When 100 people sat down to dinner on May 12 at World Hunger Relief’s Night on the Farm Dinner, they ate vegetables that were in the ground just the day before. And they were able to taste that.
“Everything will be fresh,” said Jonathan Grant, executive director of World Hunger Relief when we spoke to him before the dinner. “The beauty of eating locally, growing your own stuff, is it can stay in the ground longer, which means it gets to actually ripen on the vine or in the ground. It tastes better. There are more nutrients in it. You can certainly taste a difference when food is prepared fresh from the fields.”
The farm is hosting two dinners this summer – the other is July 7 – and one later in the fall. They’ll be fundraisers for the farm, which lost about $160,000 in revenue during the pandemic. On-farm events were canceled, which meant that a couple of thousand elementary school students – at $5 each – were not able to tour the farm.
“We have groups come in from all around the United States to live in our dorms for a week to learn about food justice, food systems, about creation care, and all those kinds of things,” Grant said, and they couldn’t come either, reducing the farm’s revenue stream even more.
“Thankfully, the folks that came before me helped build up a pretty big nest egg and we were able to weather the storm,” said Grant, whose been in his current position since August 2019. “We still have some money in a quasi-endowment account. An interesting thing, though, that I found out at one of the foundation conversations recently, was the before the pandemic, most nonprofits had three to four months’ worth of monthly expenses in the bank. And post-pandemic, most nonprofits have about 14 days’ worth of expenses in the bank at a time, which tells you the struggle that it’s been. Whenever the economy’s hit, it hits everybody. People’s giving is affected and events are affected. But I’m really hopeful. We’re in a good place and have an incredible staff and really supportive board and we are in position to do some wonderful things this year.”
Chef Michael Osborne, who teaches culinary arts at University High School, will create the menu and prepare the dinner.
The preliminary menu, which could change between the magazine’s deadline and the night of the dinner, consists of creamy puree pea soup with croutons; roasted beet salad with arugula, goat cheese and walnuts; radishes with compound butter and Maldon salt; glazed carrots and whipped turnips as side dishes; and chicken basquaise as the main. This year’s dessert hasn’t been decided on yet, but Grant said at a previous farm dinner, Corey McEntyre, chef at Milo All Day in Waco, created a carrot cake with carrots that were just a few days removed from the ground. It was the best carrot cake Grant had ever tasted.
Grant said that Osborne “has cooked for me privately, three or four times for private parties, and I’ve always walked away speechless and dumbfounded.”
Tickets to the Night on the Farm are $75 a person and are available through the farm’s website: WorldHungerRelief.org, and “we will have 100 spots available, and when they’re gone, we’ll shut it down,” Grant said.
The beauty of dining under the stars, on the farm that produced the majority of the ingredients on the plate, “is hard to explain,” he said.
“But there’s something that happens when we put forth the best that we have from the farm, that our folks have worked so hard to plan and plant and harvest and clean, and that somebody can turn that into something beautiful. And then folks from all around the community that support us, either through financial donations or volunteering, we can break bread together. And there’s just a magical thing that happens in that moment that, to me, is like communion. Anytime I break bread with friends, I believe that something special can happen, often does happen.”
Grant said that the farm recently had about 200 chickens processed, thus chicken will be on the farm dinner menu. For our recipes this month, we made one of our favorite chicken recipes along with a rustic flatbread. After we took the photos on our front porch, we served the chicken and bread with rice, along with pinto beans that had been simmered with onions and garlic. We spread a little of the gremolata sauce over everything, and it was a yum meal.
When making the flatbread, the dough doesn’t have to be used all at once. You can pull out portions of dough to cook as needed. Also, the bread recipe can easily be doubled or halved.
- 8 large chicken legs
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 Tablespoon ground cumin
- 1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
- Juice of 2 limes
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
Heat the oven to 500 degrees. Liberally season the chicken with salt and pepper, then place, skin-side up, in a shallow baking pan and toss with a drizzle or two of the olive oil. Dust with ground cumin and place in the oven.
Roast the chicken until its skin is crisp and a knife inserted and removed from the flesh of the thigh results in clear juices, about 30 minutes, then remove from the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
To make the gremolata: While the chicken is cooking, combine the cilantro, lime juice, garlic and the remaining olive oil. Spoon the gremolata over the chicken and serve.
Makes about 8 servings.
- 3 1/4 cups water
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups rye flour
- 6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
In a 5-quart bowl, mix the yeast, salt and oil with the water. Using a spoon, mix in the flours, without kneading. You may need to use wet hands to incorporate the last bit of flour. Cover, not airtight, and allow to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses, about 2 hours. Refrigerate until ready to use, at least overnight, or up to 10 days.
Measure out a 4-ounce portion of dough. On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough out into a thin round. Place a large skillet over medium-high heat and add 2 Tablespoons of vegetable oil. When the oil is hot, carefully add the dough and cook until the bread is golden brown on the bottom, 3-4 minutes. Flip the bread, and repeat. When fully cooked, remove from the pan and place on paper towels to drain. Repeat with more portions of dough as needed.
Makes about 16 flatbreads.
- 3 small radishes, minced
- 4 fresh basil leaves, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, or more to taste
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 4 radishes, thinly sliced
In a medium bowl, stir the radishes, basil and sea salt into the softened butter. Using the back of fork works well to combine all of the ingredients. Taste and add more salt if needed.
On a piece of parchment or wax paper, form the butter into a 1-inch wide log. Wrap the paper around the butter, pressing gently to make a smooth log, and roll to seal. Place in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Unwrap the compound butter when ready to use and spread on sliced radishes. Top
with sea salt or Maldon salt.
Makes about 4 servings.
- 3 beets, peeled
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 2 tablespoons honey or molasses
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
Heat oven to 350. Use the unsalted butter to lightly grease four 8-ounce baking dishes.
Puree the beets in a food processor until you have a smooth, thick paste.
Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg and cocoa powder in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together honey or molasses, eggs, buttermilk, oil and brow sugar. Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture and whisk to combine. Fold in the beets.
Place the baking dishes on a sheet pan or cookie sheet. Divide the batter evenly among the dishes and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the cakes are puffed and a tester inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean. Cool the cakes on a rack before turning out, then cool completely before serving with a dollop of Devonshire cream.
Makes 4 cakes.
- 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1/2 cup sour cream or yogurt
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup powdered sugar, depending on taste
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 cup heavy cream
Place all ingredients into a stand mixer or a bowl. Using whisk attachment or a hand mixer, whip until fluffy.
Makes about 2 cups
- 3 small beets, peeled and stemmed, boiled until soft
- 1 medium Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
- 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
- 2 ounces vodka
- 1 ounce simple syrup
- 1/2 ounce freshly-squeezed lime juice
- Lemon slices for garnish
To make the beet-apple-ginger juice, combine the beets, apple and ginger with about 2/3 cup water in a blender. Process until very smooth. Pass through a fine mesh sieve and add more water, if needed, until the mixture is a juice.
Combine 2 ounces of the beet juice with vodka, simple syrup and lemon juice in an ice-filled cocktail shaker.
Shake until cocktail shaker is very cold. Strain into a martini glass and serve with a slice of lemon.
Makes 1 drink.