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Welcome to Gardens to Tables
A New Cocktail Garden Blooms in Downtown L.A. Print E-mail
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Written by Ann Shepphird   
Wednesday, 30 May 2012 12:28

Klaus Puck at Ritz-Carlton cocktail gardenIt's always good news when a garden opens up in an urban setting like downtown Los Angeles. It's even better news when that garden is filled with more than 15 varieties of fruits, herbs and flowers -- including basil, chervil, chives, fennel, lemon, lime, mint, orange, pansy and verbena -- to be used in a garden cocktail list that changes with the seasons. Situated 26 floors up at the Ritz-Carlton, Los Angeles, the new cocktail garden, which is overseen by Beverage Director Klaus Puck, serves both the Ritz-Carlton's "BLUE" rooftop pool bar and Wolfgang Puck's WP24 Restaurant & Lounge. The recently announced summer cocktail list features drinks such as Verbena Lemonade, which includes Kalamansi lemons and verbena leaves straight from the garden. Even better, Klaus Puck (pictured in the garden, above) was kind enough to share the recipe. Enjoy!

Verbena Lemonade

WP24 cocktails1.5 oz. Ketel Citroen Vodka
.5 oz. Kalamansi puree
1.4 oz. verbena-infused simple syrup (see below)
Juice from half a lemon
Lemon-lime soda

Add all ingredients into a mixing glass. Shake. Strain into an ice-filled Collins glass while adding the lemon-lime soda; fill to top. Garnish with verbena leaves.

For Verbena Simple Syrup
2 cups water
2 cups sugar
Generous handful of fresh lemon verbena leaves

Bring all ingredients to a boil, then let cool to room temperature. Remove lemon verbena leaves; the syrup should be a light yellow-green color and have the definite flavor and odor of lemon verbena.

 
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.

 
A Cucumber Collins That's Good for Both the Goose and the Gander Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   
Sunday, 29 April 2012 20:15

The opening of a new restaurant in the Napa Valley always brings about bit of a ripple in the foodie community. In this case, it's the new Goose & Gander, which opened last week on the same spot in St. Helena where the former Martini House once stood. With a focus on locally sourced ingredients in both the dining room, overseen by Partner/Executive Chef Kelly McCown, and in the artisan cocktails concocted by Bar Manager Scott Beattie, those seeking a quintessential farm-to-table experience in Napa should be pleased. If you're interested in toasting the opening at home, Beattie was kind enough to share his recipe for the Cucumber Collins. Even better -- wait until Memorial Day, when you can enjoy a summer cocktail in the restaurant's newly renovated garden.

Cucumber Collins
1 1/2 oz. Square One Cucumber Vodka
1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
1/4 oz. yuzu juice (with no sodium added)
1/2 oz. 1:1 simple syrup
1-2 oz. seltzer
4 to 6 slices of cucumber, pickled and non-pickled (recipe below)

Add the vodka, lemon juice, yuzu juice and simple syrup to an empty 16 oz. mixing glass. Add enough ice to fill the mixing glass completely with ice, seal it up, shake hard a few times to mix, unseal, leaving all the contents in the metal half of the shaker. Add the seltzer to the metal half of the shaker, and then dump the contents into a 12 oz. Collins glass. It should fit in nicely with ice filling the glass from the bottom to the top. Using a straw of the back end of a stirring spoon, carefully slide several slices each of the pickled and non-pickled cucumbers down the sides of the glass, so that the ice pushes the cucumber slices attractively up against the glass.

Pickled Cucumbers Stained with Blueberries
12 oz. unseasoned rice vinegar
4 oz. mirin
4 oz. unfiltered cooking sake
6 oz. white granulated sugar
1 cup frozen wild Maine blueberries
1 large English cucumber

Add the vinegar, mirin and sake to a medium-sized pot and bring to a boil. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Next add the blueberries, bring back up to a boil, and summer for 2 minutes to bleed out the color. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature. Using a mandolin, slice the entire cucumber up to about the width of a quarter, not paper thin, not too thick. Reserve half of the cucumbers for pickling; the other half will stay non-pickled. Stain the blueberries out of the pickling liquid, and then pour the liquid over half of the cucumbers and let them rest for about 2 hours or long enough to stain them purple. They will last about two weeks in the fridge.

 
The Gardens of the Huntington Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   
Saturday, 21 April 2012 15:56

Huntington Japanese GardenIt somehow doesn't feel right using the word "tucked" when describing the location of the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California. The fact that the Huntington spans 207 acres would seem to make it difficult to tuck it anywhere. But that is exactly the feeling one gets after leaving the Los Angeles freeways that take you into Pasadena, past CalTech and then into the residential community where the Huntington is located. Originally a ranch, Henry Huntington bought the land in 1903. His superintendent William Hertrich then helped develop the plant collections for the botanical gardens, which now feature more than 14,000 different varieties of plants in more than a dozen garden areas.

Huntington Rose GardenThe Huntington's Japanese Garden (above), originally built in 1912 and a favorite since the Huntington opened to the public in 1928, recently reopened after a year-long $6.8 million renovation. New elements include an authentic ceremonial tea house, a restoration of the original Japanese House, repairs to the water infrastructure and pathways, and the addition of a waterfall. Additional gardens on the expansive grounds include the Australian Garden, Camellia Garden, Children's Garden, Chinese Garden, Desert Garden, Herb Garden, Jungle Garden and the Rose Garden (right). Upcoming events of interest to gardeners include the Huntington's annual plant sale, going on Sunday, April 29 (with a members' preview on April 28). For those who can't make the bigger event, there's a free garden tour and plant sale on the second Thursday of every month. Or there's the popular Tea & Tour, which includes a morning docent-led tour of the gardens followed by English tea in the Rose Garden Tea Room.

For those that want to further their "Huntington" experience, nearby The Langham Huntington, Pasadena, also offers beautifully landscaped gardens (including a Japanese garden) as part of its 23 acres. The hotel is featuring a "Gastronomy in the Garden" dinner on August 23, where Royce Chef David Feau will create a tasting menu featuring seasonal produce from the hotel's organic garden. For more information, call 626-585-6218 or visit pasadena.langhamhotels.com.

 
Farm-to-Table Street Tacos from the San Diego Convention Center Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   
Wednesday, 04 April 2012 14:24

San Diego Convention CenterIt's one thing to provide farm-to-table fare in the home or a small restaurant. It's quite another when you're doing it for really large groups, but that's just what Executive Chef Jeff Leidy does in his position at the San Diego Convention Center. At a recent gathering of, oh, a few thousand people, Leidy provided a reception-style Mexican fiesta with ingredients sourced from within 100 miles (which includes the northern Baja region of Mexico) of the center. Even better, Leidy is now offering some of his signature recipes sized down for home cooks. Below (click "read more") is his recipe for Carne Asada or Chicken Street Tacos, filled with all sorts of great spring and summer produce like tomatoes, jalapenos, onions, limes and cilantro. Additional recipes can be found on the San Diego Convention Center's site. Enjoy!

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