Spring menu today

 Mixed greens with orange, walnuts, and goat cheese
 Cream of asparagus
 Ono, mango salsa
 Langostino and spinach frittata
 Chicken with wild mushrooms
 Beef liver, sherry sauce
 Quinoa with asparagus and peas
 Braised greens
 Sautéed cauliflower and broccoli
 Herbed sweet potatoes

Ono with mango salsa (Manila mango, red bell pepper, red onion, cilantro)

Chicken breast stuffed with wild mushrooms (porcini and chanterelles from Mendocino sautéed with spring garlic and thyme; white wine sauce)

Langostino and spinach frittata

Sautéed beef liver with shallots and sherry reduction

Quinoa with asparagus, peas, and lemon

Za’atar spiced sweet potatoes

Sautéed baby broccoli and cauliflower florets, white balsamic glaze
 Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

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

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

Sautéed potatoes with mushrooms

This is the ultimate Russian winter comfort food, and it’s very easy to make. The only secret is, the potatoes and the mushrooms have to be cooked separately, then combined just before serving. Why can’t we make it a one-skillet meal? Because the mushrooms need salt early, to help them release their water and become crisp; the potatoes, on the other hand, cook best without salt, that will make them break down and lose their shape, if added too early.

Here I made this dish with store-bought crimini mushrooms. Back in Russia we used any type of foraged forest mushrooms, with even more delicious results, or, in the middle of the winter, when no fresh mushrooms were available, we would rinse pickled mushrooms to remove the brine, and then proceed with the recipe.

I like to season my mushrooms with a little thyme, garlic, and fresh ground pepper. Most Russian cooks go for sautéed onions, and leave out the pepper. Try it both ways. Both are good.

Sautéed potatoes with mushrooms
Serves four

For the potatoes:
2 Tbsp olive oil
5 large Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Sea salt

Heat oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes, cook, stirring occasionally, until almost tender. Season with sea salt, continue cooking until cooked through.

For the mushrooms:
2 Tbsp olive oil
8 oz crimini mushrooms, sliced 1/8 inch thin
Sea salt
Fresh ground black pepper
2 large garlic cloves, minced
5-6 thyme sprigs, leaves picked, stems discarded

Heat oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, season generously with salt and pepper. Cook until the mushrooms release the liquid and it evaporates. Add garlic and thyme. Continue cooking until mushrooms and garlic are browned.

Combine potatoes with mushrooms, serve as a side to braised meat, or on their own.

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Magician’s Birthday

On a gorgeous summer afternoon friends and family gathered for a garden party by the pool to celebrate the birthday of a magical silk painting artist of international fame, tireless world traveller, and a beautiful woman Natasha Foucault.

Natasha’s art transforms everyone: the ladies were more beautiful than ever, wearing Natasha’s hand-painted silks, the men had her custom-made ties, and everyone was inspired by her art, her charm, and travel stories.

I had the honor to prepare the festive dinner for my art teacher and friend. Both Natasha and I were born and raised in Russia, and we love Russian cuisine, so we decided to start the dinner with zakuski, the traditional appetizer spread.

Natasha is a connoisseur of wild mushrooms, and an experienced mushroom hunter. She supplied a wealth of the finest wild mushrooms that she had collected in Northern California last season and saved in the freezer for the party.

Porcinis, chanterelles, slippery jacks – these mushrooms may seem rare and exotic to a modern Californian, but they are dear and familiar to any Russian mushroom hunter, and their aromas bring memories of childhood, of dark dense forest, sunny meadows, cool streams under shady trees, the far-away land that we still consider our own. It was such an exquisite pleasure to create both traditional and modern “fusion” dishes with these darling fungi!

For the main course we needed something simple, something that could be prepared and enjoyed while the temperature was still in the 90-ies. I opted for the grill. It is somewhat tough to grill meat, fish, and vegetables for 40 people in 95 degrees, with the sun shining straight on your back while the grill flares up in your face, but the pool made it much easier. As soon as everything was grilled and while the guests were helping themselves at my hot buffet, I got out of my chef’s coat and into the pool, and came to the table totally refreshed.

The tables were set on the lawn. While we were enjoying the meal, saying toasts and drinking wines from around the world to the health and happiness of our friend, the sun went down, the temperature dropped a little, and the host turned on the pool lighting to make our night under the stars even more magical. Then there was music, dancing, more wine, and simple and perfect seasonal fruits for the dessert.

Happy birthday, dear magician, happy birthday to you!

The menu:

Russian potato salad (Olivier)
Mushroom piroshki
Cabbage piroshki
Chicken liver mousse
Exotic mushrooms pate, porcini topping
Chanterelle, goat cheese, and caramelized onion tartlets
Assorted cold cuts
Breads, crackers

Grilled marinated beef tri-tip
Grilled Alaskan wild salmon
Assorted grilled vegetable skewers

Raw fruit and berry crumble with almonds

Chanterelles, goat cheese and caramelized onion tartlets
Makes 12

For the mushrooms:
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
8 ounces chanterelle mushrooms, fresh or frozen, thawed
salt, pepper
2 sprigs thyme, leaves picked and stems discarded

For the caramelized onion:
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

For the goat cheese filling:
4 ounces goat cheese, at room temperature
2 Tbsp heavy cream
1 egg

1 sheet of purchased frozen all-butter puff pastry (Dufour), thawed in the refrigerator

For the egg wash:
1 egg
1 Tbsp water

Heat olive oil and butter in a pan over medium heat. Add mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, add thyme leaves. Sauté until all the water released from the mushrooms has evaporated. Let cool.

Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add onion; sauté till it starts to turn golden. Add balsamic vinegar, cook to reduce to syrupy consistency. Let cool.

Mix goat cheese with cream and egg to make the cheese filling.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Roll out the puff pastry between two sheets of plastic wrap. Remove the top plastic, slice the pastry into 12 squares. Turn the squares oven onto cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, remove the plastic. With a 3-inch round cookie cutter, mark a circle in the middle of each square, taking care not to cut all the way through. Freeze.

Mix egg and water for the egg wash.

Remove the puff pastry from freezer. Spread some goat cheese filling inside the marked circles. Top with caramelized onions and sautéed mushrooms. Brush the border with egg wash. Bake until the pastry has puffed and the border is golden, about 20 minutes. Cool on a rack.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Redwood City, CA

A menu and pictures from the last week

Last week was very busy. I was trying to squeeze in a dinner party in the late afternoon after a full-size family meal service, driving to serve clients from San Rafael to Cupertino, and everywhere in between. I did take a few pictures with my iPhone in the process, and here is one of my menus from the last week, illustrated:

Corned beef and cabbage soup
Zucchini and daikon, lemon vinaigrette
Poached sturgeon
Ham, mushrooms, and Manchego frittata
Duck legs with figs and port
Beef and cabbage rolls

Wild rice
Sautéed potatoes and mushrooms
Beans and peas ragout

Cauliflower gratin

Cauliflower gratin. I steamed cauliflower florets until almost tender, seasoned with salt and white pepper, added cream, topped with parmesan, baked at 400 degrees until golden.

Duck legs with figs and port. I made a lot of them recently. This is a delicious dark meat, a revelation for those tired of the omnipresent chicken. To melt out some of the fat, I first sauté the legs over medium-low heat, then pour off the fat, add sweet onion, figs, port, and herbs, and open-braise the bird in a 375 degree oven until melting-tender, about 1 hour. Open-braising preserves the crisp skin.

Ham, mushrooms and Manchego frittata. This dish is equally good for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. I’ve added pea greens in this version, for color and texture.

Beef cabbage rolls. Russian classic, from my childhood.

Another Russian classic – sautéed potatoes with mushrooms. The simple secrets of sautéing potatoes are to cut them into uniform pieces, turn often, and salt only when they are almost done. Sauté the mushrooms separately. Salt at once, give them enough time to release and evaporate all the water, add minced garlic and thyme leaves. A drop (just one!) of truffle oil won’t hurt.

Young fava beans just hit the market. Now they are so tender that they don’t need to be double-shelled. Other participants in this emerald green spring ragout are pea greens, snow peas, blue lake beans, English peas, red onion and purple garlic.

I poached sturgeon and turbot steaks in court bouillon, strained the bouillon, poured it over the cooked fish, topped with steamed julienned carrots, celery, and leek.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:San Francisco Bay Area

Cooking in Burlingame



            Beets with white beans  


            Beet salad with grapefruit and romaine 


            Garlic and lemon shrimp 

            Bison meatballs with sage tomato sauce 

            Cuban style brisket (ropa vieja) 

            Lamb chops with goat cheese sauce 


            Sweet potato and carrot puree 

            Buckwheat kasha 

            Brussels sprouts with lemon and garlic 

            Prosciutto wrapped asparagus 

Bison meatballs

The majority of recipes in this service are adapted from Whole Foods website. I access them through their iPad application, and I am very happy with both the easy to use application and the variety of healthy recipes that are easy to fine-tune to particular clients requirements. The meatballs are made with packaged groung bison meat, seasoned with soy and worcestershire sauces, eggs and Panko breadcrumbs, browned in olive oil, then simmered in tomato sauce made with fresh sage, white wine, and red pepper flakes 

The kasha recipe is my own. I brought it with me from Russia many years ago, then adapted it to California ingredients. The secret here is to use buckwheat imported from Russia or Poland, that can be found in Eastern-European grocery stores – it is less processed that the supermarket brands, so the grains stay whole and hold their texture well during cooking. I saute thinly sliced onions and shitake mushrooms in half olive oil and half butter, add rinsed buckwheat and two cups of water for each cup of buckwheat, season with sea salt, bring to a boil, cover, and simmer over low heat until kasha is cooked, 20-25 minutes.

Cuban style brisket

Ropa vieja

The “Cuban” brisket recipe from Whole Foods doesn’t sound very authentic, but my clients love it anyway. It works even for the client who cannot stand onions and celery: there is enough flavor from the spices, raisins, and olives. The balance of sweet, salty, and spicy is perfect.

First day of winter menu for my Burlingame clients

It’s officially winter here: the days are short and cold, the Angel Island ferry doesn’t run on weekdays anymore, the Brussels sprouts are in and the tomatoes are out, the persimmons are big and the apples are almost gone, the ski season has started, I spend more of my free time in front of the fireplace than out in the garden, and it’s the 1st of December.

My clients in Burlingame don’t have any dietary restrictions – they would eat anything as long as it’s tasty, fresh, locally grown and organic, and they usually trust me to select a menu for them. So this menu is what I came up with for this first day of winter.

I was hesitating between stuffed bell peppers and more winter-like (and more Eastern Europe, where both I and the clients are from) stuffed cabbage leaves. Then I realized that we have a long winter of cabbages ahead of us, but the bell peppers will be gone any day now, and went for the peppers. The ones that I got this morning at the farmers market were huge and beautiful, and I stuffed them with a mixture of cooked brown rice, ground grass fed beef from Whole Foods, and sauteed onions and carrots, seasoned just with salt and pepper, and cooked them in chicken broth low and slow until tender and cooked through, about 2 hours.

On short and cold days like this, a mushroom soup is required. Mine is made with leeks, carrots, onions, fresh white and dried porcini mushrooms (soaked in hot water to rehydrate), chicken stock and filtered mushroom soaking liquid, and a handful of organic barley, and served with creme fraiche.

Here is today’s menu:


Chunky mushroom soup


Baby greens with fennel and pomegranate


Prosciutto wrapped shrimps

Stuffed peppers

Duck legs braised with red wine


Orange-glazed carrots

Green rice (brown rice with spinach)

Steamed Brussels sprouts