23 Aug Special of the day: Have Table, Will Travel: Dinner in the Field
Keeping hungry farmers fed throughout harvest is a huge job when the crew you’re cooking for works from the crack of dawn until well after dinner. Long days of hard labor on the Kolstad family farm are rewarded with hearty home-cooked food by my mom who has been presenting an array of gourmet meals on the farm for over forty years now.
An invitation extended to our younger daughter Madison to come out to the farm to bake for a few days was eagerly accepted and sent her into planning mode mapping out what she’d like to make. Soon, we were headed to the store to procure provisions for her to make Oreo cupcakes, cinnamon rolls and huckleberry Danishes. The next day, off I went to deliver her to the farm for her baking gig.
Planning ahead, I thought the least I could do when I went back to pick up Madison was to give my mom a break and plan to make dinner for everyone. After all… have table, will travel!
Menu planning revolved around what was available in the garden at the farm as well as a one-dish wonder that could be prepared ahead of time and popped into the oven for final baking before transporting to the field for dinner.
Tender squash blossoms were stuffed with a pistachio-ricotta filling, and baby potatoes and green beans fresh from the garden were showcased in a salad with bacon and tarragon vinaigrette. Nothing would do for dessert but pie and ice cream for my dad, so I baked a fresh peach pie that morning at home that we would warm up just before packing up. The Beef Stroganoff Bake was assembled the day before and waiting in the refrigerator, so my mom and I had enough time to sit down and enjoy a Moscow Mule before finishing dinner preparations, packing up and heading out to serve the farmers in the field.
Everything seemed to be going according to plan. All I needed to do now was to get the table out of the back of my car. And then…
Just as I set foot out the front door of the house, I heard a loud hissing noise. I looked down the rock aggregate patio to find a gigantic rattlesnake coiled up and hissing at our black lab Shadow who was standing dangerously close to the snake, curiously cocking her head and wondering what in the world this creature was.
Immediately launched into panic mode, I began jumping up and down in the air, screaming at Shadow to leave the snake alone and to come which seemed to have little or no effect on her. Madison came rushing outside to see what the commotion was and began calling the dog. Finally, miraculously, Shadow came, and we got her into the house and out of harm’s way.
Without skipping a beat, my fearless mom raced out the back door to the garage, grabbed a shovel and chopped that snake right up, saving the day once again.
We had just enough time to get dinner loaded up, hopped in the pickup and drove out to the field being cut.
There was previous little time to spend at a sit-down dinner for harvesters anxious to get the crop in, but I had packed a tablecloth to be signed and my 6-foot folding table, so we laid out the spread on the tailgate of the pickup, and dinner was served right there in the wheat field.
With thanks to the farmers who grow the food we eat, I give you this week’s Special of the day: Have Table, Will Travel, Dinner in the Field and recipes for Beer-battered Stuffed Squash Blossoms, New Potato, Green Bean and Bacon Salad with Tarragon Vinaigrette, Beef Stroganoff Bake with Caramelized Onions and Fresh Peach Pie.
Beer-battered Stuffed Squash Blossoms
6 squash blossoms, flower innards removed, washed and dried
(Just pick the male blossoms if you want to harvest mature squash later.)
Make the Parmesan Pistachio Filling:
½ cup ricotta
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp. fresh basil, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ cup pistachios, finely chopped
Combine filling ingredients and stir to mix thoroughly.
Stuff filling inside squash blossoms.
Make the beer batter:
1/2 cup beer
1 cup flour
¼ tsp. salt
Whisk beer batter ingredients together until smooth.
When ready to serve:
Eat 2 inches oil in heavy pot over medium high heat until hot.
When oil is hot, dip stuffed squash blossoms into beer batter and fry in hot oil, just until golden brown. Remove from oil with metal tongs and let cool on paper towels. Serve warm. Enjoy!
New Potato, Green Bean and Bacon Salad with Tarragon Vinaigrette
3 cups baby red and yellow potatoes
Parboil potatoes in salted simmering water for about 6 minutes, just until tender.
Remove from heat and drain in colander. Let cool. When cool, slice potatoes in bite-sized pieces.
2 cups fresh green beans, sliced in half horizontally
Blanch green beans in salted simmering water for 3 minutes, then immediately transfer to ice bath in sink to cool.
6 slices bacon
Cook bacon on broiler pan in 350 degree oven until crisp, 18-20 minutes.
Reserve bacon fat under broiler pan for dressing.
Crumble bacon into bite-sized pieces.
Make the dressing:
2 tbsp. bacon fat
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
½ tsp. sugar
¼ tsp. salt
1 tbsp. cream
1 tbsp. fresh tarragon leaves
3 shallots, minced
In a small jar, combine dressing ingredients. Shake until well-mixed.
Toss potatoes, green beans and bacon with dressing.
Garnish with fresh tarragon.
Beef Stroganoff Bake with Caramelized Onions
(serves six to eight)
Make the rub:
1 tbsp. garlic powder
1 tbsp. Kosher salt
½ tsp. white pepper
2 pounds sirloin steak, pounded to a thickness of 1 inch
Preheat barbecue grill to 350 degrees.
Combine seasonings and rub over both sides of the steaks.
Sear steaks for 2 minutes on a side. Turn and cook other side for an additional 2 minutes. Let rest.
When cool, use sharp knife to slice steak into thin slices. It will be pink in the middle, but will cook a little more when the Beef Stroganoff Bake is assembled and baked in the oven.
Caramelize the onions:
1 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 large sweet onions, sliced into thin rings
Melt butter in large heavy pot over medium heat.
Add olive oil and heat until hot.
Add onions and cook until softened, stirring occasionally. Increase heat and continue cooking, stirring constantly until lightly browned and caramelized.
Sauté the mushrooms:
8 ounce package sliced white mushrooms, cleaned and dried
2 tbsp. butter
Melt butter in sauté pan and sauté mushrooms until soft. Remove from heat and set aside.
Make the Parmesan Poppy Seed Filling:
1 cup sour cream
½ cup Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. poppy seeds
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. garlic powder
Combine filling ingredients in small mixing bowl, stirring to mix thoroughly.
Cook the pasta:
12 ounce package whole wheat extra wide noodles
Cook noodles in large pot of simmering salted water for 7 minutes, Drain.
Butter 9 X 13 inch baking dish.
Transfer cooked noodles to buttered baking dish.
Top with Parmesan Poppy Seed Filling, spreading to distribute evenly.
Top with sliced steak, then sautéed mushrooms and caramelized onions on top.
(Can be made ahead. Cover and refrigerate until ready to bake.)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Uncover Beef Stroganoff Bake and bake until heated heated through, 20-25 minutes. Enjoy!
Fresh Peach Pie
Make the pie crust:
2 cups flour
¼ cup sugar
¾ cup oil
¼ cup water
¼ tsp. salt
Combine pie crust ingredients in mixing bowl. Stir until dough comes together in a ball. Divide dough in half. Roll half of the pie crust dough between two sheets of waxed paper into an 11-inch circle a thickness of ¼ inch. Transfer dough to pie plate. Trim edges to fit.
5 cups fresh peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced
1 tbsp. almond extract
Combine peach slices and almond extract in mixing bowl. Top bottom pie crust with peaches.
1/2 cup flour
1 cup sugar
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg
¼ tsp. salt
In mixing bowl. Stir until well-mixed. Distribute evenly over peaches.
2 tbsp. butter, cut into small cubes
Roll second half of dough between two sheets of waxed paper to 11 inch circle. Cut into ½ inch strips.
Carefully twist strips of dough and arrange in lattice pattern over pie.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Place oven rack in center of oven.
Bake pie in preheated oven for 10 minutes.
Decrease temperature to 350 degrees and bake pie for an additional 20-24 minutes until crust is golden brown.
Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.
Sydne George is a food journalist specializing in recipe development, food writing and food photography. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . Sydne’s recipes from “Special of the day” are archived at http://sydnegeorge.com/blog/.