Several years ago when I was involved in the local foods movement here, we held a fundraiser called “The Dance of the Ripe Tomato” to introduce the newly formed Lake Superior Slow Food Convivium. What I remember most about this event is how we put it together on a shoe string. Even after all these years, there’s still talk about how much fun that event was and how locally grown and raised ingredients played the starring role.
Since then, I have been holding my own “tomato dance” at my house every summer, and I use the same planning method of collaborating, borrowing, and recycling to make it special as I did for the original party
To create a festive atmosphere, we use old quilts and vintage tablecloths to deck the tables. We collect all of our empty canning jars for beverages, pint-sized jars for beer and sodas and half-pint sized jars worked perfect for wine glasses.
I put out large bowls of crimson ripe tomatoes for centerpieces on the tables, garnished with fresh flowers and greens from my yard. For beverages we sample mead (a honey based wine made right down the road) and, of course, local beer.
Our menu reflects the local bounty and is often a collaboration of what we all have on hand. Our style is homespun and uncomplicated, but the fresh from the ground taste and knowing we are doing our part to support our local producers gives us pride supporting our community. Remember, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a great celebration; your friends and family will still love you no matter how elaborate your centerpiece is.
If you are looking for local foods in the Twin Ports area, check out the Harvest Festival this Saturday from 10-4 at Bayfront Park. I will be there selling my baked goods and mixes, so stop by and say hi.
My Dance of the Ripe Tomatoes Menu Made with Local Foods
Green Pastures Dairy Gouda Cheese, Dried Cranberries, Roasted Hazelnuts
Wild Rice Salad with carrots, beets and dressed with Honey Herb Vinaigrette
Wild and Gathered Greens with Blueberries and Goat Cheese
Maple Brined Rosemary Lemon Free Range Chicken on the Grill
Grilled Local Summer Squashes, peppers and onions
Sesame Green Beans
Chocolate Zucchini Bread
Maple Brined Chicken
Most local poultry lends itself well to brining. Just remember if you brine chicken, you can’t use the drippings for gravy, as they will be too salty. This recipe can be used for turkey or pork with delicious results.
1 large whole free range chicken (3 to 5 pounds)
2 ½ gallons cold water (plus 1 quart to mix brine in)
2 cups kosher salt
1 cup white granulated sugar
1 cup real maple syrup
2 bay leaves
1 bunch fresh thyme or 4 tablespoons dry
1 head whole garlic, peeled and chopped
5 whole allspice berries- Optional
4 juniper berries, crushed- Optional
Place 2 gallons of cold water in the container you intend to brine with.
Place 1 quart of water in a small sauce pan and add the rest of the ingredients and heat until dissolved. Pour into cold water mixture and stir until well mixed. Add chicken to brine mixture. Add ice if needed to chill brine. You want to make sure your brine mixture temperature is less than 41 degrees F.
Use a plate or heavy item to weight it down if chicken is floating. Refrigerate for 24 hours in a cooler packed with ice around the brining container or store in a refrigerator.
Take out of brine and pat dry. Grill as directed below. Do not add salt to the chicken before cooking.
Grilled Chicken with Rosemary and Lemon
1 brined whole chicken
4 sprigs fresh rosemary, two cleaned from stem and chopped
2 lemons, 1 sliced thin and one for juice
To grill chicken:
Cut chicken into 1/8th cuts and place rosemary sprigs in pan. If using a larger chicken,
cut in half across the breast.
Place chicken over indirect medium heat and cook for 30 to 45 minutes covered.
Turn and grill for another 30 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165F.
Chicken will feel firm to the touch.
Just before serving, squeeze lemon juice over cooked chicken and sprinkle with remaining fresh chopped rosemary. Garnish with sliced lemons.