Spring In The Garden

Not only are we getting the grill ready, we’re busy in the garden, too.  Spring is an exciting time of year for chefs and gardeners, as we start planting vegetables we will use 2 to 3 months from now.  We also start to see the benefits of all the hard work we put in during the late fall and winter, as our spring crops are starting to emerge.

Here are a couple of quick tips for planting your garden whether you are a novice or a seasoned veteran:

  • Pick a well drained location or build a raised bed.  Most plants don’t like soggy roots, but they do like sunny locations that have fresh soil.  An old wine barrel, cut in half with holes in the bottom for drainage, works well.
  • If you haven’t grown a cover crop to add micro nutrients to the soil, you may need to mix in compost to amend the soil.  Make sure to break up the soil and turn in some compost or organic material.
  • Give your garden a head start by planting seeds indoors or buy starts at your farmer’s market.  Look for healthy plants that are not overgrown and are free of any pests.
  • Most of all, don’t rush to get your plants in the ground.  If the ground is too cold, the plant may not be able to absorb necessary nutrients.  (Here in the Russian River appellation we are still being cautious with what we plant as the official frost-free date is not until May 1st .

While we sow our summer crops, the fava beans that we planted in the fall are starting to produce fruit and beautiful flowers.  The buttery texture and slightly nutty flavor of fava beans makes them very versatile and a favorite in our kitchen.  They are great in salads, as hummus, on crostini, grilled, pickled or even as tempura.

In the beginning of the season, one of my favorite things is to dress the pods with olive oil, grill them whole and finish with a squeeze of Meyer lemon juice and a sprinkle of sel gris.  These grilled fava pods are great paired with our Avant Chardonnay.

Here is a delicious recipe using fava beans.  Enjoy.

Pan Seared, Oven Roasted Halibut with Fava Beans & Shallot Cream Sauce
Serve with Kendall-Jackson Grand Reserve Chardonnay
Recipe by Chef Taki Laliotitis
Serves 4


For the halibut:

  • 4 (6 oz.) halibut fillets (2-inch thick)
  • 1½ Tbsp. rice oil or neutral olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground white pepper
  • Edible herbs and flowers, for garnish (optional)
  • Preheat the oven to 400º.


  1. Dry the halibut fillets with paper towels to allow for a proper sear.  Season with salt.
  2. Heat a large nonstick heavy-bottomed sauté pan to medium-high heat and add the rice oil.  Allow the rice oil to heat for 30 seconds.
  3. Add the fillets to the pan, serving-side down.  Season the second side with salt and pepper and cook for approximately 3 minutes or until golden brown, depending on thickness.
  4. Place the sauté pan in the oven and cook for 2 additional minutes.  Remove fillets from pan and blot with a paper towel.

For the shallot cream sauce:

  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 4 shallots, cut in half
  • 2 garlic cloves, cut in half
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • ½ cup Marsala (or Madeira) wine
  • 1½ cups cream
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Place a 10 to 12-inch sauté pan over low-medium heat.  Add the oil and place shallots cut side down in the pan.  Roast the shallots for approximately 6 minutes, moving them occasionally so there is even coloration.
  2. Once the shallots have caramelized, add the garlic halves and butter and turn heat to high.  Cook for 1 minute, stirring continuously.
  3. Add the Marsala and reduce by half, then add cream and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes.
  4. Carefully, pour contents into a blender and liquefy.  Season with salt and pepper.  Keep sauce warm.

For the fava beans & pearl onions:

  • Kosher salt
  • 4½ lbs. fava beans
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 oz. prosciutto, finely diced
  • 15 pearl onions, peeled and cut in half
  • ¼ cup Marsala wine
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. whole butter
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. In a large pot, bring 4 quarts of water and 2 tablespoons of salt to a boil.
  2. While the water is coming to a boil, clean the fava beans from their pods.  Clean by gently pinching one end of the pod so the fava bean pops out of the other end.
  3. Add fava beans to boiling water and cook for 1 minute.  Immediately drain and cool in ice water.  As soon as the fava beans are cold remove from the ice water and set aside.
  4. Place a medium sized sauté pan over medium-high heat.  Once the pan is hot, add the oil and prosciutto.  Cook for 1 to 1½ minutes, just until the prosciutto starts to get crispy around the edges.
  5. Remove the ham bits from the pan and add the onions, trying to place them cut side down.  Cook until lightly caramelized, approximately 2 minutes.
  6. Add the fava beans and the prosciutto to the pan.  Season with salt and mix well.  Add the Marsala and reduce by half.
  7. Remove pan from heat and allow to cool for 2 minutes.  Add the chopped parsley and butter.  Stir until butter has melted and keep warm.

To serve:

Spoon a dollop of cream sauce on each serving plate.  Top with a spoonful of fava beans and pearl onions.  Top with a fillet and garnish with your favorite edible herbs and flowers.