Tuesday, December 22, 2009

On the Menu: Porcini, Chestnut, Leek, Farro Soup

I had a grainy mushroom soup revelation in the Marche years ago that I’ve never shaken, so this is a little praiseful bow to that moment. I’ve added chestnuts to the brew, which fell on our heads all throughout that late fall trip. I don’t know if we worship chestnuts as properly as the Italians - who finagle cakes, puddings, polenta, creams and pastes from the stuff - but I am completely besotted with their sweet addictive back notes.

I like my grain chewy, so add it at the very end of the cooking. I also crave brothy soups so serve this straight-up. Too, a splash of cream really gussies up the bowl... makes it festive enough for a holiday.

Porcini, Chestnut, Leek, Farro Soup

1-1/2 pounds chestnuts
1 cup of dried porcinis
1-1/2 cups hot water
3/4 cup farro
3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 medium leeks, cleaned and cut in half moons, light green part too
1 red onion, sliced in half lengthwise, then in 1/4-inch slices lengthwise
2 ribs celery, sliced on the diagonal, 1/4-inch (save inner leaves for garnish)
1 medium waxy potato, like Yukon Golds, peeled and cut 1/2-inch dice
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
4 cloves garlic, sliced
4 sprigs thyme, leaves plucked
5 to 6 cups stock or water
Cream (optional)
Small hunk of Parmesan
Virgin olive oil
Handful of celery leaves (optional)

Preheat oven to 375. Lightly score an x into chestnut shells on the flat side, trying not to cut into the nut meat too much. Spread them on a sheet pan and roast 20 to 30 minutes until the shells curl away from the nut. Cool, peel and roughly slice. Set aside.

Soak the porcinis in hot water until tender, at least 15 minutes. Squeeze the water out of the mushrooms over a bowl and save the liquid. Chop the mushrooms roughly. Set aside.

Place the farro in a small pot and cover with water by 2 inches. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 20 minutes until al dente. Strain and spread out on a plate to cool.

In a large, lined pot big enough to hold the soup heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add leek, onion, celery and a good pinch of salt and pepper and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the chestnuts and potatoes, sauté 2 minutes. Pour over the porcini liquid being careful not to add any grit lingering at the bottom, and reduce until almost dry. Cover with stock or water by about 1-inch (add more liquid if necessary). Simmer about 20 minutes until the potato is tender and the flavors meld. Taste and season as necessary. Add a splash of cream if desired. Add the farro right before you serve the soup (otherwise it can suck up all the wonderful broth!) and finish with a shaving of parmesan, a drizzle of virgin oil and the celery leaves.

For a creamier soup: Before you’ve added the farro you may purée a cup or two of the soup - with a splash of cream if desired - and then pour it back into the pot. Add farro right before you serve.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Rickie Lee Jones Plays "Wild Girl" Live on Soundcheck

For those of us with daughters. For all of us. Thank you Candy for sending me this gorgeous thing.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Arrivederci Maiale

We finally polished off the last of our gorgeous pig.

Our Greek grocer friend Bobby, from Haight Street Market, lent us his mega spit (something like this), which he uses to turn whole lambs on. He sews lemon and herb bunches into them then stabs them with garlic.

We had one huge pig haunch left... the last scrap of our Devil's Gulch side.

We scored, oiled, herbed, poked, screwed, rammed and bolted the thing, then hefted it onto its glowing alter to slow-turn/smoke for seven hours.

It was dwarfed by the spit, but we just kept scooping little red coal dust mountains around it.

Don't ever let anyone ever tell you there's a better way to cook meat.

Our next dream restaurant has seating under sun & stars and about ten of these babies turning in tandem.

The gifts of one single pork side (nothing left untouched):

Spit-Roast Leg
Slow Low Eight-Hour Pork Butt
Braised Fresh Bacon
Head Cheese (foot, head, tongue)
"Party Roasts" (unidentifiable wedges)
Pozole Verde
Grilled Giant Porterhouse
Fried Tail/Ear (thank you F. Henderson and H. Fearnley-Whittingstall)
Cracklins and, by extention...
Luscious Lard

Very, very grateful.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

From the Menu: Persimmon Pomegranate Madness

This looks so polished and all, but really it's just one big seed party. Toasted pepitas (which sound so much more natty than just pumpkin seeds), and pomegranate jewels are the sweet little pips that the whole salad is built around.

I love using pomegranate and persimmons together when their short seasons overlap. I mean, the sheer color riot alone...

And just what is it about pomegranate molasses anyway? All that astringent vanilla-tinged goodness. Insanely addictive. It is the perfect tart counterpoint to fuyu/fresh ricotta creaminess. Also its hugely copacetic with citrus, dates, pine nuts, mint, salmon, rice, yogurt... definitely a pantry stalwart.

Persimmon Salad with Pomegranate, Fresh Ricotta, Pepitas and Pomegranate Molasses (for 6)

1/2 cup pepitas

Sea salt

2 tablespoons regular olive oil

2 teaspoons aged sherry vinegar

Virgin olive oil

Pepper, freshly ground

3 cups watercress, about 1 large bunch, cleaned

3 Belgian endives, cleaned and separated into spears

2 cups fresh ricotta, like Bellwether Farms

3 Fuyu persimmons, washed and cut into 1/4-inch slices widthwise

1 pomegranate, seeded for about 1 cup of seeds

1/4 cup pomegranate molasses

Put the pepitas in a medium sauté pan with a pinch of salt and toast over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes until they start to get fragrant and golden. Set aside to cool. In a medium bowl whisk the sherry vinegar with a pinch of salt and pepper. Whisk in a tablespoon of virgin oil. Add the watercress and the endive to the bowl and gently toss. Use about three persimmon rounds (half rounds if large) per plate, laid down in a triangle shape. Place endive spears between the persimmons, then a good handful of the watercress in the center of the plates. Dot dollops of ricotta around the cress, and sprinkle with pepitas and pomegranate seeds. Drizzle with pomegranate molasses and finish with a drizzle of virgin olive oil and a grinding of pepper. You can also arrange this all on one big beautiful platter, family-style.

Notes: You can grill the persimmon for added smokiness. And this salad is just as beautiful with roasted squash substituted for the persimmon.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Dawn Landes - Young Folks (bluegrass style)

Sunday morning. What sweetness is this -

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Foodish Poem Love

She's such a master. You already know this if you read Plague of the Doves.

Advice to Myself

Leave the dishes.

Let the celery rot in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator

and an earthen scum harden on the kitchen floor.

Leave the black crumbs in the bottom of the toaster.

Throw the cracked bowl out and don't patch the cup.

Don't patch anything. Don't mend. Buy safety pins.

Don't even sew on a button.

Let the wind have its way, then the earth

that invades as dust and then the dead

foaming up in gray rolls underneath the couch.

Talk to them. Tell them they are welcome.

Don't keep all the pieces of the puzzles

or the doll's tiny shoes in pairs, don't worry

who uses whose toothbrush or if anything

matches, at all.

Except one word to another. Or a thought.

Pursue the authentic-decide first

what is authentic,

then go after it with all your heart.

Your heart, that place

you don't even think of cleaning out.

That closet stuffed with savage mementos.

Don't sort the paper clips from screws from saved baby teeth

or worry if we're all eating cereal for dinner

again. Don't answer the telephone, ever,

or weep over anything at all that breaks.

Pink molds will grow within those sealed cartons

in the refrigerator. Accept new forms of life

and talk to the dead

who drift in though the screened windows, who collect

patiently on the tops of food jars and books.

Recycle the mail, don't read it, don't read anything

except what destroys

the insulation between yourself and your experience

or what pulls down or what strikes at or what shatters

this ruse you call necessity.

-Louise Erdrich

Sunday, November 8, 2009

From the Menu: Chestnut, Farro and Kabocha Squash Soup

Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers of the River Cafe continually inspire me. I especially love their rough soups. Most puréed food seems silly to me anymore, although I understand its kid-appeal. And even when I do go that route - for intense amalgamated flavor - I'll add texture back to what I'm making by finishing it with big chunky bits of whatever is in it, and/or rough-cut herbs, little buttery croutons, crisped cured pork. I want to feel the shape of what I’m eating.

I’ve tweaked this recipe slightly. Crumbly, dense kabocha squash is a favorite, so I’ve substituted it for the onion pumpkin called for. I crave the dark smoky heat of chilies de arbol, so I've used them specifically and have upped the ante... be careful here. And, as all I had in the house one evening was guanciale (cured pork cheeks), I used it for the pancetta and it was wonderful, too. Try it if you have some. Sage also works beautifully for the rosemary, and to me the dish begs for a hard, nutty cheese like parmesan.

Chestnut, Farro and Kabocha Squash Soup

1- 1/2 pounds fresh chestnuts
2 pounds (one smallish) Kabocha squash, peeled, seeded, cut into
1-inch cubes
6 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3/4 cup farro
8 oz pancetta or guanciale, cut into lardons
2 medium red or yellow onions, sliced in half lengthwise, then in
1/4-inch slices lengthwise
1 whole head celery, washed well, dried, and cut into 1/4 -inch
diagonals widthwise (save the leaves for finishing the soup)
6 medium cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
3 mediumchilies de arbol, or other dried chilie, seeded and crumbled (use less if you don't like much heat)
2 teaspoons sage or rosemary leaves, roughly chopped, about 1 stem
5 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
Virgin olive oil to finish
2 oz. Parmesan (optional)

Preheat oven to 375. Lightly score an x into chestnut shells on the flat side, trying not to cut into the nut meat too much. Spread them on a sheet pan and roast 20 to 30 minutes until the shells curl away from the nut. Cool, peel and roughly slice. Set aside. Toss squash with 3 tablespoons olive oil, a pinch of salt, pepper and the brown sugar. Spread on a sheet pan and roast until fully tender, about 30 minutes. Set aside. Place the farro in a small pot and cover with water by an inch. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes until al dente. Remove from water and spread out on a plate to cool.

In a large, lined pot big enough to hold the soup heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat and sauté pancetta until rendered and lightly browned. Add onions, celery, a good pinch of salt and pepper and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes. Add garlic, chilies and rosemary and cook until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add the chestnuts and the squash and cook for 5 minutes. Add the farro and cover with stock by 1-inch (add water if necessary). Simmer about 15 minutes. The squash should melt partially into the soup, making it lusciously orange, yet still remain in chunks. Taste and season if necessary with more salt and pepper. Serve in warm soup bowls with a drizzle of virgin olive oil, celery leaves and shaved parmesan.


The amount of celery in the recipe - a whole bunch - is surprising, but its peppery green presence is pure counterpoint to the soup’s sweet richness. Also, in her brilliant Cucina del Sole, Nancy Harmon Jenkins points out that the celery in Italy is a much rougher affair than ours - so don’t be afraid to use all the seemingly tough outer stalks, too, as it is entirely authentic.

The soup is also completely delicious in vegetarian mode: hold the cured meat, add a tad more oil to cook the vegetables, then bring it all together with vegetable stock or water.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Monday, November 2, 2009

On the Menu: Grilled Salmon, Shaved Beets, Little Carrots, Radishes and Fennel with Couscous, Scallions and Ginger-Soy Mayonnaise

We can't get enough of this dish which is all about raw, clean freshness.

It's a bed of shaved uncooked vegetables with room-temp couscous, warm salmon and lightly spiced mayo. Fallish, only SF style... meant for our long-boy summers. Citrus, coriander and ginger give it mega legs.

Grilled Salmon, Shaved Beets, Little Carrots, Radishes and Fennel with Couscous, Scallions and Ginger-Soy Mayonnaise (for 6)

This recipe has several parts, but is well worth it. You can make both sauces a day ahead of time if you’d like. Also, to simplify a bit, I've used instant couscous (which is a cinch), and canned chickpeas. The couscous is still very delicious...

Fire-up your grill for the salmon

Couscous with Scallions and Chickpeas

1 cup instant couscous

Sea salt

1 cup water or chicken stock

1/4 cup virgin olive oil

1 lemon, zest and juice

1/2 cup chickpeas, canned

3 scallions, cleaned, whites and greens, cut thinly on the diagonal

Place the couscous in a medium bowl. Bring stock or water to the boil with a good pinch of salt. Pour over the couscous and cover with foil. Let it sit for about 20 minutes. Uncover and drizzle the couscous with olive oil and fluff it with a fork. Stir in the lemon zest, juice, chickpeas and scallions. Taste and season with more salt if necessary. Set aside.

Shaved Salad

1 small chioggia beet

1 small gold beet

2 small colorful carrots, heirlooms are great, washed, leave 1/4-inch stem still


2 radishes, French Breakfast or Easter Egg if possible, washed with 1/4 -inch of

their stem still attached

1 small head of fennel

1 head frisÉe, cleaned, for about 2 cups

Shave beets, carrots, radishes and fennel on a mandolin (or cut as thinly as possible with a knife). Set aside.

Tangerine-Coriander-Ginger Vinaigrette

1 tablespoon sherry or Banyuls vinegar

1 tangerine, fine zest and 2 tablespoons of its squeezed juice

1 small knob of ginger, peeled and grated for 1 tablespoon

1 tablespoon coriander seed, toasted and ground

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1/4 cup virgin oil

In a small metal bowl whisk vinegar, tangerine zest, juice, ginger and coriander seed with a good pinch of salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in the oil. Taste and add more salt if necessary. It should be very bright and well seasoned. Set aside.

Ginger-Soy Mayonnaise

1 egg yolk

1 small lemon, zest and 1 teaspoon squeezed juice

Sea salt

1 cup olive oil

1 small knob ginger, peeled and grated for 1 tablespoon

2 teaspoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

a pinch of sugar

In a small metal bowl whisk the egg yolk with the lemon zest, juice and a small pinch of salt. Slowly drizzle in oil, about a tablespoon at a time, until you have a creamy emulsion. Whisk in ginger, soy sauce and rice vinegar. Taste and add more salt if needed and/or a pinch of sugar for brightness. Set aside.

To Assemble

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

6 salmon filets, about 3/4-inch thick, preferably wild and local

3 tablespoons olive oil

Shaved Vegetables

Tangerine Vinaigrette



Brush the salmon filets with olive oil and lightly salt and pepper both sides. Grill about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Don’t overcook as the salmon is best medium rare and bright pink in the center. Set aside on a plate, lightly covered with foil.

In a medium bowl toss the shaved vegetables and frisÉe with 1/4 cup of the vinaigrette. Taste and salt if necessary. Put a large handful of the salad in the center of each plate. Put about a half cup of the couscous on top of the salad. Lay a salmon filet on top of the couscous and spoon two to three tablespoons of the mayonnaise over the salmon.


Hot tea towels? Well yes. Our pal - SF designer Christina Weber - is making them with a troop of neighborhood artists through her new
Studiopatró or pattern studio. She's put serious time into this natty project, and it's finally here.

Her designs are low-key and ravishing: leafy, organic, modern - all of it in a super dreamy palate. My personal favorite is dotted with spunky little peace signs (can you ever get too many of these?). They have swanky weight which gets more beauteous with using, washing, little emerging tears. They're hand-screened and eco-friendly to boot.

Chris envisions all kinds of alternative uses for them, too. They are excellent camouflage, flower swaddlers, pillow sheaths, gift enclosures. Not much they won't do. She's also designed one very cool apron.

So do I really need to say it with the holidays looming? Check-out this very sweet thing.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Bookish Love

Bittersweet: Lessons from my Mother's Kitchen


My mother... asked me if I thought I was a good cook.
"Yeah," I said. "Not bad."
"Do you always leave the book open?"
"Yes," I said.
"Then you can't cook."

Matt McAllester's frequently delusional mother found an anchor in cooking (um, hello?). Elizabeth David, her favorite food writer, looms in these pages: "Study her if you want to know how to cook" his mother repeatedly chides. And McAllester, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, finally channels David, among others, as a way of working out his crazed, drinking mother's life and early death. Like Nigel Slater's riotous Toast, it is the thorny family in food, only less dense; in more human time.

I love that Elizabeth David's brilliance is a hub of Bittersweet. Some of the best chapters close with food she's inspired. Stark childhood pastiches and achy adult traumas end with cathartic recipes. He offers the most concise, approachable cassoulet you're likely to find, drop scones that sweetly mitigate childhood sorrow. His wife accuses him of cooking his way out of the stress of their failing pregnancies, and she's right - also out of broken youth; a mother's alienating madness. There is no end here to the restorative power of food.

It is an odd, sideways memoir/elegy/prayer of a book, as simple and knotty as Elizabeth David's superb three ingredient Oeufs en Cocotte à la Crème which McAllester finally grasps well enough to manage, book closed.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Last Summer Sunday Sweetness

For the last chilly Sunday of Summer our girls nabbed much of the crowd leaving Golden Gate Park's Comedy Day with their homemade lemonade stand. It was, clearly, quite the place to be.

Lemon Verbena Lemonade

15 lemons, fine zest (2 teaspoons) and juice (2 cups)
1 1/2 cup fine sugar, or to taste
2 good stems Lemon Verbena, for about 15 plucked leaves, rinsed
3 to 4 cups cold water

Mix the lemon, zest, sugar and hand-crushed verbena leaves. Let sit for about 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved and the verbena has imparted its flavor. Add water to taste and pour over ice.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Our Woodward's Garden Prix Fixe, through September...


Available Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays through September...








Note: As we try to keep our ingredients fresh

and local, our menu may change.

woodward's garden

1700 Mission Street • San Francisco



Friday, September 11, 2009

ON THE MENU: Grilled Flat Iron Steak, Ragout of Fresh Shell Beans, Cipollinis and Chanterelles with Pimenton Butter

Oh the late Summer booty: fresh shell beans, those wild Italian onions, cipollinis, and chanterelles are spontaneously everywhere. The grow together/go together axiom holds mighty tight here. This dish is a no-brainer as far as mutual affinities go.

Flat Iron (ours grass-fed from sublime Marin Sun Farms) is a rediscovered shoulder/muscle cut that is made more tender in the butchering. The steak is cut around a center fibrous tissue. It is, according to Saveur, the second tenderest cut after the tenderloin.

Still, to me this is no filet. Flat Iron has texture and nap, which I admire in a steak. Manic Kobe worship has always eluded me... why would you want your steak to be foie gras? What's wrong with good old meatiness? And isn't real texture back anyway with our Pollan-inspired grass-fed revolution? This fleshy Flat Iron is toothsome, and because its from muscle, also has serious steaky flavor. Cut across the grain it is racy-succulent.

My adored Spanish Pimenton (smoked paprika) gives breadth to the dainty new beans and sweet, squat onions, and boosts the smoke of the apricoty chanterelles and the charred meat. Think earthy mushroom squeak/honey-onioned goodness.

Ragout of Fresh Shell Beans, Cipollinis and Chanterelles

with Grilled Flat Iron and Pimenton Butter (serves 4)

Pimenton Butter

4 ounces of butter, 1 stick, softened

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/4 cup chopped chives

1/4 cup chopped tarragon or parsley

3 anchovies, mashed

1 shallot, minced

1 lemon, zest and juice

Sea salt and pepper to taste

Cream together butter, paprika, herbs, anchovies and shallot. Add the lemon zest and juice. Taste and season if necessary. The butter should be pungent. Shape into a log in a piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper. Twist the ends to tighten and refrigerate until firm.

Shell Bean, Cipollini and Chanterelle Ragout

1 pound cipollini onions

Olive oil

Sea salt and freshly gound black pepper

2 pounds shell beans, for about 2 cups shelled, Cranberry, Flageolet,


1 bunch of thyme

1 bay leaf

1 chilie de Arbol, snapped in half widthwise and seeded

1/2 pound chanterelle mushrooms, cut into 1 inch wedges

1 large garlic clove, minced

3/4 cup chicken stock, preferably home made

2 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 375. Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to the boil. Add the cipollinis to blanch for about 1 minute. Drain, cool and peel. Toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil, a good pinch of salt and pepper and spread out on a sheetpan. Bake about 45 minutes or until golden and tender. Check and shake the pan every so often. Set aside.

Place the shelled beans In a medium sauce pan and cover with 2 inches of water. Add 6 sprigs of thyme, the bay leaf and the chilie. Bring to the boil then simmer until tender, about 30 minutes. Drain. Pull out herbs and chili. Toss the warm beans with 2 tablespoons olive oil, a pinch of salt and pepper. Set aside.

Clean the chanterelles with a soft cloth/napkin. Cut into even sized, 1-inch wedges. Leave them whole if they are small. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium sauté pan until very hot. Add the chanterelles and cook over medium heat for about 7 minutes, stirring every so often, until tender and golden. Add the garlic, a teaspoon of picked thyme, a pinch of salt and pepper and sauté for another minute. Add the cipollinis, the shell beans and the stock. Cook for about 5 more minutes until creamy and sauce consistency. Swirl in butter and taste. Season again if necessary. Set aside.

To Assemble

4 flatiron steaks, about 5 ounces each

Olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

The ragout

The pimenton butter

1 cup arugula, or other fresh, spicy green like watercress

Fire up the grill. When hot, brush the steaks with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill to desired doneness, about 4 minutes per side for medium-rare. Remove and set on a plate, lightly covered with foil. While the steaks are resting reheat the ragout if necessary. Place about a half-cup of ragout into the center of a warmed serving plate or bowl. Top with a steak and any accumulated steak jus, a round of pimenton butter, and a little handful of of fresh greens.