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Fresh And Local


Posted on May 29

Dave Brooks

Three local chefs show how to cook with the season’s bounty

Each new season offers consumers in the Sacramento region a bounty of fresh, interesting foods from which to choose. We assembled a colorful marketbasket of locally grown items available in the month of May and asked three local chefs what they’d do with the contents. Here’s what they came up with.

Marketbasket contents: Wild salmon • Rhubarb • Sugar snap peas • New potatoes • Baby leeks • Strawberries

Biba Caggiano of Biba restaurant in Sacramento devised a simple and delectable entrée from several basket items. “It’s so good,” she said with a grin, “that we’re going to put it on our next menu!”:

• Pan-roasted wild salmon with leeks and new potatoes

Wendi Mentink, executive chef of Bidwell Street Bistro in Folsom, devised a lovely French-inspired menu:

• Whole-grain mustard-marinated new potatoes with leek vinaigrette, baby mâche and hard-boiled quail eggs

• Pan-roasted wild salmon served over sautéed leeks, shallots and sugar snap peas with beurre blanc and tender pea shoots

• Vanilla-bean mille-feuille with fresh strawberries and braised rhubarb

Jonathan Nieto, chef of Seasons restaurant in Davis, fashioned a sophisticated menu with an intriguing supporting cast of ingredients:

• Seared Sonoma foie gras, rhubarb jam, crème fraîche and osetra caviar

• Roasted new potato and beet salad with local baby lettuces, sugar snap peas, Gorgonzola cheese and toasted almonds with black truffle vinaigrette

• Tarragon and pumpkin seed-crusted wild salmon, pancetta-braised baby leeks, artichoke mashed potatoes, crispy cardoons and saba (a sweet reduction of grape must)

• Buttermilk biscuits with sweetened mascarpone, balsamic strawberries, vanilla bean and port reduction

Biba Caggiano’s

Pan-Roasted Wild Salmon With Leeks and New Potatoes

6 small red new potatoes, washed
1 small leek, green part removed
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 salmon fillets, 7 to 8 ounces each
Salt to taste
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Juice from 1 lemon
1/2 cup blanched fresh or frozen peas
Place potatoes into a small pot, cover with cold water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, uncovered, until potatoes are tender, 10 to 15 minutes, depending on size. Drain potatoes, cool and cut each potato into four equal-sized pieces. Set aside.

Cut off the root of the leek, cut the leek in half lengthwise and slice thinly. Place leek in a colander and wash thoroughly under cold running water to remove any grit. Drain.

Bring two cups of water to a simmer. Add the leek slices and simmer until tender, 7 to 8 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Heat the oil in a nonstick, medium-sized skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the salmon and season with salt. Cook until a light crust forms on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Turn the salmon over and brown on the other side, 1 to 2 minutes.

Discard the oil, leaving the fish in the skillet. Place the skillet back on medium heat and add the garlic. Stir once or twice, then add the wine, potatoes, leeks and peas. Cover the skillet and cook 3 to 4 minutes until the fish is done but still a bit translucent in its center. Transfer salmon to two warm serving dishes.

Put the skillet back on medium-high heat and add the butter and the lemon juice. Stir until the sauce begins to thicken, 1 to 2 minutes. Taste, adjust the seasoning if desired, then spoon sauce and vegetables on, and around, the salmon. Serve immediately. Serves 2.

Wendi Mentink’s

Vanilla Bean Mille-Feuille With Fresh Strawberries and Braised Rhurbarb

1 sheet frozen puff pastry dough
2 cups granulated sugar, divided
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
2 cups water
4 stalks fresh rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 cups whole milk
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds removed
6 large egg yolks
1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
31/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
11/2 pounds fresh strawberries, sliced
1 cup heavy cream
Heat oven to 450 degrees and place rack in center of oven. Place a piece of parchment on an 18-by-12-inch baking sheet. Have another piece of parchment and another baking sheet the same size ready. Cut the puff pastry dough into 2-by-3-inch rectangles. Place the rectangles on the parchment and sprinkle evenly with 2 tablespoons of the granulated sugar. Bake the pastry dough for about 8 to 10 minutes, during which time it will rise and begin to brown. Remove from the oven, place the reserved baking sheet upside down over the pastry and carefully turn over to reveal the unbrowned side. Sprinkle this side with the powdered sugar and bake for another 5 minutes. Remove from oven. Allow to cool completely, then cut each piece in half horizontally and set aside.

Place the water and 1 cup of the granulated sugar in a medium saucepan and simmer until sugar is dissolved. Add the rhubarb and bring to a simmer. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes until tender. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, bring the milk and vanilla bean to a boil over medium heat. Cover the pan, turn off the heat, and let rest for 10 minutes. In the meantime, whisk the egg yolks, 1/2 cup of the granulated sugar and cornstarch together in a stainless-steel mixing bowl. Have a larger bowl filled halfway with ice ready. Add the hot milk, a couple ounces at a time, to the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly. Pour the milk-yolk mixture back into the saucepan over medium heat and, whisking vigorously and without stopping, bring the mixture to a boil. Keep the mixture at a boil, whisking energetically, for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat and scrape the pastry cream into a small bowl. Place the bowl into the bowl of ice, stirring the mixture frequently so that it remains smooth. After the pastry cream cools slightly, remove from the ice and stir in the butter, a tablespoon at a time. Return the bowl of pastry cream to the ice and cool completely, stirring occasionally.

In a medium bowl, sprinkle two tablespoons of the granulated sugar over the sliced strawberries and set aside.

Pour the heavy cream into a bowl and whip with an electric mixer until medium peaks form. Place in a pastry bag with a star tip.

To assemble the dessert, place a puff pastry rectangle on a small plate, squeezing a dab of whipped cream underneath to keep the pastry from sliding. Spoon 2 to 3 tablespoons of the pastry cream evenly over the pastry, then pipe a couple of strips of whipped cream on top. Spoon one tablespoon of braised rhubarb on top, then top with some sliced strawberries. Place another piece of puff pastry on top and repeat. Top with a third piece of puff pastry and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serves 4.

Jonathan Nieto’s

Roasted New Potato and Beet Salad

2 pounds baby beets
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 pounds new potatoes (Yellow Finn or Ruby Crescent)
2 tablespoons melted butter
Salt and pepper to taste
6 heads baby lettuce (mixed varieties)
1 pound sugar snap peas
8 ounces Gorgonzola cheese
4 ounces toasted almonds, chopped
1 black truffle, shaved thinly
Black Truffle Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Wash beets thoroughly, toss with canola oil and roast in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes until slightly tender. (A small sharp knife should slip through the center of the beet with no resistance). Peel the beets while still hot, discarding the skins. Cut beets into quarters and set aside.

Increase oven temperature to 425 degrees. Wash potatoes thoroughly. Leave whole or cut in half, depending on size. Toss potatoes with melted butter and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 15 to 18 minutes, until evenly browned. Set aside.

Wash lettuces thoroughly and dry in a salad spinner. Wash sugar snap peas and remove stems. Blanch in heavily salted water for 11/2 to 2 minutes. Set aside.

Divide baby lettuces between six salad plates. Scatter roasted beets, potatoes and sugar snap peas on top of the lettuce leaves. Garnish salads with crumbled Gorgonzola cheese, toasted almonds and shaved black truffle. Drizzle with the vinaigrette. Serves 6.

Black Truffle Vinaigrette
1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup golden balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped toasted almonds
1 tablespoon chopped black truffle
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon minced shallots
In a medium bowl, whisk all ingredients together.

Roasted Asparagus

“Most people have never tried asparagus cooked this way,” says Full Belly Farm co-owner Dru Rivers. “Once they do, they will never go back to steaming again.”

2–3 bunches of asparagus, bottoms snapped off
1 bunch spring green garlic
4–5 tablespoons olive oil
Garlic salt to taste
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place washed asparagus into a roasting pan. Slice green garlic lengthwise into long slivers. Put in the pan with the asparagus and coat well with olive oil and garlic salt. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes, until the asparagus is soft. Serve warm or cold. Serves 6–8.

Full Belly Farm’s Fruit Salsa

This recipe comes from the newsletter Full Belly Farm distributes to its CSA subscribers. According to Rivers, it’s one of their most popular recipes. “Nobody ever thinks of pairing fruit with onions and garlic, but it really works,” she notes. “It’s a colorful and interesting alternative to tomato salsa.”

2–3 pounds firm peaches, nectarines or apricots (preferably a mixture of the three), cut into small pieces (include juices)
3 garlic gloves, finely chopped
1 red onion, chopped
1 or 2 hot or sweet peppers to taste, finely chopped
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
Salt and sugar to taste
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and let sit in the refrigerator for several hours so the flavors can blend together. Serve with corn chips or toasted, thinly sliced French bread. Serves 6–8.

Dad’s Favorite Zucchini Dish

Soil Born Farm partner/owner Marco Franciosa provides this recipe. His grandmother made this dish for his father, Tony, when he was a child in southern Italy. “It’s been passed down through the generations,” says Franciosa.

4 tablespoons olive oil
4 medium zucchini, finely sliced
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
Dash of lemon juice
1/4 cup canned or fresh vegetable broth
Chopped fresh basil and fresh parsley to taste
Pinch of sugar
Warm olive oil in skillet. Sauté zucchini with onions and garlic. When zucchini is soft and transparent, add the lemon juice and vegetable broth, chopped basil and parsley and a pinch of sugar, and sauté for 15 minutes longer. Serves 4.


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