Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Food Trends: Hot Tips about Hop Tips

Even though I come to the market with a list, sometimes a farmer brings something new to the market, and I just can't pass it by. A few weeks ago it was hop tips from Rockridge Orchards.

I know about hops because when I visited Rockridge Orchards a few years ago, Wade Bennett pointed out hop vines growing near one of his greenhouses. "I grow them for local microbreweries," he'd told me.

I hadn't thought about hop tips as vegetables, but as I gazed at them in the sun, Wade mentioned they tasted a little like asparagus and all you had to do was saute them in olive oil with garlic. (Sounds like just like this recipe. Easy--that's just what I wanted.)
My "trusty" kitchen assistant hopped up on his bench for a photo, but I must have taken too long because the hungry hound got carried away and started munching. I hope this isn't the beginning of "bad dog assistant."

I wondered how Wade knew about cooking hops and then last Friday, I stumbled upon and bought The Locavore's Handbook by Leda Meredith and she mentioned eating hops and the asparagus flavor they impart. She also had this recipe in a post about a year ago. (By the way, Leda's blog is incredibly inspiring and filled with great local eating and gardening tips.)

I investigated hops further and discovered in Barron's Food Lover's Companion that hops shoots are widely available in Europe. Who knew?

Anyway, when I bought the tips, I went home and made Wade's simple recipe with oil, garlic, salt and pepper. I couldn't resist adding my favorite Mama Lil's Peppers and spinach from Willie Green's Organic Farm.

Tom took a bite and paused. "It's chewy and doesn't really taste like asparagus," he'd said.

I took a bite was immediately dismayed because the stems were tough and the peppers drowned out any asparagus flavor. The recipe needed tweaking but how?

Many first time recipes flop, but the good thing about my kitchen assistant is he's always waiting for an opportunity like this because my kitchen flops are his treasures.

Here's what it looked like:

I told Wade last Saturday the hops were tough and asked if they should be blanched first, he said, "You cooked them too long. They need a high heat for just a few minutes." Next time, I reminded myself, I wouldn't be in so much of a hurry and I'd get all the instructions for the recipe.

Wade says chefs are snapping the hop tips up before he can bring them to market and to phone the farm ahead if I want some. That's how it is at the market if you want great treasures.

I'm putting in my order for hop tips this week before they're gone for the season. What's on your market list this week?

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