Did She or Didn’t She – Catherine de Medici!!

Catherine de MediciI recently got called on my cooking BS.

“Rice pilaf,” I exclaimed, “is purely a dish of western creation.”  You see, I received formal training in classical French cooking techniques and  . . .  well . . . all the best food and cooking techniques come from France. Right?!  I was caught in my little white lie by two very talented female chefs  who replied, “That doesn’t sound quite right.” They were right, I was wrong.  Um, it seems I forgot one part, the one where Everyone-Else-In-The-World cooks too. To state it correctly, Rice Pilaf is a Middle Eastern dish and our word Pilaf comes from the Turkish word Pilav. Oops, my bad.

Now to the title of this piece and how Pilav became Pilaf. In 1533, at the age of fourteen, Catherine de Medici of Italy married Henry II, king of France.  Henry, to our benefit you’ll soon discover, was much more interested in his mistress Diane de Poitiers than his new bride. Catherine as a result was excluded from politics and all things court like.  Instead of staying by her husband’s side she traveled the country with her entourage. Here comes the good part. The Italians, being the great travelers and traders they are, brought back not only goods for commerce but great heaps of culture from around the globe.  In Catherine’s entourage were chefs schooled in cross cultural cooking techniques and the dishes they inspired.  As they progressed around France, Catherine chefs would require the assistance of local cooks to prepare the Queen’s meals.  Catherine moved on but the cooking techniques remained, Pilaf included. While there has been some trifling debate as to whether Catherine actually had this much effect on French cuisine, those of us who study it can precisely time its rise to the Renaissance period. So there!

Did she or didn’t she?  I believe she did. Is it wrong of me to be grateful of the King’s infidelity?


Eat Well and Smile Often,




p.s. I thought all the best chefs were men!  Ooops, my bad.


Simple Rice Pilaf

1  cup               Rice

3 Tbsp              Butter or olive oil

2  cups             Water or broth

2 Tbsp              Parsley, chopped


Place in a sauce pan water or broth and bring to a boil. Add a pinch of salt if water only.

In a sauté pan heat butter or olive oil over medium heat and add rice.  Cook for about 4 minutes.

Add rice to boiling liquid, stir, reduce heat to very low and cover.  Cook until all the liquid is gone.  Remove from heat, mix in parsley and serve.


Cooking For Ms. Right!!

Chicken Poulet Supreme!I met her at my first barbeque. I don’t mean my actual first barbeque;  as in a baby with a brontosaurus bone, sipping from dad’s PBR first barbeque. I mean my first movie barbeque, where I worked on a real, live film set.  First barbeque, you see, is a term employed, by those-in-the-know, with both pride and derision.  As in, “This isn’t my first barbeque.” versus “Is this your first barbeque??”

Returning from a whirlwind auto tour of Europe with my best friend Dale, me a recent graduate of culinary school, I got a call from one of my former chef instructors.

“So, how was Europe?” Chef Patty Hart inquired. 

“Great, what’s up?” I wittily replied. 

“Got a job yet,”   “Not yet,” says me.

“Meet me at so & so at 5:30. I’ve got something for you.”

5:30 came and I found myself smack dab in the middle of what was to become my first barbeque: The film set for ‘So I Married An Axe Murderer.’  After a quick meeting with the producer we were off to the production office to meet with – Ms. Right.  Now when I say Ms. Right I mean it in all the best possible ways.  She is beautiful, smart, kind, witty, humble, and unavailable.  Sigh . . .

It was Ms. Right who hired me to cook for Mike Myers, of SNL and Wayne’s World fame, on the set of this new movie.  To answer the question forming on your tongue, Mike is brilliant, funny, considerate, and extremely talented.  It was a privilege to cook for him.

Back to Ms. Right, since she is of a rare breed in the motion picture industry, not a seeker of fame, I have chosen not to use her real name. So Ms. Right she will remain.  I will openly admit to having a crush on her from the first time we met; unfortunately our lives spin in different circles never allowing us more than the odd telephone call,  chance meeting-for-dinner, and  the too few and far between email exchanges.  FYI: She is happily partnered with a charming man and both currently reside in Jolly Old. That being said, Ms. Right and I have maintained a strong bond around food.  We loooooove to talk about it and have shared great fun and laughter over the few meals we have inhaled together. My favorite line of hers is, “This is going to cost me an extra 20 minutes on the treadmill tomorrow but I don’t care!”  Hence the Ms. Right scale of decadence was born.

One recent email exchange brought up the topic of her discovering a local French bistro and she raved about the Cod with fresh lentils.  Positively made my mouth water and think of all things French.  She and her date enjoyed not only the expertly prepare meal, they wisely complimented it with a tasty French Sauvignon. They were happy.  Made me happy just reading about it!  It also put me in the mind to try a few items French and so my foray in to the world of crepes began.  Now the strawberry crepes I wrote about recently were certainly fabulous but honestly, they were just an excuse to prepare a plate of plain ole’ crepes to cook with later.  Then inspiration struck!  A welcome home meal for Ms. Right, the next time she flies through town.  Crepe Poulet Supreme!

Inspired is the right term ‘cuz those little buggers were amazing.  Crispy browned slices of chicken, sautéed mushrooms, caramelized onions and golden bell peppers simmered in a sauce of rich chicken stock and heavy cream.  After a few minutes on the stove, using a slotted spoon, I filled and rolled 2 crepes with the chicken and vegetable mixture and set them aside. Returning to the stove I reheated the sauce and whisked in 3 tablespoons of soft, sweet butter. It made it glisten, it made it shine and boy did it make me smile.  Sauce on the plate, crepes on the sauce, quick photo and then in to my belly they went.

For those of you notice the lack of a green vegetable I offer this:

1.  I garnished with lemon thyme making my mouth very happy.

2.  I stood next to the fresh little plant-lings in my garden while enjoying my fork-to-mouth     exercise.

3. YES, 1 and 2 DO count.)

Thanks for another inspired meal Ms. Right.


Eat well and Smile Often,


p.s. This dish would be a 45 on the Ms. Right scale of decadence . . . just saying.

Dig Inn!!

I think I’ll name my next place Dig Inn!  A  little Farm-to-Table refuge sitting on just a few acres of dark rich soil with fruit trees and chickens and . . .

Wake up!  I’ve got that little place! It’s only a quarter acre but the soil is rich and this season already looks promising.  Up before the sun, I dug up last year’s planting beds and turned in some nutrient rich amendments to give the soil a strong start this season.  Plantings went in quickly and I look forward to my crop of Heirloom tomatoes, Romas, and Early Girls. Acorn, spaghetti and zucchini squash fill up the second bed. Red, gold, serrano and jalepeno peppers share the 3rd with a, soon to be, impressive wall of blue lake pole beans.  It’s going to be a great year, I can just feel it.  Over the next few weeks I want to clear another patch of dirt to plant a bed of leafy greens, lay in a pumpkin patch and perhaps a few corn rows.  (Not those ones silly . . . Real corn rows.)

In a fantastic, totally unplanned, turn of events I am planting the same ground my grandfather planted 20+ years ago. My father grew up on a farm in North Dakota where my grandfather planted many things.  Truthfully the only stories I ever heard of farming were of the homemade beer bottles blowing up in the root cellar because of too much pressure.  No that ‘s not true, I do remember hearing about them putting up beans and tomatoes; making jellies and having fresh eggs. In any event, when he retired here in California he planted a garden in my Great Aunt’s backyard. Now, so am I!!


Vintage Sweet Shop Plants all in and hands all washed Suzanne and I took the afternoon together and drove with the top down in her convertible to the town of Napa. Home of many great restaurants we decided to stroll the relatively new Riverfront development which houses Morimoto and Tyler Florence’s Rotisserie and Wine, among others. On our way down the street my inner child’s heart lept with joy as we came upon The Vintage Sweet Shoppe. The sweet smell of their confections reached out the front door and dragged us in by our lapels. Suzanne was good, saving herself for the promise of a rich meal and abstained. Me, I’m weak, a milk chocolate truffle and we’re out the door.


Angele Licking my lips we ambled down a half block to Angèle Restaurant & Bar in search of a cool, refreshing cocktail. Man! Did we hit the jackpot. Sitting down we notice the bartender assembling a delicious looking beverage with a sprig of Rosemary. We inquired and learned it was called a Diane Lane. Now I am most certainly a fan of Ms. Lane but I didn’t know she attained such a status as to have a cocktail named after her. (I’m sure it’s not posthumous!!) We order a Diane Lane and a Clear Conscience. The former made up with rosemary, lime, Swan’s Neck Vodka and Bundaberg blood orange soda on the rocks; and the latter with muddled cucumber, ginger, orange, and vodka over ice. We kept swapping back and forth they tasted so good.


Gotts Roadside A pleasant little feeling-of-well-being surrounded us as we strolled along the river front on our way to find a coffee when we stumbled upon Gotts Roadside. A new favorite place of mine, that I recently discovered inside the Ferry Building in San Francisco, serves a mean burger and fries. Not wanting to spoil our dinner Suzanne and I cooled our heels in their air conditioned dining room sharing only some lovely, deeply fried french fries. Them and a pair of sodas and we were back on track.



Ritual CoffeeNext stop Oxbow Public Market to Ritual Roasters for a lovely cup of Monte Rey from El Salavador. A warm, rich smooth cup of coffee. I perked up, we had an energized conversation on our walk to the restaurant and happily finished the weekend off sharing a pleasant meal with friends. I hope your weekend was as productive and relaxing as mine.

Eat Well and Smile Often!!


p.s. Would you please pass me another Sunday??

Vive La France! Vive La Crepe! Vive La . . . My Breakfast!?

Crepe Thomas

Mai Oui!! (pronounced in my kitchen, May Weeeeeee!!)

My father was a patient, intelligent, saint of a man and he proved this by making our family pancakes every Sunday morning. His techniques were unique to say the least. I remember one morning he fired up the dual waffle/pancake griddle and began to rub wax paper onto the surface. (Herein lies the genesis of my love for the science of cooking.) “Wax paper,” I asked “shouldn’t you be using butter?” He smiled that knowing, fatherly smile at me. The one that suggested that, even though my, age appropriate, test scores matched his I was still without a clue. Cluelessly I awaited a response.

“The wax is slippery and keeps the pancakes from sticking without using oil.”  My father was a pharmacist and smart as a whip.  When I began to learn about emulsions in culinary school he helped me understand the similarities and differences of oil-in-water suspensions and water-in-oil suspensions. (It’s a volume thing. Evidently size matters here too.)  Anyways, I asked about eating wax to which he replied, “A little wax never hurt anybody.”  My mother raised an eyebrow, we ate the pancakes and the next Sunday he used butter.

Speaking of pancakes, Le French have a pancake of their own: La Crepe.  Thinking of my father, he was half French but never made us crepe, I set to the blender and stove to make this morning’s breakfast: Fresh crepe with Grand Marnier Strawberries and Ricotta cheese. (It’s okay to say Yum out loud.) It was yummy. Now crepes are not difficult, nor are they easy.  They require a medium skill level to prepare and just the right pan.  The great thing is that if you make enough batter you can practice, practice, practice and if you get 2 right, you can eat!

Crepe Batter

1.5 cups                flour, all purpose

1.5 cups                milk, 1%

3                            eggs, whole

3 Tbsp                   butter, melted

Mix all the ingredients in a blender for 30 seconds. Stop mixing and scrape down sides.  Continue mixing for 30 seconds more or until fully blended.  Pour into a jar and let stand covered for at least 1 hour.  This will let the bubbles settle out.


Cooking Crepes

1                              sauté pan, 6 – 9”; you may use Teflon it the surface is not marred at all   ¼ cup                    oil

For metal sauté pans:  Pour all of the oil into the pan and place on medium heat for about 3 minutes.  Do NOT walk away from the stove. As the oil starts to shimmer, gently rotate the pan so that the oil begins to coat up the sides of the pan.  Warm for one more minute then remove from the burner and let sit to cool.  (This process opens up the pores in the metal and allows the warm oil to slightly penetrate the pan creating a nonstick surface.) Pour cool oil into a container and set aside.

Warm the pan over medium heat until a drop of water spatters and evaporates immediately.  Pour 1 tablespoon of oil into the warm pan and ladle in enough batter to just coat the bottom. Lift the pan and rotate it to spread the batter up the sides just a bit.  Pour any excess back into the container for a nice thin crepe.  Work the edges gently with a spatula to keep from sticking and after the crepe sets, slide the pan back and forth so that the crepe slips in the pan.  When the edges turn brown flip the crepe with a spatula, cook for about 1 minute then slide onto a paper towel.  Wipe the pan with a clean towel and repeat until batter is finished alternately stacking crepe and paper towel.

The trick is to keep the pan heat just right; neither too hot nor too cool.

If wrapped well these will hold for about a week in the refrigerator or can be frozen.  Allow to warm to room temperature before using.


Grand Marnier Strawberries


2 dozen                  strawberries, quartered (sliced not fed and bedded.)

4 Tbsp                   sugar, white

4 Tbsp                   Grand Marnier


Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and let stand at least one hour.

Lay out a crepe. Dollop some Ricotta cheese and spoon some of the strawberries in a line.  Roll the edges over and turnover on to a plate.  Drizzle with the syrup from the strawberries and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve 2 at a time.


Eat Well and Smile Often,


p.s. Let Eataly top that!