Wednesday, June 28, 2017

My parents let me cook them dinner

Cooking dinner for your parents shouldn't be a big deal, especially for someone, who like me, cooks all the time! But this, in fact, was a momentous occasion. My dad was out at my house mowing one of the vineyards and mom didn't have any dinner plans. I miraculously convinced my mom to come to my house to eat and convinced my dad to stay! My mom is a notoriously picky eater. She only eats things that her grandmother would have fixed. She's not too impressed with my 1001 uses for radish tops. My dad will try anything I cook and most of the time he likes it, but any time I'm cooking for mother, I have to do it by the book, southern style.

breading squash
So what did I decide to fix? What did we have at the farm stand that day? Why tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, onions, potatoes, rosemary, a bit of butter, and a few peppers. Why not peel the cucumbers and put them in a blender with the onions, peppers, tomatoes olive oil, salt and pepper, and make gazpacho? And how about roasted potatoes? Just cut them up, toss them in olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast them in the oven at 400 until tender. I knew that dad and I would want a sauce on our potatoes, but that mom hates, I MEAN HATES, rosemary. Solution? Put two table spoons of butter in a skillet and chop up some rosemary in there. Let that roast with the potatoes and then add a little bit of white wine. Stick it back in the oven for 5 minutes, let it reduce, and voila, there is a sauce! For me and dad! Mom doesn't get any. 

frying squash
Finally, while the gazpacho was chilling and the potatoes were roasting, I set to frying the squash. I know I sound like I'm a sales person for House Autry products, but I'm not. They are simply a staple in my family's kitchens. So I cut up the squash into little medallions, put them into a tupperware, throw in some House Autry Seafood Breader, and then shake. Then I go back and separate the pieces which have stuck together, add a bit more seafood breader, and shake again. Finally, once they have sweated a bit, I throw in a bit more seafood breader and give them a final coat. I get my oil hot in the pan and start frying. Once they get puffy on one side, I flip them. It doesn't take long, and these things are sweet and golden brown and delicious. I do one frying pan full, unload it into a pan for the oven, and do three more, keeping them warm in the oven all the while. Once I've finished, the potatoes are roasted, the butter sauce is made, and the gazpacho is cold.

yep. this is food. i can eat this.
Dad gets in from mowing, complains a bit about something, I get him a glass of the new Rose (Come to our party on July 15th to celebrate all things ROSE!!) and serve him a plate. He doesn't complain. But he never does. Mom gets herself a plate (she had brought over other food just in case she didn't like my cooking), and I get a compliment. The squash a perfectly done! WOOHOO!! She liked the potatoes and even tasted the gazpacho. Said it was well balanced. I'll take that! 

my plate, and yes, i turned the label to the
 wine to face the camera for extra brand management.

Farm fresh food doesn't have to be complicated or time consuming. I even cooked extra so I could make additional meals out of it for the rest of the week. I've been eating the left over gazpacho with Volkhorn from Carolina Artisan Bread for lunch. I've made fried squash and tomato sandwiches (re-heat fried squash in the oven or George Foreman-like grills). I'm going to make a tortilla espanola out of the left-over potatoes and sauce. 
ok. i'll try this.

And this is just what I did with the produce I had on hand from our farm store. My customers are doing even more things and I can't wait to share with you their ideas of how to eat the food that's coming off the land right now. 

they belong to the clean plate club. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Eat the squash like it's your (delicious) civic duty

Happy Early Summer Everyone! It's the time of year when most farmers have squash coming out their ears! We love this time of year because we get to eat and produce one of the most sustainable crops out there- squash and zucchini! But it's also quite frustrating when customers are scared to buy it because they "just don't like it. I mean how do you fix it? Mom just always boiled it and it was terrible!"

Recently, I have been struggling with the fact that many people don't know how to prepare the vegetables we grow, and thus don't know how to support local farmers with their purchase dollars. I was luckily born to a home economics teacher and an owner of a grocery store, not to mention the granddaughter of two wonderful "country cooking" experts. But I realize that not everyone is as comfortable around the farm-to-fork concept as I am. I feel like I need to change this. As much as I hate taking photos of my food, I know that for my business to survive, and for us to have a sustainable, local food system, we are going to have to re-educate massive amounts of people on how to eat seasonally and what that means.

Right now, eating seasonally and eating locally means eating squash. This is the time of year when squash can really shine. It's delicious. It's tender. It comes in about 20 different varieties, all of which are beautiful and fun. And there are so many different ways to fix it! You don't just have to boil it! Or saute it! Although both of these are great logical options! I'm going to go Bubba Gump on squash for a second. You can roast it. You can fry it. You can make it into fritters. You can put it in curry. You can put it on your burrito. You can put it in pasta salad. You can toss it with marinara sauce for pasta primavera. You can saute it with broccoli, carrots, ginger, garlic, and soy sauce and pretend that you got take out.

I love experimenting with our vegetables and I've recently created a new sort of recipe for a vegetable loaf. I used squash, zucchini, and kohlrabi, but you can pretty much substitute any kind of veggies in this recipe that you have during whatever season! I even made a mustard greens loaf a few weeks ago and it was AWESOME!

Grate up your squash, zucchini, kohlrabi. Chop an onion. Pour in some House Autry Hush Puppy Mix. Add in the required oil for the volume of mix you're using, but use only half the amount of milk/water. Add in an appropriate number of eggs, and mix. It should end up thicker than pancake batter, but not like cookie dough. Bake in a well greased cast iron skillet. Eat like cornbread with some beans or even use it to make a tomato sandwich!

The classic way I grew up eating squash was stuffed squash (or zucchini). My mom would parboil the squash, but it in half, scoop out the middle and mix it with some onions, bread crumbs, sausage, and an egg. Then, she would re-stuff the squash, top it with cheese, and bake it till the cheese was lightly brown. A few weeks ago, I made a vegan equivalent by substituting the sausage and egg with ground up chick peas, some sage, garlic, time and oregano. Sorta like mixing hummus with your squash and onion mixture. Then I made my cheese sauce by sauteing flower in some oil, thinning down the mixture with some of the left over ground chick peas and white wine. Then I flavored it with salt and pepper. Dad ate it. He was a meat cutter for 50 years. He couldn't tell the difference!

So guys- This time of year, we, the farmers of North Carolina, would love for you to experiment with squash and zucchini. The key to eating locally and seasonally, and preserving our small farms is changing the way we eat throughout the year. You will not regret it. You will become more creative and nutritious as you add more locally grown products to your diet. It's the best way ever to not get bored with your food!!