Friday, February 28, 2014

Take 32 - Martial Cottle Park - San Jose

On January 31, 2014 Mr Walter Lester died at the age of 88. Who was Mr. Lester and what does he have to do with the Martial Cottle Park, you ask? Well plenty, actually. You see, Mr. Lester was born, grew up, worked and lived a couple of blocks away from our home, here in Blossom Valley, San Jose. His home, but mostly its land, is the site of the future Martial Cottle Park.  287 acres, equivalent to 236 football fields that is being developed to become a park with a visitors' center, picnic areas, historical farming exhibitions, etc.

Mr. Lester was born on July 7, 1925. He never married, nor did he have any children. Mr. Lester could have become just another multi-millionaire of Silicon Valley as the offers for his land kept coming from investors who wanted to turn it into another sub-division or a mall. However, Mr. Lester was steadfast on his plans for this property. Throughout the years he refused to sell and in 2003 he signed over the property in a grant deed to Santa Clara County and California Department of Parks and Recreations but with certain conditions. He wanted the land to stay the way it was, preserved as farmland and open space, with arching old oaks and broad views of the surrounding mountains. He also stated that he wanted no part of the property to be used for high intensity, organized recreational uses such as athletic fields, playgrounds, swimming pools or other similar activities. He wanted the property to be used as a public historical park that would inform and educate the public about the agricultural heritage of Santa Clara Valley. Silicon Valley, a technological area, used to have a topographical vocation. Much of it covered Santa Clara Valley and used to be known as Valley of the Heart's Delight, a region rich with fruit orchards up until the 1960s.

This space is in the south part of San Jose, bordered by Chynoweth Avenue, Snell Avenue, Branham Lane and Highway 85.  The project for the park had been almost dormant up until a couple of weeks after we moved into our new home, in October 2013.  As I walked my dog in that area every day, I started noticing more and more activity with trucks going in and out and increasing during several weeks with digging and paving and the start of a building going up. Then on February 1st, one day after Mr. Lester's passing,  a partial trail was opened and people started walking, with or without a dog, cycling and simply enjoying this wonderful space. Walking this trail, in its infancy, you can almost imagine what the final product will look like. The feeling is magical. The trail is paved but on each side the soil has been worked and sprinkled with seed to grown grass.  A few benches have been installed as well as a couple of doggie stations with bags and waste bins. The fields around go on forever and you distinctly get the feeling of wide open spaces in the countryside, although you are in the middle of the third largest city in California, almost completely surrounded by mountains in the distance. The main trail is about halfway done as the rest of the land is surrounded by fences during the completion of the project. This is a wonderful addition to our neighbourhood and will enchant and help educate people on agriculture for a long time to come.

Sadly, I did not know Mr. Lester but I will give a silent thank you each time I walk those trails and look out into the distance to admire the same views as he surely did.

I recently found this recipe in an Ina Garten  (Barefoot Contessa) cookbook. I love her cookbooks. I have almost all of them. The recipe is from Foolproof.
The combination of salmon and tomato is not usual but trust me, it is outstandingly delicious.
Well worth the effort. This is a version of the recipe. Enjoy !

Salmon with tomato stew

Olive oil
1 cup chopped sweet onion
2 teaspoon minced garlic
2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes halved lengthwise
Salt and Pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons basalmic vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons julienned fresh basil leaves
4 pieces salmon fillet, about 8 ounces each

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Heat 3 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium sauté pan. Add the onion and sauté over medium-low heat for a few minutes until onion is very tender. Add the garlic and sauté for an additional minute. Stir in tomatoes, 1 teaspoon salt and half a teaspoon pepper and cook over medium-low heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring from time to time until liquid is almost gone and sauce has thickened a bit. Off the heat, stir in the vinegar and basil.

Place a large sauté pan (that can go in the oven) over high heat for a couple of minutes. Brush the salmon all over with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and place skin side up in the pan. Do not move the fish for 3-4 minutes until it is browned. Carefully turn the salmon on its skin side and put the pan in the oven for 8 minutes. Carefully remove the pan and put fish on a serving platter, covering it with aluminum foil for 5 minutes to allow it to rest.

Reheat the tomatoes, check seasoning again and serve hot, warm or at room temperature with salmon.

Bon appétit !