Category Food

The Jerusalem Artichoke

Despite its name, it has no relation to Jerusalem, it was in fact cultivated by the Native Americans long before the arrival of Europeans, Champlain, the French explorer of the Americas brought the plant back to Europe where it became a very common vegetable under the name “topinambour”, also called sunchoke. It is a member of the daisy family and, above ground, resembles the garden sunflower, its tuber, the edible part, has a taste similar to an artichoke. Chef Martin gathers it at Chino’s farm and uses it in various recipes. His favorite is Jerusalem artichoke soup with black truffle sea salt and duck cracklings buts he also produces sunchoke chips for beautiful salads or as an aromatic velvety purée served with firm fleshed seafood, meat or vegetarian dishes.

Melon de Cavaillon

The season has arrived for that succulent delight, the king of melons: the Melon deCavaillon, the most famous of the Cantaloupes. The American Cantaloupe is in fact a muskmelon, way different from the Cavaillon.

The melon originated in India, then arrived in Italy via Africa, it was cultivated as a delicacy in the papal garden of the village of Cantaloupe (hence the name), then made its way to South East France when the papacy moved to Avignon in 1495, but its real fame goes back to the 19th century as train transport made it possible for all of France and Europe to discover its amazing flavor, then became Melon the Cavaillon, named after the train station it was expedited from.

Its flavor is that of honeyed concentrate of apricot, passion fruit and banana at perfect ripeness.Through the course of summer we will serve it as an appetizer or a dessert, using it indifferent cold soups, with cured meats, steeped in Port wine, in carpaccio, with assorted fruitsand in ice creamsand sorbets just to name a few of Chef’s creations.

Chef Martin’s May Menu Inspirations From Chinos

May is already here, and I think it is now a perfect time to have lunch or dinner on our courtyard patio. During the month of May, to accommodate the new spring produce, I create many different salads, served either as an appetizer or an entrée if you are looking for a light meal: maybe a vegetarian salad with some exceptional artisan cheese, one with home smoked trout or sautéed fresh quail or with prime beef carpaccio. Of course the grilled chicken breast salad with beets, French lentils and grain mustard dressing, as well as the lobster salad with avocado, papaya and citrus dressing are always one of our guest’s favorite. On hot days, I will serve chilled vegetarian soups, for example: a chilled fresh pea soup with mint and grapefruit or a chilled green zucchini soup with curry and parmesan crisp.

Fresh seasonal seafood also comes to mind when I design my lunch and dinner menu: I can’t wait for the wild trolled pacific king salmon or the fresh live soft-shell crabs to come in season this month. The classic fresh Dover sole is requested by many of our guests and it is prepared with a medley of chino’s farm vegetables, brown butter and lemon juice. I am also serving quenelles (I have been surprised by the inquiries), quenelles are delicate football shape dumplings, made out of trout, or pike or salmon. Many guests tell me that no one makes quenelles anymore, a super classical French dish and they are very happy to find them on the menu.

I also noticed that quite a few inspired lunch guests will stop at Chino’s Farm to purchase some of the ingredients they had for lunch or dinner, they are not disappointed as there can find a bounty of new produce right now at the stand.

See you soon in our courtyard or maybe at Chino’s farm.

Chef Martin

Chef Martin’s Vegetable of the Month: White Asparagus

It is almost spring time and I am very excited to be serving fresh white asparagus from Holland again. Fresh cut white asparagus is a very sustainable product and a European favorite, it is only available from mid March until the beginning of June and many european restaurants typically present an entire menu with white asparagus featured in every dish during that time of the year. There is even an annual festival to honor the asparagus lily. The real secret to growing white asparagus is covering the stalks with sandy dirt as they grow a certain height. The lack of exposure  to sunlight robs their chance of turning grassy green. White asparagus needs to be peeled very meticulously since the skin is very tough, it also needs to be cooked longer than traditional green asparagus and costs 4 to 5 times more.

I know that in my homeland of Germany “Spargel” is most often served as the center piece of the meal. Each guest has 5-8 spears of asparagus on the plate and then chooses from at least two sauces (melted butter and Hollandaise), cooked or dried ham slices, and boiled new potatoes. At the restaurant, I serve the white asparagus as a light  appetizer in a orange blossom honey vinaigrette, with thin sliced prosciutto and a soft boiled quail egg. I also prepare a vegetarian white asparagus soup that is served with cinnamon croutons and garnished with spring flower petals which is very popular as a starter.

I will be happy to talk more about white asparagus with you at your visit to the restaurant anytime soon. But remember to request the delicacy when you make your reservation, since it sells out very fast every day as the season goes on.

 

Chef Martin’s Vegetable of the Month: Cauliflower

A great thing about being a chef in Rancho Santa Fe is being close to Chino Farms, where I’ve shopped almost every day since 1985.  It’s been my routine to start my work day at the Chino Farms stand. This time of the year you will notice the beautifully arranged cauliflower heads glowing in four different colors: there are yellow – or what some call “golden cauliflower” – green cauliflower, purple cauliflower and of course the popular snow white variety. I’m routinely asked which I like the most and my boring answer is always, “Ah, they’re all delicious. I like them all.”

However, I must say that I don’t enjoy eating cauliflower raw, and in all my years growing up in my home country of Germany I never saw anyone eat raw cauliflower. I think it tastes so much better when steamed, and if not steamed it should be parboiled in lightly salted water. It can be enjoyed still warm in a light dressing of lemon juice, olive oil and grated parmesan, or it can be pan fried in bread crumbs after being coated with slightly whipped egg whites (for this, use clarified butter or canola oil). Cauliflower can also be served with homemade mayonnaise, capers, anchovies and hard boiled quail eggs or chopped hard boiled hen eggs – and don’t forget to garnish your dish with some green leaves of arugula, frisée or mizuna.

During a recent dinner I served a small “amuse” of purple cauliflower soup sprinkled with toasted almonds and a dash of sharp parmesan. It was a big hit! Yet, I still think my mother made the best cauliflower preparation (of course, who doesn’t think Mom was the best cook?). She would remove the leaves and cut it up in big bite size florets, boil them in just enough water to get them soft and remove them from the (now tasty) water. Then, she would add our cow’s fresh milk to the water and boil it, thickening it with a flour and butter paste. After boiling this cream sauce for about 10 minutes, the cauliflower would go back into the sauce, which would be seasoned with very little salt and a pinch of fresh ground nutmeg, this preparation is so easy and tastes so good…

And, just one more note about steaming or boiling multi-color cauliflower: Keep the purple cauliflower separate from the other colors. Like red beets, it will stain.

I’ll tell you about my current favorite vegetable next month, but in the meantime I suggest you take the time to cook your cauliflower. It really tastes so much better than raw!

Happy cooking,

Chef Martin

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