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Welcome to Gardens to Tables
Italian Style + Southern California Produce = the Peach Bellini at Locanda de Lago Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   
Sunday, 24 July 2011 00:49

Lago peach belliniIt’s always nice to find a gem you didn’t know about in your own back yard. In my case, the back yard is Santa Monica and the gem is Locanda de Lago, which has been on the Third Street Promenade for 20 years. I have to admit I’ve walked by it a million times but didn’t realize until a recent visit just how much care and energy the restaurant spends in not only creating a true Northern Italian (specifically, the Lake Region) experience but also in crafting that experience using the best in local produce. It doesn’t hurt that their location is steps from the legendary Santa Monica Farmers Market, which means many of the farmers are able to walk their produce right into the kitchen.

The summer menu, which changes weekly depending on the fare at the farmers market, includes Borage Tortellini, Verdure Carta Fata (vegetables steamed in parchment paper), Summer Filetto (with eggplant caviar, sauteed zucchini and summer truffles) and a burrata salad highlighted by market tomatoes and a basil sorbet. Even better, the burrata is made locally and traditionally by an Italian family. (You may utter a quiet guttural “mmmmmmm” now.)

Also on the current menu are cocktails named after celebrities with summer homes at Lake Como (the De Niro, the Madonna and the Clooney, which features blood oranges) and, particularly appropriate because of the preponderance of peaches available right now, a White Peach Bellini, made using the original recipe from Harry’s Bar in Venice. If you’d like to make it at home, the recipe is quite simple: just muddle a quarter of a ripe white peach and then fill the rest of the champagne glass with prosecco. Like Lago, it’s the perfect combination of seasonal produce and Italian style.

 
Apple, Avocado and Arugula Amuse from San Francisco’s Newest Star (Michelin, That Is) Print E-mail
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Written by Ann Shepphird   
Saturday, 16 July 2011 05:40
Chef Sri of Taj Campton PlaceThere’s something wonderful about traveling through a farmers market with a chef. You can almost see the little gears ticking as they make their way through the produce stands making decisions for that night’s menu. A few weeks ago, I got that chance at the farmers market held each Saturday morning at the Ferry Building in San Francisco (already a great hub for artisanal products) with Chef Srijith Gopinathan (left) of the Taj Campton Place San Francisco. Chef Sri hit at least a dozen stands for everything from baby beets to stone fruit. Some of the lessons learned: greens that will be used raw need to be more perfect looking than those that will be cooked, and borage flowers make a beautiful edible garnish.

Chef Sri’s Campton Place Restaurant recently received a Michelin star and it’s easy to see why -- the farm-fresh food is expertly prepared and the service is impeccable. Not to mention civilized: The meal starts with Master Sommelier Richard Dean coming by the table with a cart filled with a choice of four types of champagne as an aperitif. The spring tasting menu we enjoyed brought to life everything we’d seen at the market, including a baby beet salad with fennel ice, Andante Dairy goat cheese and lemon-infused olive oil; maine lobster butter poached with coconut curry, green peas and cilantro; sous-vide Angus beef with wild morels, cippolini onions and petit bok-choi; and caramelized chocolate cake with yogurt, pear and blood orange sorbet.

But the highlight (at least for me) was an amuse-bouche made with apple, avocado and arugula, not flavors I would think of putting together but blended in a way that was simply amazing, with each sip bringing out the best flavors of each. Chef Sri was kind enough to share the recipe. Now, many of you may not have N2O chargers and syphons (I know I don’t) but I’m sure it’s just as tasty as a gazpacho-style cold soup. Enjoy!

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Mad for Macadamia at Hawaii's Puna Girl Farms Print E-mail
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Written by Abbie Mood   
Tuesday, 05 July 2011 07:13

Puna Girl Farms signIf you've ever wondered what all goes into growing those wonderful macadmia nuts you get in Hawaii, a visit to Puna Girl Farms in Pahoa on Hawaii's Big Island is definitely in order. On a recent tour of Puna Girl Farms through Kapoho Kine Adventures (currently the only way to tour the farm) on a trip set up by the Big Island Visitors Bureau, I learned a lot about all that goes into macadamia nut farming from owner Cherie McArthur. Cherie and her husband Ian first came to Hawaii's Big Island in 1990 for a visit and were hooked. They bought some land in Pahoa (part of the Puna area) and, after clearing out eight acres of jungle by hand over two years to save 600 Macadamia nut trees, Puna Girl Farms was born.

For any of you who might be interested in trying your hand at macadamia nut farming, here are some tricks of the trade that Cherie passed along: 

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Peach & Tomato Gazpacho from Hadsten House Print E-mail
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Written by Ann Shepphird   
Tuesday, 14 June 2011 10:08

Hadsten House restaurantIf you're like me, it's pretty much impossible to even say peach-and-tomato gazpacho without drooling or making that mmm-gurgling sound that Homer Simpson makes. Luckily -- especially with both peaches and tomatoes in season -- Chef Aaron Dixon of Hadsten House Restaurant (right) in Solvang was kind enough to share his recipe. I met Chef Aaron a couple weeks ago when I ate at the restaurant, which is part of the recently renovated and re-launched Hadsten House Inn & Spa, and can attest that his homemade mushroom-and-spinach ravioli is simply amazing (not to mention the baked brie with port-wine-infused apricots and figs). Okay, I'd better stop before I start making the mmm-gurgling sound again -- enjoy the gazpacho!

Peach & Tomato Gazpacho

By Chef Aaron Dixon
Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:
4 cups chopped vine ripe tomatoes
2 cups fresh peaches pitted & chopped
1/4 cup crushed ice
2 tablespoons chopped shallots
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
 
Blend together until smooth 2/3 of the tomatoes, 1/2 of the peaches, with the ice, all shallots, 1/2 of the olive oil, 1/2 of the vinegar, 1/2 of the tarragon and 3/4 of the salt & pepper. Strain through a fine mesh strainer, discard the solids and mix in the orange juice.
 
In a separate bowl, mix together remaining ingredients to create the salsa. To serve, ladle soup into chilled bowls and top with the peach & tomato salsa. Note: A good wine to serve with this soup is a Santa Ynez Valley Pinot Grigio (for instance, the 2009 Di Bruno Pinot Grigio).

 
Basil Margarita from Cheyenne Mountain Resort Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   
Tuesday, 21 June 2011 08:43
Cheyenne Mountain Resort basil margarita

Hello summer! And what better way to celebrate than with an ice-cold margarita. The Will Rogers Lounge at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort in Colorado Springs has created an award-winning summer margarita that uses basil (six types!) picked fresh from their on-site organic garden. Here is the recipe for the version that uses Thai basil. Feel free to experiment with other basil varieties you may be growing.

 

Ingredients

3 oz. Thai basil sweet & sour mix (recipe below)

1½ oz. Cuervo 1800 Silver tequila 

¾ oz. Bauchant orange liqueur

 

Shake all ingredients and strain over ice. Garnish with Thai basil leaves. 

 

To make Thai basil sweet & sour mix: combine 1 cup sugar with 1 cup hot water in a blender and mix slowly. Add 20 Thai basil leaves and blend until completely chopped. Mix with 4 oz. fresh lemon juice and 4 oz. fresh lime juice. Chill overnight.

 
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