I love Sonoma, not only because of its wines, but also because of the amazing food found in the area. Sondra Bernstein’s restaurants, The Girl and The Fig, and The Fig Cafe, are exemplary of what Sonoma has to offer. Executive Chef John Toulze has been working alongside Sondra for over 15 years. They are not just business partners, but friends. This certainly comes out in his food.
Sondra and John have collaborated with the Benziger family to create the Farm Project. It’s aim is to “see how farming our own produce will affect our business and in what ways”. This is perhaps what I remember most about Chef Toulze’s cooking. How fresh and honest it tasted.
I asked Chef Toulze and Sondra to participate in our Chef’s summer series. They shared two recipes with us. Today, we’ll be spotlighting Chef Toulze’s Padron Peppers.
“Padron peppers have gained popularity over the past few years, and with that the price seemed to rise. Two seasons ago, we decided to plant them ourselves and have found this to be a good solution as they grow easily and abundantly! PadrÃ³n peppers are a wonderful treat. They are simple, quick to cook, and make a surprising addition to most summer meals. However, not all PadrÃ³ns are the same; some are delicate and mild in flavor and others surprise you with a spicy bite. There is no way of knowing how spicy they are just by looking at them; you just have to go for it. Other than washing the peppers, there is no preparation before cooking them and you can eat them right up to the stem, making PadrÃ³ns the ultimate finger food”.
Treana Winery White RhÃ´ne Blend, Mer Soleil Vineyard, Central Coast, California
Kunde Family Estate Viognier, Sonoma Valley, California
1 pound PadrÃ³n peppers
3 tablespoons olive oil
½ tablespoon Maldon Sea Salt
2 tablespoons herbed bread crumbs
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (condimento or saba can be substituted)
Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat until almost smoking. In a small bowl combine the peppers and oil and add them to the skillet. Sear the peppers on all sides until browned, about 4 to 6 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Place the peppers on a serving dish and sprinkle them with the salt and bread crumbs. Add a drizzle of the balsamic vinegar over the top.