Friday, May 28, 2010

Garden-Fresh Lunch

Market to Mouth's theme this week has been meals made from just-picked garden-fresh produce.

On Monday, I featured spaghetti squash infused with chervil, served with sides of wild arugula and yellow rapini flowers, and leeks poached with pear.

I bought the produce for the Meatless Monday dish from the farmer's market stand of Eric Skokan, farmer, chef, and bistro owner.

Wednesday, I observed Eric at the Black Cat Farm Table Bistro preparing Lamb with Baby Turnips and Pea Greens using produce from his organic farm. This was a dish he intended including on that evening's daily-changing menu.

Yesterday, I prepared a lunch for myself and two friends with just-picked salad greens (pics above) and we ate lunch (pics below) under the shade of a beautiful maple tree in the backyard of a home I'll be care-taking for the next month.

Tracy, the home owner, is a member of the group, Boulder Culinary Gardeners, as is chef, Eric Skokan. BCG members are an egalitarian lot, sharing their wisdom with other local farmers and gardeners striving for organic, healthy and sustainable gardens.

I don't have a garden, but I love the opportunity to care for the gardens of others, especially when I can pick, prepare and eat directly from their backyards!

This summer, for the second summer in a row, I have the good fortune of caring for the properties, vegetable gardens, and egg-laying hens of two BCG members -- Tracy and Barbara.

Follow this link to see posts featuring Barbara's urban farm, where I was last August, watering, picking, cooking and eating extraordinary produce and fresh eggs, and where I'll be again this August.

But back to yesterday -- as you can see in the top pictures, Tracy has a wonderful selection of lettuces in her garden.

For lunch, I picked wild arugula, spinach, Bordeaux spinach, butter lettuce, purple-leafed lettuce, and chives with flower blossoms intact.

All the leaves were young and delicate and so I simply washed them, putting them through the salad spinner, and then I served them plain on a platter with a few of the yellow rapini flowers leftover from the bag of greens I bought last weekend at Eric's Black Cat Farm stand.

Simplicity is the key when you have access to tender, baby salad greens.

I served the platter with sides of oils, vinegar, and lime wedges. (On hand, I had olive and walnut oil, though hazelnut and avocado oil would be suitable accompaniments too.) That way my guests could choose whether they wanted to add additional flavor to their salad greens.

With the platter of garden-fresh salad greens, I also served a variation on traditional Waldorf Salad using ingredients I had on hand:
  • half a chicken breast,
  • some celery,
  • bottled artichoke hearts in olive oil,
  • apple,
  • walnuts,
  • chives,
  • and I bound the salad with a dob of sour cream and lemon juice.
The other platter is something I made up, again with ingredients on hand. I poached a fillet of mahi mahi on a bed of leeks and celery and some leftover chervil from my purchase last weekend at Eric's farm stand.

Poaching the fish in a pan (lid on) with half a cup of water and the juice of one lemon, meant it was infused with the delicate anise-flavor of the chervil, and the leeks and celery.

With the heat on low, the fish cooked in less than 10 mins, after which I let it sit to cool (lid off). Meanwhile I prepared an avocado, oil mayonnaise:

Avocado Mayonnaise
  • 3 eggs yolks
  • 1 and half cups of grapeseed oil or a mix of grapeseed and olive oil
  • one clove garlic
  • half an avocado
  • juice of half a lemon and or a splash of balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste
In a blender, whiz the yolks, garlic, lemon and or vinegar, salt and pepper. Very slowly, drizzle in the oil, bit by bit, so that the yolks and oil emulsify or thicken.

The key is patience when making oil mayonnaise. It's too easy to pour the oil quickly,which can cause the mayonnaise to break or fail to thicken.

Finally, add the avocado, and then a splash of water -- this will give the mayonnaise pouring consistency.

As you can see in the pic above, I served the sliced mahi mahi on a platter with the poached vegetables under the fish. I then poured the avocado mayonnaise over the fish, topping it with the lavender-colored chive blossoms, and lastly, I decorated the edge of the plate with red and green Bordeaux spinach leaves.

The two friends, who shared the above lunch with me, were happy to volunteer that it was a sumptuous but simple feast!

If you're hankering for something other than a barbecue this long weekend, try your hand at the above outdoor-lunch menu. If you don't have a veggie garden, it might mean shopping at your local farmer's market for interesting, just-picked salad greens, but the end result is definitely worth it.

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