Traveling Through Summer

It’s been awhile since I posted any new recipes here. We’ve been making lots of old favorite summer recipes mostly.

Romesco Dinner 2015

We make homemade Romesco at the first sign of asparagus and spring onions!

At the first sign of yellow crookneck squash, I start dreaming about this wonderful Buttermilk Squash Soup recipe from 101 Cookbooks. And last week, we had enough tomatoes from our Double N Urban Farm CSA to make a Tomato Crumble Pie. I look forward to both of these every summer.

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A few weeks back, we had lots of beautiful varieties of kale in our CSA basket and came up with this lovely variation of a Kale Caesar.

Kale Varieties

Kale Caesar with Seed Brittle
Serves 2
1 bunch Kale (I used a variety of different kinds of Kale leaves.)
Juice of 1/2 Lemon
1 large clove of Garlic, chopped
1 tsp Mustard
1/2 tsp Worcestershire
1 Egg, coddled
3 shakes Tabasco
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1/3 cup Parmesan Reggiano, grated
Lemon wedges

Seed Brittle
1/2 cup Seeds (I used an even mix of sunflower and pepitas.)
1 tsp Chili Powder
1Tbsp. Maple Syrup
Sea Salt

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To make the seed brittle, use an iron skillet. Place seeds in skillet on medium heat. Once they start to get warm and slightly toasty, pour in maple syrup. Stir and add chili powder and a pinch of salt. Remove from heat and let cool on a plate. Wash kale leaves well, dry, and remove the middle, thick vein. Tear leaves into bite sized pieces and place in a big bowl. To make dressing- in a small bowl, mix the garlic, mustard, Worcestershire, egg, and olive oil with a small whisk. Slowly pour the olive oil in as you whisk. Pour dressing over kale leaves. Pour cheese in and gently toss. Top with seed brittle. Divide between two plates and serve with a lemon wedge.

Kale Caesar

And then we went to Austin where it has become our tradition to eat as many tacos as is possible!

Taco Tour 2015

We tried lots of new places to us but our very favorite new taco was the “Gringa” from Rosita’s Al Pastor on East Riverside Drive. It was divine! In fact, I’ve been day dreaming about it ever since.

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Grant played a gig with our friend and talented songwriter, Teri Joyce. I love seeing music in Texas because the room is always full of dancers!

Grant playing with Teri Joyce & The Tagalongs at ABGB in Austin.

Grant playing with Teri Joyce & The Tagalongs at ABGB in Austin.

We also finally experienced Willie’s Picnic on the 4th of July which was super fun. I’ve never been much of a festival fan but I am happy to report that Willie’s Picnic was very well organized, all the bands put on great performances, and it was an all around fun day. It was a great mix of our favorite Texas and Nashville bands.

There was a huge crowd at Willie's Picnic!

There was a huge crowd at Willie’s Picnic! (That’s KRIS KRISTOFFERSON on stage, not that you can tell!)

One Nashville musician we were really happy to hear, whose new album Traveller has been in heavy rotation at our house, was Chris Stapleton . Nine years ago last month, as we drove across country to relocate to Nashville in search of real (old) country music history, we tried to acquaint ourselves with some of the newer country music that was happening on the big country radio stations. Every once in awhile we would hear a song that would catch our attention and reel us in. Almost every one of those songs, we would later find out, was written by Chris Stapleton. Once we got to Nashville, one of the first local bands we starting seeing at the Station Inn was The SteelDrivers, fronted by none other than Chris Stapleton. Well, now, he’s out on his own with his wife, Morgan Hayes, accompanying him on vocals and a killer backing band consisting of JT Cure on bass and Derek Mixon on drums (two of my favorites). Another common thread that links this album to many of my other current Nashville favorites is producer Dave Cobb. He seems to have it going on…

You can read/hear a fabulous interview with Chris that our friend Jewly Hight did for NPR here. Traveller is one of my new favorite albums. It’s pure country soul. You can purchase the new album here.

I was super excited to see that Samantha Harlow has a new video out! You can see it and read so much about her in this fun Rolling Stone Country article here. We’ve known Samantha since Grant played down at Robert’s. She tends bar and often jumps up on stage to sing a song or two. She has such a lovely voice. Keep an eye on this one, I think she has a bright future.

Samantha Harlow played our Red Barn Round-Up party way back when... May, 2013.

Samantha Harlow played our Red Barn Round-Up party way back when… May, 2013.

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Lots of Greens and Beans and Traveling Tunes

So, we’ve been trying to eat less wheat and fewer starches yet, one of my go-to type of recipes to throw together is a yummy, cheesey Italian-style baked dish. One day, I had this great idea of substituting the shell-type noodle with a kale leaf! This idea was super exciting to me and I couldn’t stop thinking about it for days. Seriously. Here’s what came of it…

Stuffed Kale- Oooey Gooey Cheesey Goodness!

Stuffed Kale- Oooey Gooey Cheesey Goodness!

Ricotta & Butternut Squash Stuffed Kale
10-12 Kale Leaves
Olive Oil
1 small Butternut Squash- peeled, halved, cored, cubed
1 small Onion
8 oz fresh Ricotta Cheese
1 small bunch of mixed fresh Herbs, chopped (I used oregano, rosemary, sage, and parsley.)
Sea Salt & Black Pepper

Butternut Squash

There is some prep involved but you can do these individual steps ahead of time and then assemble them all together before baking.

The ricotta mixture looks like this!

The ricotta mixture looks like this!

Red Sauce
½ Onion, chopped
1 lb Sausage
½ cup red wine
1 25 oz can Whole Tomatoes, chopped
2 cloves Garlic, crushed and chopped
Fresh Parsley and Oregano, chopped (I use lots of fresh herbs, you can use whatever amount you are comfortable with.)
1 Tbsp Tomato Paste
Ground Black Pepper

½ cup grated Pecorino from Wisconsin Sheep Dairy Coop (I bought it at The Bloomy Rind in Nashville. It is divine! You could use any aged Italian style cheese.)

Any red sauce will do and you can leave it vegetarian if you wish.

Any red sauce will do and you can leave it vegetarian if you wish.

Wash the kale leaves and remove the thick center stem. So, if you have big leaves, you can use each half as a leaf. Pat them dry and set aside. Saute the onion and butternut squash in the olive oil until soft. Set aside to cool. In a small bowl, mix together the ricotta, herbs, salt and pepper. Once the onion and squash mixture is cool, mix it with the ricotta.

You can really use any spaghetti sauce you wish. I made a simple one, using Sweet Italian Sausage from Porter Road Butcher in Nashville. Simply saute the onion in some olive oil. Add the sausage to brown. Add the wine and then the garlic and tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper if necessary and cook. Add fresh herbs and a little tomato paste, if necessary, to thicken a little. You may not need the entire recipe above for the dish and might have leftovers of the sauce. (Sorry- I didn’t measure well.)

Use the kale leaf as a pasta shell and stuff it full!

Use the kale leaf as a pasta shell and stuff it full!

Preheat oven to 375. Place a thin layer of the sauce in the bottom of a 9”x13” baking dish. Hold a kale leaf in your hand and place a spoonful of the ricotta mixture on it. Roll to tuck the sides under and place in the baking dish. (Basically, you use the kale leaves as you would pasta- as a vessel to hold the ricotta filling.) Repeat until all the kale bundles have been made and the dish is full with one layer of tightly bunched kale bundles. Cover with the sauce. Top with the grated cheese. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the top is a nice golden brown.

Stuff Kale Assembling

Stuffed Kale

When we lived in Seattle, one of my favorite places to shop was the PCC Markets. They brought natural food shopping to all new heights. One thing I still look forward to each time we visit and get together with family and friends is stopping by for some party or picnic foods. In addition to an enormous selection of local cheeses, breads, produce, beer, wine, and chocolates, they also have a great deli filled with delicious and healthy prepared foods. This next recipe is one I adapted from their recipe called, Turkish Garbanzo Salad. I just made a few adjustments to better fit my taste- one is, I changed to Spanish smoked paprika which gives it a much different flavor. I don’t like it quite so onion-y so I held back on the onion and switched to a white onion. I also adjusted the amounts of each ingredient to make a smaller quantity. I love it but if I make too much, we have too many leftovers. If you are making it for a large group or taking it to a potluck, you may want to double this recipe. This one makes about 6 or so servings.

Garbanzo Bean Salad

Garbanzo Bean Salad

Garbanzo Bean Salad
4 Tbsp Red Wine Vinegar
3 Tbsp Olive Oil
3 cloves Garlic, crushed and finely chopped
1 tsp Dijon Mustard
2 Tbsp fresh Oregano, chopped
3 Tbsp fresh Parsley, chopped
1 tsp Spanish Smoked Paprika
¼-½ tsp Sea Salt
½ tsp ground Black Pepper
2 (14-ounce) cans Garbanzo Beans, rinsed and drained
¼ White Onion, very finely chopped
¼ cup dried Apricots, diced
¼ cup Kalamata Olives – rinsed, drained, pitted, and chopped

Mix the first 9 ingredients together in a small bowl to make a vinaigrette. In a medium sized bowl, add the beans, onion, apricots, and olives. Stir well. Pour the vinaigrette over the bean mixture and stir. Let set in the refrigerator for a couple of hours before serving.

Beans & Greens!

Beans & Greens!

I make the Garbanzo Bean Salad so often that I wanted to come up with another fun and healthy bean salad for more variety. Bean salads are perfect for lunch- they are so simple to make, you can make them super healthy, you can eat them without having to heat them, and they offer a good protein hit to sustain you throughout the afternoon. This next one is a beans and kale salad which came about based on what I had in the refrigerator and in my cupboard. As I began to add ingredients together, it started to remind me of my favorite dish at The Wild Cow vegetarian restaurant in Nashville, Beans & Greens, hence the name of this salad.

Beans & Greens Salad
2 cloves Garlic, crushed and finely chopped
1 small bunch fresh Parsley, chopped
juice of ½ Lemon
1 tsp Braggs Amino Acids
2 tsp Tahini
Sea Salt & Black Pepper
1 ½ cup Kale, chopped into small pieces
1 ½ cup canned or boxed Kidney Beans (drained)
1 cup cooked Rice (You can use brown rice or white, or substitute another grain. I just use whatever I have leftovers of.)

Make a dressing by mixing the first 6 ingredients together in a medium sized bowl. Add the kale and massage it into the dressing, gently crushing the leaves a little. Add in the beans and rice and stir.

Add sliced avocado on the side for an even more deliciously satisfying lunch!

Add sliced avocado on the side for an even more deliciously satisfying lunch!

New music and record release shows are happening in our neighborhood on a daily basis. We can hardly keep up but it sure is fun trying! I had seen Jesse Lafser play awhile back and remembered really loving her voice so when I saw her post about her new release party, I knew it was a must-see.

Jesse Lafser at the Basement, April 25, 2015.

Jesse Lafser at the Basement, April 25, 2015.

Even Rolling Stone is talking about her! She put on one fine show at the Basement and now, her new cd is on heavy rotation in our house. My very favorite way to enjoy it, though, is played loudly, on repeat, as I drive. This is perfect road trip music. If you aren’t listening to it loudly, while hitting the road, it will surely make you want to plan your next adventure. You can read the Rolling Stone article HERE and see the video for my favorite new song. And please go buy a copy of her new cd, Raised On The Plains, HERE!

Jesse Lafser with fiddler at the Basement, April 25, 2015.

Jesse Lafser with fiddler at the Basement, April 25, 2015.

Happy New Year!

Family Portrait on Thanksgiving Day!

Family Portrait on Thanksgiving Day!

Renewal. That’s the word that keeps popping into my head as I start this new year. 2015 has a nice ring to it, I have to admit. I just successfully made it through another holiday season. Whew… After years of working retail during the holidays and getting caught up in the extra stress often associated, I decided a couple years back that the only way to make it through is to do the very minimum when it comes to celebrating and participating in the festivities. I have worked hard at avoiding all stressful situations during this time. Lucky for us, the real meaning of the season found us anyway. With the new year, we’ve been greeted with so much love from awesome family visits, great times with old dear friends, as well as some fun new friends.

I have felt that the last couple of years have been so difficult for many folks near and dear to us. We lost some dear loved ones and had more friends who were faced with scary health and life challenges. Perhaps it is our age. I have to admit that entering into my 40’s has been more challenging mentally for me than any other decade. The last few months though, I’ve been trying to regroup, alter my perspective on things, reconnect to the people and things that are most important to me, figure out some new paths, get rid of the clutter (literally and metaphorically) and I’m starting to feel a little more comfortable and excited for whatever lies ahead.

One thing that becomes more clear the older I get is the love I feel for family and friends. It becomes easier to let people know how important they are to you. And throughout all these changes and challenges that life offers us as we move through this life, the constants for me that always help keep me grounded and connected to others is good food and music. I feel so grateful that I have always been able to have these two constants in my life.

Final Plate

In keeping our distance with the holidays these past couple of years, Grant and I have used Thanksgiving as a time to try completely new recipes and ways of cooking which has been totally exciting to us. Last year, we had a Korean Thanksgiving and this past Thanksgiving, we did it again but decided to make dumplings! As we have just enjoyed the last two dumplings we had left in the freezer, I thought it was about time to post these recipes. In researching recipes before Thanksgiving, I found this wonderful website by a Korean woman who goes by the name Maangchi. I adore her. She has some great recipes and her videos are really helpful.

I started out by making her recipe for dumpling wrappers and while I did this, Grant was busy working on the dumpling filling.

DoughMandu-Pi (Dumpling Wrappers)
This recipe makes 16 large wrappers, each one roughly 5 ½ to 6 inches in diameter.
2 cups all purpose flour plus ¼ cup extra for dusting
½ teaspoon salt
⅔ cup water

Combine 2 cups of flour, salt, and water in a large mixing bowl. Mix with a wooden spoon until it turns into a lump. Then knead it by hand for a few minutes until the dough gets a little softer. Put it in a plastic bag to keep it from the air and let it sit for 10 to 30 minutes on the kitchen counter.

Take the dough out of the plastic bag. It will be a little softer and moist and easier to handle. Knead it for 5 to 7 minutes, until it’s smooth and elastic. Place the dough on a cutting board dusted with a bit of flour and divide it into 2 equal pieces. Put one half into the plastic bag to keep it from getting dried out as your work on the other half. Cut the piece of dough into 8 equal sized pieces. Roll each piece out with a rolling pin into 5 ½ to 6 inch round circle disks. They should be a little thinner on the edges than in the middle, because you will eventually be pinching the edges together when making the dumplings, so you don’t want them too thick and doughy. Take the second half out of the bag and make dumpling wrappers out of it using the same method. Use them right away to make dumplings, or freeze them for later. To freeze: Cover a large platter with plastic wrap and put the wrappers on it. Place them so they don’t touch each other, and separate layers of skins with sheets of plastic wrap. When it’s full of skins, cover the entire tray with plastic wrap and freeze it for up to 1 month. To use frozen Mandu-Pi, thaw out at room temperature for 10 to 20 minutes before using them to make dumplings.

Dumplings

And here is the recipe for the Kimchi Dumplings. Our version was slightly adapted from her version which can be found with this awesome youtube instruction class here- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpyEDjmTeGo

Kimchi-Wangmandu (King Sized Kimchi Dumplings)
Makes roughly 16 large dumplings.
½ pound Ground Beef
½ pound Ground Pork
1 tsp finely chopped Fresh Ginger
3 cloves Garlic, peeled and chopped
2 tsp Tamari
1 Tbsp Raw Organic Cane Sugar
1 Tbsp Toasted Sesame Oil
1 tsp ground Black Pepper
1 cup finely chopped Onion
1 cup chopped Green Onions
1 cup Kimchi, chopped
½ cup Firm Tofu
½ cup Bean Sprouts, chopped
1 tsp Salt
Grapeseed Oil
a little flour to dust your fingers

Dipping sauce:
2 tablespoons Tamari
1 tablespoon Rice Wine vinegar
¼ cup chopped Onion
1 Jalapeño, chopped
1 tsp Raw Organic Cane Sugar

Place the beef, pork, garlic, and ginger into a bowl. Use a wooden spoon to mix with 2 teaspoons tamari, 1 tablespoon sugar, 2 teaspoons sesame oil, and ½ teaspoon ground black pepper. You can use a food processor if you want to. Heat up a skillet over medium high heat and add 1 teaspoon grapeseed oil. Stir fry the meat mixture until the meat is no longer pink. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and be sure to include the juices from the cooked meat. Add the minced onion, the green onions, and kimchi to the mixing bowl. Squeeze the tofu slightly by hand to remove excess water and add it to the mixing bowl. Add 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon sesame oil, ½ teaspoon ground black pepper. Mix well by hand or a wooden spoon until well mixed. Put a wrapper on your palm and add 2 or 3 spoons of filling to the center. Loosely fold it in half vertically. Pinch the bottom on the fold to seal it. Push the right side in a little bit, so the wrapper folds in on itself slightly. Pinch that fold to make a pleat. Do the same on the left side and alternate sides all the way up until the dumpling is sealed. Pinch or wrap the end to seal it. Repeat until you’ve made all dumplings.

Filling

To freeze for later use (up to 3 months):
Set the dumplings on a tray lined with plastic wrap so they aren’t touching each other. Put into the freezer for 8 hours or so, until they are all frozen. Gently put them into a plastic bag or airtight container and put them back into the freezer.

To steam dumplings:
Boil water in a steamer. Line the steamer rack or basket with a parchment paper. Place dumplings in the steamer basket, but be sure to make room between them because they will expand slightly when cooked. Cover and steam for 15 minutes. Remove and serve with dipping sauce.

To fry dumplings:
Heat up a skillet over medium high heat. Add 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and swirl to spread the oil evenly. Add some dumplings and cook over medium heat, rotating them so each side gets golden-brown. Lower the heat to low and cover. Cook for a few more minutes. Remove and serve with dipping sauce.

Dipping sauce:
Combine 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon vinegar, ¼ cup chopped onion,  jalapeño in a bowl. Mix well. Optionally, if you like it sweet, add 1 teaspoon brown sugar.

Dumplings & Beans

In making the mashed potatoes, Grant saved the skins and, not wanting to ever waste any food (plus, always looking for more delicious snacks), he lightly fried the skins for a little pre-meal appetizer! Genius idea.

Potato Skins

Kimchi Mashed Potatoes

We made a few fried dumplings and a few steamed. I think the steamed ones were my favorite! We served the dumplings with green beans that had been sauteed with shiitake mushrooms and some kimchi mashed potatoes! As an appetizer (it was Thanksgiving after all), Grant made these yummy chicken wings that he threw together. We enjoyed these with some delicious homemade cider our friend David made for us.

T-day Korean Wings

Korean BBQ Chicken Wings
12 Chicken Wings
¼ cup Tamari
¼ cup Rice Wine
4 cloves Garlic, chopped
2 Tbsp Hot Korean Chili Paste (or Sriracha)
¼ cup Brown Sugar
1 Tbsp Grapeseed Oil

Preheat oven to 400. Combine all ingredients (excluding the chicken & grapeseed oil) together in a bowl. Add chicken and cover. Marinate 2 hours or overnight. Heat an iron skillet on stove on medium high. Add grapeseed oil. Take chicken out of marinade but reserve the marinade. Put the chicken wings in the pan skin side down and sear until a golden brown. Flip chicken wings over with tongs or a fork. Place skillet in the oven for 20 minutes to finish cooking. While those are cooking, heat the marinade in a saucepan over medium heat to reduce by half. Use this to baste the chicken wings a couple of times for the last 10 minutes of baking time. Remove the skillet from the oven and cool for a couple minutes. Serve!

And for dessert, I made these cookies which I adapted from another shortbread recipe I came up with awhile back.

Shortbread

Ginger Raisin Shortbread
¾ cup Powdered Sugar
½ tsp Sea Salt
2 cups All Purpose Flour
2 sticks Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
½ cup Raisins, chopped
1 Tbsp Fresh Ginger, grated
¼ cup Buttermilk
¼ cup Raw Cane Sugar (for sprinkling on the top of the cookies)

Preheat oven to 325°F. Mix sugar, salt, and flour together in a bowl. Add butter. Use your finger to incorporate the butter into the flour mixture, slowly and gently like you would pie crust. The largest pieces of butter should be the size of grains of rice. Once the butter is mixed in, add raisins, ginger, and buttermilk. Mix together. Gather dough into ball, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for an hour or so. You can roll dough out and cut cookies with a cookie cutter or roll into a log and slice. Sprinkle each cookie with a little raw cane sugar. Bake cookies until lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Cool on rack.

Music

Left & Middle- Santa’s Ice Cold Pickers play at Santa’s Pub every Sunday 7-9pm. Right- Kenny Vaughan Trio playing happy hour at The 5 Spot (Jan 2015).

We’ve been enjoying some fun Happy Hour shows around town and our usual weekly musical events and sincerely hope to follow through on my resolution of more live music in 2015 in the weeks to come… Happy New Year everyone!

Old Favorites (& A Few New Old Favorites!)

Fall Flowers

I’ve been thankful for my blog these last few weeks as it has served as a nice reminder of some of our favorite recipes and we have have been revisiting those lately. With the cold weather moving on in, we’ve already made several soups from previous posts- Lima Bean Soup With Bacon & Lemon, Simple Roasted Sweet Potato Soup, and Cabbage Soup. There are also these soups from last year that we conjure back up from time to time.

Big Bowl of Sweet Potato Soup

Big Bowl of Sweet Potato Soup

And here is this year’s version of my Roasted Pumpkin Soup. I say “this year” because I make it once a year but usually forget to write it down and then have to reinvent it every year.

Pumpkin Soup

Roasted Pumpkin Soup with a bowl of freshly chopped herbs ready to go it and a dish of roasted beets for the accompanying salad.

Roasted Pumpkin Soup
1 Sugar Pumpkin, roasted
¾ cup Cashews
½ cup Water
4 cup Vegetable Stock
1 ½ White or Yellow Onions, finely chopped
3 Tbsp Butter
2 cloves Garlic, chopped
1-2 Tbsp Fresh Chopped Herbs (Oregano, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary)
1 tsp Smoked Paprika

Cut pumpkin in half. Scrape out and discard the seeds the stringy bits. (Or roast the pumpkin seeds!) Place each half face down in a baking dish. Fill the dish with about an inch of water and place in the oven at 400 for about 20 minutes. Remove the halves from the dish and let cool. Once cool enough to touch, scoop out the pumpkin flesh into a medium bowl and set aside. Blend cashews with water. Sautee the onions in the butter in a Dutch oven or soup pot. Add garlic. Blend the pumpkin with the stock and onions and, along with the cashew milk, add back to the soup pot. Stir and bring to a boil. Add the smoked paprika. Reduce to a simmer. Add herbs. Salt & pepper as needed. Simmer for 20 minutes.

I came up with this tasty baked pasta and squash dish that I think would make a perfect Thanksgiving side dish.

Squash & Sage

Baked Butternut Squash & Sage Pasta
8 oz Pasta (I used Conchiglie, Montebello brand, but any penne or macaroni would do.)
1 small Butternut Squash, peeled, seeds removed and cut into small cubes
1 ½ cup Stock (veggie or chicken)
1 cup Whole Milk
1 tsp Dry Mustard
½ tsp Cayenne
¼ tsp Nutmeg
Sea Salt & Black Pepper
2 cups Prairie Breeze Cheese, grated (Prairie Breeze from Milton Creamery is the best and can be found most days at The Bloomy Rind in Nashville. You could also use Beechers Flagship, a sharp cheddar, a Gruyere or a blend of your favorites.)
2 Tbsp Fresh Chopped Sage
1 cup Bella Sourdough Bread Crumbs
2 Tbsp Butter + a little to butter the baking dish

Squash-1

Squash-2

Preheat oven to 375. Place the squash cubes in a pan with the stock. Cook on medium high heat until the squash forks done. Turn the stove to low. Meanwhile, cook the pasta and then drain. Chop the bread into small cubes. In an iron skillet, add 2 Tbsp butter and place on medium heat. Once the butter melts, add the bread and the chopped sage. Stir the bread crumbs several times as they crisp and lightly brown. Remove the bread crumbs from the stove and set aside. With a fork or potato masher, mash the squash in the broth. Add the milk and mustard, cayenne, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Stir together and then stir in the 1 1/2 cup cheese, reserving ½ cup for the top. Butter a baking dish and then add the pasta. Pour the squash mixture over the pasta and then top with the remaining cheese and the bread crumbs. Cover the baking dish with a piece of foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 15 more minutes.

Squash Pasta & Beans

I’ve been revisiting lots of old favorite music, as well, and discovering old music that is new to me. That’s the beauty of music, it is timeless, and just out there in the world waiting for you to discover and connect with it. Thanks to one Luke Bell who is the only local musician I have known to cover Randy Travis- he does it so well and I have realized it takes a special voice to do so- I have been listening to lots of old Randy Travis classics like this one…

And, holy cow, have y’all ever seen this video for He Walked On Water? It is very sweet.

Speaking of sweets, I don’t have any sweet treat recipes to post this time but Lord, have I been baking and eating sweets. I was asked to assist my sweet (no pun intended) friend Melissa Corbin as she competed in the great World Food Championships in Las Vegas. We spent hours baking and experimenting together.

Sweets in LV

You can read all about it and get her delicious recipe for Triple Dickel Apple and Chèvre Galette here.

This photo of all the judges empty tasting plates pretty much sums up how I currently feel about sweets.

This photo of all the judges empty tasting plates pretty much sums up how I currently feel about sweets.

Summer’s End

Whidbey

West Beach, Whidbey Island, WA.

Beach

Washington Park, Anacortes, WA.

Skagit

Driving through the Skagit Valley always pulls at my heart. There is nothing like it.

We just returned from a trip to visit family and friends in the Pacific Northwest. We quickly made up for our usual lack of fresh seafood while living in middle Tennessee, right from the get-go and procured a few other of our favorite PNW treats…

Photo 7-Seafood

Photo 8-Food

And in Seattle, our friend Steve took us out on his boat where we feasted on a picnic of freshly caught and steamed crab, local cheeses, and fresh fruit- while getting one of the best views of the city, in my opinion. I find the real working parts of the city to be the most beautiful.

Nautical

Nautical Men!

from the Boat

Our friend Kathy had a little birthday cook-out for her husband Chris and we were thrilled to be able to help celebrate. She created a few new simple recipes that I fell in love with. She came up with a few gems and with her permission, I am sharing them here. Her cooking methods are similar to ours in that she doesn’t usually follow recipes or measure ingredients so the measurements are a little of a guess but both seem hard to screw up, just taste along the way and adjust to suit yourself.

Cook-Out

Why, yes, that IS a Paul Stanley birthday cake!

Kalamata Fig

Kalamata Fig Spread
1 cup pitted Kalamata Olives
1/2-3/4 cup Bonne Maman Fig Preserves (3/4 c will make it sweeter, 1/2 c less figgy and more savory)

Blend together in a food processor, that’s it! Serve with bread or crackers. Rosemary makes a good garnish for it. It is excellent with goat cheese!

And what to do with all those jalapenos from the garden and the leftover watermelon in the fridge? Well, this sangria Kathy came up with was super delicious and made for a fun, festive cook-out beverage!

Watermelon Sangria

Watermelon Jalapeno Sangria
4 cups(ish) cubed Watermelon
1 medium seeded Jalepeno, diced fine
1 cup Sugar
1/2 cup Lime Juice
1 bottle dry Rose wine
1/2-3/4 bottle slightly Sparkling White Wine, like a Vinho Verde
1 cup Sparkling Water

Combine all ingredients together and then enjoy! Ahhh… so refreshing, with a hint of spice!

This next recipe came about from a few different inspirations. One, I was trying to think of another party recipe to include in this post. Secondly, as I was thinking about our trip, I was reminded of the excellent dinner we shared with dear friends Tim, Kelly, & Sully at their home. We hadn’t made a kale salad for ourselves in quite awhile. They served an excellent one with corn on the cob and grilled chicken. It was so beautiful.

Bakers

Kale Salad

And the third inspiration for this next recipe is our friend and neighbor, Melissa, who has an amazing back yard garden. I stopped by to take some photos for her last week and in return she made me dinner (with the excellent company of Melissa and her husband “Pank”) and sent me home with 2 bags of produce. I felt a little guilty as I surely came out on top of that barder. In one of the bags was a big bunch of kale!

Kale

I also used some cheese I picked up in Seattle and brought back with us. It is a parmesan style made by Beechers. Any parmesan-like cheese will work.

Beechers Brad's Parm

Made in Seattle, Brad’s Parmesan is a good salad topper.

Lemon Kale Dip
1 small bunch Kale
Sea Salt
Lemon Zest of ½ Lemon
Lemon Juice of ¼ Lemon
1-2 cloves Garlic
8 oz Neufchatel Cheese
½ – 1 cup Greek Yogurt
¼ cup finely grated firm Italian-style cheese
Black Pepper
1 Tbsp fresh Parsley
1 Tbsp fresh Basil
2 tsp fresh Oregano

Remove the hard middle stems from the kale leaves. Clean and dry kale leaves. Sprinkle the leaves with a little sea salt and squeeze the lemon over. Zest the lemon on top. Gently massage the leaves with your fingers and let sit while you mix all the other ingredients together in a food processor. Start by adding ½ cup yogurt and later you can gradually add in more, if needed. Chop up the kale finely and add to the mixture. Add more yogurt if necessary for desired thickness. Chill for a little while. Serve with Pretzel Chips.

Photo 16-Kale Spread

I can’t stop thinking about Otis Gibbs‘ music this week. Last week, we went to his album release at the world famous Station Inn! Otis has been playing music and writing songs for a long time. He tours all over but, he very rarely plays in Nashville. It was a real treat to hear him play with a full band.

Otis' Album Release

I snagged this poor quality, quick, cell phone photo before we were encouraged to put our electronics away and be there in person, together!

Otis is a great story teller and this new cd is a wonderful collection of new songs. Each one sounds like a soon-to-be favorite. This new album is sure to be one of those that just gets better and better with each listen, too.

Amy & Otis

Amy Lashley, Russell, and Otis Gibbs. The Red Barn Round-Up, April 2013.

Here’s a video for one of my favorite new songs, The Darker Side of Me.

You can purchase the new album on his website, here, and while you are there be sure to check out Amy Lashley’s page, Otis’ photographs (if you ever wondered what to buy me, hint, hint!), and Otis’ most excellent podcasts, “Thank’s for Giving a Damn!”

Photo 20-OG cd

In Celebration of the Tomato

1-Tomatoes

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

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

2-Tom Cuke Peach Salad

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

3-Bread Salad

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

4-Chicken Eggplant Parmesan

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

5-Grit Stuffed Squash

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

6-Mac Cheese Prep

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

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

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

7-Mac Cheese

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

7-Mac & Cheese

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

MS-1

MS-2

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

Summer Dill Recipes & Pedal Steel Awesomeness

001

For the past few years, we have had a raised garden bed. In years past, we’ve planted squash, tomatoes, cukes, okra, and always a few herbs. What usually happens is, as the summer progresses we get busy and our beautiful little garden grows faster and faster and suddenly, it turns into a jungle and we get completely overwhelmed. This year, we decided to sign up for our friends’ CSA and take a step back on our own garden. We only planted herbs and sunflowers which has been much more manageable. And we’ve eaten so many herbs and found so many new uses for all of them.

002

Here are a few of our current favorite recipes using fresh dill. Dill is a member of the parsley family and a native to the Mediterranean region. In addition to all the many culinary uses, it also has some health benefits. The leaves have been known to stimulate the appetite and settle digestion, induce sleep, clear up halitosis, and it also has a high vitamin content.

Dill flowers

Grant came up with most of these. He’s a wizard in the kitchen! We usually discuss them together and come up with a good plan but this first one was all him.

Smashed Dill Potatoes
8 small-medium Red Potatoes
4 Tbsp Butter
3 Tbsp Fresh Dill, roughly chopped
Salt & Pepper

Boil the potatoes whole in a large pan until done, approximately 20 minutes or so. Drain immediately. Run the potatoes under cool water to stop cooking process. Set aside. Let cool. In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium high heat. Take each potato and smash them slightly between both hands until they are somewhat flattened. Place potatoes in the pan of butter. Season with salt and pepper to your liking as they cook. Let the potatoes get a deep golden brown and then flip. You can add a little more butter if necessary to keep the pan from getting too dry. When the potatoes are done, sprinkle in the chopped dill. Adjust seasoning if needed. Serve.

Potatoes

Smashed Dill Potatoes

We eat so many salads in the summer. Usually we just make a simple herbed vinaigrette type of dressing. Every once in awhile, though, a creamy dressing is delicious! This dill dressing was so yummy, we made it twice in the last couple of weeks- once served with a simple cucumber and tomato salad and another time with smoked salmon and homemade croutons made with leftover Bella sourdough bread.

Salad bowl

Fresh Dill Dressing
3 sprigs Fresh Dill, finely chopped
1 Tbsp Fresh Chives, finely chopped
1 clove Garlic, finely chopped
2 Tbsp Greek Yogurt
2 Tbsp Mayonnaise
3+ Tbsp Buttermilk
Salt & Pepper

Salad

Combine all ingredients in a small food processor. Add more buttermilk if it seems too thick. Salt and pepper to taste. Makes enough for one big salad or you can use it as a dip for raw vegetables.

Salad w Salmon

We tend to use mostly the leaves or fronds of the dill plant. It is common to use the flowers with the seeds for pickling. The flowering part has a much stronger flavor and can be a bit bitter to taste. I love the beautiful flowers in the garden, though. They look like fireworks!

Dill backlit

Refrigerator Pickled Dill Green Beans
Makes 3 pint jars
1-2 lbs Green Beans, trimmed (enough to fit into 3 pint jars)
3 cloves Garlic, sliced
3 sprigs of Fresh Dill
1-3 tsp Red Pepper Flakes (depending on how hot you like it)
1 tsp Black Peppercorns
5 cups White or Cider Vinegar (or a combination of both)
5 cups Water
1/4 cup Salt

Beans

Place 1 sliced garlic clove and 1 sprig of dill in each jar. Divide the pepper flakes and peppercorns between each jar. Fill each jar with the beans. Boil the vinegar, water, and salt until the salt has dissolved. Immediately fill each jar with the brine. Let cool, cover, and refrigerate. They are usually ready to eat after a day and should stay good in the refrigerator for about a month.

This has become one of our favorite ways to eat salmon. It is so simple and fresh and perfect for summer.

Salmon marinating

Salmon Marinated in Vodka & Dill
Serves 4
1 lb. Salmon Filets
1/4 cup Olive Oil
1/4 cup Vodka
2 Tbsp Fresh Dill, chopped
2 cloves Garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp ground Black Pepper

Salmon Cooking

Whisk together oil, vodka, dill, garlic, salt & pepper in a bowl to create a marinade. Place salmon in the marinade, flesh side down. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 2 hours. Remove salmon from the marinade (but save the marinade) and grill, broil, or pan-fry the salmon flesh side down until flesh is browned (4-5 minutes) and then flip over and finish cooking skin side down for another few minutes. For the last 2 minutes, pour the marinade over the salmon.

And for a refreshing cocktail or after dinner sip…

Cucumber Dill Aquavit
1 750 ml bottle high quality Vodka (Absolute or Tito’s)
1/2 medium sized Cucumber, sliced thinly and then chopped
4 sprigs fresh Dill

Empty a few ounces of vodka out of the bottle (maybe make yourself a nice Vodka Tonic to start?). Add the dill and cucumber to the bottle with remaining vodka. Let it steep for a few days, up to one week. Then, strain out the vodka and discard the cucumber and dill. Freeze the vodka. Sip as is or make a delicious cocktail out of the Aquavit.

Poster for the Nashville event.

Poster for the Nashville event.

This week we are going to a benefit for The Nikki Mitchell Foundation. I’ve mentioned our beautiful friend Nikki many times. This week marks the anniversary of her passing and we are thrilled that her friend Rhonda continues her courageous fight for pancreatic cancer awareness. On the bill for the concert this week, among others, is Chris Stapleton. He is a great writer in town. We first took notice of his incredible voice when he was with The Steeldrivers. I started thinking about him and looked up to see all of his recordings. I noticed he was on a Buddy Emmons Tribute album that came out last year. It’s a fun album. You can check it out here. This reminded me of the time I was lucky enough to see Buddy play with Johnny Bush (for free!) at the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree about 6 or 7 years ago.

buddyemmons

And then that made me think about our friend Brett Resnick. He’s turning into one hot-shot pedal steel player.

Brett at Santas

We met Brett, also, at Santa’s Pub. He is a fantastic new player and over the last year and a half since we’ve known him, we’ve seen him continue to get better and better. You can see him playing with all sorts of folks around town. He’s also been featured on several new albums I have mentioned over the last few months.

BrettResnick 3-29-14

Korean Garlic Ginger Deliciousness (3 Ways) & The Music of Luke Bell

3 ways

So, as I have stated before, Korean food is sort of new to our tastebuds. Neither Grant nor I experienced it much before moving to Nashville eight years ago. Don’t get me wrong- Nashville is not a city, in any way, known for its Korean food but somehow, we found a little joint that probably serves up pretty good Korean food. I say, “pretty good” because I am certain there are so many better places in the world to get great Korean food. But for us, it was good enough to entice us into a new cuisine and we’ve been experimenting around with Korean flavors at home ever since.

We experienced our very own Korean Thanksgiving last year and since then, have been expanding on that idea to include chicken, catfish, and a vegetarian option of mushrooms with tempeh. So basically, it is just a variation on a similar theme but I loved them all and wanted to keep track of them here.

First off, you’ll need kimchi. Grant has tried making it once and we have experimented with several store bought varieties. They were all delicious in different ways. Once I have a great homemade recipe, I will post it.

Kimchi

You will also need these two delicious sauces…

Sauces

Ginger-Scallion Sauce (this sauce is a necessity!)
2½ cups Scallions, thinly sliced, both green and white parts
½ cup Fresh Ginger, peeled and finely chopped
¼ cup Grapeseed Oil
1½ tsp Tamari
1 tsp Sherry Vinegar
½ tsp Sea Salt, or to taste

Mix all ingredients together and serve in a bowl.

Ssam Sauce (this sauce is optional)
2 Tbsp Fermented Bean-and- Chili Paste (Ssamjang, available in many Asian markets, and online)
1 Tbsp Chili Paste (Kochujang, available in many Asian markets, and online)
½ cup Sherry Vinegar
½ cup Grapeseed Oil

Mix all ingredients together and serve in a bowl.

Tempeh-3

Korean Garlic Ginger Mushrooms & Tempeh
Serves 3
2 Tbsp Mirin
2 Tbsp fresh Ginger, grated
3 Tbsp Tamari or Shoyu
2 cloves Garlic, finely chopped
a couple drops of Sesame Oil
8 oz Soy Tempeh, cut into cubes
6 Mushrooms (any variety), sliced
Grape Seed Oil

In a small bowl, combine the mirin, ginger, 2 Tbsp tamari, garlic, and sesame oil and whisk into a sauce. Set aside. Heat a skillet and add a little oil. Add the mushrooms and tempeh (you can also just use vegetable or tofu in place of the tempeh). Sprinkle with remaining tamari. When the mushrooms are soft and reduced and the tempeh has browned a little and firm, turn the heat down to low. Add the sauce to coat and cook down for a couple minutes.

Serve with both sauces, butter lettuce, kimchi, and rice. You can make little lettuce wrap bundles and vary what toppings you use in each. This is a really fun (yet somewhat messy) way to eat it and each little wrap can be slightly different. We also served sliced cooked carrots with black bean sauce and a tiny bit of molasses in addition to a marinated cucumber salad.

Carrots

Korean Garlic Ginger Chicken
serves 2-3
2 Tbsp Mirin
2 Tbsp fresh Ginger, grated
3 Tbsp Tamari or Shoyu
2 cloves Garlic, finely chopped
a couple drops of Sesame Oil
2 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts, each cut into 4 pieces
Grape Seed Oil

In a small bowl, combine the mirin, ginger, tamari, garlic, and sesame oil and whisk into a sauce. Use the sauce as a marinade for the chicken and soak for approximately 30 minutes. Heat a skillet and add a little oil. Add the chicken. Cook the chicken for about 5-6 minutes on each side, until it is lightly brown on each side. Add the sauce (which you marinaded the chicken in) to coat and cook down for a few minutes.

We served the chicken with both sauces, kimchi mashed potatoes and sauteed spinach with tamari and sesame seeds.

Kimchi Pots & Ses Spin

Korean Garlic Ginger Catfish
Serves 2
2 Tbsp Mirin
2 Tbsp fresh Ginger, grated
3 Tbsp Tamari or Shoyu
2 cloves Garlic, finely chopped
a couple drops of Sesame Oil
¾-1lb Catfish Fillets, chopped into big chunks
Grape Seed Oil

catfish 2

In a small bowl, combine the mirin, ginger, tamari, garlic, and sesame oil and whisk into a sauce. Use the sauce as a marinade for the catfish and soak for approximately 15-30 minutes. Heat a skillet and add a little oil. Add the catfish. Cook the catfish for about 3 minutes on each side, until it is lightly brown on each side. Add the sauce (which you marinaded the catfish in) to coat and cook down for a few minutes.

We served the catfish with butter lettuce, kimchi, and rice and made lettuce wraps for this one, too. We also had roasted Brussels sprouts on the side.

Brussels

Catfish

Leftovers of any of these are always good just piled on top of each other in a bowl. Yum!

Leftovers

Here’s another awesome new country (*real country*) album out. This one is from another fellow we became acquainted with through the magic that is Santa’s Pub named Luke Bell. In fact, Luke had his cd release at Santa’s and what a fun party it was. He got a friend of his to roast a goat all day and there were tacos, guest singers, and dancing.

Luke Bell at his cd release party, June 2014.

Luke Bell at his cd release party, June 2014.

This is Luke’s second album out. It is titled, Don’t Mind If I Do, and as the title suggests, he’s a little bit sassy yet very laid back, down to earth, and really nice. Luke grew up working on a Wyoming ranch. He has a deep appreciation of old school country and has aligned himself with like minded folks here in Nashville. The new album has many danceable songs- two-stepping tunes, waltzes, and even a little yodeling. You can buy his new album here.

And… Kelsey Waldon‘s new album came out this week! Everyone is talking about The Gold Mine. You can read Rolling Stone Country’s review here and buy a copy for yourself here.

tumblr_n54cladNMr1qzkmx3o1_500

Radishes & Rock

Radish-1 We’ve joined a Nashville CSA! For years we had a CSA in Seattle with Willie Greens. They taught us how to appreciate Brussels sprouts and so many other wonderful vegetables. Well, our friends Nick and Nicole over at Double N Urban Farms have a beautiful urban farm and we are proud CSA members for their very first year. It hasn’t started just yet but we were invited to an open house last week to have a sneak peak at the farm and pick up some radishes and arugula. What fun!

CSA=1

CSA-2

We made the most delicious Radish Butter. We experimented with the Lee Bros. recipe for Radish Butter last year but Nicole turned me on to a slight variation she found from Cinnamon Girl blog which inspired me to add in the radish greens and a little lemon zest. Here’s how our recipe turned out. We enjoyed this on some Bella Nashville Bakery‘s sourdough bread. Their bread has reignited my love of toast! It is so delicious. Radish Butter Radish Butter
¼ lb Radishes (with leafy tops)
4 Tbsp Unsalted Butter, softened
1 tsp Lemon Zest
½ tsp Sea Salt
¼ tsp Black Pepper

Mix all ingredients in a food processor until creamy. Delicious on toast and also a great spread for a springtime sandwich. We created a delicious sandwich with some with leftover grilled asparagus and steak.

Radish Butter meal I am way behind in updating my “Welcome to Nashville” post. I try to update it whenever everything seems to have shifted and new highlights arise. I’m afraid Nashville is changing so much and so often that I am having trouble trying to keep up with all the goings on. As far as old school country music goes and the living history still so vibrant in our city, I still highly recommend any visitor to do everything listed in my last update!

You can see country music legends like Bill Anderson play around town- even sometimes for free as was the case here. Ernest Tubb's Midnight Jamboree. March 2014.

You can see country music legends like Bill Anderson play around town- even sometimes for free as was the case here. Ernest Tubb’s Midnight Jamboree. March 2014.

But, as far as shopping and restaurants go, I’ll let you rely on some other excellent sources who spend more time keeping up with all that. When we first moved to Nashville, we pretty much only went out to eat when we found ourselves needing a break from doing the dishes because otherwise, we quickly realized we could cook way better food at home. In fact, that’s why I started my blog- to keep up with our cooking experiments. The rare exceptions to this norm were a trip to Margot or City House to celebrate a special occasion when we could afford it. We, thankfully, can still do that and there are some really great new restaurants to add to that short list but there are so many opening now, at such a frequent rate, that we can’t possibly keep up. And besides that, if I told you about all the awesome new stuff happening here, you might get the bright idea to move here and it’s beginning to get a little crowded… It’s getting so crowded, in fact, that reservations almost seem to be a requirement to ensure a table at new restaurants, especially on the weekends. To our surprise, we stopped at Two Ten Jack before a show last Saturday and although the entire outdoor seating was full, we had absolutely no wait! According to our server and our past recent experiences, this was out of the ordinary. Two Ten Jack is a really fun Japanese bar and restaurant that opened just a few months back. We have enjoyed some delicious cocktails, small plates, and ramen here a few times.

Two Ten Jack has outdoor seating but expect it to be full all summer. Luckily, I sort of love their interior. So fun.

Two Ten Jack has outdoor seating but expect it to be full all summer. Luckily, I sort of love their interior. So fun.

After dinner, we had so much fun at Bobby Bare Jr’s cd release show at the Mercy Lounge. We must have seen at least a dozen BBJr shows while living in Seattle nearly decade ago. He has so much energy and his songs are so well written. There is always an underlying humor in his songs, even the sad ones, that I always connected with. And he always brought an excellent cast of revolving side musicians with him to Seattle, too, which I loved. That’s where we first heard the beautiful voice of Carey Kotsionis, saw Tom Pappas’ incredible hair and his impeccable bass stylings, Cory Younts’ multi-instrumental talents, Duane Denison &  Chris Masterson’s beautiful guitar licks, Doni Schroeder’s fascinating drum beats (at that time, every beat came from way above his head), and even back-up vocals by the lovely Holly Williams. Since moving to Nashville, Bobby’s hometown, we rarely get to see him play an entire show of his music (especially with a full band) so when he told us about this cd release show a month or so ago, I promptly put it on our calendar.

BBJR

This show was a full-on ROCK show featuring all the new songs and a few of my old favorites. Bobby seemed really comfortable and confident. Doni Schroeder, in the most amazing skeleton onesie I’ve ever seen on a grown up, has really become one of the best drummers I have ever seen. Sadly, it was his last show with Bobby as he moves on to his next big project. Jimmy Matt Rowland masterfully rounded out the trio with TWO keyboards and his usual antics. They all had great energy and made me very happy (albeit a little deaf).

Doni Schroeder & Jimmy Matt Rowland.

Doni Schroeder & Jimmy Matt Rowland.

Bobby joined by Cory Branan.

Bobby joined by Cory Branan.

The new cd (on Bloodshot Records) is great, too, probably his best yet and filled with the same fantastic level of storytelling that endeared me to his other Bare Jr. and Young Criminals Starvation League albums prior. You can purchase it and his new dvd here and be sure to catch him on tour, opening for the awesome Guided By Voices, if they happen to be rolling through your town (sorry, Nashville…).

Eating Lots of Carrots & Thinking about Austin

Carrots

I just love cooked carrots. I know, not everyone does but I can’t help but think those who do not, just haven’t really explored all the taste possibilities cooked carrots have. They are so delicious cooked with onions and a little butter. So savory with a tad bit of sweetness. And they are so good for us, nutritionally speaking. Carrots can be alkalinizing, cleansing, nourishing, and stimulating to almost every system in the body. Carrots are powerful antioxidants which can help prevent and fight cancer in the body. Carrots are also high in fiber and loaded with pectin which can reduce blood cholesterol levels. Don’t fool with those “baby carrots” though, as they aren’t really babies at all, just big ones that have been whittled down to look cute and easy to eat. How wasteful. And I have found that those are never as flavorful as the the real deal.

Here’s a couple of comfort dishes I came up with in the last week. The first one is a risotto. Instead of using arborio rice, though, I found some Italian farro in the cupboard. Farro is similar to barley so it takes a little bit longer to cook and has a little bit more of a chew than rice but it’s pretty yummy.

Carrot Risotto

Roasted Carrot Farro Risotto
Serves 6

  • 5 Carrots
  • ½ Onion, sliced
  • 6 cups Vegetable Broth
  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 Tbsp dried Italian herbs
  • 2 Tbsp Butter
  • ½ Onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves Garlic, crushed and chopped
  • 2 cups Farro
  • 1 cup White Wine (Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 1 cup finely grated Parmesan Reggiano
  • Small Bunch Parsley, chopped
  • Salt & freshly ground Black Pepper to taste

Carrots Roasting

The key to cooking risotto is to stir constantly so be sure to have all ingredients prepped ahead of time. Preheat oven to 400. Slice the carrots very thinly- I like to use a mandoline to get them thin and uniform. Spread the carrots and the onion slices out in a baking dish and drizzle with olive oil, Italian herbs, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook in the oven for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set carrots aside. Heat the stock in medium sauce pan. Once it comes to a boil, lower temperature to simmer. Heat butter in large flat pan on medium heat. Add the other half of the chopped onion and saute. Stir. Cook for a couple minutes. Add farro. Stir. Add wine. Stir. 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 a little bit of the fresh chopped parsley every few minutes, too. 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 farro will still have some chew to it. The process will take about 45 minutes, as the farro takes longer to cook than rice. Add the carrots and onions in and stir. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir. Add parmesan to risotto and stir. Sprinkle with the remaining fresh chopped parsley. I served it with a simple green salad.

And then there was this next concoction which would be good served with some greens or roasted Brussels sprouts on the side. It might also make an excellent side dish for some grilled pork chops. I love the sweet and spicy from the maple and bourbon combined with the Tobasco in the grits mixed with the earthiness of the rosemary and Gruyere. Mmm…

Carrots & Onions

Maple Bourbon Carrots & Grits
Serves 4-6

  • 1 cup Stone-Ground Corn Grits*
  • 4 cups Water
  • ¼ – ½ cup Buttermilk
  • 1 cup grated cave-aged Gruyere cheese
  • Tabasco
  • Sea Salt & freshly ground Black Pepper
  • 1 Tbsp Ghee or Butter
  • 6-7 Carrots, sliced on the diagonal
  • 1 big Red Onion, Sliced
  • 1 Tbsp Maple Syrup
  • 2 Tbsp Bourbon
  • Chopped fresh Parsley & Rosemary (I used about 2 Tbsp)
  • Salt & Black Pepper to taste

I tend to go for a creamier texture for my grits but you can play around with how long you cook them, how much liquid you add, etc. until you find the right texture to suit you. Cooking instructions usually have you soak the grits in the water to allow the hulls to rise to the top so you can skim them off. I always omit this step, opting for a little more grit and texture. Place the water in a pan on the stove. Add the grits and a couple pinches of salt and bring to a boil. Stir and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once it starts to thicken, pour buttermilk in a little at a time and stir, as the liquid starts to all be absorbed and get thicker. Once you get a nice creamy texture and the grits aren’t too tough to taste, add the cheese, Tabasco, salt, and pepper and stir. Total cooking time usually takes about 45 minutes for me.

Grits

As the grits cook… In an iron skillet on medium heat, add the ghee. Add the onions and carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, until they start to soften and caramelize. Keep stirring and right when you start to think the carrots are just about done, add the maple syrup and bourbon. Stir and then toss the herbs in. Cook a couple more minutes. Serve carrots over the grits.

Grits & Carrots

*All grits are definitely not created equally. Be sure to use really good quality, old fashioned, stone-ground grits which you can usually find in nicer grocery stores, specialty shops, at old mills out in the country, or online. I really like to use Falls Mills grits when in Tennessee.

Austin

SxSW is coming up down in Austin, TX and we, sadly, are not making the trek this year. Just thinking about it and hearing as our friends prepare to head down has made me crave some good ol’ Texas tacos! If you are headed Texas way, here’s my list of favorite taco joints from a few years back. And then, there’s also this I wrote the following year. I’m sure there are plenty of new places to try but these listed are some of the best that have been around for awhile.

And speaking of SxSW, these two are preparing to take it by storm! They’ve got a slew of shows down in Austin, and at towns along the way, and I am so happy for them.

Cale Tyson & Kelsey Walden, The Red Barn Round-Up, 2013.

Cale Tyson & Kelsey Waldon, The Red Barn Round-Up, 2013.

We first met Kelsey Waldon at a $2 Tuesday at The 5 Spot long ago and quite often she will sit in with Santa’s Ice Cold Pickers on Sunday nights at Santa’s Pub. We were instantly drawn to her old school country sound. Kelsey is from Kentucky and just graduated with a degree from Belmont in songwriting. Her songs are thoughtful and honest. It is evident she has an understanding and love of real country music. There is a vulnerability in her voice and her warm, genuine personality shines through her songs.

Kelsey

Kelsey Waldon with Brett Resnick on pedal steel guitar, The Music Loft at Mad Donnas, Nashville, 2013.

Here’s a video of her song, Know My Name, that was shot at The Stone Fox in January. This song is the first one from her most recent album titled, Fixin’ It Up. She has a new album coming out real soon. Watch for it!

Cale Tyson is another singer and songwriter who we first met as he led the Ice Cold Pickers at Santa’s Pub. Cale is from Texas and sings slow, mournful yodels with a slight Texas twang. He sings songs about whiskey, being lonesome, honky-tonks, and lost love with a deep respect for the legendary songwriters whose music he grew up on.

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Cale with Grant Johnson on guitar, The Music Loft at Mad Donna’s, Nashville, 2013.

His first EP, High on Lonesome, just came out and features some of Nashville’s best musicians. Here’s a video he shot for his song, Old Time Blues, featuring Grant “Big Smokey” Johnson on guitar and the beautiful Erin Rae singing.

Both Kelsey and Cale have voices very indicative of where they are from, seem fully immersed in Nashville’s rich history, and are poised for a very bright musical future.