When Sonia Marcus, the chair of the Communication Committee of the Ohio University Eco House, started planning her wedding, she decided that she wanted all of the food to not only be beautiful and delicious, but locally grown and produced as well.
This choice fits perfectly with her own life philosophy of living as green as possible, including eating as much local food as she can. As the person in charge of all public relations for the Eco House, a project where Ohio University Students live together in a ecologically sustainable fashion in order to show everyone else not only what is possible theoretically, but practically, Sonia has committed herself to living as “green” as she herself can, even though she doesn’t reside in the Eco House.
And so, I was not at all surprised to hear from Hilarie, the owner and executive chef at Salaam, that Sonia wanted us to do the catering for the event, and that she wanted a menu that reflected the local early-summer bounty available to those of us lucky enough to live in Southeastern Ohio. In this way, she could expose all 150 of her wedding guests to the fact that not only is local food available, it is so delicious that one could never feel deprived while eating it, at least, not in the summer. (It is also quite economical, especially when we are talking about fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs in the height of the growing season.)
Hilarie asked me to help her devise a menu for the vegetarian (but not vegan) luncheon, which would include appetizers, salad, a side dish and an entree as well as rolls and butter.
We came up with a delectable menu that reflected the best of Appalachian Ohio, and that included locally baked bread, locally made pasta, local dairy products including milk, butter, cream and chevre.
The appetizers were fresh, locally grown sugar snap peas which are at their height right now, with a dip that included soy sauce and sesame oil, feta and pesto filled cherry tomatoes, and dates stuffed with chevre and pomegranate molasses which are then rolled in sugared pecans and dried chili flakes. (The last appetizer is a departure from the local food theme–although the chevre was local–but Sonia really wanted them. She had them at the restaurant and fell in love–which is fine. I don’t think that it serves any purpose to be a fundamentalist about local eating.)
The salad featured locally grown lettuces, strawberries, and scallions with sugared pecans and a vinaigrette featuring local honey and cider vinegar.
The side dish was locally grown summer squashes sauteed in olive oil with onions and cherry tomatoes, then finished with fresh, local basil.
The entree, which was my favorite part of the menu was an absolutely delectable vegetarian lasagne featuring Rossi Pasta’s celadon-green spinach-basil-garlic no-boil lasagne noodles, locally grown fresh shiitake, trumpet and lion’s mane mushrooms, local bright lights chard and kale, a fresh tomato and basil sauce, and a bechamel sauce enriched by local chevre.
It was awesome. I am so glad that Hil and I came up with the lasagne recipe–we did it together–because we will probably be doing it in the restaurant now and again from now on.
All of the guests loved the food, and it was great to know that they got to taste something new and interesting, that they might otherwise have never known about. Hilarie made menu signs that listed all of our suppliers so that guests could find these great food producers and growers at the farmer’s market next weeked.
Thank you, Sonia, for choosing to do something different with your wedding reception lunch, which gave us a chance to feature the delicious foods that are produced and grown all over Southeastern Ohio.
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