Thursday, December 27, 2012


Fontina Arancini

Often when making risotto there will be leftovers and what to do with them becomes a question.
A good idea is to make Arancini, which are little balls of rice filled with either meat or cheese, dusted in breadcrumbs and fried till golden. It has origins in Sicily and that's where the name derives from. The shape and color of the cooked rice ball looks like a little orange -and that's what Arancina means. These little bites are perfect for a snack or served as a hot appetizer at parties.

Cooked and cooled Arborio rice (risotto)
Small half inch diced cheese or meat (Fontina is really nice)
Good quality bread crumbs or Panko
Vegetable oil for frying

1. Form small bite size balls of the cooked rice, a small ice cream scoop works well.
2. Push a piece of cheese into the center of the ball and close up the opening.
3. Roll in the bread crumbs to evenly coat.
4. Carefully heat the vegetable oil to about 300-325F, a deep fryer thermometer helps
5. Gently place the balls into the hot oil and fry till golden brown, remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
6. Keep warm in low temperature oven till ready to serve.

Note: These can be made ahead of time and even frozen till ready to fry. In the photo I used Fontina cheese and saffron risotto which gives the rice the deep yellow color.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Romanesco Broccoli

There's an unusual looking vegetable called Romanesco Broccoli; it's a cross between common broccoli and cauliflower with little spiny florets. It's origins are Italian from where it gets the Roman name. It has a beautiful light green color with a mild broccoli flavor and it's an easy vegetable to cook. In the photo I cut it up into smaller bite size pieces and sauteed with tomato, garlic and lots of olive oil. It's in season right now- go and get get some to serve along side your favorite foods.

Chick Pea Soup with Bacon and Kale

Chick Pea and Kale Soup

It's rainy and cold so a warm bowl of soup sounds good. I made nice soup tonight with chick peas that I really liked and I think I will make often. This soup is a different take on the classic bean and bacon using lots of vegetables that are blended to make the soup silky-smooth. Bacon can be easily left out for a vegetarian version, but I think the smoky meat flavor is a great addition.

Chick Pea, Kale and Bacon

2 cups Chick peas, Cooked
2 Carrots, Peeled and Diced
2 Celery stalks, Diced
1/4 Yellow Onion, Diced
1/2 bunch Kale (sliced thin)
3 cloves Garlic, Sliced
3 cups Water or Chicken Stock
1 T Fresh Thyme, Fine chopped
1 T Fresh Sage, Fine chopped
3 Strips Smoky Bacon, Thick diced and crispy cooked
Dash Olive Oil
Kosher Salt/Pepper

1. Saute the onion, celery, carrot, and garlic in the olive oil till translucent.
2. Next add half of the chick peas and the stock, bring to a simmer and cook till the vegetables are tender.
3. Add the fresh herbs and blend the soup till it's smooth; add more water if it's too thick.
4. Bring back to the pan and simmer. Add the rest of the chick peas, bacon and the kale.
5. Cook till kale is wilted. Taste and season with salt and pepper if necessary.

Yield = 6 servings
Note: A drizzle of Extra virgin olive oil in the serving bowls is a nice flavorful touch.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Peanut Brittle

Sweet and Crunchy Peanut Brittle

One of the easiest sweets to make is a nut brittle with only a few ingredients needed. This recipe uses peanuts, but any kind of nuts can be used.

Peanut Brittle
1 quart sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1 quart peanuts 
1/3 cup butter

1. In a heavy pan or pot add the sugar, corn syrup and a dash of water, stir well.
2. Slowly bring to a simmer and using a candy thermometer bring the temperature up to 300F.
3. Add the nuts and butter, stir well till they are evenly coated.
4. Have a flat sheet pan greased with oil and on a surface where the hot candy will not damage it.
5. Carefully pour out the hot mixture and using a heatproof spatula spread it out evenly.
6. Allow to cool completely, then break into smaller bite size pieces.

Note: Corn syrup does not have to be used in the recipe, but will help prevent the sugar mixture from crystallizing during the cooking process.

Cooking sugar to the right temperature 

There are many stages in cooking sugar depending on what recipe you are making; brittle being hard and crunchy needs to be cooked to 300 degrees, which is called the Hard Crack Stage.

Peanuts in the hot cooked sugar

When the liquid sugar reaches 300F it's ready and the nuts can be carefully added using a heat proof spatula. Caution -it's very hot.

Poured into a lightly greased sheet pan

After the brittle is poured and allowed to cool, it can be broken into any size or shape.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Week Night Dinner- Pork Chops

Grilled Pork Chop with Black Cherry Onion Jam
I had a energy-filled free night so I spent some time cooking dinner; a nice thick pork chop. The first thing to make was the red onion "jam" using thin sliced red onions and black cherry juice which I slowly cooked down till soft and syrupy and I added a splash of apple cider vinegar to balance the sweetness of the cherry juice. Next I made risotto cakes using fine diced onions and sweet potatoes. After it was allowed to cool, I formed little round cakes using a ring mold which will later go into a pan to reheat and crisp the outside. Green Swiss Chard was washed and cut into ribbons ready for a hot pan. The star of the show is the pork chop, which I seasoned and put in a smoking hot grill pan that was put in a 400F oven to finish cooking. About eight minutes later it all comes together on a plate ready to serve. Pass the wine please.

Monday, December 10, 2012

New Restaurant, Lincoln Park

Pork Belly with Pear Sauce and Cheese Grits

Seared Rock Cod with Spinach and Chick peas

It's been close to 20 years since I worked with my friend, Chef Steve Simmons. In the beginning we both opened One Market Restaurant in San Francisco and since then our paths have crossed many times as we have both worked in different Bay Area restaurants. Steve's newest project is his restaurant and wine bar, Lincoln Park in San Anselmo, California. In the short time it has been open, the reviews have been really good, and the public loves it. Steve has embraced sourcing and using local ingredients cooked simply, and the menu reflects that. The mostly Northern California wine list also fetches a good selection available in a variety of serving sizes. The food is served on medium-sized plates, perfect for ordering a selection and sharing,. There is also a daily chalkboard menu with specials too.

Lincoln Park
198 Sir Francis Drake Blvd.
San Anselmo, CA 94960
415 453 9898
Open every evening 4:30-10:00 (12am on Friday-Saturday)

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Not Your Average Dorm Meal

Pan Seared Chicken Thigh, Sweet Potato Oven Fries, Wilted Kale

My daughter came home from college last night for her Christmas break. She had lots of complaints about the poor quality of food that is available at school and, "...can you cook me dinner?" After a quick trip to the local store, I had some of her favorite ingredients to make her dinner. In a large saute pan I browned chicken thighs and breasts, then I put sweet potato spears in the same pan to go into the oven to cook. After about 20-30 minutes it was all done. I removed the chicken and sweet potatoes to serving plates and into the same pan and wilted fine-sliced kale seasoned with just a touch of kosher salt. Quick and easy with only one pan to wash. My daughter was happy and she knows she will eat good during the breaks.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Sausalito Breakfast at Fred's Coffee Shop

Florentine Eggs Benedict
I think most people will agree that some of the best places for breakfast are little "Mom and Pop" restaurants. Sausalito, California has a few popular ones, and the one I visit on a regular basis is Fred's. It just might be the oldest restaurant there with 40 years and counting. Located on Bridgeway St., which is just down the road from the town's tourist area. The interior of the restaurant is a just a big open room with kitchen and counter seating on one side, small and community tables on the other side. Local vintage photos and art hang on the walls with copies of the morning paper passed from table to table. The menu is a straight forward breakfast and basic lunch menu including lots of egg dishes prepared in a variety of ways. I normally go with a spicy meat omelet or a form of potato hash. One of the culinary tricks they use is to blend eggs until frothy in a old style milkshake blender before they cook with them, resulting in light and airy eggs that are never hard and rubbery. It's a popular restaurant with the locals and the few stray tourists that wonder by; go check it out. Open every day 7am to 230pm.

Fred's Coffee Shop
1917 Bridgeway
Sausalito, CA
415 332 4575