Menu today

Menu today for a family of four:

Sole with lemon-cream sauce
French green beans
Baked French lentils with chicken sausage
Honey-glazed winter squashes
Pork medallions with peaches
Farro pilaf
Braised beef short ribs

The beautiful fruits and vegetables for these meals come from Marin Farmers Market.

People often ask me how to cook thin delicate fish fillets, like Dover sole, so that they don’t fall apart. One way is to season them, then roll them up and cook:

And the fish turner spatula helps a lot!
– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:San Rafael, CA

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
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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Summer squash “spaghetti”

Are you wondering what else to do with all these summer squashes that your garden keeps producing (or your neighbors pushed them on you, or you overbought them at the Farmers Market)?

These beautiful and tasty green spaghetti are cut out of a zucchini with a julienne peeler. A julienne peeler looks like a vegetable peeler, but it has additional teeth next to the blade that shred the vegetable into thin strips. There are many models, mine looks like this:

I lightly cook the “spaghetti” to soften (sauté, microwave, or plunge them into boiling water for a minute or two, then drain), and season with salt, pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil. They work with any pasta sauce, homemade or store-bought. Use 1 medium zucchini per serving. Slice off as much off all the sides as you can, discard the core with seeds. I feed zucchini cores to my Japanese quails, they love them!

Here I serve them with meatballs in tomato-pepper sauce. My meatballs are a bit unorthodox, I add shredded sautéed carrot, celery, onion, and garlic, and minced fresh parsley to the mix. This makes them super-juicy, and adds flavor, but it also makes them somewhat trickier to shape. Make sure to dip your hands into cold water before shaping meatballs, so that the mixture doesn’t stick to your hands.

The meatballs are good with regular pasta, too!

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:San Rafael, CA

Grill everything: Vegetables

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

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

Tiny eggs

It’s the end of November, and the girls are slowing down for the winter, but I still get 9-10 quail eggs every day. Here’s what I did with them so far.

Quail eggs fun
 Fried quail eggs with salmon roe and tarragon

Mini Nicoise salad

Quail eggs on toast

Chorizo and quail egg on toast

Salmon roe with raw quail egg

Salad of cherry tomatoes, quail eggs, and microgreens in a noodle “nest”

Quail egg steak tartar
 Deviled quail eggs
 Pickled quail eggs with beets

Mini-burgers with quail egg on potato cakes

Zucchini flower and quail egg pizza

Quail eggs with seaweed salad and tobiko

Quail eggs in a cloud
 Quail egg ravioli

Quail eggs baked in a meat ragu

Chinese tea marbled eggs
 Zucchini and mushroom cups with ham and eggs

Polenta cakes with quail eggs and Parmesan

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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 🙂

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:San Rafael, CA

Garden herbs: Borage

Borage is really easy to grow: it’s an annual, but once in your garden, it will self-seed and come up every year. It loves sun and water; it’s pretty indifferent to the soil quality.

Young leaves and striking bright blue star-shaped flowers are used in salads, for ravioli stuffing, and as a garnish; mild cucumber flavor.

Goat cheese rolled with herbs and flowers
 Makes 12 appetizers
 12 ounce goat cheese log, at room temperature
 12 borage flowers
 12 mustard flowers
 1 Tbsp chopped chives, plus some chive flowers, broken up
 1 Tbsp chopped chervil
 Salt, pepper
 Cut 12 squares of plastic wrap, approximately 6×6 inches. Divide clovers and herbs between the plastic squares. Cut the goat cheese into 12 pieces, place each piece over the herbs and flowers, season with salt and pepper, wrap the plastic around the cheese, refrigerate until ready to use. Before serving, unwrap the cheese, place over salad or on toasts, drizzle with good olive oil. The cheese keeps refrigerated 2-3 days.
 – Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Because it’s spring (update)

I had just finished the previous post, my salad, and the glass of Sauvignon Blanc, when I noticed that the borage plant in the corner of my garden started blooming. Striking bright blue star-shaped edible flowers, with a mild taste similar to cucumber. So I unwrapped all my herbed goat cheeses and added borage flowers.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:San Rafael, CA

A lot of simple tomato sauce

I got a call from a friend last week:
I need help. I just moved into this nice cottage in the downtown SR, a beautiful garden setting, with a large tomato garden. But the landlord has a huge tomato problem this fall: the tomatoes are producing like crazy, and he got so busy recently that he doesn’t have time or energy to even pick them. They get overripe and just fall off the plants! It makes my heart bleed watching all these wonderful homegrown fruits go to waste. Can you make us tomato sauce that we could freeze for the winter?

I was there in 10 minutes. I have never seen tomato plants overloaded by fruits like this! Mostly Early Girl, and a few heirloom varieties (Pineapple, Pink Brandywine, and Black Prince), the plants bore huge clusters of ripe tomatoes bending them to the ground. The three of us were careful to pick only the very ripe tomatoes, and within minutes we had a very large bag, about 20 pounds or so.

Back home, I washed and trimmed my bounty, got out my two largest pots, and set to making the sauce. I used the very basic recipe – the spices, pancetta, mushrooms, or any other flavorings can be added later. Right now the goal was to preserve the taste of summer.

Now my friend, her landlord, and I have our freezers well stocked with the taste of summer to help us through the winter.

I am dealing with about 20 pounds of apples from a friend’s garden now…

Update: Applesauce is in the freezer, apple cider is fermenting. Yesterday, my clients asked me to take some of their lemons – they are overwhelmed with them. I got about 20-pound bag…

Simple tomato sauce
Makes a lot

2 cups olive oil
4 large onions, chopped
1 head of garlic, separated into cloves, peeled
1 bunch celery, chopped
4 very large or 6 regular carrots, chopped
20 pounds very ripe tomatoes, washed, trimmed of any mold or spoiling, cored
1 bunch thyme, leaves only
1 bunch oregano, leaves only
4 bay leaves
1/2 bottle red wine
Salt, pepper

Heat the oil in one huge or two large pots over medium heat. Add onions, sauté until tender and translucent. Add garlic, celery, and carrot. Sauté until the vegetables are tender. Working over the pot(s), crush the tomatoes, one by one, with your fingers, being careful not to shoot the seeds and juices all over the kitchen; drop the tomatoes into the pot. Add thyme, oregano, and bay leaves, and wine. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to maintain a vigorous simmer without splattering, cook until almost all the liquid evaporates.

Remove the bay leaves. Puree the sauce in a blender, working in batches. Season with salt and pepper. Let the sauce cool.

Pour the sauce into quart or sandwich zipper bags (setting the bag in a bowl and using a funnel makes the job less messy), expel as much air as possible, seal the bags. Place the bags flat on cutting boards and freeze. Mark the bags with the content and the date, store in the freezer for up to six month.

To reheat, cut the bag, drop the frozen sauce into a sauté pan, set over medium heat,
let thaw, add any desired flavorings (pancetta, bacon, sausage, smoked salmon,
canned tuna, mushrooms, fennel, or anything). Heat through.

Cook the pasta according to the package, undercooking it by about one minute. Drop the pasta into the sauce. Cook, stirring to coat pasta with sauce, 1 minute. Serve.

Smoked salmon cakes with tomato sauce and basil oil

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:San Rafael, CA

First Fall menu, from the Farmers Market

Fresh produce from the Farmers Market

All produce for today's menu came from San Rafael Sunday Farmers Market

The menu for the first Fall day of 2013:

Sweet potato coconut curry soup
Vegetable lasagna
Fruit salad

Tomato and spinach flan, roasted pepper sauce
Quinoa with zucchini and lemon

Chicken, sausage, and cabbage casserole

Beef and quinoa meatballs, tomato sauce

Cannellini beans with kale and tomato