Monthly Archive for November, 2010

Hunger Does Not Discriminate – Giving Thanks

While I eagerly plan out a Thanksgiving meal that will treat and tease the palate, I become humbly aware that millions of people will go hungry this holiday season.

This Thanksgiving I am joining my friend, Jennifer Perillo, to help work towards closing the hunger gap. Whether your heart is drawn to helping those around the world, or those in your own backyard, we can all agree hunger does not discriminate. This empty plate represents the millions of people whom will go hungry on Thanksgiving. Whether you support local or global, we can collectively show our strength and work towards filling the plates of those whom are less fortunate.

When you look at this plate, imagine all those dishes you look forward to sharing with your loved ones and then imagine that this year things would be different. How would you change this holiday for the hungry? How can you make a difference? I am always inspired by American’s eagerness to evoke change. Today, we can feed someone. I hope you will join me and donate now.

Global Donations
Share Our Strength- No Kid Hungry

Feeding America

San Francisco Bay Area Donations

San Francisco Food Bank

Second Harvest Food Bank

Alameda County Food Bank

Holiday Food Drives in Marin (excerpted from the Marin IJ)

*Boy Scout Food Drive: The Boy Scouts of America Marin Council will collect donated food from homes throughout the county on Nov. 20. Scouts will start leaving hangers on doors in the middle of the month.
*Can Tree at Northgate mall: The Marin Food Bank will set up an 18-foot can tree at Northgate mall in Terra Linda where shoppers can donate up to 5,000 pounds of canned food during shopping center business hours from Nov. 22 to Jan. 3.
* NBC Channel 11/Safeway Turkey and Ham: The Marin Food Bank and Rotary clubs will have volunteers at all eight Marin Safeway stores from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 20 asking shoppers to buy a turkey or ham for the food bank. Safeway will bring all hams and turkeys to the food bank that day.
*Town Center Corte Madera Donation Turkey: The annual donation turkey will be at Town Center Corte Madera accepting food and cash donations through early January.
*St. Vincent de Paul Society of Marin County Turkey/Meat Drive: Volunteers will stand outside the Free Dining Room in San Rafael at 820 B St. accepting turkeys, chickens, ground beef, fish, canned tuna and other meat items from 6:30 to 1 p.m. daily starting Nov. 13.

To learn more about donating to or volunteering for the Marin Food Bank, call 883-1302 or visit
To donate to the St. Vincent de Paul Society, call 454-3303 ext. 12.

Bliss on a Plate- The New Chanukah Cuisine

With Chanukah quickly approaching, my friend Steph and I decided it would be fun to take a ‘New Chanukah Cuisine’ cooking class (put on by our friends at the Rodef Sholom Sisterhood). We are always looking for new ways to build onto her famous Matzoh Ball soup and the menu at hand certainly had a few new twists. The best part about cooking class- the meal shared together afterward. While this post is more of a photo journey, there are two recipes to share. My two favorites from our afternoon with Chef Rebecca Ets-Hokin – Leek & Potato Fritters and Rugelach. Who wouldn’t like fried food and dessert with loads of butter and sugar?! It was bliss on a plate.

The Menu:
Leek & Potato Fritters
Spiced Pomegranate Applesauce
Winter Salad with Persimmons
Chicken Fillets Livorno Style
Braised Broccoli with Lemon
Caramel Poached Pears
Assorted Rugelach

Spiced Pomegranate Applesauce

Winter Salad with Persimmons

Chicken Fillets Livorno Style

Braised Broccoli with Lemon

Caramel Poached Pears

Assorted Rugelach

Leek & Potato Fritters


4 pounds russet potatoes, skin removed
2 large eggs, beaten
4 large leeks, cleaned and thinly chopped
½ cup flour
1 TBS salt
1 tsp pepper
vegetable oil for frying
paper towels for draining pancakes
sour cream (optional)
apple sauce (optional)

Coarsely grate the potatoes and place in a colander, set over a baking sheet or in the sink, so that moisture can drain away. Press out as much moisture from the grated potatoes as possible.

In a large-size mixing bowl, combine the eggs, leeks, flour, salt and pepper. Add the drained potatoes to the egg mixture and combine well.

Heat a large skillet on medium high (or set your electric skillet at 325 degrees) and cover with ¼ inch layer of oil. Place heaping tablespoons of batter into the skillet, flattening each potato pancake (AKA ‘latke’) with a spatula . Fry over moderate heat for about 2 minutes on each side, or until each latke is golden brown in color. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Continue with the remaining batter, adding more oil to the pan as needed, until all of the potatoes have been used. Serve immediately with condiments of sour cream or apple sauce, as desired.

Do Ahead Tip:*If desired, (and who wouldn’t want to) the cooked latkes may be placed on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and frozen. Once frozen, transfer them to a plastic bag and return to freezer for up to 10 days. When ready to serve, place pancakes directly from the freezer into a preheated 450 degree oven and onto a preheated baking sheet. Cook latkes until heated through, about 10 minutes. Serve immediately.

Yields approximately 30 x 5-inch pancakes.

Caramel Rugelach

Dough Ingredients

8 oz unsalted butter
8 oz cream cheese
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 ½ cups flour

Filling Ingredients

½ cup brown sugar
1 cup toffee chips
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped and lightly toasted

For alternative filling ideas and/or substitutions, please read until bottom of post.

Dough Directions

In a large bowl, cream the butter, cream cheese and the sugar until well blended. Add the vanilla and flour and knead lightly until dough holds together. Divide dough into 4 portions, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

To toast the walnuts there are two methods to pick from…
-Baking Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees, spread walnuts evenly on a baking sheet and cook for approximately 7-10 minutes, checking frequently to make sure they do not burn.
-Stovetop Method: Cook walnuts in a skillet at medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Note: Walnuts can be toasted dry or with a dash of oil, however for this recipe, I recommend toasting the walnuts with out any added oil.

On a lightly floured board, roll out one portion of dough into a rectangle, approximately ¼- inch thick. Sprinkle the dough with a little bit of brown sugar, the walnuts and some toffee chips. Roll up the dough like a jelly roll, slice with a sharp knife, and place on a silicone lined baking sheet, with the seam side down. (Another way to prepare this dessert is to keep the dough in a ball shape when rolling out, then cut the dough like a pizza, cover with desired fillings and roll from the bottom of the triangle to the top. Both versions of preparation are captured in the photo below.) Place in the refrigerator to chill, for at least 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

When ready to bake, brush each rugelach with milk and sprinkle with a little more brown sugar. Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Transfer to racks to cool.

Yields approximately 4 dozen.

Alternative Fillings

¼ cup brown sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
½ cup raisins, soaked in water 1 hour and drained
½ cup walnuts, chopped toasted
½ cup apricot jam

Other Variations

Substitute mini chocolate chips for the raisins.
Substitute chopped, dried tropical fruit mix for the raisins, (don’t need to soak in water).
Use other nuts, like pinenuts and candied orange rind, or pistachios and dried apricots.

The pumpkin pie alternative – get chilly with it!

I am a huge fan of the orange festive squash (AKA pumpkin); and this fall I’ve been developing new recipes to spawn the alternative to pumpkin pie. While I always enjoy the traditional pumpkin pie, and wouldn’t dream of a November with out a slice (or three!) of it, I adore the look of surprise my guests display when I serve my this versatile vegetable as ice cream. This dessert can be prepared up to four days in advance.

(Note: Be sure to read over the entire recipe as there are two ingredients lists and two sets of directions.)

Pumpkin Ginger Semi-Freddo Ice Cream

Pumpkin Ice Cream Ingredients

1 small pumpkin, approximately 1 lb
4 TBS lime juice
2 pieces crystallized ginger, chopped
4 egg yolks
2/3 cup light muscavado sugar
1 cup heavy cream
pumpkin seed brittle (directions to follow)

Pumpkin Ice Cream Directions

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Cut pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds and fibers from the center of the pumpkin. Place the pumpkin seeds, and any of the fiber that clings to them, in a bowl and cover with water. Using your hands, squeeze the pulp until the seeds separate from the fiber and rise to the surface. To clean any remaining fiber from the seeds, rinse them through a colander. Drain seeds on a paper towel. Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly sprinkle with oil. Transfer the seeds to the baking sheet, forming a single layer. Bake for 30 minutes, remove from oven and set aside to cool until it is time to prepare the brittle (recipe below).

There two options for cooking the pumpkin, however I have opted for the quicker of the two methods. For those that wish to roast the pumpkin, directions are provided below.** Cut the pumpkin into wedges and place skin side up on a microwave safe plate. Microwave on high for 15 minutes, checking occasionally, as the time will vary with size. The pumpkin is ready when it is soft to the touch and the plump can be easily scooped away from its skin. Allow to cool.

Remove the skin and chop into 1-inch pieces.

In a blender or food processor, puree the cubes of cooked pumpkin with the lime juice until it becomes a smooth puree. Add the ginger and blend briefly to combine.

Place the egg yokes and sugar in a bowl and set over a pot of simmering hot water. Whisk the mixture until thick and creamy, then add in the pumpkin puree.

In a medium-size bowl, whip the cream until it is firm and has soft peaks. Fold the whipped cream into pumpkin mixture until well combined. Place in a container and freeze for 6-8 hours or overnight.

To soften ice cream before serving, transfer the ice cream to the refrigerator 45-60 minutes before serving.

Pumpkin Seed Brittle

Pumpkin Seed Brittle Ingredients

1/4 cup water
3/4 cup superfine (or Caster) sugar
2 TBS white corn syrup
1 1/4 cups pumpkin seeds, toasted

Pumpkin Seed Brittle Directions

In a medium size pot, add the water, sugar and corn syrup. The best way to test candy is with a heavy gauge candy thermometer. They are not very expensive and make the job a whole lot easier. To cook the candy, it is important to stir continuously, until the thermometer reaches 290-300 degrees. (If you do not have a candy thermometer, the next best method is the cold water test. It is a little more tricky, but easy enough once you learn how it works. Testing candy with this method requires patience. It is necessary to test the sugar consistency every 2-3 minutes until it reaches a Soft Crack consistency, which is when the syrup will separate into threads that are hard but not brittle.) Immediately remove from heat and pour the syrup over the seeds. Allow to set for 1 hour.

Once the brittle has set, break into pieces. Scoop ice cream and serve with pumpkin seed brittle.

Serves 6-8.

** If you wish to roast the pumpkin in the oven, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil a foil lined baking sheet, place pumpkin cut side down. Roast until soft, approximately 35-45 minutes.

There is nothin’ rotten about potatoes au gratin

With Thanksgiving lurking around the corner like an anxious turkey, I am always trying to plan out a few vegetarian dishes for those who choose to skip the bird feast. This recipe is a newly developed favorite. It is one that requires that you stick close to the kitchen, but it is not difficult to pull together. The first time I made these au gratin potatoes it accompanied a lovely leg of lamb. It was so well received, it is now back on my list for the holidays. (Blatant Teaser- Be sure to come back next week as I’ve been working on a bit of a Thanksgiving dessert surprise that is sure to be a crowd pleaser.)

Potato and Onion Au Gratin


2 tsps garlic, minced
2 lbs russet potatoes (approximately 4), peeled
Nutmeg, ground
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup Emmentaler, grated
1 white onion, sliced
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy (double) cream


Peel potatoes and thinly cut crosswise into slices of equal thickness. Preheat oven to 375 degrees position a rack in the middle of the oven. Butter a 1 1/2- 2 quart rectangular baking dish. It is important that the baking dish is large enough that the potatoes, once layered, do not come over the lip of the dish.

Peel the onion and slice in half. Slice each half thinly lengthwise.

Sprinkle garlic on the bottom of the baking dish. Layer half of the potato slices over the garlic, potatoes should be overlapping. Sprinkle with nutmeg, salt, pepper and cheese. Layer onion slices evenly over the potatoes, then add the next layer of potatoes.

Carefully pour the milk over the potatoes and be certain to cover all of the slices. Then pour 1/2 cup of the cream over the potatoes, making sure that each slice is covered with milk. Sprinkle with nutmeg, salt and pepper.

The potatoes will require a total of 60-80 minutes of baking time. For the first 40-minutes of baking, baste the potatoes with the milk and cream mixture, every 10 minutes. It may be necessary to tip the dish slightly when scooping up the liquid with a large spoon. To achieve a nice golden brown color it is important to evenly cover the potatoes with the liquid. For the remaining 20-40 minutes, of baking, baste the potatoes with the remaining 1/2 cup of reserved cream, every 10 minutes. Be sure to coat the potatoes evenly.

Remove from oven and serve immediately.

Serves 4-6

Leftovers? Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake for 10-12 minutes.

Get Sconed Hawaiian Style

This post is the equivalent of BBQ-ing in the rain, you can do it but it feels like cheating. As I prepare to build my arc to keep the family safe as we head into an endless number of rain days I am dreaming about days of yore. My fun-filled sun days spent in Kauai’i this past year, gazing at the stars and eating criminal amounts of tropical fruits and nuts. And it is in that spirit that I have created Na Hoku (the stars) Scones; with little glimmers of fruits that catch the eye, somehow I am remind of those beautiful island stars. It is a recipe that leaves you wondering if this is a dessert or a breakfast treat. Either way, it is a treat that can be enjoyed island-side or on the mainland.

(Note: Be sure to read over the entire recipe as there are two ingredients lists and two sets of directions.)

Na Hoku Scones (AKA Hawaiian Tropical Fruit & Nut Scones)

Scone Ingredients

2 1/4 cups flour
1 TBS baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar, divided in half
3/4 cup shredded sweetened coconut
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cold and cubed (1-1/2 sticks)
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk (found in Asian section of supermarket in cans)
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp coconut extract or 2 TBS guava or pineapple juice
1 cup candied papaya, finely chopped (about 8 strips)
1 cup pineapple, finely chopped (about 5 rings)
1 cup macadam nuts, whole and unsalted

Scone Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, HALF the sugar (1/8 cup) and coconut. With pastry blender or hand mixer, cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbles.

In small bowl, whisk the eggs slightly then add in the coconut milk and the coconut extract. Mix until combined.Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into it. Stir just until combined and then add in the candied fruits. The dough will be wet and lumpy.

Scrape the dough out onto the center of the parchment paper lined baking sheet. Using a spoon or spatula, pat and form the dough into a circle approximately 8 inches around and 1-1/2 inches high.

Sprinkle the top with the reserved amount of sugar (or less) and bake in center of oven for 24-30 minutes. Remove pan from oven and use pizza cutter or large knife to gently cut the circle into 8 wedges (like a pizza).

Return pan to oven & bake for an additional 30-45 minutes or until scones are not wet in the center and top is slightly browned. Scones are fully cooked when you insert a toothpick into the center and it comes out dry.

Coconut Glaze

Glaze Ingredients

2 TBS unsweetened coconut milk
1/4 tsp coconut extract
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/2-1 cup powdered sugar

Glaze Directions

In a small bowl, mix together all ingredients. Drizzle over baked scones and allow to dry 10 minutes before serving.

Stay tuned as I plan to tell you more about this fun new website I am working with – – where this recipe is also featured. If you haven’t yet seen this site, take a gander, and then imagine a comparative recipe search site (kind of like Kayak but for recipes). is a website that beautifully, smartly, and thoroughly organizes all of the recipes on the Internet, regardless of the source, whether from chefs, recipe sites, or food blogs. Meet Food, I Love You:

Upside Down Gruyère Tartes Tomate

I have struggled as to what to name this newest creation, beyond the obvious, “yummy cheese crust with seasoned tomatoes’, but that just didn’t sound flashy enough. I hope the above name will inspire you to take a chance on this French-esque vegetarian recipe. I’ll confess, there was a fleeting moment when I thought I should brand this creation in honor of the World Series Champions- The San Francisco Giants -but I am certain that they feel my support despite my lack of a dedicated recipe.

While the recipe reads rather long, it is because some of the ingredients are for the crust and the other ingredients are for the filling. I recommend you read over the full recipe once so that you know what to anticipate on each of the steps, none of which are very complicated (shhh, your guests will never know!). The perfect accompaniment to this dish is a salad with a light balsamic vinaigrette and a glass of crisp white wine.

Now for a brief PSA about Gruyère cheese: For those whom have not had the opportunity to work with Gruyère cheese, it is like Emmenthaler Swiss cheese, only slightly milder. So if you like Swiss cheese, you should like it. Depending on the age of the cheese, the flavor is sweet but slightly salty. It is often described as creamy and nutty when young, becoming with age more assertive, earthy, and complex.

Upside Down Gruyère Tartes Tomate


2 3/4 cups and 2 TBS flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp granulated sugar
1 3/4 cups Gruyère cheese, grated
1 cup (or two cubes) plus 1 TBS unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
1/4 cup plus 1 tsp ice cold water (no cubes)
1 1/2 large yellow onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 lbs cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup basil, chopped
1 egg
dash of pepper


Shred Gruyère cheese and set aside.

In a food processor,combine and mix the following ingredients until crumbly and resembles a coarse meal:
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 cup shredded cheese
1 cup butter

With machine running, pour 1/4 cup water through the ingredient tube. Use the pulse setting until dough holds together without becoming too wet or sticky. Best not to process in the machine more than 30 seconds as butter will begin to melt and change consistency. An easy way to test for the correct consistency is to squeeze a small amount together: if it does not stick but crumbles, add more water at TBS at a time.

Divide dough into two equal balls. Flatten each into the shape of a disc and wrap tightly in plastic. Chill for 1 – 1 1/2 hours.

In a large skillet, over medium heat, add:
1 TBS butter

Stir occasionally, until onion is translucent in color, approximately 5-8 minutes. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, add tomatoes and toss with:
1/4 cup PLUS 2 TBS flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp sugar

When onion mixture is cool, add to the above bowl of tomatoes. Using six individual 3-inch ceramic lipped round dishes, evenly divide tomatoes.

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Remove dough from refrigerator and roll until 1/8 inch thickness. I like to roll the dough out in the plastic wrap as it helps the dough keep its form a bit easier and is also less of a mess to clean up. When it is nearly the size I want it, I replace the top layer of plastic wrap with parchment paper to keep it from sticking without having to supplement with additional flour which would make the dough too heavy.

Using a knife, or a pasta cutter, cut out square pieces of dough that are about the size of each dish when placed upside down on the dough. Each crust should be tucked in around the tomatoes to make a sealed pocket.

In a small bowl, mix egg with 1 tsp water. Bush egg glaze over the crust and then sprinkle crust with remaining shredded Gruyère cheese.

Bake approximately 35 minutes, until crust is golden brown and insides are bubbling. Resist temptation to eat this immediately and allow it to cool for 10 minutes so that the juices can properly set up – AND to ensure that no tongues are burnt when taking that first bite!

1) Any remaining dough can be frozen up to one month.
2) This dough also makes good crackers if you want to roll them out into cute shapes and serve with a nice cheese spread.
3) I like to make the crust a day before, to cut down on actual time in the kitchen, if you do this then you will want to bring the discs of dough to room temperature for 20 minutes before rolling out.
4) If you are pressed for time, you can make one large 9 1/2-10 inch pie but you will need to reduce the tomatoes down to 2 lbs total and increase the cooking time to 50-55 minutes.