Tips from a Farm-to-Fork Chef

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ImageIf you want to have rock star status in Sacramento, be a participant in the Farm-to-Fork movement and be passionate about what this region has to offer.  In 2012, Sacramento was proclaimed “America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital” by elected officials–targeting Sacramento’s food, food production, culinary talent, and restaurants.

According to local chef Adam Pechal, the idea of a restaurant obtaining its food from local farms is not new.  In his 20 years experience as a chef, he continues to obtain food from locals farms and farmers markets in his cooking.  Pechal is an award-winning chef who downplays his accomplishments.  In Sacramento, he owns the Tuli Bistro, Tuli Catering at the historic Sterling Hotel, the Tuli Bistro Smoked Out Trailer, and Restaurant Thir13en.  Pechal also appeared as a contestant on ABC’s “The Taste.”  His newest creation is a vegetarian sofrito (Cuban sandwich), and it will be featured at Sacramento’s Good: Street Food and Design Market.

Under a towering oak tree, Pechal recently wowed his audience as a featured speaker at the annual Harvest Day at Fair Oaks Park.  Here are his tips for the home cook and gardener:

Tomatoes

Pechal favors firm heirloom tomatoes because “The whole package is great stuff.”

When it comes to making a tomato sauce, he rarely peels them.  You can squeeze the seeds out of the tomato without “beating it out too much.”  According to Pechal, you can make a refined tomato sauce puree this way.

Eggplant

Eggplant is not one of his favorite vegetables, but if you’re going to cook eggplant, “go long and cut off the skin.”  Sprinkle salt on eggplant to draw moisture.  Put it on a rack or grill and brush with a little olive oil.  Don’t cook it until the insides resemble mush.

Squash

Apply all seasonings at the beginning.  Salt and pepper is a factor.  Use garlic and balsamic vinaigrette.  Using balsamic vinaigrette and less oil means less fire.

Artichokes

Cut artichokes in half.  Weigh them down with a plate.  Simmer in bullion with a whole lemon, smashed garlic and bay leaves for 1/2 hour to 45 minutes.  Drain.  Grill on flat side.  Do not overcook.

Roasted Peppers

Grill until completely black.  Place in bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Remove skin.

Ratatouille

Tomatoes, peppers and onions are the base flavor for ratatouille.  Fold in squash and eggplants later for great flavor and crunch.

Herbs

Lemon thyme is used in marinades and is a favorite to grow because it is sustainable. Chives are delicate and a pain to grow.  “I stopped buying rosemary because there is a rosemary bush every ten blocks in Midtown Sacramento.”  Cilantro is the cheapest herb in the store.  Since you need a lot of cilantro, you might as well buy instead of growing it.  

Knives

He prefers using a knife “for the right project and for the right utilization.”  Use a very sharp knife for tomatoes.  If you don’t have one, a sharp, serrated knife will do.  Pechal is not a fan of ceramic knives.

Marinara Sauce

Ingredients

canned tomatoes

Roma tomatoes

onions (diced)

garlic (smashed)

basil (including stems)

Instructions

  1. Broil Roma tomatoes until charred.
  2. Brown onions and smashed garlic in olive oil.
  3. Mix canned tomatoes and Roma tomatoes to onions and olive oil.
  4. Remove from heat.
  5. Add basil (including stems).
  6. Puree mixture.
  7. Use as pizza sauce or anything

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9 comments

  1. marlenebertrand · August 8, 2013

    This is awesome information, Arlene. How do you feel about “reblogging”? I’d like to reblog this to my “Fresh Food Garden” blog (WordPress). My husband and I call ourselves food farmers. I read somewhere that food farmers are small-scale farmers who sell to local restaurants or people who simply grow food in their back yard. That’s us. We rarely buy vegetables anymore. So, in that sense we are farm to table people. I will be so happy when our fruit trees start to produce.

    • Arlene Poma · August 8, 2013

      Thank you, Marlene! I have no problem with “reblogging.” In fact, I would be honored to be a part of your blog! Yes, you and your husband are farm-to-table people. Pat yourselves on the back because not everyone can grow their own fruits and vegetables. Me and Mister Jack are still on the fence about raising chickens, though. It takes us a month to finish a dozen eggs. If we had chickens, what are we going to do with all those eggs?

      • marlenebertrand · August 8, 2013

        Thank you for allowing me to reblog this post. Yeah, my husband wants to raise chickens when we get to our property. I kind of don’t want to do that because once we have animals on our property we won’t have as much freedom for having to take care of the animals. I’m not all for having chickens, Arlene. I would rather just buy eggs from a local farmer or the supermarket that we visit now only once a month.

      • Arlene Poma · August 8, 2013

        The past is tugging at the two of us. As a child, I had a flock of chickens that were rejects from a farm. They were very tame and came running whenever I called. My husband also has fond memories of raising chickens and ducks during his childhood. In Sacramento County, we are allowed to raise chickens (no roosters) in the suburbs. But I do agree with you 100%. Retirement means freedom if you do it right. A retired friend once told me, “Don’t take on anything that eats or poops.” I keep repeating that to myself whenever I am tempted to bring an animal home. We are down to one dog, and even when friends are looking after him while we’re gone, I still worry.

  2. marlenebertrand · August 8, 2013

    Reblogged this on Fresh Food Gardener and commented:
    +This blog post has some valuable information for people who grow their own food. I really enjoyed reading it. I hope you will, too. –Marlene

  3. marlenebertrand · August 8, 2013

    When I was a youngster, my brothers and I would visit my grandparents for long periods of time. I remember helping out with the chickens, hogs, rabbits, and other animals they raised. As a child, it was fun. But now, I think it would be a lot of work and confinement to the property.

    I like your friend’s point of view. When my kids left home, they took their respective animals with them. Now, in retirement, my husband and I don’t even have a dog of our own. I know we will have a couple of “guard” dogs when we move to the property. We’ll need them for protection. When we leave home, we’ll have to leave the dogs with neighbors or something, because they’ll be big dogs. We won’t be able to take them with us in my husband’s little sports car. I don’t even think they’ll fit in my truck. So, having dogs will tie us down somewhat.

    • Arlene Poma · August 8, 2013

      I spend a lot of time alone because my husband still works. Our dog is submissive, but he still makes a wonderful companion. I would like to get another rescue dog, but that means more work and more money. Kennels charge a fortune. You still have to pay someone to look after the dog. There will be days when I won’t feel like walking it. So many things to consider. But in my neighborhood, the thugs will not “visit” when you have a couple of barking dogs in the backyard.

      • marlenebertrand · August 8, 2013

        Yeah. I hear you about having barking dogs and how they keep unwanted guests from visiting. That’s why, when we move to our place out in the foothills, we will need at least two dogs to roam freely throughout the property and we need those dogs to bark loudly when they hear someone on the property. I’ve grown up with dogs. They do make great companions. But, right now I’m enjoying being without the responsibility. Not having to get up to walk the dog is a real treat. Heck, I can’t even get up to walk myself. I don’t know how I’d feel about getting up to take the dog for a walk.

  4. Arlene Poma · August 9, 2013

    I hear you! It would be nice to just lock up the house and leave on some adventure. A few plants may die from neglect, but they can always be replaced!

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