I’ve been cooking as long as I can remember, professionally since I was 17. I love everything about food, and spent my life pursuing it. I was an apprentice pastry chef in Innsbruck Austria before I even went to cooking school. After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America I became a full fledged Pastry Chef for a high end country club, and love it as I did there was so much more to be done, which eventually led me to catering. My catering company is just what I want it to be; I get to do something different everyday either in the kitchen or helping a bride design her ideal wedding or just researching new recipes out of my own imagination.
If you would like more details about my career, please the About page on my website www.SonomaCaterers.com.
I was blog spotting – looking at random blogs when I saw this great idea for an hors d’oeuvre. Our cheese display is one of our signature items that we do often. I pride myself on using only very local cheese, however I do use cypress grove out of Arcata- it is northern California if not within 100 miles. I saw this great idea for a tiered cheese display that looks like a wedding cake
It is made up of three tiers. All are Chevre in a brie style. The bottom layer is truffle tremor- Chevre with truffle oil, a three pound wheel. The upper two layers are Humboldt fog, a one pound and 8 ounce wheels.
If you are in Sonoma County, then you know that August starts our tomato season. Although we look at tomato plants at the garden center as early as March or April and plant them in the Spring looking forward to the tomatoes of summer, unless you live in a hot spot in the county your real crop does not start till the middle or end of August. But when it does they just keep coming.
In my own yard I planted three types of tomato this year. I would happily have a dozen different types, but it is only my husband and I, and we can only eat so many. I chose a Hillbilly Deluxe; I bought it last year from Soda Farms just for the name and fell in love. It is a great meaty slicing tomato with orange variegation, with each one weighing in close to a pound. Then I chose the Sun Gold Cherry Tomato, from Cottage Garden Growers, such a great sweet cherry tomato that produces like crazy and ripens quickly; perfect for popping in a salad or just eating out of the garden. Lastly I got a Mr Stripy, yes that is the name. It is a Roma variety and should be great for cooking. I am already keeping my fingers crossed.
Over the winter months when the tomatoes are not the best I came across roasting cherry tomatoes- WOW. You cannot believe the flavor pack they have. Roasting them for just a couple of minutes brighten up sugars and balances the acidity.
Roasted Cherry Tomatoes with Rosemary
2 baskets of cherry tomatoes of any variety
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 inch of rosemary
Pinch of salt and pepper
Remove the rosemary from the stem, then place all ingredients in a bowl and toss lightly. Pour onto a lipped baking pan or dish and baked 5 to 7 minutes at 350 degrees, just until the skins burst. Serve immediately or cool and store in fridge. They are a bit delicate, so add them at the last minute to whatever you are serving. Try them in a pasta salad or just enjoy with a great crusty French bread.
I love making Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato sandwiches while working in the garden, a great quick sandwich that is at its best in the summer. I like the simple classic, but I am a chef and feel compelled to upgrade them from time to time. A couple of my favorite upgrades: Mix your mayonnaise with a bit of Pesto, Try using arugula for a peppery bite instead of regular lettuce, Add lightly sautéed red onions, or for a hand held version wrap in a tortilla (one day when I was out of bread it worked great!) I have also made finger sandwiches mixing the sundried tomatoes with cream cheese, thin slices of bacon and a few leaves of arugula. One trick that I do at home is purchase the pre cooked packages of bacon- yes a bit of a treat, place in the microwave for 15 to 20 seconds to crisp up and you get more time back in the garden.
An all time favorite of mine is a Tomato Tart. Also know as a Croustad, it is a rough made tart filled with tomatoes and basil topped with just a sprinkle of cheese. Very simple, very easy and very good. This recipe makes two 9 inch tarts and should serve 6 people per tart for lunch.
Tomato Croustad (filling)
8 to 10 roma tomatoes
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
2 Tbl basil, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
Pate Brisee (basic butter pie dough)
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 cup butter (If salted omit salt) cut into small pieces and well chilled
4 to 8 Tbl ice water
Place the flour, salt and butter in food processor, pulse until you get a small pebble texture, then begin adding the water till it just comes together to a soft dough. Do not over mix, you do not want a ball, that is too much. Remove it from machine and split into two even balls, then form each of them in to a flat disc. Wrap and refrigerate 30 to 45 minutes or over night.
Remove the dough from fridge and allow it to warm till pliable. Lightly dust rolling area with flour and roll out the dough to about a 10 inch circle. Using rolling pin move dough gently to a baking sheet.
Slice tomatoes to approximately a ¼ inch thick. Place the slices on the dough round starting 2½ inches from the edge make overlapping circle layers, overlapping approx 1/3 of each tomato. Fold the pie dough back up over the edges of the tomatoes, sprinkle with basil, cheese, salt and pepper. Bake at 400 degree until golden, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve warm or allow to cool. This does not hold well due to the wet nature of the tomatoes.
No mater how you enjoy them, tomatoes are the king of the summer crops!
Recently for my Husband's birthday we joined friends at Stark’s in Santa Rosa for an Aussie Dinner. We were in Australia last year for the wedding of my best friend from college, and had spoken so often of the trip that our friends wanted to join us for the dinner.
The menu they put together was creative and utilized many down under ingredients. One of Jim's favorite items from the trip had been Kangaroo. Yes they eat Kangaroo, you can even purchase it in the grocery store, the section is similar to that of veal here in the states. They did a ground skewer of it with vegimite sauce, as well as shrimp from the Barbi. Our group doesn't happen to be wine drinkers, but each course was pair with a wine, so Stark's actually created cocktail pairings for us (that's good customer service!). Our first selection was a thunder down under a ginger beer and gin combination- very refreshing.
Dinner was a three course combination of Barramundi (a wonderful white fish), Lamb –always a favorite with our table . With dinner they made another great cocktail that was fresh and very limey (but I just can't remember the name!). For dessert they made Pavlova (an original Austrailian dessert created to honor a Russian balerina) which is a baked meringue and always one of my husbands favorite desserts.
I was thrilled that Starks’ did this dinner and while we were there they mentioned a Redneck dinner- their fans are waiting
More information for the event at the The Village in Corte Madera mentioned in the Cheese! blog can be found here. It's a nice evening out, with a different band and winery each Friday for the next few weeks, and only $15.
We'll be doing a special event at The Village in Corte Madera. They have asked for our Sonoma County Bounty each week into October. The fun part is that I am able to bring in a few more cheeses than usual to mix it up each week.
There is a newer cheese maker out of Nicasio, Nicasio Valley Cheese Company. I'm trying out two of theirs - the Nicasio Square, a soft cow’s milk cheese and Black Mountain, a Swiss Italian cheese with a deep rich finish. I also brought in Cameo a camembert inspired goat cheese from Redwood Hills Farms- great people.
I have long time been a fan of Cypress Grove Creamery out of Humboldt a little bit further than my typical 100 mile radius for local cheeses, but well worth it) you don’t see too many sheep’s milk cheeses out there but they tend to be my favorite.
Don’t be afraid to pick up a new cheese the next time you are at the market. A little bit goes a long way. We plan approx 2oz per person on our cheese displays accented with seasonal fruits (love the figs right now) and then a great baguette. This could be dinner for me!
Here's the complete list of the new cheeses I'm trying out for the Village event in case you would like to look for them at the market:
Lambchopper – A smooth, almost buttery, organic cheese with a light and fruity aroma from Cypress Grove Creamery in Humboldt County. (semi-firm / sheep milk / pasteurized)
Capricious – A traditional California Dry Jack with rustic, pebbled rind and semi-hard yet smooth texture, caramel flavor and a mild pungency at the finish from the Achadinha Cheese Company in Sonoma County. (firm / goats milk / pasteurized)
Nicasio Square – A washed-rind cheese, aged for 30 days from Nicasio Valley Cheese Company in Marin County. (soft / cows milk / pasteurized / traditional rennet not vegetarian)Cameo – A Camembert inspired tasty rind and creamy, smooth texture from Redwood Hill Farms in Sonoma County. (soft / goats milk / pasteurized)
Bermuda Triangle – A distinctive double rind of ash covered by a layer of velvety white bloom encouraging a firm, smooth interior from Cypress Grove in Humboldt County. (soft / goats milk / pasteurized)
Black Mountain – A Swiss Italian cheese with a deep rich finish from from Nicasio Valley Cheese Company in Marin County. (soft / cows milk / pasteurized / traditional rennet not vegetarian)
Pesto Jack – Another local favorite from the Sonoma Cheese Factory. (medium texture / cows milk / pasteurized)