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

September/October In the Kitchen

September 15, 2016

Newsletter Lane Shift

We all know about ‘lane shifts’ from driving the Bay Area highways…I’m making one for the rest of the year. In the Kitchen will be out mid-month through November, and I may skip the December edition all together. We get so busy with groups, it’s just about impossible to find time to write in the month before the holidays. Starting in January, I’ll most likely go back to the beginning of the month. 

Top 10 Reasons to Book A Holiday Party Now

10: You won’t be able to book your preferred date, if you wait too long!

9: Our holiday events are stellar, with great menus

8: Our beautifully decorated, cheerful kitchen

7: No corkage

6: Best ingredients we can get — I personally shop for everything, and buy all I can at the local farmers markets

5: We accommodate groups up to 70 people for sit-down meals, and even more for ‘cocktail party’ events

4: We will design the event with you — we’re a small business that wants to please!

3: You and your guests/coworkers will learn techniques and recipes that you can take home and actually use!

2: If you want, we can add a charity donation of a meal for the Senior Center, something that’s very much appreciated any time of year

1: Cooking together and then enjoying the fruits of your experience — magical!

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Holiday Camps for Kids

Want your kids in a holiday camp this year? Tracy is working diligently (well, she was on vacation…) on some plans. Stay tuned, and make sure you’re subscribed to Cook! Programs updates, and you’ll get a schedule hot off the press. I see pies, cookies, and treats ahead!

Classes for Adults

Rosetta Costantino, off hosting consecutive tour groups in Italy, will have some great classes when she returns. Homemade Pasta from Calabria is on October 21st, Fall in Southern Italy, a new class, on November 5th, another session of the perennially popular Night in a Neapolitan Pizzeria on November 18th, and her wonderful Christmas Eve in Calabria class on December 3rd, which features a traditional 13-dish menu. She also has a Holiday Desserts from Southern Italy class on December 18th.

New Teacher! We welcome Kaori Becker, who will bring you some great classes starting in October. She’s just moved back to the Bay Area from Ohio, and Tracy and I have tasted her delicious Japanese food – we recently made Sukiyaki and Gyoza together, and I am excited that she’s going to teach with us.

Her debut class is on October 19th,  Become a Japanese Chef: Homemade Udon Noodles. On October 26th, she's offering a Date Night class on Indian Cooking. Get your curry on, with your beau! On November 9th,  Master Japanese Cuisine: Japanese Hot Pots.

A Cold Winter Coming?

I’m guessing it’s going to be a very cold winter around here. Don’t know about the rain part of the equation, but my dog has shed heavily, and is growing quite a thick coat — and my figs are ripe earlier than usual. In fact, this afternoon's project is making Fig Mostarda from some of the bounty. And, my Satsuma mandarins even have a few ripening fruit, which is super early, they usually are ready in December. So, while I’m not a farmer or a prognosticator normally, my guess is we’re in for some freezes this year.  Only time will tell!

No matter the weather, we will keep things warm in the kitchen. I’ve crafted some great new sample menus for the autumn and holidays, and NOW is the time to think about that work get-together, that party for your birthday, or holiday, and get it on our schedule before it fills. All you need to do is fill out the Schedule an Event form (no obligation, just a great way for me to keep track and be sure I’ve got your contact info). You’ll get an email back with lots of info and all the new menus.

In The Market

Wow, our farmers markets are getting crowded! I’d like to think I’ve played at least a small part, encouraging all of you readers to go…and I just read an article online about a town in southern Italy, with a population of only 700, and 81 of them are 100 years old — and they eat what they grow, primarily. And credit that for their longevity. Not scientific evidence, but I sure like hearing it.

I think the farther away from natural foods we get, the worse our health suffers. Modern life seems to be all about convenience, and with good reason — everyone gets a heap of hurdles to cross to get food on the table, not the least of which is the aggravation of our local traffic, keeping us from getting home after work. But for me, there’s nothing more convenient than simply preparing good fresh food, it doesn’t take any longer, and it’s so very much healthier. Going to my local farmers markets is much more fun than picking stuff out at the grocery, and the freshness and good flavors are a stellar reward. You could blindfold me, and feed me strawberries or tomatoes from the store and the market, and I could pick out the market ones every time.

This is a very fluid time of year with what is in the market. Depending on how far into the hills, or how near the ocean the farm is, it’s got a completely different set of produce to display. There are still great peaches and other stone fruit, but less variety; the grapes and apples are also terrific and pears are coming in, including the Asian varieties. Figs are awesome right now (I fight the squirrels for mine, but thanks to scare tape and a mechanical owl, I’m sort of winning — I’d say we share about equally).  Strawberries of course will be here until at least November unless we get a hard freeze or too much rain where they’re growing, but less of the other berries are around and those present aren’t quite so sweet.  Shorter days, less sun also influence the vegetables. Plenty of tomatoes, but I see prices rising. Eggplants, green beans, lots of peppers, summer squash – and some wonderful early winter squash, too. Lettuces, cucumbers are still abundant. My own cucumber vine, at the kitchen, is fading fast. Lots of mildew on the leaves.  It’s been prolific all summer, so I can’t complain. One thing that’s great this time of year is the shelling bean variety. You can find some still in the pod, and those, not yet dry, cook up pretty fast. There are also vendors with a variety of dried heirloom beans. I’m soaking some called Old Italian Woman right now, from Fifth Crow Farm in Pescadero. They’re found (along with a huge variety of others) at the newest lovely stand at Grand Lake on Saturdays.

Tomato Project and Recipe of the Month

I just finished my annual tomato project — turning 100 lbs. of dry farmed Early Girl tomatoes into 45 quarts of frozen purée, and will publish the pictures and instructions in a Quick Bites within the next couple of days.  I thought, in light of that, a lovely bowl of Tomato Soup would be in order. I served some meeting guests this soup for lunch yesterday at the kitchen, along with some grilled cheese and ham sandwiches and a salad — they were very happy with the meal. Yes, you can make this soup with canned tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, just don’t make it with store-bought gas-ripened tomatoes. In the case of tomato soup, the term ‘garbage in, garbage out’ is not an exaggeration. One note: my soup, made yesterday, was a slight variation on this recipe (which I’ve shared before). I didn’t add basil, and used butter, not olive oil, to sauté the onions and celery. It’s a classic cream of tomato that way, and just as delicious!