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Welcome to Gardens to Tables
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!

 
Celebrating the Farm-to-Plate Movement at Cleveland's Greenhouse Tavern Print E-mail
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Written by Ann Shepphird   
Saturday, 02 June 2012 13:41

Greenhouse Earth to Table dinnerAs Ohio's first certified green restaurant, Cleveland's Greenhouse Tavern is adding a new dimension to the city's increasingly sophisticated food scene. Owners Chef Jonathan Sawyer and Amelia Zatik-Sawyer have not only incorporated eco-friendly elements (including a rooftop herb garden, composting and using recycled products) into the restaurant and but have also partnered with a number of local farmers, including Thaxton's Organic Garlic in nearby Hudson. Their strongest ties are with The Chef's Garden in Milan, Ohio, and its charity, the Culinary Vegetable Institute, which brings chefs and farmers together to "share knowledge, experiment and discover techniques for growing and preparing the most flavorful varieties of vegetables in the world."

Chef Sawyer recently provided the meal for the institute's monthly Earth-to-Table dinners (above) and also launched a new spring menu at The Greenhouse Tavern, which includes ramp-wrapped local asparagus, Cleveland greenhouse arugula salad and three onion risotto. Also on the new menu is a goat-cheese morel raviolini that Chef Sawyer was kind enough to provide the recipe for. (Click "read more"). Enjoy!

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Finding the Familiar (Produce-wise) in Turkey Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   
Tuesday, 15 May 2012 15:05

Istanbul watermelonThere's something very soothing about finding fruits and vegetables that grow in your own backyard when you're halfway around the world. This happened to me recently on a trip to Istanbul and Izmir, Turkey. As we were walking around the Old Town of Istanbul -- viewing the centuries of history still alive at the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Underground Cistern and the Museum of Topkapi Palace -- there, suddenly, were a number of vendors serving freshly sliced watermelon. And not just any watermelons but huge green watermelons that looked very similar to the watermelon that was the first thing I grew in my garden and in a way launched this site (story here). The watermelon I grew was an Ali Baba heirloom watermelon, which originated nearby in Iraq, but these were very similar looking -- especially in size. I later learned that Turkey is the second biggest producer (after China) of watermelon. As you can see, the ones they were serving look absolutely wonderful.

Kemeralti Bazaar in izmirAlso available (in abundance) were artichokes (which have a very short season), oranges (which they fresh squeezed at stands in Ephesus), almonds, asparagus, olives, cucumbers and tomatoes. To the right is just one display at the Kemeralti Bazaar in Izmir. Later, as we drove from Izmir to Ephesus, the rows and rows of almond trees reminded me quite a bit of driving down through Central California on a summer day.

One of the new trends we discovered in Istanbul is the bringing back of historic Turkish and Ottoman cuisine using fresh seasonal produce. We found this at both the Tugra Restaurant at the Ciragan Palace Kempinski (a former Ottoman palace) and at Nar Lokanta restaurant, which also runs a culinary institute and has a gorgeous vertical botanical garden running through it. I'm hoping to have a recipe to share soon and then we can all enjoy historic Ottoman cuisine using the fresh seasonal produce from our own backyards.

 
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