Monday, May 7, 2012

Green Plate Special - Fennel, Corn, English Peas and Asparagus

Blue Plate Specials are the working mans lunch - "a meat and three" as it's sometimes called in the South.  So to honor Meatless Monday, I decided we're having a Green Plate Special which was inspired by meals we enjoyed over this past weekend and what's available now:

Prosciutto wrapped Asparagus, our meat stand-in, (okay, almost meatless Monday - it happens that way with rapidly growing boys who like their meat.) lemony shaved fennel and freshly shelled English pea (harvested from our tiny garden) salad, grilled first-of-the-season corn with Lemon Basil Butter and Steamed Potatoes with Fried herbs is our menu.

You see, this past weekend Kyle and I celebrated our 20th anniversary in Sonoma.  (Yes, we were married at the ages of 12 & was an arranged marriage...or at least this was the story that we told the schmoozing bartender who asked how it was possible we could be married 20 years!)

A mere forty five minutes after leaving our garage we were checking into the fabulous El Dorado Hotel on the square in Sonoma and setting off for a weekend of doing nothing but relaxing and finding the next amazing wine country meal.

We started the weekend with The Girl & The Fig, a restaurant we've wanted to visit since we moved to Cali in 2007.  We have been living the starving artist's life since that move but for our anniversary, we had set aside a little money so we could enjoy Wine Country.   (THE MOVE story is a long one, but if you don't know it already, here's the down and dirty version:  We moved here with no jobs and no house in September of 2007 with two kids simply because we had a dream of living and working in the food and wine mecca of the US.)

We first tried various condiments created by the Sondra Bernstein, owner/chef of TG&TF, on a trip in early 2007 prior to our fateful move at her then outpost, The Fig Pantry.  Fig Jam, Fig Balsamic Vinaigrette, you name it, we tried it and they were all good.  We didn't have time on that trip for the full scale restaurant visit so it went on our "bucket list" of restaurants.

With beautiful and simple French food, and totally unpretentious service, The Girl & The Fig was most definitely the highlight of our weekend. We will return many times over if for nothing else than a plate of Frites with lots of fried herbs, glass of wine and cheeses (see that cheese in the top right picture with the brown stripe?  It's Cowabunga from Bohemian Creamery, soft cow's milk cheese with cajeta - goat's milk caramel- running through it.  WHAT???)  But everything was amazing, even the typically boring chicken breast, was well roasted with a picholine olive pesto that was fabulously salty and perfectly paired with our Syrah.

Cafe LaHaye was a restaurant I had on my radar, not because of the buzz, although I found out later it's recently been written up like crazy, but because I liked the sides that I saw on their menu.  After our visit, I determined that they should stick to a vegetarian menu.  The fennel & English pea salad that accompanied Kyle's grilled pork chop severely upstaged the less-than-stellar piggy.  And my vegetarian pasta dish was so completely awesome that I atypically took home what I couldn't finish, which also meant a trip to a convenience store for ice to store it til we got home!  (It became my snack while watching the Grand Finale of Chopped All Stars!) A. MAZ. ING.

Oh, and next time you're in Sonoma, (for you all should be at some point in your life) Harvest Moon Cafe with it's totally unassuming facade has one of the best brunch items we've ever eaten (heavenly baked polenta with fontina, lacinato kale, tomato sauce, bacon and fried eggs on top) and only after leaving there did I find out that the chef is a Chez Panisse alums.

So now that I've completely digressed...back to the Green Plate.

There are really no recipes so I'll just give you pictures and steps:

Shaved Fennel & English Pea Salad - Remove the outer tough sections and then remove the core (first four pictures.) Thinly slice with a knife, food processor or mandolin a large bulb of fennel.  Massage the fennel with a little with salt and the juice of a lemon and set aside for 15-20 minutes.  Remove English peas from their shell (or use frozen if you just can't get fresh) and toss with the fennel. Drizzle with a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and taste for seasoning.  Add salt and coarsely ground pepper as needed.

Grilled Corn with Lemon Basil Butter - Remember Paris in April? I had Lemon Basil Butter left and so after grilling the corn in the husks for 20-30 minutes, all that's left to do is slather on the butter.

Steamed Potatoes with Fried Herbs - Fry the herbs first:  Heat several tablespoons of olive oil in a  skillet then toss the leaves only of thyme, sage and rosemary in and let them cook for a few seconds until crispy and slightly brown. You have to stay right there and watch or they will burn. Then simply steam quartered new potatoes until tender.  Toss with salt, pepper and a little olive oil, then toss the fried herbs on top.

Prosciutto-wrapped Asparagus -Peel the woody ends of the asparagus with a vegetable peeler.  Cut slices of Prosciuitto in half lengthwise and wrap around the length of the stem.  Roast or grill until the proscuitto is slightly crispy and the asparagus is starting to brown a bit.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with coarsely ground pepper.

Let me know of any main dish veggies you like to make. 

Print Page Copyright 2011 Christi Flaherty, Cook What You've Got

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