Monday, June 28, 2010

My New Garden

Being green is important to me, both personally and professionally.  When we remodeled the building we put extra effort into making it as green as possible, and even got our green certification from the County.  At home we have also made a big change.

Last year we took out the lawn in our back yard, we put it into a compost pile and spent the winter with an adobe back yard.  For those who do not live in this area, adobe is a very heavy black clay soil.  You can even bake bricks out of it to build things (the early settlers did this).  It's also sticky and messy and gets everywhere.  Over the spring we dug trenches and added watering systems for pots and planter boxes.  Last week the planter boxes got filled and this weekend (for me Tuesday/Wednesday) I get to plant.

The crux of all this is we save all that water without the lawn and I finally get a real garden.

For a chef this is not an easy task… what to plant?  I have decided on a mix of flowers and fruits and veggies.  Already in the yard is a 5 in 1 Apple, 4 in 1 pear, a Meyer lemon bush (second love of my life to my husband, they are most flavorful lemon and have a touch sweet), a thornless Black Berry, and 2 apricot trees.

One planter that has the compost already has two types of pumpkins, a green variety and a French cooking pumpkin.  Both are great for decorating, the French pumpkin is the one that I used in the whole baked pumpkin recipe.  I planted them together one has a variegated leaf, I can't wait to see which is which.

A couple of things I am looking for is a Crane melon , yellow cherry tomatoes, and I already have a Hillbilly Deluxe Tomato.  I choose the Hillbilly deluxe, bought one last year from Soda Farms just for the name and fell in love, it's a great meaty slicing tomato with orange variegation each one weighing in close to 1 pound.

Opal and Thai Basil are a must, then a couple of Squashes and maybe some fun peppers. 

I was excited to find lemon cucumbers on of my favorite heritage veggies. They are a round cucumber that ripens to a lemony yellow color. I prefer to pick them younger at a pale green when they are more tender.

I am interested in a black watermelon. I have never grown watermelon before. The black is a small to medium size- prefect for 2 people

Anyone have any suggestions for some unique or heirloom veggies?

Not a lot of time for gardening this time of year but I can get them in and wait.

I'll add a photo of my new raised planters in a couple of days.
They came out very nice.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Perfect "Pear"

It's a very special occasion when I get to do an event for one of our own staff members.  This weekend we had a wedding for a staff member of 6 years.  She was the mellowest bride that I have ever had, I asked her why and she simply said “ I have you” and after having worked both in the kitchen and on events she knows how smooth things go.

Their location was at The Bridal Path in Santa Rosa.  A private venue that specializes in horse carriages. The bride arrive in a white horse drawn carriage with her father and then enjoyed a carriage ride and champagne with her new husband.  This location was just beautiful with a pond and spring time flowers.


Her mom hand made all of the Pear shaped candles as the wedding favors.  They are such a perfect “pear”!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Redwood Hill Gardens

Just outside of Sebastopol is a hidden hill side garden, Redwood Hill Gardens.  Rosie and Pat have put together a private redwood park setting for events.  It's a beautiful place good for 20 to 100 guests with a sunny lawn area and a poolside patio for dancing.

Thanks to Rosie and Pat for all of the help this weekend.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Best of Petaluma!

THANK YOU!  We just heard we will be recieving the Petaluma People's Choice Award (Caterer) for 2010.  Thank you for all the votes; we love this town!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Rancho Wikiup

The other wedding last weekend was at Rancho Wikiup

It's a very pretty spot and relaxing (except for the wedding part).  With rooms available for the wedding party.  A great place for a smaller wedding, family reunion, or company retreat.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Celebrating Spring Produce

Here's my column from the Petaluma Post for last month.

We are lucky here in Sonoma County to have Spring in full swing; it is time to brush off the winter blues and bring on the fresh young produce. There are many items that will begin showing up at the markets that I will am eager to see to add to our menus.

To me the king of Spring will always be asparagus. The tender spears, popping out of the ground like sprouts of grass (actually their restaurant nick name is “grass”). With the tender texture and flavor my favorite preparation is simple, either grilled or roasted. Trim about 4 to 6 stalks of asparagus per person. The classic way is to snap it by holding half way up the stalk with one hand, bend the bottom end still it snaps off, this will give you the most tender part of the vegetable. Lay them out flat on a baking dish or cookie sheet and drizzle lightly with a couple teaspoons of olive oil, not very much, and then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Now roll the spears until evenly coated. Place in a medium heat oven or on a medium heat bbq for 6 to 9 minutes turning the spears once. When they are raw they should be a dull green and stiff like a pencil. They are ready when the color is brilliant green and bend and sway gently (not floppy). They can be served immediately or chilled in the refrigerator. Chop the leftovers to use them in a salad.

Another of my favorites is fresh fennel. With its sweet flavor and crisp texture it is a great addition to salads, soups and sauces. Though summer and tomatoes are a bit away you might have the wants for some fresh tomato sauce. A great way to accent that flavor is with fennel.

1 lbs Cherry Tomatoes (they are not in season, but they work well for this recipe)
1 head Fennel (sliced)
3 Tbsp EV Olive Oil
2 Cloves Garlic (crushed)
Salt and Pepper

Place all of the items in a heavy baking dish, stir well till all are coated with the olive oil. Roast at 350° for 15 to 20 minutes until the fennel is tender and the tomatoes burst. Finish with a touch of fresh chopped parsley or basil. This is great tossed with Pasta, over Polenta or Chicken. The fennel adds just a touch of sweetness to the tomatoes.

If you are lucky you may find my favorite hard to find item, Fresh Pea Sprouts. This is the recipe for you. These tender sprouts are just the tips of the plants and are very common in Asian Cuisine. Being so young they are very very tender and barely need cooking.

4 oz Shitake Mushrooms (very thinly sliced)
4 cloves Garlic (crushed and chopped)
3 Tbsp Vegetable Oil (you don’t want olive oil it will over whelm the flavors)
1 tsp Soy Sauce
2 Tbsp Water
8 oz Pea Sprouts (this looks like a lot but they cook down)

In a large sauté pan or wok heat the oil to medium high heat (do not let it smoke), add in the shitake mushrooms and then the garlic. The mushrooms will cool down the oil just enough that the garlic will not burn. Sauté till slightly browned and wilted. Mix the water and the soy sauce together. Have a lid ready. Add the snow peas to the pan turning 2 to 3 times to just wilt. Quickly add the water and soy mixture. Cover and allow to steam for a couple of minutes. They are ready to serve. A recent evening at home I could not find the pea sprouts and substituted fresh baby spinach- it worked great.

When I was little as soon as the warm days started I would begin looking for cherries to arrive. The first jewel of the fruit world comes in looking just like a ruby. From Rainiers to Queen Annes I can never wait for that first basket. My grandfather would stop at a roadside stand and buy us each a bag and I would eat till my lips were red. Cherries are a very delicate fruit to cook with. They are a stone fruit (the category of fruits that have a center pit) and must be pitted before use. But they are really worth it.

Cherry Clafouti, sounds so French and a bit fancy, yet it is very similar to a classic batter cobbler, great for a dessert or a nice brunch side dish. Serve with a bit of Crème Fraiche or Whipped Cream.

Preheat the oven to 400
Butter a 9” baking dish

1 lbs Cherries (pitted) I recommend tart and red
½ cup Flour
¼ tsp Salt
2 Eggs
2 T sugar
¾ cup Milk
1 tsp Vanilla
Zest ½ Lemon

Place sugar, salt and flour in a bowl and whisk together slightly. Combine all wet ingredients including the zest by whisking together, then add this to the dry ingredient mix till smooth. If you have lumps you, either place in a blender or pour though a sieve to smooth. Place the cherries in the bottom of the buttered baking dish, pour the batter over the cherries. Bake for 18 minutes before checking, do not open the door early or it will fall. When puffed and golden remove from the oven dust with powdered sugar and serve immediately.

Welcome to Spring!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Grilled Artichokes

This last weekend we did a wedding with menu grilled on-site.  Grilling is always best ala minute, and the smokey aroma adds to the ambiance.  We prepared Artichoke Gremolota, that's grilled artichokes with a chopped herb topping of parsley, garlic and lemon.  This was inspired by the absolutely fabulous Grilled Artichokes from the Los Altos Grill; next time you're in Los Altos make a point to trying these!
Also off the grill was our traditional grilled chicken topped with our very own olive tapenade.


Monday, June 7, 2010

Nan Winters

Oops!  Looks like I'v been neglecting by blog.  This time of year I am spending a lot more time in the kitchen and less on the computer.  Happily cooking away, I'll tell you more about that later.  But I need to take a moment to send a big thank you to a local shop.

On Kenutcky Street (in Petaluma) there is a great bridal boutique, Nan Winters.  This last week she has came to the rescue of two of my clients with dresses for their special events.  One a bride and the ther a mother of the bride. She has a great and unique selection of pieces, and the jewelery to match them as well.

If you need a piece for a wedding or any special occasion, just stop on by.