Lunch w/a Stranger

Who ever knew that a smile could go such a long way…

I once laughed and giggled all the time.  I got to a point in my life when suddenly my brows furrowed and wrinkled up-centered…my warped forehead showing signs of worry, woes and distractions.  I call it concentration…don’t get it so twisted now,  there is a time when you should smile and there is a time to think.  One can’t always be smiling, what is often a sign of annoyance is also a sign of thought.

But, certainly a smile can go a long way…

I was walking with my friend Andrew and as we crossed the street I caught eyes with a stranger and we exchanged smiles.  “Do you know her?”  No, I said.   We talked about smiles from strangers, the creepy ones versus the friendly ones, and jokingly made parodies of such cases from various passersby..

Upon my stroll home, I noticed two radiant young girls walking- almost skipping pass when I noticed their bright and beaming smiles like rays of light.  I smiled proudly at them as to acknowledge their happy innocence as they briskly passed by.   The air that day was clean, the streets lined with healthy and active trees with the fallen leaves of Autumn resting at their feet.  “EXCUSE ME!”  I heard, then again-next came the rush of footsteps and a tap on my went something like this…”Here you go…this if for you…’we’d like you to have this“- was along the lines of what they had said.   They handed me a red rose carefully wrapped in a well moistened napkin and placed in a plastic sandwich bag.

I looked to see their mother and grandmother waiting for the two girls to run back.  Of course in a state of shock, awe and surprise I gave them each a hug.  “Why me?” I asked, “Because you smiled at us.”  was their reply.   I asked them if they liked jam- Yes was the answer.  I motioned for their mother and grandmother to come over and offered them to come into my house for some homemade soup, bread, cookies and of course fresh homemade jam.  It was such a celebratory moment, how serendipitous that they had decided to go eat at a restaurant around the corner from me, one that they had never been to before.

11/11/11 – was a significant day for the family, it was the girl’s favorite number.  They were in the city to celebrate and commemorate not only the date but also Veterans day.  It was certainly a girls day out if I had ever seen one.  They also told me they were on a mission, actually an adventure, to do things that they had never done before, possibly 11 things: One of them being, give a rose to a stranger.   I detoured them from their lunch destination in hopes of just borrowing a few minutes in their day so that I could show my appreciation.  Instead we spent a good amount of time together in the kitchen getting to know one another.   So the four of them followed me to my little apartment and into my little kitchen, where we snacked on chocolate chip biscuits w/ sea salt, potato & zucchini soup w/ bacon, flatbread w/ Za’atar and Olive Oil, and peppermint tea w/ honey.

We shared stories mostly of love- how their mother met their father (who sounds like the nicest man!), all 4 ladies; grandmother, mother, and 2 daughters were so kind and loving,  they gushed about their father!  I shared my story of how I met Daniel and we laughed, giggled, and nibbled.  I was so warmed by this moment, this moment of total sincerity.  I still couldn’t believe that I had 4 such amazing and angelic faces at my table.

We parted with hearty hugs, an exchange of information, our names on paper and a connection that satiated our appetite for human interaction.  Also with a gift of a fresh jar of plum and yuzu jam.

Dear serendipity,

I had fallen in love again.

Thank you Lee, Tia, Kari and Jean  for giving such an achingly special moment-a moment that hopefully for them was something I would always want to remember.  Happy 11/11/11, this post is dedicated to the Jonsson Family who made my day!!!!

I have yet to test this batch of recipes, these are mostly rough estimates but that’s why there are readers out there.  Maybe Tia and Kari can test these recipes out for me!

Potato and Zuccini Soup w/ Bacon.
1/2 C. Diced Bacon
1 large Yellow Onion – Diced
1 C. Green tops of Green Onions chopped. (I used this because I hate to throw away the tops of my green onions and because it adds great flavor)
2 Cloves Garlic – Chopped
2 Sprigs Marjoram- removed from stem
1 C. Yogurt
3 C. Potato            (*I used Ruby Crescents which are waxier and are like fingerlings only larger – but other potatoes can totally work!)
2 C. Grated Zuccini
1 C. Grated Carrot
Olive Oil
*Optional* 1 tsp. Chipotle pepper or Cayenne
Start by adding a bit of olive oil to your pan of choice. add your bacon and turn on heat to medium-high.  Render bacon for about 5-6 minutes.  Turn down to medium heat -Add your onions, garlic, marjoram, 1 tsp. salt and cook till translucent – about 6-10 minutes.  
Add potatoes, coat with onions and garlic and bacon mixture.   Add yogurt and coat.   Add now carrot, and zuccini all at once.  Combine together then add water.  A enough water so that there is a good 2 inches above your vegetables.   Simmer till tender – Season to taste.  Blend by machine for a creamier more velvety texture, or mash by using a masher for a more rustic and hearty soup.    Garnish w/ Chives and a dollop of yogurt. 
Chocolate Chip and Sea Salt Biscuits.
1.5 sticks butter
1 C. Confectioners Sugar
1/2 C. Regular or Course Sugar
1 T. Vanilla Extract
1 Large Egg
1/4 C. Cocoa Powder
3/4 C. Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1 tsp. Salt
1 1/8 C. Flour
*Optional* Course Sea Salt to Garnish
Using paddle attachment for your mixer -cream butter and sugars on speed 6 till well incorporated or airy and soft- add cocoa powder -then add egg and vanilla set aside, mix till incorporated.   In separate bowl combine Flour, baking soda, Salt and chocolate chips.    Add dries to your butter mixture and mix for another 3 minutes.   Using tablespoon  measure  dollops on parchment and bake at 350 for 5 minutes check and rotate cook for another 3-4.
With this batch I also rolled and froze a log and re-baked it the next day, what yielded was a more uniform cookie and when baked a little longer came our crisper and more biscuit like. 
Enjoy ❤ and test.

New Day Dawns.

You come to a point, when things just happen…change develops and will continue to do so without your control.  You go with the flow without trying to lose your own control.
Flowing with the momentum gathering and extracting ideas and recipes.

Today I have two easy recipes for you, one is a vinaigrette and another a pasta recipe.  What I like about this is that all these recipes are approachable and their ingredients completely attainable.   See, I love pasta I love noodles and the following recipe sums up what a pasta dish is to me.  Light and filling and satisfyingly warm and comforting.  For this recipe I suggest any dried hand rolled pasta.  I find the nooks and crannies of a hand rolled pasta capture the sauce beautifully.  An Orechiette might also work, and if your looking for noodle strands I suggest maybe even a Buccatini

But I have to tell you, I used dry farmed early girl tomatoes and I found the flavors with these wonderfully sweet and tartly balanced gems pretty awesome when cooked with pasta.

Also there is a recipe for a vinaigrette.  This recipe for a vinaigrette or dressing is great because it clings on to whatever greens you are using.  I recently went on 101Cookbooks and found a recipe for a Double Broccoli and Quinoa salad – I made this dressing instead of the broccoli pesto in that recipe – I am sure that it changed the mouth feel of the salad, but it was still delicious – but I also used this dressing on a kale salad, and can imagine it being used with little gems and romaine.   Daniel and I also used it to dress our salmon En Papillote –  we also added a bit of preserved lemon and shallots in the parchment packet.

Strozzapreti w/Tomatoes, Zuccini, Pinenuts and Oregano.

6 oz. Pasta
3 Cloves Garlic – 1 T. Chopped or 1.5 T. Sliced.
1.5 T. Roughly Chopped Fresh Oregano.
1.5 C. Fresh Tomatoes – (you can also use canned but it will not have the same flavor)
1 C. Coins of Green Zuccini
1/3 C. Roasted Pinenuts
*Optional – 1/2 C. Fresh Ricotta.
*Optional – 1 tsp. Chili Flakes
Bring Salted Water to Boil – Add the 6 ounces of pasta. In Oven or separate pan toast pinenuts til fragrant and slightly golden.  Set Aside.  Start pan with Olive Oil.  Add Garlic-tilt pan so that oil and garlic creates a pool and infuses oil without coloring the garlic-  Add Zuccini – Toss well to coat – 2 minutes  –  Add Chopped Tomatoes – Cook another 3 minutes – Check your pasta – You want this sauce and pasta on the thicker and richer side- on the saucy side- on the also stewwy side – to do this the pasta will have to finish cooking in the sauce. Your pasta will be about 2-3 minutes from the finished cooking time.  This texture will be crunchy yet the outside will be soft – not quite Al Dente.  The dish will finish cooking in the pan with the sauce, the starches will lend a hand to developing the rich element of this dish.  The way the exterior starches in the Aborio rice helps to create the creaminess of a risotto.Add pasta + 1/2 C.  pasta water into sauce pan. Add roughly chopped fresh Oregano. On medium heat – Continue to cook . Let Stew and simmer till sauce richens and pasta is cooked.  Season with salt and pepper.  Be careful not to over season – your pasta water was also salted.

To Serve –  Sprinkle Pinenuts on pasta and lightly toss to. Finish with a nice fresh olive oil – You can also do dollops of fresh ricotta and black pepper. The ricotta will bring a delicious, milky neutral element to the dish – it also offsets the acidity of the wonderful tomatoes.

Creamy Tahini and Basil Vinaigrette.

1 Large Lemon Zest
1/8 C. of Lemon Juice
1/4 C. Champagne Vinegar
1-2 Cloves Garlic – Microplaned i.e using a zester- or very finely chopped
1/2 C. Tahini
1 Bunch Basil
3/4 C. Olive Oil
In a bowl zest 1 large lemon and extract it’s juice.  Rasp or microplane a medium sized clove of garlic into bowl,  add champagne vinegar, add salt.  
Add 1/2 C of Tahini and incorporate well till uniform –
Place your roughly chop basil in blender- pour in olive oil – Pulse til  basil is roughly chopped to releasing its green juices and flavors but has not yet bruised.  Bruised basil will result in a less bright basil flavor.  To do so place on high for a mere 3 seconds. Too much heat and speed from the blender will harm the flavor.
You can also use a hand wand, or you can roughly chop your basil (but be sure to use a very sharp knife) place in olive oil and press down to release the juices to create a basil oil.  – Slowly drizzle basil oil into the Tahini mixture and whisk til incorporated.  Trying not to break the dressing. Season to taste.

Le Sucre

My wonderful clients Sarah and Vipul had their friends over for an impromptu dinner party.  More than excited I jumped at the chance and made a 4 course dinner. Mind you gluten-free-  It’s a new challenge, but when I actually sat down to UNTHINK – I realized that eating a gluten-free diet isn’t as bad as I thought, considering my love for pasta and Tartine bread – actually most of my diet is fairly gluten-free.  So I began to create their menu…

The dinner was a success!  But a flour-less and low in sugar w/little or no dairy??? desert??  Oh me oh my…what could it be ?

I scoured the internet to find this little gem of a recipe from Scandi Foodie Blog.  I thought it would be the perfect ending to this savory dinner.   I made a few changes including using fresh berries, tossing the berries in some honey before baking,  adding lemon zest, almond milk and cashew butter into the batter.  They loved the desert and I equally loved making it!  I never saw myself committed to baking or sweets but being a personal chef  gives me room to experiment.  I wanted a bit more richness to the desert which sometimes lacks when you exclude butter and sugar in warm deserts.   The result was…there was a crackle of the clafoutis, the almond meal gave it a denseness and the cashew butter lent a hand to give it a richer warm cookie dough consistency.

Dinner Party 2011 April 8th

Chicken Pate w/Sea Salt and Dill & Roasted Artichoke w/Olive Tapenade – Over Sliced Apples.
Crisped Black Sesame Kale w/ a Flageolet Bean Ragout – Radish and Tarragon
Tri Colore Beat Salad w/ Avocado and Preserved Lemon Relish – Chervil
Cod Stew -w/Spring Vegs in a Porcini Broth topped w/Braised Endives
Double Berry Clafoutis. 
Double Berry Almond Clafoutis (adapted from Scandi Foodie Blog)

Not a Gluten Free Wayne Thibauld Cake. From SFMOMA Cafe


(serves 4 + depending on the baking vessel)
2 Cups Fresh Berries of your choice.  (I used Blackberries and Blueberries)
3 large free-range eggs
1 1/4 Cup almond meal
1 Cup organic ricotta
1/4 C. Almond Milk
1 tsp natural vanilla extract
4 tbsp raw honey or Agave Nectar
1/4 C. Cashew Butter
Zest of 1 Lemon
Powdered icing sugar, to serve 
 Pre-Heat your oven to 350º. Gently toss berries with 2 tbsp honey divide the berries into 4 ramekins.   Mix the eggs, almond meal, ricotta, vanilla, lemon zest, honey and almond milk in a bowl.  Spoon the batter equally on top of the raspberries on each ramekins. Bake for 20-25 minutes.  Leave to cool slightly, then dust with icing sugar to serve.
Please serve this desert warm*
The next time I do this recipe I am going to try whipping the egg whites into stiff peaks then folding in the rest of the batter including the egg yolks, to see what that would yield.  Also try using this as a tart filling.  Dark Cherries have long been a classic accompaniment to the clafoutis, but this desert is very versatileThank you Scandi Foodie for this great post.
I don’t think that I’ve ever had to use the words GLUTEN & FREE together so many times in one post!….well ever.
I am becoming more fond of deserts and the beauty of baking.  Briefly I worked in the pastry department, have done a couple of wedding cakes, but it’s at home that I realize the fun there is to baking.  There is a finesse, a majesty in the air of baking…a  discipline as well as patience lets learn.  Read more about the origins and the makings of a Clafoutis Here (Click)-Joy Of Baking.


I do this thing…

I have had a few interviews…

So I do this thing when the interviewer asks me why do I cook and I begin to tell my story… my throat starts to tense up – my voice starts to  shake –  shivers and a slight tremble of excitement trickle throughout  my posture leans forward and my eyes start to water and words get elongated.  It’s a bit of a trance.  It always frustrates me and I feel completely crazy when I do this but I just can’t help it.  I love cooking.  As a small child my earliest memories were food related. Running through the park with a carton of Donald Duck orange juice, as a todder there was a story of me walking out of a grocery store with cookies and ice cream unpaid for, my mother had to run back in. Baking cakes from a Betty Crocker box, squatting down on the kitchen floor helping my mother pick herbs and other greens, cutting up chicken livers next to my Hello Kitty Stickers.

I always wanted to cook, it lasted into Elementary school into my teenage years into college into well…now.   It fell into my lap but I had to make it happen and I just let it.  Now how am I gonna make a living outta this?

The other night a girlfriend and I (the beautiful Mia) had a farewell dinner at Zuni Cafe.  We sat down ordered wine and I left her at the table for moment to rush down to greet the kitchen crew.   I felt an instant rush of nostalgia and I knew that I would be missing all the people in this kitchen.  We were of course like some sort of family and a team!  Not to mention some of the nicest people whom I have met.

I stepped down to see another cook getting trained on the station where I work, and felt a bit of sadness as I knew that I was easily replaced. Feelings of separation really hit.   However, no ill feelings.  We…I just gotta go.  However, I have gained a slew of passionate and driven cooks that I can now call my friends.  I said my hello’s and went back upstairs to continue to my dinner.

I glanced down into the kitchen.  Our table overlooked the oven and the grill as well as the rest of the downstairs dining room. No regrets. It was magical.  I was able to sit and have a bottle of wine with her enjoying our delicious meal.  The meal as well as atmosphere really solidified why I loved working there.  Even the times well when…nevermind.

Photo: Daniel Dent

But what kept me there?  What inspired me? Learning…and maybe it was the freshness and quality of the produce and ingredients that peaked my interest.  Maybe it was the dedicated few that lasted beyond my comprehension.  Maybe it was Judy who constantly walked through the kitchen – hers,  a look of concentration – with the folds of her forehead working with her eyes to portray the inner workings of her mind- every –single– detail from food to dust thoroughly examined over relentlessly.   I’ve worked the station watching her trying to extract what I can from her unyielding quest for high quality and standards.

Maybe it was my naïve / romantic notion of what cooking  gives someone when they button up that white jacket, “CHEF”, but like I said, a person learns how easily they can lose patience and in the same moment gain patience.   The good bad and everything in between.

My palate grew, my cooking evolved, I developed more ideas, and I am inspired to do more.  Whatever happened it’s happening and will continue…is this too much? Stop me now.

Roasted Poblano Peppers Stuffed w/ Chicken Shrimp and Black Trumpets- w/ Braised Chayote

4 Large Poblano Peppers
1/2 lb of Ground Chicken
4-6 Medium sized Tiger Shrimp – Pounded to a Chunky Paste
1/2 C. Fine Diced Yellow Onion
1/2 C. Shredded Carrot
1/2 Chopped Black Trumpets
1/4 C. Roughly Chopped Cilantro
1 Leek Sliced at a Bias 1/2 Inch think
1/2 C. Cubed Chayote
1 C. Chicken Stock
1 Serranno Chili
1/4 C. White Wine
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 T. salt
1 tsp. Vietnamese Anchovy Sauce (you can omit this)
10 Grinds of Black Pepper
Prep:  Place in a bowl the chicken meat -Using the side of a heavy knife pound down and out on the shrimp – then roughly and carefully seperate the shrimp by going over once or twice with your knife. Be careful of the knife slipping.
Clean and grate a carrot – Fine dice a yellow onion – Roughly chop the Cilantro- Roughly chop the Black Trumpets- COMBINE Salt – sugar and the above ingredients in the same bowl as the chicken – mix well.
De-vein the poblanos by first cutting off the top.  Remove seeds and veins- Do the same with the Serranno and fine dice Peel and cut the Chayote to 1/2 inch cubes-  Clean and Cut the leeks into 1/2 inch slight biased cuts. Carefully fill cavity of with mixture – Heat up a pan , add olive oil – Carefully add poblanos and pan char. Remove.
Add leeks to give slight color, deglaze with white wine – add chicken stock- turn heat down- add Serrano & fish sauce &  Chayote. Season w/ salt.
Add the ingredients from the sauté pan into the roasting pan.  Place the stuffed poblanos on top.  Set Oven to 375° bake for 30 Minutes.  Finish with A good douse of Olive Oil.   When Serving slice on a bias and pour juices and ingredients from pan on top.

Cooking shenanigans will continue…

This Little Turkey..

Photo: Daniel Dent

I was off my feet for at least 2 weeks due to some foot issues and I can say that it has handsomely made me rate my time on the line and the look into the possibilities that await a cook.  This Little Turkey needs to slow down…

We spent the weekend out in Bodega Bay at a friends vacation rental and even though I wasn’t supposed to stand on my feet I just had to cook.  Sometimes I think that cooking is the only ability that I have to connect with another human being.  It really does consume my thoughts.  So as usual Holiday fare included a turkey; which was actually a roulade  of one butterflied breast rolled with a de-boned thigh, seasoned with Dijon mustard, rosemary, thyme, Apple Butter salt and pepper.   YUM.  The dinner wasn’t complete without the usual suspects of stuffing, and other sides from sweet potatoes, sautéed Lacinato Kale, roasted potatoes, and a stuffing.  The recipe for the the Kale was simply the same recipe from this post of Slow Cooked Greens w/ Apples and Bacon from Dec 2009.

Thanksgiving came up at just the right time.  The Autumn weather changes ever so slightly as we make our move into the winter, gloves seem to appear, parkas are strategically placed as if strewn messily on the couch, the smell of parsnips and turkey in the air, cloves and other Fall/Winter spices permeate the kitchen, the atmosphere around us changes as light goes into hibernation.  Colors of orange, browns, muted colors…the sights and sounds of each season are quite distinct, and of course this would not be a food blog without the mention of the flavors that enliven ones senses during this holiday season.

For me, it’s the taste of turkey,  gravy, sweet potatoes, foods that are rich, hearty or that have the ability to soothe and comfort someones Winter cravings.  OH AND SAGE!! How did I forget.  I just love Sage.  It is soft, smells so sweet and earthy and is such a subtle yet meaty herb.

Today I have two recipes that I would like to share with you.  One is a delicious Smashed Sweet Potato side dish and another is an overwhelmingly delicious Root Vegetable soup made with an exciting flavorful Turkey stock.

Sweet Potato Smash with Browned Butter Pecans and Sage.

4 Medium Sized Sweet Potatoes  or 8 Cups of Sweet potatoes.
1/4 C. Of Sage
1 C. Pecans
1/2 C. Butter
3/4 C. Buttermilk
3/4 C. Brown Sugar

Boil the Potatoes as you would regular potatoes for mashed potatoes.  Until they are fork tender.  Chiffonade your sage, but give it a bit of width (not too skinny). Roughly chop your Pecans.

When sweet potatoes are finished cooking, drain. In a separate pot or pan, turn heat to medium.  Add your butter and melt, then continue to add your sage and pecans till the smells bloom into the air.

Add your potatoes into a bowl and begin to mash w/ a potato masher (if tender enough even a fork will work it just takes a bit more effort).  Add heavy cream, 1/2 T Salt and Pepper, the Brown Sugar and the Pecan/butter/Sage mixture.  Incorporate all ingredients and set in a casserole. Be sure to not smooth out the top and just lightly make pockets for the next step.

Add about 1/2 C. of Heavy cream on the top allowing the cream to flow into the basins of mashed sweet potatoes.  Add a nice sprinkle of brown sugar.  Bake till top is golden.

Photo: Daniel Dent
For the Stock:
3 Fresh Bay Leaves
1 Onion
1 Carrot
Carcass of 1 Turkey.  (Here I used the uncooked  cavity f a 16 lb Turkey; including 2 wings, 1 neck and 1 bone from a de-boned thigh.)
Place ingredients into a stock pot. Cover with water.  Turn on to Boil.  Skim off what comes to the surface.  Turn off and set to a low simmer and cook for 3- 7 hours.
I like to cook my stock until the bones and completely collapsed and the gelatin in the joints become ultra soft and gooey. Doing so ensures that all the flavors within the meat and bones will be released.
After the allotted time allow stock to cool slightly and strain.  I like to use a bit of Cheesecloth as well as a strainer,  making sure that my stock is a clean liquid w/out the chunks.
For the Soup:
6 C. Stock
Photo: Daniel Dent
3/4 C. Celery Root
3/4. Parsnip
3/4 Carrots
1 C. Butternut Squash
1 C. Onion
1 Shallot
2 T. Chives
2 T. Sage
Olive Oil
Cut all root vegetables into 1/2 inch dices.  Except for the carrot,  I like to roll cut my carrots into similar sized cuts. Roll Cutting means that as you cut your carrot you are “rolling” it about a 1/4 of the way around then cutting to ever so slightly to obtain each rustic cut. When this is done.
Add Olive Oil  a pan that has been heated to medium and begin to sweat onions.
Add all the root vegetables and toss till onions are thoroughly tossed through.  Add Stock (cover to about 1-2 inches of stock) and continue to cook from medium heat to simmer. 40 Minutes.  At the last-minute season with the Salt and pepper,  Add the Chives and Sage.  Serve.  Enjoy.

You can use also purée this soup to make it into a smooth soup, but I like my soups chunky but still really rich with the stock.  If you do purée just remember to add the herbs after you have your desired smoothness or consistency.

AND IF YOU ARE STILL Reading and wondering what happened to the rest of the turkey we roasted and made the other breast into roasted turkey for sandwiches.  Which I highly seasoned with Old Bay Seasoning, and Fresh Rosemary and loads of Cracked Black Pepper.

AND IF YOU ARE STILL reading this…please feel free to pass this blog along to your friends and family.  I would really love to get more responses as well as to know who my readers are.  Thank you ♥


Beans…they are very versatile…a really great side, or thickening agent.  I really started to like them more and more since I started to fresh shuck these pods.  That fresh they are not as delicate as I thought.  And from dried, they reconstitute beautifully.

At home I find different uses for them.  I like them mashed and made into a spread for vegetables or toasted baguette slices.  I like them in soups as an added protein or sometimes as a thickener.  Beans…also great simply as a side item to your dinner, lunch whatever you choose.

In Vietnamese cuisine we use a lot of beans in our desserts, I do not remember much use for them in savory items, well I take that back because we had mung beans in certain savory cakes as well as the infamous crispy Vietnamese crêpe.  My mother filled this turmeric yellow crêpe with minced pork, shrimp, bean sprouts mung beans and sweated onions and scallions.  When it came right out of the pan it was like magic, the sides were golden and crispy, the  fresh vegetable and herb accoutrements were bright and abundant.  And, of course I can’t forget about her homemade fish sauce, and really…her’s IS the best.

I eagerly awaited for that moment when the crisped omelette looking item fell onto my plate.  Still steaming with glistened edges I usually ate that part first before I dug into the filled center.

Beans…needless to say I like them. When I was growing up in Chino California my El Salvadorian neighbors fed me refried beans when I would often get locked out of my house (I would always forget my keys), and as I got deeper into food and cooking I learned of their vast uses.  Now, the bean the legume and sometimes the pod that they come in have become staples in my cooking ritual.

This recipe comes from one day staring at what was in front of me…A glass jar of cannelini beans and a small bunch of still dew soaked watercress. I find that this “sauce” that I made goes very very well with poultry, fish and even pork.  I say “sauce” with much reserve because it is actually served cold like a relish.  Although I used this as a sauce for my meats, it is also really incredible as a thickening agent in soups, also as a base for a soup especially for those vegetarians that need a nice soup base without the need of chicken stock or even vegetable stock.

Daniel Dent

Bean and Watercress Puree

1 Can Cannelini Beans
1 C. Watercress
8 Mint Leaves
1 Medium size Clove of Garlic (I used about 2)
8-9 Leaves of Italian Parsley
1 Green Onion
1/4 of a Small Yellow Onion
1/2 Lemon
1/2 C. Olive Oil
Salt to Taste


If you have a hand blender ( I used my Cuisinart Kitchen Wand) Pulse… add in more lemon juice and or H20 or  Olive oil til you have reached a your desired consistency.

This is for you babe:


This puree is actually really delicious as a base for a vinaigrette.  Dilute it with some kind of white wine vinegar (I suggest a white balsamic)…what the heck…heres a recipe.

(added on Oct. 28. 2010)

Watercress and Cannelini Bean Vin.

1/4 C. of the Puree
1 T. White Balsamic Vin.
1 T Lemon Juice
Pinch of Salt.
1/2 C. Olive Oil.  *If you can use a really bright fresh pressed Olive Oil.
*This is really great over a multitude of greens!

Dinner for Two.

There is something so thrilling  about coming up with a recipe on the spot…I love it. My finger snaps, I close my eyes, and I start to quietly mouth out flavors that I think would pair well together.

Cookbooks are wonderful to have around the house.  I adore the old ones, the new ones, the encyclopedias of knowledge, and Dictionaries of scientific facts, the wordly flavors, and the combustion of ingredients.  They are my addiction.  But our home is small.  Filled with wonderful recipes, they become my references to inspiration.  I use as my sources for my ideas with recipes from blogs, to cookbooks to the many magazines that are out there. The other day I came across an article for Duck L’Orange, a classic French recipe in one of my magazines …I lost the article (where are you? ) but could not waste any time, as my car rental was expiring.  So I opted to make my own rendition of Duck L’orange.

I made this in a small cast iron skillet for my client (that I personal chef for)  and decided that this recipe, if doubled would be a great and luscious dinner for 2.  When I cook for Vipul, I have to decide that it is that I am going to cook for him that day…meals for 4 days made in one day. At first I was in a state of panic thinking about it…then well now, I realize just how fun and exciting it is to cook for him each week.  I will go back and list the recipe, but so that you can know what I go through every Monday starting at 10:00 ending at 8:00 Start to finish.  That includes having coffee and creating a list, creating a menu, renting a car, sourcing the meats, produce, prep, cooking, packaging, and plating.  Oh yeah CLEANING.

Here is this week’s Dinner Menu:


Dinner #1:
Salad: Ripe Cantelope, Treviso and Golden Heirloom Tomato Salad with Mint, Chives, and Red Wine Vin.
Entree: Thai Style Seafood Stew w/Cod, Prawns,and Scallops in a Lightly Spiced Broth w/Turnips, Tree Oyster Mushrooms & Baby Broccoli over Buttanese Rice.
Lunch: Slow Roasted Lamb Sandwhich with Calvestrano Olive Puree Treviso and Rapini Leaves

Dinner #2: Harissa & Mace Rubbed Poussin Stuffed with Cous Cous Flavored with Salt cured Black Olives Apricots reconstituted in White wine Pickled Garlic and Dill Flavored with Cinnamon alongside/ Roasted Sweet Peppers.

Dinner #3: Sage and Pepper Rubbed Chateaubriand alongside Paprika Smashed Potatoes and Slow Braised Rainbow Chard w/Fuji Apples scented with ginger and garlic.

Dinner #4: Duck Leg Braised w/ White Wine, Cream and Orange Juice w/Slow Roasted Garlic Cloves, Carrots Turnip Greens and Pearl Onions

But, will you…?

Photo: Daniel Dent

Dear reader,

If I do not write for more than a month will you still continue to come back….If I don’t write for two will I be forgotten?  What about 3?

It’s time for a change once again, and I feel it in my bones…something else is knocking at my door.  Will I open it.

Forget about that cryptic and personal message and lets focus on a new recipe.  Sheep’s milk Pecorino and Black Pepper Dumplings in a Chicken and Porcini Broth w/Mushrooms and Vegetables.  Alas, we are hitting a cold winter here in San Francisco and the other night amidst the rolling fog and mist came a new and very comforting soup.  I have to say that it held well for at least 4 days in the refrigerator, and all that I really had to do was add a bit more broth or water during the reheat, because the dumplings naturally thickened the soup.   The steaming bowl of soup called upon images of someone cozying up in a wool blanket next to a fireplace as he or she held the hot cup of soup in their hands for warmth.   Yum…and I would like to share this with you.

The soup is a homey concoction of sweet vegetables and rich cheeses…specked with a surprising spice from the soft broken black peppercorns.

Sheep’s Milk Pecorino and Black Pepper Dumplings in an Aromatic Chicken and Porcini Broth with Mushrooms and Vegetables.

For the Broth:

1 Whole Chicken
1 Gallon of Water
1 Bay Leaf
1 Yellow Onion Cut in 1/2
1 Carrot Cut in Rough Chunks
3 Stalks Celery Cut into Rough Chunks
1 C. Dried Porcinis
1 T. Black Peppercorns

Add the chicken and cover with water.   All the rest of the ingredients except Salt and Porcinis.  Bring to a Boil then simmer for at least 3-4 hours.  At 1.5 hours take out your chicken and remove the meat ( I prefer dark meat and only used the leg and thigh and partial breast meat).  Add your chicken back into the pot  as well as your porcinis and continue to cook for another 1.5 hours. While it is simmering skim off the muck that surfaces to the top.  Drain and continue to cook the rest of the meal…

Cool the reserved chicken meat.   Chop or pull apart the chicken meat to be added later into the soup.

For the Dumplings:

2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1 1/2 C. Grated Sheep’s Milk Pecorino
1 Egg beaten
1 C. Milk
1/2 C. Heavy Cream.
4. T Melted Butter
2 t. Baking Soda
1/2 T. Salt
2 T Course Ground Black Pepper

Add 1 egg to a medium-sized mixing bowl and beat.  Add your Milk, Heavy Cream and Butter.  In a separate bowl combine the following Dry ingredients: Flour, Baking Soda, Salt.  Combine the dry and wet ingredients incorporating until there are loose lumps.  Now add your Pecorino and Pepper.  Mix till no lumps appear.  Let sit for 15 minutes…

For the Soup:

1 C. Fresh Shucked Corn
1 C. Peas
1 Large Carrot (Shaved using a vegetable peeler)
1 1/2 C. Sliced Mushrooms ( I used a combination of: Shitake and Creminis)
1 C. Diced Onions
1 Sprig Rosemary
1 C. Heavy Cream.
1 T. Kosher Salt
1/4 C. Olive Oil .

In a lovely soup pot ( I love love the La Creuset enameled cast iron oven)  add the strained broth and salt, bring to a simmer.   In a separate sauté pan lightly sauté the following on medium to medium high heat: Onions, carrots, rosemary and Mushrooms and cream.

So because the dumplings will expand and are very fragile I recommend that you do not bring your pot to a boil when adding the dumplings.  Using a small spoon or Demitasse spoon,  form quenelles and softly drop into the simmering water.  Being careful to not add too many at once.  Cook covered for 15 minutes.  At this point they will be firm enough for you to add the rest of the ingredients.  Using a large soup spoon or object of your choice, hold the dumplings to one side and add the sautéed ingredients as well as the corn, peas and reserved chicken meat.  Continue to cook uncovered  on low simmering heat for another 20-30 minutes.

We enjoyed our dinner with a nice slide of toasted Tartine Walnut Loaf.  ENJOY.

Passin’ me by…

I’ve noticed that I have written about meat dishes feverishly…and it’s about time that I change things up. Cooking for Vipul is still a very unique experience and I have been able to experiment with MANY meat dishes…but I have also excluded the vegetable dishes that come alongside these meat hearty recipes. Because a meal without balance is not really a full meal.

I just can’t let these dishes pass me by…let me continue this post with a few recipes for vegetable side dishes…simple and plentiful…easy and damn delicious.

I really like the individual recipes for incorporating the merging of the many ingredients of my culture as well as my youth growing up in Southern California. Now with what I have learned as a line cook I can now use everything to my personal at home advantage and for my personal chef duties.

The flavors are Italian, Coastal, Vietnamese, Caribbean, as well as Indian.  I write with great anticipation for each recipe hoping to excite new and old readers.

It’s not a fancy fusion…it’s just instinctual.

This if for the very talented Valerie Shagday♥.

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Fried Plantains Avocados and Shallots.

Photo: Daniel Dent
1 large or 2 med Heirloom Tomatoes
1 Ripe Avocado
1 green plantain
1 Small Shallot
1/4 C.
1 tsp. Lime Juice
Olive Oil

Remove skin from the green plantain. Cut your plantains to 1/2 inch thick .  Boil until a knife can pierce through the
plantain and slide out easily.
Take out of water and cool.  Using a piece of parchment paper place over individual pieces of plantain.  Using either the s
ide of your knife or another flat object press firmly over the plantain to flatten to half its size.  Heat oil in a non stick pan and lightly fry till crisp on both sides.  Season lightly and drain on a towel.
Slice your shallots and macerate them in some red wine vinegar.
Cut your heirlooms whichever way you like; either in wedges or 1/4 inch rounds.   Halve your avocado and remove the pit,  using a large spoon begin to scoop out your avocado and slice into wedges.
Arrange accordingly:   Tomatoes, plantains, avocado slices alternating between and slightly overlapping.  Lightly salt and pepper your vegetables,  Squeeze some lime juice over the limes and the plantains,  a drop of red wine vinegar over the tomatoes, lightly squeeze the excess vinegar from your shallots and drop randomly over the salad and finish with a drizzle of Olive Oil and a nice sprinkling of parsley.

Jicama, Fennel and Golden Beet Root Salad with Lime Boccorones and Mint.

1 C. Jicama
1 C. Fennel
1 small. Golden Beet
1/4 C. Lime
6 White Anchovy Filets
1/4 C.  Mint
1/4 C. Olive Oil
1/4 C. White Balsamic Vin.

Peel:  Jicama, and Beet.  Using a mandolin slice shavings of your Jicama and fennel 1/8″ thick.  Slice your beet root a bit thinner.
Begin to slice your Jicama and fennel into match stick size cuts and set aside.  Macerate your beet slices in the White Balsamic Vin.
In a bowl toss your Jicama, Fennel and Lime juice w/ a few drops of the White Balsamic, salt and pepper and set aside.
Arrange:  Alternating between small grabs of the Jicama and Fennel salad, slightly overlapping so that you can still see the golden beet.  Lay your White Anchovies over the salad.  Add an extra squeeze of Lime juice, and drizzle of Olive Oil.  End with a generous sprinkling of chopped mint.

Curry Spiced Potatoes and Peas.

Since peas are not always handy year round frozen peas are always accepted.  Here I used a medley of red and yellow potatoes.

2 T. Curry Powder
1/2 lb. Boiled Potatoes
1 C. Peas
4 Cloves. Garlic
1 Jalapeno
1 C. Yellow Onion
2 T. Ginger
1/4 C. Cilantro
Olive Oil
Boil your potatoes in salted water until they become fork tender.  Take them off heat and cool. Reserve the water.
In the meantime grate your ginger, and rough chop your jalapeno.  In a mortar firmly pound your garlic and add your ginger jalapeno and some salt as the abrasive.
Dice your onion into small dices.  Roughly dice your potatoes.
Heat a skillet on high.  Add Olive Oil. Add your combination garlic, jalapeno and ginger mixture.  Turn heat to medium. Release these aromas into the pan and add your Curry powder.  Incorporate that into the pan then add your onions. Stir for about 5-6 minutes til onions are soft and translucent.
ADD your potatoes and Peas.  Continue to cook and scrape bottom of the pan.  If pan is getting too dry add about 1 C. of your reserved potato water.
At the last-minute add chopped cilantro and Olive Oil.


Black Eyed Pea Salad with Garlic, Ginger and Olive Oil.

This one is probably the easiest out of the bunch and takes up zero stove space!
1 Can Black Eyed Peas (Drained)
1 tsp. Garlic
1 tsp.Ginger
3 T. Lemon Juice
1/4 C. Parsley
1/4 C. Olive Oil

Finely mince your garlic to almost a paste.  Finely grate ginger.  Roughly chop parsley.
Drain a can of Black eyed peas, and place into a bowl.
Add garlic, ginger, lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Fold in parsley and the olive oil.

Sea of Love Lost and Found

So after the post about stuffed cabbage, I would now like to introduce to you Stuffed Calamari. There is probably going to be a few repeat post about stuffed food items and this will be the second installment. This is a boastful post about a wonderfully exciting dish.

I love this recipe! It was lost a few weeks ago but so glad it resurrected and was found within my memory Rolodex.

My mother used this recipe for her eggroll filling; clear vermicelli noodles, black fungus, minced shrimp, pork, and onions. I have been inspired again by her, but have revised this recipe’s filling; pork, minced shrimp, onions, mint, ginger and Preserved lemons among some other ingredients.

I really adore Fregola Sarda. It’s a Sardinian pasta that is toasted and shaped like tiny marbles and it’s miraculously tasty. If you can’t find this pasta around you can also use barley, farro or orzo…but the texture of these nibbles are pretty awesome.

Stuffed Preserved Lemon Calamari of Shrimp and Pork over a bed of Fregola Sarda in a Spicy Tomato Sauce.

Oh another thing…you must absolutely consider that this protein will shrink drastically while cooking! Mine were about 5 inches and shrunk to 2 inches when cooked! So please fill them only halfway.

8 Whole Calamari or Squid
1/4 lb Ground Pork
5 large Shrimp or 6-7 medium-small
1/4 C. Minced Yellow Onion
2 T Minced Preserved Lemon
1 T. Chopped Mint
1/2 T. Grated Ginger
1/2 T. Salt
1 t. Pepper
1 C. Fregola Sarda

For the Sauce :
1/2 C. Diced Yellow Onion
1 T. Minced Garlic
1/2 T. Fresh Marjoram
1/2 T. Fresh Thyme
2 C. Chopped canned Tomatoes
1/2 T. Dried Red Chilli Flakes
1/2 T. Grated Ginger
1. Clean your Calamari by removing the head and the outer layer. To do this imagine peeling off a very thin glove. Also remove the hard backbone within the body. Set aside. When that is done begin to bring a pot of salted water to boil. When that comes to a boil add the fregola In the meantime…
2. Set your pork in a medium size mixing bowl. Remove your shrimp from their shells, remove the vein – now you can do this part two ways:
1. Using a heavy object like the back of a sauté pan you can pound your shrimp to a paste-like consistency or
2. Using a sharp knife just hand mince your shrimp.
Mince 1/2 a yellow onion, Dice the other half and reserve for the sauce. Mince your preserved Lemon reserve 1 1/2 T. for the sauce. Mince herbs set aside.
Combine the meat, onions, ginger, garlic, salt, pepper and preserved lemons into a bowl, and using your hands mix thoroughly.
3. For the Sauce: Sweat your garlic and onions with a bit of olive oil on medium heat. Do not brown. Add the next 2 ingredients let bloom (which means let the aromas seep out) add your tomatoes and simmer for 10 minutes on medium to low heat. Add a bit of water if has thickened too much. Add the rest of your ingredients: red pepper flakes, ginger.   If it helps use a grater or microplane for your ginger. Simmer lightly for another 5 minutes or so…
4. Place your stuffed calamari in a shallow baking dish, pour your cooked and drained fregola over, and then pour the sauce. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes. By this time you can see them shrink to about half their size!
Plate and enjoy as a lovely meal or as a small plate
One of my new favorites to wake up to…