After graduation, Debra Sims (Political Science, ’99) spent several successful years in the boating and escrow business but always felt hungry for more.

With a lifelong passion for food, the US Navy veteran followed her gut and enrolled at Kitchen Academy, a branch of Le Cordon Bleu, the famed culinary training ground for chefs around the world. After graduating as valedictorian, she worked at several restaurants in Southern California, including eight years as executive chef and pastry chef at the Argentinian-inspired Maro Wood Grill, where she won “Most Delicious Dessert in Orange County” honors three years in a row at the Golden Foodie Awards.

In 2017, Sims relocated to Yreka and continued cooking. This June, she opened her own restaurant, Chef’s Pantry, where she operates as farm-to-table as possible, partnering with local farmers and ranchers and even growing some of the vegetables herself.

Customers rave about the fresh to-go food, which includes chicken teriyaki bowls, wholesome lunch bowls, and grab-n-go salads. The rotating menu has many of her signature dishes and desserts, including savory beef, spinach, and mushroom empanadas and some desserts like her award-winning banana bread pudding.

With so much success, she also caters, hosts pop-up events, and teaches culinary classes. We can’t wait to see what Sims serves up next! Meanwhile, she shares one of her all-time favorite recipes, Ñoquis, which are an Argentinian symbol of good luck and goodwill. Visitors to Chef’s Pantry can also find them in the freezer case!

An overhead view of a bowl of ricotta ñoquis on a white tablecloth.

RICOTTA ÑOQUIS

PREP TIME: 3 HRS. | COOK TIME: 10 MIN. | MAKES 4 SERVINGS

INGREDIENTS

  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • ½ cup grated Manchego cheese (parmesan or any hard cheese also works)
  • Grated zest from 1 organic lemon
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher Sonoma sea salt
  • 1 cup drained whole-milk ricotta cheese (drain using cheesecloth for at least 8 hours)
  • 1 large organic egg
  • Your favorite sauce to serve

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Combine flour, Manchego cheese, salt and lemon zest in a bowl. Add drained ricotta and egg. Combine well with hands until the dough just comes together (be careful not to overwork or it will become tough).
  • Scrape onto a well-floured surface and pat into a rough square. Cut dough into quarters. Gently roll each piece into rope about ½ inch in diameter, flouring as needed to prevent sticking.
  • Place on a large plate or cookie sheet, and refrigerate at least 5 minutes or up to 2 hours.
  • After dough has rested, place onto floured surface and cut into ½-inch pieces, placing pieces on a lightly floured pan or plate.
  • To cook: Over medium-high heat, melt 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter in a sauté pan large enough not to crowd the ñoquis (you may have to work in batches). When the butter is melted and foamy, add the ñoquis and cook 5–6 minutes, turning to brown all sides.
  • Serve with any sauce you like! For a simple dish: Add additional tablespoon of butter, more Manchego cheese and a bit of water, if necessary, to the pan and allow to thicken an additional minute or two. Garnish with parsley. You can also add to Bolognese sauce, or ratatouille, or serve alongside sautéed vegetables. The possibilities are endless!