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On the Table: Farm Stands of New York’s Hudson River Valley

This post is the follow-on to my On the Road: Farm Stands of Hudson River Valley. Usually these On the Table posts follow more quickly, but summer’s over and the needs of Frog Commissary and getting ready to promote At Home through the coming holiday season have made it harder to find writing time. Posts are best viewed on the blog site. If you are not viewing this post there, just click on the title above. On the blog site you can also access all back posts — nearly 200, and the blog library of more than 100 recipes.

My home away from home for my Hudson River Valley trip was the home of my brother-in-law Larry. Larry, who is also our Frog Commissary Director of Operations, still has a home in Tuxedo, NY, where he lives when not at our The Franklin institute headquarters with his wife Susan and daughter Sarah. Our plan was to meet Saturday morning to continue shopping at a few of Larry’s well-cultivated Hudson River Valley haunts. We would begin cooking together Saturday afternoon and evening in preparation for Larry’s Sunday birthday lunch.

You don’t get to pick your brother-in-law, but if I did, I’d pick Larry. We share several passions that include both loving Christina — my wife and Larry’s sister…and food. Larry is a wonderful cook and actually more a “foodie” than me. I do it and eat it whereas Larry does both those things, and also studies it. If I was the Slumdog and was down to my last “phone a friend” for my million and the subject was food, I’d call Larry! Included in At Home’s recipes are several recipes from a select group of friends and family and include Larry’s Sausage Stuffing.

After passable meal dinner in Beacon at the end of my Friday excursion and an uneventful night’s sleep in a blissfully unremarkable hotel — the name of which I cannot recall, I headed south to rendezvous with Larry. Larry’s plan was to take me to Blooming Hill Farm and Fleisher’s Meats.

This unremarkable sign by the side of the road in Blooming Grove was something akin to a faded photocopy on a pole near the Louvre announcing “Mona Lisa –> this way.” Larry had mentioned Guy Jones, the social activist and pioneering farmer behind Blooming Hill Farm. But nothing had prepared me for what was by far the finest farm stand of my long summer of farm stands. I will not write much about Blooming Hill here. My visit to Blooming Hill, and the farm dinner we attended Saturday evening, will be the second to last post in my On the Road Farm Stands Series within the next few weeks.

Blooming Hill is the first farm stand that I visited that included a small commercial kitchen and wood burning oven. Larry’s wife Susan joined us for an outdoor breakfast that included sourdough pancakes with peaches, plum sauce and yogurt, a broccoli & cheddar omelette with home fries, panini with ricotta, grilled zucchini, cherry tomatoes & caramelized onion and a frittata. Pretty good way to start the day.

For Larry’s birthday I had Padron peppers shipped from California as they are such a treat. I had never seen them at any of the hundreds of farm stands and farmers’ markets that I visited this summer so California it was. But there they were at Blooming Hill. These Padron peppers would be an accent in the squash soup we had that evening at Blooming Hill’s monthly farm dinner that we decided to join. Each month Guy invites a chef to prepare a multi-course vegetarian dinner. Saturday evening David Gould from Brooklyn’s Roman’s restaurant was preparing dinner. Gould’s squash soup was the culinary highlight of the summer. The next weekend I would make this squash soup for my brother Fred’s birthday after my South Fork of Long Island trip. I will feature my rendition of Gould’s soup for you in a recipe post paired with my Blooming Hill post.

Next it was off to Fleisher’s Meats in Kingston, NY. That’s not Fleisher’s Meats in Kingston pictured above. Rather that is Fleisher’s Meats in Brooklyn, NY circa 1901. The early 20th century Fleisher’s was opened by Wolf Fleisher. The 21st century Fleisher’s was opened by Josh and Jessica Applestone in 2004. Josh is Wolf’s great grandson. Those more foodie than me — like Larry — know that Fleisher’s is a 2010 Martha Stewart Tastemaker. Josh writes The Butcher Blog for Saveur Magaizine. As far as Josh knows, his modern day Fleisher’s is the only butcher shop that sells only local grass-fed and organic meats and poultry. Their business is both retail and wholesale to well-regarded locavare restaurants. On the retail side they also deliver to New York City.

Larry and I decided we wanted to grill, but something more interesting…and less expensive than the highly marbled aged sirloin steaks. Barbecue was more what we had in mind which is not really grilling. Some really fat beef short ribs caught my attention and so we had our meat for tomorrow’s lunch. This choice would present a problem as it was now well into the afternoon and we were far north of Tuxedo and we had decided to go to the Blooming Hill farm dinner that night and…I had to first braise these big suckers and make a barbecue sauce from the braising liquid…all before we headed to dinner. So much for one relaxed hour!!! We added a pound of ground beef and bacon — how could we resist something as decadent sounding as ground beef and bacon. To be clear, that’s ground beef with ground bacon mixed in. These sinful future little burgers would become our hors d’oeuvres sliders.

The need to by-pass a serious traffic accident southbound on the New York Thruway caused us to scurry through back roads back to Tuxedo. Pictured above is the combination of my Friday farm stand purchases and our purchases from our Saturday “supplemental” shopping. Between Saturday afternoon and Sunday, with time-out for our farm dinner, this was transformed into Larry’s Sunday birthday lunch. Christina, her mother Ginny and other brother Mike rushed up from Philadelphia early to join us for the Blooming Hill farm dinner and, of course, for Larry’s birthday.

Our narrow apartment kitchen at home is perfectly efficient and built for one. It does not lend itself to in-kitchen snacking, drinking and schmoozing. Larry and Susan’s kitchen, on the other hand, is the epicenter of their home entertaining. Our mostly room temperature hors d’oeuvres were laid out on the kitchen counter. They included counter-clockwise from center:  the wonderful Spanish white anchovies — Boquerones, that are an entertaining staple at Larry and Susan’s table, lightly roasted little tomatoes with fresh mozzarella on crostini, grilled flat beans, sautéed Padron peppers (the one’s flown in from California), pickles, grilled sweet peppers and the ground beef and bacon sliders — ketchup on the side.

Coach’s Note: This meal is not something I would suggest you try at home with limited time. My plan was a leisurely Saturday afternoon and evening of cooking and good wine. We would do some finishing Sunday after spending time with the Sunday New York Times. This is not how it worked out. I had not planned for the long excursion north or the Thruway traffic south and certainly not the last minute decision to attend the farm dinner. Preparing all this was hurried, harried and stressful. Everything I advise against. As Sunday noon approached, having been at it without rest for some hours, I was repeatedly asked by a family member I will not identify, “When are we having lunch?” It was as if a party of seven wanted to know when there table would be ready. Not the most relaxed cooking I have done — akin to a particularly hard night I remember at City Bites cooking on the line many years ago. This was the price I paid for going to Blooming Hill for dinner…and I’d do it again!

I made the these quick pickles Sunday morning — inspired by the pickles served Saturday night at Blooming Hill, using fennel flower and heirloom garlic from Blooming Hill. There is a blog recipe for Quick Pickles in the blog’s recipe index.

This was late August and I encountered all manner and color of small tomatoes. Even though there was to be an heirloom tomato salad with lunch, you can’t have too many late August tomatoes.

These broad beans were blanched, tossed with garlic and olive oil and lightly grilled and finished with flaky sea salt. There is a recipe for Grilled Green Beans in At Home.

Here’s a bowl of sautéed Padron peppers. I have also written a post about these peppers. I am having a dilemma about cooking these peppers. First, it always seems to take longer for them to puff up, lightly brown and shrivel than I expect and I have to remind myself to be patient. Second, I like them with some garlic, but you can’t add the garlic in the beginning because the garlic would burn, but when I add garlic at the end, it immediately browns and sticks together. While these clumps of browned garlic taste wonderful, garlic does not effectively infuse the oil and peppers. I could cook some garlic in oil and remove the garlic before I cook the pepper, but that feels like more trouble than it is worth. I just received two pounds of Padron peppers — probably the last of the California season. I will try again. My plan this time will be to take the cooked peppers off the heat, allow the oil to cool down a bit and toss garlic into the peppers while the oil is not so hot as to immediately brown the garlic but still hot enough that the garlic cooks, mellows and infuses the peppers. Cooking is an art…though I know there is a science behind this technique issue.

Late August is also pepper bonanza time and since the grill was stoked, we grilled rather than roasted these beauties.

As Larry grilled our little ground beef and ground bacon sliders outside, I grilled the our potato flour slider rolls inside on a grill pan. Grilling rolls — especially soft burger rolls makes them so much better. Making medium rare burgers requires a grill-cook’s attention so it’s handy to have a partner to handle the roll toasting.

Following our hors d’oeuvres grazing in the kitchen, we sat down in the dining room to a plattered, family-style lunch. Most everything was at room temperature. Above are beautiful red and yellow beets that were simply roasted while sealed in foil – essentially steamed in their own moisture, peeled, sliced and dressed with diced red onion, chives, red wine vinegar and olive oil.

I collected a rainbow of heirloom tomatoes on my Hudson River Valley farm stand jaunt. This platter is a bit more crowded than I recommended in my post about plattering heirloom tomatoes.

This photo does not do justice to our barbecue beef short ribs. They were big — but in my rush to get them done Saturday afternoon before our farm dinner I did not let them cook long enough and they were a bit tough. That was a shame as Fleisher’s meat had a wonderful flavor. But it’s just a meal and hardly the end of the world. I’ll make them better next time.

Our grilled corn was inspired by corn that I had at Greensgrow’s Farmers’ Market in Kensington. The corn is slathered in a mix of butter, mayonnaise, lime juice, red pepper flakes, ancho chili powder and salt. Delicious!

Dessert included great Hudson River Valley cheeses.

And Hudson River Valley fruit that included an heirloom melon, raspberries, the best red grapes I ever tasted and fennel and honey grilled apricots, plums and white doughnut peaches. I infused the fennel flowers by heating the mix of honey and fennel flowers in the microwave before basting the fruit with honey and a little olive oil. I also grilled the fruit on a grill pan rather than the outdoor grill. On the grill pan you do not have to worry about the fruit falling through the grill grates.

Behind the Scenes

This is my brother-in-law Larry at his grill working on the corn. Naturally, Larry only uses hardwood charcoal.

Corn slather precariously balanced on the deck railing. (Note to self: Get Larry a good grill side table for his next birthday!)

The beef short ribs were fully cooked as all ribs are before glazing. In the background are the small sweet yellow peppers.

Here’s the barbecue sauce precariously balanced on the deck’s railing. (See Note to self above.)

Here’s a Photo Montage Making Pickles

Key pickle ingredients — little Kirby cucumbers, fennel flower and garlic.

Part of the farm stand adventure is that I never know what I will end up making when it’s all over. It’s like buying lots of puzzle pieces and when I’m all done, figuring out how to put the puzzle together. This is sort of like when they give those Iron Chefs ingredients and tell them to start cooking…quickly. Except my way has far better scenary, more fresh air and usually less stress. Also, the food is usually pretty good.

When I started my Hudson River Valley farm stand tour, I had no plan to make pickles — though I am a big fan of pickles of all sorts. But somewhere along the line I saw these tiny Kirby cucumbers — about the size of a big thumb. They just sort of called out to me. Likewise the garlic. Adjacent to the path leading down the hill to Blooming Hill’s farm market was a wide plot of fennel flowers — also for sale in the market. I am a big fan of fennel. The Guy Jones served pickles at the farm dinner as an hors ‘doeuvres.

I started by cutting garlic into slivers and after giving the cucumbers a quick scrub, cutting them in half.

I made an infused brine with white vinegar (depending on the pickle you can use other vinegars), sugar, salt — but not too much salt, some black peppercorns and coriander seed, garlic and fennel flower. This steeps over very low heat for about 15-20 minutes. It could be longer but as we know, I was in a rush.

When the brine has picked up the flavors, I increase the heat until the brine approaches a boil. I off the heat and add the cucumbers or pour the hot brine over the cucumbers — either way. Once it cools, I transfer to the refrigerator. We ate most of them a few hours later, but they can happily sit in the refrigerator for a month. They loose a bit of crispness, but are still great. Serve chilled.

Lightly Roasting Cherry Tomatoes

Cut tomatoes in half and combine with thin slivers of garlic and thin-sliced red onion. Lightly coat with good olive oil and roast in 350 degree oven until tomatoes just begin to soften and “melt” – maybe 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Add salt and pepper.

A Short Course in Braising Short Ribs of Beef. For a complete explanation about braising, there is a two-page “Mastering Braises” on Page 228 of At Home.

Make sure the short ribs are well-dried. I use paper towel.

Here’s sliced red onion, garlic and a quart of flame-roasted plum tomatoes from McEnroe organic farms. My plan was to make the barbecue sauce with the beef’s braising liquid.

In olive oil, brown short ribs well on all sides. Don’t rush this. The ribs were left un-floured as they were ultimately going to be removed from the braising liquid and glazed with barbecue sauce.

Remove short ribs and add onions and garlic and cook until they begin to wilt.

Add back short ribs on top.

Spread around the tomatoes – breaking them in your hands as you go. Add some thyme, a few bay leaves and some red wine.

Lightly cover — but don’t seal. You do not want the braise to steam, but to gently cook in a moist aromatic environment. Place in 225 degree oven for about 3 to 4 hours or until beef is very tender and nearly falling off the bone. This is what I did not do long enough.

Here’s the cooked short ribs.

To make the barbecue sauce, remove bay leaves and add remaining juice from flame-roasted tomatoes, brown sugar and a touch of molasses, balanced with some cider vinegar, as you want this to be slightly sour rather than sweet. Simmer slowly until very thick.

Puree in blender and add back to pot to adjust thickness and seasoning including sweet-sour balance. Add salt and pepper and as much hot sauce as you like. I use Siracha – a Thai hot sauce that has plenty of heat without the sour element present in most American hot sauces.

And of course, the birthday cake.

Susan baked a wonderful layered chocolate mousse cake decorated by edible flowers crafted by daughter Sarah.

There are lots of ways we could have celebrated Larry’s birthday that were easier. Certainly skipping the Blooming Hill farm dinner would have been a big step in that direction. Certainly I could have done a simpler menu and that’s something I need to work on. I have a tendency to get carried away – to be a Home Entertaining Over-achiever. We could have gone out to a restaurant. That certainly would have been easier…and noisier and more expensive. It is hard to image a nicer, more personal and memorable birthday than the one we had with Larry in his home.

Happy Birthday Larry.


Next Saturday at the Bryn Mawr Farmers’ Market.
I am honored to be appearing next Saturday, October 23rd at the Bryn Mawr Farmers’ Market. I will be doing a series of short “mini-classes” each half hour. In between “classes” I am happy to answer your questions about home entertaining. At Home will be available for sale and I would be happy to inscribe your copy. At Home is a perfect holiday gift so start thinking about your list and stock up.Check here for details.


Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?
On Saturday, October 23rd at 6:30 PM I will be among a long list of guests with whom you can sit at Mt. Airy USA’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? Benefit. I’d love to sit with you.

Get Your Knives Sharpened at Kitchen Kapers and Contribute to Ronald McDonald House
Sharp knives are essential kitchen tools. As good as modern day knives are, they do not hold an edge indefinitely. And a honing steel can not sharpen a dull knife. A honing steel can only keep a sharp knife sharp. I guarantee that if you got your knives sharpened, it would make your prep work easier and more enjoyable. Kitchen Kapers, the local kitchenware chain, is offering in-store knife sharpening on Friday, October 29th and Saturday, October 30th. See details as to day and time at your neighborhood store. Plus, your knife sharpening will benefit the Ronald McDonald House — where Frog Commissary Catering usually spends Thanksgiving and Christmas, courtesy of a generous House benefactor.

Coming Posts
On the Road and On the Table: The Farm Stands of Long Island’s South Fork. Look for these post next week.
On the Road: Nova Scotia Farmers’ Markets – Lunenburg and Halifax.
On the Road: Blooming Hill Farm My visit to Blooming Hill’s farm market and the Saturday evening farm dinner.
The final installment of the Farm Stand Series will be reflections on and highlights of my summer’s farm stand journey and thoughts on how to make the farm stand and farmers’ market experience even better.

Thank you for visiting.

Steve
Your Home Entertaining Coach

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Assembling & Plattering an Heirloom Tomato Salad: A Step-by-Step Guide

Posts are always best viewed on the blog site. If you are not viewing the post there, just click on the title above.

Eating is first a visual experience. Not foremost, but first. And food styling — a fancy name for nicely presenting food — is a combination of painting and sculpture. Really. It is. (The same is true of flower arranging.) You are working with color, shape and texture. Nature provides a paint box loaded with colors. Food also has natural variations in shape and texture though it often needs an assist from you by virtue of the shape and size you cut things. It’s your job to plan and present a menu item that shows off nature — tastefully.

Assembling & Plattering an Heirloom Tomato Salad: A Step-by-step Guide

There are lots of ways to approach this. This is just my way. You are welcome to make it yours. It may seem long and involved, but it is actually quite simple. And by following this step-by-step guide, you will see how to organize that will be of benefit far beyond this post.

Heirloom tomatoes are nature’s paintbox at its most glorious. Heirloom tomatoes are typically something less than twice the price of “standard” tomatoes. But we’re not talking big bucks here. You want to figure one to two tomatoes per person, depending on the size of the tomatoes. If you are preparing for six people. Based upon 3/4 pound per person that works out to a little over 4 1/2 pounds. Let’s round it to 5 pounds to make the math easier. At $2 a pound for peak summer “standard” tomatoes, your tomatoes will cost you $10. “Upgrading” to heirloom tomatoes, will cost you about $8.00 more — or about an additional $1.33 per guest. But you get so much more both in flavor and visual appeal.

After rinsing tomatoes under cold water, using a sharp paring knife, remove the core.

Typically, the skin of an heirloom tomato is more delicate than standard tomatoes as standard tomatoes are bred for transport and durability and heirlooms are bred for flavor and color. As a result, you need a very sharp knife to work with heirloom tomatoes. A serrated knife is often a good solution. If you are having trouble slicing tomatoes, use the tip of your knife to poke a small slit through the skin where you want the slice to get started. Then slice.

Your next step is to cut away “the first thin slice” from the top and bottom of each tomato. These is always the least appealing slices. The top has a hole in it and both have a higher proportion of skin to tomato than the interior slices. They are also more difficult to arrange by virtue of their less regular shape. Save these tops and bottoms for a little tomato salad that you will make to top the sliced heirloom tomatoes.

Next, cut each tomato in half. Cut the tomato halves into slices 3/8 to 1/4-inch thick. Your goal here is to provide your guests an easy-eating tomato salad.

If some of your tomatoes are smaller as with these torpedo-shaped tomatoes, skip the cutting them in half as the slices cut from this size tomato will be fine.

Now take your “end cuts” — the tops and bottoms you trimmed earlier and cut them into smaller pieces — about four pieces each. You are going to use these to make a “tomato salad” to top your sliced heirloom tomatoes. Transfer these tomatoes to a bowl.

Time for the onion. I know some people shy away from onions and home entertaining. But I love onions and garlic and I  think flavor trumps everything. (Feel free to add finely chopped garlic to this salad.) My preference is a farm stand sweet red onion and if you are buying heirloom tomatoes you are probably at a farm stand so pick-up one large or two medium onions.  (There are also new crops of interesting garlics currently available.) I have a video on How to Chop and Onion that you would find very useful.

The key when doing anything with an onion is to leave the root end untrimmed as you can see in the photo above. This enables you to hold the onion together as you slice and/or dice the onion. When you are all done you will discard the little bit of root that’s left.

Here you want thin half slices of a half onion. That works out to quarter slices. Cut onion in half through the root and peel onion skin back to root. Then you can either cut a vertical slice into the onion, not quite back to the root, so when you cut your thin semi-circular slices, they naturally result in quarter slices. Or you can cut full semi-circles and then cut these in half. As you get to the end of the onion it gets harder to make nice slices. Just dice the end of the onion and reserve diced onion and add it to your bowl of diced tomato ends.

The next component is a chiffonade of basil. That simply means long thin strips. Start by making stacks of basil leaves.

With a sharp knife, cut across the short dimension of your stacks to create thin strips.

Here are all your assembled components on a handy tray: the trimmed and sliced tomatoes, sliced onion, basil chiffonade and diced tomato ends.

To the bowl of diced tomato ends and diced onion, add balsamic or good red wine vinegar. As balsamic is not as sharp, you can be more generous with that than the red wine vinegar. Next add some good olive oil — not the very best — to balance the sharpness of the vinegar. Add salt and pepper and mix well. All of this can be done up to six hours before plattering. Refrigerate. But you do not want to serve this ice cold. The tomatoes’ flavor is best at nearly room temperature.

Pick an ample sized rectangular or generous oval platter. White is ideal. Your platter should have a bit of a “belly” to hold the dressing. Certainly you want a monochromatic platter. Set you platter next to your tray of “paints.” In professional kitchen parlance, this is called your “mis en place.”

Begin plattering by arranging rows of sliced tomatoes — creating a rythum of colors as you go. This is called “shingling.” In general, you want to avoid having similar colors next to one another as you shingle a row. Don’t obsess!!! As you can see above, the smaller whole tomato slices work in pairs.

Here are my completed rows.

Now add a thin “layer” of sliced onions and basil chiffonade. Drizzle olive oil over tomatoes. Lightly salt and pepper.

You can certainly use standard salt, pepper and olive oil. The tomatoes will still taste great. But this is the sort of dish that really benefits from some premium ingredients. If you have very good olive oil — above is a bottle of premium extra virgin olive oil from Spain, this is the time to use it. By far my favorite salt for this is the Maldon Sea Salt Flakes. It’s just the perfect texture. At a minimum I would use Kosher salt. Avoid large crystal sea salt as it provides too much crunch and concentrated saltiness. The little box to the right is fresh ground pepper. I grind my pepper in batches in a spice grinder. You could also use a pepper mill. If all you had was store-bought pre-ground pepper, I would skip the pepper. These tomatoes deserve better and better to use no pepper than bad pepper.

The final step is to spoon the diced tomato and onion salad down the middle between the two rows of tomatoes. Use a generous amount of the dressing and rendered tomato liquid from the diced tomato salad. Add a bit of salt and pepper to this. Top with more basil and serve. Make sure you have some good bread to go with this to sop up the residual liquid. See my recent post on Grilled Bread.

So, visit your neighborhood farmers’ market or take a drive to a farm stand, buy some glorious heirloom tomatoes and serve them this weekend to friends and family.

To access all of At Home’s blog recipes, click here. You can also explore past posts by visiting the archives or clicking on the tags on the blog site.

Thank you for visiting.

Steve
Your Home Entertaining Coach

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On the Road: Farm Stands of Lancaster County, PA

An on-going theme of my On the Road posts is to share the wonder and beauty of our countryside — with a culinary focus. I am struck by how we travel to countries far and wide to seek out back road experiences but we hardly ever experience the wonderful back roads close to home.


Lancaster County is often stunningly beautiful.  Located in south-central Pennsylvania, it borders Maryland to the south and, on the east, Chester County. To the west is the Susquehanna River and York and Dauphin Counties. To the north are Lebanon and Berks counties. The city of Lancaster is about 80 miles west of Philadelphia and 40 miles southeast of Harrisburg.

It’s farm country. According to Wikipedea, Lancaster County is home to 5,293 farms. Though at 984 square miles it occupies only about 2% of Pennsylvania’s land, it is responsible for one-fifth of Pennsylvania’s agricultural production. Agricultural output is $800 million — with $710 million of that coming, in one form or another, from livestock. That includes dairy, poultry, eggs, cattle and pigs. Most of the corn you see growing in Lancaster is feed for the livestock.

Lancaster County is known as Pennsylvania Dutch country and markets itself as such. Of course, in this case “Dutch” does not mean people in wooden shoes, rather the transposition of “deutsche” — or German-speaking. The “Dutch”  traces its origins to Lancaster being home to a large community of Anabaptists seeking religious toleration, who settled there in the early 18th Century. Anabaptists are Christians who rejected conventional Christian practices including infant baptism. Rather, Anabaptists believe that baptism should be the choice of an adult. Within the Anabaptist community, a division occurred that lead to the development of separate Mennonite and Amish branches — both of whom populate Lancaster County. The Amish believe in living very simple, or “plain,” and in tight communities largely separate from the larger society. Amish do not adopt modern technologies such as electric and cars. Though they speak English, they also maintain their distinct language. Amish worship in homes. Mennonites are more fully integrated into modern society and worship in churches. Mennonite service to God is substantially manifest in the world-wide humanitarian relief missions they undertake. You can bet there are Mennonites in Pakistan helping flood victims. Of course, there are more and more subtle differences between Amish and Mennonites, but this is a blog about farm stands. This is just some Lancaster County background.

Six percent of Lancaster’s residents speak German at home. This gives you a sense of the number of Amish in Lancaster.

Note: As a postscript following this post I reflect on my experience in Lancaster County and the recent piece by New York Times columnist Ross Douthat. The piece is about the tension between constitutional rights and cultural assimilation. It’s not about farm stands and not what I generally write about and therefore removed from the body of the farm stand post. Of course, just skip it if political discourse from me is not your cup of tea. But it does have to do with building community which is my ultimate objective.

Agricultural commerce exists throughout Lancaster at vastly different scales. Some very small small and home and backyard based.

Lancaster is filled with very large farms and other large scale operations reflecting the industrialization of agriculture.

It has a long agricultural tradition…

and history dating back into the 18th Century.

Unlike other areas I have visited, tobacco has played a large though diminishing role in its agricultural economy. Here is a field of tobacco.

This is tobacco drying as it has for more than 200 years in Lancaster.

Alfalfa is another important Lancaster County crop. It is a crop that is seen throughout the Philadelphia-Delaware Valley region. Alfalfa is ideal forage for cattle — primarily dairy cattle. It has the highest feeding value of all common hay crops. Alfalfa is often rotated with corn as a means to maintain the nutritional value of Lancaster’s rich soil.

Most have us have experienced Lancaster County as we drive east-west along the Pennsylvania Turnpike. What you see as you speed by is but a tiny sliver of what is available to behold on a slow drive along Lancaster’s back roads. Though Lancaster County is home to about 500,000 people with a population density of about 500 per square mile, it feels far less dense than that on its many miles of back roads.

Shades and textures of green and white fences actually made more lovely as a result of an unusually overcast day.

Old barns frame carefully tended farms.

Soaring fields of corn and silos awaiting the harvest. Though Lancaster produces loads of sweet corn, overwhelmingly Lancaster’s corn is meant for Lancaster’s livestock and not for people. Lancaster is home to 45 million roaster chickens, 10 million laying hens, 95,000 dairy cows, 250,000 beef cattle and 350,000 hogs annually.

Some Lancaster livestock is frighteningly large.

Others not quite so large.

There are livestock couples.

And livestock small families.

Everyone has to have a home. Some live in fairly nice homes.

Here cows head home at the end of a long day out to pasture.

Homes come in different styles including split level…

…and ranch style. Here a home to free-range chickens.

Among Lancaster’s many attractions are its outlet stores. They even have one for peaches and apples.

There is nothing like tree-ripened fruit. Not just “yellow” peaches and “white” peaches, but peaches with names like Bellaire and Belle of Georgia and September Sun. Cherry Hill Orchards grows 40 Varieties of Apples, 25 Varieties of Sweet and Tart Cherries, 25 Varieties of Peaches, as well as Nectarines, Plums, Apricots, Sweet Corn And Pumpkins.

Apples begin their harvest in summer and continue late into fall.

Some local “fruit” is forbidden.

Our very first sighting was a classic roadside farm stand.

Some stands specialize. Here watermelons with a few potatoes thrown in.

Here flowers and a few tomatoes.

For some stands you need to want lots of potatoes.

Not everything for sale on the roadside is food.

Some food is fully prepared and ready to go as with Dude with the Food. Ribs, pulled pork and beer-can chicken.

Dessert included. Stickey Business stands next door to Dude with the Food.

Having never seen a sticky bun truck, who would have thought we would see two! This one sits in a Harley-Davidson dealer’s parking lot.

A problem sometimes encountered looking for farm stands is that in the land of farms, it isn’t always easy to find farm stands. Why?  Because it is not easy to sell vegetables to other farmers. But there were some stunning stands happy to sell to us non-farmers.

One thing that was very enlightening was that “heirloom” tomatoes had names. So often heirloom tomatoes are simply sold as heirloom tomatoes. But different varieties of tomatoes have distinctly different flavors and characteristics. The Mortgage Lifter to the right was developed by an inexperienced West Virginia radiator repairman named “Radiator Charlie” in the 1930’s. People drove hundreds of miles to buy Charlie’s seedlings for $1 each. By selling his seedlings, Charlies was able to pay off his $6000 mortgage in six years.

Among may favorite “hard to find” items is lemon verbena. A sign of the farm table listed herbs including lemon verbena, but there was none to be found. I asked the farmer who returned to his barn-located farm stand from his across the road home (above) if he had any? He said herbs were his wife’s domain and she proudly cuts her lemon verbena to order. And off he went to find his wife. In short order she returned with gloriously fresh branches that perfumed the car for hours. Lemon verbena figured prominently in my On the Table Lancaster farm stand dinner to be featured tomorrow. My farm stand recipe will be for Lemon Verbena sorbet. I also used my lemon verbena to make iced tea and to infuse vodka.

The variety of signs and stands is part of the roadside visual feast.

This stand’s essence is expressed in its name.

Corn is king.

Here is the king and queen.

The Corn Wagon’s business model was pretty simple.

The corn was in the wagon.

Other markets are much more substantial offering the full variety of summer’s local harvest.

Watermelons also have names beyond red and yellow and seeded and seedless. Here are Sangria melons. Sangrias set the sweet eating bar for “Allsweet” watermelons.

The Tomato Barn in Washington Boro will end up on this summer’s all-star farm stand team. While it offered the usual variety of summer produce — all grown on their farm, this was the place for tomatoes.

Among their tomatoes are the sweet and juicy Jet Star and the hardier and more meaty Sunbright.

Sometimes a name is mostly hype.  This is a tomato barn worthy of its name.

These are the sweet Jet Stars — take-out ready.

The Myers Farm Produce stand offered four varieties of sweet corn.

The Myers Farm cat was not for sale.

Another wonderful and unique farm stand was Lime Valley Mill Produce, housed in an old stone barn.

These are hollow gourds with a patina that matched in character the mottled white-washed barn walls. Add a bird-sized hole and these gourds make excellent bird houses.

Lime Valley Mill is a self-service, honor-system farm stand with a clever security system.

As the day wanes and the sky darkens, the shades of green deepen.

It was a very good day in Lancaster County. Wish you were there. I hope this little tour whets your appetite to share Lancaster’s farm stands with friends and family.

I think this photo speaks for itself.

From left to right: Assorted heirloom tomatoes (with names), eggplant, Glick’s home-made root beer, Reading Draft Black Cherry “Premium Reserve Soda,” cherry cider, basil and mint, golden raspberries, honeydew, apples, Red Star tomatoes, beets, yellow globe cucumbers, cantaloupe, Shiloh maple syrup, yellow beans, plums, nectarines, Landis peanut butter. And hovering above, corn and lemon verbena.

Tomorrow — On the Table: Farm Stands of Lancaster County

Thank you for visiting.

Steve
Your Home Entertaining Coach

Postscript: Reflections from Lancaster County on Ross Douthat’s New York Times opinion piece from August 15 — Islam and the Two Americas

Recently New York Times columnist Ross Douthat wrote about the controversy surrounding the intention of a Muslim community to build a mosque and community center at a site a few blocks from 9/11’s “Ground Zero” – site of the World Trade Center attacks. In it he notes the tension between religious liberty, which he supports and the imperative of cultural assimilation, which he also supports. Referring to the need for cultural assimilation, Douthat writes: “But there’s another America as well, one that understands itself as a distinctive culture, rather than just a set of political propositions. This America speaks English, not Spanish or Chinese or Arabic. It looks back to a particular religious heritage: Protestantism originally, and then a Judeo-Christian consensus that accommodated Jews and Catholics as well. It draws its social norms from the mores of the Anglo-Saxon diaspora — and it expects new arrivals to assimilate themselves to these norms, and quickly.”

As I read Douthat’s piece, I could not help but reflect on my recent drive across Lancaster County. I wondered how the Amish might feel about Douthat’s prescription for quick assimilation. I understand the need of individual cultures and communities that, taken as a whole add up to a country, to share some set of common values. It is these common values that pull us together — that form the basis of the larger community. What made me painfully uncomfortable was that Douthat’s common values reflect specific social norms based upon the mores of the Anglo-Saxon diaspora. Aren’t we a little beyond this? It seems to me that the very separateness of the Amish — their decision not to assimilate — actually adds immeasurably to the vibrancy of Lancaster County. The Amish came to the United States for the right not to assimilate. They left a place where being different was dangerous. They are different — not us — and that is wonderful. For a time, being black in America was dangerous. In many places in America being black still comes with risks. Today, being Muslim in America can be dangerous.

And who are the Muslim Americans who are the object of his lecture? Douthat notes: “But the second America is right to press for something more from Muslim Americans — particularly from figures like Feisal Abdul Rauf, the imam behind the mosque — than simple protestations of good faith.” I am not clear what the context of Douthat’s quotes of Rauf. Clearly there are some Muslim Americans whose words and behavior, though legal, are distasteful — or even abhorrent. But what standard does Douthat hold “American Muslims” to and what Muslim Americans? Every American Muslim?  It is interesting that among Amish rights to difference is their refusal to fight in American wars. The Amish have bad things to say about all wars. All well and good. That’s what they came here for. On the other hand, many American Muslims have died wearing an American uniform. How’s that for assimilation?

America was founded not just on the legal right to be different, but also freedom from cultural coercion. Difference is the spice that characterizes America’s recipe for greatness and not bland assimilation. Lancaster’s Amish are an enduring reflection of that right — they are the spice. I assume Douthat would argue that he is not prescribing “total assimilation” but I do not know how to differentiate between “assimilation” and “total assimilation.” It’s a slippery slope. It seemed to me Douthat’s piece was a highbrow defense of cultural imperialism and intellectual fear-mongering. It was religious liberty is OK, as long as you otherwise conform to “our social norms.”

America will continue to thrive to the degree that we continue to welcome, embrace and sustain differences. Ideally, our opinion makers would lead by helping the fearful embrace differences. Who is it that we are afraid of? The Amish?

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On the Table: Farm Stands of the North Fork, L.I.

Reminder that if you are not viewing post at the blog site, it looks best there. To get to the blog site, just click on title. The blog site also gives you easy access to explore past blogs as well as the blog recipe library.

Dinner was at the Remsenberg, Long Island, home of my brother and sister-in-law. Remsenberg is about 10 minutes from the Riverhead “entrance” to the North Fork. I went there for a few days with my friend and At Home illustrator Pascal Lemaitre and his 7-year old daughter Maelle. The evening’s breeze had blown away the heat and humidity of the day so we had our Farm Stands of the North Fork dinner outside. It was my plan to divide our meal into “appetizers” and “dinner.” But it got late and we decided to enjoy everything at once on platters, “family style.”

With the exception of the shishito peppers that I picked up in Bordentown, New Jersey on the way to Long Island, and the nacho chips, everything came from my North Fork drive. As is always the case, I don’t exactly know what I will make when I start the drive. What I find leads me to a menu. The ability to use a big, outdoor grill — rather than just my trusty indoor grill pan — played a big role in determining my menu.

Our North Fork Farm Stand Menu
Garlic Sauteed Shishito Peppers
Tomatilla Salsa with Nacho Chips
My Mother’s Eggplant Salad
Sliced Pan-Seared Long Island Duck Breast
Brick-grilled Miloski’s Poultry Farm Chicken
Heirloom Tomato and Husk Tomato Salad on Leaf Lettuce
Grilled Ciabatta Bread
Creamy Roasted Corn, Sweet Pepper and Romano Bean Salad
Grilled “Fairy Tale” Eggplant and Baby Squash

Dessert
Grilled figs with Catapano Dairy Farm honey-lavender goat cheese
Cantaloupe

These are the wonderful small figs that I found.

Garlic Sauteed Shishito Peppers
These peppers came from a Bordentown, NJ farm. They simply require a quick saute in olive oil, toss in a little garlic at the end, turn on to platter and add lots of sea salt. See an upcoming post about Shishito peppers.

Tomatilla Salsa with Nacho Chips
Not the best photo. I love the sour acidity of a green salsa. Simply remove the husk from tomatilla, cut into food processor-friendly sized pieces and process until nearly a puree but still a bit chunky. Add garlic, a little jalapeno, red onion, lime juice, olive oil and lots of cilantro.

My Mother’s Eggplant Salad
The recipe for this is on page 79 in At Home. In making this, I took advantage of the grill to cook the eggplant rather than the oven as called for in recipe. Once eggplant is cooked it is scraped away from peel, coarsely chopped and combined with green pepper, scallion, garlic, lemon zest, olive oil, parsley, salt and pepper. I substituted red pepper and red onion for the green pepper and scallion.

Sliced pan-seared Long Island Duck Breast
The boneless duck breast was marinated in Dansom plum juice and honey. Just before pan-searing in oil, I dried the breast well. It takes about 3-4 minutes per side to cook medium rare. As with all meats and poultry, allow five to ten minutes for it to sit before slicing. This was conceived to be a little appetizer, but joined the dinner when we decided to enjoy everything at once at the table. It was served simply and unadorned and a huge hit.

Brick-grilled Miloski’s Poultry Farm Chicken
Pascal and I had eaten swordfish and soft shells the prior two nights so I passed on seafood. Miloski’s was a little off my tour path so Pascal, Maelle and I drove there the morning of our dinner. People sometime think chicken is a little pedestrian for entertaining. But a good roasted or grilled chicken can be a treat. My notion was to brick-grill the chicken which means using a weight on top. This gets explained and shown later in this post.

Heirloom Tomato and Husk Tomato Salad on Leaf Lettuce
Last evening Christina, Larry, my brother-in-law and I had a “tomato tasting.” It is easy to get caught up in the “heirloom” hype. I wanted to compare excellent, vine ripe “Jersey tomatoes” with a variety of more expensive “heirloom” tomatoes. They all were simply dressed with olive oil and salt and pepper. Of the six varieties we tasted, with the exception of one, the heirloom tomatoes had far better flavor and a nice balance of acid and sweet than the Jersey tomatoes and totally worth the price difference. Life is short and though it sometimes feels like this hot and humid summer will never end, before you know it, summer — and farm stand heirloom tomatoes — will be just a memory. Seize the day! Go get some heirloom tomatoes this weekend and share them with friends and family.

Grilled Ciabatta Bread
Ciabatta has a good crust and spongy texture that makes it an ideal grilling bread. Grilling bread makes for an easy embellishment to a summer’s meal. See yesterday’s post on Grilled Bread.

Creamy Roasted Corn, Sweet Pepper and Romano Bean Salad
Caught up in the “roasted corn” offered at North Fork Farm Stands, I decided to do a roasted corn salad. In addition, as raw peppers do not agree with Pascal’s constitution, I decided to roast the red peppers I would typically add to a corn salad for color. I had some Roman beans left-over from the prior night’s dinner. And that’s how this salad ended up on the menu. If I was doing it again, I would stick with simply blanched corn. I think roasting robs the corn of its essential sweetness. On it’s own and simply on the cob, roasting transforms the sweetness of corn into a sweet nuttiness. But it got lost in the complicated salad. Its dressing was a fresh, olive oil based mayonnaise, though you can certainly use a good store-brand.

Grilled Variegated “Fairy Tale” Eggplant and Baby Squash
These little beauties simply got split, brushed with olive oil and grilled. Raw eggplant is unpleasant so it is important to be sure eggplant gets fully grilled including the thicker, meatier end. You can tell when eggplant is fully cooked when you have the skin-side down and you can see the eggplant flesh on top slightly “bubbling” and pushing up.

Grilled figs with Catapano Dairy Farm honey-lavender goat cheese
Cantaloupe

There certainly were lots of fresh-baked farm stand pies that would have made a great dessert — especially slightly warmed in the oven and served with good vanilla ice cream. But after a big meal, something lighter and simpler worked better. Along with the duck breast, these perfectly ripe figs — split, lightly brushed with honey and olive oil and grilled and served with a simple fresh goat cheese, were dinner stand-outs. Here Maelle tries to control her impulse to consume all of the figs herself! Because the figs were so tiny, I grilled them indoors in a grill pan. The grates of an outdoor gill would have been too small for these little wonders.

Some behind the scenes looks

Grilling eggplant for My Mother’s Eggplant Dip and peppers for the Roasted Corn, Pepper and Romano Bean Salad.

Grill-roasting corn for the corn salad.

Grilling Fairy Tale eggplant and baby squash — everything get split in half and brushed with garlic-scented olive oil.

Making the Brick-grilled Chicken from Mikowski’s Poultry Farm

Ingredients included two chickens, two limes, dried farm stand chilies, garlic and cilantro.

I removed the backbone enabling me to butterfly chicken.

I used both the lime rind and lime juice to marinate chicken as well as lots of chopped garlic, diced dried chiles, lots of cilantro and salt and pepper.

The chicken marinated for about six hours. Overnight would have been fine.

The chickens were placed on the grill over moderate heat and weighted down with a large piece of slate found by my brother when I assigned him to locate a substitute for bricks which we did not have. The slate flattens the chicken and increases its contact with the grill. A single large weight was a challenge to handle requiring two substantial grilling tongs.

Nicely grilled on top…

..and bottom.

Finally cut up into friendly sized pieces and ready to platter.

Do Ahead Strategy
As I contend each time, this is a dinner you could do and with some planning and getting a few things done days ahead, you can get one relaxed hour…and more before guests arrive. And you can certainly pick and choose and do a less elaborate dinner.

Up to 3 days ahead
Complete all shopping except corn
Make Tomatilla Salsa
Make My Mother’s Eggplant Salad
Chop garlic

Day before
Buy corn
Split and marinate chicken
Rinse lettuce
Roast corn and peppers, blanch Romano beans and make corn salad
Marinate duck breast
Slice melon
Trim stems and halve figs
Pull and label bowls and platters
Set table
Refrigerate wine or beer

Day of up to five hours before guests arrive
Grill fairy take eggplant and squash
Split and grill figs
Slice tomatoes, onions and platter tomato salad – cover and refrigerate

As dinner approaches
Sear and slice duck breast
Grill chicken, cut into pieces and platter
Grill bread
Dress tomatoes
Platter everything not already plattered
Put everything out

Last minute
Saute shishito peppers

Enjoy and be proud!!

In the Coming Weeks — On the Road and On the Table
A Trio of Philadelphia Neighborhood Farmers’ Markets – Clark Park, Rittenhouse Square and Headhouse Square
Farm Stands of Lancaster County, PA
Farm Stands of Hudson Valley, NY
A Backyard in Moorestown, NJ
Farm Stands of The South Fork of Long Island, NY

Thank you for visiting.

Steve
Your Home Entertaining Coach

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On the Table: Farm Stands of Northern Chester & Montgomery Counties, PA

At dinner’s end, with guests gone and a tired me sitting on the couch, Christina nicely extolled a wonderful dinner. While I appreciated her compliments, I expressed that this dinner was not a culinary triumph that required any great skill. I asserted, as I often do, that preparing a nice meal is more a matter of aspiration and planning than it is any great skill. You could have prepared this dinner.

Here is the slightly ridiculous haul from my drive through Northern Chester & Montgomery Counties. My farm stand shopping is a matter of faith. I have faith that when I get home I will find good uses for all that I have purchased over the week.

Here was my mostly Northern Chester & Montgomery County Menu:

Hors d’oeuvres
Roast marinated sweet & hot peppers with grilled bread
Deviled eggs
Soppressetta from DiBruno’s
Cerviche of diver scallops with coriander

Dinner
Cold Beet Soup with Cucumbers, Sour Cream & Dill

Tomato & Red Leaf Lettuce Salad

Grilled Shiso-marinated Swordfish
Creamy Corn Salad
Grilled Wax Beans

Cherry Grove Farm Toma Primavera

Peach Sorbet with Blackberries & Doughnut Peaches

Dinner began at 7 PM with the Blanc de Blanc Champagne from J.Maki’s Chester County winery. Everyone agreed it was excellent by any standard — not just excellent for being a local champagne.

Light hors d’oeuvres included roast, marinated sweet and hot pepper, deviled eggs and a DiBruno’s house-made soppressetta. The deviled eggs includes mayonnaise, mustard, a tiny dice or cornichon, fresh chives and topped with sweet smoked Spanish paprika. Frankly, the roasted peppers were a pain to peel — but they were possibly the unexpected hit of the evening. I bought them at a stand in a residential street from a “backyard” farmer whose mode of transport was a golf cart rather than a tractor. The peppers were arrayed in little plastic baskets like we use to serve burgers at Frog Burger — $1 a basket, one red sweet and one hot green. But they were very thin-skinned peppers that were difficult to peel after I charred them in the broiler. I cut them into short, thin strips and tossed them in olive oil and garlic. They were served with grilled bread — something a bit different from fully crisp crostini. I plan to post a “How to Make Grilled Bread” Tip in the next week or so. DiBruno’s house-made dried sausages are a go-to easy hors d’oeuvres addition.

Another very easy hors d’oeuvres are sliced diver scallops — also know as dry scallops because they are not packed in that awful white liquid that lesser quality scallops can be packed. They are simply thin-sliced and “dressed” about a half hour before guests arrive with lime juice, olive oil, chives and crushed toasted coriander seed — plus a little sea salt and pepper. There is a similar recipe on page 149 of At Home using pink peppercorns.

Unlike recent weeks when dinner was served family style on the table — that is, on platters where guests helped themselves, this menu was a plated dinner.

This cold beet soup is the third cold soup I have done this month. As frequently noted, I am a fan of soups as meal starters. They are easy, do ahead and lend themselves to dressing up. Here, the soup is dressed up with a small dice of cucumber, a dollop of sour cream and fresh dill. To make the soup, I just peeled the beets, cut into similar-sized chunks, cooked in a corn stock with onion and garlic, pureed in a blender and flavored with red wine vinegar. Look for the recipe tomorrow.

The cold soup co-opted the first course that would likely included tomatoes so I added a small tomato salad to the menu. I picked up some beautiful red accented lettuce from the Z Farm stand on Rittenhouse Square in the morning. The tomatoes and sweet onion came from my trip as did the basil. So, this is just the lettuce, two slices of tomato, topped with small yellow pear and orange tomatoes — cut into half as even the smallest tomatoes should be — dressed with a little balsamic, very good olive oil, Maldon sea salt and fresh ground black pepper and topped with a basil chiffonade. Everything was ready to go to be plated well before guests arrived.

I had grilled fresh swordfish earlier in the week for Christina and she lobbied to have it again for our guests. Given my failure to locate duck or lamb or pork on my drive, I went for the swordfish. It was marinated in a little garlic, shredded shiso — a minty, grassy herb that I got from Z Farm and olive oil. It was grilled in my grill pan — good as any you would get off a backyard grill. Served with a properly trimmed lemon wedge. There is a similar recipe on page 198 in At Home. I decided to grill the yellow wax beans. Just lightly tossed in olive oil and grill. Here a grill pan is much better than an open grill as there is no place for the beans to fall. The grilling adds a dimension to the otherwise very simple beans. See At Home page 307 for Grilled Green Beans. And what’s the purpose of a summer’s dinner but for an excuse to eat corn. Here it’s shaved with just a little sweet red pepper for color and purple scallion. What was unusual about this corn salad is that I had some leftover home-made mayonnaise from the deviled eggs and felt that the plate could use something creamy so I dressed the corn salad in the mayonnaise. It was sweet and creamy with a little bite from the scallion. One does not frequently see a corn salad with a creamy dressing.

We served the J.Maki Viognier with dinner. Like the champagne, it was also excellent. If you are not familiar with Viognier’s — a varietal grape that typically not bone dry and with tropical fruit overtones. At Home owners check-out the wine chart on page 32.

Rather than a full blown and filling cheese course added to an already ample meal, I served just a little bit of a Toma Primavera from Lawrenceville, NJ’s Cherry Grove Farm. I would put this cheese up there with the world’s best cheeses. It is available at the Rittenhouse Square Farmer’s Market. It’s served with a little grilled bread.

Weaver’s peaches were ripe, sweet, spectacular and easy to handle freestones. I made a peach sorbet by simply pureeing a mix or yellow and white peaches — skin and all – them passing the puree through a strainer to remove the larger pieces of skin — adding a ginger-scented simple syrup and then freezing in my ice cream freezer. It is important to “temper” sorbet or ice cream before serving. That means removing it from the freezer so it has a chance to soften somewhat. The peach sorbet was served with a grilled half of a yellow doughnut peach. I used an apple corer to get the pit out while accenting the “doughnut.” These were brushed with honey from Jack’s Farm Stand of two weeks ago and olive oil and grilled. Blackberries provided a color and slightly sour counterpoint.

Prep and Service Strategy
I always counsel that the ideal is to begin planning a weekend dinner at least the weekend before and spread your tasks over time. My current schedule isn’t allowing me to do this, but here’s how I would approach this meal if I were you. The sorbet and roast marinated peppers the weekend before. (Be careful not to eat those wonderful peppers during the week!)  The cold beet soup early in the week. You can also make deviled eggs mid-week though I would not stuff them until Friday or Saturday. Shop on Thursday for everything else except the swordfish and scallops. On Friday, grill bread and store in air-tight bag, dice cucumbers and chop dill for soup, slice onions for tomato salad, rinse lettuce and store in damp towel, blanch yellow beans, make corn salad, chop garlic for swordfish marinade, make lemon wedges and remove pits from doughnut peaches. Friday also set the table and chill wine.

That leaves for Saturday during the day, slice scallops, marinate swordfish, grill yellow beans, slice small tomatoes and make basil chiffonade. Grill doughnut peaches. Place hors d’oeuvres on platters or bowls. Make sure you give yourself one relaxed hour before guests arrive. If you follow this schedule that will be easy.

To turn-out dinner: dress scallops, bowl and garnish soup, arrange and dress tomato salad, grill swordfish and plate entree, cut cheese and plate with grilled bread, plate sorbet with doughnut peach and peach sorbet.

I am not suggesting this is no effort. Nor am I suggesting you try to repeat this exact meal — though I believe you could. What I am suggesting is that by planning ahead and spreading out your tasks, this can all be fun and not a chore — including the shopping.

Thank you for visiting.

Steve
Your Home Entertaining Coach

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Slow Roasted Grape Tomatoes with Garlic

Note about vinegars: Balsamic vinegar has become ubiquitous — nearly the default vinegar. While I love the taste of balsamic, it is pronounced. Vinegar’s role is often to provide a simple acid counterpoint to richness and sweetness as in the case with this recipe rather than add pronouced flavor. In particular, I feel as though we have lost “respect” for the clear voice of red wine vinegar. Perhaps this is because inexpensive red wine vinegars tend to be harsh. I strongly suggest adding a quality red wine vinegar to your pantry and using it frequently. There is a world of wonderful vinegars to explore. To that end, see the ingredient note in At HomeA Glossary of Vinegars — on Page 137. If you do not yet own At Home by Steve Poses: A Caterer’s Guide to Cooking & Entertaining, click here.

Slow-Roasted Grape Tomatoes with Garlic

Slow roasted tomatoes are one of those ever-ready condiments, similar to roasted peppers. At Home provides a similar recipe on Page 82 using plum tomatoes as part of Crostinis and Toppings. This is good winter’s version using grape tomatoes whose flavor is dependable year ‘round. The role of the vinegar here is to just slightly cut the richness of the oil and sweetness of tomatoes. The vinegar should just provide a slight undercurrent – hardly perceptible. Serve with crostini or just good rustic bread. The addition of olive oil at the end provides some extra oil to “dress” the crostini.

Do ahead Tomatoes may be made up to two weeks in advance and stored, covered, in your refrigerator. As with most foods, they are better served at room temperature than cold so remove at least one hour before serving. Making in advance also has the advantage of the flavors mellowing.

2 pints Grape Tomatoes
4 to 6 medium garlic cloves, thin sliced
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

1. Pre-heat oven to 275 degrees.
2. Slice grape tomatoes in half lengthwise. Combine in medium bowl with garlic and 3 tablespoons olive oil. Spread tomatoes on non-stick or parchment lined rimmed cookie sheet. Place on middle shelf of oven. Roast for approximately 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
4. Allow to cool. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, vinegar and salt. Mix well. Transfer to serving bowl.

Yield About 1 1/2 cups

Thin slice garlic cloves.

Cut grape tomatoes in half lenghtwise.

Spread tomatoes and garlic on rimmed cookie sheet. Don’t worry about whether the tomatoes face up or down. Depending on how they are facing they will cook differently, but that adds texture and interest to the finished product. I find the price of grape tomatoes varies from as much as $4.99 for organic grape tomatoes at Whole Foods to $2.99 or less at Sue’s — my little local produce store. To me, the flavor is the same.

Be patient. Two and a half to three hours is a long time — a little more or a little less is no big deal. It helps to turn sheet mid-way through as ovens tend to not cook evenly. The roasted tomatoes should range from shriveled and nearly dried to still a little plump. They will continue to shrivel and shrink as they cool. Longer cooking intensifies the flavor more, but you do not want these to reach the texture of “sun dried tomatoes.” You want a residue juiciness.

Here’s the finished product. Two pints of tomatoes cook down to about 1 1/2 intensely flavored cups. You could add some diced fresh basil. Serve with crostini or just sliced high-quality rustic bread like I get at my neighborhood Metropolitan Bakery. If you are making these into topped crostini on a platter for your guests, dress it up with a little crumbled feta or good shaved parmesan.

Goodnight Izzy
The response to my Goodnight Izzy post was been very warm and comforting. Comments have been posted on the blog. If you missed the post or want to see the comments, click here.

Thank you for visiting.

Steve
Your Home Entertaining Coach

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Slow-Roasted Grape Tomatoes with Garlic Recipe

Slow-Roasted Grape Tomatoes with Garlic

Slow roasted tomatoes are one of those ever-ready condiments, similar to roasted peppers. At Home provides a similar recipe on Page 82 using plum tomatoes as part of Crostinis and Toppings. This is good winter’s version using grape tomatoes whose flavor is dependable year ‘round. The role of the vinegar here is to just slightly cut the richness of the oil and sweetness of tomatoes. The vinegar should just provide a slight undercurrent – hardly perceptible. Serve with crostini or just good rustic bread. The addition of olive oil at the end provides some extra oil to “dress” the crostini.

Do ahead Tomatoes may be made up to two weeks in advance and stored, covered, in your refrigerator. As with most foods, they are better served at room temperature than cold so remove at least one hour before serving. Making in advance also has the advantage of the flavors mellowing.

2 pints Grape Tomatoes
4 to 6 medium garlic cloves, thin sliced
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

1. Pre-heat oven to 275 degrees.
2. Slice grape tomatoes in half lengthwise. Combine in medium bowl with garlic and 3 tablespoons olive oil. Spread tomatoes on non-stick or parchment lined rimmed cookie sheet. Place on middle shelf of oven. Roast for approximately 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
4. Allow to cool. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, vinegar and salt. Mix well. Transfer to serving bowl.

Yield About 1 1/2 cups

Thin slice garlic cloves.

Cut grape tomatoes in half lenghtwise.

Spread tomatoes and garlic on rimmed cookie sheet. Don’t worry about whether the tomatoes face up or down. Depending on how they are facing they will cook differently, but that adds texture and interest to the finished product. I find the price of grape tomatoes varies from as much as $4.99 for organic grape tomatoes at Whole Foods to $2.99 or less at Sue’s — my little local produce store. To me, the flavor is the same.

Be patient. Two and a half to three hours is a long time — a little more or a little less is no big deal. It helps to turn sheet mid-way through as ovens tend to not cook evenly. The roasted tomatoes should range from shriveled and nearly dried to still a little plump. They will continue to shrivel and shrink as they cool. Longer cooking intensifies the flavor more, but you do not want these to reach the texture of “sun dried tomatoes.” You want a residue juiciness.

Here’s the finished product. Two pints of tomatoes cook down to about 1 1/2 intensely flavored cups. You could add some diced fresh basil. Serve with crostini or just sliced high-quality rustic bread like I get at my neighborhood Metropolitan Bakery. If you are making these into topped crostini on a platter for your guests, dress it up with a little crumbled feta or good shaved parmesan.

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