Friday, September 30, 2011

my favorite recipe from my new tv series

I've been to Sardinia and loved the dish for fregola with clams but never made it. And then I had it again at my favorite Sardinian restaurant, La Ciccia, here in San Francisco. Again, it was delicious and I fell instantly in love again. I can make that I thought.

Fregola is Sardinian pasta. But it's not your classic pasta. It's not like fusilli, penne, pappardelle or rigatoni. Instead it is little pellets of lusciousness. It looks like couscous, kind of the cousin to Israeli couscous but the flavor and texture of Israeli couscous can't compete with fregola. It's made of semolina and the little pellets vary in color. Some are white, some are golden and some are light brown due to toasting. In the end, it tastes nutty and wheaty and slightly toasted. It cooks quickly and is is the best comfort food.

I am so excited about this recipe. Enjoy it and please tell me what you think? Send me a picture. I'm eager to hear.

© Photo by Tim Bellan

For more fregola recipe...


3 pounds fresh Manilla clams, scrubbed and rinsed well
2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups fregola, about 16 ounces
2 peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes, fresh or canned
Pinch of crushed red pepper
3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
3 cups chicken stock
Kosher sea and freshly ground black pepper

Place the clams and the water in a large frying pan over medium high heat. Cover the pan and cook until the shells open, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the clams with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl. Let the clams cool 5 minutes. Discard any clams that do not open. Shuck all but 10 clams and reserve. Discard the shells and reserve the steaming liquid.

In a large frying pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil and add the garlic. Cook, stirring often, until the garlic is light golden, 1 minute. Add the fregola to the pan and stir to coat the grains well with the olive oil, 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, crushed red pepper flakes, 2 tablespoons of the parsley, chicken stock and reserved clam juice. Stir together. Simmer slowly until the fregola is double in size and firm to the bite but cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes.

Just before serving, add the clams and stir together. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer the fregola to a deep serving platter. Garnish with the reserved clams in their shells and sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon parsley on top. Serve immediately.

Serves 6

Thursday, September 29, 2011

the hardest thing i do

The hardest thing I do but the thing I love the most... I just finished shooting 39, yes I repeat, 39 new cooking shows for PBS. This is more than ever! And can you believe we did it all in 19 days? It was grueling and exhausting, but most of all exhilarating.

You've seen Joanne Weir's Cooking Class? This is a similar format as before but this time it's called Joanne Weir's Cooking Confidence. Many have told me they like the name and I have my friend Charlotte to thank for that. When I was in LA a few months before filming, we were talking about the show. She said that what most people lack is confidence in the kitchen. Fuel for thought... In every show, I have a real live student next to me and I'm teaching him or her how to cook.

We had a few tried-and-true students from the last series like Ron the fireman, Cheryl, Geoff, my tenant and Kyle. But we also had some new faces like Joan Boada and Pascal Molat, both principal dancers for the San Francisco ballet. I taught them to cook but on the show Pascal teaches me some moves I'll never forget. You're just going to have to watch!

Also you're going to love my student Stella, the 12-year old daughter of an LA friend. Pig tales, dimples and adorable. On the show, I asked her to tell me what spice was in the crostini. When she said cumin and was correct, I almost fell over.

My producer, Paul Swensen, was the dream of the team and the glue of the crew. And everyone on the crew was incredible too! Thank you to Sally, who went above and beyond the call of duty, Amy, Chris, Andrea, Karen, the incomparable camera man Tim Bellan, Alan and Steve. And of course we couldn't have done it without Nicole, Dean and Aurielle.

I was in make-up by 7:30 and on the set as close to 8:30 as possible. It wasn't a tough commute though. The whole series was shot in my kitchen. We usually wrapped it up by 7:00 PM. That makes for a long day. Some days we shot 2 shows but most days we shot three.

This would be fine if I could have walked out the door and returned the next morning but it didn't happen that way. This series, like the previous two, was shot in my kitchen. Talk about chaos! Everything including the dining room table and chairs were moved out. Hence, I had no where to go... I found my escape in the bathtub every night with 3 pounds of Epsom salts!

About a third of the way through the shooting, when I was so exhausted and wasn't sure if I had enough life in me left to do the remaining 26 shows, I thought of telling Paul that I'd hit the wall, that I couldn't go on. But somehow the next morning, once I got behind the camera with my chef's knife in hand, pungent garlic in front of me and my student next to me, I knew I was in the right place.

We made it through. We did it! "It's a wrap!" was one of the happiest moments of my life! Champagne corks popped and suddenly it was a memory.

A few days after the shoot was over, Tim, one of the cameramen, asked me if I like doing television. I had to think long and hard... I like it, I do, but honestly, it's the toughest thing I do!

Stay tuned! My next post will be my favorite recipe from the show.