This week we had the pleasure of having Mario Hernandez, the Cookin' the Market Chef at the Pacific Coast Farmer's Market Association, and Elena, a member of their marketing team, visit us at the farm. They wanted to learn more about where their food came from and also have the opportunity to teach Becky and I a couple early summer recipes that we could recreate at the farm.
I (Chef Anna, Culinary Coordinator, Frog Hollow Farm) wanted Chef Mario and Elena to have the unique experience of working with the fruit from tree to plate, and willingly Farmer Al agreed to bring us into the orchard to harvest some of the first Honey Rich apriums of the season. The three of us hopped on his all terrain golf cart and zipped down rows of peaches, plums and cherries. We passed through a row where the workers were thinning fruit and the young pluots popped under us like the sound of popcorn. Farmer Al excitedly remarked that that is the sound of a healthy crop. A lot of fruit on the ground means there is even more on the tree.
Eventually we arrived at the Honey Rich aprium trees. This is where the cooking process began. Chefs know that ingredients are the foundation for any dish and that it is essential to select ones of the best quality. With the expert at hand, we asked Farmer Al to show us how to choose the tatiest Honey Rich apriums. He explained that the fruit that is ready to harvest is semi-firm with a reddish hue (the hue being secondary to the texture). We chose wisely and gathered enough to make a couple early summer dishes.
After the harvest we made our way to the kitchen. Mario artfully constructed a salad as we conversed about the importance of balancing texture and flavor.
He quartered the heads of lettuce to give the salad some body and a crunch that would hold up to the creamy dressing. The creaminess and sweetness of the dressing balanced the tartness of the apriums, while the smoky paprika pepitas and the capers brought forth salty, spicy and savory flavors that excited the salivary glands. Mario delicately laid the salad on a beautiful white plate and drizzled the creamy dressing over top. We took a few moments to appreciate its beauty, and then tossed the salad to ensure the lettuce was well coated with the crème fraîche dressing. We ate with happiness. [For Chef Mario's Little Gem Lettuce Salad with Organic Apricot recipe, click here.] Mario also made a delicious recipe
Here's what the team from Cookin' The Market had to say about their experience:
Last week, we had the pleasure of visiting Frog Hollow Farm on a beautiful, hot day in Brentwood. Arriving on the farm, we were treated to an impromptu tour with Farmer Al, checking out all the different varieties of apricot and plum trees in various stages of growth. We loved seeing the organic farming process, the glorious compost pile and seeing firsthand all the precision, care, labor and knowledge that go into the production of a box of fruit. As farmers’ market employees, we know that the cosmetic appearance of a fruit or vegetable has little to do with its quality or flavor, but it’s always fun for us to hear why the food has a unique appearance. Farmer Al told us many of his cherries split this year because they grew too fast due to a heavy rain this past season, but when we tried them they were still the best cherries we’ve ever tasted.
We were lucky enough to be invited into Chef Becky’s home kitchen to cook a meal with fresh picked apricots. As a chef, Mario puts quality above all else. Higher quality produce tastes better enabling him to create a better and more flavorful dish, and Frog Hollow produces that quality. The apricot flavors jumped off the dish for the perfect summer lunch. PCFMA and Cookin the Market look forward to continuing to collaborate with Frog Hollow Farm and cook with their delicious produce.