Better than potato chips…

Freddy and I spent part of September in Umbria, exploring  little hill towns and enjoying the area’s specialties which included charcuterie for breakfast, lunch and of course, dinner.One of our favorite stops was the wonderful Norcia which is very famous for charcuterie.IMG_1656IMG_0292IMG_0294 After Umbria we sailed around Sicily’s Aeolian Islands and ate lots of pasta, fresh fish and their famous granitas of many flavors.  By the time we returned to California, we were craving vegetables(besides tomatoes) and my vegetable garden bounty was just what we needed(not to mention my waistline).

As a snack I have been making flash fried brussels sprout leaves, sprinkled with just a little sea salt. Quick and simple, you will love how easy and delicious this “recipe” is. My granddaughter likes baked kale chips so I thought this might also become a keeper. Baking the leaves turns out “ok”, but I find that flash frying them is much quicker and I like the flavor better. Just be sure to wear protective eyewear and use a splash guard or cover to protect from splattering oil.

FLASH FRIED BRUSSELS SPROUTS LEAVES

1 pound brussels sprouts

vegetable oil

sea salt

1.  Cut off the stem end of the Brussels sprouts and peel off the leaves until you get to the heart of the sprout and can’t peel off any more leaves.

2.  Pour enough vegetable oil into a heavy tall pot to fry the Brussels sprout leaves, about 2 to 3 inches. Heat to frying temperature.(350) Test by dropping a leaf into the oil.

3.  Carefully, using a large kitchen spider strainer, lower the leaves into the hot oil. Quickly utilize the splash guard or cover to prevent the hot oil from splattering on yourself. The leaves will cook very quickly. It will take from 10 to 15 seconds before the leaves start to get crispy.Before they get too brown remove with the spider and dump onto paper towels to drain.

4.  Sprinkle with a little sea salt and enjoy.

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Tanya Holland’s Famous Fried Chicken and Welcome Home

festival in Paro, Bhutan

festival in Paro, Bhutan

Freddy and I traveled for the month of March in India and Bhutan. India is noise, busy roads filled with bicycles, pedicabs, tuk-tuks, taxis, camel drawn wagons, and the gaudiest painted enormous dump trucks that I have ever seen. There is a hierarchy of traffic in which it’s pretty obvious that bigger gets there first! There is color everywhere, saris,jewels, temples, elephants, vehicles and flowers. There are lots of smells; some of incense and flowers and some not so good. We stayed in palaces and tents. We visited marble palaces, temples, gardens, a tiger camp (saw a tiger) and rowed on the River Ganges. We visited with wonderful guides and our drivers and had cocktails with the Maharana of Udaipur(not maharaja). Then we spent a week in Bhutan which left us wondering for the first day about what we were doing there. Then the spiritual essence of the place kicked in and we left wanting to return to the mountains, the sweet people, the traditions and the permeance of Buddism that defines the country.

Back in California I made my friend Tanya Holland’s fried chicken, which was featured on an episode of Oprah and want to share it with you. There are lots of fabulous fried chicken recipes, but I think that this one is the best! She has a great restaurant called Brown Sugar Kitchen where you can have her prepare this if you feel like dining out and you live in the Bay Area.

BUTTERMILK FRIED CHICKEN

1 tablespoon dried tarragon
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 chicken, cut into 8 pieces
2 tablespoons fresh minced parsley
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
vegetable oil for frying

In a small bowl, mix together tarragon, paprika, onion powder, 2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper, garlic powder, oregano, thyme and cayenne pepper. Place chicken in a large bowl and sprinkle with spice mixture and parsley, tossing to coat. Pour buttermilk over chicken . Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Remove chicken from marinade. In a large bowl, combine flour, remaining 1 tablespoon salt and remaining 1 tablespoon black pepper. Dredge chicken pieces in seasoned flour.

Pour oil into a large pot to a depth of 3 inches and heat over medium-high heat until a thermometer reads 350 degrees. Add as many chicken pieces as possible without crowding the pan. Cook chicken pieces,turning occasionally and adjusting heat to keep oil at 350 degrees until cooked through, about 12 to 15 minutes. Remove chicken to a rack and allow to rest for 5 minutes.

tuk-tuk

tuk-tuk

below the Tiger's Nest

below the Tiger’s Nest

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THE PEASANT’S MINESTRONE

Lately I have been rereading some of Angelo Pellegrini’s books. He was an Italian immigrant who became a college professor at the University of Washington…an English professor no less!I knew some who had taken classes from him and they described him as one of the most dynamic and loved teachers. In his books he most eloquently writes about the pleasure of growing and making your own food. He even made his own wine with grapes sent to him by Robert Mondavi. One of the recipes he loosely describes in his first book, “The Unprejudiced Palate” is a minestrone soup. This my version inspired by a great man who always referred to himself as a peasant.

Serves 8

6 cups chicken stock and water, 1/2, 1/2
1 cup cannellini beans, soaked overnight
2 sprigs fresh thyme
4 cups chicken stock
4 ounces lean salt pork, minced
1 cup spring onions, medium chop (or yellow onions)
1 cup leeks, medium chop, white only
1 cup celery, medium chop
4 cups canned tomatoes
1 cup zucchini, sliced into coins
2 cups kale, ribs removed and hand torn into small pieces
1 cup savoy cabbage, medium chop
1 cup trottoloni or elbow pasta if you can’t find
1 cup grated parmesan cheese

1. After removing the beans from the overnight soak, put them in a large pot with 2 sprigs of thyme and 6 cups of water or a combo of water and chicken stock.
2. After the beans are completely cooked and very little liquid is left in the pot, smash about 3/4 of the beans. IMG_1247Then add 4 cups of chicken stock and simmer.
3. IN ANOTHER large pot saute the minced salt pork with the chopped onion and garlic until the onions are soft and just about to turn brown. Add the tomatoes and simmer.
4. Into the bean soup add one cup leeks, one cup celery, one cup cabbage and two cups pasta and cook until al dente. Add more water or stock if needed.
5. Add the bean soup to the tomato mixture.
6. Add the zucchini and kale to the soup and cook for about 15 to 20 minutes, until the vegetables are just done.
7. Serve with a heavy sprinkle of parmesan cheese.

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NEWS OF HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE and SWISS CHARD GNOCCHI

n1020932595_342711_7126We are celebrating the induction of our 1890′s farmhouse, Monte Vista, and our vineyard, Diamond Mountain Vineyard into The National Register of Historic Places (as well as the State Registry).Freddy and I lived in the little redwood framed Victorian farmhouse for over 8 years; before Howard Backen designed our stone house up at The Peak (featured in June, 2005, Architectual Digest). I cooked many winery lunches and dinners in the itty bitty kitchen of that house.Now,I enjoy a much more modern kitchen but have learned that simplicity is the best definition of function.
Back to food…I have been working on this recipe for what seems like ages.I’ve wanted a gnocchi that wasn’t bland, looked great, and could be made and frozen for when I needed to pull out a pleaser for a large/small dinner party.It’s got a lot going on, flavorwise, with ricotta, onion, garlic and cheese and nutmeg.

SWISS CHARD GNOCCHI

makes 6 dozen

1 pound ricotta
4 pounds swiss chard
1/2 cup yellow onion, grated on a box grater
3 cloves garlic, smashed and finely minced
4 ounces butter
1/2 cup all purpose flour
4 large egg yolks
1 whole large egg
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
about 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/ teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1. Put ricotta in cheesecloth over colander to drain.
2. Trim the center core and stems of each chard leaf. Steam the chard, squeeze out as much liquid as possible, and chop in a food processor.(It’s a lot of chard, so you may have to do it in batches)
3. In a large bowl mix the chard, ricotta, melted butter, flour,garlic, egg yolks and whole egg, parmesan and nutmeg, salt and pepper.
4. Shape the mixture into small balls and roll around in flour to coat. (use a tablespoon to scoop up the mix).
5. If you are only going to cook about a dozen at a time, melt 4 ounces of butter , add fresh sage leaves and gently saute the gnocchi in the butter until just starting to brown.
6. Serve the gnocchi with a little of the butter sauce and sage leaves and sprinkle with more parmesan.

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END OF THE WORLD MAYAN SOUP

IMG_1126On December 21 we took a trip up the Rio Dulce and then transferred by car to Quirigua, one of the most important Mayan ruins. We stood before the smoldering remnants of a sacrificial fire, which smelled like burnt chicken. Much earlier in the morning just after midnight thousands had gathered to wait for the end of the world…not really! Mayans were celebrating the end of the calendar, not the end of the world. On our way back to our boat we stopped for lunch and I had Mayan soup, sort of a version of tortilla soup. Guessing ingredientsIMG_1146 and proportions,(plus adding ingredients of my own) this my version. Perfect for reentry into the Napa Valley and the beginning of 2013.

serves 8

6 cups tomatoes
3 cups chicken stock
2 cups chicken, cooked and cubed
1 cup yellow onion, chopped
1 cup green pepper, like pasilla, chopped
1/2 cup corn kernels, fresh, frozen or canned
2 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
2 teaspoons cumin
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, minced
1 avocado, diced
1/2 cup queso fresco, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 corn tortilla, cut into matchstick sized slices and fried until crispy

1. Put the tomatoes in a blender and blend until smooth.
2. In a large pot, saute onion, garlic and pepper until soft.
3. Add the tomatoes, cumin, chicken,chicken stock, corn and simmer for at least 30 minutes.
4. Put some queso fresco cubes in each bowl and ladle the soup over the cheese.
5. Add avocado cubes to each bowl.
6. Finally, garnish with minced cilantro and crispy tortilla sticks.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

SNOWBALL COOKIES

This is one of the most popular cookies in the history of cookie making. It goes by many names like Russian Tea Cake (my mother), Pecan Puffs(my mother in law) Mexican Wedding Cookies, Sandies and that’s probably just the beginning of the list. Some make them with pecans but because walnuts grow in my area, that’s what I use as did my mother and grandmother.

makes 3 dozen cookies

1 cup butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups ground walnuts
about 2 cups powdered sugar for rolling the balls to coat

1. Whip up the butter and add the sugar; whipping until it becomes fluffy. Then add the vanilla.
2. Add the dry ingredients into the vanilla, butter and sugar mixture.
3. In a food processor, pulse the walnuts pretty fine.
4. Mix the walnuts into the dough.
5. Using your hands form the dough into little balls about 1 1/2 inch in diameter.
6. Chill for about 10 minutes.
7. Bake in a 325 degree oven for about 30 minutes. Check to make sure the bottoms don’t burn.
8. Immediately after removing from the oven roll the balls in powdered sugar, completely coating them.
9. Cool, then sprinkle more powdered sugar on them and shake off the excess.IMG_1084

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MOM’S ENGLISH TOFFEE

I am not sure why this is the only time of the year when I make candy.  I guess that it’s because everyone is doing it too.  I have mentioned that my mother was not a good cook.  She just didn’t have the time to spend in the kitchen because she was always working and meals were a chore.  During the holidays and for my school bazaar, however, she became the captain of the candy making squad and the hyper, type A, competitive side of her took over.  I never could figure out how someone who made meals so unappetizing and boring could reinvent herself to make amazing cookies, cakes and candy. This was one of her favorites.  There are many many versions of this (Liz the Chef has a fabulous one) recipe, but I am proud of my mother’s . Don’t be put off by the inclusion of margarine.  It does make a difference.  Being a dairy daughter, I tried using all butter, but I like the margarine better. And, mIMG_1083IMG_1076y mother always used a little corn syrup because she said it prevented the sugar from seizing up.

makes almost 5 pounds

16 ounces butter
16 ounces margarine
4 cups granulated white sugar
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon corn syrup
1 teaspoon salt

for topping: 16 ounces chopped almonds
24 ounces melted bittersweet chocolate

1. Combine the butter, margarine, corn syrup, sugar, water and salt in a large pot and bring to a boil…don’t stir much.
2. Continue cooking until a candy thermometer registers 290 degrees F or passes the hard ball test (drop a bit of mix into cold water and if it forms a hard ball)
3. Remove from stove.
4. Pour the mixture on a silpat or an enameled pan or on marble and spread quickly before it sets.
5. Cool completely.
6. Pour and coat the surface with the melted chocolate and sprinkle with the chopped nuts. I use a two inch pastry brush and paint the chocolate on one side at a time and immediately coat with the chopped nuts.
7. Cool and flip over and repeat on the other side.
8. When completely cool, break into desired sized pieces.
9. Store in a sealed container.

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BRAISED SHORT RIB BOLOGNESE

  • Summer just ended suddenly a couple of days ago.  We were drinking gin and tonics and swimming at midnight to cool off and then suddenly the warm on shore breezes ended and the cold off shore winds brought our first fall day.  We will be picking our cabernet grapes soon and thinking about ending our day with a nice Manhattan (straight up, thank you).  This braised short rib recipe is perfect for an evening at home alone or with friends.  In fact, I am preparing it for a winery dinner for 30 right now. Important!!! You can let this simmer away for hours…it only gets better.  Emeril once served me a bolognese sauce that he said had been on the stove for days! (his mother’s sauce)

serves 8

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup finely chopped yellow onion

3 pounds boneless short ribs, cut into very very small cubes

4 ounces prosciutto, minced

1 pound ground pork

4-5 garlic cloves, smashed and minced

1 cup dry red wine

16 ounces of San Marizano tomatoes (whole peeled with juice)

1 cup whole milk

1.  In a heavy Dutch oven add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the chopped yellow onion and the prosciutto and saute’ until the onions are translucent.

2.  Add the cubed short ribs and brown.  Then add the red wine and cook it down for about 5 minutes.

3.  Add the ground pork and cook until all pink is gone.  Add the tomatoes.  Squeeze them with your fingers to break up as you add but watch out because they squirt like sea urchins!

4.  Put a lid on the pot and braise in a 300 degree oven for about 1 1/2 hours.

5.  Remove from the oven and put on a burner at low heat and simmer until the braise dries out a bit.  Add the milk and simmer for about another 15 minutes or until ready to serve. Or…let it simmer for hours…it only gets better!

6.  I like to serve this over pasta sheets or creamy polenta

Posted in braised short rib bolognese | 6 Comments

SALMON SASHIMI SALAD

The Atacama Dessert in Chile is probably one of the most memorable places that I have ever traveled.  The dusty dessert town of San Pedro de Atacama is a little over 8000 feet elevation and the surrounding excursions only get higher.  It is one of the highest, driest, largest desserts in the world and yes there are a few sand dunes, but mostly incredible rock formations, geysers and salt lakes with resident pink flamingoes. Our hotel served a refreshing sashimi salad one day and it gave me the inspiration for this salad.  Wild salmon season will soon be over so I am making the most of it while I can.  The bright salmon paired with white scallops and green avocados looks gorgeous.  The medallions are sliced so thinly that you will forget you are eating raw fish(if that is a problem).

serves 4

3/4 pound fresh wild salmon
1/4 pound large scallops

1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon capers
2 cups of torn lettuce leaves
1 cup of cubed avocado

1.  Remove the bones. Slice the salmon filet very thinly.(about 1/2 inch)
2. Place a piece of plastic wrap on a cutting board and put the thin slices of salmon on top, slightly overlapping and lightly pound the pieces together to form a sheet of salmon about 7 inches by 7 inches. ( Put a piece of plastic over the salmon before pounding.)
3. Trim the scallops so they can form a center layer on the salmon and place them in the middle of the salmon sheet. If they are too large you can just slice them in half.
4. Wrap the salmon as tightly as you can around the scallop middle using the plastic wrap.(like wrapping a sushi role)  When the wrap is completed, put the wrapped salmon in the freezer. This will make it easy to thinly slice.  The salmon roll will be about 2 1/2 inches in diameter.

6. Zest the lemon, squeeze the juice and mix with the mustard and olive oil.
7. Rinse the capers. Tear the lettuce. Cube the avocado.

8 Remove the frozen salmon log from the freezer and with a very sharp knive cut very thin medallions.
9. Drizzle some of the dressing around the plate. Arrange the medallions in a circle and put some lettuce and avocado cubes in the center.
10. Drizzle more dressing on the top of the salmon and the salad in the middle.
11. Scatter capers over the salad.
12. Grind some black pepper over everything.

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SHAVED BROCCOLI SALAD

We took a road trip across the Nevada desert to Ketchum, Idaho.  Driving through dusty has-been towns that were once havens to Chinese railroad workers, Basque sheep herders, gambling miners and drivers like myself, who needed a place to sleep and a bite to eat on our way through the state, we kept a little over the speed limit pace to cross the length of the state.  Our half way destination is usually Winnamucca.  Like all the other small towns it was once busy catering to the needs of travelers.  Then the big interstate passed them all by; Fernley, Winnamucca, Battle Mountain, Elko so that the only reason to stop is to gas up at the big truck stops at the edge of town and then loop back to the four lanes of speedy black top. Freddy and I have a favorite motel in W , a 50′s era motel and a favorite little cafe, The Griddle. I had a broccoli salad there that distinguished itself by being completely minced.  I liked the concept so much that I made my own recipe using shaved broccoli and other finely minced ingredients.  It’s a great summer salad and although broccoli is not a summer vegetable, it is readily available year ’round.

1 head of broccoli, shaved (8 ounces)

3 ounces red onion, finely minced

1 1/2 ounces smoked bacon, about 3 slices

5 ounces red flame seedless grapes

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1/2 cup raisins

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon maple syrup

2 tablespoons olive oil

1.  With a very sharp knife, shave the broccoli into very fine pieces.

2.  Shave or mince the onion.

3.  Cook the bacon until very crispy, drain, cool and mince.

4.  Mince the grapes.

5.  Mix the cider, maple syrup , lemon zest and olive oil and add to the salad.

6.  Throw in the raisins and toss the salad.

Look who came to dinner in Ketchum!

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