eat in my kitchen

To cook, to bake, to eat and to treat.

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Meet In Your Kitchen | Urban Farming and a Garden Salad at LA’s Farm Lot 59

Farm Lot 59

A 1-hour drive, leaving the skyline and the buzz of Downtown LA behind, and you’re in Long Beach, still LA county, yet a totally different scene. As we left California Avenue in the south and drove our bulky van down a dusty road for a new Meet In Your Kitchen feature together with Zwilling, the inspiring urban farmer Sasha Kanno welcomed us with a big smile in front of the gate of her green oasis, Farm Lot 59 .

Sasha is a woman with a strong vision and principles, she believes in honest food, available not only for herself, but also for the community that she lives in. She took over the land surrounded by urban industrial buildings in 2010 and turned it into a non-profit organic farm, practicing biodynamics and following the Waldorf School philosophy. The farmer who’s fascinated by rare and heirloom varieties and who gets many of her seeds from a 100-year old seed company in Honolulu, is famous and loved by locals and chefs for her outstanding lettuce and herb mixtures. All year round, she puts an exciting seasonal bouquet together, of arugula, lemony blood sorrel, giant red-leaf mustard lettuce, basil (with a rough surface), huacatay (black mint), cilantro, fennel, tarragon, thyme, chocolate mint, and many more. Her edible flowers, such as pensi, dahlia, dianthus, calendula, lavender chamomile flowers, are a feast for the eye and an explosion of flavors for the palate.

However, as much as she loves to share the produce from her garden with other passionate lovers of natural, healthy fruits and vegetables, Sasha felt that there was more for her to do. She started an educational program of cooking and gardening classes, she wanted to bring the basics back to the table of our children: her tomatoes, beans, eggplants, pumpkins, squash (I learnt that you can even eat its leaves cooked like a vegetable), peppers, snake melon, and artichokes. She wanted them to smell again and listen to the sounds of the woods and fields, and taste pure unprocessed food. She saw city kids who were totally overwhelmed by this experience, being confronted by nature, even stressed some of them. Some of the most common fruits and vegetables had never been in the hands of these children before. It’s an essential experience, if not a right to have access to food in its original form. Sasha takes responsibility to teach them about our fragile ecosystem, so that future generations adjust the way that we deal with ourselves, our food, and our environment.

The doors of Farm Lot 59 are open almost every day and it’s worth visiting this green paradise framed by apple, stone fruit, and guava trees. You can buy the handpicked produce and humanely sourced meats, dairy products, and eggs from friends and other farmers at the farm’s market stand at the street, the Farmstand 59. And then you go home and prepare the beautiful salad that Sasha made for us in her outdoor farm kitchen: a colorful tomato salad with the farmer’s delicious basil vinaigrette featuring the pure taste and beauty of this sweet fruit and fragrant herb!

In the next months, I’ll share many new Meet In Your Kitchen features with you that took me to California, Italy, France, and Japan. Thanks to Zwilling for sponsoring these features for our culinary trip around the world! Thank you, my man James Hickey, for joining me on these adventures and helping me take pictures!

Farm Lot 59

 

Farm Lot 59

Sasha Kanno’s Tomato Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

Serves 4

For the dressing

1 cup (240ml) olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 red onion, roughly chopped
2 cups fresh Tuscan basil
1 clove garlic
½ teaspoon haberno salt (haberno peppers mixed with sea salt)

For the salad

8-12 green, red and yellow ripe tomatoes (of various sizes), sliced
2 large handfuls mixed young lettuce greens
1 small handful edible flower petals

For the dressing, purée the ingredients in a blender until smooth and season to taste with salt. Add more oil if the dressing is too thick.

Spread the lettuce greens and tomatoes in a large bowl, sprinkle with the dressing and flower petals and serve immediately.

Farm Lot 59

 

Farm Lot 59

 

Watch my interview with Alana in LA in September 2017:

 

 

Thank you, Sasha!

 

Farm Lot 59

 

Farm Lot 59

 

Farm Lot 59

 

Farm Lot 59

 

Farm Lot 59

 

Farm Lot 59

 

FarmLot5913

 

Farm Lot 59

 

Farm Lot 59

 

Farm Lot 59

Meet In Your Kitchen | Heather and Emily celebrate LA’s vegetables at Botanica

Botanica

One of the kitchens that I visited on my trip to LA – the first stop of my new adventure together with Zwilling – was at Botanica, a stunningly beautiful restaurant founded by the wonderful Heather Sperling and Emily Fiffer. Both women had been working in the food industry as editors on the East coast for more than a decade, but they were hungry for more. They chose LA to bring a project to life, giving it all their love, passion, and honest determination. An old run-down liquor store in Silverlake looked less than promising when they first saw it, but Heather and Emily knew from the start that this would be the right place to give their vision a home. They gutted it and after a year of sweat and work you can’t even imagine how this gorgeous bright and airy space looked before the renovations. A tall wall touched up in a soft Tuscan pink holds the old wooden beams above the restaurant’s rustic wooden tables and the little market where you can buy the products and produce used in Botanica‘s kitchen.

The two ladies also started an online magazine, a collection of the recipes used at their restaurant to complete their customers hungry needs: you can eat a dish at Botanica, fall in love with it so much that you want to cook it at home, buy the ingredients right away, grab the recipe from the magazine, and go straight to your own kitchen and cook it again.

Sitting at this restaurant feels a bit like being in Heather and Emily’s home and this was an important aspect for them when they first started thinking about their restaurant baby. The design, the menu they put together, the way they work together with their employees, this all shows a philosophy of working and living together in a community. They have strong connections with the other restaurants in their neighborhood, many of which are also run by women, and together they put the spotlight back onto LA’s culinary scene (like “Kismet” that I wrote about last week and Jessica Koslow’s “Sqirl”, which will be featured here on the blog in 2 weeks). They not only share the same work ethics, but also their farmers and suppliers.

And they all have one more thing in common, all these restaurants celebrate vegetables. Heather and Emily manage to turn a potato, cauliflower, squash, or carrot into a vibrant feast. They shift the traditional focus from meat and seafood centric dishes to roots, cabbages, and legumes. Botanica is not a vegetarian restaurant, but ribs, steaks, or fillets aren’t the star of the meal anymore, they can be a part of a greater composition, add flavor, be a luxurious treat of outstanding quality, but they aren’t essential anymore. And the two women’s recipes are so fantastic that you won’t even miss it, you just indulge in a dish like their seared vegetables with romesco (recipe below), which is so rich, balanced, and exciting that you don’t ever think of anything but tasty vegetables. And apart from this more than satisfying pleasure for the taste buds, you can be sure that you just enjoyed food that is good for your body, locally sourced in a strong community that works with and not against nature and our environment.

In the next months, I’ll share many new Meet In Your Kitchen features with you that took me to California, Italy, France, and Japan. Thanks to Zwilling for sponsoring these features for our culinary trip around the world! Thank you, my man James Hickey, for joining me on these adventures and helping me take pictures!

Botanica

 

Botanica

Heather Sperling and Emily Fiffer’s Seared Vegetables with Romesco

Serves 4

For the romesco

4 red bell peppers
1 jalapeño, seeds removed
2 medium cloves garlic
¼ cup (60ml) olive oil
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 small lemon, zest and juice
2 teaspoons Spanish smoked paprika
1 cup (140g) toasted almonds
1 large handful fresh cilantro leaves (about ¼ cup chopped)
Sea salt

For the vegetables

20 tiny potatoes (preferably purple), boiled in salted water until just tender, drained and cooled
Olive oil
Sea salt
Black pepper
Spanish smoked paprika
Broccolini, summer squash, romanesco, Brussels sprouts or cauliflower (or a mix)
3 leeks, white and light green part only, cut in half lengthwise

For the topping

About ½ lemon, zest and juice
1 small handful fresh cilantro flowers (or cilantro leaves)

Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C).

To make the romesco: Roast the bell peppers until blistered and fully soft. Transfer to a large bowl and let them cool for a few minutes. Remove and discard the seeds and stems, collect the thick juices that run off the peppers. Peel the skin and set aside.

In a food processor, combine the roasted peppers and their skin, the jalapeño, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, lemon zest and juice, smoked paprika, almonds, cilantro, and a splash of the liquid from the peppers. Blend until fully incorporated, but not fully uniform; some texture is ideal here. Add more sherry vinegar, salt, olive oil, and cilantro to taste.

For the vegetables: Lightly crush each potato with the side of a knife. Heat a splash of olive oil in a pan over medium heat and sauté the potatoes on one side until just starting to crisp, then flip and crisp up the other side. Remove from oil and season well with salt, pepper, and a sprinkle of smoked paprika.

While the potatoes are crisping, prepare the remaining vegetables: Cut the vegetables into bite size pieces (except the leeks) and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, then grill or sear until al dente, with nice char in spots. In a large pan, cook the leeks, cut-side down, until they get a touch of caramelized char, then flip and cook for a few minutes on the other side, until soft through. Cut in two-inch lengths, season, and set aside.

Mound the romesco in the center of a large plate and arrange the potatoes, leeks and vegetables in a ring around the purée. Garnish with a good drizzle of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice, lemon zest, a sprinkle of salt, and the cilantro flowers and serve immediately.

Botanica

 

Botanica

 

Watch my interview with Heather and Emily in LA in September 2017:

“I think that for many women in the industry they are very aware that this is a moment in time when they can be actively involved in changing the culture of the restaurant world.”

 

 

Thank you, Heather and Emily!

 

Botanica

 

Botanica

 

Botanica

 

Botanica

 

Botanica

 

Botanica

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