Spring Into Seasonal Tastes
By Christina Barrueta | Photography by Carl Schultz
When chef, author, food editor and TV cooking show host Barbara Pool Fenzl teaches students how to cook, she always uses just-picked local ingredients. “I try very carefully to explain where ingredients can be found,” she says. The chef also emphasizes the importance of seasonality when sharing her garden-fresh recipes. “I taught cooking in France for years, and you either bought ingredients from the market or you grew them. If you eat seasonally, you appreciate it more; it just tastes better.”
The longtime Arizona resident has shared her recipes for regional cuisine using local ingredients in a trio of highly lauded cookbooks and through her own school, Les Gourmettes Cooking School, which will soon celebrate 35 years. Cultivating a love of cooking and imparting culinary knowledge to eager students brings her the greatest joy. “Out of everything I’ve done, my favorite is teaching,” she says enthusiastically. “I love looking into people’s eyes and seeing that they get it.”
Just in time for those warm spring evenings, Fenzl shares her menu for an easy-to-make meal that is both refreshing and flavorful. Ideal for a romantic dinner for two or a large garden party, these dishes take classic items and give them an unexpected, local twist.
For her vibrant carrot soup, Fenzl adds the juice of Arizona sweet oranges picked from her own trees. “I share my oranges with friends and chefs; everybody loves them. Oranges and carrots just magically go together,” she notes. If you are entertaining, Fenzl suggests serving the soup at room temperature in shot glasses. “It’s perfect because when people arrive, they’re hungry but might not want to eat a big hunk of cheese,” she explains. “I put the glasses on a tray and pass it around.”
CREAMY CARROT SOUP WITH SPRING ONION PUREE
6 tablespoons butter
2 cups onion, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, finely chopped
11/2 pounds carrots (about 6 large), peeled and sliced
2 cups tomatoes, chopped (canned, with the juices, may be used)
1/4 teaspoon allspice, ground
1 serrano chili, seeded and diced
6 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup cream (optional)
1/3 cup orange juice, freshly squeezed
Spring Onion Puree (see recipe)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add carrots, tomatoes, allspice, serrano chili and stock. Bring to a boil over high heat; cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for
1 hour. Strain, reserving liquid. Puree vegetables in a food processor until smooth. Return the reserved liquid and pureed vegetables to the pan and add cream, if desired. Simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in orange juice, and season with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls. Using a squeeze bottle or spoon, drizzle Spring Onion Puree designs in a thin stream on top of soup.
SPRING ONION PUREE
1/4 cup spring onions, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup sour cream
2teaspoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon water, more if needed
Salt to taste
Put onions, cilantro, sour cream, lemon juice and water into a blender. Puree until smooth. Add salt to taste. Add water, if necessary, to achieve the desired consistency.
Makes 1 cup
Her velvety blackberry and ancho chili sauce graces wild coho salmon that is just coming into season. “Blackberries grow very well here. At one time my bushes took over the yard,” she says. Her tip for the dried chilies is to “buy them from a place that has a good turnover, such as Food City, because they should be firm yet flexible. Store them in the freezer so they don’t dry out.”
Fenzl’s main advice for home cooks is to not be daunted by the process. “Cooking should be fun. Read through the recipe first, and don’t be intimidated by the ingredients,” Fenzl explains, adding that she enjoys watching her students find the confidence to take a recipe and make it their own. “The best part of cooking is to try the recipe and then change it to the way you would like it,” she says. “It’s just a guideline. You don’t have to follow it exactly; feel free to play.” And by incorporating seasonal ingredients that you can grow and harvest from your own garden, you’ll have a delicious meal that will leave your friends and family begging for seconds.
For more information, see Sources.
GRILLED SALMON WITH BLACKBERRY ANCHO SAUCE
8 pieces (about 6 ounces each) salmon fillets with skin
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
Blackberry Ancho Sauce (see recipe)
Oil the rack on a barbecue grill (you can also use an oiled grill pan) and preheat to medium. Brush fillets with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill salmon, skin side up. When fillets release easily from the grill, turn them once and cook until opaque in the center, about 7 to 8 minutes. Place onto serving plates, and drizzle with the blackberry sauce.
BLACKBERRY ANCHO SAUCE
2 ancho chilies
4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon cumin seed, toasted and ground
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1 /8 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups blackberries
3 cups chicken broth, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat. Open seeded chilies and put flat on skillet, pressing down with a spatula. Toast chilies until fragrant and partially charred, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to a bowl; cover with hot water and let soak until soft, about 30 minutes. Add unpeeled garlic cloves to the skillet and cook until thoroughly blackened, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove, let cool, and peel. Drain soaked chilies and discard water. Transfer to a blender along with the peeled garlic, oregano, cumin, pepper, cinnamon, blackberries and 1 cup of broth. Blend until smooth, then press mixture through a strainer into a bowl. Heat the same skillet over medium-high heat and add olive oil. When hot, add the chili mixture and simmer until reduced by about 1 /3, about 5 minutes. Add remaining broth and reduce heat to low. Partially cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens slightly, about 40 minutes. Stir in sugar and salt. Keep warm while cooking the salmon. Just before serving, stir in butter.
Blackberries contain more antioxidants than other berries and have been shown to help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and certain cancers. Salmon is rich in protein, heart-helping omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D.