Category Archives: Going Green and Sustainable

Shaved Asparagus Salad with Asparagus Buttermilk Dressing and Pickled Asparagus Tips

Asparagus shines three ways in this composed salad.
Asparagus shines three ways in this composed salad.

With his trademark crisp white shirt, Christmas-red bow tie, and denim overalls that he’s never without (not even at the black-tie Jame Beard Awards), Farmer Lee Jones is a larger-than-life character.

But he is no caricature.

He is the real deal.

When his family nearly lost its soy bean and corn farm in Ohio during the 1980’s economic downturn, he managed to save it by taking a gamble to transform it.

Instead of growing feed crops like soybeans and corn, he downsized to nurture obscure specialty herbs, fruits and vegetables after a chance meeting with a chef looking for someone to grow squash blossoms.

Today, the small, sustainable Chef’s Garden is revered by chefs nationwide, including Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud, and Jose Andres. It’s this farm that we have to thank for the whole microgreens movement. During the pandemic, the farm adapted to changing times once again, offering delivery of its produce to consumers so that Jones wouldn’t have to lay off any employees, despite its main customer base, restaurants, ordering far less because of curtailed operations.

Jones’ story is captured in “The Chef’s Garden: A Modern Guide to Common and Unusual Vegetables–with Recipes” (Avery), of which I received a review copy. Written by Jones with Kristin Donnelly, former food editor at Food & Wine magazine, this lavishly photographed 240-page book is not only packed with recipes, but detailed information about selecting, storing, cleaning and using a wealth of produce. The book hones in on both the familiar and the esoteric, from ramps, hearts of palm, and bamboo shoots to amaranth, arrowhead root, and crystal lettuces.

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Where I’ve Been Getting Takeout of Late, Part 21

A small, 6-inch chocolate silk pie from Manresa Bread.
A small, 6-inch chocolate silk pie from Manresa Bread.

Manresa Bread, Campbell, Los Altos, and Los Gatos

Manresa Bread is a must-stop any day of the week. But come holidays, it shines even more.

That’s what I discovered when I dropped by last week to pick up Valentine’s Day treats. It pays to heed the window for early pre-ordering, too, as popular items will sell out fast.

Pastry Chef-Founder Avery Ruzicka built a reputation for her outstanding breads, made with organic flour milled on site. Those are a must-purchase, especially the profoundly crusty baguette, which quite frankly is a steal for $4, and the oblong levain ($9) with such depth of flavor from a combination of organic whole wheat, organic white, and organic rye flours in concert with a sourdough starter.

Manresa Bread's version of a Basque cheesecake.
Manresa Bread’s Basque cheesecake.

Admittedly, I was there for two holiday items in particular: the 6-inch chocolate silk pie ($22), and the Basque cheesecake ($35).

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Pork Cheeks Braised in Tomato Wine Sauce

Have you tried pork cheeks? If not, you are missing out.
Have you tried pork cheeks? If not, you are missing out.

This is one of those no-fail, largely hands-off, wintery main courses, in which the oven does all the work.

In fact, the only real heavy-lifting you’ll have to do is procuring the pork cheeks, which is not an easy find at most supermarkets. Nor is it a necessarily inexpensive one, either.

I lucked out in buying mine from California’s only commercial Iberian pig operation, Encina Farms. What makes Iberian pork so sought after is the fact that the pigs are finished on acorns, giving their meat incredible richness. In fact, in Spain, this is the pork that’s cured into luxurious jamon Iberico.

Encina Farms does sell out of pork cheeks fast, especially since there are only two cheeks per pig, of course. But if you are serious about buying some, fill out its contact form online, and the farm owners will either alert you when the cheeks are available or save some for you.

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Seemore Sausages Boast A Little Something Something Extra

Seemore's La Dolce Beet-A and Broccoli Melt sausages.
Seemore’s La Dolce Beet-A and Broccoli Melt sausages.

Cara Nicoletti of Massachusetts is a fourth-generation butcher — who wants people to eat less meat.

Yes, you read that right.

For healthful and sustainability reasons, she hit on the idea to make sausages from certified humanely raised chicken and pork, that slyly and effectively includes vegetables.

In short, vegetable-forward yet meat-based Seemore sausages.

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Fall Festivities In the South Bay/Peninsula

Gamble Garden's live Zoom class will show you how to decorate a pumpkin as beautiful as these. (Photo courtesy of Gamble Garden)
Gamble Garden’s live Zoom class will show you how to decorate a pumpkin as beautiful as these. (Photo courtesy of Gamble Garden)

Take Pumpkin Decorating To New Heights

If you’ve already done spooky and campy with your jack-o’-lantern in Halloweens past, now’s the time to give chic a try.

Palo Alto’s Gamble Garden will host a “Pumpkin Decorating With Henna” online class, 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Oct. 24.

Artist Priti Aggarwal will lead this live Zoom class in the Indian art of mehndi, explaining its history and cultural applications, and guiding you to decorate your own pumpkin with custom-made henna paste free of chemicals or dyes.

All supplies, including the pumpkin and the henna, will be provided and must be picked up beforehand at the Gamble Garden.

The class is recommended for those ages 8 on up. Price is $40 per person. For more info or to register, click here.

“Dine Downtown San Jose”

This year’s “Dine Downtown San Jose” is extended through Nov. 15, and includes dine-in, dine-out, and to-go specials, making it easier than ever to help support local restaurants during this challenging time.

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