Gardens to Tables

Spring is time for:

Tomatomania!

The Tomatomania folks will be offering pop-ups through the end of April throughout Southern California. They will not only (obviously) have a wide variety of tomato seedlings but also peppers and other veggies. For more information, click here.

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Welcome to Gardens to Tables
Finding Farm-to-Table at the Old Course Hotel in St. Andrews, Scotland Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

Old Course Hotel in St. AndrewsThere are a number of things one expects to find in St. Andrews, Scotland: some of the most celebrated golf courses in the world (including the “Old Course” aka the Home of Golf); the beach featured in the iconic scene from “Chariots of Fire” (hum the Vangelis score and it'll come to you); and a certain university where a certain William and a certain Kate met. What is perhaps not as expected is an emphasis on farm-to-table cuisine, but that’s exactly what I found on a recent trip to the Old Course Hotel, Golf Resort & Spa in St. Andrews (pictured, left).

Chef Marshall of Old Course HotelThe emphasis on sourcing “what’s on our doorstep” comes from Ross Marshall (right), head chef for the hotel’s award-winning Road Hole Restaurant. Chef Marshall says he loves using local suppliers because “you can trace the products that you use and speak to the suppliers and farmers on a daily basis. And you know that when it is local, it’s got to be at its best.”

Some of the local suppliers used by Chef Marshall include wild berries from Brasters Far in the summer and winter cabbages and sprouts from Leaven Larder. In season – and being featured in the kitchen – now are grouse, pheasant, partridge venison, cabbage sprouts, pumpkin and the last of the kale.

Also currently in season are butternut squash and arugula (which is called rocket in the U.K.) and Chef Marshall was kind enough to share the hotel’s recipe for a salad that combines the two with pine nuts and sage and a honey dressing. Enjoy!

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The Story Behind "Iowa Farms, California Tables." Print E-mail
Written by Lori C. Aronsohn   

Iowa Farms California TablesAlthough I say that the reason I wrote the eCookbook "Iowa Farms, California Tables" was to give me an excuse to purchase an iPad, that is only partially true. 

A transplanted Californian, I frequently take trips down memory lane to my innocent childhood in small-town Iowa. If you’ve been to the Midwest, you know that farm-to-table fare isn’t a recent concept.  This is Heartland America where farm-to-table is, and always has been the rule, the expectation, at the dinner table. Our mother and our Aunt Betty worked at the local Morrell meat packing plant.  Our father drove a truck for Wonder Bread. Our milk was delivered to us from the local Wapello Dairy.   Growing up in Iowa in the 1960s meant sprawling out in the back of a station wagon and watching acres and acres of corn and alfalfa fields whoosh by as Papa and Mother took us to see relatives, sometimes stopping at roadside stands to sample tomatoes that actually tasted like tomatoes or peaches that were so juicy the flesh practically fell off the pit before it made it to our lips. 

In 1968 our parents packed up our things, told us to wave goodbye to our grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, and threw us in the car. Destination: Sunny California. It was on this journey that our taste buds were invited to expand beyond American farm fare. As soon as we had crossed from Arizona into California we experienced our first ‘Mexican’ food. The tacos tasted pretty good. We were already fans of ground beef, and the crunchy corn shell wrapped around it and the cheese and ‘salsa’ was a delicious and messy discovery. It was a nice change from the hard-boiled eggs and sandwiches we’d been snacking on from the cooler tucked into the backseat floor on our three-day American road trip.

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Turning Lowly Cauliflower into Sumptuous Risotto at Pinot Bistro Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

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!

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You Say Tomato, I Say Pesto Print E-mail
Written by Lori C. Aronsohn   

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!!!

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Showing Celery a Little Respect at Cafe Pinot Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

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.

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