Team building, cooking events, catering, parties, and classes in the San Francisco Bay Area

April in the Kitchen

April 9, 2014

Summer Camp News

One section of Italian cooking is already sold out! Some of the other camps are rapidly reaching capacity. So, if you’ve been pondering getting your child(ren) enrolled in a Cook! Programs camp this summer, now is the time. A few advantages: A wholesome, engaging and delicious 20 hour week with a great group of peers and professional chef-teachers. Skills that are useful for a lifetime, reinforcement of good eating habits, a challenging adventure and just plain delicious fun! 


Pop-Up Dinner!

Sam Paulding & Tracy Paulding Cates present their first Doomed Legumes Pop-up Dinner on Wednesday, April 23rd at 6 PM at the kitchen. Priced modestly at $40 plus sales tax and ticket service fee, the menu below is exciting and bound to make a luscious mid-week evening where you don’t have to think “what’s for dinner?” 

Gather a group for a 7-to-9 person table, or enjoy open seating for smaller groups. Advance reservations are required, and of course, the sooner the better — in order to shop and prep, reservations will need to be cut off several days ahead. Here's the menu:

  • Salt cod croquettes stuffed with castelvetrano olive tapenade, served with a salad of shaved asparagus, fennel, & snap peas in a citrus vinaigrette
  • Lamb two ways: spicy lamb crepinette made with home-grown aji lucento chilies, and roast leg of lamb, topped with fresh fava bean puree served with roasted spring vegetables
  • Ice cream sandwich batons made with gingersnap cookies and honeycomb-candy ice cream with a bourbon, cherry dipping sauce 

Team Building and Parties

We’ve been really busy lately, with events large and small, corporate and private. We’ve catered in our kitchen for the Taiwan Balloon Tying Competition Team, making a “classic” meal that included lobster bisque and filet mignon, ending with one of our favorite chocolate desserts; we have helped a client celebrate his 60th birthday with a big group of family and friends who cooked up a storm, and we’ve had corporate groups that ranged from our smallest-yet (5 people) to a few that were quite large. Did you know we have had over 85 people in our kitchen cooking together on a few occasions? It’s quite a feat, takes some special arranging, but it’s a lot of fun to work with a great big group. And, of course, it's just as much fun to work with a tiny one. There’s a simple Schedule an Event form on the website home page, with room for your contact info and brief information about what you’d like to do and when, so think about the delicious fun you might have with friends, family or co-workers in the kitchen, and we'll plan something great. Feel free to share the website with HR at work, too. I am always reminded of what one of the Pixar animators said to me, when I was working with the Ratatouille crew: “This was not meant to be team building, but it’s the best team building we’ve ever done.” The group below is from last week, and had a great time cooking and eating!


In the Market

Fava beans, spring carrots, asparagus, artichokes, snap peas and the first English peas of the season; in short, the vibrant green (and orange) produce of spring. Try the Artichoke Conserve with Fresh Peas recipe in the website archive for a delicious treat. Plenty of greens, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage still, not to mention winter squashes. But you may be getting tired of these, after a long winter relationship. Great lettuce right now, and still plenty of escarole, one of my favorite vegetables, which can be used in a salad, soup, or braise. I love a good homemade chicken broth laced with slivers of escarole and a few grains of Arborio rice. But it’s also great in a salad with plenty of citrus — and we still have great local tangerines, cara-cara oranges (those are the pinkish ones, and always have great flavor), blood oranges, pomelos and grapefruit. Add a fresh local avocado to the mix, or some shaved fennel. Dress simply, with lemon and olive oil, but if you’re using Meyer lemons from your tree, you may need to add a bit of sharpness from a good wine vinegar since Meyers are so sweet. Or, from the recipe archive, grab the Chicories Salad with Blood Orange Vinaigrette for some step-by-step instruction.

The strawberries have been magnificent, although when we’ve had rain they are a bit fragile and spoil more quickly. I’ve never understood the advice to store them in a sealed container, since it hastens their demise. Leave the berries in an open basket in the fridge, but sort through them first, and pull the ones that look like they might spoil to use first. All the farmers markets have organic berries — non-organic strawberries are pretty heavily sprayed, so it’s definitely worth the extra money to get them from a caring grower who avoids pesticides. You’ll notice the apples are getting softer, as they have sat in cold storage for many months. But, they still sell well and if you want an easy-as pie applesauce recipe, and you have a pressure cooker, simply grab a bunch of them (a few varieties), peel, core and wedge them into the cooker, add a tablespoon of water and if you like, a cinnamon stick, and set for 6 minutes. Almost instant applesauce. 

Next up will be the first cherries, and I’m betting that they are a bit early this year. We had a pretty warm spell and it seems like everything’s a bit ahead of schedule. I can’t wait, they are my favorite fruit. After the cherries come the apricots, and then like magic, it will be summer. Not that we haven’t already had our fair share of summery days!

It’s planting time; I’m midway through clearing out the little patch by the kitchen, and soon will decide what to plant. I love going out and picking herbs and have grown a few veggies too. It’s a street side garden, so not ideal, but we wash everything really, really well. Not enough space for a big variety, which is why we keep to mostly herbs, but I think a few veggies (like radishes, which take only 28 days to mature) are fun. And, I want to plant another Peruvian Aji Lucento pepper in that garden — this is a perennial pepper that produces like crazy, a really hot pepper that I make my special hot sauce with. I have a plant at home and harvested at least 50 peppers this year, the last just weeks ago. And, there are blossoms on the plant now. I had another plant in the kitchen’s garden, that inadvertently got pulled up last year. The demand for my hot sauce is pretty intense, it’s darn good stuff, so more is better. And, I love plants that get better year after year. Kassenhoff Growers, who sell at the Grand Lake market, always have this pepper in their selection. They told me their 16-year old plant just died last summer, so for a few bucks, you can indeed get a plant that lasts for years! I have  a lot of saved seeds, and hope I can germinate them and start my own plants this year.


Eric E. Weiss has his quarterly Knife Sharpening Class on the 28th. I always love mentioning this special class, since sharp chef’s, paring, boning and carving knives are the cooks best friends, and anyone who has taken this class will agree that it is just not that hard to keep your knives in primo condition. You get your own sharpening stone and oil to take home, and instruction from a true expert, so sign up soon for a chance to join this small-group class.

All of Rosetta Costantinos classes are sold out for the moment. I’m sure she’ll be posting more soon, so do check the website.

We’re proud to introduce a new teacher! Janaki Bakshi, a local Indian food teacher, will introduce an Indian Vegetarian Cooking class, which we’ve set up as a brunch on Sunday, June 1st. We will continue from there, setting up a series of classes that explore the different regions of India. Again, check the website frequently because we are always adding new classes.

Doug Eng will also be setting up a new class series, but as of publication time, we haven’t got any information. His Brunch Class this month sold out and the group had a great time making classic favorites. I only send one emailed newsletter a month, so again, check back to the website for an updated class schedule frequently!

A Change

As you who regularly read this know, we formed a relationship with a new restaurant, The Barrel Room, in Oakland. My son Sam was hired as opening chef, and since the restaurant was built without a full kitchen, prep took place in my kitchen. This relationship has ended due to a difference in philosophies. Sam has moved on, and we are no longer hosting prep in the kitchen. 

Recipe of the Month 

A few weekends ago Tracy and I did a demo at the grand re-opening of JFK University’s San Pablo Avenue campus. We had about 20 minutes, and made two things, one a Chopped Salad with Cucumber, Snap Peas, Mint and Feta Cheese that was loved by everyone who tried it. It’s a celebration of springtime flavors, light, crunchy and vibrant, with the mint and snap peas adding a lovely contrast to the salad greens. I have a feeling you’ll like it. The feta cheese in it, by the way, leads me to mention a fun kitchen trick — to crumble feta or anything else with a similar texture, take that wire grid cooling rack you’ve had languishing in a cupboard, and simply smush the cheese through the grid into a bowl. Another feta note: You’ll find a bewildering number of choices, from Bulgarian to Israeli to French to Greek to US made. Taste and see what you like, if you can. My favorite, hands down, is the French, which is mild and not so salty as some of the others.