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September 6-12, 2006

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Love Apple Labor

By Gretchen Giles

If you don't have a ticket for the sold-out Heirloom Tomato Festival slated for Saturday, Sept. 9, at Kendall-Jackson Vineyards, despair not. You can still eat as though you're there, though perhaps tasting a few less than the 170 varieties to be sliced up that day.

It's kind of a crazy phenomenon, this festival, and has even sparked a small friendly competition among the good folks at Whole Foods. The prepared-foods departments of those stores in Sebastopol, Santa Rosa and Petaluma recently jousted with each other to create an original heirloom tomato recipe worthy of serving to the thousands of worthies set to crowd K-J's gardens this Saturday. Matt Talavera, prepared-foods team leader for the Santa Rosa store, emerged the victor. (Happy disclosure reveals that Matt is the partner of the Bohemian's own Andrea Hollingshead and the father of our favorite six-year-old, Sylvan Talavera.)

Talavera says that he created the recipe from scratch after considering "where it was going to be served and what it would be served with," recommending pairing his refreshing salad with either a Viognier or Syrah. "This salad is a pretty equal balance of both sweet and earthy flavors," he says.

Those without tickets or the desire to cook can still have their heirlooms and eat them, too, as the Santa Rosa Whole Foods (1181 Yulupa Ave.) will feature Talavera's dish in their cold case. How will you know you've found the right place? Just look for the life-sized cardboard replica of the chef that his managers have erected. Nice to know they're proud. Stop by and pet him sometime soon!

Matt Talavera's Heirloom Tomato Prawn Salad
6 medium-to-large heirloom tomatoes
1 c. prawns, peeled and de-veined
8 ounces Beelers pepper-garlic bacon (6 to 8 strips)
1 c. raspberries
1/2 c. white wine
2 lemons
1 c. baby arugula
1/3 c. raspberry vinegar
1 c. olive oil
salt and pepper

Cut bacon in 1/4-inch dice, and place in small sautÈ pan with 1 cup water; cook over medium-high heat. Once water has evaporated, turn down to low heat and stir bacon until evenly browned. Place on paper towel to cool.

Next, zest lemons and chop zest very fine; set aside. Juice lemons into two-quart pot. Add 2 cups water, white wine and 1 tablespoon salt; bring mixture to a boil. Have a strainer and medium-sized bowl of ice water ready nearby. Place prawns into poaching mixture for 2 minutes, remove and quickly immerse in ice water. When cool, cut into small pieces and set aside.

Wash tomatoes, raspberries and arugula. Remove core from tomatoes and cut into 1/2-inch dice. Whisk together vinegar and olive oil, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Place all components except vinaigrette into large bowl and combine gently. Dress lightly with vinaigrette; save remainder for another use as it will keep for a long time in refrigerator. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve cold in a bowl or on a platter; can be served as appetizer or main dish. By removing prawns and bacon, this salad is suitable for vegetarians and vegans as well. Serves four.

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