meatless monday: fresh corn and cauliflower bowl, basil stuffed grilled tomato, charred okra and snap beans



Yesterday we were driving back from Athens, my other favorite Georgia city, listening to an album that I haven’t heard in years (incidentally the only album released by the band Panic at the Disco–Pretty. Odd.), and thinking about the simple joys in life–good people, good music, and good food. Part of what makes these things such simple joys is that the are intimate and individual– that combination of favorite things is different for every person. And that drive is something that always brings those things into focus for me. A road so often travelled that brought me to my favorite person and my favorite place–a road that no matter which way I go it takes me home.

Now when I travel to Athens it is usually to seek culinary delights and this may have been the best yet. We managed to hit both Cinco y Diez and 5 & 10 and the Four Coursemen successor Coterie and Tie (Eleta will be doing a full report on this in a later entry). It was a gustatory wonderland. (Considering we started the weekend with dinner at Dovetail we really had a weekend to envy food-wise).

But, to the point, all this really brought into focus the need to focus on the simple, even when it comes to food. Fresh, simple, well seasoned food. It is so easy and makes you so happy when done well. Nothing can make you instantly happy like a great bite a food, and there is no better way to do that than using fresh ingredients in their time.

So, for meatless monday, I concocted a fresh corn bowl using some of the techniques we saw over the weekend with the garnishes. Easy prep, fresh flavors, delicious meal.

(For what it is worth, I listened to Cooley’s “Fool on Every Corner” while I cooked. Good folks, Good Music, Good Food.)

Corn and Cauliflower Bowl

2 ears fresh corn
1/2 Head Cauliflower
1/2 stick butter
Tbsp salt
Tsp fresh black pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin
6 cloves garlic
1 sprig rosemary
8 large okra
Handful of fresh snap green beans
2 fresh tomatoes
6 leaves basil
Olive oil, salt, pepper.

Begin by bringing a pot of water to a boil.

Shuck the corn and remove silk. Cut the corn off the cob midway through the kernel into a large bowl. Milk each ear by scraping down the ear with the back of the knife. Grate the floret part of the cauliflower with a fine cheese grater into the bowl. Add the salt, pepper, paprika, and cumin. Stir and set aside.

Blanch the beans in the boiling water for about 2 minute. Remove from heat into an ice bath. Let rest.

Heat a grill pan or stove top grill over medium high heat.

In a deep, heavy bottomed pan, add the butter and heat over medium heat until it bubbles and browns. Add the garlic and rosemary and reduce heat to medium low for about 3-4 minutes. Remove the rosemary. Add the corn mixture to and and stir. Raise heat to medium and cover about 10 minutes. You can add extra butter if you like. this is very much a choose your own adventure flavor wise.

In a bowl, coat the okra with olive oil and salt. Place on the grill and cook 7-8 minutes per side, until well charred and soft throughout. Add the green beans and grill until lightly charred, about 6 minutes.

Remove the stem side of the tomato, about 1/4 inch until the seed beds are exposed. Stuff 3 basil leaves into each tomato in the soft seed sections. Drizzle with oil, salt and pepper and place cut side down on the grill for about 4 minutes.

Plate as seen above.

The real question with this dish is what the corm mixture is more like. It has a texture more like risotto or grits  than creamed corn. The corn kernels should keep their integrity and have a slight crunch. The flavor has way more freshness than either risotto or grits, though.

The flavors really mesh well, especially the spiced corn and the aroma of the basil tomato. The sweet juice of the tomato mixing with the corn has a similar effect to a fried egg influencing and elevating to other flavors of a more savory plate.

All told, simple and delicious. In the middle of summer, all was golden.

meatless monday: simple southern summer supper


Welcome back to Bungalow Kitchen, and let’s do the happy dance for the full return of Meatless Monday!  After a year-long class on Monday nights and a summer away at my beloved GHP, I am so incredibly glad to be back in the Monday groove.

Tonight’s Meatless Monday is a tribute to not only my childhood, but also the lives of plenty of southerners in the summertime: the veggie plate.  Dwellers of the American South are smacked in the face with heat and humidity all summer, but a silver lining of the oppressive heat is the gorgeous bounty of produce that comes from our summer rain soaked grounds.  This is a great secret of southern kitchens; while many people associate meat-heavy dishes with our region, particularly fried chicken, catfish, and barbecue, many of us know that when company isn’t coming, we feast on whatever is plentiful from the garden.  In tonight’s case, we enjoyed what was plentiful from our CSA box via The Dirt Farmers.  Meatless Monday is so easy when you have an elegant array of fruit and vegetables, plus it’s a blast to let the CSA box inspire and push you to try new food and preparation.  Tonight, I selected okra, the squash medley (one pattypan, one Mediterranean, and one eight ball zucchini), 1 heirloom tomato, and a small watermelon.  A welcome addition to our dinner was some cake-like, delectable cornbread gifted to us by our friends and neighbors, Lauren and Adam Ragusea, after Alex helped Adam remove a tree in his yard.  Can you get more southern than that?

Ok, so let’s begin with the okra.


Preheat the oven to 400 F.  Take 1 lb. of fresh okra, slice it lengthwise, and place in a large mixing bowl.  Drizzle with 2 Tbsp. olive oil, 1 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. pepper, and 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes and toss to combine.  Place okra on a cookie sheet in a single layer and roast for 20 minutes, flipping the okra at the 10 minute mark.  When it’s ready, take the okra out of the oven, place on a serving plate, and top with about 1/4 cup shaved parmesan cheese.

Next, let’s tackle the squash medley:


Cut each squash into bite sized pieces, taking care to remove the seeds from the center of the pattypan squash and leaving the waxy skin on the squash.  In a large, heavy pan, melt 2 Tbsp. butter over medium high heat, adding 2 tsp. olive oil, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 4 crushed garlic cloves.  Let the garlic cook in the butter and oil for about 30 seconds, then add in the squash pieces and toss to combine.  Let the squash cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  When the squash is cooked through (but not soggy), display it proudly on a serving plate and add about 2 Tbsp. of chopped fresh basil.

Next, let’s look at the pillow-like cornbread from Lauren and Adam with some honey butter from Southern Swiss Dairy out of Waynesboro, GA:


It was nothing short of amazing.  Well done, Raguseas.  I’d like to point out that Adam, the cornbread’s creator, hails from Pennsylvania, but I’m guessing that he must have been below the Mason-Dixon line in a past life in order to create this masterpiece.

Let’s check out the heirloom tomato now:


See this red and green misshapen thing?  That is a tomato.  Grocery store tomatoes pale in comparison to a ripe tomato that hasn’t been picked before its time, then shipped on a truck, then stuck on a display under fluorescent lights for days.  Tomatoes from a farm tell a story: their strange coloring, interior seed pattern, and exterior bumps and lumps tell you that they’re natural and the way the soil intended.  Slice one up, add salt and pepper, and maybe add a little bit of olive oil to gild the lily.

Now, for the watermelon:


I don’t know if the watermelon or the cornbread was our dessert, but between the two, we were certainly satisfied.  Watermelon is gorgeous on its own, but add a piece of rind to your display dish for a nice look.

So that’s it, folks: I cooked the okra and squash, sliced up the tomato and watermelon, and enjoyed some cornbread from our sweet neighbors.  This meal is so quintessentially southern to me, but it’s a kitchen table, weeknight supper as opposed to a buffet of party food like barbecue or fried chicken or a “company is coming” dinner like honey baked ham or pork tenderloin.  Notice that nothing is fried in this healthy meal, but the ingredients call to the spirit of southern home cooks.  This kind of resourcefulness always reminds me of the resilience of our region, and I’m proud to pull down the veil of southern entertainment and let you in on the veggie plate secret.  Bon appetit, y’all!


local flavor: Babe and Sage Farm Dinner

Last night, three neighbors and I made a trip to Gordon, Georgia, just a short drive from Macon.  We drove down a dirt road into a grassy, makeshift parking lot and happened upon this special place:


Babe and Sage Farm is run by young farmers Chelsea Losh and Bobby Jones, two Georgia College graduates who are caretakers of the land and farm on the property.  I first heard about Babe and Sage Farm at Macon’s Mulberry Street Market, and our CSA The Dirt Farmers (now taking new customers!) uses some of their bounty to complete CSA deliveries.  Babe and Sage’s salad mix, for instance, is my absolute favorite thing we get in the box each week.

But how did we get here, and why, you ask?  My sweet neighbor, Erin Lake, asked me to join her along with neighbors Robert and Dina Deason to a farm dinner at Babe and Sage Farm.  She shared the menu with me, and I knew that I had to go!  For five courses of farm fresh food, I thought that the $35 ticket price was a steal, so I’m sharing the knowledge with you, dear readers, so you can have a great experience like I did.

Now, before I get into the story, here are the basic details: Look up Babe and Sage on Facebook and like their page so you’ll receive their updates.  The next time they do a farm dinner, immediately call all of your friends and order tickets!  They capped this dinner at 40 people, so make sure to get tickets early.  The dinner takes place on their beautiful wrap-around porch on their farmhouse.  The dinner is BYOB, so bring wine to share.

Anyway, back to the story.  So once we found the farm and checked in, we saw the wondrous wrap-around porch, put down our things, and had ourselves a pre-dinner cocktail.  Here’s my lovely group:


After the farmers and farmhands welcomed us to the dinner, they invited us inside the house for the first course: balsamic strawberries wrapped in bacon.


I had previously had bacon-wrapped dates and prosciutto-wrapped cantaloupe, but never bacon-wrapped strawberries.  I will definitely be trying to recreate those in our kitchen!  The farmhouse was built in the mid-1800s and was cozy and welcoming.  We could even see the chef of the evening, Jesse Crago, prepping the main course in the kitchen.  Next we took our seats on the porch.  The simple tables were craftily appointed with burlap, antique candlesticks, and the obligatory mason jars.


The family-style seating facilitated delightful discussion about local food, food history, and dietary differences in Southern subcultures.  Pretty fascinating perspectives, for sure.  Next was the salad course: B+S salad greens with slivers of red onion, pecans, and a honey-kombucha vinaigrette:


The next course was so simple, yet so complex at the same time.  The ginger, carrot, and thyme soup was perfectly accompanied by some cracked wheat bread that helped me sop up all of the farm fresh goodness.


I was already getting a little full, but I knew that I had to rally and get ready for the main course: pickle-brined chicken with kohlrabi slaw, mashed cauliflower, and sauteed kale.  Each of the four corners of this plate had something to offer that was both indulgent and healthy.


Whew!  What a feast.  The chicken was raised in Sparta, GA, and the veggies on the plate were all cultivated mere footsteps from our table.  Our table chatted about the social and cultural breakdown of the different members of the greens family: turnip, mustard, collard, kale, and all of the rest, leading into an interested conversation about the differences between southern food and soul food.  Since all of us were certainly in need of some movement after all of that delicious food, we were all pleased to be invited to tour the farm property.  We started with a little bit of history of the farm and farm house from Bobby:


Then we walked around the grounds and took in the beautiful scenery.

Image Image

After the tour, we headed back to the porch that was now much darker since the sun had gone down.


Waiting for me at my place setting was a sumptuous blueberry bread pudding.  It’s difficult to see by the candlelight, but it was everything summer should be: humid, heavy air on a porch with a warm bowl of dessert among friends.


After saying our thank yous and goodbyes, we trudged through the dewy grass back to our car and raved about our experience on the way back to Macon.  I was so impressed by the farm, farmers, and food, and I can’t wait to go back.  I hope you’ll join me!


lunchbox life: strawberry, basil, smoked almond, and gorgonzola salad with chicken


There is a small window of time every late spring in which strawberries are at their peak: red, delicate, juicy morsels of seedy goodness.  I always forget how absolutely delicious they are until I have one this time of year, and then I get sad, because every grocery store strawberry pales in comparison.  The hard, mostly greenish-pinkish-white globs that look like strawberries are a completely different product than a fresh-off-the-plant, ruby red strawberry.  Our CSA left us a quart of strawberries on Saturday, and after eating one (ok, a few), I knew that I had to incorporate them into lunches this week.

The salad greens and strawberries this week came from our beloved CSA, The Dirt Farmers.  I added some diced chicken for protein, chopped smoked almonds for depth of flavor and saltiness, gorgonzola for tang, and basil for freshness.  I’ve packed a simple balsamic vinaigrette to dress my salad on site.  It looks and tastes like summer!

WW info: 9 PP with dressing; recipe yields five servings

Strawberry, Basil, Smoked Almond, and Gorgonzola Salad with Chicken

2 chicken breasts, cooked to your liking and diced

1 cup sliced strawberries

2 oz. gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

1/3 cup smoked almonds, chopped

2 Tbsp. fresh basil, chiffonade sliced

6 to 8 cups salad mix

2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

salt and pepper, to taste

Assemble each bowl or container with an even amount of salad mix.  Evenly distribute the strawberries, cheese, chicken, almonds, and basil in each of the containers.  In a separate container or jar, shake the oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper together.  Dress salad with dressing right before eating.