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John McReynolds, culinary director at Stone Edge Farm in Sonoma, cooked his way across the globe before putting down roots amid the vines of the Sonoma Valley.

From 1995 to 2006, the peripatetic chef became known for the rustic European dishes he showcased at Sonoma's acclaimed Cafe LaHaye, which paired well with the region's wines.

"The first trip I took to Europe was 1977, and I spent five months in Greece and North Africa and Italy," McReynolds said. "I loved the olives and the lemons and the olive oil. That's what resonated with me."

The chef also worked at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Germany, where he met his wife, Brigitte, and fell in love with Eastern European comfort foods like potato pancakes and the dumpling-like spaetzle.

Now 64, McReynolds recently summed up his 30-year career by writing a cookbook, the "Stone Edge Farm Cookbook," released in November.

Since 2008, the chef has worked at Stone Edge, a sustainable vineyard and farm where owner Mac McQuown raises cabernet sauvignon grapes alongside an interdependent web of organic vegetables, olive trees, chickens and honey bees.

Boasting a bevy of beautiful photos and personal essays, the 370-page cookbook at first glance appears destined for the coffee table, alongside Thomas Keller's "The French Laundry" cookbook. But inside, the recipes from McReynolds are surprisingly straightforward and user-friendly.

"The recipes are totally accessible," McReynolds said. "It reflects what I like to cook and eat. I like simple food."

The cookbook also includes lots of hearty winter fare, perfect for serving on Valentine's Day, such as a winter salad of Cara Cara Oranges and Beets, slow-cooked Cabernet-Braised Beef Short Ribs and Celery Root Schnitzel with Sauce Gribiche (a mayonnaise-like sauce spiked with capers, pickles, and hard-boiled egg).

"It's one of those dishes that people really love," he said of the schnitzel, normally made with veal, pork or chicken. "For a vegetarian dish, it's very satisfying."

Earlier this month at Ramekins Culinary School, McReynolds demonstrated a few of his favorite dishes from the cookbook, along with one of his signature desserts from Cafe LaHaye: Chocolate Pot de Creme.

"It's like a big, gooey, wonderful chocolate mousse," he said. "I don't really like doing desserts, so I chose ones that were more simple."

Along with his own predilections, his cookbook reflects many of the cutting-edge trends in the food world, including foraging for wild foods like acorns and edible flowers.

"That's kind of a continuation of my youth, which was spent fishing and hunting," he said. "When I got to Stone Edge, I started taking (foraging) classes, reading books and talking to old-timers."

One of the main incentives for McReynolds to write the book, however, was to explain the philosophy of Stone Edge Farm, where wine is regarded as part of a bigger picture of agriculture and sustainability.

"We like to present our wines with food," McReynolds said. "Wine is a food, so it should be tasted with other foods that have a connection, geographically, on the same piece of land."

McReynolds likes to start with fresh ingredients, which have a short lifespan, then move backward to the wine.

"I'm at the point in my career where I spend more time getting food than cooking it," he said. "It becomes all about the farming and the procuring."

In late spring, McReynolds will be doing more pairing for the public in the winery's new culinary home, Edge, opening just across the street from the still-thriving Cafe LaHaye in downtown Sonoma.

In addition to wine tastings, Edge will offer food-and-wine pairings by appointment, sit-down meals for clients and a few community dinners.

In his spare time, McReynolds volunteers with the Sonoma Valley School Garden Project, which has thriving gardens at all 10 Sonoma public schools that generate produce to serve in the school cafeterias.

McReynolds recently gave cooking classes for the cafeteria food servers, passing along copies of his cookbook, packed with farm-to-table dishes like Tuscan Kale Salad and Roasted Kabocha Squash Soup.

"I call it a vegetable cookbook," he said. "I love meat, but my typical dinner is a lean protein, three vegetables and a salad."

"Stone Edge Farm Cookbook" is available at Readers' Books, Sonoma's Best and Bram in Sonoma, and at <a href="http://stoneedgefarm.com" target="_blank">stoneedgefarm.com</a>.


"Cara caras are red navel oranges that have a good amount of acidity that pairs especially well with the sweet and earthy beets, tangy feta, and the salty olives," McReynolds writes. "If cara caras are not available, a regular navel orange is fine. The salad is garnished with celery leaves and slivers of fennel bulb."

<strong>Cara Cara Orange and Beet Salad with Black Olives and Feta</strong>

Makes 4 servings

<em>4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil</em>

<em> 5 small red beets, rinsed and trimmed</em>

<em> 2 large cara cara oranges</em>

<em> 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced</em>

<em> 1/3 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped</em>

<em> 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar</em>

<em> — Kosher salt</em>

<em> — Freshly ground black pepper</em>

<em> 3 ounces feta, drained and crumbled</em>

<strong><em> For garnish:</em></strong>

<em> 1/2 ennel bulb, sliced very thinly</em>

<em> 12tender leaves of celery</em>

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Arrange the beets in a small baking dish and add enough water to come halfway up the sides of the beets. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cover with foil and bake 60 minutes, or until beets are tender enough to be easily pierced with a knifepoint. Cool to room temperature before peeling. Cut beets in half and then into wedges.

Trim the tops and bases off the oranges. Standing the oranges on end, use a sharp slicing knife to cut swaths of peel and pith in a single arcing cut from top to base. Adjust the position of the orange for the next slice and repeat the cut. Keep rotating and cutting until all skin and pith is removed. Over a small bowl, cut segments of orange between the membranes. Squeeze juice from cut center and peels into the bowl with segments.

Transfer orange segments and juice to a larger bowl and gently combine with the beets, remaining olive oil, the vinegar, and season with salt and pepper.

Arrange salad on plates and sprinkle with the feta. Garnish each salad with the celery and fennel.

<strong>Chef's note:</strong> Bitter Treviso radicchio cut into strips could be substituted for the celery leaves. I think this salad is beautiful with the all red palette, but golden or chioggia beets could also be used.


"Rich and succulent, this is one of the easiest dishes to prepare ahead for a dinner party," he writes. "These short ribs are virtually foolproof. The beef and wine need to be of especially high quality, and the rest is just paying a little attention while the ribs cook slowly in the oven and fill the house with an enticing aroma."

<strong>Cabernet-Braised Beef Short Ribs</strong>

Makes 4 servings

<em>— Kosher salt</em>

<em> 4 pieces of beef short ribs (approximately 3 to 4 pounds), cut into 2-inch sections, with the bone attached</em>

<em> — Freshly ground black pepper</em>

<em> 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil or duck fat</em>

<em> 2 large yellow onions, sliced</em>

<em> 2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped</em>

<em> 1 stalk celery, chopped</em>

<em> 2 cloves garlic</em>

<em> 2 tablespoons tomato paste</em>

<em> 3 cups red wine</em>

<em> 3 cups rich chicken or beef stock</em>

<em> 8 sprigs fresh thyme</em>

<em> 2 bay leaves</em>

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Rub salt evenly on short ribs and sprinkle with pepper. Heat a large stovetop-to-oven roasting pan, preferably enameled cast-iron with a lid, to medium high. Add oil. Add short ribs and brown evenly on all sides in batches, without overcrowding. Transfer meat to a large plate and set aside.

Reduce heat to medium low and add onions, carrots, celery, and garlic. Cook and stir until vegetables are soft and lightly browned. Add tomato paste, wine, stock, thyme, and bay leaves and increase heat to medium high, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to dislodge any brown bits. Return short ribs to the pan, cover, place in the oven, and cook undisturbed for 2 1/2 hours. Add more stock or water if needed to cover the meat and vegetables by an inch. Remove the lid and allow the short ribs to cook for 30 minutes more. (This last half hour of uncovered cooking will help caramelize the meat and reduce the liquid.)

Check meat for doneness by inserting a fork and gently twisting it. When meat is ready, it will be fork-tender and will pull away from the bone. Carefully remove short ribs to a platter and cover with foil.

Pour the liquid from the pan through a strainer and, with the back of a spoon, press lightly on the cooked vegetables to release more liquid. Discard vegetables.

Pour liquid into a small saucepan, bring to a boil, and skim fat off the top. Continue gently boiling and skimming until all fat is removed and sauce is reduced and thickened. The yield should be about 2 cups.

The bones may be left in or removed before serving. Serve with spaetzle, mashed potatoes, or egg noodles.

<strong>Chef's notes:</strong> These braised beef ribs, like all stews and braised meats, taste better the day after you have made them. Also, after they have been refrigerated it is easier to remove the congealed fat. If making them a day ahead, strain and discard the cooked vegetables but leave the meat submerged in the sauce. The next day, discard the solidified fat and remove the meat and sauce to a shallow roasting pan. Spoon the sauce over the meat and reheat, uncovered, in a 400 degree oven on the top rack for 15 minutes. Spoon some of the sauce over each serving.


<strong>Chocolate Pots de Cr?e</strong>

Makes 4 servings

<em>2 tablespoons heavy cream</em>

<em> 1 cup heavy cream</em>

<em> 1 cup milk</em>

<em> 1/2 vanilla bean</em>

<em> 12 coffee beans</em>

<em> 5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, such as Scharffen Berger or Callebaut</em>

<em> 3 ounces sugar</em>

<em> 5 egg yolks</em>

Heat 1 cup cream, milk, vanilla beans and coffee beans in stainless steel pot. Turn off heat and let steep one hour.

Melt chocolate over double boiler with 2 tablespoons cream. Do not let chocolate get too hot. With a metal whisk, stirring constantly, add the cream-milk mixture.

In a separate large metal bowl, mix eggs and sugar, taking care not to make the eggs frothy. Pour 1 cup of the chocolate-cream mixture into the eggs, stirring constantly but again taking care not to froth the eggs. Pour the rest of the chocolate-cream mixture into the egg mixture. Strain through a fine mesh strainer.

Place ramekins in a roasting pan. Fill each ramekin with the chocolate mixture. Pour hot water into the roasting pan until it is halfway up to the side of each ramekin. Cover with aluminum foil and very carefully place in 350 oven for 45 minutes or until set.

Allow to cool and then refrigerate before serving.

<em> You can reach Staff Writer Diane Peterson at 521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com</em>

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