Posts Tagged ‘Cooking school’

Light Italian: Mia Francesca

Saturday, May 26th, 2012 Comments Off on Light Italian: Mia Francesca

Along with about 30 friends from AIWF (American Institute of Wine and Food), we experienced our inaugural dinner at Mia Francesca at Del Mar Highlands this week. We were delighted to meet Chef Woody who hails from Mexico City via Chicago. Chef Woody will now be hosting small hands-on cooking classes once per month in addition to keeping the menu alive by “switching it up” every two weeks.

We experienced a wonderful tasting menu offering fresh and light ingredients. Lots of spinach and arugula adorned the various dishes that provided a broad spectrum of choices from the vast menu, paired with a nice selection of Italian wines.


Our first course consisted of Pizza Schiacciata alla Toscana.
Schiacciata means crushed, so this was basically a thin crust pizza.
It was a white pizza with Fontina and arugula, sprinkled with a bit of goat cheese. I could have made an entire meal of this pizza alone!

Next came the delicate lentils, prepared with minced carrots, onions
and celery, served with sautéed spinach and a few sprinkles of goat
cheese decorated this healthy offering. The last appetizer was a
delicious meatball made with pork, beef and veal, flavored also with the “holy trinity” of Italian cuisine, sautéed onions, carrots and
celery. Instead of being served on a bed of heavy pasta, this
meatball was the base for a plate of arugula and shaved parmigiana.
The first course was served with La Marca Prosecca.


The second course, spinach ravioli, was served with Rosso di Montalcino. The tasty sauce over the ravioli was a four cheese sauce of Swiss, mascarpone, mozzarella and blue cheeses. My guess is that the beautiful color of the sauce came from the addition of a bit of tomato.

This was already plenty of food, but the best was yet to come. The main course consisted of Pollo Limone, a delicately sautéed chicken breast in a light lemon, butter and garlic sauce, accompanied by a sautéed spinach. Part 2 of the main course was a lightly fried Tilapia Capesante. Capesante are scallops, which were beautifully seared, creating a golden outer beauty, with a perfectly moist and flavorful interior. The main course was served with Alois Lagender Pinot Blanco.

To satisfy the sweet craving at the end of a great meal, we enjoyed a simple profiterole filled with pistachio gelato and just a taste of chocolate decorating the finale. Moscato D’Asti accompanied this final course.

Can’t wait to go back to Mia Francesca, for more of the tasty fare, but also to continue my education about Italian wines Hopefully they will figure out how to solve the parking problem at the Highlands in the near future.


“Secrets of the CIA” featured in Savor This magazine

Sunday, May 13th, 2012 Comments Off on “Secrets of the CIA” featured in Savor This magazine

Savor This magazine features write up of team cooking at the Culinary Institute of America by Karin Eastham

See page 10 for the full story and recipes.


Secrets of the CIA: Team Cooking by AIWF Members from Across the Country

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012 Comments Off on Secrets of the CIA: Team Cooking by AIWF Members from Across the Country

The American Institute of Wine and Food celebrated Napa last weekend and honored Margrit Mondavi at the gala dinner on Friday evening. Margrit was one of the original founders of AIWF with her husband, Robert Mondavi, and Julia Child.   Five courses were served up at the gala by five participating chefs.  The chefs were:

Ken Frank  La Toque, Napa
Brandon Sharp  Solbar Kitchen, Calistoga
Joseph Humphrey  Dixie, San Francisco
Gale Gand  Tru, Chicago
Emily Luchetti  Farallon & Waterbar  San Francisco

The highlight of the weekend was the opportunity to attend a hands-on team cooking class at the Culinary Institute of America, where 16 participants prepared 22 different recipes. It is always such fun to meet people in the kitchen and cook together. I was teamed with two charming men, one from Michigan and one from Wisconsin. We enjoyed creating Grilled Steaks with Brussels Sprouts, Balsamic Red Onions and Gorgonzola Fondue, (although I preferred leaving off the fondue and letting others add it as desired.)  Our team also prepared the accompanying Potato Rissoto, something I had never heard of or tasted.  It’s now a new favorite.  Another favorite, prepared by one of the other teams was the Pan Roasted Prosciutto Wrapped Cod with Butter Bean-Olive Relish and Catalan Vinaigrette.  A selection of recipes and photos follow.

Teammates Fred and John

Teammates Fred and John


Grilled Steaks with Brussels Sprouts, Balsamic Red Onions and Gorgonzola Fondue

Grilled Steaks with Brussels Sprouts and Balsamic Red Onions

Grilled Steaks with Brussels Sprouts and Balsamic Red Onions


4 ea.              6 oz. steaks
1 cup              Brussels sprouts, cut in half, outer leaves removed
1/4 cup            vegetable stock
1 Tbsp.            butter
1 cup              balsamic red onions, julienned (recipe follows)
2 teaspoons  chopped chives
8 sprigs         watercress
6 oz.              blue cheese fondue (recipe follows)
to taste           salt and pepper


Brush steaks with a little olive oil, season and grill on all sides to desired temperature and allow to rest before slicing/serving.

In sauté pan over medium high heat, season and sauté Brussels sprouts until they are golden. Add vegetable stock to steam the sprouts until tender and to insure they are bright green. Add the balsamic onions and heat about a minute. Whisk in the butter to form a glaze; finish with the chives. (We kept the Brussels sprouts and the onions separate because one of our teammates hated Brussels sprouts).
Plate the Brussels sprouts and onions. Slice steaks on the bias and place on top of the vegetables. If desired, drizzle with the fondue. Decorate with the watercress.

Pan Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Pan Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Balsamic Roasted Red Onions 


4 ea.             red onions, cut into quarters from top to bottom
2 cups            balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup          sherry vinegar
1 cup             pure olive oil
to taste         salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place the onions skin side down in a hotel pan.  Add the oil and vinegar.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes or until tender.

 Gorgonzola Fondue


1 ea.         shallots, small, minced
1/4 teaspoon  black peppercorns
1 ea.         bay leaves
2 ea.         sprigs of thyme
1 cup         white wine
1 cup         chicken stock
1 cup         heavy cream
2 Tbsp.       blue cheese
to taste      salt and pepper


Add shallots, peppercorns, bay leaves and thyme to white wine and reduce by 3/4s. Add cream and reduce by 1/2. Strain.  (Cool and reheat when ready to serve.) While simmering, emusify cheese into the sauce using a whisk (could use a blender, then return to pot). Adjust seasoning and serve hot.


Another favorite from our cooking adventure was this recipe prepared by another team.  All the teams did great work and we shared the wonderful fare served buffet-style and paired with three delicious wines. 

Pan Roasted Prosciutto Wrapped Cod with Butter Bean-Olive Relish and Catalan Vinaigrette

Pan Roasted Prosciutto Wrapped Cod with Butter Bean-Olive Relish and Catalan Vinaigrette

Pan Roasted Prosciutto Wrapped Cod with Butter Bean-Olive Relish and Catalan Vinaigrette


2 cups         butter bean-olive relish, room temperature (recipe follows)
6 Tbsp.        Catalan vinaigrette, slightly warm (recipe follows)

6 ea.          5 oz. piece Alaskan True cod
to taste       salt and pepper
6 ea.          thin slices proscuitto for wrapping
1/2 cup       olive oil for cooking
2 cups         arugula


Prepare all recipes below; have ready as you begin to cook the fish.
Pat the fish dry with paper towels to remove any excess moisture.  Season the fish with salt and pepper, then wrap each piece of fish with prosciutto.
In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat until just beginning to smoke.  Add the pieces of wrapped fish to the pan presentation side down.
Cook the fish until beginning to form a golden crust, flig and continue cooking until just cooked through.  Remove from pan.
While fish is cooking, gently warm the Catalan vinaigrette.
Spoon the butter bean-olive relish on the platter, place the fish on top.
Toss the arugula with the Catalan vinaigrette and season with salt and peopper.  Place the arugula on or around the fish.  Drizzle more of the vinaigrette over the dish.

Butter Bean-Olive Relish

Yield:  2 cups


1 cup           butter beans, cooked (sub Cannelini beans)
2 Tbsp.         pickled cherry peppers, julienned
1 each          small shallot, minced
2 Tbsp.         picholine olives, pitted and julienned
2 Tbsp.         kalamata olives, pitted and julienned
2 Tbsp.         chopped parsley
2 Tbsp.         chopped chives
1/4 cup        good quality extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp.        red wine vinegar
to taste        salt and pepper


Fold all ingredients together, taste and adjust seasoning.

Catalan Vinaigrette

Yield:  1 cup (reserve excess for another use)


1/4 cup          pure olive oil
1/4 cup          garlic, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp.           shallots, minced
1/2 Tbsp.        paprika
1 teaspoon     paprika, smoked
3 cups            tomatoes, pureed
1 oz.               red wine vinegar, or to taste
1 oz.               sherry vinegar, or to taste
1/4 cup        extra virgin olive oil
to taste       salt and pepper


Heat olive oil over low heat in a small saucepan.  Add garlic and toast lightly.  Add shallots, tomato and paprika and cook until rduced by half.
Remove from the heat and add the vinegar.  Adjust seasoning.





Red or Green (Chiles)?

Sunday, October 10th, 2010 1 comment

The New Mexico State question is “Red or Green?”  Everywhere you dine, you are faced with this tough decision.  Sometimes the best answer is “Both.”  We enjoyed our wonderful visit to Santa Fe, New Mexico, with the highlight of the trip being attendance at the Santa Fe School of Cooking.  The cooking store was incredible.

Santa Fe School of Cooking Shopping

Shopping at the Santa Fe School of Cooking

Our instruction centered on a very traditional New Mexican meal.  Maybe it’s best to see the visual of the end result:

Chille Rellenos

Chiles Rellenos, Carne Adovada, Flour Tortillas, Calabacitas, Frijoles Refritos

Chiles Rellenos

12 small fresh New Mexican green chiles or Anaheim chili
1-3/4 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
canola oil  frying
6 eggs, separated
2/3 cup beer, New Mexican or Mexican
1 3/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons ground medium Chimayo red chile
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups red chile sauce
1/2 cup sour cream

Roast the chiles over a flame until charred.  Place in a plastic bag to sweat for 15 to 20 minutes.  Carefully peel the chiles.  With the tip of a small knife, make a slit in the chiles, the length of each pod, and remove the seeds.  Rinse under cold running water and drain on paper towels.

Mix the cheeses and oregano in a small bowl.  Stuff the cheese mixture into the chiles and press the opening closed.  Place the chiles on a tray covered with a layer of paper towels and refrigerate for one hour to allow the stuffing to chill.

When you are ready to prepare the batter, heat the canola oil in a deep pot or deep fat fryer to 375 degrees.  Beat the egg whites until they hold soft peaks.  In another bowl whisk the egg yolks, beer, flour, red chile and salt together until smooth.  Fold in the egg whites.  Remove the stuffed chiles from the refrigerator.  Dip a chile into the batter, coating thoroughly.  Carefully place into the hot oil.  Repeat with 4 or 5 more chiles, frying to a golden brown, about 6 minutes.  Drain on paper towels.  Repeat with the remaining chiles.

Serve the chiles topped with chile sauce and sour cream or with the Carne Adovada.

Stuffed Chiles

Stuffed Chiles ready to be fried

Deep Fried Chiles

Chile after frying