Interestingly, the table cloth above was the impetus for this gathering. When Margaret Pate asked me to do a giveaway of one of her scarves on the blog my response wasn’t “but pies don’t wear scarves…?” so much as it was to immediately start planning a spring dinner party around one of her textiles to help her.
I had the brilliant idea to paint my kitchen the week before the party. There’s nothing like company to make me exceedingly ambitious. It’s white now. Along with a large portion of the floor which I splattered with paint. But kitchen victoriously painted, splatter aside, I then moved on to prepping the food for the party. At 2 AM the night before. I made four seed rye crackers, lovage and celery leaf aioli, Cruze Farm’s buttermilk herb dressing, marinated olives in fennel, garlic, and orange zest (which I forgot to serve!), tested my brown butter & maple waffle recipe as well as my olive oil ice cream (a recipe coming to a blog near you soon…), and mixed up three different batches of bread dough to proof. My favorite was the fennel seed & rye bread, for sure.
This was a triumphant menu, nearly everything we ate that night was procured right here in Chattanooga. Really livin’ up to the name on this one. The ricotta was made from local milk, the dressing from local buttermilk (how wonderful to live near Cruze Farms!) & homemade aioli using local eggs & herbs, salad with the most amazing greens gifted to me by Lee & Gordon’s when I went out there to shoot their greenhouse for the Time’s Free Press magazine Chatter, Link41 bacon, and Dancing Fern cheese from Sequatchie Cove along with some of their Cumberland (my go to everyday cheese). Even the pasta was made with beautiful eggs from Alexanna Farms. And all of it served up on a table cloth designed by a local! So there.
The day of I told Margaret I’d love help when she offered. Come at one! No two! No…can you go steal forage some flowers around the neighborhood? How about those fluffy white ones (the better word would have been hydrangeas) near Humphrey’s (the, um…flower shop)?…Honeysuckle!!…It’s raining, don’t get wet! So essentially I told her to come two hours later than I’d originally planned due to my poor time management, asked her to steal flowers from a flower shop, and then requested honeysuckle vines cut in the rain. She came through on all of the above. She then proceeded to set up the dinner table with plants & plates & napkins rolls she made, arrange the dining room (brilliantly hanging the vines from my unsightly dining room lighting fixture…), and do a maddening amount of dishes. I’m not used to having that much help. It’s get use-to-able. I need to find an assistant that I can pay in baked goods, tea, and what I like to think of as my charmingly harried company. Any takers? Yeah…
The ins and outs of this eggs & bacon salad are this: mixed Lee & Gordon’s greens (cress, bibb, some arugula, various and sundries…the cress is clutch), ribbons of asparagus, batons of Link41 bacon, 5 minutes eggs a la Dash & Bella (sprinkled w/ a bit of black truffle salt if you’re feeling fancy, which I was), shavings of Sequatchie Cove Cumberland cheese (substitute whatever you like if you can’t find that!), and a nice slathering of that buttermilk dressing (which is a Barefoot Contessa recipe that I make using homemade aioli instead of mayo & use a variety of herbs in.. think chives, fennel, basil, tarragon, parsley… whatever combo strikes your fancy… but I never leave out the basil)
I’ve included my recipes for the two soda syrups below, but they’re a bit “informal”.
Stinging Nettle & Ricotta Ravioli with Proscuitto, Lemon Butter, & Greens
yields about 48 raviolis, serves 6
9 oz AP flour
1 bunch stinging nettles (you want about 1 cup cooked, so about 4ish cups raw)
2 cups arugula, steamed with the nettles
1/2 cup Italian parsley finely chopped
1 cup homemade ricotta
4 oz herbed chevre or plain chevre & 2 Tbsp chopped assorted fresh herbs (think herbs de provence)
1/4 cup toasted hazelnuts chopped fine (can sub pine nuts)
1 tsp lemon zest
1/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp fresh grated pepper
salt & lemon juice to taste
2/3 stick of unsalted butter
juice of a lemon
reserved pasta cooking water
1 cup baby greens (I used spinach & arugula)
6 slices proscuitto fried crispy (can sub bacon as I have in these photos)
finely grated cheese (I use Cumberland but parm would be just fine)
Make Pasta Dough:
Add the flour to a bowl and make a well in the middle. Crack the eggs into the well and swirl them with your finger, slowly incorporating the flour. When all the flour is incorporated turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead until smooth and the dough bounces back when pressed with your finger, about 5-10 minutes. Wrap dough tightly in plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.
Steam the nettles for about 10 minutes, adding the arugula in the last 4. Squeeze the greens dry with paper towels. Reserve the steaming liquid! This is great to drink on it’s own nutrition wise, very rich in iron. But I like to boil it and make sweet milky tea with it. It’s absolutely full of nutrients.
Finely chop the greens and add them along with the parsley to the two cheeses in a mixing bowl. Mix well to combine and season to taste with salt. Mix in the rest of the ingredients and adjust the seasoning with lemon juice and salt if needed.
Assemble & Cook:
Bring a large pot of heartily salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, make the ravioli.
Pinch off about a fourth of the dough at a time, knead it a bit, and then roll out the pasta sheets in a pasta roller. Keep the sheets floured and covered w/ a damp cloth while rolling out the others to prevent sticking and drying out. Alternately, you can use a rolling pin, but I find this difficult and very much love my hand crank pasta roller.
Either use a nifty ravioli mold as I have, or you can simply dollop your filling onto one sheet of pasta, about a heaping tsp of filling spaced about two inches apart, wet the spaces in between with a finger dipped in water, and then place another sheet on top, pressing to seal, getting out as much air as you possibly can. Cut the pasta and place on a flour dusted baking sheet while you continue to make the rest.
Cook the pasta in the boiling water, about 3 minutes. Meanwhile melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. When the butter is melted slowly whisk in the lemon juice along with a two finger pinch of salt. Transfer pasta with a slotted spoon to the lemon butter along with about half a ladle of the cooking water. Cook, shaking the pan every now and again, about another 4 minutes to let the sauce thicken and coat the pasta. In the last two minutes add the greens to just wilt. Serve garnished with crumbled crispy proscuitto and grated cheese.
Lavender, Honey, & Meyer Lemon Soda
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup honey
2 Tbsp dried lavender buds
zest & juice of 1 meyer lemon
1 bottle sparkling water
Bring water, sugar, and honey to a boil, stirring to dissolve honey & sugar. Remove from heat, stir in lavender & lemon. Cover and let steep 10-30 minutes depending on how strong you want it. I like it strong! Either mix the soda & syrup in a clean bottle or pour about an inch of soda in a glass and top off with sparkling water. But you get the idea. Mix them!
Cucumber, Mint, & Lime Soda
1 cup of water
1 cup of sugar
1/2 a cucumber, diced
3 Tbsp chopped fresh mint
juice and zest of one small lime
1 bottle sparkling water
Boil sugar and water, stirring to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat and stir in the rest of the ingredients. Let steep 10-30 minutes and mix with sparkling water as above!
3 Seed Rye Crackers
slightly adapted from Lemons and Anchovies
6.5 oz (1 1/2 cups) AP flour
2 oz (scant 1/2 cup) rye flour
1 tsp kosher salt
3 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup water
1/2 Tbsp white sesame seeds
1/2 Tbsp black sesame seeds (or you can just use all white)
1 Tbsp poppy seeds
1 Tbsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp flaky sea salt
Heat oven to 425° F.
Mix all ingredients for topping in a small bowl and set aside.
Mix flours and salt in a bowl. Stir in olive oil and water to form a dough. It will be crumbly but press it together. Divide the dough into three pieces, covering the ones you aren’t using with a towel to prevent drying out. Roll out each piece on a floured work surface until very very thin. 1/8″ or less. Sprinkle 1/3 of topping over and press into the crackers with a rolling pin.
Cut the crackers into your desired shapes, transfer crackers to a flour dusted baking sheet, and bake for about 7-12 minutes. Start checking at 7. Repeat with the remaining two pieces of dough.
Let crackers cool on a wire rack. They can be stored in an airtight container.
*Dough can be refrigerated up to 2 days and frozen for 1 month.