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Turning Lowly Cauliflower into Sumptuous Risotto at Pinot Bistro Print E-mail
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Written by Ann Shepphird   
Thursday, 13 October 2011 13:12

Pinot Bistro Chef Steven MaryNow that it's fall, the crops we grow in our gardens -- and see at the farmers markets -- are beginning to change. I have to admit that it's always kind of sad to move away from the fun summer crops like tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and melons on to the cole crops, which are grown in the cooler seasons and include cauliflower and broccoli. But a dish I recently had at Pinot Bistro in Studio City is changing my perception.

Pinot Bistro's Executive Chef Steven Mary (left) managed to turn the lowly cauliflower into an amazing risotto dish. Chef Mary offered it as part of his summer eating-healthy cooking class. Those interested in upcoming classes or Pinot Bistro's "day in the kitchen" program -- where guests can help prepare a five-course meal for up to seven friends -- can check their website. Chef Mary is a home gardener himself (he included some figs from his tree for one of our dishes) and also volunteers at the Los Angeles County Aboretum as part of their "Roots and Shoots" program, where Leigh Talmo teaches children how to plant and maintain an organic garden and Chef Mary helps them turn that produce into delicious food for their harvest party.

For those who would like to try their hand in turning cauliflower into a rich risotto, Chef Mary was kind enough to share his recipe. Enjoy!

You Say Tomato, I Say Pesto Print E-mail
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Written by Lori C. Aronsohn   
Sunday, 02 October 2011 11:01

Lori green tomatoIt was a happy overcast and muddy day in March when I visited the Tomatomania event in Encino to browse the rows and rows of heirloom tomato seedlings. This was destined to be a great year for tomatoes at my little house in Valley Village. This year, rather than trying to coax seedlings to reach for the sky and bear luscious fruit confined inside large pots, I’d be spoiling my seedlings in a section of freshly turned soil beneath my kitchen window -- growing in the ground the way nature intended.

I purchased ten delightfully named, heirloom tomato seedlings. I included a “Jaune Flammee,” and a “Snow White.” A “Missouri Pink Love Apple” and an “Old German.” My mouth watered at the thought of plucking real tomatoes from my own garden that tasted like those I picked at roadside stands in Iowa as a young girl.

I fed my seedlings properly with tomato food. They soaked up the sun and sipped on water. And, boy did they grow! As they started to blossom, I put in a nice healthy basil plant and a chili pepper too, anticipating the delicious ways I would combine them to please my loved ones.

I set aside recipes to follow once the harvest was in, but the one recipe I would enjoy the most was quite simple. Fresh tomato, add a little salt, a little pepper, eat!!!

Showing Celery a Little Respect at Cafe Pinot Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   
Thursday, 25 August 2011 05:26

Cafe PinotCafe Pinot, offering a serene outdoor garden setting behind the public library in downtown Los Angeles, has launched a new farmers' market dinner menu. Inspired by Executive Chef Kevin Meehan's trips to the local farmers markets and their abundance of fresh local produce, the menus change weekly based on what is in season and include three courses for $39/person. A recent dinner included such highlights as an amuse bouche with ahi tuna, compressed cucumber and tomato mousse; a wild mushroom risotto; and John Dory butter basted with lemon verbena and served with cherry tomatoes and melon balls (never would have occurred to me to mix the two and I have to say it really worked).

What really impressed me, though, was what Chef Meehan managed to do with celery, a -- let's face it -- somewhat neglected vegetable when it comes to fine cuisine. He created a cold-smoked celery soup poured over an alfalfa-sprout nest and served with chevre and olive oil. Even better, he was kind enough to share the recipe (see below). A home gardener himself, Chef Meehan said that for fall, he's looking forward to growing Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, beets, chives (which he always grows and says he puts in everything) and tea-oriented herbs for his wife.

Beaver Creek Bruschetta: Rounding up Lunch at Colorado's Minturn Market Print E-mail
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Written by Linda Hayes   
Tuesday, 23 August 2011 04:48
Minturn MarketJeep tour? Check. Zip-line? Check. Horseback riding? Mmm…not so much. But wait. What's this? A trip to the Minturn Farmers' Market with Executive Chef Mike Spalla of Beaver Creek Lodge, host of our weekend visit to gorgeous Beaver Creek, Colorado? Yee-haw!

Yes, there are bountiful farmers' markets up and down the Roaring Fork Valley, including in Aspen, where I live. But Minturn is a sweet, historic little mountain town (about a dozen miles from Beaver Creek), with mining, railroad and farming roots and a year-round population of 1,037, give or take a few. In addition to freshly plucked produce from local farms, I'd heard talk of pickle canning demos, colorful, hand-woven grass market baskets and fab fish tacos from Mango's Mountain Grill in nearby Red Cliff. Bingo.

Little did I know, though, that the invitation to visit the Minturn Farmers' Market would come with a challenge. Our group of 10 journalists would be split into two teams, handed five dollars apiece and be sent on a mission: collect ingredients for dishes that we would prep in the Lodge's restaurant kitchen and serve for lunch. Our team made a bee-line for summer squash and zucchini, heirloom tomatoes, peaches, greens and roasted green peppers from Austin Family Farm (Paonia) and Miller Farms (Platteville). We added a loaf of artisan bread from a Denver bakery and blackberry honey from Winter Park Honey.

A couple of hours later, and with the help and good humor of chef Spa Spalla* and sous chef Chad Barbier*, we served up pretty impressive platters of bruschetta and tomato-basil salad -- paired with the just plain prettiest prosecco and peach bellinis you've ever seen (recipes below). Tasty, too, I might add.

Sharing a Passion for Produce (and a Gazpacho Recipe) at Napa Valley Grille Print E-mail
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Written by Ann Shepphird   
Tuesday, 09 August 2011 00:46
Chef Joseph of Napa Valley Grille

The passion that Napa Valley Grille Executive Chef Joseph Gillard has for local seasonal produce extends beyond the fare he picks up at the farmers market or purchases through partnerships with local farmers for his guests at the restaurant. Gillard has partnered with Country Fresh Herbs in Tarzana to run a CSA (community-supported agriculture) program that connects the farmers directly with busy professionals who don't have the time to shop farmers markets. Gillard has been partnering with Country Fresh Herbs since 1997 and one of the things he's learned is that participating is a lot easier than people think. "More restaurants and organizations should be doing it," said Gillard, shown here presenting a CSA basket to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. "It is easy to have vegetables delivered even to where you work. Our guests are as passionate about their deliveries as we are."

Through both his work at Napa Valley Grille and with the CSA, Chef Gillard's main focus is sustainability -- the need to support local farmers so they can continue doing their work. The menu at Napa Valley Grille changes with what's available at the markets and from the local farmers. Currently that includes petite heirloom zucchini and flowers, lemon cucumbers, little gem and butter lettuce, kale, peaches, radishes and, of course, heirloom tomatoes. 

Since many of us currently have an abundance of tomatoes (yea!), Chef Gillard shared with us a recipe for heirloom tomato gazpacho. He said he keeps some in his refrigerator at home as a "healthy fulfilling snack to be enjoyed anytime." (Click "read more" for recipe.)

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