Thursday, August 27, 2009

What a site!

This last weekend we did an incredible wedding at St Vincent’s School for Boys. Tucked off the highway between Novato and San Rafael, it is a beautiful catholic church and court yard.

We put together an Italian family style dinner in the central court yard for 230 guests. Here are a couple of pictures.
Video to come next.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Taste of Petaluma

The 4th annual Taste of Petaluma will be Saturday 9/26 from 11:30 to 4:00 in downtown Petaluma.

We will be featuring Classic French Ratatouille with a Parmesan Truffle Crumble at the Barry Singer Gallery (7 Western Ave). Keep your eye out for the recipe in an upcoming blog (we're still fine tuning it).

There will be lots of great food and great places to see/shop/dine, I hope you can all make it.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Gravensteins Are Here!

I just received 12 cases of locally grown gravs for pie baking. If not busy enough with catering (August is one of the busiest months of the year), I also belong to a women’s group and one of our annual fundraisers is fresh made Gravenstein apple pies. It's a great recipe with a hand made crust and crumble topping. The hope is to sell 200 hundred this year- so far 125 and counting.

The best part of this is the smell of the apples. My husband would say it's the smell of the apple pies, but having grown up in Sonoma County the last week of July or first week of August was a reason to celebrate; Mom would head out to Sebastopol to see if she could get a case of apples just before the sugar count was high enough. The apples have to be to a certain sugar level to be considered ripe enough to sell, but Mom liking a tart apple pie wanted them just a bit green. While at the produce stand we always got to have an apple pop - do you remember these? Frozen Gravenstein apple juice in a cup with a popsicle stick inserted that you would turn out to be a frozen treat. Treat to you but mess to everyone else, melting faster than you could eat it, in the car, and of course you threw the cup away at the produce stand so now it's melting and dripping down your hand and on your clothes.

Though Sebastopol is only 15-20 minutes from Petaluma the drive seemed so long, and after about 10 minutes I wanted to be home starting on the apples. Yes even as a kid I couldn't wait to get into the kitchen.

Now when we got home the work began, peeling all of the apples. Would we freeze them, make pies or make apple sauce? Watching as the apple was peeled and just hoping that the peel would not break so you could sit and eat it like spaghetti.

Thanks to the local food movement the Gravenstein is being elevated to the level it used to be and hopefully will be here for generations to come. For now I get to enjoy their perfume in my walk-in for the week.


Congratulation Mirepoix on your pending expansion. We're looking forward to it!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Hushpuppies, Beignets or Fritters

Just last weekend a bride asked me to make her Hushpuppies for her wedding; it had been a long time since I last made them, so I had to do a little bit of studying to make sure I got them just right. Which in turn led me beignets and fritters, but we'll get back to that in a moment...

Her recipe (with a couple minor tweaks, I'll admit) was wonderful and so light they would float off your plate, and it will be my hushpuppy recipe in the future.

1½ cups Yellow Cornmeal
½ cup Flour
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Sugar
2 Tbl Baking Powder
1 tsp Baking Soda
⅛ tsp Cayenne Pepper
¼ tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper
2 Eggs (beaten with enough Buttermilk to make 1 ¼ cups)
2 Tbl Vegetable Oil
½ cup Finely Chopped Green Onion
Peanut Oil for frying

Sift all the dry ingredients together
Stir in the eggs & buttermilk and veg oil and onion
Fill the skillet with 2 inches of peanut oil
Preheat oil to 365 degrees
Drop the batter in teaspoonfuls into the oil
When they turn golden brown (about 4 minutes),
remove and drain on paper towels
Keep warm in the over for a few minutes if needed,
but serve as soon as possible
Yields about 4 dozen

This brought to discussion what are the differences in Hushpuppies, Beignets and Fritters.

Hushpuppies are the easiest since they are just a dollop of deep fried cornmeal dough, similar to corn bread usually made with cornmeal in a course texture. The dough is almost always savory not sweet but may be finished with a touch of powdered sugar.

Bengeits and fritters were harder. It comes down to batter vs. filling ratio. A fritter is anything battered and fried - banana or apple fritters, beef or chicken fritters (aka chicken fried steak or chicken fried chicken), even a corndog is technically a fritter. So a fritter is lots of filling and some batter.

A beignet would be batter with additions - shrimp, cheese or bits of diced fruit like apples. The additions are incorporated into the batter, not as a filling. So this is mostly batter with accents. This is not to be confused with the famous beignets from Café du Monde in New Orleans that are made from a dough not batter (which could be a whole other conversation).

And just to be perfectly unclear these terms are thrown around and used rather liberally on a lot of menus; I just had some lovely goat cheese fritters at Mirepoix in Windsor, but I'd call them beignets; just to say don't get too wrapped up in the name, they're all good.


Monday, August 10, 2009

Amber & Julia

I have been waiting to see the movie Julie and Julia, I plan a Tuesday matinee in a nice quiet theater. Maybe I’ll bring a snack the Julia would approve of.

I am hoping the movie is as fun spirited as Julia was herself. I had the pleasure to cook with her once when in cooking school. While at the CIA I was in the service club. The group did tours for guests and tourists and help with dignitaries. I was lucky enough to be a kitchen helper when Julia did a cooking demo. If you can imagine a school full of wannabe chefs, getting in was hard enough let alone to help in the kitchen.

19 years old and helping Julia Childs doing a cooking demo. Wow, she could tell that I was obviously nervous along with the other 5 students. We are chopping and cleaning and trying not to be in the way, when one of the students makes a mistake and Julia says “there’s not a mistake in the kitchen that I have not made” and moves right along with what she was doing. I think that day that I learned that no mistake is not correctable, just keep your cool and love what you do.

Saturday, August 8, 2009


This last year I have spent time reminiscing – yes I had the 40th birthday and enjoyed looking back. I realized that my memoirs won’t be a scrapbook or a photo album but a cookbook. I’ve been a foodie from the start and many of my memories are linked to food. This cookbook wouldn’t be just your traditional recipes and pictures but more like the ones from your grandmother; you know, the ones with no amounts and sketchy instructions.

From getting up at 6am to go to the farmer’s market with my Grandfather when I was only 6 years old or remembering canning apricots with my Grand mother. (Apricots my grandfather probably “harvested” from an orchard that was a little too close to the road.)

Here are a few that stick out in my memory. I love them, but I can't say I recommend them; they are all tied up in childhood memories so my enjoyment of them may be biased. If you feel adventurous, try them out and leave a comment.

From Auntie Jane I remember "Texas Green Salad". The most basic salad ever, but I'd call it quintessential and quaint: Ice berg Lettuce, chopped tomatoes and cucumber, Best Foods mayonnaise and salt and pepper

From Baba the best Chicken Marinate: White wine, chopped dried onions and parsley. Cover the chicken with the marinate 24 hours before BBQ - Grill slow and long - still a family favorite.

From Mom: Porcupine Meat Balls- a classic Campbell’s recipe (meatballs made from classic meatloaf mixed with minute rice and cooked in tomato soup). I made them recently and had to tell my Niece that they actually were not made of porcupine. My husband loves them.

An all time favorite from Grama: Hershey butter cream frosting between graham crackers then frozen.


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Our "Famous" Dry Rub

Our dry rub isn't really famous, but we do get requests for the recipe, especially after giving away little tins of it at the PEP fundraiser. So here is the recipe. Beware that this is the commercial kitchen size recipe and done with dry measures. If you want a more home sized recipe this cuts down just fine, but remember - it's dry measures, so don't go from cups to ounces; I'd suggest 1/4 cups.

8 cups Brown Sugar
4 cups Kosher Salt
1 cup Paprika
1 cup Chili Powder
1 cup Black Pepper
1 cup Granulated Garlic
1 cup Granulated Onion
1 cup Italian Seasoning
¼ cup Cayanne

Just mix it all together and you're ready to go. This is best with beef and pork. It can be used as a quick rub, just 45 minutes before the meat hits the grill, but for the best result let it marinate in the frig overnight.


Sunday, August 2, 2009

Jam to Salsa and My Apricot Tree

Summer is here and my apricot tree is bursting and throwing fruit everywhere, and the apple and pear aren’t slacking either with a lot on the way. But what to do? Preserves, jams, chutney…how to decide? Recently when I was writing our new menus I revisited the concept of what exactly is a chutney versus a compote versus a salsa versus all the other related items, and in the process I came up with a culinary spectrum which starts with Jelly and ends with Pico de gallo. I think its interesting, so here it is…

Jam is a thick mixture of fruit and sugar that is cooked until the pieces of fruit are very soft. The texture of thick puree.

Jelly is a sweet or savory food gel, usually made through the addition of gelatin or pectin. Jam which has been filtered to remove pulp and make it clear is called jelly

Preserves differ from jam in that the chunks of fruit are medium to large rather than the texture of thick puree. Jam which has whole pieces of fruit.

Compote is a sweet cooked preparation of whole or cut fruit and sugar, usually more liquid in consistency than jams, jellies or preserves. Compotes may also contain spices.

Conserve is a jam mixture of fruits, nuts and sugar, cooked together until thick. Jam which has whole pieces of fruit and nuts.

Confiture is the French word for jam or preserves. May include candied fruit.

Marmalade is a clear, jellylike preserve made from the pulp and rind of fruits, especially citrus fruits. The name is also applied to various jams made tart by the addition of lemon juice or other acid ingredients. Jam with fruit peel.

Relish refers to any savory-sweet preserve of vegetables or fruits, flavored with vinegar, salt, sugar, and spices

Chutney is a pungent relish made of fruits, spices, and herbs. A sweet-and-spicy condiment. In temperate countries, chutneys are sometimes made using local main ingredients such as apples, peaches or tomatoes. Flavorings are always added to the mix. These may include sugar, salt, garlic, tamarind or ginger.

Salsa is a spicy sauce of chopped, usually uncooked vegetables or fruit, especially tomatoes, onions, and chili peppers, used as a condiment. Mexican for sauce.

Pico de gallo can be used in much the same way as other Mexican salsas or Indian chutneys, but since it is less liquid, it can also be used as a main ingredient in dishes such as tacos and fajitas. In Mexico, pico de gallo is better known as salsa mexicana

"fruit" is considered to include many things that are not ordinarily classified as fruits: "tomatoes, the edible parts of rhubarb stalks, carrots, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins, melons and water-melons".

So for this year I’m thinking Apricot Preserves, Pear Compote, and Apple Marmalade.