August 11 2009, 7:51 AM
As the sun went down on a bucolic organic garden just west of Niwot, guests, dressed in summer whites, moved through the bountiful rows of Oxford Gardens' beautiful produce. Once settled at the long, linen-draped community table, the lucky group at this week's Meadow Lark Farm dinner listened intently to farm owner Peter Volz as he described how terrior builds flavor in his root vegetables. Soil fell through Volz's fingertips as he lifted one of the ingredients featured at this night's dinner: a perfectly round, creamy, white Hakurei turnip. Attending a Meadow Lark Farm dinner is an experience that shouldn't be missed. It's Colorado's answer to Tuscany, a chance for metro diners to escape into the countryside to experience food in its most delicious state, with dinner made from produce plucked from the earth just moments before it's prepared. The 20-some guests fortunate enough to secure one of the coveted reservations dine at a table set directly in the heart of the garden that produces the evening's fare. Complete with renowned local chefs to cook each dinner al fresco and sommeliers to pair wine with food, it's the ultimate summer celebration. The grilled Hakurei turnip served on the evening I attended was so exquisite that I looked up the Oxford Garden stand at the following week's Boulder Farmer's Market to find the amazing tuber. Back in my kitchen I found that it worked beautifully steamed in Tom Ka soup and raw in salads and slaws. But my favorite rendition is incorporated into a sandwich (recipe below) inspired by our local farmers' markets. Summer Market Sandwich (serves 4) Base: Cut 4 ciabatta rolls in half, place cut-side up and broil until lightly crispy and edges just begin to turn golden brown (about 1 minute). Remove from oven and allow to cool. Top each ciabatta base with 1/2 Palisade Peach, sliced, 1/4 cup fresh watercress, 1 ounce triple creme goat Brie, and 1/4 Hakurei turnip, peeled and thinly sliced. Filling: Melt 4 tablespoons butter and add 1 minced shallot, 2 minced garlic cloves, 2 thinly sliced leeks, 1 thinly sliced fennel bulb, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper. SautÃ© until veggies are soft and somewhat translucent (about 5 minutes). Add 1/2 cup white wine and reduce by 1/2. Add 2 cored and sliced Pacific Rose apples and 1 cup Hakurei turnip greens, cut into 2-inch strips. SautÃ© until apples just begin to turn soft but still have some bite (about 5 minutes). Adjust seasoning. Finish: Spoon 1/2 cup of the apple-fennel filling on top of the turnips. Cap with the other half of the ciabatta roll and serve immediately.