Sunday supper in the park


by Liza Roberts

photographs by Juli Leonard

When Raleigh resident Katherine Poole, 45, co-launched a table linen company in 2009, she knew it would be a good outlet for her creative talents and abundant energy. But she didn’t know Hen House Linens would become a nationwide success, or that its essential purpose of “bringing people back to the table” would come to mean so much to her personally.


Poole and her Annapolis-based business partner, North Carolina native Jenny Davids (not pictured), are now planning to expand Hen House Linens – which are sold in about 500 stores across the country – into ceramics and tableware. “We’re ready to make Hen House Linens a household name and a lifestyle brand,” Poole says. “We want to have the longevity of a Vera Bradley.”

That became clear last summer, when she gathered 68 Raleigh friends for a potluck Sunday supper in Fallon Park. They were there to celebrate summer, good food, and friendship. They were also there to cheer Poole’s recovery from a health challenge and to welcome her back into the social fold. “I’d taken a break from life, and the event pushed me back into wanting to be part of something,” she says.

Poole thanked the long table full of her friends for their support. “This is about community,” she told the group. “We’ve learned how important community is.”

Like Poole, most of the party guests walked to supper from their nearby homes, toting china and food they’d cooked. Poole had provided them with recipes and serving dishes. And, of course, she brought the linens.

Her friend Greg Jones, who is the rector at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church and the bass player of Raleigh indie rock band Balsa Gliders, said the blessing: “Dear Lord, we give you thanks for this incredibly wide circle of friends,” he said. “Amen. Rock on.”


Dinner for 68 friends became manageable when the cooking was divvied up among the diners. Some made the appetizers, including bacon-wrapped apricots, pimento cheese and pickled shrimp. Others made the supper dishes, which included rosemary and lemon chicken, roasted vegetable and quinoa salad, and strawberry salad. A few had the job of making pound cake for dessert.



Big Mama’s Pimento Cheese

(courtesy of Rena Earnhardt)

1 block of good extra sharp cheddar cheese (no pre-shredded stuff)

Hellman’s Mayonnaise (Duke’s mayonnaise devotees must trust me here. Hellman’s texture and flavor work better for pimento cheese)

1 jar of diced pimentos, drained

Dash worcestershire sauce

Salt and pepper to taste

Using a Cuisinart with the grater attachment, shred the cheddar cheese. Add enough mayonnaise to the cheese for desired consistency. Add in pimentos, worcestershire and salt and pepper to taste. Give it all a quick spin in the Cuisinart with the blade attachment to blend.


Pickled Shrimp

1 1/2 pounds peeled and deveined shrimp, boiled or steamed until just pink

½ medium onion, quartered and thinly sliced

½ teaspoon celery seeds

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

2 lemons, thinly sliced

7 bay leaves

½ teaspoon fennel seeds

½ teaspoon mustard seeds

2 dried hot chili peppers

½ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

½ teaspoon coriander seeds

splash white wine vinegar

¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and toss thoroughly. Transfer to a serving bowl or glass crock, cover and refrigerate for at least  six hours or overnight.

Remove from refrigerator one hour before serving. Don’t forget to remove the bay leaves!


Lemon Rosemary Chicken

(simple, flavorful and feeds the masses!)

8 boneless chicken breasts

⅔ cup extra virgin olive oil

⅔ cup lemon juice

4 teaspoons lemon zest

2 tablespoons minced garlic

2 tablespoons chopped rosemary leaves

kosher salt

ground pepper

2 lemons, halved

fresh rosemary sprigs


Season chicken with salt and pepper.

Combine olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic and rosemary.  Place chicken in a plastic bag and combine with marinade.  Seal bag and refrigerate four hours or overnight.

Grill over low heat until cooked through.  Remove and cover with aluminum foil.

Grill lemon halves briefly until slightly charred.

Slice each breast in half and serve on a platter with grilled lemon halves and rosemary sprigs.


Roasted vegetable and quinoa salad

1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 cup rinsed quinoa

2 cups chicken stock

½ teaspoon sea salt

2 bell peppers, cubed

1 zucchini, cubed

1 squash, cubed

1 red onion halved and thinly sliced

2 large heirloom tomatoes, cubed, or if not in season, use 2 cups heirloom cherry tomatoes

4 garlic cloves, whole

1 tablespoon herbs de Provence

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon sea salt

½ lemon, juiced and zested

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

fresh herbs (combinations of basil, thyme, tarragon, mint, rosemary or sage)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

 or the quinoa:

In a small saucepan, heat the oil over low heat.  Add the garlic, saute for 1 minute, then add the rinsed quinoa and chicken stock.  Bring to a boil.  Cover and reduce heat to a simmer.  Cook for about 20 minutes.  Turn off heat and let sit for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.

 or the vegetables:

In a bowl, combine all the vegetables and toss with the herbs de provence, oil and salt.  Place in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast for 20 to 25 minutes, tossing half way through. (Cooking times may vary.  Basically you are looking for softened vegetables, with just the slightest blackened appearance.)

 For the dressing:

Finely chop a nice combination of herbs (3 to 4 tablespoons).  Combine with olive oil, lemon juice and zest.

In a large bowl, combine cooked quinoa with roasted vegetables.  Toss. Add dressing, toss a bit more.  Can be chilled, but best served at room temperature.


Savory Strawberry Salad

(hands down the unexpected favorite of our Sunday supper!)

2 cups shelled fresh green peas (frozen works just fine too and you don’t even need to thaw them first!)

6 cups baby arugula

16 ounces fresh strawberries, hulled and halved

2 medium shallots, thinly sliced

1 cup hazelnuts, toasted, roughly chopped (if you can’t find shelled hazelnuts, use Marcona almonds or macadamia nuts)

4 ounces shaved parmesan cheese (use a peeler to shave off nice big chunks)

8 ounces white wine vinegar

2 ounces honey

½ cup olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

 For the salad:

Cook peas for 1 minute in salted water.  Cool immediately to maintain color and texture. Toss arugula, strawberries, peas, shallots and hazelnuts.  Just before serving, toss with vinaigrette and top with shaved parmesan and cracked pepper.

For the vinaigrette:

Whisk vinegar, honey, olive oil and salt and pepper.

Ebbie’s Pound Cake

(a family favorite from my grandmother Evelyn Fox)

2 cups (4 sticks) butter

3 cups sugar

6 eggs

4 cups flour

¾ cup whole milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan (no nonstick cooking sprays)

In a standing mixer set at medium high, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy and light (add the sugar a little at a time.)

Add eggs one at a time.

Turn mixer to low.  Add flour and milk, alternating between the two.  Add flour first and last.

Add the vanilla and almond extract.  Mix until combined.

Bake at 300 for 1 hour, 40 minutes on the second rack from the bottom.

To test doneness, use a wooden skewer or broom straw (Broom straw was my grandmother’s questionable suggestion.  Just use something long enough to reach down into the cake center!)  If not done, continue to cook 3 to 4 minutes at a time.

Remove from oven and allow to rest for at least 15 minutes.

This cake goes beautifully with fruit accompaniments such as lemon curd or strawberries and fresh whipped cream.  It is also perfect for fondue or fudge sauce.  My favorite (truth be told) is toasted and slathered with butter for breakfast.  Feeds a crowd and freezes nicely.  


In Raleigh, Hen House Linens are sold at Monograms, Inc. at North Hills; Zest Café and Home Art on Six Forks Road; Homewood Nursery and Garden Center on Honeycut Road, and Paper Buzz on St. Mary’s Street. In Cary, the line is sold at Whisk in the Waverly Place Shopping Center.