Menu today

 Creamy curried cauliflower soup
Fennel and orange salad with toasted walnuts
Cod baked with tomatoes and sweet onions
Rabbit stew with wild mushrooms Honey mustard pork tenderloin Parmesan meatballs, onion gravy
Baked sweet potatoes with chai spices
Polenta with wild mushrooms
Brussels sprouts with pomegranate and feta
 Honey roasted winter squashes

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Mill Valley, CA

Menu today

Today’s menu includes both red beets and pomegranate. I am lucky to get out of the kitchen relatively unstained 🙂


Sole with lemon butter
Smoked mozzarella, prosciutto, and cauliflower frittata
Chicken roasted with grapes
Braised beef short ribs

Mashed potatoes and carrots
Eggplant with buttermilk sauce and pomegranate
Sautéed green beans with garlic
Farro pilaf

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Mill Valley, CA

A beautiful bowl of greens

Look what a handsome bowl of greens I got from Mount Tam Microgreens at Mill Valley Farmers Market this morning!

They have different mixes of greens, growing in large good-looking recycled paper bowls. Mine is called “One World”, because it contains “Chinese tatsoi, Russian kale, American rocket, Indian amaranth, Japanese mustard and mizuna, and Italian broccoli” – yes, I always want it all at the same time! (BTW, being born and raised in Russia, in a country house with a vegetable garden, I never heard of kale until I came to California. We had white and red cabbage, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts, but no leafy cabbages or broccoli. I wonder where the “Russian kale” comes from… I also have an impression that the American rocket is in fact Italian ruccola that California farmers started growing just recently. But this is not the point. I wanted them all, and I got them!)

The tender, elegant microgreens are almost as delicate as sprouts, but they have the pronounced flavor of the mature greens. The difference between sprouts and microgreens is that the sprouts are just seeds, germinated in a greenhouse environment, usually with no soil, and eaten whole, the seed, root, and the top; while microgreens are juvenile plants with one or two pairs of true leaves already developed, grown in soil; only the green top is eaten, the roots are cut off and go to compost for the next cycle. According to the Mount Tam Microgreens leaflet, many microgreens have four to six times the vitamin content of the mature plants of the same varieties. A good reason to eat them, besides their wonderful flavor, tender bite, and beauty.

I’ve been experimenting with microgreens on my own. I have micro-beets and micro-sunflowers coming up in the next few days. However, this whole bowl was $20 – this is probably less than I paid just for my seeds – and it’s LOTS OF GREENS! Sometimes it pays to have people who know what they are doing to do it for you 🙂

The instructions leaflet tells you to thin aggressively. This is the first thing I did after getting the bowl home – I thinned aggressively, and had a chiabatta sandwich with prosciutto, gruyere, home-made mayonnaise, and mini-greens. The bowl looks like nothing happened. I’ll thin aggressively tomorrow again.

The microgreens are not just for sandwiches, use them to garnish soups, meat, fish, and vegetable dishes; they can be used in most recipes to replace either sprouts, or mature greens. An example, my signature roasted beets and baby arugula salad, made with microgreens:

Beet salad
Serves 6
6 medium beets, mixed colors, with root and 1 inch of the greens on
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp sherry vinegar
Salt, pepper
Dash of truffle oil (optional)
4 Tbsp olive oil
10 oz mixed microgreens
1 cup walnut pieces

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place beets in a deep roasting pan, add 1/2 cup water, cover tightly with aluminum foil, roast 30-45 minutes, depending on size of the beets, until beets are easily pierced with a knife (test through the foil). Let cool.
Rinse onion under cold water, drain. Toss onion with sherry vinegar, let sit 20-30 minutes.
When beets are cool enough to handle, trim the root end and the greens, peel with your fingers (use gloves to handle red beets). Thinly slice beet, season with salt, pepper, optional truffle oil, and olive oil. Toss beets with marinated onion, serve on top of greens, garnish with walnut pieces.

Orange and fennel salad with microgreens:

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Location:Mill Valley, CA

Autumnal menu today

It’s Fall! Squashes, mushrooms, root vegetables, slow-cooked meats, Fall fruits, and sturdy, earthy herbs like rosemary and thyme dominate the menu. Oranges and lemons begin to appear again. Recently, I’ve been bombarded with lemons: two of my clients gave me large bags of lemons from their trees, and I have two lemon trees (one Meyer, one Eureka) of my own! I use them to season vegetables, make sauces, and I’ve been making lots of lemon curd to give everyone. My own birthday cake was a lemon tart.

I am very excited about this season’s chanterrelle mushrooms. No one learned to farm chanterrelles yet, so these sweet aromatic mushrooms can be only foraged in the wild, so they are expensive. Apparently this is a good year for them, and there are bargains: Sigona’s Farmers Market has very nice chanterrelles at $9.99 a pound, and Costco sells a 1-pound box of slightly overgrown, but still very tasty mushrooms for $8.99! I’m feeling lucky! Both the buckwheat kasha and the stuffed chicken breasts got a mixture of dried porcini (from a Russian grocery store) and fresh chanterrelles, cooked in olive oil and butter, seasoned with sea salt, pepper, thyme, and garlic.

The fruit salad today was composed of the Fall favorites: Thompson grapes, Fuyu persimmons, orange, and pomegranate seeds.

The beef pot roast spent 4 hours simmering over very low heat, with bay leaf, thyme, onions, baby carrots (the real ones, not the machine-cut “baby” carrots from a sealed supermarket bag), garlic, turnip, and watermelon radish added later on, and it came out melting-tender.

The sautéed slices of delicata squash look like golden flowers. The little golden triangles are slices of butternut squash that didn’t fit into the soup pot. Delicata has tender edible skin, no need to peel it. Just slice it, get out the seeds, and sauté it in olive oil with a little bit of sea salt to balance the sweetness. It can also be sliced lengthwise, de-seeded, and stuffed with vegetables, meat, rice, or anything. In a word, treat it as an overgrown zucchini 🙂

Butternut squash soup with sweet chai spices

Roasted beets salad with orange and goat cheese
Fruit salad

Sea scallops with spinach and feta
Chicken breasts stuffed with wild mushrooms
Lamb chops, salsa verde
Beef pot roast with root vegetables

Sautéed delicata squash
Broiled peppers and portabello mushrooms
Rosemary and thyme roasted fingerling potatoes
Buckwheat kasha

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Mill Valley, CA

One of this week’s menus

The summer is over, but I cannot accept the fact yet. The summer produce is still going strong. My fig tree is bearing tons of figs; the squirrels cannot deal with them all, so I actually get to eat a fig or two every day. The tomatoes are $1 a pound at the end of the day at the farmers market, and they are the best tomatoes of the year. The corn is sweet and tender. The peppers are plump and they want to become stuffed peppers.

I’ve been making lots of stuffed peppers lately. Thanks to my new meat grinder, there is no more mystery about what meat goes into the stuffing: it’s grass fed beef chuck, ground a few minutes ago. Other ingredients: cooked brown rice, carrot, onion, celery, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Homemade chicken stock, tomato paste, and cream for the sauce.

This menu:

Meatball soup with vegetables and pasta

Heirloom tomato with burrata salad

Salmon cakes, herb mayonnaise
Chicken coconut curry
Pork chops with peaches
Stuffed peppers

Saffron rice
Creamed corn
Farro dinner salad with cherry tomatoes and mint
Fennel gratin

Salmon cakes are another favorite these days. They allow me to feature the wonderful flavor, the delicate texture, and beneficial Omega-3 fatty acids of the local King salmon, while it’s still in season, without the outrageous cost – you only need one pound of salmon for 6 large or 12 small cakes. Other ingredients: sautéed onion, celery, carrot; Panko breadcrumbs, egg and egg whites (save the yolks off the mayonnaise), salt and pepper. I serve them with a home-made mayonnaise made with rice vinegar, parsley, tarragon, and chives.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Mill Valley, 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

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Mill Valley, CA

Menu yesterday, with pictures

Tom kha gai (coconut chicken soup)

Fruit salad with almonds

Ono, mango salsa
Roasted sweet potatoes

Jamaican curried chicken
Brown rice and beans

Beef medallions with bacon and sage
Green and shelling beans

Pork chops with peaches

It’s still season for fresh mango, so why not satisfy your tropical longing with pan-fried Ono in coconut oil, topped with a fresh salsa of mango, green onion, red bell pepper, and cilantro, seasoned with chili powder and lime juice.

The Jamaican breakfast curry of chicken thighs with potato, carrot, and chayote, marinated with lime juice and spicy curry powder and braised in coconut milk with the traditional seasoning of allspice, thyme, scallion, and habanero chili, works for dinner too. (Recipe from Saveur’s “Good morning, Jamaica!” issue).

Francis Mallman complains in his Seven Fires cookbook that he wasn’t able to take these beef medallions with bacon and sage off the menu since he opened his first restaurant in the 70-ies. I fell into the same trap. I cut 2 inch thick medallions from a whole beef tenderloin, season them with salt and pepper, wrap them in applewood-smoked bacon, trapping a couple of fresh sage leaves between the beef and the bacon, secure with toothpicks, and either pan-fry of grill them – and everyone wants them all the time! Here they are, pan-fried (on all sides, not just top and bottom) and garnished with pan juices with port, bacon bits, and fried sage leaves. Irresistible.

Shelling beans appeal to my OCD. Especially double-shelling fava beans. They are better then bubble wrap, because the results are so yummy! I have combined steamed blue lake beans, fava beans, and the breathtakingly beautiful cranberry beans, that I was lucky to cook this time so that they were tender, but haven’t yet lost all their color (all beans cooked separately), and topped them with lightly caramelized red onion, garlic, balsamic vinegar, and good olive oil. Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Mill Valley, 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

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Mill Valley, CA

Location:Mill Valley, CA

What I love about being a personal chef #8: Beauty of the food

My day starts with a glorious display of local seasonal ingredients of the best quality, not unlike an old Dutch still life, and it ends with a week worth of family meals, neatly arranged in the refrigerator in convenient containers, ready to be served on a minute notice.

As a personal chef, I am in a unique position to create a new menu every day, according to the client tastes and dietary goals, and to select only the best, freshest meats and vegetables from the quality supermarkets and the farmers market. Unlike restaurant chefs, we are not restricted by a set menu, or by a profit margin built into each dish. Since the client pays for the groceries, we are free to select what the client wants, and he or she usually wants the best, not the cheapest (within reason). The economy for the client is achieved by selecting what’s in season, and by efficient shopping, preparation and storage of the food, without sacrificing quality.

Using the choice ingredients increases the sensual enjoyment of the cooking process for the chef, as well as taste and health benefits for the client.

In this post I used photos made with my iPhone during a cook date for my Mill Valley client.

The menu:


Tuscan bean and kale


Arugula with blood orange and caramelized walnuts


Salmon steaks with green sauce

Chicken saltimbocca

Braised lamb shanks

Pork chops with orange sauce


Haricot vert (French green beans with garlic and lemon)

Quinoa with mushrooms

Rosemary roasted fingerling potatoes

Vegetable paprikash

Cooking with a view: 4×6 service in Mill Valley today

Braised pork shoulder with Caribbean spices, cooling with a view
Braised pork shoulder with Caribbean spices, cooling with a view

–       Caprece salad

–       Cream of broccoli soup with almonds

–       Five-spice glazed salmon

–       Beef braciola with mozzarella and basil

–       Caribbean braised pork shoulder

–       Chicken paprikash

–       Seasame green beans

–       Roasted Brussels sprouts with lemon and parmigniano

–       Sauteed eggplant

–       Sweet potato puree with scallions

Braised pork shoulder with Caribbean spices
Braised pork shoulder with Caribbean spices