Bluegrass Music and Japanese Noodles…

The first day of summer is over a week away but I feel as though we’ve already had a busy, hot summer! The air is quite thick and humid. The bugs are out in full force here in middle Tennessee although we have lots of lightning bugs so that makes it exciting and a little more friendly! And when the heat feels excessively strong and muggy, I just pretend I am in a sauna and my pours are being cleansed. It helps, it really does! Grant and I just reached our four year anniversary of moving to Nashville! On our first year anniversary, to the day, Grant was fortunate to play guitar at the “Mother Church of Country Music,” the Ryman Auditorium. So, it was very fitting that this week he had another Nashville musical mile stone as he played The Station Inn which is known to many as the home of Bluegrass music.

And, by the way (here’s my big segue into the food portion of my post…), The Station Inn has yummy popcorn!

Last weekend, my sister and her family were visiting and we made homemade pizzas on the grill. Eric was the grill master and got one side crisp and then ran them into me where Ethan and I put the toppings on. Then they went back out for a few minutes to get the other side cooked and give the toppings a chance to melt in. Mmm, delicious flatbread pizzas…

From pizzas to sandwiches… I had a sandwich revelation this week: Humboldt Fog Cheese is an amazing component to a superb summer sandwich. Try one of these crazy concoctions, won’t you? On the left is crusty organic whole grain bread (big and hearty, the kind you’d find at some sort of Renaissance Festival) toasted, Humboldt Fog goat cheese, smoked turkey, avocado slices, pea shoots, and raw cultured red cabbage (crazy good- made by a company called Deep Root Organics). On the right, below, is the same bread, Humboldt Fog, and apple slices.

That brings me to today. Today, I kept thinking about Japanese noodles (as I so often do). I picked up some soba noodles and lots of yummy fresh veggies at the store on my way home. I searched for interesting soba noodle salad recipes online. One of my favorite new (to me) recipe blogs is 101 cookbooks. She has a couple Asian noodle dishes that sounded amazing. I found so many good ideas that I became overwhelmed and couldn’t even decide on what type of Asian dish I wanted- Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese… so I just started chopping and preparing a sauce from ingredients we had on hand. I decided to get some fresh herbs from our garden and incorporate those.

The sauce consisted of some Thai hot chilies, brown rice vinegar, tamari, a small amount of fish sauce, freshly grated ginger (keep ginger whole, in the freezer, and it lasts forever), and a tiny bit of brown sugar. I finely chopped bell peppers (the green ones are local from Delvin Farms- yay!), mushrooms, and broccoli.

Then I chopped a bunch of green onions in one pile and cilantro, garlic, and freshly squeezed lime juice in another pile. I sprinkled a little tamari on the sliced Springer Mountain Farms chicken and then began to saute the green onions in some grape seed oil (it holds the heat well). Once the onions were almost cooked, I added the chicken in and I sprinkled in a little tamari, white pepper, and sesame seeds. Once the chicken was flipped, I added in the cilantro and garlic.

When the chicken was done, I placed it on a plate and then threw the other veggies into the same pan. I gave those a quick saute and then added the chicken back in. Meanwhile, the soba noodles cooked in boiling water for 7 minutes. Once done, I drained them and ran cold water over them to stop them from cooking. I placed the noodles in a bowl and the chicken with veggies on top. I tore fresh herbs from the garden (cliantro, Genovese basil, Thai purple basil, mint, and cilantro) on top. I poured some of the sauce/dressing on top. I was pleasantly surprised how well all the flavors went together. It was spicy, tangy, and very fresh with all the different herbs right from the garden. Success!

More good eats and classic country music coming soon.

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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!