Friday, November 1, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013

Every year I write a Thanksgiving blog, and this year I'm going to provide some gluten free (don't groan) ideas; at Preferred Sonoma Caterers we had many more requests for gluten free friendly menus and I've learned quite a bit, a few items I'm actually liking the gluten free options better.  But that's the next blog, so check back next week, and again in the middle of the month for some more modern T-day ideas.  But let's start out the month with revisiting some classics.

Let's start out the afternoon with a Thanksgiving cocktail...  The Happy Pilgrim... hubby and I invented with one a few years ago when we couldn't find a cocktail recipe that went well with Thanksgiving.

Happy Pilgrim
1 shot wild turkey bourbon - must have turkey!
1 shot ginger beer
2 shots cranberry juice
1/3 shot orange bitters
Shake and serve over crushed ice
garnish with a fresh cranberry

Now on to stuffing, classic stuffing is a must, but what is classic stuffing.  It depends on where you are from, or perhaps where Grandma was from.  In my family, the Runge side, the traditional stuffing is a classic bread stuffing.  Lots of celery and onions with plenty of sage.  It is baked in the turkey with extra crusties along the legs.  It reflects the Germanic origin of much of the county.  From my time in Austria I recognize this recipe is very similar to bread dumplings from Germany - my family heritage.

“Traditional” Stuffing
Stuffs a 12 to 14lbs turkey
1 loaf simple white bread - cubed
2 yellow onions - diced
1 small head celery - diced
2 sticks butter
2 Tbs dry rubbed sage
3 eggs
Salt and pepper to taste
2 to 3 cups chicken or turkey broth

Sauté onions and celery in butter with the sage till tender.  Place bread cubes, sautéed vegetables and eggs in a large mixing bowl.  Add broth till soft, then season with salt and pepper.  Stuff into a rinsed turkey cavity.  The just a standard roast of the turkey.

In Mr. PSC’s family, from the Otis side of the Balshaw side, there is a potato stuffing that I have come to love.  Part of their heritage is from French Canada and shows in this recipe for Tourtiere.  Traditionally this is meat and mashed potato baked in a pie pan with two crusts and served as a main dish.  But his Granny (or perhaps her Granny) decided it would be better used for stuffing a Turkey.  That is his family’s tradition.

Tourtiere Stuffing
1 lbs breakfast sausage - browned
1 yellow onion - diced
2 lbs Russet potatoes - peeled & boiled
1 Tbs dry rubbed sage
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
1 to 1½ cups chicken stock

Boil the potatoes till fork tender, then drain and allow to cool slightly. Brown the breakfast sausage and break up with a fork, and remove from the fat.  Add diced onions and spices to fat, sauté till tender.  Mash the potatoes, add the onions and spices, then season with salt and pepper.  Add chicken broth as necessary for texture.  Place in a rinsed turkey or bake in a pie pan (with or without crust) on the side.

You might be wondering about the difference between dressing and stuffing.  The only real difference is geography.  Northerners call it stuffing, while Southerner’s prefer dressing.  One of the most used components in southern dressing is corn bread.  Not what most of us consider corn bread, but a denser version that is cut and laid out to dry.  Corn bread has a much crumblier texture so the stuffing is much softer.

make up to 2 days in advance
2 cup yellow cornmeal
2/3 cup plain flour
1 tsp salt
4 tsp baking soda
1 1/3 cup milk
2 eggs - beaten
6 Tbs veggie oil

Mix the dry ingredients, add the wet ingredients, then bake in a 9 x 13 pan for 20 to 25 minutes at 350 degrees.  Allow to sit out and dry for 24 to 48 hours.

Corn Bread Stuffing
1½ cup celery - chopped
1½ cup onion - chopped
4 Tbs butter
3 cups turkey or chicken broth
1 tsp sage - ground

Sauté the onions and celery in butter, add sage, then add to the crumbled cornbread.  Add liquid to soften.  Now it is ready to stuff in your turkey and roast.

Many of you out there might have the addition of a vegetarian to your Thanksgiving table.  The question is what to serve that they will enjoy.  What about stuffing a pumpkin?  Small sugar pumpkins are perfect for this.  When choosing your pumpkin make sure that is labeled as a cooking pumpkin.  Choose one medium size and free of blemishes, wash, cut off the top approximately a third of the way down.  You will need to scoop out the seeds and string, the rub the interior lightly with salt and pepper before stuffing.

You can use the pumpkin as an extra vessel for more stuffing (more stuffing is always great), or make it a dish of its own, with another stuffing.

Turkey, of course.  But how to cook it.  A few years ago I experimented with several different methods (brine, deep fry...), but in the end it was the classic that won.  If you would like to know the results you can find them at  And don't let my opinion stop you from experimenting, it was a lot of fun

Of course you can always take the easy way out.  Every year we offer a full Thanksgiving meal for 8 to 10 to go.  Just re-heat and voila, Thanksgiving!  Or just order a few of the dishes the make life easier.  You can find the Thanksgiving catering menu at

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Not So Delicate, Delicata

So what is Delicata?  It is a distinctive winter squash.  It is actually in the same family as zucchini (a summer squash) but ripens later in the year with a harder flesh that needs to be cooked more like a winter squash.  It is shorter and thicker than a zucchini, with yellow skin and green to orange stripes.  It is also known as peanut squash or bohemian squash.  Delicata has gained in popularity greatly in the last couple of years and is one of my favorites.  The reason being is that it is smaller in size; perfect for two people, plus the skin is edible, so no peeling required.

Season for delicata starts in late September and is often available in to May.  It is very versatile and can move from your summer time menus into winter dinners.  The flavor is delicate, with a firm but creamy flesh.  I recommend it for grilling and roasting but not necessarily soups.

For summer time think about adding it to your grilling vegetables. To prep this long squash, you need to remove the seeds.  Then I recommend cutting it into rounds or crescents.  For grilling I recommend cutting them approximately a quarter inch thick then toss with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Allow a few minutes longer grilling than the rest of your veggies.

Grilled Delicata
1 delicata squash
1 zucchini
1 small red onion
1 red bell pepper
8 oz button mushrooms
¼ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat your grill to medium heat, cut all vegetables in to equal sizes, toss with olive oil and spices.  Start grilling with your delicata squash; it will take 7 to 8 minutes per side depending on thickness, second should be your onions.  When you turn the deicata move them to the outer edges of the grill to cook slower then add in the remaining veg.  Turn once or twice, cooking about 7 to 8 minutes. Try finishing them with just a splash of Balsamic vinegar

Delicata “Croutons”
Roasting delicata makes it perfect for adding to a salad and you can have some fun.  Prepare as above cutting into crescents.  Approximately ¼ inch thick,  lay out on a cookies sheet and sprinkle with olive oil and salt and pepper.  Place in a 350 degree over for about 10 minutes, then turn, but before returning to the oven sprinkle lightly with  2 tablespoons of brown sugar mixed with 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne or chili powder.  Bake another 7 to 8 minutes.  Allow to cool completely, then toss a nice salad of arugula, pumpkin seeds and Chèvre, toss with Sherry vinaigrette and finish with your squash.

The vegetarian options with the squash are numerous.  Think of it as an edible container.  Cutting it into either tall cylinders or lengthwise for boats.  It will hold up to being roasted in advance or roasted with a filling.

Delicata Squash & Caramelized Onions
Think of a gluten free Alsatian Tart
3 Tbsp butter
2 lbs thinly sliced onions
¼ tsp dried thyme
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
1 cup heavy cream
4 eggs

Heat the butter in a heavy bottom pot till bubbly, add in thinly sliced onions, salt and thyme.  Turn down to medium low, stirring often, and cook to a golden caramelized color, then set aside and cool.  Combine the cream and eggs, whisk well.  Season onions with pepper and place into squash boats.  Finally, fill to the edge with cream egg mixture.  Bake approximately 30 minutes until the tip of a knife cuts easily through.  (PS – the traditional tart has bacon in it).


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

One Potato, Two Potato

Here's my September column from the Petaluma Post. Enjoy...

No, no, there are many more than two kinds!  Have you recently taken the time to look at potatoes at your
Potato Gratin
farmers’ market?  Are they red, yellow or blue?  Are they Russian or Yukon or whatever?  What ever happened to the traditional russet?  Let me help you through at least a few of the many thousands of kinds of potatoes that are out there.

The first thing to learn about is starch.  This is important for how each kind of potato is best used.  Are you making a salad?  You need a boiling potato, which typically contains approximately 16-18% starch.  This means that they will hold together after boiling, cutting and mixing.  For that light and fluffy baked potato you want a more floury or mealy (baking) potato which has more starch (20–22%) .  This is better for roasting and for baking, and also for making gnocchi.

We are lucky locally to have several farmers growing a large variety of potatoes.  Some of my favorites are Yukon Gold for mashing, Baby Red for salad, Idaho Russet for baking (it was created by our own Luther Burbank!), Russian Banana for roasting and most of all Yellow Finns for roasting wedges.  Yellow fin are my favorite.

A few years ago at home when we planted a potato bed, we put in several varieties and waited to see what would come up.  It was almost like an Easter egg hunt when it came time for harvest.  We missed a few little ones and a plant two comes up every year, and I always find the mystery potatoes to be a fun treat.

Herb Dijon Potato Salad with Roasted Red Peppers
Serves 10-15
3 lbs small red potatoes
2 red bell peppers
6 stalks celery- diced
½ bunch Italian parsley, chopped
¼ cup whole grain Dijon mustard
¼ cup sherry vinegar
½ cup olive oil
 Salt and pepper to taste

Place the potatoes in a pot large enough to cover with 3” of water, then cover with cold water and boil until tender, testing with the tip of a knife.  Drain and allow to cool completely, then slice into bite size pieces. 

Roast the red peppers by placing under the broiler or over the gas burner, blacken on all sides.  Afterward place the peppers in a plastic bag to sweat for 5-10 minutes, and then the skins should slip right off (a nice chef’s trick).  Finally cut into julienne strips

Combine all ingredients, and you may serve either warm or chilled.  If preparing ahead, withhold the parsley till serving, to keep it from wilting and add a pop of color.

Potato Gratin
Serves 8-10
3 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
8 oz grated parmesan
½ tsp thyme
1 tsp salt and pepper
¼ cup olive oil

Thinly sliced the potatoes, rinse in cold water, and drain well.  Combine all ingredients and place on and edged baking sheet, spreading evenly.  Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes until golden and knife tip tender.

Brown Butter Mashed Potatoes
Served 4-6
2 lbs yukon gold potatoes
4 oz butter
½ cup ½ & ½
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut potatoes to uniform size, cover with cold water and boil till tender. 

Brown butter is a French method that browns the solid bits in the butter.  It will greatly intensify the butter flavors; I love this approach. Place the butter in a thick sauce pan, melt and bring up to a boil, and immediately turn the heat down to medium.  Continue cooking until the butter begins to turn brown.  Take to a medium color, and remove from the heat.

Drain the potatoes, mash by hand or machine, add the butter, then the half and half.  Season with salt and pepper.

If you would like a few more creative potato recipes or would like to know the difference between a sweet potato and yam, see my blog ( and search for “potato”.

Friday, August 30, 2013


 From my Petaluma Post column.

It is the middle of August, your garden is going great and there is squash everywhere. Zucchini, Crookneck, Romesco, Pattypan, oh my!   What to do.  A vegetable sauté is nice, you just grill it with olive oil, it is always a hit.  But there is so much more.

One of my favorite tricks is to julienne the squash on a mandolin, a French grater.  I grate the squash lengthwise down to the seeds, leaving the seed area intact.  This gives you nice long strands.  I have never been a fan of raw summer squash, as I didn’t like the texture.  However with a little marinade or heat it turns out great.
Summer Squash Slaw
(serves 4)
2 lbs Zucchini, washed and julienned - yields about 4 cups
1 red bell pepper, cut in thin stips
¼ cup basil leaves, thinly sliced
½ cup celery, thinly sliced
4 oz kidney beans
2 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ cup sherry vinegar
2 Tbl Sugar
½ cup olive oil

Combine all ingredients, then allow to sit 45 minutes to allow it time to marinate and the zucchini to wilt. Serve cold.  This can be made 24 hours in advance.  This is a great salad, with no mayonnaise and will hold up very well.

Something else I found surprisingly good was using julienned zucchini to get a great carb free dish by substituting it for pasta.  Yes, I know that sounds awful, but it is actually quite good.

Zucchini Spaghetti
(serves 2)
2 lbs Zucchini, washed and julienned-  yields about 4 cups
1 Tbl salt
3 Tbl olive oil
2 cup Marinara sauce
Parmesan to taste

Place the zucchini julienne is a bowl with salt, toss well and allow to sit for 30 minutes, during which the zucchini will wilt and put off water.  Then drain it and rinse well.  Next heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan, add in the zucchini and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes until tender.  Add the marinara and heat through.  Serve with parmesan.

I love SomTom, a Vietnamese green papaya salad.  However finding the green papaya is not always that easy.  So I have made it with this julienne as well.

Zucchini SomTom
2 cups of shredded Zucchini
½ cup cherry tomoates, cut in half
¼ cup fresh green beans, cut 1”, then smashed with your knife
¼ cup chopped thai basil
Juice of ½ lime
¼ cup brown sugar
1 Tbl fish sauce
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tbl of toasted peanuts, chopped

Combine, garlic, sugar, fish sauce, and lime.  Set this aside.  Combine the zucchini, green beans, basil and tomatoes and toss well.  Next mix in the dressing.  Finally top with the chopped peanuts.  This goes great with barbequed pork or chicken.

Ratatouille is a very classic French stew.  While it is considered a peasant dish, it is normally a complicated dish that can take a lot of prep, but I have lightened up the recipe to make it quick and easy with things you might normally have in your garden.

Quick Ratatouille
2 cup medium chop zucchini
2 cup medium chop yellow squash
1 cup bell pepper, cut in thin strips
1 medium onion, julienned
2 cloves garlic
2 cup chopped garden tomatoes
¼ cup chopped basil
½ Tbl dried thyme
1 cup thick sliced mushrooms
½ cup olive oil

Prep all of your vegetables and set aside.  Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, then add the garlic, onion and thyme, and sauté till golden brown.  Add the squash, mushrooms and peppers, sauté until wilted.  Next add the tomatoes, and bring to a simmer and reduce.  -Finish with basil and salt and pepper.  Serve with some toasted hearty bread.

One of my favorite recipes as a kid was a zucchini fritter, yes I even liked zucchini as a kid!  But, seriously, anything is good in a fritter.  This is a home style recipe.

Zucchini Fritter
2 cup Bisquick or other biscuit mix
1 cup zucchini
½ cup grated parmesan
1 Tbl dried Italian seasoning
2 eggs
1 cup milk (approx.)

Combine all the dry ingredients, stir in the eggs, then the milk.  You can make this batter as thick or thin as you like.  Thicker would be a fritter, but thinner would make a great pancake.  You might want to top with the ratatouille? Mmm

From here you can finish two ways.  Cook as a regular pancakes, for the thicker batter you might need to finish in the oven. Or you can drop in to a deep fat fryer and serve like a hush puppy.  If you are interested in a more detailed discussion, see my blog ( and search for “fritters”, there is a good article on the differences and how to make Hushpuppies, Beignets or Fritters.

And never forget your favorite zucchini bread recipe.  This summer enjoy the summer squash!

And when winter arrives don't forget this incredible Butternut Bisque!

Sunday, August 25, 2013


 From my Petaluma Post column:

Is there any other single word that makes you as happy?  Having dinner with friends last night we discussed how much everyone loves pie.  To me it is one of the easiest of things to bake.  It is just one unit, not baking a dozen cookies and unlike a cake you bake it and you are done, no filling, no frosting.  So with July upon us it is time for pie season!

The first and most basic part is the crust.  To many people a very daunting task.  I have a very basic recipe that I really love.  I have edited it from one originally from Martha Stewart; she had a very good crust to start with, I think this could be eaten plain!

Amber’s Pie Crust
1 cup cold butter, cut into pieces
2¼ cup flour, I use all purpose
1 tsp sugar
½ tsp salt
4 Tbsp ice water, but could be up to 6 Tbsp

You will also want a food processor with cutting blade or plastic blade.

Place the flour in first along with the salt and sugar, then top with butter.  Begin pulsing, about 4 to 5 quick shots, until it is a crumbly mix.  Open the machine and sprinkle 3 table spoons of ice water, then pulse a couple of times, if necessary add up to 3 more table spoons of water and pulse.  The dough should be soft and crumbly; do not let it come all the way to a ball.  Remove from the machine to a floured table top.

Here is where many people go wrong; your dough does not need to be smooth and perfect.  It is better if it is still a bit rough. Cut the dough in half since this is enough for 2 crusts (Really? You’re only making one pie?)  Form it into a rough ball and roll out gently. Place in pie pan and save the second piece for a second pie or a top crust.

Now to the fillings!  My favorite fruit is apricots, jam, pies, bars… to me you cannot go wrong.  I love an apricot pie with a streusel topping.

Apricot Filling

1 9” pie crust, raw
1 cup sugar
3 Tbsp flour
3 cup fresh apricots
1 Tbsp butter
1 tsp lemon juice

Cut the apricots in ¼ pieces, and toss with lemon juice.  Toss flour with sugar then add to the apricot mix, pour into the pie shell.  Place bit of butter on top.  Top with streusel topping.  Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour; juices should be bubbly and clear.  You may have noticed that I choose to use flour over cornstarch.  In my opinion flour adds body and texture that you just don’t get with cornstarch.

Streusel Topping
2/3 cup flour
1/3  cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ginger
6 Tbsp butter, cold

Place all ingredients in food processer and process till crumbly.

Another of my absolute favorites is Gravenstein apple pie.  A Sonoma county favorite.  The apples come into season late July to early August.  Making pies from these apples is a tradition.  I great note is that they freeze really well. It goes well with either a streusel or crust top.

Gravenstein Filling
1 9” pie shell
4 cup peeled, sliced apples
1 cup sugar
1 Tbsp cinnamon
3 Tbsp flour
1 tsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp butter

Follow same directions as the apricot pie.

This piecrust is also great for refrigerator pies - that is a cold pie.  Prepare and roll out the same pie crust, and place in refrigerator to chill for approximately 30 minutes.  Then you need to “blind bake” your crust.  This means baking without filling.  Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork, then line with foil or parchment paper, fill with pie weighs or raw beans.  Bake 20 to 25 minutes until golden.

Now time for a filling.  I love a tuxedo pie; a chocolate pie with whipped cream topping.

Chocolate Marquis Filling
10 oz chocolate chips
4 oz butter
4 egg whites
2 Tbsp sugar

Melt the chocolate chips and butter over double boiler.  Whip the egg whites with sugar to medium peaks.  Then fold together and go directly into baked pie crust.

Whipped Cream Topping
1 cup whipped cream
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Whip to soft peaks, then spoon over chocolate and allow to chill for 2 to 3 hours.

I love pie, hope you enjoy!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Sunday Brunch

From my column in the Petaluma Post:

Who doesn’t love a lazy Sunday morning, is there anything more relaxing than brunch? Fifty one weeks of the year the answer is no, until that one morning in May.  Mother’s Day!  You want to make that one person feel like a queen, so the pressure is on.  But brunch can still be simple.  Here are a few of my favorite and easy recipes to add to your brunch menu.

Personal Frittatas
This is a great item that you can make with the kids; by using a muffin pan each person can make their own.  Kids might like to stay with ham and cheese, but my favorite is asparagus and goat cheese.  This gets everyone a little involved in the kitchen and somehow that personal sized item just adds a little something extra to the impression.  Of course you could just make up a variety in advance and have them ready to go; they hold in the refrigerator well and be easily re-warmed in the microwave.

Start with a muffin pan well sprayed with Pam.

18 eggs, blended
1 cup heavy cream
2 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper

Use anything you like, but I’m always a fan asparagus tips, sautéed mushrooms, goat cheese, grated cheese, chopped ham, and prosciutto.

Allow each person to place their choice in one or two muffin cups, but do not overfill, then add the egg mixture to each up cup to about ¾ full.  Bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes till fluffy and firm.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool 5 minutes then turn out.  You can return to the oven to keep them warm.

Corn Bread Waffles
with honey, mascarpone and strawberries

I’ve only recently been introduced to cornbread waffles, and I think I may like them better than regular waffles.  The use of cornmeal in these waffles adds a great bit of texture and makes them a bit more sturdy.   My sister came across them on Pinterest, topped with chili; which I tried for dinner just the other night.  But for brunch I’d recommend something a bit more breakfast like strawberries and mascarpone.  After the frittatas come out of the oven you can turn the oven off and use it to hold the waffles.

Cornbread waffles

Yield 3-4 waffles
1 cup flour
1 cup cornmeal
1Tbl baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup oil

Combine the dry ingredients, then add the wet ingredients.  You want it to be a bit on the thin side.  Preheat the waffle iron to medium heat, and place approximately ¾ cup of batter per waffle.

Strawberry Topping
4 cup sliced strawberries
1 orange zest and juice
2 Tbl honey
Mix together and allow the flavors to blend for 10 to 15 minutes.

Plus about ½ cup mascarpone, plus honey to drizzle.  Simply spread each waffle with mascarpone, top with strawberries and drizzle with honey.

Blueberry Sour Cream Muffins
Yield 12-18 medium sized muffins
This is another great recipe to try with the kids.  The use of oil in the recipe makes it very quick to stir up, and can be used for muffins or coffee cake.  In fact this is the recipe that I use with the Rainbow Girls (the youth group I’m involved in) every year for their coffee cake fundraiser; if you been fortunate to get one in the past you know how good they are.  They also freeze very well, so keep it mind come the holidays in case you want to do some baking.

¾ cup flour
1 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
3 eggs
1 cup sour cream
½ cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup blue berries
If using frozen blueberries, toss in about 1 tablespoon of flour to coat to prevent their color from bleeding into the batter.

Combine the eggs, sour cream and vegetable oil, and mix until eggs are blended.  Combine the dry ingredients, then add the wet ingredients.  Fold in blue berries, and scoop into lined muffin cups.  Bake at 350 degree for 15 to 18 minutes.

Friday, August 16, 2013

To be or not to be VEGAN

 From my Petaluma post column:

Years ago people were vegetarian, now the trend is moving towards Vegan.  But what exactly is vegan?  This diet choice does not consume any animal product or anything produced by an animal (eggs, milk, cheese) I have even come across some that will not eat honey (produced by bees).  When you hear this you may be quick to think that there is nothing left but lettuce for them to eat.  But truly there are some great menu options out there.

When planning menus for vegan events it is important to consider how to make it a balanced meal.  In a balanced meal you need Carbohydrates, Fats and Proteins.  The first two are easy but protein can be more difficult.  I usually start with it.  Some of my favorite ways to get protein are in beans, nuts and grains.  One of the best grains out there is quinoa. This Peruvian grain contains all of your essential amino acids.  It can be used as a hot dish in a pilaf or is great as a cold grain in a light salad.  Black beans are another one of my favorites.  I feel that along with a balanced meal it is important to feel sated, that full feeling. We make a black bean cake that has a great filling feeling.  Served with a cool avocado salsa is a great main course.

Black Bean Cake Recipe 
2 x 14 oz cans black beans, drained well
2 cloves garlic, ground
1 tsp cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup Masa

Place well drained black beans in a mixing bowl, using a potato masher begin mashing and add seasonings.  Do not over mash, it should be chunky and not soupy.  Stir in the masa, which should thicken to be handleable (more masa might be needed for wetter beans).  Form in to patties and chill 30 to 45 minutes.  Finish by sautéing on both sides in canola oil/

Avocado Salsa (a chunky guacamole)
1 avocado, medium firm, diced
1 roma tomato, diced
2 Tbl chopped cilantro
½ mango diced
½ lime, juice
Salt and pepper
Combine all ingredients (feel free to add additional items), then chill well.  Serve over warm black bean cakes.

When it comes to carbohydrates you need to think just outside the box.  Pasta contains eggs, mashed potatoes contain milk, mac and cheese- you just can’t go there.  One of our favorites is risotto.  Yes classic risotto contains cheese, but do the cooking method long and slow, and the creaminess comes from the rice and makes a great dish.  Last year we had a wedding and did this green pea risotto that was a total hit.  With a bright green hue from the pea pure and a roasted vegetable stock.  No one will ever know.

Green Pea Risotto

1 cup Arborio rice
½ small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
½ tsp thyme, dried
1 cup white wine
4 cups vegetable stock, heated  (several good ones are available commercially)
2 Tbl olive oil
1 cup fresh or frozen peas, pureed (a bit extra for garnish)
Salt and pepper to taste

In a heavy bottom pot heat the olive oil on a medium heat, and sauté the onions and garlic till translucent.  Add the Arborio rice and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes until the rice is glossy and well covered.  Begin adding the white wine, stirring gently; when the wine has been absorbed to a wet sand look then add your first cup of stock.  The rice should be simmering and not boiling rapidly.  Each addition of stock should take about 5 minutes.  Continue adding the next 2 cups of stock slowly, stirring continuously.  Test rice for doneness; the kernel should be firm but not crunchy.  If still to firm add the last cup of stock.  Just before serving test for flavor and add pea puree.  Garnish with a few whole peas.

To change your personal recipes to vegan, look if you can substitute olive oil for butter and vegetable stock for chicken or beef.  When making a soup, think of adding beans in place of the meat.  Don’t be afraid of vegan cooking.  Don’t think of it as meatless; think of it as a chance to try a new recipe.

 You can find some more vegan inspiration on Preferred Sonoma Caterers menu page,  And I'm particularly proud of this vegan wedding menu, especially the stuffed squash blossoms!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Wedding Bells Are Ringing

Advice from my Petaluma Post column on planning your wedding...

Wedding bells are ringing, not yet for you, but loud and clear here at the catering company.  For actually catering events we are in our slow time of the year, but with the brides we are bustling.  Did you get you ring for Christmas, New Year’s or maybe Valentines?  You are wondering where to start to make your big day happen.  I have been catering wedding for nearly 25 years and thought I could help out with a few hints.  I tend to be very logical and a bit less bridal, perhaps it will help you start out.

The Date!  Very often this is the first thing that is set.  I recommend choosing a month vs an exact date, unless it has a sentimental reason.  Why you ask?  As you start looking you might pass by a great location or caterer if you are focused on a specific date.  Maybe the next weekend would work out too.  Choose a season that like and work within it.

First things to book are the site and the caterer.  You know the site can only take one event in a day, and many caterers like us can only take one or two in a given day. 

For your site, here are some questions to think about:  Can you have both the ceremony and reception in the same location?  How many guests do they hold? (this can help keep your guest list down if they are limited)  Indoors or out?  If bad weather happens is there a backup place on property?  Price, this can really be a decision maker.  Remember to think outside the box, family homes, parks and beaches can be a great settings.

For caterers, plan this to take up to 6 to 8 weeks to find, confirm and plan.  We have an initial discussion with our couples to create the event you have in mind.  I suggest you come with ideas, and a budget in mind.  Not every wedding is Lobster and Filet but it can still be yummy and fun.  What are your favorite foods?  Where did you meet?  This is a day for the two of you so add your special touches.  Then we create an estimate with menu, rentals and costs.  After that we often do a tasting.  I highly recommend at least one site visit with my clients to complete the plans.

The next thing to book should be what is most important to you.  Is it pictures of a life time, the bouquet you will carry down the aisle or rocking the night away to a hot DJ?

When thinking about your DJ or band there are many things to consider.  Bands have a great energy, but a DJ can play a wider variety of your favorite songs.  A DJ is more cost effective, while bands can sometimes have additional requests you will have to fill (stage, lighting, special food requirements).  When looking at DJs there are independents and DJ companies that might have several to choose from.  When working with a company I recommend that you meet your DJ, you want to make sure that you match well.  Also how active do you want your DJ to be?  Just play music?  Make announcements?  Some will even bring costumes and teach line dancing.

Photography can be very important, in 20 years you won’t have a piece of cake left, but you will have you photos.  A current trend is to have an engagement session with your potential photographer - this is a great idea.  Make sure their style and ideas blend well with you.  Maybe you don’t want to stand in a fountain or you are a bit more adventurous it is good for your photographer to know.  I always recommend that you make a photo list if there is anyone outside of traditional family that you would like photos with.  It is also a great idea to designate a helper, the photographer won’t know who cousin Tony is (is it a girl or a guy even).  But keep in mind you want to enjoy your wedding reception and keep your photos orderly and prompt so you can party!

Flowers are the delicate touch to your day.  When looking a bouquets look at the style and color more than flowers.  The flowers can be very delicate and seasonal.  Flowers that can hold up to an hour of photo shoot might not hold up to a 90 degree wedding day on the top of a mountain.  Be creative bring a bit of whimsy in - are you a country girl with wild flowers, a city girl with a bit of bling?  This is your day.

The piece de resistance is your wedding cake.  Here we can have lots of fun.  Most cake bakers can take a few to several cakes in a day, so this does not need to be on the top of your list to get done.  Do you like cake?  The tradition of cutting the cake can be done with any dessert.  It is supposed to represent the care that you will take of each other for the rest of your lives.  Assorted desserts are very popular.  Cupcakes and mini pies can be a lot of fun too.  What about an ice cream station?  Have you ever met a dessert you didn’t like?  Neither have your guests

The next few months are going to be very crazy and busy.  Remember to stop and take time for yourself personally and the two of you as a couple.  Turn off Pintrest, put down the magazines and breath.  It will be here before you know it.

You can get more advice from Preferred Sonoma Caterers website... I'd start with Cost Planning.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Do you fondue? A tantalizing Dinner for Two

 From my Petaluma Post column, enjoy...

Wow, you would think we were back in the 70’s, fondue is the thing.  Time to check the cabinets and pull out those fondue forks and set up for a romantic evening.  The barriers to what can be dipped and what you dip it in have expanded; all the old classic fondues are back, along with a lot of new options.  Here are a few of my favorites

Asian Peanut Fondue
½ cup Peanut Butter
½ cup Soy Sauce
1 cup Red Wine Vinegar
1 cup Olive Oil
½ cup Brown Sugar
1 tsp Red Pepper Flakes

Simply mix all the ingredients well.  I like to us my electric hand blender; it does a very thorough job.  Then warm.  I like to warm it on the stove first, but you can just put in your fondue pot over the flame; just remember to stir it a bit.

For dipping, try blanching some of your favorite vegetables, like from fresh cut bell pepper and snap peas, along with some chilled sliced grilled chicken breast.  You can reheat some shu mai that you can pick up frozen at the market.  This is one of my husband’s favorites - he’ll eat anything with peanut sauce.  This is also a great peanut sauce, hot or cold, to add on the side to any Asian dish.

Fondue Trivia: Did you know if you something falls off your fork into the sauce you have to kiss whoever is to you left?

Another great opener is also a classic cheese fondue, which happens to be my favorite.  I love cheese.

Classic Cheese Fondue
1 Tbl Vegetable Oil
1 clove Garlic minced fine
2 Tbl Flour
1 cup White Wine
8 oz shredded Swiss
8 oz shredded Gruyer
½ dry mustard

Place the olive oil and garlic in a heavy bottom sauce pan, and heat till the garlic is just barely cooked; you want to be cautious not to brown or burn.  Remove from heat and add in the flour and stir to make a roux.  Return to heat on medium low, whisk in the white wine.  This will create a thickened sauce.  Bring to boiling lightly for 3 to 5 minutes stirring often.  Turn the heat to low and slowly add the both cheeses.  I recommend using a wood spoon or spatula to keep the bottom of the pot clean so it does not burn.  Then just transfer to the fondue pot.

Dippers for cheese are typically chunks of crispy bread, fresh apple, blanched broccoli or cauliflower, grilled pieces of sausage or asparagus.

Trivia: All dippers should swirl their bread in a figure eight mention, just dipping is bad form (hint: it also helps to stir the cheese).

Classic Oil Fondue
Note:  Please remember that this is using boiling hot oil and should only be done with proper equipment, and should not be left unattended.

This is the type of fondue where you will actually be cooking the dippers in it, not just adding a warm sauce.  Start with a Fondue Pot using a White Gas Burner and 4 to 6 cups of peanut oil.  The reason we must use peanut oil is that it has a high smoking point.  Expect it to take 30 to 45 minutes to get up to temperature (about 300 degrees).  If it smokes, it is too hot.

For dippers here are a few of my favorites:
Tri Tip: Season 1 pound of cubed tri tip, remember to cut into bite size cubes, and marinate in 2 Tbl soy sauce and 1 tsp garlic powder for 1 to 2 hours before cooking.  Drain and pat dry

Crimini Mushrooms: Great additions for your vegetarians, treat the same as tri tip

Italian Meat Balls & Raviolis: Pre-cooked and cooled.  Serve with a side of marinara

Bell Peppers, Red Onions: sliced and raw

The top of the evening should always be a chocolate fondue; this is a great way to finish any dinner!

Chocolate Fondue
1 cup Heavy Cream
2 cups Chocolate Chips, semi sweet

Bring the cream to a boil in a heavy bottom pan, turn the heat off, and stir in chocolate chips till melted.  Yes it is that easy.  This holds really well and can be made ahead and just microwaved when needed.  If you make it ahead try not to eat it all before the party!

Dippers: Fresh fruit like Strawberries, banana pineapple*, kiwi*.  *Wet fruits will be harder as the chocolate will tend to not stick properly.  Cookies, graham crackers, marshmallows and anything you can think of.

You can have some fun here.  Lay out graham crackers with toppings that can then be pre-dipped in marshmallow fluff, peanut butter, almond butter, strawberry jam, and sweet cream cheese.  Your guests can spread then dip. 

For a party or just two, fondue is a lot of fun!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Healthy Not Boring 2 – Greens

From my Petaluma Post column.  You can find the first installment of this at

Last January I started to write on healthy eating, the holidays have come and gone and we are all feeling just a bit sluggish.  Too much candy and rich food, time to clean out the fridge and feel good about what you are eating again.

I am a huge fan of greens; most people’s first thought is of overcooked mush that grandma put on the table, or that same salad you have had a thousand times because you are supposed to.  These days the greens are young and tender, easy to toss into almost any dish.  Salads can have great variety with just a little thought, but you can also add greens to cooked dishes as another way to get them into your diet without getting bored.

For uncooked greens I love baby wild arugula.  It has a smaller firmer leaf than the classic and is not quite as peppery. With the thicker leaf it also has a bit more tooth in texture.  It always makes me feel like I am eating healthy.

Baby Wild Arugula Salad with Yam Croutons
1 medium yam, cut ¾” cubes, skin on
2 Tbl olive oil
Pinch cumin
Salt and pepper

8-10 oz of Baby wild arugula
2 Tbl sherry vinegar
4 Tbl olive oil
1 Tbl honey
Salt and pepper

Toss the yam cubes with oil, salt, pepper and cumin, and place as a single layer on a baking dish or cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 degree for 10 to 12 minutes, stir, bake another 10 to 12 minutes.  Allow to cool.  Although these are croutons, they are not crunchy; they have a firm skin and soft interior.

Combine the vinegar, oil, salt, pepper and honey to make the dressing.  Put the arugula in a bowl with the yam croutons, and toss with the dressing.  For an extra touch try adding toasted pumpkin seeds or Chèvre.

Another great way to use greens is in pasta.  You can find beautiful baby chard in many stores.  Try just a simple garlic and olive oil pasta tossed with fresh baby chard.  It will wilt and melt in beautifully.  Serve with your favorite Italian dish, something like chicken cacciatore.

The Asian greens on the market are a great addition to look at also.  From baby bok choy to red tatsoi.  You can often find what is called Asian braising greens in the bulk greens section.  Try adding to a stir fry with some fresh garlic and light soy.  After sautéing finish with just a touch of Sesame oil for a pop of flavor.

Baby spinach is a main stay in our home.  My husband jokes about the day that I fed him spinach for all three meals.  I find it great to toss into a frittata or an omelet.  Makes a great salad for lunch or dinner, and wilts down for a great side dish to a heavier entrée.  Remember entire bowl of greens can wilt down to next to nothing.

Spinach and Mushroom Frittata
9” skillet
6 eggs
2 cups baby spinach
¼ cup shredded cheese - I like a parmesan or romano
½ cup cherry tomatoes cut in half
2 Tbl oil
Any added things you would like

Place the baby spinach in a glass bowl in the microwave for approximately 30 seconds;
this is a great trick to wilt unruly quantities so they fit into a skillet better.

Beat the eggs well, seasoning with salt and pepper.  Warm a skillet (use a skillet with a metal handle as it will be going in the oven later) with olive oil over medium heat for 3 or 4 minutes, then pour the egg mixture into the pan, it should sizzle slightly.  Add in the remaining ingredients, including spinach, stirring to incorporate everything.

Place the entire pan in a 350 degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until set and firm.  Remove and cut into wedges.  This is a great as a hot breakfast or lunch dish, and also serves great cold with a salad.

My most recent favorite spinach salad is served warm with fresh pear.  I was going for the idea of a Bistro salad from French cuisine that they serve with a poached egg on top.  I choose to add lightly sautéed chicken livers and crostinis.   You can enjoy without the chicken livers too.

Warm Spinach Salad
10 oz baby spinach
1 small red onion, julienned
1 medium firm ripe pear, I like Bartlett, julienne
3 Tbl olive oil
2 Tbl sherry vinegar
1 Tbl honey
Salt and Pepper

Place the baby spinach in a large salad bowl.  Then sauté the red onion in one table spoon olive oil until tender and it begins to caramelize, then add the pear and sauté lightly.  Finally add remaining oil, vinegar, honey and salt and pepper to the sauté to make the dressing.  When pear is wilted, spoon pears and onions over the baby spinach, and use the remaining pan juices (dressing) as needed to dress the salad.

The next time you are at the market look a little closer at the greens, pick up something new and give it a try.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Holiday Gift from Your Kitchen

From my December column in the Petaluma Post.  A little dated... until the holidays are back! 

The holidays are coming, the holidays are coming!  Actually by the time you read this they will be here and on top of us.  The month of December seems to roll by so fast with family, friends and business events.  Then you have the shopping, gifts, gifts ,gifts.  All of a sudden someone gives you a gift you did not expect, or you are invited to someone’s home and need that hostess gift.  What if you had a couple of recipes that you could make in advance, package, and have ready?  They are also great for those teacher and coworkers gifts.

We have all baked lots of cookies and bars, but you can’t have them ready at hand because of the dual threats of needing them fresh, and hubby eating them.  Over the past few years I have been making a sour cream coffee cake that freezes great.  Just wrap well and pull it out when you need a gift.  It is also great to put aside for Christmas morning.

Coffee Cake
Crumble topping
6 Tbl butter
2/3 cup flout
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Place all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse till crumbly, then set aside. This recipe is also a great topping for pies instead of the top crust.

1¾ cup flour
1 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
3 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
¼ cup vegetable oil

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Combine wet ingredients, and mix till smooth.  Finally, add to dry ingredients, mixing until well incorporated.

Place 2/3 of the batter into an 8” cake or bundt pan, then sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and about half of the crumble topping. Add the remaining batter and top with rest of the crumble and cinnamon and sugar.  Bake at 325 degree for approximately 45 minutes, till a tooth pick comes out clean.

This recipe translates great to anything.  You can use any pan you like, it doubles and triples well.  At the catering company we make it ten times this recipe for our use.  There are great paper pans available that are oil lined and ready to give away, available at Sur La Table and other gourmet kitchen stores.

Feel free to add your personal touch, cranberries, chocolate chip or more.

Another unexpected favorite of my friends is homemade granola.  Make ahead and put in mason jars with a bow ready to go.  If you don’t give it all away it is a great way to start out the New Year.  It is a great recipe to make with your kids


8 cups rolled oats
2 cups nuts- your choice- sliced almonds, pecans. Walnuts
2 cups seeds- your choice -pumpkin, sunflowers, other
¼ cup poppy seeds
1 T cinnamon
½ cup oil
1 cup honey
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups dried fruits

Combine the oats, nuts, seeds, and cinnamon, and mix well.  Then combine the oil, honey and extracts, warming slightly till the honey is thin; drizzle over dry mixture and stir till well combined.  Place on cookie sheets, toast at 350 degree, stirring every 10 to 15 minutes till golden.   Approximately four times, depending on depth.  Allow to cool completely, then add the dry fruit.  Pack in mason jars for gifts.

Let the kids add their favorite dried fruits, cherries, cranberries, golden raisins, chopped up dried apricots.

Mason Jars are really in and with the cold nights what about a ready to go soup in a jar?

Split Pea & Barley Soup
½ cup dried barley
½ cup split peas
2 Tbl minced onions
1 tsp dried thyme
1 Tbl granulated Garlic
2 Tbl chicken bouillon granules
½ tsp ground black pepper
½ tsp red pepper flakes
1 cup macaroni - your favorite

Layer each of the ingredients in a 1 quart mason jar, finishing with the macaroni as the last layer.  Seal with the lid.  Add a nice ribbon and a gift card that says “Add contents to 2 qt water, simmer over low heat for 1 hour.  Optional add ins celery, carrots and canned tomatoes.  Enjoy

Don’t ever think twice about a jar of jam or jelly.  I remember one year my niece and nephew got assorted jars and they thought it was the best gift.  In this age of long hours and being pulled many ways, a homemade gift shows that you care.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

I yam what I yam

I've been rather lax getting my columns from the Petaluma Post re-posted here, so look for one a week for the next few weeks.  Enjoy!

I yam what I yam.  But am I really?  Yes I am a yam, not a sweet potato, no really a yam.  So what is a yam you ask, not just an over cooked thanksgiving side dish covered with marshmallows.  I am so much more!

To really confuse things we rarely ever see a true yam in the US, they are a tropical tuber; sweeter than sweet potatoes and often with red or purple flesh, but can be white, with a brown or black skin. For our purposes let’s stick to our local definition.

In the US yams and sweet potatoes are both actually varieties of sweet potato, but are widely different in color and texture.  What we call “sweet potatoes” are usually a lighter colored flesh with a thin light colored skin.  The “yam” is the darker red skin with a vibrant orange flesh (full of beta carotene).  Both skins are completely edible.

For so many years the yam has been put aside to be eaten only one time a year.  My family on the other hand served them year round.  Mom would bake just them like a potato in the oven alongside a meatloaf or other dishes.  We would split them open with butter and a touch of brown sugar for a simple side dish.  But as I have expanded my own cooking I have add them to our regular repertoire.

Baking Sweet Potatoes
Baking a whole sweet potato (approx. 7 oz) will take 45 minutes to 1 hour to bake in a 350 degree oven.  Prick the skin and make sure to place it on a cookie sheet or foil as it will drip a bit.

But who actually has an hour to make dinner.  My favorite preparation is to slice into ½” to ¾ ” inch slices, toss with olive oil, salt, pepper and cumin and layout on a cookie sheet to bake.  They take about 20 to 25 minutes at 350 degree.

Using this method I have added them to several other dishes.  One of our favorites is
Arugula and Chèvre Salad with Yam croutons.

Arugula and Chèvre Salad with Yams
1 large yam cut into ½” cubes, prepared as above
6 oz wild baby arugula
2 oz chèvre

¼ cup sherry vinegar
½ cup olive oil
2 Tbl honey
Salt and Pepper to taste

Roast your yam croutons, turning often to allow to brown and crisp evenly (they’ll get brown and slightly crispy on the outside, but stay soft in the center).  While their baking make your vinaigrette by combining the sherry vinegar, olive oil, honey and S&P.  Allow crouton to cook 10 to15 minutes.  You can allow the croutons to cool or toss and serve immediately for a warm salad.  Just toss the arugula, Chèvre and vinaigrette, and finish with croutons.  I often serve this with grilled pork loin or ribs.

I have used the same technique to make yam coins for hors d’oeuvres, when trying to find ingredients for gluten free or vegan items.  Purchase yams that are approx. 1” around and cut at 1/4” and bake till firm.  Try topping with Chevre, tapenade, hummus or almost anything.

Pecan Yam Pie
One of my favorite desserts is made with yams Pecan Yam Pie

1 9” pie crust
1 lbs yams, baked plain, cooled and mashed (yield 1¼ cup)
1 egg
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp clove
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ cup cream

1¼ cup sugar
1¼ cup corn syrup
3 eggs
1 cup pecans
3 Tbl melted butter

Place the pie shell on a foil lined baking sheet as this could get messy from bubbling over.  Combine the yams, eggs, cream and spices, and whisk well till smooth.  Spoon into the pie crust, spreading evenly.  Combine the topping ingredients, and pour over the yam mixture.  However if you want to get creative don’t put mix in the pecans, instead you can use whole pecans and lay them out in a pattern,  then combine the rest of the topping ingredients and pour over the top.  Bake at 325 degrees for approximately 1½ hours or until a knife inserted comes out clean.  Allow to cool well.

Factoid:  While the origin of the term sweet potato is obvious, it’s like a potato but sweet.  But what about yam?  The story I’ve heard goes, a European explore in Africa asks a native what that potato like thing was, the response was nyami, which means “it’s to eat”.  But the explorer heard Yam and assumed that was the name of the thing.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Bourbon Dinner

We will be hosting (with Wilibees Wines & Spirits and JRB Event Services) a Bourbon Dinner to benefit the Petaluma Arts Center on June 13th.  The Scotch Dinner was a huge hit and this one should be even better!  Come see and support the Arts Center with this fabulous menu and bourbons...

Spring Peach Salad on Tender Greens

with Chevre, Espresso Pralines 
& Apple Cider Vinaigrette
paired with Bernheim Straight Wheated

Smoked Sea Scallops
on Honey Crisp Apple Slaw
paired with Woodford Reserve

Butternut Squash Ravioli
With Vanilla Bean Brown butter
Paired with Angel’s Envy

Smoked Pork Belly with Cocoa Cola Glaze
on White Cheddar Grits
paired with Templeton Rye

Bourbon Crème Brûlée
& Brown Sugar Cookie
paired with Evan Williams Single Barrel

Friday, April 26, 2013

Scotch Tasting Dinner

The Scotch Tasting Dinner fund raiser for the Petaluma Historical Museum went off wonderfully last night.  We had better than a sold out crowd; don't quite know how that happened!  The selection of scotches was a very well selected tour of Scotland, providing excellent examples from their 5 major regions, which produce very different malts.  I'm very proud of the food pairing, which worked out very well with some dishes I just loved.  The speaker Steve Beal did a great job, very informative and funny; I hope he will be available for the Bourbon Dinner in June at the Petaluma Arts Center.

The museum raised several thousand dollars, and I hope had a lot of new people introduced to this downtown jewel.

Shaved Matos St George Cheese with Roasted Pear and Spiced Almonds on Baby Arugula
pair with a Glenkenchie 12 Year Old
Smoked Salmon Rillette with Roast Red Potatoes and Asparagus Tips
 with Talisker 10 Year Old, Isle of Skye

First course
Shaved Matos St George Cheese with Roasted Pear and Spiced Almonds on Baby arugula
Glenkenchie 12 Year Old
Second Course
Smoked Salmon Rillette with Roast Red Potatoes and Asparagus Tips
Talisker 10 Year Old, Isle of Skye
 Third Course
Duck Confit Cannelloni with Asian 5 Spice
Dalwhinnie 15 Year Old, Central Highlands
 Fourth course
Braised Beef Short Ribs on Tattie Scone Pancakes
 Oban 14 Year Old, West Highlands
 Fifth Course
Chocolate Marquis with Scottish Short bread and berry compote
Clynelish 14 Year Old, North Coastal Highlands

If you haven't already liked our Facebook page, please do so to get updates on these events:

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Beet Salad

Roasted Beet and Chevre Salad
This is one of my favorite photos from last years events. We might still be in the tail of winter but beets are at their best.

One of the best flavor combinations is that of beets and Chèvre (fresh goats milk cheese).  In this dish I used three different beets, golden, chioga (Italian striped) and classic red.

It's best to choose medium to small beets, rub them with olive oil and wrap in foil.  Bake at 350 degrees, till tender (approx. 45 minutes to 1hour).  Check with a knife tip, it should go in easily.  I find the red beets take a little longer.

Allow the beets to cool. Often the skins will slip right off, but you might need to help them with a paring knife

Cut beets into desired pieces, place on platter, drizzle with a sherry vinaigrette, crumble the goat cheese over the top and this dish I finished with micro greens and black sea salt


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Bali (the Lotus Cafe)

One of our stops was in the beautiful city of Ubud in Bali.  An absolutle gem, shopping, lots of monkies and great food.  You might have seen it in Eat, Pray, Love.

We tried a traditional Balinese platter with about 8 different items.

One that was my favorite was the tempeh. Tempeh is fermented soybeans often pressed into a patty.
What mad this so different was that is was loose, but held together and a light sweet glaze. Allowed you to enjoy the chewy texture with crunchy little bits.
The view made the meal event better looking across a pond of water lilies at a classic hindu temple.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Singapore (Crystal Jade Dim Sum)

Since we are in the slow season for catering I was able to take a couple of weeks off and travel; I was particularly impressed with some of the food in Singapore and in Ubud, Bali.


First Dim Sum in Singapore

Crystal Jade is a chain of restaurants that were suggested to us and luckily they had an outpost at the airport

We  had Crispy Eel (not shown), I am a huge eel fan.  The thin slices of eel were dusted and fried crisp in a ligtly sweet sauce.  I need time to play  with the recipe.

 The second item with a steamed pork roll (right).  Center cut pork loin wrapped around perfectly cut carrots and cucumber steamed and served with a hoisin drizzle

Pork Belly Buns (above).  Steamed sweet bread that was topped with tender pork belly, good but I like ours better.

We also had a great meal in Bali, which I'll blog about shortly.