I went to a farm to table dinner this summer, with a local beer pairing for each course. The long table was set at an angle so we could watch the full moon rise as light faded from the flowering garden. In this perfect setting, I had the company of the most lovely of friends, new friends and the farmers who grew the food seated all around. Next to us a trio of violinists played Swedish folk music, and the warm summer day was kept bearable by a cool breeze.
In short, it was perfect.
The chef's favorite course was a cherry soup made fresh from morello cherries on the farm. You can read more about that original version of the soup here, written by my lovely friend, Simran. I also liked the beet vinaigrette on the salad of mixed greens and herbs with crisp bits of pork belly and a soft egg.
These are my versions of two of the favorites from that dinner.
Summer Cherry Soup
3 lbs. pitted cherries, fresh or frozen
3 cups cherry juice, (no sugar added brand like "Just Tart Cherry")
3 cups red wine, a shiraz or syrah, big with cherry and blackberry works best
Juice of 1 lemon, plus teaspoon of zest
1 sprig rosemary
2 star anise, whole
1 cinnamon stick
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/8 tsp. white cardamom
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup honey
2 tsp. corn starch, mixed well with 1 tablespoon of water
1/2 cup whole milk Greek-style yogurt, plus 1/4 cup for garnish
Place ingredients cherries through the pinch salt in a stock pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes to cook the fruit a bit and marry the spices. Remove the cinnamon stick, rosemary sprig and star anise.
Use an immersion blender and carefully blend the soup to a puree with some bits of cherry for texture. Carefully, unless your walls happen to be a nice dark red, that is. Add the corn starch "slurry" and simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes.
Cool the soup to room temperature. Mix the yogurt in with the blender. Chill well for at least four hours before serving. For each bowl, add a dollop of the yogurt to garnish, or use sour cream if you want to have more tanginess. Serves 10. And, you can freeze the leftovers into some really tasty popsicles ...
1 large beet, roasted and peeled (see below)
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
To prepare the beet, wash it well. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and wrap in foil. Roast in 400 degree oven until fork tender, about 40 minutes depending on size of beet. Unwrap beet and take an old kitchen towel or paper towel and wipe the beet to remove the peel.
Place ingredients in blender. Again, be sure the cap is on unless you have dark red walls. Blend to a nice, thick dressing. Taste and adjust salt and pepper.