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09.12.07

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Photograph by Amber Turpin
Purple Passion: Eggplant starred in Shumei's farm party feast.

Dish

Shumei in Bonny Doon; La Posta's family-style night; Aunt Nettie's gazpacho

By AMBER TURPIN


Farm and Family

A FARM WITH SPIRIT Shumei is a spiritual organization whose adherents believe that through an appreciation of art, beauty, nature, "natural agriculture" and a healing practice called Jyorei our world can break away from poverty and sickness. This nonprofit now has seven more centers here in the United States, with the main farm right in Bonny Doon since 2004. Seven acres of faithfully hand-tended crops create a practicing example of Shumei's agricultural methods. "Soil has a heart," says farm manager Masaharu Noda. On Sept. 2, Shumei hosted an open farm event with free Jyorei sessions (the "art of focusing and directing healing energy"), a produce stand, farm tour and Taiko drum performances. Using fresh produce from the farm, volunteer chef Yasue Aruga of San Francisco created a delicious feast from summer's best, including many traditional Japanese preparations such as the crisp and tangy cucumber pickle with Walla Walla onions or the miso and tahini green beans with zucchini and shiso, a fresh herb with complex flavors reminiscent of licorice, basil and mint. Simply grilled meats and the quinoa salad with roasted potato and mustard seeds in garlic-soy dressing were superb and distinct. A decadent standout was the creamy baked penne with eggplant, basil and a béchamel sauce made with flour from Shumei's own ground wheat. For more info visit www.shumei.org.

FAMILY FRIENDLY Every Sunday evening, La Posta in Seabright puts on a four-course, family-style dinner specific to various Italian regions. Last weekend's prix fixe ($30) menu featured foods from Veneto with three suggested wines to match. We began with a vibrant salad of seasonal bitter greens topped with shaved parmesan and toasted walnuts. Next came perciatelli (thick spaghetti) with duck and radicchio. A plateful of perfectly cooked, creamy cranberry beans and tomato was topped with fresh roasted and stuffed sardines. Amaretti-baked peaches with soft whipped cream finished the meal. Call 831.457.2782 for reservations.

FAREWELL As summer comes to an end, one by one the produce gems that we've gorged on this season will make their final appearances. One local wholesale company, Aunt Nettie's Kitchen (celebrating its 20th anniversary), makes a gazpacho that is quintessential summer with a perfect balance of savory tomato, cooling cucumber, the bite of green pepper and a tangy hint of sourdough bread. The texture is not quite blended smooth, with just enough crunch in each spoonful to keep things interesting.

Kelly Saenz, Aunt Nettie's soup maker (she makes over 30 other varieties), attributes her love of this gazpacho to a similar one her Aunt Lil used to make. Gail Giddings, founder and co-owner of Aunt Nettie's Kitchen with Mark Zellar, created this gazpacho recipe herself in a drive to find a truly authentic Spanish flavor after finding most cookbook versions a flop. As with the season, this soup will be disappearing soon, so grab some if you can at most local grocers and cafes in Santa Cruz and the Bay Area, or call 831.423.9421 to find a source near you.


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