Posts Tagged ‘Farm & Garden Festival’

Still at the Fairchild Farm & Garden Festival… Ducked out of the lecture on preserving the harvest (sorry, Margie!) to catch Robert Barnum’s cooking demo under the big tent. Robert, as you might recall, is also known as the Cantankerous Chef. And Saturday he was downright crabby, showing his recipe for fried piper betel leaves with coconut crab sauce.

Robert Barnum with Fairchild volunteers Mary Hughes and Terry Shaw assisting. Mary Neustein is in the background, plating piper leaves.

When I got there, tempura batter had been prepared, and Fairchild volunteers Mary Hughes and Terry Shaw were dipping piper betel leaves (remember those from your CSA shares earlier this season?) into the batter, frying, and cutting them into pieces. Robert was finishing up making the coconut crab sauce. Saw a whole can of coconut milk going in. Mmmm, everything’s better with coconut milk!

Amaury and Tanya liked the crab dish.

The finished sauce was spooned out over plated betel leaves by volunteer Mary Neustein. Terry and Candy Sacher were handing out plates to the eager audience. As quickly as people got the food, it vanished. You’d think they don’t get fed at home, but yes, it was that good.

I grabbed a plate before it was all gone, and sat down to savor the flavor. The sauce had chunks of sweet (fake) genuine lump crabmeat provided by Whole Foods, and celery, bell pepper and onion, tasted gentle, slightly tangy and was creamy from the coconut milk. It could have used some kind of hotness. The recipe below calls for Tabasco, but there just wasn’t enough for my liking. The fried piper betel leaf was crispy in a light, egg-flavored tempura batter, and its sausage-y flavor contrasted nicely with the milder crab sauce. Actually, I liked the fried leaves just as they were, without the crab. They would be an interesting snack to munch on with a cold light beer, maybe while lounging in a hammock on the beach. Instead, there were white plastic chairs under a tent, and Robert had brought a bottle of his own wine made from the bignay or antidesma berry. Hard to describe, especially since I don’t have the vocabulary of a wine and food writer, so you’ll just have to try it for yourself!

Piper betel leaf garnishing the finished serving of crab and fried betel.

I had heard Robert talk a lot about this particular recipe, when he entered it into the Gordon Ramsay competition a few months ago, but this was my first time trying it. Robert said he had first tasted a similar dish in Sydney in a 12 course prix fixe dinner of Asian food, and liked the dish so much that he recreated it with a few tweaks over the years. The original crab sauce he ate had been “fire hot,” he explained, but his version was mild and mellow.

If you want to get a piper betel plant to grow in your garden, contact Robert Barnum at 305-235-1768 or possumplentious(at)yahoo.com.

If you want to buy a package of leaves for your own culinary experiments, contact Margie Pikarsky at 305-894-6657 or office(at)beeheavenfarm.com.

Tempura Fried Betel Leaf with Coconut Crab Sauce


8 betel leaves, fresh and washed
1/4 cup corn starch
1/4 cup rice or wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
2 egg whites
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cup corn oil
1/3 cup cold water

1 medium onion, diced
1 rib celery, diced
1 green bell pepper, cleaned, diced
1 8 oz. can crab meat
1 tbsp. butter
1 12 oz. can coconut milk
1 tsp. garlic
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
4-6 juga-juga of Tabasco sauce
1 tbsp. brandy
1 1/2 tsp corn starch
optional hot pepper flakes


Heat oil in heavy pot with tall sides to 350 degrees F. Mix flour, corn starch, baking soda, egg whites salt and water in a bowl. Dip leaves one at a time in batter and place into hot oil. They cook very fast, 1-2 minutes, then flip. 1-2 minutes more then drain on paper towels and keep hot while you fry the rest.

Lightly brown the onions, celery and green pepper in the butter in a skillet. Add the seasonings and brandy and simmer for 5-8 minutes, and add coconut milk. Heat and add cornstarch in 2 tbsp. cold water or reserved coconut milk and stir till thickened. Add the drained crab meat and stir until heated through. Serve over the fried betel pepper leaves on a salad plate.

Recipe courtesy of Robert Barnum

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It was a great weekend for the Fairchild Farm & Garden Festival, sunny and warm but not yet excruciatingly hot. A lot was going on, and I was running from presentations in the Garden Room to various tents and back trying to keep up with interesting events.

Margie Pikarsky

On Saturday morning, I dropped in at the start of Farmer Margie Pikarsky’s presentation on preserving the harvest. As usual, she gave a well-researched lecture on different kinds of food preservation — freezing, fermentation, dehydration, brining, pickling, and canning. The handout was chock full of info, and if you didn’t make it to the lecture, you can download it here.

As for following recipes and instructions that one finds published in books and elsewhere, Margie cautioned that “all publications are geared for the temperate zone. You can’t listen to them. We have to modify. It’s warmer here and chemical reactions happen faster. You have to be aware of that. Sauerkraut can take two weeks instead of two months. There’s potential for vegetables to go bad in the heat when fermenting. Start with organic produce which has less mold and contaminants.” Margie recommended the book Wild Fermentation if you want more detailed instructions for pickling and fermenting.

Stopped by the Cooking Demo tent to say hi to Laura Lafata aka La Diva Cucina. She was getting ready to give a presentation on preparing radishes with vermouth. The radishes looked happy to be in her hands, and vermouth is an ingredient I hadn’t thought of using. (The recipe is at the bottom of this post.)

Laura Lafata aka La Diva Cucina

Talk about food makes me hungry, so I prowled around looking for something good to eat. Found Margie standing in line at the bright green Native Conch stand, and we got the last of the conch salad. Thanks to Jason for taking care of us!

Claire Tomlin with potted herbs for sale.

Came across Claire Tomlin of The Market Company showing off her latest venture. She has ready-to-grow raised garden beds made of cedar that you can use in your yard. The beds come in a package that includes a cedar frame, soil blend, vegetable and herb starter plants, organic fertilizer and mulch. All you need to add is water and sunlight. It’s too late to plant almost all vegetables now (remember, we’re in the sub-tropical growing zone), but there’s more than enough time to get ready for fall planting. If you’re interested, contact Dylan Terry at dylanjterry(at)gmail.com or call 786-436-7703 for more information.

Pure beeswax candles available from Miguel Bode the beekeeper.

Said hi to Miguel Bode the beekeeper on the way out, and he revealed that he has the largest display of pure beeswax candles anywhere (well, at least at the festival). He uses 35 different molds to shape wax extracted from his hives.

My name was on the schedule for the food bloggers panel Saturday afternoon, but I couldn’t stay due to a schedule conflict. Thanks to Melissa Contreras and Annie Stamps of Fairchild for inviting me to participate in the Festival. You ladies rock!

Sauteed Radishes and Tops over Bow Tie Pasta with Apple Chicken Sausage

Serves four main dinners or six starter plates


1 lb. box of bow tie pasta
1 bunch of radishes with tops attached
1 pkg. organic apple chicken sausage
dash white vermouth
good quality extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt and pepper


Put on pasta water to boil and once boiling, add a dash of salt. Cook pasta al dente in salted water for a minute or two less than suggested When pasta is cooked, drain into colander, saving 1/2 cup of pasta water. Set aside.

While pasta is cooking, fill sink with cool water. Chop radish tops and wash thoroughly in water, let green tops drain and then blot dry with paper towels. Wash radishes and thinly slice, set aside.

Heat large fry pan on stove and slice sausages into quarter inch slices. Add olive oil to pan and when heated, add sausages, lower heat to medium high and saute until brown on both sides, being careful not to burn. Put cooked sausage on plate, set aside.

Heat fry pan again and add more olive oil if needd. Once hot, add radishes, lightly salt and cook over medium heat until light brown on both sides. Turn up heat and add a dash of vermouth to deglaze pan, continue cooking radishes for another 30 seconds or until soft. Add to the plate of cooked sausage.

Heat fry pan and use more oil if necessary. Lightly saute greens until just wilted, add pasta to pan along with sausages and radishes and thoroughly combine all ingredients. Cook over medium high heat for another minute, adding a bit of pasta water to make a light sauce. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and serve immediately. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil over each serving.

Copyright (c) La Diva Cucina Inc.

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