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'A keepsake for O.C. community'

A

new cookbook is making mouths water throughout Orange County.

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Cleverly titled "Orange County Fare: A Culinary Journey Through the California Riviera," the tome compiled by the Newport Beach-based Junior League of Orange County boasts hundreds of recipes from local celebrity chefs, luminaries and foodies.

The book will be sold to benefit the league's community outreach projects Saturday at a culinary demonstration by local chef Zov Karamardian, of Zov's Bistro in Tustin and her other eponymous cafes in Newport Coast and Irvine.

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"We had more than 450 recipe submissions to the cookbook, and we triple-tested all of them," outgoing cookbook committee chair Courtney Blackwell said; she another committee member self-tested at least half of the submissions themselves.

"Only the best of the best got in," new Junior League President Denise Scott said. About 200 recipes made the final cut, including Karamardian's.

Saturday at the Bloomingdale's Home Store at Fashion Island, Karamardian will prepare zucchini fritters with smoked salmon; Asian noodle chicken salad; and an easy, crowd-pleasing dessert of caramelized apples with cognac and vanilla ice cream.

"I always try to think of ways to serve ooey-gooey desserts that are not that hard to make," she said.

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Karamardian said education is one of her passions and priorities. Along with the cooking demonstration at Bloomingdale's, she hosts complimentary classes at her cafes.

She will teach how to make couscous salad with grilled chicken at 11 a.m. July 24 at her Newport Coast location; interested parties can register at zovs.com, where she also blogs about cooking and food.

Karamardian said she has helped out with past charity cookbooks, and enjoys helping with such endeavors.

"I was really honored to be asked to share a recipe," she said. "The recipe I chose was roasted tenderloin of beef with fresh thyme sauce. Main courses often are a problem for people who entertain. I thought this would be such a good recipe to submit, because it's so good, and it's so foolproof, and it's so elegant. I've gotten a lot of good feedback on it."

Not least of all from Junior League members.

"The sauce is the perfect complement for that dish," Scott said.

"My mother made it and it was delicious and easy," Blackwell said. "She made it for a party, and everyone was delighted. They all loved it. My personal favorite recipe is the Mediterranean orzo pasta spinach salad with tortellini. It's delicious, and it can be made in 10 to 15 minutes. And the best thing is that my kids ate it all; that was justice enough for me. … It's a cookbook for everyone. I've spoken with a lot of chefs who are so excited to see some of the harder recipes in there, but there are also options for people who don't cook a lot."

Scott contributed an easy pumpkin cake recipe to the cookbook, and said one of her favorite recipes in the book is for shrimp salsa.

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"It reminds me of California," she said. "It's fresh, and it's seafood, and it represents our coastal community, agriculture, everything. Lots of people also love the California chicken; the toppings can be modified for guests."

Although Junior Leagues nationwide are known for their cookbooks, this is the first such tome published by the local chapter in more than 20 years.

"All of the proceeds from this book go toward the causes the Junior League supports," Craig said, including the Orangewood Children's Foundation Kinship Project; the Second Harvest Backpack Program; the Children's Hospital of Orange County Reading Program; and the Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) Emancipated Youth Program.

New cookbook committee chair Heather Craig said the League is running a number of marketing efforts, including events like the cooking demonstration by Karamardian; sales efforts at events like the Tustin Street Fair & Chili Cook-Off; and sales through retail outlets like the Sherman Library & Gardens gift store and the Island Hotel gift store.

"It was really wonderful to see members of our community who don't know anything about the Junior League be excited about this cookbook and the League's projects," Blackwell said.

The book already has won the 2010 Benjamin Franklin Silver Award from the Independent Book Publishers Assn., and was a finalist in the cookbook category of the National Best Books 2009 Awards sponsored by USA Book News. The book also has won a Silver Medal from the Mom's Choice Awards.

Blackwell said the cookbook project has been in existence for more than two years.

The process started with an ad hoc committee of about 15 members chaired by Kathy Kelly, and grew the following year to an official cookbook committee with about 20 members.

"It was a great opportunity for members of every level," Scott said. "Everyone was asked to contribute recipes and test them. It was really a full-league effort. We have some amazing members; that's probably my favorite part of working with the league."

The tome was designed and produced by a cookbook publisher that works with Junior Leagues around the country, Scott said, with photography by Marc Weisberg that highlighted Orange County sights from the Ritz-Carlton to Cook's Corner. The publisher took the recipes and photography and created and organized the book's layout.

"My mom was in the Junior League, and she worked on their cookbook in Charleston, W.Va. some 25 years ago," Blackwell said.

Her mother was put in charge of organizing the book's index, in the days before computers.

"There were more than 500 recipes in that cookbook. Let's just say we're fortunate we don't have to do that," she laughed.

"We put this book together not only as a fundraiser for our league, but as a keepsake for the Orange County community," Scott said. "That was really the goal of the committee when it started — to give back. The most rewarding part is walking into friends' kitchens and seeing them displaying it. It's really a testament to the hard work the members have done, and what a beautiful book they have created. We hope people will find it to be a representation of the community we all live in and love."

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