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[whitespace] Chef Robert Morris
Photograph by George Sakkestad

Seasonal Effective: Chef Robert Morris of Blacks Beach helped put together 'Seasonal Recipes From the Great Chefs of Santa Cruz County.'

Out of the Garden, Into the Kitchen

A new cookbook celebrates the bounty of local harvests and the genius of area chefs

By Janet Blaser

IT'S EASY to forget how much Santa Cruz County is blessed with an abundance of good food, responsible growers and producers, and talented, dedicated chefs. And that's why the UCSC Farm & Garden's brand-new cookbook is such a delight. It spotlights all of that and reminds us what a rich and plentiful home we have.

Seasonal Recipes From the Great Chefs of Santa Cruz County is the second publishing effort from the Friends of the UCSC Farm & Garden, a volunteer group that works to promote public awareness of gardening and farming through activities that include plant sales, tours, lectures, workshops and other projects. Board member and chef/restaurant owner Robert Morris was instrumental in the creation of this latest cookbook, motivated by the desire to forge a stronger bond among organic farmers, local chefs and the community at large.

The spiral-bound book offers 81 recipes arranged by season and charmingly illustrated with pen-and-ink sketches by local artist Graydon Livingston. An introduction to each section, written by UCSC garden manager Orin Martin, details the weather and what's available in the garden at that time of the year.

Within that framework, the recipes are arranged individually by course, beginning with appetizers and ending with desserts, with each attributed to the appropriate chef and restaurant. Short bios of each of the 21 contributors, whether chef, restaurant or caterer, appear at the back of the book, along with contact information. Examples to whet your appetite include recipes from restaurants like O'Mei, Casablanca and Caffe Bella Napoli and culinary geniuses like Joseph Schultz, Renee Shepherd and Fran Raboff.

Personally, I find this kind of seasonal format to be incredibly handy in the kitchen. I can go to the farmers' market, buy what's available and then have recipes that are timely and relevant. And what fun to hunt through the recipes for your favorite chefs and restaurants, discovering, perhaps, the secret to that luscious vinaigrette in Bittersweet Bistro's asparagus salad (could it be the Meyer lemons?) or Gayle's classic carrot cake. Sigh. It's a trip through the inner workings of all the best kitchens in the county--yours and mine excluded, of course.

To celebrate the book's release, a special benefit dinner will be held at Blacks Beach Cafe on Monday (Dec. 6) at 7pm. Contributing chefs Robert Morris (Blacks Beach), Peter Dressen (Theo's) and Tom McNary (Carried Away Fine Foods to Go) will prepare a sumptuous meal, complemented by an array of wines from Bonny Doon Vineyards. Tickets for the event are $60 per person, space is limited and reservations are strongly advised. Proceeds from the event and book sales go to the Friends' scholarship program for apprenticeships at the Farm Project.

The following week, Dec. 13, a cooking demonstration by a trio of master chefs will take place from 5 to 7pm at Integrand Design, 1515 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, to further showcase the book. Seasonal Recipes From the Great Chefs of Santa Cruz County is available for $19.95 from local bookstores, Integrand Designs and other selected outlets beginning the first week of December. It can also be ordered directly by mail: call 459.3376 and 459.2321 for more information.

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From the December 1-8, 1999 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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