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.

”Facebook ”Twitter ”LinkedIn ”RSS” ”Pinterest” ”Google+”

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!


Post a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *