• Our Garden, Growing Strong….

    grows….please forgive the obscure Game of Thrones reference (think House Tyrell). But our garden is growing strong, indeed. The hot and dry winter left us without cherries (not enough chill hours) and with withered greens. But our spring onions and potatoes were a delight and the blueberries and strawberries are simply amazing…and plentiful. No complaints.

    grows1grows8grows4It is our tomatoes that are truly growing strong, we practically have a tomato thicket. Frankly, we can’t wait. And along with tomatoes, our other warm weather plants like the eggplant, peppers and raspberries all look like they will have a very good summer. That means we will have a good summer.

    grows6grows11grows3Oh, and don’t even get us started on the apples, peaches and figs. They look good so far and we hope we can keep the varmints off them until late summer. It is a 50/50 shot at best…but hope springs eternal.grows10grows9 Continue reading

  • A Real Barbecue Burger

    bbq7Here at the farm, we don’t tend to get overly exercised about all the silliness in the world of food marketing. Trends come and go, health claims are made (and debunked) and everything ends up “super” or “mega” or “free” of something. And normally we just say “meh”, and go back to cooking.

    bbq1bbqBut recently I saw an ad for a “Big Barbecue Burger” that was just a big burger (cooked on a flat top) with onion rings and some barbecue sauce. And that got me thinking, “there is barely anything ‘barbecue’ about that burger except the sauce….that’s kinda lame”. And then I decided that we needed to make a real barbecue burger. Happily, we had an easy solution.

    bbq2bbq3To have a real “Barbecue Burger” you need to have some real barbecue. And since we just pulled pork for Memorial Day, we had leftovers. Normally we crisp up the leftovers for tacos (so good, and worth a future post), but why not put the pork on a grilled burger? And why not add some cheddar cheese, bacon, sautéed onion, real barbecue sauce and serve it all on a buttered and toasted bun?

    bbq5Why not, indeed. Let us be the first to say that if you didn’t have enough motivation to make pulled pork already, serving it on a burger should get you moving. Smokey, salty, sweet, savory, tangy, soft, crunchy and crispy all in the same bite. Close to a perfection. And with such a strong foundation of flavors and textures, you can build on this burger all summer. We certainly will…

    bbq6Real Barbecue Burgers:

    Notes before you start:

    • You do need pulled pork for this dish, but you could also use the meat from barbecued ribs. Also, we haven’t tried adding barbecued brisket to the top of a burger, but it is an experiment we plan to try.

    What You Get: A perfect barbecue burger that actually lives up to its name.

    What you need: Some real barbecue. Go get started…

    How Long? Assuming you already have the barbecue, less than an hour. Time well spent.

    Ingredients:

    (Serves 4)

    • 1 – 1 1/2 pounds of freshly ground chuck
    • 1 pound pulled pork
    • 4-6 slices smoked bacon
    • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
    • 2 large onions, thinly sliced
    • Salt and freshly ground pepper
    • 4 hamburger buns
    • Butter
    • Barbecue sauce (use your favorite)

    Assemble:

    1. Prepare your outdoor grill (or grill pan) for high heat cooking.
    2. Form the burgers into four equal patties no more than 1/2 inch thick. Press the center of the burger slightly with your thumb (this keeps the burger flat when cooking). Butter the hamburger buns.
    3. Place a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the bacon until crisp and remove from the pan, but keep the fat in the pan. Add the onions to the pan, move the heat to medium-low and cook until browned and soft, about 15 minutes. Season to taste.
    4. Reheat your leftover barbecue in a skillet over medium heat or in the (gasp!) microwave.
    5. When your grill is ready, grill the burgers 3-4 minutes per side for medium rare, seasoning with salt and pepper while cooking. When you flip the burgers add the pulled pork and the grated cheese. When done, remove the burgers from the grill and let then rest for at least five minutes. Meanwhile, toast the buns while the burgers rest.
    6. To assemble the burgers, place the burger on the bottom bun, add the bacon, onions and barbecue sauce. Then top with the bun and serve.

     

  • ‘Cue, Cocktails And Cake For Memorial Day

    anejoAh, summer. You can feel it coming (here in Norcal, it barely left). But for the rest of the country, we gather that this summer will be particularly welcome. Now, we all know that summer isn’t “official” until the solstice, but around here (and hopefully where you are) summer starts on Memorial Day. And Memorial Day is “opening day” on the farm for weekend barbecue, big pitchers of punches and highballs and lots of dessert. So here are a few links to recipes we think you may want to try this weekend and into the summer (and don’t worry, they are well-tested).

    porkOur favorite summer meals almost all include real, low-and-slow barbecue (we also like steamer clams and lobster rolls, but those are for another post). And our favorite for Memorial Day remains Pulled Pork. We post a link to this recipe every Memorial Day for a reason, it rocks. Pulled pork is inexpensive, easy, feeds an army and tastes great. The only thing you need is time. For the best results you need to plan ahead a day or two- so get started!

    ribsIf you are worried about time, then Memphis-Style Ribs are the way to go. These ribs still benefit from a little extra prep time, but they are easily a one day meal. And, sooooo good. Trust us, make extra.

    brisketFinally, if beef is your thing, then Franklin Style Brisket is a real treat. Again, you get a great dish for a crowd, you just need to take the time to do it right. (We jumped the gun on summer and made this last weekend for some good friends, and it is still one of the best things going).

    fleurIf you happen to imbibe (and we hope you do), summer is the best time for easy punches or highballs. These are drinks that keep you and your guests outside, and not inside mixing drinks all the time. Our favorite summer punch is the Nouvelle Fleur, a sparkling tequila, citrus, St. Germain and Aperol concoction. This drink packs big, thirst-quenching flavors, but is relatively low-strength. Great for sipping.

    laniIf you want an easy punch, but with more, umm… “punch”, then we suggest the Lani Honi. This is a simple mix of white rum, lemon and Benedictine. But even with just three ingredients, the flavors are full and complex. Good stuff and easy to mix in a pitcher.

    monkFor those who like tall, cool summer cocktails, we always suggest bucks like The Kentucky Buck or Kentucky Monk. And for those who like riffs on classics, we love the Upside Down Martini, using vinho verde in place of dry vermouth. Crisp, cold and delightful. Continue reading

  • Shelling Peas, Spring Onions And Bacon

    peasPart of the fun of blogging about food, booze and gardening (and editing a food magazine) is that we get to see the world of food from many different angles. There are plenty of different opinions on food and cooking out there, and with such ready access to media these days, those opinions are easily shared. Perhaps sometimes too easily shared.

    peas2peas3A few years back, David Chang of Momofuku fame, made the claim that “fuckin’ every restaurant in San Francisco is just serving figs on a plate. Do something with your food”. This comment (and many other flames) along with some very fine cooking led to Chang’s fame and his current overexposure (Food and Wine Magazine? David? Really? Why not join Bayless and make a Burger King ad? At least someone will see it). And needless to say, some cooks agree with Chang and many (particularly out here in Norcal) clearly don’t. 

    peas4But it is a good question- when is it better to let the core ingredient lead and when do you need to “do something to it”? Also, when is all that “cheffy” technique just showing off? When is it burying the true flavors of the dish?

    peas6peas7Since we grow a lot of our own food, but are happy to use a sous-vide cooker and kitchen torches, we see both side of the argument. But we will share one insight, the more recently the fruit or veggie is picked or pulled from the ground, the less you need to “do something” to it. Just bring out the best of the ingredient. If that means some cooking, great. But if that means just putting it on a plate, that’s fine, too.

    peas5And this recipe for fresh shelling peas with spring onions and bacon is a good example. Fresh peas are earthy and sweet on their own. Spring onions (right from the garden if you can get them) are sweet and delicate (and soooo good) and bacon is salty, rich and crunchy. All good on their own, but when you combine the flavors and textures (plus a dash of wine for acidity), you get a perfect dish.

    peas8Is this rocket science? Hell no. But this does require a few steps and we are certainly “doing something” to our food. Could we sous-vide the peas, make a spring onion foam and drizzle on some freeze dried bacon crumble? Sure. But why? We do just enough to make the dish sing….any by the way, if the figs are ripe and sweet, just put them on the plate and pass them to us…. Continue reading

  • Weekly Cocktail #62: The Kentucky Monk (And The Kentucky Buck)

    monkHmm…I guess we should start calling these “monthly” cocktails.

    Anyway, things keep moving here at the farm. And times are good. A California horse won the Kentucky Derby, all while we were sipping one of our Mint Juleps. Very Nice. And we have strawberries in the garden (blueberries, too). So while the connection may be tenuous, we started looking for bourbon-based cocktails that use strawberries….as we have said before, it doesn’t take much inspiration to get us mixing drinks.

    monk10monk8And as luck would have it, our latest version of Imbibe magazine just arrived (you do subscribe, don’t you?) and had an article on “new classic” cocktails. The article included some of our favorites like the Bramble and the Jasmine, but it also included a drink we had not tried, the Kentucky Buck. The Kentucky Buck, a creation of Erick Castro, combines bourbon, muddled strawberry, lemon juice, simple syrup, bitters and ginger beer. Basically this is a bourbon buck with more going on. And like most “bucks” (spirits, ginger beer / ale, citrus), is a very tasty drink for summer.

    monk9monk6But since we have a bunch of strawberries (we are a farm / garden, after all), we decided to riff on the Kentucky Buck and bring out more of the strawberries. And the next steps were easy, we doubled the strawberries and then subbed Yellow Chartreuse for the simple syrup. And this is the key, the Yellow Chartreuse works with lemon and bourbon, but also adds sweet herbal notes that compliment the strawberries. What you get is all the sweet / sour flavor of the lemon, strawberries and ginger beer, but also complex herbal flavors all through the sip. Yum. And since Chartreuse is a big player here, we changed the name to the Kentucky Monk. Regardless, we suggest you try either version.

    monk7monk4One last note. We often buck (get it?) the trend and suggest using ginger ale rather than ginger beer in our bucks. While ginger beer can be better at times, we find the quality can be inconsistent and the musky flavors mask lighter spirits like gin (or vodka). But when working with bourbon or darker rums, we do suggest using a good ginger beer, as these spirits hold up to the bigger flavors. Either way, with summer coming, keep bucks in mind when planning your next party…. Continue reading

  • Perfect Asparagus, Every Time

    asp10We don’t like to throw around terms like “best” or “perfect” much here at the farm. Firstly, when food is concerned, things can get very subjective. Secondly, most dishes can always be improved with the right recipe, special tools or techniques. But once in a while, we find a combination of ingredient, recipe, tools and technique that yields a seemingly perfect dish every time. And that is what we can say about this asparagus. It is perfect every time (at least when asparagus is in season).

    aspSo what’s the trick? Here is the cool thing, there is no trick. Nope, there is just a process. It takes a little more work and a few steps, but when the spring asparagus is so good, isn’t it worth some extra time? We think so.

    asp1The other cool thing here is that while you can go very high-tech and use a sous-vide cooker (we do), you can also hack a sous-vide or just steam the asparagus and it will still work. The key is in the other steps.

    asp3So here are the steps: break off the woody ends of the asparagus, peel the last inch or so of the stalk, cook the asparagus at about 190 degrees for 4-5 minutes (depending on thickness), immediately stop the cooking with an ice bath or running under very cold water, dry the asparagus and then sear for 30-60 seconds in a rocket hot pan. Season and serve with butter or a nice salsa verde. Perfect.

    asp4asp6The most important step here is to stop the first cook in the ice bath and then finish the asparagus in a hot pan (or even hot grill). Most other methods either cook asparagus too long (and it keeps cooking), or with uneven heat. You get mushy or tough asparagus (sometimes both at once). And just steaming the asparagus gets you close, but you get none of the sweet caramelized flavors of high heat cooking. By using a combined method you get the best of both worlds, and the asparagus stays green and crisp.

    asp6asp7 Continue reading