Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Simply Organic, Simply Delicious

Jesse Cool is a Bay Area pioneer in healthy, organic, local, sustainable food. For thirty-four years she's created dishes using these principles, creating delicious food and feeding thousands.  Now she has three restaurants, a catering business, and seven cookbooks.  More impressive, she has a loyal following of customers who enjoy her delicacies for both a healthy body and community.

It's not just a feel-good experience to know that the food she's created adheres to these healthy principles. The bottom line is that her dishes taste fantastic. Every time I eat at her restaurants, I enjoy the food immensely. The acclaimed Flea St. Cafe celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, an impressive feat given that the vast majority of restaurants don't survive more than a few years.  

Cool Cafe at the Cantor Art Center on the Stanford campus makes a perfect stop after viewing the impressive and varied collection of art in the museum open Wednesdays through Sundays.  The Cantor museum is a local treasure with free admission, a Rodin sculpture garden outside, numerous Asian art treasures, and rotating exhibits.  The museum also houses the famous Golden Spike, the ceremonial rail spike driven by Leland Stanford to join the rails of the first Transcontinental Railroad across the United States in 1869.

Jesse's newest restaurant is the Cool Cafe in the Menlo Business Park. Recently I visited the restaurant with my friend Judee to try it out. I ordered the Grilled Veggies of the Season sandwich, which had Spring Hill herb cheese spread, seasonal pesto, spinach, and wheat bread, served with organic root chips. The menu also features sandwiches with Niman Ranch ham, Marin Sun Farms grass fed beef, and pasture-raised curry chicken salad. I also love the Balsamic Beet salad, which has Point Reyes bleu cheese, spiced walnuts, and arugula.

Jesse's vision extends beyond the expected. She's collaborated with the Stanford Hospital to create an organic, healthy, delicious menu for inpatients. Who says hospital food has to taste terrible? Called Stanford Hospital and Clinics Farm Fresh, the new menu items aim to help patients heal as quickly as possible, and show them that they are cared for. Soup is one of the main ingredients of the new menu, with seven seasonal choices and chicken noodle soup with vegetables. She offers her soup recipes on the Farm Fresh website, so you can try them at home. We made the potato leek soup and all enjoyed it.

Jesse Cool is a Bay Area food original, an innovator who's made a positive contribution to our community. Savoring her meals not only benefits our stomachs and taste buds, it helps connect us to our local farmers and the bounty they produce.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Cheery Cherry Frozen Yogurt

My teenage daughter Valerie is a great cook, and we count ourselves lucky when she gets in the mood to whip up something delicious in the kitchen. For a couple of years now she has enjoyed making a variety of frozen yogurt flavors using our Cuisinart ice cream maker. She's tried vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, blueberry, orange, and mixed berry flavors. Now that it's cherry season, it's time to make some cherry frozen yogurt with sweet, tart cherries from C.J. Olson's.  

C.J. Olson's has been growing cherries in Sunnyvale, California for 110 years. Now in its fourth generation of family growers, C.J. Olson's sells at a farm stand as well as through a website and at local airports. Besides a variety of fresh cherries, C.J. Olson's sells dried cherries, cherry juice, jams, chocolate covered cherries, other dried fruits, and more. 

For this batch, we used Straus low-fat plain yogurt with C.J. Olson's fresh Rainier cherries grown in Sunnyvale. I love the sweet, delicate flavor of these red-yellow cherries with their crunchy, juicy texture, a mix between Bing and Van varieties.  We topped the frozen yogurt with some of C.J. Olson's dark chocolate covered dried Bing cherries to create a new confection reminiscent of Ben and Jerry's Cherries Garcia frozen yogurt. This fresh, frozen concoction turned out delightfully creamy and flavorful, a just-right dessert that takes advantage of locally grown fruit in season. 

Cheery Cherry Frozen Yogurt

3 cups coarsely chopped, pitted fresh cherries or pitted frozen cherries (we used C.J. Olson's fresh Rainier cherries)
1 cup granulated sugar
4 cups low-fat plain or vanilla yogurt (we like Straus brand)

1.  Mix all ingredients together in a bowl.
2.  Freeze in an ice cream maker following manufacturer's instructions.
3.  Serve or transfer to a freezer container and freeze.

Makes about 6 cups. Top with chocolate covered dried cherries or chocolate chips.

One great feature of the cherry is its bi-annual seasonality: cherries ripen both in late November through February, and again in May through August. At other times of the year, you can still enjoy them dried or chocolate covered. For more cherry recipes including Bing Cherry Cake and Classic Cherry Pie, check out C.J. Olson's website. Cheerio!