New book serves up ‘Real Food’

By: Loryll Nicolaisen, Journal staff writer
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Placer County is extraordinarily edible. Joanne Neft and Laura Kenny spent each Monday in 2009 creating and serving dinner for eight in Neft’s Auburn home. Neft, a longtime agriculture advocate, and Kenny, a professional chef, shopped at the Auburn Farmers Market each week and crafted recipes around locally produced fruit, vegetables, meat and more, working with what was in season to create family style dinners. The end result of those 52 dinner parties, and feeding more than 300 guests, is “Placer County Real Food,” a 300-page cookbook showcasing each week’s menu and featuring more than 350 recipes and 280 photos. The book retails for $28. “We certainly did take on a bushel full of work,” Neft said. “We certainly took on a huge task, but we did it.” Neft said it took an entire community to make this book possible, starting with Kenny. “Laura was an amazing partner,” Neft said. Neft said she and Kenny received plenty of input while visiting the farmers market each week. “The farmers were amazing because when they had something new, they called us out the first week and said, ‘This is what we have,’” she said. “Everybody got excited about it — ‘We have peaches,’ or ‘Next week we’re going to have cherries.’ The growers became a part of the process.” The project has definitely been a labor of love, Neft said, and one she’s quite proud of. Neft recalls the moment Merrill Kagan-Weston, president of Auburn Printers & Integrated Marketing, handed over the finished product. “I just stood there and I shed a few tears,” Neft said. “It was like seeing my first-born child.” Needless to say, Neft is quite pleased with the end result, which she’s kept close since she received it. “It’s a very usable book — I’ve been cooking out of it,” she said. “I’ve made a lot of the recipes in the past couple months to see if they are as easy to prepare as we said they are, and they are. Now we’re celebrating and figuring out how to distribute it.” PlacerGROWN hosts the official “Placer County Real Food” cookbook release party on April 18. Tickets are $10 for the event, which features an April tasting menu inspired by spring recipes from the book. “We’re extremely impressed that she spent a year on this,” Karen Killebrew, president of the PlacerGROWN board of directors, said of the project. “It is so needed because there is a group of people out there who would love to shop at the farmers market but profess that they don’t know what to do with it. We think it’s going to set a precedent for other regions of the country for what to do with wonderful food.” PlacerGROWN’s April 18 release party is the first of a handful of Auburn-area events celebrating the cookbook, Neft said. Keep an eye out for cookbooks at a number of Auburn-area locations, including Auburn Drug Company, Tsuda’s Old Town Eatery, Eisley Nursery, East West Quantum Wellness and Carpe Vino. You can also find the book at Newcastle Produce, Blue Goose Produce in Loomis, and, in Lincoln, The Place Gallery. __________ Sautéed Romano Beans with Tomatoes and Parmesan 2 cloves garlic, minced 2 tablespoons butter 1 tablespoon olive oil 3 pounds Romano beans, cleaned 1 cup tomatoes, small diced 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated Salt and pepper In a large sauté pan, heat garlic in butter and oil and sauté Romano beans until tender, about 2 minutes. Toss with tomatoes and cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Courtesy: “Placer County Real Food” __________ Release party What: “Placer County Real Food” When: 1-4 p.m. April 18 Where: Blue Goose Fruit Shed, 3550 Taylor Road, Loomis Cost: $10 Info: Tickets available through Learn more about the project at