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Easy Entertaining — Farmers’ Market Inspired Elegant but Easy Summer Party

[Originally published in the Fall 2017 issue of Food & Dining Magazine]

We like what late summer here in the Ohio Valley provides us for parties — long, lazy afternoons and evenings; patios and decks ideal for grilling and eating al fresco; sitting in the dark listening to the crickets. And, of course, the bounty at the farmers markets’ that provide the freshest foods to feed guests.

We found that shopping at farmers markets’ with a chef is fun and a great learning opportunity. We invited three local chefs to help us assemble a delicious late summer party, the menu dictated only by the inspiration they discovered on the market tables.

Coby Ming, Executive Chef at Wiltshire at the Speed, Sarah Rockwell of LouVino in Middletown and Erika Chavez-Graciano of Cellar Door Chocolates were our collaborators on this project. They could decide to concoct a dish solely from what they found at the market or they could choose an item or two that inspired them and use ingredients from their pantries to fill it out.

Rockwell usually goes to the St. Matthews Farmers’ Market at Beargrass Christian Church on Shelbyville Road (See the Summer 2017 issue of Food & Dining for a complete listing of all area farmers markets) where she finds one of her favorite farmers Dave Garey of Garey Farms in Paris, Kentucky. “Dave also picks up from other farmers near him, who grow things he doesn’t, like strawberries, or peaches from Evans Orchard, close to him,” she said. “I found the beans and okra at Garey’s, and wanted to use his andouille sausage, that he makes from his hogs.”

Rockwell solves the off-putting sliminess problem of okra by broiling, which dries it, getting rid of that slime. “Broiling the beans too, gives a toasty, nutty flavor to something that is otherwise just crisp and clean,” she said. “The ham adds a crispy saltiness that works well with sweet fruit like peaches — sweetness and salty together is great. Broiling gives the vegetables nuttiness and the peaches brighten the salad and give moisture and sweetness. It all makes for a nice well-balanced dish.”

Coby Ming likes party dishes she can prepare ahead and just pull out when the guests arrive. Her roulades over tomato fondue can be made a day or two in advance and wait in the fridge for a final warming through. The tomato fondue can be made in a bigger batch and frozen for later in the year.

Ming knows many of the farmers at the Bardstown Road Farmers’ Market. “I knew Ivor Chodkowski’s Field Day Family Farm grows Sun Gold cherry tomatoes, but by the time I got there he was sold out. So, I went across to Happy Jack’s Pumpkin & Produce booth, one of our favorite purveyors when I was at Harvest. He had the tomatoes I wanted, as well as a variety of eggplants, onions and cucumbers. Before going to the market I had an inclination about the kind of dish I wanted to make — I knew there would be tomatoes, eggplant and squash — and when I saw he had good cucumbers and onions too, I saw how to put it together.”

We were interested that she let her cucumbers and onions steep in a pickling liquid rather than just toss on a dressing. “At the restaurant, we do infusions with left over stems and extra leaves,” Ming said, “so I decided to use one in this dish. It is a good idea if you have a lot of herbs to make the pickling infusion, which you can refrigerate and use for other things. Just be sure to strain out all the solids, which can mold. Marinating vegetables for a couple of hours is good, but overnight is better.”

Erika Chavez-Graciano went to the Douglass Loop market to seek inspiration, and she found it in blackberries, plump and glistening, and apple mint with delicate little blossoms. “I thought the blackberry and mint would go together,” she said. “And I was right.”

“At Cellar Door,” Chavez-Gratiano said, “we have a lot of flavor combinations that are not commonplace, and at the market I didn’t want to do something ordinary, like with honey” she said. She saw the Easy Entertaining project as a chance to highlight something new. She can’t make blackberry truffles for retail sale, because fresh fruit ingredients do not keep on the shelf. But for a party at home, these are great to make — something you just can’ t buy.

Chavez-Graciano had a few preparation tips. “The ganache should set up fine on the counter of an air-conditioned kitchen, to the consistency of spreadable butter. Refrigerate only if room is very warm, and only for a short while. If you have any truffles left over, drop one into your morning coffee.”

We added our favorite mango shrimp salsa to the party, which can be served with chips or in a martini glass as an appetizer, similar to a ceviche. To go along with all these fresh tastes from the chefs, our signature cocktail, the Blackberry Bourbon Smash, is light and refreshing with blackberries, mint and, of course, bourbon.  Our market of choice is St. Matthews Farmers’ Market at Beargrass Christian Church. Not only did we buy the peppers, onion, garlic and berries there for our dishes but also lamb chops and ground lamb from our favorite producer, Stone Burr Lamb, to use later in the week.

Easy Entertaining — Farmer’s Market Inspired Elegant but Easy Summer Party

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Chef Sarah Rockwell, LouVino

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(From left) Lori Laird, Chef Coby Ming (Wiltshire at the Speed), Chef Sarah Rockwell (LouVino in Middletown), Erika Chavez-Graciano (Cellar Door Chocolates) and Tim Laird.

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Cucumber and onion salad.

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Marinated chicken legs with blistered bean and okra salad.

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Zucchini and eggplant roulade with tomato fondue.

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Mango shrimp salsa.

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Blackberry truffles.

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Pepper and Andouille Toast with Cilantro Pesto.

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Owner of Cellar Door Chocolates, Erika Chavez-Graciano.

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Chef at Wiltshire at the Speed, Coby Ming.

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Blackberry Bourbon smash,

Sarah Rockwell – LouVino

Marinated chicken legs with blistered bean and okra salad
(Serves 6 – 8)

For the honey Champagne vinaigrette
(makes about 3 ½ cups)

2 medium shallots, peeled

2 cloves garlic, peeled

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

¾ cup Champagne vinegar

2 ½ cups canola oil

½ teaspoon cayenne

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper

½ cup honey

 

Blend shallots, garlic, mustard and vinegar in blender. Slowly drizzle oil into blender while on medium speed. Add salt, pepper, and cayenne. Drizzle in honey until well combined.

For the chicken legs

6 chicken hind quarters (legs and thighs)

2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon cracked black pepper

3 cups honey Champagne vinaigrette (recipe above)

About 1/3 cup honey

1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped

1 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

2 tablespoons chives, chopped

Sprinkle chicken legs with cayenne, salt and pepper and rub into chicken evenly. Place in a sealable plastic bag, pour vinaigrette over chicken, close bag and let marinate in refrigerator for at least six hours. Remove from marinade, pat dry and grill over medium heat, skin side down first for three minutes with grill lid closed. Rotate chicken 90 degrees and grill for an additional five minutes with grill lid closed. Flip chicken over and turn grill down to medium low heat, or move to cooler spot on grill. Drizzle with small amount of honey and sprinkle with chopped herbs. With grill lid closed, cook for an additional 10 minutes or until chicken reaches internal temperature of 165 degrees. Serve over bean and peach salad.

 

For the blistered bean and okra salad with grilled peaches

1 pound yellow wax beans

1 pound green beans

2 pounds okra

¼ cup vegetable oil

Salt and pepper

3 medium peaches cut in half, pits removed and grilled

¼ pound country ham (sliced very thin)

½ cup honey Champagne vinaigrette

2 medium balls Burrata cheese

Pick over beans and okra and discard any that look iffy. Trim stem ends and cut beans in half. Cut tops off okra, and then cut lengthwise to expose seeds. Toss beans in oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Broil at 500 degrees for about five minutes or until beginning to brown and blister. Repeat the same steps for the okra. Cut each peach half into 9 pieces, reserve. Lay out country ham on sheet tray in single layer and bake at 425 degrees for 5 minutes or until edges curl and it is crispy when cooled. Toss beans and okra with vinaigrette. Break burrata apart with fingers and drop on top of beans. Add peach pieces and crispy country ham.

 

Pepper and Andouille Toast with Cilantro Pesto
(Serves 6 – 8)

For the pesto

1 lime, juiced

1 bunch fresh cilantro (with an inch of stem removed)

2 cloves garlic

½ cup Parmesan cheese

¼ cup pine nuts, lightly toasted

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup olive oil

Combine lime juice, cilantro, garlic, Parmesan, pine nuts, and salt in food processor. Pulse until minced and well combined. With processor running, drizzle in oil, stopping to scrape down sides as necessary, until pesto is smooth and evenly mixed. Set aside.

 

For the sausage and pepper topping

1 pound andouille sausage

1 medium yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced

1 red bell pepper, seeds removed and thinly sliced

1 green bell pepper, seeds removed and thinly sliced

1 poblano pepper, seeds removed and thinly sliced

2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved

Remove sausage from casing and cook on medium heat, breaking up chunks until well browned. Drain off excess fat and reserve sausage. Cook onions in a small amount of oil until they soften before adding all peppers. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and continue to cook over medium heat, stirring, until peppers are tender. Add halved cherry tomatoes and reserved sausage, stir to combine and remove from heat. Set aside.

To assemble

1 loaf French baguette

About ½ cup olive oil

Pesto (from above)

Pepper and sausage mix (from above)

½ avocado, halved and thinly sliced

Cilantro leaves or scallion slices

1 tablespoon aged balsamic

Cut baguette into eighth-inch slices on the bias. Drizzle or brush lightly with oil and bake on sheet pan in 325 degree oven for about eight minutes  until beginning to toast on the edges.

Spread about a teaspoon of pesto on each piece of toast and top with pepper and sausage mix. Finish with a thin piece of avocado, a cilantro leaf (or scallion slice) and a drizzle of aged balsamic.

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Coby Ming – Wiltshire at the Speed

Zucchini and eggplant roulade with tomato fondue
(Serves 6)

For the tomato fondue
(Makes 3 cups)
This can be made in advance and even frozen for up to 3 months.

2 tablespoons roasted garlic oil (or substitute olive oil)

4 cups sweet onions, peeled and cut into half-inch dice (about 3 large onions)

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

4 cups tomatoes, peeled, de-seeded, and cut into large chunks

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon black pepper, coarse ground

2 tablespoons roasted garlic puree

Add oil in a saucepan on medium heat. When oil begins to glisten, add onions and bay leaf and cook until tender and golden brown, about 5-7 minutes. Add honey and cider vinegar and simmer until sticky. Add tomatoes, salt, pepper and roasted garlic. Gently simmer until thickened. Remove bay leaf, taste and adjust seasoning. Set aside.

 

For the zucchini and eggplant roulade
Choose zucchini and eggplant that are about the same diameter.

4 tablespoons roasted garlic oil, divided

2 sweet onions, peeled and diced small

Salt and pepper to taste

1 cup grated Parmesan, divided

3 cups tomato fondue (recipe above)

1 ½ pounds zucchini

1 ½ pounds skinny Italian or Japanese eggplant

1 bunch basil, stems removed and leaves cut into chiffonade (long thin strips)

Heat sauté pan and add 1 tablespoon garlic oil and sweet onions. Cook until tender and golden in color. Salt and pepper to taste. Once cool, combine with ½ cup Parmesan. Set aside for assembly.

Thinly slice zucchini and eggplant on mandolin or with sharp knife approximately ⅛-inch thick. Lay zucchini slices out closely in a single layer onto a sheet pan and eggplant likewise on a separate pan. Drizzle lightly with garlic oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake the zucchini about 5-7 minutes and eggplant 7-10 minutes or until just tender and pliable. Remove and let cool.

Place fondue in deep baking dish in a thick layer and prepare roulades.

Stack a single slice of eggplant on top of a single slice of zucchini. Spread about ½ teaspoon of the onion-cheese mix on top of eggplant. Repeat the previous stacking process (zucchini,eggplant,onion-cheese spread) twice more per roulade. Make sure each layer is even and gently press together. Tilt stack over on its side and slowly roll it up like a cinnamon roll. Gently place the rolled roulade (a small spatula might be helpful) on top of fondue. Repeat this process to build 6 total roulades. Sprinkle with remaining ½ cup Parmesan and bake at 400 degrees until brown and bubbly, about 12-15 minutes. Remove and garnish with basil chiffonade.

 

Cucumber and onion salad
(Serves 6)

1 cup water

1 cup sugar

2 cups rice wine vinegar

1 bunch basil, divided

1 bunch mint, divided

½ bunch cilantro, divided

Pinch aleppo chile pepper (can substitute with ancho chile)

2 cucumbers (2-3 inches long)

1 large red onion, peeled and thinly sliced

Salt and pepper

6-8 cherry tomatoes, halved

Optional garnish: raw corn kernels, carrot coins, flower petals, fresh herbs

Place water, sugar and vinegar in sauce pot and heat until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and let cool. Add two-thirds of all herbs and steep 24 hours in the refrigerator. (Can be made as much as a week ahead of time.)

Wash cucumbers and peel stripes down each. Slice into ¼-inch rounds and place in bowl with red onion, chile pepper and lightly salt and pepper. (Can be done a day in advance and refrigerated.)

About one hour before serving, remove liquid-herb mixture and strain out solids. Pour liquid over cucumber mixture, add cherry tomatoes and stir. Taste and adjust with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Cut remaining herbs into chiffonade and garnish.

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Erika Chavez-Graziano — Cellar Door Chocolates

Blackberry Truffles
(Makes about 30 one-ounce truffles)

The intensity of the ratio of chocolate solids to other ingredients, such as sugar, is expressed as a percentage. For the truffles, use chocolate that is at least 55% chocolate solids — preferably 75% — as will be clearly indicated on the package.

1 cup heavy whipping cream

2 pints blackberries

2 pounds bittersweet chocolate (55% – 75% chocolate solids)

1 cup cocoa powder

Pinch of salt

In a blender on medium (puree), blend blackberries until smooth. Strain blackberry puree to remove seeds. In a microwave safe bowl, mix cream and puree together and heat in microwave for 45 seconds on high heat. Add chocolate to mixture and stir until smooth and chocolate is fully melted. If the chocolate does not fully melt, heat mixture in microwave in 10 second intervals and stir well. Do not overheat. This makes a ganache.

Pour mixture into a shallow pan, like a brownie pan, and let ganache set about two hours until it is the consistency of butter. Refrigerate briefly only if it is slow to set.

Once the chocolate ganache is set, scoop out cherry-sized balls using a small spoon or a melon-baller and roll the ganache between hands into smooth balls and place on sheet pan covered with parchment paper. Combine cocoa powder and salt in a shallow bowl and roll the balls in the cocoa powder to fully cover. Garnish with candied mint leaves (recipe below).

 

For the candied mint leaves

½ bunch mint leaves

1 egg white

½ cup sugar

Lay out clean, dry mint leaves on parchment paper. Whip egg white until foamy but not stiff. Using your fingers, lightly coat the leaves with the egg white. Sprinkle the wet leaves with sugar, front and back. Let the leaves sit out in the open air on the parchment paper for 24 hours.

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Tim and Lori Laird

Mango Shrimp Salsa
(Serves 6-8)

1 mango, peeled, pitted and diced

1 red pepper, seeded and diced

1 jalapeño, seeded and diced

¼ cup red onion, peeled and diced

2 tablespoons garlic, peeled and minced

2 tablespoons cilantro leaves, chopped

½ pound cooked shrimp, chopped

1/8 cup fresh orange juice

1/8 cup fresh lime juice

Kosher salt

Black pepper

In a bowl, combine the mango, red pepper, jalapeño, onion, garlic, cilantro and shrimp. Stir in the orange and lime juice and season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Serve with tortilla chips.

 

Blackberry Bourbon Smash
(Makes 1 cocktail)

You can substitute one ounce of blackberry puree for the blackberries and simple syrup.

½ ounce lime juice

6-7 mint leaves

2-3 blackberries

2 ounces Old Forester Bourbon

¾ ounce simple syrup

1 cup of ice

1 ounce club soda

 

In a shaker, combine the lime juice, mint leaves and blackberries and muddle gently. Add the Old Forester, simple syrup and ice. Shake vigorously and pour the entire contents into a rock glass. Then, top with club soda. Garnish with a sprig of mint. F&D

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