Alice Medrich is one of my very favorite cookbook authors. Maybe some of you old-timers remember her Cocolat stores, where she started the chocolate truffle craze, way back in the ’70’s. Alice is holding a benefit Dessert Cooking Class at the kitchen on Sunday afternoon, June 3rd. Proceeds benefit the Berkeley public libraries, and besides learning new skills and tasting delicious desserts, you’ll also receive a signed copy of Sinfully Delicious Desserts, her newest book. Learning from a culinary legend is pretty exciting, and I know I’ll be there. The library has given me a chance to offer my loyal readers the last four tickets, so if you want one (or more) please sign up right away. The class size is limited to 20, so it will be an intimate gathering.
Another Event with Benefits
I know Saturday, August 11th seems far in the future. Perhaps you don’t even know what your plans are for that week, much less the evening. It’s worth making a plan now, since there is a fabulous event at the kitchen that evening, and you may want to consider reserving your spots right away. Consider it as a treat for yourself and that special someone, or as a chance to gather a group of friends for a magnificent evening of culinary delights. Chef Cheryl Beere, who spent years cooking for rock stars, is returning from New Zealand for a limited engagement at the kitchen. She’ll be teaching at our summer camp, and then presenting a 15-course tasting menu “supper club” dinner at the kitchen. This is a subscription event, and includes some educational opportunities, as well as great food. We’ll be arranging both a wine and a beer pairing menu, and the brewers from Linden Street Brewery will be on hand to include some beer-and-food pairing education. We may also have winemakers in the house. Once you look at the menu, I know you’ll want to plan your week around this fantastic event!
Summer Camp News
Cook! Culinary camp registration is under way. Do you have children from 9-18 years old who are interested in learning to cook or bake? We’ve still got spots in most of the camps, and we’ve an ambitious 8-week session this year, with special camps for older teens, including leadership training programs. We wholeheartedly believe that every child can benefit from learning to cook properly, a skill that will be needed for the rest of a person’s life. We also know that many of our campers are uniquely talented cooks, eager to explore and grow in the field. We’ve gathered a staff with talent, experience and love of both food and teaching, to accompany Tracy and chef Samantha through the summer. Registration online is easy, and many of the camps are approaching their limit, so the time is now to sign your kids and their friends up for an exciting week, or two, or summer of culinary fun.
In the Spring Garden
Everything in my garden is blossoming. It will be a great year for my little Satsuma Mandarin orange tree, which seems to produce a bumper crop every other season. It’s covered with thousands of blossoms. The three-year-old apple tree has lots of blossoms too, and the olive tree has enough little bud clusters I am wondering if we will finally get a crop; we planted this tree three years ago too, and so far, no olives. I read that you plant olive trees not for yourself, but for your children and am thinking that must not be much of an exaggeration. The fig has lots of pinky-nail sized figlets, they show up right along with the leaves. I love the leaves (maybe because I always battle the squirrels for figs); they will make great packages for cooking fish, and a fantastic flavoring for panna cotta, too; they taste like coconut and vanilla combined. This year I may try to use our grape leaves too, as I’m noticing that my assumption that they were too small is belied by the size of the grape leaves that come all neatly bottled in brine — just as small as mine. I’ve been wrapping fish in those lately, which makes a great small-plate type of dish or dinner entree. A neat square of swordfish or bass cooked on the cast iron griddle in a rinsed grape leaf. A little olive oil on the fish, no muss no fuss and goes great with either a silky sauce like meyer lemon (from my trees) buerre blanc, or even a green olive tapenade. Later in the summer a grape or fig salsa would work too. In fact, there’s a recipe for swordfish wrapped in fig leaves in the recipe archives. It’s such an exciting time of year to have a garden!
Spring in the Farmer’s Market
Every week this month we’ll see new and exciting items on the farmer’s tables. The first zucchini showed up last week, and the number of varieties of cucumbers are growing. All the peas are great right now, including English peas, which finally arrived three weeks ago. Fava beans are everywhere, and spring onions, green garlic, fresh basil, and delicate spring lettuce heads all herald the warmer weather and longer days. There are baby turnips, myriad varieties of carrots, some weighing in at over a pound each, and even standard broccoli is at it’s flavor peak right now. Strawberries are everywhere, and soon we’ll see the first cherries, followed by apricots, and then the rest of the stone fruit will start maturing. Citrus is still going strong, with many varieties of mandarin orange, and lots of navels and even some sweet local grapefruits. Some of the stands are selling Meyer lemons, too. Avocados are plentiful right now too. Hens are laying like mad, and if you’ve not tried a real free-range, farmer’s market egg, you might be interested in the fact that these eggs have way more nutrients than commercial ones. Not to mention more flavor.
Recipe of the Month
I’ve been making Dehydrated Kale Chips lately, duplicating the “cheesy” flavor ones that you pay $6 for less than 2 ounces in the store. I buy 3 bunches of kale at the farmer’s market, clean them from their stems, and blend a mixture of nuts and flavorings, smush the kale around in it to coat the leaves, and dehydrate at 105°F. overnight. My dehydrator, bought for not all that much money (note: you get about six of the $6 packages-worth of chips from one batch, so you’ll pay for the dehydrator and your ingredients with only two batches, besides having it to use for lots of other purposes), works like a charm. I don’t like the smell when it starts out, the nutritional yeast has a funky odor until it dries, but I think they’re a very nutritious snack with great hunger-satisfying qualities. You definitely understand why the commercially made ones are expensive, as they shrink by 80% or so of their weight, which of course was mostly water, as they dehydrate. I’m always looking for good snacks, as I’m always hungry, and (always) trying to lose weight. The advantage of these is that the kale never really cooks, so it holds all it’s nutritive value. A great favorite of the raw-foods crowd, and totally delicious if you like savory snacks. Maybe you can invent a new flavor combo! You might, if you’ve never tried the product before, want to buy a bag of the commercial ones before you spring for the ingredients and the dehydrator; I know they are not to everyone’s taste; I don't like any of the other flavors and heartily recommend you start with the cheesy ones.