Friday, September 28, 2012

Festa De Fondo

Here's the menu and photos from the Festa de Fondo, the gala opening night of the Gran Fondo at Paradise Ridge Winery.

Sweet Potato Coins with Chèvre and Tapenade
Zucchini Pancakes with Roasted Apple Relish
Fall Figs with Blue and Balsamic
Sundried Tomato and Cannellini Stuffed Crimini Mushrooms *
Fried Squash Blossoms with Chickpeas and Cashews
First Course
Compressed Tomato and Basil with Watermelon with Sherry & Wild Baby Arugula
Artisan Bread Basket
Marinated Olive Plates
Family Style
Carved Filet with Chimichurri
Pacific White Sea Bass with White Miso and Shitake Mushrooms
Green Pea Risotto *
Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
Rainbow Chard with Pine nuts*
Zucchini and Pepper Ragu*
Fall Pear Tart with Cinnamon
French Sipping Chocolate
Fresh Whipped Cream



Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Big 5 Herbs

Here is my Petaluma Post column from September.  Enjoy.

Sweet Basil, Opal Basil and Thyme
One of the most common questions that I get asked is what herbs pair well with what foods.  It is such a broad question that it could take a book to answer properly.  Part of the answer is easy; herbs are often associated with dishes of certain countries, like cilantro with Mexican, basil with Italian, and dill for Mediterranean and Russian.
Fresh herbs will add a brightness and freshness to any dish, so remember to clip those pots that you have sitting on your windowsill and experiment.  Dried are fine, but fresh pack more pop.  But that being said, dried herbs are more concentrated, so as a rule of thumb use twice as many fresh herbs.
Cilantro, most commonly used in Mexican cuisine in salsas, is also known as coriander (the dried seeds) or Chinese parsley.  Another common use is in many Asian dishes.  Add a touch to a Chinese chicken salad or fresh spring rolls. Cilantro is very tender and most of the pant can be used down to the tougher stems, try chopping and adding to a green salad for flavor.
Basil well known for uses in Italian sauces and pesto is also used the world around. Originating in India over 5000 years ago is one of the most used herbs in the world.  It is very easy to grow and comes in a variety of hybrids.  Sweet basil is most commonly seen in Italy and the US, however Thai basil with a sweeter flavor and a purple hue is growing in popularity.  There is also lemon basil that can be a great addition to seafood dishes.  One concern when using basil is that it bruises easily, so when using fresh basil make sure to take care to cut it at the last minute, and into long thin strips (a chiffonade).

Lemon Basil Cream Sauce
1 small shallot, minced
2 Tbl olive oil
1 cup heavy cream
1 Tbl Chiffonade of lemon basil
Salt and pepper

Sauté the shallot in olive oil until translucent, then add the cream and reduce by half, about 8 to 10 minutes.  Sauté your fish of choice.  Then, just before serving add the basil and season with salt and pepper, and Ladle over the fish.  Enjoy.

Dill, one of my favorites, is known for Mediterranean and Russian cuisine; however it is probably one of the most used herbs in the world.  From its use in Gravlox in Sweden to borscht in Romania, it is also heavily used in Vietnamese cuisine. We all know the traditional use of both the seeds and the fronds in pickles.

Dill Tomato Cream Sauce 
4 cups diced tomatoes (canned is fine)
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 tsp fresh dill
1 oz olive oil
¼ cup cream
½ oz honey
Salt & Pepper to taste

Sauté the onions in the olive oil until translucent, then add the tomatoes and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes.  Add the cream, honey and S&P and blend well with a beurre mixer.

Thyme is very underused here in the US.  With its earthy flavor it is often over looked.  Most people think to bring it out in the winter months to add to soups and stews.  Yes a pinch can add a great flavor to your French onion soup, but it is also a great addition during the summer to your fresh vegetables.  Just a pinch will add depth.  When using with meats it is great with both pork and chicken.  Unlike the other herbs that we discussed the leaves are edible, however the stems are not.  In my opinion it is ok the throw a branch in, allow the leaves to cook off, and then retrieve before serving.

 Summer Succotash
1 small yellow onion diced
½ lbs zucchini, small dice
3 ears of corn cut off the cob
½ lbs green beans cut into 1” pieces
2 to 4 Tbl olive oil
1 large sprig fresh thyme
Salt and pepper

Sauté the onion and thyme in olive oil, then add in the rest of the vegetables and sauté will tender.  Remove thyme stem.  Season with salt and pepper enjoy.  We had this at home just the other day and everyone loved it.

Oregano another one of our popular Italian herbs is also commonly used in Mexican cuisine.  Often used in pasta sauces and stew.  It is a close cousin of sweet marjoram that is used more in the northern Italian cuisine. Try adding a touch to your stews and soups for a bit of added flavor

Here’s a handy cheat sheet.  Just don’t be limited by it.
Cilantro – Mexican, Asian and with chicken
Basil – Italian, Indian, and with seafood
Dill – Mediterranean, Russian, Vietnamese, and with seafood
Thyme – French and with vegetables, pork and chicken
Oregano – Mexican, Italian and with soups

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Peachy Keen

Sorry I've been a bit remiss about my blog lately; it has been (and still is) a very busy season.  But here is my Petaluma Post Column from August, I hope you enjoy it: 

August brings to Sonoma County one of the sweetest tastes of summer, PEACHES!

The cooler spring that we have puts us locally behind the valley by a couple of weeks, so our local peaches don’t come in until August.  Peaches are one of the fruits that are truly best the closest you can get them from harvest.  With their delicate flesh and short shelf life, fresh from the tree are the very best.
Peaches and nectarines are the same fruit, it is often thought that nectarines are a cross with a plum.  But they are actually peaches with a recessive gene that drops the fuzzy exterior.  However they are usually smaller and have a bit more color to the interior.
White vs yellow peaches:  Both fruits come in two flesh colors. The white is far tenderer, but usually very sweet.  Due to their delicate nature these should be handled very carefully and eaten quickly as they bruise very easily and have a very short shelf life.  The yellow flesh tends to hold up well and can be stored and shipped.
What kind of peaches?  wow this is huge.  With the increase in heritage varieties there seems to be a different peach at the farmers market each week, so get them while you can.  There are some fun ones to look for “doughnut” don’t actually have a hole but are very flat and round.  O’Henry are the classic canning peach used for years.
If you are canning, freezing or making jam another thing to look for are “free stone” or “clingstone” peaches though the terms sound opposite they are the same.  This refers to how easily the stone (aka the pit) will come away from the fruit.  With these types the pit should easily just twist out.
Peaches are a great cooking and storing fruit.  It was one of the first things that I learned to can.  My grandmother would can jars every summer while we were camping.  She would blanch the peaches to remove the skin, stuff them in quart jars and then add boiling hot sugar water to cover.  Top with boiled flats and rings then turn over to help seal the tops.  I remember lying awake waiting as the jars popped to signal that they were sealed.
One of my favorite recipes is for a Peach Cobbler.  This recipe is more cakey than the typical crumbly variety.  I’ve had it a long time, coming from the Culinary Institute of America where I went to school.  We served it in the American Bounty restaurant there with a Bourbon Vanilla Sauce.

Peach Cobbler
2 peaches, skins on cut into slices (any seasonal fruit will do)
1cup flour
1 cup sugar
¾ cup milk
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
Pinch of salt

Lightly butter an 8” pie pan (or equivalent).  Place the fruit in the bottom.  Stir the dry ingredients together, and then add the wet ingredients.  Pour over fruit and bake at 350 degree till golden and firm.

A great summer cocktail that we often make for wedding is White Peach Sangria.  A great beverage for those hot summer events

White Peach Sangria
Serves 4-5
3 lbs white free stone peaches
1 cup lemonade concentrate
½ liter ginger ale
1 cup fresh grapefruit juice
1 bottle light white wine or rose

A light white wine like Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio.  Or use a Rosé to add touch more fruitiness to it.

Puree the peaches with grapefruit juice in the blender, and then combine all the ingredients in your serving container.  Serve well chilled, and garnish with fresh peach slices.

Peaches are sweet and delicate, and they won’t be around for long. Enjoy them today.