Chef / Partner Jeff Mahin (Summer House Santa Monica, Stella Barra Pizzeria, M Street Kitchen and Do-Rite Donuts) knows a thing or two about fresh produce at its peak season. After all, he hosted Farmers Market Flip on the Cooking Channel and is a born and bred Californian that’s trained in some of the country’s most esteemed kitchens.
Those lucky enough to be in Southern California on May 20 can learn from the pro himself at the Farm-To-Table Brunch at Stella Barra in Hollywood! Jeff will share his tips and tricks on navigating a farmers market like an expert and demo how to prepare Balsamic Strawberries with ricotta cream, while guests sip on mimosas and Kombucha cocktails and snack on housemade bread and Asparagus & Jack Cheese Frittatas. The Farm-To-Table brunch is priced at $25 per person at the Hollywood location and reservations can be made by emailing Marni at email@example.com
Don’t fret if you can’t make it to California! Jeff spills on what he’s most excited about at the farmers market right now, and the proper way to pick and prepare them.
“Morels are a little tricky and hard to clean but well worth it and will impress your friends! Why are morels specifically rad, you ask? They aren’t farmed, meaning someone had to travel far and wide – likely by foot or traversing the terrains – to carry back a handful of these tasty ‘shrooms“ –JM
How to buy: Fresh morels should have a woodsy aroma and is damp and spongy but not too wet. Avoid any that show signs of shriveling.
Prep tips: Do not ear raw morels! To clean, place morels in a bowl. Run cool water over and allow to soak for 2-3 minutes. Remove morels and discard water; place in a clean bowl and fill with water. Repeat this process until the morels no longer leave sediment on the bottom of the bowl. Place on a paper towel to dry. Pro tip: Cook a couple to taste, ensuring no sediment remains.
Let’s Cook! Morels are so versatile! It can be thrown on top of toast, served with some polenta as the main star, or alongside roasted chicken or really any protein.
1 cup morel mushrooms
2 Tbsp. butter
4 Tbsp. chicken stock
1. Place mushrooms, butter and chicken stock in a pan over low-medium heat.
2. Add a squirt of lemon and continue to stir/swirl gently
3. Allow the sauce to reduce to a glaze
4. Add salt and pepper to taste
“Nothing says spring more to me than English peas. They’re sweet and vibrant green in color, and while they are a labor of love to prepare, it’s worth every minute!” –JM
How to buy: Look for pods that are intact, bright in color and without blemishes. Pods that are split open means the peas are overripe!
Prep tips: “The best method I’ve ever seen for shucking English peas is to set a couple kids in front of a TV with two bowls, instructing them to peel the pods and put the peas in one bowl and shells in the other as they tune out to the ‘toons,” says Jeff Mahin. Option #2: peel the string from the end of the pod and use your thumb to pop it open and remove the peas.
Let’s cook! Bring a pot of water to a rapid boil and place peas in a strainer. Place strainer in boiling water for 10 seconds (max!) then blanch in ice water.
JEFF’S FAVORITE MASHED PEAS (served hot or cold)
1 cup blanched peas
4 Tbsp. chicken or parmesan stock
1 Tbsp. butter
Mint sprig (6-7 leaves attached)
1. Place stock and peas into a small pot and bring to a boil
2. Pulse using an immersion blender
3. Remove from heat and pulse butter in
4. Stir in salt, lemon zest and mint. Cover for 5 minutes
5. Remove mint and stir
“I’m lazy when I cook at home. I don’t peel my vegetables or like the hassle of too much advance prep work. Lucky for me, asparagus is in season. Wood-grilled with a touch of olive oil, salt and pepper–that’s the way to my heart!” –JM
How to buy: Look for bright green or violet-hued spears that have firm stems and no blemishes. Tips should also be tight and moist ends – give the bunch a gentle squeeze as it should not squeak. Tips should also have
Prep tips: Asparagus one of the easiest prep veggies out there! Give it a quick wash and dry. Remove the fibrous part of the asparagus by simple snapping the end off where it naturally breaks. Voila!
Let’s Cook! Do not overcook the asparagus! The stalks should be soft, but not limp.
Fresh ground black pepper
1. Toss all ingredients until asparagus is evenly coated
2. Fire up your grill and place asparagus on the grill
3. Remove asparagus and place back in the bowl used to season them. Taste and add season as needed. Top with additional lemon zest