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 in the garden 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.
Makes 10 to 12
2½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4½ ounces (½ cup plus 1 tablespoon) butter, chilled and cut into large cubes
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk
½ cup heavy cream (see Note below), plus more for brushing the dough
Put the flour, baking soda, baking powder, sugar and salt into the work bowl of a food processor or a medium bowl. Add the butter and pulse several times, or use a pastry cutter, and work until it’s the consistency of coarse cornmeal. Refrigerate until well chilled; overnight is ideal.
To finish the biscuits, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Put the flour mixture into a medium mixing bowl and make a well in the center.
Working quickly, combine the buttermilk and heavy cream and pour the mixture into the center of the flour mixture. Stir gently with a fork until the dough just comes together; do not overwork.
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead it gently until it forms a smooth disk; do not overwork it. Pat the dough until it is about 1-inch thick and cut into 10 to 12 equal pieces. Brush with cream, transfer to a baking sheet, set on the middle rack of the oven and bake until the biscuits are golden brown, 12 to 20 minutes, depending on their thickness.
Note: You can use all buttermilk or substitute ½ cup sweet potato puree for the cream.