There are many ways to give a wedding shower. Lingerie themes were big for a while. There are tool showers, just linens or just kitchen showers, and everything-but-the-kitchen-sink parties.
In some rural communities, a potluck gift-giving party for the bride and groom can involve every relative or half-relative within a 100-mile radius and four-plus hours of opening presents.
When my good friend Anna Pollard got engaged, our long history of shared celebrations and family-style get-togethers that featured homemade and often homegrown food suggested to me the obvious: a locavore shower!
I've known Anna since she was about 18 months old. She is the same age as my daughter and grew up living next door. Our families shared a large vegetable garden, annual tomato-canning extravaganzas and many meals. Before I asked her if she wanted mostly sweets or savories at the gathering, I knew what her answer would be: savories!
Now, if only it were summer and full of produce possibilities. What to fix for this special occasion, as spring crops are just getting under way in our farmers' markets, and the freezer and pantry stash from last year is wearing thin? Cheese, available year-round, was a natural place to start. With lush green onions in the markets, chives and parsley in the garden and a few quarts of last season's whole tomatoes in my deep freeze, the rest of the dishes came together.
This is a cheese and carb-heavy menu, but it was balanced by a tray of veggies for dipping alternatives to pita chips, crackers and baguettes. I also served a sparkling water-based punch, hot coffee, still-warm pound cake from last spring's Farm Tour Cuisine recipes and snowball cookies for the sweet tooths at the gathering. These recipes served 20 guests generously with leftovers.
Herb Goat Cheese Tarts
3 recipes unbaked tart pastry
1 pound (two 8-ounce rounds) goat cheese
2 cups whipping cream
4 large eggs (labeled "jumbo" by some local farms)
1/2 cup each freshly snipped chives and parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper (white pepper is nice)
Press tart pastry into an 18-cup muffin tin. Crumble goat cheese (approximately 2 tablespoons each) into cups, dividing it evenly among them. Whirl remaining ingredients in a blender or food processor, including herbs to further mince them. Divide egg-cream mixture evenly among the muffin cups, filling no more than 2/3 full because they will puff up. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until a knife inserted comes out clean.
Roasted Tomato Spread
1 cup tomatoes, roasted using the method below
2 tablespoons olive oil
12 ounces cream cheese
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
To roast tomatoes, halve whole tomatoes (frozen, canned or peeled fresh when in season), cutting lengthwise from the stem end. Place in a foil-lined baking dish in a single layer and roast at 300 degrees for 45 to 60 minutes. Do not overbake to the point tomatoes char, though their juices may burn on the foil. A 1-quart jar of small or medium tomatoes will yield approximately 1 1/2 cups of roasted tomatoes. Once you make these, you will want to keep them on hand, since they jazz up soups, stews, pasta and sauces. During the last 30 minutes of baking, you can drizzle olive oil and herbs on them, for an Italian touch. To make the spread, assemble all ingredients in a food processor and purée, leaving tomatoes chunky if you prefer. Serve with pita chips, crackers or thin slices of baguette.
Spring Onion Dip
Follow the method for Roasted Tomato Spread, substituting for tomatoes two bunches spring onions, which have been cleaned, trimmed to 6-inch lengths and sautéed in the olive oil for three minutes to soften. Serve with pita chips, crackers or thin slices of baguette. Tomatoes and onions can be combined into a single chunky mixture as well, with yummy results.