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Showing posts with label farmers' market vegetables. Show all posts
Showing posts with label farmers' market vegetables. Show all posts

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Roasted Vegetable Salad

Even in February, the farmers markets in Southern California have plenty of summer greens. Plump bunches of romaine, red leaf lettuce, arugula and Italian parsley are stacked high on the farmers' tables.

To create a healthy, refreshing dish, all you have to do is rinse the greens in clean water, flick dry and toss with a simple dressing.
But this is winter and another group of vegetables come into their own when the sun's rays have weakened, the days are shorter, and the temperatures lower.

Black kale, turnips, beets and celery root are now in their prime and require only a little more effort to create a delicious salad.

Using an oven's heat to bring the best out of vegetables turns starch into sugar and coaxes crispness out of leafy greens.

For Zester Daily I wrote an easy-to-make recipe for a roasted vegetable salad that is delicious when the chill is in the air. A salad with a bit of warmth is a perfect accompaniment for roasted meats and seafood or a hearty braise: A Winter Pick-Me-Up: Roasted Vegetable Salad.


Friday, July 27, 2012

Garlic Sautéed Yellow Squash and Carrots

In summers past, I grew yellow squash with great success. The plants spread to every inch of the garden, threatening to overwhelm tomato plants, the herb garden and a small patch of arugula.
After the vines firmly established themselves, the long, fat squash seemed to appear overnight. What to do with all those squash?

A neighbor saved the day. She loved squash blossoms. She would nip the problem in the bud, so to speak, by picking blossoms before the squash could appear.

Ultimately our best solution was avoidance. We stopped planting squash. Problem solved.

But I missed squash's pleasant crunch and clean flavor. Last week we were gifted with a basket of zucchini and yellow squash from our next-door neighbor's front yard garden. Picked while they were young, before they became watery, the zucchini and squash were unblemished, firm and the picture of health.

There were a great number of ways to prepare such perfect specimens. They could be steamed, grilled or even eaten raw in thin slices or grated. Because I had a beautiful bone in ribeye steak, I decided to sauté them with garlic to use as a side dish.

Sautéing would caramelize and bring out their hidden sweetness. Combined with carrot rounds, the color and texture contrast would add to the pleasures of the dish.

Steak never had such a pleasant companion.

Garlic Sautéed Squash and Carrot Rounds


Time: 30 minutes.

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients


4 medium sized yellow squash, washed, ends trimmed, cut into 1/4" thick rounds
4 medium sized carrots, washed, peeled, ends trimmed, cut into 1/4" thick rounds
1 small yellow onion, skins and root end removed, washed, roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves, skins and root ends removed, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon sweet butter
Sea salt and black pepper

Directions


Heat a large frying or chef's plan with olive oil, seasoned with sea salt and pepper.  Add onions and garlic. Sauté until lightly browned. Add yellow squash and carrots. Sauté until lightly browned. Finish with sweet butter.

Taste and adjust seasoning with sea salt and pepper. Serve hot.

Variations


Dust with 1/4 teaspoon cayenne for heat.

With the carrots and squash, add 1/2 cut washed, trimmed green beans, cut into 1/2" long pieces.

With the onions and garlic, add 1 tablespoon washed, trimmed shiitake mushrooms, roughly chopped.

Once all the vegetables are cooked, add 2 cups cooked pasta, toss, dust with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and serve as a side or main dish.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Asparagus Stalks Memorial Day Picnics

Burgers, hot dogs, potato salad, cole slaw and fresh fruit salads are Memorial Day classics. I look forward to those favorites but to keep them interesting, it's good to add something new and a little unexpected.
When I was growing up, asparagus was one of the fancy vegetables. Carrots, corn and broccoli were the everyday vegetables. Asparagus was saved for special occasions. These days asparagus is affordable, easy-to-prepare and versatile.

Right now asparagus is plentiful in farmers markets. Nutritious, delicious and loaded with healthy minerals, asparagus can be enjoyed raw or cooked, as a salad or a side dish to add zest to a backyard barbecue or afternoon lunch.

Raw Asparagus Salad
Look for small to medium sized stalks that are firm and without blemish or shrivel-marks.

Serves 4

Ingredients

1/2 pound asparagus, washed, white ends trimmed plus an additional 2" cut off and discarded
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Directions


Slice in half the long way the larger stalks just before serving. Just before serving, toss the asparagus with the seasoned olive oil.

Variations

To add heat, dust with a pinch of cayenne or 1/4 teaspoon pepper flakes.

Sprinkle 2 tablespoons flaky goat cheese over the asparagus.

Finely chop 1 garlic clove and lightly sauté until brown, sprinkle over the asparagus.

Grilled Asparagus

Use any size asparagus you like. 
Serves 4

Ingredients

1 pound asparagus, washed, white ends trimmed plus an additional 2" cut off and discarded
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Heat the grill on a medium flame.

Toss the asparagus in the seasoned olive oil and place on the grill. 

Tongs will help turn the asparagus on the grill. Be careful to brown but not burn the tender stalks. Serve warm.

Variations

Grill with carrots (sliced or whole baby carrots) and serve as a vegetable course or as a side dish.

To add heat, dust with a pinch of cayenne or an additional 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.

Steamed or Sautéed Asparagus with Caramelized Garlic, Shallots and Almond Slivers
Use any size asparagus you like. I prefer large or medium sized stalks, cut in half the long way so I can caramelize inside the asparagus.

The dish is as delicious whether you steam or sauté the asparagus. The choice is yours.

Blanched, raw slivered almonds are widely available in supermarkets. From my experience, Trader Joe's has good quality, affordable almonds.

To deceive the eye, the shallot and garlic clove should be sliced to resemble the almond slivers. The surprising sweet-savory/soft-crunch contrast adds to the fun of the dish.

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 pound asparagus, washed, white ends trimmed plus an additional 2" cut off and discarded
1/4 cup blanched, raw almond slivers
1 large shallot, washed, peeled, root end removed, thin sliced
1 large garlic clove, washed, peeled, root end removed, thin sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Directions

Heat a large frying pan with the olive oil, seasoned with sea salt and black pepper. Add the asparagus, cooking in batches if necessary. Don't crowd them in the pan so they cook evenly. Use tongs to turn them frequently to brown and avoid burning.

Remove the cooked stalks to a plate lined with a paper towel.

In the same pan, cook the shallot, garlic and almonds until lightly browned. Add a touch of olive oil if needed. Season with black pepper.

Either add the cooked asparagus back into the pan with the almond mixture and toss well or plate the asparagus and top the stalks with the almond mixture.

Serve warm.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Two Restaurants for Mother's Day: Michael's in Santa Monica and Maison Giraud in Pacific Palisades

Mother's Day is a special time to appreciate our mothers and the mothers of our children. A leisurely meal in a pleasant surrounding is the perfect way to celebrate the women who are so central to our lives.

Brunch is the preferred meal for Mother's Day, when a sunny late morning adds to the celebration.

Michael's Restaurant (1147 Third Street, Santa Monica, CA 90403; 310/451-0843), located on Third Street in Santa Monica, half a block north of Wilshire, has an elegant dining room with the relaxed feeling of a private home. Surrounding diners at the rear of the restaurant, a lush patio garden obliterates all traces of the busy city a few feet away.
By staying focused on farmers market fresh, seasonal ingredients, owner/chef Michael McCarty has pulled off a magic trick, staying contemporary and innovative even as the culinary landscape changed. When the restaurant opened, market fresh produce was a rallying cry for a few talented chefs. Nowadays, just about every restaurant says it buys locally and seasonally.

The difference then as now is that fresh ingredients are a good beginning but to be something special, they must be prepared by a talented chef with a great palate.

For the West Side, Michael's is a member of a small group of upscale restaurants. On the spring menu, starters are priced from $18 for a half dozen raw oysters to $22 for the Maine lobster gnocchi with mains ranging from $34 for the Jidori half-chicken to $44 for the rack of lamb and New York steak.

But Happy Hour at Michael's is a bargain and it begins early (Monday-Friday 5:00pm; Saturday 6:0pm). Michael keeps Happy Hour happy until closing. With flavors inspired by the larger menu, the snacks are as varied as an crostini with duck confit or with burrata, arugula and Parmigiano-Reggiano, truffle-thyme fries, Andouille sausage with beer caramelized onions, piquillo pepper and avocado salad and an upscale riff on Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles in the Jidori wings with maple syrup and chile salt (addictive!).

For Mother's Day, Michael's has a Sunday brunch from 11:30am-2:00pm. The prix fix menu for adults ($65.00/person) and for children under ten ($30.00/person) has four to five choices per course in a three course brunch. The dishes are elegant (oysters with blood orange mignonette, petit prime filet with English peas, Shimeji mushrooms and white corn) and familiar (Eggs Benedict, Cobb salad, blueberry pancakes with chicken sausage or smoked bacon). Dessert is sensible (strawberry-oatmeal crisp with creme fraiche ice cream) or complex and rich (dark chocolate cake with vanilla bean ice cream, chocolate ganache and raspberries).
If you want to toast mom, Michael's has an excellent wine cellar, including wines McCarty grows and bottles at his Malibu home, and a selection of delicious cocktails (a blood orange mimosa, Stoli bloody bull, "smoke love" with single malt scotch and smoked mescal, the "dark side of the moon," a wicked mixture of gin, vermouth, orange juice, lime orange oil simple and Creme de Violette! and a "frozen white lady," a sweet, ice cold, lemony confection of a drink).

Up the hill from Santa Monica, Maison Giraud (1032 Swarthmore Avenue, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272; 310/459-7561) is an outpost of French cuisine in suburban Pacific Palisades. Paired down and minimalist, the dining room is elegantly efficiently. Outside on the covered patio, diners enjoy eating at sidewalk tables, shaded by trees.
Alain Giraud wants the restaurant to be a relaxed gathering place for everyone wanting a good meal in a quiet setting. Like McCarty, Giraud is a habitué of farmers markets, looking for the freshest, best tasting, seasonal products he can find.

In the bakery he shows his deft hand with buttery, effervescent croissants, brioche, Danish, and other sweet and crisp pastries. 
For Mother's Day, Giraud will serve brunch from 10:30am-2:30pm featuring the usual menu with a selection of omelets, custardy scrambled eggs, French toast, Nicoise salad, grilled salmon, quiche and Eggs Benedict. For Mother's Day, he has added a green asparagus salad with citrus vinaigrette, roasted halibut and spring vegetables and for dessert, a strawberry and pistachio confection.
Besides dining at the restaurant, Mother's Day can also be celebrated at home by ordering from the bakery and the take-out menu.




Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Gnocchi and Summer's Best Produce

Walk through any farmers market and the bounty of summer will be on display in mounds of freshly picked carrots, beets, lettuce, broccoli, cucumbers, peppers, onions, parsley, zucchini, corn, celery, green beans, tomatoes and spinach.
Nearby there will be baskets of fat figs ready to burst, bright pink peaches, sharply colored pluots and plums, nectarines the size of soft balls and clusters of black, green and red grapes, seedless and seeded.
How great is all that wonderful food! Now, what to do with it? That's the challenge.

It's hot outside, so who wants to cook? You've grilled all summer long and while you love grilled vegetables, you need to take a break.

My suggestion is simple, make gnocchi.

If you've never made gnocchi, you're probably saying it's too difficult to make. Only Italian chefs can do that.  The truth is, gnocchi are easy to prepare.  And it doesn't take much time in the kitchen.

For Zesterdaily I wrote an easy-to-make recipe that lays out all the steps to making gnocchi at home.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A 30 Minute Pasta with Sautéed Farmers Market Vegetables

At the height of summer, the farmers markets have the most amazing selection of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Corn, tomatoes, carrots, beets, eggplant, zucchini, peas, broccoli, parsley, arugula, frisee, plums, pluots, figs, peaches, nectarines, apples, grapes...I'm running out of breath trying to say them all.
Part of me wants to spend the whole day in the kitchen experimenting and playing with all these great ingredients.

The other part would prefer to stay outside, enjoying our beautiful Southern California weather. This recipe splits the difference. I can have fun with the farmers market bounty and it takes only 30 minutes.

That's a win-win if ever there was one.

Sautéed Vegetables and Pasta

For vegetarians, this is a very satisfying meal-in-one. For everyone else, cooked meat, poultry and seafood can easily be added with great results.
I choose to cut all the vegetables so they are similar in size to the corn kernels, although I make an exception for the string beans, which I think are more enjoyable when cooked in lengths of at least 1". A personal preference.  At any rate, cut the vegetables small or roughly, depending on how you like them.

Yield: 4

Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients
1 pound pasta
1 ear of corn, kernels removed
1 carrot, washed, peeled, finely chopped
1/2 pound string beans, washed, ends removed, cut into 1" lengths
1 small yellow onion, peeled, ends removed, finely chopped
1/2 cup Italian parsley, leaves only, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons sweet butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Method

Bring to a boil a gallon of water with the kosher salt. Add the pasta and stir well initially and every couple of minutes to prevent sticking. Cook until al dente, about 10 minutes. Place a heatproof cup in the sink and capture one cup pasta water when you drain the pasta.

Return the cooked pasta to the pot. Toss the pasta with 1 tablespoon each of olive oil and sweet butter. Season with sea salt and pepper. Lightly cover--do not seal--with a sheet of aluminum foil to keep warm.

In a large frying or chefs pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sauté all the vegetables until brown. Add 1 tablespoon sweet butter and 1/2 cup pasta water. Simmer over a medium flame until the liquid is reduced by half. Add the cooked pasta. Toss well to coat. If more liquid is needed, add more of the remaining pasta water and a pat of butter. Taste and adjust seasoning with sea salt and pepper.

Serve with freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese.

Variations

Instead of Italian parsley, add 1 tablespoon fresh oregano.

For heat, add 1/4 teaspoon cayenne to the vegetable sauté.

Along with the pasta water and sweet butter, add 2 cups of any chopped, cooked meat, poultry or seafood you like.

Add roasted, skinless, chopped tomatoes with the pasta water and sweet butter.

Add 1 cup raw, chopped tomatoes with the vegetables.

Along with the freshly grated cheese, add 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts or roughly chopped almonds.

Along with the freshly grated cheese, add 1/4 cup toasted or sautéed bread crumbs.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Why Eat Out?

The obvious reason why we eat outside our homes is we are hungry and want someone else to do the work of cooking and cleaning up afterwards.  But there other reasons, ones that will enrich our lives back in our own kitchens.
For Zesterdaily, I wrote about a memorable meal at a restaurant that led to one of my favorite meals at home.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Little Bit of Curry Goes a Long Way

Nothing is more satisfying than farmers' market fresh vegetables. Usually I'm completely happy relying on olive oil, sea salt, and pepper when I saute, grill, or roast the great bounty of summer vegetables.

Do carrots, broccoli, asparagus, fennel, peas, string beans, tomatoes, squash, and potatoes really need elaborate sauces to bring out their flavors?

The Italians get it right, in my opinion. Buy the best ingredients and get out of the way.

And yet, there are times when a little more spice or a variety of flavors is needed to reinvigorate the palate. A few drops of fresh citrus juice, a dusting of cayenne, a sprig of fresh rosemary, or a drizzle of nam pla can transform the familiar into the exciting.

Authentic Indian curries are complex combinations of a dozen spices and herbs. An easy-to-make version for every day use can be made with a packaged curry powder or pulled together with five basic elements: fresh garlic, turmeric, cumin, coriander, and coconut milk.  

Keep the curry vegetarian if you want or add poultry, seafood, or meat.  The choice is yours.  Since my wife doesn't eat poultry or meat, but I do, I start with vegetables and spices to build the flavors, make her portion, then add meat for mine.  That way we're both happy.

The best part is that an affordable and delicious meal can be prepared in 30 minutes or less.

Basic Curry

Use whatever fresh vegetables you enjoy. For stock, homemade is best, as much for flavor as for avoiding excess salt.  It's easy enough to make chicken or vegetable stock and freeze it.

A side note: with the vegetable peelings, make a stock by putting them into a pot with 4 cups water, simmer 30 minutes, run through a food mill, and collect the liquid and solids to use for the curry or freeze to use when needed.

Find an organic coconut milk that doesn't use chemical preservatives.  Freeze what you don't use for later use.

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

1 onion, peeled, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
1 cup Italian parsley, washed, finely chopped, leaves only
4 carrots, washed, peeled, cut into thick rounds
1 large Yukon gold potato, washed, peeled, roughly chopped
1 head of broccoli, washed, florets cut into bite sized pieces, stems peeled and chopped
2 cups mushrooms, brown or shiitake, washed, thin sliced
1 corn on the cob, husk and silk removed, washed, kernels removed
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon cumin
1 cup coconut milk
2 cups liquid, water or stock
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Method

In a large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and saute the vegetables until lightly browned.  Remove.  Add the other tablespoon of olive oil and saute the garlic and spices until lightly browned.  Return the vegetables to the pan and toss well.

Pour in the liquid (water or stock) and coconut milk.  Stir well to deglaze the pan and combine the flavors.  Simmer on a medium-high heat for 15 minutes.  Taste and adjust seasoning with sea salt and pepper.

Serve with rice, pasta, or steamed spinach.

Curry with Sausage and Chicken

Including meat in the dish adds only 5 minutes to the preparation time.  Leftover meat can also be put to good use here.

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 35 minutes

Ingredients

2 Italian sausages, cut into rounds or bite sized pieces
1 chicken breast, cooked, cut into bite sized pieces
1 onion, peeled, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
1 cup Italian parsley, washed, finely chopped, leaves only
4 carrots, washed, peeled, cut into thick rounds
1 large Yukon gold potato, washed, peeled, roughly chopped
1 head of broccoli, washed, florets cut into bite sized pieces, stems peeled and chopped
2 cups mushrooms, brown or shiitake, washed, thin sliced
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon cumin
1 cup coconut milk
2 cups liquid, water or stock
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Method

In a large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and saute the sausage and chicken until lightly browned.  Remove.  

In the same pan saute the vegetables until lightly browned.  Remove.  Add the other tablespoon of olive oil and saute the garlic and spices until lightly browned.  Return the meat and vegetables to the pan and toss well.

Pour in the liquid (water or stock) and coconut milk. Stir well to deglaze the pan and combine the flavors. Simmer on a medium-high heat for 15 minutes.  Taste and adjust seasoning with sea salt and pepper.

Serve with rice, pasta, or steamed spinach.

Variations

Add one large ripe tomato, washed, roughly chopped

Add 1/4 teaspoon cayenne for heat

Add tofu cut into bite sized pieces

Add 1 package of spinach, washed, keep leaves whole but finely chop the stems after you add the liquid

Add 1 pound raw shrimp, washed, shelled, deveined in the last 5 minutes of cooking

Add 3 cups fresh clams or mussels, washed, with the stock and coconut milk

Add to the vegetable saute 2 cups roughly chopped green or red cabbage

Add to the vegetable saute 2 Japanese eggplants, washed, stems removed, roughly chopped

Add to the vegetable saute 1 cup raw cashews

Add to the vegetable saute 1 tablespoon ginger, peeled, finely minced

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Grill, Baby, Grill: An Easy Summer Pasta with Grilled Corn and Black Kale

Now that corn has reappeared in the farmers' markets, it's time to grill, baby, grill.

Boiled corn slathered with sweet butter and seasoned with sea salt and pepper is delicious.  So too is grilled corn where olive oil replaces butter.  Lightly browned, the kernels caramelize, adding sweetness and the hint of smoke.

Make extra, so the kernels can be removed and used in green salads, salsas, and--my favorite--pastas.

Tuscan or black kale is widely available in the farmers' markets in large, inexpensive bunches.

Adding in mushrooms, onions, garlic, a pat of butter and you're ready to enjoy a delicious lunch or dinner that needs little more than a simple romaine or arugula salad, a glass of wine or an ice cold beer, and you'll have a memorable meal with no more effort and time than it would take to order take out.

Pasta with Grilled Corn and Black Kale

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

2 ears of corn, husk and silks removed, washed
2 links, Italian sausage, washed (optional)
1 medium yellow onion, washed, skin removed, root end and top cut off and discarded, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, skins removed, finely chopped
1/2 pound shiitake or brown mushrooms, washed, dried, sliced
1 bunch Tuscan or black kale, washed, center stem removed, leaves roughly chopped1/2 box DeCecco pasta, gnocchi, penne, spaghetti, or bowties
1 tablespoon sweet butter
1 cup pasta water
1/4 cup olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper
Grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

Method

If a grill is not available, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Pour the olive oil on a flat plate. Season with sea salt and pepper.  Roll the corn through the seasoned oil to coat.  Put on the grill or into the oven, turning every 5 minutes to prevent burning.

Do the same with the Italian sausage.  Roll in the seasoned olive oil and grill or roast.  For vegetarians, don't bother with the sausage.

While the corn and sausage are cooking, put a large pot of water on a high flame, seasoned with 2 tablespoons of kosher or sea salt.  Don't use ordinary table salt which has a metallic flavor.

While the pasta water is heating, saute the onions, garlic, mushrooms, and kale until softened.  If you want the kale more pliable, add 1/4 cup of water and braise for 5 minutes on a medium-high flame.

Put the pasta into the boiling water and stir every couple of minutes to prevent sticking.  Use the whole box if you want more pasta.

Cut the kernels off the corn and discard the cobs.  Finely chop or cut into rounds the Italian sausage. Add to the kale, together with the sweet butter.  Toss well.

Taste the pasta.  Drain and reserve 1 cup of pasta water.  Put the pasta back in the still warm pot, drizzle with olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper.  Toss well.  Set aside.

Add 1/4 cup of the pasta water to the vegetables and sausage.  Stir well and taste.  Adjust seasoning as desired.  If more sauce is desired, add a little more of the pasta water.

Pour the cooked pasta into the saute, toss well, adding another 1/4 cup of pasta water.  Serve in a large bowl, accompanied with freshly grated cheese.

Variations

Grill or roast a red pepper, discard the seeds and skin, finely chop, add 1/4 cup to the saute.

Add 2 tablespoons chopped, pitted green olives to the saute.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Eating with the Seasons in Italy

I met Ashley and Jason Bartner on line. We connected through our love of cooking, good food, and travel. I read about their new life in Italy and I am very jealous. Not that I want to trade places--I love our life in Pacific Palisades--but I would definitely enjoy a long weekend or even a month staying at their farm house in Piobbico in the Marche region, just below Emilia-Romagna and east of Umbria on the Adriatic Sea.

They were generous enough to send me a description of their life and a few recipes which I can't wait to try
. fyi: A "glug" is roughly 1 tablespoon.

After years of travel and eating our way through every city, state and country we visited, we decided to share our love for food with others in an unique way in the Marches, Italy and opened La Tavola Marche Agriturismo & Cooking School. We took a leap of faith and traded in the hustle bustle of life in NYC to slow down in every aspect of our lives & started growing our own food in the Italian countryside!

Jason is a professional Executive Chef & I am a customer service/hostess extraordinaire and currently write a monthly column for Italia! Magazine. During our travels to Italy, we felt at home & really enjoyed the diversity of recipes in each region combined with the atmosphere of staying on a working farm or agriturismo - plus the Italians & their passion for life & good food!!

We love connecting our guests to the people, land & culture of this little known-region through the food! That is exactly why we decided to work for ourselves & open an inn, farm & cooking school in Italy! We were ready for a change...Why not?! We thought we were just crazy enough to pull it off! It took us a year & a half from our first trip to Italy to living here! And we've never looked back ~


Slow Food & slow living is huge for us! Here we live it everyday- we have slowed down in all aspects of our food & life here in Italy! For us, Slow Food philosophy translates to celebrating traditional Italian country living by eating locally & seasonally and becoming s self-sufficient as possible. This is a complete shift in our 'previous life' in the States.

We are so lucky that our neighbors & friends have taught us the ropes: from age-old family recipes to plucking chickens! It's all new to us and if we can do it - so can you! In the winter Jason makes sausages & salami by hand & hangs them to dry in the rafters of the house and in the summer months, since I can't cook, I contribute by creating home made liquors! It is such a kick to create these homemade treats!We jar, jam & preserve fruits & veggies in the summer extending their season -we even make our own homemade liquors! The most full-filling aspect is that we grow our own fruits & vegetables - from apple, cherry & plum trees surrounding the house to our enormous farm garden with over 600 onions, 400 tomato plants, loads of lettuces, spinach, garlic, cucumber, pepper, eggplant, melons, zucchini, pumpkins, radishes & more!!

Wild game, mushrooms & truffles as well as strawberries, blackberries, asparagus, wild dandelion greens & much more are collected from the woods behind our house! We are really excited because this spring we are adding CHICKENS! And this coming from two city kids! Our neighbors are in awe by "young Americans" with the most beautiful garden! Locals stop by to eye the goods & leave with an armful of gifts from the garden!!

The most incredible part for us is being accepted into the small farming community of Piobbicowhere we live, making a world of difference in our their experiences. As always in Italy, the conversations turn to food as neighbors pop in to say hello & see what's cooking! At first the thought of an American Chef cooking traditional local dishes did not blow over well - they figured all he could do was hamburgers & hot dogs! But that has all changed!

Now Jason is thought of as kin in the kitchen - grandma's are always sharing their secret recipes and he is trusted with cooking for big holidays & family events - for Italians! As testament - opening day of hunting season was celebrated at our farmhouse with a feast of wild game with a huge group of hungry local hunters!

We just love sharing this experience/connection to food with our guests - we specialize in Cucina povera (peasant cooking) with farm to the table cooking classes. Each cooking class starts with a walk through the garden to collect the night’s dinner.

Jason is so very proud of what he has created & loves sharing that with our guests - and it seems to be contagious! Many guests return home with a longing to eat locally, start a garden, join a CSA & all around become more connected with the food they are eating & understanding where it comes from!


Here you will eat what your fed, there is no menu options & the guests love it! This gives us the freedom to work with what is at the height of the season & best looking at the market each day. Guests are surprised by every dish, with whispers of 'what's to come next...' Jason enjoys the time he spends at each table explaining the dish, it's history & ingredients or where the meat is from. It helps connect them to the food they are about to eat.

"We hope our guests take home a taste of la dolce vita, the simplicity of good cooking, great stories to share, and an appetite to return."

RECIPES FROM OUR FARMHOUSE

I wanted to share 2 recipes that are easy to recreate, tasty and represent our area in the winter.

Yield 6 servings

Time 10 minutes

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 carrot, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
6 chicken livers, trimmed
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Scant 1/2 cup dry white wine
2 egg yolks
Juice of 1 lemon, strained
4-6 whole-wheat bread slices, lightly toasted
Sea salt & pepper

Method

Heat the olive oil in a skillet. Add the carrot, onion and celery and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Dip the chicken livers into the vinegar, pat dry with paper towels and add to skilled. Pour in the wine and season with salt & pepper.

Cook, stirring frequently, until browned. Remove the chicken livers from the skillet and chop finely, then return them to the skillet and cook for 2 minutes more. Beat together the egg yolks and lemon juice in a bowl. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the egg yolk mixture.

Spread on slices of lightly toasted bread. Serve immediately.



Yield 4 servings

Time 2 hours

Ingredients

4 pieces of osso buco--veal shank
A nice size carrot, chopped finely
A nice onion, chopped finely
A couple cloves of garlic, smashed & remove the skin
1 bay leaf
Any aromatics you like - rosemary, we used juniper berries because we have them in the woods
A little flour for dusting
Sea salt & pepper
A good handful, about 5 oz, of canned tomatoes, skins removed or fresh tomatoes with skins & seeds removed
Olive oil
Butter
White wine, a couple of glugs
Half a cup of water or stock

Method

Salt & pepper the osso buco & then dredge in the flour. In a good size casserole or roasting pan, on med-high heat, add a glug or 2 of olive oil & a pad of butter.

Sauté the osso buco for 2 minutes on each side.

Then add the vegetables & continue cooking the osso buco, turning frequently until it is nice & colored.

Add the white wine cook until the wine is reduced by 2/3. Add the tomatoes, aromatics, crack of pepper & salt, water or stock & bring up to a simmer.

Remove from stove & place in a 350 degree oven, uncovered for about an hour & half or until the centers of the bone have melted away & the meat is falling away from the bone.

If you need to add a little more water or stock towards the end, do so.

Serve over polenta, potatoes or rice to soak up the juices.



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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Farmers' Market Fresh: Early Spring Tomatoes Roasted Whole or Sliced

Judging by the night time chill, it's still winter, Southern California style. But a walk through the local farmers' markets (the Wednesday Santa Monica and Sunday Pacific Palisades Farmers' Markets) and you'd think it was summertime. Just about everything you could want is in the market, with the exception of fresh corn and pluots.


One of my favorite recipes, and one of the easiest, uses early spring tomatoes to good advantage. Eaten raw, they aren't desirable, but roasted, they're delicious. Some farmers mark down their mottled and misshapen tomatoes so price is an added bonus.

Sliced Tomatoes Roasted with Garlic and Parsley

Use the roasted tomato slices as a side dish with grilled chicken breasts, meat, and seafood or in a salad of alternating slices of tomato and mozzarella, a variation on a classic Italian summer dish.

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients

2 pounds fresh large tomatoes, washed, pat dried
1 cup Italian parsley, leaves only, washed, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper

Method

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Mix together the chopped parsley and garlic. Remove the remnants of th
e stem on top of the tomatoes, cut into 1/2" thick slices, lay on a Silpat sheet or a piece of aluminum foil on a baking tray, top with a sprinkling of parsley-garlic mix, drizzle with olive oil, and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Roast 30 minutes or until the tomatoes give off their liquid and the topping is lightly browned. Remove from the oven to cool on a baking rack. Use a rubber spatula to reserve the liquid on the baking tray.

Serve at room temperature.

Variations


Before serving, top with a sprinkling of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Pour the roasting liquid, a mix of seasoned olive oil and tomato essence, onto the plate, then lay the tomato slices on top.

Arrange the slices on top of filets of fish, such as sole, halibut, or swordfish.

Roasted Whole Tomatoes

Keep this recipe for the summer when tomatoes improve in quality and come down even more in price. The technique is a winner any time of the year.

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 90 minutes

Ingredients

3-4 pounds tomatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper

Method


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Remove the end of the stem at the top of the tomato. Place all the tomatoes on a Silpat sheet or a piece of aluminum foil on a shallow roasting pan. Drizzle each tomato with olive oil and season with sea salt and black pepper.

Roast 90 minutes. When you remove the tomatoes from the oven you'll notice the accumulation of a clear liquid. A small portion of that is the seasoned olive oil. But mostly the liquid is given off by the tomato itself. That liquid or, let's be bold and call it "nectar", is pure essence-of-tomato. Save every drop.

At this point the tomatoes can be served whole as a side dish with grilled or roasted meats. They can also be peeled and chopped for a pasta or a braised meat dish like short ribs. Run them through a food mill and you have the beginnings of a delicious tomato sauce.

If you don't use all the tomatoes right away, they can be placed in an air-tight container and frozen for several months without damaging their flavor.

A final tip about tomato nectar. If you like mozzarella with tomatoes but this time of year the fresh tomatoes don't have enough flavor, drizzle the tomato nectar, slightly warmed, over slices of mozzarella. You're in for a treat.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Eating Well Makes Good Sense

For those who think that going without meat, sugars, and processed foods means a bland, boring diet, think again. Buying local, seasonal, fresh produce and paying attention to what you eat pays off with big dividends.


The truth is, you'll save money and feel better. What's more, you won't be giving up convenience. Most of these dishes can be made in 30 minutes or less.



Salads


Arugula Salad with Avocado


Arugula Salad with Hazelnuts, Carrots, and Avocados


Arugula Salad with Persimmons and Pomegranate Seeds


Black Kale, Kabocha Squash, Cheddar Cheese and Almonds

Bulgar Salad with Celery



Carrot Salad with Lemon-Soaked Raisins


Chopped Parsley Salad



Cole Slaw with Capers


Couscous Salad with Grilled Vegetables


Egg Salad


Farmers' Market Fresh Chopped Vegetable Salad


Grilled Corn Salads


Grilled Vegetable Couscous Salad


Grilled Vegetables


Parsley-Grilled Corn Salad


Potato Salad with Corn


Risotto with Summer Vegetables


Roasted Beet Salad


Salad-e Shirazi: Iranian Cucumbers, Cherry Tomatoes, and Onions


Spinach Salad


Tomato and Avocado Salad


Tomato, Avocado, Corn and Garlic Toast Salad


Wilted Spinach Salad

Soups, Snacks, Sauces, and Side Dishes


The Amazingly Versatile Blackened Pepper


Baked Sweet Potatoes with Sauteed Shallots, Garlic, and Mushrooms


Braised Sprouted Broccoli

Cannelini Beans with Roasted Tomatoes and Spinach



Caramelized Vegetable Pasta

Chermoula Sauce for Salads, Side Dishes, and Entrees




An Easy Saute with Brussels Sprouts and Carrots


Grilled Artichokes


Grilled Corn on the Cob


Grilled Vegetables


Farmers' Market Fresh Vegetable Saute


Homemade Vegetable Soup

Kale Sauteed with Garlic and Farm Fresh Vegetables



Kimchi Ramen Soup


Kosher Pickles



Mushroom Soup


Potatoes, Mashed, for Breakfast


Quesadillas, Open Faced


Ramen Soup with Kimchi and Farmers' Market Fresh Vegetables


Roasted Brussels Sprouts


Roasted Garlic-Tomato Sauce


Roasted Tomatoes


Roasted Tomato Sauce


Salt Crusted Fingerling Potatoes


Salt Steamed Broccoli


Sauteed Beet Greens


Sauteed Kale with Vegetables


Steamed Artichokes


Summer Vegetable Risotto


Sweet Potatoes Grilled


Sweet Potato Inari Sushi


Tapenade the Frugal Cook's Secret Weapon


Tomato-Vegetable Soup


Tomatoes, Roasted, for Easy-to-Make Sauce


Tomatoes, Roasted Whole or Sliced


Vegetable Soup


Vegetable Soup for Cold Weather


Entrees


Brown Sugar Pork Ribs


Chicken Wings with Kimchi Glaze

Curry, Easy-to-Make

Ginger-Soy Sauce Poached Black Cod

Cioppino with Roasted Tomatoes and Garlic Toasts

Ginger-Soy Black Cod

Green Garlic and Clams

Grilled Shrimp

Grilled Shrimp with a Tex-Mex Dry Rub


Kimchi Chicken Wings

Low Cal Breaded Fish Fillets


Israeli Couscous with Vegetables

Italian Sausages and Roasted Tomatoes

Native American-Style Salmon

Pasta Alla Checca

Pasta with Roasted Corn and Garlic

Ribs, Brown Sugar Glaze

Risotto with Farmers' Market Fresh Squash Blossoms and Baby Zucchini

Roasted Cherry Tomato and Shiitake Mushroom Pasta

Salmon with a Garlic-Citrus Glaze

Sauteed Fish with Capers, Corn, and Tomatoes



Skewered Cherry Tomatoes

Tequila Glazed Shrimp

Tofu, Beet Greens, and Brown Rice

Tofu with Crispy Toppings


Desserts



Baked Cherries

Baked Plums

Custard

Fig Tart with Crystalized Ginger Crust and Roasted Almonds

Honey Poached Apples and Pears with Cinnamon, Vanilla, Raisins, and Peppercorns

Monday, September 21, 2009

Ramen Noodles with Farmers' Market Fresh Vegetables & Kimchi

I've been trying to convince my sons that ramen is good for them. They're both living on their own. They are serious about eating healthily and keeping to a budget. They keep down their costs by avoiding processed foods and fast food joints. They shop at Costco and buy in bulk.

Which is why I've been trying to get them to think about ramen. A package costs under $1.00 and if you make your own soup and add farmers' fresh vegetables, you'll have an economical, nutritious meal.

The problem is when they were kids they ate lots of Cup O'Noodles and Instant Ramen with hot water flavored with artificially flavored soup packets. In no way am I talking about that.

Tracking down a better kind of ramen takes a small amount of work. The local supermarket may only have Top Ramen which is ok but not preferred. If you live in an area with Asian markets, you'll find a wider selection of brands. In Los Angeles, we have Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, and (my favorite) Korean markets where there are so many choices there's a ramen aisle.

Look for ramen noodles that don't use MSG or artificial ingredients. And throw away the powdered soup packets.

For the soup you can use any homemade stock you like: chicken, beef, or pork. I like making a sauteed vegetable stock. Throw in cooked chicken, raw shrimp, or a sliced hard boiled egg and you have a deliciously satisfying meal that costs pennies.

Ramen Noodles with Farmers' Market Fresh Vegetables & Kimchi

You can use just about any vegetable, meat, or seafood you like. Kimchi adds a nice crunch and the heat is delicious.

Yield 4 servings

Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

2 packages ramen noodles, discard the soup and flavor packets
1 carrot, washed, peeled, cut into pieces 1/2" square, 1" long
4 radicchio leaves
1/2 medium yellow onion, skins removed, roughly diced
2 garlic cloves, finely diced
8 shiitake mushrooms
1 ear of corn, kernels removed
1/4 pound string beans, strings and ends removed, cut into 1" lengths
10 cups water
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2" piece of fresh ginger, peeled, cut into thin strips (optional)
1 cup kimchi, cut into thin strips
Sea salt and pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil

Method

Drizzle the olive oil seasoned with sea salt and pepper on a large saute pan. Saute the vegetables except the kimchi until softened and lightly browned. Add 6 cups of water and simmer for 20 minutes until reduced by half. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Add soy sauce.

In a large pot, boil 4 cups of water. Add the ramen noodles and cook uncovered for 5 minutes or until al dente. Stir frequently to prevent the noodles from sticking together. Reserve 1 cup of the noodle water. Strain the noodles and add to the vegetables and broth.

Taste and add the noodle water if more liquid is needed.

Serve in bowls with chop sticks and spoons.

Variations

Top each bowl with 1/2 a hard boiled egg, thinly sliced

Instead of radicchio use 1 bunch of spinach, washed, whole leaves or roughly chopped

Instead of water, use chicken, pork, or beef stock to make the soup

Add 1 cup raw shrimp, washed, peeled, deveined, and roughly chopped to the soup when you add the noodles and simmer 5 minutes until the shrimp are pink

Top with thin slices of soy sauce marinated, grilled chicken, pork, or beef