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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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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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

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

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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

Vegetarian, kids-friendly small menu today

Potato skins with broccoli and cheddar
Spinach salad with roasted beets, walnuts, and goat cheese

Quinoa pasta marinara
Caprese salad

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Location:Napa, CA

Summer menu today

I met my client’s father when he was visiting from Europe almost a year ago. He loves soups, and when he learned that I am from Russia, he said I should make a borscht. I promised.

When I put borscht on the menu this week, I didn’t know that the client’s parents are coming to visit again. But here they are, and the borscht, Moscow style, is on the menu. I hope the old man enjoys it as much as I enjoyed making it.

Bacon-wrapped sea scallops
Creamed spinach

Heirloom tomato tart
Greek salad

Pork and vegetables stir-fry
Wild rice with mushrooms

Beef ragu
Fetucchine with garlic and herbs

I am very happy with this ragu: the quality of the stock that you use to deglaze the pan matters as much as the quality of the meat. Since I was making a rich beef stock for my borscht right here on the next burner, this ragu, made with grass-fed ground beef and bits and pieces of USDA Prime steak, also got fresh homemade beef stock. Other ingredients: olive oil, onion, garlic, carrot, celery, white wine, tomato paste, strained tomatoes, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, thyme, sea salt, fresh ground black pepper.

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Location:Palo Alto, CA

Salads for the summer

The summer is almost here, bringing us the delicious summer vegetables, and the favorite hot-weather food, fresh vegetable salads.
Salads are:
– Healthy
– Fast and easy to put together
– Easily adaptable to vegetarian and vegan diets
– Require little or no cooking, for these hot days
– Colorful
– Help us to stay in shape throughout the swimsuit season
– Fun picnic and backyard party food

Here are some of my favorites:

Classic Nicoise, and it’s variations, can be served as a complete dinner entree. Lettuce, cucumber, potatoes, olives, tomatoes, bell peppers, Italian canned tuna, eggs, anchovies, mustard vinaigrette.

This version has frisee, arugula, tomatoes, new red potatoes, fava beans, green beans, spring onion, Italian canned tuna, egg, anchovies, sherry vinaigrette.
Note: Please use good Italian tuna in olive oil; don’t try to substitute the supermarket “cat food” chunk tuna variety – tuna makes or breaks this dish. The use of fresh grilled tuna is a recent American restaurant invention. They use canned tuna in the South of France, I checked.

Rainbow kale slaw, adapted from Whole Foods website: thinly sliced black kale and red cabbage (salt the cabbages, then squeeze them with your hands to soften), red bell pepper, red onion, orange, sunflower seeds; dressed with orange juice + Dijon mustard + Tamari + olive oil.

Mediterranean garbanzo salad, adapted from Whole Foods website: bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, fennel, shallot, garbanzo beans, sheep’s milk feta in lettuce cups, lemon vinaigrette. I garnished it with chives flowers, just because I can.

Classic Greek salad: tomato, bell pepper, cucumber, olives, feta, good olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, a lot of fresh ground black pepper. This is how they served it to me in Delphi: with a large brick of good feta on top. No silly feta crumbs 🙂

Shaved summer squash with almond salsa, adapted from the “Beauty Detox” cookbook.

Cucumber salad, mint yogurt dressing.

Daikon and zucchini salad, lemon basil vinaigrette.

And the all-time summer tomato favorite, Caprese salad: heirloom tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil, balsamic vinaigrette. Simple and perfect. As perfect as the tomatoes are.

A party appetizer version: cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella balls, basil leaves, on skewers, balsamic vinegar and olive oil for dipping.

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Colorful spring menu today

From my previous post it may look like my vegetable garden is losing it’s struggle with the local wild life. It is not so. I’m learning to garden in these difficult conditions, and I had some successes. The key is to protect the plants they favor, to plant what the beasts don’t like, or to grow whatever grows faster than they eat it. Most culinary herbs (basil, red sorrel, and dill are the exceptions) don’t seem to interest them. This year, my fava beans are my pride and joy. Fast growing, beautiful plants bear tons of tasty beans, and the only one who is interested is the gopher – and he cannot take them all. Well, he got a couple of plants, but I still have the rest!

Now they are at the peak of their short season, and they go happily into a ragout of fava beans, green beans, and English peas, seasoned with sautéed red onion, garlic, white wine, and good olive oil.

This week I also started cooking with fresh tomatoes again. They are not at their best yet, but after roasting the flavor gets more concentrated, and they make a good roasted tomato soup.

On the menu today:

Roasted tomato soup with pasta

Mushroom, ricotta, and spring onion tartlets
Tangy macaroni salad

Zucchini and carrot “spaghetti” primavera

Duck legs roasted with sweet onions, lemon, and olives
Herbed new potatoes

Lamb chops, chimichurri sauce
Fresh peas and beans ragout

Emerald-green goodness of fava beans and English peas bring the spring to the table.

This isn’t your orthodox spaghetti primavera. The “noodles” are cut out of Nantes carrots and zucchini with a julienne peeler, then steamed briefly and topped with a spring vegetables medley. I first developed this technique for a client who cannot eat any grains – I wanted to make a pasta for her. Then I realized that anyone who wants a vegan dish would probably enjoy it.

Today’s client, a mother of two, gets a little bunch of edible chive flowers for the Mother’s Day on her lamb chops.

Wild mushrooms sautéed with thyme and garlic, and thinly sliced spring onions, top these classic puff pastry ricotta tartlets.

What I bought as packaged “duck legs” in a Chinese grocery store turned out to be whole duck leg quarters! Good. More duck. First, cooked in a skillet, skin side down, to render the fat and to crisp the skin; then, slow-roasted in the oven on top of sweet onion slices, with lemon, rosemary, thyme, and white wine. Garnished with olives.
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Location:Cupertino, CA

Turkey and tomatoes

I live too close to the hills.

The little neighborhood is squeezed in a valley between the hills. And the hills think that they own the place. The coyotes cry in the hills every night, the hawks fly overhead, looking for rabbits. The rabbits and deer on the road keep me alert when driving at night. I got a whole range of birds in my backyard; from hummingbirds, to finches (who destroy the vegetables seedlings), to the mourning doves (three generations hatched in my garden shed so far), and now, the turkeys.

Last week wild turkeys from the hills found a way into my yard, and destroyed all my beautiful tomato plants. I cried for a whole day, replanted the tomatoes, put a 3-foot high fence around them, and now I am offering turkey and tomato dishes to everyone, in a way of a revenge. It feels very satisfying to take the body of your enemy, ground, form it into bite-sized meatballs, and fry in oil.

Kids love meatballs, and because I make mine with lots of vegetables that enhance both their flavor and texture, parents love them too. And everybody like a food that comes with a story and an emotion.

I like to use quinoa cereal instead of the breadcrumbs to make my meatballs fluffy. Whole Foods sells it. If you can’t get this, use Panco breadcrumbs.

Turkey meatballs, tomato sauce
Serves 6

For the sauce:
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 carrots, coarsely grated
3 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 large can whole peeled tomatoes in tomato juice
3 Tbsp tomato paste
1 cup white wine

For the meatballs:
1-1/2 lb ground turkey (dark meat)
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 egg
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 cup Panko breadcrumbs or quinoa cereal, more if needed
Salt, pepper

1/2 cup olive oil

Make the tomato sauce:
Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, carrots, and celery. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are soft and begin to brown. Remove half of the cooked vegetables to a mixing bowl, set aside to cool. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, and white wine to the pan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to maintain a slow simmer, cook, stirring occasionally, until most liquid evaporates and the sauce has good, solid texture, but not dry.

Make the meatballs:
Add ground turkey, tomato paste, egg, Worcestershire sauce, and breadcrumbs to the mixing bowl with the reserved vegetables. mix with your hand. Depending on the other ingredients, you may need to add more breadcrumbs or cereal to achieve a soft, pliable, but not runny mixture. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

In a large pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Dip your hands in cold water to prevent the mixture from sticking to them. Take a walnut-sized piece of the turkey mixture, shape into a ball, then flatten it to make a small patty. Cook briefly, turning once, until cooked through. Taste. Adjust the seasoning. Repeat, if necessary.

Shape the turkey mixture into walnut-sized balls, dipping your hands in cold water every time the mixture begins to stick. Brown the balls on all sides, shaking the pan or stirring carefully to rotate them. Remove the browned balls and place them in the simmering tomato sauce. Turn to coat, and simmer 30 minutes more.

Serve over pasta, rice, or mixed vegetables.

The rest of the menu on one of my “turkey and tomato” days:

Vegetable soup with pesto
Pan-fried cod, tomato and olive topping
Green beans and peas ragout
Spring onion tart with bacon and gruyere
Baby arugula salad with walnuts and goat cheese
Pulled pork
Roasted yams
Turkey meatballs, tomato sauce
Spaghetti with garlic and olive oil

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Location:San Rafael,United States