Chef Bonnie Moore is checking on the progress of her students as they assemble sweet potato ravioli, using long, thin scarves of pasta that most of them have made for the first time.
“As we get hungrier, we tend to put more filling in the pasta than it can really hold,” she warns the women at work table No. 6. Lunchtime is imminent, and everyone’s rustic tomato and goat cheese tarts, a first course, are cooling on a wheeled rack nearby.
Willowsford is no remedial cooking school. It’s a shiny new residential community in Loudoun County, Va., whose four separate villages are distributed among 4,000 acres. Moore is its culinary director, and her position is one of the features that has broken new ground here. Acres of working farmland and pastures, plus access and guidance to their bounty, are at the core of the developers’ promise of “inspired living.”
A trained chef with stints at the Inn at Little Washington and at L’Academie de Cuisine as an instructor, Moore was brought onboard by the Willowsford team early in the planning stages.
Moore sees herself as connecting “the dots between the farm, the kitchen and the community.” That means working with the Willowsford Farm team to find local purveyors of cheeses, meat, honey, baked goods and even kombucha for the twice-weekly Farm Stand that’s open to the public – not just Willowsford residents.
Farm Director Mike Snow drops off fall lettuces, eggs and sweet peppers that will be marinated with garlic, fresh oregano, capers and olive oil. Thirty of the farm’s 300 total acres are used for vegetable and fruit production, structures and pastures for chickens and goats.
Snow says he can’t tell whether Willowsford Farm’s CSA could provide enough food for the community’s potential 2,100 households: “No one’s ever quite done it on this scale before.” He researched similar farm-conservation communities such as Prairie Crossing in Grayslake.
Rustic Heirloom Tomato Crostata
For the dough:
2 1/2 cups flour, plus more for the work surface
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup ice water
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
For the filling:
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
6 leaves basil, stacked, rolled and cut crosswise into thin ribbons (chiffonade)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound heirloom tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch slices
About 12 cherry tomatoes, each cut in half
2 ounces soft goat cheese
For the dough: Combine the flour, butter and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on low speed until the butter has reduced to the size of marbles. With the motor running, quickly add the water and lemon juice in a steady stream, beating for 30 seconds to form a shaggy dough with visible lumps of butter.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Lightly flour a work surface. Transfer the dough there; divide in half, forming each into a disk. Wrap one in plastic wrap to refrigerate or freeze.
Roll out the remaining disk of dough (on the floured work surface) to a round 1/8-inch thick, about 12 inches in diameter. Transfer to the baking sheet and refrigerate until cold, about 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Meanwhile, make the filling: Combine the oil, garlic and basil in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Brush the sliced tomatoes with a tablespoon of the mixture. Arrange them, slightly overlapping, on the rolled pie dough, leaving a 2-inch margin. Toss the cherry tomatoes with a tablespoon of the oil mixture, then scatter them on top of the sliced tomatoes. Drop pinches of the goat cheese over the tomatoes, then drizzle with the remaining oil mixture. Gently fold the outside edge of the dough over the tomatoes, pleating it as you work. The filling at the center will not be covered. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. Let the crostata rest for at least 10 minutes before serving.
Nutrition per serving: 340 calories, 6 g protein, 24 g carbohydrates, 25 g fat, 12 g saturated fat, 45 mg cholesterol, 160 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber, 3 g sugar.