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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It was a race to get to the corner of Deer Park Road and The Silverado Trail on Sunday morning.  The Prize:  a flat of Dr Dinwiddie’s fabulous peaches, ripe and ready for us to claim them and make pies, jams, chutneys and just to eat, juicy and perfectly , gloriously peachy.  After we ate a few, I decided to make jam, using my Petaluma Peach Tart as inspiration.  This is those flavors without the crust.  It will be perfect to fold a crust around for a hand pie or just to spoon over ice cream or maybe to top an English muffin or whole wheat toast.

makes 4 quarts

6 pounds yellow freestone peaches

1 large lemon

5 pounds white sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons almond extract

5 ounces natural, no salt pistachios

1 tablespoon fresh ginger zest

1.  Peel the peaches and slice into 1/2 inch segments.

2.  Slice the lemon lengthwise and then slice each half crosswise to make lemon confetti like.

3.  Put the peach slices, lemon confetti, sugar, almond extract, ginger zest and the pistachios in a large heavy pot or preserving pan and cook on medium high heat for about 30 minutes.  Make sure everything is completely cooked.

4.  Prepare the canning jars and lids.

5.  Pour the hot jam into the jars and seal.

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A first course of prosciutto wrapped around fruit like melon is a classic.  To make the course a little more playful, I decided to design a pizza that took it’s place. Mangos are sweeter and juicier than melon and paired with prosciutto and cheese make a great starter.  The difficulty of serving this pizza is convincing your guests that it is just the beginning of the dinner and they only get one piece!

makes 2 small 12 inch pizzas

  • 1 mango, peeled and sliced into long thin slices
  • 1/2 cup minced cilantro
  • juice of one lime
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions, mostly white part and a little green
  • 3 ounces prosciutto
  • 1 1/2 ounces shredded asiago, 1 1/2 ounces  shredded parmesan, 1 1/2 ounces crumbled sheep feta
  • 3 ounces fresh mozzarella
  • 2 small pizza doughs, either homemade or purchased from your favorite pizza parlour (like the Cantinetta in St Helena)

1.  Mix the sliced mango, minced cilantro, lime juice, olive oil and green onions together.

2.  Mix the asiago, parmesan and feta together.

3.  Liberally sprinkle half of the cheese mixture over one of the pizza doughs which has been prepared in a nice circle. If your are making 2 pizzas at the same time then just divy up all the ingredients.

4.  Place half of the mangoes over the cheese.

5.  Arrange half of the prosciutto over the mangoes.

6. Put half of the mozzarella around and over the toppings.

7. Bake in the oven or in an wood fired oven.

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As I’ve mentioned before, I grew up in Petaluma, a small town in Sonoma County before Sonoma and neighboring counties embraced the monoculture of the grape.  Sure there are still lots of apples, berries, pears and peaches, but not nearly as many as during the last century.  Then, we didn’t have to go very far to find an orchard or berry farm to buy fresh fruit.  In the Napa Valley near St. Helena in the midst of an ocean of grapevines is a little two acre plot where Dr. Wendell Dinwiddie has been growing peaches for almost 20 years.  I remember being amazed when he planted those fruit trees in grape country!  He planted the varieties of peaches sequentially so a few ripen perfectly about every two weeks all summer.There are 8 varieties.  I have been making a version of this tart for many years.  It marries my favorite flavors of ripe peaches and almonds.  The pistachios give the tart a little crunch and a pop of green.  The juices melt into the bottom crust and the result is a total immersion of flavors.

Serves 8

Almond Tart Crust

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup almond meal/flour
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon almond extract
  • pinch of salt
Peaches and Topping
  • 4 or 5 large freestone peaches (I used Fay Elberta)
  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 cup pistachios, shelled
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • 2 tablespoons almond flour for tossing with the peaches
1.  Mix all the crust ingredients.  Press the mixture up the sides and over the bottom of the tart pan.  Blind bake for about 10 minutes.  Cool a bit.
2.  Peel and slice the peaches into thick (1/2 inch) slices.  Be sure to use “freestone” peaches because they can easily be freed from the pit.  “Cling” peaches really cling to the pit and it can get messy. (personal experience)
3.  Put the peach slices in a colander and let drain for about 30 minutes.  Then toss the peaches in a couple tablespoons of almond flour/meal.
4.  Arrange the peaches in a circle around and spiraling until the entire surface is filled with peach slices.
5.  To make the topping mix the butter, sugar, egg yolks, pistachios, lemon zest and grated ginger together.  Blend the mixture (I use my hands) until all the butter is incorporated.
6.  Evenly spread the topping over all the peaches.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes.  The topping will become custard like.  Serve with whipped cream if you like…but not necessary.

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I grew up in Petaluma, CA , a sweet little river town about 49 miles north of San Francisco.    In its’ day, Petaluma was famous for being The Egg Basket of The World.  It even had a semi pro football team called the Leghorns. Like the Napa Valley is all about grapes, Petaluma was all about chickens and eggs.  I hated the texture and taste of eggs until I was in college and someone made me an omelet.  It was the chalazae, the white spot in an egg that made me gag. I did not use that word. I have always referred to that white spot as the “ish”. ( I probably meant “ick”. )  Last Sunday my friend, Matt Kramer, a wine and food writer (A Passion for Piedmont is his great cookbook and he is a senior wine editor of The Wine Spectator) showed me his method for making scrambled eggs.  It makes the most delicious, creamy, flavorful, perfect  scrambled eggs that I have ever tasted…and NO ish!

Take as many eggs as you want to scramble and break them into a bowl.  Whisk for about 20 seconds.  Using a medium mesh strainer, pour the eggs into the strainer and push them through the strainer with a rubber spatula into another bowl.  Melt a knob of butter in a saute pan, and pour the strained eggs into the pan.  With a spatula or spoon,  draw the eggs towards the center of the pan.  As they start to firm up, take the eggs off the heat and continue to stir until finished.  Add a little more butter if you wish, or sprinkle some chives or grated cheese on top.  Serve with crispy bacon.

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Throughout the Summer and Fall we occasionally host wine lunches and dinners at our winery for special guests and wine lovers. Today I am preparing dinner for an adventurous group of 30 world travelers and wine patrons who plan unique, unusual venues for a yearly get together of their special group (they even have a special name for themselves).Last year they held their dinner on the Great Wall of China!   I usually rely on my make it ahead short rib recipe which I have been making for many years.  For this group I tweaked it a bit and liked the results so much, I think that this is my new standby.  The chocolate, orange and mustard in the red wine reduction is a real game changer.  And, it is a very rich sauce that will pair well with our big California Cabernet Sauvignon.  So for appetizers, I will be making some pizzas, including Mac’s Lobster Pizza (recipe on this site) and a Pear, Procuitto, Blue Cheese Pizza, as well as my old favorite from Sante Fe’s Pink Adobe, shrimp. Next will be a Farro Salad with Roasted Mushrooms from Food52.  The short ribs will be served upon a nest of a simple potato pancake, and accompanied by my Spicy Butternut Squash (recipe on this site) and sauteed fennel, celery and onions.  Dessert will be my rich and decadent Coffee-Nochella Bread Pudding , topped with unsweetened whipped cream.  A little glass of my homemade Nocino will also be served.  I hope that not much later, I will be off to dreamland!


 6 pounds beef short ribs, bone in (be sure and ask your butcher for the meaty end only)                2 cups sweet yellow onions, chopped                                                                                                          1 cup celery, chopped                                                                                                                         1 cup carrots, chopped                                                                                                                        1 1/2 whole bottle dry red wine (I used Cabernet)                                                                                                                      1 tablespoon bittersweet chocolate,                                                                                                    2 tablespoons orange zest , wide strips  (or make Francis Mallmann’s Orange Confit…fabulous)                                                                                                                  1 teaspoon dijon mustard                                                                                                                    Olive oil to saute short ribs and vegetables

1.  Salt and pepper the ribs and brown them on all sides in a little olive oil in a large dutch oven.

2.  When the ribs are browned on all sides, remove them from the pot.  Pour off the fat, then add a little olive oil.  Add the vegetables and saute them until the onion becomes translucent .

3.  Add the red wine to the pot, then add back the ribs and if needed cover with enough water . Add the orange or orange confit into the pot

4.  Put the lid on the dutch oven and braise the short ribs in a 275 degree oven for about 3 hours, or until very tender.

5.  Remove from the oven; using a slotted spoon remove the meat from the pot and set aside. Also remove the vegetables  and press to extract all the juice that you can.

6.  Strain the sauce and return to the pot. Add the orange back to the pot.

7.  Heat the sauce and add the chocolate, the orange, and reduce until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.  Remove the orange.

8.  Finish by swirling the mustard into the sauce.

9.  Reheat the ribs.

10.  Serve with sauce poured over the meat, and pass a pitcher of sauce for those who want more.

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Mendoza, Argentina

Freddy and I stayed at Cavas Wine Lodge while we were visiting Mendoza. Cecila, the owner, is a wonderful innkeeper and she made us feel like we were her personal friends. The verdant grape growing valley is surrounded by the dramatic snow covered Andes in the distance. We ate almost all of our meals at the Lodge because there was always just what we were craving. In the case of lunch, we had this simple vegetable recipe for three days. I just made it today for lunch at home and there are leftovers for guess what…lunch tomorrow.


Serves 6

4 cups eggplant, small dice (1 large eggplant)
1 1/2 cups red(or yellow) peppers, small dice
2 cups onions, small dice
1 cup tomato sauce
2 cups zucchini, small dice
1 1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 cup minced coriander
1 cup shaved parmesan cheese
6 soft poached eggs (one for each)

1.Dice all the vegetables the same size. Saute the eggplant, garlic, onions and pepper in a little olive oil until it starts to soften. I try to use as sparingly as possible because even though olive oil is good for you, it contains a lot of calories.
2. Then add the zucchini and tomato sauce and continue to cook until all the vegetables are thoroughly cooked.
3. Mince the coriander and shave the parmesan.
4. Poach the eggs.
5. Place a mound of ratatouille on each plate, top with an egg and sprinkle with coriander and shaved parmesan.

Posted in vegetables- ratatouille | 3 Comments

Lacinato Kale Salad with Spicy Peanut Dressing

Our trip to South America was just what we needed. We spent our time in Buenos Aires, Mendoza, Salta in Argentina and The Atacama Desert, and Valparaisa in Chile, a little time in Uraguay and a little time in Lima, Peru. We left craving for more, like Machu Picchu, but it was raining there and we had been gone for almost a month. I thought that our choices of food would be overwhelmingly meat. I was wrong. We went to a famous for its’ meat restaurant the first night in BA and then ate mostly fish for the rest of the trip(there was the time when I ordered what I thought he said was lamb and it turned out to be llama!)We missed vegetables a lot! The South Americans use them for garnishes, but not so much as a real side. So, when we returned home a couple of days ago, we stopped at the Rutherford Grill for lunch and we both ordered huge salads.  Mine was a kale salad and I immediately realized that it was exactly what I was craving. So this is my kale salad that I have been practically living on for the past week.
The picture is one that I took in Valparaiso which is a gritty seaport city, very scenic, rusty, very, very steep streets and sidewalks that are part steps, a cement stairmaster to our hotel. There is graffiti EVERYWHERE. It’s not the tagging, bad spelling kind of graffiti (there IS some of that too). It is art. There are literally thousands of them all over the city. Some are complete buildings. It’s like the old broad put on lipstick and eyeshadow and dressed herself up. It’s amazing.

Spicy Peanut Dressing
3 tablespoons smooth, natural peanut butter
3 tablespoons warm water
1 teaspoon minced garlic
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons fresh minced ginger
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
Put all the ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth.

Kale salad
1 large bunch Lacinato kale, very small chop
1/2 cup minced fresh mint
1 cup walnuts, chopped

Toss the kale, mint and walnuts with the dressing. Taste and add more dressing if needed.

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Bread Pudding is one of Freddy’s favorite desserts. He loves bananas, too, so I created a pudding just for him. He is being careful about his sugar intake so I added NO sugar to this recipe. The bananas are so sweet and the cinnamon so fragrant that there is no need for any sugar. The addition of sliced almonds gives the pudding a little final crunch.

serves 8

7 cups dry brioche cubes
3 cups whole milk
3 large eggs
3 bananas
3/4 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup golden raisins
pinch of salt
3 tablespoons butter for the baking dish

1. Blend the milk, cream, eggs, 2 bananas, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add a pinch of salt.
2. Put the cubed brioche bread, almonds, raisins and a sliced banana in a large mixing bowl.
3. Pour the milk, egg, and banana mixture into the dry ingredients and gently mix.
4. Pour into a a buttered souffle’ or other baking dish and place in a larger baking dish for a water bath baking method.
5. Pour water to half way up the side of the inner pudding dish and place in a 325 degree oven for about an hour
6. Remove when the pudding is cooked and the top is golden. Sometimes I shave a little bittersweet chocolate on the top.

The picture was taken when Freddy and I were in Sicily last year. A very dramatic place we visited was The Valley of the Temples in Agrigento…one of the most important archeological sites in the world.

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Crab season is on big time right now and that means my favorite crab, the Dungeness, is available fresh and ready for appetizers, lunch, dinner and just because! Crab cakes are delicious for a first course for dinner or as an appetizer depending on how large you make them or as dinner itself which is one of my favorite meals. Freddy and I both love making a dinner of crab cakes plopped on top of a arugula salad and a side of french fries. We ate the crab cakes before I had time to take the pic, so here is a pic of our 1890 Victorian farm house on a foggy morning. It is a typical summer morning in the Napa Valley and we are, as usual, above the fog.

serves 4, more if made smaller for appetizers

1 pound Dungeness crab meat
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 cups panko, or plain dried bread crumbs
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup all purpose flour
oil for frying crab cakes

1. Mix the mayonnaise, crab meat, cilantro, parsley, red onion and lemon juice with your hands to make four patties.
2. Set up three bowls: 1) flour, 2)egg, 3) dry bread crumbs
3. Gently dip the crab patties in the flour, then the egg, then the bread crumbs.
4. Heat oil and fry each crab cake on medium heat until lightly browned.

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