Three great local farm stands, three great spring treats
Local, first of the season, strawberries are here! Oh, what a long, fruitless winter it has seemed! It is always right about the day that I am thinking, “Not one more orange. Not one more banana. Please!” That is exactly the time when, thank heavens, the Watmaugh Road Strawberry Stand officially opens for their undeniably exciting and fabulously long, berry-filled season. The strawberries from the rustic little stand so far this season have been utterly mind-blowing. I don’t know why, but we shall simply thank the berry gods and run over there right now to pick up another flat. All of a sudden, life has slowly begun to turn a shade of rosy red.
Strawberries were my childhood berry of choice and still are. My fingers have been stained for days, little green plastic baskets of plump berries will sit on the counter top all summer long, leaving their sticky juice puddling underneath. I can’t help but to grab handfuls of them as I pass, can’t help leaving pink fingerprints all over the house. This past, super sunny weekend, during a wild, frenzied berry-eating fest, we found ourselves whipping up a few batches of frozen, fresh strawberry daiquiris made simply with a ton of berries, agave nectar, a squeeze of lime, and a potent jigger of rum. They were heavenly sipped slowly on the back porch, even too good to set down and play some bocce lest they melt during my turn. They were the ideal way to enjoy these perfect strawberries, a sublime combination of pure ingredients that was just so darned good. Berry, berry good.
The tragically short local asparagus season has come and almost gone. Even though I have tried my hardest to eat as many of them as humanly possible, I am afraid I will still regret the fact that I haven’t enjoyed more. I popped into the Fruit Basket the other day, I can’t resist their great prices on citrus and avocados, and stumbled on a gorgeous pile of Delta asparagus which appeared to have been picked merely minutes prior to my arrival. Oh boy, I truly couldn’t leave without a few bunches thrown into my basket. That night I tossed them in a bit of olive oil and roasted them quickly in a super hot oven, gobbled them up – with my fingers, of course – and immediately wished that I had taken home some more. These asparagus were dream asparagus, the asparagus ideal, amazingly tender and fresh. It has been nearly impossible to stop thinking of them since, the next morning I really wished that I had saved a few for my favorite breakfast of steamed asparagus topped with a runny poached egg.
The stunning vegetables that sit stacked beautifully in their crates at Paul’s Produce stand at either of our farmer’s markets are always pristine, but it is the artichokes that, especially this time of year, keep me coming back for more. Whether choosing a few, teeny ones and frying them whole with simply a squeeze of lemon, or gingerly trimming the thorny edges on an oversized globe, steaming the big beauty, and serving it with a bright green, herby, homemade tarragon aioli, they are always to die for.
Preparing fresh artichokes can be sort of a pain, but like the other fleeting vegetables of spring like fresh fava beans or little shelling peas, they are so completely worth it. Paul’s artichokes more than likely won’t be around too long, which even as I write this, sends me into a total panic since I have yet to prepare my favorite spring vegetable ragout that, if baby artichokes were left out, would be a crime. I believe that, officially, there are only a few more weeks of spring, when everyone will go all crazy for heirloom tomatoes, but in my house, I will continue whipping up my favorite spring dishes until every last little strawberry, spear of local asparagus and little baby artichoke is gone.
Fresh Strawberry Daiquiri
1 cup pureed fresh strawberries
1 cup light rum
2 Tablespoons Agave nectar (or more to taste)
Juice of 2 limes
Ice cubes as needed
Select 2 large cocktail glasses. In a blender, combine the strawberry puree, rum, Agave nectar, and lime juice. Add ice and process until smooth. Pour into the glasses and garnish each glass with a slice of lime, resting it on the rim. Serve immediately.
On The Menu
This Saturday, May 19, from 10 a.m. to noon, the Sonoma Ecology Center hosts a “Chicken-ology Workshop” at Sonoma Garden Park. Learn the A to Z’s on how to raise chickens in your backyard with Nick Rupiper of Fowler Creek Farm. Rupiper currently cares for a flock of over 1,000 chickens and other farm animals, and sells his gorgeous eggs locally at the Friday Farmer’s Market, the Sonoma Garden Park, and at Sonoma Market. Rupiper will teach participants about which breeds are best to purchase, chicken coop requirements, and overall hen needs. The workshop is $10 for Sonoma Ecology Center members and $15 for non-members. All proceeds benefit the Sonoma Garden Park, located at 19996 Seventh Street East. Register online at brownpapertickets.com, enter Chicken-ology, or visit the Sonoma Ecology Center website at sonomaecologycenter.org. For more information about the workshop, contact Megan at 996.0712 extension 113.
• On Sunday, May 20, from 4 to 6 p.m. Ramekins is hosting Patricia Curtan for a book signing and conversation with the author to celebrate her new book, “Menus from Chez Panisse.” Patricia began hand-printing menus for the restaurant while employed as a cook in the Chez Panisse kitchen. In “Menus for Chez Panisse” Curtan presents four decades of menus including dinners for special guests Julia Child and James Beard, with notes on the occasions, art and the food. Chef Michael Emmanuel, another Chez Panisse alumni and a good friend of Patricia’s, will be on-hand to offer bites and nibbles inspired by Chez Panisse menus with ingredients from Ramekins’ Fifth Street Farms. Tickets are $49. Call Ramekins to make your necessary reservations at 933.0450.
• Audubon Canyon Ranch hosts it’s “Second Annual Art of Eating” event on Saturday, June 3 at Glen Ellen’s Bouverie Preserve. This year’s theme is “Women who change the way we eat” and will feature more than 16 talented local chefs, 14 vintners, and 60 unique auction items. The proceeds from this event will benefit the education programs of Audubon Canyon Ranch, which annually provides more than 6,000 grade students with the opportunity to experience nature-based educational experiences at no cost to the schools. Tickets can be purchased egret.org or by calling 415.868.9244.
Kristin Jorgensen is one of Sonoma’s most passionate, food obsessed residents. In this weekly column, she covers all the delicious happenings, foodie events and restaurants in Sonoma, the rest of Wine Country and beyond. Find her blogging daily as the Cook at thecardiganandcook.com or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.