Mason jar salads

Springtime is the time for light pasta dishes and very green salads.

All the fresh seasonal spring vegetables:
Fava beans and leaves
Flowers: borage, calendula, chives, fava, pansies, peas, rose, wild mustard, wild turnip, etc.
Green garlic
Green peas and pea shoots
Spring greens
Spring onions
The first cherry tomatoes,

as well as late season winter produce:
Bitter greens: arugula, baby kale, chicories, etc.
Root vegetables and their tops

– all work well in both salads and pastas.

Recently some of my clients asked me to lighten their spring menus, and to replace the soup with a fresh salad that they can enjoy all week, and take to work for lunch. For this, mason jar salads are a perfect solution. These salads have been a trend in the last couple of years, and they make a lot of sense for busy people who like to eat healthy and well.

The idea is that you pack your salad in a mason jar, 1/2 pint, 1 pint or 1 quart, depending on your appetite, in an order that helps to keep it fresh in the refrigerator for the whole week. The dressing goes on the bottom of the jar. Then you add a vegetable, legume, or protein, to separate the dressing from the greens, so that the greens don’t wilt, and the greens, nuts, and edible flowers go on top. When ready to eat, turn the jar out onto a plate, and it will dress itself. Or, mix it and eat it from the jar. Pack the jars tightly: the less air there is, the slower will the salad dry out.

– Greek yogurt, mint, lemon juice, minced garlic or spring garlic; fava and garbanzo beans; grilled chicken; fava bean tops
– White wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, minced shallot, olive oil; quail eggs; mâché
– Balsamic vinegar, olive oil; fire roasted peppers; prosciutto; cannellini beans; wild arugula, pine nuts
– Lemon juice and zest, garlic, olive oil; olives, feta; red onion slices, rinsed, bell pepper strips, cherry tomatoes, Persian cucumber (sliced, salted, and left to drain, then squeezed dry); baby spinach, borage flowers
– Strawberry infused balsamic vinegar, walnut or olive oil; strawberries, goat cheese; walnuts, baby greens
– Orange slices and juice, olive oil; steamed green beans or cooked cranberry beans; shaved fennel; baby arugula

Please go out into the garden or to the farmers market, get whatever looks the best, and improvise! Don’t forget to add some edible flowers, to make the jars more fun to open.

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Location:Tiburon, CA

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
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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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Salad for Melanie

Melanie, a life-long salad hater, recently discovered a salad that she actually enjoys.

Here is the recipe.

Use leftover roasted duck meat, or duck confit legs – in this case make sure to check and adjust the seasoning, most store-bought duck confits are very salty.
Usually there is enough duck fat clinging to the meat to crisp it. If the duck looks dry, add a little olive to the pan to prevent sticking.

Duck, fig, and walnut salad
Serves 4

5 oz mixed baby greens (arugula, red and green leaf lettuce, baby romain, oak leaf lettuce, mizuna, mâché, etc.)
1 large or 2 small roasted duck legs
1 tsp olive oil (optional)
1/2 cup walnut pieces
8 figs, quartered

For the dressing:
2 figs
1 Tbsp chopped shallot (1 small shallot)
1 Tbsp champagne vinegar
3 Tbsp walnut oil
Salt, pepper

Divide the greens between four plates.

Remove duck meat (with the skin and fat) from the bones. Discard the bones. Tear the meat into bite-size pieces.

Heat a small sauté pan over medium heat. Add olive oil, if using. Add duck meat, cook, stirring occasionally, to warn through and crisp, about 3 minutes. Add walnuts, stir to warm through, about 1 minute. Divide warm duck meat, walnuts, and figs, between the salad plates.

Make the dressing: puree figs, shallot, and vinegar in a blender or food processor until smooth. Add walnut oil, blend on low speed to combine. Season with salt and pepper.

Pour the dressing over the salad and serve.

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Location:Oakland, CA

Semi-vegetarian menu today

Chickpea burgers, heirloom tomato, caramelized onion, mint yogurt sauce
Summer fruit salad

Stuffed portabello mushrooms
Sautéed potatoes with thyme and rosemary

Chicken and vegetables stir-fry
Vegetable fried rice

Lasagna rolls
Sautéed Romano beans

One thing that I especially enjoyed preparing today (and yesterday, and almost every day last week) is a simple salad of fresh summer fruits. Everything is good now: strawberries are still going strong, cherries are at their peak, apricots are excellent, peaches and nectarines are entering the market, several varieties of small melons are already available and tasting good, and my absolute favorite, the fig, is finally here!

There is really no recipe for this salad – just select a few fruits and berries at the farmers market that taste the best, go for a variety of flavors, colors, and textures, slice into bite-size pieces, serve! Try to avoid overripe fruits, they are the sweetest, but they are best eaten out of hand, they won’t hold their shape in a salad. A few under-ripe fruits are fine, they’ll add acidity and crunch (this is where peaches and nectarines are now), but make sure that most of your fruits and berries are ripe and sweet.

A fruit salad can be served
– on it’s own as a snack or an addition to a lunch box
– dressed with a balsamic or white wine vinaigrette, to start the meal (add salt and pepper, shallots, chives, mint, lemon balm, edible flowers)
– as a side dish for roasted or grilled dishes
– dressed with cognac or a fruit liqueur, on it’s own or with shortbreads, cookies, or vanilla ice cream, for dessert (add nuts, fruit preserves, soft cheese)

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Location:San Francisco, CA

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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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

Because it’s spring…

Raw asparagus, artichoke heart, and crimini mushroom salad, Meyer lemon vinaigrette, 9-minute egg, goat cheese rolled in edible flowers and herbs, Maldon sea salt. Not pictured: Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc (because it’s a Saturday!)

This salad is a “no-recipe” recipe: a combination of any fresh spring vegetable that you have on hand will work.
– Asparagus, thinly sliced
– Artichoke heart, thinly sliced, drizzled with lemon juice
– White or crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced (please, wash the mushrooms, they grow in compost!)
– English peas, blanched
– Pea or fava bean greens and flowers
– Fava beans, blanched and peeled
– Spring onions, thinly sliced
– Radishes, thinly sliced, and tender radish tops
– Baby turnips, thinly sliced, and tender turnip tops
– Carrots, thinly sliced or grated
– Baby greens, such as lettuce, arugula, mâché, etc.
– Micro-greens and sprouts

Combine the vegetables in a bowl, mix. Season with Meyer lemon juice, good olive oil, fresh ground pepper, and your favorite flaky salt. Garnish with boiled egg halves and goat cheese on toast or cracker.

To make goat cheese “coins” rolled in herbs and flowers, bring the cheese in it’s wrapper to room temperature, to soften and make it easier to squeeze. Add herbs and flowers, shape, and refrigerate. Rosemary and lavender flowers add beautiful shades of blue, but their taste is strong and can overpower other herbs, so use sparingly.

Goat cheese rolled in herbs and edible flowers
Makes about 12
A handful of chopped soft herbs (parsley, chives, tarragon, chervil, or any combination) and edible flowers, such as mustard, arugula, chive, rosemary
1 12-oz log of plain goat cheese, at room temperature

Cut plastic wrap into roughly 5-6 inch squares. Line 12 mini-muffin tins with plastic wrap, leaving extra wrap hanging over the sides. Divide herbs and flowers between the tins. Cut a corner off the goat cheese wrapper. Squeeze the cheese into the tins. Bring the edges of plastic wrap together to enclose the cheese, press lightly into the tins, refrigerate.

To serve, unwrap the plastic and bring the cheese back to room temperature. Serve on warm baguette toasts or crackers. Season with sea salt, if desired.


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Location:San Rafael, CA


A dialog in the kitchen.
I am putting together an iceberg lettuce salad. The client walks into the kitchen, samples some of my creations that are cooling on the counter.
I: I cooked too much bacon
She: There’s never too much bacon
I: You cannot see the salad behind all the bacon that I put on it
She: That’s the right amount of bacon

Iceberg lettuce wedge salad with bacon, blue cheese dressing
Serves 4

1 Tbsp olive oil
8 oz (or more) thick-cut bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4 inch strips
1 head iceberg lettuce, cleaned, cut into four wedges
2 large Roma tomatoes, cored, seeded, cut into small dice

1/2 cup good plain yogurt
1 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp sherry vinegar, or to taste
Salt, pepper

1 small bunch of chives, chopped, to garnish

Heat the oil in a heavy skillet. Add bacon, cook until well browned and almost crisp. Remove to a plate lined with a paper towel, let cool.

Place a wedge of lettuce on each plate, top with tomato dice.

Make dressing: combine yogurt, blue cheese, cream, and sherry vinegar in a bowl. Mix well. If a smooth dressing is desired, you can blend it with an immersible blender. I like mine chunky. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Pour dressing over the salad. Top with bacon. Garnish with chives. Chill and serve.

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Location:San Rafael, CA

Late summer menu

This is the time of the most luxurious summer fruits, the best tomatoes, and general happiness at the farmers market.
Most people skip the soup course and go for a salad instead.

My menu today had two salads: Caprece salad made with a variety of heirloom tomatoes, mozzarella fresca, and basil from my garden; and a summer fruit salad that this time included yellow-flesh watermelon (probably the sweetest watermelon that I ever tasted, but with lots of seeds), Galia melon, green and black figs, yellow and white nectarines, yellow peach, and pink and green seedless grapes.

My “Green beans” are not really green: I’ve included my garden heirloom purple and striped rattlesnake beans, together with the Romano and Blue Lake beans from the farmers market. Seasoned simply with garlic sautéed in olive oil, lemon, and sea salt. Unfortunately, the colored beans lose most of their color in cooking, so the resulting dish looks just green.

On the menu today:

Summer fruit salad
Heirloom tomato Caprece salad


Grilled salmon with peaches and ginger vinaigrette
Dijon chicken
Lamb chops, mint sauce


Grilled zucchini
Smashed potatoes with garlic and herbs
Steamed green beans

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Location:Burlingame, CA