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A Visit to Sonoma Swamp Blues and a Recipe to Honor the Farmer

Two things struck me the other week when I went down to the Laguna de Santa Rosa with our photographer Dawn to visit Sonoma Swamp Blues, our local organic blueberry farm. The first came immediately upon opening the car door. Mamta, the mother of one of my very best childhood friends Daniel, jumped right into a few things on her mind. The first was interpreting my dream I had barely shaken at that fresh hour of 6:30am. The second was espousing the anthroposophical healing qualities of the dew clinging to perfectly plump and purple blueberries popping off scraggly branches. You see, Mamta is a parent of two Waldorf kids and was, for many years, president of Ayurvedic California, so she knows a thing or two about the esoteric. But here is what struck my and made me smile on that foggy summer morning. I had the pleasure, in that moment, of feeling like a kid again. I remembered the feeling of being in her house as a boy. Of playing with her son in ways …

peter lowells food photography, dawn heumann, farm to table, sebastopol, sonoma

Lowell’s Everyday Pasta Dough

“Pasta work requires attention, focus and patience. A delicate touch can make a hard dough perfectly supple and pliable… I knead this morning’s dough onto the table, folding it into itself. Long ribbons of the golden dough billow from the machine as its gears creak with years of use. For just a moment I allow my mind to wander back to my time spent studying in Italy. During my adventures I found that fresh pasta is ubiquitous, a staple on almost every table. Traveling throughout the country one can find pasta of every shape and size, paired with its very own regional sauce and ingredients. This is what I love most about pasta, the diversity within this one dish is endless. From your basic dough recipe to the way that dough is worked gently and molded into shape, to the sauce it carries and the cheese you finish it with, no two pastas are exactly the same. From the most simple to the much more elaborate and avant garde, a bowl of pasta (and you …

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The Best Chocolate Sorbet

This is one of the very first desserts I made as pastry chef at Lowell’s. Being in charge of a dessert menu which included a vegan option was very daunting and I wanted to steer clear of the “just give them fruit” ethos. Enter the Chocolate Sorbet. The recipe comes from a pastry chef hero of mine, David Lebovitz. He has provided me with endless inspiration and this brilliant sorbet was my debut vegan option, served with poached pears and candied almonds. As my time here at Lowell’s comes to a close, it seems only fitting that my last entry for the blog is for this lovely sorbet. All who ate it immediately loved it, and this gave me the confidence I needed to carry on with a job that felt quite far out of my comfort zone. I’ll miss making desserts at Lowell’s, but not as much as I’ll miss the wonderful people I’ve been lucky enough to share that little kitchen with. I personally feel that this sorbet is better than chocolate ice …

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Satsuma Marmalade

I learned to make marmalade when I lived in England and was working as a caretaker for an elderly woman who lived next door to me. I became quite good friends with her daughter, Fiona, who was obsessive about her jam and marmalade making. Going to Fiona’s house on a ‘jam day’ was always very atmospheric. Walking through her door, you would enter into her factory – various stations were set up around her little South London flat. One for cutting and preparing fruit, one for measuring vast amounts of sugar, the canning section full of jars and other preserving paraphernalia, and of course her stove, with dented old pots precariously perched on all burners. She was serious. Because she was a gardener and got gluts of fruit from her various clients, her jams ranged from your run of the mill, ubiquitous English Strawberry to the more exotic Kiwi Ginger. Her creations were always delicious, but her marmalade was truly spectacular. She never gave me an exact recipe because she said there wasn’t one, so …

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Fall Apple Vinaigrette and the Seasonal Mixed Lettuce Salad

Apple Vinaigrette: One of our trademark salads at Lowell’s is the Mixed Lettuces. We highlight the fresh, tender greens that we grow at Two Belly Acres and show the versatility of the greens throughout the changing of the seasons. In the spring we make a creamy green goddess dressing with crème fraîche and herbs. In summer, a light and acidic peach vinaigrette. And for our winter salad we showcase a Meyer lemon based citronette, served with persimmons or citrus segments. During the early fall we are lucky to have a plethora of fresh, local apples. Our Apple Vinaigrette is a fresh and tangy dressing that makes use of the bounty of fall apples in Sonoma County. This versatile and vegan vinaigrette can be paired with fresh farm lettuce, smoked fish, and grains. We like to use Gravenstein apples at the restaurant, but any crisp apple with a balanced sweet to tart flavor will do. Ingredients: 2 large apples, peeled, cored and roughly diced 1 T Dijon mustard ¼ cup raw apple cider vinegar 1 cup …

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Handline’s House Dressing

As with most great recipes, this one has a good story. One of both tradition and deceit. I first tried a version of this mind altering dressing about 12 years ago at a great West County restaurant. Chef Tai Olesky owned a cool spot named Mosaic in Forestville. His house salad was tender lettuces, blue cheese, toasted almonds, and sliced apples with a rich and somehow familiar dressing. I had never tried this dressing before, but the flavors brought me back. Learning later that the ingredients included such hippie classics as apple cider vinegar, nutritional yeast and tamari made perfect sense. I, like Tai, grew up in Sonoma County in the 80’s. We were both children of “back-to-the-earth” hippies. He claimed this recipe as his own secret and made a small name for himself on its back. Fast-forward a few years later, when my brother Will returned from a Hollyhock Retreat center, on Vancouver Island, with a recipe book from their cafeteria kitchen. It turned out the house salad recipe from that book was the …

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Seasonal Fruit Galette

Galettes are a wonderfully easy dessert that really put the treasures of summer center stage. There is nothing better than beautiful fruit baked into flaky pastry. Once you learn the process of making this easy, versatile dessert, you’ll be making these gorgeous free form tarts all the time! Most importantly, have fun playing with the filling; apple, fig, peach, strawberry, the options are never ending. The secret to this recipe is in the flattening and folding of the dough, building up layers of butter in the pastry. Finishing the assembly with lashings of melted butter slathered all over almost makes the dough ‘fry’ in the oven. The key to many wonderful things is butter and this recipe is no exception. Served with ice cream, whipped cream, or whipped crème fraiche, it’s truly the queen of desserts. Summertime Rhubarb Galette For the dough: 10 oz flour 1 tablespoon sugar ¼ teaspoon salt 6 oz butter, cold and cubed ½ cups ice water For the rhubarb filling: 5-6 cups of chopped rhubarb zest and juice of 1 orange seeds from …

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Handline’s Smoked Trout

We are thrilled at Handline to be featuring TwoxSea’s beautiful McFarland Springs Trout on our menu year-round. It’s farmed sustainably in Northern California and fed a 100% algae based vegetarian diet. It has a wonderfully delicate, sweet, pink flesh that lends itself well to a light smoke. You can find the trout in our Monterey Salad featuring local greens and seasonal ingredients as well as on our Happy Hour Menu in the Smoked Trout & Clam Chowder. The key to this recipe is time and restraint. We don’t want to overwhelm the delicacy of the fish with too much salt or smoke. It’s a minimum of 24 hour process from start to finish but the end result is totally worth the wait. Before getting started, you’ll need to collect some equipment to fashion a stovetop smoker: 1 half sized metal hotel pan (4” deep) 1 half sized perforated metal hotel pan (2” deep) 1 bag of cherry or apple wood chips Step 1: Brine the Trout To brine something is to submerge it in cold …

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Handline’s Summer Squash “Ex Pat” Taco

Every year in Sonoma County, as chefs, we count down the days until the turning of each season, knowing that that turn will bring a new and exciting perspective and creative process to our menus. As the leaves begin to change and the air becomes crisp with the first sights and feels of Fall, I begin to dream of delicata squash, roasted chestnuts and pomegranates. As Spring approaches, I become giddy at the thought of young fava beans, English peas and asparagus. And by the time Summer starts to creep into West County, my mouth waters and my mind is flooded with aspirations for all the ways in which I might prepare the bounty of night shades that is just weeks away. And then there is Summer Squash. As a long time employee, and well, family member, to the Peter Lowell’s, and now Handline crew, I have come to expect the imminent flood of Summer squash from our farm, Two Belly Acres. Between the months of June and September each year, hundreds of pounds are …

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Lowell’s Sea Salt and Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate chip cookies are, in my opinion, the best cookie ever. I can’t say enough about how glorious they are. We make ours with a darker chocolate to contrast with the rich, buttery, brown sugar cookie dough. A touch of sea salt sprinkled on top makes the flavors dance. Be sure not to over bake the cookies to achieve the wonderfully chewy texture inside and crispy texture on the edges. Ingredients: 9.5 oz whole wheat pastry flour 8.25 oz all purpose flour 1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder 1 ½ teaspoons salt 10 oz butter, room temperature 8.75 oz brown sugar 8 oz sugar 2 eggs 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 16 oz dark chocolate sea salt First, mix the flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt together and combine well. In a stand mixer, or by hand with a wooden spoon, cream the butter and sugars together until they are just mixed together with no buttery streaks. You don’t want this mixture light and fluffy, you want it heavy and sugary. …