Clay Smith and Nancy Joyner moved to his family’s farmland outside Burlington in January 2009.
It was time for Smith to retire after four decades working in affordable housing and community development in the North Carolina mountains.
In retirement, Smith, 69, thought he might turn his woodworking hobby into a furniture business. Joyner, 49, thought she would get a part-time job. But then they planted a garden as they have always done.
“Nancy would say it got out of hand,” Smith joked.
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Five months later, they were among the first vendors at the inaugural season of the Western Wake Farmers Market. They eventually got nine of their 68 acres certified organic and called it Redbud Farm.
The couple are known for their sweet potatoes, especially the Carolina Ruby variety with its extraordinary taste. They’ve also carved out a niche as a producer of Asian vegetables. (Smith spent two years working in India as a Peace Corps volunteer.) To serve the area’s large Indian population, they sell bitter gourd, Indian eggplant and snake gourd.
But Smith and Joyner concede they are most known for their tomatoes. They grow about 25 varieties, including many heirlooms and hybrids. The tomatoes are grown in three high tunnels, which means they will sell tomatoes often until late October or early November.
That means there’s still time to make tomato pie or Bill Smith’s fresh tomato tart.
Redbud Farm is a certified organic farm on 68 acres in Burlington. It is owned by Clay Smith and Nancy Joyner, who started farming in January 2009. They have a Facebook page.
They sell at two markets:
▪ Western Wake Farmers Market at Carpenter Village, 101 Gathering Circle Place, Cary. The hours are 8 a.m.-noon Saturdays. Info: wwfm.ag
▪ Elon Community Church Farmers Market, 271 N. Williamson Ave., Elon. The hours are 3-6:30 p.m. Thursdays. The market has a Facebook page.
See a complete list of local farmers markets at nando.com/1ap.
Fresh Tomato Tart
Chapel Hill chef Bill Smith will substitute maseca for half the cornmeal. Smith also said he will substitute feta cheese for the cheddar cheese in the cornmeal crust, a suggestion we preferred. One word of caution: prep all the ingredients before you start making cornmeal crust. From “Seasoned in the South: Recipes From Crook’s Corner and From Home,” by Bill Smith (Algonquin, 2006).
4 to 6 ripe, fresh tomatoes (different colors and varieties, if available)
1 tablespoon softened butter
1/2 cup large curd cottage cheese
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons chopped fresh summer herbs, such as basil, thyme and rosemary, divided
3 cups water, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
1 cup plain, stoneground white or yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/2 small red onion, peeled and diced (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup sour cream combined with more chopped fresh herbs
Core the tomatoes and slice them 1/4-inch thick. Make sure you have enough to completely cover the top of the tart like rings of fruit on a French dessert tart. The filling will set too quickly for you to stop to cut more. Set tomato slices in a colander, sprinkling with salt as you go to let them drain.
Preheat the oven to 350.
Grease the bottom and sides of an 11-inch tart pan with a removable bottom with 1 tablespoon softened butter and set aside.
Place the cottage cheese in a fine mesh sieve and gently rinse under cool water until the curds separate. Set aside to drain well.
Whisk the eggs and 2 tablespoons herbs together in a bowl until well blended and set aside.
Bring 1 1/2 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon salt to boil in a 3-quart, heavy saucepan over high heat.
Meanwhile, whisk the cornmeal and the remaining 1 1/2 cups of water in a bowl until there are no lumps.
As soon as the water in the pot comes to a boil, whisk the cornmeal slurry into the boiling water. Change from a whisk to a wooden spoon and begin to stir without ceasing. Cook the cornmeal mixture until it becomes thick with large, dry bubbles that release steam when they pop.
When the thickened cornmeal begins to pull away from the sides of the pan as you stir, quickly pour in the beaten egg mixture and stir rapidly so that the eggs won’t scramble.
Stir in the cheddar cheese until it melts. Add the onion. (The onion stays crunchy.) Stir in the cottage cheese just until incorporated; it shouldn’t dissolve.
Quickly pour the mixture into the prepared tart pan and spread it evenly with the back of the spoon.
Starting on the outside edge, quickly arrange the tomato slices in concentric circles over the filling. Push the inside edge of each tomato slice down slightly into the filling. The rings of tomato slices should overlap a bit. Sprinkle the tomatoes with the remaining 1 teaspoon salt and black pepper.
Place the tart in the oven to bake for 30 minutes. Don’t worry if the tart looks a little wet at this point; it will set up as it continues baking.
Sprinkle the top of the tart with Parmesan and continue baking until the cheese is crispy and slightly browned, about another 15 to 20 minutes.
Let the tart rest at room temperature for 10 minutes before cutting. Serve garnished with sour cream and 1 tablespoon chopped herbs.
Yield: 8-10 servings.