First Class: Southern California Cool Season Cuisine

Cooking Rhubarb

The stalks of Rhubarb snapped as I twisted them free from the base of the plant that I put in the ground over 18 months ago. Later in the evening this rhubarb would be folded into a cake batter to provide tart contrast to a sweet walnut streusel and crunchy crumb. Our guests were coming not only to eat, but to learn a bit about cooking by watching us prepare a seasonal meal.

I am passionate about growing fantastic food and I am lucky enough to do so for a living. My journey into small-scale agriculture began four years ago at Fullerton Arboretum, a botanical garden in north Orange County. Today, the eastern acres of Fullerton Arboretum include 16,000 square feet of vegetable beds, a new orchard filled with nearly 200 young fruit trees, and an apiary (bee hives). The intense and often mundane physical labor and the searing Southern Californian summers made a tentative farmer of me at first. I can no longer imagine a life that doesn’t involve growing food.
After harvesting the rhubarb, I cut herbs and picked eureka lemons and headed for the kitchen. The theme for the night was Southern Californian Cool-Season Cuisine and the menu reflected seasonal ingredients and flavors that complement this cool, wet season that Southern Californians call winter…
Southern Californian Cool-Season Cuisine Class Menu
asparagus with prosciutto and lemon saballon
roasted new potatoes with rosemary and whole cloves of garlic
cedar plank salmon infused with fresh-cut herbs
rhubarb-walnut streusel cake
Blanched AsparagusOur guests arrived and were greeted with glasses of wine, a freshly picked tangerine, crackers and cheese . We blanched the asparagus until it turned a vibrant green, draped it with prosciutto, and topped it with a lemon saballon, a sauce that is bright in both color and flavor.
IMG_8477 We roasted the new potatoes with herbs and whole garlic in foil packets. We laid fillets of salmon on a charred cedar plank draped with fresh cut herbs and thin slices of lemon and allowed the fish to lightly smoke on an outdoor grill.
Cedar Plank Salmon
We folded rhubarb into a sour-cream based cake batter, layered the batter with streusel, and topped it with crumb.We cooked a fantastic meal and had a great time doing it.
Cutting the rhubarb streusel cake
I love to teach and I love to cook but doing both has occasionally stressful.  But, teaching and cooking with Jonathan Dye was a totally new experience. Expertise, steely nerves and an overwhelmingly amicable disposition make Jonathan Dye the perfect teaching partner. And out amazing volunteer, Cindy Kruger, helped the night run smooth – doing dishes, grabbing items from the pantry, filling glasses – and staying to wash dishes until the very end.
Jonathan & Jonathan
Thank you to everyone who came to learn, to cook, to eat, and to drink with us. We hope this will be the first class of many.We love to grow, cook, and eat food and want to further build a community that is equally passionate about eating well. We hope you’ll be a part of this community. Join us in the kitchen on Thursday nights.
Dig in!
~Jonathan Duffy Davis

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