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The signs of springs are all around us, from the birds chirping outside the windows to the sweet, forget-me-nots popping up in every nook and cranny of the garden.

For home cooks tired of roasting the same old root vegetables, the appearance of the first crop of spring vegetables in local fields and at the markets — the mildly pungent green garlic and spring onions, the grassy asparagus and plump, peppery radishes — signals the rebirth of a new planting cycle with an array of subtle flavors and aromas.

Asparagus was cultivated by ancient cultures, and the word itself derives from the Persian, meaning “sprout” or “shoot.” The green garlic and the spring onions are immature expressions of the allium family, so they’re mild versions of the adult versions. The crispy, spring radishes come in different sizes and colors, but their flavor always adds an instant zing to the table.

At Lynmar Estate in Sebastopol, Executive Chef David Frakes has been deep in research and development this winter, getting ready to roll out the first, multi-course lunch menu of spring. The elegant, three-course repasts paired with wine will launch on April 19 on the outdoor patio of the tasting room, overlooking the main garden, and will continue every Thursday through Sunday.

“It’s a menu that starts in spring and goes to fall, changing every two months,” Frakes said. “It’s designed to be an upscale, refined lunch ... we’re going to do 80 to 100 lunches a week.”

Meanwhile, the winery chef is busy dehydrating and pickling some of the early spring vegetables to use later in the season. And he’s starting to develop recipes to showcase the spring produce now sprouting in earnest from the winery’s four, large gardens planted to vegetables, herbs, berries and fruit.

“Spring is very fun and exciting for a chef, because you know what’s coming,” he said. “Things are starting to blossom, and you know you’ll have gardeners coming to the back door soon with tubs.”

The refrigerators in the Lynmar kitchen are already full of pickles, made from a colorful array of crispy vegetables ranging from carrots and cabbage to cauliflower and radishes.

Frakes likes to pickle the Easter Egg radishes, in particular, and serve them on charcuterie plates, because the vinegar helps balance out the fattiness of the meats.

“The Easter Egg radishes come in colors of red, white, pink and purple,” he said. “We pickle them in a vinegar mixture with onions and jalapeno.”

As a brunch or lunch dish, Frakes has created a recipe for a Spring Onion Flan with a pâte brisée crust that is enriched by fromage blanc, heavy cream and eggs. He likes to serve it with a small, green salad alongside.

Spring onions are adolescents that have been harvested before adulthood. You should trim off the root end but you can use all of the white and green parts. Slice them similar to a scallion, thinly crosswise.

Another dish that screams “spring brunch” is Frakes’ Asparagus and Goat Cheese Frittata, which he cooks in a nonstick skillet.

“We have people stay in our guest houses here, and they will have that for breakfast,” he said. “You could drizzle some balsamic vinegar underneath.”

As a starter for each three-course lunch at the winery, Frakes comes up with a different flavor of garden-inspired salt to serve on top of warm, organic popcorn with a splash of extra-virgin olive oil.

Over the past eight years, he has developed dozens of salt flavors derived from dehydrated herbs, edible flowers and fruits, but this time of year, green garlic salt is a no-brainer as a popcorn topper.

“The Green Garlic Salt is a great way to showcase the wine,” he said.

At Lynmar, Frakes also makes Green Garlic Crackers to serve with various cheeses and dips, such as his popular Roasted Beet African Dipping Sauce made from sour cream, honey, spices and roasted beets.

“It’s very bright and light,” he said. “You just want to keep eating it.”

Green garlic is a young, spring garlic that started out as the natural result of farmers thinning their garlic stock. The farmers pull it from the ground before the clove and bulb skins dry out, so you tend to see it at various stages. It can look like a green onion with a flat bulb or like a spring onion with a small bulb, and at its most mature it has a large bulb with cloves.

If you are confused about whether you are looking at a spring onion or green garlic, give a sniff. If you detect a garlic aroma, then you know. Prep the green garlic as you would a small leek, cutting off the root end and using the white and the light green parts.

Any of the green vegetables, such as the asparagus, green garlic and spring onion, can be substituted for the other in Frakes’ recipes below. His one caveat is that the green garlic is a little stronger than the spring onion, so you want to use a little less of it.

Now going into his eighth year at Lynmar, Frakes is looking forward to working with the four, full-time gardeners at the estate, including Head Gardener Kate Frey, who gives garden tours to educate the tasting room staff on the edibles growing in the garden.

“She’s making it bee-friendly and attractive to beneficial insects,” he said. “She’s building networks between the vineyards and the garden. This land is very interconnected.”

The following recipes are from David Frakes of Lynmar Estate in Sebastopol. You could substitute carrots, cabbage of cauliflower for the radishes.

Pickled Easter Egg Radishes

Makes 1 quart

1 cup rice wine vinegar

1 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 tablespoon sat

1 tablespoon coriander

1 tablespoon mustard seed

1 tablespoon black peppercorns (wrapped in cheesecloth)

1 tablespoon fennel seed

1 small bay leaf

5 jalapeños

3 red onions, sliced thinly

1 quart radishes, cleaned and cut into quarter-inch slices

Place all ingredients together in a large, non-reactive pan and bring to a boil.

Carefully pour over 1 quart of radishes. Cool and refrigerate until ready to use.

Serve with cheese and charcuterie, or on top of a spring hamburger.

Asparagus and Goat Cheese Frittata

Makes 4 servings

12 large eggs

1/4 cup milk

2 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon butter

1 pound asparagus, cut into 2-inch pieces and blanched for 30 seconds in boiling, salted water

1 spring onion, thinly sliced and blanched in boiling water for 1 minute (optional)

1 green garlic, thinly sliced and blanched in boiling water for 1 minute (optional)

4 ounces goat cheese, preferably from Laura Chenel

— Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk together the first three ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Place a medium-size, non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Add butter and swirl to coat pan evenly. Add egg mixture.

Gently stir over medium-high heat with a rubber spatula until the eggs are half cooked and have a very glossy, scrambled egg look.

Mix in asparagus, season with salt and pepper, then sprinkle with crumbled goat cheese.

Immediately place in oven and bake for about 10 minutes or until the top springs back when touched.

Remove from oven, let cool for a minute and then carefully slide frittata out onto a cutting board.

Cut into pie wedges and serve with breakfast potatoes, bacon and toast, if desired.

Pate brisee is the French version of classic pie or tart pastry. This recipe calls for a 9-inch flan ring or tart pan.

Spring Onion Flan

Makes 1 9-inch flan

1 recipe pâte brisée (or pie pastry)

6-7 spring onions, white and green parts sliced

2 eggs

1/2 cup fromage blanc (or cream cheese)

1/2 cup heavy cream (or crème fraiche)

— Pinch of fresh thyme (optional)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

— Salt and pepper to taste

— Pinch nutmeg

Cook the onions slowly in the oil in a large pan until softened.

Beat the eggs thoroughly into the fromage blanc and the cream.

Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Add onions and a pinch of fresh thyme (optional). Pour into a pre-rolled tart shell with crimped edges (to hold filling).

Bake at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes. Serve hot.

Green Garlic Salt

Makes 1 pint

2 cups green garlic (both green and white parts, cleaned and chopped into 1/8-inch rings)

1 3/4 cups kosher salt

Dry sliced garlic in a dehydrator. If you don’t have a dehydrator, spread out onto a very thin layer on a small sheet pan and place in a warm area of the kitchen overnight, such as a gas oven with a pilot light.

Once garlic has dried enough to become crumbly, place in a spice grinder and process to a powder. Mix powder with salt until well incorporated. Reserve until ready to use as a flavoring for popcorn.

Green Garlic Crackers

Makes 4 large crackers or 48 small

2 cups all-purpose flour (plus more for rolling)

4 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter (cubed)

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup sour cream

1-2 tablespoons cold water

1 large egg white, whisked

1 1/3 cup green garlic, sliced on a paper-thin bias

— Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)

Pulse the flour, butter, sugar and kosher salt in a food processor until a crumbly meal forms, about 30 seconds.

Add the sour cream and process until evenly mixed, 15 seconds more.

Add the water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and pulse until the dough just comes together, about 30 seconds. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Heat oven to 400 degrees, with the racks positioned in the middle third. Divide the dough into 4 pieces.

Cut four, 12-by-17-inch sheets of parchment paper.

Working with one piece of dough at a time, place the dough on a parchment sheet and, with a floured rolling pin, roll the dough until it’s paper thin (about 10 inches in diameter). Transfer parchment sheet and cracker to a rimmed baking sheet.

Brush the dough with the egg white and arrange a small handful of green garlic over the top, brushing them with more egg white to stick.

Sprinkle the dough with 1/2 teaspoon of the sea salt. Repeat with the remaining parchment paper, dough, egg white, green garlic and sea salt.

Bake, two baking sheets at a time, until the crackers are nicely browned and bubbled, 8 to 10 minutes.

Transfer to a rack and let cool completely, about 30 minutes. Break into pieces. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Staff Writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 707-521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @dianepete56.

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