Since last summer, Helmut Drews, a former tech acquisitions specialist, and Madrid-native Alberto Solis, a founder of the San Mateo incubator kitchen known as KitchenTown, have been cultivating a dream.
They have been raising Iberian pigs on their Encina Farms, the only commercial endeavor of its kind in California nurturing these specialty Spanish swines from which the luxurious jamon Iberico derives.
While Encina Farms’ own jamon Iberico is still a few years off — it takes a minimum of two years to cure the buttery ham leg — other pork products made from this distinctive black-footed, acorn-devouring breed can be enjoyed now.
Surely, the chef who created the most perfect roast chicken of all time and so many other iconic California cuisine staples was worth trusting on this, even if in the back of my mind, I feared winding up with green beans as pallid as those from a can.
That quarter head of cabbage lingering in the fridge. The two carrots, once the epitome of crunch, now possessed of droopy ends. That once bright-white cauliflower head starting to go sallow. And those green onions now sadly going limp.
When I peer into my crisper drawer at home, it often feels like a race against the clock. Limiting my trips to the grocery store now means loading up with perishables all at once, each with its own limited life cycle. Tick, tick, tick. When I spy things beginning to wither, like Valentine’s Day roses after the bloom of the holiday has come and gone, I slump dejectedly.
But now, thanks to a genius recipe, I perk up immediately instead to the possibilities.
Because “Korean Scallion Pancakes” or “Vegetable Pajeon” was made for those bits and ends of veggies that hang around a little too long through no fault of their own.
Think Hanukkah potato pancakes gone Korean with kimchi instead.
This genius recipe, published in 2019 in the New York Times, is by one of my favorite food writers, Melissa Clark. She learned the recipe from Chef Sohui Kim of Insa and the Good Fork restaurants in Brooklyn.
Even veteran restaurants with long-time loyal patrons have struggled during this pandemic, so imagine what it must be like for a brand new restaurant to open for business after shelter-in-place took effect.
Fortunately, its chef-owner is John Le, the former operator of Three Seasons in Palo Alto, with years of experience under his belt.
Le was all set to open the doors to his new restaurant that serves modern takes on Vietnamese cuisine when those plans came to a sudden halt. Instead, he decided to offer to-go food instead, Wednesdays through Sundays. Last week, he invited me to stop by to try gratis a few of his new take-out, heat-at-home options.