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.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Oakland, 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

Shaken and Stirred. Trinity School parents annual party

This year the annual gathering of Trinity School parents was a cocktail party instead of the usual dinner. “Shaken and Stirred”. The heavy appetizers menu theme was fast food with a twist.


Tomato soup shots with grilled cheese sandwich
Caviar potato chips
Tuna tartare potato chips
Lobster rolls
Grass-fed beef sliders with foie gras on brioche rolls, heirloom tomato slices, cornichons
Truffle French fries, saffron aioli
Pizza Margherita, morel mushroom and goat cheese pizza, pancetta and arugula pizza
Mac’n’cheese with variety of toppings

Tuna tartare: sushi grade tuna, lemon juice, wasabi powder, sesame oil, tamari soy sauce, toasted sesame seeds, micro greens, homemade potato chips.

Bellweather Farm creme fraiche and sevruga caviar on homemade potato chip.

Langostino, shrimp, and lobster salad on sweet Hawaiian roll.

Fresh ground beef chuck sliders, havarti, seared foie gras, heirloom tomato, cornichons, on brioche roll.

Tomato soup shots with wasabi grilled cheddar and Gruyere sandwiches.

Thank to my hard-working sous chef Brenda for dealing with all these potatoes and hot oil, to super-professional servers Paula and Jim, to the wonderful bartenders, to Trinity moms Gilliam and Stephanie for organizing the party, and for providing all the ingredients for the pizzas, and beautiful, imaginative and fun desserts, and of course to our dear hosts, Wendy and Stefan!

Cigarette cookies

Panna cotta martinis with chocolate olive

Piña colada jelly; Irish coffee cupcakes.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Palo Alto, CA

Garden herbs: Chervil

Chervil is of the classic fine herbes (the others are parsley, tarragon, and chives); mild anice flavor. Likes full sun and a lot of water. Chervil is an annual plant that will self-seed if the conditions are right. Use the delicate leaves and flowers in salads and sauces.

Omelette with fine herbs
Serves 1
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 Tbsp butter
2 large chicken eggs, or 10 quail eggs
1 Tbsp chopped parsley
1 Tbsp chopped chives
1 Tbsp chopped chervil
1/2 Tbsp chopped tarragon
Salt, pepper

Heat oil and butter over medium heat in a small non-stick or cast iron pan. Beat the eggs with a fork in a bowl until well combined but not foaming, about 20 strokes. Pour eggs into the pan. When the bottom of the pan is set, add the herbs, season with salt and pepper, tilt the pan, and fold the omelette over in two. Cook 1-2 minutes more, until the desired doneness. Serve at once.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:San Rafael, CA

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

Peak of the summer – menu this week

Cream of mushrooms soup

Greek salad

Broiled salmon with peach salsa
Braised duck legs, plum sauce
Stuffed peppers
Lamb chops, mint chimichurri

Quinoa with zucchini and lemon
Fresh corn ragout
Zucchini and carrot salad
Grilled eggplant with feta and mint

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Burlingame, 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)

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:San Francisco, 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

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:San Francisco, CA