Carrboro Farmers’ Market Potluck Dinner

I am still full. My friend, Colleen, who has masterfully organized TerraVITA, a foodie festival three years running, took on a fundraiser for the Carrboro Farmers’ Market the Thursday before the main TerraVITA event. Twenty of the best chefs around brought dishes to share in a potluck style. The picnic was outside at the market at night, and, though it was cold, we had a wonderful time. But I am still full.

Aaron Vandemark, from Panciuto in Hillsborough, brought parfaits of crisped beef, white sweet potatoes, and cole slaw. It was meaty, fresh, and delicious. Kevin Callaghan, from Acme, brought deviled eggs, squash pickles* [see recipe below], and some of the best macaroni & cheese ever. And speaking of mac & cheese, Jimmy Reale, from the Chapel Hill Country Club, made pimiento mac & cheese… amazing. Vimala Rajendran, from her Curryblossom Café, brought lovely spiced rice and braised butternut squash. Andrea Reusing, from Lantern, brought pork that had been steamed in banana leaf… ridiculously good. There were fantastic meatball sliders contributed by Adam Rose from Il Palio. And on and on and on. For dessert, I enjoyed Bill Smith, from Crook’s Corner’s, banana pudding, and a sweet and fresh muscadine cobbler from Saxapahaw General Store’s Jeff Barney.

Taste Carolina’s Chapel Hill/ Carrboro food tours have been visiting the Carrboro Farmers’ Market just about every Saturday for the last four years, where we arrange for substantial tastings with farmers and vendors. We see all these chefs roaming about, picking up boxes of goods, and chatting with each other, the farmers, and the market-goers. Many times a year the chefs offer cooking demonstrations or tastings at the Market. The Carrboro Farmers’ Market is over 30 years old and often mentioned as one of the best in the country. People love it, and it showed at this dinner.

I rolled home and was asleep a few minutes later. A few hours after that, I woke up and thought that I had never been so full in my life. Later on still, I woke up and couldn’t feel my feet. The food had turned my circulation to sludge, I guess. It was a little scary, but nothing a few glasses of water didn’t cure.

My post-picnic diet lasted a couple of days, but I was fully back by Saturday – at TerraVITA, where I did it all again, just with different dishes. There was less mac & cheese but more pate and chocolate – and plenty of wine.

Acme’s Summer Squash Pickles
1 gallon summer squash, sliced in half moons (not too thin)
6 cups finely sliced sweet onion
1 gallon apple cider vinegar
1 quart water
1 gallon sugar
2 cups pickling spice (recipe follows)
1/3 cup salt

Mix sliced onions and squash in a large bowl. Sprinkle with Kosher salt and toss. Place onions and squash in a large colander and cover in ice (this helps keep the pickles crisp). Place where it can drain.DSC_0380

After icing the squash, put remaining ingredients into a large non-reactive pot and bring to a simmer. Let aromatics simmer for 30 minutes or so to flavor the vinegar. Strain vinegar mixture and clean pot of any of the pickling spice that may be stuck to the sides. Discard used spices.

Put squash mixture into the non-reactive pot. Add vinegar. There may be more squash than vinegar, but don’t worry. The squash will release water as it cooks. Stirring occasionally, bring back to a simmer and cook briefly. Squash must not be raw but also should not be stewed. Tasting is the only way to know. Adjust salt if necessary.

For us, these are refrigerator pickles. But they can be put up like traditional pickles to enjoy year round.

Pickling Spice
(Store bought is fine and probably cheaper for the home cook. But you will need to add turmeric to intensify the color of the pickles and possibly red pepper flake to give intensity.)
3 T allspice berries
3 T black peppercorns
3 T coriander seeds
2 T hot red pepper flakes
3 T mustard seeds
1 T ground nutmeg
2 cinnamon sticks, broken
2 T whole cloves
½ cup bay leaves, crumbled
¼ cup fresh ginger, minced
2 T turmeric


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