This Santa Rosa dad's domain is the kitchen
Being in Adam Fisher’s West End kitchen is a calming pleasure. He moves through the open spaciousness of the newly renovated room with a quiet confidence, reaching for this tool or that ingredient as he talks about how he grew into his love of cooking. His 3-year-old son, Kamal, runs in and out, absorbed in the urgency of play.
“I grew up in Towanda in rural Pennsylvania,” said Fisher, 44, the son of hippies who met in a communal house before marrying and moving to Bradford County, where they raised Adam and his younger sister.
His father worked as a beekeeper, and nearly everything on the family table was made from scratch.
“I don’t recall seeing store-bought bread until I was in college,” Fisher said.
Now married and living in Santa Rosa, he does nearly all the shopping and cooking for his family, even on Father’s Day, a day he considers a Hallmark holiday. He may sleep in a bit, have some good coffee, head over to the West End Farmers Market and into the garden to work with his wife and son. And he suspects he also will cook.
Fisher works as a civil engineer, a job that brought him to Santa Rosa 14 years ago. He met his wife, Santa Rosa acupuncturist Lorelle Saxena, in a food forum on Craigslist, where both were looking for recipes to share with friends who were pregnant. Today, much of his cooking reflects their connection.
Saxena is Indian and Chinese, raised in Honolulu by parents who grew up in their respective countries before moving there. Both are motivated by the comfort aspect of food.
“We seek out our childhood favorites,” Fisher said, adding that he tries to make the best possible versions of Saxena’s childhood favorites.
Fisher cooks several nights a week, spending 30 minutes for something as simple as steak sautéed in ginger butter, or 2½ to 3 hours for Korean fried chicken, a recipe he has nailed. The skin is taut, crisp and perfectly seasoned, the chicken juicy, succulent tenderness.
For vegetables, Fisher gravitates toward preserved greens such as kimchi, sour mustard greens and sauerkraut, lacto-fermented pickles, bread-and-butter pickles, cole slaw and a variety of sturdy greens sautéed in the Asian style, in a very hot pan with a bit of oil. Kamal’s favorites are beet greens and kale, sautéed in either bacon fat or coconut oil.
The refrigerator almost always has congee, a rice porridge that Saxena enjoys for breakfast topped with leftover chicken, julienned chicken skin, pickled vegetables and, sometimes, an egg fried in coconut oil.
On nights when he does not cook, they enjoy a night out at a local restaurant - Willi’s Wine Bar is a favorite - or Saxena cooks. She also knows her way around a kitchen and enjoys the process; gnocchi is one of her specialties, and Kamal enjoys helping make the little potato dumplings.
These days, Fisher does little shopping at farmers markets because of the couple’s spacious backyard garden, which has mature fruit trees that include an enormous fig tree, borage, artichokes, nasturtiums, leeks, carrots, young tomato and pepper plants, horseradish, lots of greens, broccoli, cabbages, a planter full of chives and another full of strawberries.
At the far end of the yard is a sturdy chicken coop with seven hens, two that were hatched here. Kamal has named each one and gathers their eggs, putting them into a small cloth basket that he carries to the kitchen.
Fisher’s pantry is impressive and full of surprises: Chicken stock canned in a pressure canner; apple butter and apple cider vinegar, all homemade. Eight jars of kombucha ferment on a counter, and recently-harvested garlic fills a drawer.
His refrigerator contains raw milk, homemade hard cider, homemade kimchee and tepache, a delicious agua fresca made of pineapple rinds, sugar, ginger, cinnamon and vanilla. Fisher also makes mayonnaise, which Kamal loves on homemade bread.
Fisher shops mostly at Stony Point Oliver’s, Asia Mart, Sonoma County Meat Co., Imwalle Gardens, Lao’s strawberry stand on Highway 12 and, in Cotati, Asiana Market for its broad selection of Korean ingredients.
“I get a few things from Costco, too,” he said, holding up a package of the Garofolo spaghetti he likes.
Fisher also scours the internet for things impossible to find locally, like Wholly Gochujang, a fermented hot pepper paste.
He is inspired by well-known chefs such as David Chang of Momofuku fame and J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, author of “The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science” (Norton, 2015). He also is one of those rare creatures who enjoys both cooking and baking, turning out delicious scones, biscuits, breads and cookies.
After most family dinners, Kamal prepares a follow-up meal in his bedroom kitchen, a well-stocked play area. He runs back and forth with a pan and spoon so his parents can taste his latest concoction.