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Green spring cuisine

Green garlic and leek tartlet with fava beans made by Matteo Silverman chef/owner of Chalk Hill Cookery

Crista Jeremiason / PD
Published: Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, April 22, 2013 at 11:09 p.m.

Spring cooking, like the season itself, is light and ephemeral.

Tender, green vegetables such as spring garlic and leeks, asparagus and fava beans require just a simple saute, a lick of the grill or a swift plunge into hot water to bring out their natural, grassy flavors.

“With spring garlic, I like to make a brothy soup or a light cream sauce,” said chef Matteo Silverman of Chalk Hill Cookery, a catering business run out of the Tierra Vegetables Kitchen in Windsor. “That's the flavor of spring.”

The 36-year-old chef sports a colorful array of vegetable matter tattooed on his forearms, including a watermelon radish, an artichoke, a morel mushroom and a habanero chile. He has eschewed meat and dairy products since he was 15 years old.

“That propelled me into food and cooking,” said the native of San Jose. “I want people to eat tasty, delicious food that happens to be plant-based.”

To help readers get into the spring spirit, we asked the veritable vegetablist to design an easy feast that would showcase some of the tender, green produce now poking its head out of the ground.

As a first course, Silverman suggested a Shaved Asparagus Salad with Radishes, Arugula and a simple Mustard-Tarragon Vinaigrette.

Asparagus spears can range in width from pencil-thin to finger-thick. Contrary to popular belief, the larger spears are actually more tender.

“The big, fat asparagus spears are the youngest, and they are sweeter,” he said. “The skinnier ones are not as tender.”

In his springsalad, the asparagus spears are served raw, though once they're sliced razor thin and dressed with the vinaigrette, they soften up.

For a main course, Silverman suggested a Tartlette of Spring Garlic, Leeks and Fava Beans.

Cooking fava beans can be a labor of love. First you shell them from the pod, then blanch them in hot water. After that, you often need to remove the outer peel to get to the creamy, green pea in the center. (Yes, they are peas, not beans).

For a sweet finale, the vegan chef offered up a Parfait with a Tangy Rhubarb Compote.

Although technically a vegetable, the rhubarb stalk lends itself to both savory and sweet dishes and pairs well with spring fruits like strawberries and raspberries.

Silverman studied at the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York, then worked as a personal chef in Brooklyn and Manhattan for the last 10 years. He still serves as the raw-food consulting chef for Eric Helms, owner of Juice Generation, a chain of 10 juice shacks in New York City.

Silverman decided to move back to Northern California last year to take advantage of the longer growing season on the West Coast.

“It's more seasonal and more local here,” he said. “In New York, local was 100 miles away.”

Back east, Silverman used to serve four-course, plant-based suppers in a loft. In Santa Rosa, he's launched a series of pop-up, all-vegan dinners at local farms like Rochambo and DaVero in Healdsburg.

His next dinner is scheduled for 6 p.m. May 18 at Tierra Vegetables in Santa Rosa. (For more information go to www.chalkhillcookery.com).

Silverman's food is so beautiful, it appeals to everyone from a strict vegans to omnivores.

“Vegan is a diet and a lifestyle that eschews all animal products,” he said. “But I don't like to call it vegan, because people think of it as bland and outdated.”

Drawn to cuisines from around the world, the chef often incorporates the piquant spices of Mexico, Southeast Asia and India into his cuisine.

“I like bright flavors, more bold than subtle,” he said. “It's a worldly style.”

In addition to catering dinners at farms, Chalk Hill Cookery turns out a line of all-vegan baked goods, including Lavender Shortbread, Dark Chocolate Macaroons and Sesame and Hazelnut Toffee.

The baked goods are available at Shelton's Market in Healdsburg, the Criminal Baking Company and The Share Exchange in Santa Rosa.

You will also find savory and sweet treats from Chalk Hill Cookery at the Healdsburg Farmers Market when it opens on May 4.

The following recipes are from Matteo Silverman of Chalk Hill Cookery.

Shaved Asparagus Salad with Arugula and Mustard Tarragon Dressing

Makes 6 servings

For salad:

1 pound asparagus, tough ends sliced off

3-4 French breakfast radish, sliced paper thin

2 ounces baby arugula

¼ cup loosely-packed, torn basil leaves

¼ cup loosely-packed cilantro leaves

For dressing:

½ cup olive oil

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons prepared mustard

2 tablespoons p chopped, fresh tarragon

Pinch of salt and pepper

For garnish:

Small handful of pea flowers

¼cup toasted sunflower seeds

For salad: Shave asparagus lengthwise with a vegetable peeler (save scraps for another use) and place in a bowl. Add radish, arugula, basil, and cilantro. Toss salad to combine.

For dressing: Whisk together olive oil, vinegar, mustard, tarragon, salt, and pepper until emulsified. Drizzle ¼ cup of dressing over salad and gently toss together. Transfer to serving dish. Garnish with pea flowers and sunflower seeds. Serve salad soon after dressing so ingredients remain crisp with extra dressing on side for those who prefer more.

If you're short on time, Silverman suggested buying a ready-made crust for the tarlettes.

Leek and Green Garlic Tart

Makes 6 3½-inch tartlettes (or 1 8-inch tart)

For crust:

¾ cup sprouted spelt flour

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

¼ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon sea salt

3 tablespoon coconut oil, chilled

2-4 tablespoons ice water

For filling:

1 cup sunflower seeds

¼ cup lemon juice

1 small clove garlic, chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

¼ teaspoon lemon zest

½ cup water

¼ teaspoon sea salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup sliced green garlic, white and light green parts only

1 cup sliced leek, white and light green parts only

½ teaspoon brown mustard seeds

1/8 teaspoon turmeric

Pinch of sea salt and black pepper

¼ cup white wine

¼ cup water

½ cup blanched, shelled fava beans

1 teaspooon chopped parsley

¼ teaspoon minced thyme

¼ teaspoon minced oregano

¼ teaspoon minced marjoram

For crust: Soak 1 cup sunflower seeds in 2 cups water, for 30 minutes to an hour. Then drain.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl whisk together flour, paprika, baking powder, and salt. Chop chilled coconut oil in to small pieces and cut into the flour mixture using a pastry cutter or your fingers, just as you would butter. You want pieces of coconut oil no larger than that of a pea. Fold in 2 tablespoons ice water and mix until dough just comes together. Do not overmix. If you need to add more water, do so in small increments being careful not to add too much water. The dough should be soft and pliable, not sticky.

Roll dough out between sheets of parchment paper to a ¼-inch thickness. Gently place dough in the tart shell(s). With the tines of a fork, poke holes in the bottom of the tart shells. Place empty tart shell(s) on sheet tray and par-bake 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

For filling: Place sunflower seeds, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, lemon zest, water, salt, and pepper in blender and puree until smooth and creamy. Scrape into bowl and set aside.

Heat olive oil in sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add leeks and cook stirring occasionally 3-4 minutes. Lower heat to medium and add green garlic. Cook an additional 3 minutes. Stir in mustard seed, turmeric, salt, and pepper. Cook 2 minutes longer for spices to become fragrant. Stir in white wine and water and cook until liquid is evaporated. Remove pan from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Fold in the fava beans, parsley, thyme, oregano, and marjoram.

Pour the sunflower puree into the leek/green garlic mixture. Fold together until well combined. Portion into par-baked tart shell(s). Bake filled tart(s) at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes until golden brown and the crust just begins to pull away from the sides of the tin. Remove from oven and cool before removing the tin.

Serve warm or room temperature accompanied by the shaved asparagus salad for light spring meal.

You can serve this compote with yogurt, ice cream or a seasonal sorbet.

Rhubarb Compote

Makes 1½ cups

½ pound rhubarb, trimmed and cut into ½-inch chunks

1 Meyer lemon, juice and zest reserved

1 blood orange, juice only

3 tablespoons palm sugar

2¼-inch coins of ginger

Pinch of sea salt

Place all ingredients in a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat and simmer until rhubarb is just tender. Remove from heat and transfer compote to a bowl to cool. Can be served chilled or room temperature and eeps 2 weeks refrigerated.

Whole-Grain Ginger Cookies

Makes about 24 cookies

Dry ingredients:

1¼ cup sprouted spelt flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon ground ginger

1½ teaspoon cinnamon powder

Wet ingredients:

¼ cup coconut oil, (melted if not liquid)

½ cup agave nectar

1 tablespoon molasses

¼ teaspoon sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 sheet trays with parchment paper. In a medium bowl whisk together the spelt flour, baking soda, baking powder, ginger, and cinnamon.

In another bowl, whisk the coconut oil, agave, molasses, and salt until thoroughly combined. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and fold together with a spatula until combined. Careful not to overmix.

Place 1 tablespoon batter per cookie on to prepared sheet, about 12 cookies per sheet. Bake cookies at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown on the bottom of the cookies. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before eating.

You can reach Staff Writer Diane Peterson at 521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com

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