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!


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”:


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


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?"


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.....


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 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


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.


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


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