Gardens to Tables

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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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Garden Poll

What's the first thing you're planting this spring?
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!!!

Vegan Curry Chick Pea Couscous From Fairmont's New Lifestyle Cuisine Plus Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

Fairmont Vancouver vegan couscousIn an attempt to cater to the increasing variety of dietary concerns and requests from its guests – from gluten free to macrobiotic to vegan -- Fairmont Hotels & Resorts has launched a new culinary program called Lifestyle Cuisine Plus. Through the program, Fairmont chefs are given additional training and on-site software that analyzes nutrition content, and then encouraged to create dishes appropriate for their particular destination. Most Fairmont hotels already offer farm-to-table cuisine (many from their own kitchen gardens and bee hives) so the new program – the “plus” if you will – is the addition of health and wellness benefits to the seasonal, local fare already in place.

As an example of one of the new menu options, here is a recipe for vegan curry chick pea couscous from The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver. Others can be found on Fairmont's Everyone's An Original site. Enjoy!

A Flair for Local Talent -- and Hawaii Regional Cuisine -- at Chai's Island Bistro Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

Chai Island Bistro CookbookLocated at the Aloha Tower Marketplace on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, Chai's Island Bistro is a haven for local talent. This is true both on the stage (where local entertainment is featured nightly) and in the kitchen, where produce from local farms is featured in Hawaii Regional Cuisine influenced by Chef/Owner Chai Chaowasaree's native Thailand. Chef Chai works closely with local farmers at Nalo Farms and Aloun Farms. He also helped found Hawaiian Island Chefs, an organization whose mission is to promote agriculture and aquaculture in Hawaii and to help promote academic scholarships in the culinary arts. 

For those who can't get to Oahu and would like to learn more about Chef Chai's cooking -- or try it themselves at home -- his cookbook, "The Island Bistro Cookbook," is a great place to start. Below is one of the recipes. According to Chef Chai, "This is one of the easiest dishes to make. You don't have to follow the recipe exactly and you can substitute pork or anything else. You can stir-fry it any way you want and make it as fancy or simple as you like. It depends on how much you want to show off for your dinner guests!"

Bringing Local Farms to the Table at M Bistro in New Orleans Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

Chef Matt MurphyThere may be no city more beloved by foodies than New Orleans. And, while the city has always been known for its fresh local fish, not as much of the attention has been focused on the area’s farms and farmers. Matt Murphy (pictured right), executive chef at the Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans, is helping to change all that with his M bistro restaurant. Named one of the top farm-to-table hotel restaurants by Travel + Leisure magazine, Chef Murphy recently launched a new seasonal menu with items that include cauliflower bisque, roasted sweet corn cioppino, grilled quail and arugula salad, and chanterelle and morel mushroom gnocchi – from local farmers that include Anne and Sandy Sharpe at Covey Rise Farm (mixed greens, baby veggies and heirloom tomatoes), Nick Usher at Grow Farms (greens, root vegetables and herbs) and Costa Family Farms (broccoli, cauliflower, citrus).

For us, Chef Murphy has kindly provided a great recipe for crab-stuffed artichoke heart with organic mixed greens and Meyer lemon sauce. (Click "Read More" for recipe.) Enjoy!

Harvest Apple, Chanterelle & Squash Risotto from Morgan's in the desert Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

Chef Jimmy SchmidtIt's that time of year: time for the holidays, for fall produce at its peak and for the "season" to get under way out in the Southern California desert. A top hideaway since the 1920s (when Frank Capra wrote screenplays from a bungalow that still bears his name), La Quinta Resort & Club last year added the Morgan's in the desert restaurant. Morgan's Executive Chef Jimmy Schmidt (right) specializes in finding and using the best in seasonal ingredients for his menus -- and was kind enough to share this fabulous risotto recipe with us.

Harvest Apple, Chanterelle & Squash Risotto

Makes 4 servings
Prep Time 30 Minutes - Cook Time 30 Minutes
4 cups diced butternut squash
3 cups chanterelles, brushed cleaned (do not rinse with water) and torn into quarters
6 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 cups of fresh apple cider
1/4 cup sliced fresh ginger root        
2 tablespoons minced shallots
2 cups Violone Nano or Arborio rice
1 tablespoon mild smoked paprika
2 cups dry “J” Pinot Gris white wine
4 tablespoons fresh chives
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup aged finely ground Parmesan cheese
2 cups Honey Crisp apples, cut into fine julienne
2 tablespoons fresh sage leaf, cut fine into chiffonade
2 tablespoons hazelnut oil (substitute olive oil)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. (Click "read more" for rest of recipe.)

High-Country Mushrooms from Chef O'Dowd of the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

Chef Michael O'DowdWhen it's mushroom season, you'll know it by the abundance of them at your local farmers market. If you manage to get your hands on some great high-country mushrooms and are wondering how to get the most out of them using items (such as garlic, shallots, basil, lavender and rosemary) from your garden, here’s a great recipe from Chef Michael O’Dowd (pictured right) of the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass – and its acclaimed Kai restaurant, who says these high-country mushrooms are one of his favorite seasonal items to use.

Northern Arizona Mushrooms

4 oz wild local high country mushrooms
1 tbsp roasted & minced garlic cloves
1 tbsp minced shallots
1 tbsp chopped Ms. Burns basil (substitute normal fresh basil)
1 tsp chopped fresh lavender
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 oz extra virgin olive oil
1/2 aged sherry vinegar
1 pat of plugra butter
Sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste

First brush the dirt off all of your mushrooms with a brush (do not rinse or get wet). Take the stems off if they are tough. In a saute pan heat olive oil on high heat. Once the pan is extremely hot add you mushrooms, garlic, shallots and half of your herbs. Sear until you see the mushrooms caramelizing. Add the sherry vineger and toss and then finish with the butter, remaining herbs & s&p to taste.

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