Roundin’ Up Some Fun!

OH, a week of the summer blahs and then…

Our first Red Barn Round-Up of the summer was last week and it was a perfect Round-Up. I mean, what Round-Up isn’t perfect at the Red Barn? Oh, wait- the one that got canceled because of a snow storm, that one wasn’t perfect. Anyway, I digress. This particular Round-Up was most certainly perfect. Our musical guest was the crazy talented Chris Scruggs who besides being able to play most any instrument extremely well and having a great new album out of his own music, also surrounds himself with some of Nashville’s most revered country and bluegrass musicians. We were so lucky!

First of all there was our friend and neighbor, Buddy Spicher who is a legendary fiddler.

He is amazing and he gives really great hugs! Just to give you a tiny glimpse of Buddy’s history, I found this amazing old footage:

Buddy has played with everyone including these fine folks- Webb Pierce, Ray Price, Bill Monroe, Kitty Wells, Jimmy Martin, Hank Snow, Bob Wills, Hank Thompson, The Rolling Stones, Crystal Gayle, The Osborne Brothers, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson- just to name a few. He is a Nashville Cat for sure!

On steel guitar was Billy Robinson who is a member of The Steel Guitar Hall of Fame.

Billy was also a member of The Grand Ole Opry band for many years and traveled the world over playing with the likes of Hank Williams, George Morgan, Hank Snow, Little Jimmy Dickens and Carl Smith. I think Billy and his wife Carolyn will become Red Barn Round-Up regulars! (I sure hope so.)

Also in Chris’ band was one of Grant’s heros, Andy Reiss, on guitar. Andy is a top Nashville session player and one of the very best in town. He is a Grammy nominated member of the great Western Swing band, The Time Jumpers. On bass was IBMA’s bass player of the year countless times, Mike Bub. Mike is also a top session player who spent 13 years on the road with Del McCoury and has played with just about everybody who is anybody in town. He just so happens to also be a neighbor. And on rhythm guitar was Rob Price who is also a well sought after session player and can often be found playing bass for Gail Davies.

Words cannot even appropriately describe how delighted we were to have these musicians play for us and our little party. What an amazing day in the neighborhood!

And if the music wasn’t enough, everyone brought food! I made a couple mixed berry pies- blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries.

There was Allison’s key lime pies, Zana’s cupcakes, Leah’s banana pudding, Catherine’s famous corn dip, Holly’s jalapeno pimento cheese, fried chicken, and so many other amazing dishes! One of my favorite salads was a simple one made of- watermelon, cucumbers, jalapenos, and fresh mint! I can’t stop thinking about it!

The rest of the week, Grant took over as head chef at our house but I was there to document. Never fear, the camera was near. Speaking of which, you wouldn’t believe the patience Grant has gained. Poor Grant. Many a night he has to wait to take his first bite as I capture the perfect photograph of our food. If you know Grant and his love of food and his kinetic energy, you understand how amazing this must be. Thanks Grant! So, back to his amazing culinary creations…¬† I bought a whole (Springer Mountain Farms) chicken this week and Grant smoked it to perfection. He dry rubbed the chicken in his special Big Smokey spice rub and let it sit over night. He then smoked it over mesquite for 3 hours. Next he sauced it with a homemade sauce (see ingredients below) and let it stand in foil for about half an hour.

To accompany the chicken, he made a yummy red & green cabbage with shredded carrots slaw and some bbq kidney beans. He soaked the kidney beans in water for a day and then boiled them to get them a little softer and to the right texture. He roasted some cherry tomatoes at 375 for about 30-40 minutes and then pureed them in the pan with a whisk and deglazed the pan by adding some cane sugar, apple cider vinegar and a little molasses (sort of a homemade ketchup). He sauteed chopped green bell pepper and onion in an iron skillet with a tiny bit of bacon fat (you can substitute a teaspoon of butter). He then put the beans (with a of the little bean juice), the sauteed veggies, the homemade tomatoes in a casserole dish with some sea salt, black pepper, dry mustard, and garlic powder. He baked it for about 2 hours at 300. They were delicious and kidney beans are super nutritious!

Also on our plates this week were green peppers from our garden, the first peaches from South Carolina (because those are the very best- thanks Seth!), and kale from Delvin Farms!

And speaking of the Delvins, I also got some of these delicious little red potatoes that magically are yellow on the inside and so buttery and delicious. Grant sauteed them up and we had them with sauteed kale and chicken sausages one night.

All for now- but looking forward to some fun weekend music, cooking and eating! And I will close this post with my favorite refreshing cocktail concoction of the week.


Summer Veggies Are My Salvation!

This summer is hot. For real. Its been a weird week- kind of busy but no energy and feeling blah. I get the sense everyone is feeling it, not just me. The two things that have kept me going this week (besides Grant and the doggers), though, are… fresh summer veggies and good music!

Last weekend we had a whirlwind of a road trip as we went to our friends Ali Marie & Dolan’s wedding celebration in the Shenandoah Valley. Virginia really IS for lovers. We had an amazing time with so many nice people and good food. Nothing says summer celebration better than welcoming the Solstice in with bluegrass tunes by a campfire with good friends! Oh, and our good friend George Dickel, he’s always fun at a party! We pitched our tent, had a quick night’s sleep, and were awakened by the most beautiful little chirping birds and the sight of these amazing little blue wildflowers! (Then on the way home we found. . . bum, bom, bohh. . . . . FOAMHENGE! See photos below!)

Last Saturday before we took off, we realized we had a bag of the most beautiful red and green okra I had found at The Turnip Truck earlier in the week. It had to be eaten. For the last couple of years, we have grown our own okra and always meant to pickle some but never did. This day, we realized just how easy it is to do so. Grant found a simple recipe online that went something like this:

1 qt white vinegar
1/2 cup sea salt
dash of organic raw sugar
1 cup water
fresh okra
hot red peppers
hot green peppers (we used Anaheim)
garlic cloves

We sterilized the jars in boiling water, put the garlic, peppers, dill  in, stuffed them with washed okra, and then poured the water/vinegar mixture (which had been heated with salt and sugar) over top and sealed them up. The jars are in the refrigerator now and in one week, we can see how they taste. I was a little sad that the red okra lost most of its color when we poured the warm mixture over it but they still look beautiful!

I get so overwhelmed looking at fresh summer produce. There are so many possibilities and it all has so much potential. I’ll admit it, I am a food nerd. I often buy things because they are pretty or interesting looking and I think they will photograph well. I always eat it and it never goes to waste. This year, probably because of the blog, I have been buying more vegetables I am less familiar with. It becomes a challenge to try to figure out how to cook it. That’s sort of what happened with these baby turnips I got this week. They were so cute and perfect in shape. I also jumped on the yellow wax beans just because I rarely see them. I started to explore cookbooks and recipe sites to find the perfect recipe for either or both together but got lazy and kept it simple. I just used what we had and this is what I came up with (as I rediscovered my love for Lyle Lovett’s, The Road to Ensenada)-

Baby Turnips & Waxed Beans with Tomato Relish

small bunch of baby turnips
small bag of yellow wax beans
1/2 basket of cherry tomatoes
hand full of fresh basil from the garden
our first green pepper from the garden
1-2 tbsp good olive oil
1/2 tsp unsalted organic butter
1-2 tsp balsamic vinegar
sea salt

I cleaned and steamed the turnips for about 5 minutes and then added the beans. I steamed them for another 5 minutes maybe and then threw them in an iron skillet with a little olive oil and the butter on medium high heat to get them a little browned. I did not cook them long, maybe 5-10 minutes (both were still firm and crisp, the turnips seemed very potato-like). While these were cooking, I chopped the cherry tomatoes, green pepper and the basil and mixed it together with olive oil, the balsamic vinegar, and sea salt to make a little relish. I poured the turnips and beans in a bowl and topped with the relish. It was so simple yet tasted so fresh and delicious. We ate it with some baked lemon garlic chicken Grant concocted and it was perfect together. The next day, I had the leftover turnips & beans cold and it made the perfect healthy salad. Grant put some in a wrap with turkey. Ahhh… summer at its best!

That is all I have for now. But, I have lots and lots of fresh berries in the fridge and I plan to make many pies this weekend. The first Red Barn Round-Up of the season is on Sunday- the perfect mix of Southern cookin’ and old school country music!