SLO Grown Produce: the best of Italy is locally grown in San Luis Obispo, California.

Located off the beautiful Carpenter Canyon Road, are the warm and welcoming smiles of Philip and Nancy Langston. Since 1991, the duo has been perfecting growing techniques on  SLO Grown Produce Farm to insure the best crops that San Luis Obispo County has to offer.

 

 

SLO grown produce sets itself apart by the ability to grow summer crops all year through the green house. When basil, tomatoes, bell peppers and cucumbers are out of season, many local businesses turn to the local farm in order to have fresh produce in the off season. Unlike most of the Central Coast, Philip and Nancy Langston own one of the very few family owned farms. Therefore, the couple doesn’t just produce the freshest and purest crops, but also delivers passion and heart in everything they do.

Producing three essential Italian ingredients: tomatoes, basil and olive oil, puts the sustainable farm at the heart of Italy. Philip Langston added, “All you need is the fresh mozzarella, and you’ve got a caprese salad!”

The couple provides their produce to multiple restaurants downtown, as well as all over California. At Big Sky Cafe, when customers ask for bread they will bring a bottle of the Lone Oak Olive Oil along with it. I spoke with owner and executive chef, Greg Holt about his experience with the flavorful oil. “I chose Lone Oak Olive Oil because there simply is not a better table top olive oil. It is so fruity, light and beautifully managed that nothing can compare. Meticulous would be a huge understatement. There is so much thought and pride put into this amazing product”, he said.

Gratins; the easy A+ side dish for the family Christmas dinner.

Can you imagine the savory crunchy bits of baked sauce or cheese left around the perimeter of a casserole? Who can stop themselves from scouring over the crispy morsels that are left behind in the dish?

The answer? No one. If you are looking for a universal Christmas dish that everyone is bound to enjoy, then look no further.

The French coined the name for a baked top layer,  which is  “gratin”. Gratins’ consist of breadcrumbs, cheese, sauce, or sugar layered on top of savoring pastas, potatoes or even deserts.

The origin of the word is quite interesting and dates back to the 16th century. The French verb, “gratter” means “to scrape”. Likewise, The term, “le gratin” has been used to refer to the “upper crust” in society. In modern uses, “au gratin” refers to a dish with a crunchy caramelized top layer.

Although the gratin originated in France, small twists and different recipes make it easily adopted in Italian cuisine.

When I was home this weekend, I went to one of my favorite locally-owned family restaurants, called Oregano’s. Upon looking on the menu, I noticed that they served a dish called baked cauliflower gratin. Needless to say, we ordered it as our appetizer.  Absolutely Delicious!

After eating, I spoke to the owner Larry Mancini about the history of the dish and why the dish is a healthy alternative. He started off with,

“Oh…well, it’s the healthy mac and cheese!”

Truly, he is right in this statement. The cauliflower becomes so soft and pasta like that it hardly even tastes like a vegetable. Surrounded by the creamy cheddar base,  it can easily be mistaken for a not so healthy dish.

He went on to tell me that he has had this recipe on the menu for over Twenty years because it was one of his mother’s favorites. Having done his fair share of research and experimentation, he explained that there are multiple gratin dishes. The oldest of these mouthwatering dishes is called, gratin dauphinois; it is just sliced  potatoes in a garlic cream sauce coated in butter and sprinkled with breadcrumbs.

He mentioned that with cauliflower, roasting it will caramelize it, and lead to a sweet and savory taste.

Another reason why gratins are so loved is that they are so easy to make! They can be prepared with anything from cauliflower to asparagus to pasta; and not to neglect, deserts as well! Coating fruit and cream in sugar and popping it in the oven will torch and caramelize the sugar. Can you say heaven? I can!

Attached is a cauliflower gratin recipe that I recently made myself and loved. It adds a goat cheese topping, which further defines it’s salty flavor.

Gratins’ are also easily modified to fit food allergies. There are gluten free options, as well as vegetarian alternatives to fit everyone’s specific needs.

If you need that extra appetizer to add to your eloquent Christmas dinner, simply add a gratin. The result? Delectable crispy and creamy goodness to pass around the table!