The farm at my children’s school, brain child of the inimitable Tony Geraci, is truly a wonder. It is a working farm located on campus at a public elementary school in the middle of Memphis, and it might be my favorite thing in the farm-to-table movement. Two years ago my son tasted his first fresh basil there, not because it hadn’t been offered to him before but because Farmer Lauren apparently made it seem much more appealing that I had.
This morning, before heading to the farmers’ market, my daughter and I took a detour to the school farm so she could show me the things she learned this week. We walked up the rows of purple hull peas, tomatoes and watermelon and talked about where food comes from.
“Farmer Lauren said we can pick the cherry tomatoes, because there are so many of them,” my daughter said. I did not ask her when she developed a taste for these sweet little gems, which are among my favorites and which she has routinely left untouched on her plate for her entire life.
We walked through all of the hoop houses and also through the open corn and bean field. I told her that my grandparents had been farmers. She told me that food tastes best when you don’t put icky chemicals on it. I agreed, and then off we headed to the neighborhood farmers’ market to finish the conversation.
The hippie farmers’ market has a small farm of its own, a pretty vignette at the entrance of tent row. The farmers at this market are a mix of neighborhood growers, organic farmers and conventional farmers – all local, who are always more than happy to answer questions about their produce and how they grow it. We came home with watermelon, yellow squash, bell peppers, cucumbers, peaches, and purple hull peas. When all of that produce actually makes it from those farms to our table, it’s possible the children will have lost their interest and equally possible they will not. It’s a start.
Cook banger sausages according to butcher’s directions (or find a recipe here). Traditional serving is with mashed potatoes and gravy, but we like them with a cold slaw instead: shred ½ head green cabbage and some white onion (or scallions, if onion is too strong). In a small saucepan combine ½ c. white vinegar, 1 tsp. sugar, ½ tsp. salt, ½ tsp. ground pepper (or more to taste). Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and whisk in ¾ c. oil. Pour over cabbage; toss in ½ c. crumbled feta cheese (or more).
For the squash, I will slice it and boil it with sliced white onion, a bit of butter and some salt. Ditto the purple hull peas. I’d like to think that I will make cornbread from scratch, but I will probably resort to Jiffy.
Grilled Chicken Salad | Watermelon
Season chicken breasts to your liking; let marinate 24 hours (or overnight); grill and slice on diagonal. Chop head of green leaf lettuce; rinse and spin dry. In a large glass bowl toss tomato (diced), red onion (cut to your taste), diced cucumber (peeled if skin is bitter). For dressing mix olive oil and red wine vinegar with a pinch of sugar, pinch of salt and seasoning. Works well if you mix dressing, onion, tomato and cucumber one hour before serving (let sit at room temp). Watermelon for dessert.
Denver Frittata | Peaches
Preheat oven to 350°. In a heavy, ovenproof skillet, sauté chopped onion, bell pepper and mushrooms in butter for a few minutes. Remove from heat. Immediately pour over the cooked vegetables 8-12 beaten eggs (about 2-3 eggs per person – salt to taste). Top with grated cheese. Place in oven and bake for about 10 minutes. Turn oven to broil and cook until lightly browned and puffed. Serve with fresh sliced peaches.
Shrimp & Grits | Corn Salad
Prepare grits according to package directions (I also add cheese). Spoon into bowls. In heavy skillet sauté onion (I like thin half rounds) in some oil and/or butter; add 1 red (or yellow or orange) bell pepper (I also like half rounds) and cook until softened. Add 1 Tbsp. hot sauce (I use Cholula), 1 tsp. dried basil, 1 tsp. fresh ground pepper and 1 tomato, diced. Add some shrimp (peeled & deveined) and toss until shrimp is cooked. Serve over grits with corn salad on the side (fresh corn kernels, chopped bell pepper, chopped onion, dash of oil, vinegar & salt).
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