Category Archives: Recipe

Make the Most of Summer

Here In Franklin’s Table has been sadly neglected. It probably would’ve just faded away if not for Nimpipi and her funny comments about it. So from Franklin to New Delhi, this is for you.

I don’t know of any two vegetables that say Tennessee summer louder than yellow squash and tomatoes. I know you can buy them all year ’round, but you shouldn’t. Let the potatoes rule in winter, give summer to the yellow squash and tomatoes.

Here’s a meal that makes the most of summer.

Grilled Mediterranean Chicken

(from this fabulous cookbook–you should get one if you’re always looking for new chicken ideas)

1/2 cup olive oil

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

1 medium onion, chopped (white or yellow, not red)

6 cloves garlic, minced

2 good-sized ripe tomatoes

1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried

1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper

Combine all these ingredients. Put half in a nonaluminum bowl or shallow dish and half in a small sauce pan.

Add chicken pieces of your choice–the recipe calls for 1 whole chicken, cut up, but I don’t think there’s enough marinade for that. I use this amount for four thighs.

An aside on chicken parts–if you make this with boneless, skinless breasts, then you have no soul.

Coat the chicken with the marinade and refrigerate for 2-4 hours. Turn the chicken every now and then.

Yum. Raw chicken.

Remove the chicken from the fridge 30 minutes before cooking. Fire up the grill and cook the chicken, skin side down, for a couple of minutes. Baste and then turn when it’s got good color. Cook on side two for a couple of minutes and then move off hottest part of the grill. Baste and cover. Keep and eye on it. Cook for about 20 minutes in all (for thighs), basting and turning 2-3 times. If it seems like it’s not getting done, move back to hottest part of the grill.

While this going on, heat the reserved marinade on the stove. Let it simmer. In 10-15 minutes you’ll have a nice thick sauce.

Grilled Squash

Young yellow squash doesn’t need to be peeled. If you see a spot that’s a little brown, just cut it away.

Cut off both ends of the squash and then cut it into chunks and put in an aluminum baking pan. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with fresh dill, kosher salt, black pepper and grated parmesan. Add two or three pats of butter. Give it a good stir and put the pan on the grill with your chicken. It should be tender in about 15 minutes–just test with a fork.

Here’s the finished plate:

It’s not the prettiest, but can I just say that it tasted amazing. Oh, we had blackberry cobbler for dessert:

So that’s what’s cooking  here in Franklin today. The tomatoes, squash and blackberries were all bought at the local farmer’s market and here’s the recipe for the cobbler.

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Creamy Yummy Luscious Risotto.

That’s a lot of adjectives, but that’s how much I love this dish from Jamie’s Italy by Jamie Oliver (sometimes known as the Naked Chef).

This is one of those dishes that never enters my mind during the warm months. Even now in September a tropical system is sitting on top of us making the air thick with moisture. I won’t be making this any time soon, but I can think about its goodness…especially with roast chicken.

Risotto takes a little patience and preplanning…you’ll want to have all your ingredients measured and chopped before you begin. If you’ve never made risotto before, read the recipe all the way through a couple of times so you know what you’re getting yourself into.

Equipment you’ll need: 2 large pots, 1 ladle

Ingredients you’ll need:

2 pints chicken stock (the better the stock, the better the risotto)

2 T olive oil

2 T butter

3/4 C white or yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped 

3/4 C celery, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 cups Aborio rice

2 C dry white wine or dry vermouth

sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

3 T butter

4 oz freshly grated Parmesean cheese

Heat the stock in one pot to a simmer, turn heat down, but keep warm

1.Put the butter and oil in the other pot. Melt the butter and add the onion, garlic, and celery and cook slowly for about 15 minutes, or until the veggies are soft. Add the rice and turn up the heat.

2. The rice will start to lightly fry, so keep stirring it. After a minute or two, it will start to look slightly transparent. Add the wine and keep stirring…notice the fabulous smell.

3. After the rice has absorbed the wine, add your first ladle full of stock and a pinch of salt. Turn down the heat to a simmer–you don’t want the rice to cook too quickly. Keep stirring. Everytime the liquid is absorbed, add another ladle full of stock. After about 15 minutes, taste the rice…it should be almost (but not completely) soft. Keep adding stock and stirring. If you run out of stock, add boiling water.

4. When the rice is done, remove from the heat and add the remaining butter and cheese…stir well. Put a tight lid on the pan and let sit for two minutes. Enjoy as soon as possible.

This is not really a do-ahead type of dish, but if you want to make it for guests, just invite them into the kitchen while you’re cooking.

I promise that the effort for this dish is worth it.

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Kiss My Grits

Next time you have a dinner party try this. Cook up a pot full of ground corn meal. Mix in some butter, salt and cheese. When your guests ask what it is, tell them it’s polenta. They’ll ooh and aah and compliment you on your international palate.

Then, a few weeks later, do it again. Only this time tell them that it’s grits. If you live outside of the South, you risk their derision. They’ll laugh at you behind your back. Question your pedigree. And quite possibly drop you from the gourmet dinner group.

But polenta and grits are essentially the same thing. Only one has cache. The other doesn’t.

For some reason, grits, more than any other food I know of, carries with it a taint of uneducated, backwoods, redneck miasma. Something the Beverly Hillbillies would’ve served as a side dish to possum friccasse.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

I’ve washed down grits with Cristal champagne. I’ve served them with my finest linen, china and sterling silver.

Around here, grits are the rule, not the exception.

Like pasta, rice and boneless, skinless chicken breasts, grits are a palate. Begging for butter, cheese, herbs and savory goodness.

The most common way you see grits served in Middle Tennessee is in a casserole. Every cook worth her Henkel knives has her own recipe.

Here’s mine, before they are cooked:

uncooked grits

 And here’s the recipe:

3 c water

1 c quick cooking grits (not instant)

1 stick butter

1 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 can diced Rotel tomatos

handful snipped fresh chives or tablespoon dried

2 eggs

1 cup milk (any will do)

salt

paprika, chili powder, cayenne

Bring water to a boil and stir in grits. Cover and cook over very low heat for two minutes. Stir grits and cover, move off heat.

After a couple of minutes, stir grits until smooth.

Add butter and cheese.

Cover and let stand for 10 minutes.

Blend grits, cheese and butter.

Add garlic, Rotel and chives… stir

blend eggs into milk

Add to grits

Add salt to taste

Dust top with paprika, chili powder, cayenne

Bake at 350 for approx. 1 hour, or until middle is set.

 cooked grits

These grits are especially good with grilled meat, like my shish kabobs…

kabobs

The moral of the story is this…grits are good. Really, they are. Give them a try.

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Italian food? What’s that?

My mother is a very good cook, but 40 years ago this small town didn’t have a lot in the way of exotic ingredients. Most spice cabinets then consisted of paprika (for sprinkling over deviled eggs), onion salt (for tomato sandwiches) and garlic powder.

Don’t get me wrong–we ate very well, and very healthily with lots of green vegetables and not too many processed, packaged foods. But a  look in my pantry and refrigerator today shows lots of items that probably weren’t sold within 20 miles of here when I was growing up–basalmic vinegar, curry paste, pesto and Maldon salt. Italian, Mexican and Chinese foods were things you found in Nashville, but not here.

Today we use those ingredients without thinking twice–picking them up at any area grocery store.

Today’s recipe is not one that includes a lot of fancy ingredients–it’s a simple marinara sauce that takes full advantage of the late summer glut of tomatoes. The recipe comes from this book which I bought in Napa Valley several years ago. The sauce freezes well and gives you a taste of summer in the middle of winter. I use half the amout of oil called for here, but you can decide if you want to cut it.

1 1/2 c extra virgin olive oil

1 c diced onions

1 c diced celery

1 c diced carrot

(this mixture of onion, carrot and celery is known as mirepoix and is the basis for many sauces, soups and stews)

2 T chopped garlic

2 lbs ripe tomatoes, quartered

1/4  c fresh basil, chopped

salt/pepper

Heat the oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add the mirepoix and garlic and cook for 15 minutes. Don’t let them brown. Add tomatoes and stir and cook for another 30 minutes or so–until the tomatoes are all melty and the carrots are soft.

Remove from heat and let cool. Stir in basil.

If you don’t have an immersion blender, now would be a good time to go get one. The sauce can wait while you run to Wal-Mart or K-Mart or whichever mart is closest. You can get a perfectly good one for under $20 and you won’t believe how much you’ll use it.

Now, take your immersion blender and let it go on that sauce. You’ll be amazed at the color and the texture. Taste for seasoning and enjoy.

This recipe doubles easily, and you might as well go on and make extra.

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So…the next time you’re in Bourgogne…

In 2007 we had the great  fortune of traveling with some good friends through Belgium and France. It would be our friends first time in France, and our first time exploring the French countryside without a business agenda to tend to.

I think that planning a trip is almost as much fun as getting on the plane and actually leaving, and for this particular journey, we planned for several months. Food and wine played a large role in our wish list and, given all logistics, the Burgundy region of France seemed like a good area to explore. I was responsible for lodging and spent many happy hours perusing hotel web sites. Finally though, I struck gold with www.innsoffrance.com. This site is a great resource if you’re looking for small, out of the way inns. The one we chose, Auberge La Beursaudiere, seemed too good to be true…it’s a few centuries old and the rooms are around a courtyard.

Photo of Auberge La Beursaudiere

There are only 11 rooms, each uniquely decorated. This was the view from our bathroom…you had to open the wooden shutters to see it:

view

 

And this is the little terrace outside our friends’ room. In the early evening we would ask the staff to bring us a bottle of local wine…they always added a little amuse bouche to go with it.

 Europe 07-April 068

So, aside from the price, the charm, the wine and the scenery, this inn also had a wonderful restaurant. The little town of Nitry was pretty dull, but this place was packed every night. They served regional fare…think sophisticated country food. My favorite dish was ouefs en meurette–eggs baked in red wine. Here’s a recipe from a cookbook my friends bought for me in Burgundy:

8 eggs

1/4 lb bacon, minced

1/2 bottle red wine

1 1/2 tsp butter

1 onion, minced

3 shallots, minced

1 bouquet garni

1 baguette

garlic

salt and pepper

Make a roux of the butter and flour. Add the bacon, bouquet garni, wine, 1/3 cup water, onion and shallot, salt and pepper to taste.

Cook for 30-40 minutes.

Remove bouquet garni and strain sauce.

Fill four individual ovenproof baking dishes 2/3 full of sauce. Break 2 eggs into each. Bake at 375 until whites are cooks and yolks are still liquid. (check after 15 minutes).

Serve with sliced baguette rubbed with garlic

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Comfort Food

I have a friend who could really use a break. In the year before I met him, he lost three family members. Since then, one other has died, another was just diagnosed with a debilitating–and terminal–illness and then, I kid you not, his dog died. What on earth can you do to help someone in that situation?

Hugs and prayers are great, but sometimes they’re not all that fulfilling. So I decided to cook.

My friend enjoys his food, but he’s not a cook. I thought about what to make, consulted with someone else who knows him better than I, and decided to cook him meat loaf and mashed potatoes.

You just can’t get more basic than that. In long run, it’s hard to get much better than that either. Besides, it’s easy to transport and easy to fix, even for a noncook. I gave him the meatloaf in an aluminum tin so it only had to be put in the oven. The potatoes were mashed by hand and could be reheated in the microwave.

My meatloaf is little out of the ordinary and is chameleon-like in its makeup. Generally speaking though, the ingredients are:

1 lb ground beef

1/4 lb ground pork

half a chopped onion

3 cloves chopped garlic

1 can chopped tomatoes, drained

1/2 cup or so roasted red pepper (from a jar is fine), chopped

handful each chopped fresh basil and Italian parsely

1/2 cup or so grated parmesean

2 eggs, beaten

bread crumbs if it seems too juicy/catsup if it seem too dry

salt/pepper

mix up everything but the eggs. Just roll up your sleeves and use your hands. Then mix in the eggs and decide if you think it’s too juicy or not. If it won’t hold a shape–like a ball–it probably needs some bread crumbs, but don’t overdo it.

Put into loaf pan and bake at 350 for an hour.

Hope you like it…it really is one of those recipes that you can add or subtract to according to your taste.

My friend loved it. Food can’t make everything better, not by a long shot. But cooking for someone has got to be one of the nicest–most comforting–things you can do.

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Guacomole–less is more

I firmly believe that everyone has one little thing that they do better than almost anyone else. It might be playing the piano. Or folding towels. It can be anything.

For me, that one thing I do better than almost anyone else is make guacomole. Husband has a cousin in Texas who might be better, but she’s a few hundred miles away.

Last night the girlfriends met at Lime, at trendy new nightspot in Nashville. It’s all open patios and cool breezes and a Caribbean sort of vibe. Upscale Caribbean, not funky. They offer all sorts of ‘tinis and the appetizers were two for one.

We started out with some guacomole and chips. Guacomole is one of those things where less is more. There are some dishes out there that require an entire grocery cart to put together. Guacomole isn’t one of them.

Unfortunately, the guac maker at Lime doesn’t agree with me. Not only does this concoction have green bell pepper in it, our server proudly told us that it had been made at 1 a.m. so the flavors would have time to “marry.”

Please, the flavors in good guacomole have no interest in marrying. In fact, they should barely know one another because guac should go from kitchen to table as soon as it’s made. In fact, if you can just stand around the kitchen counter and eat it straight from the mixing bowl, all the better.

Also, guac should not have the appearance of green French onion dip. It should be chunky. If you ever run across soupy guac, you can be sure that it was either a) made from a mix or b) stretched with sour cream.

Here’s how I make it–with a nod to the Barefoot Contessa.

4 ripe Haas (black, bumpy skin) advocados. They should give slightly when squeezed, but not be mushy.

2-3 lemons

2-3 cloves of garlic, minced

kosher salt

2-3 T chopped purple onion (optional)

2-3 T chopped tomato (optional)

Slice advocados lenghtwise around seed. Hold the half with the seed and whack it with a sharp knife so that the knife sticks in the seed. Gently twist and remove seed. With knife, score the flesh into cubes, scoop out with large spoon.

Start adding the other ingredients remembering that it’s almost impossible to have too much lemon juice. The lemons not only add flavor, they also keep the fruit from discoloring. Don’t stir too much, it needs to stay chunky. Just add and taste.

I promise, if you like avocado, you’ll like this version.

guacomole

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