Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Notes from a Blue Ridge Locavore
Hi Friends! I am delighted to be back in the North Carolina Mountains for the summer.  After unpacking my bags, I made a run for the best farmer’s market in Boone, NC. They’ve got legendary vendors, offering everything from radishes the size of billiard balls to homemade strawberry-chocolate jam. I’ve included links to these locavores!” Gotta love that tongue twister! If Peter picked a peck of pickled peppers from the Watauga Farmers Market, they’d be lovingly canned into something you couldn’t get enough of—like Fire from the Mountain.   

Returning to this farmer’s market on Saturdays means I get to decorate my supper table with the region’s best. This is a recent display.

You’re looking at Soft Shell Crabs served on a bed of yummy collards, olive oil-poached salmon, slow roasted over herbs and cherry tomatoes, and an arranged grilled vegetable salad that featured eggplant, peppers, onions and locally grown tomatoes. Dessert was triple chocolate bread pudding, of course.

That same week, shopping locally meant dining on an herb rubbed organic chicken, raised humanely not 100 miles from home. I borrowed the recipe for Foolproof Rotisserie Chicken from the New Life Farm Stand and slow roasted it—the chicken really merits its very own blog entry and I promise you I’ll get to it soon. I simply wanted you to have this super easy, DEEPLY satisfying recipe on file for those lazy summer weekends ahead.  
What’s on the table tonight—in this insane locavore tour of Boone—is the Fresh Catch!

The purveyor was Carolina Beach Mobile Seafood. I couldn’t believe their selection. I mean talk about fresh! Some of them were still moving among an array of catfish, grouper and shrimp. The fish monger on duty offered me a sheet of paper as she was packaging up my treasure. I looked down and read the instructions on how to clean the crab.

“What? You don’t clean the crabs?” I asked a little nervously.
“No, Maam.”
Well OK then. Off I went.  

Dealing with my awesome haul of seafood later that night, I found that cleaning the first crab was a little scary, but by crab number six I was an old pro. I sautéed them in butter and olive oil and made a pan sauce with lemon, garlic and wine. I can’t begin to describe how good it was so I won’t even try.

But what I will do is describe the local food scene—you’ll need to know it, if you ever come to call. Among my favorites are Lulu’s Sweet and Savory—bread puddings to die for. I don’t know whether to be proud or ashamed, but I cleaned up with Lulu. It was only my first trip out, and already I’ve bought enough decadent bread puddings to fill one whole shelf of my freezer. I cannot wait to dig into one particular concoction that I bought there, featuring mushroom, rosemary and goat cheese.

Then there’s Cheryl Piraccie, offering samples of her home made jams. Check out the photo of this pair of Bella Rooster sweetness.

I’ve learned I cannot abide this life without her Chocolate-Strawberry Jam. Cheryl modestly compares it to Nutella, but Nutella has never tasted like this! I thought I’d hit the ceiling of euphoric foodie highs and then…well…I saw the roadside spring greens. There were bright collards and kale, dewy lettuce mixes and crisp garlic scapes. What more can I say? I see a lot of salads and sautéed greens in my family’s future.

My summer experience has begun and my taste buds are already on high alert. If you can’t get to the mountains of North Carolina, check out the websites of the farmers’ market vendors near you. Some of them ship! Share your farmers’ market finds and fresh recipes with the readers here. Post a comment or send along your thoughts to More to come!!

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