This Q&A was originally edited by my friend Jane Francis, for when I was a corporate chef. Gladly I can say that I wouldn’t want to be a corporate chef again unless…
But here you go. Below is also a treat for you–a recipe which fittingly works since springtime is amongst us. This dates back just a wee bit ago March 25th 2015.
On why I cook.
I love food. I appreciate its ability to give us sustenance, and to be relevant no matter what situation you are in. It’s a universal language. People always love food and can in some way shape or manner talk about it.
Cooking is like any vocation: It takes hard work, a team effort, and most importantly, passion. I cook because I love it and I can’t think of a better way to streamline the thoughts within my head. I believe that everyone should be able to have an avenue where they can experiment and grow. It’s a great feeling to constantly learn as well as teach.
Food is deeply emotional, and inherently creative.
My father was a baker. I remember the days when I stood on a step-stool and helped him cut dough. My favorite moments with him were Saturdays, when the two of us would go on adventures to new restaurants. I can’t tell you how important that was for me, to be able to taste different flavors. The strongest memories I have of my father are associated with food. With my mother, too, I have fond memories of the times spent in our kitchen as a little girl watching her pick herbs or chop meat with her rusted cleaver. She would blow onto a hot spoon that was freshly lifted from the bubbling pot, filled with stock or porridge and with one hand underneath, careful to not drop a drip, she ushered it into my mouth.
Food can be transportative, and it makes us expansive and open to possibilities. It can take you backwards and forwards in time; it can take you all over the world in a single bite.
Why is food important at Hattery?
Eating lunch together isn’t just an office perk, it’s an integral part of culture. It’s important to take a break in order to refresh and recharge the mind, and interact with the people we work with in a different capacity. Having a chef on hand who cooks good, healthy and comforting foods invites those in the office to take a little time to nourish themselves.
From the eyes, nose, palate, and into the belly, it is important that the food is always warm and welcoming. I try to make lunch an experience, a moment to fully disconnect from whatever you’re working on and reconnect with an elemental part of yourself. There is a chalkboard detailing what it is that you will be eating, a nice tablecloth, music playing in the background, the patio door open when the sun is shining. Each day I carefully plate and take a picture alongside a Tweeted description of what’s for lunch. I call it a very tech savvy cow bell.
Keep it simple.
It’s important for me to hand peel garlic, to decide whether to peel carrots or let them be. I find joy in hand grating carrots…I can’t tell you why. I like to cook as much as possible without using machines or shortcuts, to use the least amount of manipulation and really allow the flavors to come out.
With cooking, the most important thing is not to overcomplicate your food. If and when you do, you dilute it. I think this is true for any process of creation. That said, I’d like to share with you one of my favorite simple, nourishing, wholesome recipes. It is simple to make yet complicated in just the right way — and completely flavorful. In it we use our house preserved lemons, made by our resident baker and pickler Ryan Lee. You can purchase preserved lemons at specialty stores, or make them at home.
Asparagus, Preserved Lemon & Green Garlic Pasta w/ Ricotta Mint & Pine Nuts
for two to four people
8 oz. Pasta
1 ½ C. Asparagus
4 T. Fine Minced Preserved Lemon
2/3 C. Ricotta
¼ C. Green Garlic
¼ C. Toasted Pine Nuts
2 T. Mint
4 T. Olive Oil
Salt to taste
1. Bring water to boil: Season water well with salt to make it “taste like the sea”.
2. Place pasta in water and continue to cook according to packaged directions.
3. Heat sauté pan over medium heat. Add olive oil, place green garlic in pan and cook for 3 minutes. Do not add color or burn the green garlic. Add asparagus, toss and continue to cook for another 5 minutes. Season with salt (be mindful that the pasta water is quite salty. Taste all elements before you continue to salt your food).
4. Toast pine nuts either in another pan or in oven until lightly golden. Place aside.
5. Place drained pasta in pan with asparagus and green garlic. Transfer pasta to large bowl. Add minced preserved lemon, green garlic, ricotta and mint. Toss well. Serve.
Right now I am so happy to be in the present, cooking for the people at Hattery. I do know that I have lots to learn still, everyone has lots to learn, and it’s when you stop that you are defeating yourself. I hope that never happens to me.
What a really great experience. I was invited to cook a fruitful fete for 13 guests curated by Rimma Bosheritan. Rimma organizes a series of curated group talks called Dialogue, with each talk focusing on a different subject. This dinner was the wrap up for the years worth of seasonal talks.
Good friends Joseph Mcpherson and Meryl were there helping me out while Isaac and Jaime opened up their warm and eclectic home to the arriving faces and Angela Decenzo documented the night. It was really fun creating this menu, it felt like I went out of my comfort zone with plating but I can’t think of a better way to experiment than a table filled with mostly strangers. Here is the menu. I broke down the plating to first passed appetizers into the dinner. ❤ thank you to everyone that came and thank you Rimma for organizing!
spiced beet, pickled mustard seeds, chives dill and fromage blanc.
smokey eggplant caviar with creme fraiche, szechuan peppercorns
deviled egg, croquette de baccalao, aioli, marash pepper
chicory and carrot salad, sherry vin, pomegranate, persimmon and a savory granola with barberries and black lime
black cod. mole verde, fall squash puree, nasturtium, garden spinach
mussels escabeche, sea grapes, mussel reduction gelee, olive oil braised artichokes
hazelnut torte with chessnut and mascarpone cream, pink lemon syrup with urfa
Had a really great time doing a cooking class for 25 or so folks over at CookHouse SF. It was a really great day filled with nerves and anticipation, but it helped that good friends and colleagues Irene and Joe were there to help out.
A big thank you to those two as well as Maggie from WhiskSF for coordinating and planning the class with local non-profit Tipping Point. Delicious locally caught Halibut, provided by Water2Table and Chocolate from Guittard Chocolates.
I meant to post this recipe during the Thanksgiving holiday season, but since it has long passed might as well go into the other holiday season. Christmas.
We ended up at a friend’s house for Thanksgiving, a close friend of ours Alanna and Arlo. They have had us over at their house for the past couple of years, along with a great handful of other friends. It’s really fun, and always jam-packed with different nibbles and sides galore. So the challenge was what to bring this year?
This wasn’t procrastination, instead it was another moment of playing “Hey whats in my pantry?”, maybe it was both. Alanna usually masters the turkey and invites a hoard of folks over with their favorite sides. This year was a bit more mellow, so I came with three dishes. One of the dishes was a carrot, green bean and walnut salad with browned butter, the other was a little gem salad with watermelon radish apples tossed with a lemony tarragon and blue cheese dressing, and this little one; a blue corn and cranberry upside down skillet bread. Think of it like your average savory cornbread mixed with an upside down cake. I happened to have some blue corn on hand. It’s been hiding in a dark corner in my pantry waiting for me to use it, and what a perfect time to do so. I didn’t have enough cranberries to make a sauce, plus the hostess already made a really great fig and cranberry one, so there you go an impromptu side. It’s nice, slightly tart from the cranberries, slightly sweet, buttery, and savory. I really suggest the coarse cornmeal for these type of recipes because they just have a better texture, the crunch is a little more interesting.
I could imagine this recipe being really great with fresh herbs lightly sautéed into the cranberries right before the batter is even spooned over, right before being plopped into the oven. I used a coarse heirloom corn variety that I got from the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s market. I can’t remember the name but it’s the stall where the lady sells her pepper jams, and beans…towards the middle back…can you help me? Anyways, I’ve been wanting to use this for a while and this was the perfect opportunity to do so. Hmm…this would also be really nice with citrus on the bottom…stop me now.
For this recipe I have replaced the coarse blue cornmeal with coarse yellow cornmeal. It’s just easier to get, I recommend Bob’s Red Mill because it’s pretty much available at most markets. I also used chickpea flour in the same amount, but regular AP flour works just fine.
Cranberry Upside down Skillet Cornbread
Preheat oven to 400°.
For the first part of this recipe combine the dry ingredients; cornmeal, flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, etc. Mix all ingredients together, to well incorporate. Then add the wet ingredients into the same bowl; buttermilk, eggs, melted butter, water. Using any type of utensil that you need, incorporate dries and wets together to form a batter. Let sit.
Meanwhile, in a cast iron skillet, combine cranberries, olive oil, sugar and salt, cook on medium to medium low heat until cranberries have softened and skins have blistered.
Pour/spoon batter over cranberries and spread evenly. Lightly drizzle edges of pan with olive oil and place in oven while skillet is still hot.
Bake for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
I have a special guest today!
Just in time for Thanksgiving, a super fun and surprising recipe by my friend Dolores. She brings us a vibrant cranberry sauce with a subtle kick, a traditional non traditional and festive sauce that every Thanksgiving table needs. A little perk me up when things can go bland, and when you don’t want that plastic bottle of Sriracha in the middle of the table among the floral arrangements and goards.
I’ve known Dolores for a really long time, we both grew up in Chino, California and have now both long moved from this suburban town.
For the past couple of years Dolores has been traveling through Oaxaca learning the regional cuisine and after some studying in Mexico for her masters thesis, she spent her off time taking cooking classes and getting more in depth with her rich Mexican heritage and her family’s cooking. Easy to say, she has one of those stories that involves a life long passion for cuisine, traditional flavors, cooking which she has now converted into a website Lola’s Cocina.
I am super proud of her and want to give space for her here on my blog, she is absolutely one of the nicest individual who you could ever meet. Not to mention she is also beautiful, and super down to earth. Go visit her colorful cooking site Lola’s Cocina.
Please visit Lola’s Cocina and try her other recipes! Thanks Dolores for the pictures and your enthusiasm. Congrats!
1 ½ cup water
1 cup sugar
4 cups fresh cranberries
10-15 dry japones chile peppers
½ lemon juiced
¼ teaspoon salt
Authors Note: Dry japones chile peppers can be found in the Hispanic section of most supermarkets. They may also be substituted with dry chile de árbol. I used 10 chiles for this recipe and the spiciness was very subtle once the sauce cooled.