As Sacramentos farm-to-fork movement continues to gain traction, more special opportunities arise to learn about the local riches available to foodies, kitchenistas and professional chefs alike.
For proof and a taste, join fellow diners at two upcoming farm-to-fork demonstration dinners co-sponsored by The Sacramento Bee. The multicourse family-style meals will be based on seasonal recipes from the cookbook The Art of Real Food (In Season Publishing, $27.95, 300 pages; photos by Keith Sutter, artwork by Paula Amerine ). It was written by local author-chefs and longtime advocates for local agriculture Joanne Neft and Laura Kenny. All the meals ingredients, as well as the wines, will be sourced from Placer County.
The dinners will be educational as well as imaginative. Neft and Kenny will demonstrate meal preparation, offer cooking techniques and tips (what do you do with green tomatoes?), explain the finer points of menu development and give guidance on where to find seasonal, farm-fresh ingredients in Placer County. Also, diners can join the conversation on farm-to-fork issues and opportunities, and participate in a question-and-answer session.
Each dinner will have its own menu, based literally on whats in season at farmers markets a few days before each event. In that regard, theyve been works in progress for a while.
For part of tonights dinner, look for chili verde as the main course. The heritage pork was sourced from Dinner Bell Farm near Grass Valley, and the tomatillos for the sauce were frozen last summer. The chili verde will have traditional accompaniments like radishes and cilantro (and maybe avocado), and a seasonal salad with romanesco, said Kenny.
Were intuitive cooks, and we like to play around with whats local and in season, she said. Its a practice weve been doing for a long time, and we like to show people how to do it. Our bodies crave whats in season.
Kenny will be the lead cook for the dinners, leaving most of the speaking to Neft. Ill talk about how to eat healthier in our lives, said Neft, who pioneered farmers markets in Placer County more than 20 years ago. My mission is to help people understand that by eating locally, fresh and in season, we will have healthier bodies.
How about a cooking tip?
The majority of nutrients in vegetables and fruits are in the skins, Neft said. When you trim vegetables, save the peels, the tops and bottoms to make a stock. Theres no recipe for this, its whatevers in the kitchen that day.
Nefts technique is to put the trimmings into a pot and almost cover them with water. Add a teaspoon of salt, stir, cover and simmer overnight. In the morning, strain the mixture through a sieve.
You will have the most amazing vegetable stock, she said. I froze two quarts of it last night. I use it (as the liquid) for cooking rice and beans, and as (a base) for gravy.
Call The Bees Allen Pierleoni, (916) 321-1128. Follow him on Twitter @apierleonisacbe