Living in the Napa Valley has its perks. Getting past the ridiculous prices and the congestion that is Highway 29 on weekends, you realize that there are so many places to discover that do not cost a penny and are not crowded with tourists.
One such place is Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry gardens. The gardens are located just across the street from the famed restaurant. When the sun is out and the coastal breeze is just barely there, this place becomes almost magical, and one of our favourite family outings.
The gardens are kept impeccably. Obviously much pride and respect goes into the land.
What I would give to have a garden like this!
Our little man loves watching the hens. I marvel at how incredibly clean their coop is!
Visiting The French Laundry gardens and seeing all the beautiful produce and produce in-the-making always inspires me to go home and cook with the seasons freshest offerings.
This weeks The Food Matters Project recipe (chosen by me!) is one such dish that I would be inspired to make. The recipe is not my own, it is taken from Mark Bittman’s The Food Matters Cookbook, but it is full of fresh and seasonal produce. A dish that with any luck would even make Thomas Keller and his dedicated gardeners proud!
There could be countless variations to this recipe. To see some of the best, head on over to The Food Matters Project and be prepared to get inspired yourself!
Corn-Avocado Salad (with a Little Something Seared on Top)
Recipe by Mark Bittman
4 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed
2 small corn tortillas, cut into strips
4 to 6 ears fresh corn, stripped of their kernels (2 to 3 cups)
1 small red onion, chopped
1 teaspoon mild chile powder (like ancho) or regular chili powder
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1 ripe tomato, peeled if you like, seeded, and chopped
1 avocado, skin and pit removed, chopped
Juice of 1 orange
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish
Salt and black pepper
8 ounces meat or meat substitute (Bittman suggests using scallops, chicken breast, peeled shrimp, cleaned squid, boneless pork chops, steak, or extra-firm tofu. I used Gardein Seven Grain Chicken Tenders.)
1. Put a thin film of oil in a large skillet and turn the heat to medium-high. When the oil is very hot but not yet smoking, add the tortilla strips and fry until crisp, about 5 minutes on each side. Remove the tortilla strips from the skillet and drain on paper towels.
2. Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel, return it to high heat, and add 2 tablespoons of the oil. When the oil is hot, toss in the corn and onion. Let it sit for a minute or so, then stir or shake the pan and brown the vegetables a bit, 5 minutes or less. Transfer the corn and onion to a large salad bowl and stir in the chile powder. Add the bell pepper, tomato, avocado, orange juice, and cilantro and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss well, taste, and adjust the seasoning.
3. Wipe out the skillet and return it to the burner once more, this time over medium-high heat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and, 30 seconds later, the meat or meat substitute. Turn them as they brown. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper as they cook; put them on top of the salad as they finish. Garnish with the reserved tortilla strips and additional cilantro and serve.
1. The tortilla strips cook much faster than the 5 minutes on each side that Bittman suggests.
2. I waited until just before serving to add the avocado and toss the salad in order to prevent the avocado from discolouring.