An expatriate of New Orleans – and professional chef – who has lived in Los Angeles since her childhood, blogs about the journey from New Orleans to Los Angeles back to New Orleans, and points along the way.

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The Caterer’s Garden- Working on the Menus

By on Mar 28, 2009, 3:46 pm in Books, Food and Drink | 0 comments

So, as I said last time, Paul asked if I would create some menus for him as a starting point. He wanted vegetables, fruit, herbs, edible flowers, and specifically mentioned a variety of cherry tomatoes. Colorful food- in that Cal-Mediterranean kind of mode- just my kind of thing.

When I started thinking about it, my mind first lit on the okra plant. Okay, it’s not exactly Cal-Med, but I started out as a Southerner, and I really have a thing for okra. Also, several years back, I had seen an okra plant growing in the kitchen garden at  the erstwhile COPIA in Napa, and had been captivated by its showy flower. I thought it was perfect for the plant which gives us the main ingredient for okra gumbo, one of my favorite foods, and a New Orleans specialty, because the flower would look right at home tucked behind the ear of a sultry jazz singer-even wrote a story about it-the plant, the flower, the gumbo, and the city, but that’s for another time.

I paired the okra with corn (because they just go together, right?), tomatoes and fresh shell beans in a kind of succotash. Paul called to tell me that corn was not exactly what he had in mind.

“It sucks up a tremendous amount of water” he said.  Not a great thing in drought ridden Southern California.

“I was thinking more along the lines of zucchini and eggplant.”

I also remembered hearing Michael Abelman, urban farmer, author of On Good Land: The Autobiography of an Urban Farm, From the Good Earth: A Celebration of Growing Food Around the World ,Fields of Plenty: A Farmer’s Journey in Search of Real Food and the People Who Grow It , and photographer, say a few years back that he’d never seen a plant that sucked the soil of nutrients like corn. Probably not such a horrible thing in the alluvial soil of the Mississippi Basin, but again, in So Cal… Okay, so think like a farmer, not primarily like a chef, Gisele.

So, there was a bit more back and forth between Paul and I:

He couldn’t find a dwarf apricot tree for the apricot frangipane tarts which I love in the spring-“maybe berries”?

“We’re already using them with Meyer lemon curd to serve with pound cake.”

A call:

“Hey, I found a dwarf pear tree”- an old standby for frangipane tarts – and  now we’re set.

Next time -the menus and what’s actually being planted.

Bon Appetit!

Gisele

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