Archive for the ‘At the Market’ Category


Strawberry Fields-Almost

April 15, 2010

The winter rains have just about stopped and the sun has allowed us to shed a layer of outerware. This change in weather puts me in the mood for fruit and fruit desserts. Customers at Waterbar and Farallon want them too as there is a definite swing away from chocolate desserts ordered to those with fruit.  I am chomping at the bit to put something colorful and seasonal on the menu besides citrus and pineapple. Strawberries have started to appear in both farmers’ markets and grocery stores and while it is tempting to quickly put some in your cart-pay close attention. Their quality is hit or miss. Some are sweet and juicy (everything you want in a strawberry) while others are bland and mostly white inside with big woody hulls. Strawberries need a little more attention from mother nature before they are at their best. (Beware of long stemmed strawberries seen in quantity around Mother’s Day. They seem to be grown for their stem rather than the flavor of the berry. Ironic when you consider you don’t even eat the stem. Also the price of these goes up around that weekend.)

To get the berry flavor I want and to satisfy my strawberry cravings early in the season I either cook the berries in a crumble or roast the berries. Here’s a recipe for roasting strawberries. You can serve them with anything you would serve fresh sliced strawberries. They come out jam like but are whole so you can use them in desserts. There is quite a bit of sauce left over after you finish making the berries. Reduce it as the recipe states or you can use it to make another batch of roasted berries (I mix it 50-50 with fresh sauce ingredients). It is delicious served over ice cream without any berries. Hopefully this will tide you over until the really beautiful berries are in the market. As an added bonus the kitchen smells wonderful when they are in the oven.

Roasted Strawberries

3 pints (6 cups) fresh strawberries, hulled

3/4 cup Pinot Noir or other dry red wine

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

3/4 cup light corn syrup

Preheat the oven to 200°F. Put the strawberries in a single layer in an ovenproof baking dish. In a bowl, whisk together the wine, balsamic vinegar, and granulated sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Whisk in the corn syrup. Pour the liquid over the berries. Place the pan in the oven and bake until the strawberries shrink and are jammy in texture, about 5 hours.

Strain the strawberry liquid into a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook to reduce the liquid slightly. Let cool to room temperature and stir it back into the berries. Refrigerate until ready to serve.


Winter Citrus

January 19, 2010

Thank goodness for citrus in the winter. My dessert menus at the restaurants need some color and bright flavors. It even brightens up the pastry department and our moods. You can only handle so much rain and this week it’s not supposed to stop. I am not complaining about brown desserts as chocolate, caramel and nuts are all shades of brown but I need something to break it up. Ordinary oranges, limes and lemons are available as always but January also brings Meyer Lemons, Cara Caras, blood oranges, mandarins and kumquats. These varieties are only around now for a few months so take advantage of them while you can.

Cara Caras are very juicy pink fleshed navel oranges. They segment nicely for a plated dessert or served on top of cheesecake. Blood oranges (also known as Moro Oranges) with their deep red color are originally from Sicily and common all over Italy.  They make great sorbet. Both of these oranges are grown by Sunkist so are available across the United States. Meyer Lemons can be harder to find as they are not grown on a large commercial scale. In California they are called the backyard lemon as you can see the bright yellow fruit on trees in yards all over the Bay Area. I have nine small trees in the front of my house where the rhododendrons used to be. The lemons are a much better use of space. Only probably is I when I come up my driveway I love to see the trees full of lemons so I put off picking them. Cookbooks by California chefs call frequently for Meyer Lemons. This can be frustrating for people from other parts of the country as they can’t get them. (Last year I gave an East coast friend fifty Meyer Lemons for her 50th birthday.) Meyers are a thin skinned lemon thought to be a cross between an orange and a lemon. They are sweeter and less acidic than regular lemons. They work wonderfully in desserts. Sometimes I will add a little regular lemon juice to give Meyer lemon curd a little lemon kick.

Here is my favorite recipe using Blood Oranges.

Blood Orange – Vanilla Creamsicle

Emily Luchetti

Serves 6

Blood Orange Sorbet

2 3/4 cups blood orange juice, strained (about 12 blood oranges)

1 cup sugar

2 3/4 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Large pinch of kosher salt

Vanilla Custard

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise with seeds scraped out

2 1/2 cups heavy (whipping) cream

1 cup milk

1/2 cup sugar

2 1/4 teaspoons plain gelatin

2 tablespoons water

 3 blood oranges, peeled and segmented

To make the sorbet: In a large bowl, combine the blood orange juice, sugar, lemon juice, and salt. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to overnight. Churn in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Freeze until scoopable, about 2 hours, depending on your freezer.

To make the vanilla custard: Combine the vanilla bean, seeds, cream, milk, and sugar in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until almost simmering. Turn off the heat and cover the pan. Let the vanilla bean steep in the liquid for 10 minutes.

Stir together the gelatin and the water in a small bowl. Let stand for 5 minutes. Strain the cream mixture into a bowl, discarding the vanilla bean. Stir the gelatin mixture into the cream with a heat-resistant plastic or wooden spatula. Let the liquid cool to warm, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. (Stirring prevents the gelatin from sinking to the bottom of the hot liquid.) Pour the vanilla custard into 6 ramekins. Refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours.

To serve: Unmold by dipping the bottom of the ramekins in a bowl of very hot water. Run a knife around the inside edge of each cream and invert onto a plate. Arrange the orange segments around the creams. Place a scoop of sorbet on top of the vanilla custard. (You can also serve it in the dish if you don’t want to unmold it. Put the segments and sorbet on top.) Serve immediately.

In Advance: The creams may be made a day ahead. Once firm, cover with plastic wrap. Teh sorbet can be made a day ahead too.


What’s the Big Deal about Pumpkin Pie?

November 20, 2009

photograph by Minh & Wass

When I was growing up my family never had pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving. We had a turkey with all the trimmings but dessert varied from year to year – chocolate, apple -whatever my mom was in the mood to make. It wasn’t until I became an adult and went to other people’s houses on Turkey day that I discovered the fixation with pumpkin pie. I asked my parents why we didn’t have the traditional dessert. Her response was ‘Your dad and I don’t really like pumpkin pie so we always made something else.” Maybe genetics is why I am not a big fan either. Don’t get me wrong, I love pumpkin and I make a great pumpkin pie. I can somewhat understand what attracts people but if it is on the buffet table it is one of the few desserts I will pass on. (Thank goodness there is at least one dessert I don’t feel obligated to try.)

The Pilgrims did have pies and pumpkin at their first Thanksgiving but the pumpkin wasn’t in the pie form we know today. They didn’t have many of the ingredients. In Colonial times autumn was pie making season. Pies were made to put away for later in the year. Cold cellars, acting as refrigerators or even freezers, would preserve pies for months. Mincemeat pie was popular because it preserved the meat. Today you don’t see it a lot of mincemeat on holiday menus but back then people were happy to have a way to stock up and not have their meat go to waste.

When Thanksgiving was first celebrated it was the major holiday of the year. Birthdays weren’t recognized and Christmas was for religious people. Religion was a big part of Thanksgiving with some people attending two sermons a day but it was also recognized in New England by Quakers and others who went to Meeting Houses and not churches. It was about giving thanks in general. Thanksgiving originally was not on a set day. A dignitary would select the day, anytime between the middle of October and the end of December. Each colony and then later when there were states, each state would celebrate when they chose to. Thanksgiving became a national holiday when President Lincoln decided it would be on the third Thursday of November.

We should celebrate the pumpkin this time of year as it is in season and grows locally practically everywhere. There are lots of wonderful things to make with pumpkin for dessert- cheesecake, cranberry pumpkin pecan upside down cake, pumpkin steamed pudding, pumpkin ice cream with caramel sauce. You don’t have to stop making pie, let’s just move beyond it and offer something new. Here’s a pumpkin recipe for something different. If you want to make pie, email me and I will send you a really good recipe. Even though it won’t be on my plate this year.

Cranberry Pecan Pumpkin Upside Down Cake

You can make this a day in advance. Store at room temperature wrapped in plastic wrap.

Serves 8-10

8 ounces (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

2 cups cranberries

4 ounces (1 cup) coarsely chopped pecans, toasted

2 large eggs

1 cup pumpkin puree

6 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottom of a 9-inch square pan with parchment paper.

Melt the butter in a small saucepot over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and whisk until smooth. Pour the brown sugar mixture into the bottom of the cake pan. In a medium bowl combine the cranberries and pecans. Place them in the pan over the brown sugar mixture.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, pumpkin puree, and oil.

Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Stir the flour mixture into the pumpkin mixture. Carefully spread the batter over the cranberry pecan topping.

Bake until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean, 35-40 minutes. Cool the cake for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Place a large plate or platter on top of the cake. Invert the cake and plate together. Remove the pan. Carefully peel off the parchment paper.

Cool completely before serving. Serve with Chantilly Cream.

Chantilly Cream                 

Makes 2 cups

1 cup heavy (whipping) cream

3 tablespoons sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine all of the ingredients and whisk until soft peaks form. Refrigerate until you are ready to use.


Still Jamming

October 8, 2009


I have a nice stash of jam in the back closet. I have been adding to it since the spring when I first made Meyer Lemon and Orange Marmalade. Next up was apricot and then strawberry. I thought my making jam days for 2009 were over once the calendar turned to September. But I was wrong. At the farmer’s market in San Francisco this past Saturday (on the 3rd of October!) I found the most beautiful looking and tasting strawberries. Most were small and some were tiny, perfect for jam making. Before I knew it I was asking for a case. So much for the rest of my afternoon.

When making jam it is very very (Yes, I said very twice for emphasis.) important to cook it in small batches. Small batches allow the berries and juice to thicken quicker. The faster they cook the more flavor the jam has. It is tempting to make a big pot so you can get a lot of jars done at once but you will regret it. You lose the freshness of the fruit. This goes for any type of jam you make. Use a heavy bottomed pot at least 10 inches in diameter.

Once I finished making the strawberry jam I had a few empty jars that had not been filled. I hate putting away empty jars for a year so I decided to make some pear-vanilla bean jam with some pears that I also had picked up at the market. Pears can be cooked into jam very quickly as they are full of natural pectin. The pectin helps the fruit thicken. Berries have very little natural pectin.

There are several pear varieties you can use. In California I like French Butter pears and the small Seckel pears.  You can find Bartlett and Comice in grocery stores across the country. Check out your farmer’s market to find local varieties specific to your area. Make sure they are ripe.

I like to give jam as a hostess gift when I am invited to someone’s house for dinner. It is unexpected and gives everyone a break from the usual bottle of wine. I also give it as gifts for Christmas. When it is snowing and cold it is nice to have a reminder of the warmer time of the year.

Here’s my recipe for pear-vanilla bean jam. Pears are plentiful at the market. No sense giving you my strawberry jam recipe as the season is over. I’ll give it to you next spring.


Chunky Pear-Vanilla  Jam

Yield 1 pint jar

You can double this recipe but this is the amount of pears I had at home when I tested it. It is quick and easy. Don’t make more than a double batch. I know it is a small amount but it really is worth it. Don’t reserve this just for toast, it’s great with cheese too.


3 cups apple cider or apple juice (no sugar added)

2 vanilla beans

3 pounds ripe pears, Bartlett or French Butter (about 9)

3/4 cup sugar

Put the apple cider in a large pot or saute pan. With a paring knife, split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Run the knife along the pod, releasing the seeds. Put the vanilla bean and seeds in the pot with the apple cider. Bring to a boil. Boil for 10-15 minutes until the liquid has reduced to 3/4 cup.

While the apple juice is cooking, peel, half and core the pears. Cut the pears into 1/4 inch pieces.

When the apple juice has finished reducing, add the pears and sugar to the pot and cook at a high simmer, stirring frequently, until thick and jam like, about 10 minutes.

Put up in jam jars or just refrigerate until cold and eat right from the fridge.


September in San Francisco

September 3, 2009

If Paris has April, Northern California has September. While summer is waning in most parts of the country and the days are getting shorter, San Francisco has its best days this month. The foggy days of July and August are gone. No more drastic 20 degree drop in temperature as the fog rolls in around 5:00. The temperature is more consistent from day into night. The evenings are clear and soft. No more blustering wind. In the east and mid western parts of the country, mums and pumpkins have appeared. In San Francisco you can finally leave the house for an evening out without a coat.

It’s hard to believe after looking at these gorgeous pictures taken this morning at the Marin County Farmer’s Market (in San Rafael, CA) that we are well into our first week of September. But don’t get fooled by the abundance of produce- in a few short weeks they will be just a memory until next year so make sure you get your fill while they are still around.


Tomatoes are now at their peak. Gone are the days when this kitchen staple was solely basic red. The color palate has extended to yellow, oranges, variegated green and yellow and all shades of red. The color just isn’t for show. Each variety tastes unique. My favorite way to eat them is in a simple brushetta. Toast some levain bread (or a baguette if you prefer), drizzle on some olive oil and lay sliced tomatoes on top. Sprinkle liberally with kosher or sea salt, a little bit more olive oil, and you have a perfect snack or lunch. Another favorite of mine is to coat Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes with olive oil and salt, place them in a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake for about 2 hours in a 250 degree oven. The tomatoes shrivel up and their flavor is concentrated. Toss them in pasta with some fresh basil and cooked diced bacon.


Raspberries like September as many varieties get a second harvest. In the recipe below you can serve the raspberries at room temperature or even warm them up briefly in a large pan with a little orange juice and butter.


French Cream with Raspberries

Serves 6

2 teaspoons powdered gelatin

2 tablespoons cold water

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 cups sour cream

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 pints raspberries

In a small heatproof bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water and let stand for 10 minutes to soften.

In a stainless-steel bowl or the top part of a double boiler, whisk together the cream, sugar, and sour cream until well blended. Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Stirring occasionally, heat the cream mixture until it is hot. Remove the bowl from the heat.

Whisk the gelatin into the cream mixture. Stir in the vanilla extract and lemon juice. Stirring occasionally cool the cream to lukewarm. (This prevents the gelatin from separating once you put it in the ramekins.) Strain the custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl.

Divide the cream mixture evenly among six 5-ounce ramekins. Cover and refrigerate for about 4 hours until set.

When ready to serve, dip the base of each ramekin in hot water for several seconds, then run a knife around the inside edge of the ramekin and invert the cream onto a dessert plate. (Or, you may serve the creams in the ramekins.) Serve chilled with the raspberries.

The creams may be made a day in advance and kept refrigerated.