What's Up in the Kitchen? Lots!
Sometimes you just have to crow a little bit. It does seem like we’ve gotten better and better at what we do — maybe because we just love our work, and we’re always looking for ways to do it better, and give our clients the best possible experience, whatever the event. It’s always nice when that good work is acknowledged. One place where we have a good collection of kudos is on Yelp; but I also get some nice notes from clients, that don’t get posted there. So, at risk of swelling my head, I’m going to quote two of last week’s clients:
This note followed a team building event with guests from the Japanese, French and Finnish offices, hosted by the Emeryville branch of this biotech company. The photo shows the one demo for the evening — me, showing the group how to take apart a whole halibut.
“I wanted to thank you for a great evening. Hanging out in a kitchen together definitely breaks down barriers and allows some good side-by-side conversations.
“I am so proud of our Northern California culture, of where we live and the fresh, local foods with the farm to table movement. (My secret dream is to raise sheep and make cheese). Thank you for helping us showcase this so beautifully last evening. There will be other Santen departments who will want to share this experience as well, I'm sure.”
Lisa Lawrence-Miyasaki, Director of Drug Safety for Santen, Inc.
Yesterday morning, I received a brief note from our very happy Saturday night birthday party catering client, that I also wanted to share, along with a picture of part of their buffet, taken by another of our catering clients who was a guest at the party.
“Thanks again for a spectacular event. I've been basking in your reflected glory ever since Saturday (and enjoying the leftovers).”
We find it truly a blessing to love what we do, and thank all of our clients for their long-term support.
Summer Camp News
COOK! has added a new session! The Kitchen Fundamentals for 13 - 16 year olds filled up almost immediately, and a waiting list quickly formed. To accommodate the demand, we have opened a new session, June 25 - 29. There is still room if you want in. This class is also available for 9 - 12 year olds, June 18 - 22.
For those kids who love to know "why?" we have a few more spots in our Food Science & Gadgets class, June 25 - 29.
Are your kids enamored with cakes, cookies, breads, and pies? These delectable treats are best served warm from your own oven, so get the kids started with Baking Fundamentals, encourage their already well formed skills with Intermediate Baking, or help them to hone their craft with Advanced Baking (only 2 spots left!), July 9 - 13, 16 - 20, & 23 - 27.
Flavors of the Mediterranean is for anyone who loves to eat, July 23 - 27.
Restaurant COOK! is our only two week session, built for fun, good eating, skill building, and showing off! Each group will plan and execute their own one-time restaurant, July 30 - August 10.
And for the 14 - 18 year olds who are serious about diving in, we have two three-week classes in Culinary Leadership Training: Chef in Training, June 18 - July 6, and Giving Forward, July 9 - 27. Both classes will cook daily.
Adult Classes in the Kitchen
We will be posting new classes, as they get scheduled, on the home page of the website. Check frequently, since we will be adding quite a few during the next month, all scheduled to run this summer, many taught by our camp chefs.
Currently on the schedule, we have Eric E. Weiss’ Knife Sharpening class on Monday evening June 4th, so coming right up. There’s still some space in this class, which we sponsor because we want all of you to have the opportunity to learn to sharpen your knives, so that you can complete your kitchen prep tasks with the greatest of ease. You get your own sharpening stone and oil, and individualized instruction on sharpening your own knives in this class, from a true master.
Charlie Vollmar is back from his travels, with two classes this summer. The first, scheduled for June 21st, so that you can take it before the biggest grilling day of summer, is a great primer on the Art of the Grill. Then, hopefully during the heat of the summer, a class exploring the Summer Foods of Provence. If you’ve never taken one of Charlie’s classes, they are always a thorough and meticulous exploration of the subject, with delicious results.
Rosetta will be in Italy for a good part of the summer, so until she returns, we’ll miss having her great Calabrian cooking classes. If you pick up a copy of her book My Calabria, you’ll get to practice during her absence.
Our good friend Cheryl Beere returning from New Zealand, both to teach in the summer camp and to reprise her International Vegetarian class, with a dynamic menu, on August 2nd. Cheryl’s recipes are simple, flavorful and accessible; for those of you who have asked for a vegetarian class, don’t miss this one!
Samantha Smith, Shy Leong and Rhea Dellimore, all chef-teachers in our summer camp schedule, will be teaching this summer, so keep on watching the website for updates. One of the wonderful features of our new website, is that I can post updates to it anytime I want. I am committed to not pestering you with more than the one newsletter a month, so that leaves you in charge of checking in to see what’s coming up.
Very Special Event: Subscription Dinner with Cheryl Beere
Let me set the scene for this fabulous dinner: We’ll transform the kitchen into a restaurant for the evening. Perhaps the camp kids, from our Make a Restaurant two-week session, will have done some creative decorating; we will also put an art exhibit together, a feast for the eyes. Some of our teens campers will no doubt be on hand, volunteering to help serve and cook. The menu for this meal is extensive, with small course after course, each carefully crafted to please the senses. We’ll have a beer pairing, and a wine pairing, available. Our brewer friends, from Linden St., will be bicycling their selection of dish-matching brews over, in fact, and the wines will be carefully chosen to compliment the meal as well. Friends are growing some of the ingredients for this meal, and our sourcing will all be local and organic. Proceeds from the meal benefit the chef, who will have traveled all the way from New Zealand to participate in our camp and classes and this event. You can purchase a ticket for one, or a table for 8. Do get in on this great evening before it sells out!
In the Market
June heralds the true start of summer fruit and vegetable season. Although the last few weeks we’ve had blueberries that were sweet, the cherries and peaches were a bit lacking in intensity of flavor, but that has changed. The market is teeming with enough choice fruit that you will get full just trying to decide which stand to patronize. I’ve had ollalieberries, raspberries, apricots (very short season so get them while you can!) and little donut peaches that were outstanding. Nectarines are showing up but still a bit tart, and pluots are coming in, although their amazing variety will continue to expand as the weather heats up. True products of the breeder’s art, some are closer to the plum and some the apricot in flavor. They all have the advantage of being a bit sturdier than the fragile apricot, with a much longer season. All the fruit is characterized by bright, intense flavors, and reminds us all how lucky we are to live here, where we have access to a farmer’s market nearly every day of the week. If you’re not sure which one to go to, spend a bit of time exploring! Here’s a handy list of markets for you; bet you find one or two you were unaware existed.
Vegetables are also becoming much more diverse, with Spanish Padron and Hungarian yellow peppers already in the market, and sweet corn and tomatoes will show up next weekend, or so I’m told by my farmer friends at Grand Lake market. Broccolini, broccoli, artichokes, asparagus, and baby turnips (don’t discard their leaves, they are delicious sauteed), fava beans, snap peas, and delicious fresh chickpeas abounding. If you’ve never tried a fresh chickpea, they are a bit of a hassle to get out of their pods, which hold only one or two each; but the flavor is so sweet and delicious, they are worth the trouble. Just quick-saute with some of the now- abundant green garlic and spring onions for a treat.
Culled from the Internet...a Fun Urban Garden Event
Next Saturday (the 9th) only, so check it out! Visit urban “farms” that grow lots of food in back yards in Berkeley and Oakland, some with goats, chickens, rabbits. Brought to you by the Institute of Urban Homesteading.
Salt and Vinegar
I love both salt and vinegar, and consider them important parts of my ingredient palette. When it comes to salt, most commercial kitchens, including ours, favor kosher salt for standard cooking operations. It’s a flaky, pure white mined salt (from Minnesota, if you’re getting the unadulterated Diamond Crystal brand) and is consistent in flavor and intensity. Rarely do you find a chef that uses iodized “table” salt to cook. There are also many interesting “boutique” salts in the market these days, and it’s worth doing a bit of exploring and tasting. Each has a different mineral content and quality, and some are treated in interesting ways. I love smoked salt, which is charcoal in color, sprinkled over sauteed Padron peppers. It also enhances the flavor of grilled meats. Himalayan pink salt comes not only ground, but in large slabs; some people cook right on a heated salt slab, although I’ve never done that, but the salt has a really nice rich flavor. Celtic sea salt is extremely high in healthful minerals, and gray salt from Brittany, too. From Hawaii we get red salt, and the list goes on. Many are considered “finishing” salts, rather than cooking salts, as a few grains enhance the flavor of the completed dish.
You’ve probably tasted a wide variety of olive oils. For me, vinegar joins olive oil as an ingredient of infinite variation and usefulness. I find that choosing the right vinegar or combination of vinegars, makes a huge difference in the flavor of a dish. I keep at least 10 varieties on hand, from French red wine and Champagne vinegars, to Spanish sherry vinegar, Japanese rice wine vinegar, and Italian balsamico (some of which, aged for years in casks in warm attics, are incredibly expensive and suitable for judiciously drizzling over the best of dishes), to local products that I buy from Big Paw Grub at the farmer’s market (yes, I get my olive oil from them too). My cupboard contains such winners from Big Paw as strawberry chipotle vinegar, Mission fig, porcini cabernet, and summer fruit balsamic. Not to mention their apple cider balsamic, which is the star ingredient in both my potato salad and coleslaw (see the recipe archive for the coleslaw, and more great recipes). The vinegar tastes like the apples it’s made from, with a richness and intensity that enhances any recipe it’s used in.
Recipe of the Month
Summer and potato salad go together. One of my husband’s favorite meals is a grilled steak with some of my potato salad, and I get requests to bring it to parties all summer long. So, I figure it’s time to add the recipe to the website. My best advice is to source your ingredients carefully. Use good quality potatoes, whatever kind you like that are waxy or “all purpose” rather than mealier baking types. I love the salad with fingerlings, but red potatoes and Yukon golds work fine too. Use good vinegar, which is one of the most important ingredients, as the secret to this salad is sprinkling the hot potatoes with vinegar when they first come out of the pot. And, find some good fresh herbs to throw in. Vary the salad to your heart’s content, but be sure to keep it out of the hot sun when you’re on a picnic. Better to keep it in the cooler, and take out small amounts at a time.