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Welcome to Gardens to Tables Travel Articles Cabo's Las Ventanas al Paraiso: A Chef’s Garden at Land’s End
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Written by Kathy A. McDonald   

Chef Guisset of Las VentanasEdged by desert and sea, the herb and vegetable garden at Las Ventanas al Paraiso is meticulously tended, as are all the xeriscaped grounds at the picture-perfect resort in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Fabrice Guisset (right), the resort’s classically trained executive chef, makes the most of the Baja peninsula’s produce and exquisite seafood, the on-site kitchen garden, as well as the talents and traditional recipes of his Mexican-born staff. Always within reach of the French chef and his culinary team: a tiered display of herb bunches in water. Among the Provencal herbs at hand: sage, leaf parsley, oregano, rosemary and cilantro.

Las Ventanas herb tierThe garden at Las Ventanas is set apart in a sunny corner. Once a parking area, small carefully cultivated plots now yield celery, oregano, Epazote leaves, chilies (Serrano and Jalapeño), lemongrass, chayote as well as mint. Guisset plants the mint close to the chilies—infusing the herb with an unexpected kick. An artisan-laid arroyo-weathered stone path separates the parcels. Plants are well labeled—in fact, there is a handy guide to all the native plantings found throughout the scenic property from the giant Prickly Pear cactus (nopal gigante) to the Tequila, New Mexican and Desert Agave species.

Local produce here includes avocados (used in Las Ventanas chunky guacamole), basil (from nearby Miraflores) and ruby red Roma tomatoes. Almost all of the fresh fish served is line-caught and brought in daily by local fisherman. You can often see fishing boats just offshore in the Sea of Cortez. Rainbow-hued red snapper, Wahoo, and striped sea bass are abundant and versatile—the grilled sea bass tacos are unforgettably delicious. (Click "read more" for the rest of the article -- and Guisset's recipe for guacamole.)


Las Ventanas cooking classSpend a pleasant morning watching Guisset prepare and serve several of the resort’s signature dishes at the open-air outdoor demonstration kitchen under a traditional thatched roof or palapa, set in the center of the leafy kitchen garden. A large mirror above means you won’t miss any steps in the preparations. Ceiling fans keep the temperature just right; a glass of champagne helps concentration, while the rosemary plants lining the path heat up in the sun, scenting the air. Your senses are now primed to absorb the al fresco cooking lesson.

 

An early proponent of Baja-Med cuisine -- Guisset advises the culinary movement began at Las Ventanas -- the chef merges Mediterranean dishes with indigenous Mexican ingredients.  Ratatouille, for instance, gets a punch from Serrano chili. Another adaptation: moules (black mussels) and cherry tomatoes in a tequila-infused broth, seasoned with cilantro, cooked in a clay pot in a wood fire oven.

Guisset is serious about his avocation and utilizing the freshest produce and fish available. No detail is overlooked: from the 52 ingredients needed for the resort’s decadent mole to a crisp stalk of celery he selects from the garden to accompany the red snapper topped with gremolata (a diced mix of garlic, parsley and lemon zest). Inspired by his garden, the chef spontaneously adds a bit of mint to the mixture. Viva el jardin! For more information on Las Ventanas, visit their website at lasventanas.com

Las Ventanas’ Guacamole

Choose avocados carefully: touch the top end to determine ripeness, rather than squeezing the mid-section. Haas avocado preferred.

Las Ventanas guacamoleIngredients:
6 large Haas avocados
1 red onion
1 Roma tomato
1 bunch of cilantro
1 Serrano chili
1 Jalapeño chili
1 oz. limejuice
Salt to taste

Mince the onion and chili (cut chili end off, cut in half, carefully remove seeds). De-seed and chop the Roma tomato.
Using a sharp knife, cut the avocado away from the pit. Quickly insert knife into pit, twist slightly to remove. Use a flat spoon to scrape avocado away from skin. Using a pairing knife, cut the avocado into cubes.
Combine the ingredients in a large bowl; season with salt and hand-squeezed lime juice.  
Serve with tortilla chips.
 
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