Whole Life Magazine

October/November 2012

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Page 19 of 43

What Do I Do with ThaT? taste of health F Making sense of L.a.'s seasonal bounty By Sarika Chawla or Chef Michael Young on a Tuesday afternoon, it's all happening at the Westfield Mall in Sherman Oaks. That's where the chef/owner of Ombra Ristorante (www. ombrala.com) wanders the farmers market in the parking lot, exploring and sourcing ingredients for his Tuesday market-driven menu. "This is a lemon cucumber," explains one vendor, pointing to a basket overflowing with round, yellow produce. "They don't actually taste like lemon." Biting into the vegetable, it's clear this isn't a fruit-meets-vegetable hybrid, but simply a form of cucumber that's sweeter and less watery than the traditional kind. Moving through the market, we examine heirloom eggplant that range from small and bulbous to long and skinny, and can simply be diced and served with tomato sauce as a caponata. Young explains how Neapolitan zucchini, aka cucuzza, will be served later that night grated with garganelli pasta and baby heirloom tomatoes. Cantaloupe sourced from Tapia Brothers in Encino will be prepared as a traditional prosciutto and melon appetizer. "I'm obsessed with figs right now," he says, tasting a fresh one from a stand. Later today they will be served as dessert with aged balsamic and egg custard. As we head deep into the fall and winter seasons, there are favorites we all expect to see—apples, pumpkin, squash and parsnips. But then there are those odd-looking items that can stump less-experienced cooks. For example, the Sunday Encino Farmers Market showcases nopales, or cactus paddles, from Gutierrez Farms, as well as Asian-style ingre- dients, such as bok choy and daikon from the Fresno-based Mr. Thao's farm. The good fortune of being an L.A.-area chef, professional or otherwise, means having year-round access to a bounty of inspirational ingredients. "I'm a big fan of persimmons," says Executive Chef Taylor Boudreaux of Westwood- ingredients and evolves with the seasons. On Wednesdays, you may see Boudreaux perusing the Santa Monica Farm- ers Market with his produce manager. Other days, you might find him digging through the latest CSA (community- supported agriculture) box, which the restaurant distributes through a unique partnership with the Tarzana- and Somis- based farm, Country Fresh Herbs. "I normally don't know what's in the boxes ahead of time, so based Napa Valley Grille (www.napavalleygrille.com). "They work great with savory dishes and desserts, which is a bonus. Come fall, I also have an appetizer that's a Lady Gala apple wrapped in bacon, stuffed with garlic and roasted." The Westwood restaurant bases its wine country-style menu on locally sourced Looking for a source of inspiration? Check out some of these resources: Pinterest: The latest way to lose hours of your life. Search out any unusual ingredi- ent, like kohlrabi or persimmon, and pull up eye-catching photos (which can also help identify what's in your hand) and find recipes from various sources. Supercook: If you've only got a handful of ingredients in the kitchen, it's Super- cook to the rescue. Simply type in what you have, and it will scour the web for recipes using those ingredients. Bok choy quinoa, anyone? Foodily: A sort of hybrid between the two, this visually pleasing site lets you plug in your ingredients to source recipes from around the web. Autumn's a great time to experiment with, say, apple and quince tartlets. 20 wholelifetimesmagazine.com I go through it with customers," Boudreaux explains. "If some- one doesn't know how to cook something, we'll help them." Don't have a restaurant chef on hand to ask for advice? "Just Google it," advises Boudreaux. "There's so much information out there. I have my Food Lover's Compan- ion (Barron's) in my office and sometimes I'll crack open the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market Cookbook (Chronicle). But more often than not, I'll Google an in- gredient until it inspires me. The key is to understand the process behind an ingredient, and then go off-book to come up with something that's completely your own." Innovation is what drives Spork Foods (www.sporkfoods. com), an organic, vegan cooking school in West Hollywood, co-owned by sisters Jenny Engel and Heather Goldberg. "We try to steer people away from the stereotypes of food," says Goldberg. They point to an ingredient such as fen- nel—with its bulbous base and leafy fronds—as one of those quirky ingredients that can challenge a home cook. "It's intimi- Photo: ©Lindy Bostrom/Bostromgraphics

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