Chef John Ash Offers Wild Foods

Recipes in the latest cookbook by Chef John Ash, a double James Beard Award-winner, explore the “connection to cultivated food and those foods that exist in the wild,” the author says.
Chef John Ash talks about Maitake mushroomsGuests at Fresh Starts Chef Events got to taste the connection when Chef John, a visionary in Wine Country cuisine, demonstrated four dishes in a benefit evening to support Fresh Starts Culinary Academy and Homeward Bound of Marin.

Though local stores now stock many foods that once were foraged – for example, fish and weeds like dandelion greens – the food world is still adopting new tastes. Insects were not on the menu, “though it’s the future,” the chef says.

His presentation from the book, “Cooking Wild,” began with Maitake Tempura & Ponzu Maitake Mushroom Tempura with Ponzu Dipping SauceDipping Sauce, a revelation to those who think of tempura as greasy and heavy. Chef John coats the mushrooms in corn starch before dipping them in a batter of rice flour for a feathery but satisfying texture.

He offers three rules to frying food: use a clear oil with a high smoke point, such as grapeseed oil; avoid using excess batter or coating on foods; and keep the temperature between 350-375°F, the “sweet spot,” so the food cooks before absorbing too much oil.

Chef John Ash talks about sablefishChef John, an adviser to Seafood Watch of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, prepared a second course of Sablefish with Tomatoes, Pine Nuts & Olives. Also known as black cod or butterfish, he calls this sustainable species “the most forgiving fish — you can’t overcook it and it doesn’t get dry.”

He lightly coated the fish with flour—he recommends Wondra—before cooking. He added spinach from Homeward Bound’s on-site garden into the recipe. Belying his early career as a fine arts painter, he plated the fish and other dishes with colorful style.

The main course of Roast Loin of Venison with Blackberry Sage Sauce uses “the saddle” of Roast Venison with Blackberry Sage Saucethe animal, which needs to be marinated and roasted only to 118-125°F. While most venison sold by butchers is farm-raised, the meat remains lean with no internal fat and needs careful roasting to avoid drying out.

Chef John quizzed the audience and cleared up a myth about marinades. Marinating adds flavor but does not tenderize meat; on the contrary, if meat marinates too long, he warns the acid denatures the protein, making it “floppy and cardboardy.”

Maple Flan by Chef John AshThe Maple Flan comes together easily but has tricky moments, such as coating the bottom of the ramekins with caramel without spilling. Like all the dishes, this one was executed with great results by the Fresh Starts Culinary Academy crew.

Fresh Starts Chef Events’ premier sponsor, The Republic of Tea, underwrote food costs and provided iced tea, while Mycopia Mushrooms, Inc. donated the Maitake mushrooms and wines were contributed by Virginia Dare Winery.

“Food is what sustains us,” Chef John says. He thanked the crowd for sustaining shelter and job-training programs Homeward Bound of Marin with their presence. — Contributed by Carol Inkellis with photos courtesy of Neely Wang.

Sablefish with Tomatoes & Olives – Serves 4

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 skinless sablefish (black cod) fillets (about 5 oz. each)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/4 cup dry white wine, such as pinot grigio
2 cups grape tomatoes, halved (quartered if large)
1-1/4 cups shrimp or chicken stock
1/2 cup pitted and slivered Niçoise olives
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1/2 cup lightly toasted pine nuts

Heat the oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the fish, season generously with salt and pepper and cook until lightly browned and crusty. Remove fish and set aside.

Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the wine and let simmer until reduced by half, about 2 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, stock and olives. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Stir in rosemary.

Nestle the fish in the sauce browned side up. Return to a simmer, cover and reduce heat to low. Cook until the fish is cooked through and is just starting to flake, about 3 minutes.

Divide fish among 4 shallow soup bowls. Add pine nuts and chives to the sauce and check seasoning. Spoon sauce over the fish and serve immediately.

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Sonoma Menu Layers Local Flavors

As culinary director for Stark Reality restaurants in Sonoma County, Chef David Zimmerman helps supervise divergent menus in favorite local eateries like Bravas Bar de Tapas and Stark’s Steak & Seafood.


Chef David Zimmerman

Just as the menus offer variety, ingredients offer singular flavors that can be built by “seasoning in layers” with careful combinations, Chef David told guests at Fresh Starts Chef Events.

His recipe demonstrations provided a tour of the six award-winning restaurants owned by Chef Mark Stark and wife Terri, with whom he’s worked since 2007.

Chef David’s first recipe of Dungeness Crab & Uni Orzotto with Fennel Pollen began with sweating shallots, a bay leaf, and peppercorns in butter. The uni sauce is blended until smooth, then strained through a fine chinois sieve for a rich, risotto-like dish.


Dungeness Crab & Uni Orzotto

A main course of Barbecued Lamb Chops with Mint Chutney & Couscous involves several recipes but did not prove to be difficult to prepare.

Chef David started with the Moroccan Barbecue Sauce, which includes a daunting list of ingredients. After toasting the spices in a hot, dry pan “to release the flavors and get the oils moving,” however, everything else went into a pot to simmer. It was strained and ready to go without much trouble.


Chef David prepares lamb chops

While the sauce cooked, Chef David prepared the Preserved Lemon Couscous, which steams in orange juice and water. To prevent this fine, rolled form of pasta from clumping, he worked extra virgin olive oil into it with his hands for a fluffy result.

Rather than mint jelly, which the chef calls “super weird,” the lamb chops are coated with a mint chutney that comes together in the blender. They marinate for at least four hours before cooking over a medium-hot grill. As an alternative, sear in a hot pan (preferably cast iron) and finish in the oven.


Barbecued Lamb Chops with Mint Chutney & Preserved Lemon Couscous

As the chef worked, students and graduates from Fresh Starts Culinary Academy in Novato, Calif., prepared the menu and served guests. “The support of this staff has made this the easiest demo I’ve ever done. You guys have done an amazing job,” Chef David said.

He closed with a Chocolate Chunk and Banana Bread Pudding that’s a favorite dessert at Stark restaurants. The recipe uses croissants rather than bread; Chef David recommends bittersweet chocolate with 74 percent cacao.

He cautions that the custard must be made carefully so the egg yolks don’t cook. The finished presentation is a rich ending to a meal. A refreshing accompaniment was a Sonoma Rosé Iced Tea from The Republic of Tea, premier sponsor of Fresh Starts Chef Events’ monthly series. — Contributed by Carol Inkellis with photos courtesy of Neely Wang.

Chocolate Banana Bread Pudding

Chocolate Chunk & Banana Bread Pudding

Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread Pudding – Serves 8

Ingredients for the custard:
1 quart heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split
⅔ cup sugar
10 egg yolks
1⅓ tablespoons salt

Bring cream and the vanilla bean to a boil, then remove from heat, allowing to steep for 1 hour. Remove the vanilla bean, and scrape out the contents of the pod into the mixture.

In a bowl, whisk together well the sugar, yolks, and salt.

Bring the cream back to a boil and then slowly add to the egg mixture while whisking in a steady stream. Pour through mesh strainer and keep warm.

Ingredients for the bread pudding:
8 croissants, toasted and cut into 2-inch pieces
4 bananas, sliced
1 quart, plus 1 cup custard base
1 pound dark chocolate, cut into chunks

Place toasted croissant pieces and sliced bananas in a large bowl.

Add 1 quart of the custard (recipe on previous page), reserving the remaining amount. Let sit until the croissants have soaked up all the liquid.

Evenly divide the mixture into 8 soup bowls and top with a generous amount of the chocolate chunks.

Divide the remaining custard between the 8 bowls, pouring evenly around the mounded custard mixture in each bowl.

Bake at 325°F until the custard is set, about 30-35 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving warm.

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Cooking Up Connections at Backyard

Chef Daniel Kedan talks to guests at Fresh Starts Chef Events

Chef Daniel Kedan 

In his culinary life, Chef Daniel Kedan says he’s “always searching for a connection to farming and locally sourced ingredients.” Guests who tried his menu at Fresh Starts Chef Events will be searching out his restaurant, Backyard, in Forestville.

Through the restaurant, Chef Daniel has cultivated a connection to Sonoma County by sourcing local ingredients with his wife and partner, Marianna Gardenhire. His event focused on the restaurant’s Thursday night tradition: fried chicken with all the fixings.

The chef, who has just opened a kitchen for Siduri Winery in Healdsburg, kicked off the evening with a salad featuring Burrata and topped with Tomato Water Vinaigrette.

His first taste of burrata, he says, spurred him to wonder: “Where has this been my entire Chef stretches mozzarella for burratalife?”

Chef Daniel’s recipe is uncomplicated enough to make at home. It does involve finding  mozzarella curd, which is available at cheese shops, some grocery stores, and Whole Foods.

He recommends using gloves since the cheese is bathed in hot water. But not too hot, or the fat separates out of the cheese. It’s a careful process that leads to stretching the cheese and folding it around a creamy ricotta and mascarpone mixture to make burrata.

Housemade Burrata with Tomato SaladThe vinaigrette comes from a simple puree of summer tomatoes, which is strained to blend with sherry vinegar. With tomato slices, the cheese and herbs, it was a delicious start.

While fried chicken may sound like fast food, Chef Daniel says the secrets of making a spectacular dish are top-quality fresh chicken, a 12-hour brining and a flavorful flour dredge.

Using a 2½-pound bird – the size he declares “just right” – he showed guests how to dip Chef Daniel Kedan preparing fried chickeneach piece into the dredge, then buttermilk, then back into the dredge, and into a pan of rice bran oil heated to 330°F. When it left the pan, he seasoned with salt.

Alongside the chicken, he served Summer Squash Latkes, suggesting Yukon gold, russet, or purple potatoes. Adding  squash uses up the bounty that often piles up in late summer. In this case, the squash came from the garden just outside at Homeward Bound of Marin.

Summer Squash Latkes in pan

Students and chefs from Fresh Starts Culinary Academy prepared the menu for guests. As the plates came out, Chef Daniel said, “This isn’t meant to be healthy. This is meant to be delicious.” And it was, especially paired with wines from Hook & Ladder Winery in the Russian River Valley.


To close, guests enjoyed Buttermilk Panna Cotta, which took a few minutes to prepare (and 4 hours to chill), topped with fresh berries.Panna Cotta with berries

The full menu paired with Sonoma iced teas — Chardonnay, Rosé, and Cabernet —from The Republic of Tea, premier sponsor for the chef events. — Contributed by Carol Inkellis with photos courtesy of Neely Wang

For those who can’t make it to Forestville anytime soon, Chef Daniel shared his secret recipes for fried chicken brine and flour dredge to try at home:

Brine for Three Chickens – Serves 10 (3-piece portions)

2 lemons, halved
2 tablespoons fresh Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh thyme
3 cloves garlic, halved
3 teaspoons black peppercorns
10 tablespoons salt
3 tablespoons honey
2 bay leaves
1 gallon (16 cups) water
4 chickens, without giblets, about 2 1/2 – 3 lbs. each

Combine 2 cups of water with all of the ingredients except the chicken in a sauce pot. Bring to a boil and stir.

Pour the rest of the water into a large plastic container with the chicken, then add the brine. Let the chicken rest in the brine for 12 hours.

Fried Chicken Flour Dredge – Makes 5 pounds

5 pounds organic all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons paprika
1½ teaspoons cayenne powder
4½ tablespoons onion powder
4¾ tablespoons garlic powder
1½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients, mixing well. Remember to dredge twice — before a buttermilk dip and again afterward.


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Chef Josh Silvers Offers Summer Feast

If summer means “living is easy” to you, your kindred spirit is Chef Josh Silvers of Jackson’s Bar & Oven in Santa Rosa. But his easygoing style belies the hard work that got him to his life as chef and restaurant owner.

Chef Josh Silvers talks to guestsA self-described “punk” in his teens, Chef Josh started in the food service industry at the very bottom and worked his way up. He told some of his story to guests at Fresh Starts Chef Events before demonstrating his recipes for a summer feast.

“I love food. It’s what I think about. It’s what I talk about,” he said, relating how he reached success as chef/owner of Syrah, an early leader on the Wine Country restaurant scene, and opened Jackson’s Bar & Oven in 2010.

Chef stirs gazpachoChef Josh began with an ideal warm-weather starter, Summer Watermelon Gazpacho, which hit the palate as both sweet and tart with a hint of spiciness. The chef used one seedless watermelon, dicing one half and puréeing the other before mixing in diced red onions, red bell peppers, and Pasilla peppers, plus cilantro.

To “bring out the oils, which brings out the flavors” in the spices, Chef Josh heated the paprika and two types of chili powder briefly before incorporating them into the gazpacho. As a counter to the mild heat, the evening included beverages from The Republic of Tea, the premium sponsor for the chef events.

Chef cuts pork shoulderChef Josh added that a nice touch for a dinner party would be to serve this gazpacho in Martini glasses. To ensure you relax at your party, it can be made a day ahead and actually improves in taste when it sits for a couple of hours or overnight.

The main dish, Maple & Whiskey Braised Duroc Pork with White Cheddar Grits and Sautéed Rainbow Chard, also starts the day ahead as the pork shoulder requires hours to cook and cool and the sauce takes time to simmer and strain.

To ease party preparations, he suggests trading out higher-end grits like Anson Mills for an instant variety and using a tasty local cheese to round out the flavor. And he emphasized that good whiskey is for drinking, not to be used for cooking this dish.Braised Duroc Pork

He closed his menu with Fresh Yellow Peach Cobbler & Vanilla Bean Chantilly Cream, suggesting that peaches shouldn’t be over-ripe for baked desserts to retain texture. For a light biscuit topping, he added, be sure not to over-mix the dough.

Chef Josh had kind words for students from Fresh Starts Culinary Academy, who helped prepare and serve his dishes for guests. “They made me look good,” he said, joining a round of applause for the kitchen and service crew. Contributed by Carol Inkellis with photos courtesy of Neely Wang.

Chef applauds kitchen crew

Summer Watermelon Gazpacho – Serves 8

Chef Josh Silvers-5_crop

1 seedless watermelon
2 jalapeños, finely diced
2 red onions, finely diced
2 red bell peppers, finely diced
2 Pasilla peppers, finely diced
1 cup lime juice
½ bunch cilantro
2 cups simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water boiled, then cooled)
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon dark chili powder
1 teaspoon New Mexico chili powder

Cut the watermelon in half. Finely dice the melon from one half, then purée the other half in the blender with the syrup until smooth.

Fold the diced melon, onions, peppers and cilantro into the purée.

Add spices and season to taste. Add lime juice to taste.



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Chef Bryan Jones Presents Top Recipes

It’s a rare event when the #1 Restaurant in America comes to you. That’s what happened when Chef Bryan Jones of St. Francis Winery arrived at Fresh Starts Chef Events.

Chef cuts cucumber

Chef Bryan Jones begins his cucumber gazpacho

The winery’s dining room has twice been voted that top honor by Open Table diners, with Chef Bryan at the helm for the most recent award in 2015.

The evening began with Chris Silva, chief executive at St. Francis Winery, talking briefly about the winery’s history and its sustainable wines. The winery’s commitment to sustainable food includes a 2-acre kitchen garden.

That garden provides inspiration for the chef, who says he has cooked since his early years, admitting that “my mother was a horrible cook.” He trained at California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, and before coming to the winery, spent nine years as chef and general manager at Sondra Bernstein’s fig café in Glen Ellen.

He demonstrated his most requested recipe, Cucumber Gazpacho with Cucumber-Mint Granita, as the first course. Easy to prepare and made ahead of time — the granita has to

Bowl of Cucumber Gazpacho

Summer starter: Cucumber Gazpacho with Cucumber-Mint Granita

freeze for about three hours — it is a perfect warm-weather starter.

The dish uses a high-quality extra virgin olive oil — “to give it a nice mouthfeel,” the chef says — and vinegar to balance the oil’s richness. The result was much tastier than familiar tomato versions and paired with the 2015 Sauvignon Blanc from the Dry Stack Vineyard in Bennett Valley.

Chef Bryan next prepared Brick Chicken with Grilled Romaine & Salsa Verde, also a dish that needs advance work but little heat in the kitchen. He demonstrated how to carefully de-bone the chicken with skin intact, then top with the “brick” – a preheated cast-iron skillet wrapped in aluminum foil – as the chicken goes on the grill.

Chef de-bones chicken

Chef Bryan Jones shows how to debone chicken

Salsa verde, drizzled over the chicken and lettuce, added “oomph” with capers, anchovy and orange zest. The flavors paired perfectly with a 2013 Cabernet Franc (Wild Oak Vineyard, Sonoma Valley).

A dessert of Bruleéd Apricots with Honey Crème Anglaise, also a make-ahead project, requires enough work to put off some home chefs: cooking over a water bath, stirring constantly, cooling in an ice bath — and that’s just the custard. The feuille de brick (a French-Tunisian pastry), apricots, and apricot mascarpone have their own prep as well.

Surprisingly, the 2013 Banti Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel was a wonderful complement to the dessert — Chef Bryan described it as “soft and elegant.”

The Republic of Tea, premier sponsor of the events, offered iced tea to refresh between courses. Taken together, the three courses and wine pairings created an elegant evening. — Contributed by Carol Inkellis with photos courtesy of Neely Wang.

Chef Bryan Jones-16_crop

Cucumber Gazpacho with Cucumber-Mint Granita – Serves 6


For the gazpacho:
2 English cucumbers, peeled and seeded
3 sprigs green onions, base and top ⅓ removed (use white part only)
2 medium cloves of garlic
1 cup diced baguette, crust removed
3 tablespoons toasted almonds
1 tablespoon Moscato vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Juice and zest of 1/2 lime
1 cup ice

For the granita: 
1 tablespoon lime zest
1/2 cup lime juice
¾ cup sugar
1 cup water
¼ teaspoon salt
3 mint sprigs
1 pound English cucumbers, peeled and seeded


For the gazpacho:
Dice the cucumbers. Combine cucumbers, green onions, garlic, baguette, almonds, lime zest and lime juice in blender and mix until smooth.

Add the ice, vinegar and olive oil, then purée until smooth.

For the granita:
Place lime zest, lime juice, sugar, salt and water into a large saucepan and bring to a boil.

Boil for 1 minute, then add the mint and remove from heat to steep for 10 minutes.

Add the ice, vinegar and olive oil, then purée until smooth.

To serve: Ladle the gazpacho into a bowl, top with a scoop of granita and top with micro-cilantro.


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Jazz and More with David Lawrence

Smooth jazz from a saxophone and trombone duo filled The Key Room as guests arrived for an evening with Fresh Starts Chef Events.

Chef David Lawrence with whisk

Guests were gathered to learn from the delightful David Lawrence, chef and partner (with his wife, Monetta White) at 1300 on Fillmore and the new Black Bark BBQ, both in San Francisco.

Though born and raised in London, Chef David’s cultural roots are Jamaican. Trained in the French culinary tradition, Chef David is known for a creative take on Southern cuisine with seasonal and local ingredients.

His cooking demo began with a signature dish: Barbecued Shrimp & Grits. He notes the combination reminds him of cornmeal porridge from his childhood, with flavors from Jamaican and British cultures.

The shrimp aren’t actually barbecued – Worcestshire sauce imparts the barbecue notes. AsChef David Lawrence prepares vegetables Chef David prepared the grits (also known as polenta), he acknowledged there’s no skimping on butter or cream, adding, “I am your chef, not your doctor.”

For his Braised Short Ribs with Butter Bean Hash, another restaurant favorite, Chef David advised using boneless short ribs. And make sure to “braise, not boil” when cooking the meat.

His mirepoix vegetables (carrots, celery and onion) are chunky, sauteed to bring out the sugars. Hoisin and oyster sauces give this dish its unique flavor and an unexpected richness. One caveat: plan the timing, because the short ribs cook in the oven for about three hours.

Chef David Lawrence makes Butter Bean HashChef David’s Butter Bean Hash paired with the ribs, a combination of butter beans, rainbow carrots, roasted fingerling potatoes, dandelion greens, and pickled Fresno chilies. They were sautéed and splashed with a whole grain mustard vinaigrette.

As he spoke, students and graduates from Fresh Starts Culinary Academy prepared and served the dishes. Chef David and guests paused an instant before dessert to honor three students celebrating their graduation after 16 weeks of training.

A Sweet Tea Panna Cotta capped the evening, using the Southern staple of sweet tea to flavor panna cotta topped with a scoop of lemon granité. Though not complicated to prepare, this dessert — like the short ribs — takes several hours to set.

Chef David concluded by telling the audience, “It’s been a pleasure to cook for you … I hope you’ve had as much fun as I have.” — Contributed by Carol Inkellis with photos by Neely Wang.

Braised Short Rib with Butter Bean Hash

Braised Short Ribs with Butter Bean Hash – Serves 8


For the cure:
1 cup of brown sugar
1 tablespoon allspice
1 teaspoon chili flakes
Salt and pepper, to taste

For braising the ribs:
8 short ribs
½ pound carrots
½ pound celery
½ pound onion
½ cup hoisin sauce
½ cup oyster sauce
2 pieces star anise
6 cloves
1 stick cinnamon
1 tablespoon peppercorns
1 gallon brown chicken stock
1 cup red wine
¼ cup blended olive oil


1. Season the short ribs with salt and pepper.

2. In a large bowl, mix all ingredients for the cure. Roll the ribs in the cure one by one until nicely coated.

3. Place a large pot over low to medium heat. Add oil.

4. Place short ribs in the pot, making sure the temperature is low enough to avoid burning the sugar. When the ribs are browned, remove them from the pan and set aside.

5. Add vegetables and sauté until brown.

6. Deglaze pan with red wine and add chicken stock.

7. Add spices, hoisin sauce, oyster sauce and chicken stock. Bring to a boil.

8. Place the short ribs in a large deep pan. Pour hot stock over the ribs – make sure they are completely covered.

9. Place in a pre-heated oven 300°F oven for about 3 hours or until very tender.

To serve: Spoon butter bean hash tightly in center of plate. Place short rib on top, then spoon liquid over top of short rib. Garnish with shaved carrot and micro celery.


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Michelle Tam Promotes Tasty Paleo

Michelle Tam holds cookbook

Michelle Tam with “Nom Nom Paleo,” her best-selling cookbook .

Even people jaded by an overload of popular diet “dos and don’ts” might have a hard time rejecting the recipes and style of Michelle Tam, dubbed “the Martha Stewart of paleo” by The New York Times.

Her relaxed and cheerful approach to paleo eating — along with a delicious menu — drew a full house to Fresh Starts Chef Events, where she greeted a mix of ardent fans and newbies among the guests.

“Some people are hard-core,” she explains, noting “paleo” eating – referring to what was available in the Paleolithic era – focuses on meat and vegetables along with dropping gluten, most grains, processed sugar and most dairy items.

“You can be willing to give up salt and potatoes,” Tam says, “but I reside in a happy medium. It should be delicious, shouldn’t hurt your body and be sustainable for the long term. It’s really about finding out what works for you and what doesn’t work.”

Her event opened with Tostones with Mango & Avocado Salsa, letting fried green plaintains stand in for potato or corn chips. They didn’t last long at most tables.

Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus and Sunnyside Salad.

Michelle Tam with “Nom Nom Paleo,” her best-selling cookbook .

The author of the award-winning “Nom Nom Paleo” blog and a best-selling cookbook prepared a hearty second course of Sunnyside Salad topped by Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus, relying on simple ingredients: lettuce, egg, carrot, asparagus and prosciutto.

To crisp the whites of the egg that tops the salad, Michelle uses a piping-hot pan and bastes with the hot oil as it cooks. She mostly uses avocado oil or ghee, a clarified butter, for high-heat frying.

The simple broiled asparagus can be a separate appetizer or, atop the salad, combine for a light supper. Sunnyside Salad sometimes serves as her breakfast, she adds.

Emcee Micha Berman and Michelle Tam discuss cookbook.

Michelle Tam with “Nom Nom Paleo,” her best-selling cookbook .

As a busy mom, Michelle recommends a pressure cooker as a kitchen essential to accommodate tougher cuts of meat like short ribs or pork butt in a shorter time frame. Her main course of Korean Braised Short Ribs also can go into a traditional slow cooker.

Like many of her recipes, she says the short ribs take a well-loved prescription and “paleo-ify” it, removing gluten and sugar. The Cauliflower Fried “Rice” offered with the main course has become a staple of many paleo devotees, substituting for a common starch and easily incorporating many Asian flavors.

Michelle Tam talks about paleo eating.

Michelle Tam with “Nom Nom Paleo,” her best-selling cookbook .

Two top ingredients for Michelle are Asian fish sauce and coconut aminos. The first she describes as “magical,” saying, “It smells awful, but just a little bit can boost the flavor.” She uses coconut aminos, the fermented sap of the coconut palm, as a gluten-free replacement for soy sauce.

While she demonstrated her dishes, students from Fresh Starts Culinary Academy prepared them and served the courses to guests. “I’m a home cook, not a chef. This crew has more training than I do,” Michelle told the audience.

A Mexican Chocolate Pot de Creme capped the menu, her response to the question of whether paleo fans can eat dessert. She calls for dark chocolate (70 to 85% cacao) and just a bit of coconut cream with palm sugar on top, adding ““It’s high fat but just a little bit is satisfying.”

With a second cookbook in the works and frequent Facebook Live videos that engage a large online fan base with her cooking, it seems the fans of Nom Nom Paleo are far from satisfied yet. Try her recipe for Cauliflower Fried “Rice” for a taste of paleo eating. — Contributed by Maura Thurman with photos courtesy of Neely Wang.

Short ribs with cauliflower fried "rice"

Korean Braised Short Ribs with Cauliflower Fried “Rice”

Cauliflower Fried “Rice”  — Serves 6

1 head of cauliflower, separated in florets
3 slices uncured bacon, diced
2 large eggs
1-inch knob of ginger
1 small onion, minced
4 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
1 to 2 tablespoons coconut aminos
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
A splash of Red Boat Fish Sauce
A splash of coconut vinegar (optional)


1. First, pulse the cauliflower in a food processor until the pieces are the size of rice and chop the rest of the ingredients.

2. Toss the diced bacon into a large cast iron skillet over medium heat and fry until the bits are crispy. While the bacon cooks, whisk the two eggs in a small bowl with some salt and pepper to taste. When the bacon is done, move to a plate for later.

3. Pour the whisked eggs into the hot bacon grease and fry a thin egg omelet. Take the egg out of the pan, slice thinly, and set aside.


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