Friday, July 31, 2009

Chocolate Bouchons

Chocolate Bouchons

Several weeks ago, I went to Yountville for lunch with friends and could not resist visiting the Bouchon Bakery. The signature pastry is the Chocolate Bouchon at the bakery. They are about $2.00 a piece and I bought a half a dozen. The texture and flavor were amazing. I remember seeing the mold at Williams Sonoma and had to buy it. The recipe is on the back of the box and below. I did add a teaspoon of espresso powder to kick it up and put my tiny spin on it. Enjoy!!!

5 T. Butter
3 oz. Bittersweet chocolate, broken into pieces
1/3 C. Flour
3 T. Cocoa powder
½ t. Baking powder
1/8 t. Salt
2/3 C. Sugar
1 Egg
1 t. Vanilla
1 t. Espresso powder
Confectioners’ sugar for serving

Preheat oven to 350. Set the Bouchon Silicone Baking Mold on a baking sheet.

In a small saucepan fill the pan one fourth full of water and place a glass bowl on top. Bring water to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and add the butter and bittersweet chocolate. Let melt gently and stir to combine. Remove from heat and let cool about 10 minutes.

In a bowl, combine together – flour, espresso powder, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. In another bowl whisk the egg, sugar and vanilla together. Then add the melted chocolate mixture and combine well. Add the dry ingredients slowly, until the mixture is smooth and creamy.

Spray the silicon mold lightly with cooking spray. Scoop 2 tablespoons of the batter into each well of the mold. Set on a baking sheet and bake until the tops of the chocolate bouchons are shiny and a tooth pick comes out with a just a few crumbs attached. About 20 to 22 minutes only.

Transfer to a wire rack and cool for about 15 minutes. Carefully invert the mold to remove each one. Turn right side up and cool completely, Dust with the confectioners sugar. Makes 12 chocolate bouchons.

Monday, July 27, 2009

"Kitchen on Fire" - A Cooking School in Berkeley's Gourmet Ghetto

For Christmas, my sister was both creative and thoughtful by purchasing a cooking class for my Mom, me and our sister-in-law. She originally purchased from a cooking school that unfortunately went out of business. We all did some research and found “Kitchen on Fire” in Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto area. We wanted a “hands on” class and also had an interesting menu with something that would please all of us.

Kitchen on Fire was founded in 2005 seasoned restaurateur and author Olive Said and chef and caterer MikeC.  MikeC. can also be seen on the PBS show, “Hippy Gourmet Show”. The classes range from cooking 101 to baking to corporate teambuilding workshops.

We chose a class entitled, “Deliciously Quick Weeknight Meals”. The class had about 20 attendees from your novice to experienced cook. Having all experience levels made the class interesting. Chef Olive kicked off the class with his french accent and briefly went through the menu and highlighted a few techniques for each dish. Once he spun through and discussed the dishes, we were all set free to choose a dish we wanted to work on. I have been to several cooking classes and this one was the first time everyone was not assigned a dish to work on. We were able to work on a particular dish and then rotate to another one, to learn as much as possible.

Both Chef Olive and Mike were full of personality and very knowledgeable. Everyone in the class seemed to have a great time and the three hour class went by quickly. My favorite dish of the night was the “Grilled Roasted Prawns with Tomatoes and Feta Cheese”.

The menu consisted of:
Panzanella Bread Salad
Peas and Spinach Risotto with Truffle Oil
Grilled Roasted Prawns with Tomatoes and Feta Cheese
Chards and Carrot Lam Soup with Lemon
Sauted Steak in Sauce Marchand De Vin with Roasted Potatoes & Turnips with Rosemary
Pear Pound Cake (Quartre-Quart Aux Poires)

If you want a fun cooking class with chefs who have personality plus, then check out a class or two at Kitchen on Fire.

A group photo - My Mom, Sister Cathy, me and my Sister-in-Law Therese. A good time was had by all!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Bruschetta on Grilled Country Bread

Over the weekend, I had gone to Bouchon Bakery in Yountville and picked up a round loaf of the country bread. We had some for dinner on Saturday and then the next day, my husband and I were going to enjoy a glass of wine, so I wanted to make a quick appetizer that had a ton of flavor and was simple. I had all of the ingredients in the refrigerator for bruschetta and decided to add the mozzarella cheese for additional texture and color.

We enjoyed a 2006 Sauvignon Blanc from Rudd Winery in Napa Valley. Terrific wine that is crisp with a dense palate feel of peach, mineral, apricot notes and a hint of licorice. Had hints of honeyed melons, figs and smoke. Great texture of a white Burgundy with the complexity and zesty acid prevalent in California Sauvignon.

Bruschetta on Grilled Country Bread

2 C. – Red and yellow cherry tomatoes, diced small
1 C. Fresh mozzarella, small balls – cut into small cubes
2 Garlic clove, minced fine
2 T. Olive oil
8 Large basil leaves, chiffinade
1 t. Balsalmic vinegar
6 to 8 grinds of pepper
½ t. Salt
6 slices of sour dough or country bread (from a round loaf)

Combine all the ingredients above except the bread in a large bowl. Let sit for 30 minutes to have the flavors combine. Toast the slices of bread under the broiler and cool. I actually chose to grill them and gain that smoky flavor which enhanced the flavor combinations. Then cut into half on the diagonal.

To serve, place the bruschetta mixture on top of each slice of toasted bread and arrange on a large platter. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Bottega in Yountville

The Bay Area has a plethora of outstanding restaurants that are waiting for everyone to experience. There are so many to choose from and every inspiration is represented here: Fine dining in San Francisco to casual dining in Wine Country and everything in between. With a couple friends, we recently started “The Restaurant Club” and our goal is to choose a new dining destination each month and have lunch on a Saturday. The person who chooses the restaurant picks up the bill and then we rotate to the next person.

Yesterday, it was my turn and I selected Michael Chiarello’s new venture in Yountville, named “Bottega”. ( A quick tip – use Open Table to make your reservations. It is quick, simple and free. They send a confirmation along with a reminder through your email. Sign up today, if you are not already a member. (

Bottega is located in beautiful downtown Yountville in Napa Valley. It is rustic yet elegantly refined with warm colors, rich woods and stone. It feels like you are in an upscale Napa home and very inviting. We sat next to the striking wine room with cabinets of wine all around and an innovative chandelier with antique looking spoons dangling, and a large wood dining table.

The service was spot on and our waiter was knowledgeable, attentive and friendly. There was fresh baked bread with a sauce of olive oil, parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes and a touch of garlic to spread on top – outstanding. Enjoyed a glass of Frank Family 2007 Chardonnay. ( For the first course, I had the signature dish, “Polenta under glass”. It was a rich, creamy polenta with a slight crust of parmesan cheese and topped with caramelized wild mushrooms. Next to the glass was a small container with balsamic game sauce. The concept is to pour the polenta and mushrooms onto the plate and top with the balsamic sauce. The flavor combinations were out of this world.

Next course was the Smoked and Braised Natural Short Ribs with preserved-lemon spinach and smoky jus. The meat was incredibly tender – no knife required. We shared the dessert of white chocolate Panna Cotta with rhubarb fritti and Madeira rhubarb pappardelle. The Panna Cotta was so smooth and rich with a hint of cardamom. Simply delicious! Accompanied the wonderful dessert with a perfect cappuccino and just had a most glorious meal.

Had to pick up a few baked goodies from Bouchon Bakery ( The line was out the door but so worth the wait. Picked up a pain de campagne for dinner, a vanilla and espresso macaron, a package of their signature chocolate bouchons and some homemade doggie biscuits for Max.

Restaurant Club - Lynette, Brenley and myself!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Herbed Fritters with Pesto Aioli

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Herbed Potato Fritters

These are the most divine little appetizers I have had in a long time. The flavor combinations are out of this world. Take a bit of time but well worth the effort!


1 lb. Russet potatoes (About 2), peeled and cut into cubes
Sea salt
2 C. Flour
2 t. Fresh herbs, chopped (Thyme, parsley, rosemary, marjoram)
3 T. Scallions, sliced thin and slightly minced
1 T. Grated lemon zest
1/2 t. finely minced garlic
Fresh ground pepper
2 Eggs
½ C. Olive oil
Vegetable oil for frying

For the starter:
¼ C. warm water
1 T. Flour
1 ¼ t. Active dry yeast

Pesto Sauce:
½ C. Mayonnaise
¼ C. Prepared Pesto

Step one: Make the starter for the fritters. In a small bowl, combine the water, flour and yeast. Mix well and set aside in a warm place to activate and is covered with small tiny bubbles. (Should take approximately 45 minutes to rise)

Step two: In a large pan, boil water with a tablespoon of salt added. Add the prepared potatoes and reduce heat to medium. Let them cook for about 15 minutes or until very tender. Drain and place into a bowl. Mash with a fork. Cool completely.

Step three: In a large bowl combine the cooled potatoes, starter, flour, herbs, scallions and lemon zest. Mix well. Add the eggs and olive oil and combine. The batter will be thick and sticky. Cover the bowl with a towel and let rise in a warm place until it doubles in size. About 1.5 to 2 hours.

Step four: Pesto sauce is made by mixing ½ cup mayonnaise and ¼ cup prepared pesto.

Step five: Use a wok or minimum 8 inch deep stock pot. Add enough oil to reach 3 inches. Bring oil to 375 degrees. Each fritter will be about a 1 tablespoon of batter. Add enough fritters to the pan without over crowding. Carefully flip with a slotted spoon to prevent over browning. (Should take about 2 to 3 minutes) Place onto a cookie sheet lined with paper towels to drain.

Step six: Serve quickly onto a warm platter. If making in advance, up to one hour before your event, you can keep in a 250 degree oven.

(Adapted from Michael Chiarello's recipe - from his book "At Home with Michael Chiarello")

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Pan Seared Halibut with Salsa Puntanessca

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Pan Seared Halibut with Salsa Puntanessca

Our neighbor Hal, recently took a fishing trip to Alaska with his father. He caught several different kinds of fish, including Halibut. He had the various fish, flash frozen and shipped the lot back home. He surprized us with a couple pounds of Halibut. I thought this salsa puntanessca would add an extra punch of flavor and merry really well with the pan seared Halibut.

Salsa Puntanessca

2 C. Cherry tomatoes, small dice
2/3 C. Picholine olives, pitted and finely chopped
½ t. Dried oregano
2 T. Flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 T. Capers, drained
½ t. Garlic clove, minced
¼ t. Red pepper flakes
1 ½ t. Red wine vinegar
1 T. Olive oil
6 Grinds fresh ground pepper
½ t. Salt

Halibut Filets
Four ½ pound Halibut Filets
¼ C. flour
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

To make the salsa, add all of the ingredients into a bowl and stir. Set aside until ready to cook the fish. In a large frying pan, add about 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan and heat on medium. In a medium bowl, add the flour and season with salt and pepper, then dredge each of the filets. Add each filet to the pan. Cook for about 3 to 4 minutes per side or until firm and cooked through.

Set onto each plate and top with the salsa. Enjoy!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Pappardelle with Sausage and Peppers in a White Wine Cream Sauce

Pappardelle with Sausage and Peppers in a White Wine Cream Sauce

Wanted to be creative for dinner, yet I had limited items in my refrigerator, so I poked around to find assorted peppers from the farmers market, left over breakfast sausages from the morning and fresh herbed Pappardelle pasta. The end result was this delicious, creamy and flavorful pasta dish.


1 (10 oz.) Pkg. Fresh Pappardelle Pasta
6 Breakfast sausages, cooked and sliced into thin coins
3 Assorted bell peppers (Red, green and yellow)
2 T. Olive oil + 2 t. to coat the bell peppers
¾ C. Red onion, diced small
2 Garlic cloves, minced
1 C. White wine
½ C. Chicken stock
½ C. Heavy cream
1 T. Butter
Salt and pepper
Parmesan cheese for garnish

Step one: Core and seed the peppers. Cut each in half and coat lightly with olive oil, salt and pepper. On an indoor or outdoor grill, place each half and grill until slightly blackened and begins to soften. Remove and let cool. Once cool, slice into thin sliced and set aside.

Step two: In a large skillet, add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil and heat over medium for a minute. Add the onions and garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes over medium low heat until translucent. Add the prepared peppers and sausage. Heat through for a minute.

Step three: In a large pot, add water and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for about three minutes.

Step four: Add the wine and chicken stock to the peppers and sausage. Heat on medium for a minute. Add the butter and melt. Then add the cream. Drain the pasta and add to the skillet. Salt and pepper to taste. Toss quickly and serve in large pasta bowls. Top with a bit of fresh parmesan cheese.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Grapefruit, Jicama and Water Chestnut Salad

The Slanted Door in San Francisco's Ferry Building is a popular destination for both tourists and locals alike. The atmosphere and ambiance are undeniably San Francisco. The cocktails, food and service are spot on. One of my favorite dishes on the menu is this salad. I have been wanting to make it at home, so I developed my version of the salad. The combination of flavors and textures are simply amazing. Enjoy for yourself!

Grapefruit, Jicama and Water Chestnut Salad

4 C. Red Cabbage, Sliced thin
2 C. Jicama, shredded
1 C. Water Chestnuts, quartered
1 C. Grapefruit segments
½ C. Candied Pecans
¼ C. Scallions, sliced

Dressing:1 t. Seasame oil
2 T. Olive oil
¼ C. Soy sauce
1 T. Rice wine vinegar
1 T. Sugar
1 t. garlic, minced
1 t. Siracha Hot Chili Sauce
1 t. Lime juice
Salt and pepper

In a large bowl add the red cabbage, jicama, water chestnuts, scallions and grapefruit segments. To make the dressing, use a plastic container with a lid and add all the ingredients. Shake really well. Add to the salad ingredients and toss. Divide among four plates and garnish with the candied pecans.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Shrimp and Pork Shumai

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Shrimp and Pork Shumai

1 lb. ground pork
½ lb. medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
3 T. fresh ginger, minced
3 T. fresh cilantro leaves, minced
½ C. sliced scallions + ¼ cup for garnish
1 T. rice wine vinegar
1 T. sesame oil
2 egg whites
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 (10 oz) package round wonton wrappers
Napa cabbage, for lining the bamboo steamer

Combine the shrimp, port, ginger, cilantro, scallions, vinegar, sesame oil and egg whites in a food processor. Season with salt and pepper. Add the lemon juice and pulse to combine. Transfer to a bowl.

Assemble the Shumai:
Hold a wonton wrapper in your hand. Spoon about a one tablespoon of the filling into the center of the wonton. If you put your index finger together with your thumb, place the filled wonton in the middle and gather the edges of the wrapper up around the filling and then squeeze the sides together with your fingers to form a little cup. Lightly press the bottom on the table to form a flat surface and it stands up. Set aside on a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining filling – should make about 40 to 45 shumai.

Lightly oil the bottom of the bamboo steamer and line with the napa cabbage leaves. Stand the dumplings in the steamer and make sure they do not touch. Bring about two inches of water to a boil in a wok. Set the bamboo steamer on top, so you have a tight seal. Cover with the bamboo lid and let steam about 11 minutes until the shumai is firm.
Garnish each plate with a few sliced scallions and the dipping sauce.

Dipping Sauce

1/3 C. Soy sauce
2 t. Fresh ginger, minced
2 t. Sesame oil
½ t. sugar
1/3 C. Rice wine vinegar
3 Cloves garlic, minced
1 t. Siracha Hot Chili Sauce
¼ C. Sliced scallions

Combine all ingredients into a small container with a lid. Place lid on top and shake. Serve as a dipping sauce for the Shumai.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Coconut, Lemongrass and Chicken Soup (Tom Kha Gai Soup)

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Tom Kai Gai Soup
(Coconut, Lemongrass and Chicken Soup)

6 C. Chicken Stock
4 Stalks – Lemongrass, cut off both ends then cut into one inch slices
1 – Three inch piece, fresh ginger (peeled and sliced thin)
4 small Serrano chilies, Cut in half lengthwise without stem
4 Cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 (13 oz) Can of unsweetened coconut milk
2 T. Fish sauce (nam pla)
2 t. sugar
¼ C. Fresh lime juice
2 ½ C. Shredded Rotisserie Chicken
3 C. Mushrooms, quartered
1 Large onion, half slices
½ C. Scallions, sliced
¼ C. Cilantro, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lime, cut into wedges

Use a medium stock pot. Bring the chicken stock to a boil and reduce to medium. Add lemongrass, ginger, garlic and chilies. Lower the heat to medium-low, cover with a lid and simmer for 10 minutes to let the broth infuse.

Uncover and stir in the coconut milk, fish sauce, sugar, lime juice and chicken. Simmer for 5 minutes and season with salt and pepper. About 5 minutes prior to serving add the mushrooms, onions and cilantro. When ready to put into the bowls, garnish with the chopped scallions and serve a lime wedge on the side. Adds that extra punch of flavor by squeezing the lime into the soup right before eating.

(Quick tip: The lemongrass and ginger are not meant to be eaten – just set aside in the bowl.)

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Asian Inspired Dinner Party

We invite my cousin Ed and his lovely wife Paige over for dinner. They have an incredible wine cellar at their house and enjoy collecting Bordeaux wines. Since the theme tonight is Asian inspired, they brought over a Gewurtztraminer to enjoy. In addition, they gave us a 2002 Spring Mountain Winery Cabernet Sauvignon to put in our cellar. (It is going to be hard to wait to enjoy that bottle).

Several months ago, I visited the Pleasant Hill Wine Merchants and was turned on to Bex Reisling – what a find! Both whites complimented the meal wonderfully and were such classics for the Asian inspired dinner. We enjoyed wonderful conversation, memories, food and wine.


Shrimp and Pork Shumai with Spicy Dipping Sauce
Tom Kha Gai Soup (Coconut Lemongrass & Chicken Soup)
Grapefruit, Jicama and Water Chestnut Salad
Simple Pad Thai
Triple Sorbet – Mango, Raspberry and Pomegranate with Fortune Cookie


Husch – Gewurtztraminer – Anderson Valley – 2006
Tasting Notes: The nose opens up to a slight spearmint, asian pears and a hint of fresh cut wood. Soft and delicate mouthful with soft notes of lemongrass and a tinge of oak. Very soft sweetness and finish is very clean.

Bex – Reisling - Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany – 2006
Tasting Notes:
This is a delicious wine with just enough sweetness to give it a refreshing edge. Not overly-sweet, just enough. Loaded with peachy fruit and a layer of acidity against the fruit, the wine drinks so easily. Notes of honey, pear, apricot and minerals linger in the palate afterwards. Drink this refreshing Riesling with dinner or by itself.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Blood Orange Sorbet

Blood Orange Sorbet


½ C. Fresh Lemon Juice (5 to 6 Lemons)
Zezt of two lemons
¾ C. Blood Orange Juice
1/2 Cup Water
1 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Heavy Cream
Grate zest of 2 of the lemons into a large measuring cup. Use a juicer to create 1/2 cup of lemon juice and add to the measuring cup. Add the blood orange juice. Add the water and sugar. Stir quickly and add to small saucepan and bring to boil, stirring over high heat. Take off heat and cool to room temperature. Whisk in the cream and cover with plastic wrap.
Cool in the refrigerator for a couple hours. Use an ice cream maker, according to the directions to make it frozen and creamy. Transfer to a freezer container until firm. Overnight works best. Serve and enjoy. Served with a splash of sparkling white wine.
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