1-Doggers & the Rain

Well, here we are at the tail end of April and the spring rains have hit this weekend. What already seemed like a sad and stressful time in our house with a sick dogger was made more melancholy with the passing of one of the greatest voices in country music, George Jones. One perk yesterday was WSM played all our favorite George Jones songs over and over all day long and the Opry last night had a nice dedication to Mr. Jones. What an effect his music had on so many people. Unfortunately, I never got to hear him live and had no real life encounters with him, however, living in Nashville in the midst of live country music, I have second hand musical encounters with him on a daily basis. I can’t walk down on Lower Broadway without hearing a George Jones song come pouring out of one of the many Honky-Tonks lining the street. We even see George Jones sausage in our neighborhood grocery store. And one of my favorite Nashville memories of when we first moved here is the Hunters Tire (local, eastside neighborhood store) commercials that had George Jones standing in front of the building giving them his endorsement. Classic. One of my favorite songs made famous by George is “Walk Through This World with Me” which was written by Sandy Seamond and Kaye Savage. It was released in January 1967 as the title track of George’s twenty-forth album. Grant and I had our talented friend Jake London sing this in our wedding nearly eleven years ago. It is a beautiful song. Here is a youtube version I found of it:

So with George Jones tunes filling the house, doggers lounging nearby, and the sound of the rain gently falling on this quiet Saturday, I am inspired by gifts from friends. I love gifts that come in mason jars. Just last week I was presented with this wonderful jar full of fresh oregano from my friend Nicole’s garden. And a few weeks ago our friend Traci brought us these gorgeous tomatoes she put up from her garden last fall.

2- Gifts in Jars

Today seemed a perfect day for tomato soup! When I moved to Atlanta right after college, my first job there was working in the cafe in the back of Rainbow Natural Foods in Decatur. This was back when natural food stores were predominately frequented by hippies and new age thinkers. It was a great little cafe, I am sure it still is. Anyway, they had the best homemade soups. One of my favorites was their tomato soup which was made creamy with cashew butter! Man, I wish I had swiped that recipe! I searched online today trying to find it but, no luck. I decided to make one of my own. This is a very basic recipe but it turned out really well. It goes something like this…

3- Cashews & Tomatoes

Creamy Tomato Cashew Soup
1 cup Raw Cashews, toasted
1 cup Water
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 small Onion, finely chopped
2 Carrots, finely chopped
2 pieces of Celery, finely chopped
1 clove Garlic, finely chopped
32 oz jar Whole Tomatoes
1-2 Tbsp Dried Herbs (I used an Italian blend from Frontier that I love but any would work- basil, rosemary, thyme, etc…)
Sea Salt & Black Pepper to taste

Toast the cashews. Cool. Blend in a blender with water. Set aside. Heat a soup pot and add oil. Add onions. Cook, stirring, for about 4 minute or so over medium heat. Add garlic, carrots, and celery. Cook for another few minutes. Add tomatoes. Stir and cook for about 10-15 minutes. Stir in cashew milk. Add herbs and seasonings. In small batches, blend the soup well in the blender and then return to the soup pot to heat through a few more minutes.

4- Tomato Soup

I know it isn’t eggplant season quite yet but I’ve been really craving it and so when I saw this organic eggplant show up on the produce stand of The Turnip Truck, I immediately bought it and brought it home.

5- Eggplant

Then the next few days, I dreamed up this simple recipe. Today, I finally had time to make it become a reality. It was yummy with some olives and a little salami to start. Lazzaroli’s Pasta shop has some yummy Salumi salami. It is one that, apparently, Salumi only makes once a year with oregano. So thankful these guys have some of our favorite NW flavors available here in middle Tennessee!

6- Salami & Oregano

Roasted Eggplant Sauce w/ Fresh Oregano
1 medium sized Eggplant, cut in cubes
2 Red or Yellow Bell Peppers, cut in 1” pieces
1 Jalapeno Pepper (optional)
Handful of Cherry Tomatoes, cut in half
1 bulb of Garlic, top cut off
Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar
Sea Salt & Freshly Ground Black pepper
Red Pepper Flakes
2 Tbsp Tomato Paste
1/4 cup good Red Wine
Bunch of fresh Oregano, stemmed & chopped
Pasta or Gnocchi of your choice
Freshly Grated Parmesan Reggiano or Grana Padano

7- Eggplant Roast 1

Spread the veggies out in a glass pan. Drizzle with olive oil, salt & pepper. Then gently drizzle a little vinegar over. Roast in the oven at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes, stirring once or twice. Remove from oven and let cool a little. Squeeze the garlic cloves out of their skin. Chop all veggies a little finer and place in a pot on the stove. Add the tomato paste and 1/4 cup of red wine. Gently heat and stir well.  Toss fresh oregano in. Salt & pepper to taste. Toss with pasta and top with cheese.

8- Cheese & Eggplant

And this spring risotto made us really happy a few days back…

7- Pea Risotto

Spring Pea Risotto
4-6 cups Homemade Chicken Broth (Canned or boxed will work just fine.)
Small Bunch Parsley
1/4 Onion, sliced
2 cups Frozen Petite Peas
juice of 1/2 a Lemon
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Onion, finely chopped
2 cups Arborio Rice
1 cup White Wine (Sauvignon Blanc)
1 cup Chopped Snap Peas
1 Tbsp fresh Mint, chopped
1 Tbsp fresh Tarragon, chopped
1 cup finely grated Parmesan Reggiano
Salt & freshly ground Black Pepper to taste

8- Risotto Cooking

The key to cooking risotto is to stir constantly so be sure to have all ingredients prepped ahead of time. Heat stock in medium sauce pan. I like to add chopped onion, and fresh parsley sprigs to the broth. Puree the peas with the lemon juice and add to the broth pot. Once it comes to a boil, lower temperature to simmer. Heat oil in large flat pan on medium heat. Add onion and saute. Stir. Cook for a couple minutes. Add rice. Stir. Add wine. Stir. Gradually begin to add stock in, about half a cup at a time and continue to stir. Stir until most of the liquid is absorbed. Add another addition of stock and stir until most of the liquid is absorbed. Repeat this process until the mixture is creamy and a bit loose; the rice should still have some chew to it. The process will take about 20-30 minutes. Right when you think you are getting close, add the snap peas, mint, and tarragon. Stir. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir. Add parmesan to risotto and stir.

9- Risotto w:Zucchini

Spring Pea Risotto served with Sauteed Zucchini Spears

Last weekend we went to the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree out at the Texas Troubadour Theatre on Music Valley Drive. This happens every Saturday night at midnight and is broadcast on WSM 650 AM! It is the second longest running radio show in history.

10- Jesse McReynolds & Howling Brothers

We saw old master of bluegrass, Jesse McReynolds,  play. He is amazing. His voice is still so strong. Acquaintances of ours, The Howlin’ Brothers, got up to sing a few, too. The reason I mention this is I want to be sure everyone is aware of The Howlin’ Brothers’ new album, Howl, came out in March! It is moving up all the record charts and has gotten great reviews. These guys are so deserving, too. They are such talented musicians and nice folks. They have been playing all over this area for years. They are hittin’ the road to promote their new album so be sure to keep an eye out for them and definitely go see them if they play your town.

Turn, Turn, Turn…

As with all natural disasters, the Great Nashville Flood seemed to bring the community together to help one another out. What an amazing city of good souls Nashville is. As far as the music goes, there was a real sense that the “show must go on” as exemplified by the Grand Ole Opry who temporarily lost its Opry House but didn’t miss a single show. Vince Gill helped organize a telethon at our local news station in which he played with many of country music’s biggest stars (some who also suffered loss in the flood) while other top stars answered phones and took pledges and raised well over a million dollars in one night. Since then, there have been many benefits every week. We had our own benefit over in East Nashville at the 5 Spot last week, organized by the lovely Traci Thomas with proceeds to benefit MusiCares. American Songwriter wrote a lovely little article about it here. It was a great night of music and they raised $3000. On the bill was- Joshua Black Wilkins with Amanda Shires, Josh Hedley, Derek Hoke, Caitlin Rose, and Justin Townes Earle.

The first ever East Nashville Arts Fest last weekend brought many of our Chicago buddies to town! It was a super fun weekend full of good art- new paintings by Bryan Cunningham, our friend Dolan Geiman, and tons of hand-made goodies added to our wish list (jewelry by Nancy Deal, leather bag and guitar strap by Becky Quigley, a new skirt by Beeline A-Line skirts made by Meg Guiffrida, and awesome printed shirts by Mary Ink.). We went to a vintage clothing sale at Fanny’s House of Music, the Ton Up vintage motorcycle show put on by the Road Mangler himself, Dim Sum with our friends Buddy & Adrienne at Lucky Bamboo (that’s right- Nashville finally has Dim Sum!), and enjoyed good food shared with friends all weekend!

Dolan and Ali Marie, who were staying with us, brought us home a big bag of veggies from the Turnip Truck. We already had the menu for the night planned out- Big Smokey’s amazing bbq smoked chicken, a big salad, sweet onion rice, and apple pie.

But, later in the week we made this Thai red curry dish using the big bag of veggies they brought us… Thank you Dolan & Ali Marie!

And, new summer cocktail idea:

And then- MORE MUSIC! Grant won tickets from WSM (one of the greatest radio stations in the world) to see Roger McGuinn at the Belcourt Theater. We had seen him once before a year or so ago, in the round, with Guy Clark and the Toad the Wet Sprocket guy. This solo show, however, was amazing. He simultaneously demonstrated the history of music and his own personal musical history. He had his Rickenbacker, his special edition Martin 7 string guitar, an acoustic 12 string guitar, and a banjo. He played all the classics and the early songs that inspired his early musical career. He put on one great show musically and visually, I really enjoyed watching the jingle jangle tapping of his cowboy boots. They were very animated. And, it is unbelievable that he is 68 years old as he looks about 50 and his voice is very strong (yet flowery as always). Such an inspiring show! Thank you Roger McGuinn!!!

The sign on the door of the Belcourt stated that I was only allowed to take non-flash photos from my seat and because Grant had an afternoon gig and we got there just as the show started, we were in the back of the theater. Anyway,  you can see his instrument set-up here…

Grant ended his musical week playing two gigs with Jon Byrd on Saturday. I have confessed my love of Derek Hoke‘s music on this here blog before but I have not yet had the opportunity to share my love of Jon Byrd’s music. If you haven’t heard of him, I just don’t know what you are waiting for. He is amazing! Check his music out now! Do it!

Pictured here are Jon Byrd with the awesome and amazing Grant “Big Smokey” Johnson in the shadows on the left and with the super talented Eric Brace on the right.

Next week- I look forward to reporting on the opening of our friend’s new River Cafe in Normandy, TN and a very exciting show at the Ryman Auditorium, one of my very favorite places in the whole wide world!!! Good food and country music- all of the time!