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

Green for spring

“Eat the rainbow” may be a nice slogan to tempt kids to eat more vegetables, as opposed to the colorless packaged food-less food; but if you follow the seasons and try to get the best and freshest produce that the local farmers have to offer, you’ll find yourself eating your rainbow a few colors at a time.

The summer is red, blue, and purple: it starts with strawberries, raspberries and blueberries, then tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplants, watermelons, figs. The fall colors are orange and yellow: squashes, pumpkins, persimmons, apples and pears.
Winter is, predictably, white: cabbage, potatoes, turnips, parsnip, rutabaga, mushrooms; citrus fruits and pomegranate add much needed color accents.

Now, in the spring, the green color dominates the garden and the farmers market. The green vegetables that were available all winter – leafy greens, lettuces and cabbages – are still here, and taste as great as ever. They will be gone soon, eat them while you can! Beans and peas first produce delicious greens, then tender pods. I love to mix the two in the same dish, and the middle of spring is the time when both are available. The strictly seasonal artichokes, asparagus, ramps (wild leeks) and fava beans have to be enjoyed in spring: the season is short, and it’s now! The first vegetables of summer make an appearance, and their color is green: summer squashes and cucumbers are here to stay, but they are in their most tender “baby” stage now.

What’s in season:
Beet greens
Bok Choy
Brussels sprouts
Collard Greens
Dandelion Greens
Fava beans
Green beans
Mustard greens
Pea greens
Rappini (broccoli rabe)
Swiss Chard
Turnip Greens

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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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Paleo menu this week

Mixed green salad with strawberries and walnuts
Mushroom and spinach frittata
Garlic green beans

Salmon, salsa verde
Steamed broccoli with almonds
Chicken roasted with fennel and apples
New potatoes with pesto
Chicken cacciatore
Raw zucchini and carrot “spaghetti”
Pork medallions, balsamic glaze
Sautéed cauliflower

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Pappardelle with rabbit ragu, spring version

Because it’s spring, all the favorite dishes take on the green aspect and the wonderful lightness of the fresh spring produce.

A few months ago I posted a recipe for home-made pappardelle with rabbit ragu and wild mushrooms, a winter comfort food. Here is the same pasta dish, dressed up for the spring. The earthy dried mushrooms are out; the dish is made light and cheerful by adding fresh shelled peas and pea greens. I used spring onions and green garlic in place of regular, dried, onions and garlic, just because I can – both onions and garlic are going strong in the garden.

Pappardelle with rabbit ragu and green peas

Serves 6

For the pappardelle:
1 cup “00” or all-purpose flour
1 cup semolina flour, plus more for dusting
16 quail eggs, or 4 medium chicken eggs

For the rabbit ragu:
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
Salt, pepper
1 rabbit, cut up
2 large spring onions, sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 large carrot, sliced
1 green garlic, white and green parts, chopped
1/2 jar passatta, or 1 large can San Marzano tomatoes, or 6 very ripe Roma tomatoes, peeled
1 cup white wine
1 cup chicken (or rabbit) stock
2 sprigs thyme
1 small sprig rosemary
2 bay leaves

1 small bunch pea greens, cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 cup shelled english peas

Shaved Parmesan

Make the pasta:

Combine the flours in a large bowl, make a well in the middle. Break the eggs into the well, mix to incorporate and make a stiff but still pliable dough. If the dough is too wet, add more semolina. If it’s too stiff to knead, add a few drops of water. Knead for 5-7 minutes. Wrap in plastic and let rest for 30-60 minutes. Using a pasta machine or a rolling pin, roll out the dough as thin as possible (on most pasta machines, second to last setting). Cut into 1-inch wide strips. Dust with semolina, hang over a back of a chair, or on a pasta-drying rack to dry a little.

Make the rabbit ragu:

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Place the flour in a plastic bag, season with salt and pepper. Put the rabbit pieces into the bag, toss to cover, remove from bag, shake off the excess flour, sauté until golden on both sides, 10-15 minutes. Remove to a plate. Add onions, celery, carrot, and garlic to the pan. Sauté until softened, about 10 minutes. Add passatta, or tomatoes with their juice, wine, and the stock to the pan. Using a wooden spoon or a silicon spatula, scrape all the golden pieces from the bottom and the sides of the pan to incorporate into the liquid.

Arrange the rabbit pieces in a large Dutch oven or a slow-cooker pan. Pour the vegetable, stock, and wine mixture on top. Cook on the stovetop, at a low simmer, 3 hours, or in a slow cooker, at a low setting, 6 hours or overnight.

Remove the meat from the ragu, take the meat off the bones, discard the bones. Using two forks, shred some of the meat. Return the meat to the ragu.


Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water until almost al dente, 1-2 minutes. Add peas and pea greens, cook another minute. Remove, drain, place in individual pasta bowls. Top with rabbit ragu, garnish with shaved Parmesan.

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Vegetarian dinner party tonight

Because it’s spring, I used lots of fresh herbs and edible flowers from the garden to garnish the dishes. I was also fortunate to find ramps and fresh porcini mushrooms at Sigona’s Farmers Market, and got Italian heritage polenta from the Front Porch Farm, they really made my appetizer shine.


Polenta crostini with wild mushroom ragout

Green pea and spring garlic soup
Butternut squash and goat cheese ravioli, lemon cream sauce

Ice cream with hot chocolate sauce and port-soaked fig

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Location:Los Altos, CA

Spring moments in the kitchen

Squash blossoms. Stuff them with seasoned cottage cheese and fry.

Heirloom tomato salad, fillet mignonette, new potatoes with ramp pesto


Pappardelle with rabbit ragu. The spring version includes peas and spinach

Spring lamb chops, asparagus with quail egg and ramp-lemon butter

The first heirloom tomatoes with herbs and olive oil

Grilled chicken and bacon sausages, rosa blanca potatoes, heirloom tomato salad

Springtime mirepoix: spring onion, green garlic, baby leeks, carrots

Paella mixta with asparagus and fava beans

Green peas


Baby greens with herbs, flowers, and goat cheese salad

Cowgirl Creamery Inverness cheese
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Because it’s spring

Because it’s spring, the menu today is fresh, colorful, and full of spring vegetables and herbs from the farmers market. Green garlic and spring onions take the place of garlic and onions in most recipes.

For the salad, I selected the thickest asparagus spears and shaved them with a vegetable peeler into thin juicy ribbons. I rolled bite-size pieces of goat cheese in parsley, oregano, chive and kale flowers to top the salad.

Recently I heard a client’s kid say that she had asparagus every day last week. Yes, girl, this is called asparagus season. it won’t last long, we need to enjoy it now. Today the first fava beans showed up at the farmers market. The strawberries are not yet their sweetest, but already taste great. And I have picked a few alpine strawberries in my garden already!

The beautiful tender spring lamb loin from Olivier’s Butchery I roasted and paired with a simple green sauce made with parsley, chives, green garlic, capers, lemon, and olive oil, garnished with chive flowers.

The tree-like cauliflower “steaks”, cut from the center of the head, are seasoned with a pinch of mild curry powder and sautéed in a mix of olive oil and butter; the loose florets from the sides are roasted and blended into cauliflower puree for the sauce.


Spring vegetables minestrone

Mixed greens and herbs with shaved asparagus and goat cheese

Sautéed halibut, lemon-herb butter
Chicken cacciatore
Spring lamb loin, salsa verde
Braised beef brisket

Carrots and peas
Polenta with wild mushrooms
Borlotti beans with greens and tomato
Cauliflower “steaks”

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Location:Burlingame, CA

Spring into summer: semi-vegetarian menu today

It’s this time of the year. We still feel like spring, but the days are already long, the sun is warm, and the first summer vegetables begin to appear.

The first white corn corn is still rare and expensive, but it’s as sweet and juicy as it will ever be. And now is the time to get baby corn, if you can find it!

Tender, crunchy zucchinis bear little resemblance to the tough overgrown monsters that everybody will be tired of by the end of August.

Large heirloom tomatoes and sweet peppers are not really here yet, but the miniature varieties are already on the market.

The early season Roma tomatoes are not as flavorful as they will be by the end of summer, so they are perfect roasted or sun-dried (both treatments concentrate the flavor).

At the same time, we can still enjoy the spring vegetables like English peas, fava beans, asparagus, leafy greens – just long enough to say good bye to them, till next spring.

I used fresh Romano beans, together with dried black and red kidney beans, for my three-bean chili, just because I can – the first Romano beans hit the market a couple of days ago. Treat them the same way as regular green beans. They have more interesting texture, and the best flavor of all green beans!


Roasted tomato soup
Heirloom tomato tart
Zucchini and carrot salad
Mini peppers stuffed with ricotta
Swiss chard gratin

Creamy chicken stew with cauliflower and peas
Mashed potatoes and carrots
Three bean chili
Fresh corn ragout

Mini peppers stuffed with ricotta
Serve 6 as appetizer, 3 as the main dish
18 mini sweet bell peppers, assorted colors
12 oz baby spinach
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup whole milk ricotta
2 Tbsp shredded Parmesan
2 Tbsp Panko breadcrumbs
1 large clove garlic, minced
Salt, pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Prepare another large pot or bowl with ice water. Cut off the tops from the peppers, scrape out the seeds. Place the peppers in a metal colander (or a pasta cooking basket). Lower the peppers into the boiling water, cook about 2 minutes, to soften. Remove the colander from the boiling water, dip into the ice water, drain, set the peppers aside.

Place spinach into the same colander, dip into the boiling water for a few seconds, just to wilt it. Dip into the ice water, drain, squeeze out as much water as you can, chop the spinach.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a baking dish with olive oil.

In a bowl, stir together spinach, ricotta, Parmesan, breadcrumbs, and garlic, season with salt and pepper.

Using a coffee spoon, stuff the cheese mixture into the peppers, place the peppers into the baking dish, bake until the cheeses have melted and the tops of the peppers browned, 15-20 minutes

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Location:San Francisco, 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.



*Tomales Bay Oysters*

*Tartlets with Wild Mushroom and Caramelized Onions*

*Heirloom Tomato Basil Soup shots*

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


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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