April 28, 2010

On the Road- Seattle and Bellevue

Seattle has been a whirlwind trip- I was lucky enough to be able to attend one of my student's graduation from Cordon Bleu in Seattle. After her trip to Tuscany a couple of years ago- she came home quit her job and followed her heart- getting a culinary degree.

We have been dining and feasting the whole week.

After the graduation ceremonies with pre and post parties - I went to work.

Classes at Sizzleworks in Bellevue! Based at my friend Louis' home in Seattle- I am able to rest between gigs.

Today left early to prep and cook for luncheon with other foodies at the Tidbit bistro the fun continues!

Tomorrow another sold-out class at Sizzleworks and then off to Eugene.

April 25, 2010

More Than 18 Reasons in SF

the 18 reaons space on 18th and Guerrero in SF

I love all the new alternative places that are opening up around the world to share the dining experience- hidden kitchens, secret suppers, dining in private homes instead of restaurants.

In our society today, sometimes it is easy to get caught up in the fast-paced race that often it is hard to take time to sit down to eat ( same thing happens to me when I get back to the states).
These new dining experiences get you to sit down and break bread with strangers.

Not only do you get a meal, but often, new friends with the same passion for good, simple, healthy food as well as often finding other common factors such as travel, art or even pet-lovers.

I was very lucky to have met the owners of Bi-Rite market years ago and heard about the dinners and wanted to participate. Their project 18 Reasons opened a year or so ago and I couldn't wait for a trip back to SF to check it out.My schedule fitted in with one of their Produce dinners- and Primavera with Divina Cucina was born!

Inspired by the seasonal vegetables we created a Tuscan-SF fabulous dinner, thanks to the wonderful volunteer chef. She made the ricotta, foraged for Borage and went far beyond to create a fabulous meal!

Here is some of our menu-

our asparagus flan with a truffled pecorino cheese I brought in from Italy

prepping the artichoke carpaccio with fried artichoke garnish

Tuscan crepes filled with wild borage and home-made ricotta in a light tomato sauce

There were so many courses and each paired with a lovely wine, chosen by BiRite Market's Wine buyer, more then just dinner a lesson too!

If you live in SF consider joining this fabulous community, there is more than just meals.
There are films, classes and art events too.

Grazie Mille Rachel and staff- it was a lovely evening.

April 22, 2010

Folk Art

I originally was studying art in college and still have a soft spot in my heart for any sort of art- but especially love this sort of wild lovely fold art!

Went to visit my friend in Sebastapol and she took me to her favorite neighborhood where we toured these great homes--- brings joy to daily life!!!

Sometimes it is nice just to be silly!!!

Thanks Rozanne for my burrito's and margarita's!!!
Next time cooking classes in the new kitchen there-

April 20, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me!

rolling hills around the RANCH

When planning these teaching trips, I start more then 6 months out to try to schedule teaching at schools and then fit in some other things to do. Now that I have my book out, I can also speak at events, do book-signing which is also really fun.

Through Facebook, I re-connected with a chef I worked with when I was a pastry chef at the Stanford Court Hotel in San Francisco. He asked me to come and do a book-signing at one of George Lucas' Ranches for the staff lunch, they would cook from my book and I would be a guest. GREAT- he picked April 19th as the date, my birthday, but heck--- why not?
I then planned to over night with one of my best friends in Sebastapol- fun all the way around.

I was told where to go and that my name would be with the guys at the gate to be let in. I arrived and no one knew I was coming. They were expecting me Wednesday! OOPS!

Somewhere along the line in the planning I assumed we were still talking about the same day.
No big deal- I took my extra time and headed over to Sonoma first to meet Ash of BRAM, the fabulous clay pot shop.

They are promoting my event with Rancho Gordo on May 1, I am the last of the four women chosen for the GREAT WOMEN OF THE KITCHEN SERIES.The selection of clay pots at BRAM is fabulous- I adore cooking in clay and always buy pots where ever I go.

Paula Wolfert is going to be at Rancho Gordo this Saturday with her new book on Cooking in Clay from her 40 years of traveling and collecting clay pots. She is the Grande Dame of Clay!

I am so looking forward to cooking with my beans from Rancho Gordo for the event!!!
Just like being home in Tuscany, where the Florentines are called Mangia-Fagioli; bean-eaters!

So I headed over to Napa to the New Rancho Gordo shop to pick up my beans so I can prep for the May 1 event when I get back from teaching in Eugene, Oregon.

Steve has an incredible selection of fabulous beans and also clay pots, some great herbs and salt!

And don't forget Steve's cookbook for beans on sale at the shop too-

April 19, 2010

Another fabulous class- today was so happy to have taught in tandem with my friend Terry.
We officially opened "In Terry's Kitchen" cooking classes in Terry's fabulous teaching kitchen in her home.

Both Terry and I have a past life as pastry chefs and have worked together doing a private class for my friends in Hollywood one year and was so much fun, we knew we would do it again!

I wish Terry the best of luck and want to join her on her next tour to Morocco!!! I heard about her last trip and it sounded so fun, cooking with the women in the village her daughter was working in- great connections.

Look for our next adventure- On the Cous Cous Trail- Morocco to Sicily- Fall 2010???

April 18, 2010

California Here I Come

California Poppies- foto Chris Lindsay

Well to tell the truth, I am already here and running! Was very lucky to have been able to get out of Munich, while at the airport waiting from 9am to 4pm I saw airport after airport being closed for the volcanic ash! We had to fly a slightly different route to avoid Paris and London ( which were closed) and flew around and got into SF a little late- but I AM HERE.

Now to see if I will be able to get home in May when it is time to leave- hope it manages to blow away without too much damage.

First class I did was last night at the lovely Cavallo Point Cooking School in Sausalito.

Great group, some return students from previous classes, so followers on my blog- so great to meet in person. We pulled off a great menu- I am always so pleased when we find the ingredients. California is so similar to Tuscany in many ways.

The work intensive dish was the hand-rolled Pici pasta with my Sunday Ragu, with red wine, prosciutto and dried porcini. They did a great job!

We had quite a few bloggers here too and I will link to their posts when I get them.

Today off to teach in a new school in Lafayette, In Terry's Kitchen, with my friend Terry.
We are tag-teaming so will be fun!

April 2, 2010

Getting Ready for the Easter Feasting

Buona Pasqua- Let the feasting begin!

I am lucky this year as we are invited to friends for Easter - so I can sit back and enjoy.
I don't know how many of you have the same problem I do- after cooking for days for large parties or feasts, I am just not hungry until after the party is over.

I have been asked by a lot of people what Italians make for a typical meal- here are some ideas:

some mine others from other people's sites.

Start with what is in season-

Fresh fava beans- we just shell and serve with a soft fresh sheep's milk cheese, Pecorino Toscano

Asparagus- lucky those who can just forage for the pencil-thin wild asparagus
I enjoy it lightly grilled, with toasted pinenuts and shaved parmesan cheese, topped with a drizzle of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar.

Artichokes- Stewed, fried or the tiny artichokes trimmed( example how to cut and prepare on link) and eaten raw! Sliced paper thin, soaked in water with lemon juice to prevent from turning brown, then drained and served dressed with EVO and shaved parmesan cheese.If you can find the bag of the small artichokes try the Leo's Frittata. Or the Jewish style fried artichokes that look like ancient roses!

A traditional meal will have a table full or antipasti and hard-boiled eggs are always part of the table. Taken in a basket to church with grandma's crocheted napkin, the basket is left on the alter to be blessed- Uove Benedette- Eggs Benedict?? The first thing eaten are the eggs, my mother-in-law would make some Tuscan Deviled Eggs, simply mixing the yolks with chopped capers and some olive oil. I enjoy the recipe that Gianni at the Casa di Vino in Florence makes me for a snack with my wine. Try it for a change.

Fresh pasta??? Risotto???? Any of the fresh vegetables make a fabulous pasta sauce or risotto.
Many families make a baked pasta dish, Florentines make a light Crespelle alla Fiorentino, spinach and ricotta filled crepes, covered with a light bechamel sauce and maybe a touch of tomato sauce and covered with grated parmesan cheese and baked.

Lamb- simply roasted leg of lamb or the lamb chops grilled with the Tuscan herb mixture.
Here the tiny lamb chops are called Scottadito, finger-burners, as you burn yourself picking up the tiny bones to eat them.

Oven-roasted new potatoes with the same Tuscan herb rub or spring peas cooked with pancetta or some twice-cooked spinach which even kids will love!

A nice spring salad- I add some fruit to lighten it up- of course the Sicilian orange salad is a favorite of mine, with or without thinly sliced fennel.


My favorite surprise is the large cedro in the photo. It is a large citrus fruit,called Citron,with a bumpy skin and an edible pith. It is sliced thinly and then sprinkled with sugar and left to macerate during the meal. Eating the Citron salad is like eating lemonade!
A savory version can also be made, salting it and serving with olive oil.

Italians usually buy the traditional Colombe, the yeasty Easter bread, at a local bakery or pastry shop.

Large hollow chocolate eggs have a secret surprise in them and are always fun!

I adore the Naples dessert called Pastiera- it is their cheesecake, but is enriched with boiled wheat berries and orange flower water. It is a major production if you also have to boil the wheat- a well stocked Italian deli should have the Grano already boiled in a jar or a can. Many Italian families I know in American use boiled rice instead!

Don't forget a nice Digestivo!!! An after dinner drink to help digest!

And as if that is not enough- Pasquetta- Easter monday is also a holiday- and most people use it to head to the countryside or the beach for picnics and long walks!