cooks at home
Theresa St. Clair creates extraordinary recipes for Farm Fresh To You.
WRITTEN BY CATHERINE ENFIELD
PHOTOS BY JOAN CUSICK
There’s quite a contrast between catering events for Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry in Hollywood and doing so in West Sacramento industrial warehouses. Gone are the glitz and glamour of movie stars and celebrity chefs. Theresa St. Clair once was turning out pastry creations for the rich and famous. But now she’s making healthy dishes with fresh, local produce as the new chef/director of recipe development for Farm Fresh To You in West Sacramento.
Chef to the stars
St. Clair moved north to Sacramento in 2014 with her husband and took a break from the hectic chef’s life she lived in Los Angeles. Her résumé is full of high-profile gigs, including working as sous chef/set coordinator on Iron Chef America, co-producing the celebrity ChefDance events at the Sundance Film Festival, and many other star-studded occasions. She is well-versed in meticulously crafting as many as a thousand desserts at a time.
In 2016, she became Farm Fresh To You’s first in-house chef and recipe developer. Now she works quietly alone in her kitchen, surrounded by piles of produce. Her job is to create delicious, enticing recipes using produce with which people might be unfamiliar.
Farm Fresh To You delivers seasonal produce to homes throughout California. Since 1992, its workers have been putting together boxes of fresh, local, community-supported agriculture from participating farms and then delivering them to subscribers. Produce is selected and packed during its natural peak season, so you won’t find citrus in the box in summer or tomatoes during winter. What you might find is a piece of produce you’ve never seen or heard of before. That’s where St. Clair comes in.
St. Clair gets the first pickings of each type of produce that’s about to be harvested. She then creates recipes that will be included in future CSA boxes, on the website, and in the newsletter. If a subscriber gets a box with Romanesco and has no clue what to do with it, that person can turn to the information and recipes in the box, or look some up on Farm Fresh To You’s website.
“My primary goal is to make dishes that will use our produce as well as ingredients you have readily available in your pantry,” St. Clair says.
After trying meal kits from other companies, she realized a number of things.
“Those other meal kit services do have great dishes and supply the ingredients,” she says, “but they often have a lot of wasteful packaging, numerous other ingredients not commonly found in one’s own pantry, and a lot of steps. I try to keep our recipes simple using basic pantry ingredients [such as olive oil and balsamic vinegar], and the produce that’s coming in the CSA box.”
Keeping the recipes simple encourages subscribers to make them again in the future.
St. Clair tests each recipe two to three times, often having company employees taste and critique them. Many times an employee also will take the recipe home to test it there as well. The recipes go through many revisions to make sure they are easy to understand. Once approved, St. Clair carefully photographs and writes an enticing description of the dishes for the website.
Farm Fresh To You’s offerings recently have expanded. Venturing out beyond produce, the company’s customers now will find many other fresh ingredients, including dairy, eggs, and condiments. They also will discover ramen, quiche, juicing, and pizza kits. While the recipes all are vegetarian when written, customers are encouraged to add any meat or seafood they like.
“We started with the pizza kits, which include pizza dough, heirloom tomato sauce, and mozzarella cheese,” St. Clair says. “We were happily surprised by the response and started working on the other kits. The quiche kit comes with crust, white Cheddar cheese, eggs, and cream. You can use one of our numerous recipes or get creative and use any combination of produce and ingredients to make a variety of pizzas or quiches.”
Pasta and soup kits also are in the works.
“There’s teamwork to get the boxes and the recipes out, as well as the ability to get feedback from our customers.” St. Clair says. “I’m really loving my job. I feel like I’m contributing a valuable service by encouraging people to eat fresh, seasonal produce.”
Catherine Enfield is overly obsessed with food and started writing about it nine years ago in her blog, Munchie Musings. In 2010, she helped start the gourmet food truck movement in Sacramento. Since then she also has founded the Sacramento Food Film Festival and Have an Offal Day.
Spring greens pizza
(courtesy of Theresa St. Clair, chef, Farm Fresh To You. Serves 2 to 4)
Crisp asparagus, earthy leeks, buttery artichokes, and peppery arugula all on one pizza make it easy to eat your greens.
1 whole lemon, halved
6 baby artichokes
1 12-ounce ball Full Belly organic pizza dough (included in FFTY pizza kit)
Cornmeal for dusting
½ 15-ounce jar Capay organic heirloom tomato sauce (included in FFTY pizza kit)
½ 8-ounce block Spring Hill Jersey cheese, grated (included in FFTY pizza kit)
6 stalks of asparagus, tough stem removed, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 small leek, cleaned and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
Sea salt, to taste
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh herbs, finely minced
2 cups baby arugula
1 lemon, juiced and zested
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Prepare acidulated ice bath: Fill large bowl halfway with water, add in 1 cup of ice cubes. Squeeze juice from 1 halved lemon into water then add squeezed lemon. Set aside.
Working with one baby artichoke at a time, snap off tough outer leaves until pale-green leaves are exposed. Cut off top third. Using vegetable peeler, peel dark-green layer from base and stem; trim stem. Cut each artichoke in half lengthwise. Place artichokes in acidulated ice water bath until ready to use to prevent browning.
Drain artichokes then place cut side down in steam insert over boiling water. Lower heat to simmer, cover, and cook until artichokes are tender, about 10 minutes. Let cool in steam basket.
Place dough on pizza stone or sheet pan dusted with cornmeal. Gently stretch dough, with lightly floured hands or rolling pin, into a 14- to 16-inch circle, and thinly spread sauce to ½ inch from edges.
Spread cheese evenly across dough. Spread asparagus, leeks, artichokes, and garlic evenly over cheese. Add salt and pepper, to taste.
Brush edges with olive oil and sprinkle with fresh herbs and sea salt.
Bake until crust is crispy and cheese melts, about 12 to 14 minutes.
When pizza is finished cooking, toss baby arugula with a little olive oil, lemon juice, and zest, then sprinkle it over pizza. Serve immediately.
For details about Farm Fresh To You, visit Farmfreshtoyou.com.