Rice Right?? . . . Wrong!!

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.


Originally posted on April 30, 2012

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??