Squashed Spinach

For a fall weekend lunch pulled together with NOTHING in the fridge, I’m pretty proud of this Roasted Butternut Salad. I found three almost-to-the-wrinkled-stage butternut squash(es?) sitting resignedly in the vegetable bin along with some almost-wilted spinach. Peeled and cut the squash and roasted it with a bit of olive oil and half an onion for about 35 minutes. Put it on the not-so-fresh spinach and added crispy cheese bread made from the lonely ends of a pumpernickel loaf and freshly grated parmesan (that, at least, was new and good). Sometimes, being too lazy to go to the grocery turns out to be a good thing.

Chillin’ at the Ajax

Anytime husband John Pitts and I are 1) together and 2) close to Oxford, Miss. and 3) it’s anywhere close to eating time, we celebrate by heading to the downtown square for some of the best food in the state … or anywhere.  And the thing is, you can’t take a wrong step once you’re there. Oxford has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to places to eat. Take our newest favorite — Ajax Diner. This is real down-home cooking paired with a good beer selection, as if your Southern grandma cooked Sunday dinner at the local bar and invited the whole town. Best bets here are macaroni and cheese, sweet potato casserole and burgers. I decided to ignore the “List of Approved Foods for Patients with Malfunctioning Gall Bladders” my doctor gave me, and I went for the fried oyster salad (although in deference to The List, I didn’t eat all the cheese).  But a better list is “Things We’re Going To Try the Next Time We Go To Ajax:”  Black-bean chili with local ground beef, homemade pimiento cheese in a grilled quesadilla and the blackeyed-pea and catfish cakes. And maybe fellow Ajax fan Eli Manning will be there.

Hold the Bacon, Please

Huntsville, Ala., is bursting with fun places to eat — it’s really a joy to be hungry in the Rocket City.

A calzone at Moglie's, from the July 17, 2008, review at al.com

A calzone at Moglie's

 So when my older daughter Liz with her almost-five-months son Nolan and a friend of mine and I ate at the Italian pub-bistro Moglie’s in Huntsville today for the first time, I was enthusiastic about trying a new place we’d heard good things about. The verdict? Good cheesy food. Poor service. Here’s what happened: 1) We didn’t get waited on for almost 10 minutes — no water, no menus, no sign anyone knew we were there, no nothing. Luckily, my friend and I were catching up so intently it wasn’t a problem. But still. 2) Our appetizers came after our entree salads and several long minutes after the waiter promised “they’d be right out.” 3) Worst of all, the salad that two different waiters swore had no meat in it whatsoever came with bacon. We sent it back once and asked for a replacement, which also turned out to have bacon. We finally figured out that the bacon was in the dressing, not the salad, but the wait staff should have alerted us, especially since we specifically told our waiter the salad was for a vegetarian. Frustrating. I’m going to give the place the benefit of the doubt (New waiters? Problems in the kitchen?) and try again, but I need to be convinced. Our garlic bread was delicious, however, and the spinach dip was different than any other I’ve had lately: Whole spinach leaves in melted cheese surrounded by pesto — at least that’s what it seemed like to us. Moglie’s is in the shopping center at the Airport/Whitesburg intersection next to the Dollar Tree and is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays.

Eat Peaches!

Run, don’t walk, to Jack-O-Lantern Market, on the TVA reservation in Muscle Shoals, on Thursday (4-7 p.m.and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays) to buy some of the most delicious peaches ever. No telling how long these peaches will be available, so do not delay.

Charity Belle Peaches from Jack-O-Lantern Farms

Charity Belle Peaches from Jack-O-Lantern Farms

Steve and Connie Carpenter grow hydroponic vegetables in the former TVA greenhouses there and sell their veggies along with incredibly fresh produce from other local growers. Saturday, I bought some Charity Belle white peaches there — the best peaches I’ve ever eaten. They are big, juicy and sweet with a delicate peachy flavor that will remind you of summer evenings on front porches sipping tall glasses of sweet tea with fresh mint you just picked from the back yard. The Carpents also had Indian and O’Henry peaches on Saturday morning. Not sure what they’ll have this week, but go find out. And while you’re there, pick up some cheese from the most upscale inventory in the Shoals. You’ll find creamy and tangy goat cheese, fresh mozzarella and my new favorite, nutty Flagship from Beecher’s in Seattle. Check the Web site, http://www.jackolanternfarm.com/, for the complete list of what’s in stock every week. Why do we need a Fresh Market when we’ve got the Carpenters here???? (Well, OK, I still want a Fresh Market — or at least a Publix — but nothing can beat buying local food from local folks.) And here’s complete disclosure: The Carpenters are great friends of mine and even gave me a free orange Jack-O-Lantern Farms T-shirt, but that in no way influences my unbiased recommendations. I cannot be bought, although a free sample taste of cheese every once in awhile doesn’t hurt!

I spent most of last week babysitting grandson Nolan and helping daughter Liz in Huntsville while she recovered from a nasty case of mastitis — made her feel as if she had the flu. The sacrifices grandmothers make!

"I can almost reach it ... almost got it ... can't wait to eat a giant fuzzy carrot ..."

"I can almost reach it ... almost got it ... can't wait to eat a giant fuzzy carrot ..."

At 4 1/2 months, Nolan’s rolling over, reaching for what he wants (glasses, hair, etc.) and putting everything in his mouth (glasses, hair, etc.). As always, I remain amazed at what caring and skilled parents Liz and Jason are. I so wish I’d had a fraction of their confidence when I was a new mom.