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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Pappardelle with rabbit ragu, spring version

Because it’s spring, all the favorite dishes take on the green aspect and the wonderful lightness of the fresh spring produce.

A few months ago I posted a recipe for home-made pappardelle with rabbit ragu and wild mushrooms, a winter comfort food. Here is the same pasta dish, dressed up for the spring. The earthy dried mushrooms are out; the dish is made light and cheerful by adding fresh shelled peas and pea greens. I used spring onions and green garlic in place of regular, dried, onions and garlic, just because I can – both onions and garlic are going strong in the garden.

Pappardelle with rabbit ragu and green peas

Serves 6

For the pappardelle:
1 cup “00” or all-purpose flour
1 cup semolina flour, plus more for dusting
16 quail eggs, or 4 medium chicken eggs

For the rabbit ragu:
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
Salt, pepper
1 rabbit, cut up
2 large spring onions, sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 large carrot, sliced
1 green garlic, white and green parts, chopped
1/2 jar passatta, or 1 large can San Marzano tomatoes, or 6 very ripe Roma tomatoes, peeled
1 cup white wine
1 cup chicken (or rabbit) stock
2 sprigs thyme
1 small sprig rosemary
2 bay leaves

1 small bunch pea greens, cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 cup shelled english peas

Shaved Parmesan

Make the pasta:

Combine the flours in a large bowl, make a well in the middle. Break the eggs into the well, mix to incorporate and make a stiff but still pliable dough. If the dough is too wet, add more semolina. If it’s too stiff to knead, add a few drops of water. Knead for 5-7 minutes. Wrap in plastic and let rest for 30-60 minutes. Using a pasta machine or a rolling pin, roll out the dough as thin as possible (on most pasta machines, second to last setting). Cut into 1-inch wide strips. Dust with semolina, hang over a back of a chair, or on a pasta-drying rack to dry a little.

Make the rabbit ragu:

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Place the flour in a plastic bag, season with salt and pepper. Put the rabbit pieces into the bag, toss to cover, remove from bag, shake off the excess flour, sauté until golden on both sides, 10-15 minutes. Remove to a plate. Add onions, celery, carrot, and garlic to the pan. Sauté until softened, about 10 minutes. Add passatta, or tomatoes with their juice, wine, and the stock to the pan. Using a wooden spoon or a silicon spatula, scrape all the golden pieces from the bottom and the sides of the pan to incorporate into the liquid.

Arrange the rabbit pieces in a large Dutch oven or a slow-cooker pan. Pour the vegetable, stock, and wine mixture on top. Cook on the stovetop, at a low simmer, 3 hours, or in a slow cooker, at a low setting, 6 hours or overnight.

Remove the meat from the ragu, take the meat off the bones, discard the bones. Using two forks, shred some of the meat. Return the meat to the ragu.


Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water until almost al dente, 1-2 minutes. Add peas and pea greens, cook another minute. Remove, drain, place in individual pasta bowls. Top with rabbit ragu, garnish with shaved Parmesan.

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BBQ pulled pork

This post is for my brother Paul, it continues the discussion that we had last week.

On our family reunion in the Italian Alps last week, my brother and I started talking about cooking pork, and I tried to explain pork barbecue. He thought that barbecue was the same thing as grill! Yes, American BBQ is kind of like grilling, cooking slowly over wood coals; but we also call a BBQ anything seasoned with a BBQ sauce, even if it’s not cooked over the coals. And what they call a BBQ sauce is different in different parts of the country. Now try to explain this to a European.

The BBQ pork that I made today was actually cooked in the oven, then shredded and seasoned with a purchased sauce. My favorite BBQ sauce is the “SFQ”, an artisan-made San Francisco style sauce, but others work well, too. I gave up on making my own BBQ sauce when the first recipe that I pulled from the Internet started with “2 cups sugar”. Wow, this is as much sugar as I use for my morning coffee in 3 month! I went into denial, and now i just go out and buy a prepared sauce. I try not to read the labels on them.

BBQ pulled pork
Serves 6

2 Tbsp olive oil
3 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
Pinch allspice
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt

1 large onion, sliced
4 large cloves garlic

1 cup prepared BBQ sauce of your choice

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Heat oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Season pork with salt and spices. Cook, turning (in batches, if necessary), until browned on all sides, 10-15 minutes.

Transfer pork to a covered braising pan, add onion and garlic, and enough water to cover the meat half-way. Cover, cook in the oven until very tender, 2-3 hours.

Shred the meat using two forks, season with the BBQ sauce. Serve with cornbread, or on buns, or over beans or pasta.

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Sunday BBQ menu today

Sunday BBQ menu for my neighbors Toyota of Marin:

Fire roasted pepper salad with arugula and pine nuts
German potato salad
Four bean salad
Grilled beef fillet with bacon and sage, chimichurri sauce
Beef burgers, heirloom tomato slices, pickles, marinated red onions
Marinated chicken skewers, plum sauce
Beef hot dogs

Grilled eggplant, baby zucchini, and mushrooms
Grilled peaches
Summer fruit bowl

The afternoon was perfect, the grill hot, the drinks (mixed by the host/bartender) cold, and everyone enjoyed the beautiful Terra Linda view. The hot dogs were the favorite of the kids, the steaks and the grilled white peaches of the adults. Everyone loved the salads.

I didn’t take any pictures – I had my BBQ mitts on all the time – you’d have to trust me, it was a gorgeous party 🙂

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Location:San Rafael, CA

Russian food. Pelmeni

I am moving the post about this very wintery dish to the top of my blog now, in the middle of the summer, for my friend B. from Terra Linda Community Pool, who tried the “Russian ravioli” years ago in a Russian restaurant in San Francisco, and now wants to try making them herself. Enjoy!

These pot-stickers probably came to Siberia from China. Then they spread all over Russia, and became a favorite winter food. If the temperatures stay consistently below freezing for 3-4 month, you can invest into making a few hundreds pot-stickers, freeze them outside, put them in a bag, and hang it outside of the window, to be cooked as needed. They cook from frozen in about ten minutes. They are economical, easy to cook, and oh, so tasty! Shaping them is labor-intensive, but if you live in a region with freezing winters, or in a house with a large freezer, you only need to make them once a year.

In Siberia, they make pelmeni with all types of filling: mushrooms, potatoes, cabbage, grains, fish, meat, poultry, or any combinations. In Moscow, where I grew up, pelmeni are always filled with mixed meats, and seasoned with salt, pepper, and minced onion. The usual filling is half ground beef (not too lean) and half pork. Whenever we had venison, we would always mix ground venison into pelmeni filling (1/3 beef, 1/3 pork, 1/3 venison)

In my family, we would spend the afternoon before the New Years Eve making pelmeni. Mom made the filling, dad rolled out the dough, and we all shaped. The first hundred or so would go on our holiday table, the rest froze on all available surfaces out on the balcony, for winter dinners to come. We would put a whole peppercorn into one of the pot-stickers. The lucky recipient could make a wish that will come true in the new year.

In California, I like to make pelmeni for our Tahoe ski trips. After a day of skiing, they cook fast, and they taste great! Rolling out the dough is physically demanding. My dad (who is very good at it) being 9000 miles away and my boyfriend not being part of the culture, I replace them both with my pasta machine, on it’s thinnest, ravioli setting. I then cut out dough circles with a 3-inch round cutter. A glass with a thin edge, or a cut tin can can do fine. Pelmeni should be a little larger than ravioli, but smaller than most Chinese potstickers, about 2 inches across.

Serve pelmeni in beef stock with a little white wine vinegar, straight with butter and
a lot of fresh ground black pepper, with sour cream with minced garlic and scallion, or even with mayonnaise!

Makes about 200, serves 10-12

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 egg
1/2cup water

for the filling:
1.5 pound mixed ground meats (3/4 pound beef and 3/4 pound pork; or 1/2 pound beef, 1/2 pound pork, 1/2 pound venison)
1 large onion, minced
1 tsp salt
1 (generous) tsp fresh ground black pepper

Make the dough: sift flour into a large bowl. Mix in salt. Make a well in the center. Pour egg and water in. Mix, gradually incorporating the flour from the sides, to make very stiff dough, knead. At first it will look like it’s too dry and not coming together. Do not despair, keep kneading. If after five minutes of kneading it’s still not coming together, add a few drops of water, repeat (you can skip the gym that day). Cover with plastic, let rest 30 minutes.

Make the filling: combine ground meats, onion, season with salt and pepper, mix well.

On a floured surface, roll out the dough as thin as possible, using a rolling pin and a lot of elbow grease, of a pasta machine. Cut out 3-inch circles. Put together the leftovers, and roll out again.

Place about 1/2 tsp of filling in the center of each circle. Pinch the edges together tight. Connect the corners to make a neat ring. Place on a floured plate or cutting board. Repeat 199 times, or so. Freeze. Put in ziplock bags, keep in the freezer for up to 6 month.

To cook: in a large pan bring water to boil over high heat. Add frozen pelmeni, bring back to boil. Reduce heat to medium, cook until pelmeni float to the surface, 5-10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon.

Serve with:
– sour cream and black pepper
– sour cream + minced garlic + minced parsley or scallion
– white wine vinegar and fresh ground black pepper
– beef stock + dash of white wine vinegar
– melted butter + a lot of fresh ground black pepper
– 1 cup sour cream blended with 1 cooked carrot and 2 minced garlic cloves
– (I didn’t say this) mayonnaise

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Summer menu today

I met my client’s father when he was visiting from Europe almost a year ago. He loves soups, and when he learned that I am from Russia, he said I should make a borscht. I promised.

When I put borscht on the menu this week, I didn’t know that the client’s parents are coming to visit again. But here they are, and the borscht, Moscow style, is on the menu. I hope the old man enjoys it as much as I enjoyed making it.

Bacon-wrapped sea scallops
Creamed spinach

Heirloom tomato tart
Greek salad

Pork and vegetables stir-fry
Wild rice with mushrooms

Beef ragu
Fetucchine with garlic and herbs

I am very happy with this ragu: the quality of the stock that you use to deglaze the pan matters as much as the quality of the meat. Since I was making a rich beef stock for my borscht right here on the next burner, this ragu, made with grass-fed ground beef and bits and pieces of USDA Prime steak, also got fresh homemade beef stock. Other ingredients: olive oil, onion, garlic, carrot, celery, white wine, tomato paste, strained tomatoes, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, thyme, sea salt, fresh ground black pepper.

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Location:Palo Alto, CA

Menu for a low-carbohydrate diet today

My client S. has found out that restricting carbohydrates helps her to achieve her weight loss goals without giving up the satisfaction from meals. S. is a good cook herself, and had been cooking most of the dishes for her new low-carb, high-protein diet.

She is not very comfortable, however, with preparing red meats and seafood. To break the monotony of roasted chicken breasts and fried salmon fillets, S. asked me to cook a package of meals that she could keep in the freezer, in individual serving containers, and reheat whenever she is pressed for time, or feels like eating something different.

Here is what I cooked for her today. The chicken soup has onions, celery, and just one little carrot, finely sliced and sautéed in butter, and fresh green beans, red and yellow peppers, leeks, tomatoes, and black Tuscan kale.

Chimichurri, a bright fresh Argentinian sauce, made of parsley and oregano with garlic, dried red chilies, red wine vinegar, and olive oil, is as good with lamb as it is with grilled beef (or almost anything grilled), is totally addictive, and doesn’t add much carbs, calories, or weight to the dish – just a lot of flavor.

Menu November, 7

Chicken and vegetables soup
Shrimp stir-fry with peppers, spring onions, and bok choi

Leeks, spinach, and bacon frittata
Braised leeks
Delicata squash stuffed with beef and vegetables
Roasted Brussels sprouts
Lamb chops, chimichurri sauce

Kale with garlic and white wine

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Location:Mill Valley, CA

Menu for a special diet today

I’ve been too busy to write a full-size post recently, but here is a quick update.

Today’s client has a strict diet with multiple restrictions: no grains, poultry, milk products, legumes, shellfish, canned or fermented foods; some vegetables, herbs and spices (for example black or red pepper) are also excluded.

Here is her menu, simple and wholesome. All vegetables, local king salmon, eggs, and Full of Life Farm’s stew lamb coming from Mountain View Sunday farmers market, the rest from Whole Foods.

Beef and vegetable soup
Salmon with lemon-parsley gremolata
Sautéed new potatoes
Frittata with bacon and caramelized onion
Beef meatballs, tomato sauce
Braised cabbage
Pork stir-fry with kale, asparagus, and red onion
Lamb and eggplant stew

Roasted yams

Packaged as individual servings, to take to the office for lunch or to have for dinner.

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Location:Palo Alto, CA

Cutting up a whole beef tenderloin for the grill

Beef fillet is a classic cut for grilling, tender, juicy, well marbled; takes minutes to grill; withstands cooking to any doneness, even well done. It is also the most expensive cut of beef. So what you do when you want to grill fillets for a small crowd?
You buy a whole tenderloin, and cut your own fillet medallions.

This small tenderloin, a little over 4 pounds, gave me 12 5-ounce medallions, plus ends and trimmings to use for Stroganoff or other stir-fries.
It costs $30, or $2.50 per serving.

I based my preparation on a recipe for “Beef turnedos wrapped in sage and bacon” from my favorite cookbook Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way. The recipe was designed for a cast-iron skillet set over a wood fire. However, since the bacon that we get here in the States is always smoked, just wrapping the beef in bacon gives it a beautiful smoky flavor, even when cooked on a gass grill.

I used Trader Joe’s uncured bacon.

Now, Trader Joe’s meat department, I have a question: Why, while even the smallest beef tenderloin makes 12 servings; why does your package of uncured bacon only contain ten slices?

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Location:Redwood City, CA

Another summer menu

Chicken and summer vegetables
Fruit salad with creamy yogurt dressing
Salmon with lemon-dill sauce
Honey mustard chicken and vegetables skewers

Beef medallions with bacon and sage

BBQ pulled pork

Wild rice with garlic and herbs
Summer vegetable ragout
Grilled sweet corn
Eggplant parmigiana

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Location:Mill Valley, CA

Location:Mill Valley, CA