Happy Birthday Waylon!

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

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

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

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

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

Chicken Fried Steak
Serves 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Olive & Sinclair Chocolate Buttermilk Pie

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

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

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

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But sometimes, storms return one week later in the form of a FLOOD!

Wow, what a hard week this past week has been for Nashville. Devastation hit our lovely city in the form of a flood. SO many friends and friends of friends lost their homes, all their stuff, and in a few instances- their loved ones. It was incredible to see how everyone pulled together to help each other out. This city is even more amazing than I ever knew! For the latest news and information and to see ways in which you can help, no matter where you live, check out this website: NASHVILLEST.

So, having said all that… We cooked very little this week. Luckily, we did still have a kitchen but the entire city lost use of one of our two water filtration plants and thus were all told to conserve water. There was little cooking or bathing going on but those of us who still had houses that were dry were more than happy to conserve!

Grant was in Texas most of this week, touring with db Harris & The Men of Action! While he was away, I did make this yummy veggie meal- a french style potato salad with several different kinds of potatoes, chopped green olives, cornichons (if only- I actually used mini dills because I can only find cornichons in one store which is across town and I always forget to buy them), green onions, a little vinegar, sweet spicy mustard, a little olive oil, salt & pepper. I served this with  some beautiful organic green beans which I steamed and then sauteed with a little butter, fresh garlic, roasted hazelnuts, and then topped with a little Humboldt Fog goat cheese! A nice organic, vegetarian meal for one!

So last week before the flooding, we enjoyed many of the new Spring veggies…

“Beans so nice, you have to shell them twice!” was Grant’s response to fava beans. We have cooked them before and certainly had them out before but it has never been one of those Spring delicacies we have searched out. This year though, for some reason, I had a desire to try to appreciate those little gems of Spring. Fava beans and artichokes are definitely on the list. I found a couple interesting artichoke recipes that we tried…

One was a raw artichoke salad in which I had to trim the leaves and cut the choke out. It called for shaved artichokes, toasted hazelnuts, shaved Parmesan Reggiano, fresh parsley (I substituted cilantro because we had it instead), and olive oil. It was messy and I got kind of grumpy but the end result was good!

I also tried stuffed artichokes which were yummy and kind of naughty. I had to trim these like before and then cut them lengthwise and topped with a mixture of bread crumbs, salt, pepper, grated Gruyere cheese, lemon juice, lemon zest, and olive oil. They baked for an hour. We have a book called, Whole Foods Companion, that a friend gave me for my Birthday one year. We often look up whatever we are eating to see what health benefits we will gain from it. “Why is this veggie good for us?” Well, it turns out artichokes aid in digestion, are good for metabolism, and may help neutralize the effects of certain toxins on our bodies.

I found some yummy organic fava beans at The Turnip Truck this week. We shelled them once and Grant steamed them. We shelled the beans twice, and he sauteed them with some garlic and fresh spinach in a little olive oil. These made a nice accompaniment to some sauteed onions and jalapeno & garlic chicken sausages we got from Trader Joes.  Fava beans are similar to kidney beans in that they have a ton of iron and potassium in them. Luckily, we aren’t in that small percentage of the population who has Favism, a medical condition in which eating fava beans can cause a painful blood condition which brings upon dizziness, nausea, and vomiting. Yikes, who knew that?!

And, just as the rains started last weekend, I listened to our friend Chris Scruggs‘ solo Opry debut on WSM while making one of my favorite cookie recipes from the Rebar cookbook, a favorite restaurant of ours in Victoria, BC. I thought these lime sugar cookies would be great with Ciao Bella’s Prickly Pear Sorbet which we just tried for the first time. And they were! Here is the recipe:

Lime Sugar Cookies
(Makes about 12-16 cookies depending on size.)

1 c granulated sugar (I use organic evap. cane juice)
¼ c unsalted butter, softened
1 T vegetable oil (I use olive oil)
zest of 1 lime
1 large egg
2 T fresh lime juice
1 ¾ c unbleached flour
¼ c pumpkin seeds, toasted and roughly chopped (tonight I was out but substituted pecans!!!)
½ t baking soda
½ t salt

1- Preheat oven to 350*. Cream the sugar, oil, butter and lime zest until light and fluffy. Add egg and lime juice, and beat together to incorporate.

2- Mix in a separate bowl the flour, salt and baking soda. Stir well, to avoid lumps of baking soda. Add the dry mix to the wet mix and stir together well. Mix in the pumpkin seeds. (Side note: I just throw these on top of 1st step and mix together in my Kitchen Aid mixer. It works just fine!)

3- Use spoon to drop the batter onto a cookie sheet, leaving space in between to allow the cookies to spread during baking. Flatten each slightly with your finger tips. (I usually top each cookie with 2-3 toasted pepitas which create a little leaf design.) Bake for 8-10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Spring is Here!

Spring in Tennessee is exciting!

Everything is starting to bloom, all the local produce crops are starting to come in, people are beginning to emerge from hibernation and the fun has begun! Most of my musical enjoyment this past week came from films at the Nashville Film Festival! A couple of favorites were Pickin’ & Grinnin’ and “Do It Again.” Also exciting Spring events happening this week were Earth Day and Record Store Day!

As soon as the warm weather starts, we crave more salads. Last week we made this one with Romaine lettuce, mandarin oranges, red carrots (which are amazingly beautiful!), white radishes (which are a tad bit sweet), and super delicious Holboldt Fog cheese. We like this salad with a simple honey vinaigrette and topped with toasted walnuts.

And, thanks to our friend Nancy who turned us on to the NY Times 101 Simple Salads, we have tons of new super easy and delicious salad ideas!

Other great Spring vegetables that I’m excited about… Artichokes and Asparagus (here served with a Soy Sauce Chicken Thigh)!

Spring is a transition season as we move gently (hopefully) into the warmer temperatures. It seems too warm for soups but with our busy schedules lately, I’ve still been excited about making some one-pot comfort meals that we can eat on throughout the week. I realized we had all the ingredients for a Jambalaya or maybe I should call it a Jambalaya-inspired dish as I didn’t follow a recipe. I also made it a little healthier by using brown rice and chicken andouille sausage and served it with some steamed broccoli with a squeeze of lemon on top.

And then tonight we got inspired to make one of our all-time favorites… a recipe from my home state, South Carolina low-country Shrimp & Grits! Bacon is an essential ingredient and we do make it with bacon sometimes but tonight we made it with veggies and shrimp as that is what we had on hand. And, it’s nice to know we can make it well for our fishaterian friends when necessary.

I use only real stone-ground grits, often that I have had my Sis or my friend Angela mail me from Charleston. I add a few extra ingredients to my grits- local Hatcher Family Dairy buttermilk and some sharp cheddar.

While the grits were cooking, we started cooking some collards. We sauteed a little finely chopped onion and garlic in a little olive oil with a small amount of balsamic vinegar and a little stock.

Next, in another pan, we started sauteing onions, red pepper, mushrooms (portabella and some button), garlic, shrimp (mixed with some garlic and flour), and a few tomatoes. We seasoned it with salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper.

We like to layer the greens, grits, and shrimp & veggies in a bowl for serving. It was delicious and really easy to cook.

And the best part about having left-overs with this meal is that we can now have grits for breakfast! My favorite way to have them for breakfast is with a little maple syrup and hot sauce. I know, it is a little strange but I love it. It is cheesey, hot, salty, and sweet!