Even in California, berries follow the seasons

Produce: Strawberries mix with rhubarb in an updated version of an old-fashioned dish.

Sunday Gourmet

June 04, 2000|By Bev Bennett | Bev Bennett,Los Angeles Times Syndicate

As a chef, Bradley Ogden has his pick of produce throughout the year. Working in Northern California, he isn't limited by winter snowstorms or early fall frosts. Yet the chef/owner of several restaurants, including the Lark Creek Inn in Larkspur, Calif., and One Market in San Francisco, scrupulously honors the seasons.

"If I were offered beautiful blueberries at the end of February, I'd try to not order them," said Ogden.

He anticipates the spring produce season as eagerly as any home cook.

"Spring is a neat time for me, but it comes earlier in Northern California [than in other parts of the country]. At the end of March I had the first California strawberries, sugar snap peas, fresh pea shoots and young garlic."

He uses seasonal ingredients in a blend of familiar and original concepts.

"I return to favorite recipes and develop new ones. When I create new recipes, I try to not take away from the natural flavors of the ingredients. I want to enhance the flavors that are already there. Sometimes the less you do, the better," Ogden said.

His local farmers' markets provide much of the inspiration for his cooking.

"I do a lot of tasting. That's the beauty of the market. I talk to farmers and growers. For farmers, it's important to know how their products are being used."

Ogden's spring menu includes fava beans, baby fennel and red dandelion greens. The chef's signature desserts are often a combination of strawberries and rhubarb. This year is no different as he turns out souffles, cobblers, sherbets and pies.

But to my taste, his best pairing of strawberries and rhubarb is in a pandowdy. This old-fashioned dessert has a pie crust that is broken into the fruit filling so that it soaks up the juices, making it similar to a cobbler.

Here is a version of his dish.

Bradley Ogden's Strawberry and Rhubarb Pandowdy

Serves 2

2 cups 1/4 -inch cubed rhubarb

2 cups sliced strawberries

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon finely grated ginger root

3/4 cup flour

1/4 cup butter

2 ounces cream cheese

3 to 4 tablespoons whipping cream

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 tablespoons crystallized ginger

Combine rhubarb, strawberries, 1/2 cup sugar, lemon juice, zest and ginger root and place in shallow, greased 9-inch baking dish.

In bowl, combine flour, butter and cream cheese. Mix with hands until dough has pea-sized lumps of butter and cream cheese. Stir in cream and vanilla until dough comes together. Do not over-mix. Cover and refrigerate dough 30 minutes.

On lightly floured board, roll out dough / inch thick and gently arrange over fruit mixture. Trim edges so dough fits rim of baking dish. Lightly brush with water. Sprinkle dough with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar and crystallized ginger.

Place dish on baking sheet to catch drippings. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and press dough into fruit. Score dough, cutting dough into large blocks and return to oven 30 minutes more to finish baking. (Crust should be golden brown and fruit should be bubbling around sides of dish.) Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Serve warm.

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