Wednesday, November 6, 2013
College Park Organic Garden and Diablo Day Community School Organic Garden both have a new garden angel by the name of Lisa Meyers. Her company Meyers Homegrown Organics has been selling vegetable seedlings and plants at the Pleasant Hill Farmers Market all summer and as her season nears a successful end she has donated a huge amount of winter vegetable seedlings to our gardens for the students to plant, coaxing a long and fruitful winter crop from a living gift. Lisa and her husband Phil live in Pleasant Hill but Lisa is a Martinez native herself. Lisa and Phil’s inspired gift is the definition of full fledged community involvement in the gardens and have put an apple cheeked rosy glow on all of our students faces. We are immeasurably grateful and will surely support Meyers Organics in the future and we wish them a fruitful season as their business grows. As we traverse the cool season we look forward to a stunning winter garden overflowing with kale, broccoli, spinach, cauliflower and much more. Tramping through pumpkin farms and the farmers markets always induces juicy imaginative ideas for cookies, pies, cakes and savory dishes. Especially charming are those divinely inspired Cinderella pumpkins. Deep red and magenta to almost make believe orange, the Rouge Vif d’Etampes looks like something out of a fairytale. Also known as Cinderella pumpkin, owing to the resemblance of a famous get away coach, this French heirloom cucurbit makes for excellent, long lasting décor. Legend has it that this pumpkin may have been the variety cultivated by the Pilgrims and served at the second Thanksgiving dinner. Don’t be captivated by her squashed, deeply ribbed good looks alone though as the molten orange flesh is creamy sweet, beckoning to be pie filling as much as savory treats. Gently slice off top scooping out seeds, saving them to sprinkle with salty olive oil and roasted for crunchy tidbits alongside nibbles at the Thanksgiving gorge. Create a layered casserole inside the pumpkin by throwing sliced zucchini, chopped onion, grated parmesan and cooked spinach into the cleaned pumpkin. Top off with eggs beaten with cream and seasoned with salt and pepper. Put the top back on placing on a baking sheet in 350* oven for about an hour until the egg mixture has set. Use the rich flesh for pie, cookies and breads by cutting off top, slicing in half and scooping out seeds. Place in a baking dish with a ½ inch of water, cover and bake at 350* until soft. Puree or mash and use according to your recipe. You will likely have several recipes worth of pumpkin puree from just one so I measure it out according to recipes and freeze it in batches for later culinary tricks and treats. Add chocolate chips top any pumpkin cookie or bread recipe for a surprisingly addictive sweet. My motto: Two for décor and one to eat now. You will never buy a can of pumpkin again. We have been greatly blessed with ridiculously gorgeous days and chilly evenings in our valley as the season changes and local flora and fauna in neighboring yards don sunset colors day and night with leaves turning crazy hues of almost unnatural reds and ghoulish oranges. This time of year is always challenging for adults to remain on the straight and narrow resisting urges to steal candy from wee ones amped into complete sugar induced joyfulness almost unhinged in the belief that they won’t notice a few missing peanut butter cups. Hope everyone was a little naughty and sated that annual gig. As our slightly craze inducing season creeps up, stalking with holiday décor before Thanksgiving menu’s hit the planning stage consider the fact that a good hike in the hill around us can induce an amazing endorphin created narcotic haze seeping into every brainy nook and cranny as well as a good yoga class sooths tightened muscles so while you are gearing up for frenzy take time to heal in and out and enjoy our amazing valley we call home. Homemade Peanut Butter Cups Makes around 4 dozen 1 cup creamy unsalted peanut butter 4 tablespoons unsalted butter ½ cup turbinado sugar or brown sugar ½ cup powdered sugar 2 teaspoons coarse sea salt 32 ounces high-quality dark chocolate or chocolate chips Mix together peanut butter, butter, sugars, and salt in a bowl. Taste, then add more salt if needed. Roughly chop chocolate and melt it in a double boiler or in microwave. Arrange mini cupcake wrappers on a baking sheet. Pour just enough chocolate in to fill the bottom of the wrapper about 1/8 of an inch. Let set in fridge for 10 minutes. While the chocolate is chilling, begin shaping heaping teaspoons of peanut butter and sugar filling into flattened balls that will fit into mini cupcake wrappers on top of chocolate. Remove chocolate from the fridge and pop a ball into each one. Reheat remaining chocolate and pour into cupcake wrappers to cover the balls. Sprinkle the tops with a little extra coarse sea salt if you like and let set in fridge at least 20 minutes. Remove and pack into air tight containers or devour all you can in the next hour and give the rest to friends and family.
There is a certain DNA phenomenon that kicks in during season changes, deliberately and with purpose in our bodies as weather and shadows change. Autumn brings a sweet little chill with it, longed for after months of dry skies and high mercury. Familiar longings, temporarily pushed aside for sweet flowers, intoxicating stone fruits and luscious tomatoes resurface with nagging intensity almost overnight begging to be quelled with roasted butternut squash and crunchy sweet grapes tossed into end of summer arugula with torn fresh basil. Soups start to sound really good while beef stew craving comes roaring out of left field totally unannounced. Fall is here. We saw it coming, we do every year and while summer gives up the fight we yearn to cook just a bit more than usual satiating powerful culinary wants and needs in the process. Gardens are waning and if you have not done it yet, get the winter garden in now. Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages, onions, garlic, lettuce, carrots beets, arugula, winter peas, the list could go on for awhile because we live in Northern California and it is easy. We can coax an astounding amount of food out of the earth year round pretty easily just by planting it now and pretty much not a whole lot else for the rest of the winter. Imperative for success is to get the seeds, seedlings or smaller plants into the ground while it is still above 55 degrees at night giving them plenty of resources to build up a hearty system acrawl with roots. You may not see a lot happening above ground but it is moving along hypnotically like long a slow rock ballad achieving breathless satisfaction in completion and harvest of your own sweet songs of nature. Weeding and watering factor in but nowhere near the attention seizers as the summer garden diva can be. Sweet peas, snapdragons, hollyhocks, poppies and lupine seeds like to be planted now as well. Buried and forgotten until they start to come up in early spring bringing immense joy in the discovery of new life after winters chill. We do have seasons here in the Bay Area; they just as a little blurred between the lines as a slightly crooked juror sometimes may. Pomegranates and persimmons gracefully hang jewel like from leaf barren trees peevishly preening, waiting for thirsty fingers to grab and mouths to savor autumn delights. All greens from kale and Swiss chard to lettuces of all kinds have resurrected lush and salient now that solar rays are finished blazing for the season. Apples are everywhere. As out of hand and sliced up eating get old try making applesauce or apple crisp to brighten up ever shortening evenings. Pears are mostly cold storage at this point but the Alhambra Pear People at the farmers markets have incredible Bartlett’s and if you are lucky a French Butter pear or two still left for you to snag and slurp. Farmers’ markets are gearing down as crops dwindle out but are still there offering amazing choices weekly to be procured and prepared in any assortment of delightful means. A visit to Matt and Nate or Connie and Lupe at the Pleasant Hill market will be most gratifying with seasonal goods as well. The long and patiently awaited meat market next door is soon to be a reality for all the carnivores’ out there so be on the lookout. Hiking and outdoor walking in Briones and all the ridges is never better than this time of year in my opinion with mists crawling all over and animals scurrying here and there in preparation for the supposed long winter. This side of our beloved Mount Diablo is good for hiking but heartbreakingly enough we will be staying off the east side for many moons to come. Our prayers and thoughts go out to all the families affected by that dang fire. It will be a long time in the healing but we can hope for rain and join a tree planting party to help it along. Apple Sauce This will make about 4 to 5 cups depending on your apple choice. Also if you use a sweet variety you may want to use water instead of juice and adjust the lemon juice. The lemon juice has the added effect of keeping everything a nice color as well. You can store unused sauce in a jar with a tight fitting lid in the reefer and use within the week. 6 large apples, peeled, cored, rough chop ¼ cup white grape juice or apple juice Juice and rind from a big lemon Cinnamon to taste Vanilla to taste Place apples, juices and lemon peel in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer on medium heat. Cover and cook until apple are soft enough to mash. Add vanilla with a sprinkle of cinnamon. Serve warm. Fresh Fruit Crisp 6 cups fruit 1 cup wheat flour 1 cup brown sugar or turbinado sugar ½ cup butter, melted (1 cube) 1 T vanilla 1 T cinnamon ½ c oats 1 t salt Preheat oven 375*. Spray 8x8 baking dish. Place fruit in dish. Mix flour, sugar, butter, vanilla, cinnamon, oats and salt in bowl. Crumble onto fruit. Bake 1 hour until fruit bubbles and top is crunchy and lightly browned. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or cold the next day for a very decadent but sensuous and utterly fulfilling breakfast. Serves 6.
In ancient times August was also known as Weod Monath, which also means weed month as the eight month of the year is the month when growth crescendos with lush plants of all kinds peaking along with as many varieties of weeds as Carter has pills. Known as the hottest month of the year it is traditionally the biggest vacation month of the year too. Old English saying is “If the first week of August be warm, the winter will be white and long.' Now that we know this fact we will have to keep an eye out for the weather the first week and if it correlates with the winter. Let me know what you find out about the time December rolls around. Little known fact that August is Water Quality Month but more importantly August is …. Drum roll…National Goat Cheese Month!! Leading into one of the month’s largest crop – tomatoes! Tomatoes can astound a person on many levels. After many murmurous conversations between bees and plants you should have an abundance of pollinated flowers producing huge crops of looming, tangled vine weighted down with lovely multi colored fruits. Or not, one of the astounding factors, but hopefully you do and thick slices of said tomatoes of any variety pair swimmingly well with goat cheese slathered on slabs of lovely bread sprinkled with sea salt and chopped fresh emerald leaves of sweet basil that is hopefully cohabitating peacefully as well as abundantly alongside your tomatoes. Of course the long standing favorite, Salad Caprese is always lurching in the wings begging to be first on the menu and truth be told, it never gets old especially when you are using amazing cheese. Make it a mission to search finer cheese shops for Burrata cheese. It is fresh mozzarella on the outside and pure cream in the center so it kinda smooshes with the tomato and basil literally forcing you to catch your breath and calm your excitement after taste buds register the velvet. Grilling tomatoes brings out sugars you never knew existed and adding them to any dish gives lush complexity to scrumptious summer concoctions. To those who know me it is no surprise that Sun Gold cherry tomatoes are one of my longstanding favorites. My garden partner Stephanie and I go crazy over them and make sure to get a lot planted at the College Park Organic Garden every year. The students love how sweet they are and very few make it past the pickin. For those that do make it inside, conjure up a beautiful salad using Sun Gold’s cut in half, fresh corn cut off the cob, baby arugula, fresh crunchy chopped cucumber and crumbled feta. Drizzle excellent olive oil, squeeze lemon juice and crack sea salt gently mixing with marvelous affection and you will have the salad you will live on for the rest of the summer. Stone fruits, swollen by sun are peaking this month as well and are luminous bursting with natural sugars when bit into. Juices roll down chins as nature intended so sink leaning happens a lot with those peaches and nectarines. Slice onto a piece of puff pastry and egg wash the dough. Pull it sloppily up around the fruit and sprinkle with a dash of raw sugar and bake at 400 until the pastry is brown and the juices are bubbling. Inner and outer fire will ensue as you eat this free form tart hot with melting vanilla bean ice cream creating a luscious sauce around your plate to be licked up later when only loved ones are present. Mercury has been a bit high but it is those evenings we live for when the sun gives up the fight and the gentle summer breeze off the bay rolls into our little valley making it one of the finest places on earth to call home. Get out on the trails early and hydrate lots. Mangia. This is my most popular item I prepare for folks all summer long hands down. A little bit of work but it will guarantee you a spot at any party, a lot of suitors and even several proposals of marriage Corn Fritters 1½ cups flour 1 teaspoon baking powder 1 teaspoon soda 1 teaspoon kosher salt 2 large eggs ¾ cup milk 3 tablespoons olive oil 2 cups fresh corn kernels 2 tablespoons each chopped parsley and chopped basil Mix flour, powder and salt in a bowl. Make a well in the center and put eggs, oil and milk in center. Whisk together and add corn and herbs. Put enough oil in a frying pan to grease well. Fry the fritters a few at a time until golden on each side. Serve with Sweet and Sour Tomatoes. Sweet and Sour Tomatoes 2 pounds of assorted heirloom tomatoes, seeded and cut into chunks 1 bunch green onions, sliced thin 2 tablespoons of chopped, fresh cilantro 2 tablespoons of honey ¼ cup of seasoned rice vinegar 1 tablespoon of olive oil 1 teaspoon of kosher salt 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon and 1 teaspoon ground cumin Put tomatoes, green onions and cilantro in a bowl and set aside. Heat olive oil in a sauce pan. Add cinnamon and cumin and heat until bubbly, about 2 minutes. Slowly add honey and rice vinegar. Cook for 3 more minutes or until a little thick and gooey. Pour mixture over tomatoes, cilantro and green onions. Season with salt and let sit for about 5 minutes before using.
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
As the sixth month of the year, June boasts longest daylight hours of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. Constellations change as you stargaze, realizing stars are in different spots. Icelandic folklore says bathing naked in morning dew on June 24, will most assuredly keep aging at bay and if you are wearing pearls, the stone of health and longevity, you’ll be doubly blessed. Perhaps this alone is reason enough young couples worldwide tie the knot making June the month when most nuptials occur. Possibly being named after Juno, Goddess of Marriage is reason enough. June brides making last minute, needless preparations, crazy making in their astounding nonsense and urgency while June grooms get amazingly inebriated disconnecting from the madness realizing that anything they do or say could be catastrophic at best and wedding canceling at worst, can possibly be attributed to the ancient Celtic planting rituals revolving around massive amounts of food and drink for the masses that never leave our DNA regardless of origin and breeding leading to the current tradition of numerous weddings in June. Could always be the nice weather as well. Carrying on these rituals to some extent our summer gardens are probably by this time producing sweet confusions of tiny cherry tomatoes, cucumbers all gangly on vines and beans gaining length as we speak. Tiny peppers hide at ends of spent blooms, soaking up so much summer sun you can almost hear the rustle of laughter as the blossoms fall revealing plump fruits. Blueberries, strawberries and raspberries entice, abstractedly hanging off vines in a series of gentle curves creating artists of us all, in our minds, while we paint pictures, barely touching the beauty of these fruits waiting to ripen in the garden as we force ourselves not to pick, not just yet. As solar heat coupled with regular water, a relationship worth educating yourself about, purposely provoke tug boat sized vegetables, beneficially essential as well as mischievous pests grow with mob mentality of action in the garden. Lady bugs good, snails bad. We keep organic in all our gardens and my motto is the more you plant good stuff the less trouble you have with weeds and pests. We have been told that Sluggo is good for snails and slugs as it is compressed wheat gluten that expands in stomachs of mollusks, not a bucolic image but not toxic being safe for pets as long as they aren’t your favorite slug or snail. As for gophers, voles or moles go you’re on your own. Start smart and if you are using boxes to grow in, cover bottoms many times over with chicken wire before adding dirt. This will almost certainly keep out burrowing critters. The rest short of physical violence, we just learn to coexist with trying to devour as much as they do, only quicker. Happy gardening and if you are not gardening, take full advantage of all the seasonal farmers markets open all over our valley right now for breathtaking, tongue tickling, almost as fresh as ours fruits and veggies to keep us all away from the doc and moving at full bore to enjoy all that the Diablo Valley and Northern Cali summer has to offer. I love corn fritters so it is only natural to make zucchini fritters as well with your abundance of this crop. Spoon the sweet and sour tomatoes over and lap it up!! Summer love! Corn Fritters 1½ cups flour 2 teaspoons baking powder 2 teaspoons soda 1 teaspoon kosher salt 2 large eggs ¾ cup milk 3 tablespoons olive oil 2 cups fresh corn kernels 2 tablespoons each chopped parsley and chopped basil Mix flour, powder and salt in a bowl. Make a well in the center and put eggs, oil and milk in center. Whisk together and add corn and herbs. Put enough oil in a frying pan to grease well. Fry the fritters a few at a time until golden on each side. Serve with Sweet and Sour Tomatoes. Sweet and Sour Tomatoes 2 pounds of assorted heirloom tomatoes, seeded and cut into chunks 1 bunch green onions, sliced thin 2 tablespoons of chopped, fresh cilantro 2 tablespoons of honey ¼ cup of seasoned rice vinegar 1 tablespoon of olive oil 1 teaspoon of kosher salt 1 ½ teaspoon spice mixture (recipe follows) or 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon and 1 teaspoon ground cumin Put tomatoes, green onions and cilantro in a bowl and set aside. Heat olive oil in a sauce pan. Add spice mixture and heat until bubbly, about 2 minutes. Slowly add honey and rice vinegar. Cook for 3 more minutes or until a little thick and gooey. Pour mixture over tomatoes, cilantro and green onions. Season with salt and let sit for about 5 minutes before using. Spice Mixture ½ teaspoon cardamom pods 2 teaspoons fenugreek ½ teaspoon coriander seeds 4 cinnamon sticks, crushed 2 star anise 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds 3 tablespoons of cumin seed Place all spices in a dry, non stick sauté pan. Turn temperature to medium high heat and toast the spices until the seeds begin to pop and the pan is lightly smoking. This should be extremely fragrant at this point. Do not burn the spices. Remove from heat and let cool. Grind all together in a coffee grinder. Store in a tightly covered jar in a dark place. Zucchini and Herb Fritters 2 pounds of assorted squash, grated 2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped 3 tablespoons of chopped fresh basil 3 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley ½ cup crumbled feta cheese 2 eggs, beaten 1 cup dried bread crumbs 1 bunch chopped scallions kosher salt and freshly ground pepper Mix all of the above together and season with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in a fry pan and drop the batter by 2 tablespoons at a time. Cook until golden brown and flip. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately. Serves 4.
Sunday, May 5, 2013
Light floods into morning windows earlier and stronger creating spaciously longer days turning into brilliant evenings of crickets and outdoor possibilities. It seems like May came around awfully quick this year probably due to a mild winter but definitely not having anything to do with my mind being a year older. A month perched on the edge of renewal and mischievousness, May heralds temperatures unarguably the best of the year hovering around 75 to 80 giving us plenty of time to get acclimated for the impending summer spike in mercury. Winter restlessness is cured by puritanical longings to get stuff growing. Some could say motive is food, fresh and home grown, produced with our own hands and backs, tenderly harvested daily and sensuously enjoyed in our amazing climate. Others may cite action itself; exercise meshed with accomplishment is motivation enough to get that garden going. Regardless of philosophy, satisfaction ensues on a daily basis, “gardens, the gifts that keep on giving”. Tomato plants, tendrils reaching longingly toward impending summer sun, eagerly await May evenings to set luscious fruits. Squash seeds poke green life through rich soil heralding the beginning of a never ending crop swap to last through the summer. Cucumbers crawl stealthily, developing little yellow flowers seemingly overnight promising that burp less experience in your salad. Time is perfect for getting all those little seedlings as well as seeds into the earth for a continuing year round garden. Enrich soils with organic compost, manures, worm casings, whatever your choice, lots is much superior to nothing in crop production. They say most summer vegetables want warmth in overnight soil temperature of minimum 53 to 55 degrees. We may be pushing that but most of us are planting pretty stabilized plants and not tiny seedlings so you need to play that one by ear. Best rule is amend, amend, amend that soil! Growing can be orderly furrows lovingly dug in the back of the yard, planted with seeds spaced an inch apart and deep or as contemporary as gigantic clay pots arranged decorously, on a nice west facing deck sporting tomato plants climbing up a trellis. Marriage between abstract splotches of color and orderly patches create a conceptual whole of the urban garden at its best in the cities and suburbs acknowledging inspired food production without a traditional farm. Local cherries are coming into the farmers markets at full speed. Early varieties are sweet and juicy this year and the crop is expected to be plentiful with a long, purposeful season. Hot house tomatoes, grown in local greenhouses, are bending market tables, brilliant in color and not too bad on the palate either. Strawberries are back, released from winter hoop growing, tasting sweetly mysterious, purposely provoking salivary glands to rule the wallet as you saunter by their table. Winter greens are still at their peak literally throwing off nutrition as you touch not to mention the effect on bodies once ingested. Fava beans are at their peak with a pretty short season not to be missed if possible. Don’t be thwarted by imaginary hardships of preparation of these sexy spring stunners. Take the whole beans, toss them in olive oil and cracked sea salt and lay on a really hot grill. The edible chartreuse gems inside the pod will steam right out as the outside, thick shells grill and turn into this amazingly tender, completely edible treat. Eat the whole thing. Purists will still want to go through the three step process of shelling, blanching and shelling to get to that tasty nugget to sauté or add to pasta, risotto, scrambled eggs, and sautéed vegetables or just to sprinkle with salt and eat as is. Spring peas perch prettily in little bags, all shucked and ready to be sautéed with a little olive oil, green garlic and mint searing spring into the mind blowing seasonality data of the mouth, ramping up taste anticipation for crops to follow. Excitement starts to get as steamy and the air outside as creative visualizations and ramped up preparations for late spring and summer grilling of asparagus and local wild salmon fight for space with rosemary and lemon stuffed whole chickens roasting on the grill alongside ruby red new onions and potatoes. It is now more important than ever to be sure to buy produce certified organic, especially strawberries and root vegetables as they retain the most chemicals as they are applied to the plants and earth being low to or under soil. With the passage of the Monsanto Protection Act, (boo!!) you can be assured that whatever you buy that is not certified organic is grown with and contains in their DNA massive amounts of pesticides and herbicides. I prefer to not eat raid and round up so if you feel the same, stick to organic as at this point they still are not allowed, by law to be genetically modified for pest and weed resistance. You will not be able to read on a label if it is GMO or not any time soon. When in doubt about what you are feeding yourself or your family best rule of thumb is go organic. Almost stepped on a rattlesnake today on the Lafayette Ridge Trail in Briones! So exciting and pretty early to boot but we are ever grateful to share the trail with the local animals, flora and fauna. Hiking and wildflowers are at a season peak, best time and temperatures of the season to walk mode so get out there and experience our hills to their fullest and you, your butt and your waistline will not regret it. Sautéed Fava Beans 2 cups cleaned fava beans, released from both shells 2 tablespoons chopped fresh garlic or green garlic 1 teaspoon good extra virgin olive oil 1 lemon, zested Salt and pepper to taste Heat olive oil on a sauté pan and add the garlic. Sauté for a few minutes and add fava’s and lemon peel. Season w/ salt and pepper. Serves 4. Spring Greens w/ Strawberries, Almonds and Basil 1 pound assorted spring greens 6 leaves of basil, chopped one half cup of chopped, raw almonds one cup sliced fresh strawberries zest from 1 lemon juice of 1 lemon one quarter of a cup of balsamic vinegar one quarter of a cup of extra virgin olive oil 3 T grated dry jack cheese kosher salt to taste Toss lettuces, basil, almonds and strawberries in a large salad bowl. Add zest and juice of lemon and sprinkle the oil and vinegar on and toss well. Season with salt and garnish with cheese. Serves 4.
Tuesday, April 2, 2013
Lengthening daylight paired with rising mercury conjures virtuously exciting images of eye popping flowers along with visions of consuming warmer weather local produce, along with some not so virtuous images as the sharper colors and scintillating scents of spring converge around us. Farmers markets are flush with seasonal fare spilling off tables beckoning salaciously to shoppers. Spring time officially arrived last month ensuring us that along with the promise of anticipated late spring fruits our beloved asparagus is here for a nice long visit to the Bay Area. Long, smooth, thin or fat, stalks in differing shades of green with tight purplish tips, asparagus will not disappoint those eagerly awaiting the seasonal debut. As we see more and more friends and neighbors yards coming alive with chickens it reminds me of my favorite way to welcome asparagus to my palate at firs showing. Sauté small slices of asparagus in olive oil and green garlic to just opaque. Beg, borrow, steal or purchase some of those amazingly rich local eggs with the obscenely perky yolks and softly scramble into sautéed asparagus with a nice grate of Manchego and a few slices of snipped baby chives to start a perfect spring morning and send anyone smiling out the door. Simply steaming in chicken stock, draining and slathering in butter can be nirvana. Alternately getting fancy with heavenly indulgent hollandaise sauce is always viscerally memorable. Asparagus lends itself well to the grill by just lubing up with a bit of olive oil and a few cracks of salt lovingly placed onto sizzling hot grills to caramelize green sugars happily transforming an entire day. Drizzle grilled asparagus with balsamic glaze and eat with your fingers. Wrap fat stalks with good prosciutto, roasting until the prosciutto gets soft and supple, ready to begin the awe inspiring release of characteristically rich, salty juices mingled into softening asparagus spears. Serve drizzled with lemon oil and shaved spring pecorino and hold on to the table as you veer close to an intensely sensual swoon. Roast succulent pieces of asparagus until just soft and serve in a spring greens salad with sliced oranges and toasted local almonds, dressing with good olive oil and rice vinegar. Sauté copious amounts of sliced asparagus, green garlic and fresh shitake in olive oil, stir into creamy risotto, garnishing with reggiano and spring herbs. Roast asparagus in a hot oven tossing with lemon oil, salt and pepper. Shave feathery puffs of dry aged Gouda on top sprinkling with chopped fresh oregano and a squeeze of lemon juice. Slice into small pieces sautéing with green garlic, white wine and parsley. Toss into hot pasta creaming the dish with thrilling dollops of chevre folded in. Asparagus soup is as easy as sautéing baby onions and a few pieces of sliced up green garlic in olive oil and adding cut up asparagus. Sauté for a few minutes and add some white wine and chicken stock. Simmer a little bit and embellish with a few drops of half and half. Puree and garnish with several small spring peas sautéed with finely chopped mint creating astounding shades of greens found nowhere on a color wheel for a pivotal food moment. Eaten steamed out of the pot, with a crack of sea salt, a luscious squeeze of Meyer lemon and a glass of local sparkling wine is the epitome of early spring. We are indeed fortunate to reap the bounty of local Brentwood and Stockton asparagus. Mangia! This recipe is a favorite among the students when we cook on the quad!! Asparagus Quinoa w/ Green Garlic and Cremini Mushrooms 3 tablespoons olive oil 1 pound cooked quinoa 1 cup vegetable or chicken stock, heated 1 pound asparagus, sliced in ½ inch pieces 4 stalks of green garlic, cleaned and sliced 1 cups sliced cremini mushrooms 6 ounces of Reggiano parmesan cheese 3 tablespoons chopped parsley Kosher salt and freshly grated pepper Heat olive oil in a deep sauté pan. Add green garlic and sauté for about 3 minutes until it begins to caramelize. Add the mushrooms and asparagus and sauté for 3 to 4 more minutes. Add a cup of stock and let it come to a boil. Simmer for a few minutes until asparagus turns bright green. Add quinoa and heat through. Season w/ salt and pepper and toss in parsley. Garnish w/ shaved parmesan. Serves 4.
Tuesday, March 5, 2013
After the dry spell called February, it looks like oodles of baby buds have formed on local spring and summer fruit trees. Hopefully all will be well with gentle spring rains and we will reap amazing fruits down the road a bit. As we participate in the fine but diminishing art of taste anticipation regarding upcoming cherries and apricots our late winter slash early spring gardens abound in glorious shoots of velvety sweet green love more commonly referred to as spring onion and garlic to be enjoyed presently. Slender lush hued stalks taper down to white bulbs with as yet pretty unformed baby bumps of onions and garlic. In their sublime immaturity these cousins have yet to develop much heat and are so sweet and nutty they can be easily eaten raw in salad as well as sliced thinly and caramelized in sweet butter to lavish on just about anything you can imagine consuming. Subtle differences divide the chicks from the hens in the alliums’ world. Green onions, available year round are not to be confused with Spring onions available only in spring. Nature’s sweet previews of summer bounty are simply immature onions. Farmers specifically plant fields of onions for pulling young alongside fields of old timers destined for golden drying rays of summer sun. Along with bad behavior, immaturity also brings eggshell white bulbs, shaded with purple striping reaching for elongated sweet shafts of tender green tops of which it is mandated you use in their entirety. Marinate perfect cremini mushrooms in pureed spring onion sloshed with fresh lemon juice, awesome olive oil and chopped oregano. Spring onions create amazing music tossed in olive oil and sea salt, grilled whole alongside an organic rosemary scented chicken blistering on a hot wood fire. Dice fine to mix with local white wine vinegar and coarse ground black pepper for mignonette to pack up with special bubbly for tripping up the coast in pursuit of briny local oysters. Spring garlic, aka green garlic is just as wonderful as the spring onion and can be easily interchangeable in any recipe. I have a great friend, Kristie Knoll who along with her husband Rick, grow acres of green garlic in Brentwood to sell at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market as well as to lots of local restaurants. Her preferred method of using the green garlic is to chop it very fine, green and whites alike, and toss copious handfuls of the jewels into Cow Girl Creamery Fromage Blanc, mixing it in well. We sample this daring yet simple concoction on slices of Acme bread to the masses and no one has ever guessed that it is simply a boatload of fresh chopped garlic and cheese. Breathtaking. Both are extremely easy to grow and if not already there, should become a staple of your next winter garde. Also on the late winter slash early spring garden slate are Snow Peas and spring peas. Winter crops that twine their vines among summer vegetable trellis’ all winter, peas are a true garden wonder. Sweeter than imaginable, most peas never make it into the house after being picked. We grow tons of these at the College Park garden and pick them for the cafeteria for the kids to eat in French fry boats minus the fried potato product. I honestly must admit that our peas at CP are slow this year but they are coming along nicely and we should start the supply chain from farm to table sooner than later. We have been enjoying lots of fresh cauliflower and broccoli and our next big project will be coleslaw with our lovely heads of cabbage, fresh dug carrots, chopped garlic and chopped onions all from the CP garden. If you are not growing your own luscious winter vegetables do not despair! Just get down to a local farmers market or to Pleasant Hill Produce Market and ask Nate or Matt to steer you to the local winter stuff. Spoiler Alert!! Wild flowers have been spotted by yours truly popping up all over the high, open ridges of our own Briones and they are AMAZING!! Get up there and see for yourself while enjoying amazing views from the peaks. Side Effects: Strong, healthy quadriceps, lungs and hearts, looser jeans and a healthier sex life!! Sautéed Sugar Snap Peas w/ Green Garlic and Mint 1 pound of sugar snap peas, destringed 2 bulbs of green garlic, chopped 2 tablespoons of olive oil 2 tablespoons of chicken or vegetable stock 2 tablespoons chopped mint, Kosher salt Heat oil in a large sauté pan on medium heat and add garlic. Sauté for 2 minutes. Add the peas and sauté for 2 minutes until they start to green up. Add the stock and cover for 2 minutes. Season with kosher salt and add the chopped mint. Serves 4. Peas and Pea Shoot Pesto Crostini w/ Citrus and Chevre 1 pound fresh English peas, shelled ½ bunch pea shoots or tops, chopped ½ bunch chopped fresh Italian parsley 2 cloves fresh chopped garlic Juice and peel from 1 lemon, Peel from 1 orange ¼ to a ½ cup good fruity olive oil ¼ cup chevre, Croutons Salt and pepper Place peas, pea tops, parsley, garlic and citrus juice and peel in bowl of food processor or blender. Pulse to chop fine. Add oil in a steady stream to desired consistency and season with salt and pepper. Place a small amount on a crouton w/ a dollop of chevre. Makes 2 cups.