Take inspiration from these Earth Dinner menus from five outstanding members of Chefs Collaborative. They've even shared a few of their proprietary recipes. Specializing in the foods of five different regions of America, these culinary artists offer tips to bring local seasonal flavor to your Earth Dinner meal.
John Ash & Company
Santa Rosa, California
By Terese Allen, Food Editor
"You may or may not consider yourself a cook, but I know you're an eater," says John Ash in his book, the award-winning John Ash Cooking One-on-One:
Kitchen Secrets from a Master Teacher (Clarkson Potter, 2004). His simple, inspiring techniques and fresh-focused flavors will both inspire you at the stove and enchant you at the table.
The founder of John Ash & Company restaurant in northern California wine country, Ash has been a national culinary force since Food and Wine magazine proclaimed him one of America's "Hot New Chefs" in 1985. Today he is a widely respected wine and food educator, the co-host of a live food talk radio show, and a contributor to such publications as Bon Appètit and Fine Cooking. His new winery venture, called Sauvignon Republic Cellars, (Santa Rosa, CA) specializes in Sauvignon Blanc produced around the world.
A member of the board of overseers for Chefs Collaborative, Ash is an enthusiastic proponent of organic foods and sustainable agriculture. "Great ingredients come from great land," he writes. "The choices that each of us make every day as we purchase the food we eat are critical."
Terese Allen: What makes food delicious?
John Ash: Delicious food is a reflection of who you are sharing it with. Delicious food probably has a surprise element in it; for example, a flavor combination that you hadn't encountered before. Delicious food is often a remembrance of flavors from childhood. Delicious food, to my mind, honors the ingredients by keeping it simple and maintaining balance.
TA: What's a cooking method that you wish more home cooks knew about?
JA: Slow oven-roasting of fruits and vegetables. It actually is a lesson in my book, John Ash Cooking One on One. By slow I mean low heat, which concentrates flavors and sugars in the most amazing way.
TA: How can American diners set a more sustainable table?
JA: I have a mantra that I share with anyone who will listen: "Just spend ten dollars per week on locally raised foods!" Locally raised means that they will also be in sync with the season.
TA: More and more diners are going organic these days, but in the big picture, what still needs to be done?
JA: A big concern I have currently is about maintaining and creating some sort of inspection system for seafoods. There is talk about extending the organic standards to seafoods, but I don't know how they can be certified.
with Lemon-Infused Olive Oil and Pecorino
accompanied by olives, thinly sliced cured meats
and fried capers
John Ash's Pan Sauteed Chicken
with Herb Deglazing Sauce
accompanied by steamed, just-dug new potatoes
Compote of dried California fruits
with vanilla bean ice cream
Spring: baby artichokes; asparagus; peas; medjool dates; strawberries; leg of lamb; soft-shell crabs; fava beans
Summer: veggie-packed salads; herbed goat cheese; berry smoothies; gazpacho; salsas fresh figs; nectarines; apricots; melons; garbanzo beans; all kinds of basil; avocados; heirloom tomatoes
Fall: roasted garlic; olives; new-crop almonds and walnuts; all kinds of chile peppers; beets; boletus mushrooms; roasted red peppers; Fuyu persimmons
Winter: Dungeness crab; blood oranges; Meyer lemons; olive oil; wine and wine vinegars; dried figs; fennel; broccoli; purple potatoes