A Special Event to Celebrate Tomato Season

Have you always wanted to have a big-name chef cook you dinner in a gorgeous setting? If so, I have a great opportunity, and you would be helping some great kids at the same time.

This year Kendall Jackson Winery has added a new Friday night event to its 16th Annual Heirloom Tomato Festival. It’s called Chef Tables in the Vineyard and it’s scheduled for the Friday September 14, 2012. It is a benefit for the Cooking with Kids Foundation, and it will be a fun evening with Guy Fieri, Mario Batali, and more than a dozen other Bay Area chefs including yours truly. Each chef is preparing a special menu for the guests at their table made with local ingredients, and served in Kendall Jackson’s Estate Vineyard.

The Heirloom Tomato Festival the next day is always a sell-out event that highlights the gorgeous heirloom tomatoes we grow here in Sonoma County. There are a few tickets left for both events, but they will go fast! Here is one of the dishes I’ll be creating for the Chefs Tables in the Vineyard event. Hope you’ll come and let me make it for you!

SALAD OF HEIRLOOM TOMATOES, FRESH MOZZARELLA
AND CHICK PEA PUREE

Serves 4

Picture by Jihad Hamad

Chickpea puree (recipe follows)
1-1/2 pounds ripe heirloom tomatoes, cored and sliced
Fresh basil oil (recipe follows)
1 pound fresh buffalo mozzarella, drained and sliced
Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Toasted blanched almonds
Slivered meaty black olives such as Cerignola
Corn, Daikon or sunflower sprouts

Spoon the chickpea puree onto plates. Lay the tomatoes decoratively on top and drizzle the basil oil attractively around. Lay the mozzarella slices on top of this and sprinkle on a little sea salt and black pepper. Garnish with almonds, olives and sprouts.

Chickpea Puree:
1 cup cooked chickpeas
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice or to taste
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon honey
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place all ingredients in a food processor and puree until very smooth.

Fresh leafy herb oils (basil, mint, chives, cilantro, parsley, shiso, etc.)
3 cups lightly packed herbs, large stems discarded
2 cups or so cups olive or canola oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Blanch herbs in salted boiling water until they turn a bright green (about 5 seconds). Drain and plunge immediately into ice water to stop the cooking and set the color. This blanching step inactivates the enzymes which causes the herb to turn brown and develop an oxidized flavor.

Squeeze herbs as dry as you can and add to a blender along with enough oil to cover by at least 2 inches. Puree to make a smooth paste. Strain thru a fine mesh strainer or cheese cloth or alternately let sit for a few hours and then decant the oil off the solids. Oil should be a very bright green and fragrant. Season with salt and pepper if desired and store covered in refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

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