Stefano Masanti Shares Stories and Food

When a Michelin-starred chef arrives, the kitchen staff expects attention to detail. Before a July 27 dinner with Fresh Starts Chef Events, Chef Stefano Masanti lived up to that Chef Stefano Masanti-2_cropexpectation by arriving before 9 a.m. to oversee the cooking.

The Fresh Starts crew soon discovered he’s no hands-off director. Instead, Chef Stefano – owner of Il Cantinone in Madesimo, Italy — put on his hat to work with students and graduates of Fresh Starts Culinary Academy to make 1,300 ravioli and create a memorable meal.

V. Sattui Winery, where Chef Stefano spends his summers as Events Chef, offered wines from their extensive list – all normally available only at the winery – for his three-course menu.

Chef Stefano Masanti-39_sqThe chef passed around ingredients and his antique stone cooking pot among the evening’s 120 guests, saying that “cooking is using all your senses.” His recipes often draw on what he cooked with his grandmother — simple food and fresh ingredients.

He sprinkled his cooking demonstration with plenty of stories about his grandfather’s treks to procure vanilla and chocolate for gelato during World War II and his grandmother’s habit to use every part of a chicken.

With the first course, Roast Chicken Ravioli with White Wine Mushroom Sauce, that Chef Stefano Masanti-37meant using the browned chicken bones to make stock for the sauce and roasting the skin to blend into the ravioli filling. A deep, authentic roast chicken flavor was the result.

Chef Stefano Masanti-38

 

 

 

 

The second course, Beef Cheeks with Truffled Potato Purée, needs planning with 24 to 48 hours required to marinate and 4 to 5 hours needed to slowly cook the meat. The recipe makes this inexpensive cut amazingly tender with a hint of cloves and cinnamon.

Chef Stefano Masanti-45The chef’s old-fashioned dessert, Grandfather’s Vanilla Gelato with V. Sattui Madeira Zabaglione, uses simple ingredients but Chef Stefano cautioned against rushing. “To make a good gelato, you have to cook it…and it takes a couple of days.” After cooking, he lets the base mixture sit in the refrigerator overnight.

The zabaglione, on the other hand, is cooked right before serving and poured over the gelato. Served with cocoa-dusted raspberries and a wafer cookie, this dessert was a perfect end to a delicious and entertaining evening.

Chef Stefano met Tom Davies, president of V. Sattui, when the Davies family was Chef Stefano Masanti-1_Tom Daviesvacationing in Italy. They invited the chef and his wife, Rafaella, to visit Napa Valley. Soon the pair began closing their restaurant to spend the off-season at the winery, where the chef also makes salumi and gelato.

Fresh Starts Chef Events’ premier sponsor, The Republic of Tea, underwrote the food cost for the evening, in addition to providing refreshing iced tea at each table. V. Sattui donated the six wines served for the evening, including the award-winning 2013 Preston Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon and the flagship Madeira. — Contributed by Carol Inkellis with photos by Neely Wang.

Braised Beef Cheeks – Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:
2 lbs. beef cheeks (ask your butcher to trim so they’re pan-ready)
4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
¾ cup white wine
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 whole clove
1 cinnamon stick
4 peppercorns
6 tablespoons canola oil, for searing
1 quart veal stock

Directions:
Marinate beef with salt, mustard and other ingredients for 24 to 48 hours.

Drain meat for cooking. In a sauté pan over medium-high heat, sear beef in oil until browned on all sides.

Preheat oven to 250°F. Place meat in oven-safe pan with veal stock, then cover and put in oven to braise for 4-5 hours until tender. Remove beef from liquid, let cool.

Blend liquid remaining in pan, then strain. Place over medium heat and reduce to sauce consistency. Season to taste.

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Gordon Drysdale Brings Fresh & Local Focus

Since his motto is FLOSS, one might guess dentistry as Gordon Drysdale’s profession. But guests at Fresh Starts Chef Events won’t forget his culinary skills or his creed: Fresh, Local, Organic, Seasonal and Sustainable.

Chef Gordon DrysdaleChef Gordon has maintained a role in Bay Area dining for many years, most prominently at Gordon’s Fine Eats in San Francisco, and he has stories to prove it.

A longtime Mill Valley resident, he prefaced his cooking demonstration talking about a former colleague who fell on hard times, but now had found housing thanks to Homeward Bound of Marin. Proceeds from the chef events benefit Homeward Bound programs.

“It’s an honor to be here today…those of us who get so much in life should give it back,” he says. And he did, sharing his talent and insights with a roomful of appreciative guests.

Chef Gordon most recently applied the FLOSS philosophy at Scoma’s in San Francisco, a beloved eatery at Fisherman’s Wharf, where he developed a Roasted Beet & Avocado Salad. As guests watched, he plated the delicious combination ofChef Gordon Drysdale tender beets, oranges and avocados with pungent fresh horseradish root grated on top for a little kick.

As he began demonstrating the main course, Diver Scallops with Wild Mushroom Pastina, Chef Gordon explained the recipe had several components. To ease any time crunch, he says, the Wild Mushroom Broth and the Garlic-Truffle Butter can be made ahead.

Admiring the Sierra porcini and fresh morels sourced for his recipe, Chef Gordon praised the students and graduates from Fresh Starts Culinary Academy working behind the scenes. To cook mushrooms well, he added, move them around in the pan and wait for a little bit of color to appear. Diver Scallops with Wild Mushroom Pastina

Chef Gordon explained the majority of scallops sold in grocery stores have a preservative — sodium tripolyphosphate — added to plump them up. He recommends seeking out “dry or bone dry scallops” without chemicals.

The scallops arrived with Acini de Pepe pasta, a name that means “grains of pepper,” denoting the small size. Though Chef Gordon says Italian friends reserve use of this pastina for chicken soup, he used it to create a tasty depth of flavor, texture, and earthiness.

Panna Cotta with Sweet & Sour StrawberriesWhen it came time for dessert, Chef Gordon acknowledged everybody’s nonna has a recipe for panna cotta. His recipe for Mascarpone Panna Cotta becomes distinctive with a Sweet and Sour Strawberry sauce made from ripe, sweet berries alongside pickled green strawberries. The contrasting tastes prevent “palate fatigue,” he says.

Guests enjoyed pitchers of iced tea from The Republic of Tea, premier sponsor of Fresh Starts Chef Events, along with wine selections from Gundlach Bundschu and Bartholomew Park. — Contributed by Carol Inkellis with photos courtesy of Neely Wang.

Roasted Beet & Avocado Salad – Serves 6 Roasted Beet & Avocado Salad

Ingredients:
3 red beets, with tops
3 golden beets, with tops
3 avocados, just ripe, cut lengthwise into eighths
6 oranges, Cara Cara or Navel Supreme, segmented with membranes removed
20-30 fresh mint leaves, torn into 60 nickel-sized pieces
9 tablespoons Delizia balsamic vinegar
12 tablespoons extra virgin Arbequina olive oil
6 tablespoons fresh horseradish, for last-minute garnish
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:
Trim off tops and save for another use. Toss beets with some canola oil, then place in roasting pan with a little water in the bottom. Roast at 350°F until tender enough to pierce with a fork and skin comes away easily.

Let beets cool, then rub off skins using a kitchen towel. Cut beets into wedges, keeping the red and gold ones separate. Toss beets with olive oil and vinegar, then season with salt and pepper.

Lay 6 wedges of each beet on a large plate. Next, place 4 slices of avocado on top of the beets, then segments of orange. Drizzle drops of oil and vinegar over plate. Sprinkle the plate with several pieces of mint. Lastly, use a microplane to add fresh horseradish generously over the top of the salad.

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Gourmet Blogger Feeds Budget Foodies

A former kindergarten teacher turned gourmet blogger revealed some delicious talents for both cooking and entertaining a crowd at Fresh Starts Chef Events.

Gabi MoskowitzGabi Moskowitz, whose BrokeAss Gourmet blog has drawn a national following, presented some favorite recipes for economical foodies, starting with Cauliflower Crust Pizza.

As she cooked, the Santa Rosa native talked about her recipes with ingredients that never exceed $20 and the genesis of the TV sitcom “Young & Hungry” that’s inspired by her life. For anyone who’s watched during the show’s five-year run, Gabi stressed that it is not actually her life.

The Santa Rosa native still considers herself an educator—teaching others how to cook healthy, delicious meals that don’t break the bank. Cauliflower Crust Pizza makes an adventurous starting point — perfect for those who love Gabi Moskowitz of BrokeAss Gourmet with Cauliflower Crust for pizzapizza but not carbs.

Gabi takes care to strain the cauliflower after cooking (she prefers to microwave it) and squeeze out as much liquid as possible to avoid a soggy result. Parmesan cheese in the mixtures pushes the crust toward crispy as it bakes.

The crust remains light, though. In fact, when Chef Gabi demonstrated how to flip the crust in mid-baking, it fell apart. But, like Julia Child, she patted it back together and didn’t miss a beat.

As for toppings, she recommends “a light hand.” Guests enjoyed a version with a brush of tomato sauce, cheese, red peppers and onion – though different from traditional pizza, it made a tasty alternative.

Cauliflower Crust Pizza and Kale Salad on plateGabi prepared a favorite salad, Kale with Carrot & Pumpkin Seeds, which becomes a main dish with chicken or tofu. Her sure-fire technique for “tofu that doesn’t suck” is adding cubes of tofu to hot oil and then waiting for them to crisp before adding veggies.

For kale, Gabi stresses to slice thinly and dress early, allowing the dressing to soften the tougher leaves before serving. As she quickly put together a vinaigrette, she dishes out advice: “Stop buying salad dressing, because it’s so easy to make!”

Her version of pho, the classic Vietnamese noodle soup, came as a main course. The Bowl of Vietnamese Pho by Gabi Moskowitzrecipe shortcuts the traditional hours of making broth with plenty of aromatics — garlic, onion, lemongrass, soy sauce, fish sauce, chili sauce, and a lot of ginger. Her secret ingredient is Chinese Five Spice, “a quick way to get the flavor.”

The pho was an excellent lead-in to something sweet: her Rocky Road Brownies dressed up a classic recipe with mixture of mini marshmallows, chocolate chips and chopped almonds (or other nuts.)

Before her dessert demonstration, Gabi paused for a short graduation ceremony for three students from Fresh Starts Culinary Academy, the job-training program housed in the venue’s kitchen. Proceeds from the celebrity chef events support the program and students get hands-on training while working with the chefs — a proverbial “icing on the cake” as the evening closed. — Contributed by Carol Inkellis with photos courtesy of Neely Wang.

Cauliflower Crust Pizza – Serves 2 – 3

Ingredients:
½ large cauliflower, cut into florets
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
½ cup grated Parmesan, plus more for topping the pizza
Pinch of salt
¼ cup sauce of your choice (tomato, pesto, romesco, etc.)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1–2 toppings of choice (we love sliced bell pepper, pepperoni, mushrooms, olives, and caramelized onions)
Fresh herbs (optional)
Red chili flakes (optional)

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Place the cauliflower florets in a food processor and purée until the mixture resembles ricotta cheese and each grain is about the size of a piece of couscous.

Tip: If you can’t seem to get the right consistency, or if a few whole florets remain after puréeing, try adding enough water to cover (usually about 2 cups) and purée as if you are making soup. When all the cauliflower has been completely processed, strain it in a fine-mesh strainer.

Scrape the cauliflower into a microwave-safe bowl and microwave it on high for 5 minutes.

Carefully scrape the microwaved cauliflower purée onto a clean dish towel. Very carefully (using a second towel if necessary to protect your hands) squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Get it as dry as you possibly can.

In a mixing bowl, combine the cauliflower, the egg, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, the Parmesan, and the salt. Mix together to make a thick batter.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Scrape the batter into the center of the parchment. Gather the batter into a ball shape. Wet your hands and carefully pat the batter into a circle, making it as thin as possible.

Drizzle the cauliflower circle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and use your hand or a pastry brush to spread it all over the circle.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until the crust is nicely browned and a little crisp.

Remove the crust from the oven, but leave the oven on. Place a piece of parchment paper over the top of the cooked crust. Carefully flip the whole thing so the bottom is facing up. Remove the parchment from the top (what was previously the bottom layer).

Top your pizza with sauce, cheese, and anything else you like. (I encourage you to go light on the toppings—the crust is sturdy but not as sturdy as conventional pizza crust.)

Bake for 20 to 22 minutes more, until the cheese is browned and bubbly. Slice and serve, topping with fresh herbs and red chili flakes if desired.

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Refugee to Restaurateur: Charles Phan

Chef Charles Phan treated guests at Fresh Starts Chef Events last week to a taste of where his culinary fame began: Pork & Shrimp Spring Rolls, one of the most popular dishes at San Francisco’s Slanted Door.

Charles Phan makes spring rollsThe spring rolls, Chef Charles said, “gave me the confidence to open Slanted Door.” In 2014, it was named best restaurant in the country by the James Beard Foundation and continues to buzz after more than 20 years.

Guests enjoyed other favorite dishes: a salad of asparagus, radishes, hazelnuts and cilantro with a tahini dressing, then braised duck leg with egg noodles, greens and mushrooms, and finished with a citrus no-bake cheesecake.

After demonstrating the spring rolls, Chef Charles inspired everyone with his story, Pork & Shrimp Spring Rollswhich began when his family escaped Vietnam as Saigon fell. After two years in a refugee camp in Guam, they settled in San Francisco.

The city now hosts a total of three Charles Phan restaurants, with Vietnamese street food at Out the Door and a Southern flavor at Hard Water, an American whiskey bar. In addition, he has a new venture coming to the UC Berkeley campus.

The affable, entertaining and sometime self-deprecating chef talked about the hard work that preceded his renown as the inventor of modern Vietnamese cooking in this country. As the oldest of five siblings, Chef Charles often cooked the family meals while both parents worked and he later bused tables at a pub.

Charles Phan with cookbookThough he has a background in architecture, making art and design an important aspect of his restaurants, he says, “it’s all about the food.” From the start, he wanted to present family-style meals at Slanted Door that rely on flavors and textures from his homeland, adapted with local and organic ingredients.

His opportunities to feed important people like President Bill Clinton have been memorable, but Chef Charles says he’s equally interested in finding ways “to change the way we feed our kids in school.”

As a grateful recipient of aid and assistance when new to this country, the chef expressed appreciation for Fresh Starts Culinary Academy’s job-training program. “It’s amazing,” he said, “getting to know about this group…and the big enterprise here.” — Contributed by Carol Inkellis with photos courtesy of Neely Wang.

 

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Cheese & History Make Tasty Menu

Guests got a taste of local history along with cheese when Chef Jennifer Luttrell presented a spring menu at Fresh Starts Chef Events.

Chef Jennifer Luttrell-4_sqThe executive chef for The Fork at Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company, who is part of a three-sister team running the business at a historic Marin County dairy, offered a glimpse of ranch evolution as well as recipes using the award-winning products.

The Giacomini family started the dairy in 1959, selling its milk to Clover-Stornetta for 42 years. When the farm began a transition to producing artisan cheese, the sisters banded together to lead the new endeavor.

Point Reyes Blue, introduced in 2000, continues to win awards and remains the company’s flagship product. Cheesemaker Kuba Hemmerling (Chef Jennifer’s husband) crafts other award-winners like Toma, the farmstead’s first non-blue cheese, a cross between Gouda and Havarti; Bay Blue, their version of a Stilton; and super-creamy Mozzarella, available May through October.Chef Jennifer Luttrell-10_sqx

Chef Jennifer opened the menu with a Winter Greens Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette & Bay
Blue, using a light vinaigrette with reserved juice from the Satsuma mandarins to offset the earthy cheese. For winter greens, she likes endive, for “a little texture,” and radicchio, for “color and a different flavor component.”

Mushroom Lasagnas with Pesto Bechamel & Point Reyes Toma was another earthy dish that straddles seasons. Chef Jennifer suggests tweaking the recipe for spring by using asparagus instead of mushrooms. With the focus on the cheeses, the taste was decadent but not heavy.

Chef Jennifer Luttrell-16Although The Fork does make ice cream with both the Original Blue and Gouda, Chef Jennifer opted to demonstrate a Lemon Mousse with Pecan Shortbread as dessert. She claims the fool-proof recipe is simple to assemble and hard to overcook.

Chef Jennifer concluded by telling guests, “I’m not a very fussy chef. I like things to be rustic.” She carries out her emphasis on simplicity and fresh ingredients at The Fork, a culinary teaching and dining space at the ranch that hosts regular classes and events.

Fresh Starts Chef Events thanks the Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese team for donating cheese for the evening and gratefully acknowledges support from The Republic of Tea as premier sponsor for the chef event series. — Contributed by Carol Inkellis with photos courtesy of Neely Wang.

Winter Greens Salad with Bay Blue – Serves 6

Ingredients:
3 small heads of winter greens – endive, radicchio, etc. – washed, dried and torn into pieces
1 bunch arugula, washed, dried, and torn into bite-sized pieces
1 fennel bulb, cleaned, cored, and sliced very thin
3 seedless Satsuma mandarins, peeled and segmented with juice reserved
1 tablespoon of the reserved mandarin juice (may be substituted with fresh orange juice)
1 tablespoon champagne vinegar, or other lightly flavored vinegar
½ cup olive oil
½ cup crumbled Point Reyes Bay Blue
½ cup toasted hazelnuts, skins removed, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Toss greens and fennel together in a large bowl.

Make the vinaigrette by whisking the vinegar, juice, and olive oil until combined. Season with salt, to taste.

Toss lettuce with enough vinaigrette to coat, but not drench, the lettuce. Taste and season with more salt and pepper if desired. Add half of the crumbled Point Reyes Bay Blue and toss to combine. Place salad on individual plates or serving platter.

Toss the mandarins with a little of the vinaigrette and arrange on top of salad. Finish by topping off with remaining cheese and toasted hazelnuts.

 

 

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Sammy Hagar Rocks with Rum and Food

The room buzzed as Fresh Starts Chef Events opened a “pop-up party” with rock star-restaurateur Sammy Hagar and Chef Henry Cortez of El Paseo in Mill Valley – even before the Red Rocker himself appeared to mix a Rumrita cocktail.

Chef Henry Cortez with Sammy Hagar talk to guests

A Mill Valley resident for years, the rocker has been a longtime supporter of Homeward Bound of Marin, the nonprofit that benefits from the chef event series. The venerable El Paseo restaurant has come back to life with his backing.

While Chef Henry prepared for his first demonstration, Sammy introduced the Rumrita, hagar-and-cortez-14_cropwhich uses Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum. Made from Maui Gold sugar cane, distilled and filtered only one time, the smooth white rum is, Sammy says, “truly the spirit of aloha.”

He described Chef Henry as “the only chef I’ve ever met who doesn’t want to be a superstar” – a man who likes being at the stove. So Sammy did what he does well, entertaining guests with anecdotes of rock’n’roll, restaurants and building his rum and tequila brands.

Of all these pursuits, Sammy says, the restaurant business is most difficult. But the man is serious about food.

Shrimp in Sofrito at Fresh Starts Chef EventsSammy’s “favorite food countries” are Italy and Spain. With Chef Henry, he’s bringing a Spanish flair to El Paseo, and the evening’s first dish, Shrimp in Sofrito, was an excellent example.

Sofrito, a base often used in Spanish and Italian cooking, is not difficult, but takes up to three hours as onions, red peppers, celery and tomatoes caramelize slowly. Chef Henry set his shrimp atop the sofrito with crispy chorizo and chorizo aioli for garnishes.

The main course of Steak Frites featured melt-in-your-mouth, perfectly cooked Akaushi Chef slicing beef at Fresh Starts Chef EventsWagyu beef, accompanied by Chef Henry’s roasted red onions and chimichurri flavored with smoky sweet pimentón de la Vera. He stresses that the meat needs to be slightly undercooked and left to rest for seven to ten minutes before slicing.

Chef Henry, who has pursued a culinary career since high school, says, “for me, it’s all about technique.” His dedication has drawn a loyal clientele for El Paseo, where Sammy says of his talents, “He blows my mind.”

Steak Frites with Chimichurri

Housemade Warm Chocolate Pudding Cake with a hint of rum wrapped up the menu. The recipe came from Chef Eric Magnani, executive chef for Fresh Starts Culinary Academy, whose students and graduates staffed the kitchen and served guests.

Guests also heard from winemaker Bob Cabral of Three Sticks Wines, invited by Sammy Hagar to offer two new releases for the event. The maker of the first-ever 100-point Pinot Noir, Cabral talked about his history in the business and Three Sticks’ array of select vineyards.

Diners also enjoyed beverages from The Republic of Tea, premier sponsor of Fresh Starts Chef Events, and picked up signed copies of Sammy Hagar’s book, “Are We Having Fun Yet? The Cooking and Partying Handbook.” — Contributed by Carol Inkellis with photos courtesy of Neely Wang.

Basic Sofrito – Makes 5 cupshagar-and-cortez-23_crop

Ingredients:
2 yellow onions, diced to ¼-inch pieces
2 red peppers, diced to ¼-inch pieces
2 celery stalks, pelled and diced to ¼-inch pieces
2 tomatoes, peeled and crushed
12 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped
1 tablespoon saffron threads

Directions:
Place all the ingredients in a pan and cover with olive oil, then season with salt and pepper.

Place the pan over medium-low heat for 3 hours, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan every 7 to 10 minutes.

Continue cooking until most of the water from the vegetables has evaporated and the oil has become a clear red color. Set aside and cool.

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Marin Chef Loves Giving Through Food

Watching Chef Heidi Krahling in action at Fresh Starts Chef Events is like sitting in a good friend’s kitchen.

chef-heidi-krahling-2017-15_cropDespite being an award-winning chef, a cookbook author and the owner of Insalata’s and Marinitas, two highly regarded  restaurants, she talks with warmth and humor to 100-plus guests.

It’s clear this local celebrity, who often shares her talents on behalf of community causes, enjoys feeding people. And the guests arrived eager to be fed, including many who have visited one or both of Chef Heidi’s establishments.

She explained the first dish, Marinitas Salad, was adapted from a Rick Bayless recipe and has been a favorite for 30 years. Chef Heidi stressed its versatility, noting you can vary the cheese or leave it out, or use romaine hearts instead of Little Gem lettuce.chef-heidi-krahling-2017-18_crop

The salad departs a bit from her well-known Mediterranean menus with use of poblano peppers. Her tips: pick smooth-skinned peppers without creases or divots so they’ll roast evenly and always roast the pumpkin seeds in the oven rather than atop the stove.

As she tasted the vinaigrette, Chef Heidi referred to those TV chefs who take their first taste and declare, “That’s it!” This chef’s response: “I don’t think so!” The first taste is rarely just right.

Chef Heidi acquired her beloved recipe for the second course, Chicken Tagine with Preserved Lemon & Olives, in Morocco — prepared and served not by a chef or a restaurant, but by local women.

chef-heidi-krahling-2017-21_cropPreserved lemons, used extensively in Moroccan cuisine, go into the dish. Chef Heidi offers a short-cut recipe to trim the time needed to cure them from 30 days to five by briefly cooking the lemons at the start.

She recommends chicken thighs for tagine, calling them “God’s perfect piece of chicken.” They’re served over couscous, but she cautions against buying the instant variety, which she says is too delicate and hard to cook.

While the tagine recipe looks complicated, Chef Heidi advises careful attention to mise en place, or assembling all the prepped ingredients before getting started.chef-heidi-krahling-2017-25_crop

Her dessert, Athenian Cream with Kumquat Sauce, came into being when a pastry chef challenged her aversion to putting a panna cotta on Insalata’s dessert menu. Again, Chef Heidi says the recipe can vary, substituting goat yogurt for the mascarpone or sheep’s milk ricotta instead of cream cheese.

As the evening ended, Chef Heidi said, “I love being part of the community, especially on nights like this.” The chef event series supports Homeward Bound of Marin, with students from Fresh Starts Culinary Academy working behind the scenes to make the dishes served to guests.

As the premier sponsor for Fresh Starts Chef Events, The Republic of Tea covers food costs and provides iced tea for diners as well as a gift basket for the raffle. — Contributed by Carol Inkellis with photos courtesy of Neely Wang.

Preserved Lemons – Makes 8 lemons
Most recipes for preserved lemons call for curing the wedges in salt until softened, which takes months. By cooking the lemons first, the process takes about five days. Before using preserved lemons, cut away all the pulp and pith, and give the rinds a quick rinse.

Ingredients:
8 lemons
2½ quarts water
¾ cup salt
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
8 whole cloves
2 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons coriander seeds, toasted

Directions:
Using a sharp paring knife, score the skin of the lemons with lengthwise incisions at ½-inch intervals, taking care not to cut into the flesh.

In a large pot, combine the lemons, water, and salt and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and place a plate on top of the lemons to keep them submerged. Cook until the lemon rinds are soft, about 20 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the lemons to a large ceramic crock or glass jar and pack loosely. (You may need two containers; if so, break the cinnamon stick in half and divide it and the lemons between the containers.)

Push the lemons down gently to release their juice. Add the coriander, peppercorns, cloves, bay leaves, and cinnamon stick. Pour enough cooking liquid over the lemons to cover, then cool completely. Cover and refrigerate.

Note: The lemons are best after 5 days and will keep in the refrigerator for 3 months.

 

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