OKRA, TOMATOES, AND CUKES! OH MY!

We’ve been growing okra every summer since we moved to Nashville. Okra loves the heat which is why it was impossible to grow it up in the Pacific NW when we lived there. Okra is great for sauteing up with tomatoes and corn or cooking it into some gumbo. Our two favorite ways to prepare okra have become pickling it and roasting it which is about as simple as you can get. Roasting it takes away the sometimes unpleasant slimey texture which can be present. It also brings out a great almost nutty and corn flavor. And, it is incredibly easy. All you do it wash it, dry it, lay it out in a roasting dish, sprinkle with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and then roast it up. I usually roast it at 400 for about 15-20 minutes. It makes a great side dish to just about everything.

Southern tomatoes are the best in the world and I honestly love them but about this time every summer, I start to feel a bit overwhelmed by them. We can’t eat the raw ones fast enough so I start roasting them up, too! I roast them with onions and fresh herbs and sometimes I add garlic or squash. Once roasted, you can throw them in a jar and in the fridge. I still haven’t started canning and I so admire all my friends who do. I promise I will soon. I used to fear it but now I think I’m just lazy.

We use roasted tomatoes all the time- in risotto, salads, egg dishes, on sandwiches… the possibilities are endless. To make the easiest pasta sauce in the world I just puree the roasted tomatoes and top with cheese. It makes a killer pizza sauce or lasagna, too!

Summer Squash Risotto, Corn Crust Pizza, Veggie Lasagna- all made with roasted tomatoes!

And, my third favorite summer veggie… cucumbers! My favorites are the Kirby pickling cukes. Since I was a child, we have always just had a bowl of them sliced with a little salt on the dinner table to accompany most summer meals.

Grant and I will sometimes throw a splash of vinegar and some sliced onions in and then every once in awhile we get even fancier and make refrigerator pickles in which we slice the cukes and onions and place in a jar. We boil some vinegar and water and throw in some dill, peppercorns, and garlic and then pour over the cukes. These last in the refrigerator for a few weeks. They make the perfect pre-dinner snack.

These lemon cucumbers cut in wedges made pretty pickles!

A favorite side to enjoy with all these summer veggies is always a pan of cornbread! We always have leftovers so often times we will toast a piece with cheese on it for breakfast. The other day, we came up with this Cornbread Strata which was delicious!

Simply cube up the leftover cornbread. Saute some summer veggies in an iron skillet. Pour a bowl of about 7 eggs mixed with some grated cheese on top. Add the cubed cornbread and bake in the oven at 350 for 20 minutes or until eggs are firm and top is slightly golden.

The temperatures have cooled down here in Nashville for a few days so I plan to enjoy my brand new bottle tree from the comfort of our hammock while I dream of all the yummy food to make with the first of the fall harvest to soon arrive!

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Low Country Cookin’

We love the South Carolina Low Country and all the gastronomical goodness that accompanies it. Some years back, while still living in Seattle, Grant stumbled across an article in a wine magazine about Low Country cooking which featured some recipes from Loius Osteen’s book, Charleston Cuisine. We tried a few of the recipes and they were delicious! About a year later, a dear friend of ours was getting married in the Low Country and during our visit to Pawley’s Island, we were able to dine at Louis Osteen’s restaurant and we bought his book, pictured above. A few of his recipes quickly became staples for us such as his Baked Sweet Onion Rice which I will include here. We serve this all the time and everyone always raves about it. It makes great left overs, too.

Baked Rice With Wadmalaw Sweets

Serves 6-8
Ingredients:
4 tbsp unsalted butter
8 cups sliced sweet onions
2 cups minced shallots
1 bay leaf (we use 3-4)
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 cups stock
1 cup long grain white, such as basmiti
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350. Heat butter in an ovenproof skillet with a cover over medium  heat. Add the onions and shallots and saute, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until onions are translucent. Add bay leaves, thyme, and stock and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add rice and stir to mix well. Cover and transfer to a preheated oven for 18-20 minutes or until the rice is cooked through and the liquid is absorbed. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Gently fluff rice with a fork before serving.

One of the best things about this super side dish, is all the amazing dishes you will be inspired to create to accompany it! Grant made this yummy BBQ Shrimp last night to accompany our Sweet Onion Rice. It was a perfect Sunday night dinner.

And, back to Louis Osteen… A few months back I was thinking about him and decided to do a google search and find out what he was up to. Turns out he and his wife just moved to Nashville and he is now cooking here, as part of the new BBQ restaurant in the 12th South neighborhood, Blind Pig. Psychic? I think so! We are anxious to see what culinary delights he brings to Nashville.

Continuing the Southern culinary inspirations, we have had some delicious fried green tomatoes lately- Monell’s served up some amazing little sweet ones when my Dad was in town a couple weeks ago. Everyone has them on the menu right now because we all have them in our gardens. I came home from work last Saturday and Grant had fancy Southern BLTs waiting for me. They included- red leaf butter lettuce, crispy bacon, green tomatoes from the garden coated with corn meal and spices and gently fried, Big Smokey’s special sandwich sauce, and rosemary bread. Delicious!

And you know what makes a great sandwich side dish? Roasted okra! Yes, we still have local fresh okra thanks to the late, hot summer we had.

I’ll end this post as I usually do- on a sweet note. People seem to like my pies and I really enjoy making pies but have to admit that pies are not my favorite dessert. I don’t eat many sweets but when I do, my favorite dessert is cookies.

Lately, I am obsessed with cookies- more specifically, my friend Rebekah’s cookies. She is the pastry chef at City House and she keeps showing up with bags of her cookies every time I see her and these are the best cookies in the world. I can’t stop day dreaming and obsessing about them. She has inspired me to want to be a better cookie baker so I have started trying to make all the good recipes I can find. I am in search of the perfect cookie recipes! Until I figure that out and have some of my own recipes, be sure to check out her amazing recipe for fancy gourmet Peanut Butter Moon Pies! Heavenly…