Happy New Year 2016!

Happy New Year from Caliblini Personal Chef Service!

The last dinner party of 2015 was:

Roasted garlic and herb focaccia

Cream of mushroom soup
Fennel and orange salad with walnuts

Chicken roasted with garlic and thyme
Roasted Brussels sprouts with pomegranate
Smashed red potatoes

Fruit and berry crumble

Now working on menus for 2016!

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Wine and appetizers tasting at La Honda Winery tomorrow

Come see my friend Luisa of Luisa’s Catering and me, and taste our small bites paired with local wines at La Honda Winery in Redwood City tomorrow, April, 19th, 12 noon-4 pm.

The menu:
English Peas and Ricotta Cristini
Sweet Potato Arancini

Goat Cheese & Prosciutto Crostini
Stuffed Roasted Cherry Peppers

Mediterranean Pizzettas
Mini Crab Cakes
Flatbreads with Three Dips

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Location:La Honda Winery, Redwood City, CA

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.

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Location:Redwood City, CA

It’s king salmon season!

It’s California king salmon season! Everyone here is excited about our local salmon. The market price reflects this excitement – the whole fish goes at $10.99 a pound, and fillets are $17.99 a pound. Bu the glorious fish is totally worth it, and we can afford it once a year, right?

The fishermen bring the salmon in early in the morning, it hits the Bay Area stores a couple of hours later, and then you have to catch it the second time: it’s usually gone by noon.

This morning I caught about 1.5 pounds of the freshest local king salmon fillets at Sigona’s Farmers Market in Redwood City. I cut it into 6-ounce portions, and made a healthy version of the classic salmon with dill sauce for 4.

Salmon with Dill Sauce
Serves 4

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
4 salmon fillets, skin on
Salt, pepper

6 oz plain Greek yogurt
1 small bunch fresh dill, finely chopped
2 strips of lemon rind, yellow part only, cut with vegetable peeler, very finely chopped
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Heat olive oil and butter in a large non-stick skillet. Season salmon fillets with salt and pepper. Place fillets flesh side down in the skillet; let them sizzle without disturbing for 2-3 minutes. Using a large spatula, carefully turn the fish over. Cook for 2-3 minutes more, or until just cooked through but still juicy.

Mix yogurt, dill, lemon rind and lemon juice. Season to taste.

Spoon the sauce over the fish, garnish with lemon slices and dill sprigs.

Other ideas for cooking your local fresh salmon:

Poach it. Prepare court bouillon with white wine, lemon, black peppercorns, carrots, celery, parsley, onion, bay leaf, and enough water to cover the fish, in a deep sauté pan. Simmer 20-25 minutes to extract the flavor from the vegetables, season to taste. Remove and discard the vegetables. Place the fish fillets in the court bouillon skin side down. Simmer until just cooked, about 10 minutes, more or less depending on the thickness of the fish. Serve in soup bowls, with strained court bouillon and julienned blanched carrots and celery.

Grill it. Season the fillets with salt and pepper, brush with olive oil. Grill on preheated medium grill until just cooked, 6-8 minutes, turning (carefully, with a large spatula) once.

Here grilled king salmon is served with grilled yellow squash and a sauce of fava beans with tarragon and lemon.

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Location:Redwood City, CA

Late spring menu

Green pea soup with garlic
Smoked salmon and asparagus quiche
Roasted beet salad
Honey mustard chicken and vegetable skewers, prepared for the grill
Brown rice pilaf
Lamb chops with rosemary goat cheese sauce
Broiled polenta squares
Ragu Bolognese
Spaghetti with garlic and herbs

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Redwood City, CA

It’s apple season!

Check out the collection of recipes and tips using this season’s apples at my friends Sigona’s Farmers Market blog. They feature some of my apple recipes, both sweet and savory.

Here is one that didn’t make it into their blog because I was too late to send it. I got the idea from Whole Foods website, then adapted it to work with a whole cut-up chicken and for cooking in the oven, while other things cook on the stovetop. It has become one of my all-time client favorites.

Braised chicken with fennel and apples
Serves 4

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 whole chicken
Sea salt and fresh ground white pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups apple cider
3 granny smith apples, cored and sliced
6 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves

Cut the wing tips off the chicken. Cut chicken into two breast quarters and two leg quarters, reserve the carcass and wing tips for stock. Season chicken with salt and white pepper.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Heat 2 Tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Arrange chicken pieces in the skillet, skin side down. Brown until the skin is crisp and golden, 8-10 minutes. Turn over, brown the other side 4-5 minutes.
Oil an ovenproof baking dish. Arrange onion, garlic, celery, and half of the fennel on the bottom. Transfer browned chicken pieces to the dish, skin side up.
Pour off and discard most fat from the skillet. Deglaze skillet with white wine, scraping the bottom to release all the browned pieces sticking to it. Pour the wine over chicken. Arrange remaining fennel on top. Tuck in bay leaves and thyme. Pour in apple cider. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake in the oven until chicken is tender, about 40 minutes.
Remove the foil, tuck apple slices around the chicken and fennel, return to the oven. Bake until apples are tender and chicken skin and fennel are crisp, 15-20 minutes.

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Location:Redwood city, CA