A Labor of Love

A Labor of Love

We just delivered 60 lbs of fava beans to the restaurant Barndiva in Healdsburg. Our empathy for farmers grows each season. It takes us hours to pick our favas for each pound – we get $1 in keeping with the current pricing here in Sonoma County. Happy to do it, as we love Barndiva and they love us – “best favas we have ever tasted”. But seriously, how do farmers, let alone, restaurants, make this happen? It takes us several hours to distill down 10 lbs of favas into a mere couple of cups of total heaven. Next time you are in a restaurant and order the fava bean risotto, know that it’s a labor of love on some level, that it’s an incredibly hands on process that gets it on your plate. Enjoy it to the fullest.

Parsnip Potato Parsley Soup

Parsnip Potato Parsley Soup

In January, I can still pull parsnips, leeks and celery from my garden in San Francisco and add potatoes from my cold storage to create some wonderful menus. This soup is one of my favorite comfort foods for a cold winter night.

(Serves 6 to 8)

1 leek

1 tablespoon of butter

Salt and pepper

2 pounds of parsnips

2 tablespoons of crème fraiche

4 large stems of parsley

5 small to medium potatoes

2 quarts Smart Gardener vegetable stock (see Smart Gardener “Winter vegetable stock garden” for ingredients)

Cut the dark green tops off the leeks and save them for your compost. Cut the white bulb lengthwise and rinse thoroughly; then dice. In a stockpot, melt the butter and sauté the leeks over medium heat, cooking them until they are soft. While the leeks are cooking, peel and dice the potatoes and parsnips. Then add them to the leeks and sauté the mixture until softened and lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Add the Smart Gardener vegetable stock, lower the heat and simmer for about an hour. The vegetables should be soft but not overdone.  Take the pot off the heat and puree the vegetables and broth with a hand blender; or run it through a food mill and then pour it through a chinois strainer for a smooth consistency. Chop parsley very fine. Serve soup warm and garnish with parsley and a spoonful of the crème fraiche.

Note: If you can’t find crème fraiche at your grocers, you can make your own by combining 1 cup of whipping cream with 2 tablespoons of buttermilk. Let the mixture sit at room temperature overnight and then stir well and refrigerate.

Caramelized Winter Squash with Sage and Pomegranate

Caramelized Winter Squash with Sage and Pomegranate

Squash and Pomegranate seem like a natural pairing since the the slightly sweet and sour note of acidic tannins in the juice of the Pomegranate compliment the sweetness of the squash. The pomegranate makes an excellent sauce for caramelizing and adds a colorful and fresh touch to the overall presentation.

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Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

With its rich orange color and hearty texture, butternut squash soup is my idea of the quintessential autumn meal served alone or with a gooey grilled cheese sandwich. It can be made simply with squash and broth, but throw in other seasonal produce and you’ll have a true harvest treat.

If you pick the squash when it is fully mature (its hard skin cannot be pricked by your fingernail and its surface has lost its sheen and appears dull and dry), you can store it for up to 3 months at 50º with a 50% to 75% humidity. You can also cube and freeze raw squash or cook it first and freeze the puree.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
(Serves 8)

1 4-pound butternut squash
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 sweet yellow onion, chopped
3 medium sized leeks, cleaned, sliced
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled and cubed
10 sage leaves
8 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
Sea salt to taste
Pepper to taste
4 Shallots

1. Preheat oven to 425ºF.

2. Slice the squash lengthwise and remove the seeds. Place on a roasting pan, skin side down and spray or drizzle each half with olive oil. Sprinkle with allspice and roast for 1-1-1/2 hours until the squash is soft when poked with a fork.

3. While the squash is roasting, chop the onions, leeks, apples and sage leaves. Coat the bottom of a stock pot with olive oil and sauté the onions for 2 to 3 minutes on medium heat. Add the leeks and sauté for another 2 minutes. Add the apples and sage, cover the pot, reduce the heat and let the ingredients simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. When the onions are soft and translucent, add the chicken broth to the pot and bring the mixture to a boil. Continue to boil on medium heat for 20 minutes. Take off the heat and let sit until squash is ready.

5. When the squash is cool, scoop the flesh from the skins and add it to the stockpot. Puree all the ingredients with a hand blender—or in batches in a regular blender. Season to taste with salt and pepper and reheat.

6. Peel and slice the shallots and sauté them in olive oil until nicely brown. Garnish the soup with a sprinkle of crispy shallots and serve.