Saturday, July 28, 2012

Farm Stand to Table Entertaining

While we were dying to see how the Old Salem Cobblestone Market was voted #11 in the country after only 8 weeks of operation, we were on a mission. On Monday evening we were entertaining my friend's guests from France along with a few other friends. What do you feed the French? Mexican of course, so we purchased as many of the ingredients as we could from the producers only market, filling in with avocados, tortillas and some Americana for dessert.

In honor of the French I used sunflowers. I love the French word  "tournesol," which means turning to the sun, it has such a beautiful and spiritual connotation. Sunflowers are notoriously difficult to arrange, but I took a tip from Mrs. R.'s Thanksgiving table and arranged them individually in bowls and in my collection of Mottahedeh tulip vases.

I made chicken enchiladas in two versions. Enchiladas verdes with fresh tomatillo sauce and enchiladas con queso. Using a variety of farmers market chicken thighs, corn, chiles, and of course heirloom tomatoes, I kicked up the basic recipe I use from Cooks Illustrated. May I add, Cooks Illustrated is the best place to begin for the perfect concoction. I also use Epicurious extensively and keep my recipe files there that I share with my brother and daughters so we  can combine our tours de force.

I hope you are not sick of my antipasto platters, but it is the joy of summer for me. I live for the heirloom tomatoes, braised skinny asparagus, cucumbers, avocados, fresh basil and my secret favorite dressing--Le Martinique Blue Cheese Vinaigrette. As my readers know, I love to have parties with the children. This crowd was a pleasure to have as they were adorable and quite happy to join in with the adults.

The middle child's t-shirt says: 
I' Am 
The Best

I was very happy to have done all the dishes the night before, so I rewarded my self with my favorite summer breakfast!

Goat Lady Basil and Garlic Goat Cheese Spread
Heirloom tomato 
Fresh Basil/Salt/Pepper
Poached Egg

You can also melt a piece to cheese over it under the broiler if you like

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Hot Sellers for the summer: 

More Later!! 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Old Salem Cobblestone Farmers Market Wins National Award

Farmers markets have been springing up all over the country like chanterelle mushrooms. Our nations insatiable demand for artisanal cheeses, heirloom varieties, pesticide free meats and produce has been a boon to small farmers and small batch producers, struggling to maintain their livlihoods within a corporate farming culture. It is all the more remarkable that the Old Salem Cobblestone Farmers Market  was ranked in the top 11 Farmers markets in a recent USNews roundup after only 8 weeks of operation. Travel writer Liz Weiss based her criteria on reputation, versatility, online reviews, and overall atmosphere.  Set amidst the historic gardens of the early Moravian settlers, this venue is a spectacular destination for a lively morning of shopping.

Single Brothers Garden Old Salem
The museum and the residents were looking for a farmers market to preserve the area's tradition of trade and to serve the surrounding urban neighborhoods.  Approaching Margaret Norfleet Neff and her daughter, Salem, of Beta Verde turned out to be a smart choice.

They founded their business Beta Verde together, and as long time residents of Winston Salem, care passionately about their community. Combining their love of horticulture and cooking, Beta Verde produces farm to table catered dinners and a delectable line of seasonal preserves and pickles. As experienced growers and farm market vendors, Margaret and Salem knew they wanted a juried selection of farmers who practice fair trade,  delivering food that is pesticide and hormone free. Visiting each and every applicant has paid off, as the quality of product draws the crowds.

Jane Morgan Smith, of Truffles N.C. hit the national news media when Martha Stewart flew down to North Carolina to film her orchard and proclaim her black Perigord truffles truly deserving of their decadent mouth watering reputation. I was lucky enough to catch her at work in Margaret's kitchen creating truffle salt, butter, honey and fudge for the farmers market. Its fun to see behind the scenes as vendors prepare their wares for market.

As Jane works I ply her with ignorant truffle questions and she chats away about her detour down the truffle path. My favorite part is about Friday, her truffle dog whom she describes as having an excellent work ethic. Friday sniffs through the orchard and sits when he finds the black gold. She trained him by hiding bits of truffle throughout the house, and telling him to: "find the truffles." She is quite proud his excellent vocabulary!
Moravian Band Plays for opening day

The Famous Friday Truffle Hunter

Meanwhile, Margaret was having a "Pitting Party" so I hung around since I have never seen preserves prepared. More ignorant questions followed, but the Beta Verde jams are super fruity with interesting combinations like the Blackberry Mint Whiskey Jam or Blueberry Basil. The Cherry Lemon preserves du jour had my mind racing with possibilities. I'm a breakfast girl, so I would warm them up and serve them over pancakes. 

They haven't invented a way to smell through your computer yet, but I did hang over the kettle repeatedly, with no objections from Lucy from the FDA NC who was on a routine inspection of the certified kitchen. I kept waving her over and believe me, we were like dog Friday in the truffle field. I never quite understood the path from farming, to small batch production to market, but now I have a better idea. The small batches make it much easier to control the flavors and textures. 

The vendors at the top juried markets endure rain, sleet, snow, or blight while they create new ways to preserve abundant or meagre harvest to bring to the table. It is a profound means to an end for those of us who are seriously playing with our food. 

Plus, farmers markets are fun, educational and social, compared to the business of rolling frantically through the grocery store. In a scary world, there is comfort in discussions with the people that reverently produce your food, as we intermittently pause and chat with friends. We share recipes and admire snoozy babies. 

There is music and humor, as we tuck into the shade and nibble our prizes. 

The market goes through November, so those of you who are going to High Point should stay through Saturday and shop the seasonal fare. 

Traditional Moravian Band Plays for Opening Day

So do not miss the spectacular heritage that is unique to Winston Salem. The furniture buffs in the crowd will not want to miss MESDA (Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts),  a museum solely dedicated to the preservation, scholarship, and connoisseurship of southern decorative arts and material culture.
Here are some fun links for the food and history buffs 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Summer Entertaining

We shattered the fun barrier last night with a birthday party for Mrs. J. with just the "girls." Entertaining is all about celebrating our friendships, and we surrounded our friend with love and affection, remembering old times. The setting was a unanimous decision, at Mrs. K.'s Tommy Church quatrefoil swimming pool and swinging 60's pool house.

I will digress a moment, as this style of pool was a distinct signature of this California landscape architect. Church was renowned for his departure from the prevailing neoclassical designs of the time introducing what is now known as California, or modern style.

This is the quatrefoil pool built by Tommy Church in 1958 at Lakewold Gardens North of Tacoma Washington, which is now open to the public.  Church was an obvious choice for this family who embracebd the sixties with the same vigor as their children. While my parents were appalled, Mrs. K.'s parents saw the possibilities.

Yes, and the fact that they never re-did the place is even more brilliant! The lights can be switched to black light, and the foil behind the trelliage reflected a twirling mirrored disco ball. I remember dancing in black light with a very big smile, laughing at everyone's very white teeth--a dentist's dream. But, back to the party! Yesterday, we hauled ourselves to the farmers market to gather the flowers, as our gardens are fried from the heat wave.  Mrs. B. and I love to do table flowers in small containers so we can all chatter over each other--the decibels.

It really is the easiest way to arrange for great effect, but requires a good quantity of flowers. The farmer's market purchase set us back a mere $36.00.

While I am no Amy Merrick, the talented flower forager, we did tuck around the grounds looking for interesting additions to the bouquets, and I was delighted to find this parsley gone to seed. I think it added dimension and the bit of wildness I love in arrangements. Mrs. B. looked perplexed, but didn't stop me. Now for the food! Normally we split up the dishes and bring them along, but since we had such a special occasion we turned to our dear friend/caterer/restauranteur Joe Curran of 1703 in Winston Salem. I will admit it was nice to be served for a change, we should really do this more often.

One of our hostesses poses with the hors d'oeuvres, a simple, scrumptious summery concoction of goat cheese, fresh tomatoes and basil. In case you are wondering about the wonderful bar, it was done by the famous outsider artist, Sam McMillan, who is beloved in Winston Salem. More about Sam in another post. For the main course Joe prepared the famous chicken marbella recipe from the first Silver Palate cookbook. It has the most unusual combination of ingredients, including prunes! Do not be put off, as the soaking in red wine vinegar overnight takes the cloying sweetness out of them and balances the tart vinegar. 

We had so much fun celebrating with Mrs. J. that I have been completely hoarse all day. Her love and friendship has meant so much to those of us who are lucky enough to know her. We felt all the love and happiness that Mrs. K.'s Mother envisioned when she created this space and this little work of art below. 

Happy Summer Entertaining to 
All You All! 

Later, I'll share my Summer reading list with you  
which has prevented many a post, but gave me a nice respite
from my self imposed computer vacation. 

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Friday, July 6, 2012

Feasting at the Farm Stand: My favorite Summer Salad

While the holiday week winds down, I wanted to send you my summer stand-by antipasto platter. I love to do them and while the tomatoes are starting to come in, this dish defines the flavor of high July to me. I can happily report, it was completely devoured.

I use whatever looks beautiful at the farm stand, but always the first layers are tomatoes, cucumbers and mozzarella. This time I added chopped olives, red onion, capers and pimento. For the asparagus:  drop them in boiling water for a minute, and quickly plunge them into ice water and pat dry. Lastly I tucked in some quartered artichoke hearts and then for garnish, a generous amount of coarsely chopped basil and avocado are ready for a swim in your favorite dressing.  It is better if it marinates for a while in the fridge before serving.
I hope you are all surviving the heat! 
Thank you for all your good wishes 
to my ancient parents! They are hanging on! 
What's your summer stand-by? 
More Later!
Thank You also to Mrs. Pimpy of Pimp my Bricks