Tag Archives: farmers’ market

Heirloom Tomatoes with Feta

I have an inkling that the more global and connected our lives get through technology and new communications platforms, the more valuable hyper-local experiences are becoming.

There’s nothing quite like the sensation of browsing your neighborhood farmers’ market on a Saturday, where you run into friends, colleagues and artisans who know you by name. And yes, I mean “neighborhood farmers’ market,” because it seems I’m discovering new markets every year – we have, what, five in my city?

On my recent visit to the Old Salem Cobblestone market, I picked up a bunch of colorful tomatoes that I wanted to eat immediately. They had those green striped “zebra” tomatoes, your classic red heirloom and a pretty yellow variety called Lillian, like my sister!

Once I picked out my basket-full, I hurried over to the goat cheese stand and almost had to fight a woman to get the last 5 ounces of feta goat cheese. But I won! And I don’t feel bad.

What came later was a delicious lunch for two that would also serve well as a summer appetizer – I’m calling it a twist on my typical tomato/basil/mozzarella salad.

Heirloom Tomatoes with Feta

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 large tomatoes, or equivalent smaller
  • 1 bunch fresh basil leaves
  • 5 oz. feta
  • Sliced baguette
  • 1 garlic clove
  • EVOO
  • S&P to taste

Preheat broiler. Place enough bread slices for two people on baking sheet and drizzle with EVOO, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Broil until lightly toasted, then rub toasted sides with raw garlic. Place on platter.

Meanwhile, thickly slice your feta and tomatoes.

Place tomato and feta slices equally on bread, then scatter platter with basil leaves. Sprinkle with cracked pepper (you probably won’t need more salt if the feta is super salty). This was an excuse to use a beautiful new platter we got as a wedding gift.

Now, all you have to do is enjoy! The bread soaks up all the tomato juices and the feta adds a seasoning all its own. Eat with your hands.

So fresh, so simple, so yummy.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Lemon-Oregano Roast Chicken

As many of you know, Grant and I are sharing a CSA this year from Shore Farm Organics. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture – basically, you sign up to receive a box of farm-fresh produce every week from the farmers’ market.

Every Tuesday, I visit the cobblestone market downtown and pick up my package, overflowing with tender fennel fronds, crisp lettuces, fresh herbs and an assortment of other items: chard, beets, squash, cucumbers, cauliflower, etc. The assortment is different each week, which is why we love it!

Recently, we got a lot of fresh oregano, rosemary and basil. I had no idea what I’d do with all that oregano until I considered a Greek-inspired roasted chicken, with a lemon-oregano compound butter rubbed all over the bird.

And so this meal was born, adapted from my traditional roast chicken recipe. The lemon and herbs combo permeates all of the chicken meat, providing you with days of yummy leftovers.

Lemon-Oregano Roast chicken

Ingredients:

  • One 3-4 lb. chicken, giblets removed, rinsed and patted dry
  • 2 T unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 1 lemon, cut in half
  • 1 bunch fresh oregano
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • S&P
  • Paprika
  • 3 cloves garlic, unpeeled

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Mix softened butter with lemon zest, pinch of S&P and 1 T chopped fresh oregano. Set aside.

Place chicken on roasting rack set in roasting pan. Stuff it with remaining oregano, zested lemon sliced in half, garlic and rosemary. Rub most of the butter mixture under the skin, then rub the remaining over the outside of the chicken skin, just to coast. Sprinkle chicken with salt, pepper and paprika. Tuck the wings under the body and tie the legs together with kitchen twine (optional).

Place chicken in oven and roast for 1:15 to 1:30 hours. When you pierce between the leg and thigh, the juices should run clear. When done, remove from oven and let rest 20 min. That will give you enough time to prepare a salad, toast up some bread or make your favorite Greek-inspired couscous (as I did).

I set my bird on a tray with more fresh herbs, just to be pretty. The smell, the sight and the taste of the chicken was all perfect – proving that roast chicken is good at any time of year!

Enjoy your next chicken dinner, friends! xoxo

A perfect Sunday…

…would go something like this: sleeping in, then getting a lavender latte at Krankies Silver Bullet. Then, getting bagels and The New York Times and consuming in a sunny breakfast nook.

Later, a nice jog through the Wake Forest trails and then a stroll through the Reynolda Gardens, where the roses are going crazy. Next, maybe throw in a fruit smoothie to encourage the healthy living.

Later, maybe you feel inspired to go to the Piedmont Triad Farmers’ Market, where you will be blown away by all the produce ripe for the taking. Buy a fig tree because you’ve always wanted one. Add a blue hydrangea plant to the mix because they make you dream of having a home in The Hamptons (East Egg or West Egg?). Let someone else figure out how to fit these into a sporty car while you check out the heirloom tomatoes, which are “ugly,” just the way you like them (and only $2.50 per pound)…

These are always different colors when you cut into them

Next, you’ll look at the basil, which cost a shy$1 per bouquet. You’ll buy three, just ’cause.

Can you smell that?

Now you have lunch planned: scalloped tomatoes with white wine. But something is missing…oh yes, flowers. Accept a bouquet of bachelor’s buttons in blue, purple, pink and white. They will look perfect on a kitchen table, or in your newly decorated bedroom.

Those paper-like petals with the sage stems make me want to dance barefoot in a soft cotton sundress…

Along the way, you might also want to pick up some scented geraniums, because they ward off mosquitoes during the warm summer evenings. And, of course, a full gallon bucket of freshly picked strawberries, right off the back of a farm truck, weeping with juice and perfuming your car with that intoxicating sweetness.

I just love the mismatched baskets of these ruby beauties, some of them no bigger than the tip of your finger and others worth a couple bites. Most grocery-store varieties are huge, but taste like water.

Strawberries are a story best told with rhubarb … and the beginning of a new challenge I will be announcing shortly…

More to come, friends! xoxo

A Pretentious Thanksgiving

Ever since I knew that friends of ours have hosted a Pretentious Thanksgiving at their D.C.-area home for the past five years, I’ve wanted to be invited.

This year was the best to join: it was the best-of Pretentious Thanksgiving, meaning that guests voted on their favorite dishes from the past five years, all of which would be featured at the dinner.

So, a little context: A couple that Jesse will soon be related to began this tradition based on their love of hosting parties and the idea that making it pretentious would be funny. People could dress all uppity and the food would be ridiculously full of itself. A wine pairing would be included in each course, with a tobacco course between before the dessert course.

Over the years, the party has grown from eight people to 24 people, making it quite the pretentious social event. People drive from all over the East Coast to attend, partying like a bunch of Gatsby guests lingering well into the night.

I am basically in love with this party idea. I enjoy themed parties and I love wearing pearls and argyle even more! The weekend was so breathtakingly awesome that I’ll tell the rest of the story with pictures, from our shopping trips to food preparation to the meal itself.

We started at the farmers' market, full of beautiful fall bounty

All these colorful radishes! Whoever heard of black radishes?

Brussel's Sprouts

We came for haricots verts and got caught up by the wild mushrooms.

When we got home from the market, Merissa and I began making the mantle decoration, for which she had bought some small squashes. She hollowed them out and inserted a scented votive candle. Then, we foraged for pretty leaves, acorns and pine cones around the garden. I even clipped some beautiful Japanese maple branches to add to the decor.

I am obsessed with these!

Martha Stewart, feel free to call us anytime

All decorations aside, the night was about the food. Here is the menu:

First course: Sweet-potato ravioli with browned-butter sage sauce, toasted pine nuts and fried shallots.

Ravioli is stuffed, ready for boiling

It was simply amazing. A-Maze-Ing. Red pepper flakes added a nice pepper kick and those shallots on top...I will be making this again SOON.

Second course: Cranberry salad with spiced pecans, goat cheese and a sweet vinaigrette.

I can love any salad with spiced nuts and goat cheese. And healthy!

Third course: Haricot verts with roasted potatoes, walnuts and Roquefort

They make this dish every year. I guess I hadn't had Roquefort cheese before because this blew my mind. It tasted rich, savory and somehow smoky. Drool.

Fourth course: stuffing…

Wild mushroom stuffing, which was the most expensive dish of the night.

Oyster stuffing: I always dreamed that oyster stuffing would contain that much butter...and be that delicious. Heaven.

And turkey two ways: smoked…

The boys fussed over this all night.

And roasted with herbs:

A beautiful scene

(Tobacco course)

Dessert course: Pumpkin profiteroles with rum-caramel sauce

Paired with a sweet sherry.

And let’s not forget a whole lotta wine:

I’ll be hosting my own Thanksgiving dinner in a couple weeks, and while it may not be pretentious, it hopefully will be as delicious as this special meal. I just hope I get invited next year!

Cheers, friends. xoxo

Turkey eggs …?

Turkey eggs

Turkey eggs

After reading “The Ominvore’s Dilemma,” I promised myself that I would start buying all my eggs from local farmers who allow their birds to roam free all day and lay eggs at will. According to the book, egg hens have worse lives than birds grown for meat – confined to a shoe-box cage, going so crazy that they will peck themselves and each other until they are featherless and scarred (which is why they aren’t used for meat).

So this brought me to the Piedmont Triad farmers’ market. I decided on one vendor because his eggs were beautifully speckled and HUGE. He was all out of chicken and instead had duck, quail and turkey eggs. They were $3.25 per dozen, which is actually similar to the grocery-store “organic” or “cage-free” egg prices. But at the grocery store, I still don’t know exactly how the animals are raised and fed.

I spoke to the local farmer, peppering him with questions about what the birds ate (no animal by-products) and where they roam. He convinced me that they roam around the yard, pecking at the ground as such animals are wont to do.

The farmer told me that turkey eggs taste the same as chicken eggs, but are bigger and take longer to cook. When I took them home to cook, however, I found that they tasted different. Richer, more substantial. Meatier.

Turkey egg vs. regular ol' chicken egg

Turkey egg vs. regular ol' chicken egg

I made a simple egg-over-medium with a slice of rosemary toast. The shells were thicker, harder to crack, and those yolks were so big, the eggs were difficult to flip. I noticed that the whites puffed up and became very thick as they cooked.

It was a delicious meal and I believe what they say about beyond-organic eggs – they have more nutrients than the industrial-ag eggs. I can’t wait to bake with them and see how they do!

A healthy, hearty breakfast for one

A healthy, hearty breakfast for one

Farmers markets, pork tenderloin and fried green tomatoes

Soon to be fried (heirloom) green tomatoes

Soon to be fried (heirloom) green tomatoes

There is no excuse for Southern cuisine to be so heavy on the deep-fried or processed (pimento cheese ball, anyone?). With such rich soil and a growing season that won’t quit, local farmers markets are bursting with plump tomatoes, crisp green okra (or purple), tender peaches and heavy watermelons. We finally traveled to the state-run farmers market, down in the Triad. It was like a state fair farmers market – four big buildings bustling with vendors. I’ve seen nothing like it in the Northwest (it puts Seattle to shame).

Needless to say, we went a little tomato-crazy. I’ve never seen so many tomatoes in my life! The heirloom variety, from deep purple to striped yellow to rainbow, cost only $1 per pound at the Winston-Salem farmers market (our first stop). And green tomatoes – those that I never, ever find in the NW – were five for $1. We didn’t resist.

I did, however, resist the temptation to buy some beautiful potted plants at the Triad farmers market. The gardenias smelled like heaven and the fig trees would have looked perfect on my patio – and they even had tiny figs growing on them! $15 for a fig tree? That’s like a grocery expense! But alas…

We now have this fruit bowl to work with while we look for more tomato recipes (Jesse already made his salsa)…

IMG_4094

I did buy the remaining ingredients for tonight’s dinner: chili-rubbed pork tenderloin with mango relish. It’s from – you guessed it – Cook’s Illustrated “Cooking for Two.” I love the idea of rubbing the inexpensive pork tenderloin with chili powder and natural cocoa powder, searing it and then roasting it in the oven. The sear/roast method is my favorite way to cook pork. The recipe turned out a pretty perfect tenderloin, and the mango relish was spicy and the perfect accompaniment to the pork (pork loves sweet things).

Jesse said this is the best pork dish he’s had in a long time. I’ll post the recipe and then get on to the fried green tomatoes…

Ingredients:

1 pork tenderloin, about 12 oz.

2 tps. chili powder

1/2 tsp. cocoa powder

table salt

1 tsp. vegetable oil

1 mango, peeled, pitted and chopped into small chunks

2 T chopped cilantro

1 T lime juice

1 shallot, minced

1 tsp. minced jalapeno, seeded, about 1/2 a jalapeno

Preheat oven to 425. Pat pork dry. In a small bowl, combine chili powder, cocoa and 1/4 tsp. salt, then rub it all over the pork.

Heat oil in ovensafe skillet over medium-high heat until smoking. Brown tenderloin on all sides, reducing heat if the spices start to burn. This will take about 6 min. total and the pork will look almost black. Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast until the internal temp. is 140 degrees, about 15 min.

Once done, tent the pork with foil for another 10 min and it will be perfect.

Meanwhile, make the relish: combine the mango, cilantro, lime, shallot, jalapeno and 1/8 tsp. salt in a bowl. Once you’ve sliced the pork, spoon over the relish. The juices will mingle with the pork for a wonderfully complex flavor. The pork will be so tender, you can cut it with your fork!

IMG_4106

Now, for the reason you’re all here: fried green tomatoes. I used the recipe form Simply Recipes.

All you do is slice the tomatoes thick (but not too thick, or they won’t be softened enough when you cook them – no more than 1/2 an inch). Season them with S&P and let them sit 15 min. Then, heat 1/4 c. EVOO in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Get 4 bowls ready: 1/2 c. milk, 1 c. flour, 2 eggs lightly beaten, 1 c. bread crumbs (or corn meal). Dip each slice sequentially: milk, flour, egg, and finally crumbs. Then, put them in the oil and brown on both sides. Transfer to paper towels to drain. When all are done, sprinkle them with a little more salt, to taste.

IMG_4102

Now, I was going to make a chipotle aioli to go with these, because that’s how I’ve seen it in the restaurants. But it really didn’t need it. The tomatoes were juicy enough on their own, and who needs the extra fat? These were really delicious, even if I did slice mine a little too thick. What a wonderful Southern invention. Perhaps serve yours with some hot sauce on the side.

Enjoy, friends!