Living in Santa Barbara County all but guarantees us locally grown produce year-round, but spring can bring surprises depending on rain. This year, fields are bursting with growth – green hills and abundant vegetation are everywhere. And that gets chef Francesco Crestanelli of S.Y. Kitchen excited.
“The quantity of food available here in spring is so great; it feels like a treasure hunt,” he says. “I just love creating dishes out of what we can find.”
Plentiful rain is causing chanterelle mushrooms – large, fleshy and meaty – and wild nettles – leafy and vibrant green – to pop up in fields all over the County. Crestanelli, brother and partner of chef Luca Crestanelli, loves to gather the nettles and chanterelles himself for dishes in the restaurant, sometimes in a field across from the restaurant in Santa Ynez. Nettles, which have a ton of vitamins, are considered an old, classic ingredient in his native Verona, Italy, and lend a beautiful green color to S.Y. Kitchen’s daily handmade pasta. Crestanelli also adds Santa Barbara spot prawns, which are sweet and so fresh they are sometimes just hours out of the ocean.
To make this Italian “Surf & Turf,” blanch the nettle leaves and drain (make sure to handle raw leaves with gloves). Then blend them with a farm egg, and combine with flour and salt. Knead and rest the dough, then roll out and cut. Sautée garlic, Italian parsley and red chile flakes in extra virgin olive oil (preferably from Italy) over med-high heat. Add the cut mushrooms and prawns (cleaned and shelled) and cook for 2-3 minutes. Boil the fresh pasta in water and salt for 2-3 minutes, then drain and add to the pan along with cherry tomatoes. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute and add salt and pepper to taste.
Wine pairing: 2015 Storm Sauvignon Blanc