Friday, July 31, 2009

Sentinel column - 7-30-09

There are lots of perks that go along with volunteering at the market – the satisfaction of providing the community with a special place and with supporting local farmers, seeing friends and making new ones. But perhaps the best perk is an invitation to Wednesday night dinner at Frederickson Farms.

Steve and Tami Fredrickson farm right in town in Carl Junction and each summer they hire a several teenagers to work there. They need the help, of course, but they also are committed to a big education component. By the end of summer, the students have planted, harvested, prepared for and sold at market, and now, learned to cook fresh vegetables.

Steve noticed that customers often ask, “how do I prepare this” and his young salesmen did not know. Like many of us, they had not grown up with fresh vegetables. Instead they lived in the world of microwaving and canned and frozen foods. Steve wanted them to know from personal experience what they were selling and how it was prepared.

So Steve and Tami added a piece to the kids’ summer experience – preparing and serving a dinner for a table full of folks. Around the Fredrickson’s big table that means about 10 people.

My mother and I were among the lucky guests this week. Sagan, Erica and Patrick were the cooks (the other student/employee, Cory, was away at an FFA meeting). The kids get $40 and all the fresh herbs and vegetables they want from the garden. The Fredericksons also provide the meat. The kids do their shopping at the market on Tuesday, which this week added bread and peaches to the menu. They prepared lasagna from scratch, brochette and caprese. Brochette is a mix of fresh tomatoes, basil and olive oil on toasted slices of bread. The kids dressed it up with a blend of farm cheese and basil. Caprese is fresh tomato slices and fresh sliced mozzarella topped with a dressing. Needless to say, it’s hard to go wrong with Frederickson Farms heirloom tomatoes.

The kitchen was humming with activity as the students put the meal together. Occasionally, one would come over to the kitchen table to review a recipe on the laptop. That was a first for me. I’m used to referring to a written recipe, but the students had the Food Channel on line and used video instructions. (That's Sagan in the photo below.)

We sat down to a feast with the cooks, the hosts and three other friends of the Fredricksons. While we ate the students talked about the experience. The house rule is you have to try everything and Sagan said she was pretty sure she didn’t like sweet corn and grilled onions until she tried them. Now they’re on her favorite foods list. Patrick said no one in his family liked shrimp, including him. Then a Wednesday night menu included shrimp grilled with bacon and veggies. Turns out it’s his favorite dish. It was a hit with his family, too, when he prepared it at home the next week.

After dinner, we had a tour of the garden. With rows 500 feet long, it’s a bit larger than your typical garden. We finished up at the pond where the kids fed the fish and we all visited late into the night, enjoying the company and the cool summer breeze.

It is remarkable to me that the Fredericksons have created such an atmosphere of congeniality and calm in the midst of the busy summer harvest season. They may have to put in 14-hour days all summer, but they make time for friends and the students, and always stop to drink in the pleasures of country living.

So, should you be lucky enough to receive an invitation to Wednesday night dinner at the Frederickson’s, say yes!

Dinner this week ended with a wonderful dessert of homemade ice cream with peach topping. I have printed it below.

Now for market news.

Lunch today is BBQ chicken breast, rice & vermicelli, corn, fruit fluff & drink for $6. The Wild River Band performs from 11 to 1.

Saturday sees some special activities. We have a Benefit Breakfast – biscuits, gravy, sausage and drink for $3. The Carl Junction Order of the Eastern Star will operate it this week. Like Cooking for a Cause, nonprofits will run the Saturday breakfast from now on, so if you have a group that would like to participate, let me know.

The Webb City High School Choir Boosters will host a bake sale and the market will host a craft table for kids to make a fan at the market. The Anderson Brothers will play from 9:30 to 11:30.

Here are those recipes I promised. What I love about the peach recipe is that, unlike peaches frozen into ice cream, as a topping the peaches are warm and full of flavor. It’s one of my new favorite desserts.

Homemade Ice Cream

4 eggs
1 3/4 cup sugar
pinch salt
1 pint whipping cream
2 pints half and half
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 Junket tablets dissolved in small amount of water

Beat eggs, mix in sugar. Mix in remaining ingredients in order and add enough milk to fill container. Let sit for 15 minutes and then freeze.

Peach topping

4 ripe medium peaches
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 almond extract
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
toasted sliced almonds

Cut peach in half and remove pit. Cut each half in half again. Combine brown sugar with extracts. Toss peaches in the mixture and set aside for 15 minutes while you pre-heat grill. Grill peaches skin side down until light charred, about 3 minutes. Turn and grill on the other 2 sides until you get nice grill marks, about 1 minute each. Place back in brown sugar mixture.

Place almond slices in a small skillet, drizzle with olive oil and toast lightly.

To serve, place a generous scoop of ice cream in a bowl, top with peaches and sauce and sprinkle with almond slices.