Califonia Bountiful

From dirt to delight

Mar./Apr. 2011 California Country magazine

Good ingredients are the cornerstone of good cooking. That's the view of Jeff Rossman, San Diego chef, restaurateur and cookbook author.

Chef Jeff Rossman tests garlic in the field at Sage Mountain Farm. The farm is in tiny Aguanga, a rural community about 20 miles east of Temecula.

Since opening Terra Restaurant in 1998 in the Hillcrest area of San Diego, Rossman has developed a reputation for celebrating the best ingredients local farms have to offer. His menus reflect what's available seasonally. Now he has gathered his favorite recipes into a colorful new cookbook, "From Terra's Table: New American Food, Fresh From Southern California's Organic Farms."

Although Rossman recently announced that he will close his upscale Terra Restaurant in the Hillcrest area of San Diego, he added that he will provide a farm-to-fork experience at the more casual Terra American Bistro in East San Diego.

While his cookbook features 140 recipes, it is also part community garden guide and part farm tour. The book profiles some of the area's best-known farms.

"The coolest thing you notice when you visit Stehly Farms is that they're a big operation that still manages to feel small," Rossman said of family farmers Noel and Jerome Stehly. The brothers grow organic avocados, citrus and berries in northern San Diego County that find their way into a number of dishes Rossman prepares.

It wasn't exactly easy to find Sage Mountain Farm, Rossman acknowledges. What he found down a dirt road about 20 miles east of Temecula is a variety of vegetables growing outside and inside greenhouses. The farm offers heirloom tomatoes, Sage Candy onions and special varieties of garlic, including popular hardneck varieties, which have fewer, larger cloves than the softnecks usually found in supermarkets.

"You get to try some really cool stuff when you hang out with growers," Rossman said.

Here you'll find selected recipes that Rossman says rely on ingredients fresh from California farms.


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