The Art of Farm-to-Fireside Entertaining

A variation of this blog was originally published on, in collaboration with the Martha Stewart blog.

For those of you who have come to know me well, you may have picked up on my voracious appetite for two things in particular: farm-fresh food and adventure. I’ve been satisfying my appetite for the first by way of a beautiful partnership with Early Morning Farm, making cooking videos in the farm kitchen with Tracy McEvilly. (Tracy delivers outstanding weekly recipes and blog posts to over 2,000 CSA members in Upstate NY.) In each video we feature a freshly harvested ingredient and a variety of ways to prepare it.

I’ve been feeding my adventurous streak with a growing obsession for fireside cooking at Firelight Camps. No traditional kitchen, no stovetop, no pantry stocked with go-to ingredients, no arsenal of tools. Just me, the forest’s symphony and a campfire of flames waiting to lick whatever food I lay over them. I’m curious – excited! – about returning to a more primal way of eating and learning how to read the heat in a whole new dimension.

So you can imagine my delight when Tracy introduced me to Alisa, the artist behind American Skillet Company. These two power-women met at an art festival where Alisa was showcasing her State Shaped Pans (yes, cast iron skillets outlining Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois and New York!). Tracy and I got giddy … like, really giddy … over the prospect of making a 100% NY-made meal over the campfire in the NY skillet. And so, this meal was born.

Starting with farm-fresh produce from Early Morning Farm, we created a “Grilled Escarole Salad with Chevré and Smoked Cherry Sauce” (recipe here). The main ingredient is smoke, which infuses and unites everything on the plate. But the other flavors emerge too: the perky bitterness of the escarole tempered by the creamy chevré; the grilled lemons draw out the chevré’s bright acidity, and the grilled spring onions with crispy roots attached add a caramelized base to chop into the dish. The buttery, toasted walnuts are made to dance with the Smoked Cherry Sauce. (We scraped every last drop from the NY Shaped Pan with a fresh loaf of bread.)

Apart from the lemons and walnuts (which were too good to pass up), we used 100% NY ingredients to compliment our Early Morning Farm harvest, including Lively Run Goat Dairy chevré, Finger Lakes Distilling cherry liqueur, F. Oliver’s balsamic vinegar, Kriemhild’s meadow butter.

We served our final dish to two lucky guests staying at Firelight Camps, and the result was a resounding success. In part, because it’s near impossible to let a fireside meal go unappreciated. It takes gusto to prepare, shoveling burning coals onto roots and shifting searing hot pans around on the flames as they shift with the wind. There are few settings more romantic to eat than under a canopy of stars with the music set to birdsong and a crackling campfire to warm the soul. But ultimately, it is the quality of the ingredients and the cooking vessel that make a meal go down in memory.