Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Greens of Spring

Here's my April column from the Petaluma Post:

The brightest season of the year is upon us, when you think of green what do you think of?   Trees in bud?   The rolling hills?  Spring flowers?  A chef thinks of all of the fresh young produce that is beginning to hit the markets.  Peas, asparagus, spring onions, green garlic, artichokes, tender frilled mustard, the first peek of what is to come.

I love peas! I have been known after a long day to sit down with just a bowl of peas with a bit of butter; sometimes the simple things are the best.  But which peas to choose and did you know you can eat the plant too?   Pea tendrils are often used in Asian cuisine.  Snow peas, snap peas, English peas.  Snow peas are thin and flat with the interior seed undeveloped, you will often find them in Asian cuisine and they are a great addition to salads.  Snap peas are the midway point, well developed seeds but the pod is tender enough for cooking.  This pea is great sautéed or raw, very popular on veggies trays.  English peas are the classic pea that you would get frozen in your local grocery.  The shell is not edible and only the seeds are edible, thus the term shelling.

Sautéed Pea Tendrils with Shitakes and Garlic
Serves 2
8 oz shitake mushrooms, sliced
2 bunches pea tendrils – the youngest you can find- chop bunches into thirds
3 cloves garlic chopped
4 Tbl vegetable oil
2 Tbl light soy

Heat the oil in a large skillet.  Make sure the skillet is about twice as big as you think you need.  Sauté the garlic, being careful not to burn it.  Then add the mushrooms and continue to sauté, adding additional oil if necessary.  When tender, then add the pea sprouts.  Turn once or twice with tongs.  Add the soy sauce and cover to steam 2 to 3 minutes.  This is a great side dish with miso glazed salmon.  See my 1/12/2012 blog for the salmon recipe.

Peas pair great with fresh mint, the sweetness of the peas is a classic combination.  A simple salad of snap peas with mint and carrot is a great dish to add to the Easter menu.

Snap Pea Salad with Mint
2 lbs snap peas - look for the string less variety or you will need to string each pea
1 lbs julienned carrots- you can also find these prepared in your grocers case
2 stems fresh mint
¼ cup olive oil
2 Tbl champagne vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Lightly blanch the carrots and snap peas for 3 to 5 minutes, then ice to chill to stop the carry over cooking.  Combine oil, vinegar, salt and pepper into a light dressing.  Just before serving shred the mint, and combine all the ingredients.  Serve immediately.

Green garlic is another spring joy.  The young tender sprouts from garlic often pulled when thinning plant for greater productions.  It has the same flavor but not as spicy and pungent, it looks much like green onions.  When cutting and preparing use the same techniques as leeks, cutting from the white up into the green as long as it is tender, wash very well for sand.  It is a great flavor for soups.

Potato Bacon Green Garlic Soup
3 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 cup green garlic, thinly sliced
2 strips bacon, diced
2 Tbl olive oil
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
½ cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste

Place oil, garlic and bacon in to a heavy bottom pot, and sauté till the bacon is crisp and the garlic is translucent, browning is ok but be careful not to burn.  Add potatoes, cover with stock and bring to a simmer.  Cook uncovered till the potatoes begin to fall apart.  Then puree with a hand blender.  Return to stove, add heavy cream and season to taste.

There is nothing that ushers in Spring like the thin crisp spears of asparagus, the queen of spring.  A favorite on the Easter table in my family.  With its delicate flavor and taste it is a great pairing with eggs.  A simple breakfast frittata is one of my favorites

Asparagus Frittata
Serves 2
½ cup chopped asparagus tips (also a great use for left overs)
4 eggs
½ cup crumbled Chèvre
2 Tbl olive oil
Pinch of salt and pepper

Place the eggs, salt and pepper in a bowl and mix well, being careful not to incorporate too much air.  Stir in the Chèvre.  Heat an 8” sautéed pan on the stove till hot, add oil, swirl to coat, then add the egg mixture.  Using a rubber spatula stir gently just around the edges.  As it be gins to set, turn off the heat, top with asparagus, and place in a 350 degree oven for 4 to 7 minutes, till set.  A great quick breakfast or serve with a salad for lunch.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Dry Creek Valley - Passport 2012

Every year the Dry Creek Valley vineyards (near Healdsburg) have their Passport Weekend (April 28 & 29 this year), a fabulous couple days of great wine and food pairings.  Last I checked tickets were sold out, but you can check again HERE to see if more become available.  It's a beautiful time of year for a drive in the wine country.

As usual we'll be at Dutcher Crossing Winery, so we hope you can come by and sample all the wonderful food and wine.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Sunday Brunch

Can you name this pan?

If you are German or Danish it might be a memory from your past.  It's an ebelskiver pan, for making (you guessed it) ebelskivers; a spherical pancake.  They are just smaller than a tennis ball, made with a batter similar to pancake or waffle.

I am lucky enough to have 2 pans that have been passed down in my family and they come out for special occaions.  I’ll be making my favorite recipe for my family for Easter.

1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
2 eggs, separated
2 cups sour cream
½ cup milk or buttermilk
Oil (to grease the pan)

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl.

In a smaller bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sour cream, and milk.

Whip the egg whites to soft peaks

Add the egg and sour cream mixture to the flour mixture, fold in the egg whites, and mix till smooth

Heat the ebelskiver pan over medium-low heat.

Place a tiny bit of oil in each mold and spread it evenly around the molds before filling each mold with a spoonful of batter.

Cook until light brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn gently with a fork or skewer and brown the other side.

Now the question is jam, powdered sugar or syrup?


Cruising Down I-5

This past week I spent several hours cruising down I 5 to  a conference in Fresno.  Most everyone will tell you what a long boring drive it can be.  It reminds me of being a kid.  Our family liked to drive, vacations, day trips or even just to get out.  How many kids have heard "put down that book and look out the window."  I was taught that there is always something interesting out the window.  As we headed down I5 I started naming off the crops on the side of the road.  Yes, I learned from 70 miles per hour to pick out the trees, the crops, and even what is in the produce truck ahead of you.

It makes me think that the interest in food was given to me when I was 5 or 6 years old driving to Sacramento to see my grand parents.  Looking for tomatoes, corn, peppers and more.  I still find myself looking at every tree and field to see if I can pick out the young red tips of apricot trees, or the longer slender leaves of a peach, the shorter leaves of a plum, are they oranges or lemons, onions or garlic...

Don’t forget to roll down the windows and smell the fields.  It's like stopping to smell the roses, only faster!


Friday, April 6, 2012

Come Fly with PEP!

PEP Housing's big event is coming up in just over a month (click HERE for more info).  We'll be catering the event with a great menu.

Fly Away With PEP
Friday, May 4, 2012
Rocking H Ranch
Petaluma California

Pre-boarding Area
Classic Canapés
Gorgonzola with Ham
Horseradish with Cucumber

 Worldwide Inflight Meals

Moroccan Chicken
Herbed Couscous
Pitas and Hummus

 Spaghetti and Meatballs
Classic Marinara
Caesar Salad, Garlic Bread

 Green Chile and Cheese Enchilada
Cilantro Slaw
Chips and Salsa

 Caribbean Kabobs
Grilled Shrimp and Pineapple with Bell Pepper
Coconut Rice

Sushi Station
California Rolls

French Patisserie
Individual French Style Desserts
Crème Brule Tarts, Cheese Cake Truffle
Cocktail Cookies

 Coffee Service
Petaluma Coffee Company

We hope you can all make it!