Monday, October 27, 2014

Grab your cazuela!

Culinary Journey through La Rioja and Basque Country, Spain

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

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

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

Cazuela-Roasted Rioja Baby Lamb 

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

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

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

Serves 4 to 6

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

Friday, May 30, 2014

Homeward Bound

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Serves 9

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

Sunday, May 11, 2014

A very special Mom!

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

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Take it from two chefs- sometimes the secret is in the simplicity.

As Gonzalo stepped off the plane in Ft. Lauderdale, I was there to meet him.  In his usual way, he had a big smile on his face and I could tell he was excited to be there.  We headed to baggage claim where we picked up boxes of all the salsas and masa he’d packed up and brought from Copita to do a charity event for the Boca Raton Historical Society together.  One of the first dishes we served was a Citrus and Pomegranate Ceviche.  It was fresh, flavorful, stunning yet simple, and a recipe that sums up what makes Gonzalo such an incredible chef.  When the raves and applause came, I clapped the loudest.  Gonzalo is the true hero at my restaurant, I just lend a guiding hand. 

We hope to see you at Copita soon!  In the meantime, try these two versions of a dish we love to serve at the restaurant and prepare for a round of applause.


1 ¼ pounds super fresh sea bass or halibut

1 cup lime juice
1/2 pound plum tomatoes, diced
½ pound cherry tomatoes, halved
1 small red onion, diced
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro, leaves and stems
2 to 3 teaspoons minced Serrano
Kosher salt
Tortilla chips

Cut the halibut into ½-inch pieces and place in a bowl with the lime juice.  Stir and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour.  

Pour off half of the lime juice and add the tomatoes, red onions, cilantro and serrano chilies.  Season well with salt.

Serves 8 

And here's how Gonzalo takes it up a few notches:

1 pound fresh sea bass or halibut
1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup blanco tequila
2 tablespoons agave nectar
1/4 cup blood orange juice
2 teaspoons finely grated blood orange zest
1 cup pomegranate seeds
½ cup pickled red onions
¼ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
½ serrano chile, seeded, minced
6 kumquats, thinly sliced
2 avocados, diced
Kosher salt 
Tortilla Chips

Cut the fish into 1/2-inch pieces and place in a bowl.  Add 1 cup lime juice, stir together and let sit 30 minutes.  Drain and discard half of the lime juice.  

Add the tequila, agave nectar, orange juice, orange zest, pomegranate seeds, red onions, cilantro, serrano chile, and kumquats.  Stir together well to mix.  Add the avocado and season with salt.  Add additional lime juice and salt as needed.  Place in a bowl and serve with tortilla chips.

Serves 8 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Easter Eggs

Years ago I planned this fabulous Easter picnic in Sonoma. It was a gorgeous blue-sky day and I couldn't wait to enjoy it outdoors with friends.  I packed up a big picnic basket with lots of delicious food, including my famous deviled eggs.  I was carrying the basket to the picnic table with ease until the container holding the deviled eggs somehow inadvertently got turned over.  When we opened the container, instead of the deviled eggs looking like this photo, they looked more like egg salad!  The best part, everyone said, “They still taste good!”

Enjoy springtime!


6 large eggs
2 tablespoons homemade or prepared mayonnaise
2 tablespoons non-fat yogurt
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika
2 green onions, finely diced
1/4 small red bell pepper, roasted, 1/4" dice
1 very small pinch saffron threads
2 teaspoons boiling water
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon finely snipped fresh chives

Fill a large saucepan three-fourths full of water and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce the heat to medium, add the eggs and boil, 10 minutes.  Remove the eggs and plunge them in a bowl of ice water.   Let the eggs cool 30 minutes.

In the meantime,  combine the mayonnaise,  yogurt, mustard, garlic, lemon juice, cayenne, paprika, green onions and red pepper.  Place the saffron in a small bowl and pour the boiling water over the saffron to moisten it.  Add the saffron and water to the mayonnaise mixture.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Peel the eggs and cut each egg in half from top to bottom.  Place the yolks in a bowl and with a fork mash them and break them into small pieces.   Add the yolks to the mayonnaise mixture.  Reserve the whites.   Spoon the egg mixture into the hallows of the egg white, distributing evenly.  Sprinkle with chives.

Serves 6

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Happy 20th "From Tapas to Meze"

I can hardly believe how fast 20 years go by.  I was such a tyke in the cooking field.  I'd just left Chez Panisse and was excited to write my first book.  It was a huge endeavor and in retrospect, I was so naive.  I loved small plates and that's mainly what I made when I worked at Chez Panisse.  It spurred an idea;- a very ambitious one, but still, an idea for a book.  

I decided that I wanted to write a book about small plates from the Mediterranean.  I left for Spain and tasted tapas from La Rioja in the north, east to Barcelona and then far south to Cadiz and the Strait of Gibraltar.  Then it was on to Morocco for an extended tour from Marrakech through the desert to Fez and beyond.  There I sampled flavors like nothing I'd ever had before.  Although I'd been to Provence numerous times, still I added Antibes, Nice and Bandol to the itinerary.   I don't think I realized how immense Italy is until I traveled (and ate!) from Puglia to Sicily and Sardinia and then all the way north to Cinque Terre, Venice and the Piedmont.  I spent Greek Easter on the island of Zakynthos in western Greece eating  spit-roasted lamb, tzatziki and the best rolled grape leaves and then traveled from Athens to Thessaloniki to taste every meze I could get my hands on.  And finally I traversed Turkey from Istanbul and south to Izmir, Pamukkale and Goreme.  I sailed the coast for two weeks from Bodrum to Marmaris tasting every kind of fruit the sea had to offer.  

What started out as a simple little idea of small plates eaten along the Mediterranean turned into a trip of a lifetime.  The generosity and sharing I experienced and everything I learned along the way made this one of the most rewarding journeys I've ever had.  The best part?  Learning that tapas, antipasti and meze are so much more than just a few small plates of food.  It's a lifestyle.  Along the Mediterranean people don't drink without eating something.  Civilized, right?  But it's also a way to extend the dinner hour and spend time with friends and family talking about politics, the latest gossip and anything in between.  

In late March 1994, I opened the door to find a delivery man.  He handed me my first book wrapped in brown paper.  I remember it like it was a few minutes ago.  I tore off the paper and I bet my eyes were almost bugging out of my head.  I was holding a hard covered book with the title "From Tapas to Meze"  with my name printed boldly on the cover in my hands.

A week later I was celebrating my first born at the Ritz Carlton.  Gary Danko, my best chef friend, was the chef there at the time and he hosted a launch party.  It was the who's who of the food world.  I don't think my smile could have gotten much bigger.

Happy birthday, From Tapas to Meze and thanks to everyone who helped make it happen!


Click here and try one of my favorite recipes from the book and make sure to enjoy it with friends, family and wine, of course!

Friday, February 21, 2014

What’s Better Than a Girls Night?

Agave Girls Night! 

It all started years ago, when I was invited to the launch of a new tequila in a sexy square bottle at the infamous Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant in San Francisco.  The place was hopping!  As I looked around the room (filled mostly by men), I observed the camaraderie among these tequila aficionados.  But as I looked closer, I noticed a few women who were enthusiastically swirling and sipping and savoring tequila from snifters.  It was a revelation: Women are as passionate about tequila as men!   I banded together with the ladies that night and decided to start a group called the “Agave Girls”, for women who appreciate tequila. Ay caramba... it took off! Ten Speed Press asked me to write a book about tequila.  Featuring food recipes and cocktails from the best bartenders in the country, this meant lots of tequila research!   
All of this led to the margarita challenge with restaurateur, Larry Mindel, and the rest is history.

My restaurant, Copita!

It had been a while since the Agave Girls gathered together, and I thought we were overdue for a reunion.  So, last week, we made it happen.  Thirty women met at my restaurant, Copita Tequilaria y Comida!  Jaques Bezuidenhout from Partida Tequila got things started with a "Dr. T", a refreshing cocktail made of Partida Blanco, Dr. Loosen Riesling, lemon and agave nectar and a hint of Laphroaig 10yr single malt.  Delicious!  Then Chef Gonzalo and the team brought out shrimp tacos ingeniously wrapped in jicama tortillas with a lime tartar sauce.  Outstanding!  

Everyone sat down to a flight of Partida tequilas and we had a lesson in tequila production and aging while the cooks created our next courses.  Then came the cocktail to end all cocktails:  the Partida Ruby, a surprising concoction of Anejo Tequila, Ruby Port, cinnamon-chili agave nectar and lemon juice.  Everyone said “This tastes like the best Christmas present!”  From Fried Oyster Tacos,  Duck Confit Tacos with Tamarind Mole to Goat Birria, everything paired well with tequila (arguably, the most food-friendly spirit there is!). 

We finished up with  Dulce de Leche Mexican Coke Floats, Coconut Flan and  Cara Cara Granita.  The show stopper was the final glass of Partida Elegante.  Rumor has it, it’s $350.00 if you want to spring for a bottle.  Better yet, join us at the next Agave Girls event on none other than tax day, April 15!

Can't wait to see you ladies there*!

*Contact Copita to reserve your space.

Copita Tequileria y Comida

Address: 739 Bridgeway, Sausalito, CA 94965
Phone:(415) 331-7400

Friday, February 14, 2014


Warm Strawberry Soufflé

Love is like Food

“Love is like Food.  There is a hunger in our hearts that needs it.  There are as many flavors as there are people.  For love is practically everyone’s favorite dish…  If you take your time, work hard, and keep it fresh, you will have a true masterpiece.  You will have true love.”  -Kasey Szamatul

Happy Valentine's Day!

PS  Find recipes for the Warm Strawberry Soufflé pictured above and more here: