We began with salad, wheatberry ciabatta, and homemade butter.Our winter feast started with a happy accident.
Back in September, Team Kitchen and Team Garden drew up a list of cool-season crops that would do well in our area, and planned a menu around it. First we'd have a salad of Belgian endive and escarole, with a fresh poached egg on top and croutons from extremely homemade wheat bread (as in, we grew the wheat and ground it).
Well, the endive never sprouted. And we couldn't find escarole seeds. Who knew there'd be a run on escarole seeds?
Moral: Be flexible. Johanna, our test garden coordinator, had also planted some red butterhead lettuce and arugula, so Team Kitchen adapted.
It was easy; the lettuces were beautiful. We hardcooked the egg instead of poaching it, because a liquidy poached yolk, great on crisp endive and escarole, would've turned the tender lettuces into a sticky clump. We added small chunks of sweet, juicy tangerines from our tree, garlic-rubbed croutons, and a vinaigrette made with tangerine juice, our olive oil, and sea salt.
Red butterhead lettuce and arugula salad with tangerines and hard-cooked eggs.
We had plenty of wine to go with the food. The Syrah was in bottle at last and had recovered from its bottle-shock; it was back to its original blackberry suaveness. The Chardonnay still tasted fine—like a crisp green apple.
Sunset Chardonnay and Syrah, left; right, wine editor Sara Schneider sips the white as managing editor Alan Phinney tears off a chunk of ciabatta.
The stunning brassicas from the garden—cauliflower, broccoli romanesco, Savoy cabbage, kale, broccoli rabe, mustard greens—gave us our main courses: a winter vegetable chowder and spicy braised greens with preserved lemon.
Winter vegetable chowder. On top: yellow broccoli rabe flowers and purple rosemary blooms.
Braised Savoy cabbage, mustard greens, andTuscan kale with preserved lemon and chile.
The broccoli romanesco was so beautiful and strange that we used it as decor, too.
We ended not with our original dessert—olive oil tangerine cake, which turned out to be a total clunker given we were destroying the original recipe—but with something that arose naturally from our short list of available ingredients, which included honey, eggs, "imported" cream, and tangerines.
Tangerine honey crème caramel.
SO WHERE ARE THE RECIPES?
They and the story of how we raised the ingredients for this winter menu will be showing up in larger form at some point in the months ahead.
For now, please have some salad. It's hearty enough to eat when it's cold, but bright and lively, too—which suits our California March, the month when winter slides into spring.
Red Butterhead Lettuce and Arugula Salad with Tangerines and Hard-Cooked Eggs
MAKES 6 to 8 servings TIME About 1 hour
We used our own chickens’ eggs, but we let them sit in the fridge for at least a week to let the air pocket inside each shell expand and make the eggs easier to peel.
6 to 8 eggs (not super-fresh)2 tsp. fresh tangerine juice
1/2 tsp. each finely grated tangerine zest and sea salt
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3 to 4 thin slices wheatberry ciabatta or other whole wheat bread,cut into 1/2-in. dice (about 1 1/2 cups)2 cloves garlic, mashed to a paste with 1/4 tsp. sea salt
5 loosely packed cups arugula leaves
6 loosely packed cups red butterhead lettuce leaves(about 1/2 small head)
2 large or 4 small tangerines
1. Preheat oven to 400°. Put eggs in a small pot and cover with about 1 in. of water. Bring to a boil; immediately lower heat to a simmer and cook 10 minutes. When eggs are finished, transfer to ice water; let cool 1 minute. Crack eggs all over on counter and return to ice water for 5 minutes. Peel under cold water. Set aside.2. Meanwhile, whisk tangerine juice, zest, and salt together in a small bowl. Whisk in 1/4 cup olive oil. Set aside.
3. In a heatproof cup, microwave remaining 1/4 cup olive oil with mashed garlic for 10 seconds. Put bread cubes on a baking pan and drizzle with garlic oil, tossing to coat. Spread in a single layer and bake about 15 minutes, or until crisp, stirring once or twice. Set aside.
4. Rinse greens and dry twice in a salad spinner. Peel tangerines and remove thready white pith; then cut fruit crosswise into chunks, removing any seeds.
5. In a large bowl, toss greens gently but thoroughly with only enough dressing to coat. Add tangerines and croutons and toss just to mix. Divide salad among plates. Add a quartered egg to each plate and drizzle eggs with a little more dressing. Or pile it all on a platter if you like, so people can help themselves.