Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Ranges, fridges and wall ovens, oh my!

OK, so when you’re a chef and you’re asked to cook in the ultimate dream kitchen, what can you say, but “how soon can I come over?”! 

That’s how it began when friends at the Sub-Zero/ Wolf showroom asked me to be the guest chef for their annual holiday party last week.  Believe me, it’s easy to get inspired when you’re surrounded by the latest and greatest ranges, cooktops, fridges, appliances, and on and on!  Although I wasn’t going to cook for over a hundred and fifty guests on my own, I felt like it might be possible in the setup.  
Picture this:  2 complete functioning kitchen showrooms- one with a modern, sleek design and the other, so near and dear to my heart looked like it was plucked straight out of a Tuscan Villa (well, a very well-equipped, state-of-the-art Tuscan villa:). 
photo by Marc Fiorito w/Gamma Nine Photography

photo by Marc Fiorito w/Gamma Nine Photography
Guests arrived and were greeted with one of my favorite festive cocktails, an Orange Aperol Sunset.  
photo by Marc Fiorito w/Gamma Nine Photography
Then, the staff glided about, serving Carrot Soup with Anise in shot glasses and tastes of my Wild Mushroom Bruschetta Salad.  
photo by Marc Fiorito w/Gamma Nine Photography
In the Tuscan kitchen, chef Ivan carried out a parade of pizzas, topped with tomatoes and gorgonzola, from stones placed in the piping hot double wall ovens and in the modern kitchen, chef Ivan dished up Arroz con Pollo.
photo by Marc Fiorito w/Gamma Nine Photography
All of these dishes were straight out of my new book, Kitchen Gypsy: Recipes and Stories from a Lifelong Romance with Food, and if you don’t have a copy yet, well…
photo by Marc Fiorito w/Gamma Nine Photography
When guests asked me about the stories behind these dishes, let’s just say that I had a few to tell!

Not only did we have a good time, it was all for a great cause.  Proceeds from the event went to La Casa de las Madres, an organization which provides resources to victims of domestic violence in the Bay Area. 
Not only do the staff of professionals and committed volunteers at La Casa provide 24/7 support and resources to survivors, they also serve as leaders in raising awareness and educating the public about ways to end the cycle of domestic violence.  

It was such a great night- I loved the enthusiasm in the space, all the happy people, the delicious food that tasted like I’d cooked it all myself and being surrounded by all of those extraordinary appliances (actually it made me want a new Wolf range and SubZero).  My cheeks were cramping from smiling all night long!!

photo by Marc Fiorito w/Gamma Nine Photography

Click here to order your copy of Kitchen Gypsy online.

Orange Aperol Sunset

This Italian spin on the Mimosa gets its unique flavor from Aperol, a bright-orange Italian liqueur made from bitter oranges, rhubarb, and herbs. It's similar to Campari, but less bitter and more floral. In Italy, Aperol is served on the rocks mixed with Prosecco and a splash of club soda. In this recipe, the club soda has been replaced with a little fresh orange juice.

Ice cubes
6 tablespoons Aperol
6 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 750-ml bottle Prosecco
6 thin orange slices (for garnish)

Place enough ice cubes in each of 6 balloon wineglasses to fill 2/3 full. Add 1 tablespoon Aperol and 1 tablespoon orange juice to each glass. Top off each drink with 1/2 cup Prosecco; garnish with orange slices. 

Serves 6

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Gingerbread house party

Sometimes you just need to build a gingerbread house.  I don't know about you, but this year has been crazy busy, so when my friend, Jill, asked me to come to her house in Santa Cruz and make gingerbread houses, I jumped in my car!  

Imagine a room filled with good friends, piles of homemade gingerbread panels ready for construction, piping bags filled with royal icing, a rainbow of gumdrops, a slew of different sparkling sweets that Jill had collected over the year, and of course, some pretty incredible candies.

Everyone had a unique approach to constructing and decorating their houses and although I had a few challenges, I must say that my roof was pretty special.  What a great way to embrace the holiday season!  

King Arthur posted a great recipe and detailed instructions to make your own gingerbread house from scratch. Click here and give it a try! 

Happy holidays!!

Friday, November 20, 2015

La Famille Panisse

Ever have a moment that just puts everything into perspective?   When I had my first meal at Chez Panisse many years ago, it turned into a revelation- I want to become a chef! I want to cook at Chez Panisse!  
Working at Chez Panisse
It feels like yesterday, when I nervously walked into this world-renowned restaurant to meet with Alice Waters and interview for a coveted position in her kitchen.  In spite of the fact that my heart was pounding out of my chest, I was hired and spent 5 years working with the most incredible team of dedicated cooks.  
With my mentor and friend, Alice Waters
Last night, I was honored to host a book-signing party for my new book, Kitchen Gypsyat none-other-than my old stomping grounds-- Chez Panisse!   I’m still dancing on cloud 9!   Alice greeted me with the warmest hug and I felt like I was back home, la famille Panisse

Guests were treated to house-marinated olives, Anchovy Toasts, Hermit Cookies (straight out of my book and perfectly baked by Mary Jo and the rest of the team!!) and drank a scrumptious rosé wine.  
Carmen from Books, Inc. down the street had copies of my book available and I loved signing them for guests.  

After the reception, friends and I proceeded to enjoy a delicious menu, full of dishes inspired by Kitchen Gypsy... Pinch me!  

A million thanks to Alice and everyone at Chez Panisse for a deliciously memorable night!

Cannard Farm chicories with Fuyu persimmons, walnuts, mint and Pecorino
Fish and shellfish stew cooked in the fireplace with saffron, fennel, garlic toast and aioli
Grilled Stemple Creek Ranch sirloin with chanterelle mushrooms, thyme butter, and rocket salad
Pink Lady apple and sour cherry galette with vanilla ice cream
Feeling inspired?  Try my recipe for Provincetown Seafood Stew, from Kitchen Gypsy:


3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 ½ cups peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes, fresh or canned
3 tablespoons tomato paste
10 cups light flavored fish stock or water
¾ cup dry white wine,- Sauvignon blanc
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
Pinch of dry thyme
1 teaspoon saffron threads
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Two 1 ¼ pound boiled lobsters
1 pound littleneck clams, scrubbed
1 pound super fresh mussels, scrubbed and beards removed 
1 pound firm white fish like cod, sea bass, halibut
½ pound sea scallops
½ pound extra large shrimp in the shell, deveined
1 ¼ pounds small new Yukon Gold or red potatoes, halved, boiled until tender
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

Warm the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat.  Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 8 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.  Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, fish stock or water, white wine, crushed red pepper flakes, thyme, saffron and bay leaf.  Season with salt and pepper.  Simmer 30 minutes.

In the meantime, remove the claws and tail from the lobster. Cut the tails across into ¾ to 1-inch pieces.  Crack the claws.  Scrub the clams and mussels to clean them well and remove the beards from the mussels.  Set the clams and mussels aside separately from the lobster.  Cut the fish into 2-inch pieces and place in a bowl.  Remove the muscle from the side of the scallop and add to the fish along with the shrimp.

After the tomato broth has simmered for 30 minutes, add the clams and cook until they begin to open, about 2 more minutes.  Add the mussels and cook until they begin to open, about 2 minutes. Add the lobsters, fish, scallops and shrimp and cook until the fish can be easily flaked with a fork, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Add the potatoes and stir gently together. Simmer until the potatoes are hot, 2 to 3 minutes.      

Ladle into bowls and garnish with parsley.

Serves 8

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Cook the book with a Kitchen Gypsy

The most gorgeous gaggle of women landed on my doorstep the other night and they were carrying dishes that looked so familiar... 

They were descending on my doorsteps for a modern-day book club:   San Francisco Bay Area bloggers were about to "Cook the Book".

With blushed faces and scarlet lips, each young lady was as pretty as the last and every platter they held contained something delicious.  This was a party to celebrate my new cookbook, Kitchen Gypsy: Recipes and Stories from a Lifelong Romance with Food, and we couldn't wait to sink our teeth into each recipe.

I welcomed them into my studio kitchen and for the next few hours, we cooked, drank wine and tasted, while I shared stories about the people, places and flavors which have inspired me throughout my culinary career. 

I showed them how to make the crostini with anchovies,mint and almonds that I learned in my culinary adventures in Provence from my winemaker friend, Amy Lillard of La Gramièreand the questions began.  "Tell us about chapter 4, getting a fly in a bottle of wine!", they asked.  

As I proceeded to tell them story after story, I could see the excitement was contagious.
Photo by Thomas Story, "Kitchen Gypsy" (Sunset, 2012)

I made Arroz con Pollo, which harkened back to my days after college while living in Boston, and placed it on the table amongst the many dishes they’d brought.  Dana put the finishing touches on her Little Gem Salad with Pickled Cucumbers, Toy box Tomatoes and Green Goddess Dressing.  As she brought it to the table, there were a lot of "oohs" and "ahhs".  

There was the familiarity of my great grandmother Lettie’s Lightning Cake that Karen made.  She’d picked the strawberries from her garden and even made the strawberry jam.  Brittany asked, ”Why is it called a Lightning Cake?”.

“Read the story!” I said with a laugh.  “It’s as quick as lightning to make is what my mother always said.” 

“Another glass of wine anyone?”.

“I was so nervous making my tabbouleh” Lauren said.  “Cooking for Joanne Weir!?  That’s scary!”.

A few others jumped in. “You were scared too?”  said Rebekah.

“So was I!” I said.  “Imagine me entertaining 12 bloggers who love food, love to cook and are great at writing about it.  I was nervous too.  I hope my Arroz Con Pollo is good!”.

Camera’s snapping a very full table. 

“Come on, let’s eat!” cried Rena.  

"This book was a labor of love and so was this meal." I said.  "Thank you for sharing the evening with Kitchen Gypsy".
Needless to say, it was a delicious night.

Bon Appetit!
-the "Kitchen Gypsy"

Hungry for more?  Get your copy of Kitchen Gypsy 
and cook the book with us:

Delightful Crumb - Stacy Ladenberger   

A Side of Sweet - Kelly Huibregste 

A&B Style - Rebekah Carey

Susannah Chen (Williams-Sonoma digital editor and personal blogger for many sites)

Farminista's Feast - Karen Pavone 

Kampala Wines Blog - Lauren Barnard

Pacific Heights Wine and Food - Teresa Rodriguiz

PureWow - Allison McCarthy 

Tablehopper - Dana Eastland 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Kitchen Gypsy

Nineteen months in the making.  

Weeks spent combing through boxes of family photos and recipes from my great grandmother, Lettie, and the places where my cooking career began.  

14 days spent with 12 talented people shooting photos in 9 different locations. 
Hours of measuring, testing, tasting, re-testing and re-tasting. 
Writing until midnight and making countless edits.

A few tears shed, but many more smiles and several bursts of honest-to-goodness laughter.
This has been a passion project for me and finally, it’s almost ready...  

All 288 pages with 100 new recipes, 250 gorgeous full-color photographs and most importantly, stories and memories about the people, places and flavors that have inspired me through the years...

My new book is almost done!!!

(Oxmoor House; September, 2015) 

Writing this book has been one of the absolute best experiences of my life and I can’t wait to share it with you.  Get ready.  You’ll definitely want to get into the kitchen and cook up a storm with this book!   A world of thanks to my friends at Sunset MagazineTime Home Entertainment and Oxmoor House for making this happen.

Click here and pre-order your copy today!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

It's Rhubarb Time!

When I was young, I used to sneak into my mother’s garden with my sister Nancy just to watch her pull a big stalk of my mother’s prized rhubarb and eat it raw right out of the garden.  Raw rhubarb is so incredibly tart, just watching her made me pucker up, squeeze my lips together and wince.  To this day, it still shocks me that she could pull that off and enjoyed herself in the process.

I love rhubarb, cooked of course, and for me it signals spring when I see it at the farmer’s market.  I love it simply stewed with strawberries and touch of sugar or made into a rhubarb upside down cake. 

Next time you pass by a big pile of rhubarb in the market and have no idea what to do with it, take a few hints from these recipes or skip straight to my favorite, this delicious Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp!  

I have a feeling that you will be adding a whole new ingredient into your repertoire.


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

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Edible Schoolyard Project

After hearing so much about The Edible Schoolyard Project, I was beyond thrilled to be invited to to take part in a class. Twenty years ago, Alice Waters spearheaded this program at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Berkeley, California, and has since helped to implement edible education across the country.
Nothing prepared me for the extraordinary undertaking and the commitment that’s gone into this program. I had the notion that the students were simply planting a garden and using the vegetables they grew to prepare a shared meal, which they are, but there is much, much more. 

The day I visited, I joined one of the classes in the garden and was struck by how excited the students got learning how to propagate plants. We learned how to determine which carrots were ripe and ready to be pulled and properly harvest them. Then, we got to taste their unbelievable sweetness. One student said, “I’ve never liked carrots until today. These are nothing like those little punched-out orange things in a plastic bag that you get in the grocery store!”. 

In the kitchen classroom, the lesson continued. We discussed how produce is transported from farms to consumers and effortlessly, we were learning a bit of economics, logistics, history and geography. Then the students put on aprons and proceeded to make a fresh vegetable soup with everything they’d harvested from the garden. As we sat down to eat, they handed me a bowl. It was the best fresh vegetable soup I’d ever tasted. At the end of class, the kids were beaming and I felt like a kid again! 

My hat’s off to everyone involved in The Edible Schoolyard Project and I hope that you’ll join me in support of programs such as this. Imagine a world in which every single school curriculum includes edible education!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Pucker-Up, Valentine!

With Valentine's Day just around the corner, it's time to pucker-up!  I made this cocktail for my friend and talented chef, Ryan Scott (yes, from Bravo's "Top Chef", among a zillion other ventures!) while visiting him on his show at KGO radio in San Francisco last week.  If you listen to the podcast (Click here!), you'll hear that it was quite a hit!

Now is the perfect time to do a little cocktail experimentation with all your favorites from your local market's citrus section. Blood oranges, tangerines, grapefruits, key limes, meyer lemons - the list goes on!   This is my fun twist on the classic margarita and I hope that you'll enjoy it with your favorite friends.  Happy Valentine's Day!


1 1/2 ounces Meyer Lemon Infused Blanco Tequila
1 1/2 ounces freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice
1 ounce limoncello
Splash of agave ready syrup

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with lots of ice.  Shake vigorously for 10 seconds.  Strain into a glass with fresh ice

Makes 1 cocktail


1 bottle blanco tequila
Peel from 12 Meyer lemons, ALL white pith removed

Combine the two and let sit for 2 days.
Makes a lot!