Tag Archives: farmers market

Fried green tomatoes, pimento cheese and back-door touring

Let’s just say when I told the Gourlays we were going to see the ugliest statue in Nashville and we found out it cost $6 each to look at it, I just whipped out my phone and showed them a photo of Athena at the Parthenon. That’s back-door touring, a concept I learned last week from Richard, Candy, Nick and Mia Gourlay of London, England.

This is a story so improbable I can barely wrap my brain around it. The Gourlays come to America to visit Candy’s best friend and her husband in Washington, D.C. Beyond that, they apparently have no schedule, no agenda, no actual plan of any sort. Who does that? Candy’s best friend directs them to a couple in rural Virginia they have never met. Jody Jaffe and John Muncie greet the Gourlays with great enthusiasm, invite them to stay with them and back-door tour them around their neck of the woods.

Then Jody, who I have known for 30 years,  sends me an e-mail. The Gourlays, particularly Richard, love music and they have decided to come to Nashville.  Could I offer any suggestions? Of course, as any good Southerner would, I immediately insert myself into the vacation dreams, if somewhat vague, of strangers from London. I offer suggestions. I offer to meet them for lunch. And entirely because they are completely charming and scandalously funny, I adopt them for several days. They seem to be very agreeable to this.

Richard, Mia and Candy GourlayI feel the need to clarify here that the Gourlays are not some odd (well, perhaps a bit odd in a pirate kind of way) family who just drops in on strangers hoping for the best. Richard is a venture capitalist and Candy is an author. They could have stayed at the Ritz-Carlton and just skimmed the surface of the American landscape. But they didn’t.  They created an adventure for themselves and all of us lucky to come in contact with them were happy to go along.

Here’s their Nashville back-door tour.

I meet them at Jim and Nick’s BBQ restaurant for lunch. I didn’t even think to ask if they are vegetarians. Watching them attempt to order is hilarious. They have no idea what anything is on the menu with the exception of salad and a fruit cup. I realize immediately that I have fallen in love with them because they order almost one of everything – smoked chicken, ribs, brisket, pulled pork – and then pick off of everyone else’s plates, including mine – the stranger they have known for half an hour. This is the way I love to eat. I feel we are forming a bond.

forCatherine

So, naturally, I am not letting go of these people yet and I offer to back-door tour them around the Civil War sites of Franklin. I’m appallingly ignorant of Civil War history, but I do not tell them that. Richard called it the Bones, Blood and Bullets tour. Very back door. We see the undercroft at my church, which was a Civil War hospital and home after the fact to…well…bones. We see the blood stains on the floor at Gallery 202, also a Civil War hospital. We see the musket ball holes at the Carter House. We see the Confederate Cemetery at Carnton Plantation. Of course, we do not take any actual tours because that would violate the back-door touring rule. They rely on my sketchy knowledge. I try to sound confident.

Their last day in Nashville we continue the back-door tour, with a visit to the Farmer’s Market (where they engage a BBQ vendor in lengthy discussion of rubs, which they have never heard of, and the anatomy of a Picnic Shoulder). We see the Parthenon and Richard says he will now not have to travel to Greece because why would you do that when you’ve already seen an exact replica in Nashville? We tour through Belle Meade and make fun of the people who live there knowing full well that they would never let in pirates like us. And we have lunch at Harding House because I want them to try fried green tomatoes and pimento cheese.

Candy eating a fried green tomato

Candy eating a fried green tomato

They loved them. And everything else about Nashville and the South and their improbable, completely unplanned adventure in America. They have redefined travel for me. As Richard put it: “We are totally a back-road, idea-free zone.” And I am immeasurably grateful that they stumbled into my world. Or I stumbled into theirs.

So, Candy, here are the recipes for fried green tomatoes and pimento cheese. If you can’t find the ingredients in London, I will personally deliver them. I’m ready for a back-door adventure of my own.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Fried green tomatoes
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
  • 2 large green tomatoes
  • Whole milk
  • Cornmeal
  • Salt and pepper
  • Vegetable oil
Instructions
  1. Slice the tomatoes into ⅓-inch slices.
  2. Dip in milk and then in cornmeal. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium high heat and fry the tomatoes until golden brown.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Pimento cheese
Author: 
Prep time: 
Total time: 
 
Ingredients
  • Grated sharp Cheddar cheese (about ½ a food processor full)
  • 1 4-ounce jar pimentos
  • Dash onion powder
  • Dash red pepper or Tabasco sauce
  • Dash Worcestershire sauce
  • Pinch sugar (less than ¼ teaspoon)
  • Mayonnaise
Instructions
  1. Pulse together everything but the mayonnaise in a food processor.
  2. Add enough mayonnaise to create a thick, smooth mixture.

 

 

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Filed under beef, cheese, chicken, pork, Uncategorized, veggies

The first tomato sandwich

Look who joined the party in my vegetable bowl this morning! The first tomatoes of summer.

It is a joyous occasion, indeed, when the colors of the farmer’s market turn from dark greens to ruby reds. And the first order of business when tomatoes come into season is the tomato sandwich. Everyone in the South has their preferred version of the tomato sandwich. Some prefer white bread, not toasted, so the tomato juice slowly disintegrates the bread as you consume the sandwich hunched over your sink. I believe in toasting your bread to maintain the integrity of the sandwich.

This is not a recipe, but it’s my procedure for assembling the perfect tomato sandwich. You toast your bread first. Then you slather both pieces with butter. Not margarine. Don’t make me come after you. You add mayonnaise, preferably Duke’s, to just one side of the buttered toast.

Then you slice the tomato and lay it atop the bread with the mayo/butter combination. Sprinkle the tomato with salt, pepper and a wee pinch of sugar. That is the secret. That little bit of sugar. Place the remaining slice of bread on top, slice in half, die and go to heaven.

It has been approximately eight months since I had a homegrown tomato. I don’t buy tomatoes in the supermarket for a variety of reasons, mostly because they are not real tomatoes, but chemically altered orbs of crap picked by slave labor in a place where tomatoes are not meant to grow. But that’s just me.

That makes the first tomato sandwich of summer all the more enjoyable. It’s rare.

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Kale

No, don’t run away! Don’t click over to that other food blog you like so much! Stay here, I beg of you. This won’t hurt. I promise.

Kale is what’s for supper if you’re a vegetarian in January. It’s apparently the only thing that grows in the dead of winter, like the big dark green leafy weed it is. Well, it’s not a weed. It’s a member of the cabbage family that doesn’t grow a head. But, it’s also related to wild cabbage, which you could call a weed. If you go to the farmer’s market in January, pretty much all you will see are farmers selling kale, radishes, sweet potatoes and winter squash. It will be that way until April.

Since the Mayhew New Year’s Day menu required some sort of green, and because the green of choice was kale, we had a lot left over. You can’t just buy a couple leaves of kale. You have to buy a mess of it, as we say in the South. So here’s what you do and I promise you will actually seek out kale after you try this: just saute it. Don’t cook it until it’s mush as we Southerners love to do. Just give it a quick dip in some olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

One of the great magic tricks of the culinary world is cooking any kind of greens. You will start with a skillet full to overflowing and think you’ve got way too much in the pan. Within minutes, you’ll have enough for three servings, if that.

Sauteed Kale

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1 pound kale, sliced into thin ribbons

2 garlic cloves thinly sliced

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil over medium high heat in a skillet. Add the vinegar and the kale. Stir constantly to start wilting the kale. When it is reduced by half, add the garlic slices. Continue cooking until the kale is completely wilted but still a vibrant green. Add salt and pepper to taste.

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My food addiction

What is wrong with me? Seriously. I left the house this morning with three things on my shopping list: cheese slices, a chunk of Swiss and two onions.

This is what I came back with.

What is my problem? I’ll tell you what my problem is. I am a food shopping addict. I haven’t darkened the door at Macy’s in four years, but if I miss a single Saturday at the farmer’s market and beyond, I fall into an uneasy depression.

So, here’s how my thought process went this morning. Arrive at farmer’s market looking for onions. Pass James Gardner’s stand and realize I’m running low on eggs (as in, I only have a dozen left). Must buy eggs. Oh, and some darling tiny white radishes that are whispering to me. Two stalls down is Ralph Cole from West Wind Farms and he’s giving me this “come hither” look. Actually, I am imaging this because Ralph is quite shy. It’s his bacon that is calling to me. I respond and buy a package of stew beef as well because the nights are getting colder and we might just starve.

Next to Whole Foods, because I need the cheese. Apples. I could use some apples. And carrots. I’m out of carrots. On to the meat department because on the spur of the moment I’ve decided to make chicken with the onion gratin I needed the two onions for in the first place. Moral dilemma. Whole Foods grades the humane treatment of its meat. No. 2 is kind of humane. Chickens get to look outside a window. No. 3 better. They actually get to go outside. No. 4 they are permanent guests at a day spa. No. 4 is $22. No. 2 is $9. Sorry, Ms. Peep. I hope you have a nice view.

Cheese. Remember the cheese. Slices and Swiss ONLY. Oh, dear. What is that cunning block of pepper jack saying to me? Take me home. “Hello, Mrs. Mayhew,” says the Wensleydale Cheddar with cranberries. “I am only $17.99 a pound, but look how fetching I am!” I fetch a block. Salami. Salami would be very good with the cheese. How can I resist a Virginia-made applewood smoked salami with Sangiovese wine? I cannot.

I attempt to move toward the cash register when I notice the free samples of hummus. That’s mighty good. Into the cart along with a bag of salted fried tortilla chips for dipping. Ben and Jerry’s. I’m out of Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia Ice Cream. Never mind I have three other flavors of ice cream in the freezer. I don’t have that one.

It goes this way every week. If Armageddon came, assuming no loss of electrical power, Mark and I could easily subsist quite nicely on what is in my freezer, refrigerator and pantry for at least two years. By the way, here’s what I had for a snack when I got home: the Wensleydale, some salami and a few of those cunning white radishes dipped in sea salt. Delicious!

I know I have a problem, but it tastes so good.

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Sausage and cabbage

Finally, there’s a nip in the air. Which is fortunate because we had our annual honey bee invasion last week. I know, I know. Save the honey bees. They’re disappearing. Well, let me tell you they are not disappearing. They have simply relocated to the Mayhew household, specifically under the floor of the den.

Last year, we called our bee guy (yes, this is such a problem we have our own bee guy) to come and extract the bees and the honey. This has been an annual ritual but last year we finally figured out where they were getting into the house. One cooler of honey, another cooler with about a bazillion bees in it and 20 stings later (the bee guy – he can take it), they were finally gone.

So last week, when the weather hit about 85 degrees, the bees came swarming back. I mean swarming. It is amazing to me that bees can remember from one year to the next the exact location on Albert Drive where they are to congregate for the winter. However, I think we foiled them. They swarmed and swarmed, but I don’t think they got into the house. It got nippy again and now they’re gone. But it’s warming up to 85 later this week so I will keep you posted on our ongoing battle.

Nippy is also perfect weather for sausage and cabbage. I am a cabbage addict. If you’ve never fried it, just give it a shot and see if you don’t love it, too. This is a perfect weeknight meal because it literally takes 20 minutes to fix. Use the best quality sausage you can find. I am fortunate that Ralph Cole is standing ready at the Franklin Farmer’s Market just waiting for me with his stupendous array of sausages from West Wind Farm. Try to go organic and locally produced if you can. If you can’t, look for sausage that says “hormone free.” Really, ladies, do we really need any more hormones? You gentlemen just stand off in a corner and nod in agreement.

Sausage and cabbage

1 pound link sausage such as kielbasa or bratwurst

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 small head cabbage

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon dried onion

Juice from ½ lemon

Salt and pepper to taste

½ teaspoon caraway seeds.

Cut sausage on the diagonal into 1 inch pieces. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat and add sausage, browning well on both sides. Remove from pan and reserve.

Slice cabbage into thin strips. Melt butter in the same skillet you fried the sausage in and add the cabbage, onion and lemon juice. Saute until cabbage begins to turn brown and is tender. Salt and pepper to taste. Add caraway seeds and sausage.

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Filed under casseroles, pork, Uncategorized

Pasta with Portobello cream sauce

This “only eat organic, antibiotic-free sustainable meat” thing is going to get me into some serious budgetary hot water. I can tell you that right now. I am not sure when the tipping point came, but it has been reached and I have tumbled over the edge. Here is an example. This morning, Mark and I went out to the farmer’s market and then decided to eat breakfast. Old me: Steak bagel at McDonald’s. But just where exactly does that “steak” come from? Oh, dear. New me: Let’s go to Marcia’s, a locally owned bakery and cafe and get the croque monsieur, which is really just a jacked up ham sandwich but a darn tasty one. Price of steak bagel: $2.50. Price of croque monsieur: $9. You get my drift. But the croque monsieur did come with some tasty breakfast potatoes. And I felt good eating it. Really good.

So this is a long and very digressive way to get to the idea of “meatless Mondays” and expand that thought to other days of the week. Mark will not like the idea of meatless meals. He grew up poor and when he finally did have two nickels to rub together his first thought was not an expensive sports car or diamond cufflinks. No, the boy just wanted a steak. And now he feels slighted if each and every meal does not contain cow, chicken or pig. So the other night, I cleverly introduced this concept of meatless meals without telling him. I made pasta with portobello cream sauce. “You know,” he said completely unaware of my scheme, “you almost don’t miss the meat with these mushrooms.” Ha! I realize I will not have the same success with corn or green beans, but I will become creative. I have to. The tipping point has been reached and I cannot go back. I can’t afford it.

Pasta with Portobello Cream Sauce

6 ounces Portobello mushroom caps

2 tablespoons butter

2 large garlic cloves, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon dried oregano

¼ cup dry white wine

Juice of half a lemon

8 ounces heavy whipping cream

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

8 ounces thin spaghetti

Roughly chop the mushroom caps. Melt the butter in a large sauté pan and add the mushrooms. Cook over medium heat until well browned. Add the garlic, salt, pepper and oregano and sauté for about a minute. Add the wine and lemon juice and reduce the liquid by half. Add the cream and continue to reduce the sauce until it thickens. Stir in the Parmesan cheese.

Cook spaghetti to al dente and add it to the mushroom cream mixture.

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Caprese salad

One of the most honorable uses of tomatoes in the summer is to assemble a Caprese salad. Ya’ll, I had to look this up but Caprese salad means salad in the style of Capri and originated in the Italian region of Campania.

I think my first revelation about this came years ago when I realized that mozzarella for this salad does not come in a plastic bag hanging in the cheese section of the supermarket. In fact, most supermarkets don’t carry the kind of mozzarella you need which is fresh, fresh, fresh and in a ball. Sometimes it comes in a plastic tub filled with liquid. Lately, I’ve seen it at The Fresh Market just wrapped in plastic. You have to have this or don’t even bother.

The second thing you have to have are real tomatoes. You can only make this salad during tomato season. It drives me absolutely up the wall to go into a restaurant in January and see this salad on the menu. I always ask the waiter if the tomatoes are in season. Trick question. The waiter is usually clueless and assures me they are. Liar, liar, pants on fire! If you order this salad in January, you will get what you deserve: flavorless orbs injected with chemicals to turn them red picked by slave labor in Florida. Not so appetizing, eh?

So, because I am so blessed to have a great farmer’s market nearby, this time of year I pick up not only the traditional red tomatoes, but also sweet yellow ones and beautiful heirlooms like the green zebra. Layer them with the fresh mozzarella, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, add a sprinkling of freshly ground salt and pepper. Serve with crusty bread for sopping up the dressing. Fall into a chair delirious with the bounty of the summer harvest.

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Filed under cheese, salads, Uncategorized, veggies

Don’t squeeze the peaches

This is it. The money shot. It’s what tells you that it’s game on at the farmer’s market.

Our farmer’s market runs year-round. The winter months are pretty bleak. Meat, milk, a dwindling supply of winter squash. March and April – kale and other leafy greens that I become instantly sick of. Some of the good stuff starts sneaking in around late April and early May. But July is really the month that you know summer’s here.

BOOM! The peaches arrive from orchards in Alabama and South Carolina. The tomatoes in Eagleville are ready to pick. Cucumbers just begging to be pickled and canned are in abundance. We’re still a few weeks away from corn, watermelon and canteloupe, but it’s coming and soon. So Saturday I stocked up and found a brand new offering I had never heard of. I was at my egg guy’s stand and he had these teeny tiny bell peppers, a variety they call “chocolate peppers” because of their deep purple color. “What do you do with these?” I ask. He tells me that he goes over to the Bonnie Blue Farm stall and gets some goat cheese to stuff them with. Sounds like a fine idea and that is exactly what I do. The peppers come home with me and I think that I will have days to consume them as the boys are not fans of goat cheese. But they apparently are fans of Bonnie Blue Farm goat cheese because in ten minutes my entire stash of petite peppers are gone. I need more of these peppers immediately but I’ll have to wait until Saturday, alas.

The real prize were the blackberries. They are only in season for about three weeks and if I do not make a blackberry cobbler every year for Mark I fear my marriage will be in jeopardy. I pay six bucks a quart for these things, which totally goes against my cheap nature, but it’s worth it to save my marriage.

Blackberry cobbler

4 cups fresh blackberries

½ cup sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

½ teaspoon lemon juice

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup whole milk

1/4 cup butter, melted

1 egg, beaten

 

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Spread blackberries in an ungreased two-quart casserole. Mix sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice with berries.

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Add milk, butter and egg. Mix until the batter is just blended.

Pat batter over blueberries. Sprinkle with additional sugar.

Bake for 30-35 minutes until the crust is nicely browned.

 

 

 

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Filed under sweets, Uncategorized, veggies

Support our artisan food producers

I am not a rich woman, but I have learned something this year. I will pay extra money for excellence. It started with  West Wind Farms at the Franklin Farmer’s Market. I discovered Ralph Cole’s hot sage sausage. I am sorry, Jimmy Dean (rest in peace, of course), but you will have to move to the end of the line. Ralph’s sausage is expensive – eight dollars for four large links – but once you taste it you will never go back.

Tonight, I was reminded once again why it is important to support artisan producers who know how their animals were raised and treat them with the utmost respect. I speak of Kevin Ouzts’ ambrosial spiced lamb and pork crepinettes. I first ran into Kevin amid the most profound sadness. I had just been to visit Terrell for the last time and decided to stop at the Peachtree Road Farmer’s Market on my way home. Kevin owns The Spotted Trotter and sold me some of the divine crepinettes, this dense delicious sausage wrapped in caul fat. They made me very happy and I needed that.

So, through a friend, I arranged to have some more crepinettes delivered to Brentwood. We had them tonight for supper. I can honestly tell you that one bite of them is worth ten pounds of Jimmy Dean.

So here’s the thing. Times are tough. It’s tempting to go to that big box place with the extremely unhappy greeters and buy meat that was raised in pens and never saw a blade of grass. But while we are struggling, our artisan producers – those people who live on a shoestring and make nary a dime off of what they produce – are dedicated to raising animals humanely and producing ethereal products that honor them.

Go to a farmer’s market this weekend and give them a try. You will also feel honored. And Kevin, you get your USDA certification or whatever the hell certificate you need to ship across state lines. I need that sausage. And Ralph, thank goodness you live within Tennessee state lines because I cannot do without you, my man.

Vote with your pocketbook, however meager it may be, for excellence. There’s so little out there these days.

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Lamb and yams

Sometimes the most chance encounter can just change your life, you know? Mark and I are at the Franklin Farmer’s Market this morning and we happen upon a woman doing a cooking demonstration. It involves sweet potatoes. Mark hates sweet potatoes. He has awful memories of them that involve marshmallows and canned pineapple. In more than 20 years of marriage, I have never cooked sweet potatoes in this house because I could not face the rejection.

But here she is. This lovely woman named Shane Kelly. With a little hot plate making Sweet Potato Lamb Hash. Mark edges closer to the demonstration and I sense an opening. “Honey,” I say tentatively, “What would you think if we made this at home?” A pause. “Maybe if I substitute half of the sweet potato with a regular potato?” Ha! I have him. I run off to buy my first sweet potato in almost a quarter of a century.

To be honest, I think what pushed Mark over the edge was the lamb. He just loves the stuff and you could mix it in with sour owl poop and he’d still wolf it down.

I must pause here to say that Shane Kelly completely fooled me. Here she is in full-on make-up and hair at 9 a.m. at a farmer’s market so I automatically concluded that she was a Southern Belle through and through. But when I visited her website, I discovered that she was raised in the Bahamas, which truly is south but not that kind of South. However, she has adapted well and, perhaps, feels as I do that she got here as quick as she could. And she’s given me a slim chance of converting Mark to sweet potatoes, so God bless her.

Well, let me just say that the Lamb and Yams (and I know there’s a difference between sweet potatoes and yams, but you wouldn’t have as catchy a title) were a huge hit.

As always, the key to a great hash is brown, brown, brown. So I sauteed the sweet potatoes first since they are so much denser than the Yukon potatoes and onions that I browned after. And the lamb – NO GRAY MEAT. Brown it until it forms a lovely crust.

So Mark sits down to eat. He takes a a bite. And he looks at me for a long, hard time. “We could have this again,” he finally says. Victory is mine.

Here is Shane’s original recipe, which for anyone who loves sweet potatoes as I do will work just fine. I am fairly positive I will sneak the original on to Mark’s plate in the not-to-distant future.

Sweet Potato Lamb Hash

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

2 medium sweet potatoes, cut into a 1/2-inch dice (about 4 cups)

1 medium onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice (about one cup)

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

3/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 pound ground lamb

Directions:

1. In a 10-12 inch skillet add the olive oil, butter, potatoes, onion, thyme, oregano, salt and pepper and saute over medium heat for 10-15 minutes covered, stirring occasionally and adding a little water if need be.

2. Remove the sweet potato mixture from the pan and set it aside. Cover to keep warm.

3. Place the ground lamb into the same pan over medium high heat and continue to break it apart with a spatula until it is crumbled and browned.

4. Add the sweet potato mixture to the lamb and cook it over medium-low heat for another 5-10 minutes, covered. Season with more salt and pepper if need be and it’s all ready.

Just for your information, this is a copyrighted recipe but because I am totally unable to process finding the copyright symbol, you will just have to know that I had the best intentions.

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