Saturday, April 14, 2012

Spring Beans

Spring is about renewal and cleansing. The new shoots of green exploding all around us tell us the cold of winter will abate and the sun is on its way. Even though winter this year was short and the spring season has jump started early, our favorite spring produce is gradually showing up at the market. Asparagus has been here for months already, strawberries are making the journey up from southern California and the central coast, and just now, the snaps and the snow peas are piling under the canopies at the farmers' market. This bevy of green calls for a salad!

Spring Bean Salad with Spiced Greek Yogurt

-½ # Snap Peas, sliced
-½ # Snow Peas, sliced lengthwise
-1 Hot House Cucumber, sliced
-2 Small Carrots, thinly sliced
-2 Spring Onions, sliced
-½ Fennel Bulb, thinly sliced

For the Dressing:
-½ Cup Greek Yogurt
-2 Tbl. Dill, rough chopped
-2 Tbl. Fennel Frond, rough chopped
-¼ Cup Mint Leaves, picked, chiffonade
-1 Lemon, zest + juice
-1 Tsp. Chili-Garlic Paste (like Sambal)
-2 Tbl. Fruity Extra Virgin Olive oil
-½ Tsp. Cardamom
-½ Tsp. Turmeric
-Pinch of cinnamon
-Salt and pepper to taste

1) Mix together all of your dressing ingredients. Taste and adjust with lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
2) Toss all of your cut vegetables in with the Greek yogurt dressing and taste again for seasoning.


Serve with something warm and hearty like stew or a thick steak. It would also be wonderful paired with a roasted chicken.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Asparagus is coming, The Asparagus is Coming!!!

A flood of asparagus has descended upon the farmers' market! This really is one of my favorite times of the year. After all the braised meat dishes and root vegetables of the winter, the harbingers of spring appear and you know it’s just the beginning. Asparagus needs the sun and the recent spurt of nice weather has coaxed the green spears out of the ground a little earlier than last year. But winter is still here. The weather is changing, true, but I have a feeling the cold will persist for some time. Hopefully, there will be enough sunshine to keep the asparagus spears poking through the surface of the fields.

With the upcoming asparagus season is full view, I wanted to pull out one of my favorite asparagus preparations. Now normally I grill these asparagus because the char flavor from the grill goes really will with the romesco sauce, but since it’s still a little too cold to fire up the grill, I figured I’d just roast the raw asparagus in a pan. And what do you know, it worked beautifully. Asparagus and eggs are classic, but I always try to improve a recipe each time I execute it. So this time I was able to get my hands on some duck eggs at the farmers’ market. They have such a big, rich yolk that frying it in a little olive oil was all I wanted to do with it.

Pan-Roasted Asparagus with Romesco & Fried Duck Egg

½ lb. Asparagus (use the old growth asparagus, not the new crop pencil variety)
2 Duck Eggs
Olive Oil

1)Put a large skillet or cast iron pan over med-high heat to heat up. While pan is heating, trim last inch to 2 inches of asparagus spears if they are really fibrous and white. When the pan is hot, add a tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and it should start to smoke slightly, add half the asparagus and let settle in one layer. Cook on one side until they have colored deeply, but not burned, about 2 minutes. Then flip them over and cook for another 2 minutes until tender but still not cooked all the way through. Repeat with second half of asparagus.

2)Set asparagus a side in a warm oven. Wipe out the pan and add another couple tablespoons of olive oil. Turn the heat down to medium low and crack 2 duck eggs into the pan. You want them to cook slowly from the bottom up; they should just barely sizzle, but not stick to the pan. If you want, you can cook them for about 2 minutes, then finish them under a low broiler until the white sets and the yolk is runny.

3)Place some romesco on the plate and nestle half the asparagus on top of it, then top it with the fried egg, season with salt and black pepper and tuck in.

Romesco Sauce

1 Cup Canned Roasted Tomatoes, drained
¾ Cup Almonds or Hazelnuts (or both)
1 Tbl. Sweet Paprika
2 Tsp. Smoked Paprika
½ Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes
1 Jar Piquillo Peppers (12 oz.), drained
5 Slices Baguette (1/2” thick)
1 Small Onion, diced
8 Cloves of Garlic, sliced
2 Tsp. Sherry Vinegar
¾ Cup Olive oil

1)Brush the bread slices with olive oil and toast them on a sheet pan in a 375 degree oven until golden brown and crunchy throughout. Remove from the oven and let cool. Then grind in a food processor until the consistency of bread crumbs.

2)While the bread is toasting put the almonds or hazelnuts in a dry sauté pan and place over medium heat. Toss them in the pan until toasted and fragrant, about 4-5 minutes. The nuts will emit some of their oil and get glossy, at this point remove them from pan and cool on a plate.

3)In the same pan, add a couple tablespoons of olive oil and sauté the onion and garlic, being careful not to burn the garlic. A little color on the onion and garlic is ok. Then add the paprika and red chili flakes and cook for another minute until fragrant. Pull off the heat and transfer to the food processor with the breadcrumbs.

4)Add the remaining ingredients along with the toasted nuts to the food process except for the remaining olive oil and mix until a homogenous puree is formed. Then stream in the olive oil to emulsify the mixture, if it gets really thick add a few splashes of water to thin it out. The consistency should be a little looser than chunky peanut butter. Check for seasoning and add more salt or vinegar until you like it.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Winter Vegetable Recipe

There may be a limited assortment of vegetables at the farmers market in February, but this is only in comparison to the cornucopia of produce available the rest of the year. Yes we are limited to our hard squashes, hearty greens, cabbages, and root vegetables (just to name a few). But working with a limited palette is what requires us to use our imaginations and to try new ways of preparing the same old ingredients. These ingredients have sustained generations of people in many different cultures through the bitter cold of long winters, and through their struggles these humble staples of the cold cellar have evolved into versatile ingredients packed with nutritional value.

Lucky for us, we don’t’ have to cellar our roots and stockpile our pumpkins, instead we can enjoy the different varieties of squash and carrots, not to mention all the permutations of cabbage, kale, chard, and spinach. But if you have exhausted your desire for roasted butternut squash or braised kale, try something new like a winter staple from the cabbage family, Brussel Sprouts.

These look like mini cabbages and they grow on a long stalk that isn’t usually eaten. There are many ways to cook them, and most people boil them to get them tender. But I prefer to steam them until they are al dente, which helps to retain the nutrients and other chemicals that are thought to prevent cancer. Then I finish them in the oven until tender throughout. In lieu of olive oil or butter, I use bacon and its rendered fat to encourage caramelization of the little sprouts when I roast them. I guess I’m a follower of the old adage, “Bacon makes it better!”

Bacon-Roasted Brussel Sprouts

1 lb. Brussel Sprouts
5 Slices high quality smoked bacon, sliced crosswise into ½ inch pieces
2 Shallots, minced
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

1)Preheat oven to 400* F.

2)Rinse the brussel sprouts and pick off any wilted or yellow leaves. Trim the stems flush and cut in half through the stem end.

3)Place cut side down in one layer in a large steamer basket and place over barely boiling water. Steam for about 5-10 minutes (depending on size) until tender but not cooked all the way through. Pull basket off steamer and let dry out for a few minutes.

4)While they are steaming, heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the sliced bacon with a few drops of olive oil. The bacon will take a few minutes to render its fat. Once the bacon has browned slightly and starting to get crispy, there should be a substantial amount of fat in the pan. Take the bacon pieces out of the pan with a slotted spoon and reserve.

5)Transfer the brussel sprouts to the pan with the bacon fat, cut side down, and turn up the heat to medium high. Let them fry in the pan making sure that they are browning but not burning. Let this go for a couple minutes until they are dark golden brown.

6)Sprinkle top with salt and pepper, the shallots, and the reserved bacon and toss to incorporate.

7)Transfer the pan to the oven and roast for 5 -7 minutes until the bacon has gone fully crispy and the shallots have cooked to a nice golden brown.

8)Serve immediately with maybe some parmesan cheese or a squeeze of lemon.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

A Soup to Call My Own

Potato & Coconut Soup
fried onions, rosemary-chili oil

This little ditty is something I came up with on a brisk winter afternoon before going to work. In fact, it was during a really busy week and I hadn’t had time to get to the farmers' market and was left with what I had remaining from the previous week's provisions: potatoes, onions, garlic, and chilies. I was rooting around in the fridge to see what else I could gather and found some left over coconut milk from a vegetable curry I had made the week prior and a rosemary sprig I had clipped from the backyard; it all clicked. I love the sweet, creamy texture of coconut milk and how it plays off of spicy heat, so I decided to make a smooth potato soup. I had some left over onion, so I sliced it thin and quickly fried it in some olive oil. I had just retrieved the last of the crisp onions from the oil and let them drain on a paper towel, when I decided not to waste the oil. So I chopped up a couple fresh chilies I had and threw them in the warm oil to let it infuse as my soup finished cooking.

- 5 large russet potatoes, peeled & diced
- 1 large yellow onion, ¾ diced + ¼ reserved and sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, sliced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 quart good quality chicken stock
- 1 can coconut milk (not the light stuff)
- 1 - 4 chilie (Use thai chilies, serranos, dried chili flakes, etc…)
- 2 inch sprig of rosemary
- 1 cup olive oil
- Salt & pepper

1)Heat a soup pot over medium-high heat. Add a skim of olive oil and add the onion. Sautee the onion, avoiding browning, for a few minutes until translucent and soft. Then add your garlic and potatoes, stirring for a couple minutes to soften the garlic. Reserve a few pieces of potato to test oil.

2)Add your chicken stock and coconut milk and enough water to cover the potatoes by about a half inch. Add a pinch of salt and some pepper then bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the potatoes are soft but not falling apart. About 10-15 minutes.

3)While soup is simmering, heat your ½ cup oil in a small sauce pot over medium heat. Test it by adding a piece of diced potato; when the potato is golden brown, the oil is ready. Adjust heat to maintain the oil temperature. (The oil should never smoke!) Add your sliced onion and fry until brown and crispy, about 3-4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, lift crispy onions out of the oil and drain on some paper towels, season them with salt immediately. Turn off your heat and allow the oil to cool for 5 minutes.

4)For the chili oil, use a combination of chilies or whatever you have on hand. Make it as spicy as you like. Slice your chilies thinly and add to the warm oil along with the rosemary sprig. Allow them to steep for 10-15 minutes. Taste and adjust heat by adding more chilies or more oil. Cooled completely, the oil will keep for weeks. (Great for frying eggs or adding a zip of heat to pasta!)

5)Remove the bay leaf. Ladle the soup into a blender, only filling it up 2/3 the way to avoid a messy explosion! A goo dway to prevent this is to put the top on the blender and begin with the lowest speed and gradually increase the speed until you’ve reached the fastest. Puree the soup in batches until smooth, adding more water or stock as necessary to achieve desired consistency. Return soup to pot over low heat to stay warm. Taste & adjust for seasoning.

6)Ladle soup into warm bowels, sprinkle with fried onions, a pinch of black pepper, and drizzle with chili oil to taste. Serve!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

some new information from jamie oliver

here's some new information from jamie oliver's food revolution about the amount of sugar in soda vs. fruit juices.

for more information and a link to the "sugar sheet" visit

Thursday, July 15, 2010

CCFM Summer Recipes

Welcome to a new addition to my blog. The California Certified Farmer's Markets of Sacramento has seen it fit to have me share some recipes with you all. I've chosen a couple of recipes here that i think exemplify the wonders of the season, but also which celebrate often over-looked flavor combinations and cooking techniques. Like who really thinks to eat soup in the summer in Sacramento? Well the short answer is...i do. I look at cooking as a way to explore food and the ways in which we can stay interested in it. Eating tomatoes and mozzarella with basil is one of my favorite summer time treats, but lets not get bogged down in the old reliable recipes, lets explore something new! So i've provided you with a recipe that explores the textural differences of plum and cucumber and the spicy floral taste of opal and thai basil.

Please fell free to write back with your experiences and comments to help me improve these recipes.

Stay Hungry!

CCFM Summer Recipes

red plum & white cucumber salad


this refreshing salad will pair with all kinds of interesting things. a piece of seared tuna or hamachi alongside would go beautifully as an appetizer or light first course (for fun, serve with chop sticks). or even serve with slices of Bellwether Farms “Carmody” cheese as a light cheese course. and of course, this salad will stand up tall all by itself.


· 4 red plums*, ripe but not mushy, washed

· 4 white cucumbers*, washed

· 1 large shallot, peeled, ends trimmed

· ¼ cup red wine vinegar

· 4 sprigs opal basil leaves, about ¼ cup packed leaves

· 4 sprigs thai basil, about 2 tbl. packed leaves

· ¼ cup Bariani extra virgin olive oil

· sea salt & fresh ground black pepper

1. pick basil leaves from the stems, set aside. bruise basil stems with the back of a knife, place in a medium mixing bowl

2. set your mandolin slicer to 1/8 inch thickness or slice with a sharp chef’s knife. slice plums parallel with the natural crease that you can feel along the meridian of the fruit. slice until you reach the pit, then turn over and repeat. reserve left over fruit.

3. slice cucumbers perpendicular to the poles of the fruit, making pinwheels.

4. slice shallots, making rings. place shallots in mixing bowl with the basil stems. add vinegar, a good pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. toss lightly and let sit for 5 minutes.

5. trim remaining flesh off of plum pits and slice thinly. take a handful of smaller end-slices of cucumber and cut in half forming half moon pieces.

6. drain almost all the vinegar from mixing bowl. lightly toss cucumber with shallot-vinegar mixture.

7. alternating, place slices of plum and dressed cucumber on plate in desired pattern, leaving shallots in the bowl. repeat with remaining plates.

8. when all plates are arranged, toss remaining half-moon slices of cucumber and plum in with shallots and 2 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. taste. adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, and vinegar. discard basil stems. place equal piles of dressed salad on the four plate amidst the arranged slices.

9. stack opal basil leaves (don’t roll them up!) and slice into chiffonade with chef’s knife. scatter over arranged slices along with the picked thai basil leaves.

10. finish with a drizzle of olive oil and a light sprinkling of sea salt.


· white cucumbers are similar to the more common lemon cucumbers. however, they have smaller and fewer seeds and don’t grow quite as big.

· the plums called for in this recipe should have a good amount of sweetness and a distinct tartness in the skin, varieties recommended are “santa rosa” and “royal diamond” both with deep purple skin and rosy to yellow flesh.