Mushrooms from the Salt Lake Farmer’s Market

In addike tion to the garlic scapes I got at the Salt Lake Farmer’s Market, I also bought some Hen of the Woods mushrooms.  I’ve been meaning to try some wild mushrooms for some time now and since I have zero expertise at finding and identifying them, I jumped at the chance to buy them.  I decided to put them in an omelet.  I started by sauteing them in some butter and olive oil with a chopped scallion.

 Mushroom Saute

Once they were cooked I set them aside, wiped out the pan, and cooked the omelet.  I must admit that the omelet was not my best, but the mushrooms (along with the Emmenthaler cheese) made up the difference.

 Omelete

Sneak a peek

 Mushrooms exposed

Garlic Scapes from the Salt Lake Farmers’ Market

Garlic Scapes

Last Saturday I want to the Salt Lake Farmers’ Market for their season opener.  There were all kinds of great spring produce as well as artisanal cheeses, organic and grass-fed meats, soaps, arts and crafts, and a wide variety of prepared foods.  It was quite the treat and I hope to get up there often.  I just wish that we had this kind of variety and quality at the Provo Farmers’ Market.  Ah well, let’s keep supporting them and hope that it grows.

I had only heard of them, but never tasted them, so when I saw garlic scapes (pictured above) for sale at $2 a bunch I pounced.  When garlic grows it shoots up its green leaves (like a scallion) as well as the scape, which is the flowering stem of the plant.  Farmers cut off the scape as this prompts the bulb to grow bigger and gives them the added bonus of a delicious spring treat. 

Garlic scapes have a somewhat tamer flavor than garlic (especially when cooked) with an added grassy flavor that I find quite pleasant.  When eaten raw they are very spicy.

A Google search revealed that most folks writing about scapes recommended making pesto or stir fry, so I did both.  For the pesto I combined in the food processor:

  • 1 cup of scapes cut to 1″ segments
  • 1/3 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (the real stuff though)
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste (don’t be stingy with the salt)

The pesto was overpoweringly spicy with the raw scapes and it occurred to me that some lemon would help to balance this, so I added some leftover lemon vinaigrette that had zest, juice, and olive oil.  It helped.  What really would have helped would have been blanching the scapes for a minute or so in boiling water and then putting them in an ice bath to stop the cooking.  With the raw scape pesto my wife and I were tasting garlic for the rest of the night, even after several brushings of the teeth.  The next morning I was still tasting it, but some aggressive Listerine therapy finally did the trick.  When we had leftovers I nuked the pesto on my pasta and the cooking seemed to tame it sufficiently.  I wish that my Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes were ready because they would have been the perfect balance to this dish.

 Garlic Scape Pesto

With my leftover scapes I decided to make a stir fry.  I fired up the cast iron skillet on medium heat and chopped up the scapes in 1 1/2″ pieces along with broccoli florets, chopped scallions, and sliced chicken breast.  I cooked them in high heat with neutral oil and then added grated ginger about a minute before cooking was finished (2-3 teaspoons).  Once cooked, I dressed the stir fry with soy sauce and dark sesame oil and served over rice.  It tasted phenomenal, but I could hardly taste any garlicky flavor from the scapes.  In texture and appearance they were very much like green beans.  How is that for two extremes of flavor?

 Garlic Scape Stir Fry

Sorry this photo is a bit blurry.  I really need a tripod.  The scapes are those green bean looking things.

The Community Food Co-op of Utah Delivers!

Coop Share

So Saturday was co-op pickup day and check out what I got.  I couldn’t be bothered to arrange it beautifully, so all you get is a photo in the box, but check out my friend Jen’s blog for a more aesthetically pleasing experience.  As you can see, we got lots of great food.  The produce was quite impressive.  We cooked the pork spareribs on Sunday and they were phenomenal (I’ll take some credit for that).

Picking up the order was great.  I showed up at Centro Hispano in Provo and they had some tables set up with boxes of each food item.  They gave me a box and a list of what I was to take, based on my order.

 Coop pickup

I HIGHLY recommend that you try the co-op.  You won’t be disappointed.  June promises to be even better because now, in addition to the other shares, you can buy a Farmer’s Market share!  Apparently the co-op has a contract with a local farm that grows vegetables to organic standards (I don’t believe it is certified though).  A little bird told me that the farm is East Farms, which runs a CSA, but does not have a pickup in Utah County.  What a great way to get fresh local food.  These shares are limited so don’t put off ordering.  In fact, I’d probably better place my own order before I publish this post.

Restaurant Review: Pizzeria Seven Twelve

712 chefs

Pizzeria Seven Twelve may very well be the best restaurant in Utah Valley.  I’d maybe expand that geographic region, but they’re all about local food so why bother.  On their website, the chefs/owners (Joe and Colton) explain that the restaurant arose out of the desire for sustainability.  They say they want to change the way restaurants run.  I say “let them!”  These guys know what they are doing.  The best part is that I can afford to eat there.  No food snobbery here.

On the wall hangs a quote from Alice Waters: “When you have the best and tastiest ingredients, you can cook very simply and the food will be extraordinary because it tastes like what it is.”  The best and tastiest ingredients, as Waters has so persuasively demonstrated, are most often found locally and in season.  It might be a bit of a hard sell that you can find such wonderful local ingredients in Utah Valley since most local food production is for export, but these guys have done a great job of making use of what’s available.  Hopefully their success will persuade more local food producers to make high quality seasonal food available to restaurants and consumers alike.

712 chefs

One of the great features of the restaurant is the wood fired oven imported from Europe (I guess we haven’t yet perfected those locally yet) where they do virtually all of the restaurant’s cooking.  As you can see, the oven is out front and you get to see the chefs living it up as they do their thing.  Both times I’ve been there they’ve really seemed to be enjoying themselves. 

In their quest for fresh and fine ingredients they do some of their own food production, making their own sausage as well as mozzarella and ricotta cheeses.

Their dinner menu consists of “A Little Something . . .” (not quite appetizers, not quite entrees), “Greens . . .” (salad), “Pizza . . .”, and “Sweet . . .” (dessert).  My wife and I have found that ordering one thing from each category to share leaves us perfectly satisfied.  Well, almost each category.  We haven’t yet gotten dessert–we fill up on the savory stuff.  We’ll have to pace ourselves next time.

From “A Little Something . . .” you HAVE to order the short ribs. 

Shortribs

Try it all, but don’t miss these.  They cook them overnight in a big pot sitting in the embers of the previous day’s fire.  They are served over a square of perfect polenta and topped with horseradish cream an au jus.  The meat is so tender that my wife and I ignore our knives and just use our forks to pull off a piece.  The horseradish cream adds just a hint of tangingess and will win over anyone who thinks they do not like horseradish (like my wife).  The polenta is the best I’ve had–I’m pretty sure there are tiny bits of fresh corn in there along with the coarse corn meal.  This is a dish you will wake up in the middle of the night craving.

Tonight we ordered the fresh house made mozarella salad.

 Mozz and greens

It is very simply prepared with the cheese over bitter greens and breadcrumb croutons, all dressed with a lemon olive oil vinaigrette.  Clearly the cheese is the star of this dish and it really shines.  A fair dose of salt and the sweetness of the lemons mellows out the bitterness of the greens and brings the flavors together, while the bread crumbs provide a nice crunchy texture.

We also got their pizza topped with prosciutto, soppressata (a thin sliced sausage-type meat), garlic, and tomato.  It was divine.

 712 pizza

See that char on the crust?  That is exactly what you are looking for in a good pizza cooked in a wood-fired oven.  Don’t you dare send it back.  I think that my favorite thing about this pizza was that every element of it was superb.  I would take a bite and be struck the exquisite flavor of the tomato, noting how the other ingredients compliment it so well.  But the next bite would feature the meat in just the same way, then the garlic, then the cheese, then the crust.  It was perfect.

The tragedy of the night was that we didn’t get dessert.  All of their desserts look amazing.  We love panna cotta and are set on trying that one, but the brownie sundae and the fruit cobbler look just as good.

Tonight was our second visit to the restaurant and we were both happy (because we like the philosophy of seasonality) and sad to see that some of the tasty items we had last time were not on the menu.  The particular stand-out was the sweet potato off “A Little Something . . .”  It features roasted bite sized pieces of sweet potato served tossed with spinach (barely wilted by the potatoes), matchsticks of thick cut bacon, pecan halves, and a vinaigrette.  So simple and so delicious. 

We’ve actually made our own copycat version of it several times to rave reviews (although it still lacked that certain something that it had at the restaurant).  Try it, you’ll like it. 

  • Peel 2 sweet potatoes and cut them into pieces
  • Toss with olive oil and roast in oven at 350-400° (or 712°?) until the edges just begin to brown
  • cut several pieces of thick cut bacon (the best you can find) into matchsticks and cook them until nicely browned.
  • As the bacon begins to cook, toss in a handful of pecans.  Be generous here.
  • Put the bacon and pecans on a paper towel to drain the fat.
  • Toss it all over several handfuls of baby spinach and dress with a basic olive oil vinaigrette (1:4 vinegar:oil, seasoned with salt and pepper, mustard if you like it)

I’d love it if we could get some advice from the folks at P712 on where to get good local ingredients for home cooking in Utah Valley (and any tips or corrections to the recipe if they’re feeling generous).  If we don’t hear from them in the comments here I’ll have to ask them the next time I’m there.

Be sure to check out their website as well as their blog.  This food is based on some really good food philosophy and you’ll want to hear it from the horse’s mouth.

Block away tacos

Taco

A block away from our apartment there is this great little Mexican bodega which also has a meat counter.  I’ve largely ignored the meat counter up to this point, but Monday was Cinco de Mayo and Annalisa and I wanted to have a real Mexican dinner so we decided to brave it.  Needless to say (given the photographic evidence above) we were quite pleased.  They have a lot of great cuts of meat that you don’t usually see in the supermarket along with many familiar selections.  The gold we struck was their marinated taco meat.  They had “al pastor” (see the picture below) complete with bright red marinade, onions, chili flakes, and cilantro.  Not only that, but we also got a perfect avocado, a bunch of cilantro, a jalapeño, limes, and the most amazing fresh (still hot) corn tortillas I’ve ever eaten—seriously!  Add a little minced onion and we had some mean tacos going on.  Oh, and did I mention that we only spent $5?

al pastor cooking

So now it’s Ocho de Mayo and we couldn’t resist a repeat performance.  This time we tried their other marinated taco meat, aptly called “carne para tacos.”  Basically it was carne asada meat marinated in something tasty (it’s in the taco pictured at the beginning of this post).  We also got more of the al pastor.  When we were about to leave the counter the butcher pointed out that they also had some authentic queso fresco and I couldn’t resist.

queso fresco

I must say, even though I didn’t chop and marinate the meat or make the cheese, this meal was utterly delightful.  It is cheaper than fast food, tastes infinitely better, and is ready in about the same time it takes to go through the drive-through.

Community Food Co-op of Utah

All of my local readers need to know about this.  The Community Food Co-op of Utah is an organization that provides a monthly opportunity for people in Utah to purchase a share of groceries at a greatly recuded rate (made possible by bulk purchasing).  Although the primary focus is to make low-cost food available to those in need, they seem to do a pretty good job of getting food that is relatively local. 

The full share they are offering for the month of May at $21 includes 2 lbs. chicken thighs, (2) 6oz. top sirloin steaks, 2 lbs. pork spareribs (bone-in), 1 lb. lean ground beef (85/15), fresh fruit (3 varieties), fresh vegetables (5 varieties), Stone Ground’s whole wheat bread, and 16 oz. rice.  Not bad, eh?  They also offer half shares with fewer items and lower quantity and harvest shares that leave out the meat.

The great part is that not only can everyone join the co-op, but it actually benefits them and the community to have more people participate (regardless of income level).  This is because more co-op members means more leverage with bulk purchasing.  Also, the co-op requires that members give 2 hours of service to anyone outside of their families (including, but not limited to the co-op) for each month that they purchase from the co-op.  So, even if your grocery budget is doing fine you can serve the community and save some money while you are at it by joining the co-op.