Thursday, October 10, 2013

Deborah Madison at Chino Farm

On Sunday I was treated to a book signing at Chino Farm to celebrate the latest publication from Deborah Madison, her eleventh book.  Known for her vegetarian-based cuisine, she was the founding chef for the landmark Greens Restaurant in San Francisco, as well as a member of that prestigious club known as Chez Panisse.  It sort of makes me want to move to Berkeley and volunteer to be a dishwasher in the restaurant, just to be around this caliber of chef, but hélas, I can’t do that right now so I will just just have to collect their books, which I reference often and adore.  Having her signature on the book makes it a little more special~


Each and every event at Chino Farm is perfectly tailored, to the season, to the author, to the featured cuisine.  And on Sunday, it was all about vegetables.  As we shopped the incredible offerings of produce at the stand and sampled some delicious recipes from the book, Nina was busy arranging a selection of vegetables for décor around the book signing area.  Nothing fussy and fancy, but it was clean and fresh within minutes, and you knew that: well-grown and freshly-pulled vegetables stand up like this. Incomparable.  The Mom Cat was an added bonus to the vegetables on display~


What is (I think) a large sweet potato arrived next; it took two men to carry the plant, much to the delight of the food line behind them. 


Deborah jumped up from her signing table to oversee the installation~


Yes, there, next to the Brussels Sprout…


Some might look at this plant and wonder, what is that?……


But here is a woman who knows and loves her vegetables.  See this, she said, the sprouts are here, she explained, and you usually don’t see the leaves on the stalk like this….


While the book is titled Vegetable Literacy, what you have in Deborah Madison is extreme Vegetable fluency. Spending two minutes around her and just a little time reading this roughly 400 page book, you will find an author who has an encyclopedic knowledge and a very fundamental, comprehensive understanding of what vegetables are: how they are related, how they are grown, how they combine with other foods, as well as the best ways to prepare them.  I will be using this as a reference book as well as a cook book.  I love many of the recipes presented, but I will look to the sections titled Selected Varieties, Kitchen Wisdom (lots of really great advice) and Companions for information and tips that I can add to my own knowledge base.

The food we sampled included roasted corn, edible flowers (nasturtium), dry roasted shishito peppers, edible greens (French Sorrel and sweet potato leaf) and basmati rice.  All super good, as usual~


And we were refreshed by a selection of locally-brewed beers from Stumblefoot Brewing Company as well as chilled water with crispy little watermelon cucumbers, and fresh juice from Chino citrus~


And if you didn’t visit the stand before the signing, you visited it after, inspired.  Beautiful pineapple sage was set off by the white glazed bowl which held the cuttings….


Fresh sprouted greens, baby Brussels sprouts and shelled beans….


There was an incredible selection of late summer tomatoes; heirloom, cherry, grape, all beautiful~


The greens for which Chino is so famous were displayed to perfection~


The celery root that I look forward to each season, smaller and tastier than you’ll find anywhere else, even in France~


And many other vegetables too numerous to list that rotate through the stand throughout the seasons: the classics, the exotics; and they seem to be all included in Deborah’s book.  You definitely find the best of the best at Chino~


And Beautiful~


And now, as we head into fall, we are starting to see the kabochas that I think are so favored at Chino, and in coming months, the other winter squash varieties Rouge Vif d’Etamps and Musquée de Provence and Potimarron that I buy at Chino as well as at home in Beaune.   Since it’s definitely one of my favorite vegetables, I read this chapter of the book first, as the Cucurbit family of squashes, melons and gourds. 

There is plenty for me to learn in this book, starting with the name of the green gourd with the warts that I love each fall (Marina di Chiogga), and some nice anecdotes like how Deborah keeps her winter squash collection on the dining room table, moving them elsewhere around the house when she has dinner guests.  Lots of great recipes here, which include some of my other favorite foods: Winter Squash with Gorgonzola Butter and Crushed Walnuts; Roasted Winter Squash with Parsley, Sage and Rosemary; Butternut Squash Soup with Coconut Milk, Miso and Lime…..lots of goodness in this book that I can’t wait to try!


Judging from the produce that I see at Chino, there will be more great variety in coming weeks for the next events.


You can buy Vegetable Literacy HERE.  Thank you to Deborah Madison and Chino Farm for another wonderful event.


Please bookmark Good Earth Great Chefs for upcoming Chino Farm events.  The fall season of the series includes David Kinch of Manresa on November 10th and Alice Waters and Kermit Lynch on December 7th.  Neither event which I want to miss~

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