetables. I find it to be such a comforting time of year. Here are three vegetarian dishes I made recently that satisfied my craving for comfort foods without being too heavy. All three made for great leftovers throughout the week.
This first one I made a few weeks ago and didn’t write it down but I just sauteed some of the last of the summer veggies all together- tomatoes, onion, yellow squash, okra and kale. I coated tofu with a spicy corn meal blend and then baked it in the oven. The crispy tofu steaks were then served on top of the veggie saute.
We love dining out with our friends Robby & Annie Klaver Hecht (you should check out Robby’s music here!) and we usually spend half the time talking about all the food we’ve been cooking. Recently, Annie told me about a meal similar to this that they put together. Her version had meatballs and a different tomato sauce. Since I had already roasted tomatoes and wanted a veggie meal, I adapted it into this…
Baked Spaghetti Squash with Roasted Tomatoes and Eggplant
a handful Tomatoes (Romas, Cherry…), cut in half
1 Onion, cut in small pieces
2 cloves garlic
2 tsp Oregano (and/or Parsley, Basil, or any Italian or Mediterranean Herbs)
1 large Eggplant
1 Spaghetti Squash
Whole Wheat Spaghetti
4 oz Chevre, crumbled
½ -1 cup grated Parmesan Reggiano
In an oven safe dish, line the tomato halves and onion. Sprinkle with olive oil, garlic, and herbs. Roast on 375 for about half an hour. Meanwhile, cut the spaghetti squash in half, scoop out the seeds, and place each half face down in another oven safe dish. Roast in the oven on 375 for about half an hour. Set both aside. Wash the eggplant and then rub with a little olive oil. Place it on a cookie sheet or in a roasting pan and place in the oven on broil for 7 minutes on each side. Remove from oven. Cool. Once you can touch it, peel the skin off. Scoop the eggplant into a blender or food processor with the roasted tomato mixture and blend to make a sauce. Add red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste. Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the whole wheat spaghetti. Once it is done, drain it and place spaghetti in a large casserole dish. With a fork, scoop the spaghetti squash out and mix with the pasta. Mix the sauce and crumbled chevre in with the squash and pasta. Top with grated cheese and stick back in the oven for a few minutes to melt cheese and heat throughout.
This is the non-baked version… Just pasta mixed with Spaghetti Squash with the roasted sauce on top, sprinkled with Parmesan Reggiano.
Many of our cooking ideas come about simply based on what we have around the house that needs to be eaten. This next one was a result of that. We seem to always have some kale, some Parmesan Reggiano, and whatever produce is in season. The beautiful fall squashes are so tempting now that I usually pick one up without having a plan of what I will do with it. This was one of those cases. Oh, and I should also mention that doggers love butternut squash! I try to always buy two so I can roast one up to mix in with their food. More veggies are good for everyone.
Autumn Vegetable Medley
1 bunch Lacinato Kale, washed and cut into small strips
2 cloves Garlic, crushed
½ tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Red Onion, cut in half and then in rings
1 Butternut Squash, peeled and cubed
2 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
1 tsp Maple Syrup
Sea Salt & Black Pepper to taste
1 cup Toasted Walnuts, chopped
½ cup grated Parmesan Reggiano
First, mix the kale with the garlic, crushed red pepper, and sea salt. Sprinkle with a little drizzle of olive oil and the lemon juice. Massage and mix together with your hands. Let sit to marinate while you toast the walnuts and prepare the onion and squash. Heat a saute pan over medium heat and add olive oil. Add the red onion. Stir occasionally. Add the apple cider vinegar. Once the onion has cooked down, add the butternut squash cubes. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally. Salt & pepper as you wish. Once the squash is tender, add the kale and saute for a minute or two. Add the maple syrup. Pour the contents into a bowl or serving dish. Stir in the walnuts and cheese and serve!
There sure are so many talented musicians living in our little part of Nashville. It’s amazing really. I feel so incredibly lucky. And it isn’t all country music either. I seem to be hanging out at our favorite neighborhood venue lots lately, mainly because Grant plays there often.
I know, I rarely even mention the non-twangy stuff but there are a couple of super talented guys who seem to defy all genres for me and both had releases this past week so I thought it was worth mentioning. I guess the thing that ties them together for me, besides living in the same neighborhood and being friends is that Grant has played pedal steel for both which gave me the distinct privilege of hearing their brand new songs over and over (and over!) for days as he learned their material. And, in both of these cases, I continued to listen to them over and over even after Grant had moved on to learn other songs…
Chris Pickering cd release at the 5 Spot. September 2012.
Chris Pickering is from Brisbane, Australia and has been in Nashville for a few years. We first saw him a couple years ago. He has some amazing power pop songs, is a talented guitar player, an exceptional song writer and always has a strong, talented band. His new EP, Corners, is more folk oriented, sort of, but as I mentioned it really defies the genre titles and should just be filed under, “really good!” It is a comforting album, one I can (and have) listened to over and over again and again. It’s the sort of music that makes me want to hop in my car and turn it up loud and go for a long road trip. Chris is a hard working musician so get out there and listen to his music! You won’t be disappointed. You can find out more fun facts on him and listen to one of my new favorite songs, Howl, here.
Also new this last week was Little Bandit‘s new EP. Little Bandit is made up of some talented young musicians but is the creation of one Alex Caress. This guy has it going on. His songs are very well written and so fun. He plays piano- which I don’t even really generally find myself drawn to but he is so talented that it doesn’t matter what he is playing, he is great. Again, I cannot find a way to define the type of music but “really good” again seems to be appropriate. And for the EP release party, there were 18 people on that tiny little 5 Spot stage- horns, strings, six or seven back-up singers, the band… Powerful! I was caught in awe, without my camera. You can hear all the songs here. But, please go see both Little Bandit and Chris Pickering live whenever possible. And while you’re there, you can buy lots of their merch to give away to all your friends. Thanks.
And, I’ll end this post with breakfast. Kathy Lindenmayer, one of my favorite people in the whole world, eats this next treat for breakfast all the time. Every time we visit, I am reminded how good it is. After our last visit, I continued to enjoy this often- Avocado Toast! Just put avocado slices on your favorite piece of toast. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and a sprinkle of lemon juice. Yum! Delicious and nutritious! Enjoy.
Or IS it winter? It’s supposed to be, but the dogwoods are already starting to bloom and the crazy spring storms have arrived at least a month early. I just emerged from the basement where I was huddled with shivering doggers as sirens blared and tornadoes swept across the state. I’ve been thinking about sunshine and stress- or rather, craving sunshine and wanting to abolish stress! Many friends and family seem to be in the midst of lots of stress lately. This got me thinking. What is stress? Good ol’ Wikipedia difines it as, “a negative concept that can have an impact on one’s mental and physical well-being.” I definitely believe illness can be caused or worsened by stress. What I’ve really noticed about stress is that it seems to be different for everyone. Or, really, how we each choose to deal with it in our lives is different. The severity of the issue, event, or idea that makes me stressed out is not always relative to how severe my stress is- meaning sometimes the tiniest idea will have me completely stressed out to the point of a panic attack yet, in the midst of a major life event, I can sometimes be calm and controlled. Stress isn’t something that happens to us, but rather it seems to be a result of how we allow our body or brains to react to something. Of course all this thinking made me hungry and lead me to consider how food plays into all this. Many of us turn to rich, fattening, comfort foods in times of stress. I began to research calming and mood-altering foods and got excited about figuring out ways to make those into new comfort foods, without all the fat.
I suddenly found myself cooking with foods that are all the colors of the sun and it was fun! I came up with this Sweet Potato Lentil Stew after my co-worker kept talking about her love of lentils and realizing that I never, ever want to eat lentils (except in the form of a Family Wash Shepherd’s Pie!). I wanted to find some yummy ways to eat lentils that I was excited about. I got it in my head to put red lentils and dried apricots together. I first envisioned this as a salad but then after some googling, realized there were quite a few recipes for soup with lentils and apricots. Combining several recipes and ideas I stumbled upon with what I had in my kitchen, I finally came up with this recipe below, which we really enjoyed.
Lentils offer all sorts of nutritional benefits, too. They contain many of the B vitamins which are calming and they are loaded with fiber. They also contain magnesium which helps relax the veins and arteries, apparently allowing blood to flow more freely in the body and thus reducing stress in the cardiovascular system. Sweet Potatoes are loaded with vitamins A and C which have been known to help reduce stress.
Sweet Potato Lentil Stew
2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Onion, finely chopped
5 cloves Garlic
2 Sweet Potatoes, diced (I used one orange and one purple)
1 ½ cup Red Lentils
1 ½ tsp ground Cumin (I toasted seeds and then ground them.)
3 tsp Garam Masala
1 tsp Smokey Paprika
1 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp fresh Ginger, finely grated
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 cup Dried Apricots, finely diced
½ cup Tomatoes (I used whole canned. Chop them or crush with your hand.)
4 cups stock
Sea Salt & Black Pepper to taste
Over medium heat, add oil to a Dutch oven or soup pot. Add onion. Stir. Once it is soft, add garlic and sweet potatoes. Stir. Add lentils and stir. Add in all the spices and stir. Add apricots, tomatoes, and stock. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes.
Not only was the weather odd last week but we also had an extra day- Leap Day- which wasn’t a usual day. We had a writer, Jennifer Justus, from the Tennessean and her photographer, George, visit us at our house to interview me. Weird.
I had these little aged gouda & rosemary biscuits and my Grandmother Margaret's apple pie ready upon their arrival!
Jennifer does stories on Nashville home cooks and wanted to feature me. I felt so honored. She is so sweet and friendly and she showed up in a beautiful yellow sweater which, coincidentally, went with the theme of the meal. Our friend and pr guru Amanda joined us. Grant was an amazing assistant, by the way. We cooked them up a big meal! Jennifer’s account of this afternoon is here.
This risotto idea (which Amanda helped me name) came to me the other day as I was craving saffron which, incidentally (I found out) is known as a mood altering spice! Adding tomatoes and lemon zest made me think of warm sunshine the whole time I stirred! I served this risotto with sauteed carrots and parsnips- also loaded with vitamins A and C. I used a little bit of butter and lots of oregano. Also on the side was some kale which contains folic acid, vitamin B12, and vitamin C- all great for reducing stress- sauteed with currants and almonds (another stress reducer). It was a very colorful meal!
1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tbsp unsalted Butter
1 Onion, finely chopped
3-5 Cloves Garlic, finely chopped
1-2 pinches Saffron threads, ground with a mortar & pestle (about ¼ tsp+/-)
2 cups Arborio Rice
1 cup dry White Wine
5-6 cups Vegetable Stock
1 cup Canned Whole Tomatoes, chopped
Zest of 1 Lemon
1 cup Parmesan Reggiano, finely grated
small handful fresh Italian Parsley, chopped
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
The key to cooking risotto is to stir constantly so be sure to have all ingredients prepped ahead of time. Heat stock in medium sauce pan. (If not making your own stock, I like to add chopped onion, garlic, and the juice from the tomatoes to spice it up some.) Once it comes to a boil, lower temperature to simmer. Heat oil in large flat pan on medium heat. Add onion and saute. Add garlic. Stir. Cook for a couple minutes. Add saffron and lemon zest. Stir. Add rice. Stir. Add wine and stir until wine is absorbed. Gradually begin to add stock in, about half a cup at a time and continue to stir. Add another addition of stock and stir until most of the liquid is absorbed. Repeat this process until the mixture is creamy and a bit loose; the rice should still have some chew to it. The process will take about 20-30 minutes. Right when you think you are getting close, add the tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste. Stir. Add chopped parsley and parmesan to risotto and stir. (Lots of stirring!!!)
Don’t forget that left over risotto makes yummy risotto cakes!!! Leftovers are also yummy cooked with eggs for breakfast!
Know what else helps reduce stress (at least for me)? LIVE MUSIC! We had a quintessential Nashville music evening last week at the Belcourt Theatre for Chuck Mead’s cd release party! Chuck Mead is an all-around awesome guy and a hell of a musician. I first heard him when we were still living in Seattle as his band, BR-549, used to play shows out there.
Chuck Mead at the Belcourt Theatre 02/28/2012
His solo band, Chuck Mead & The Grassy Knoll Boys, is made up of some of my favorite local sidemen- Carco Clave on mando and pedal steel, Martin Lynds on drums, and Mark Miller on bass. For this album, a classic country record featuring some of his old favorite tunes, he pulled in an amazing group of A-listers to join them. His show featured many of these special guests with Chris Scruggs on guitar and steel, Harold Bradley on baritone tic-tac guitar, Buddy Spicher on fiddle, Old Crow Medicine Show, and Bob Moore on upright bass. They also showed the movie of making the cd at the famed Quonset Hut studio that Harold Bradley and his brother started long ago. It was a very sweet film and an awesome night of music. I love this new cd! Y’all go get a copy now.
Carco Clave, Harold Bradley, Marty Lynds, and Chris Scruggs.
SO, just like most people I know, I am determined to start the new year off with newly revised commitments to myself, grand plans to eat healthier, and ideas of exercising and getting physically fit. I just brought home all these amazing fruits & veggies…
… and cooked a colorful meal filled with powerful antioxidants and Omega-3s!
But before I completely forget about all that delicious food I consumed in 2011, I wanted to post the last (naughty) recipes of the year!
So every Christmas morning at my Mom’s house, we have homemade cinnamon rolls. My Mom can make an amazing cinnamon roll. She usually makes about a dozen pans and shares them with everyone and has a pan or two for us to take home with us. It is a lot of work and she only does it once a year which makes it a cherished treat. When she married my step father, he came with his own set of family traditions. His family always enjoyed sausage pinwheels on Christmas morning. So, for the past twenty-some years, we have indulged every Christmas morning on homemade cinnamon rolls and sausage pinwheels. Those sausage pinwheels are especially enjoyable with some spicy honey mustard.
These aren’t some old family recipe but rather, Pillsbury Crescent Rolls laid out with Jimmy Dean spread thinly on top and then rolled up and sliced to form pinwheels. The last couple years, I always leave Christmas wanting to come up with a homemade version of these delicious but naughty little morning treats. An invitation for a New Year’s Eve gathering and a few days to consider what to make to take with us had me mulling this savory pinwheel idea over in my head. As with any good idea, it has been done many times before. I searched the internet for as many different recipes as I could find. I knew there had to be a homemade substitution for canned crescent rolls. I found lots of Rugelach recipes and decided to adapt a sweet cinnamon recipe into a savory treat. Here is what I came up with…
Mushroom Onion Pinwheels
8 oz cream cheese (I like to use Nancy’s organic version. Unlike most commercial cream cheeses, this one is not bleached.)
2 sticks unsalted butter
2 cups all purpose flour
½ tsp sea salt
8 oz. mushrooms, chopped
1 red onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
big handful of fresh spinach, chopped
fresh herbs (I used thyme, parsley, rosemary)
cave-aged Gruyere, grated (maybe a cup)
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 egg, beaten and whisked up with 1 Tbsp milk
Parmesan Reggiano, finely grated
Mix the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer until light. Add the salt. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour and mix until just combined. Dump the dough out onto a well-floured board and roll it into a ball. Cut the ball in quarters, wrap each piece in plastic, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
To make the filling, heat 1-2 Tbsp of olive oil in a pan. Saute the onion. Add mushrooms and garlic and cook until done. Remove from heat and mix with chopped spinach, fresh herbs, grated Gruyere, and salt & pepper. Cool completely.
On a well-floured board, roll each ball of dough into a 9-inch circle. Spread the dough with a thin layer of the filling. Press the filling lightly into the dough. (I didn’t quite make enough for all of my dough balls so for the last one, I mixed in some chopped pecans, sharp cheddar cheese and a little more olive oil. It made for quite a decadent little pinwheel but it was simply delicious! This makes me want to come up with millions different mixtures! So many options here…) Roll the dough up and in parchment paper. Place roll in the freezer for about 10 minutes.Remove from the freezer and slice into thin pieces and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Brush each pinwheel with the egg wash. Sprinkle with the grated Parmesan and more fresh herbs. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove to a wire rack and let cool.
Since the holidays were a little nutty and we spent a few days right at Christmas visiting family in South Carolina, Grant and I decided to have our own little celebration New Year’s Day. So we exchanged stocking gifties and made a fantastic dinner, had a delicious dessert, and watched a movie. No recipes here as Grant did most of the cooking, I just helped out. But, I didn’t want this meal to go undocumented. It was delicious. (Don’t worry, we got some black-eyed peas in earlier in the day- Thanks Rebekah & Harry!)
Sea scallops and a ruby red grapefruit.
Totally decadent mashed potatoes with caramelized onions, Cowboy bacon, and grated aged Gouda!
Seared Sea Scallops with Browned Butter and Grapefruit Sauce topped with fresh Thyme, Sauteed Spinach in Olive Oil and Garlic, & Fancy Mashed Potatoes.
Yummiest Toasted Almond Ice Cream (Thanks Turnip Truck!) with the most delicious little candy bar cookies (Thanks again Rebekah!).
Happy 2012- Wishing everyone good Health, Happiness, and Hope for the coming year!
Local Hatcher Dairy Egg Nog, George Dickel Whiskey, and homemade cookies!
Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays, all of them, whatever your beliefs. May you enjoy some quality time with loved ones, some peaceful reflection, and delicious food!
I have a last minute recipe to post for Holiday Nuts! I got this recipe from Nigella Lawson’s cookbook that a friend gave us years ago. Who doesn’t love nuts- you can make some for yourself and throw some in a jar to share with friends. We love this recipe. It is simple and delicious.
Preheat oven to 350. Toss the nuts together in a bowl and then spread out on a baking sheet. Toast in the oven for 10 minutes. In a large bowl, combine all other ingredients and then thoroughly toss the toasted nuts with the spiced butter to coat. Serve hot or let cool and then store in a glass jar.
I’ve been trying hard this year to keep the holiday stress at a manageable level and find as much time as I can to enjoy the holiday visits, baking and eating, and music (from our Christmas music collection at home to live shows in the ‘hood). Our friend, Allison, and I started the month off right with a Red Barn Round-Up Holiday Extravaganza. Grant put together a stellar Christmas band for us and they had many amazing guest singers! And, the food was over the top! We didn’t make it to any of the fancy country Christmas shows around town but we did partake in the $2 Tuesday 5 Spot Christmas Pageant. I love holiday music! Sadly, it didn’t occur to me until the last possible show, to video tape some of the Christmas music. I did get this one of Grant playing with Derek Hoke at the Family Wash last night. Merry Christmas, Y’all!
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!
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 Brown Sugar Pound Cake
½ lb butter
½ cup vegetable shortening
1 box and 1 cup brown sugar
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!
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.
Spring is rapidly moving into Summer as the cicada songs continue to fill the Nashville air and last evening, one lone lightning bug appeared in our yard. The local neighborhood farmer’s markets are just starting up and now we sit and anxiously await as the summer produce comes rolling in! Here’s a sampling of what we’ve been cooking up in the mean time…
I’ve really been on a salad dressing kick lately.
Beet & Humboldt Fog cheese salad with Herby Tangerine Vinaigrette
As a child growing up in South Carolina, we spent many weekends and weeks during the summer visiting my grandparents in rural Virginia. Papa had a huge farm with lots of yummy vegetables. Nana made a big pan of cornbread and cooked up all those veggies every day at noon for dinner. (Super was a snack and usually eaten around 5pm). On Sundays she even made homemade fried chicken! One thing she always had was a simple salad made of fresh lettuce from the garden and spring onions with a drizzle of warm vinaigrette consisting of apple cider vinegar, a little sugar, vegetable oil, salt and pepper. The warm vinaigrette would very gently wilt some of the lettuce. This always smelled so good to me but as a child yet I never ate it because I wouldn’t eat raw onions. As an adult, I have often thought back on that simple salad as I would really enjoy it now. Last weekend while visiting my Mom, she had lettuce from Mary Bauld’s garden and some spring onions from her garden so I suggested she make it as I wasn’t even really sure how Nana made the vinaigrette. It was delicious! We added cucumbers at my request.
A simple delight and a nice accompaniment to all those great summer vegetables. The vinegar just feels so cleansing, too. It is so easy to eat a more vegetarian diet during the summer.
What’s delicious with grilled meat, almost as tasty as mashed potatoes but way more nutritious, and orange all over? Butternut Squash Mash! I keep trying to come up with delicious and different ways to enjoy squash. I dearly love yellow summer squash but I am not a huge fan of other squash and neither is Grant, yet, squash is so nutritious and very plentiful and it is easy to find locally grown so we really want to incorporate more into our diet. Here’s a super easy, delicious side dish that lends itself easily to many exciting variations. The squash gets so soft when roasted that it isn’t even necessary to add stock or milk to thin it out before mashing. I used herbs and roasted garlic to spice it up but you could also use some blue cheese or gruyere, add some caramelized sweet onions, etc…
Butternut Squash Mash
1 butternut squash, cut in half with seeds scooped out
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
5 cloves roasted garlic
herbs de Provence
sea salt and pepper to taste
Heat oven to 450. Place squash halves face down in an oven proof baking dish and fill with about 1” water. Roast in oven for about 45 minutes. About 15 minutes into the roasting, place a head of garlic (with the top cut off and a little olive oil drizzled over) into the oven on a piece of foil, a dish or on a cookie sheet. Remove squash and garlic from oven and discard the remaining water from the dish. Turn the squash over, let cool a little. Be careful, it will be very hot. Scoop out the insides of the squash into a bowl. Add butter, 5 cloves of the roasted garlic. Toss in a few pinches of herbs de Provence, salt, and pepper. Mash squash and stir to mix it all together.
Another great for you but not always the tastiest of ingredients to us is quinoa. Grant, in particular, is not fond of quinoa so from time to time, I try to come up with some new way to disguise it. Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) was the principal grain of the Incas. (It’s ancient!) Botanically, however, it isn’t really a grain at all. It belongs to the Chenopodium family which also includes beets, spinach, chard, and sugar beets. It is very easy and quick to prepare and it is packed with numerous health benefits. It is known as a high energy food and easy to digest. Quinoa offers a great amount of high quality protein and amino acids. It has more calcium than milk and it is rich in minerals. The below recipe even got Grant’s approval, although, I’m pretty sure one could mix any number of ingredients, stuff it in a pepper, and top with cheese and the end result would be quite satisfying.
Quinoa Stuffed Peppers
I cooked up the quinoa following the directions on the package. I used red quinoa, which is really pretty. I sauteed some onion and mixed it and the quinoa with the following- frozen corn, raw chopped spinach, a can of diced green chilis, chopped cherry tomatoes, sea salt and pepper, ground cumin, and some grated sharp cheddar cheese. I cut the peppers in half and then stuffed each half with the mixture. I then placed the peppers in a baking dish, covered with foil, and baked at 350 for 45 minutes to an hour. I then removed the foil and topped each with a little more shredded cheese and baked for about 10-15 minutes more. These made for a colorful and quite tasty little side dish!
Oh asparagus, how I love you! Every Spring, I can never get enough. Asparagus originated in the desert regions of North Africa and was used medicinally long before it was enjoyed as a vegetable. The Greeks and Romans used it for relieving pain from toothaches and for preventing bee stings. The actual medicinal property of asparagus is a substance called asparagine. It is nature’s most effective kidney diuretic, breaking up any oxalic and uric acid crystals stored in the kidneys and muscles and eliminating them through the urine (thus the sometimes strong odor in urine!). Asparagus helps to fight against cancer as it is chocked full of vitamins A and C, as well as folic acid and Vitamins B1, B2, and B3. That’s a lot of B! We love asparagus simply steamed with some lemon, salt and pepper but we also throw it into salads and risottos such as in this recipe below…
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 small Vidalia onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
2 cups arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
6 cups chicken or seafood stock
12 Asparagus spears, cut in small pieces
fresh herbs (I used parsley & thyme), chopped
zest of 1 lemon
1-1 ½ cups Parmesan Reggiano, grated
freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 can baby clams (mix the juice with the stock)
12-16 fresh (or freshly thawed) shrimp
½ lb fresh bay scallops
juice of half a lemon
The key to cooking risotto is to stir constantly so be sure to have all ingredients prepped ahead of time. Heat stock in medium sauce pan. Add sea salt and pepper and the clam juice. Stir. Once it comes to a boil, lower temperature to simmer. Heat oil in large flat pan on medium heat. Add onion and saute. Add garlic and mushrooms. Stir. Cook for a couple minutes. Add rice. Stir. Add wine and stir until wine is absorbed. Gradually begin to add stock in, about half a cup at a time and continue to stir. Stir until most of the liquid is absorbed. Add another addition of stock and stir until most of the liquid is absorbed. Repeat this process until the mixture is creamy and a bit loose; the rice should still have some chew to it. The process will take about 20 minutes. Right when you think you are getting close, add the asparagus. Meanwhile, in another sauce pan, heat butter and add the seafood in. Add the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Add chopped herbs, lemon zest, and parmesan to risotto and stir. Once seafood is done, add it to risotto.
Seafood Risotto served with slow cooked sliced carrots and shallots in butter.
Don’t forget that left over risotto makes yummy risotto cakes!!!
I found the first peaches of the season and made some peach and blackberry pies for my family while in S.C.!
This week we look forward to our buddy, Knut Bell’s return to Nashville. You can read more about this great big old school country voice from the Pacific Northwest on Grant’s blog here.
2009- Ray Price talking with Eddie Stubbs @ CMHF on his friendship and work with Hank Williams.
We moved to Nashville five years ago in June. My sister got us tickets to our very first show at the Ryman Auditorium for my Birthday that July. We saw the amazing Ray Price! It was such an exciting night. We got all dressed up. Our seats were perfect- right up front on the floor and a little to the left side. As we walked in and got situated on our pew, the older woman beside me leaned over and said, “They let you in? Did they card y’all?” I have to admit, I did feel like a spring chicken in that crowd. Ray Price is one of our favorites so we knew we needed to see him but we had no idea his voice was still so strong at 80 years old (he’s 85 now and still going strong). What an amazing voice and a backing band of top notch A-list players that would have made any performer jealous. Our friend Buddy Spicher was one of several fiddle players.
Here’s a youtube find from the same year of one of my favorite Ray Price songs…
And here’s a clip I found from 1962 which features Buddy Emmons on pedal steel!
A few weeks ago, Grant got the opportunity to play with an incredible steel guitar player named Danny Muhammad. Danny Muhammad is one of Ray Price’s steel players.
Danny & Grant playing with Sarah Gayle Meech @ Bluegrass Inn
What a treat to get to see him play. He is such an amazing player and looks like he has so much fun. Danny is a little more animated than most pedal steel players. As I listened to him play, I was reminded of the very first time Grant and I saw Danny Muhammad back when we first moved to Nashville and Danny was playing in one of the honky-tonks down on Lower Broadway. He had a telecaster strapped to his chest, a pedal steel in front of him, and a sandwich in one hand. We remembered being totally impressed with his ability to multi-task AND play pedal steel so well! This, my friends, brings me to the food portion of my blog (nice transition, eh?)…
Grant just celebrated a Birthday and we have a tradition of allowing the Birthday person to make all the decisions for the whole week- the important decisions such as what to eat and what fun we should get into! Grant loves fish sandwiches so I decided it was time for me to learn how to make a good fish sandwich. They were quite delicious. Here’s what I did…
2-4 pieces Talapia
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup medium corn meal
1 Tbsp sea salt
1 Tbsp black pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cane sugar
1 cup buttermilk
grapeseed oil for frying
Mix flour, corn meal, and spices (salt-sugar) in a bowl. (Note: All these spices can be adjusted to your taste.) In another bowl, mix together egg, buttermilk, and hot sauce. Heat oil in a frying pan on medium high. Dip fish in buttermilk mixture and then in the flour mixture. Place in hot oil. Fry fish for about 3 minutes on each side- until coating is golden brown. Serve on a good quality bun with mustard, pickles, onion, lettuce, and tomato. Extra hot sauce is advised! 😉
And with these yummy Provence sandwich rolls left, we came up with another new sandwich, a Gruyere pickle sandwich, using cave-aged Gruyere, mini dill pickles sliced, and a good grainy mustard. It was delicious!!!
I’ve been really excited about making salad dressings lately, too. These organic Cara Cara oranges are making me really happy lately. I used these to make this delicious simple salad. I steamed some beets to accompany the salad (I didn’t want them to turn the salad red so I served them on the side). I used some of the orange in the dressing and then cut some up to throw in the salad as well. Also good with this salad was some Noble Springs Dairy’s Southall Gouda, an aged goat’s milk gouda. Deeelicious!
1 handful/ bunch fresh parsley
a few big glugs of extra virgin olive oil
juice of ¼ lemon + 3 sections of orange
1 Tbsp honey
1 tsp blasamic vinegar
¼ tsp fennel seeds
grated orange zest
sea salt and black pepper to taste
Blend all ingredients together. I used a mini food processor.
We also made a slightly different version using sultana raisins in place of the oranges and omited the lemon juice and fennel seeds. I shredded carrots in the salad which was reminiscent of the grated carrot raisin salad I remember my Mother fixing as a child.
Grant and I came up with a new biscuit, too. We added cinnamon and sugar to our usual recipe to create a yummy sweet version.
Cinnamon Raisin Biscuits
2 cups White Lily all purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter
2/3-3/4 cup buttermilk
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Heat oven to 500 degrees. Combine flour and baking powder in a bowl. Add the brown sugar and cinnamon. Cut butter into pieces and add to bowl. Mix with hands gently until the butter is in crumbs the size of peas. Blend in buttermilk and gently mix in but do not over mix. Turn dough onto floured surface. Knead gently 2-3 times. Roll dough to 1/2″ thickness. Cut using a biscuit cutter. Place on cookie sheet. Mix the ingredients for the topping and then brush over biscuits with a pastry brush. Bake 6-8 minutes or until golden on tops.
Mini biscuits are great to take to a brunch with friends.