A Governor's Garden to Table Recipes

Chef Stephen Ward shares recipes sourced from Tennessee governor Bill Haslam's on-site garden.

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fried squash blossoms

Fried Squash Blossoms

Fresh yellow squash blossoms are accented with goat cheese and a smoked tomato marinara sauce.

Photo by: Image courtesy of State of Tennessee, Photographic Services

Image courtesy of State of Tennessee, Photographic Services

Fresh yellow squash blossoms are accented with goat cheese and a smoked tomato marinara sauce.

When Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and First Lady Crissy hired Nashville landscape architect Ben Page to design a vegetable garden at the governor's mansion, farm to table produce was the goal. Thanks to the culinary vision of chef Stephen Ward, the garden's extensive bounty of herbs, fruit and vegetables are yielding results in the governor's residence. These recipes from resident Chef Stephen Ward, make use of that official abundance.

Fried Squash Blossoms with Tennessee Goat Cheese and Smoked Marinara

  • 1 1⁄2 cups flour

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 lightly beaten egg
10 large squash blossoms

  • Canola oil
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped

  • 2 tablespoon finely chopped basil

Sift flour and salt into a medium bowl. Whisk in 2 cups water, olive oil, and egg. Remove center stamens from squash blossoms; wash and pat dry. Pipe one tablespoon of goat cheese into center of blossom. Heat 2'' vegetable oil in a large, heavy saucepan over high heat. Just before frying, add garlic and basil to batter, stirring well. Dip flowers in batter, coating them inside and out. Fry 1–3 minutes, turning frequently. Drain and sprinkle with salt.

Smoked Tomato Marinara

  • 1.5 pounds very ripe smoked heirloom tomatoes that have been peeled and seeded (seeds strained and juices reserved, about 1/2 cup)
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 large garlic cloves, finely sliced
  • 1 cup chopped white onion
  • 1 small bunch basil, leaves removed from stems and torn in 1 inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Heat a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, onion and garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and reserved tomato juice and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to medium to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for approximately 45 minutes, until the sauce has thickened and the tomatoes separate from the olive oil; stir occasionally. 

Add the basil, salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar. Continue to simmer for 2 to 3 minutes until basil has wilted. Remove from heat.  Hint: Only smoke tomatoes for 10 minutes.  

Fresh-Made Pasta with Heirloom Tomatoes, Dandelion Greens, Globe Basil, Red Pepper

heirloom tomato pasta

Heirloom Tomato Pasta

Fresh heirloom tomatoes, baby dandelion greens and fresh globe basil lend garden-fresh flavor to this pasta dish.

Photo by: Image courtesy of State of Tennessee, Photographic Services

Image courtesy of State of Tennessee, Photographic Services

Serves 3-4 as an entrée

  • 1-8 ounce package of long, thin pasta (such as cappellini or linguine)
  •  2-4 heirloom tomatoes
  • ½ cup baby dandelion greens
  •  2 shallots
  •  3 garlic cloves
  • 4 tablespoons fresh globe basil
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup Chardonnay 
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste

If the tomatoes are especially large, two will work well. But if they’re on the smaller side, go for 2-3 tomatoes. I usually buy small heirloom tomatoes so I can use two or three different colors.

Chop the heirloom tomatoes and place in a large bowl. Drizzle a couple tablespoons of good quality olive oil on top, and season well with salt. Let the tomatoes hang out in the bowl—the salt will bring out all the juices and create an incredibly good sauce.

Roughly chop the shallots and mince the garlic. In a small saucepan, heat a couples splashes of olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots, season with a little salt and pepper, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Next add the garlic, and cook about 1-2 minutes. Now, deglaze with one cup of chardonnay of choice.  I like to cook the wine down by half.  Then add the marinated tomatoes to the cooking wine along with two tablespoons of butter, fresh torn globe basil and ½ cup baby dandelion greens. 

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to package instructions and drain. Add the cooked pasta to the pan with the tomatoes, and toss well to coat with the sauce. 

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