Magnolia Gardens: Winter, 2016

My winter planting started in November. Initially, it was radish and cilantro that would ‘test’ my soil – freshly turned with E.B. Stone Organic Planting Mix as well as their ‘Sure Start’ Fertilizer. The drought ravaged my garden throughout the summer, and the impending El Niño was a prime time to revitalize the earth in and around Magnolia Gardens. I figured I’d get a head start.

Radish grows and harvests rather easily, so within four-five weeks we pulled up a few dozen and enjoyed the veggies of our labor. The cilantro was a bit spottier, as we really only had about three bunches that grew proudly. As the calendar turned to 2016, it was time to get serious about a plan: I would focus on what pass for ‘winter’ vegetables in Southern California, and despite the threat of El Niño being more firm than the actual El Niño, we had enough rain to really produce a bounty for the winter harvest.

Here are some of my favorite photos from this past weekend:

 singlepea
a single pea pod amongst tendrils
peas
a gaggle of pea pods
 broccolini
 budding broccoli
arugula
arugula
epazote
epazote
basil
basil, surviving the ‘harsh’ winterc
celery
elery stalks shooting up
spinach
spinach!!!
peaharvest
fine harvest of peas
russiankale
russian kale
bloodOblossom
blood orange blossom
 arugulaflowers
 arugula blossom
broccoliflowers
broccoli flowernavel orange blossom
orangeblossom
navel orange blossom

Looking forward to Spring, when we can start to get some serious color and variety in the garden, kitchen and on our plates.

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Elegant, Easy Peas-y White Fish

I was at STK the other night and ordered their striped white bass, which was served with a pea purée and chorizo. The dish itself was pretty underwhelming (sorry, STK – I still love your steak!) but the presentation was beautiful and the inspiration was pretty obvious: it is prime pea season at Magnolia Gardens:

I love peas. I didn’t used to love peas. In fact, the only peas I liked was the pea soup at Pea Soup Anderson’s in Buellton. But that was because I’d never tried fresh peas. Like, really fresh peas. They were a revelation – this was the first item I’d grown in my garden that had a transformative taste – it was a reason to plow ahead with Magnolia Gardens and discover the world of veggies & plants that were bursting with flavor & freshness.

So yeah, I tried to recreate the dish – and hopefully make it better. I think I did. Try it yourself, I hope you enjoy.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 lb. wild caught and 1/2″ thick Cod or Halibut
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 whole shallots, sliced
  • 3 cups peas (frozen is fine)
  • 4 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tbsp. EVOO
  • 1 cup fresh-shucked peas
  • 3 tbsp. mustard seeds, crushed or ground
  • 3 slices bacon, broken into crumbles
  • 1/2 bell pepper, diced
  • fennel or dill to taste
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 8.26.58 AM

Directions

  • spread ground mustard, salt & pepper on the fish
  • heat 2 tbps of butter over medium heat, add shallots and caramelizing for five minutes
  • add frozen peas + 1 cup of water and salt and pepper, and cover partially; cook until sauce is reduced, 7-9 minutes
  • puree peas, 2 tbsp of butter, salt and pepper in a food processor; transfer to a pot and keep warm over low heat
  • heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add fish and sear/sautée. Flip once until golden brown, about 4 minutes on first side, 2-3 on second
  • divide pea purée, and top with fish; spoon over sauce and garnish with dill, bacon, bell peppers and serve
  • Yum!

 

 

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Hummus in a Snap

Inspired by this dreamily creamy Hummus recipe from Food & Wine from Michael Solomonov in Philadelphia’s Zahav restaurant – as well as my exponentially growing love for hummus – I decided to make my own from scratch.

I’ve tried tahini + canned garbanzos previously and it was good, but this straight-forward recipe looked like something I could tackle; and knowing that ‘from scratch’ is better than the alternative in 99.1% of instances, I wanted to give it a whirl. In my patented, “two minutes or less” Snapchat video style, you’ll see my attempt – which tasted divine, but was not true to form; I added the tahini up front instead of in two different applications.

I’m making this on a consistent basis moving forward; the most difficult actual ‘work’ comes from taking the hummus out of the processor, so the upgrade in flavor and texture – plus customizability – really makes this an immediate addition to the recipe portfolio.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. Dry chickpeas
  • 7 cloves garlic
  • 1 lemon, juice
  • 1/2 cup of tahini
  • ice water
  • 1/2 cup, EVOO
  • 1 teaspoon, cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp, baking soda
  • parsley & paprika, for garnish

Directions

  • soak chickpeas in large bowl, covered in two inches of water, for 8-10 hours, with 1 tsp baking soda
  • drain chickpeas and add unpeeled garlic cloves, covering in water. simmer over low/medium heat for 40 minutes.
  • drain, rinse under cold water, peel the garlic.
  • puree the chickpeas with 1/2 cup of water, 1/4 cup of the olive oil and the garlic, preferably mashed into paste with mortar & pestle.
  • crush cumin seeds as well, adding that along with lemon juice and 1/2 of tahini. transfer to a bowl with a rubber spatula.
  • add the remaining tahini & EVOO, plus a bit of water and one more generous squeeze of of lemon juice and puree.
  • physically mix all of this together in bowl, garnish with whole chickpeas, parsley  paprika and a shake of cumin.
  • serve with pita bread and do your best to save some for your guests.

 

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Family Favorite: Stuffed Zucchini

Earlier this summer, my wife sent me this Pin from Buzzfeed extolling the virtues of ‘Quick Dinners to Make This Week.’ I’m not a huge fan of stuffed bell peppers, and I’d never tried stuffed zucchini so I was not very excited. It looked good, but I was sort of like ‘meh.’

That said, “Happy Wife Happy Life” is probably the best advice I’ve ever received so I figured – sure, why not? Turns out that it was an AWESOME decision, and this recipe has made its way to our table regularly for the last few months, and has even turned into a favorite to prepare for guests.

Inspired by this recipe at Katrina Runs for Food, it really is easy – dare I say, fun? – fairly quick and awesomely fulfilling & delicious. I snapped a quick video and uploaded it to youtube, and the recipe itself is below. Hope you enjoy – I know your family will.

Ingredients

  • 4 large zucchini, sliced lengthwise and middle scooped out with melon baller and saved for later in the recipe.
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1/2 cup chopped red/yellow/green peppers in any combination
  • 1/2 cup onion, diced
  • heavy hand of cumin
  • pinch of cayenne
  • heavy hand ancho chili powder, or regular chili powder if ancho is not available
  • generous shake of garlic powder
  • generous salt & pepper
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar
  • 1/2 cup of mascarpone cheese
  • 1/4 cup of parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 3 green onions, sliced thin

Directions

  • Sautee beef, peppers, onions until beef is browning
  • add the middle part of the zucchini that was scooped out.
  • Add seasonings. Stir and simmer a few minutes until flavors are ingrained.
  • In a large bowl, add beef mixture, cheddar, mascarpone, parsley. Mix well.
  • Spoon mixture into each zucchini boat.
  • Bake 400°F for 30 minutes.
  • Remove, sprinkle mozzarella cheese and return to oven for 4-5 minutes.
  • Top with green onions and serve.
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Simple Pasta Sunday – Anchovy Goodness

I say Anchovy, you say Bleccch.

That’s just how it goes, and it’s unfortunate. I fully understand – my first experience with the feeder fish came on pizza, sort of as a dare, and all I remember is that its flavor enveloped (and ruined) the entire pie. It wasn’t until I lived in Seattle and had the Cauliflower Anchovy spread at Lola that I began to realize the potential of this boldly-favored, powerful little fish.

Encountering them again in Italy and at Italian restaurants in the states, served either on crusty bread, or solo, usually with parsley, served to further grow my respect for the fish, and their umami-packed flavor. And realizing that anchovies form the base of the traditional Caesar salad dressing proves that anchovies are a flavor-enhancement more than anything, and truly worthy of a Yessss rather than a Bleccch.

In this recipe, inspired by the wonderful handmade linguine I encountered at the Studio City Farmers Market this weekend, I hope to show that anchovies are not only accessible, but a crucial part of a dish that is simple, delicious, and perfect for a summer afternoon – even for a two-year old.

I’ve condensed the video (thank you Snapchat) I hope you enjoy.

Ingredients

  • linguine, 8-12 oz.
  • EVOO
  • garlic, 4 cloves, slivered
  • anchovies, 6-8 filets
  • spinach, two handfuls
  • fresh parmesano reggiano
  • lemon, juice of one half, reserving other half

Directions

  • boil a huge pot of water, adding a ton of salt. The water should taste like ocean.
  • heat a large pan to medium, adding a healthy amount of EVOO, until the oil is glistening.
  • add the garlic, and once that starts to crisp (but not brown), add the anchovy and mash until its a paste.
  • put the pasta in the boiling water and cook as per directions (generally two minutes for handmade, 8-12 for store bought).
  • add spinach to the pan and stir until wilted, coating with the anchovy/garlic mixture.
  • once pasta is cooked properly, add it directly from pot into the pan, stirring until each noodle is coated. there is no need to drain prior to doing this, the excess water helps thin out the mixture and makes more for a saucy approach.
  • I like to add a healthy squeeze of lemon at this point, and again prior to serving.
  • grate parmesan on top, serve, and picture yourself looking out on to the Adriatic Sea.
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Tortilla Española

Inspired by Omar Allibhoy, I recreated one of my favorite all-time dishes with this Tortilla Española. I first encountered the dish as a naïve, hungover, food-deprived 21-year old in Madrid. After successive nights of ecstatic partying, our gracious hosts prepared what looked to be a ‘puffy omelet.’ At the time, I was kind of agnostic about eggs – take ’em or leave ’em – and prepared to be satiated with a few simple bites. What happened next, even in my slumberious haze, was nothing short of a revelation. Was this cheesy? Was this buttery? What is this creamy texture that somehow holds tight, and oozes deliciousness over every tastebud?

Turns out, this was a simple fortification of potatoes, onions, eggs, salt, pepper & EVOO. And that’s IT.

One of the simplest recipes I’ve made, but takes concentration and is definitely an ‘active’ recipe. But absolutely worth it – breakfast, brunch, dinner. Amazing food here.

Ingredients

  • Four fist-sized waxy potatoes
  • One yellow onion
  • 7 eggs
  • glugs upon glugs of EVOO
  • salt & pepper to taste

Directions

  • pour oil, realistically 3/4 of a cup, in to a wide, non-stick skillet. heat on high.
  • quarter the onion, then slice it. once pan is heated, add to pan.
  • while onions are heating, and they need time to caramelize & brown, half then slice the potatoes.
  • once onions have nice color, add potatoes to the pan and mix actively for the next 15 minutes, or until potatoes have great color as well.
  • while potatoes are frying, crack eggs in a large bowl and whisk with salt and pepper
  • after potatoes & onions have browned, turn off stove and drain excess oil (strain & save it – can be reused about five times and has a great subtle flavor)
  • place potato/onion mixture into the eggs and let stiffen for about five minutes.
  • put skillet on stove and heat to medium – add mixture
  • heat for four-five minutes, moving subtly the entire time
  • place a large plate on the top of the skillet, press down firmly and flip. this is easier than it sounds, but still pretty harrowing.
  • slide the now-forming tortilla onto the skillet again, and heat other side for four-five minutes, again shaking subtly.
  • slide off onto plate, let cool for five minutes and slice.
  • i like to add crisp greenery and an acidic element (tomatoes) as well as an herb (parsley), but you can literally make this as sweet or savory as you’d like.
  • enjoy.

 

tortespa             tortespañ

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four-ingredient elegance, even with bacon

Basil.

Apple.

Mascarpone.

Bacon.

baconapplebasilmascarpone

 

as straight forward and delicious as it looks.

one option is top it with a drop of honey, but note that there is already plenty of sweetness.

a second option is top it with a dollop of your favorite brand of sriracha. fun.

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Simple Green Beans. Really Simple

A really, really easy recipe for the unheralded green bean. Honestly almost too easy, and a crowd pleaser for sure.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

 

Ingredients

  • green Beans, ends removed, chopped in half
  • pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • two garlic cloves, smashed
  • high quality EVOO
  • sea salt

Directions

  • Boil green beans, garlic and a healthy glug of EVOO in pot of heavily salted water for three-four minutes
  • drain in colander and remove to pot immediately
  • glug EVOO generously over green beans
  • add sea salt to taste
  • serve and marvel and the lustrous wonder of this simple vegetable

 

 

 

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Simple, Quick Lamb Chops, Eggplant and Chickpeas

The Nigel Slater tome, Eat, has provided me with not only an awesome perspective on food and cooking, but accessible, realistic recipes that are more simplistic than they appear – thus perfect for somebody with slightly-better-than-novice skills such as myself.

My meal last night was both inspired by (lamb w/ yogurt) and adapted from (eggplant & chickpea puree) recipes in the book. The Middle Eastern influence (from a British chef/ author, haaa!) was definitely outside of my typical kitchen paradigm, but I have to admit it came out awesome. And the entire meal was on the plate within 30 minutes of start time. Pretty awesome.

Hope you enjoy.

Lamb

Ingredients

  • 6 smaller lamb chops, frenched and cleaned
  • EVOO
  • head of garlic
  • 1 eggplant
  • 1 can, chickpeas
  • handful of fresh thyme
  • handful of mint lives, minced
  • greek yogurt
  • 1 lemon
  • salt
  • pepper
  • paprika

Directions

  • slice eggplant in half, salt and let sit for 20-30 minutes to draw water out
  • marinate lamb in olive oil, salt, pepper, sliced garlic for at least one hour
  • rinse eggplant and let dry over paper towels, then slice into half-rounds
  • preheat oven to 400°F
  • prepare yogurt accompaniment by whisking yogurt, juice from 1/2 lemon, mint, paprika, salt, pepper & minced garlic
  • take half of the eggplant half-moons, put on baking sheet with garlic and thyme and generous EVOO. place in oven.
  • heat cast-iron skillet to high with a handful of garlic cloves
  • heat dutch oven or other high-sided pan, pour in generous EVOO – when heated, layer in the remaining rounds of eggplant. sauté the eggplant until browned, then flip for 2 minutes to brown on other side
  • sear the lamb chops thoroughly on both sides – should take about 3 to 4 minutes per side – when done, put the lamb chops in the oven to finish for 2-4 more minutes
  • add chickpeas to the eggplant in dutch oven, as well as more salt/pepper. turn off heat, cover
  • pull lamb and eggplant from oven and let rest for 5-10 minutes
  • use handblender to puree half the eggplant & chickpeas, leaving the rest in tact for both textural and aesthetic purposes
  • plate as desired, with or without couscous, rice, and enjoy

 

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Sated and Slated – Sausage Lasagne

Recipe Source: Nigel Slater, Eat (the little book of Fast Food)

So in reading Eat I came across this delightful ‘lasagne’ (the non-North American spelling for ‘lasagna’) that promised to be simple, wholesome, delicious & fast – essentially a perfect representation of the recipes in this must-own book. Simply titled Sausage Lasagne, Slater calls for the most basic of ingredients and puts together an amazingly delicious – and quick! – spin on a typical Lasagna (Lasagne!).

Perfect for a winter night, but also perfect for whenever you feel like a pasta-y dish, this is one of the most redeeming recipes I’ve made out of a cookbook. Enjoy!

sausagelasagnenigelslatermagnoliagardens

Ingredients

  • six sheets of oven-ready lasagna pasta
  • EVOO
  • 12-16 oz. cherry/plum tomatoes, chopped at least in half
  • two firm, large tomatoes such as Hot House
  • shredded parmesan cheese, the more the better
  • 12-16 oz. pork sausage w/o casing; anything from Jimmy Dean to your butcher’s finest will work here
  • ricotta cheese (optional)
  • 1 cup, cream
  • 1 tablespoon, dijon mustard
  • handful of fresh basil leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  • preheat oven to 400ºF
  • brush EVOO on the bottom of a baking dish
  • layer the bottom of a baking dish with the dry noodles; break as necessary to form a complete bottom
  • generously glug EVOO on the noodles
  • cover the noodles with half of the tomatoes and half of the sausage
  • generously ‘fill in the gaps’ with ricotta (if using), and otherwise layer generously with parmesan
  • add another layer of pasta, as complete as possible
  • add the rest of tomatoes, sausage and ricotta – also healthy layer of parmesan
  • mix cream and dijon, pour over mixture
  • cover dish with slices of tomato, and cover that with parmesan
  • bake for 45 minutes or until tomatoes are roasted and browning and the cheese mixture is bubbling

This is quite literally an amazing, and amazingly simple, dish. I am a total Nigel Slater hyper because of this book and recipes like this. Absolutely awesome.

 

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