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In the summer, a vine-picked, perfectly ripe tomato can hold its own on a plate with a simple splash of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt.

But it becomes even more interesting when it tangos with dance partners that know how to complement and underscore its rich, tangy flavor.

What grows together, goes together. Think tomatoes with corn, tomatoes with salmon, or tomatoes with watermelon - all foods that are harvested or caught in the same season - and you've got a few matches made in heaven.

For more inspiration, we turned to the Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates culinary team, who are currently serving up tomatoes at the tasting room and on the menu of their new dining venture, Partake in Healdsburg.

The crew at Kendall-Jackson is getting ready to host the 17th annual Heirloom Tomato Festival on Sept. 28, when they will unveil the renovated tasting room, new kitchen and redesigned gardens at the Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate and Garden in Santa Rosa.

Using that garden as his inspiration, Kendall-Jackson Executive Chef Justin Wangler came up with four perfect tomato pairings, including a mambo with some meat, a foxtrot with fruit, a Viennese waltz with a vegetable and a cha cha with a sugary treat.

Some of these pairings are classics, while others are more adventurous. Either way, they bring out the best in this season's bounty of love apples.

When you think of steak and tomatoes, think of the yin-yang symbol, with opposites in texture (chewy, soft) and temperature (hot, cold) complementing each other perfectly.

"It's a classic pairing," Wangler said. "And I like the way the juices of the steak blend with the juices of the tomato."

Wangler prefers to grill a hanger steak, which is prized for its flavor. "For the price, the flatiron steak is really good," he said. "I like a big, beefsteak tomato with a thick cut."

At home, Wangler will slice up fingerling potatoes, sprinkle them with olive oil and herbs, then fold them up in tinfoil and throw them on the grill.

While searing the steak and cutting up the tomatoes, he whips up a piquant salsa verde to bring it all together.

In a more offbeat pairing, Wangler suggested blending tomatoes with his favorite fruit, peaches. Both offer crisp acidity balanced by sweetness.

"The peaches have been really good this year," he said.

As a summery entree, Wangler and his staff came up with a light pasta dish finished with spicy basil and fresh cheese.

"It's basically a fruit salad with pasta," he said.

To make the sauce, simply warm the olive oil, pour it over shallots and garlic, then blend in the vinegar and tarragon, fresh peaches and tomatoes.

The warm pasta is cooled by the sauce, and the sauce is warmed by the pasta, making it a delicious, room-temperature dish to serve on a hot night.

"It's actually very trendy," Wangler said. "Martha Stewart has been putting peaches and tomatoes together for a while."

At Partake in Healdsburg, chef/cheese specialist Tracey Shepos plays around with the classic caprese salad, adding summer squash and Castelvetrano olives to the usual tomatoes and mozzarella.

"This time of year, everybody wants mozzarella and tomatoes," she said. "That's because it's so good."

Some of the raw squash is shaved thin, and some is grilled, providing two different flavors and textures.

"The raw squash has a delicate flavor, and the acid in the tomatoes adds to that," she said. "The grilled squash gives you a richness. It has a meaty satisfaction."

Shepos uses the fresh mozzarella from Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co. "It's tender and luscious."

As a dessert, Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates Pastry Chef Robert Nieto makes a honey-flavored panna cotta topped with cornbread croutons and sweet cherry tomatoes.

"It's a play on cornbread and honey," he said. "The acidic tomato goes well with the creamy panna cotta."

The croutons not only add crunch, but a buttery richness, and the honey rounds out the sweetness.

"A tomato is actually considered a fruit," he said. "This is a perfect season to utilize them."

The following recipes are from Executive Chef Justin Wangler of Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates. He suggests pairing this dish with the Kendall-Jackson Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.

Grilled Flat Iron Steak with Fingerling Potatoes and Salsa Verde

Makes 4 servings

For the flat iron steak:

1 (2 pound) flat iron steak, cut in half and fascia (connective tissue) removed

— Kosher salt

— Freshly ground black pepper

— Sea salt

For the grilled fingerling potatoes:

1 pound fingerling potatoes, scrubbed clean

8 sprigs thyme

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

— Freshly ground black pepper

4 cloves garlic

For the salsa verde:

1/2 cup basil

1/2 cup Italian parsley

1/2 cup fresh chives

1 clove garlic

1/2 cup Kendall-Jackson Estate olive oil

1/2 lemon, juiced

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

— Freshly ground black pepper

For the flat iron steak: Remove steaks from refrigerator and allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Preheat grill to high heat.

Pat steaks dry with a paper towel and season generously with salt and pepper. Place steaks on grill over direct heat for 1 minute, flip and cook 1 minute more. Rotate steaks 90 degrees, flip back over and cook for 1 minute, flip again and cook 1 minute more or until done. This will give the steaks nice crosshatch grill marks. Remove flat irons from grill, cover with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Slice the steaks, sprinkle with sea salt and serve.

For grilled fingerling potatoes: Cut potatoes in half lengthwise and cut any larger potatoes in half again so all are relatively the same size. Toss potatoes with remaining ingredients and place in an aluminum foil pouch, being sure to close pouch tightly. Place on the back part of the grill and cook for 20 to 40 minutes depending on the size of the potatoes and temperature of grill.

For salsa verde: Finely chop the herbs and garlic and combine in a bowl. Carefully mix in the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. This mixture can be blended in a blender or carefully whisked in the bowl. Season to taste and serve immediately. (Yield 3/4 cup) Any extra can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.

Wangler pairs this dish wtih the Kendall-Jackson Grand Reserve Chardonnay. You can find the Kendall-Jackson Pinot Noir Verjus at the wine estate on Fulton Road or at Partake in Healdsburg.

Cherry Tomato and Peach Pasta

Makes 4 servings

1 pound cherry tomatoes, halved

4 cloves garlic, shaved

3/4 cup shallot, shaved

1 cup olive oil

1/2 pound peaches, diced small to match the size of the tomatoes

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup Pinot Noir verjus

1 tablespoons fresh tarragon, chopped

1 tablespoon lemon zest

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 pound pasta (farfalle, gemelli or a shape that holds chunky sauce well)

1 cup D?ice de la Vall? cheese (or fresh ch?re)

1/2 cup baby basil leaves

Combine tomatoes, garlic and shallot in a metal bowl or container. Heat olive oil until hot, but not boiling or smoking. Immediately pour the oil over the tomato mixture. Stir to combine and allow to come to room temperature. Add remaining ingredients except for the pasta and cheese; stir to combine. This is best made at least one day in advance. Be sure to allow sauce to come to room temperature again before serving if prepared in advance and refrigerated.

Prior to serving, cook pasta until desired doneness and drain. Immediately combine hot pasta with room temperature tomato mixture. Garnish with cheese and basil to serve.

Pair this dish with the Kendall-Jackson Vintner's Reserve Chardonnay. The Chardonnay grapeseed oil is available at the wine estate or at Partake in Healdsburg.

Point Reyes Mozzarella with Zucchini & Tomatoes

Makes 4 servings

For the bagna cauda:

1/4 cup chardonnay grapeseed oil

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced on mandoline

1 tablespoon lemon zest

1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon lemon juice

For the confit cherry tomatoes:

1/2 pint cherry tomatoes

1/2 cup Meyer lemon olive oil

To serve:

1 small round zucchini

— Kosher salt

1 ball fresh mozzarella (preferably from Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co.)

4 Castelvetrano olives (cut into 6 wedges each)

1/2 preserved Meyer lemon zest, julienned

— Maldon salt

— Freshly ground black pepper

4 baby zucchinis with blossom still intact

2 (6-inch) long zucchini

For bagna cauda: In a small pot, bring oil and garlic up to a simmer. Immediately turn heat down to low and cook garlic until soft, but not toasted. Cool oil mixture and add zest and lemon juice. Set aside.

For the confit cherry tomatoes: Bring a pot of water to a boil, drop in cherry tomatoes for approximately 10 seconds until the skins start to burst (you do not want to cook the tomatoes, just keep them submerged long enough to loosen the skin). Immediately submerge tomatoes into ice bath. Peel skin off tomatoes, let dry on a paper towel.

Put the tomatoes and oil into a small pot and cook on very low heat for about 20 minutes or until the tomatoes begin to wilt. Remove from heat, cool at room temperature, store in oil.

To serve: Shave the round zucchini paper thin on a mandolin. Toss the zucchini with 1 tablespoon bagna cauda and season with salt. Lay 4 to 5 rounds (depending on zucchini size) on the bottom of each serving plate in an overlapping line.

Slice the mozzarella into quarters, then slice each quarter into 4 slices. Overlap 4 slices of mozzarella onto each serving plate of squash. Garnish each with one Castelvetrano olive (cut into 6 pieces) and a slice of preserved lemon on each slice. Sprinkle with Malden sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Preheat grill pan or grill on high. Cut the baby zucchini in half. Place the zucchini cut-side down on the grill and cook until grill marks appear, approximately 1 minute.

Shave the long zucchini into ribbons, toss with 1 tablespoon bagna cauda and salt. Garnish the top of the mozzarella with squash ribbons and drizzle with remaining bagna cauda. Prop grilled squash up against the mozzarella and place 3 to 4 confit tomatoes on the side of the mozzarella for a pop of color and flavor.

This recipe is from Robert Nieto, pastry chef for Kendall—Jackson Wine Estate and Parktake, who would pair the dessert with the Kendall-Jackson Grand Reserve Late Harvest Chardonnay.

Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Cornbread Croutons, Cherry Tomatoes and Honey

Makes 12 servings

For the buttermilk panna cotta:

1 teaspoon gelatin powder

1 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 vanilla bean, split & scraped

1 cup buttermilk

For the cornbread croutons:

4.5 ounces yellow cornmeal

4.1 ounces gluten-free multipurpose flour

2 ounces brown sugar

.8 ounces milk powder

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

6 ounces buttermilk

1 large egg

2.3 ounces chardonnay grapeseed oil

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

To serve:

1 small basket cherry tomatoes

2 ounces honey

For Buttermilk Panna Cotta: In a small bowl, add the gelatin powder and 2 tablespoons water. Set aside and allow to bloom.

In a medium sauce pot, combine the cream, sugar and vanilla bean. Bring to a simmer and remove from heat. Add the gelatin to the cream mixture. Add the buttermilk and stir to combine.

Strain into a pitcher or pourable container. Pour into desired serving containers and refrigerate until set. Panna cotta can be made in advance and refrigerated up to two days.

For the gluten free cornbread croutons: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium size bowl, combine all dry ingredients and mix well.

In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add buttermilk, egg and 1.3 ounces Chardonnay oil. Mix for 1 minute. Turn mixer on low speed and gradually add the dry ingredients in three stages to prevent any lumps. Pour batter in a lined and greased quarter-sheet pan. Bake for 8 minutes, rotate pan, bake for 8 additional minutes. Allow to cool for 30 minutes and then freeze for 2 hours.

Cut the cornbread into 1x1-inch cubes and place in a bowl. Drizzle with 1 ounce Chardonnay grapeseed oil and sprinkle with sugar. Toss cornbread until evenly coated. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes. Allow to cool completely.

To serve: Garnish panna cotta with cornbread croutons, cherry tomatoes and drizzle with honey.

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

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