Songs of Spring, Farmer’s Market Dinners, and Channeling the Greek Isles

I have to admit, for a moment there I was worried the climate change was all coming to a head and I feared I would never make it out of winter to feel the warmth of the sun again. OK, that is an exaggeration, I will admit. I know it isn’t THAT cold but it has been rough this winter for us Southerners. This morning as I walked through Shelby Bottoms with the doggers, though, we heard the wild, deafening, mating songs of the toads and now I know that Spring is indeed on the way! That’s southern country singing at its finest! I know that soon all the other crazy summer sounds of the South will fill the air and comfort me.

I can’t help but feel that our recent culinary experimentation- channeling the food of the Greek islands- has had something to do with that. We’ve been real busy day dreaming of warmer climates which has led to many Greek salads and Mediterranean inspired dishes. It all started with those lemon roasted potatoes a few weeks back. Two of my favorite ingredients lately have been these: lemon stuffed olives which we have to order by mail and Tennessee’s own Bonnie Blue Farm marinated goat’s milk feta.

We created this chicken recipe below and ate it with some good crusty bread and a Greek salad made with the aforementioned olives and feta along with some red onion, red pepper, olive oil, lemon, fresh parsley, salt and pepper.

I Wish I Was In The Greek Isles Chicken
serves 2

2 Springer Mt. Farms chicken breasts
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
6 garlic cloves, peeled
1½ tsp sea salt
1½ tsp fresh ground black pepper
juice of ½ lemon
3 tsp dried oregano
½ white onion, chopped
1 Tbsp capers
1 cup canned whole tomatoes
1 pinch of sugar

Coat the chicken breasts with 2 Tbsp olive oil, garlic cloves, ½ tsp of the salt and pepper, the lemon juice and 1 tsp oregano. Let sit for 1-2 hours. Heat olive oil in an iron skillet on medium high. Add onions and saute until soft but not browned. Add the chicken and marinade into pan. Brown the chicken breasts on one side for about 3-5 minutes. Flip. Add the remaining ingredients, squishing the tomatoes in your hands as you add them to the skillet. Add more lemon, the remaining oregano, salt & pepper to taste. Turn heat down to medium low, cover pan and cook 10-12 minutes until chicken is done and sauce has reduced somewhat.

We ate this yummy dinner the other night just before heading out to FooBar to catch the Hackensaw Boys from Virginia. We heard their first album about seven or eight years ago while living in Seattle and really fell in love with their sound. They are a fun fast mix of old timey hillbilly music and bluegrass. We sort of lost track of them but they’ve had a couple albums out since and were on tour to support a new release called, “The Old Sound of Music Vol.1 ” They put on a fun show and we’ve been enjoying the new album ever since.

Hackensaw Boys at FooBar 02/05/2011

I’ve always heard about the Franklin Farmer’s Market but it happens every Saturday morning and until just recently, I had to work on Saturday mornings. We finally checked it out and were delighted to discover a cart with handmade cinnamon sugar donuts amongst our favorite local farmers such as Delvin Farms, Hatcher Family Dairy, and Noble Springs Dairy goat milk cheese.We had lunch at Gulf Pride Seafood in the Factory… The gumbo and shrimp po boy sandwich were  delicious! Thanks Kristin, for the recommendation! We then came home and made a Farmer’s Market Dinner with all our local finds.

We made fried chicken with local chicken from West Wind Farm, roasted potatoes and turnips from Delvin Farms, and coleslaw with cabbage from Delvin Farms. Grant made a tomato gravy for a complete Southern dinner! We’ve seen several variations for tomato gravy. We opt for the non-Italian version. He simply made a rue with Hatcher Family Dairy homemade butter (this was the key ingredient!) and White Lily flour. He added some tomato paste and hot sauce to the chicken stock that he then added to the rue.

I talk about Shrimp & Grits often and Grant has his favorite way of preparing this classic Southern dish but we keep thinking of new ways to incorporate leftovers and I am starting to think that perhaps all leftovers lead to Shrimp & Grits because that tomato gravy made the perfect base for Shrimp & Grits!

Another new recipe I came up with recently is this one for Cranberry Rosemary Walnut Bread. I love buying extra cranberries at Thanksgiving and freezing them to use later in the year as they aren’t always easy to find during non-Thanksgiving times. So many recipes pair cranberries with citrus but I am not such a big fan of this combination. I was thinking about rosemary and how it is in season all year ’round here and that it might be nice to add a savory characteristic to a classic sweet bread.

(By the way- I got a new ceramic loaf pan. Giada De Laurentiis has a new line of cookware available at Target. You know, the woman with the simple Italian cooking show on the Food Network. She’s beautiful and the whole time you are watching you can’t stop thinking, “How is this woman so skinny? There’s no way she eats her own cooking!” Well, I am super excited about her bakeware. Go check it out!)

Cranberry Walnut Rosemary Bread

makes 1 large loaf

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup White Lily all purpose flour
½ tsp sea salt (I used homemade rosemary salt)
1 ½ tsp baking powder (I used homemade)
½ tsp baking soda
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp fresh chopped rosemary
2 eggs, beaten
¾ cup organic cane sugar
¼ organic brown sugar
¼ cup melted butter, cooled
¾ cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chopped fresh (or frozen) cranberries

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease and flour loaf pan.
2. In a medium bowl,mix together flour, baking powder, soda, salt, nuts, and rosemary.
3. In a mixing bowl, mix eggs and sugar until combined. Add buttermilk, butter, and vanilla.
4. Slowly add flour mixture to wet ingredients and stir with a spatula until just combined. Add cranberries.
5. Pour batter into loaf pan and bake for 45-60 minutes or until a toothpick entered into the center of the loaf comes out clean.

I’ll close this post as I usually do, with a pie..

We were invited to a Super Bowl Party. You can’t grow up in the South without knowing at least the basics of football but I don’t really follow it now as an adult. We do, however, have lots of friends now who are all Green Bay Packer fans so I decided to make an Apple Cheddar Pie (green apples and yellow cheese- for Wisconsin and Green Bay color scheme, get it?). I think it helped make up for the fact that we aren’t football fans. It went something like this…

Apple Cheddar Pie

2 cups all purpose flour (I use White Lily)
2 sticks unsalted organic butter
6-7 Tbsp ice water
1 ½ cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
5 granny smith apples
1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
¾ cup organic cane sugar

Pie Dough
(Makes a double crust for a ten inch pie, or 2 ten inch tart shells.)

Place flour, butter, and salt in food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse 24 times. (I use my hands instead of a food processor and it works just fine!  You get a good work out and there’s less to clean up.  If you use your hands, be gentle- your objective is to make the butter into little crumbs or grains, not to mush it all together, do not over mix. Slow down.) The largest pieces of butter should be the size of grains of rice. Transfer mixture from food processor to large bowl. Mix grated cheese in. Sprinkle with 6 T of ice water. Make your hand into a claw as if you are trying to grab a basketball one handed, and using your rigid claw hand, stir dough briefly until the liquid is incorporated. Squeeze a handful of dough in your palm. It should have just enough moisture to stay together. If it seems dry and crumbly, add more water a teaspoon at a time until you can squeeze it into a ball that doesn’t crumble when broken apart. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for at least 15 minutes. Roll out onto floured surface as quickly as you can. Keep the second dough ball in the fridge until you are ready for it.

Peel the apples. Cut, core, and chop them. Mix them with the lemon juice and sugar and pour into pie shell. Roll second pie dough out and lay over top of the pie. Pinch the edges and cut a few slits in the top with a sharp knife. Using a pastry brush, brush the top with an egg white. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes and then 350 for 35 minutes.

Happy Eating and go support your local music scene!


Nashville Cats

I’ve gotten in a bit of a rut… Grant has some good weekly music gigs which is great and I always enjoy getting to go to these but it seems to have made me less likely to see other music now. I’m slipping. Because Nashville has so many amazing musicians and performances every day of the week, it can become fairly easy to slip into a rut and start missing shows I really want to see because I can always, “catch them next time.” That is a terrible excuse! So, my hope is to have more exciting live music to write about and photograph, starting now. We went to see our friend and amazing pedal steel guitarist, Pete Finney, play at The Family Wash this week. This was one of his non-pedal steel nights as he was on guitar and lap steel but usually he has pedals! He has played for the likes of Asleep at The Wheel, The Dixie Chicks, and Patty Loveless. Besides all that, he is a super cool guy.

Pete Finney @ Family Wash 01/19/2011

As I sat there listening and watching him play guitar and lap steel, I reminisced in how I came to love the pedal steel guitar and how lucky I have been to be able to see so many of the masters play live in Nashville.

Grant's first Sho-Bud on the left and his new one on the right.

Back in 2003, while we were still living in Seattle, Grant got very interested in playing pedal steel and bought his first Sho-Bud. It was beautiful. It was then that I realized how much I love the sound of a pedal steel guitar. The pedal steel, to me,  is real, raw emotion and the spice of a good country song. He got obsessed. It was his intention to play pedal steel in Nashville and his first few gigs upon our arrival were on pedal steel. He soon began getting much more work with guitar and eventually sold his pedal steel. Recently, though, he began to miss it so we are now the proud new owners of a 1970 red Sho-Bud. It is beautiful. Lucille, our hound dog, especially loves it!

John Hughey @ Station Inn June 2007

Shortly after we moved here, we were fortunate to get to see John Hughey play many times. Unfortunately, he passed away in 2007 of heart complications. This (not so good) photo is from June of 2007 and was taken at the Station Inn when we took Mom and Larry to see the Time Jumpers, a great Western Swing band. John Hughey was one of the best pedal steel guitar players in the whole world.  He played every Monday night at the Station Inn, weekly down on lower Broadway, and even at the Family Wash once! He grew up with Conway Twitty and played with him for years. He played with lots of other players including, most recently, Vince Gill for 10 years. We talked to him once about recording with Willie Nelson on the Phases and Stages album. He always seemed so appreciative that people wanted to talk to him about his music. He was a good soul!

Buddy Emmons @ Ernest Tubbs' Midnight Jamboree, 2007

That same year, I saw Buddy Emmons play with Texan Johnny Bush at the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree (for free!). Little Jimmy Dickens first brought Buddy Emmons to Nashville (from Indiana) back in 1955. He has played on countless recordings and has toured with many performers including Jimmy Dickens, Ernest Tubb, Ray Price, Roger Miller, and the Everly Brothers. He was one of the first session men to play pedal steel guitar and experimented with pedal steel guitar design. He collaborated with Shot Jackson and together they started Sho-Bud Guitars out of Shot’s garage (which later was located in the building where Robert’s Western Wear is currently housed!). Buddy has his own popular signature model, the Emmons Guitar!

Lloyd Green @ The Station Inn, 2007

My very favorite pedal steel players of all time (and favorite famous person- grocery store encounter) is Lloyd Green. We’ve been lucky to see him play a couple of times at The Station Inn (thanks Peter Cooper and Eric Brace!) and I swear, it nearly brought me to tears. He is amazing! When Lloyd Green arrived in Nashville (via Alabama and Mississippi) in 1956, his first job was with Mr. Hawkshaw Hawkins and then he joined Faron Young’s band later that year. He soon played steel guitar on his first session, George Jones’ “Too Much Water Runs Under The Bridge” and has recorded for thousands of albums since- including the Byrds’ legendary album, Sweetheart of The Rodeo. He has recorded with over 500 different artists! Lloyd Green also has his own model pedal steel (Sho-Bud’s “LDG” Model”). Back in the 1960’s, Green served as in-house arranger on the Little Darlin’ label and recorded several records under his own name for this label. His playing is amazing!

Although I haven’t seen her in person, I did grow up watching Barbara Mandrell’s TV show. Unfortunately I didn’t remember she played pedal steel until seeing these awesome youtubes of her a few years back. Notice, our friend and neighbor Buddy Spicher on fiddle in this first one:

And here’s one more…

And these are just the folks with the pedals! I didn’t even mention those steel players without pedals such as Kayton Roberts, Billy Robinson, Cindy Cashdollar, and Chris Scruggs! At least once a week I find myself exclaiming, “I LOVE NASHVILLE” and it because of players like these and moments like these. This amazing country music history surrounds us. It is all still so accessible and still in the making.

I’ll close this post with a bit of a recipe. We recently went to our neighborhood Mexican restaurant (who, until recently, had live bluegrass every Thursday!!!). We ordered shrimp fajitas for two and I asked the server, “Is that too much for the two of us?” He responded “yes” and smiled and nodded. I thought surely he misunderstood me- until he brought out our fajitas and offered to help us eat them! Who knew he’d tell the truth? So, we had leftovers which we turned into a world-class breakfast of shrimp and grits! HA! I thought this was such a clever use of leftovers that I was excited about it for days.

Shrimp fajita make-over!

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!