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Dinner, Fresh from the Farm

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Contributing editor Maryellen Driscoll gets inspiration for a summer celebration from her own harvest

Living “the simple life” on a small, sustainable farm can get rather complicated. With six acres of vegetables, hundreds of chickens, and a couple dozen mischievous steers to tend to, along with restaurant orders to fill, hay to make, and weekly farmers’ markets to attend, we just don’t do a lot of entertaining at this time of year. But with so much good food at our fingertips, time has to be made to share.

What I like about this menu is that it’s full of fresh flavors and ingredients that almost anyone can find at local farmers’ markets from midsummer to early fall. I can’t help but use a lot of fresh herbs while they’re in season and tasting their best. For starters, grilled flatbreads (a guaranteed crowd pleaser and something that even a nonbaker can easily make) are served right off the grill, warm and chewy, with an herby lemon-garlic dipping oil. The oil is infused with earthy rosemary and brightly freckled with clean-tasting, fresh parsley for contrast. I can’t get enough of it. The rest of the meal continues to benefit from the use of fresh herbs for garden-bright flavor in the potato salad, green bean salad, and more nuanced complexity in the glazed grilled chicken. The way I see it, it’s the season to let what’s fresh speak for itself.

Another perk to this meal is that most of the cooking and prep work can be done ahead so that when your guests arrive you’re not stuck in the kitchen. You can join in, whether that means kicking back in lawn chairs or in my case, handing out beers and relocating the party to whatever crop most needs weeding. Just keep an eye on the make-ahead lemon-buttermilk pudding cakes. They have a way of vanishing before a party even gets started.

Menu Timeline

Up to 2 days ahead:

  • Make the flatbread dough; refrigerate.
  • If using whole chickens, cut up the chicken.

Up to 1 day ahead:

  • Make the lemon oil (hold the parsley); refrigerate.
  • Make the glaze for the chicken.
  • Make the dressing for the green bean salad; cook the beans.
  • Make the lemon cakes.

In the morning:

  • Make the potato salad; refrigerate.
  • Prep the remaining green bean salad ingredients.

Just before guests arrive:

  • Bring the potato salad to room temperature.
  • Bring the lemon oil to room temperature; stir in the parsley.
  • Gently warm the glaze, if made ahead.

Just before serving:

  • Shape and grill the flatbread.
  • Finish the green bean salad.
  • Grill the chicken.
  • Whip the cream for the cakes, if using.

Shopping List

Fresh Produce:

  • 3 lb. small to medium Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 2 lb. fresh slender green beans
  • 2 cups arugula
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes (about 3/4 lb; preferably a mix of red, orange, and yellow)
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, or strawberries (optional)
  • 3 small and 2 medium lemons
  • 1 small bunch scallions
  • 1 head garlic
  • 1 bunch fresh mint
  • 1 bunch fresh rosemary
  • 1 large bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 large bunch fresh basil

Meat, Eggs & Dairy:

  • Two 4-lb. chickens OR 5 to 6 lb. good-quality bone-in, skin-on chicken parts (thighs, drumsticks, and breasts)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1-1/2 cups (10 oz.) 1-inch-diameter fresh mozzarella balls (ciliegine)
  • 1/2 pint heavy whipping cream (optional)
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
  • 6 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup whole milk

Other Groceries:

  • 2 cups bread flour; more as needed
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup apricot preserves (preferably without corn syrup, such as St. Dalfour’s)
  • 1/2 cup whole Kalamata olives
  • 1/4 cup best-quality white-wine vinegar
  • One 1/4-oz. packet active dry yeast

Pantry Staples:

  • 1-3/4 cups extra-virgin olive oil
  • Vegetable oil for the grill
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
  • 3 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • Table salt
  • Kosher salt
  • Black peppercorns

The Menu


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