Monday, December 28, 2009

little chocolate almond souffles with cocoa-nib cream


My brother is funny and he's a very good cook too!! I had him on my TV show a few times when I first started doing television and he kept me and everyone else entertained. Lately my producer won't let me invite him on the show. With my new Cooking Class series, they say I act too familiar with him that I'm not teaching John anything that he doesn't already know. They're probably right!

Around the dinner table when we were kids, he would keep us laughing for hours. He still does. He's very handsome too! At least that's what girls say when they write to me after seeing him on my TV show. They'd ask if he had a girlfriend or was married.

John is a funny, handsome and has no excuses for not being a great cook! We had an incredible cooking teacher, our Mom. and he also studied with my professional cooking teacher, Madeleine Kamman, for a year when we both lived in Boston.

Truthfully, thank God John studied cooking! When we were kids he made the weirdest concoctions in the kitchen. He'd throw anything and everything into a big pot! The flavors were "complex" alright, not one single thing was identifiable. I think my mother liked it though. Anyway she said she did!

New Year's Eve makes me think of my brother, John. He always makes a big chocolate souffle for his wife and kids. I'm sure it's delicious,-- at least that's what he tells me!

This year I thought I would give him a present,-- I wrote a recipe for little chocolate almond souffles that take one quarter of the time to cook in individual ramekins! Another cool thing,--you can make them completely ahead of time and bake them at the last minute. So this year John, when the ball is falling in Time Square, you don't have to be in the kitchen whipping egg whites. And when they are hot out of the oven, give everyone their own spoon with instruction to cut a hole in the center and spoon generously the cocoa nib cream inside!

Happy New Year John, I love you! And to everyone else, I wish you and your family a wonderful, prosperous and healthy New Year!

LITTLE CHOCOLATE ALMOND SOUFFLES WITH COCOA-NIB CREAM

3 tablespoons cocoa nibs
1 cup heavy cream
Sliced and toasted almonds, finely chopped
12 ounces excellent quality 70% chocolate, chopped
1 1/ 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/ 2 cup milk
5 egg yolks
1/ 4 teaspoon pure almond extract
6 egg whites, room temperature
1/ 2 cup granulated sugar
Confectioner’s sugar

Place the cocoa nibs and the heavy cream in a saucepan. Bring to a scald. Remove from the heat immediately and let sit 1 hour. Strain and place in the refrigerator.

Butter eight 5 to 6-ounce ramekins. Dust lightly with almonds. Set aside.

Place the chocolate, butter and milk in the top of a double boiler over boiling water. Whisk until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and let cool 5 minutes. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, and mix well after each addition. Add the almond extract and stir together.

Preheat an oven to 375 ̊ F. Place the egg whites in a large clean bowl and whip to soft peaks. Add the sugar gradually and beat until they are very stiff peaks. Fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture. Spoon the mixture into the prepared ramekins. This can be done several hours in advance.

When you are ready to serve, bake the soufflés in the oven until puffed and cracked on top, 14 to 17 minutes. While the soufflés are baking, whip the cream and confectioner’s sugar until soft peaks. Place in a bowl.

To serve, with a spoon, open the center of the souffle and spoon the cream into the center.

Serves 8

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

cheers for a bright new year!


As we enter this holiday season, I can’t help but reflect on the wonderful highs and the challenging lows of the past year. Personally, the definitive moment of this year was getting married to Joe –the center of my universe. Juxtaposed with the happy occasion of our wedding was the deep sadness that our parents were unable to join us due to serious health issues. Many of you also shared stories with me of how you faced adversity of all kinds this past year that truly touched my heart.

I am an optimist however and try my best to look for the “silver lining”. I am hopeful that 2010 will bring renewed comfort and happiness to everyone. As many of you know I am not home for the holidays this year but instead dealing with family health issues. Yet as we approach the New Year, I am looking forward to creating magical moments and sharing memorable experiences with family and friends, spending quality time with the people I care about most! Of course I am eager to cook a delicious meal that will brighten everyone’s spirits (especially if we don’t count a few of those calories!) as we ring in the New Year. I created a special celebration menu for you to share with loved ones as we light candles, deck the halls, and sing “Auld Lang Syne”:

CELEBRATION MENU

Potato Latkes with Roasted Spiced Applesauce

Celebration Salad of Endive, Crème Fraîche and Caviar

Horseradish-Crusted Salmon with Dilled Cucumbers with Crème Fraîche

Cranberry Upside Down Cake


Cheers!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

ribollita in panzano in chianti


When the weather gets damp and cold like it has been in San Francisco lately, it makes me think of a winter visit to Panzano, a spot on the map smack-dab in the middle of Chianti.

Some of you have probably noticed that Panzano has changed over the years. There's a lot more English spoken now. This might be partly due to Dario, the now famous butcher, whose operatic voice echoes into the street, and draws everyone inside where the aromas of garlic, herbs and peppers seduce you. You've got to sample his incredible salumi, porcetta and sweet and hot pepper jelly along with a glass of his homemade red wine.

Years ago, I always enjoyed visiting Dulio too. He's the little guy who owned the shoe-box of a wine store. I looked for him a while back and noticed he closed up shop. Whenever I used to visit Panzano, I always loved having lunch with my favorite pal, Giovanni Capelli. Judy Francini, the best and most generous Tuscan resource in the universe, introduced me to him years ago. I remember telling Judy I thought he was the Tuscan version of James Beard. He passed away a couple years ago which was a great loss to many of us. A true Renaissance man,-- he grew, produced and cooked the most innovative as well as traditional Tuscan food and products. Giovanni made salsa di mosto, a Balsamic-like vinegar, aged for 12 years in a variety of wooden casks and called salsa di mosto because it was made in Tuscany and not in the region of Modena where balsamic comes is made. I remember one particular summer he went crazy with peppers and turned out little jars of fiery hot pepper sauce called salsa inferno. He also made lemon-infused virgin olive oil, hard-to resist rose petal vinegar, Grappa di Chianti Classico Riserva, Liqueur di Limone, and Amaro plus his gutsy Chianti wines which paired perfectly with the food from his farmhouse trattoria, Trattoria del Montagliari.

One of the last times I had lunch with him, it was a cold and rainy day, kind of like this San Francisco day. He made me a delicious and heartwarming bowl of ribollita, a peasant soup made of leftover vegetables, bread and cannellini beans, later reboiled. He drizzled the top with his fruity virgin olive oil and then asked me if I wanted a fork or a spoon, it was that thick! "Pour me a glass of your red wine, would you Giovanni?"

RIBOLLITA

If you can get some black cabbage or cavolo nero, all the better!

1 1/4 cups cannellini beans
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
8 oz. pancetta, 1/4" dice
½ stalk celery, 1/4" dice
3 carrots, peeled, ½" dice
½ head Savoy cabbage or cavolo nero, 1" dice
1 leek, ½" dice
3 potatoes, ½" dice
1 onion 1/4" dice
1 tablespoon tomato paste
4 cups chicken stock
4 cups water
6 thin slices coarse-textured white bread
salt and freshly ground pepper
fruity extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

Pick over the beans and discard any stones. Soak the beans in a large bowl of water for four hours. Drain the beans, place in a saucepan and cover with water by 2-inches. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low and simmer until tender, 45 to 60 minutes. Strain the beans and reserve the cooking liquid. Reserve half of the beans. Place the remaining beans in the blender or food processor and process until smooth, adding bean liquid as necessary. Reserve.

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta is light golden, 10 minutes. Add the celery, carrots, cabbage, leeks, potatoes, onions, tomato paste and cover by 1" with the chicken stock and water. Simmer until the vegetables are very soft, 1 hour.

Add the beans and simmer 5 minutes. Add the bread and stir together. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let cool one hour or overnight.

To serve, bring to a boil. Serve immediately drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with cheese.

Serves 6 to 8

Friday, December 11, 2009

if you have lemons.....


LIMONCELLO

Many years ago, when I was in Sorrento along the Amalfi Coast, a friend invited me to meet Concetta. "She's the best cook in town." she said, “She’s eighty years old and has lived in this little pocket of paradise all her life.” My friend told me that Concetta's only trip away from Sorrento was to Naples ONCE! "That was enough!" Concetta said.

The day we visited Concetta, it was a very hot, humid Amalfi-kind of summer day, when only Mediterranean breezes bring relief. We sat on her terrace and she brought out miniature martini glasses, all frosty and beaded with cold. From the freezer, she also brought a bottle of lemon yellow liqueur and poured it into our ice cold glasses. One sip of limoncello led to another. I’ll never forget that afternoon.

Limoncello has gotten to be a popular digestif made along the Amalfi Coast and on the islands of Ischia and Capri. It is pronounced lee-moan-chello, the last part like the musical instrument. When I first heard the word, I thought Concetta was saying lemon jello? That’s how much I knew about it that many years ago.

Getting the recipe from her was another story. When I asked Concetta, you would have thought I was asking for her first-born child. But she liked me so I knew I had a chance. Much later in the afternoon, Concetta came from the kitchen with a small piece of white paper. She held tight to the recipe as she handed it to me and I tugged from the other side. All the time we were smiling, and thank God, I finally won the tug o’ war. I was holding the recipe!

Here I am in Los Angeles this week, a long way from the Amalfi Coast, cooking for my close friend, Charlotte, as she recovers from surgery. I noticed that her lemon trees were absolutely loaded with thick-skinned lemons. I thought, “Great, Christmas gifts! Limoncello for everyone!”

The first step is to gather a bunch of lemons. OK, I’ve done that. Now what? Let me get out my recipe….

LIMONCELLO

Limoncello can be used as an aperitif mixed with sparkling wine, Champagne or mineral water, garnished with a twist of lemon peel. Or use it to flavor homemade lemon granita, sorbet or ice cream. During the summer, I like to toss limoncello with blueberries and peaches for shortcake. Or just sip it ice cold from the freezer as a digestif.

30 thick skinned lemons, Eureka, Lisbon or Citron
2 bottles 100 proof Everclear or vodka (750 ml per bottle)
4 cups sugar
4 cups water

Peel the lemons with a vegetable peeler. Remove all white pith from the back of the peel and discard. Place the lemon peel in a large jar with one bottle Everclear. Stir. Cover and place in a dark place for 7 days.

After7 days, bring the sugar and water to a boil and boil for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool the mixture cool 10 minutes. Add the sugar syrup and the remaining 1 bottle Everclear to the jar containing the lemon peel and Everclear. Mix well, cover and place in a dark place for 7 days.

After 7 days, strain and store it one bottle at a time in freezer until ready to use.

Makes approximately 3 quarts

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Heading up to Sonoma today to teach a Chef's Table class tonight at Ramekins.
"Home for the Holidays" menu should be fun! Sold out class so I thought I'd post a recipe.
  • Lavash Pizza with Smoked Salmon, Caviar and Creme Fraiche
  • Roasted Winter Squash Soup with Honey Pecan Butter
  • Handmade Wheat Linguine with Wild Mushrooms
  • Lamb Roulade Rolled with Winter Herbs and Braised Garlic Cloves
  • Olive Oil-Mashed Potatoes
  • Crispy Pear Tart with Soft Cream

LAVASH PIZZA WITH SMOKED SALMON, CAVIAR AND CRÈME FRAICHE

4 pieces soft lavash, cut into 8 X 12-inch rectangle
2 ounces Italian fontina, coarsely grated
2 ounces firm mozzarella, coarsely grated
¾ cup crème fraiche
1 to 3 tablespoons milk
5 ounces smoked salmon, thinly sliced
2 ounces salmon roe caviar
1 bunch chives, thinly sliced

Preheat an oven to 400̊ F.

In a bowl, combine the fontina and mozzarella. In another bowl, stir the crème fraiche and milk until it is a barely fluid paste. Season with salt and pepper.

Five to ten minutes before serving, place one sheet of the lavash on a baking sheet. Bake in the oven until it just begins to take on a light golden color, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the grated cheese onto the top distributing evenly. Place the lavash in the oven again and bake until the cheese is melted and the lavash is golden and crisp, 2 to 3 minutes.

Remove the lavash from the oven and top with the smoked salmon. Dot the caviar over the top and garnish with chives. Slice and serve immediately.

Repeat with the remaining ingredients making 4 lavash pizzas in total.

Makes 4 lavash pizzas and serves 6

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

ravioli recipe

Years ago on Thanksgiving, I was so stupid! I served roasted butternut squash ravioli as a first course. Everyone loved them so much, they ate two and three servings. When it came time for the turkey, no one ate it! I never did that again however this past weekend when I found a bowl of mashed Rugosa squash in my refrigerator leftover from Thanksgiving I decided it was time to make the ravioli again.

Maybe I was really hungry... Maybe it was the OO flour that made my dough silky smooth... Could it have been the 2006 Joseph Phelps Viognier I paired the ravioli? Or was it the flavor of the Rugosa squash that made them so incredibly delicious!?

Rugosa is my new favorite ingredient this fall! I special ordered them from Julia at Mariquita Farms where I get my CSA box. I think I must have looked shocked as Julia handed me these 2 huge squash, "If you don't want 'em, chefs around the city are clamouring for them!" I quickly grabbed both and headed home.

Rugosa squash, also known as Rugosa di Fruili Zucchino, comes from the Veneto in northern Italy. When mashed, it looks like mashed sweet potatoes but the flavor is so different. Rugosa is very earthy, rich with incredible depth of flavor and a perfect balance of sweetness and acidity. If you want some seeds, I found them online.

SQUASH RAVIOLI WITH HAZELNUT BUTTER AND PARMESAN

2 pounds winter squash, Rugosa, hubbard, butternut, turban
3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme
1/2 teaspoon fresh chopped rosemary
1/2 teaspoon fresh chopped sage
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
2 ounces prosciutto, thinly sliced, cut into 1/4" strips
1 teaspoon walnut or hazelnut oil
1/3 cup hazelnuts, chopped
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
Freshly grated nutmeg
1 pound egg pasta dough

Preheat an oven to 350o F. Cut squash in half, place on an oiled baking sheet and bake until easily skewered, 50 to 60 minutes. Remove the seeds and skin and discard. Mash the pulp with a potato masher or by pulsing a few times in a food processor. Place the squash, bread crumbs, 2 tablespoons Parmesan, thyme, rosemary, sage and orange zest in a bowl. Mix well and season to taste with salt and pepper.

In a small frying pan over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Cook the prosciutto until light golden, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon and reserve. Add the nut oil and hazelnuts, and cook, stirring occasionally until light golden, 3 minutes. Remove from the pan. In a saucepan over medium high heat, melt the butter and cook it until it turns brown and just begins to smoke, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove immediately from the heat and add nutmeg.

Cut the dough into 4 pieces. Using a pasta machine, roll the pasta until you can almost see your hand through the dough. Place the sheet of pasta on a well floured work surface. Spoon a heaping teaspoon of squash filling at one end of the dough, just below the center of the dough. Continue to place mounds of filling all the way down the dough leaving approximately 1 1/2" between each mound. With a spray bottle filled with water, spray the edges with a very light mist of water. Fold the top half of the dough over the squash filling to encase the filling and seal around the edges. With a zig-zag roller, trim the long side close to the edge and discard. Cut in between each ravioli.

Bring a large pot of boiling salted water to a boil. Add the ravioli and cook until tender 2 to 3 minutes. Drain and place in a large serving bowl. Toss carefully with the brown butter. Garnish with prosciutto, hazelnuts and Parmesan. Serve immediately

Serves 6 to 8

EGG PASTA DOUGH

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 whole eggs
1 tablespoon water

In the bowl to the food processor, pulse together the flour and salt. Add the eggs and water and process until the dough forms a soft ball but is not sticky. If so, add more flour a tablespoon at a time until it isn't sticky. Remove the dough from the food processor bowl and knead on a very lightly floured board until soft and smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Let the dough rest wrapped in plastic wrap for at least 30 minutes.

Makes approximately 1 lb. pasta

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

joe's birthday dinner


What do get for someone that has everything? That was my dilemma this past weekend. It was Joe's birthday and I couldn't figure out what to give him. I guess I could give him some cuff links made by my favorite jeweler Massimo Melis in Rome. That might work! Or he loves the moisturizer from Villa D'Este on Lake Como where we got engaged. I could have a couple bottles sent from Italy. OK, those two things will work but what about cooking a wonderful dinner just for him!

So that's what I did! I called a few good friends and his daughters. Before I knew it, I had a party!

As we stood in the kitchen and toasted, we ate the most delicious pizza topped with sweet butternut squash, smoked bacon and scamorza with a glass of Louis Roderer champagne. The pizza had a pronounced smokiness that paired well with the toasty champagne. And my dough had just the right balance between crunch and chewiness!

To the table! For a first course, I made a roasted carrot and parsnip soup with spiced creme fraiche. The wine couldn't have been better, - a 2008 Navarro Gewurztraminer. I don't want to sound like a wine snob but the sweet spiciness of the wine matched the soup perfectly! Navarro makes great Gewurztraminer and the price is so reasonable! Remind me to get a case!

Get ready, the next course is Joe's absolute favorite... homemade fettuccine with wild mushrooms. OMG! I made this dish with my students in the Piedmont when I first met Joe and he was traveling with me in Italy. He might say this pasta hooked him! Savary Chablis 2005 had just the right of acidity to cut through the richness of the sauce. If you can, try to pick up a bottle at Kermit Lynch.

And now for the main course! I reverted to my days of studying cooking with Madeleine Kamman in France. I made a roulade of grass-fed beef tenderloin rolled with wilted greens and an essence of beef. I served it with a gratin of potatoes, caramelized leeks and fennel, inspired by my alma mater, Chez Panisse. Our friend Keith brought 3 bottles of Gaja 2001 Barbaresco as a birthday gift for Joe! (I guess he knew what to get Joe!) The wine had such finesse with red cherry, plum and licorice notes, very full bodied and the silkiest tannins and stood up well to the beef.

And finally for dessert, I made a rich almond cake with the creamiest homemade salted caramel ice cream and Moscato-poached Concorde pears. Alongside, we had a little sip of 2008 Oddero Moscato d'Asti.

By the end, we were all doing dishes a la Big Chill and dancing in the kitchen!

Happy birthday Joe!



PIZZA WITH WINTER SQUASH, BACON AND SMOKED MOZZARELLA

3 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 ounces smoked mozzarella
3 ounces fresh mozzarella
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/2 small butternut squash
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
salt and freshly ground pepper
4 ounces smoked bacon, diced
4 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped

Preheat an oven to 500 F. Place a pizza brick or unglazed quarry tiles on the bottom shelf of the oven.

Combine the garlic and 2 tablespoons olive oil and let stand 30 minutes. Grate the mozzarella and smoked mozzarella and combine.

Peel the butternut squash and cut in half. Remove the seeds and discard. Slice the squash into 1/4" slices. Blanch in salted water for 3 minutes. Remove and pat dry. Melt the butter and warm 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the squash and cook until just golden on the edges and cooked through. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cool.

Cook the bacon over medium high heat until they just turns golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

PIZZA DOUGH

2 teaspoons active dry yeast
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons lukewarm water (110°F/43°C)
2 cups unbleached bread flour (preferably Kind Arthur)
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a bowl, combine the yeast, 1/4 cup warm water, and 1/4 cup flour. Let it stand for 30 minutes. Add the remaining 13/4 cup flour, 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water, and salt. Mix the dough thoroughly and turn out onto a floured surface. Knead until smooth, elastic, and a bit tacky to the touch, 7 to 8 minutes. Place in an oiled bowl and turn to cover with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place (about 75°f/24°c) until it doubles in volume, 1 to 11/2 hours. Or, let the dough rise in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, let it come to room temperature and proceed with the recipe.

Punch down the dough and form into two round balls. Place on a well-floured work surface and let rest 5 minutes. Roll one piece of the dough into a 9-inch circle, 1/4" thick. Transfer to a heavily floured pizza peel. Brush the dough to within 1/2-inch of the edge with the garlic oil. Sprinkle half of the combined cheese evenly over the top and then half of the sliced onions. Place slices of the squash on top of the onions, leaving space in between each slice. Sprinkle the bacon and sage on top. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle ½ tablespoon olive oil. Transfer the pizza onto a stone and bake until golden and crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. Repeat with the remaining dough and topping ingredients.

Makes 2 pizzas, 9" each

FETTUCCINE WITH WILD MUSHROOMS

1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1 ½ cups boiling water
1 ¼ cups heavy cream
3 cups homemade chicken stock
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 ½ pound button or cultivated mushrooms, thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1 recipe handmade fettuccine

Place the dried porcini mushrooms in a bowl. Pour the boiling water over the mushrooms and let them stand until the water is cool, 30 minutes.

In the meantime, place the heavy cream in a saucepan and simmer until reduced by half. Reserve. Place the chicken stock in another saucepan and simmer until reduced to ½ cup. Reserve.

When the mushrooms are cool, strain the mushrooms and reserve. Place the mushroom soaking liquid in a saucepan and simmer until reduced to ¼ cups. Reserve.

In a large frying pan, melt the butter over medium high heat. Add the sliced fresh mushroom and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms give off any liquid and the liquid evaporated 8 to 12 minutes. Add the revived dried wild mushroom and stir together. Add the reduced cream, chicken stock and reduced mushroom soaking liquid. Stir until mixed.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, 2 to 4 minutes. In the meantime, warm the mushroom sauce over medium high heat. Drain the pasta and add the mushroom sauce and half of the Parmigiano Reggiano. Toss together and serve garnished with the remaining Parmigiano Reggiano. Serve immediately.

Serves 6

ALMOND CAKE

1 1/4 cup sugar
8 ounces almond paste
1 1/4 cup softened butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 eggs, room temperature
1 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Confectioner's sugar

Beat sugar with the almond paste until the almond paste is in fine pieces. Or better, pulverize it in a food processor. Beat in the butter and the vanilla, then cream the mixture until it is light and fluffy. Beat in the whole eggs, one at a time - the eggs should be at room temperature - beating well after each addition so the eggs are thoroughly mixed in. Mix the flour, baking powder and salt and beat in just until thoroughly blended.

Preheat an oven to 325F. Butter and flour a 9" springform pan and turn the batter into it, smoothing the top evenly. Bake the torte until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the center feels springy when you push it gently, 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Cool on a rack for 20 minutes. Remove from the pan.

Slice the cake and serve with the Creamiest Salted Caramel Ice Cream.

Serves 8 to 10

CREAMIEST SALTED CARAMEL ICE CREAM

1 1/3 cups sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
1 vanilla bean split and scraped
½ teaspoon kosher salt
8 egg yolks

In a large heavy stainless steel frying pan over medium heat, melt the sugar by swirling the pan to melt the sugar uniformly. Cook until the sugar starts to turn golden brown or caramel color. Immediately remove from the heat and carefully add the heavy cream and milk. The caramel will seize and get hard. Place the pan over the heat and stirring constantly, heat the cream to melt the caramel.

When the caramel is melted, add the vanilla bean and salt over medium heat, heat the mixture until there are bubbles around the edges and a skin that forms on the top.

Place the egg yolks in a bowl. Temper the egg yolks by slowly adding the warm caramel cream mixture to the egg yolks, whisking constantly. When all of the warm caramel cream mixture has been added, pout the contents into a heavy saucepan. Using a rubber spatula or a flat bottom wooden spoon, stir the mixture constantly over medium heat until the mixture thickens and coats the back of the spoon or spatula, about 2 to 4 minutes.

Immediately remove the pan from the heat and pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a clean bowl. Immediately whisk the caramel mixture to cool it slightly. Cover the bowl with plastic and place in the refrigerator until cold.
Freeze the ice cream according to the directions with your particular ice cream machine.

Makes almost 1 quart

Friday, November 6, 2009

felicita's pesto recipe

I'm home in San Francisco and in the middle of a fall harvest cooking class in my kitchen and still I can't get the Cinque Terre out of my head. I'm supposed to be thinking clove zabaglione, roasted fall vegetables, braised beef in Cabernet and poached pears but I keep flashing back to basil, pine nuts and fruity Ligurian olive oil.

I remember hearing years ago that in Liguria, where pesto reigns supreme, they never pick basil over 6-inches tall. After being there, I now know that to be true but there's a whole lot more to the story.

The first class I had with my students in the Cinque Terre, I invited Felicita, the owner of the albergo, to come and show us how she makes pesto. After all her family has been in the Cinque Terre for generations, she'd have to be pretty good at it.

We all think we know how to make pesto. Throw all the ingredients into the food processor and pulse until you have a bright green puree. Nope, not here, think again!

You can't start with just any basil. It has to be Genovese basil and it's true, it can't be taller than 6-inches. The leaves have to be small and really tender. Pick the leaves from the stem meticulously making sure you don't get any stem whatsoever. Wash the basil and place it on towels to dry. There can't be any water on the basil at all.

Now you need a mortar and pestle. Felicita's mortar was passed to her from her mother who got it from her mother. She thinks it's about 100 years old.

What about the pestle? It has to be made of beech wood, she told us. (The next day after our lesson, I got so excited when I saw a man selling beech wood pestles in the market. I bought one but had to draw the line when it came to the 25 pound mortar! I've carried a lot of things home in my suitcase but not this time.)

You place the basil (two big handfuls for two people or about 80 leaves) in the mortar and with the pestle you grind the basil until there's shinny green liquid at the bottom mortar and the basil is pulverized. Next you add a clove of garlic and continue with the pestle until the garlic is also pulverized. Add about 2 tablespoons of Italian pine nuts (Felicita picks them herself from her trees) and mash them until the mixture is a paste.

She said some people like to add a combination of Pecorino and Parmigiano but it's all personal preference. She prefers a good handful of Parmigiano and again she grinds the mixture to make a paste. And finally don't forget a good splash of Liguriuan olive oil and mash until you have a creamy consistency.

I slathered as much as I could on a tiny wedge of bread. How was it? It had to be the sweetest, most delicate, bright emerald green pesto I've ever tasted. I thought about the pesto we make with strong, bitter, tough basil... How did I feel after that lesson with Felicita? Like I couldn't make pesto again anywhere outside Liguria.

How often does Felicita eat pesto? "At least 3 to 4 times a week!" she said.

I can see why!






Wednesday, October 28, 2009

cinque terre

I've been to the Cinque Terre twice before. I've hiked the trails from one fishing village to another, eaten pesto, fritto misto and tasted the white wine made here in Liguria. The other times I visited I remember thinking that I just didn't get what all the hype was about. It was supposed to be so romantic,- 5 fishing villages along the Mediterranean connected by a train, the Via d'Amore or ferry. But what I recall during those two visits was bumping into people on the trails, visiting tourist-ridden fishing villages, experiencing sweltering heat and suffering mediocre food. I knew there had to be more because every time someone talked about their trip to the Cinque Terre, they had a twinkle in their eye.

Why was it different for me this time? Why did the pesto taste so sweet? Why didn't I know about the Albarola, Bosco and Vermentino grapes and how good they tasted with the crispy, tender fritto misto? The hotel was far from luxurious so it couldn't be that. Was it the warmth that Felicita and Angelo Pasini, the owners of Albergo Pasquale, extended making me feel like their hotel was my home? Were the villages more quaint? Had the Cinque Terre changed or had I?

I arrived at the Albergo in the heart of Monterosso just two weeks ago, the first day of my weeklong cooking class. As soon as I walked in the door, I knew I'd made the right decision. I immediately revisited the kitchen I'd seen a year ago on a scouting trip and yes, it was well equipped and had enough space for my 12 students. I then went upstairs to my room and it was very basic at best, but when I opened the shutters, the Mediterranean Sea was right there before me.

In the first few minutes I knew that for me it was a magical place I couldn't wait to explore. And I had a whole week to do it! But would my students get it? I just had to hope. And I'd be finding out soon because I had just minutes until they'd arrive.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

something about stella


When I was about ten years old, Stella Ginsberg's age, I wanted to make oatmeal cookies all by myself. I remember measuring out everything, the flour, oatmeal, butter, baking powder and salt. I even cracked the egg. I called my Mom who was in the other room, "Mom, we ran out of baking soda." "That's funny" she said, "I just bought box the other day."

As I scooped the last of the cookies onto a baking sheet, I got all excited. I popped them into the oven, switched on the oven light and grabbed a chair to sit in front of the oven and watch my cookies bake. For the next ten minutes, I watched as the cookies spread out covering the entire baking sheet, over the sides and onto the floor of the oven. Horrified I called my mother. We realized I'd added 1 cup of baking soda instead of 1 teaspoon.
As we scraped the cookies off the baking sheet and into the trash, my mother broke off a piece and tasted it. "They're still good!" she said, not ever wanting to hurt my feelings.

Last week when I was in LA, I visited my friend, Stella. I've known her Mom for several years. and since Stella loves everything food, she and I have become cooking buddies.

Last week she called me for an informational interview for a biography she was writing for her 5th grade class. This gave me an idea, I'll interview her! After all, she's a very interesting, smart, funny, inquisitive kid. And I love her dimples! (Seriously, if I had a daughter, I'd want her to be just like Stella!)

So how did Stella get interested in cooking? Her Mom loves to cook, so did her grandmother and great grandmother. What does cooking and food mean to her? She said, "That's simple, love!" What's her worst cooking disaster? Every year, Stella, her brother and her Dad make chocolate cupcakes for their Mom's birthday which happens to fall near Mother's Day. One year, by mistake, Stella put unsweetened cocoa in the cupcakes instead of sweetened cocoa powder. Stella and Jack tried them and couldn't even eat one they were so bitter. When their Mom tasted them, she loved them.

Stella's Mom reminds me of my Mom. Check out Stella's blog, it's pretty cool, just like her! And maybe she'll even share her recipe for chocolate cupcakes?!




Friday, October 9, 2009

rome and cinqueterre

My Dad always called me his "wandering gypsy!" I'm beginning to think he was right!

I leave for Rome this morning. I'll be in Rome for the weekend with my friend, Jill. Tuesday we head to the Italian Riviera and the Cinque Terre for my weeklong cooking course with twelve students. Should be amazing this time of year. I have good walking shoes, lots of aprons and my knives.

If you want to follow me, I'll be doing lots of tweets on twitter, so check it out! My address @joanneweir1

fall salad recipe

Love fall, love being home in San Francisco and love cooking again! Last night, I had John and Derek for dinner. I was dying for sauerkraut with braised pork and sausages but what should I serve for a first course...

There is an incredibly short window for this salad! This is the time when figs are just going out of season and Fuju persimmons and pomegranates are just coming to market. Perfect! I can make one of my favorite salads.

What about wine? Are you ever in a quandary as to what wine to serve with salad? The acid of the vinaigrette really makes you think.... I had a really nice bottle of Navarro Riesling which I thought could be wonderful with the salad if I did things right.

I opened the bottle and tasted it. Delicious! I poured about a cup of the wine into a saucepan and reduced it until about a tablespoon or so was left. I whisked that into the dressing and served the same wine along with the salad. An absolutely perfect match!

You have to try this salad. Be forewarned... Do it today! The fruits should all be there and available!

FALL HARVEST SALAD

1 cup dry Riesling or Gewurztraminer
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
3 to 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch escarole or frisee, torn into 2 to 3-inch pieces
1 Fuju persimmon, cut into thin slices
1 ripe pear, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
6 figs, halve
25 red and/or green grapes, halved
1 small pomegranate, seeds removed and separated

In a small saucepan over high heat, reduce the wine until 1 to 2 tablespoons remain. Let cool. In a small bowl, whisk together the reduced wine, vinegar and olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Place the escarole or frisee, persimmon slices, pear slices, figs and grapes in a bowl. Add the vinaigrette and gently toss together. Place on individual salad plates and garnish with pomegranate seeds. Serve immediately.

Serves 6

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

goodbye greece


On the ferry crossing the Saronic Gulf back to the port of Piraeus and Athens, I tried to read but I was anxious. You know that feeling when you're dreaming and you just don't want it to end? I had less than 24 hours left in Greece and the thought made me feel like my heart was in my throat.

When we stepped into the lobby at the Hotel Grande Bretagne, calm settled over me. I felt like I was back home. This is where we'd spent the first night of our honeymoon and here we were again spending the last. A lot had happened and yet so little had taken place.

What a hotel! It ranks right up there with my favorite hotels in the world like La Mamounia in Marrakech, Hotel Monasterio in Cuzco, Peru and The London in New York. We settled into our suite complete with fragrant red roses and an exquisite bottle of red, compliments of the hotel.



We still had a few hours left of the day so we made a mad dash for the Acropolis (last time I was in Athens it was closed) and the New Acropolis Museum. As soon as you enter the museum, you are drawn up towards the monumental glass staircase at the end of the glass floored ramp by really large architectural sculptures of the Hekatompedon, the first large temple of the Goddess Athena on the Acropolis. It took my breath away.

After the museum, we walked and walked through Athens late into the afternoon and early evening, through Plaka, Monastiraki (grabbing the most delicious juicy souvlaki along the way) and Kolonaki ending up back at our hotel in Syntagna Square.

We planned it so we'd have enough time for a late night drink at the GB Roof Garden on the very top of the Hotel Grande Bretagne. This is reason enough to stay here! (The restaurant is excellent too!) The bar is open to the out of doors so the warm breeze of Athens refreshes the evening and the Acropolis lights the night. I'll never forget that night!

The next morning we packed and hurried to the airport for our long flight. What did I bring home from such a fantastic trip? A big bag of Santorini split peas to make their famous dish called fava, a jar of brined caper leaves also from Santorini, some absolutely wonderful memories and lots of love. Thanks for being a part of the journey!





Monday, September 14, 2009

Tales from Hydra Island in Greece


Next stop... The island of Hydra.


If you're planning a trip to Greece, make sure to put it on your itinerary. Only an hour and a half from Athens by hydrafoil but a million dreams away.


This place may very well be Greece's little secret. One moment you feel like you've stepped back in time and the next moment you could think you're in Carmel or the Hamptons.


Joe and I are thanking our good friends, Emmanuel and Tracy, who told us not to miss this place. They come here often staying at the elegant little hotel, Porta del Mare, in a quaint alley just a few short steps from where the ferry drops you in the port.



Petros (photo above) owns Porta del Mare along with a few stores and I'm sure countless other ventures. As soon as we met him, we had an instant friend who gave us the names of the best tavernas, told us not to take the expensive red water taxis, which beaches were best, and pointed us towards his favorite store for fruit and yogurt. You can't miss Petros, look for the red door right on the harbour. It says Peter's over the door. He'll either be inside the store or at the cafe next door.


The port is a hub of activity 27/7 where cafe after cafe rim the edge. People-watching is a favorite pastime and the locals view it as kind of a sport right up there with swimming and hiking the beautiful mountain trails.


Order a coffee at Sinialo or Isalos and sit for hours watching the yachts tie up and the ferries delivering the "three islands-in-a-day" trippers. Just a little FYI, we think the whipped ice coffee at Isalos is miles ahead of anyone else.


But I haven't even mentioned the very best part of Hydra.... There aren't any cars or scooters, only mule. No joke! And those mules come in handy for getting luggage to your hotel over the rough cobblestones or taking you by horseback over the mountain.


The first day when we arrived by ferry, there was a flurry of activity at the port. There weren't enough mules and the scene wasn't that different than fighting for a taxi in NYC.


Did I mention the food yet? The freshest fish is caught in the clean very salty waters off the coast of Hydra. Make sure you order some tarama. If you're lucky, it's made from fresh roe. We had the best stuffed tomatoes and peppers at Barba Dimas Taverna and exquisite grilled octopus and large calamari in the little village of Kaminia at Taverna Kodylenia just over the hill from the port.


It's difficult to imagine a place more picturesque, romantic, and sensuous in the Mediterranean. If Greece (or the Mediterranean) is on your itinerary, be sure to set at least a few days aside for Hydra. And did I mention it is the perfect place to spend your honeymoon?!!


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Honeymoon in Greece


We arrived exhausted after a long flight from San Francisco and just 3 hours of sleep the first night at the Hotel Grande Bretagne in Athens. Were we crazy to wake up so early to catch an 8-hour ferry to Santorini?

I realized we were not crazy the moment we stepped onto the island. White villages perched hundreds of meters above the Aegean on the huge horseshoe-shaped remnants of a volcanic island. We're in the exquisite village of Oia at the northern point of Santorini as close to Crete and Egypt as we are the mainland.

Pomegranates, oleander, fig trees and bouganvilla everywhere. Gentle breezes blow.

Joe and I are having an absolutely amazing time. Just ate a delicious salad, Greek-style, outside in candlelight looking at the stars and caldera. Love the Santorini white wines (Sigalas and Boutari), olives, oil, fave, cheeses, and the freshest fish..... Our little village and our villa sits on the edge of the cliffs overlooking the caldera. We ate at 1800 Restaurant last night. It's an old sea captain's house. It is also a Slow Food restaurant. Fantastic! We hiked 10 km. today from our village of Oia to Imerovigli. Here a few more days then to the island of Hydra. I'm just waking up to the fact that I have two dreamy weeks ahead of me in Greece!

Already thinking about the breakfast I'm going to make tomorrow. Maybe a little thick creamy Greek (of course) yogurt drizzled with Greek (of course) honey.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

It's Official: I'm Married!!

I have never in my life had a more wonderful evening. And so many of our guests said the same! Enchanting, magical, and romantic were just a few of the adjectives we all used.


It started with a cocktail reception where Joe and I mingled with everyone for an Orange Aperol Sun as the sun was just settling in the western sky over Mt. Tamalpais. I was so nervous until a dear friend Carla reminded me that I needed to breathe. She was right, I'd forgotten.


The ceremony began with me circling Joe 3 times and continued from there with a very special tribute and blessing from my Mom who couldn't be with us. It was delivered by my 9 year old great niece. She did brillant job. The ceremony was performed by our close friend, the Reverend Tim McDonald. AKA my best wine pal. Joe had a continuous tear. I was either crying or smiling. Joe's daughters, now my stepdaughters, were very much a part of the ceremony with a prayer, a love poem by Pablo Neruda (my favorite poet) and blessing of the wine. Our vows and then mazel tov! Husband and wife as Joe smashed the glass!


Seal's "Love's Divine" played and I was walking on clouds holding my glass of rosé champagne!


Dinner was so my style. Tasha from Olive Green Catering who does all the cooking for Alice and Chez Panisse catered the dinner. Jared from Picco was on hand to slice salumi for all the tables.


I have never heard so many toasts. So heartfelt, so emotional, so joyous. And I was still either crying or smiling or a combination of both.





And my idea for the cake.... Good friend and Delfina pastry chef, Koa Duncan, made a lovely almond wedding cake layered with roasted peaches and dreamy buttercream, one for each table. We all cut the cake together.




Hours of dancing to the sounds of DJ Lamont. We danced to the stars, the moon and the smiles Joe and I were still wearing long after.

When I went to bed that night in our suite at the Four Seasons, my cheeks ached from smiling so much!


Words cannot express the happiness and love I am feeling. Off to Greece for our honeymoon!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

bachelorette party

This is what I look like when I'm surprised!

Am I really a bachelorette?

A Champagne Shower in my honor! Oh yeah, I was definitely showered in Champagne!

It all took place at my friend Jill's condo at the Four Seasons. Mariangela and Jill planned a fantastic party. Mariangela certainly is the party queen! Bottles of Champagne, a table of delicious food, 15 very happy best women friends, two of my future stepdaughters and one very happy Joanne! In the first ten minutes, my face started cramping from smiling so much.

A glass of Billecart Salmon Champagne was the first thing placed in my hand. Then the food... I can still taste the eggplant dip and the dahl loaded with sweet carrots. (Remond me, I've gotta get that recipe!) Loved the delicious Sweet 100 cherry tomato flatbread from Farina and Kraemer made endive with smoked trout from one of my books! I recall eating a few slices of salumi from a huge platter. I remember Lucques olives and marcona almonds but honestly, the rest is a blurr! It felt like I walked in the door, blinked and the party was over. I guess that's what happens when you're surrounded by so much friendship, love and celebration!

Did I tell you that Joe joined us in the end and we all danced into the night?!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

10 days to go

You wonder where I've been this week? Pre-occupied and kind of ... How should I say it? Nervous!?

People have been asking me for months if I'm nervous. "Are you nervous?" "Are you nervous?" they'd say. I'd roll my eyes and say to myself, what do I have to be nervous about? Then last night it hit me. In just a few days I'M GETTING MARRIED. Ten days to go! YUP, I'm nervous!

So if I'm a little bit more absent (and absent-minded), I've got a good excuse! Right now I'm doing all the last minute stuff before the big day. So hang in there, more details to follow. I promise to write as soon as I have a minute. And yes, I will post a picture of the dress!!!

Friday, August 14, 2009

julia child

Linda took me to see "Julie and Julia" last night as a belated birthday gift. I loved every minute and even snapped this photo of Meryl with my iPhone.

It made me think of years ago when I joined IACP and went to my first conference alone. I planned all of my outfits, packed them into my suitcase and off I went. I knew only a handful of people in the food business at that point and I was excited and scared all at the same time. When I saw Jacques Pepin (now a friend) and Julia Child for the first time, I nearly fainted.

All by myself, I remember walking into the very first luncheon that first day of the conference. The room was packed with people. I searched the room for someone I might know but couldn't find a soul. Terror!!! "Get ahold of yourself! You can do it!" I said to myself as I sat in one of the unoccupied chairs at a table with a bunch of complete strangers. They all seemed so important and I was just a young cooking teacher from San Francisco.

Suddenly behind me, there was a very familiar voice, "Is this chair taken?' As I turned around, it was Julia and she was talking to ME! "No," I said, trying to act calm as I swallowed wrong and almost choked on dried-out conference-chicken! "And how are you?" she said as she sat down. We introduced ourselves (like she needed an introduction!) and talked as we ate. I'd grown up in Northampton, Massachusetts which is where she went to college, and my mother cooked for years with her college roommate and dear friend, Charlotte Turgeon, so we had much to talk about. But I hardly ate a thing!

The next day I saw Julia again in the hallway. I smiled at her and said, Hi Julia, how are you?" thinking she'd never remember me. She said "No Joanne, how are YOU?"

I loved how Julia had a wonderful knack for always giving more than she would ever take!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

farmer's market class and panzanella recipe

Sunny , bright Saturday morning! Perfect kind of farmer's market day. Bags in hand and Bruce, my assistant, in tow, we scoured the market for the makings of panzanella, the Tuscan bread salad so prevalent in summer.

They never throw anything away in Italy and stale bread is no exception. I had a bunch of it leftover from a cooking class I did a few weeks ago so I brought it along. This was my day for "Shop with the Chef," the annual cooking class I donate to CUESA in support of the farmer's market.

We bought ripe, red dry-farm Early Girl tomatoes from Dirty Gril Farms, Armenian cucumbers and really aromatic basil from Madison Farms. Bruce had some homemade vinegar from his Paso Robles Cabernet grapes and we bought a nice bottle of Marsala extra virgin olive oil from Sciabica.

We didn't need much else besides some good hungry, eager shoppers/students who flocked at 11:00 AM!

TUSCAN BREAD SALAD WITH TOMATOES AND BASIL

1/2 pound rustic coarse-textured stale bread
6 ripe medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and 1/2-inch dice
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
5 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 /2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Slice the bread into 1-inch slices. Sprinkle with 1 cup water and let sit 1 minute. Carefully squeeze the bread until dry. Tear the bread into rough 1-inch shapes and let rest on paper towels for 10 minutes.

In a bowl, combine the tomatoes, onions and cucumbers. Tear the basil and add to the vegetables. Add the bread and toss carefully.

In a small bowl, combine the vinegar and the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Toss with the vegetables and bread and let it rest in the refrigerator 1 hour. Place on a platter and serve.

Serves 6

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

sf chefs.food.wine


Last week, I did four charity and tequila events and by end of the week I was pretty burned out. I thought I'd do my demo with Gary at Williams Sonoma in Union Square on Friday afternoon and that would be it! But after going to the Opening Reception of SF Chefs. Food. Wine Thursday night, I was hooked, it was the hottest ticket in town. Not only the hottest ticket for the weekend, maybe the year!

Saturday night's Urban BBQ was a very cool event. The event was simmering with heat and great food. We sipped cocktails by the likes of all my bartending favorites,- H, Joel, Marco, Dominic, Neyah and Reza and danced to the sounds of music by my buddy, Joey Altman, and the Back Burner Blues Band. Towards the end of the night, Hubert Keller put a spin on things as he DJ-ed. Chantal danced wildly to his techno beat.

The after party at Victor's was wall-to-wall industry. More dancing to the sounds of DJ Dukes. Loved burning off the chocolate calories late into the night! Almost felt like NY!

And by Sunday, I was back again... This time, the Grand Tasting tent. Grand, alright! It was worth going just to see how Union Square was transformed into the ultimate tasting room. Mary Edwards, yummmm, couldn't miss Navarro, Fred Peterson had a great zinfandel, Hall, Gargiulo, Farella-Park's Sauvignon and Flower's Pinot Noir. I hung out with Zardo and couldn't get enough of anything with the word Pisoni or Lucia on the label. And the food... sweet pea gaspacho by Joseph Humphrey. Reminded me exactly of a pea gazpacho I blogged months ago. Really liked the Palio D'Asti meatballs, kinda like what Gramma would make if mine was Italian, Graig Stoll's pappa al pomodoro, Hayes Street Grill's crab crostini with lightly-pickled vegetables and I loved Sean O'Toole of Bardessono's crostini with sweet summer melon, jamon Iberico, lemon thyme, piment d'Espelette, lemon zest and a drizzle of the most delicious Caselvetrano extra virgin olive oil. And isn't blogger, Amy Sherman, the best?

You simply cannot miss this event next year!

Friday, August 7, 2009

don't miss this weekend

I went to the Opening Night Reception last night for the SF Chefs. Food. Wine. Don't miss this "first" in San Francisco. It was the most fun event I've been to in a long, long time. Honestly I can still taste the "corn dog" made by Richard Corbo, rising star, soon to open Pizzeria Zanna Bianca. Great wines!!! Cocktails by bar stars Marco Dionysos, Dominic Vemegas, Thad Volgler, Neyah White and many more. It was the place to see and be seen! All the Kellers were there, Thomas and Hubert, Tyler Florence, Jamie Lauren, so many more. Every food and wine writer. This event is dubbed as featuring the best in San Francisco and if you miss it, honestly, it's your loss!

I have to run.... I am doing a book signing in the Grand Tent in a few minutes and then an heirloom demo with my best chef pal, Gary Danko, at 3:30 at Williams Sonoma Flagship Store on Union Square. Rumor has it, we were the first to sell out. I guess we've got a lot of tomato lovers out there. Garrison Keillor said that when you no longer care about fresh tomatoes and sweet corn, death is near!





Friday, July 31, 2009

events, events, events

LOTS OF UPCOMING EVENTS YOU WON'T WANT TO MISS!

SATURDAY AUGUST 1
what: Private Charity Event for Guide Dogs for the Blind
where: Boyd Family Vineyards, Napa Valley

SUNDAY AUGUST 2
what: My birthday! Do all Leos love birthdays?
how many years: A girl's gotta have her secrets

TUESDAY AUGUST 4
what: TEQUILA Party with my pal, Heidi Kreiling
where: Marinitas in San Anselmo
218 Sir Francis Drake Blvd. San Anselmo
415-454-8900
when: 5:00 to 7:00 PM
details: For 25 bucks, you get a signed copy of Tequila (by yours truly, of course), an artisanal tequila tasting and antojitos (Heidi's fabulous Mexican bites). Reservations necessary.

FRIDAY AUGUST 7
what: Tomato Cooking Demo with my best chef friend, Gary Danko
SF Chefs. Food. Wine
where: Williams Sonoma Flagship Store
Union Square, San Francisco
when: 3:30 to 5:00
details: Splurge and support the first ever 4-day celebration of San Francisco chefs, food and wine. For $150.00 you can join in the Friday events that include sessions and grand tasting.

SATURDAY AUGUST 8
what: Shop with the Chef cooking demo
where: Ferry Terminal
San Francisco
when: 11:00

THURSDAY AUGUST 13
what: TEQUILA Dinner
where: Reposado Restaurant
236 Hamilton Avenue
Palo Alto
650-324-4321
when: 6:00
details: Four course dinner including wine, tax, tip and a signed Tequila book. Single $88.00. Couple $155.00. I will be there signing books!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

whatamelon punch recipe... be careful!

It's only Tuesday and I'm already talking cocktails. I can't help it, I may very well have discovered this summer's house cocktail this past weekend during my tequila cooking class.

Award-winning bartender, owner of Elixir, tequila pal extraordinaire, H Ehrmann, came to shake up some cocktails with my students in my kitchen on Sunday. H is knowledgeable, passionate and one hell of a bartender. Whatamelon Punch comes with serious warnings. You'd never know there's lots of blanco tequila in it. Muddled with sweet fresh watermelon and a splash of St Germain Elderflower, my, my, my! My fiance is an attorney so may this be your warning! I am not liable.

Sunny, warm, very un-San Francisco kind of summer day. I had no problem downing three in one sitting. Dangerously delicious! Go for it!

WHATMELON PUNCH

To "slap" the mint, place the sprig on one palm and slap with the other hand to give a burst of mint flavor and aroma.

5 to 6 1-inch watermelon cubes
6 mint leaves
1 1/2 ounces blanco tequila (we used PARTIDA!)
1 ounce St. Germain Elderflower liqueur
1/2 ounce agave nectar
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
Mint sprigs as a garnish

Place the watermelon cubes and 5 of the mint leaves in a mixing glass and muddle for 5 to 10 seconds. Add the tequila, St. Germain, agave nectar and lime juice. Fill with plenty of ice and shake for 10 seconds. Strain over fresh ice into a highball glass. Garnish with a slapped piece of mint.

Makes one drink

Friday, July 24, 2009

tequila book give-away and happy national tequila day

I'll drink to that!

Just minutes ago, I got off a radio interview with Martha Stewart Everyday Food where we were talking tequila and celebrating National Tequila Day, TODAY! I like to blog on Friday and I was thinking, what should I write about today? Of course, TEQUILA!

This is Carlos Carmarena of El Tesoro slamming back a caballito of his blanco tequila straight out of the still. Carlos told me a great story. Do you know where shooting shots of tequila comes from? No, not college days!

Early distilleries were located way out in the countryside in the agave fields, and since drinking glasses weren't available where mezcal was being made, it was initially served in the hollowed out tip of a bull's horn, called a cuernito or caballito. Due to the limited supply of horns, the vessel was passed from one drinker to another. Because it was impossible to set the horn down without it falling over, shots were thrown back before the horn was passed along to the next drinker. Thus began the tradition of drinking shots of mezcal and, later, tequila.

Oh, one more thing... I'm giving away a copy of my new tequila book "Tequila, A Guide to Types, Flights, Cocktails and Bites" to one lucky winner. To be eligible, make sure, if you haven't already, put your name in the subscriber box (top left). Then leave me a comment and let me know your favorite way to celebrate National Tequila Day. I'll pick a winner at random next week and send you the book.

How am I celebrating? I'm teaching a tequila weekend cooking and cocktail-making class beginning with a tequila reception tonight in my kitchen.

How are you celebrating National Tequila Day?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

tomato salad recipe


Tis the season! The one we wait all year long for....

Tomatoes are just coming into season and it makes me truly grateful that there are seasons, mothers and fabulous chefs.

When I was really little, about 5 or 6, I remember my mother saying she was going to make me a tomato sandwich. I rolled my eyes thinking why couldn't my mother be like all the other mothers? What's wrong with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a tuna sandwich? No, she wanted to make me a tomato sandwich. (You'll love the dedication in my tomato cookbook, "You Say Tomato")

She went to the garden and picked a tomato and brought it inside still warm from the sun. She sliced some homemade bread, toasted it, spread it with mayonnaise (no doubt homemade) and sliced the tomato. I can still remember the smell of that fresh tomato! She carefully put a few slices of juicy tomato on the sandwich, sprinkled the tomatoes with salt and put the top on. I took the first bite and thought I'd died and gone to heaven!

I had that same sensation the other night when I ate the most incredible tomato salad at the Restaurant at Wente Vineyards in Livermore. The tomatoes reminded me of the delicious summer tomatoes my mother picked from her garden many years ago with just the right balance of acid and sweetness. Arthur Wall, the fabulous chef at Wente, crumbled a little of the creamiest Laura Chenel goat cheese over the tomatoes. He drizzled Arbequina virgin olive oil onto the top. I loved the sweetness and simplicity of torn basil leaves and the light dusting of sea salt and cracked black pepper that left their taste in my mouth long after I'd finished my salad.

ARTHUR'S TOMATO SALAD

Heirloom tomatoes of different varieties and colors, cut into different shapes and sizes
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
Fresh goat cheese
Whole basil leaves, torn into pieces
Extra virgin olive oil

Arrange the tomatoes on a platter and season with salt and pepper. Crumble the goat cheese onto the tomatoes. Tear the basil leaves and sprinkle onto the top. Drizzle with olive oil.

Serves one happy tomato-loving Joanne Weir

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

cooking class and tomato recipe

Good morning class!

Garlic, Tomatoes and Olive Oil! That's the theme of today's class, the first day of a weeklong class I began teaching this morning. And what a day it was! 10:00 AM, clean aprons, anxiety and lots of smiles. We made the Best Bloody Marys with Pickled Asparagus to serve with Crostini Rossi or red crostini. Then we had a tomato salad with all kinds of first-of-the-season heirloom tomatoes with Gorgonzola and pine nut toasts and for the main course, homemade feta and goat cheese ravioli with tomatoes and mint. And since this is a day of garlic, tomatoes and olive oil, what for dessert? You'd never guess.... An upside down spiced heirloom tomato cake?

Fantastic cooking students with only one little blunder. We planned on making two cakes to have enough for everyone. The student team responsible for the cake did a masterful job preparing the batter but poured a double batch into one 9-inch pan instead of two. They did it so quickly I didn't notice anything was wrong until I smelled the wonderful cinnamon, cloves and gingered batter as it overflowed the pan and cooked on the bottom of the oven.

But as we turned the finished cake out onto the cakestand, the oooohs and ahhhhs could be heard a block away. The warm, luscious spice cake crowned with tomatoes looked perfect. Want the recipe?
SPICED TOMATO UP-SIDE-DOWN CAKE

topping:
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger
2 small ripe red tomatoes, peeled, seeded and thinly sliced

cake:
1 ½ cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
large pinch salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground mace
½ cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
½ cup molasses
2 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon plus a few drops vanilla
½ cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar

Butter a 9" cake pan. For the topping melt the butter, brown sugar and ginger in the bottom of the cake pan. Cover with a single layer of the tomato sliced.

Preheat oven to 350oF. For the cake, mix the flour, baking powder, salt, ginger, cloves, cinnamon and mace together. Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl. Add the molasses to the creamed mixture, and the egg yolks, adding one yolk at a time, beating well after each addition. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla and mix well. Add the milk to the above batter alternately with the dry ingredients, folding well after each addition. Beat the egg whites until stiff. Fold the whites into the cake batter. Spread the batter over the tomatoes and bake until a skewer goes into the center and comes out clean, approximately 45 to 50 minutes.

After the cake has cooled for at least 15 minutes, run a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen it. Turn the cake over onto a serving platter and let it sit another 5 minutes. Remove the pan. Whip the cream and flavor with confectioner’s sugar and remaining few drops vanilla.

To serve, cut the cake into wedges and serve the cream on the side.

Serves 8 to 10

Friday, July 10, 2009

summer fruit crisp recipe

One of my favorite secrets (oh, I guess it's no longer a secret) for a quick and easy dessert is a fresh fruit crisp! You can make it any season depending upon the fruit! Last night as I looked at the abundance of summer fruit on my counter, I honestly got nervous. Why did I buy so much? What if it all ripens at the same moment? Never throuwing a single bit of food away, I had images of myself eating a half case of my all-time favorite Royal Blenheim apricots, a huge bowl of the deepest purple Bing cherries and a dozen juicy ripe Crimson Sweet pluots all in the same hour.

When I have too much fresh fruit on hand, I always go back to my old standard fruit crisp. Are you still wondering what the secret is? Here goes... When I make crisp topping, I double or quadruple the recipe and store what I don't use in the freezer. Then all I have to do is cut up the fruit, toss it with sugar and flour and pour it in a baking dish. Next top it with the crisp topping and into the oven for about a half hour until it's bubbling and golden brown.

Here's what I made last night!

SUMMER FRUIT CRISP

3/4 cup pecans, toasted
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, out of the refrigerator 10 minutes
1/2 cup oatmeal

For the Fruit Filling
1 1/2 pounds pluots and apricots, pitted and cut into 8ths
1 pound pitted Bing cherries
1 cup blueberries
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar

Place the nuts in the food processor and pulse a few times until the nuts are in 1/4-inch pieces. Remove the nuts and reserve. Place the flour, brown sugar, and nutmeg in the food processor and process until well mixed. Add the butter to the food processor and pulse until it just begins to hold together. Add the oatmeal and nuts and pulse 3 to 4 more times until mixed.

Preheat the oven to 375°f.

In a bowl, toss together the fruit, flour, and sugar until well mixed. Place the fruit in a 2 to 2 1/2 quart baking dish and sprinkle the crisp topping evenly over the top. Bake in the middle of the oven until a skewer inserted into the center goes in without any resistance, the top is golden, and the fruit mixture is bubbling around the edges, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 20 minutes before serving.

To serve, spoon the crisp into individual dessert dishes.

Serves 8

Monday, July 6, 2009

grilled potato salad recipe

It was requested that I bring the potato salad on Saturday to my friend Kelny's Fourth of July picnic. I've always loved my mother's recipe for good old potato salad but this time I wanted to come up with a new version, my version. My pantry and fridge were packed with three or four pounds of freshly dug German Butterball potatoes, a few red Torpedo onions and the freshest, sweetest Blue Lake green beans from my CSA box. (After tasting those green beans, I vow never to buy green beans again from any grocery store.) But the salad needed some acid, sweetness and color so I went to the farmer's market and got some red and yellow cherry tomatoes and basil. I also grabbed some mint from my balcony "garden" and off I went to the kitchen to make Joanne's potato salad.

GRILLED POTATO SALAD WITH GREEN BEANS, CHERRY TOMATOES, MINT AND BASIL

1 Basic Recipe for Grilled Potatoes
1 pound green wax beans, ends removed, cut diagonally into 2-inch pieces
30 mint leaves
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cups red and yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 medium red onion, coarsely diced
1/2 cup basil chiffonade

Make one recipe of the grilled potatoes ans set them aside to cool.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the green beans and cook until tender but still slightly crisp, 4 to 7 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Bring a small pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the mint leaves and simmer 20 seconds. Drain. Place the mint leaves in a blender and with the motor running add the olive oil and vinegar and process 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides and continue to puree 30 to 60 seconds until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

Place the cherry tomatoes in a bowl and toss with balsamic vinegar and salt. Set aside for 10 minutes.

In the large bowl containing the potatoes, add the mint oil, green beans, cherry tomatoes and their juices, the onions and toss together. Add the basil and toss again gently. Place in a big serving bowl and enjoy.

Serves a crowd

BASIC RECIPE FOR GRILLED POTATOES

3 pounds small red-skinned new potatoes
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat an oven to 375°F. Wash the potatoes and place in a 13 X 9-inch baking dish. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil, season with salt and pepper, cover with foil and bake until easily skewered, 40 to 60 minutes depending upon the size of the potatoes.

Preheat an outdoor grill or an indoor cast-iron ridged grill. Cut the potatoes in half. Place the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a small bowl. Dip the cut side of the potatoes in the oil and place on a hot grill. Grill until the potatoes are hot and the cut side has golden brown grill mark, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the grill and place in a large serving bowl. Add the remaining ingredients, toss together and serve immediately.