Archive for the ‘Edible-Vegetables’ Category

Grapes at Corner Stone

We were just talking about the lack of locally grown veggies in Napa because of the high price of land and all those grapes, and here’s what I run across when I sit down to catch up on a little gardenish reading this morning. The article from the Press Democrat, (which I wish I had seen before I left so I could have gone to Benziger last weekend) talks about some of the vineyards and their workers planting vegetable crops. Several of the wineries and vineyards are setting aside days just for working in the garden and have such abundant crops they are selling their produce to the restaurants and setting up farm stands in their tasting rooms. This seems like a head slapping, about time, epiphany for the Valley.


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Zucchini Patch

The zucchini sharing, (or dumping) holiday was August 28th. That day came and went because I didn’t have a bumper crop of zucchini that particular week. I had extra the weeks prior and there is an abundance of zucchini in my life right now. Pictured above is just one of 4 robust corn and zuke patches…there are also zukes planted around a few tomatoes. I am talking zucchini. Here is a couple of recipes I will put on the counter along with the sign “Free, take one. Please!”.

For the kids:

Plain Pasta-Boil up some short pasta, my current favorite is de checco rotelle (check out the site and peruse the shapes gallery), boil up some pasta. Right at the end throw in a couple of handfuls of very thinly sliced zucchini. Blanch with the pasta for seconds…depends on how thinly you sliced…just enough to brighten the color and warm through. Strain and in to a bowl. Add seasoning according to your child’s current preferences. Olive oil and parm are always nice. Sneak in some basil on a tablespoon of tomato sauce or with fresh diced tomato.

Zucchini Timbales-Layers of rice, tomato sauce, zucchini rounds, mozzarella, herbs, rice, tomato sauce zucchini rounds herbs…you get the picture…now bake. You can even nuke it when you are too hot or busy to turn on the oven. Better yet, make a water bath with a roasting pan and cook them on the grill next to what ever protein you are cooking up.

Grilled Zucchini-Marinate. Brush with olive oil, red pepper flakes and herbs. Grill. Squeeze a little lemon. Serve!

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Basil & Zinnia Porch

Zinnia from seed mixed in with the basil starts –  my new favorite combo right at the front porch.  Nothing better than opening the door and grabbing handfuls of basil, bunches of sorrel, ears of corn, and a few flowers for decoration.




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Ahhh, the summer sun dried tomatoes!  This year I have been making them with Juliet tomatoes from my garden…As the season ends…I will stock up from the farmers market on heirlooms, cherry, pear, and small roma varieties so I can have the taste of summer well in to winter.

The only sun-dried tomatoes I enjoy these days are plump fresh oven dried from home.  Mario Batali made these on a show one time and I have  been making them ever since.  I just do not reccomend you start them at 8pm like I did last time…luckily I woke up (the aroma wafting through the house roused me) in time to save them from becoming over dried tomatoes.

Here’s how easy it is:  cut in half, place cut side up on a couple of sheet pans (might as well make a lot).  I like to line the pans with parchment.  Mix equal parts sugar and kosher salt.  Sprinkle tomatoes with white wine vinegar, and the sugar/salt mixture.  Place in the oven at 200-225˚ for approximately 4-6 hours depending on the size of the tomatoes.  I check frequently and remove them as they are ready.  I like them to have a little plumpness left in them…dried, but not crispy.

To store:  layer with olive oil and basil leaves.  I use like to toss with pasta and any number of additional items from shrimp and feta, to chicken and fontina on top of flat bread.  Enjoy!

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g-Basil patch

Okay- tonight was a real Crisper Crap Shoot.  From the home garden I have corn, basil, sorrel and zucchini.  From the farmers market I have garlic and pasilla.  From Little India I have red rice.  From the fridge I have a little cream and white wine.

Hot, hot heavy enamel pan.  Dry the scallops.  Sear scallops in a little butter.  Remove and set aside.  Throw in whole head of garlic (cloves just smashed and skinned) and push around the pan….lots of brown bits forming….deglaze with a healthy pour of the wine, some in the pan and some in the glass.  Scrape all the bits, add a couple cups of sorrel.  Add a bunch of basil.  Add the juice from the resting scallops.  Add a cup or two of the heavy cream.  Walk away.  Let simmer and reduce.  Add 1 1/2 roasted pasilla chile.  Grab the kick ass immersible blender and puree.  You now have a thick veggie cream sauce!  Add the scallops back in to the pot and heat through.  Pour over (in this case) fresh raw julienne of zucchini  and top with a little rice.  Best case scenario is fresh pasta of some kind (papardelle) or risotto made with a fish stock…yum.

Rich loves everything…but loved this more!  I think the secret ingredient of pasilla added a nice little twist without over powering the greens.

Kiely asked for a big bowl of the fresh raw zucchini and just sauce…now that’s sayin’ something!

I really do think that picking the veggies about 5 minutes before cooking does add a level of deliciousness and healthfulness that you can just feel when you’re eating.  The corn, from the breezeway (just a 4 x 15′ patch between the houses) is hands down the best corn we’ve ever eaten.  We grew corn last year, but out at the Family Plot…picked hours and hours before cooking.  Well this year, I had the pot boiling and threw in the ears seconds after they were plucked and shucked, then turned off the heat and served a few minutes later.  We could all taste the diff.

Bon Appetite!

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Artichokes at Market

More late night lite reading in the June 1956 Gourmet. I enjoyed an article about spring vegetables by the Inventor of Vichyssoise.  These old magazines are so intriguing!  And in many ways completely relevant to the current food revolution going on right now.

Louis Diat is cluing in the reader to the esteem in which les gourmets francais hold vegetables.  He goes on to describe the zeal of French shoppers; chefs and housewives who so carefully picked through the fresh peas for the smallest and most perfect.  He talks of working on a family farm and learning from experience about fine produce.  He ponders the fact that many chefs are great gardeners and why the garden experience is important background information for choosing quality vegetables at market. Then finally he gives credit where credit is due, “don’t overlook the fact that none of this would be possible if it weren’t for the farmers who grow the vegetables that keep alive the prestige of fine French cooking.”

He tells the story of the state of the state’s vegetables when he arrived.  In 1910 Louis Diat came to open the kitchens of the Ritz Carlton in NYC.  He talks about giant American vegetables and turning carrots down to a more petite and respectable size out of desperation.  He was amazed that there were no leeks or shallots.  Mon dieu!

He thinks there must be someone who would grow the kind of vegetable suitable for the Ritz a table. At last a fellow hotel chef Louis Deligny  of the Hotel Astor, yearned for country air and happened to be as good a gardener as he was a chef.  Chef Diat was his only customer at first, as he  bought everything Deligny grew.  Ah, the private kitchen garden!

I wish I could take a time machine and watch the goings on in a big hotel kitchen in 1910 or 1940.  But, I worked in a big hotel kitchen in the 1980’s and I am sure it was pretty similar to the Euroldfashioned kitchens of yore.  We were always turning carrots, mushrooms and potatoes, worshiping at the ground of all baby vegetables and filling cucumber boats with crab meat for 2000 guests.  There was lots of aspic, the making of apple swans and cheddar cheese gold fish…I personally made several kiwi baskets adorned with blueberry roses, (a la Villeroy and Boch) for Foreign and American Presidents.   It was called the West Coast White House back then, can you guess the big hotel kitchen?  Yes, yes, the Century Plaza.  Though, I digress.

The point here is what?  If you love to cook you should have a garden.  If you are a chef you need a kitchen garden.  If you are a kid, you learn to love food when you have a garden.  If you love to garden you can be a farmer.  Dig in!

Vichyssoise – original recipe from Chef Diat

Diat was born in Vichy, France, and his mother – like most French housewives – served her children plenty of hot potato soup. Years later as he sought to invent some new and startling cold soup for the Ritz-Carlton menu, he remembered that fine soup of his mother’s. He also recalled that patty-cake rhyme, “some like it hot, come like it cold.” Out of that combination of thoughts came Vichyssoise, named for his birth place.

4 leeks, white part
1 medium onion
2 ounces sweet butter
5 medium potatoes
1 quart water or chicken broth
1 tablespoon salt
2 cups milk
2 cups medium cream
1 cup heavy cream
Serves eight.

Finely slice the white part of the leeks and the onion, and brown very slightly in the sweet butter, then add the potatoes, also sliced finely. Add water or broth and salt. Boil from 35 to 40 minutes. Crush and rub through a fine strainer. Return to fire and add 2 cups of milk and 2 cups of medium cream. Season to taste and bring to a boil. Cool and then rub through a very fine strainer. When soup is cold, add the heavy cream. Chill thoroughly before serving. Finely chopped chives may be added when serving.

I also worked in the (Euroldfashioned) kitchen at Scandia on Sunset…Vichyssoise was one of the items in my station.  It was used as a base soup as well.  I would grate cucumber and add a touch of mint…

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Last night the White House announced that Michelle Obama is taking out 1100 square feet of the White House lawn and planting a vegetable garden. You can read more about the “eat the view” movement at Kitchen Gardeners International, and see the plans. This is awesome! It’s the first step toward food reform and a promising indication that they GET IT! They get that we desperately need to overhaul our food policies and farming in the U.S.

But, not everyone has 1100 sq ft. in a sunny location. Which brings me to the idea for a Community of Gardens. A local garden club with an edible bent. An Urban CSA, if you will. A gathering of like minds and dirt. I have a community garden plot, because the trees in my yard limit the sunlight for certain crops. I wanted to have real farm conditions and grow “crops” to feed my family. And to know that the food I was feeding them was free from pesticides, irradiation, bacteria and full of the nutrients that are supposed to be in them.

Many of my friends and neighbors expressed the desire to grow their own, buy and eat local. Many want to convert front yards to drought tolerant herb gardens and backyards in to robust vegetable gardens. But there are hurdles. So, I was thinking…wouldn’t it be nice to pool our local resources, the land immediately to my right, or left. I can grow celery in my shady yard…pretty much year round. Maybe you have a super sunny yard and cannot grow lettuce during the summer…And there is the time. And the knowledge. You see where I am going with this?

Okay, I can think of 20 projects right now! The local schools have gardens but limited resources, they need teachers and volunteers to run the school garden programs. We could start a community compost, so the green waste being incinerated could go back in to the earth instead of into the atmosphere. We can pick the low hanging fruit, literally…there are dozens, if not hundreds of fruit trees loaded with citrus right now, that just goes to waste. We could take the citrus peels and make our own cleaning wipes. We can grow hundreds of pounds of tomatoes and have a canning party! We could volunteer at the Rancho, and help them with their gardens. We could collectively support bringing a community garden plot in out neighborhood. We can identify friends and neighbors with plenty of space and but no time to farm. There are strips of land for guerilla gardening as well.

But we have to start somewhere and perhaps a little meet up and food/seed swap would be a good start. What do you say the 1st Sunday in April? Now, where should we gather? How about the benches outside Rancho Los Cerritos? If you park in their lot, and walk straight ahead and take the low road…there are picnic benches in a pretty lovely setting! The alstroemeria on the little slope will probably be blooming by them…and the orchard in front of the Rancho is intoxicating right now…there are a zillion orange blossoms on the trees!! There is a red bud tree that is in full flower and their wisteria vine has begun to show as well. It would be a fun place to start and a nice walk around the grounds is an added bonus! The Rancho doesn’t open until 1:00pm, so we couldn’t get in to the area before that time. Hope this works, let me know!!

If you’re on Facebook, we have a Community of Gardens page that you can join. If you’re not on Facebook, get on Facebook!

Also, the photo above is my 10 x 10 raised bed in December, last year. I planted a bunch of peas in the middle on the black rack. There was an x of celery, and four triangles filled with radishes, carrots, onion, cauliflower and broccoli. I jammed the plants in close together and thinned as I went, eating baby vegetables and making room for some of the plants to reach full size. I would go out and break off a few ribs of celery all summer, before they bolted late in July. You would be amazed at how much you can grow in a small space!

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