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Simple food

  • Stone Edge Farm Estate Vineyards and Winery culinary director John McReynolds is out with a new cookbook, Friday Jan. 31, 2014. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat)

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."

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