Tuesday, June 30, 2009

doctor's orders


Do you have feelings of inadequacy?
Do you suffer from shyness?
Do you sometimes wish you were more assertive?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, ask your doctor or pharmacist about Margaritas. Margaritas are the safe, natural way to feel better and more confident about yourself and your actions. Margaritas can help ease you out of your shyness and let you tell the world that you're ready and willing to do just about anything. You will notice the benefits of Margaritas almost immediately and with a regimen of regular doses you can overcome any obstacles that prevent you from living the life you want to live. Shyness and awkwardness will be a thing of the past and you will discover many talents you never knew you had. Stop hiding and start living, with Margaritas. Margaritas may not be right for everyone. Women who are pregnant or nursing should not use Margaritas.

Side effects may include:

Dizziness - Nausea - Vomiting - Incarceration - Erotic lustfulness - Loss of motor control - Loss of clothing - Loss of money - Table dancing - Headache - Dehydration - Dry mouth - And a desire to sing Karaoke


The consumption of Margaritas may make you think you are whispering when you are not. The consumption of Margaritas may cause you to tell your friends non-stop that you love them.

The consumption of Margaritas may cause you to think you can sing.

The consumption of Margaritas may make you think you can logically converse with members of the opposite sex without spitting.

Please share this with anyone who may need Margaritas.
Thank you.


You probably know créme de cassis from a infamous French kir or kir royale. It's a 30 proof blood-red liqueur made from black currents. It has deep woodland berry notes and a sweetness thst balances well balanced against the acidity. It would remind you of a full-flavored berry jam. Drink it quickly to retain it's clean fruitiness. I love the stuff.

1 handful of fresh cherries, about 12, pitted
1 1/2 ounce blanco 100% agave tequila
1/2 ounce créme de cassis
1/2 ounce agave nectar
1/2 ounce water
3/4 ounce lime fresh lime juice
Fresh cherries as a garnish

Place the cherries in a shaker and muddle or mash them for 1 minute. Add the tequila, créme de cassis, agave nectar, water, lime juice and lots of ice cubes. Place the top on the shaker and shake vigorously for 30 seconds. Immediately strain into a highball glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with a cherries and serve immediately.

Serves 1

Friday, June 26, 2009

crostini recipe

I'm a freak for crostini, any kind! It's the best thing to serve when friends arrive. So easy and as long as you have a good loaf of bread! You can always forage through your refrigerator or cabinet and you're bound to be able to throw something together in a few minutes. And here's a great little tip. I don't always have a loaf of fresh bread in the house, believe it or not. Here's what I do.... When I buy a loaf of Acme levain, my favorite, when I have leftovers, I slice it, pop it in a ziplock and store it in the freezer. If I need bread, I grab the slices I need and just throw them on the grill or toast them under the broiler or use my tostapane. Just like fresh!

Back to the crostini, this one is fun. I make it with artichokes I either buy at the olive bar or by the jar, or if I'm feeling ambitious, I make them myself. I chop them and add some grape leaves. This time of year is perfect for getting tender, young leaves in the vineyard. OK, so you don't live next to a vineyard? Just buy the ones in the jar!

What do you serve for wine? Some people say that artichokes and wine can't be paired. I love this crostini with Sauvignon Blanc or a good glass of sparkling. You have to try it and let me know what you think!?


5 lemons
12 medium artichokes
10 sprigs of thyme
5 bay leaves
20 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt

With a vegetable peeler, remove the zest from the lemons.

Prepare a large bowl of water to which you have added the juice of 1 lemon. Remove the tough outer leaves of the artichokes. Working with 1 artichoke at a time, cut off the top half of the artichokes, including all of the prickly leaf points. Remove the tough outer leaves of the artichoke until you get to the very light green leaves. Pare the stem to reveal the light green center. Cut each one in half lengthwise, then scoop out the prickly chokes and discard. Cut in half again. As each is cut, place in the bowl of lemon water.

Drain the artichokes and place them in a saucepan with the juice of the remaining 4 lemons, the lemon peel, thyme, bay leaves, garlic, olive oil, and salt. Add water just to cover. Cover the pan with a piece of parchment and weight the parchment with a small plate that fits inside the pan. Over medium-high heat, bring to a boil, turn down to medium, and simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off and let the pan cool completely, about 1 hour.

Divide the mixture between 2 quart (liter) jars and store in the refrigerator until ready to use. They keep for 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

Makes 2 quarts


6 whole artichokes in brine, very coarsely chopped
4 grape leaves in brine, stems removed, rinsed, and very coarsely chopped
1/2 cup imported green olives, such as picholine, pitted
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
11/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 long baguette, sliced on the diagonal into 16 1/2-inch slices, toasted or grilled
Lemon wedges as a garnish

In a bowl, combine the artichokes, grape leaves, olives, garlic, and lemon zest. Place on a cutting board and chop together until coarsely chopped. Return the mixture to the bowl and add the olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, spread the mixture onto the toasted bread and serve immediately, garnished with lemon wedges.

Makes 16 pieces and serves 8

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

suckling pig at la ciccia

I've visited Sardinia a couple of times and loved the rustic food, the vernaccia and cannanou wines, the dramatic terrain and sunny Mediterranean climate. When I'm home in San Francisco and need a Sardinian fix, I head straight to La Ciccia. I even hate to write about it for fear that more people will discover it!

Lorella Degan and Massimiliano Conti performed miracles there last night in the dining room and kitchen! What a dinner,- a tribute to the pig!

We started with little roasted triangles of pancetta drizzled with arugula pesto. They had a crunchy exterior but melted in your mouth. Next, was a platter of the most delicious salumi, some house made, some from Italy, along with pickled onions, carrots, fennel, celery and briny black olives.

The pasta was to die for. Some enthusiastic diners at our communal table called it gnochetti while others swore it's called malloreddus. Malloraddus is shaped like a little canoe with more grooves on the bottom to catch the sauce. Originally those grooves were made by pressing the pasta into a straw basket but now they are pretty much machine-made. The ragu was so unbelievably delicious. Imagine stewed pork loin, sausage and pancetta with tomatoes and a tiny hint of fennel and pepper. The wine was flowing so I'm not sure that anyone noticed I helped myself to thirds!

And then out of the kitchen came Massimiliano flaunting the perfectly roasted suckling pig. In Sardinia, this is called porceddu, a traditional dish simply made with a touch of rosemary and salt and served with raw vegetables and an herb vinaigrette. For dessert (as if we needed it).... fresh ricotta with Sardinian honey and toasted sliced almonds.

I woke up today with a smile on my face until I got on the scale!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A week at Rancho La Puerta Spa in Mexico

I have wanted to visit Rancho La Puerta Spa for the last 15 years. And now that I'm finally here it's everything I thought it would be. It took me a few days to get into it. I had to relax, get work out of my head and just get into the groove of being at a health spa in Mexico. Imagine..... Great food, working out as much or as little as you want, getting massages, hanging out in a perpetual state of relaxation for 1 full week. No cell phone, no TV, no computer and just the Mexican breezes, beautiful sun and breathtaking sky and stars. Today we visited the cooking school and culinary center, La Cocina Que Canta, ("the kitchen that sings") and organic gardens where I will be teaching this week. Overwhelming is my only word.

The organic gardens at La Cocina Que Canta are over the top. I picked zucchini and their blossoms for the risotto I'm teaching in today's class. We also harvested radicchio, mizuna and purslane for a salad. My class menu also includes skewers of Mexican shrimp with salsa verde with tons of herbs from the garden. The kitchen is huge with terra cotta tiles, hand painted Mexican bowls and crockery and the largest butcher block island I've ever seen. It must be 25 feet by 5 feet. Everyone is so psyched about the cooking classes partly because it's the highlight of the week and there is no wine at the Ranch however they do serve wine at the classes. (Don't tell but we smuggled in 4 bottles which everyone does. Every night we return to the casita for a glass or two on the veranda overlooking the mountains after working out all day.) One student came from Chicago just to meet me and take my class. There are a lot of fans of my PBS "Cooking Class" series here.

The week consists of three hands-on cooking classes including a tour of the garden and picking all the veggies we need for class. In between I'm working out non-stop doing circuit training, aqua-biotics, breakfast hikes, getting massages, pilates, stretch classes, yoga, getting pedicures, eating meals give you the caloric intake for each dish, doing reflexology, and just hanging out. But I'm dying for some salty potato chips and dark chocolate!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

pimientos de padrón

At least fifteen years ago in Barcelona, on recommendation by a friend, I ate tapas at the famous Cal Pep. At the time, it was kind of a hangout for Barcelona chefs. My chef friend Toni took me there and I'll never forget it! NEVER! I had had tapas before in New York and all over Spain but this was the real thing. We sat at the counter and ate dish after dish of the most delicious stuff. They saw the delight on my face and in order to keep it there they just kept bringing dish after dish, some of which we ordered and some of which magically appeared.

One of my favorites, and one I will never forget, were the pimientos de padrón. I'd never had them before, I'd never even seen them. The first few were as sweet and nutty as can be and the next one was blazing hot. It was like gambling, there was no way to discern the hot ones from the sweet ones but I loved the challenge!

Years later I was at the farmer's market in San Francisco and came across David at Happy Quail Farms. Looking at the array of peppers he grows I spotted what looked like pimientos de padrón. Sure enough! I couldn't have been happier as I forked over a bunch of dollars for a couple of bags and off I went to cook them.

It’s amazing how quickly they gained fame in the US. Maybe it's because they are so bloody easy to prepare. I spotted the first of the season on Saturday at the farmer's market so you'll start seeing them soon too. If you can't find them, try getting some seeds and growing them yourself.


4 ounces pimientos de padrón
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt

Wash the pimientos and dry them very well. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat. When the oil is rippling, add the pimientos and cook, shaking the pan several times, until the pimientos develop some small white blisters, have golden brown sear marks and they start to soften, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Remove from the pan and place on a towel-lined plate. Sprinkle with salt. To eat them, hold the pimientos by the stem and bite. Serve with a glass of chilled Cava.

Serves 6

Friday, June 12, 2009

I had a few problems with my feed provider (this has absolutely nothing to do with food) so I changed providers a week ago. If you received any posts this week, you're fine, but if you subscribed before that and you haven't gotten anything for a while, you may have to subscribe again. Simple to do! Don't miss a post! Thanks!

chorizo handpie recipe

Usually on the weekend I like to chill but that wasn't in the cards this past weekend. Did a demo for a standing-room-only crowd for the Sunset Magazine Celebration Weekend on Saturday, zoomed back to the City for an interview with Novo Magazine at Tres Agaves and on Sunday, bright and early, I went on KRON television to do an interview with Henry Tenenbaum. All in the name of tequila!

Here's how it went.... Popped up early on Saturday morning and headed to Menlo Park for that big Sunset Magazine Celebration Weekend. Check out the link! Did a demo, short and sweet, thirty minutes. The first dish I made were these chorizo and tequila handpies. In front of a crowd of 300 hundred PLUS people, I forgot the tequila in the chorizo AND TEQUILA filling! Don't ask me why.... The bottle of Partida blanco was sitting right in front of me! We all laughed but think I might have laughed the most, mostly at myself!

Then I went to roll out the puff pastry. Mind you, it was about 100 degrees! It was sticky and impossible to roll. I did what I could and managed to turn out the most delicious chorizo minus the tequila handpies!

Immediately after, over a Mexican 75 at Tres Agaves, I was interviewed by two writers from Novo Magazine who didn't look old enough to drive a car let alone drink tequila. The interview went smoothly after I carded them. (Twenty-three and twenty five, shocking!!!)

Sunday, as I walked into my KRON TV interview with Henry, at what felt like the crack of dawn, I was thinking that for some, my bag of tequila, was like crack. I watched my back! I made it inside, tequila and all! Henry was a tequila champ trying all blanco, reposado and anejo tequila like a pro! Ya just gotta love Henry!

My new favorite is the Mexican 75, also from my new TEQUILA book! It's a margarita with a splash of bubbles all in one! Kind of celebratory, kind of refreshing! I'm thinking of serving it at the rehearsal dinner!


This is a play on the French 75, the drink made of gin, Champagne, lemon juice and sugar made famous by the Franco-American World War 1 flying ace. It's unclear what makes the French 75 so powerful-- but, whoo boy, do you feel it when you down one! You can bet the same is true of it’s Mexican cousin! So worth it!

1 ounce blanco tequila
½ ounce agave nectar
½ ounce lime juice

Place the tequila, agave nectar and lime juice in a shaker with plenty of ice. Shake 5 seconds and pour into a champagne flute. Top it off with Champagne to the top and a curl of lime zest.

Serves 1

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

risotto with favas, peas and asparagus

I remember the first time I ever had fava beans picked straight out of the garden. I happened to be teaching in Strada in Chianti, Tuscany at the most beautiful villa that's been in the Landi family for eight generations. A spectacular time of year, it was the end of May/early June, when fava beans were at their peak! We picked about a bushel. That was the easy part! OMG now I was faced with the task of peeling them. Picking up a handful, I showed my students how to peel them trying to make it look like a breeze. They looked at me like I was absolutely mad.

I got this brilliant idea.... I put a table outside, 4 glasses and a great bottle of icy cold crisp white Vernaccia from San Gimignano! I asked for volunteers! In a matter of minutes, those favas were shucked. Then was step number two.... Boiling them for 30 seconds. I rotated the group with 4 new volunteers and ta da.... DONE!

I got a huge bag of favas in my CSA box a week or so ago and was craving risotto. I didn't have my students at hand so I managed to rope Joe, my fiance, into the act. The cool crisp glass of Albarino did the trick!

OK now how many of you have ever cooked fava beans?


1 ½ pounds fava beans in the pod
½ pound asparagus, trimmed, cut into 1-inch lengths
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
3 ounces diced fresh ham
1 cup dry white wine,-- sauvignon blanc
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 ½ cups Italian arborio or vialone nano rice
1 cup shelled fresh English peas
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup heavy cream
1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Freshly ground black pepper

Peel the outer husk of the fava beans and discard. Bring a pot of water to a boil, add the fava beans and boil 30 seconds. Drain, cool the beans and peel the outer bright green shell. Discard the shells and reserve the beans.

Bring 2 cups salted water to a boil, add the asparagus and boil until tender, 4 to 5 minutes.
Drain and place the asparagus water, vegetable or chicken stock and 2 cups water in a saucepan over low heat.

In a large deep saucepan over medium heat, warm the olive oil and cook the onions and ham until the onions are soft, 10 minutes. Add the rice and stir until the rice is coated with oil and just begins to stick to the bottom of the pan, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring constantly, until the wine is almost absorbed. Add a ladle of hot stock and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the liquid is absorbed. Continue adding hot stock , stirring constantly, until the rice is just tender and not chalky, l8 to 22 minutes. Add the peas and continue to add the stock for an additional 2 minutes, until the rice is creamy and just beyond the chalky stage. If you run out of shrimp broth, use hot water.

Remove the pan from the heat, add another ladleful of stock , butter, cream, asparagus, fava beans, half of the Parmigiano, salt and pepper. Stir quickly, cover and let sit covered off the heat for 5 minutes.

After 5 minutes, stir the risotto. Serve immediately garnished with the remaining Parmigiano.

Serves 6

Friday, June 5, 2009

fiddlehead ferns

Fiddlehead ferns, the unfurled frond from a young springtime fern, are one of the nature's most curious vegetables. When I was just in New England, my mother and I went to the farm where she grew up. This is one of my favorite places on earth, the Bryant Farm in Cummington, Massachusetts, kind of the foothills of the Berkshires. Along the sides of the road, next to the stone wall, tons of fiddlehead ferns were growing. She got so excited!

Growing up, I loved the fact that my mother knew how to make a meal with things that weren't from the grocery store. We didn't call it foraging then. We just thought of it as free food that tasted good. My mother knew the right fiddlehead ferns to pick, the perfect time to pick dandelion leaves before the flowers arrived, she knew where to find wild blueberries and strawberries way up the lane and she picked milkweeds at the height of spring.

She told me this story that one time her cousin came to visit from the "city." There was a bowl of milkweeds on the table and he asked what they were. My grandmother said, "Milkweeds!" He said, "Oh my, next time I come you'll be eating the bark off the trees!"

I don't think she knew that fiddleheads were so named because they resembled the carved wood on a violin or fiddle. But she did know the art of foraging for them and she knew to pick the tops from the ostrich ferns, the ones that are eatable. They grow in the northeastern US for about a month in the spring. Pick fiddleheads when they're bright jade green. How do they taste? I always describe them as tasting "green," kind of nutty and slightly bitter. Some say they're flavor resembles asparagus, green beans or artichokes but I think those descriptors are pretty far fetched.

One thing is for sure, once you've picked them, you will want to eat them immediately after rinsing under cold water.


1 pound of fiddlehead ferns, washed
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
Few drop of lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Remove the brown paper "silk" from the fiddlehead ferns.

Bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Add the fiddlehead ferns and drain immediately.

In a frying pan, melt the butter over medium high heat and melt the butter. Continue to cook for 30 to 6 seconds until the butter turns light golden. Add the ferns and continue to cook until the ferns are tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Serves 1 to 6 (1 if my mother is at the table!)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

my mother's rhubarb

When I was just back in Massachusetts a couple weeks visiting my family I couldn't wait to check out my mother's garden. I was definitely a little early because there wasn't much there besides some mint, a few chives and my mother's favorite, a small patch of rhubarb. When we were kids, my sister used to go and pull a stalk straight out of the ground, wash it under the garden hose and eat it raw. I remember her lips used to turn bright red and swell. She loved the tartness. I tried it once, almost died and was convinced she might be crazy!

Rhubarb is great stuff though. Don't be tempted by the extravagant, lush green leaves. They contain extraordinary amounts of oxalic acid and are highly toxic. The stalks are full of good stuff like lots of vitamin C, they're great for the digestion and low in calories, about 25 calories for a whole cup. Contrary to what most people think, rhubarb is a vegetable.

It's very cool that rhubarb ripens at about the same time as strawberries so they're a natural together. The sweetness of the strawberries seems to soften the tartness of rhubarb. Two favorites that I go back to again and again at this time of year are strawberry rhubarb crisp and strawberry rhubarb sorbet. A new one I am crazy about this year is warm strawberry rhubarb compote with thick Greek yogurt drizzled with Greek honey!

Hey just curious... why does strawberry always go before the rhubarb?


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

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


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


crisp topping:
3/4 cup pecans, toasted
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

Strawberry rhubarb filling:
1 1/2 pounds rhubarb stalks, ends trimmed, 1" pieces
2 cups strawberries, hulled, halved
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
Vanilla Ice Cream

Place the nuts in the food processor and pulse several times until 1/4-inch pieces. Remove the nuts and reserve. In another bowl, mix together the flour, brown sugar and nutmeg. Add the dry ingredients and butter to the food processor and pulse until it just begins to hold together. Add the nuts and pulse 3 to 4 more times until mixed.

Preheat an oven to 375°F.

In a bowl, toss together the rhubarb, strawberries, flour and sugar until well mixed. Place the fruit in a 2 to 2 1/2 qt. gratin dish and sprinkle the crisp topping evenly onto 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 it 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 and serve with ice cream.

Serves 8