Mason jar salads

Springtime is the time for light pasta dishes and very green salads.

All the fresh seasonal spring vegetables:
Fava beans and leaves
Flowers: borage, calendula, chives, fava, pansies, peas, rose, wild mustard, wild turnip, etc.
Green garlic
Green peas and pea shoots
Spring greens
Spring onions
The first cherry tomatoes,

as well as late season winter produce:
Bitter greens: arugula, baby kale, chicories, etc.
Root vegetables and their tops

– all work well in both salads and pastas.

Recently some of my clients asked me to lighten their spring menus, and to replace the soup with a fresh salad that they can enjoy all week, and take to work for lunch. For this, mason jar salads are a perfect solution. These salads have been a trend in the last couple of years, and they make a lot of sense for busy people who like to eat healthy and well.

The idea is that you pack your salad in a mason jar, 1/2 pint, 1 pint or 1 quart, depending on your appetite, in an order that helps to keep it fresh in the refrigerator for the whole week. The dressing goes on the bottom of the jar. Then you add a vegetable, legume, or protein, to separate the dressing from the greens, so that the greens don’t wilt, and the greens, nuts, and edible flowers go on top. When ready to eat, turn the jar out onto a plate, and it will dress itself. Or, mix it and eat it from the jar. Pack the jars tightly: the less air there is, the slower will the salad dry out.

– Greek yogurt, mint, lemon juice, minced garlic or spring garlic; fava and garbanzo beans; grilled chicken; fava bean tops
– White wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, minced shallot, olive oil; quail eggs; mâché
– Balsamic vinegar, olive oil; fire roasted peppers; prosciutto; cannellini beans; wild arugula, pine nuts
– Lemon juice and zest, garlic, olive oil; olives, feta; red onion slices, rinsed, bell pepper strips, cherry tomatoes, Persian cucumber (sliced, salted, and left to drain, then squeezed dry); baby spinach, borage flowers
– Strawberry infused balsamic vinegar, walnut or olive oil; strawberries, goat cheese; walnuts, baby greens
– Orange slices and juice, olive oil; steamed green beans or cooked cranberry beans; shaved fennel; baby arugula

Please go out into the garden or to the farmers market, get whatever looks the best, and improvise! Don’t forget to add some edible flowers, to make the jars more fun to open.

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Location:Tiburon, CA

Paleo menu this week

Mixed green salad with strawberries and walnuts
Mushroom and spinach frittata
Garlic green beans

Salmon, salsa verde
Steamed broccoli with almonds
Chicken roasted with fennel and apples
New potatoes with pesto
Chicken cacciatore
Raw zucchini and carrot “spaghetti”
Pork medallions, balsamic glaze
Sautéed cauliflower

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Spring moments in the kitchen

Squash blossoms. Stuff them with seasoned cottage cheese and fry.

Heirloom tomato salad, fillet mignonette, new potatoes with ramp pesto


Pappardelle with rabbit ragu. The spring version includes peas and spinach

Spring lamb chops, asparagus with quail egg and ramp-lemon butter

The first heirloom tomatoes with herbs and olive oil

Grilled chicken and bacon sausages, rosa blanca potatoes, heirloom tomato salad

Springtime mirepoix: spring onion, green garlic, baby leeks, carrots

Paella mixta with asparagus and fava beans

Green peas


Baby greens with herbs, flowers, and goat cheese salad

Cowgirl Creamery Inverness cheese
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Because it’s spring

Because it’s spring, the menu today is fresh, colorful, and full of spring vegetables and herbs from the farmers market. Green garlic and spring onions take the place of garlic and onions in most recipes.

For the salad, I selected the thickest asparagus spears and shaved them with a vegetable peeler into thin juicy ribbons. I rolled bite-size pieces of goat cheese in parsley, oregano, chive and kale flowers to top the salad.

Recently I heard a client’s kid say that she had asparagus every day last week. Yes, girl, this is called asparagus season. it won’t last long, we need to enjoy it now. Today the first fava beans showed up at the farmers market. The strawberries are not yet their sweetest, but already taste great. And I have picked a few alpine strawberries in my garden already!

The beautiful tender spring lamb loin from Olivier’s Butchery I roasted and paired with a simple green sauce made with parsley, chives, green garlic, capers, lemon, and olive oil, garnished with chive flowers.

The tree-like cauliflower “steaks”, cut from the center of the head, are seasoned with a pinch of mild curry powder and sautéed in a mix of olive oil and butter; the loose florets from the sides are roasted and blended into cauliflower puree for the sauce.


Spring vegetables minestrone

Mixed greens and herbs with shaved asparagus and goat cheese

Sautéed halibut, lemon-herb butter
Chicken cacciatore
Spring lamb loin, salsa verde
Braised beef brisket

Carrots and peas
Polenta with wild mushrooms
Borlotti beans with greens and tomato
Cauliflower “steaks”

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Location:Burlingame, CA

Garden herbs: Chervil

Chervil is of the classic fine herbes (the others are parsley, tarragon, and chives); mild anice flavor. Likes full sun and a lot of water. Chervil is an annual plant that will self-seed if the conditions are right. Use the delicate leaves and flowers in salads and sauces.

Omelette with fine herbs
Serves 1
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 Tbsp butter
2 large chicken eggs, or 10 quail eggs
1 Tbsp chopped parsley
1 Tbsp chopped chives
1 Tbsp chopped chervil
1/2 Tbsp chopped tarragon
Salt, pepper

Heat oil and butter over medium heat in a small non-stick or cast iron pan. Beat the eggs with a fork in a bowl until well combined but not foaming, about 20 strokes. Pour eggs into the pan. When the bottom of the pan is set, add the herbs, season with salt and pepper, tilt the pan, and fold the omelette over in two. Cook 1-2 minutes more, until the desired doneness. Serve at once.

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Location:San Rafael, CA

Garden herbs: Borage

Borage is really easy to grow: it’s an annual, but once in your garden, it will self-seed and come up every year. It loves sun and water; it’s pretty indifferent to the soil quality.

Young leaves and striking bright blue star-shaped flowers are used in salads, for ravioli stuffing, and as a garnish; mild cucumber flavor.

Goat cheese rolled with herbs and flowers
 Makes 12 appetizers
 12 ounce goat cheese log, at room temperature
 12 borage flowers
 12 mustard flowers
 1 Tbsp chopped chives, plus some chive flowers, broken up
 1 Tbsp chopped chervil
 Salt, pepper
 Cut 12 squares of plastic wrap, approximately 6×6 inches. Divide clovers and herbs between the plastic squares. Cut the goat cheese into 12 pieces, place each piece over the herbs and flowers, season with salt and pepper, wrap the plastic around the cheese, refrigerate until ready to use. Before serving, unwrap the cheese, place over salad or on toasts, drizzle with good olive oil. The cheese keeps refrigerated 2-3 days.
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Garden herbs: Bay

Bay is one of the easiest herbs to grow in California. It’s a perennial shrub that does very well in any kind of soil, doesn’t require a lot of water or fertilizer. All it needs is sunshine.

For all your soups and stews, this is the savory herb that adds complexity and brings it all together.

There are two kinds of bay: the Mediterranean (noble) laurel, and California bay. Both trees grow everywhere in the Northern California. The Mediterranean laurel, most often used in cooking, has slightly pointed rounded leaves, peppercorn-size berries, and strong but delicate smell. The California Bay, often found growing wild in parks, has elongated leaves, walnut-size berries, and very strong, sweet and pungent, up-in-your-face smell. It can be used in soup and stews as well, but be careful to remove it after 10-15 minutes, or you’ll end up with a laurel soup, it’s this strong!

Chicken stock

Homemade chicken stock makes the house smell good, and it cannot be replaced with store-bought chicken broth in the recipes for clear soups, or, in fact, anything, soups, stews, sauces, whatever.

The best chicken to use for a flavorful, clear, inexpensive homemade chicken stock is a mature hen (“stewing chicken”) that Asian grocery stores sell for next to nothing. Some farmers markets have whole chickens with head and feet on – these are even better. The goal is to get a lot of connective tissue that adds body to the stock. As an alternative, use chicken backs that are left over from the whole chickens that you cut up for roasting or frying, or buy at Whole Foods real cheap; or even leftover roast chickens, supplemented with chicken feet and necks, sold separately.

For the aromatic vegetables, use fresh clean trimmings from the vegetables that you used for other dishes – cut carrots for a salad, put the carrot cores in the stock; braise fennel and leeks, use the green parts in the stock; use the large outer cloves of garlic for a sauce, save the inner cloves, unpeeled, for the stock; etc.

Makes about 4 quarts

1 whole chicken, preferably with head and feet, large chunks of fat removed, liver and gizzards removed, cut up
3 chicken backs, plus any chicken necks and feet you can get
2 roast chicken carcasses and bones, plus some necks and feet
Cold water to cover
1 large onion, peeled, halved
2 ribs celery, cut into large chunks, or trimmings from a bunch of celery
2 carrots, cut into large chunks, or equal amount of leftoverp carrot cores and trimmings, chopped
1 small whole fennel, or equal amount of fennel tops, chopped
2 medium leeks, or green tops from 4 leeks, chopped
1 bunch of parsley stems, or one whole parsley plant
3 sprigs thyme
15 whole black peppercorns
2 bay leaves

Put chicken in a large stockpot, cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low. Skim all the foam that floats to the top, discard. Add onion, celery, carrots, fennel, leeks, parsley, thyme, peppercorns, and bay leaves. Adjust the heat to maintain a low simmer (a bubble breaks the surface every second). Simmer for 4 hours. Laddle the stock through a sieve into a clean pot; discard the solids. Refrigerate the stock for 5 days, or freeze in an air-tight container for up to 4 months.

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Garden herbs: Basil

Here we are: it’s the middle of summer, and it rained! All the plants in the garden are happy, but the herbs are happiest of all! They love both the heat and the water, and now they got both. I saw them shoot up this morning, full of life and flavor.

I am starting a series of posts about the herbs that I have in my garden, and how to use them.

I don’t have anything with “A” now, and “B” is for basil.

My beloved “pesto plant” tastes like summer: long sunny days, warm evenings, heirloom tomatoes picked from the plant, a bunch of basil… Basil pairs naturally with tomatoes and other summer vegetables, most white meats and fish, beans, fresh cheeses. Pasta! Basil is also a popular garnish for South-East Asian soups and curries. There are countless varieties of basil; my favorites are the tender emerald-green Genovese, perfect for pesto, and the purple-veined, tougher and stronger, opal basil, for the Asian dishes.

Fresh basil doesn’t store very well, only pick as much as you need.

To cut basil into thin strips (chiffonade) to garnish salads and other dishes:
– Pick a few large basil leaves, of approximately the same size
– Toss the leaves with some olive oil, to keep the air out (when oxidized, cut basil leaves will turn dark)
– Stack the leaves, roll them up lengthwise, slice the roll thinly with a sharp knife, unroll

Shrimp cocktail, mango basil dipping sauce
Serves 6
1 ripe mango
Juice of 1 large lime
10-12 basil leaves, chopped, plus more to garnish
Salt, pepper
Dash Tabasco, or to taste
30 large cooked shrimps, tails on, chilled

Cut two mango halves off the seed. With a sharp paring knife, cut the flesh inside mango half into cubes, not cutting all the way through the skin. Turn mango half inside out over a bowl. Slice cubes of mango off the skin. Repeat with the other half.
Combine mango, lime juice, and basil in a blender, puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Add Tabasco, if desired. Chill.
Serve shrimps with dipping sauce.
Calories per serving: 187

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Location:San Rafael, CA

Because it’s spring…

Raw asparagus, artichoke heart, and crimini mushroom salad, Meyer lemon vinaigrette, 9-minute egg, goat cheese rolled in edible flowers and herbs, Maldon sea salt. Not pictured: Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc (because it’s a Saturday!)

This salad is a “no-recipe” recipe: a combination of any fresh spring vegetable that you have on hand will work.
– Asparagus, thinly sliced
– Artichoke heart, thinly sliced, drizzled with lemon juice
– White or crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced (please, wash the mushrooms, they grow in compost!)
– English peas, blanched
– Pea or fava bean greens and flowers
– Fava beans, blanched and peeled
– Spring onions, thinly sliced
– Radishes, thinly sliced, and tender radish tops
– Baby turnips, thinly sliced, and tender turnip tops
– Carrots, thinly sliced or grated
– Baby greens, such as lettuce, arugula, mâché, etc.
– Micro-greens and sprouts

Combine the vegetables in a bowl, mix. Season with Meyer lemon juice, good olive oil, fresh ground pepper, and your favorite flaky salt. Garnish with boiled egg halves and goat cheese on toast or cracker.

To make goat cheese “coins” rolled in herbs and flowers, bring the cheese in it’s wrapper to room temperature, to soften and make it easier to squeeze. Add herbs and flowers, shape, and refrigerate. Rosemary and lavender flowers add beautiful shades of blue, but their taste is strong and can overpower other herbs, so use sparingly.

Goat cheese rolled in herbs and edible flowers
Makes about 12
A handful of chopped soft herbs (parsley, chives, tarragon, chervil, or any combination) and edible flowers, such as mustard, arugula, chive, rosemary
1 12-oz log of plain goat cheese, at room temperature

Cut plastic wrap into roughly 5-6 inch squares. Line 12 mini-muffin tins with plastic wrap, leaving extra wrap hanging over the sides. Divide herbs and flowers between the tins. Cut a corner off the goat cheese wrapper. Squeeze the cheese into the tins. Bring the edges of plastic wrap together to enclose the cheese, press lightly into the tins, refrigerate.

To serve, unwrap the plastic and bring the cheese back to room temperature. Serve on warm baguette toasts or crackers. Season with sea salt, if desired.


– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:San Rafael, CA

Because it’s spring (update)

I had just finished the previous post, my salad, and the glass of Sauvignon Blanc, when I noticed that the borage plant in the corner of my garden started blooming. Striking bright blue star-shaped edible flowers, with a mild taste similar to cucumber. So I unwrapped all my herbed goat cheeses and added borage flowers.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:San Rafael, CA