Cooking with Lady Smokey: June in Nashville

Collard Greens. There isn’t a vegetable that reminds me of the South more. Growing up in South Carolina, with a mother from the Virginia hills, I saw plenty of collards but, my Mom always ate them cooked to death and then smothered in ketchup with a side of pinto beans. Eeew. That never looked very appetizing to me as a child. But, as an adult, I learned to love collards. (And this recipe I posted back in January was sort of a nod to Mom’s ketchup slathered greens.)

So, when I was strolling our neighborhood farmer’s market this week and spotted big bunches of organic Delvin Farm’s collards, I got really excited. We love trying new recipes and experimenting. In fact, that’s why I started blogging, so I would have a place to keep up with all of our meals we come up with. I am always seeking new ways to cook things. It keeps the whole cooking process exciting for me. I created this new way to cook collards based on an Edna Lewis recipe. I think they turned out really well and they are vegan, just in case you were wondering.

Serves 4-6
• 2 bunches collards
• 4 cups veggie broth (Seitenbacher is still my favorite!)
• ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
• 1 onion, chopped
• 3 Tbsp olive oil
• salt to taste
• 2-3 handfuls heirloom cherry tomatoes

Remove the greens from the large middle veins. Wash the leaves thoroughly. Tear them into bite-size pieces. Place the stock, vinegar, and collards in a large pot and heat on medium. Cook for about 45 minutes. Pour the collards into a colander but reserve ¼- ½ cup of the broth and set aside. Place the pot back on the burner on medium. Add the olive oil. Saute the onion until it begins to soften. Add the tomatoes and stir. Keep cooking until they burst open. Add the collards back to the pot with the onions and tomatoes and stir. Add a little of the reserved stock, as needed, so the collards don’t get too dry. Cook for 15-20 minutes and salt to taste. These are always good served with a little hot sauce.

Another one of my very favorite summer vegetables is yellow squash or yellow crookneck squash. This squash is so delicious sauteed with onions, peppers, and/or tomatoes. It immediately brings to mind fond memories of summer in the South. So, to serve alongside my collards, I made the following recipe, served over cheese grits. On Dolan’s last Nashville visit, we ate cheese grits for breakfast and realizing that he loves grits as much as I do, I forced him to take a bag of stone-ground grits home with him. Since I know he and Ali Marie now have a big bag of grits, I thought it best to post some recipes that  feature them. Grits aren’t just for breakfast you know.

Summer Squash with Onions & Peppers Over Stone-Ground Cheese Grits
Serves 4-6
• 3-4 pieces of Applewood Smoked Bacon (optional)
• 1-2 Tbsp Butter
• 1-2 Spring Onions, sliced (slice green tops and set aside to sprinkle on top of finished dish)
• 1 Green Bell Pepper, sliced in 1” pieces
• 1 Red Bell Pepper, sliced in 1” pieces
• 3 cloves Garlic, chopped
• 3 Garlic Scapes (if available, sliced)
• 3 Summer Squash, sliced in rounds

Heat skillet and cook the bacon, then set aside on a paper towel lined plate to cool. If you do use bacon, you can then leave the bacon drippings in the pan to saute the onion. If not, add 1 Tbsp of the butter to the pan. Saute the onion. Stir. Add the peppers and garlic. Once they begin to soften, add the scapes. Stir. Push the vegetables to the sides of the pan and add 1 Tbsp. of butter. Add the squash. Stir. Cover for a few minutes. Cook until squash begins to soften. Crumble the bacon and add to squash mixture. Serve over Cheese Grits.

Stone-Ground Cheese Grits
• 3 ½ cups Water
• 1 cup Stone-Ground Grits
• ½ cup Buttermilk
• 1 Tbsp Butter
• Tabasco, Salt, & Pepper to taste
• ½ cup Sharp Cheddar (or Beechers’ Flagship), grated

Place the water and grits in a medium sized pan. Bring to a boil. Lower temperature to low medium. Stir occasionally. Once the grits begin to thicken and absorb some of the water, add the buttermilk, butter, and seasonings. Keep stirring. Be careful not to let the grits stick to the bottom of the pan. Cook for about 20-30 minutes, depending on how gritty you want them to be. Add cheese. Stir.

This month marks what would have been Waylon Jennings’ 76th birthday. Waylon holds a very dear place in my heart. His music speaks to me and makes me super happy. Back in the day, Waylon was labeled an “outlaw” by those in the music business for doing things differently. Funny that “different” really meant that Waylon did things the way he thought was right. Things such as using his long-time musicians from his band to record his albums and blasphemous things such as securing his own recording rights. These were the sorts of things considered to be characteristic of an “outlaw” by those steeped in the music business of the Nashville Sound in the 1970’s.

Sadly, Waylon had already passed away by the time we moved to Nashville. I never got to know him but what I’ve learned about Waylon, from getting to know those close to him, is that he was a really good man with a really big heart. His spirit and his music will to continue to live on in the hearts of many.

In honor of Waylon, his unique country sound, his way of navigating the music business in Nashville, and his big heart, I want to introduce you to Sturgill Simpson. Sturgill’s first solo album was released last week. I’m really excited about his music.

Sturgill Simpson’s album release. Station Inn, Nashville, June 12, 2013.

Sturgill has an amazing, unique voice that sort of brings fellow Kentuckian, Ralph Stanley, to mind with a sound that combines bluegrass with good ol’ Waylon “Outlaw” country. He has a deep respect for real country music. And much like Waylon, Sturgill is following his own rules. He is true to his heart with a real authenticity and has little room for any music business bullshit. On top of all that, he’s a really good person. Being a part of a creative music community and getting to know all the personalities, talents, and sometimes flaws of a very interesting cast of characters, I am often reminded that it is a good idea to try to separate the art from the artist. It is always really refreshing, however,  when everything aligns and the really good music I love is creating a buzz around town, and is also being created by an equally good person. This is the case with Sturgill Simpson.

Sturgill Simpson and band. Basement, Nashville, Spring 2013.

Get to know Sturgill Simpson. He’s got a very bright future. You can purchase his album here. You can read about one of his new songs (and his grandpa) here. And here’s a great youtube live performance of his song, Water In A Well.

And, to bring it all full circle, here is Sturgill singing Waylon’s Waymore’s Blues.