American Originals 

Winning recipes from the annual July 4 Whitland Avenue celebration and competition

Winning recipes from the annual July 4 Whitland Avenue celebration and competition

America blew out 225 candles on July 4, and Whitland Avenue marked the 24th anniversary of its Fourth of July Parade & Picnic. At the outset, the casual street fest, held on one of Nashville’s most desirable streets, was strictly for neighborhood residents and their guests. But word spread of the classic all-American observance of our nation’s most celebrated holiday, and now hundreds show up to participate in the red-white-and-blue bicycle and stroller parade, to hear Bud Arnold’s dramatic reading of the Declaration of Independence, to sing along to rousing performances of patriotic classics by members of The Nashville Symphony, and to chow down on hot dogs, potato salad, and peach cobbler.

The hot dogs are provided by the Whitland Avenue Fourth of July Parade & Picnic Committee. The rest of the food comes from guests, who are all requested to contribute a salad, side, or dessert. Everything is laid out on a dozen or more long tables set up in rows under a tent. More ambitious culinarians can elect to enter their dishes in the Picnic Food and Apple Pie Competition, judged by an esteemed panel of trained professionals and presided over by myself—untrained and quasi-professional.

This year was my seventh or eighth on duty. I initially accepted the invitation just so I could go to the event, since I was still under the impression then that it was by invitation only. In spite of the intense heat and humidity that peaks at just about the time we dip our spoons into the first of a dozen varieties of black-bean-and-corn salad or a rapidly dissolving ambrosia, it is always a load of fun, and I go home with some great recipes. This year, I went straight from Whitland Avenue to a produce stand, where I purchased four pints of blackberries, then went home and tried my hand at Pat Pile’s blue-ribbon winner, Tennessee Blackberry Cobbler. Hers was better, but she says she has been making it for 10 years; I’ll keep practicing.

I also can’t wait to make Aunt Jane Fort’s Green Tomato Sweet Pickles, though I will probably wait until the end of summer, as Dancey Sanders, who submitted the dish, suggests. The Nashville native, who ended up taking first place in the side dish competition, says that she asked her mother what to do with all the green tomatoes left in her garden at the end of summer, and her mother handed over her great-aunt’s recipe. This remarkable regional dish had the judges rolling their eyes in delirium, and I have to confess that very few of the pickles made it from our table to the picnic tables—consider it our compensation for all the black-bean-and-corn salads. (Here is a tip for future contestants: fresh=good, canned=bad.)

The other winners in the side-dish competition were also distinguished by fresh ingredients, though the maker of the red-ribbon winner, Richard Chambers, admits that his Turnip-Carrot Casserole is more suited for fall, when root vegetables are all that’s in season. He adapted a recipe from the Worcester, Mass., Junior League cookbook to his personal taste and took it to the potluck Thanksgiving supper for his son’s lacrosse team a few years ago. “All the teenage boys loved it,” he reports. “Of course, we didn’t tell them what it was.”

Third place this year went to Bob Buchanan, though if we were judging on aesthetics alone, he would have taken home the blue ribbon for the pretty Umberto’s Tomato-Fennel Salad.

Thanks to the judges for taking a busman’s holiday and offering their invaluable expertise: Sylvia Harrelson, chef/co-owner of Cibo; Deb and Ernie Paquette and Renee Kasman of Zola; Meg Giuffrida, owner of Red Wagon Catering; and Danny Solomon, lifestyle editor/restaurant critic, City Paper.

Following are some of the winners’ recipes.

Aunt Jane Fort’s Green Tomato Sweet Pickles

submitted by Dancey Sanders

7 lbs. green tomatoes

2 gal. water

1 qt. pickling lime

5 lbs. sugar

6 sticks cinnamon, broken in pieces

1 tsp. nutmeg

1 tsp. ground ginger

1/2 tsp. mace

2 tbs. salt

3 qt. apple cider vinegar

1 box mustard seed

Slice the tomatoes in quarter-inch rounds and put in a porcelain vessel. Dissolve the pickling lime in the water and cover the tomatoes for 24 hours. Rinse the tomatoes and take care not to break in pieces. Bring the rest of the ingredients to a boil with the tomatoes, uncovered, until the liquid clings to the back of a spoon (about one hour). Place in sterilized jars and let stand for at least a week; they improve with age.

Turnip-Carrot Casserole

submitted by Richard Chambers

2 lbs. carrots

2 lbs. turnips

1 c. butter

10 tbs. maple syrup

5 tbs. Dijon mustard

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1 box savory herb Stove Top stuffing mix

Peel and wash carrots and turnips, then steam or boil in salted water for 20 minutes. Drain and mash together. Put mash in a baking dish well coated with olive oil. Melt butter; mix with syrup, mustard, and nutmeg; and blend into mashed vegetables. Add herb packet from Stove Top stuffing, then top mash with stuffing.

Chambers combines the ingredients, then allow the flavors to blend overnight in the refrigerator. The following day, he cooks the dish in a 350-degree oven, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

Umberto’s Tomato-Fennel Salad

recipe by Umberto J. Fontana, submitted by Bob Buchanan

3 c. vine-ripened tomatoes cut into three-quarter-inch cubes (cherry tomatoes may be substituted)

4 tbs. honey

4 tbs. white vinegar

2 c. celery cut into three-quarter-inch cubes

2 c. fennel bulb cut into three-quarter-inch cubes

1 clove garlic

1 tsp. salt

4 tbs. olive oil

Combine honey and vinegar, and mix with tomatoes in a bowl. In separate bowl, combine celery and fennel. Prepare dressing by mashing garlic clove and salt into a paste, then whisking into the olive oil. Pour dressing on fennel and celery, and refrigerate one hour. Immediately before serving, combine tomato mixture and celery-fennel mixture.

Tennessee Blackberry Cobbler

submitted by Pat Pile

2 to 3 c. fresh blackberries

3/4 c. water

cinnamon

1 c. sugar

1 c. self-rising flour

1 egg

1/3 c. butter

Wash blackberries and spread on the bottom of a greased baking dish. Add water and sprinkle all with cinnamon. Combine sugar and flour, whisk egg, then cut egg into sugar and flour until crumbly. Layer over fruit. Melt butter and drizzle over topping. Bake 45 minutes at 350 degrees. To keep topping crisp, do not cover.

Coming soon...or later

Back when Jay Pennington was preparing to open Bound’ry with partner Dan Goosetree, Sunset Grill owner Randy Rayburn had a running bet with the two about when their restaurant would actually open for business. As it turned out, there were more than a few delays, but they did manage to squeak in under the determining deadline, opening just before the very last day of 1995.

Lately, people have been wondering about Pennington’s current project-in-progress, located between Bound’ry and his other restaurant, South Street. In fact, some have taken to calling the under-construction, two-story edifice the “brick-a-day building” (though it currently sports a stucco exterior featuring a prominent mermaid-like creature).

Last week, Pennington reported to the Scene that the yet-to-be-named restaurant, which will feature Pan-Asian cuisine, is now scheduled to open in November, though who can really say? What we do know is that the new building will have two bars, will seat about 175, and will include a bakery in the back that will provide the breads and desserts for all three restaurants.

Meanwhile, South Street celebrates its 10th anniversary on Sept. 26. That restaurant, one of Nashville’s most popular upscale dives, is just completing a redo. The kitchen had an overhaul, a charcuterie (a place to prepare and smoke meats) has been added in the back, and a tree house on a new upper level has added about 40 seats. South Street’s tin anniversary coincides with the final day of Uptown Mix, the Wednesday-night concert series held in the lot across the street, which kicks off its 2001 season this week. New at Uptown Mix this year will be global street food prepared by chefs at Bound’ry and South Street, as well as a wine bar.

The chef these days at Bound’ry is Theresa Everritt, who cooked with Deb Paquette (first at Bound’ry, then at Zola) for several years, and two years ago came back to Bound’ry to work with Willie Thomas. Thomas left Bound’ry at the beginning of the year to open his own restaurant, Park Café, in Sylvan Park. Since taking over the kitchen, Everritt has been adding more Latin dishes.

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