1st and 2nd Honorable Mention – 2015 Recipe Contest

Chef Richie here, at your service!

Our first honorable mention prizewinner in our 2015 recipe contest is…are…home chefs (there are TWO this month!)…drum roll please…Paula Todora for her Cowgirl Cornbread and Marcos Gonzalez for his Sun Dried Tomato Jam! Congratulations Chefs! You will each receive a deluxe gift box of Bella Sun Luci products so you can get going on your recipe entries for next year’s contest. Keep up the good work and maybe your next recipe will put you in the money!

I’m honorably mentioning two recipes at the same time because I feel they compliment each other perfectly. The savory cornbread paired with the sweet jam is an excellent marriage and I recommend that you readers cook these two together at home. Chef Richie says: “I think a few savory sausages like Italian, or hot links, or garlic-basil, or even sweeter sausages like chicken apple, especially at brunch, would be wonderful additions as well, or…how about fried chicken?!” And I’m mentioning these two recipes specifically at this time of year because seasonal availability is an important quality factor. I urge you to stick to the seasons with enthusiastic verve. The ingredients in these two recipes are summer specialties. Around here, around now, we should be seeing corn at 10 ears for a dollar! And tomatoes are super abundant in my garden right now.

I have to admit I made a couple of small adjustments to the two recipes…and I want to mention to cooks reading this that cooking is a constant series of adjustments. You simply do the best you can with what you have, and…a good attitude. I believe that a good attitude (some might say, “love”) is the most important ingredient of all. My old chef-mentor Jack told me once that, “there are 1,000 ways to get the same result.” Jack exaggerated a lot, but there is truth in his words.

I didn’t have cumin seeds for the cornbread, but I did have ground cumin. Knowing that the ground cumin would have much more flavor than the seeds, spoon for spoon, I used 1 TB of the ground instead of the 2 TB of the seeds. This worked very well, with the cumin flavor noticeable but not overpowering.

The adjustments I made with the jam recipe were because these two things weren’t mentioned in the procedure section: A) Instead of cooking the whole orange, I cut it into thick slices; and B) I didn’t use the 1 oz of oil mentioned in the ingredients.

Details in these two recipes that excited my sensitivities as a chef included:

*The use of fresh corn cut off the cob in the cornbread. I have done this with polenta and I love it. And corn salad and corn salsa are huge favorites of mine. Also, in order to not make a mess when cutting the corn off the cob, I lay the whole ear FLAT on the cutting board. This way, instead of the kernels flying all over the place, like when you hold the ear standing straight up and down, the kernels stay next to the ear…much cleaner.

*The orange-basil-sun dried tomato combination in the jam is a real winner. Those flavors would go great together in several dishes I can think of…chicken, fish, salad (with red onion and avocado!), and, as proven here, anything with corn it.

Cowgirl Cornbread


  • 2 Tablespoons Bella Sun Luci California Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oil, divided use
  • ¼ cup chopped mild yellow onion
  • 1 Anaheim chile, seeded and diced
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
  • ¼ cup drained and chopped plus 8 Julienned strips, drained well-Bella Sun Luci Sun Dried Julienne-Cut Tomatoes with Herbs and Extra Virgin Olive Oil, reserving oil
  • 2 fresh corn on the cobs, corn removed (substitute ¾ cup frozen if not available)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons whole cumin seeds
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese


  • Prepare Skillet-
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Pour 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil into a 9-inch or 10-inch round cast iron skillet, swirling oil around to coat bottom and sides, brushing with a pastry brush if necessary. Set aside.

Cook Vegetables

In a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat, add the other Tablespoon of olive oil and heat for 1 minute. Add the onion, Anaheim chile, garlic, ¼ cup drained and diced sun dried tomatoes with herbs and corn kernels. Cook, stirring, 5 minutes.
Add the salt, pepper and cumin seeds and continue to cook, stirring, an additional 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

Make Batter

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, buttermilk and ¼ cup reserved sundried tomato oil. Add the cooked vegetables and stir to combine. In a large bowl, whisk together cornmeal, flour, salt and sugar. Gradually add egg/vegetable mixture to dry mixture. Add cheese and gently stir mixture just until combined.


Place prepared skillet into preheated oven for 5 minutes to heat oil. Pour cornbread mixture into heated skillet. Place remaining 8 sundried tomato Julienne strips on top in a spoke-like fashion. Bake 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean and top is golden. Cut into 8 slices and serve hot.

Bella Sun Luci Sun Dried Tomato Jam Recipe


  • 4 cups Fresh Tomato (large diced)
  • 3-5 Garlic Cloves (chopped)
  • ½ Onion chopped
  • ½ Bell Pepper (Red)
  • 1 Whole Orange
  • 1 Cup Sun Luci Sun Dried Tomato
  • 1 Spring Oregano
  • 2oz. Fresh Basil
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Black Pepper
  • 1 small Bay leaf
  • 1 ½ Cup Sugar
  • 1oz. Honey (Optional)

In a medium saucepan preheat to medium –low heat then add garlic, onion, bell peppers, oregano and bay leaf. Sweat that until onions are translucent than add fresh tomato, basil, orange, black pepper and salt and Bella Sun Luci sun dried tomatoes. Cook everything until fresh tomato has release their liquid (5 – 8 minutes cook time). Add sugar and stir occasionally. After 10 minutes removed orange and bay leaf. Keep cooking and stirring occasionally for 10 – 15 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to a blender and pulse until rough texture, this will give the jam and unique and rustic appearance. Return back to the stove and cook for another 5 minutes. Consistency should be medium thick like a jam. Add 1 ounce of honey if results are too acidic – this also will give unique gloss.

I’m impressed by the caliber of recipes submitted this year and I look forward to cooking and telling you about the next 10 honorable mention recipes that I’ve begun testing here at Bella Sun Luci. Congratulations Paula and Marcos!

Happy cooking and buon appetito!

Chef Richie Hirshen

Corporate Chef

Mooney Farms and Bella Sun Luci

Chico, CA

Chef Richie

About Chef Richie

As corporate chef for Bella Sun Luci, Richard "Chef Richie" Hirshen, whose culinary career spans more than 30 years, plays an instrumental role in product development, recipe creation, and cooking demonstrations.

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