There is something magical about harvesting vegetables, collecting eggs from chickens, milking goats and then turning the fresh ingredients into a mouthwatering feast served family-style in the backyard.
For Father’s Day, my Dad and I joined a group of friends for a farm-to-table dinner. We arrived at midday and started in the garden, where there was harvesting to do and weeds to keep at bay. In the warm sun, we picked raspberries, trimmed dill and pulled up beets. We headed to the chicken coop and the goat pen for eggs and milk – and a little play time with the baby goats.
With local wine flowing, we transformed a pile of fresh produce, eggs and goat milk into a seasonal feast. Mixed green salad with warm beets and cheese started the meal, followed by fruit gazpacho made with peaches, tomatoes and avocado. We dipped fresh veggies in a homemade dill aioli and topped a pizza with red walnut and fresh basil pesto. Ricotta and swiss chard ravioli was served alongside herb butter-rubbed beer can chicken, straight from the farm. And, of course, there was dessert: chocolate cake with lavender-cream cheese frosting and vanilla yogurt-filled crepes with fresh fruit syrup.
As the sun set, we raised our glasses to amazing food.
Here are some tips for hosting your own farm-to-table dinner:
- If you don’t have a garden, head to the farmers’ market. Wander around or ask producers what’s in season before setting a menu.
- Keep it simple and delicious to let the fresh flavors shine.
- There’s plenty to be done, so get everyone involved! Everyone’s a willing cook when wine is flowing.
Start with a basic menu and add to it based on the fresh ingredients available. A few suggestions:
- Bibb Lettuce and Herb Salad. This basic salad can be dressed up with seasonal vegetables to add color and flavor.
- Fresh Pasta. Homemade dough makes a fantastic base for any pasta, from fettuccine to ravioli.
- Homemade Ricotta. Quick and easy to make, this cheese has great mild flavor, perfect for filling pasta or topping pizza.
- Pizza Dough. Pizza dough can make a dish out of any combination of vegetables imaginable; try it with pesto instead of tomato sauce, as we did.
- Crepes. With fresh summer berries and a little whipped cream, crepes are a simple and unbeatable dessert.
What’s your favorite dish to cook straight from the garden or farmers’ market?
About the author: Tre started her love affair with food in her parents’ kitchen, taught by her mother the baker and her father the cook. Her passion for food and the culture surrounding it combined with her desire to travel has had her eating Fish ‘n’ Chips on a rainy day in London, fried plantains in the jungles of Nicaragua, curry from street stalls in Cambodia, and black rice pudding for breakfast in Bali. At home in her houseboat, her galley always smells of garlic and rosemary.