Cooking with Lady Smokey: Pickin’ Parties and Potlucks

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It’s summer! The cicadas are making their way back underground. Their 13 year journey begins all over again just as the lightning bugs are beginning to light up our evening skies. It’s the perfect time for pickin’ parties, grilling out, and potlucks with friends.

We live in one of the most highly populated areas for musicians. One can find guitar picks littered all over the landscape around these parts. (Personally, I find them in just about every load of laundry I do and who knows how many we suck up into our vacuum bags on a weekly basis!) In fact, we heard this Bobby Bare, Jr. song right before we moved to Nashville and thought it was so funny. It wasn’t until we actually lived here that we realized how truthful it really is.

So, it is inevitable that most social gatherings in Nashville will evolve into some sort of pickin’ party which is just fine by me!

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Songs made popular by the Carter Family are some of my favorites that always end up at pickin’ parties and campfire gatherings. Here is a great one!

Every good southern party involves food. On most summer evenings in Nashville, we can step outside to the delicious aroma of a neighbor’s grill or smoker. With the abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables in the summer months, salads and fruit pies are easy to prepare and are always welcomed additions to any potluck.

Below are a few handmade casserole dishes to make your contribution to the party a little more classy:

stoneware bowl with lid by TheBrownPottery
casserole dish by LaPaisibleCeramics

While fresh fruits and vegetables aren’t always the most popular dishes at potluck gatherings, I often find that those are most needed to help round-out what everyone else brought and help up the nutritional value of the entire spread! Here are a few simple salads we have made recently that make for colorful and tasty side dishes.

photo 3- carrot slaw

Carrot Slaw
Serves 4-6
½ small red cabbage, finely chopped
1 small handful fresh parsley, finely chopped
4 carrots, grated
½ cup sultana raisins
1 shallot, finely chopped

for the dressing:
2 tsp Umeboshi paste (packed full of goodness for your body!)
3 Tbsp brown rice vinegar
3 Tbsp grape seed oil
1 Tbsp raw cane sugar
sea salt & black pepper to taste

Mix all vegetables together in a big bowl. Mix all dressing ingredients together with a fork or whisk and pour on top of veggies. Stir.

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Summer Corn Salad
This salad is so simple yet delicious and satisfying when all the ingredients are fresh and in season! This recipe serves 4 so if you are taking it to a potluck, you’ll want to double or triple the recipe. We had some leftover roasted chicken that we threw in, as well.

2 ears fresh corn on the cob, cut off
1 avocado, peeled and diced
handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
handful of cherry tomatoes, cut in quarters
juice of 1 lime
sea salt and black pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together in a big bowl! So easy!

photo 5- okra salad

Roasted Okra Salad
Again, this salad just didn’t seem to need much more than the basic ingredients. I wanted to put some fresh herbs in but it did not seem necessary. All the vegetables are so fresh and delicious right now that they speak for themselves.You can adjust quantities to fit your needs. I just used what we had which turned out to be a bowl big enough to serve maybe 4.

photo 6- okra salad ingred

20-25 okra, washed and patted dry
1 small red onion, sliced in rings
5 garlic cloves
1 large heirloom tomato, cut into small pieces
2 ears corn, cut off cob
olive oil
juice of one lemon slice
2-3 dashes Tabasco
sea salt and black pepper to taste

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Roast okra and onion rings in a glass dish with olive oil, sea salt and pepper. After about 15 minutes, take okra out to cool and add 5 cloves of garlic with onion slices and roast for another 10 or 15 minutes. Remove baking dish from oven. Cool. Cut okra and onions into smaller pieces. Chop garlic. Mix with tomatoes and corn. Squeeze a lemon slice over and add a couple dashes of Tabasco. Add sea salt and pepper as needed. Stir.

One of my very favorite salads we started making last summer is this simple watermelon salad…

photo 7- watermelon

Watermelon Salad
Cut watermelon into cubes. Mix with cucumber chunks, fresh chopped mint, and 1-2 jalapenos that have been seeded and finely chopped. Stir together and chill. This salad is so delicious and refreshing, yet a little spicy, too!


colorful pie plates by Lesliefreemandesigns

Fruit pies are so fun and easy to make. As long as you have a good basic pie crust, the fruit is the real star! Here is my Mom’s Blueberry Crumble Top Pie recipe. I love my Mom!  She is an amazing baker and has always experimented, trying new recipes all the time. Baking is her specialty.

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Mom’s Blueberry Crumb Pie
3 cups fresh blueberries
2 tbsp. flour
¾ cup sugar (I use organic cane sugar)
1 Tbsp lemon juice
dash of salt

Pie crumbs:
1 cup flour
½ cup sugar (I use organic cane sugar, you can also use part brown sugar)
½ cup butter

Mix with hands or pastry blender until crumbly.

Mix  blueberries with flour, sugar, and salt.  Place in unbaked pie shell and sprinkle with lemon juice.  Cover with pie crumbs and bake at 425 for 15 minutes and then 350 for 35 minutes.

Protect your oven!  This pie almost always runs over while baking.
(I have found that you can substitute any fruit and this pie always turns out yummy!!!)

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Enjoy your summer!