Sunday, June 28, 2009

Synergy Farmraiser Luncheon: Borscht, Basil, and Good Company

What fun to cook for a crowd. There's gathering inspiration, making a plan, working out the details, prepping a few days in advance, tasting, tweaking, more prep the day-of, throwing things together, and voila! If you've put in the time, it's then time to reap the satisfaction of watching the slurps and murmurs of happiness from your table.

Last Sunday, Synergy hosted a farm tour and luncheon to raise money for a local school. Lucy and I conjured the menu (mostly Lucy, really), Susan took care of the logistics and the table and the tour, and Peter was in charge of giving the farm background and history and an overview of our techniques and vision.

The food prep started on Wednesday afternoon when Lucy and I made the borscht, the homemade mayo, and basil dressing.


Creamy Basil Dressing

Then, on Saturday, we made cupcakes and frosting and carrot curls for topping.

And finally, on Sunday, came the last burst of activity: picking fresh snap peas and peeling the chicken and frosting the cakes. Then prepping our mini serving stations, and finally, plating and serving the guests.

Soup prep station

Susan and Lucy in the kitchen

The menu and place settings

A history lesson

It was an intimate group: only 7. A family of three, and 4 other local women, all with gardens of their own. Everyone was engaged and asking questions and it felt good to share our stories and our farm experiences with people who were so interested and so well-informed.

Explaining our crop rotation strategy

Checking out the washing station

One day, maybe 5 or 10 years into my farm operation, I'd like to have a cafe. Or at least regular farm banquets like this to share the bounty. Or maybe a side operation in prepared foods for parties. Mmm... I know half the things I dream are unrealistic, but as they say "reach for the moon and if you miss, at least you'll land in the stars." Maybe not so true astronomically? But still a nice thought. I've found so far in my life, there's something about saying things out loud to people that seems to make them come true.

Evidence of a great afternoon


Three Pestos with Snap Peas and Toast
Sorrel, arugula and garlic scape pestos served with freshly harvested, ready-to-burst snap peas and Cafe Demeter baguette toasts.

First Course
Red Ace and Cabbage Borscht
A ruby red vegetable soup adapted from the Moosewood Cookbook, starring beautiful Red Ace beets; slightly tangy and wholly delicious, lightly spiced with caraway and dill, served with Cafe Demeter walnut bread.

Main Course
Pastured Chicken on Fresh Greens with Creamy Basil Dressing
Flavorful and moist pasture-raised chicken tops a bed of crisp flavorful greens tossed in farm-made dressing featuring fresh basil and homemade mayonnaise from Synergy eggs.

Napoli Carrot Spice Cakes
Tender, wholesome cupcakes from super sweet Napoli carrots, topped with freshly made cream cheese frosting and a flavorful carrot curl.

served with:
Freshly squeezed lemonade or home-brewed ice tea

For more recipes from that afternoon, check out the Synergy Recipe Blog.

Late June Russian Borscht
adapted by Lucy from The Moosewood Cookbook

1 1/2 cups thinly sliced potato
1 cup thinly sliced beets
4 cups chicken stock or water
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 scant teaspoon caraway seeds
1 1/2 tsp salt (or more, to taste)
1 medium sized carrot, sliced
3 to 4 cups shredded cabbage
freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried dill
1 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons Bill's honey
1 cup crushed tomatoes
fresh dill and sour cream for garnish

Place potatoes, beets, and stock in a medium-sized pot. Cover and cook over medium heat till tender (20 to 30 minutes).

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large pot or dutch oven. Add onion, caraway seeds, and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent (8 to 10 minutes).

Add carrots, cabbage, and 2 cups of the cooking liquid from the potatoes and beets. Cover and cook over medium heat until the vegetables are tender (another 8 to 10 minutes).

Add remaining ingredients, including all the potato and beet liquid, cover, and simmer for at least 15 minutes. Taste to correct seasonings, and serve hot, topped with sour cream and a pinch of fresh dill.


  1. i would definitely come eat on your farm cafe! and come work at the farm! i saw this really cute movie, 'whats on your plate?' on sat night and thought of you lots... and now very interested in coming out to visit you on your farm sometime!!

  2. Yay! That's wonderful. I checked out the info on that movie you went to see and it sounds interesting. There are SO MANY films these days coming out about food and agriculture. It's wonderful. You should definitely come out to visit if you have the time. I would love love love it.

  3. I wonder if the farm was pleased when they expected an intern to double-dig beds and ended up getting a bad-ass cook to boot! Maybe after your internship you can try cooking school...

  4. jess, i get hungry whenever i look at your blog. i am blaming you for my midnight eating habits!