The local farmers market in Santa Barbara always seems to yield some new seasonal find. At the Tuesday market I found fresh garlic. By fresh I mean just picked, not dried on a line until the skin is papery. The skins are still soft and supple with a colorful spray of red strips. The cloves are pearly white and have a milder flavor that fully dried garlic. You can use liberal amounts as it seems to sweeten when cooked. Seeing this garlic reminds me of a summer in the Provo area of Utah back in the early 1960s. My grandma Helen was an old fashioned grandma that picked fruits and vegetables and put them up (canned them). Grandma Helen also was an avid mushroom hunter and we would forage in the cow pastures for what I now know to be the common field mushroom, agaricus bisporus. I went with her on one occasion to a field and gleaned garlic that had been missed by the mechanical harvesting.
Peeled Garlic Cloves
We had top sirloin steaks already on the menu for dinner so the garlic was a natural to toss in the pan with a spray of rosemary. The whole cloves cooked quickly and still had a nice crunch to them. I deglazed the pan with red wine and added a little demi glace and cooked white mushrooms. Making this beef dished reminded me of those happy days at grandma Helen's.
Figs are one of my most favored fruits. I could down half a bag of Fig Newtons with a glass of milk as a kid. As a chef, I like to use it in such dishes as Salt Cured Foie Gras on Fig Jam, Duck Breast with Gastrique Sauce and Poached Figs. Figs can be eaten fresh or dried, and used in jam-making. Most commercial production is in dried or otherwise processed forms, since the ripe fruit does not transport well, and once picked does not keep well.
Here is a little history and fig facts from Wikipedia.
While considered a fruit, the fig is actually an inverted flower. The seeds, known as “drupes” are in fact the real fruit. Figs are the only fruit to fully ripen and semi-dry on the tree. They are a good source of dietary fiber, potassium and manganese. They are free of fat, sodium and cholesterol.
A large light greenish yellow fig. The eye is very tight and small. Average weight is 1.7 oz. Two crops. Very good fresh or dried with excellent flavor.
The fig is believed to be indigenous to western Asia and to
have been distributed by man throughout the Mediterranean area. Remnants of
figs have been found in excavations of sites traced to at least 5,000 B.C.
Thousands of cultivars,
most unnamed, have been developed or come into existence as human
migration brought the fig to many places outside its natural range. It
has been an important food crop for thousands of years, and was also
thought to be highly beneficial in the diet.
The edible fig is one of the first plants that were cultivated by humans. Nine types of figs dating to about 9400–9200 BC were found in the early Neolithic village Gilgal I (in the Jordan Valley, 13 km north of Jericho). The find may thus be the first known instance of agriculture.
It is proposed that they may have been planted and cultivated
intentionally, one thousand years before the next crops were
Figs were also a common food source for the Romans. Cato the Elder, in his De Agri Cultura,
lists several strains of figs grown at the time he wrote his handbook:
the Mariscan, African, Herculanean, Saguntine, and the black Tellanian (De agri cultura, ch. 8). The fruits were used, among other things, to fatten geese for the production of a precursor of foie gras.
Of all the unlikely places for a Lobster Boil Beach Dinner, we catered for a group of ladies on a horse ranch in the St. Ynez valley. The Boil is a very traditional cookout at the beach in the northeast of the US. The cooking is at its most basic, boiled foods. Its all about the ingredients and impeccable timing. The dinner was served next to the stables with the horses looking over the action. The ladies wore "lobster hats" and no utensils were used save for mallets, picks and claw crackers. It was great fun.
Chef Michael Hutchings
Lobster Boil Menu
Live Lobsters, 1-Pound Each, 1 per person, with boiled garlic Smoked Sausages 2 ounces per person 1 to 1-1/2 Pound Size Live Local Crab 1 per person Mexican Wild Shrimp, Shell on 16-20 Size 2 oz. per person Yellow Corn on the Cob 1/2 per person Boiled Red Bliss Potatoes 4 oz. per person Drawn Butter and Lemon Halves Artichoke with Homemade Mayonnaise 1 small per person Garlic Bread Cocktail Sauce Horseradish
Artichokes are one of my favorite vegetables. The Santa Barbara farmers Market had these little gems last week. After they are trimmed and cooked, most of the artichoke is tender and edible. For added flavor, toss them on the grill before serving. Here is a delicious recipe for artichoke salad.
I thought I would share my outline for a lecture I gave to a group of cooks at the local hospital. It is easy to forget the wide variety of fats and oils we have available for cooking. I thought you might like to know.
Chef Michael Hutching
Fats and Oils in Cooking
Liquid and solid fats as flavor enhancers.
Fats absorb and transfer flavors to food.
Fat give sustained feeling of being full.
Fats come from animal sources like lard, butter and shortening and from grains, seeds and nuts
First consideration is are they saturated, monounsaturated or poly saturated fats.
Saturated fats, mostly from animal products, should be eaten in moderation.
Trans fats, Trans fat is the common name for a type of unsaturated fat with trans-isomerfatty acid(s). Trans fats may be monounsaturated or polyunsaturated but never saturated. Hydrogenation is the main culprit.
Monounsaturated are considered best for cholesterol control.
The next consideration is what sort of taste and texture that fat or oil contributes to the cooking. Butter defines the cooking of France and olive oil defines Mediterranean cooking.
Measuring fats in bulk can be done by using water. For example, for 1/2 cup of fat, fill a measuring cup with 1/2 cup water then add fat until you see the 1 cup mark.
If you use oil instead of butter use about 80% to account for the milk solids and water in whole butter.
All fats and oils have about 9 calories per gram or 270 per ounce.
Oils can be classified in several way
Basic cooking oils such as soy, cottonseed, peanut, canola, corn or blends, olive oil.
Oils designed for deep fryers that withstand high heat
Specialty oils such as walnut, hazelnut, pumpkin, sesame, pistachio.
Most flavorful oils are cold pressed like an extra virgin olive oil. It has more natural flavor and is more expensive.
Some oils are hot or steam extracted and some are event removed with solvents.
After cold pressed, the best quality comes from unrefined oils which are extracted with heat. This is the so called virgin olive oil. Other oils such as peanut, soybean, rapeseed, sesame and coconut come this way. The advantage is more flavor.
These types of oils should be keep in cool, dark places and used soon after purchasing. They should be refrigerated if not in use. They do not work for deep-frying. Do not use these oils if they small fishy, cheesy or musty.
Most oils commercially made have been refined and lack real flavor because the are neutralized, de-colored and deodorized for stability.
General rules is to avoid getting any oil to the point where it starts to smoke, this means the oil is breaking down. Monounsaturated rated fats like sunflower, peanut and canola have the highest smoking point.
Avocado, Corn, canola (Canadian oil, low acid) type of rapeseed, ADD EVO at end of cooking for flavor, grape, safflower high smoke points, sesame seed-perfumed oil-toasted or not toasted, cottonseed-highly saturated fat, poppy seed oil, mustard seed, pumpkin seed.
Legume and nut oils.
Peanut-quality varies-little flavor.
Almond, walnut, hazelnut, macadamia nuts, pistachio-fragile and rancid quickly and low smoke points-best for dressings or added at last minute.
Best-fruit crushed, put in hydraulic press and extracted, Use in one year.
Extra Virgin Olive oil- Best, Fine Virgin pressed no heat or solvents-cooking & dressings, Olive Oil-refined with solvents or chemicals-sometimes blended, Light Olive Oil-refines-no flavor or color-waste of time, Pumace olive oil-paste heated and cooked out-poor choice.
Butter-80-82% milk fat-16% water, 1-1/2% milk solids, 2% salt
Select oil for affect on cooking, flavor, health and cost. No sense using and EVO to sauté foods.
Specialty oils used for flavor, add after cooking or in dressings.
Truffle oil-Truffle oil is a modern culinary ingredient added to foods, which is intended to impart the flavor and aroma of truffles to a dish. Most truffle oils are not, in fact, made from actual truffles, but are instead a synthetic product that combines a thioether (2,4-dithiapentane), one of numerous organic aromatics odorants found in real truffles, with an olive oil base. A few more expensive oils are alleged to be made from truffles or the byproducts of truffle harvesting and production, though the flavor of truffles is difficult to capture in an oil.
Oil Processing Levels
Refinement Level - Oils are generally grouped into two camps: unrefined and refined. Oil flavor intensity is generally inversely proportional to processing. The first step in producing any oil is removing it from its fruit, nut, seed or grain source. All oil extraction processes involve heating the oil in some way. However, temperatures over 300°F destroy the proteins and natural vitamin E in oils. Lower temperatures (in the 120°F to 160°F range) do not damage the oil significantly, but do reduce the yield, making good oils a little more expensive. It is essential to retain vitamin E in an oil because it prevents the oil from oxidizing. Oils with little vitamin E tend to go rancid quickly unless treated with antioxidant chemicals.
•Expeller-Pressed: These oils are obtained by squeezing the seed, grain, or fruit at pressures up to 15 tons per square inch. The higher the pressure, the more heat is generated. At extremely high pressures, the temperature can exceed 300°F.Most oils are extracted by expeller pressing and don't qualify as cold-pressed because friction heats them above 120°F. Still, unrefined expeller-pressed oils retain most of their flavor, aroma, color and nutrients.
Cold-Pressed: The term cold pressed theoretically means that an oil is expeller-pressed at low temperatures. However the term has no legal definition and is absolutely meaningless when used as an indication of quality. Olive oil, sesame oil, and peanut oil are really the only kinds that can be truly cold-pressed on any sort of large commercial scale. Olive oil is still extracted by the centuries-old process of stone-pressing, though these days it's usually done with hydraulic presses. Both techniques generate little heat, hence the term cold-pressed. They are the only substances that will easily yield their oil by simple, low-intensity pressure, which does not generate a great deal of heat. .True cold-pressed oils are prized. They contain minerals, phosphatides, and vitamin E and are high in trace nutrients.
Extracted: Extracted oils are invariably subjected to some sort of applied heat during processing.
Chemical or Solvent Extraction: The cheaper brands of oil (most regular commercial brands) generally use chemical solvents to extract the oil. A description of how the majority of oils are processed, or refined, is sobering. The oil is separated from its food source with hexane or other petroleum solvents and then boiled to drive off the toxic solvents. The oil is next refined, bleached, and deodorized, which involves heating it to over 400°F. The oil extracted this way still contains some undesirable solvent residues, while the amounts of many key nutrients (especially vitamin E) are significantly reduced. Antioxidants or preservatives such as BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) or BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) are then frequently added. The resulting product lacks flavor, aroma, pigments, and nutrients. All that can be said for such an oil is that it has an extended shelf life, a clear, uniform color, and an oily texture.
Somehow I still think of strawberries as a luxury food. Growing up in a family of six kids, we ate well but enjoyed basic food. Strawberries were reserved for the family reunions with strawberry shortcake being the headliner. In Orange County, California, it was still pretty rural t that time and strawberry farms were all over the place. In fact, it was considered a sport to sneak onto the farms and gorge on the berries. My favorite patch is now the parking structure for Disneyland, Anaheim.
When I went to France in 1978 to advance my culinary experience, I lived in a little village called Baron. It is a rustic farming area about one hour outside of Lyon. At that time there were small farms raising crops and livestock. Cows and goats would be paraded down the dirt road on the way to pasturage. Next door you could get fresh rabbit for a proper Civet de Lapin (slowly braised rabbit stew) or an aged goat cheese that was kept in a cool cellar. The milk went from udder, to pail to my fridge. Around the farmhouse there were hazelnut trees, a market garden and an abundance of escargot. In the surrounding forests, wild strawberries could be found. These little forest treasures call fraise de bois, strawberries of the woods, are not much bigger than you little finger and are very fragile. I would go picking in the forest with my daughter Emily stationed on my back in a harness. The berries would shine like a beacon from under the forest litter and Emily ate the lions share as they were picked.
While it is difficult to find fraise de bois on the market in Santa Barbara, we have farmers who grow berries as delicious as those strawberries of the woods. At the Farmers Market in Santa Barbara, Harry's Berries stands out as a strawberry grower. They have two varieties that you will never see in a chain supermarket since these berries do not have "structure." This means you cannot bounce them off a wall and still have an intact berry. Their short shelf life is more than made up in flavor; what a concept. They grow the Gaviota and Seascape berries. What distinguishes these berries are a low acidity and high moisture content. They have a delicious burst of flavor and strawberry perfume that reminds me of those Fraise de Bois from Baron.
Here is a little "ag talk" from the UC Davis web site about the gaviota strawberry. If this bores you, skip to the end for a delicious shortcake recipe.
* Excellent fruit quality and flavor
* Yields superior to Pajaro (summer planting) and equal or better than Camarosa and Chandler (winter planting)
* Larger fruit, easier harvest, and much lower cull rate than Camarosa
* Robust environmental tolerance, particularly resistant to rain damage, powder mildew, and anthracnose crown rot
Gaviota is characterized by its exceptional fruit quality (especially flavor), large fruit sizes on the order of 26-28 grams per fruit, and a plant form that is open, compact, and erect in comparison with Camarosa and Chandler. Also, fewer small fruit are produced, resulting in a cull rate that is only half that of Camarosa. Gaviota fruit have better rain tolerance than Camarosa.
Commercial appearance ratings for Gaviota fruit are comparable to or better than Chandler and Camarosa. Gaviota fruit is substantially firmer than fruit from Chandler but is slightly less firm than Camarosa. Gaviota’s flavor is less aromatic than Chandler, but has better balance and texture than Camarosa. Fruit color is similar to Camarosa. Overall, Gaviota fruit makes an excellent choice for both fresh and processed products.
Disease and Pest Resistance
Gaviota is relatively resistant to powdery mildew and Anthracnose crown rot, and is tolerant of strawberry viruses typically encountered in California. When treated properly, it has tolerance to two-spotted spidermites equal or greater than Chandler and Camarosa. It is moderately susceptible to common leaf spot, Verticillium wilt, and Phytophthora cactorum crown rot, so quality nursery stock and good site preparation are recommended.
Cold-stored “frigo” plants can be used for summer plantings, and plants can be established in late October or early November using high elevation planting stock. Summer planting trials carried out at the Watsonville Research Facility in 1995 and 1996 show that while Gaviota yields less than Camarosa on a per plant basis, the higher planting density made possible by its more compact form allows for equal or superior yields per acre. This advantage in crates per acre yielded is typically 5% to 10%, with a very pronounced difference in late-season yields. Gaviota yields outperformed Pajaro yields in these tests by an even more substantial margin.
Winter planting trials carried out at Watsonville show similar advantages in per acre yields for Gaviota over Camarosa, particularly for plants that had undergone longer periods of supplemental storage. Gaviota is not adapted to the early fall digging/planting system used in Southern California. It was also noted that the greater rain tolerance and relatively later fruiting period for Gaviota might offer further advantages in unusually wet seasons by avoiding some of the fruit damage that might otherwise occur."
The Seascape Strawberry, developed by U.C. Davis, is an excellent variety for low chill areas. Seascape Strawberry is a cross between the Selva and Douglas strawberry varieties, and is highly tolerant of viruses and diseases. It has a little more fiber that the Gaviota and keeps a little better.
So much for the technical stuff. Let's eat. I still like a good Strawberry Shortcake, although mine are different than we had as kids. I make my own biscuit dough using cream and almond meal to give it a rich-nutty flavor. The berries need little or no sugar. I just clean them and either mash them lightly or slice them and sweeten with minimal sugar to make a slightly liquid topping. And yes, real whipped cream is served.
If you are fortunate enough to find or grow baby turnips, here is a cooking tip that will make it easier to prepare these little gems. Cut off the top and root stem. Place them in a bowl and put a large hand-full of coarse salt on top. Rub the turnips vigorously to remove any dirt and slightly abrade some of the thin skin. Rinse them well and they are ready to cook. I either steam them until tender or toss them in olive oil, season with salt and pepper and roast them in a 375 degree oven until tender.
Chef Alain Chapel, a Chef's Chef
Alain Chapel Restaurant, Mionnay
The late -great Chef Alain Chapel had a three star Michelin restaurant in Mionnay, France, just outside of Lyon. I was delighted to do a stage (unpaid apprenticeship) there in 1981. Chef Alain had a superb dish on the menu that used caramelized turnips that were deglazed with port and veal stock. This was topped with a slice of seared foie gras. I think he had a talent for taking humble ingredients and elevating them to gastronomic gems.
What are Haricots Vert? Haricot vert [ah-ree-koh VEHR] is French for “green bean.” They have long, slender pods with intense color and flavor. There are no “strings” to remove, so only the ends need trimming when cleaning them. The Santa Barbara Farmers Market yielded these gems last Saturday. The yellow beans are yellow wax beans picked young. The were both grown on a farm in Oxnard, California.
I remember first hearing about haricot vert from my dear friend Chef James Sly, owner of Sly's in Carpinteria. I was at a food competition in the Disneyland Hotel. My competition piece was an elaborate piece monte (an elaborate architectural-like food construction) with two opposing sharks on rice socles (Cold-cooked rice carved into a pedestal), shark mousse and a few other excesses.
James had just returned from a stint in Europe working at the Hotel de Paris in Monaco and the Ritz in Paris. I was mesmerized by his stories of the food products and dishes he worked with at those great restaurants. Among the items he mentioned were tiny green beans with the flower bud still attached, Haricot Vert. These gems were unavailable to chefs in America back in the 1970s. Now, you find them at any good grocery store and certainly at the Santa Barbara Farmers Market.
In France during the late 1970s, Michel Guerard was at the forefront of the Nouevelle Cuisine movement that was altering the old repetoire of Escoffier. One of Guerard’s signature dishes was a Salade Gourmande. The ingredients included haricot vert, asparagus tips, petite lettuces cooked foie gras and a few slices of truffles, all anointed with a sherry vinaigrette.
I prepared the beans simply as a side dish for roasted halibut fillet. Be sure not to overcook the beans. Test a bean to be sure they remain a little crisp.
Parisenne carrots were popular to grow in Paris at the turn of the last century. They were grown in window boxes to have a readily available vegetable for the dinner table. The carrots are sweet and have a thin skin that needs no peeling. I have included a simple recipe adapted from Escoffier's Culinary Guide of 1909. The original recipe was for Potatoes Parisienne.
One of my joys is finding new fruits and vegetables at the Santa Barbara Farmer's Market. Spring is in full bloom and the farmers that converge at the market every week seem to be competing for the stomachs and wallets of the shoppers. It is market capitalism at its best.
I found berries that I have only heard of before, mulberries. They are stunning in appearance and are sweet and luscious.
There were two varieties at the market, the Pakistan and another referred to as Oscar. A little Google research revealed that they are from a tree that can grow to heights of up to sixty-five feet depending on the variety. The deciduous trees are native to warm temperate and subtropical regions of Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas, with the majority of the species native to Asia.
Ripe mulberries come in different colors: red, white, pink, and black. These colors are attributed to two different species and their hybrids.
Because these wind-pollinated trees hybridize so easily, most wild mulberries in North America have genes from both red and white species. The red mulberry has red unripe berries. They darken to black, with reddish undertones, when they’re ready to eat. This fruit is also sticky-moist when ripe. They grow throughout the country, ripening in late spring and early summer. You can spot ripe mulberries in season from a distance because the fruits make such a mess on the ground.
Use mulberries immediately. They won’t last more than a couple of days in the refrigerator. They soon ferment or get moldy, probably because of their high water content and thin skins. This is why you rarely seem them in stores. Eat them, cook them, dry them, freeze them, just don’t let them spoil.
Culinary uses of the mulberry are similar to raspberries and strawberries. They also dry and freeze well. The dried mulberry can be crunchy.
I am going to make a couple of desserts with them, a Lavender Sable with Mulberries and a Gratin of Mulberries with a Sabayon Glaze.
Chef Michael Hutchings
Sources: Wikipedia, Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and Not So Wild) Places by Steve Brill
I am on a break in Wisconsin. We made a trip to a Mennonite store called Cloverdale Country Store. The store is in a little town called Curtis, about an hour from Appleton. It is in a rural area typical to Wisconsin and is permeated by verdant pastures, corn fields and silos. It is noteworthy how much farming is still going on in rural America.
Food items are sold in bulk in repackaged containers. We found old-fashioned hand churned butter and pitted cherries. Cherry pie is on the menu for tonight's dinner.
Here is a posting from a Time Magazine article about Michael's Waterside, my namesake restaurant. I was in good company with Chef Jean Louis Pallidin and Chef Gilbert le Coze who have gone to the big sauce pot in the sky. The two were culinary icons and are well remembered by food lovers everywhere.