Farm fresh

Local chefs offer tips for making the most of farmers markets' seasonal bounty

Spring in California means asparagus, artichokes, fava beans, squash, berries, peaches, plums and more.

It's also opening season for several local farmers markets that don't run year-round, including in downtown Palo Alto and Los Altos. We talked to local chefs to get recipes for dishes that draw upon this season's local bounty.

Haochen Liu, Kumino, Mountain View

Miso ricotta frittata with asparagus

Miso and soy sauce in a spring fritatta? Haochen Liu, chef-owner at Asian-fusion restaurant Kumino in Mountain View, uses asparagus and Japanese ingredients to transform an Italian-style fritatta.

Servings: 4

Cooking time: 20 minutes


8 large organic eggs

1.5 tbsp brown miso

1 tbsp soy sauce

4 oz ricotta cheese

8 asparagus stalks



1. Whisk the eggs with miso and soy sauce until well mixed.

2. Crumble the ricotta cheese into small pieces, around 1/4 inch.

3. Cook asparagus in boiling salted water for 20 seconds, then plunge into ice water to cool down.

4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a non-stick pan or skillet. Heat the pan or skillet until lightly smoking, pour the egg mixture into the pan, and put the pan into oven for around eight minutes until it's half done.

5. Top with ricotta cheese and asparagus, then put the pan back into oven until the eggs are fully cooked and lightly browned.

6. Take the pan out of oven, cut the frittata into four pieces and serve warm.

Roast chicken breast, garlic noodles and charred spring vegetables

Garlic noodles is Liu's "signature dish" at Kumino. "I like to share my recipe with my neighbors," he said. "Charred Brussels sprouts and cauliflower is my favorite way to cook these vegetables."

Servings: 4

Cooking time: 40-50 minutes

Garlic noodles, ingredients:

1/3 pack Barilla linguine pasta

8 garlic cloves

2 oz onion

3 tbsp soy sauce

1 tsp sugar

4 oz butter

1 tbsp parsley

Salt as needed


1. Put garlic, onion, soy sauce and sugar into a blender to blend into paste.

2. Cook pasta in a salted boiling water for 8 minutes; keep stirring to make sure it is not sticking together.

3. Heat the butter in a non-stick pan until melted. Add pasta and garlic paste. Stir until the noodles are tender.

4. Add parsley and salt to taste.

Crispy roast chicken, ingredients:

4 chicken breasts, skin on

Salt, black pepper, cake flour


1. Salt and pepper the chicken breast on both sides. Coat the skin side with cake flour.

2. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Cover the bottom of the pan with oil and heat until it is lightly smoking. Sear the skin side of chicken until crispy brown, and then turn the skin side up. Put the pan into oven until fully cooked, around 14 to 15 minutes.

Charred spring vegetables, ingredients:

1 cup carrots, large dice

1 cup Brussels sprouts (trimmed and cut to same size as carrots)

1 cup cauliflower, cut to same size as carrots


1. Cook the vegetables in boiling water for two minutes.

2. Drain the water, oil the pan and stir-fry the vegetables until fully cooked. Turn the oven to broil and put the pan into oven until the vegetables are caramelized.

3. Mix the vegetables with butter, soy sauce and vinegar; add salt to taste.

To serve, put garlic noodles on the bottom of plate and add chicken on top of the noodles, skin side up. Add the vegetables alongside the chicken.

Jarad Gallagher, Chez TJ, Mountain View

Monterey Bay halibut with vadouvan and early summer squash

At Chez TJ in downtown Mountain View, the season drives the menu. The Michelin-starred kitchen only serves produce, meat and seafood that has been grown, raised or sourced within 100 miles of the restaurant. Executive Chef Jarad Gallagher is a frequent visitor to farmers markets, including Menlo Park and Los Altos (where last week he picked up some choice zucchini blossoms and squash).

Servings: 4


Marinated halibut (see recipe below)

Squash gratin (see recipe below)

Kabocha squash puree (see recipe below)

2 fresh lemons

1 oz fresh basil leaves

4 fresh zucchini blossoms

2 oz California extra virgin olive oil

2 oz + 1 oz grass-fed butter

Sea salt, black pepper

Marinated halibut, ingredients:

1 1/2 lbs halibut (one large piece with the skin and bones removed)

1 tbsp vadouvan powder

1/2 tsp fine ground black pepper

1 tsp fine ground sea salt

1 oz extra virgin olive oil

Instructions: Mix all ingredients together, except the halibut. Spread the mixture on the fish. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for two hours.

Squash gratin, ingredients (best if made the day before):

2 lbs mixed summer baby squashes

2 oz butter

6 oz heavy cream

1 tsp black pepper

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp fennel pollen

4 oz fresh grated Parmesan cheese


1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Butter a baking dish that is 8 inches long and 3-4 inches wide.

2. Slice all the squashes 1/4-inch thick, discarding any large seed pockets (they will make the gratin too runny). Layer the squashes in the dish.

3. Bring remaining ingredients, except for the cheese, to a boil using a sauté pan. Pour the sauce pan contents oven the squash and place uncovered into the preheated oven for 12 minutes. Top with the cheese and return to the oven for 15 more minutes.

4. Remove from the oven and allow to rest at room temperature for one hour. Press plastic wrap over the top of the gratin and place a weight on top to compress it. Place in the refrigerator until completely chilled.

Kabocha squash puree, ingredients:

1 kabocha squash, peeled, seeds removed and diced into 2-inch pieces

6 oz butter

2 oz extra virgin olive oil

1 sheet nori, chopped into small pieces

1 tbsp toasted white sesame seeds

1 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

Instructions: Boil the squash in water and salt until it's fall-apart tender. Pour into a strainer and let it sit in the strainer for three minutes until all the water has run off and the squash looks very dry. Mix all remaining ingredients with the squash in a bowl using a large fork.

Final dish instructions:

1. Allow the halibut piece to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes before cooking. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Place both the gratin and the puree in oven safe dishes and cover with foil. Heat them in the oven until warmed through. Using a frying pan large enough to fit the halibut, slowly heat the pan over medium heat. Add olive oil and butter; when melted, add the halibut. For each 1 inch of thickness, sear the halibut for two minutes on each side while basting the side that is facing up.

3. After searing each side, squeeze the lemon juice over the fish and place in the oven with the gratin and puree. Heat the fish until its internal temperature reaches 120 degrees, remove from the oven and allow to rest on a cooling rack. (If you don't have a cooling rack, use paper towels and a plate.)

4. Remove the gratin and puree from the oven, making sure that both are heated all the way through.

5. Place a large spoonful of the puree on each plate, break the halibut into four pieces and place each piece on top of the puree. Carefully remove the gratin and place a piece next to the the fish. Tear the basil leaves and the zucchini blossom, throwing out any stems, as a garnish. Sprinkle with sea salt and coarsely ground pepper to taste. Melt the remaining butter and drizzle over the entire dish.

Bradley Ogden, Bradley's Fine Diner, Menlo Park

Asparagus and spring garlic souffle corn spoonbread

Chef-owner Bradley Ogden of Bradley's Fine Diner goes to the Menlo Park farmers market almost every weekend. This dish takes advantage of the market's fresh asparagus and pairs it with spring garlic, also known as green garlic. Spring garlic resembles a small leek and has a milder flavor than mature garlic. Its short season typically ends in May.

Servings: 6-8


3 large eggs

1 cup water

1 cup milk

1/4 cup butter, unsalted

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

2 teaspoons fresh red or green jalapeño chiles, minced

3/4 cup yellow cornmeal (preferably from Anson Mills)

1 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup spring garlic, finely sliced

2 cups asparagus, blanched and peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces


1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Butter a 3-inch deep, 2-quart casserole dish.

2. Separate the eggs, dividing them into three yolks and two whites. Save the remaining egg white for another use.

3. In a 2-quart saucepan, combine the water, milk, butter, salt, pepper and minced jalapeño and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Slowly add the cornmeal, stirring vigorously to make sure no lumps form. 4. Cook about two minutes or until the mixture is very thick. Slowly add the buttermilk, stirring until blended, and remove from heat. Let the mixture cool slightly. Mix in the egg yolks, one at a time, then fold in the spring garlic and asparagus.

5. In a clean, dry mixing bowl, beat the two egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the cornmeal mixture. Pour into the buttered casserole dish, place into a larger a pan of hot water and bake for 20 minutes.

6. When done, the spoon bread should still be soft, not completely set, and light golden brown in color.

Laura Stec, Innovative Cuisine

Asparagus with wine-soaked sun-dried tomatoes

Local chef, educator and author (and Embarcadero Media blogger) Laura Stec recommends going to the farmers market not with recipes in hand (except, maybe, this one), but to be inspired by what "looks good and fresh." Her default is to sauté produce with olive oil, salt and seasonings in a pan. "I keep a list called 'Easy Seasonings' on my refrigerator," she said. "I think of them as 'salt and pepper with a college education.'"

Servings: 4


6 oil-cured sun-dried tomatoes

1/4 cup red wine (optional)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 pound asparagus

2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped


1. Chop the tomatoes into a small dice. In a small bowl, combine tomatoes with the red wine and let marinate at least 1/2 hour (they can marinate in the refrigerator for up to a couple weeks.)

2. Slice the asparagus spears horizontally into 1/4 to 1/2-inch "coins," leaving the asparagus tips at about an inch in length.

3. Preheat a large sauté pan to medium-high heat. Add oil and asparagus and sauté until

bright green, but a little brown (caramelized) around the edges about four to five minutes.

4. Remove the tomatoes from the wine and add to the skillet. Add basil, stir and serve.

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