Awhile back farmer Jerry Rutiz bought himself a portable wood-burning pizza oven. Portable is a relative term here; the oven weighs 350 pounds. Anyway, Jerry’s been practicing making pizza dough and learning the ways of the oven, and a couple of weeks ago, he was ready to debut his skills to friends and family.
This is Farmer Jerry.
This is one of the robust fields on Jerry’s 30-acre family farm.
About twenty of us gathered at the family’s urban farm in the heart of Arroyo Grande in San Luis Obispo County. Rutiz Family Farms grows mostly row crops, everyday foods with great flavor: sweet winter squash like the one shown here, fat carrots, lush parsley, potatoes, and incredible tomatoes.When it comes to Jerry’s Early Girls, that terroir thing yields tomatoes with as much snap and pep as the ones I tasted famously grown in the volcanic soil around Mt. Vesuvius.
Some of us spent the afternoon picking sweet, ripe raspberries.
And some of us got busy in the “kitchen.” If you think impulse shopping is hard to resist at a farmers’ market, Chef Rich Mead and I were like kids in a candy store as we chose topping, side, and salad ingredients from field and farm stand. I love cooking outdoors at the Rutiz farm. Over the years, Jerry, his wife Maureen, and I have done cooking demos together for their farmstand and CSA customers.
Then we made pizzas.
Not knowing when to stop, we also grilled hamburgers and sausages (from Jerry’s cow), a sockeye salmon that Jerry had caught on a recent trip to Alaska, and an exceptionally plump home-grown and slaughtered chicken supplied by friends.
We capped off the evening with a campfire, s’mores, and a giant peach crisp I had brought from home that we heated in the now mellowing heat of the pizza oven. It was a lovely end to the summer.