Happy New Year 2016!

Happy New Year from Caliblini Personal Chef Service!

The last dinner party of 2015 was:

Roasted garlic and herb focaccia

Cream of mushroom soup
Fennel and orange salad with walnuts

Chicken roasted with garlic and thyme
Roasted Brussels sprouts with pomegranate
Smashed red potatoes

Fruit and berry crumble

Now working on menus for 2016!

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My Italy

My Italy doesn’t have anything to do with the sandy beaches, vineyards on sunny slopes, Caravaggio’s Bacchus or Brulov’s Italian Midday, tourist crowds in Rome and the carnival in Venice, vine-ripe tomatoes and vacations on a Tuscan farm. I may see this sunny Italy some other time. For now, my Italy is icy winding mountain roads, an alpine village, enveloped in a blizzard, valleys so deep and mountains so high that it makes you wonder what people thought of the outside world before car and air travel; endless pistes and shoulder-deep powder off-piste; piercing icy wind in the streets of Torino; ancient castles on mountaintops; hot wine and a laconic, thin and crisp pizza with nothing more than cheese and tomato sauce on top, in front of the fire in a mountain hotel; my family on skis and snowboards making it down in time for dinner at our cabin; my sister-in-law and I taking turns shaving the fennel for the salad real thin with my folding knife. I like my Italy.

Borlotti beans and shaved fennel salad

The bean recipe will yield more cooked beans than you’ll need for the salad. Store the extra beans in their cooking liquid in the refrigerator for up to a week, serve as a side dish to meat and poultry, over pasta, or toss with sautéed sausages or ham and some greens

Serves 6

2 cups dried borlotti (cranberry) beans
1 medium onion, sliced
1 medium carrot, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 stalks celery, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs thyme
1 sprig sage

2 large fennel bulbs
Juice of 1 lemon
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt, pepper
Shaved Parmesan

Cook the beans:

Cover the beans with 1 gallon of water; let sit 4-6 hours or overnight. Drain and rinse the beans. Cover with 1 gallon of fresh water, bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low/medium low to maintain a slow simmer. Add onion, carrot, celery, bay leaf, thyme, and sage. Cook until almost tender, 30-50 minutes, depending on the quality and age of the beans. Salt liberally (taste the water, not the beans; it should be a little too salty). Finish cooking until the beans are tender, 10-15 minutes. Remove vegetables and herbs, let the beans cool in their cooking liquid.

Assemble the salad:

Allow about 1/2 cup cooked beans per serving. Rinse the beans, arrange on the salad plates. Trim the fronds and stalks from the fennel bulbs (reserve a few fronds for garnish). Using a mandolin or a sharp knife, shave the fennel paper-thin, starting at the top, so that the root end holds the bulb together as you cut it. Toss fennel with the lemon juice. Arrange fennel on top of the beans, season with salt, pepper, and olive oil, garnish with shaved Parmesan and the reserved fennel fronds.

Pappardelle with rabbit ragu and wild mushrooms

Serves 6

For the pappardelle:
1 cup 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
1 large onion, sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 large carrot, sliced
3 large cloves garlic
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

1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms
1 Tbsp olive oil

Shaved Parmesan
Parsley leaves, for garnish

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. 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 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 mushrooms:

Put the dried mushrooms in a small bowl, cover with hot water, let sit until softened, 15-20 minutes. Squeeze the mushrooms dry (strain and reserve the soaking liquid for another use, or add it to the ragu). Heat the oil on a small pan over medium heat. Add mushrooms and a pinch of salt, sauté until the mushrooms are dry and golden.


Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water until a’l dente, 2-3 minutes. Remove, drain, place in individual pasta bowls. Top with rabbit ragu and sautéed mushrooms, garnish with shaved Parmesan and parsley.

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Russian food. Pelmeni

I am moving the post about this very wintery dish to the top of my blog now, in the middle of the summer, for my friend B. from Terra Linda Community Pool, who tried the “Russian ravioli” years ago in a Russian restaurant in San Francisco, and now wants to try making them herself. Enjoy!

These pot-stickers probably came to Siberia from China. Then they spread all over Russia, and became a favorite winter food. If the temperatures stay consistently below freezing for 3-4 month, you can invest into making a few hundreds pot-stickers, freeze them outside, put them in a bag, and hang it outside of the window, to be cooked as needed. They cook from frozen in about ten minutes. They are economical, easy to cook, and oh, so tasty! Shaping them is labor-intensive, but if you live in a region with freezing winters, or in a house with a large freezer, you only need to make them once a year.

In Siberia, they make pelmeni with all types of filling: mushrooms, potatoes, cabbage, grains, fish, meat, poultry, or any combinations. In Moscow, where I grew up, pelmeni are always filled with mixed meats, and seasoned with salt, pepper, and minced onion. The usual filling is half ground beef (not too lean) and half pork. Whenever we had venison, we would always mix ground venison into pelmeni filling (1/3 beef, 1/3 pork, 1/3 venison)

In my family, we would spend the afternoon before the New Years Eve making pelmeni. Mom made the filling, dad rolled out the dough, and we all shaped. The first hundred or so would go on our holiday table, the rest froze on all available surfaces out on the balcony, for winter dinners to come. We would put a whole peppercorn into one of the pot-stickers. The lucky recipient could make a wish that will come true in the new year.

In California, I like to make pelmeni for our Tahoe ski trips. After a day of skiing, they cook fast, and they taste great! Rolling out the dough is physically demanding. My dad (who is very good at it) being 9000 miles away and my boyfriend not being part of the culture, I replace them both with my pasta machine, on it’s thinnest, ravioli setting. I then cut out dough circles with a 3-inch round cutter. A glass with a thin edge, or a cut tin can can do fine. Pelmeni should be a little larger than ravioli, but smaller than most Chinese potstickers, about 2 inches across.

Serve pelmeni in beef stock with a little white wine vinegar, straight with butter and
a lot of fresh ground black pepper, with sour cream with minced garlic and scallion, or even with mayonnaise!

Makes about 200, serves 10-12

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 egg
1/2cup water

for the filling:
1.5 pound mixed ground meats (3/4 pound beef and 3/4 pound pork; or 1/2 pound beef, 1/2 pound pork, 1/2 pound venison)
1 large onion, minced
1 tsp salt
1 (generous) tsp fresh ground black pepper

Make the dough: sift flour into a large bowl. Mix in salt. Make a well in the center. Pour egg and water in. Mix, gradually incorporating the flour from the sides, to make very stiff dough, knead. At first it will look like it’s too dry and not coming together. Do not despair, keep kneading. If after five minutes of kneading it’s still not coming together, add a few drops of water, repeat (you can skip the gym that day). Cover with plastic, let rest 30 minutes.

Make the filling: combine ground meats, onion, season with salt and pepper, mix well.

On a floured surface, roll out the dough as thin as possible, using a rolling pin and a lot of elbow grease, of a pasta machine. Cut out 3-inch circles. Put together the leftovers, and roll out again.

Place about 1/2 tsp of filling in the center of each circle. Pinch the edges together tight. Connect the corners to make a neat ring. Place on a floured plate or cutting board. Repeat 199 times, or so. Freeze. Put in ziplock bags, keep in the freezer for up to 6 month.

To cook: in a large pan bring water to boil over high heat. Add frozen pelmeni, bring back to boil. Reduce heat to medium, cook until pelmeni float to the surface, 5-10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon.

Serve with:
– sour cream and black pepper
– sour cream + minced garlic + minced parsley or scallion
– white wine vinegar and fresh ground black pepper
– beef stock + dash of white wine vinegar
– melted butter + a lot of fresh ground black pepper
– 1 cup sour cream blended with 1 cooked carrot and 2 minced garlic cloves
– (I didn’t say this) mayonnaise

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What’s for dinner next week

Menu ideas for the week of March, 3, 2014

French lentil soup

Forager’s mushroom tarts
Celery root salad

Chicken breast stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, and goat cheese
Quinoa pasta with arugula and pine nuts

Shrimps with tricolor peppers
Saffron rice

Duck legs braised with orange and sweet onion
Mashed potatoes and parsnips

Beef and rice cabbage rolls
Carrot slaw

Beef and rice cabbage rolls

Duck legs braised with orange, sweet onion, and olives
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Location:San Francisco Bay Area

Menu today

It’s technically the last day of winter (although the winter storms are just starting to hit California), so today’s menu was a combination of winter comfort foods and cheerful spring dishes. I am very excited about new asparagus and spring herbs, but not ready to let go of broccolini, kale, and Brussels sprouts yet.

Menu 2/28/2014

Winter minestrone soup

Forager’s mushroom tarts
Roasted Brussels sprouts

Dijon chicken
Braised leeks

Chicken stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, and goat cheese
Roasted asparagus and broccolini

Savoy cabbage braised with sausage and caraway
Twice-baked potatoes

The twice-baked potato recipe I adapted from the “21-Day Tummy” diet cookbook that my other client uses for weight loss. These potatoes were such a hit with her that she already ordered them four times. And good potatoes they are! The balance of flavors and textures is wonderful; it just works 🙂 When a diet dish comes out so tasty, you have to try it even if you are not on a diet, so I altered the recipe a little bit, and I am making it for other clients too.

Large baking potatoes are halved lengthwise, baked in the microwave until soft (allow about 6 minutes for two potatoes). The flesh is scooped out of the skins, mixed with toasted chia seeds, sautéed red bell peppers and green onions, and Parmesan, seasoned with salt and pepper, then stuffed back into the potato skins. The stuffed potatoes are topped with more Parmesan, then baked in a 400 degree oven until the cheese melts and turns golden, about 15 minutes. Try it.

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Location:San Francisco, CA

Dinner party menu

Last week I was asked to create a seasonal Californian menu, for a dinner party that included guests from out of state and from abroad. Here is the menu that I served. (Although the fresh strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries for the dessert are not in season, they are available and of good quality; if I wanted to go 100% Californian winter, I would have made a citrus tart, or a dry fruit and nut crumble for the dessert; but then I would have to leave out my favorite winter salad that includes both walnuts and oranges!)


Dungeness crab cakes, Meyer lemon aioli
Wild mushrooms and caramelized onion tartlets
Butternut squash soup shots

Mixed green salad with roasted beets, orange, and walnuts, sherry vinaigrette
Braised lamb shanks
Roasted baby root vegetables
Truffled mashed potatoes

Panna cotta with fresh berries

Oh, how happy I am with my new iPhone 5 camera!

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Hillsborough, CA

What’s for dinner next week

Here are my menu ideas for the next week
What’s for dinner
week of February, 24, 2014

Cream of cauliflower soup

Goat cheese and caramelized onions tart
Arugula salad with roasted beets and orange

Braised savoy cabbage with chicken, chicken sausage, and caraway
Twice-baked potatoes

Trout with almonds and brown butter
Braised fennel

Mustard and white wine braised chicken
Cranberry beans ragout

Flat iron steaks, mustard cream sauce
Sautéed potatoes with mushrooms

Sautéed potatoes with mushrooms

Arugula salad with roasted beets and orange

Twice-baked potatoes

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Location:San Francisco Bay Area

Ingredient of the month: cauliflower

The media say that cauliflower is the new kale. Cauliflower is receiving the same acclaim now from the nutritionists and the chefs alike as the fashionable kale was enjoying over the last two or three years. Well deserved, too. Cauliflower is packed with vitamins and minerals, is easy to grow and to cook, has negative calories, pleasant mild bitter-sweet flavor that shines on it’s own and combines well with other ingredients, intriguing texture, and it looks great on you plate!

Cauliflower is not just a white flower. It’s also gold, green, and purple flower! All colors do well steamed until almost tender (either in a steamer or in a microwave), then sautéed, or prepared ou gratin. Cream of cauliflower soup is a life-saver for people who can’t tolerate milk products: the pureed cauliflower supplies the creamy texture, no cream needed.

To trim a head of cauliflower: place it stem-side up on a working surface. With a sharp paring knife, cut out a cone shape around the stem and through the leaves. The leaves will fall off – discard them, or use them to flavor soups. Remove the stem. Break off the florets, cut the larger ones into halves or quarters to get uniform sizes.

Cauliflower coconut soup
Serves 6
2 Tbsp coconut oil
1/2 tsp mild yellow curry powder
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 large heads white cauliflower, trimmed and chopped (use both the florets and the stems, discard the ugly outer leaves, but use the nice inner ones)
1 can coconut milk (or coconut milk made from 2 coconuts)
4 cups water
Sea salt, fresh ground black pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add curry powder and onion, sauté until fragrant and the onion is soft, 3-4 minutes. Add garlic, sauté 1 minute. Add cauliflower, coconut milk, and water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to maintain a slow simmer, cook until the cauliflower is very tender, about 20 minutes. Puree with an immersion blender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cauliflower gratin
Serves 6
2 medium heads cauliflower, separated into florets
2 Tbsp water
1 Tbsp olive oil
Sea salt, fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs (or fresh breadcrumbs made from 2 thick slices of toasted rustic bread)
2 Tbsp grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place cauliflower florets and water into a microwave dish, cover with a paper towel, microwave until the cauliflower is crisp-tender, 4-5 minutes. Carefully remove the cauliflower from the microwave, drain. Grease a shallow ovenproof dish or a gratin dish with olive oil. Arrange cauliflower florets in the dish, fitting tightly. Season with salt and pepper. Pour cream and chicken stock over the cauliflower. Mix the breadcrumbs and the cheese and sprinkle on top. Bake in the oven until the cheese melts and the top is golden, 15-20 minutes.

Sautéed cauliflower
Serves 6

1 small head white cauliflower, separated into florets
1 small head golden cauliflower, separated into florets
1 small head purple cauliflower, separated into florets
2 Tbsp water
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp butter
Sea salt, fresh ground black pepper

Place cauliflower florets and water into a microwave dish, cover with a paper towel, microwave until the cauliflower is crisp-tender, 4-5 minutes. Carefully remove the cauliflower from the microwave, drain. Heat oil and butter in a large pan over medium heat. Add cauliflower; sauté, stirring frequently, until the cauliflower is tender and golden, 3-5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Mashed cauliflower
Serves 6

6 Qt. Water
2 Tbsp salt
2 heads white cauliflower, trimmed, chopped
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp heavy cream
Salt, pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add in the cauliflower, reduce heat to maintain a slow simmer, cook until the cauliflower is very tender, 15-20 minutes. Drain, place in a bowl. Heat butter and cream over medium heat until the butter has melted. Add the butter-cream mixture to the cauliflower. Mash with a potato mashed or a fork to a relatively coarse texture. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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Location:San Rafael, CA

What’s for dinner next week

Following a discussion with my client, a busy mother of twins, I am beginning to post weekly menu ideas, to help my readers to answer the nagging question “What’s for dinner”. Here is one for the next week:

What’s for dinner
week of February, 17, 2014

Chicken and winter vegetable soup

Leek and potato quiche
Iceberg lettuce wedge, green goddess dressing, bacon bits

Roasted game hens with lemon and garlic
Roasted asparagus and broccolini

Fillet mignon with bacon and sage
Sautéed cauliflower

Braised lamb shanks
Roasted root vegetables

Tuna macaroni and cheese
Mixed greens salad with roasted beets, orange and honey walnuts

Turnips, golden beets, watermelon radish, carrots, seasoned with salt and pepper, tossed with olive oil, sprinkled with thyme, ready for roasting in a preheated 400 degree oven.

Fillet mignon with bacon and sage. Sear in a preheated heavy pan with 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat until golden on both sides. Finish in a 350-degree oven to desired doneness, 2-10 minutes.

Mixed greens salad with roasted beets, orange and honey walnuts

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Location:San Francisco, CA

Menu for today

This Sunday I seriously over-bought eggs at the Farmers Market. The beautiful, colorful medium-size farm-fresh eggs at the Marin Sun Farms stall were $8 a dozen, or, in the last hour of the market, two for $12. That’s $6 a dozen! I grew up with food shortages, I like to have plenty. And who can resist a sale? I bought two dozens.

Then I came home, and to my senses. I’ll never manage to eat all these eggs! So, I made fresh pasta.

The exact proportion for the pasta dough depends on what you have on hand, the flour, the eggs, and the weather conditions. This time I used 1-1/2 cup semolina flour, 2 cups all-purpose flour, a pinch of sea salt, 7 egg yolks, 3 whole eggs, and just enough cold water to make the dough pliable, about 1/4 cup.

So this week everyone is getting some type of egg pasta. Today’s lasagna was made with plain fresh egg pasta sheets on the top and the bottom, and mixed herbs pasta in the middle, layered with tomato sauce, ricotta mixed with a little cream and egg and seasoned with salt and pepper, and chopped spinach. Grated mozzarella and Parmesan on top.

Today’s menu:
Three bean salad

Spinach and cheese lasagna
Rainbow kale slaw

Garlic lemon shrimps
Polenta cakes

Whole roasted chicken, Caribbean spices
Roasted broccoli with Manchego

Homemade goat cheese and herbs ravioli tomorrow.

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Location:San Francisco, CA