Gardens to Tables

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Farm-to-Table Street Tacos from the San Diego Convention Center Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

San Diego Convention CenterIt's one thing to provide farm-to-table fare in the home or a small restaurant. It's quite another when you're doing it for really large groups, but that's just what Executive Chef Jeff Leidy does in his position at the San Diego Convention Center. At a recent gathering of, oh, a few thousand people, Leidy provided a reception-style Mexican fiesta with ingredients sourced from within 100 miles (which includes the northern Baja region of Mexico) of the center. Even better, Leidy is now offering some of his signature recipes sized down for home cooks. Below (click "read more") is his recipe for Carne Asada or Chicken Street Tacos, filled with all sorts of great spring and summer produce like tomatoes, jalapenos, onions, limes and cilantro. Additional recipes can be found on the San Diego Convention Center's site. Enjoy!

Parmesan Risotto with Parsnips, Kale and Watercress from Laguna's Three Seventy Common Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

Chef Ryan AdamsIt's no secret that Laguna Beach, California, is a bit of a farm-to-table foodie paradise -- something I covered recently in a story for What's even better is the number of young chefs who've opened their own restaurants in the city's downtown with an emphasis on farm-to-table. These include Chef Ryan Adams (left), who opened Three Seventy Common last year. A Laguna native, Chef Ryan grew up working with the fresh fruit and vegetables from his mom's extensive garden. He still does: When we were there she had recently come in with bushels of Meyer Lemons and Blood Red Oranges, which he turned into new menu items and fresh cocktails.

During our visit, Chef Ryan told us that due to the end of mushroom season, he was about to switch out his very popular wild mushroom risotto with one that featured parsnips, kale and watercress. Even better for those of us who are more likely to grow parsnips, kale and watercress than to forage for wild mushrooms, he was kind enough to share the recipe. Enjoy!

Chef Tylun Pang on "What Maui Likes to Eat" Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

Chef Pang on farmMaui food. I only have to say the words and your mouth begins to water thinking of all the fresh products -- from local fish to Maui onions -- available on the island, doesn't it? Obviously, the best way to get Maui food is to, well, go to Maui -- and enjoy it yourself at one of island's many food outlets, which range from local stands to fine dining restaurants (some of which were featured in our story "Celebrating Agricultural Abundance on the Island of Maui").

A new one to add to the list is Ko at the Fairmont Kea Lani, Maui, which translates to "sugar cane" in Hawaiian, and celebrates both the agricultural abundance of the island and the mix of cultures that came together during the plantation era. Even better, Ko's executive chef, Tylun Pang (pictured above at Otani Farms), sources 90 percent of his produce from regional farms, including Hali'imaile Farms, Escobedo Farms, Kula Farms, Keaau Farms, Evonuk Farms, CN Farms, Allen Nago Farms, Anuhea Farms, Kamuela Farms, Shishido Farms, Pacific Produce and Island Paradise Farms. As Chef Pang says, "Listening to the farmers and fishermen and their stories helps me understand what they produce and what's being caught. I can then use my knowledge and training to take the flavors to the next level."

For those who'd like to bring some of those flavors home, Chef Pang has a book called "What Maui Likes to Eat" (click on the Amazon link on the right if you'd like to order) that is filled with recipes and stories from the island. Even better, 100 percent of the sales from the book are donated to the local culinary academy on Maui. And, Chef Pang was kind enough to share one of his signature recipes with us. See below for his Kobe Beef Poke, which uses island favorites such as Kula onion, Maui raw sugar, Hawaiian alaea salt and Japanese cucumber. Enjoy!

Traditional Christmas Tamales from El Pinto Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

El PintoOn a recent visit to El Pinto -- the Albuquerque institution known not only for its restaurant (which has grown over the years to the point where they can serve up to 2,700 plates a night) but also for its all-natural green and red chile salsas and sauces (found in markets all over the U.S.) -- I learned a few things of interest to the GardenstoTables crowd: 1. El Pinto partners with a farmer in Hatch, New Mexico, to grow as many of their chiles as possible organically, which are then hand picked and roasted; and 2. How to make traditional tamales, a Christmas tradition in Mexican and New Mexican households. (Seen here in this great video by PilotGirl Productions' Sonja Stark:

If you've ever wanted to try your hand at making Christmas tamales, the folks at El Pinto were kind enough to pass along their recipe, which was passed down from the owners' grandmother, Josephina Chavez Griggs. Once you see all that goes into making a traditional tamale, you'll realize why it's only made for holidays: It's a lot of work. And, okay, it's a lot of lard (which you'll see in the video), too. But also filled with good things such as as onions, garlic, chiles and masa. And absolutely delicious. Enjoy.

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.

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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