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Welcome to Gardens to Tables
Celebrating the Gardeners at Esalen Print E-mail
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Written by Ann Shepphird   
Thursday, 16 August 2012 13:06

Amigo, Shirley and WendyThe article below was first posted on this site on May 5, 2010, after I attended an organic gardening workshop led by three people I call the rock stars of the gardening world: Amigo Bob Cantisano, Shirley Ward and Wendy Johnson (pictured, from left to right). I recently attended another workshop they led up at Esalen Institute, this one called "High Summer in the Full Moon Garden: Growing Food and Ourselves on the Esalen Land." As with the last one two years ago, it was surprising to me -- given the level of knowledge being imparted (one participant said she felt she'd wandered into a Harvard-level education) -- that there were just seven of us taking the workshop. On the other hand, I feel incredibly blessed to be able to spend such quality time with three such amazing people and feel that not only my gardening but my life is fuller as a result. Should they offer the workshop again (and I sincerely hope they do), I highly recommend it. In the meantime, here are some great starter tips for gardeners that I compiled after the last class.

A funny thought occurred to me midway through the organic gardening workshop I took last week up at Esalen: In recent years, we’ve turned a lot of chefs into celebrities or even, really, rock stars. And yet the gardeners and farmers – who are so important in providing the actual materials for that food – remain anonymous. I think that's too bad because, let's face it, I don’t care how good a chef you are, you can’t make a good caprese without a great tomato.

So, here’s to the rock-star gardeners, three of whom  -- Amigo Bob Cantisano, Shirley Ward and Wendy Johnson – led our workshop. All three are passionate and knowledgeable but also offer their own unique perspective when it comes to gardening, with Amigo providing the science, Wendy the art and Shirley the intuitive. The information they provided was amazing (if, at times, a little overwhelming) and could (and has) filled books. After awhile, though, some patterns emerged and I was able to coalesce at least some of the information into four categories that provide a good place for newbie gardeners to start (click "read more"):

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Sicilian-style Stuffed Zucchini Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   
Sunday, 22 July 2012 07:38

zzucchiniAs promised, for those of you who (like me) have an abundance of zucchini currently growing in your garden, here is a recipe for Sicilian-style stuffed zucchini, courtesy of my friend Tasha Zemke, who happens to live on an island off of Sicily. As you will see, the recipe is very Italian -- no amounts to the ingredients and a lot of smooshing and using your hands -- but that's what makes it fun, right? If it helps, throw in the occasional "abbondanza" while you work. Also, in her recipe, sardines or anchovies are suggested, but I'm guessing salted meats would also be good. Enjoy!

Cut a zucchini in half and hollow it out. Chop up the insides roughly and set them aside. Boil a pot full of salted water and stick in the halves and let them cook until you can prick them with a fork and they seem tender. Be careful, though, because if you overcook them, they'll fall apart and you want them to keep their shape.

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Farm to Table at Travaasa Austin Print E-mail
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Written by Linda Hayes   
Monday, 09 July 2012 10:24

jeans kitchen travaasaFloating in a private Watsu therapy pool. Testing your balance (and bravery) on a 35-foot-high challenge course. Connecting with your inner cowgirl during a nurturing equine experience, or on a bucking mechanical bull. Hitting your target in an archery class. There are endless ways to work up an appetite at Travaasa Austin, a serene, eco-friendly retreat and spa in the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve about a half-hour from downtown Austin.

Lucky thing there's Executive Chef Benjamin Baker (a.k.a. Chef Ben) to keep hunger at bay. In charge of Jean's Kitchen (above), Travaasa's casual restaurant and bar, he turns out appealing and satisfying dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner -- and there's always something available to snack on in-between meals as well.

In tune with the healthy dose of activities on tap (or dose of healthy activities, as it may), Chef Ben's fare is packed with fresh, organic and locally sourced ingredients. Key to this is his relationship with an Austin distributor, Farm To Table, that partners with farmers within a 200-mile radius to supply locally grown farm products to area restaurants, independent groceries and other folks.

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Zucchini Bread with Pineapple and Pecans Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   
Wednesday, 04 July 2012 08:25

As I have mentioned on the community garden blog, the early summer star in my garden has been the zucchini. By last count, I have harvested 15 huge zucchinis from the one small seedling put in two months ago -- and it shows no signs of stopping. Naturally, that has led to a need for zucchini recipes. Here is the first (more to follow, including a recipe for Sicilian stuffed zucchini): a recipe for zucchini bread that was handed down from a friend's grandmother. I made the bread today for the 4th of July potluck at the community garden and it turned out great (very moist), so enjoy!

Zucchini breadIngredients
3 eggs beaten
1 cup oil
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups zucchini, unpeeled and grated
1 cup crushed pineapple, drained
3 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. nutmug
1 cup chopped pecans

Mix together eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla. Add zucchini and crushed pineapple. Combine dry ingredients and add them to zucchini mixture. Mix well. Add pecans. Pour mixture into two greased and floured 9x5x3 inch loaf pans. Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees. Cool 10 minutes in pans. Very moist. Will last a week or two in refrigerator. Freeze well.

 
Agua de Frescos from Quito's Casa Gangotena Print E-mail
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Written by Ann Shepphird   
Friday, 08 June 2012 09:00

Agua de Fresca ingredientsCombine amaranth flowers, verbena, esencia de rosas, mint, sweet basil, spearmint, pena pena, lemongrass, fragrant mauve, lemon balm and "a little magic" and what do you have? The answer is the Agua de Frescos, the refreshing drink used to welcome guests to the Casa Gangotena, a boutique hotel fashioned from a restored mansion overlooking the Plaza San Francisco in Quito, Ecuador.

For those of us who aren't able to get to Quito (at least anytime soon) but who might be growing -- or have access to -- the ingredients, Andres E. Davila, the executive chef of Casa Gangotena, was kind enough to share the recipe. Even better, Chef Davila says it's pretty easy to make: You just have to boil the water, then turn it off and put all the herbs in for about 10 minutes. Then take the herbs out. Once the Agua de Frescos is cold, add a little sugar and fresh lemon juice.

"That's it. No big secrets, just pure and refreshing Casa Gangotena-style Agua de Frescos," said Chef Davila. Enjoy!

 
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