Gardens to Tables

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Tortilla Soup from Vallarta Botanical Garden's Hacienda de Oro Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   
Hacienda de Oro at Vallarta Botanical Garden

1 quart chicken broth
2 tomatoes, roasted and peeled
2 large cloves garlic, peeled
1 small white onion, peeled and chopped
2 guajillo chiles, seeded and deveined, soaked in hot water until soft
4 epazote leaves
1 tablespoon corn oil, plus enough to fry the tortillas
4 corn tortillas
crumbled queso fresco or mild feta cheese type
sliced avocado
Mexican crema or crême fraiche
Chicharron (pork rinds) or shredded cooked chicken
Strips or rings of guajillo chile

In a large saucepan, bring the chicken broth to a simmer. Meanwhile, place the tomatoes, garlic, onion, chiles and epazote in the blender with just enough broth to allow the blades to turn, and puree.
In a separate saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon corn oil, add the puree and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes. Add the simmering broth, cook another 15 minutes; add salt to taste.
Cut the tortillas into Frito-size strips, fry in hot oil until crispy, and drain well.
Serve the soup with the tortilla strips in the broth and pass the cheese, avocado, crema, chile strips and chicharron or chicken separately, to be added by each diner.
Serves 4.

A Flair for Caviar - and Asparagus Soup - from Petrossian West Hollywood Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

Petrossian caviar saladIf you’ve ever wondered what you would get if you matched an almost 100-year-old purveyor of caviar with a talented young chef, then a trip to Petrossian West Hollywood is in order. Chef Giselle Wellman has not only developed new ways to enjoy caviar -- with dishes such as a salad that uses butter lettuce instead of blinis with caviar, crème-fraiche-dill-lemon dressing, shallots, chives and hard-boiled egg (pictured left) -- but she has also started saving seeds for a small kitchen garden in the alley behind the restaurant.

Although the Petrossian signature menu, which includes faves such as the Egg Royal and high-end splurges such as the Tsar Imperial Caviar Trio ($390), does not change, the rest of the menu changes seasonally to get the most out of local produce. With asparagus season just around the corner, Chef Giselle was kind enough to share her recipe for a particularly yummy asparagus soup (which, as you can see from the photo below, pairs well with Petrossian's hibiscus champagne). Enjoy!

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 Passion for Local, Seasonal and Sustainable at the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

Chef Andres Jimenez at Ritz-Carlton, Laguna NiguelA childhood in Costa Rica surrounded by farms helped form Chef Andres Jimenez's passion for local, seasonal, sustainable and organic products. It's a passion he's been able to share with others as the executive chef at the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel. Not only does Chef Andres partner with local farms that include Maggie Farms, Tuti Fruti, Gloria Farms, VR Farms and Aqua Farms (for mussels, clams and oysters) but he regularly takes guests on tours of the resort's own herb garden, put in last year as part of the Jean-Michel Cousteau's Ambassadors of the Environment program. Here is a short video with Chef Andres in the garden talking about how to work with the herbs rosemary, parsley, sage and thyme.  

In a recent cooking demonstration at the resort (on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean no less), Chef Andres shared with us this recipe for pomegranate and bulgur wheat salad (click "read more" for recipe), which is as delicious as it is healthy -- not to mention garden-friendly. He also left us with this nifty tip: If you want to illustrate the importance of buying organic, just taste the difference it makes in butter. 

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!"

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