As the winter winds die down and we can finally see the earth once again it is time to get outside and start planting your spring garden. The kitchen garden or “potager” as the Europeans have been calling these simple gardens for centuries has coming roaring back in style. People are choosing to grow their own fruits and vegetables for reasons such as carbon reduction from transport, fewer pesticides, taste, and simply to save money. Whatever the reason, a kitchen garden is a great way to re-connect with the earth and reap the nutritious and delicious benefits.
There is truly nothing greener than planting a garden outside your kitchen door. You avoid all petroleum use – from the shipping of goods to your driving to the store – as well as avoiding all chemical fertilizers and pesticides, which not only poison our soils but actually deplete the vitamin and mineral content of these foods, making them far less healthy than you think them to be. Lastly, you can’t compete with the quality and flavor of homegrown vegetables. There is nothing sweeter than a vine-ripened tomato fresh from the garden. So if you have a goal to make your home more eco-friendly, plant that garden you’ve been talking about.
The traditional “potager” contains everything needed to create a beautiful and sumptuous table from vibrantly colored vegetables and fragrant herbs to delicate and beautiful cut flowers. When planning your own unique kitchen garden it is most important to consider your individual needs. Plant only what you know and love. Visit your local farmer’s market if you want to experiment with new and exotic vegetables, and grow your staples at home.
Some local chefs are even joining the eco-movement by planting their own gardens to ensure that clients have only the finest quality herbs and vegetables. Chef Peter Hyde who is the chef/owner of Blue Moon Bistro on Route 6A in Dennis plants his own brand of “potager”to delight his guests with the freshest flavors available. The following Mushroom & Chive Risotto is a favored recipe used in his Tuscan Italian cooking class, as part of the ongoing series at Blue Moon Bistro.
Chive Risotto with Wild Mushrooms
1 oz. shallot, diced
1½ oz. butter
7 oz. Arborio rice
2 oz. mushrooms, sliced
½ oz. fresh chives, minced
1 pt. vegetable stock
4 fl. oz. dry white wine
1½ oz parmesan cheese, grated
¼ tsp salt, to taste
¼ tsp pepper, to taste
• Sweat the onions in half the butter.
• Add the rice and mix it thoroughly with the
butter. Cook it, stirring until a toasted aroma
develops. Add mushrooms and chives.
• Add a third of the stock, stirring the rice
frequently until the rice has absorbed the stock. Add the remaining stock in 2 more additions,
stirring constantly. Add the wine and stir in the same manner. Cook the risotto until the rice is
al dente and most of the liquid is absorbed.
The texture should be creamy.
• Add the parmesan cheese and the remaining butter. Season to taste with salt & pepper.
• Serves 5
Even though it often seems as if winter lasts until mid-May here on Cape Cod, these cool sandy shores yield some delectable early spring crops. Without a doubt my favorite of these early crops are those tender shoots we know as Asparagus. Many years ago Asparagus was grown commercially on the Lower Cape and does quite well in our sandy soil. Nutritionally, asparagus has high concentrations of Vitamin A, C and E as well as minerals like Potassium, Selenium and Folate, this combination makes asparagus a great anti-oxidant as well as heart healthy. Asparagus also has a well-balanced combination of amino acids making it a great source of proteins, especially for vegetarians.
Citrus Asparagus Spears with Sliced Almonds
1lb. fresh local asparagus
Zest and juice from one lemon
½ cup sliced raw almonds
2 tbs. olive oil
Sea salt and pepper to taste
• Drop trimmed asparagus spears in boiling
water for 1 min, quickly remove and rinse with very cold water to stop cooking immediately.
• Pour olive oil in a roasting pan and place in a 375˚ pre-heated oven.
• Toss asparagus spears gently with the lemon zest and juice and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.
• After about 3 mins carefully remove the pan with the hot oil from the oven and place the asparagus in the pan and sprinkle with almonds, put it back in the oven for 3 mins.
• Remove pan and gently toss the almonds and asparagus and roast for an additional two mins. Remove and serve.
• Serves 4-6
Asparagus, Shitake and Lobster Frittata
½ lb fresh asparagus spears trimmed
and cut into 1” pieces
¼ lb fresh shitake mushrooms, sliced
¼ lb cooked and cleaned local lobster meat
6 farm fresh eggs
2 tbs. chopped fresh chives
1 tbs. chopped fresh parsley
2 oz. crumbled goat cheese
Sea salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil for cooking
• In a 8 inch cast iron or enamel frying pan,
sauté asparagus pieces and shitake mushrooms for about 3 mins, add in olive oil. Be sure to thoroughly coat all sides of the pan with oil, use a pastry brush if need be.
• In a mixing bowl beat together the eggs and herbs.
• Add the lobster meat to the asparagus and
shitakes and toss for 1 min, then pour egg
mixture over top.
• Sprinkle on goat cheese and season with
salt and pepper.
• Once you can see the egg beginning to cook around the edges place in a 375˚ oven and
cook until set, about 8 mins. If your oven has
a broiler, broil it for the last 3 mins to give
your frittata a nice golden crust
• Serves 4
Ideal for a decadent Springtime Sunday Brunch!
PHOTO © littlefieldlandscapes.com
Written By Heather Bailey, Spring 2011
Heather Bailey, CNC, has been a chef, food writer and educator on Cape Cod for the past eight years. She has recently received her certification as a Nutritional Consultant and has opened The Optimal Kitchen, offering nutritional consults, private and group cooking instruction, wellness coaching and personal chef services. Heather can be reached at 774-216-9553.