Farm Fresh Favorites

A picture's worth a thousand words.

dinner on the farm-table

I was struck by this photo, taken by LISA BRALTS-KELLY,  of the table set for a farm dinner at Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery near Champaign/Urbana in Illinois.

And then I went to a real farm-to-table dinner at Green Dirt Farm near Weston, Missouri. 
Outdoors in the fresh air or in a barn, a farm dinner is one of those life-affirming experiences that everyone should be able to have. 
If you can't go to one in person, hosting one yourself--in your own "lower 40" backyard--is the next best thing.
For that, of course, you need real farm food from garden, orchard, pasture, creamery, and chicken coop.  
Set your table outside and serve up a few

Farm Dinner Favorites:
Garden Gimlet
The Beet Queen Salad with Smoked Goat Cheese
Tarragon Creamed Corn

First up is the Garden Gimlet. Every farm dinner needs a signature cocktail, and this one is refreshing, herb-scented, and oh-so-delicious. 

Garden Gimlet
From garden to glass, this deliciously refreshing drink is just the thing on a hot day.  In fact, it’s so good, the Garden Gimlet could well become your household’s signature drink. To be really authentic, use a Midwestern-distilled gin, such as Rehorst from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Adapted from Heartland: The Cookbook
Makes 4 drinks
Fresh Herb Syrup:
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup fresh, aromatic herb leaves, packed, coarsely chopped
¾ cup gin
½ cup fresh lime juice
8 fresh basil sprigs
1.  In a large, microwave-safe glass measuring cup, combine the sugar, water, and herbs. Microwave on high until the sugar dissolves, about 3 to 4 minutes. Let the mixture steep for 20 to 30 minutes. Then, strain the mixture into a bowl and let cool.  Use right away or store in a covered glass jar in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
2. Combine the syrup, gin, and lime juice in a pitcher and stir well. Fill 4 highball glasses with ice and muddle each with a basil sprig.  Pour a fourth of the gimlet mixture into each glass.  Stir and serve, each drink garnished with a fresh basil sprig.

The Beet Queen Salad with Smoked Goat Cheese
This salad goes well with anything as far as I’m concerned, and could be a meatless entrée all on its own. Raw beets have a flavor similar to sweet corn and a texture like jicama, so prepare to be pleasantly surprised. I took a photo of my daughter Sarah, our family’s Beet Queen, holding our salute to this great salad.
Adapted from Heartland: The Cookbook
Varieties to try: Detroit Red and Ruby Queen, Chioggia (striped), and Burpee’s Golden
Serves 8
Orange Tarragon Vinaigrette
The juice of an orange
The zest of an orange
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon tarragon vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 teaspoon fine kosher or sea salt
6 to 8 cups greens
2 to 3 fresh peaches, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup crumbled Smoked Goat Cheese (page 000) or fresh goat cheese, crumbled
1 medium striped or Chioggia beet, peeled, trimmed, and julienned
1 medium golden beet, peeled, trimmed, and julienned
1 medium red beet, peeled, trimmed, and julienned
1. For the vinaigrette, whisk all ingredients together in a bowl.
2. To assemble the salad, arrange the greens and peach slices on a large platter or serving plate.
Crumble the goat cheese over the greens and peaches. Arrange a confetti of beets on top. Drizzle with the dressing and serve. 
To Smoke Goat Cheese--
Place a log of goat cheese in a disposable aluminum baking pan. Brush the cheese with olive oil.  Prepare a medium, indirect fire in your grill (heat on one side, no heat on the other). For a gas grill, wrap up 1 cup dry wood chips in aluminum foil and poke holes in the top. For a charcoal grill, scatter moistened wood chips on ashed over charcoal.  When you see the first wisp of smoke, place the pan of goat cheese on the indirect or no heat side, close the lid of the grill, and smoke for 30 minutes or until the cheese has a burnished appearance and a smoky aroma. Use right away or keep covered in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Tarragon Creamed Corn
Fresh sweet corn and garden-grown tarragon provide the flavors in this new take on a farmhouse classic. This is delicious with grilled, roasted, or fried chicken.
Varieties to try:  Heirloom Country Gentleman, Silver Queen, heirloom Boone County White, Butter and Sugar, or Peaches and Cream.
Serves 4
4 cups fresh or frozen sweet corn kernels
½ cup chopped green onions with some of the green
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon tarragon vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh tarragon sprigs to garnish
1. In a nonstick skillet over medium heat, stir the corn, green onion, tarragon, and cream together. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the corn is tender, about 5 minutes for fresh corn, 10 to 12 minutes for frozen.  Stir in the vinegar and cook for 2 more minutes. Season to taste and serve.

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