from the kitchen: Seasonal Seafood

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As if we didn’t already have more than our fair share of incredible bounty, Dungeness Crab season opened this month in Sonoma!

The “dungies'” return draws throngs of hopefully bobbing kayaks to the the coast and captures headlines throughout the region, but there’s ample local seafood to be had year-round in Sonoma – especially if you aren’t afraid to broaden your palate!

Wild Salmon and Dungeness Crab steal a lot of the buzz from less flashy varieties of seafood, such as Black Cod or Anchovies, which are available most of the year. And there’s even more to be said for purchasing locally-harvested (often smaller) species of fish with longer fishing seasons: they are frequently less expensive (and shorter lifespans means lower in contaminants). Perhaps even more significant is the fact that supporting fishing operations responsibly harvesting these populations strengthens those systems seeking to preserve our ocean’s bounty – a cause I think all of us can get behind!

Lastly there’s the flavor – like vegetables, buying seasonally and regionally where possible also means a fish (or shellfish) that will make the farmed, frozen, and imported-from-afar product pale in comparison.

So, today, a few suggestions for enjoying some of the less-glamorous – and frequently underutilized – seafood options from the Northern Coast! ~


ANCHOVY

These silvery schools of whitefish are typically available year-round in Northern California. Ranging in size from one to fifteen inches, the pungent taste we all remember from childhood has more to do with the curing and canning process than it does with the fresh fish. Prized for their rich, fatty flesh (super-high in healthful fatty acids!), they are delicious fresh or cured. Boquerones are the tangy, less-salty Italian counterpart commonly served in tapas.

Olive Tomato’s Roasted Anchovies

COD

Pacific Black Cod is considered one of the most sustainable fish on the California coast. Despite this, it doesn’t get much love from the home cook. It’s worth getting to know this plentiful local whitefish as it is high in omega 3’s, has a nice moisture content and skin that crisps up well. Be sure to look for “line-caught” when purchasing; the trawler-caught fish are not a friendly choice for the ocean.

From our kitchens: Salt Cod Croquettes

MUSSELS

California mussel season is year-round; however, advisories are typically in place from May to October to protect consumers from naturally-occurring bio-toxins which can accumulate in warmer months. That said, you can rest assured that any commercially-available mussel you’re served during this window has been tested for safety. California mussels are characterized by their sweet orange flesh, and take approximately three years to reach maturity. We love the tender, briny bites of ocean flavor, as well as the fact these creatures are constantly filtering the seas of phytoplankton, which keeps our waters clear.

From our kitchens: Pernod-scented mussels

SALMON

Of course we have mention the superstar salmon. As the pale and watery off-season tomato is to its summer cousin, so is farmed salmon to it’s wild, local counterpart. In the peak of salmon season from May to August, these beauties are line-caught directly off of the Northern California coast (and a better choice than the highly-polluting farmed assortment). Fun fact: the deep red coloring of a healthy Pacific salmon comes from their diet of local krill.

From our kitchens: Apricot-cured salmon 

SAND DAB

Sand dabs have been called “the secret of the California seas.” These tiny flatfish are not widely known, nor are they widely available commercially – though that is slowly changing. Sand dabs possess a sweet, buttery flavor, and their delicate skin does not require scaling – making home preparation a breeze. Pacific sand dabs’ fishing season is year round, and they’re listed as one of Monterey Bay Aquarium’s “Best Choices” for sustainable seafood.

Siren Fish Co.’s Pan fried Sand Dabs


COMMUNITY SUPPORTED FISHING:

Siren Fish Co.

SHOPPING:

Local Catch .org

Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association

…or your local farmers’ market!

Download the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch APP here!

from the kitchen: Fig-Braised Beef Short Ribs

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Fig Braised Beef Short Ribs
Serves 6

For the Marinade:

  • 6 short ribs (10 oz. each, boneless)
  • 2 tablespoons sliced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped thyme
  • ½ cup red wine
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon tamari
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Mix together garlic, salt, pepper, herbs, ½ cup red wine, ½ cup oil, tamari and Worcestershire.  Pour over ribs and marinate for at least 12 hours.

For the Sauce:

  • salt & pepper
  • 4 tablespoons blended oil
  • 3 celery stalks, medium dice
  • 1 carrot, peeled, medium dice
  • 2 medium onions, medium dice
  • 3 Roma tomatoes, rough chop
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 8 cups veal stock
  • 2 cups diced black mission figs
  • 1 bouquet garni

Remove ribs from marinade, scrape excess items off and pat dry.  Season with salt & pepper.Heat a large sauté pan over high heat, sear short ribs on all sides until heavily browned.  Remove from pan and place in a braising pot.

Add carrots, onions, celery to pan used for searing ribs, and cook over medium heat until vegetables are caramelized.  Add tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes.  Deglaze with red wine and reduce by half.  Add to braising pan with 8 cups of veal stock and bring to a simmer.  Add figs, and bouquet garni, cover and place pan in oven and roast for 4 hours, or until ribs are fork tender.  Remove ribs from oven, and let them cool to room temperature.  Remove ribs from sauce, strain sauce, before returning to pan over medium heat.  Reduce sauce by half and add ribs back to heat through.

Seasonal Eats: Fall Edition

With the changing seasons comes a slight chill in the air, and a need for warm comfort food. Make these fall recipes and you are guaranteed warm satisfaction.

Today, a few ideas on seasonal foods – that will warm up your house and gather your family around the dining room table for a comforting meal.

So, hit your local farmers’ market and enjoy apples, winter squash, and mushrooms in these warming autumn recipes!


Apples

Several red apples on a branch in an orchard

September and October are when apples really start to ripen and you can enjoy these sweet beauties raw or baked. Not only will these meals leave you feeling happy and fulfilled but the aromas from the apples will leave your house smelling amazing.

Inspiration for around the web~

Sondra and John’s recipe for Sautéed Pork Chop, Onion-Apple Ragoût, Mustard Jus

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Salted Caramel Apple Galette by sallysbakingaddiction.com


Winter Squash

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As the days grow shorter and the temperatures dip, it’s time to bring home winter squash. Even though they’re harvested in the fall, they’re called winter squash because their hard thick skins protect them during the winter. Don’t be intimidated by their size or shape, they are very easy to work with and taste amazing.

Inspiration for around the web~

Sondra and John’s recipe for Butternut squash soup

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Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Sage Brown Butter by bonappetit.com


Mushrooms

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Baskets of earthy mushrooms such as Porcini and Chanterelles are stunning in soups and alongside braised meat dishes that you begin to see when autumn is in full swing.

Inspiration for around the web~

Sondra and John’s recipe for pork shoulder roulade, wild mushrooms

roulade

Mushroom Tart by marthstewart.com


We hope you’re enjoying the wet and blustery fall days in Sonoma County.

Happy eating!

from the kitchen: shrubs

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Oftentimes in the summer season we find ourselves with a bumper crop of beautiful fruit that is so very ripe it must be put to use that instant.  It’s a wonderful dilemma to have – and one that’s led to the delicious addition of in-house shrubs to our line up at the girl & the fig and fig cafe.

A little history – shrubs originated as a food preservation technique that dates back to the days before refrigeration.  To prolong the life of ripe fruits, adding them to a crock with a good amount of sugar would transform them within a few weeks to vinegar.  This vinegar, though, has the bright, fragrant fruit flavors and could be better described as a vinegar “syrup.”

As Serious Eats better puts it, “a proper shrub has a flavor that’s both tart and sweet, so it stimulates the appetite while quenching thirst.”

Without further ado, the girl & the fig’s take on the traditional shrub:

Ingredients:

  • 3 pints fresh blackberries or figs
  • 3 cups red wine vinegar
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 2 cups water

Instructions:

Thoroughly wash fruit and pat dry.

Add to vessel of your choice (glass or plastic, not metal) and pour vinegar over fruit.  Cover and place in refrigerator for two days.

After two days, combine sugar and water in a saucepan and slowly stir until sugar is completely dissolved.

Combine all ingredients in a large blender (or blend in batches) and puree well.  Pour mixture through a sieve and return to the refrigerator for long term storage.

 

Insider Guide to Locals’ Favorite Sonoma Restaurants | Sonoma Wine Country Dining Best Sonoma Restaurants

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There are two distinct personalities to the town of Sonoma. One is the tourist face, with a carefully cultivated shabby-chic, gentleman farmer vibe that matches its historic mission, wineries and Old West past. Charm abounds, and there are plenty of white tablecloth, high dollar restaurants to accommodate luxe tastes.

But simmering just below is the true Sonoma, a tight-knit community that includes the rest of us — the people who work in the tasting rooms and restaurants, at the Sonoma Speedway, behind desks and in firehouses. This diverse gathering of native Californians, immigrants, retirees, artisans and small business owners makes for a vibrant, (mostly) affordable food scene that most visitors breeze past.

We’re pulling back the cover on the Sonoma restaurants where townies really eat: From favorite happy hours and taco trucks to insiders-only recommendations for where to get a great cup of coffee or a family breakfast. We’re also including a few tips on getting some great bites at the higher-end spots, whether that’s a happy hour special, or a dish that won’t cost a mint.

Source: Insider Guide to Locals’ Favorite Sonoma Restaurants | Sonoma Wine Country Dining Best Sonoma Restaurants