Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Glorious Tomatoes

These are the very first tomatoes from our garden! The really ribbed ones are Florentine tomatoes and the really round one in the back is a Brown German. Farmer Jeff planted 250 tomatoes, all raised from seeds, which are comprised of 35 varieties.

We quickly went to work on these tomatoes and paired them with home grown Genovese and Opal basil, bufalo mozzarella (which can be found at our local store, the Cheese Shop) and then some lovely southern Italian olive oil which we carried home with us!

We have also been enjoying a record crop of stone fruit. We have already picked and preserved jars of exquisite Santa Rosa plum jam. I can't get over the color. It is as though we have captured a sunset in a jar. Did I mention the flavor? Farmer Chef Jeff summed in up best when he said, "this just tastes like summer". Boy howdy, is he right!

We are not the only ones that are thoroughly enjoying the summer produce. Our dogs and chickens LOVE whatever we are not eating. We are currently doing work on the house and in our yard, so we are keeping the dogs in a big dog pen. This has really worked out to our advantage because the dogs used to pick the ripening fruit right off the trees! We would be lucky to get any of the low lying fruit! While amusing, it is really annoying!

Nonetheless, I can't help but share some tomato bits with our beloved chocolate lab, Callebaut. He takes it so gently, looking like he is accepting a communion wafer. He is blissed!

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Taste of Sonoma and the Steel Chef

This past weekend was the annual Taste of Sonoma showcase held at the beautiful McMurray Ranch (think Fred McMurray) in Healdsburg across the Russian River valley from our little farm. Farmer Chef Jeff was invited to present food from Zin Restaurant and Wine Bar (our restaurant!). I decorated with produce from the farm, eggs from our girls, homemade Santa Rosa plum jam and the infamous Zinfandel grape jelly that Farmer Chef Jeff uses to fill his warm jelly donuts at Zin.

Part of the entertainment was a cooking competition, "Sonoma Steel Chef". Farmer Chef Jeff was one of the contestants. Each chef was given a bag of mystery ingredients and a time limit of 20 minutes. CAN YOU IMAGINE???

For the first heat, Jeff made Shrimp and Grits. He went so far as to make his secret ingredient for the grits, corn stock. At least I think it is the secret to the best grits on earth! His second dish was Roasted Pork Loin with a Fig and Nectarine pan sauce.

During the second heat, he made Curry- Rubbed Grilled Rack of Lamb with grilled Belgian Endive and Mock Ratatouille with a Pinot Noir sauce. The other dish was a Grilled Lamb Loin with grilled Portobella mushrooms and roasted fingerling potatoes, served with a Santa Rosa Plum Port Wine Sauce. HEAVENS!!!

The Winner? Farmer Chef Jeff!!!! HOORAY!!!
(Farmer Chef Jeff declared winner by Clark Wolf, renowned restaurant consultant)

Not only did he win bragging rights, he also won a case of wine and a very nice gift certificate from Castino's Restaurant Supply in Rohnert Park.

Here are a couple of the recipes.

Grilled Lamb Loin with Santa Rosa Plum & Port Wine Sauce, Roasted Fingerling Potatoes & Grilled Portabella Mushrooms

(4 servings, cooks in 20 minutes or less)

1 boneless lamb loin, trimmed of silver skin
Olive oil
1 pound Ripe Santa Rosa Plums
½ cup port wine
4 portabella mushrooms
1 pound fingerling potatoes
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

Prepare grill for grilling.
Preheat oven to 350.

1. Season lamb with salt, pepper and olive oil.
Season mushrooms with salt, pepper and olive oil.
Bring potatoes to a boil in lightly salted water and cook for 5 minutes.
Remove from water and slice in half and place in roasting pan with unsalted butter. Roast in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Season with salt & Pepper.
5. Grill mushrooms for 5 minutes, or until done, set aside.
6. Place plums in blender with port and puree. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
7. Grill lamb to desired temperature. Let rest 4 minutes then slice.
8. Slice mushrooms into strips.
To Plate: Spoon potatoes onto plate, then add mushrooms. Arrange sliced lamb around mushrooms & potatoes. Drizzle with Plum Port Sauce.

Serve with a Sonoma County Zinfandel or Syrah.

Shrimp & Grits
4 servings, cooks in 20 minutes or less

For Shrimp
24 gulf shrimp, peeled & cleaned
1 Andouille sausage
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 anaheim pepper cut small dice
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 ripe tomato chopped
1 clove garlic sliced
½ cup white wine
¼ cup catsup
½ cup heavy cream
½ bunch chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Split sausage lengthwise and cut into half moons ¼ inch thick.
  2. Render sausage in oil in sauté pan until golden brown. Add shrimp, anaheim pepper, garlic and tomato. Saute over medium heat for 1 minute.
  3. Deglaze with white wine. Add cream and catsup. Cook until shrimp are done and sauce has reduced a bit. Check seasoning and add parsley.

For Grits
1 cup coarse grain cornmeal
4 cups boiling water
2 ears sweet corn
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Shuck corn and drop in boiling water and cook for 1 minute. Remove from water and cut kernels off cob.
2. Add cobs back to the water and cook for 4 minutes to make a corn stock. Remove cobs from stock.
3. Add 3 cups of the corn stock to small pot with the cream, butter and 1 ½ tsp kosher salt and bring to a boil. Stir in the cornmeal.
4. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding more of the corn stock if it gets too thick. Stir in reserved corn kernels. Season to taste.
To Plate: Mound grits in center of plate and spoon shrimp and sausage mixture over the top. Serve with a Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc.

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