• 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

  • Coconut Layer Cake With Hot Fudge Sauce

    coconutIt has been too long, and we are glad to be back to blogging here at the farm. We hope absence makes the heart grow fonder. And since we have been (mostly) absent, we decided to return with something special, Coconut Layer Cake. And trust us, this is quite a cake. And since we are all about gilding lilies in our kitchen, why not add some hot fudge sauce? Got a problem with that? We didn’t think so….and there is a method to our madness. coconut4coconut5As we said, this is quite the cake. It is sweet and flavorful and incredibly moist. So moist, it seems that the coconut and butter are barely held in suspension. This is the good stuff. The only “issue” with this cake is that it is so moist and sweet with coconut that you need something else to balance it out. This is where the hot fudge comes in. It may seem ironic to cut sweetness with hot fudge, but chocolate is a naturally earthy counterpoint to coconut, so it works here. (Come to think of it, hot fudge sauce seems to fix all sorts of problems….)coconut11 coconut7So what is the secret to this cake? As with many coconut recipes, the secret is using cream of coconut. For most of us, that means Coco Lopez. If you are unfamiliar with Coco Lopez, it is the stuff that makes your Pina Colada so tasty. It is also a very good way to use coconut in many recipes, as it is probably the most consistent coconut product you can work with (coconut milk can be inconsistent in fat content, and flaked coconut sweetness varies). The only issue with Coco Lopez is that it is very sweet, so most recipes using it adjust sugar or other sweeteners accordingly. coconut8coconut6 Continue reading

  • Happy Tax Day….Here Are Some Flowers

    taxflower3Ah, another tax day. Regardless of your political persuasion or tax bracket, tax day tends to sting a little. But at least we are still alive to see another one. And I guess it makes sense that tax day is in spring (can you imagine it in the dead of winter? Ugh.). The day may feel a bit black, but all you need to do is look outside and you can find a few flowers to bring some welcome color back to your life. And these flowers are free. So here is a little early “refund” from all of us here at the farm. Now go find, and enjoy, some flowers of your own…..taxflower1taxflower7taxflower2taxflowertaxflower4taxflower8taxflower6taxflower5

  • Weekly Cocktail #61: The Putney Farm Mint Julep

    julep7Well, it has been a while since our last weekly cocktail post. But the weeks keep coming, so we may as well get things restarted. After all, spring is the season of renewal. And we have just the drink to re-kick things off, our own version of a true classic, the Mint Julep.

    julepSadly (and frankly) way too many Mint Juleps suck. Yes, we said it, and we mean it. S.U.C.K. And those are strong words here at the farm, but all too true for this drink. Most Juleps are just fussy, boozy and minty. Some use bad bourbon or even fake mint (ack!). Or worse, feature flecks of mint all over the drink…and in your teeth. And many hide a bad drink in silly frosted silver cups with crushed ice and a straw. Ugh.

    julep2But, very happily, a return to the basics is all the Julep needs to return to greatness. The key step is to look at history and realize that the Julep is simply a forerunner of the basic cocktail. The first cocktail was just spirits, bitters, sugar (unrefined, but we will get to that later) and water. A good Julep is almost the same recipe, but with mint substituting for the bitters…..Hmmm….

    julep3So let’s start with the Bourbon. We recently fell in love with Four Roses Yellow Label for cocktails (and their premium Bourbons for sipping) and suggest you use it for an excellent Julep. First, the Yellow Label has a mash bill with a good slug of rye, so you get the expected oak and toffee notes, but with some real spice and a very clean finish. Good stuff. Second, the Yellow Label is about $20, one of the best values on the shelf.

    julep4On to sugar. This is easy. When the Julep was invented there was no such thing as refined sugar. We use a rich simple syrup of turbinado or muscovado sugar. These “raw” sugars add deep, smooth molasses notes to the drink that take the heat from the alcohol. Much better than plain white sugar.

    julep5 Continue reading