Grilled corn polenta


The summer version of the favorite comfort food is made with fresh corn, and it’s a completely different animal. It’s fresh, sweet, tender, a little crunchy, smells like magic, and, in my case, it’s also smoky – instead of cooking the corn for the polenta on the stove, as many recipes suggest, I choose to grill it on the cob. Because it’s still summer (MB, take notice).


Todays farmers market only had white corn, so this is what I made my polenta with. I suppose it could be even better made with yellow corn, although it’s hard to imagine something better.

Allow 2 corn cobs per serving.


Preheat the grill for direct grilling. Remove the husks and as much silk as you can from the corn, rub with salt and olive oil. Grill, turning a few times, until tender and slightly charred on all sides. Let cool.


Working over a large bowl, cut off the kernels off the cob with a small sharp knife. Then run the back of the knife along the cob to get what’s left. Make sure you go from the stem end to the tip, going in the opposite direction can create a splash of flying corn!


Puree in blender. As a lucky owner of a Vitamix blender, I just dropped the corn into the blender cup and whizzed it to the desired consistency. My challenge was not to over-blend and still have some texture. In fact, I saved a handful of whole kernels to add to the polenta after blending. And I didn’t even need to reheat the polenta – the blender did the job. if you are using a normal blender without super powers, you may want to add a little water (or milk), to make blending easier, then to cook the polenta for 10-15 minutes, to evaporate the water and to reheat the polenta.


Here it is, served with basil pesto, poached quail eggs, and parmesan.


Other topping ideas:
Fresh berries (breakfast?)
Fire-roasted peppers and pine nuts
Fresh tomato sauce
Meatballs and tomato sauce
Ragu
Grilled baby octopus
Grilled eggplant and feta
Herbed goat cheese
Grilled prawns, herb butter
Sautéed mushrooms
Grilled chicken
Whatever your heart desires

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Grill everything: Vegetables

Because it’s summer, I am re-posting here the “Grill Everything” series of posts from my personal food blog, verylowflyingcat.blogspot.com.


Here is one on grilling vegetables.

Since all grills are different, I cannot give the exact cooking times. Mine is a Weber Q 320 gas grill that goes from zero 65 to 600 in 15 minutes. Probe your vegetables with a fork from time to time to find out right cooking times for your grill.

I like to prepare assorted vegetables, then brush them all together with light olive oil seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper just before placing them on the grill.

Artichokes: Peel off tough outer leaves. Cut off the top 1/3. Cut in halves. Remove the choke with a spoon or tip of a paring knife. I don’t bother to rub the cut surfaces with lemon juice to protect them from discoloration – they are going to charr anyway. Parboil until almost tender, 10-15 minutes. Shock in ice water. Brush with seasoned oil, grill, turning once, until the heart is tender and the leaves are charred, 5-6 minutes.

Asparagus: Break off tough root ends (if you have a powerful blender, save the roots for a cream of asparagus soup). Toss with seasoned oil, grill until tender, 2-3 minutes, turning once or twice to get nice grill marks.

Bell peppers: Core, slice into 6 segments, brush with seasoned oil, grill, turning once, until tender and the skins are lightly charred, 4-5 minutes. Remove skins if desired.


Carrots: trim the root and the greens, leaving 1/2 inch of the greens attached (for presentation). Parboil until almost tender, 15-20 minutes. Shock in ice water. Brush with seasoned oil, grill, turning, until tender and marked on all sides, 5-6 minutes.


Corn: Select young, tender corn. Peel off husks and silk. Rub with olive oil, salt and pepper, grill, turning, until cooked through and well charred on all sides, 4-5 minutes.


Eggplant: For grilling, select slender Japanese or tender Italian eggplants. Slice into 1 inch wheels, either straight or on diagonal. Brush with seasoned oil. Grill, turning once, until tender and lightly charred, 4-5 minutes.


Fennel: Trim off the green tops. Cut the bulb into six segments, brush with seasoned oil, grill, turning once, until almost tender but still crunchy, 6-8 minutes.


Lemons: Cut in halves, brush the cut side with oil, place on the grill with the curbside down. Grill 1-2 minutes just to soften. Squeeze over your grilled meats, fish, or vegetables.

Mushrooms: Trim the roots even with the cups. If the gaps in the grill are large and the mushrooms are small, thread them on bamboo skewers soaked in water. Brush with oil, cook 3-4 minutes, turning once. Cook portabello cups on the cooler side of the grill 8-10 minutes, until soft, turning once, brush with white wine vinegar or balsamico, if desired. Slice before serving.

Radish: Trim roots and greens, cut in halves, brush with seasoned oil. Grill on the cut side, just to mark, about one minute.

Ramps, baby leeks: Remove outer leaves. Cut off the green part, leaving 1 inch for presentation. Cut lengthwise, rinse, rubbing with your fingers, under running water, to remove the dirt that is clinging between the leaves. Brush with seasoned oil. Grill, turning once, until tender and lightly charred, 2-3 minutes.

Spring onions: Remove the green tops, leaving 1-2 inches. Trim off the root, but leave the root end intact, so that the layers won’t separate (you can cut it off after cooking). Cut the bulb into six segments, brush with seasoned oil, grill, turning once, until tender and well marked.

Summer squashes (green, yellow, crookneck, pattypan, zucchini, etc.): Slice oblong squashes into 1 inch wheels, either straight or on diagonal. Cut pattypans in halves, or, if small, leave whole. Brush with seasoned oil. Grill, turning once, until tender, 3-4 minutes.

Sweet potatoes: scrub thoroughly, brush lightly with oil. Grill in their skins over medium heat, turning occasionally, until tender (about 20 minutes). Cut in halves lengthwise, season with salt, pepper, olive oil. Eat out of the skins, or, if organic, skins are good to eat too.

Tomatoes: Cut in halves. Brush with seasoned oil. Place on the cool side of the grill, cut side down, and grill gently, just to charr the cut side.


– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:San Rafael, CA

Shaken and Stirred. Trinity School parents annual party


This year the annual gathering of Trinity School parents was a cocktail party instead of the usual dinner. “Shaken and Stirred”. The heavy appetizers menu theme was fast food with a twist.

Menu

Tomato soup shots with grilled cheese sandwich
Caviar potato chips
Tuna tartare potato chips
Lobster rolls
Grass-fed beef sliders with foie gras on brioche rolls, heirloom tomato slices, cornichons
Truffle French fries, saffron aioli
Pizza Margherita, morel mushroom and goat cheese pizza, pancetta and arugula pizza
Mac’n’cheese with variety of toppings


Tuna tartare: sushi grade tuna, lemon juice, wasabi powder, sesame oil, tamari soy sauce, toasted sesame seeds, micro greens, homemade potato chips.


Bellweather Farm creme fraiche and sevruga caviar on homemade potato chip.


Langostino, shrimp, and lobster salad on sweet Hawaiian roll.


Fresh ground beef chuck sliders, havarti, seared foie gras, heirloom tomato, cornichons, on brioche roll.


Tomato soup shots with wasabi grilled cheddar and Gruyere sandwiches.


Thank to my hard-working sous chef Brenda for dealing with all these potatoes and hot oil, to super-professional servers Paula and Jim, to the wonderful bartenders, to Trinity moms Gilliam and Stephanie for organizing the party, and for providing all the ingredients for the pizzas, and beautiful, imaginative and fun desserts, and of course to our dear hosts, Wendy and Stefan!


Cigarette cookies


Panna cotta martinis with chocolate olive


Piña colada jelly; Irish coffee cupcakes.


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Location:Palo Alto, CA

USPCA Bay Area September Meeting


It’s hard to believe how much one can eat and drink in a professional conference! I feel like I won’t get hungry for days.

The September meeting of our USPCA Bay Area Chapter is traditionally held in Chef Garbo‘s beautiful summer cabin in Inverness. We get together on Saturday afternoon for lunch, then check out some coastal foodie places, shop local markets, then retreat to the cabin, where we all cook together, talk business, share ideas and techniques, eat, drink, play board games, enjoy the garden and the wild bird sanctuary, and generally have fun. Those who are able to stay overnight get together again in the kitchen on Sunday morning to cook brunch. Then we eat again. There is always plenty of tasty leftovers to take home for family and friends. My favorite meeting of the year!


This year we had lunch in the busy Point Reyes Station Cafe, toured Heidrun Meadery and tasted their delicious and unique handmaid mead, did our grocery shopping at the Palace Market, and picked up the last bag of fresh Drakes Bay Oyster Company oysters at Inverness Market. At the cabin, Chef Greg and I fired up the backyard grill, while everyone else got busy in the kitchen.


As always, there was a lot of food styling photography done. I’m proud to say that my pickled quail egg appetizer was very likely the Most Photographed Dish of the Evening!


This year, our former chapter president, Chef Kara, left us for the sunny Southern California, but she came all the way back to Inverness in order to pass the torch to the new president, Chef Gini.


Here is our dinner menu:

Moscow Mules by Claude Garbarino

BBQ Oysters
Pickled Quail Egg and Herb Salad Nests by Polina Antonova
Chicken Wraps by Dawn Buchhollz
Smoked Salmon with Sour Cream Sauce Crostini by Greg Chew

Tossed Salad with Caramelized Walnuts by Gini Bortz
Raw Kale Salad with Pomegranate Seeds and Cucumber by Maggie Lawson
Grilled Stuffed Chicken by Greg Chew
Sexy Ribs by Claude Garbarino
Grilled Steak Medallions with Bacon and Herbs by Polina Antonova
Pearl Barley with Rosemary Roasted Grapes by Maggie Lawson
Grilled Veggies by Polina Antonova

Cheese Cake by Dawn Buchhollz
Boozy Pops by Claude Garbarino

Mead, wine, mineral water


Brunch menu:

Coffee, orange juice, mead Mimosas

Breakfast Sausages and Bacon
Lemon Bread & Pecan Muffins by Gini Bortz
Quiche by Dawn Buchhollz
Quail Eggs and Salmon Roe on Toast by Polina Antonova

I came home with lots of new recipes and business ideas, and a bag of garden apples, courtesy of Chef Garbo’s neighbors. Already looking forward to the next meeting!

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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

How to shrink a chicken. Trinity School parents Pinot Noir tasting and annual dinner.


The long dinner table was set up on the lawn, next to the pool. On a warm Palo Alto night just four patio heaters were enough to keep all 30 guests comfortable.


After sampling the oysters and an assortment of appetizers, the guests proceeded to the dining room, converted for the evening into a tasting room, for comparative tasting of California and Oregon Pinot Noir.

Keeping up the Pacific Northwest theme, I selected local ingredients in season for the main menu.


The oysters came fresh out of the water from Tomales Bay Oyster Company, my favorite picnic spot, and the growers of Pacifica oysters (good all year around, the water in the bay is always cool).


Devil’s Gulch Ranch, located just a few miles from my home, produces excellent jumbo quails, in addition to rabbit, lamb, and pork. I met Mark, the farmer, early in the morning, on his way to the Farmers Market, to pick up my order of fresh quails. The tiny birds are one of the easiest things to cook. They are so tasty that they don’t need any additional flavoring. I rubbed the whole birds with salt, pepper, and olive oil, let them sit, refrigerated, for a couple of hours, quickly browned them with more olive oil over medium-high heat, then finished them in a 450 degree oven for 10 minutes. Another simple way to cook quails is to cut out the backbone with kitchen scissors, flatten the bird by lightly pressing it with your hand against the cutting board, salt, pepper, olive oil, then on to a pre-heated grill, 4 minutes per side. The only mistake that you can make with quails is to overcook them. The meat has to be a little pink at the bone, or it will be dry – and this can be a matter of 1 or 2 minutes – so check your quails frequently; as soon as they feel firm, they are done.


The conversation was flowing. Since quails are not the most common menu item, the running joke at the table was “How do you shrink a chicken to such a small size?” I just told you how.

After dinner everyone enjoyed a trio of homemade ice creams, and an assortment of sweets and homemade limoncello, cherry, and blackberry infusions, served from charming tiny bottles, with their coffee.

Menu:

Appetizers

*Tomales Bay Oysters*

*Tartlets with Wild Mushroom and Caramelized Onions*

*Heirloom Tomato Basil Soup shots*

*Hummus, Romesco and Herbed Goat Cheese Dips with Flatbread*

Dinner

Arugula and Orange Salad with Salmon Cakes, roasted garlic and orange aioli

***

Roasted Devils Gulch Ranch Quail

with Sweet Peas and Shallots accompanied with Wild Rice

***

Assortment of Cheese

***
Terrine of Homemade Vanilla Pistachio and Strawberry Ice Cream

Vanilla Ice Cream Sandwiches

Maple Ice Cream with Bacon Brittle

***

Sweets & Coffee
–—


Thank you, Uncle D, for being my sous-chef and oyster man, thank you, servers Brian and Susana, for your very professional service and help in the kitchen, thank you, Trinity moms Stephanie and Gillian, for organizing the event, and for the amazing homemade ice cream, sweets, and fruit infusions, and thank you, dear hosts Wendy and Stefan for putting it all together!

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Spring in the garden


Fava beans are coming up, alpine strawberries in fill swing, my first artichoke appeared this morning, green garlic is good and plentiful; mourning doves are reusing the nest that they built in my garden storage three years ago.

The gopher ate through a plastic planting container trying to get to the celery. Now tell me that no one likes celery.


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Spring in California

Mixed microgreens salad with purple asparagus, sunchoke, and boiled egg;


Cowgirl Creamery St Pat cheese, fresh baked roll.
 
 Everything for this lunch comes from the farmers market, except the roll that I just baked.
 
 Am I turning vegetarian? No way. But after all the long braises and hearty soups of winter, I really enjoy the effortless, no-recipe, no-cooking, fresh food of the warmer seasons. And eating it outside.


St. Pat is a soft ripened cheese wrapped into stinging nettle leaves. It’s only available in spring.


For the salad:
 (1 serving)
 A handful of mixed microgreens, or baby bitter greens
 2-3 sunchokes, unpeeled, scrubbed, thinly sliced
 4-5 thick purple (or tender green) asparagus stalks, thinly sliced
 One large egg, boiled 9 minutes, halved
 Maldon sea salt (or flaky salt of your choice)
 Good olive oil
 
 Combine the greens, sunchokes, and asparagus, toss with your hands. Garnish with egg, season with salt and olive oil. Enjoy.
 
 True leaves. Here is another sign of spring: the Persian cucumbers 2014 show their first true leaves.


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Table settings

If there is anything that I love as much as good food, it’s a good table setting. Even before you start the dinner, seeing the table can get you in the mood and excite your appetite.

In my line of work, I don’t get to set up the table very often. Normally, I cook and package food for my clients, and they serve it later, in whatever setting they like.

This weekend I was lucky to have a chance to decorate the table twice.

Saturday was an all-girls birthday party, themed “50 Shades of Grey”.


The menu:
Appetizers
Young onion, bacon, and gruyere tart
Antipasto skewers

Soup
Butternut squash soup with orange and chai spices

Salad
Roasted beets with baby arugula, goat cheese, and walnuts; sherry vinaigrette

Entree
Halibut Meyer lemon butter
Roasted Brussels sprouts with orange
Baby root vegetables bagna cauda
Wild rice pilaf

Dessert
Chocolate cake with salted caramel sauce

On Sunday I prepared a very similar menu for an early dinner in my sunny backyard with my dear friends I. and V. The table setting made it look and feel completely different.
I. follows a gluten- and dairy-free diet, so I couldn’t make my favorite savory tart. I could treat her to a cream of cauliflower soup, that doesn’t contain any cream but still has a creamy texture from the pureed cauliflower. However she brought a delicious pear tart for the dessert that she couldn’t eat herself. V. And I enjoyed it a lot!


Menu:
Italian cold meat cuts

Cream of cauliflower soup

Baby arugula salad with roasted beets and walnuts

Halibut baked in parchment with baby root vegetables
Meyer lemon asparagus
Orange Brussels sprouts

Pear tart from Trader Joe’s

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Location:San Rafael, CA