Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Kitchen Gypsy

Nineteen months in the making.  

Weeks spent combing through boxes of family photos and recipes from my great grandmother, Lettie, and the places where my cooking career began.  

                                                                                                     
14 days spent with 12 talented people shooting photos in 9 different locations. 
Hours of measuring, testing, tasting, re-testing and re-tasting. 
Writing until midnight and making countless edits.


A few tears shed, but many more smiles and several bursts of honest-to-goodness laughter.
This has been a passion project for me and finally, it’s almost ready...  

All 288 pages with 100 new recipes, 250 gorgeous full-color photographs and most importantly, stories and memories about the people, places and flavors that have inspired me through the years...


My new book is almost done!!!



(Oxmoor House; September, 2015) 

Writing this book has been one of the absolute best experiences of my life and I can’t wait to share it with you.  Get ready.  You’ll definitely want to get into the kitchen and cook up a storm with this book!   A world of thanks to my friends at Sunset MagazineTime Home Entertainment and Oxmoor House for making this happen.

Click here and pre-order your copy today!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

It's Rhubarb Time!


When I was young, I used to sneak into my mother’s garden with my sister Nancy just to watch her pull a big stalk of my mother’s prized rhubarb and eat it raw right out of the garden.  Raw rhubarb is so incredibly tart, just watching her made me pucker up, squeeze my lips together and wince.  To this day, it still shocks me that she could pull that off and enjoyed herself in the process.

I love rhubarb, cooked of course, and for me it signals spring when I see it at the farmer’s market.  I love it simply stewed with strawberries and touch of sugar or made into a rhubarb upside down cake. 

Next time you pass by a big pile of rhubarb in the market and have no idea what to do with it, take a few hints from these recipes or skip straight to my favorite, this delicious Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp!  

I have a feeling that you will be adding a whole new ingredient into your repertoire.


STRAWBERRY RHUBARB SORBET

sorbet:
3/4 pound rhubarb, about 4 cups, cut into 1-inch lengths
1 ½ pounds strawberries, about 5 to 6 cups, halved
1 ½ to 2 cups sugar

sauce:
2 cups strawberries,halved
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons Cassis (optional)

In a medium saucepan over medium high heat, place the rhubarb and 2 tablespoons water. Cover and cook until the rhubarb starts to fall apart, 3 minutes. Remove the cover, decrease the heat to medium low, and simmer the rhubarb until very tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Cool 10 to 15 minutes.

Puree the rhubarb and the strawberries together in the blender until completely smooth. Strain through a fine mesh strainer. Measure the strawberry rhubarb puree. For each 4 cups of puree, measure 1 ½ cups sugar.

Pour approximately one-quarter of the strawberry rhubarb puree into a small saucepan. Add the correct amount of sugar to the saucepan and heat the pan over medium high heat until it bubbles around the edges and the sugar is dissolved, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the hot puree to the remaining puree. Refrigerate until well chilled.

Freeze the sorbet according to your particular ice cream machine

Thirty minutes before serving, for the sauce, in a bowl, toss together the strawberries, sugar and Cassis.

To serve, scoop the sorbet into serving bowls and spoon the sauce over the top. Serve immediately.

Serves 8

WARM STRAWBERRY RHUBARB COMPOTE WITH GREEK YOGURT AND HONEY

1 pound rhubarb
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups strawberries, washed and halved
1 pint Greek yogurt
3 tablespoons Greek Honey

In the meantime, trim the end from the rhubarb. Remove any green leaves. Cut the rhubarb stalks into 1-inch pieces. Mix together the rhubarb and sugar in a saucepan over low heat. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the rhubarb is soft, 15 to 20 minutes. Add the strawberries and cook an additional 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool for 10 minutes.

Spoon the compote into dessert dishes. Top with a spoonful of yogurt and drizzle the honey over the top. Serve immediately.

Serves 6

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Edible Schoolyard Project



After hearing so much about The Edible Schoolyard Project, I was beyond thrilled to be invited to to take part in a class. Twenty years ago, Alice Waters spearheaded this program at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Berkeley, California, and has since helped to implement edible education across the country.
Nothing prepared me for the extraordinary undertaking and the commitment that’s gone into this program. I had the notion that the students were simply planting a garden and using the vegetables they grew to prepare a shared meal, which they are, but there is much, much more. 

The day I visited, I joined one of the classes in the garden and was struck by how excited the students got learning how to propagate plants. We learned how to determine which carrots were ripe and ready to be pulled and properly harvest them. Then, we got to taste their unbelievable sweetness. One student said, “I’ve never liked carrots until today. These are nothing like those little punched-out orange things in a plastic bag that you get in the grocery store!”. 

In the kitchen classroom, the lesson continued. We discussed how produce is transported from farms to consumers and effortlessly, we were learning a bit of economics, logistics, history and geography. Then the students put on aprons and proceeded to make a fresh vegetable soup with everything they’d harvested from the garden. As we sat down to eat, they handed me a bowl. It was the best fresh vegetable soup I’d ever tasted. At the end of class, the kids were beaming and I felt like a kid again! 

My hat’s off to everyone involved in The Edible Schoolyard Project and I hope that you’ll join me in support of programs such as this. Imagine a world in which every single school curriculum includes edible education!



Friday, February 6, 2015

Pucker-Up, Valentine!


With Valentine's Day just around the corner, it's time to pucker-up!  I made this cocktail for my friend and talented chef, Ryan Scott (yes, from Bravo's "Top Chef", among a zillion other ventures!) while visiting him on his show at KGO radio in San Francisco last week.  If you listen to the podcast (Click here!), you'll hear that it was quite a hit!

Now is the perfect time to do a little cocktail experimentation with all your favorites from your local market's citrus section. Blood oranges, tangerines, grapefruits, key limes, meyer lemons - the list goes on!   This is my fun twist on the classic margarita and I hope that you'll enjoy it with your favorite friends.  Happy Valentine's Day!

PUCKER-UP MARGARITA

1 1/2 ounces Meyer Lemon Infused Blanco Tequila
1 1/2 ounces freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice
1 ounce limoncello
Splash of agave ready syrup

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with lots of ice.  Shake vigorously for 10 seconds.  Strain into a glass with fresh ice

Makes 1 cocktail

MEYER LEMON INFUSED BLANCO TEQUILA

1 bottle blanco tequila
Peel from 12 Meyer lemons, ALL white pith removed

Combine the two and let sit for 2 days.
Makes a lot!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Grab your cazuela!

Culinary Journey through La Rioja and Basque Country, Spain

Every year, I pack a giant suitcase full of cooking gadgets, hop on a plane and head to Europe, where small groups join me for a Culinary Journey.  We cook, explore, and taste our way through Italy, France, Spain, or Morocco!   

Oh, I wish you were here!!  We're about to finish up a week in La Rioja, Spain and just had the most succulent meal:  Cazuela-roasted Baby Lamb.  
Cazuelas ("cooking pots" in Spanish) are clay dishes that have been used for centuries to cook food.  They really hold the heat!   One bite of this dish and I couldn't get over how a few simple ingredients could taste so incredible.   And of course the vast selection of Spanish wines in this region took this over the top.

Grab your cazuela and a bottle of and try it for yourself!

Cazuela-Roasted Rioja Baby Lamb 
















1 baby lamb quarter*, about 4 pounds
2 cloves crushed garlic
Kosher salt

Place a small rack in an earthenware cazuela with 1/2 cup water, 1 teaspoon salt and the garlic in the bottom of the casuala. Place the lamb, skin side down, on the rack.  Roast at 390F for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 300F for 1 1/2 hours, basting with the salt water from time to time.  Make sure there is always water in the bottom of the casuela.  Increase heat to 390F and turn lamb over. Cook an additional 30 minutes. 

Let rest loosely with foil for 10 minutes. Slice and serve.

Serves 4 to 6

* If you can't find this cut, try it with leg of lamb.





Friday, May 30, 2014

Homeward Bound


A lively crowd of people sat in front of me at Homeward Bound of Marin for a fundraising event...

Cooking with love.
They sipped on Joanne Weir Chardonnay and Cabernet as I demonstrated some of Copita’s favorite dishes and a few of my own favorites, starting with a springtime guacamole made with English peas.  The peas give the guacamole some texture but also add a sweetness that brings the guacamole to another level.  For the main course, I cut hearts out of parchment and filled them with fresh wild Pacific salmon, sugar snap peas, asparagus and carrots with a fresh tomatillo, cilantro and mint salsa and a tangy green rice.  We finished up with a Mexican tiramisu that I call "tequila-mi-su" because in place of the rum, I use tequila.  A layer of bananas is spread in the center to play off the dark chocolate and ethereal creamy filling. 

Then the auction started and you'll never guess what I put up for sale, so I'll show you:

TEQUILA-MI-SU

2 cups very strong espresso
4 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup anejo tequila
4 eggs, separated
1 lb. (450 g) marscapone cheese
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon confectioners sugar
2 bananas, ripe but still firm
36 to 40 excellent quality lady fingers
3/4 cup (4 oz or 115 g) unsweetened chocolate
3/4 cup (4 oz or 115 g) bittersweet Mexican chocolate

In a bowl, combine the espresso, 4 tablespoons of the sugar and 1/2 cup of the tequila.

Ribbon 4 egg yolks and 1/2 cup sugar until very light.  Add the marscapone and mix until smooth.  Add the remaining 1/4 cup tequila and vanilla.  Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks and flavor with the confectioners sugar.  Beat the 4 egg whites until stiff and add the cream and egg whites to the mascarpone mixture.

Slice the bananas into thin slices and cover with water and the remaining 2 tablespoons lemon juice.

To assemble: Dip half the ladyfingers one at a time in the coffee mixture and line the bottom of a 13" X 9" baking dish.  Spread half the cream mixture over the ladyfingers.  Remove the bananas from the lemon water and dry on paper towels.  Spread a layer of bananas evenly over the cream mixture.  Repeat with the remaining ladyfingers and cream mixture.  Cover with a thick layer of the combined grated chocolate.  Set in the refrigerator for 2 hours.

Serves 9

That's right.  I auctioned off the Tequila-mi-su!  We made a lot of money that night for an incredibly worthy cause.  






Sunday, May 11, 2014

A very special Mom!


I'm an author, a chef, a cooking teacher, a television producer, a television host, a restaurateur, a writer, a wife, a sister, a daughter, an aunt, a step mom, a friend.  These are all fancy titles but one of the most coveted is a Mom and I have the most extraordinary one!
I wouldn't be where I am today without you. 
You've taught me kindness, caring, strength, generosity, compassion and most importantly, love!
Today I salute you Mom!