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CR(eat)E Food BLOG: Hosting A Farmers’ Market Dinner Party – Part I

Gazpacho and crudites

Gazpacho and crudites

One of the many delicious virtues of living in the Ozarks of Northwest Arkansas comes from enjoying the score of beautiful farmers’ markets that thread the landscape up and down the I-540 corridor from Bella Vista to Alma. It’s a healthy, accessible way to get to know the food we eat, and what better way than through having a personal relationship with the farmers that actually plant, grow, and harvest the food.

Mike and Mary Jo

Mike and Mary Jo Green from Ewe Bet Farms

  The Bentonville Market is as bountiful and dynamic as any in the region, boasting artisanal cheeses, fruits, vegetables, and a number of protein foodstuffs such as pork from Mason Creek Farms, farm fresh eggs from Twisted Tree Farms, and lamb from Ewe Bet Farms in Cave Springs, Arkansas.  My personal goal every year is to purchase more from the market on a weekly basis than from the previous year, and with such a rich, diverse vendor base in Bentonville, the 2013 season has been easier, and more fun, than ever before.  In fact, hosting a Farmers’ Market dinner party may be just the theme to impress your friends, while simultaneously showing signs of sustainability and civic altruism in your community.

When hosting a dinner party, one should always consider the perception of your guests; know who they are, then plan and design your menu accordingly.  As a rule of thumb I always suggests that there should be at least one or two items that are familiar or favorites to the party goers; but to keep your guests engaged and entertained, always prepare something new and innovative.  And remember, no matter what sort of dinner party you may be hosting, the greatest compliment is a recipe request from one of the invitees.   The first part of our menu incorporates new takes on familiar archetypes, our Mason Jar Crudite with Mashed Chevre and Peas is easy, elegant, and perfect for chatting and noshing, while the Market Gazpacho is perfect for the vegan in the group.  Regardless, both dishes promise to give your guests a new interpretation of some old favorites. 

Gazpacho and crudites

Gazpacho and crudites

Market Crudite in a Mason Jar The Veggies Feel free to use any of your favorites from the market; I’ve decided on color and height today, utilizing carrots, endive, green onions, asparagus, squash, and even okra and long beans that I pickled to give the guests a little something extra in the way of flavor.

  • Endive: A purple or bright green color is optimal.
  • Green Onions: I love to find green onions with just a tinge of red or purple.
  • Baby Carrots: If possible, leave 1 to 1 ½ inch or so of the green tops on these pretty orange gems…healthy, crunchy, and utterly delicious.
  • Yellow Squash: Cut these into 1/2 inch wide matchsticks
  • Asparagus:  A super food that keeps us reminded even after devouring.
  • Pickled Okra: A quick, spicy pickle on farm fresh okra will impress your guests.
  • Pickled Long Beans: I limit this dish to two pickled items; any more would be too salty, especially since fresh is truly the goal here.

THE Mashed Pea and Chèvre Dip This is truly the simplest recipe on the planet; simply quick-blanch a ½ pound of hulled peas, then mash the peas together with a pound of Canyon Creek soft chèvre (or Neufchatel) with just a little salt and pepper.  Then place the dip into the base of a Mason jar and top with the aforementioned fresh and pickled vegetables.

MARKET GAZPACHO

  • Two brandywine or like tomatoes
  • Two peaches
  • One nectarine
  • One cucumber
  • Half a red onion
  • A little garlic
  • Three tablespoons of sriracha
  • Splash of red wine vinegar
  • Touch of olive oil
  • A bundle of fresh basil leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Blend all ingredients in a food processor until pureed; strain the juice from half of the concoction then add strained juice back to the remaining pulpy mix; chill; then serve in small cordial glasses.  Ta-dah!

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