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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Napa Food Writer Celebrates Local

As a devotee of seasonal and local food, award-winning food writer Janet Fletcher opened her recent evening at Fresh Starts Chef Events with a plate that made a statement about

Plate of Flatbread with Whipped Feta & Spring Herbs

Flatbread with Whipped Feta & Herbs

spring in Napa Valley.

Her Flatbread with Whipped Feta, Radishes, & Spring Herbs set the tone along with finger-style blues guitar from Henry May and pitchers of iced tea from The Republic of Tea, premier sponsor of the events.

“There is no better place to be a food writer than here in the Bay Area,” she says, speaking from knowledge acquired at the Culinary Institute of America and as a one-time cook in the Chez Panisse kitchen. Her work has won three James Beard Foundation awards.

Janet Fletcher presents at Fresh Starts Chef Events - photo by Neely Wang

Janet Fletcher begins the escarole salad.

Her menu featured recipes from three of her cookbooks: “Eating Local,” “Fresh from the Farmers’ Market,” and “Yogurt: Sweet and Savory Recipes.” Janet has an extensive home garden in Napa, which inspires many of her dishes.

The recipe for Escarole Salad with Avocado & Blood Oranges serves as “a template” she says, inviting guests to substitute frisee, radicchio or spinach as well as papayas or mangoes depending on the season. To toss everything with her vinaigrette, which includes fish sauce as a secret ingredient, she likes “my best implements, my hands, to tell whether it is properly dressed.”

She offered a primer on yogurt, an ingredient she recommends making at home. For purchased yogurt, she says, try straining plain yogurt instead of paying extra for Greek yogurt and use leftover whey for marinades and soups. She uses Plyban to strain it – it’s available online and can be cleaned for re-use, unlike cheesecloth.

Harissa-Roasted Chicken Thigh

Flatbread with Whipped Feta & Herbs

Her main course of Harissa-Roasted Chicken with Chickpeas, Red Onions & Carrots uses bone-in chicken thighs, which are flavorful and hard to overcook. Though the original recipe calls for bell peppers and onions, she used carrots and chickpeas, adding that potatoes would be good, too. She cautions that beginners should start with a small amount of harissa and add carefully – it can get hot.

The dessert of Yogurt Mousse with Orange Marmalade & Toasted Almonds should be made ahead of time, thus a good dish for a dinner party. She suggests the recipe template in this case could substitute lemon peel in

Janet Fletcher talks about marmalade.

Janet Fletcher talks about marmalade.

place of vanilla, fresh berries instead of marmalade, pistachios instead of almonds. She works without electric beaters because, she says, when she’s “in the zone, I love doing things by hand.”

Before dessert, guests helped celebrate six Fresh Starts Culinary Academy graduates who received their certificates and accolades from their instructors. The kitchen crew for the evening included students and graduates from this nonprofit training program who prepared the recipes enjoyed by guests.

With warm weather on the rise, we’re betting everyone will enjoy trying the dessert recipe – “a luscious cheesecake without the crust.” –– Contributed by Carol Inkellis with photos courtesy of Neely Wang.

Yogurt Mousse with Orange Marmalade & Toasted Almonds — Serves 6


3 cups plain Straus whole-milk yogurt
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped
1 teaspoon powdered unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup sliced almonds
Orange marmalade (see note)


1.    Line a large sieve with a triple thickness of dampened cheesecloth. Set the sieve over a bowl to collect the whey. Gently pour the yogurt into the lined sieve. Cover with a plate or cloth—you’re just protecting the yogurt, not pressing it—and refrigerate. Drain the yogurt until has reduced to 2 cups, about 1 hour.

2.    Scrape the yogurt into a large bowl. If you over-drained it and have less than 2 cups, just whisk in enough of the drained whey to make 2 cups yogurt.

3.    In a small saucepan, stir together 1/4 cup cream, sugar, salt, and the vanilla bean seeds and pod. Sprinkle the gelatin over the mixture and let stand 1 minute to soften.

4.    Bring to a simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly to dissolve the sugar and gelatin. Simmer for 2 minutes, whisking. Strain through a sieve directly into the yogurt. Stir to blend. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

5.    In another bowl, whip the remaining 3/4 cup cream to soft peaks. Gently fold the whipped cream into the yogurt mixture. Divide among 6 glasses. Cover each glass with plastic film and refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours. You can make the mousse up to 8 hours ahead.

6.    Preheat an oven to 325°F. Toast the almonds on a baking sheet or in a pie tin, stirring once or twice so they cook evenly, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Let cool.

7.    To serve, put a scant 1 tablespoon marmalade on top of each mousse. Top each portion with 2 teaspoons almonds. Serve immediately.

Note: You may substitute another kind of fruit preserves for the marmalade, but I like the bitter edge that marmalade contributes. Bill Corbett, formerly executive pastry chef for the Absinthe Group in San Francisco, shared his original recipe and suggests toppings like granola, fresh berries, fresh orange segments, or cookie crumbs. I prefer my own homemade marmalade, which has no added pectin. Many commercial marmalades have pectin added and may be stiff. To soften, warm in a saucepan with a few drops of water, stirring until it liquefies. Then try a few pulses in a food processor to chop up the thick pieces of orange rind.



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Kitchen Gypsy Shares Vignettes, Recipes

After 16 cookbooks, PBS-TV Chef Joanne Weir says she had no desire to write another. But memories of her grandparents’ farm in the Massachusetts Berkshires and her family history (four generations of chefs) spurred her to create a book of vignettes with recipes tracing phases of her life.

Chef talking to guests.

Chef Joanne tells stories of her culinary family.

She shared them with guests at Fresh Starts Chef Events, explaining the title of “Kitchen Gypsy” pays homage to her parents: the kitchen supplied both livelihood and inspiration for her mother, a professional cook, while her father called Chef Joanne his “wandering gypsy” for her restless energy.

Her starter was Carrot Soup with Anise, which derives its flavor from toasted, ground anise seeds and anise-flavored liqueur. Her recipe calls for cream, but Chef Joanne prepared the soup without it and topped it with a swirl of anise-flavored crème fraiche.

To make the soup satisfying, she says, add broth only to the level of carrots in the pot to ensure the purée has body. Asked about wine, she suggests a Viognier or Riesling.

Carrot soup with creme fraiche

Carrot Soup with Anise

As the chef demonstrated her recipes, students at Fresh Starts Culinary Academy prepared each one and served guests. The Republic of Tea, premier sponsor for the events, provided iced tea to complement the menu.

Although Chef Joanne owns Copita, a Mexican restaurant and tequileria in Sausalito, her focus and specialty is Mediterranean cuisine. Her main course of Grilled Sea Bass with Ribbon Squash Skewers and Pistachio-Mint Salsa Verde showcased the flavors of that region: mint, parsley, garlic, lemon.

Chef holding skewwer

Chef Joanne tells stories of her culinary family.

“I love this sauce – it’s so versatile,” she told the audience. “You can do it with grilled vegetables, lamb, chicken. I like to have some texture in a salsa verde.” Rather than using a food processor, she chops and mixes the salsa ingredients. Her skewers included thin “ribbons” of zucchini folded to alternate with the fish.

Along with the fish, her Chocolate Pavé (French for “paving stone”) is a favorite from her Chez Panisse days. She passed on a tip for beating egg whites: “Warm egg whites until they’re warm to the touch” to give them more volume.

Before signing books, Chef Joanne and event emcee Micha Berman auctioned off a take-home tray of dessert, raising more than $100 to benefit the culinary academy, a job-training program of Homeward Bound of Marin. She generously donated her coveted recipe. — Contributed by Carol Inkellis with photos courtesy of Neely Wang.

Chocolate Pavé with Mint Crème Anglaise – Serves 12 

Chocolate Pavé dessert

Chocolate Pavé


For Chocolate Pavé –
7½ ounces unsalted butter
7½ ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
7½ ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
6 eggs, separated
1 1/8 cups sugar
Confectioners’ sugar
Melted chocolate for decorating, optional

For Mint Crème Anglaise –
2 bunches fresh mint
2½ cups whole milk
5 tablespoons sugar
½ vanilla bean, scraped
5 egg yolks

1.    Butter the sides and the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Line the bottom with baking parchment and flour the pan lightly.

2. Melt the butter in a large heavy saucepan over medium low heat. Reduce the heat to low, add the chocolate and stir constantly until the chocolate is just melted and smooth. Be careful not to overheat the chocolate or it will turn grainy. It should not get hotter than 115°F.

3. Separate the eggs. Beat the yolks with half of the sugar until a ribbon forms. Beat the chocolate/butter mixture into the sugar/yolks.

4. Warm the egg whites slightly by placing them in a bowl and swirling them above a gas flame or electric burner until just warm to the touch. Do not let any white form in the bowl. Beat the egg whites to stiff peaks and add the remaining sugar. Continue to beat to incorporate the sugar completely, about 1 minute. Spread the egg whites over the chocolate mixture and fold them together quickly without deflating the whites.

5. For the crème anglaise, begin by using the back of a chef’s knife to bruise the mint stems and leaves. In a saucepan over medium heat, scald the milk with the sugar, split and scraped vanilla bean, and the mint. When the mixture bubbles around the edges, remove from the heat and let sit 1 hour.

6. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks to break them up but don’t make foam. Scald the milk again and strain. Discard the mint. Whisk a little of the hot milk into the egg yolks to warm them. Add the remaining hot milk to the eggs, adding slowly.

7. Return to the pan to medium heat and cook the custard, stirring constantly, until it coats the back of a spoon. Test it by drawing your finger across the back of the spoon. If your finger leaves a trail in the custard, the custard has cooked to the right point. It can also be tested with a thermometer. It should be cooked to 170°F.

8. Immediately strain into a bowl. Chill.

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