Sonoma County Chefs Share Favorite Feel-Good Recipes

Start the year right with some delicious dishes that are good for your health and the planet.

The new year is a time to embark on new behaviors and encourage healthier habits. These four Sonoma chefs work to eliminate processed foods, emphasizing clean eating and cooking with whole ingredients.

They shrug off labels such as vegan or omnivore in favor of a more holistic approach that’s plantforward but not strictly vegetarian, reminding us that our food choices affect not only our bodies, but our community and planet.

Adrian and Susan Olvera of El Huerto of Sonoma
Adrian and Susan Olvera of El Huerto in Sonoma. (Chris Hardy)

Susan & Adrian Olvera, El Huerto, Sonoma

Husband and wife Susan and Adrian Olvera of El Huerto (“the orchard”) have created a welcoming, plant-based superfood bar of smoothies, freshly pressed juices, bowls, salads, and toasts at their sweet Sonoma storefront. “We want our food to be transparent, as honest as possible,” says Susan.

Adrian’s ingredient choices are influenced by his Mexican father, a farmer who carried a deep sense of connection to the land, while Susan, who was raised in Marin, learned to season and prep ingredients by watching her mom take on catering work.

The couple finds motivation in their two young children, who they say help them make more compassionate choices in their everyday lives. (A drive past a cattle farm on a family road trip provoked a discussion of farming and animal welfare with their son.) At home, Susan, who has a gluten allergy, cooks a lot of Guatemalan dishes, incorporating the flavors of cumin, mint, and pumpkin seeds. They say when they eat more vegetables, they feel less heavy after meals and aren’t nearly as tired. And Susan loves that their kids reach for chickpeas, cucumbers, and carrots first and — hooray — even limit their own sweets at parties.

Their next step? In the new year, they hope to open a food truck to take their healthy salads and bowls on the road, particularly to students at local colleges.

El Huerto, 19213 Sonoma Highway, inside the Maxwell Village Shopping Center. 707-934-8791.

Adrian and Susan Olvera of El Huerto of Sonoma
El Huerto’s Shredded Vegetable Salad with Avocado-Lime Dressing. (Chris Hardy)
El Huerto’s Shredded Vegetable Salad with Avocado-Lime Dressing

This bright salad is texturally more like a slaw and a great option for the winter months. Top with feta or cotija cheese and a hard-boiled egg for a heartier meal. Use any extra dressing on salads or as a dip or sandwich spread. Because of the lime, it will keep its bright green color refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Avocado-Lime Dressing

• 1 large avocado

• 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

• Juice of 1 lime

• ¼ cup hemp seeds

• ¾ teaspoon granulated garlic

• ½ teaspoon Himalayan pink salt

• Pinch dried dill


• 2 cups shredded mixed kale, Brussels sprouts, and carrots

• ½ cucumber, cut into ½-inch pieces

• 3 radishes, cut into quarters

• 1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds

Combine all of the dressing ingredients in a small food processor or high-powered blender, blending until smooth. It’ll be thick — add water a little at a time to loosen slightly if needed. Season to taste with granulated garlic, salt, and dill.

Combine the mixed vegetables, cucumber, radish, and pepitas.

Spoon on a generous dollop of the dressing and toss to coat.

Serves one.

Dalia Martinez And her medicinal pesto and we will give the baserecipe as well as multiple uses for it. At flour + bone
Dalia Martinez of  flower + bone beauty in Santa Rosa. (Chris Hardy)

Dalia Martinez, Flower + Bone Beauty, Santa Rosa

Although cooking runs in the family, Santa Rosa native Dalia Martinez never thought she would cook for a living. A student of theater and cinema, she has an insatiable appetite for philosophy, political science, and global politics, coupled with an adoration of fashion and trends.

Extensive travel in Mexico, Europe, and Asia introduced her to “clean flavors” and taught her to taste. “When you have a passion for taste you will do anything to recreate it,” she says. It is that passion that strengthened her skills, first as a student cooking for friends, then as part of off-the-grid guerrilla dinners in San Francisco. She fed people in shops and warehouses, supported farmers directly, and became a chef on her own path.

Eating directly sourced ingredients, Martinez noticed an improvement to her health and also a different way of looking at beauty, a theme she will explore at flower + bone beauty, the new iteration of flower + bone, opening in early 2020. “To me, beauty is not something that is a goal. It already is,” she says.

“When you are happy, your perspective changes. When you are aware of your emotions, you will be more attracted to the healthier choices that will nourish you.”

flower + bone beauty, 640 Fifth St., Santa Rosa, 707-708-8529,

Dalia Martinez And her medicinal pesto and we will give the baserecipe as well as multiple uses for it. At flour + bone
Dalia Martinez prepares her Nettle Pesto at flower + bone in Santa Rosa. (Chris Hardy)

Dalia Martinez And her medicinal pesto and we will give the baserecipe as well as multiple uses for it. At flour + bone

Dalia Martinez’s Nettle Pesto

Nettles are the multivitamin of the herbal world, explains Martinez, with benefits for respiratory, hormonal, and digestive health. And unlike other medicinal greens, nettles have a very mild flavor. Whether foraged or from farmers markets, Northern California’s nettles are at their best now after early rains.

Touching raw nettles will make hands itchy, so always wear gloves. The garlic in this recipe can be left out or increased as you like. The hemp seeds, which add a creaminess and piney flavor, can be adjusted or omitted as well. And texturally, adding a bit more olive oil will bring this from a spreadable paste to a looser pesto.

To enjoy, spread on wild fermented bread for an open-faced tartine, topped with grated carrots, sprouts, and herbs. Spoon onto a plate as the base layer of a salad with vegetables layered on top. Or mix with cooked quinoa, raisins, and nuts for a pilaf.

• ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for the pan

• 1 cup finely chopped yellow onion

• Fine sea salt

• 6 ounces wild nettle

• 1 garlic clove, chopped, optional

• ½ cup hemp seeds

Heat a film of olive oil in a cast iron pan over medium-low heat.

Add the onion and a generous pinch of salt. Cook slowly, stirring often, until caramelized, sticky, and a rich golden brown, being careful not to burn, about 30 minutes. Transfer the onions to a food processor or high-powered blender.

Meanwhile, fill a large bowl with water. Working with gloves, separate the nettle leaves from the stems and soak the leaves for 15 minutes to loosen any dirt and remove the sting. Smaller, younger nettle leaves do not need to be separated from the stems if they are tender.

Add a bit more oil to the pan, if needed, and return to the heat.

With gloves, lift the nettle from the water, leaving the grit behind, and cook to wilt. Add to the food processor.

Add the garlic to the food processor and pulse to combine. Add the hemp seeds with 1 teaspoon of salt. While processing, add half of the oil in a steady stream, followed by 1 tablespoon of water. Continue adding oil until smooth. Season to taste with salt.

Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 3 days or cover and freeze in ice cube trays for up to 3 months.

Makes 1 cup of pesto.

Gia Baiocchi and vegan miso bone broth
Gia Baiocchi of The Nectary in Sebastopol in Healdsburg. (Chris Hardy)

Gia Baiocchi, The Nectary, Sebastopol and Healdsburg

Gia Baiocchi is a generous west county community leader, living and teaching by example with her steadfast belief that food is medicine. At The Nectary, she embodies the position that there is community connectedness at all levels and works to convey gratitude toward growers, purveyors, and employees.

Baiocchi looks at the body’s mechanisms as an inner landscape. “It is changing, just like our physical landscape.

There is fire and flood, things die, then there is regrowth. We need to constantly go in there and get reacquainted.” She experienced this tumult and recovery firsthand after last spring’s Barlow floods and this past fall’s evacuations and fires.

About a year ago, Baiocchi reexamined her own diet to get to the root of a serious illness.

The results rocked her beliefs to the core. After following a plant-based program for nearly 30 years, she started consuming bone broth, which put her on the road to recovery (though she still believes in the health and environmental benefits of plant-based eating). “What I learned is we don’t listen to our bodies.

Illness is a healing, empowering opportunity. It is the difference between racing to get better versus gleaning and gaining knowledge from it.”

The Nectary, 6760 McKinley St. #130, Sebastopol, 707-829-2697, and 312 Center St., Healdsburg, 707-473-0677,

Gia Baiocchi and vegan miso bone broth
Gia Baiocchi prepares her Medicinal Miso Soup. (Chris Hardy)

Gia Baiocchi and vegan miso bone broth

Gia Baiocchi’s Medicinal Miso Soup

Baiocchi acknowledges that the unknown can be intimidating, particularly when adding more plants into your meals or exploring medicinal roots and herbs, but she says the new year is a good time to try on something new. The medicinal herbs and spices in this soup can be locally sourced at Rosemary’s Garden in Sebastopol or through The seaweeds and gomasio are found in the Asian foods section of most markets.

• 4 quarts water

• ½ cup peeled, ½-inch chopped fresh ginger

• ½ cup peeled, ½-inch chopped fresh burdock root

• ½ cup dried astragalus root

• 2 tablespoons dried nettle root

• 2 tablespoons dried reishi mushroom

• One 6-inch piece kombu seaweed

• ½ tablespoon fennel seed

• 2 tablespoons dried codonopsis root

• ½ tablespoon ground coriander

• 2 tablespoons goji berries

• 2 tablespoons dried nettle leaf

• 2 tablespoons to ¼ cup coconut amino acids

• 1 to 3 tablespoons miso, preferably a chickpea miso

• Fine sea salt

• Shredded carrot

• Shredded daikon radish

• Thinly sliced nori seaweed

• Thinly sliced dulse seaweed

• Sesame oil or ghee

• Cilantro leaves

• Gomasio or lightly toasted sesame seeds

Bring the water just to a boil in a stock pot, add the ginger, burdock, astragalus root, nettle root, reishi mushroom, kombu, fennel seed, and codonopsis root. Stir to combine, reduce the heat, and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain into a clean pot.

Add the coriander, goji berries, and the nettle leaf. Bring back to a simmer, cover, turn off the heat, and let steep for 15 minutes. Strain again. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the aminos and 1½ tablespoons of miso.

Add additional aminos, miso, and salt to taste. The broth may be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days or covered and frozen for up to 3 months.

For each serving, put 2 tablespoons carrot, 2 tablespoons daikon, 2 teaspoons nori, and 1 teaspoon dulse in a bowl and ladle over 1 cup hot broth. Drizzle with sesame oil and top with cilantro and gomasio.

Makes 3 quarts.