Labor Day picnics and family reunions beg something wonderful to bring. If you want to wow everyone, make a watermelon salad. And it’s just so easy! The following adaptable, changeable recipe is based on three of our favorite summer flavors – watermelon, peaches, and ripe tomatoes. Combined in this salad, they speak end of summer and celebration. You salt the watermelon and tomatoes first. Just before serving, add the peaches, and pile the fruit on top of your favorite lettuce, and sprinkle with oil, vinegar, and fresh herbs. Garnish with feta and almonds. You can serve on individual plates, or pile onto a large platter to feed 8. If you don’t have the basil or mint, use dill or parsley. And if you don’t have feta, use cubes of fresh mozzarella. In a hurry? Drizzle with one of our Old Mill favorite salad dressings.
- 6 cups seedless watermelon chunks, cut into 1-inch chunks
- 4 cups good, ripe heirloom tomatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
- ½ to 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 cups sliced, peeled ripe peaches
- 6 cups fresh arugula or your favorite salad greens
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1½ tablespoons white or red wine vinegar
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint or basil, or a combination
- ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
- 2 tablespoons toasted sliced almonds
- Place the watermelon and tomatoes in a mixing bowl and season with salt. Toss to coat, and let the fruit sit for 30 minutes. Drain well.
- Fold the peaches into the watermelon and tomato mixture. To serve, spoon the fruit on top of the salad greens. Drizzle with oil and vinegar. Garnish the top with chopped fresh herbs, feta cheese, and toasted almonds.
One of our chef’s, Danielle Speelman, recently developed a new summer salad that everyone loves. It combines the best summer flavors and is a fresh Old Mill twist on a panzanella, with the cornbread croutons. She featured it on a recent visit to one of our local afternoon tv shows.
Watch her make it here: Summer Panzanella Salad
Summer Panzanella Salad
4 cups of cubed day-old cornbread (Prepared from Old Mill Self Rising Yellow Cornmeal)
¼ cup salted butter
1 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 red onion, sliced
1.5 cups of fresh corn (sliced from 2-3 ears)
½ TSP Cumin
½ TSP Salt
1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut into halves
1 medium avocado, pitted and cubed
2 cups of arugulaFresh basil, chopped
½ cup feta cheese
3 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 TBSP Farmhouse Kitchen Honey Balsamic Vinegar
1 ½ TSP chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (to make spicier, include minced chipotle pepper)
Salt to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place cornbread cubes on baking sheet, pouring melted butter over to coat. Toast in oven until golden brown and crispy 16-18 minutes, gently stirring pan halfway through (be careful not to toss the cornbread or it will crumble). Remove from oven and set aside.
Preheat olive oil in large sauté pan. Add red onion and cook 2 minutes until it starts to soften. Add corn kernels, cumin, paprika, and salt. Cook approximately 5 minutes until tender and fragrant. Set aside to cool slightly.
To prepare vinaigrette, combine all ingredients in mason jar or lid with a container. Shake until emulsified, or liquids have become one. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, toss together cooled corn mixture, sliced tomatoes, avocado, arugula, and cornbread croutons. Pour vinaigrette over to coat and toss gently. Garnish with fresh basil and feta cheese. Serve immediately.
Perfect light summer side dish or paired with grilled protein for a heartier entrée.
Here in the Great Smoky Mountains, we appreciate the legacy of the simplest and most powerful southern recipe – fried chicken. In our Old Mill Restaurant we fry up more than 100 pounds of chicken each day, and it, by far, is the most requested menu item.
Why? Our chicken is crisp on the outside, and it’s moist inside. Which for the home cooks can be a bit of a struggle. One of the earliest recipes for fried chicken was in the 1828 cookbook called the Virginia House-Wife, written by Mary Randolph. Her instructions were clear – find fresh chicken, cut it up, soak in salted water, toss with flour and seasonings, and pan-fry.
“Chicken has to be crispy, but it can’t be overcooked,” according to Randy, who has been cooking all his life in the East Tennessee area. “I like chicken that’s really moist and tender. So we just use fresh chicken, bread it with the Mill breader, add some garlic and seasoning of our own, and fry it.”
But without a pressure cooker/fryer at home, Randy realizes the home cook cannot duplicate exactly the famous Old Mill chicken. You just have to come here to enjoy it, he says. The closest you can get to it is to pan-fry it to golden and then finish cooking it in the oven. When he is at home in his kitchen, Randy fries boneless chicken pieces, and after browning them in hot oil, he covers them lightly with foil and places in a 300-degree oven for about 30 minutes to cook through.
“Cooking is a lot of fun,” he says. “I learn something new every day.”
Sounds simple enough. Fried chicken has simple ingredients – just chicken, seasoning, flour, and oil for frying. But therein lies the dilemma – how to do it best. Because the simplest recipes are often the most difficult.
First, the chicken. The best is whole and you cut it up yourself. Buy as small a chicken as possible, under three pounds if you can find it at your supermarket. And to cut up the chicken, it goes something like this: With a sharp boning knife and a pair of poultry or kitchen shears, remove the legs, thighs, and wings. To separate the breasts, press down on the chicken, and cut through the cartilage that connects the two chicken breasts. You will have eight pieces of chicken for frying. Or, you can purchase chicken pieces – thighs, legs, wings, breasts – separately and fry what you like.
Some people soak chicken first in buttermilk, but purists like Mary Randolph recommended just salted cold water. Then toss in seasoned flour. The easiest way to do this is to place 2 cups of flour in a brown paper sack, add 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, then shake and fry. Or, use the Old Mill’s Chicken Breading, which makes frying even easier!