August 22, 2011

Chez Panisse Biscotti to celebrate the 40th Anniversary!

It is not a secret that I love Alice and all that she has brought to our table. She is a true visionary and been unwavering in her quest for good, clean, fair and delicious food for first her friends and then those who could afford to eat at her legendary restaurant Chez Panisse, and now for us all and especially our children.

It is really hard to believe that it has been 40 years since she wanted to bring her friends around the table to cook for them and support herself doing it. I can relate.

As it happens, my Husband's job was eliminated at the end of July, so we really cannot afford to participate in any meaningful way in all the events going on this month in benefit for The Edible Schoolyard Foundation, but I decided this afternoon, we would do my small bit to join in, and I think that it is so simple and delicious, that Alice would really approve.

I decided to bake the famed Chez Panisse biscotti from Alice and Lindsey Shere's book to celebrate on our own. Published in 1985, Chez Panisse Desserts is a classic, but not dated. The recipes are timeless and the results delicious. See for yourself. THe recipe says that it makes 4 1/2 dozen biscotti, but all said I had three dozen when I was done. I didn't have any grappa in the house, so I used up the tiny bit of madeira left in the bottle from V. Sattui Winery. The original recipe calls for anise extract and anise seed....both of which I did not have on hand, so I added 2 tsp of almond extract to enhance the almond flavor. I also only had salted butter in the house, so I used it. The recipe below reflects my substitutions, but it maintains the integrity of the original recipe "Aunt Victoria's Biscotti" on page 199. I think that Alice and Lindsey would approve and agree that the results are delicious.

Almond Biscotti

1/2 cup whole almonds, toasted and chopped coarsely
1/2 cup Strauss Family salted butter
3/4 cup organic sugar
2 free range, organic eggs
2 tsp almond extract
2 tsp maderia, V. Sattui makes an excellent local one
2 cups organic white wheat flour
1 1/2 baking powder

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Cream the softened butter by hand until lightened. Add the sugar, a little at
a time beating well after each addition. Add the eggs, one at a time until the mixture is smooth. Stir in the madeira and almond extract, beating well.

Mix the dry ingredients together and then add into the wet ingredients a little at a time until just mixed. Stir in the chopped, toasted almonds.

On a lightly floured board, make two logs of dough equal size and approximately the length of the cookie sheet that you have lined with parchment. Lay each long log carefully onto the prepared baking sheet.

Bake about 25 minutes, until just barely browned on the bottom and the logs just set.

Cool the logs on a rack for 5 minutes and then with a bread knife, slice the logs diagonally about 1/2 inch thick, carefully laying each slice back onto the baking sheet.

Return the sliced biscotti back to the oven for 3 to 5 minutes to continue to bake until very lightly browned. Turn the slices, then turn off the oven and let the slices dry for another 5 minutes before removing the sheet to a rack to cool completely.

Store in a tightly covered container if you can keep from eating them all immediately!

June 26, 2011

Blackberry Raspberry Buttermilk Crunch Cake

Here is a lovely summer recipe that will work with any fresh berries from the farmers market. Please remember to only buy organic berries and to wash them well.......berries are number one on the "dirty" list and hold pesticides like no other fruit of vegetable. Or better yet, grow your own!

Anyway, this recipe is adapted from a recipe that first appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, which I have adapted to be much more healthy and suitable for my Husband Troy, who is diabetic.

I encourage you to try it. The berries really shine and it can be eaten at any time of day, as it is not too sweet. It would be lovely paired with some fresh vanilla bean ice cream, or even a berry sorbet to bring it to the next level!

Blackberry Crunch Cake
Serves 24

Nut Crunch
• Oil to coat pan
• 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for coating pan
• 1 cup packed light brown sugar
• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
• 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
• 1 cup finely chopped nuts, preferably pecans or walnuts

• 2 cups white wheat flour
• 2 cups wheat flour
• 4 teaspoons baking powder
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
• 1 1/2 cups splenda
• 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
• 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
• 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 3 cups fresh blackberries/raspberries, washed and picked over

Have all ingredients at room temperature unless otherwise stated. Center a rack in the oven, and preheat oven to 350°. Lightly spray or butter a 9-inch springform pan and coat inside of pan with flour, tap out excess flour.

For the Nut Crunch:
In a small bowl, stir flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg together. Add butter, and with your fingertips or a pastry blender, mash in butter until well blended. Stir in chopped nuts with a fork. It will be like a nutty soft paste at this point.

For the cake:
Stir flour, baking powder and salt together in a large mixing bowl and set aside. Combine milk and vanilla extract in a small bowl and set aside. In a large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until creamy, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the eggs, slowly at first until blended. Continue to beat until light in color and fluffy in texture, 1 to 2 minutes. Reduce mixer to lowest speed, and alternately add the flour mixture in thirds and milk mixture in two portions until batter is well blended; scraping down the bowl with a spatula when necessary. Spread two-thirds of the batter over the bottom of the prepared pan. With fingertips, crumble 1/3 cup of the nut crunch evenly over the batter and scatter the blackberries evenly over the top. Spread the remaining batter over the berries - it's okay that the batter will just barely cover the berries. Scatter the rest of the crunch evenly over the batter's surface.

Bake for about 60 minutes, until golden and a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out free of cake. Place cake on a wire rack, and with hands covered to avoid a burn, remove the pan's ring.

Set aside to let cake cool completely before serving.

Per serving: 328 calories, 5 g protein, 41 g carbohydrate, 17 g fat (8 g saturated), 69 mg cholesterol, 188 mg sodium, 2g fiber.

May 16, 2011

Rainy Day Posole Verde Remedy

Spring this year has been strange. Cool and very very wet in California. And while we understand that April showers bring May flowers, we are still waiting for the April showers to stop and for the cold nights to go to sleep in wake of our "normal" Bay weather pattern.

Thusly, I still find myself in soup/stew mode. I have been eating alot of Posole Verde this year while frequenting Aunt Mary's in the Temescal district of Oakland, these cold Sunday mornings, and finally decided to make it myself. Jack's version at the Cafe is deeply warming and served with a hearty Chevre Corn Cake in the middle. Since we watch carbs in our house, because Troy is diabetic, I decided for my home version, I would leave this out and instead source really good whole dried posole from Steve Sando's wildly successful company Rancho Gordo. Troy, walking by the kitchen looked in the bowl of lightly salted water and posole said, "what are those corn nuts?"

Well yes, kind of. Funny that I have not thought about corn nuts in a long time. Anyhow, good dried posole corn does look alot like corn nuts. It has been pre-slaked,"to render slack", so that you only have to soak it overnight and then cook it another couple of hours for the corn to absorb the bright, roasted, smokey, green chile flavor of the stew. Alternatively, you can use the canned hominy, available in Mexican markets, but I find that kind of hominy, is slightly rubbery, and not at all what I envisioned for my version of this stew.

I also sourced and used really tasty and organically farmed Becker Lane Pork butt for my stew. I don't know where Aunt Mary's gets their pork, but Becker Lane is really good and readily available at nearby Berkeley Bowl West. They run a certified organic and animal welfare approved farm in Iowa, I know, not local, but I decided to go that way this time. Everything else that went into my stew was either made by me or sourced locally.

This recipe takes some time to put together, but is easily worked into whatever you plan for the rest of your weekend. I cut up the pork and seasoned it, put it into my oven in my lovely Bram ceramic pot with some homemade chicken stock for a couple of hours on Saturday, and set my posole corn to soak. Then I went about my day, going off the to Farmer's Market with Lucia. When we returned with our bounty, I simply took the pork out of the oven to cool. And that was that for Saturday prep.

On Sunday, I roasted off the poblano peppers, the onion, and the tomatillos on the gas burner on my stove top. If you are working with an electric stove, then simply roast the vegetables in a 400 degree oven until they are nicely charred and soft. I never remove the charred skins, as I love the black flecks and the smokey flavor that it adds, but you can remove them if you like. If you prefer your stew less smokey and more spicy, leave in most of the chili seeds too. I left in a few, but since I wanted Lucia to love this stew as much as I do, I composted most of them.
If you plan your prep you will reap the benefits of having this lovely warming stew to enjoy at the end of a busy weekend. Top with some creamy tart sour cream or chevre, some freshly shredded napa cabbage and cilantro and a good squeeze of lime. I also topped ours with a little chopped radish, as I love the bite that it lends, but you can do without if you wish.

M'Lisa's Pork Posole Verde

1 cup and 1/2 dried posole or 1 can hominy
2 cup tomatillos, husked and cleaned
4 poblano chiles
4 medium onions, divided
7 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons allepo pepper, divided
2 tablespoons ancho chile powder, divided
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons dried oregano (preferably Mexican), divided
sea salt to taste
1 3-pound boneless pork butt or loin
5 cups (or more) low-salt chicken broth
5 large garlic cloves, minced
4 teaspoons ground cumin
4 limes, each cut into wedges
Chopped fresh cilantro
shredded napa cabbage
shredded carrot
thinly sliced radishes
cotijo or chevre cheese or a drizzle of sour cream

The day before, soak dried hominy in lightly salted water overnight, drain.

Over a low flame on the stovetop, blacken the poblanos and the scrubbed tomatillos until blacked, cracked and soft. There will be alot of popping while these are roasting, so stand back a bit. Turn with tongs to blacken all sides. You can peel these if you like, but I like to use the charred skins to add more smokey flavor. Put the roasted veg into a brown paper bag, close tight and set aside to steam.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Thinly slice 2 onions. Heat 4 tablespoons oil in heavy large ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Add sliced onions to pot and sauté until onions begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon allepo, chile powder and 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon oregano; stir to coat. Sprinkle pork with salt and add to pot. Add 5 cups broth. Bring to boil. Cover and transfer to oven.

Braise pork until tender enough to shred easily, about 2 hours. Using slotted spoon, transfer pork to large bowl. Pour juices into another large bowl. Refrigerate separately uncovered until cool, then cover and keep chilled overnight.

Discard fat from top of chilled juices; reserve juices. Chop pork into 1/2-inch cubes, discarding excess fat.

Thinly slice remaining 2 onions. Heat remaining 3 tablespoons oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions; sauté until soft, stirring often, about 7 minutes. Add remaining 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons allepo and chile powder, remaining 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon oregano, diced chiles, garlic, and cumin; stir 30 seconds. Blend vegetables with an immersion blender. Add pork, reserved juices, and hominy. Bring to boil; reduce heat to low.

Cover with lid slightly ajar and simmer 30 minutes to allow flavors to blend, adding more broth to thin, if desired.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool slightly. Chill uncovered until cool. Cover and keep chilled.
Re-warm before continuing.

Ladle posole into bowls. Garnish with lime wedges, a mixture of napa cabbage and shredded carrots and thinly sliced watermelon radishes. Top with Cotoja or chevre cheese or a drizzle of sour cream.

May 07, 2011

Edible Schoolyard Plant Sale today and tomorrow 9am - 4pm

Edible Schoolyard Plant Sale!!

Join us for our annual Mother's Day Plant Sale! Saturday, May 7th, 9:00am - 4:00pm!


Tomatoes, basil, herbs, annual and perennial flowers, vegetables, bee friendly plants, fruit trees, and more!


Wood-fired pizza, Ici Ice Cream, Acme Breakfast Treats, Let's Be Frank Hot Dogs, Blue Bottle Coffee, Samantha Sunrae Sweets, and Cocina Poblana tamales!


Live music, face painting, student led garden and kitchen tours, Local 123 coffee workshops, Pop-Up General Store, Mother's Day treats, and more!


Gift Certificates: Camino Restaurant, Chez Panisse, Phat Beets, Monterey Fish Market, 510 Skateboarding, Moe's Books, The Missing Link, AMC Theaters, and many more!

May 03, 2011

What I am Eating Now........

I tend to get fixated on things. For awhile, several years back it was oven roasting the beautiful tomatoes that we grew in our backyard to preserve the taste of summer when the Winter rolled around. It worked too. Because I canned the tomatoes after they were roasted with good olive oil and sea salt, the jars last almost until Spring. But I digress.....

Lately, it has been empanadas. It started with my friend and Chez Panisse alum, Melissa Fernandez. She is now heading up the kitchen at Cafe Fanny in addition to running her own catering company Fig and Miel. She makes the most amazing moles and at one of the Pop Up General Store's early evenings, she also offered empanadas. Now, I love street food. Farinata......don't get me started. Tacos of all types, Bao buns....even the fancy incarnations that are roaming our streets these days. But Melissa's rendition was delicious and it lit a fire and started my current obsession.

I popped into Actual Cafe, in Oakland recently to grab a cup of drip coffee before heading in to the city for the day and low and behold, another empanada master appeared on the radar. Actual had several selections from El Porteno, Jamon e Queso, Carne (with Troy's fav Prather Ranch Beef) all looked amazing. But the one that caught my eye and that I have been nursing an obsession with is one that is normally not on El Porteno's menu, Swiss Chard with Pine Nuts.

Okay, okay! I hear she goes again with this veggie, trendy take on classics. But I promise you.........the flakiness of the pastry, and the peppery bitter of the greens and the little something that the pine nuts adds.....with a touch of sea salt. Man! TOTAL DELICIOUSNESS!

You will just have to try one for yourself, and while you are there, pick me up one too? Melissa Fernandez/Fig and Miel brainchild of Samin Nosrat and Christopher Lee

April 22, 2011

Kids Rally for A Fair Farm Bill

We are so lucky to live in Berkeley and have parents and neighbors who understand what good food is and what we need to do to
get small and medium farms the kind of support that previously has only been made available to big ag. It is such a travesty that our local family farms are having a hard time supporting their families because big ag is cheapening our food supply and with our government's help, squeezing out our local families who have been farming for generations.

I must also say, that there is a reason that big ag doesn't want you to know about their unethical practices. They are killing your family, slowly. The government subsidies of such corrupt corporations are training Americans to think that food should be cheap.
But the real cost of bringing that chemically processed, unethically produced product to your table and mine is staggering. And it goes against every single thing that your parents, God and the Universe teaches us.

I am truly afraid of what greed buys. Our world, our way of living, our effect on the planet and each other is suffering so greatly.
Isn't it time to STOP? Isn't it time to listen to that inner voice that says, perhaps I shouldn't feed my kid milk which has HFC added? Perhaps I should let cows eat what God made them to eat.....grass? Perhaps I should let that baby cow stay with his mother and let him see the light of day ? Perhaps I should try to understand that the USDA just passed an insecticide that labs use to CAUSE CANCER to spray on our strawberries?

What madness made someone decide that these decisions are okay and how much money does it take to make the very government that we create, suddenly think that giving kids cancer on their summer fruit is the right thing to do?

I just don't get it.

I know, that we are all jaded. I know that we are bombarded with political bullshit and tough decisions in our daily lives. But just like in so many other ways that our country has gone wrong, how long will it take for us to get back to the real issues and for our hearts to find a place again for doing the right thing, just because it is the right thing to do?

My kid knows what is right. Her classmates do too. And somewhere, I venture to guess, deep the place where you keep hidden the little child, just learning about the world that you once do too.

Be proud of this one thing that you do today to make the world, your own neighborhood, a better place. Give of your heart today.
I dare you.

January 23, 2011

Dark Chocolate Espresso Cookies

It is a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon here in Berkeley. We have just returned from our Sunday routine, broken only for really rainy weather. Lucia and I get up, lounge around for a couple of hours, we both are notoriously early risers. Me with my Four Barrel coffee and her with her warm chocolate milk....watching Curious George or Olivia, reading the Sunday San Francisco Chronicle and the New York Times. This am, the dappled sun shining warmly in the window of our West Berkeley home, we were more inspired that others.

We awoke Troy finally at about 8am and by 9am we were out of the house and on our way to Mama's Royal Cafe on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland for breakfast. The kitchen was a little slow this am, but we had little to complain about with the temps in the mid 60s ( is January folks!) and (gasp!) no line at all out front. True, we had to wait nearly 20 minutes for our food to arrive, but the wonderfully diverse, tatood servers were in amazingly friendly form and the coffee strong and good. We also, never go out to breakfast without Lucia's bag of tricks. For those of you without little folks in your everyday life, this is kid-code for color books, reams of drawing paper and several sets of washable markers. I ordered a version of eggs benedict (their hollandaise is light and lovely tarty lemony creamy goodness) with smoked salmon in place of the ham. Perfect eggs, really nicely brown and crisp potatoes with caramelized onions and of course the light yellow heaven on top.

As is our Sunday am tradition, we always go for a long, brisk walk after our Sunday breakfast out, and today, we found our way up to Lake Temescal in the hills approaching the Caldecott Tunnel. We parked the car in the shade, got our dog Bella out of the car and headed up the gentle rolling hills around the lake. It seemed that everyone was smiling today, happy for the sunshine and mild temperatures, bicyclists, kids, dogs, families playing soccer. It was lovely. After a stop at a playground for Lucia to cavort and burn off some energy and Bella to stare longingly at a handsome chocolate nosed would be boyfriend canine across the way, we headed home.

Daddy and daughter landed at the computer to play games and I.....who had been craving chocolate like crazy for several days on end, headed into the kitchen.

Having bookmarked several appealing recipes for chocolate cookies lately, I quickly read over several and landed on David Lebovitz's version of Cotilde's Very Chocolate Cookies. As I am a chef, and not a pastry person, I never (NEVER) follow a recipe to the letter. I should (sometimes) but alas, I don't. Today was no different. But in keeping with one of my vows for the new year, I actually wrote down the changes that I made.

The cookies, are delicious and as David plainly posts, you may not get to the baking of the cookies as the dough is soooo dense and chocolaty. The texture is slightly dry, but the lack of eggs in the formula quickly made me think that this recipe would easily and deliciously be made vegan by subbing out vegan chocolate and vegan margarine.

So, the next time the chocolate bug strikes, try these little gems. Use the best butter and the best chocolate that you can afford, and even if you think a little salt is weird with your chocolate, try a few sprinkled with Fleur de Sel. I am absolutely addicted to the combination. Also, make sure to cool the little disks completely before moving them as the dry texture firms up quite a bit when cool and they crumble easily when warm.

½ cup (70 g) all-purpose flour
½ cup (55 g) whole-wheat flour
¼ cup (25 g) unsweetened Ghiradelli cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
5 ounces (140 g) Guittard 60% dark chocolate chips
1/8 cup (30 g) espresso powder
½ cup, plus 1 tablespoon (125 g) salted butter, at room temperature
½ cup (100 g) (packed) light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
optional: fleur de sel

Preheat the oven to 350F (180C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat.

1. In a small bowl, sift both flours, cocoa powder and baking soda together.

2. In a clean, dry bowl, microwave melt of the chocolate (2½ oz, 70g) to melt, then let cool to room temperature, (in my microwave it was 1 minute).

3. Beat the butter with a standing electric mixer just until smooth. Beat in the sugar and vanilla extract. Stir to incorporate.

4. Stir in the melted chocolate, then the flour-cocoa mixture. Then finally the chocolate chunks and espresso.

5. Scoop the dough with a teaspoon and roll into little balls. Place evenly-spaced on the prepared baking sheet. Flatten into disks with the palm of your hand. Sprinkle with fleur de sel, if desired, then bake for 10 minutes or until the cookies take on a slightly dry sheen to the top. Tap each cookie lightly with the flat part of a spatula about 2 minutes before removing from the oven. Cool completely before removing from the parchment.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Recipe adapted from: