This past week, I had the pleasure of photographing the March event hosted by Fresh Starts Chef Events, a project to support Homeward Bound of Marin, a homeless shelter in Marin County, California, providing food, shelter and job training for those in need. This month’s Marin County Cooking Class event featured the team of James Beard nominated, Della Fattoria, a bakery and cafe located in Petaluma, California. Della Fattoria was named one of “America’s 10 Best Bread Bakeries” by Bon Appetit magazine in 2011, and their book, Della Fattoria Bread, written by founder and baker, Kathleen Weber, was recently nominated for a James Beard award. Kathleen Weber is a self-described “obsessive baker” whose bread has graced the tables of renowned wine county destinations, including The French Laundry and Sonoma Mission Inn. For the event, Chef Weber brought a team of chefs, including her son, Chef Aaron Weber.
The evening was sponsored by local favorite, The Republic of Tea, who also provided this refreshing lemon chiffon tea. So good!
The menu for the evening began with a Green Salad with Citronette. I normally make all my salads at home with romaine or mixed spring greens, but this bib/butter lettuce was really delicious and mild. Anyone know the nutritional content of bib lettuce compared to romaine? I’d love to try using bib lettuce instead of romaine.
Avocado was incorporated into the lemon juice vinaigrette, producing a wonderfully creamy dressing. I usually add slices or chunks of avocado into my salads, but breaking it down into the dressing sounds like a great idea — a sort of healthy creaminess! The sprinkled goat cheese on top added an extra bit of creaminess.
The main course was a Lamb Tagine with Dried Apricots, Golden Raisins and Pomegranate. Lamb is one of my favorite meats (I almost order it whenever I see it on a restaurant menu), and I love it when a bit of sweet is mixed with savory.
This tagine was super flavorful with all the dried fruits and spices, like saffron, turmeric, ginger, cumin and paprika.
In case you don’t have a tagine (I wonder how many people actually do), the Webers shared that a dutch oven could be used instead.
I snuck this cute picture of the Della Fattoria staff eating the lamb tagine that the students made. It’s one of my favorite pictures of the evening because it not only shows them as a family eating together (which is very much in line with the values of their bakery), but also in their natural, unguarded state when everyone else was eating. Plus, I love the irony of them eating their own recipes that someone else prepared!
And finally, Lemon Cream Tarts for dessert. Although I was stuffed to the brim, I could always find room for some lemony goodness! These were buttery, tangy, and absolutely delicious!
The preparation of the crust…
…followed by the making of the lemon cream…
…the addition of the meringue….
And finally, the torching of the meringue.
At the end of the evening, Chef Aaron Weber shared how they roll out their dough for their delicious bread. He made it look so simple, but it obviously took years and years of practice.
He demonstrated the rolling out of baguettes,
Kathleen shared throughout the evening about their “bread starter” and how it is on a tight schedule. They feed it twice a day “like a kid or a dog”, so that it doesn’t get too sour and remains the consistency of biscuit dough, which allows it to require no refrigeration. Their starter is less wet, which makes it less fragile and makes the bread nuttier tasting. She added that if the starter has too much liquid, the sugar gets eaten too fast, which would normally require it to be refrigerated.
I already have 2 kids to worry about feeding, so I’ll just continue to enjoy eating the bread instead of making my own.
It was such a fun evening, and the food was so tasty! Check back for April’s event with Eco-Chef Bryant Terry, the author of Afro-Vegan, which was named by Amazon.com as one of the best cookbooks of 2014. Plus vegan soul food?? Very intriguing!
Since I’ve been in quite the salad mood lately, here is Della Fattoria’s Green Salad with Citronette recipe to try. Enjoy!
Green Salad with Citronette
1 lemon, cut in half
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 small shallot, coarsely chopped
2 heads bibb or butter lettuce, any rough outer leaves removed and discarded
1/2 ripe avocado
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Coarsely cut or torn basil, mint or oregano leaves
1/4 cup crumbled fresh goat cheese
1. Squeeze the lemon into a large salad bowl. Add the salt, mustard and shallot.
2. Separate the heads of lettuce into individual leaves and wash and dry well.
3. Add the avocado to the lemon juice mixture and use a whisk to break it up. Give everything a turn with the whisk to combine, then slowly whisk in the olive oil until you have an emulsified mixture; the amount of oil you add will depend on the tartness of the lemon. The dressing will be thick, but should be loose enough to toss with and coat the lettuce leaves.
4. Season with additional salt to taste, then add the herbs, if using, and add the greens, tossing to coat.
5. Scatter the cheese over the top, if using, and serve the salad with the sliced bread on the side.