The first time I visited my friends, Betsy and Alexis Fouros, at home, I pulled up to the Porter’s Neck Plantation guardhouse in my 2005 Camry thinking, Wow, I’m glad I didn’t bring the old truck. I was waved through with a smile and found the house on Vintage Club Circle with no trouble. I’ve known the Fouroses for years from the Farmer’s Market at Poplar Grove and others. Alexis opened the door, looked at me sternly, and took the top off the box of produce I was holding. Still standing in the doorway blocking my entrance, he pulled out one of our Turner Family Farms heirloom tomatoes, held it to his nose for a second and said in a Greek accented harrumph, “ok, I guess you can come in. Put that in the kitchen.” That’s been our ritual ever since.
The Fouroses are the chef owners of Feast for the Gods, which is both the name of their business and Alexis’s cookbook. While Alexis is the big- name chef of the two, Betsy creates fantastic dishes as well, usually with a Southern flair. Betsy is a southern girl originally from Wilson, North Carolina. She’s as sweet as her desserts, but as sharp as her chef’s knife when it comes to business, having studied Business Economics at Marymount Manhattan College and Columbia University. When she’s not creating fabulous prepared foods for clients and for the farmers markets, she does business consulting on the side – often pro bono. Alexis was born on Lefkas, a small Greek island in the Ionian Sea, not far from Corfu. After stints in the Royal Greek Navy and culinary studies in both France and Quebec, he moved to New York where he opened two highly acclaimed restaurants, Theodoro’s and Hydra. Alexis is a bit of a Renaissance man. He became an International Chess Master at the age of 30 and speaks Greek, Italian, French and English. The two of them put together a terrific cookbook of Alexis’s recipes and cooking methods which can be purchased at the farmers markets and at Amazon, and they offer wonderful catering services and cooking classes. Heck, you might even find farmer Steve slicing tomatoes and serving hors d’oeuvres at one of their events.
When I’m not trying to be Alexis’s sous chef, I operate Turner Family Farms with my son, Ian. Our main farm which has been in the family for over a hundred years is in Teachey – about 35 minutes from Porter’s Neck Plantation up I-40. We also operate the farm at River Bluffs, a new community on the river in Castle Hayne. We provide fresh, local produce at the farmer’s markets, to our local chefs and restaurants, and to the specialty grocers in the Wilmington area. Later this year, we will be offering a subscription produce box (CSA) exclusively to the residents of Porter’s Neck Plantation. Because we have close relationships with area chefs and restaurateurs like Feast for the Gods, we will be including recipes and even youtube video instructions by local chefs with the boxes. There is more information on the CSA box at our website – turnerfamilyfarms.com.
So, what do you think we made that night with the tomatoes? The answer is the most basic, simple, fresh, absolutely delicious, feta stuffed tomatoes.
6 ripe medium-sized tomatoes (preferably from Turner Family Farms fall crop.)
¼ Cup of crumbled feta cheese
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste
With a paring knife, core out the tomato stem (calyx) and carefully squeeze out the seeds and set the tomatoes into a baking dish. In a small bowl, mix the feta, thyme, salt and pepper. Place a dollop of cheese mixture into each tomato. Broil the tomatoes for 5 minutes or until the cheese is brown on top. Garnish with a sprig of fresh thyme.
Best to all the Porter’s Neck residents and I’ll have more fresh produce recipes next month,
– Farmer Steve