Menu today

 Creamy curried cauliflower soup
Fennel and orange salad with toasted walnuts
Cod baked with tomatoes and sweet onions
Rabbit stew with wild mushrooms Honey mustard pork tenderloin Parmesan meatballs, onion gravy
Baked sweet potatoes with chai spices
Polenta with wild mushrooms
Brussels sprouts with pomegranate and feta
 Honey roasted winter squashes

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Location:Mill Valley, CA

Autumnal menu today

It’s Fall! Squashes, mushrooms, root vegetables, slow-cooked meats, Fall fruits, and sturdy, earthy herbs like rosemary and thyme dominate the menu. Oranges and lemons begin to appear again. Recently, I’ve been bombarded with lemons: two of my clients gave me large bags of lemons from their trees, and I have two lemon trees (one Meyer, one Eureka) of my own! I use them to season vegetables, make sauces, and I’ve been making lots of lemon curd to give everyone. My own birthday cake was a lemon tart.

I am very excited about this season’s chanterrelle mushrooms. No one learned to farm chanterrelles yet, so these sweet aromatic mushrooms can be only foraged in the wild, so they are expensive. Apparently this is a good year for them, and there are bargains: Sigona’s Farmers Market has very nice chanterrelles at $9.99 a pound, and Costco sells a 1-pound box of slightly overgrown, but still very tasty mushrooms for $8.99! I’m feeling lucky! Both the buckwheat kasha and the stuffed chicken breasts got a mixture of dried porcini (from a Russian grocery store) and fresh chanterrelles, cooked in olive oil and butter, seasoned with sea salt, pepper, thyme, and garlic.

The fruit salad today was composed of the Fall favorites: Thompson grapes, Fuyu persimmons, orange, and pomegranate seeds.

The beef pot roast spent 4 hours simmering over very low heat, with bay leaf, thyme, onions, baby carrots (the real ones, not the machine-cut “baby” carrots from a sealed supermarket bag), garlic, turnip, and watermelon radish added later on, and it came out melting-tender.

The sautéed slices of delicata squash look like golden flowers. The little golden triangles are slices of butternut squash that didn’t fit into the soup pot. Delicata has tender edible skin, no need to peel it. Just slice it, get out the seeds, and sauté it in olive oil with a little bit of sea salt to balance the sweetness. It can also be sliced lengthwise, de-seeded, and stuffed with vegetables, meat, rice, or anything. In a word, treat it as an overgrown zucchini 🙂

Butternut squash soup with sweet chai spices

Roasted beets salad with orange and goat cheese
Fruit salad

Sea scallops with spinach and feta
Chicken breasts stuffed with wild mushrooms
Lamb chops, salsa verde
Beef pot roast with root vegetables

Sautéed delicata squash
Broiled peppers and portabello mushrooms
Rosemary and thyme roasted fingerling potatoes
Buckwheat kasha

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Location:Mill Valley, CA

It’s Fall! (menu today)

Sweet potato coconut curry soup

Sea scallops with spinach and feta
Sautéed cauliflower

Acorn squash stuffed with goat cheese and vegetables
Garlic and lemon green beans

Chicken cacciatore
Roasted spaghetti squash

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Location:San Francisco, CA

Menu for a low-carbohydrate diet today

My client S. has found out that restricting carbohydrates helps her to achieve her weight loss goals without giving up the satisfaction from meals. S. is a good cook herself, and had been cooking most of the dishes for her new low-carb, high-protein diet.

She is not very comfortable, however, with preparing red meats and seafood. To break the monotony of roasted chicken breasts and fried salmon fillets, S. asked me to cook a package of meals that she could keep in the freezer, in individual serving containers, and reheat whenever she is pressed for time, or feels like eating something different.

Here is what I cooked for her today. The chicken soup has onions, celery, and just one little carrot, finely sliced and sautéed in butter, and fresh green beans, red and yellow peppers, leeks, tomatoes, and black Tuscan kale.

Chimichurri, a bright fresh Argentinian sauce, made of parsley and oregano with garlic, dried red chilies, red wine vinegar, and olive oil, is as good with lamb as it is with grilled beef (or almost anything grilled), is totally addictive, and doesn’t add much carbs, calories, or weight to the dish – just a lot of flavor.

Menu November, 7

Chicken and vegetables soup
Shrimp stir-fry with peppers, spring onions, and bok choi

Leeks, spinach, and bacon frittata
Braised leeks
Delicata squash stuffed with beef and vegetables
Roasted Brussels sprouts
Lamb chops, chimichurri sauce

Kale with garlic and white wine

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Location:Mill Valley, CA

Fall menus this week

The weather the last couple of days was like a memory of the summer, but the day are short, the summer produce is leaving the market (I hold on the heirloom tomatoes and king salmon as long as I can, but they will be gone soon), and the Fall fruits and vegetables are out there in force. So while still using my beloved summer produce, I am beginning to introduce more comfort dishes to take you through long dark evenings, and make the best of the abundant winter squashes, kales, cabbages, and Fall fruits.

Here are the menus that I made this week so far:

Menu November, 5
No dietary restrictions, but the clients don’t like seafood. One day a week they have a grill party and grill the meats that I marinate for them.

Chicken Florentine

Brown rice pilaf

Stuffed peppers

Quinoa and orange salad
For the grill: beef steaks with mustard-herb rub
Sautéed bell peppers; herbed potatoes

Pesto-stuffed pork roast wrapped in bacon
Carrots and peas

Menu November, 6
Semi-vegetarian menu, no red meat.

Butternut squash gratin
Braised greens
Penne with cannellini beans

Quiche with cheese, leeks, mushrooms and peppers
Potato and fennel salad
Mustard-glazed salmon

Buckwheat pancakes
Chicken Florentine
Quinoa with orange

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Location:San Francisco

Indian home cooking, Part III

Today in my Indian client’s kitchen we were cooking some exotic vegetables that Alaka, her mom, bought at an Indian grocery store, and showed me how to prepare.

Indian eggplant is a cute little eggplant the shape and size of a small egg, deep purple color. Alaka got a dozen of them, we stuffed them with a mix made of grated peanuts and spices, and cooked with some water added to make a sauce. Here is a catch: Alaka uses her own goda masala spice blend, that she brought from home, and I don’t have the recipe for it. She promised to email me the recipe after she gets back home and gets it out of her files. For now, we tried to find an Indian store that carries this wonderfully aromatic blend of warm spices, and we failed so far… So here is the partial recipe, pending the recipe for goda masala to follow next month:

Stuffed Indian eggplant
Serves four to six

12 Indian eggplants, leaves removed
1 cup roasted peanuts, ground in a blender or food processor
1-1/2 tsp ground coriander seeds
1-1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp goda masala
1 tsp salt, or to taste

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp brown mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 medium onion, minced
1/2 cup water
1 Tbsp jaggery (raw sugar)

Chopped cilantro, to garnish

Cut eggplants crosswise into quarters, leaving the stem ends attached. Make the stuffing: mix ground peanuts, ground coriander, ground cumin, goda masala, and salt. Open each eggplant like a flower, and put a little of the stuffing inside. Press closed.

In a heavy pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add mustard seeds and heat until the mustard seeds start to pop. Add cumin seeds, turmeric powder, and onion. Brown lightly. Add stuffed eggplants, water, and leftover stuffing, season with jaggery. Cover and cook until the eggplants are very tender and the sauce thickens, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.

Bottle gourd, or white gourd resembles a large pale zucchini. The simple preparation that we did is very characteristic of Alaka’s style of Indian cooking, and can be used with other vegetables as well. It starts with making tadka, the traditional flavor base of brown mustard seed, cumin, and turmeric. Then the vegetable is seasoned and cooked until tender.

Indian white gourd
Serves four

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp brown mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp turmeric powder
4 white (bottle) gourds, cut into small dice
1 cup water
2 tsp goda masala
Salt to taste
2 Tbsp jaggery, or to taste
Chopped cilantro, to garnish

Heat the oil in a heavy pot over medium heat. Add mustard seeds, heat until the mustard seeds start to pop. Add cumin seeds, turmeric, gourd, water, goda masala, season with salt and jaggery. Cover and cook until the gourd is very tender. Serve sprinkled with chopped cilantro.

Bitter melon. This one is really, seriously bitter. They say it’s very good for you, and can be addictive. This recipe balances the bitterness with the heat of the chili and the sweetness of the raw sugar, which makes for a very strong and complex taste. It’s more like a condiment than a dish. It’s traditionally eaten with roti.

4 small bitter melons
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp brown mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp turmeric
1-1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp jaggery (raw sugar)

Cut the ends off the bitter melons. Cut them in halves lengthwise. With a spoon, scoop out and discard the seeds. Chop into 1/4-inch pieces.

Make tadka: heat oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add mustard seeds, heat until the mustard seeds start to pop. Add cumin seeds and turmeric.

Add the bitter melon, chili powder, and salt. Stir-fry until the bitter melon is tender and begins to brown, about 10 minutes.

In a mortar, break down jaggery into very small pieces. Add jaggery to the skillet, stir, and let it coat the bitter melon and caramelize.

Menu today:
Curried carrot soup

Stuffed Indian eggplant
White rice

Pacific snapper with mango-tomatillo salsa
Bean salad

Scallops with feta and spinach
Roasted butternut squash

Mushroom and asparagus frittata
Heirloom tomato salad Caprese

Chicken roasted with fennel and apples
Fennel gratin

Indian bottle gourd

Bitter melon

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Location:San Francisco, CA

Small menu for my San Francisco clients

Butternut squash with chai spices

Roast beets vinaigrette

Burgundy beef stew

Acorn squash stuffed with quinoa and vegetables

Cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger, “warm” spices traditionally used in chai tea, bring out the sweet, nutty flavor of butternut squash perfectly. Add a dash of Tabasco to kick up the flavor, and rind and juice of one orange to compliment the aroma.

My beet vinaigrette salad is based on a traditional Russian salad of boiled beets, carrots, and potatoes, cut into small dice and mixed with cubed pickles and red onions, and vinaigrette dressing. Then I do everything differently. Slice red onion into thinnest half-rings. Rinse with cold water, drain, toss with sherry vinegar, let marinate for 10-15 minutes. Roast the beets to preserve the vitamins and intensify the flavor. Peel and slice into thin wide slices. Boil unpeeled carrots, let cool a little, peel, slice thinly on diagonal. Forget potatoes and pickles. Season still warm vegetables with sea salt, fresh ground black pepper, good olive oil, and a dash of truffle oil. Mix with marinated onions, serve on bed of mixed baby greens.

When you cut an acorn squash in halves lengthwise and remove the seeds, it forms two perfect cups that ask to be filled with some savory stuffing. I filled mine with quinoa pilaf made with sautéed onion, garlic, and carrots, and seasoned with a little hot sauce, topped each with a pat of butter, placed them in a roasting pan with a little water added, covered with aluminum foil, and baked about 30 minutes in a 375 degrees oven.

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Location:San Francisco, CA

Chef Garbo’s orange-rosemary scented butternut squash soup with sea scallops

After reading this recipe both in the blog on our USPCA Bay Area website, and in the Personal Chef magazine, I’ve made Chef Garbo’s butternut squash soup with rosemary and sea scallops yesterday.
I used Meyer lemon instead of orange (just because I can :)) , adjusting the sugar accordingly. I also cut on the rosemary, using just one sprig from my garden – these fresh-cut rosemary sprigs are very full and extremely potent. Garnished with chopped chives and chive flowers.

I was delighted at how all the flavors and textures work together to create a perfect balance.

Dear boyfriend’s feedback: “Needs more scallops” 🙂