Cooking As A Communication Tool – Last week we had a house guest from Japan and

she wanted to learn how to cook something! Actually she wanted to learn how to cook something without the use of an oven.  Apparently, it is not uncommon to have a stovetop burner, a microwave, but not an oven.  So, the first thing that came to mind was Gnocchi with Pomodoro Sauce.  Although I usually bake…

Making her first batch of Gnocchithe russet potatoes in the oven, they can certainly be boiled in water on the stove.  She did a fantastic job as you can see from the picture!  She was very proud and will be teaching her mother how to make Gnocchi now that she is back home.  The night before I made Carolina Style Pulled Pork Sliders Lemon Cheesecake (Yumi’s requested) and I asked her (through my daughter-in-law’s translation) if she liked dinner.  She pointed to the Slider’s and said “I LOVE THAT”.  So, on to the Gnocchi…I am a big fan of perfect Gnocchi and if you have never made Gnocchi, I urge you to contact me to take a private class on the subject.  It’s one of those recipes that you can read about, watch a video on YouTube or watch a chef make them on TV.  However, there is no better way to learn than having your hands on the dough, knowing how much flour, egg yolk, etc. to add for the perfect texture.  I know some of you out there have had a lesson by me, so feel free to comment on your experience!  Here is Yumi’s Platter of Perfect Gnocchi with Pomodoro Sauce and Shaved Parm!

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You don’t have to be Irish to make a good Irish Soda Bread!

I am sharing my favorite recipe for Irish Soda Bread with you AND trust me, you can make this with your eyes closed (well, practically).  As a matter of fact I talked my brother John through the entire recipe over the phone (he lives across the country).  I had him take pictures along the way, and I did the same, so that he knew he was making the dough properly!  And much to my surprise…..

His picture of the final product and my bread picture looked exactly the same (no sibling rivalry there)! I have doubled the recipe and even 4 times the recipe with fantastic results.  Here’s a little bit of history: Over 100 years ago, hard wheat flour was scarce in Ireland so yeast was not used, because yeast needs a hard (hearty) flour to create carbon dioxide, therefore, allows the dough to rise.  Baking soda works with lighter flours, so hence the name Irish Soda Bread.  Also, you will see that I use Buttermilk instead of water or regular milk, because the good bacteria in Buttermilk gives it a moist texture rather than a dry-cake like texture.  I also add in caraway seeds and raisins, or I have used currants in the past and they work just fine.

So, remember, don’t drink green beer and drive!  We live in a small town so take a cab!!!!  Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you all!

Gotta go check the oven….

Irish Soda Bread

Irish Soda Bread

2 ½ c. all purpose flour

2 ½  c. whole wheat flour

1 Tablespoon plus 1 t. baking powder

1 t. baking soda

1 ½ t. kosher salt

1 ½ t. caraway seeds

5 ounces butter, cut up into small cubes

1 ¼ c. currants or raisins

2 ½ cups buttermilk, preferably full fat

Preheat the oven 375°F for 1 hour.  Combine the dry ingredients and blend the butter in with a pastry blender (or for those of you familiar with the “counting the cold, hard cash” method from cooking classes, use that).  Once the mixture is crumbly, add currants.  Mix.  Add the buttermilk all at once and mix with hands, if the dough is too sticky to knead, add flour as needed.  Turn out onto floured surface knead 7 or 8 times, divide dough in half, knead each half a few times, place each on silpat lined tray, pat down to 3” high, slash big x, sprinkle with oats, caraway and a little flour.  Bake until 190°F. internal temperature.  Cool on rack.  Slice with a serrated knife and serve with softened butter and honey, if desired.

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An Evening for two good Causes Benefiting Face 2 Face and The Sonoma Humane Society

Talk about a Designer Crab Feast!  Unbelievable food, beautiful presentation, impeccable service, and all for two very great causes near and dear to my heart!  At $55 per person, the dinner Chef Tony and his crew at Sea Thai Bistro in Montgomery Village prepared last night was truly a fabulous Thai feast, starting with the Dungeness Crab Soup with Winter Squash (Kabocha I believe), Coconut Milk, Shiitake Mushrooms, fresh lemon grass and cilantro.  Beautiful, so beautiful.

Next was Dungeness Crab Fried Rice with Cherry Tomatoes, Onions and Sun-dried Bing Cherries.  Again, beautiful and the cherry tomatoes were ever so slightly warm from the hot rice, that it was like a sugary-tomato explosion in my mouth!

Then we got down to the serious Crab! Chili-garlic-butter Spiced Dungeness Crab with Spring Onions! Uber-Unbelievable.  The crabs were huge, perfectly cooked and the sauce clung to the shells like a perfect Bordelaise Sauce hugs a grilled filet!  There was just enough spice to tantalize the taste buds, but not so hot that it interfered with the delicate flavor of the crab.

The wine was a Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand.  It was fruity and crisp and cleansed the palate with each sip.  Every spicy bite of crab dabbed in the sauce was a whole new taste sensation.  And that brings up a really good point, whenever I dig into crab, I get a little bored after a few legs.  Drawn butter and lemon juice only go so far, but a fabulous sauce can take you through the whole crab and make you question whether you want another one!

To finish out the evening, Chef Tony sent out a decadently-delicious chocolate cake square that sure tasted like Grand Marnier and fabulous chocolate, it also had a raspberry and strawberry coulis and vanilla bean ice cream (organic).

Upon leaving, our server Anthony, made sure he thanked us for coming in to the restaurant and participating in such an important cause in our community.  Whenever I see an employee of a restaurant take pride in what the owners are passionate about, it makes me feel really good to support them.  Thank you to Sea Thai Bistro, Chef Tony Ounpamornchai, and your wonderful staff for giving us the opportunity to share in your passion of helping out our community and serving food from your heart!

Sea Thai Bistro,  2323 Sonoma Ave., Santa Rosa, CA 95405

Phone: 707– 528-8333

Getting Crabbie!!!

Getting Crabbie!!

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Kitchen Culture – Do You Have a Kitchen Witch?

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A Kitchen Witch is a puppet or homemade doll resembling a witch displayed in home kitchens.  A Kitchen Witch provides good luck and wards off bad spirits! Did she come from Norway or Germany?  There is some debate over the exact country in … Continue reading

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Be Mine You Lovingly Dipped Strawberry! Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Shopping today at Trader Joe’s I found beautiful & delicious long stemmed strawberries, and their Pounds Plus chocolate bars for 4.99 each!  The strawberries were 5.99 per dozen (Limited Edition brand).  I used the Pounds Plus 72% to dip the … Continue reading

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Apple Casserole…this is German comfort dessert.

Is it a casserole or souffle?

A long time ago, I used to make something called Kaiserschmaren and this casserole reminds me of that!  The big difference is the way it is cooked.  Kaiserschmaren is a made-to-order dessert, and scrambled in a pan similar to the technique of making scrambled eggs.  Apple Casserole on the other hand is baked in a large casserole pan.  I used a large, old-fashioned Corning Ware pan, but you can use any baking pan or oven-to-table dish.  Of course, you will want the pan to be attractive since you are serving it in the same pan as you bake in. 

The similarity to the Souffle?  Well, just like a souffle, you whip the egg whites and fold them into the batter.  Have you ever done that with a Casserole?

So here’s how this dessert ended up on my blog: I was making the brine for a roast that I’ll be turning into Sauerbraten later in the week and I came across this recipe in a German cookbook that my friend Don brought over to my house.  I was thumbing through it and came across a beautiful picture of this dessert.  With a few adjustments and changes, here is my version of an authentic…

Ruedesheim Apple Casserole:

Serves 8 – 10

5 medium Gala Apples (or other juicy apples), peeled, cored and thinly sliced

¼ cup granulated sugar or vanilla sugar

½ cup white wine

½ cup water

Zest and Juice of 1 lemon

¼ cup raisins or currants, plumped and chopped

2/3 cup cream of wheat (not instant)

1 quart whole milk

½ vanilla bean, scraped

Pinch salt

4 Tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

4 egg whites

Preheat the oven to 355 degrees F.  Spray a large casserole dish with vegetable spray or butter it.  Set aside until needed.

In a medium saucepan, bring the milk just to a boil.  Add the cream of wheat and whisk vigorously, add the butter and vanilla bean and continue to whisk for 10 minutes.  Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and allow to cool slightly.  Remove the vanilla bean.

Meanwhile, combine the sliced apples, wine, water and salt in a large bowl.  Squeeze the lemon juice over the apples and combine.  Set aside until needed.

In a separate stainless steel bowl, whip the egg whites until stiff.  Fold the egg whites into the cream of wheat mixture and then add the apple mixture and fold until well combined.

Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until set and golden brown on top.  Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.  Serve with Vanilla Ice Cream if desired.

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Hello world!

Welcome to my new blog.  I hope you will follow my culinary adventures.  Whether I’m teaching a private one-on-one class, shopping for great deals in produce at the many Farmer’s Markets in Sonoma County or, finding a new restaurant with my friends, there will always be something interesting to read.

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