Many of the conferences that I attend, including RCA, Produce First and all CIA Napa events, are sponsored by the many fruit, nut and produce boards in this country—many of which are based in California. Their booths always feature world-renowned chefs whipping up dishes that are incredibly creative and easy to duplicate at home (well … easy for a skilled chef with great kitchen equipment and lots of mise en place assistance … but doable nonetheless). With support from all the growers and government, all the boards have dynamic websites with free downloadable pictures (always give proper credit though!), exciting recipes developed by famous chefs, foodservice ideas, nutritional facts, educator information, industrial formulations and approved manufacturers.

The fruit and nut boards have inspired and helped me in many ways, and I would like to take a moment to thank them for all that they have done, are still doing and will continue to do in 2010. I also want to alert you to some of the fabulous finds on their websites.

I would like to thank the Almond Board of California for sponsoring several of my RCA regional events and for inspiring me (back when I was at Kagome) to develop a shelf-stable romesco sauce that I am sure will someday be picked up by a casual-dining restaurant in the United States. Visit the Almond Board site and check out their menu trends page.

I would like to thank the Peanut Board for sending me a sample of 12% defatted peanut flour (gluten-free) which inspired my upcoming article in the next issue of CULINOLOGY® magazine. You will have to read the article to find out more details (coming out in the June issue), but I could not have done it without their help! Check out the Peanut Board site for great recipes by celebrity chef Suvir Saran (he’s also an author and educator). His seminars at the CIA WOF conference are always my favorites!

I would like to thank the California Dried Plum Board for helping me locate top organic dried plum manufacturers in California and for posting the crop report information so I know how much I should REALLY be paying! Visit the Dried Plum Board website to learn the technical differences between dried-plum paste, purée, butter and concentrate. By the way, it’s the combination of naturally occurring sorbitol and fiber that give dried plums their much-sought-after gastrointestinal-assistance properties.

Photo: California Walnuts

I would like to thank the Watermelon Board for giving me instructions on how to carve a watermelon in 40 different ways. Thanks to their site, I have been able to impress my family and friends with my skillful conversion of a watermelon into a melon-ball-filled fish. Visit the Watermelon Board website for a copy of their free foodservice guide entitled “Watermelon: Thinking Outside of the Rind.

Lastly, I would like to thank the California Walnut Commission and Board for inviting me to attend their Walnut Board Spring Press Event, where I will have the opportunity hear renowned cookbook author Mollie Katzen discuss foodservice trends, tour the Mariani Nut Company and have dinner right in the middle of the orchard fields.

Stay tuned next week for my excusive CulinologyOnline.com report on this walnut-centric event. I will let you know who I met, what I ate, what Chef Mollie prepared and how the walnut processors get the whole nut out of the shell without any breakage!

About Rachel Zemser