Spring Asparagus Salad

  • 1-2 bunches asparagus
  • 2 Cups Cous Cous (uncooked) Pearled
  • ½ Cup kalamata olives ( pitted, sliced)
  • ½ Cup feta
  • ½ toasted pine nuts ( optional)
  • Handful fresh mint, tarragon or Italian parsley
  • Zest from one lemon
  • Dressing:
  • ⅓ C olive oil
  • 3 Tablespoons whole grain mustard
  • 2 Tablespoon Red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  1. 350 F oven.
  2. Trim the tough ends of the asparagus off. Lay them on a baking sheet and drizzle with 1-2 T olive oil, sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt and cracked pepper, and half of the lemon zest. Roast in the oven until just tender, about 20-25 minutes. Cut into bite size pieces. (Alternatively, for faster preparation, blanch bite size pieces of asparagus, along with the cous cous, during the last 2 minutes of the cous cous’s cooking time.)
  3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add 2 cups Israeli Cous Cous, and cook until al dente.
  4. While cous cous is cooking, make the dressing. In a small bowl, stir all ingredients together.
  5. Drain cous cous, and place in a large bowl. Toss it with the dressing, olives, asparagus, feta, pine nuts, fresh herbs and lemon zest. Serve warm, or chill and serve as a salad.

Hot peppers on a cool morning in Calaveras

Source: Hot peppers on a cool morning in Calaveras

Read artist Maggie’s account of her drawing journal of seasonal vegetables. A great perspective and her drawings are so delightful and real.

On the stems of the Calaveras tomato and the importance of observation

Source: On the stems of the Calaveras tomato and the importance of observation

Drawing in the Outer Aisle

Drawing in the Outer Aisle.

“A few days later, I was sitting cross-legged in the loamy soil of Taylor Mountain Gardens, sketching a light purple Asian eggplant. Owners Christine and Eric Taylor had just given me a tour of their lovely slice of organic paradise, and introduced me to at least 4 kinds of eggplant growing in lush, thick rows.  Eggplant heaven.”


Green Beans & Cherry Tomatoes

Salt and pepper

1 lb green beans (about 4 cups)


1 shallot or red onion diced

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1 – 1 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice

2 TBS dry white wine

1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved, about 1 cup

1 tBS chopped fresh tarragon or basil

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 1/2 tsp salt. Trim the stems from the beans, leaving the tail ends on. Cut them in half on a diagonal or leave whole if small. Drop the beans into the water and cook until tender, 4 to 5 minutes, depending on their size. Rinse under cold water and set aside to drain.

Heat the olive oil in a medium-size saute pan; add the shallots, garlic, 1 tsp of the lemon juice, and the white wine; cook over medium heat for 1 minute, until the pan is nearly dry. Add the beans, 1/4 tsp salt, and a few pinches of pepper; saute for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the cherry tomatoes and herbs; saute for 1 to 2 minutes, just long enough so that the tomatoes heat through  without losing their shape. Season with salt, pepper, and lemon juice to taste. Serve immediately.

Two Classic Eggplant Recipes


Takes 10 minutes to prepare and 15 minutes to cook. Ideal warm or cold in a sandwich.

1 Globe Eggplant

1 Brandywine Tomato

2 cloves garlic

½ bunch of lemon/lime basil

cheese – Mozzarella, Swiss, parmesan

Slice eggplant lengthwise, ½ inch thickness. Cook in skillet with olive oil until browned. Flip eggplant over and place a slice of tomato, squeeze of garlic, slice of cheese and leaves of basil. Place a lid on the skillet. Cook 10 minutes until underside is browned.


4-5 Asian eggplants

1 basket of cherry tomatoes

1 bunch basil

4 cloves garlic

Pasta of your choice

Parmesan cheese

Slice eggplants diagonally and saute on stove top until browned on both sides. Slice cherry tomatoes in half and marinate with olive oil, garlic and chopped basil. Combine eggplants and cherry tomato into pasta, with Parmesan.

Cucumber Yogurt Sauce with Lime Basil

Peel, halve, and slice into half-moons:

1 medium cucumber
Toss in a medium-size bowl with:
A pinch of salt

Allow to sit for 10 minutes. Drain off any liquid that has collected. Stir in:
3/4 cup whole-milk yogurt
1 small garlic clove, pounded to a puree
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 bunch lime basil or 2 mint springs, leaves only, cut in chiffonade

Green Beans and Cherry Tomato Grattinate


1½ pounds fresh green beans
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¾ pound cherry tomatoes, preferably small grape tomatoes
½ pound fresh mozzarella
6 basil leavesgreen bean corn tomato salad
1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano
½ cup bread crumbs
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons butter


Arrange a rack in the top half of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees. Fill a large pot with water (at least 5 quarts) and bring it to the boil.

Trim both ends of the beans and remove strings (if they’re an old fashioned variety and have strings). Dump them all into the boiling water, cover the pot until the water boils again, then cook uncovered, for 10 minutes or so, until they are just cooked through-tender but still firm enough to snap.

Drain the beans briefly in a colander then put them in a big kitchen bowl. Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon of salt on the hot beans and toss them so they’re all seasoned. Let the salt melt and the beans cool for a couple of minutes.

Meanwhile, rinse and dry the tomatoes; if they’re larger than an inch, slice them in halves, otherwise leave them whole. Cut the mozzarella into 1/2-inch cubes. Slice the basil leaves into thin shreds or chiffonade.

Toss the grated cheese and bread crumbs together in a small bowl. Lightly grease the insides of the baking dish with a teaspoon or more of the butter. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the cheese and bread crumb mix all over the bottom of the dish.

When the beans are no longer steaming, drop the tomatoes, cubes of mozzarella and basil shreds on top. Drizzle the olive oil over all, sprinkle on the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and toss together a few times. Sprinkle 3/4 cup of the cheesy bread crumbs on top and toss well, so everything is coated.

Turn the vegetables, scraping up all the crumbs, into the baking dish and spread them in an even layer. Sprinkle over the remaining 1/4 cup of crumbs; cut the rest of the butter in small pieces, and scatter them all over the top. Place the dish in the oven.

Bake the grattinate for 10 minutes, then rotate it back to front and bake another 10 minutes. Check to see that it is browning and bake a few minutes more, until the grattinate is dark golden and crusted. (If the crumbs still look pale after 20 minutes in your oven, raise the temperature, to 400 or 425 degrees and bake until done.)

Serve the hot grattinate in the baking dish.

How it Began

My journey began collecting wild mustard greens from the fields near home. I was 8 and dressed in a yellow rain coat and red rubber boots in a warm wet “pineapple express”. A kind of storm that makes the frogs start up, the air fill up with the smell of wet grass, and heralds in the first meadow larks to song. These are fond memories of my first solo foraging foray. On those journeys I would find and collect the most tenderest leaves and make bundles to sell to the neighbors. Luckily enough one of my neighbors was a talented French chef and had just opened a cooking school at her house. Her backyard garden was impressive and her passion for using fresh ingredients inspired me. My backyard was open space that stretched for miles, a place where wild things grew; sweet mustard greens, dry farmed apricots, wild walnuts and liqurice flavored fennel. My foraging and her passions collided and I found myself hiking the hills in search of fresh things. It was 1975 and suburbia erupted, paving over vast acres of orchards, the bay area food scene was a mere blip on the radar, and Mrs Wicks represented a beacon in a food desert.

What really got it going was my early impressions at the age of 5 on a family trip to Europe. I witnessed first hand an abundant food and food culture.  I was quickly seduced by fresh hot Parisian baquettes and the many cheese carts bearing stinky French camenbert, and wowed by baby Nantes carrots in Belgium. The stores were filled with charcuterie, prosciutto, olives and olive oil, and real swiss chocolate. In Barclona, on a beach with bonfire and Flamingo dancers, we dined on saffron infused Paella followed by copiuos bowls of fruit and flan. This wasn’t a show it was the real stuff. On my second trip to Europe at age 10 we traveled through Switzerland, all of Italy, Greece and the former Yugoslavia. The vibrant Italian food culture was alive with farmers markets, tratorias, expresso bars, and pastries and cakes of unimaginable sophistication. Every eating place had it’s backyard garden were they grew tomatoes, cucumbers and onions to make the most delicious fresh salads that were signature to every town and region.

Years later I settled in Calaveras County and moved into a neighborhood right our of Po Valley, Italy. Two sets of neighbors practiced the traditional lifestyles that I witnessed in my early trips to Europe as a boy. Their lifestyles mimicked the old ways and it was said that all they needed was flour, buckshot and salt. Everything else they grew themselves. Ernie Vogliotti moved to the ranch at age 13 and never held a job outside of the farm. Famous for their tomatoes and onions (of which we still continue to grow), they foraged for mushrooms, hunted quail and deer, raised chickens and hogs and made wine and proscuitto. Josephine, Ernie’s sister, told me that she thought the “whole world had gone crazy and how can you stay healthy without growing vege-tables”.

Eric Taylor, Farmer


The Story of the Vogliotti Onion

It was one warm summer day, twenty year’s ago or so, that we went to visit our neighbor, Josephine (nee Vogliotti). She was the last living member of her family at age 96 – her brother Ernie was 102 when he died. The family was famous for their “vegii-tables” selling them to the miners by horse-cart in the day and later to folks that would come out to the ranch.

This incredible specimen is a true Murphys’ heirloom from the Vogliotti family. They were Italian market gardeners and also our neighbors for a good many years.  For several years we’d been growing “their” tomato, the Camalay and when we would bring her one to enjoy she would hold it in her hands and smell deeply, exclaiming “this is one of ours, isn’t it?” What a precious moment that was and still is today, after 22 years of growing and saving seed from that tomato, her words spring a tear. It was on one of these visits that Josephine directed us down to the cellar, where she hadn’t been for many years, to a jar on the shelf filled with onion seeds. We took those seeds home and germinated them just as she instructed: “Plant them on the first week after the full moon in August!” Luckily, a few sprouted and we grew our first Vogliotti onion that year. After many trials and near losses, we were able to successfully bring this onion from near extinction to abundance.

We have subsequently grown, harvested and shared many of the seeds with gardening friends to help preserve this now unique variety. The story goes that the onion was bought from Burpee seeds as a “Red Weathersfield” in the early 1890’s and continually grown at the ranch until the early 1990’s. The Vogliottis grew this same variety of seed for 100 years because of it’s flavor! We consider it be the best-tasting summer onions ever. Eaten raw, it is sweet and mild flavored, so wonderful that it is perfect in a Greek salad or in a sandwich with no onion-y aftertaste — equally delicious sauteed or caramalized.