Easy-Peasy Split Pea Soup..with wilting salad

Do you have wilting lettuce and greens in your fridge?  Sure you do.  We ALL do.  I don’t a single hard working home-cook who always gets to the entire content of our vegetable drawers.  And THIS is a great way to use them all up.



So this is my go-to kitchen sink recipe that I am writing down for my girlfriend Fabiola.  She is gung-ho eating vegetarian Monday thru Friday.  We’ve joined the troops in mommy-solidarity but also because I have a REALLY FABULOUS dress for my brother’s wedding in mere weeks and have a good 6-8 lbs more to lose before it looks totally amazing.  To that end, I am starving poor Dean and cooking every lean, green dish I can think of for dinner.  And since I’m not adventurously cooking weeknights, alot of what I am “soup-ing” is greenery on its last legs in our fridge. Usually left over from the weekend.  The great thing about THIS little dish is not just the big dose of vitamins, iron and vegetable goodness but that it is foolishly EASY to make and flexible with most veggies wilting away right now in your very fridge!

Wilted vegetables at the ready.

Wilted vegetables at the ready.

You DO need some basic staples that you should ALWAYS have on hand like garlic cloves, yellow onions, frozen organic peas, good quality organic chicken stock (low sodium), and left over parmesan reggiano cheese rinds.  From these humble ingredients, great things can be born…especially if you have a ham hock from your butcher lying around.  And an immersion blender.  A MUST.



  • 3 garlic cloves chopped
  • 1/2+ yellow onion chopped
  • 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Bit of kosher salt, fresh ground pepper (2 turns), pinch dried oregano
  • 1 bag frozen peas
  • 6-8 cups of Chicken stock, dry white wine, vegetable stock or water.  Sometimes its a combination of all 4 depending on what I need to use up.
  • ANY Salad Greens
  • Most leftover vegetables like leeks or shallots, celery and carrots, etc.
  • Optional: a small smoked ham hock or smoked ham chunks for flavor
  • Optional: Roast some garlic and red peppers or red pepper aioli

In a medium pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.  Sauté chopped garlic and onions for 2-3 minutes until garlic is fragrant.  Last night, I halved and sliced 2 wilting leeks.  Add your next vegetables here like older celery or carrots and sauté another 2-3 minutes.  Splash with white wine, water or stock if it looks like veggies are starting to stick to bottom of pot.

Literally.  Add a whole bag of frozen peas

Literally. Add a whole bag of frozen peas

Pour in one bag of frozen peas.  Stir peas and garlic/onion/leeks or shallots or whatever mixture up.  Add tiny salt, pepper and pinch of oregano (if you have it.)  Add your liquids whatever they are.  Last night, I tossed in 1 cup of white wine, 4 cups chicken broth, 2 cups of water and a smidge of leftover vegetable stock from Sunday.  I also acquired a small smoked ham hock at the market because for extra flavor and added a small chunk of parmesan cheese rind. Stir well again.

Liquids and ham-hock added

Liquids and ham-hock added

Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer.  Simmer soup, stirring occassionally, for 30 minutes.  I’ll do laundry or read a few books to the kids.  Last night, I pruned 2 rows of Merlot.  Yay!

Vineyard Selfie with Anni

Vineyard Selfie with Anni

Remove the ham hock or rind (if using) and then literally dump all of your greens, herbs, salad into the pot and stir.  I had left over herbs and baby kale last night.  Remove from heat.

Literally just dump in salad greens! Arugula, kale, endive, herbs, etc.  It ALL tastes great in this Pea Soup

Literally just dump in salad greens! Arugula, kale, endive, herbs, etc. It ALL tastes great in this Pea Soup

Then blend the soup — be careful! — with an immersion blender until soup runs smooth.  Ladle into warmed bowls and garnish with freshly shredded parmesan cheese.  I had some left over red peppers and garlic sauce that I had roasted and blended the night before for sandwiches.  I spooned that in too.  Serve immediately.

For roasting peppers and garlic? Slice red, yellow and orange peppers.  Take whole garlic STILL in their skins and toss all with light coat of olive oil.  Spread on a pan and roast at 400′ for 30 minutes.  I then blended them in my little $26 cuisinart.  Great for sandwiches and soup garnish.  Eggs too.

Roasted peppers and garlic (sans skins) ready to coarse blend in my trust $26 Cuisinart

Roasted peppers and garlic (sans skins) ready to coarse blend in my trust $26 Cuisinart


Baby leaves are sprouting.  Mustard flowers blooming.  Afternoons are warm and sunny.  Spring is here!  BUT it is still cold in the mornings (40s being cold here in California) and once the sun dips below the horizon, I still like to have something warm on the stove.  Or in this case, the Oven.

This is the BEST DAMN ROAST CHICKEN RECIPE EVER.  And I promised Rob Turner I’d write next on this gorgeous recipe!

Thanks to Gail Ross, my foodie friend and intrepid cookbook scout for turning me onto Dorie Greenspan.  This recipe is a take off on hers…just tweaked.  Italian style.

This is the chicken BEFORE I dust with dried herbs.  I now make the chicken almost totally covered in herbs for extra flavors.

This is the chicken BEFORE I dust with dried herbs. I now make the chicken almost totally covered in herbs for extra flavors.

Ingredients for Step 1: ** These are all to taste so adjust for your taste

  • 1 Roasting Chicken 3&1/2-4&1/2 lbs
  • 2 heads of Garlic
  • 1-2 lemons (scrubbed)
  • Fresh Thyme — 10-14 sprigs
  • Dried Thyme – 1-2 teaspoons
  • Fresh Rosemary — 1-1&1/2 tablespoon
  • Fresh Sage — 10 leaves
  • Dry Sage (dust) — 1/2 teaspoon
  • Dried Oregano — 1 teaspoon
  • Kosher Salt — 2 teaspoons+
  • Fresh Cracked Pepper
  • Olive Oil
  • 1-2 even slices of thick country bread.  Can be stale or fresh.  * Opt for white or plain wheat breads with no heavy herbs or seasoning.
  • 1 cup Chardonnay (or worst case, Chicken Stock)

Heat oven to 450′F.

Pat dry your chicken.  Remove any giblets or bits of feather.

Rub a sheen of olive oil all over the interior of a large Dutch Oven.  Place the 2 slices of bread in the center of the pot.  Place dried chicken on top of them in the center of the pot.

Remove excess paper from the garlic clove(s).  Chop each one in half so you have 4 half bulbs.

Cut the lemon(s) in half.

Take a chopping knife and course chop the washed and now dry sprigs of fresh thyme, rosemary needles, and sage leaves.

Put all dried herbs in a mortar & pestle to fresh them up.  You can also crush them between your hands.

INSIDE the cavity of the chicken, place a mixed bunch of fresh herbs and one of the garlic halves.  Secure half of a lemon in place with the pul side IN to steam the chicken with the herbs and lemon from the inside as it cooks.

Be sure to keep washing hands throughout as raw chicken is dangerous.

Rub olive oil over the top and exterior of the bird.  Dust liberally with the salt.  Crack a few turns of pepper over the chicken next.

Next take all fresh herbs and rub onto the chicken.  Then I dust the dried herbs on top of THOSE fresh herbs.

Position half cloves of garlic and lemon halves around the chicken.

Carefully pour the 1 cup of Chardonnay into the well of the pot.  Not only will the chicken roast in the heat but steam in the aromas of white wine, garlic and lemon!

Cover with lid and Roast for 45-55 minutes.


Mix the following Ingredients in a large bowl:

  • 1 Large Yellow Onion peeled and quartered
  • 2-4 Potatoes or any sort of Roots (Mix it up depending on the season with turnip roots, leeks, shallots, etc) cleaned and quartered
  • 3-5 Carrots (orange, purple, etc) – cleaned and chopped in 1-2 inch rounds
  • olive oil
  • Kosher salt and fresh pepper

Remove chicken from the oven after the initial 45-55 minutes of roasting.  Place the olive oil covered vegetables around the perimeter of the chicken.  I drizzle the left over olive oil over the top of the chicken.  Place lid back on the dutch oven and slide back into the oven for 45-50 minutes more, depending on how large your chicken is.

** If you have more vegetables than your pot allows, roast them below in a cute pan.

Remove from oven and uncover.  If it’s not golden brown yet, crank heat up and toast the top of the Chicken a few minutes more.

Let stand 10-12 minutes and serve with Annadel 2012 Chardonnay or 2009 Anni’s Blend!! Drizzle chicken with hot lemon juices.  And watch people fight over the scrapings of bread and roasted garlics from the bottom of the pot!

Gorgeous Chicken

Gorgeous Chicken

Tuesday: Champagne and the Safeway Restroom

I have a secret.  I like Champagne. On Tuesday mornings.

Not every Tuesday mind you.  But every so often, after I drop Anni off at school, baby boy and I have some quiet time together.  By 9 o’clock, we share a chair at Sunflower Cafe.  His warm pudgy legs slung over mine.  I order Trane a yogurt and fruit parfait and for me? One hot latte and one delightfully cold glass of sparkling wine.Delicious Latte from Sunflower Cafe

For one hour, we cuddle, share breakfast, and mommy gets a bit of bubbly.  I cut up his strawberries, apples and blueberries, eating the hard nuts in the granola and spoon feeding him banana yogurt.  It’s our hour…just the two of us.

An hour of cuddle time at Sunflower Cafe

An hour of cuddle time at Sunflower Cafe

By about the time I finish my grocery list (our Tuesday afternoon stop), Coltrane starts throwing his raisins.  Time to leave.  Now it’s usually warm enough for the playground and I’ve had more than my fill of his half masticated bits of apple that he has recently started trying to feed me (blah!)  We play on the swings before picking Anni back up from school awhile later.

It is these quiet times that give me strength and calm to deal with the occasional stresses of being a Mommy.  And I am profoundly grateful for our secret hour this very past Tuesday … because once we reached the Safeway market, poor little Anni exploded with such a ferocious round of runny-tummy that we sat stranded in the Women’s Toilet.  For an hour.  Baby Trane ate unpaid-for Kale Puffs while locked in the grocery cart’s safety harness looking mildly alarmed.  I stood by poopy Anni, hoping she’d feel better enough to get home.  We had no cell service in that florescent restroom so there we sat. A sick 3 year-old, a baby eating essentially stolen food, and this Mommy.

Finally, I was able to make a run the Baby aisle for Pull-Ups!!

Dodging a pinhead restroom attendant calling out “hey lady! No merchandise into the restroom!!” I wheeled my grocery cart back into that Safeway potty with such finesse, locked the door, whipped Rapunzel Pull-Ups onto my sick toddler, and raced for home.  Stolen puffs in hand. Not my finest hour.  But once I had Anni back on the porcelain throne, I said a deep moment of Thanks for that one hour of calm and those happy little billowing bubbles in my secret glass of champagne…

a bit of liquid calm this past Tuesday

a bit of liquid calm this past Tuesday


Living Life In Art

Abi’s Farmhouse Gallery: ANNE ZIEMIENSKI

Anne Ziemienski & PersphoneEach artist finds his or her own path.  Some go to art school.  Some apprentice.  Some lock themselves away to toil relentlessly in obscurity.  Others come to Art later in life after success frees them to explore passionate hobbies.

But few, if any, can claim a first life as Belly Dancer.  In Europe.  In the Middle East.  And Egypt.  With her own 13 piece band.  Now? Acclaimed Mosaic artist celebrated from Sonoma to the pages of the New York Times.

Anne Ziemienski is a colorfully vibrant person, a dear friend, and an inspiration to artists.  She and her husband, famed painter Dennis Ziemienski, have done the near impossible – they live by art alone.  There is no day job.  There is ART.  And their Mediterranean home in Glen Ellen surges with it:  with creative vibrancy, warmth, and sweat equity.

It was here that Anne turned her love of Old World’s mosaics into decoration in her family’s home – works that celebrate nature, lore, and mythology.  Like Anne’s 8-foot-tall- Persphone at their front door, a grand stone fountain for their garden, and splendid Aphrodite for the Master Bath complete with tub reclaimed from the Old Chevron Building in San Francisco.

“Mosaic art has ancient roots and a rich cultural heritage,” says Anne.  “I particularly love the Greco-Roman style that was popular 2,000 years ago.”Portrait

Anne absorbed the ancient world’s “lost art” first as a young girl living abroad in Italy with her parents and then again as a flourishing Dancer in Cairo, Europe, and the Middle East. A chance encounter at the Salute to the Arts Festival gave Anne her first (huge) commission (3 installations) and brought her talents into the outside world.  The rest, they say, is history.

Commissioned Pebble PathsAnne is lucky (and very hard working).  Her art is coveted.  It is also great source of joy for her.  And it is this quality that I think fires the soul in viewers when looking at (or living on) each of her pieces.  You can feel the drama or love or lust in each subject and installation. This makes Anne’s work truly unique and I think, very valuable.

Wyrm of Inverness“Every aspect of my work intrigues me; picking out the marble and stones, hand cutting each piece, designing and implementing the design.  For some mysterious reason I am very drawn to work in this ancient art form as it connects me to all the cultures that I have lived within, whether it be Egyptian, Italian or Celtic.”

If you want to reach Anne, you can email her at az@ziemienski.com

She is probably in her studio, hand-slicing marble with a wet saw.  Or something equally fabulous…!

Salads & Cheese

My New Pairing Favorite

My New Pairing Favorite

I sat next to this awesome French guy last week.  As we ate my Roasted Chicken with Lemons and Winter Root Vegetables, I took note of a spot of cheese standing solo on the edge of his plate.

Now I bought that fancy cheese because he and his prominent food family and friends were coming for a special meal here at Annadel.  Since I’m still learning about food and cheese and wines, I let in a pause of insecurity.  I wondered if this cheese I bought and served was too “something” for a fancy French foodie? But our guests were just so lovely that my lame little thought vanished.

THEN We moved on to baby Kale and Arugula Salad with mustard vinaigrette… My lunch date served himself a healthy heap of greens.  And only then did he move the cheese.  Into position.  Jerome F. next did something so completely fresh, to me at least, that I stopped mid-bite to watch him.  He used his knife and fork to slice thin slabs of this delicious cheese onto speared dark leafy greens and ate it. From his fork.  All together.  I tried not to stare.

Great flavors!

Great flavors!

How have I never done this??

We love our cheese around here (sans the crackers) and fancy butters too (revelation ca. 2011).  Sure I’ve crumbled the blue  and goat cheese over salads for years.  But this? An Epoisses de Bourgonge — one of the more wonderfully feral French cheeses I’ve had to date — paired with… baby KALE?

Couldn't resist this web image...!

Couldn’t resist this web image…!

Was he crazy or just so super cool, awesome food guy? Since he is one of the more respected Chefs anywhere, let alone France, I chose the latter. So I copied him.

And converted.

Born anew!  I went to my trusty cheesemongers at Oliver’s and spent 1/8 of our weekly grocery funds on cheese and kale.  With some asparagus and artichokes for extra flavor too.  Dean thinks I’m nuts.  I’m hooked.

Cheesemongers at Oliver's are my go-tos! Note Derek's mohawk.

Cheesemongers Sharon and Derek at Oliver’s are my go-tos. Note Derek’s mohawk. :)

We chose a yummy blue cheese washed in red wine, an incredible Chambertin, and a Soumaintrain from a huge array of options… At least that’s what the labels tell me.  I’m sure there is some proper types of cheese to pair with greens but here’s the thing, so far they all taste great to me. Cow, goat, blue, pasturized or not, Itlian, French, Danish or Californian… they seem to really go well with baby greens, drizzle of mild dressing, and a fork.

CHEESE at a gourmet or regional fine market like Oliver's will be vastly better than a super market.  I promise.  The artistry is here.  I promise.

CHEESE at a gourmet or regional fine market like Oliver’s will be vastly better than a super market. I promise. The artistry is here. I promise.

My Food Lesson of the Week is this: Fancy cheese is ridiculously delicious  with dark, baby greens.  Darker the better.  Kale, spinach, arugula, herbs mix, even radicchio, endive and frissee.  I’ve used our regular salad dressings (chopped garlic, EVOO, Balsamic and salt), the mustardy one, my white Balsamic dressing too.  And they ALL go.  The only time great cheeses didn’t pair well was with the whiter parts of a romaine.  Blah.

This may be totally normal to you and you now think I am an idiot.  But I am so happy with these consistently delicious pairings, without the added carbs of crackers, that I had to share… Happy eating!

Starting out? Ask for advice or opt for an Espoisses.  But let your gourmet cheesemonger ask you what you like and go from there.

Starting out? Ask for advice or opt for an Espoisses. But let your gourmet cheesemonger ask you what you like and go from there.

Eggs & Birdies

Few things bring me back to my grandmother’s table than eggs and toast.

My amazing grandmother in mid-2000s

My amazing grandmother in mid-2000s

Mima wore her 1970s vibrantly swirly, totally rayon, neck-to-floor dressing gowns to make breakfast.  She called them “Eggs & Birdies” — slightly morbid now that I think about it as a grown up (arguably) — but she and Dida soft boiled the eggs and timed the toasting of bread to perfection. Every time.  Seventy plus years of marriage will do that to you….  Then: They lightly cracked the eggs open in an upright position and spooned the goodness over toasted slices of Orowheat.  Egg yolks running smoothly over toasted exteriors.  Cracked pepper and iodized salt.  Served with piping hot mugs of Folgers Crystals instant coffee and breakfast was served.


Eggs & Toast

Eggs & Toast

Dean made me and the kids this amazingly simple, old school goodness this morning for breakfast.  We’ve made it a regular weekly staple — this fried eggs over toast — but somehow this morning was different.  Eaten by hand, my first bite transported me back to Linda Ridge Road, to my grandmother’s table.  I almost cried.  I was 11 years old again in faded acid wash jeans, a hot pink t-shirt, and rubbing sleep from my eyes.

Somehow these fried eggs had the perfect flavor of a soft boiled and our 2-day old toasted slices Ciabatta from Costeaux Bakery in Healdsburg did the trick.  Today in our kitchen, we use local eggs, fancy rustic sea salts and fresh cracked rainbow peppercorns… But you get the drift.

Early days of little me and my Mima

Early days of little me and my Mima

I WORSHIP my grandmother.  Always will.  Peg Palmer was a force to be reckoned with.  Glamorous, loving and willful.  At home in a Marshall’s special as she was in Evening Attire or blue jeans.  Mima was fearless, funny in private circles, suffered ZERO social-climbing, and channeled much loving energy into us.  She had a special spot for us grandchildren.  As well as the color coral (in lipstick!!), water aerobics at the Valley Hunt Club, a mean chopped salad, forever being a size 10, and Asian art.  When life had me briefly down in my early 20s, Mima advised, “You go wash your face and put on fresh lipstick.  You’ll feel better.  Stick your chest out, tuck your rear end under and glide.  Glide.  Glide…” She was right.  Still is…. And I may still do this today whenever I need an inner boost.

I hope this breakfast kicks your day off right…without the need for 1980s coral lipstick!


  • Farm fresh eggs or at least organic.  *You are looking for golden yolks.
  • Pat of butter (1-2 tablespoons)
  • Kosher or French sea salt
  • Slices of real bread — about to be toasted — 1 slice per egg

Heat a frying pan (or non-stick) up over medium-high heat.  Turn up heat to lower-high and melt butter.  Once butter begins to boil, crack eggs into pan and let cook 1-2 minutes until whites “set”  Remember: Cooking eggs is purely subjective.  Trial and error is the way to go.

Toast bread.  Butter bread and put on plate.

Using a smaller spatula, flip the eggs over and cook for 1 minute in reverse.  I look for a light gold “crust” to form on the edges.  Slide eggs onto each slice of buttered bread.  Dust with salt and pepper.  Serve IMMEDIATELY.

Additions include: flash sauteed kale or spinach, a drizzle of arugula aioli, or thinly sliced tomato works every time.

Announcing the GALLERY

Clearly I don’t write every day… or even every week.  Rather, I wait until truly inspired by something luscious.  Something drenched in flavor, aroma, and taste.  Something worth the calories and that extra time doing sit-ups.

Art has always been key to the intent behind “Abi’s Farmhouse Kitchen” but in writing at least, my love affair with beauty and art has been usurped by the more easily quantifiable joys of gastronomy and wine.   Art is ephemeral.  And so strikingly personal.  Its joys are hard to get down on paper…especially with 2 little kids under foot.  It seems like I get one thought “just so” and then someone poops themselves or starts to cry.  Or scream.  Over a marker. Or Leggo.

But in my adult brain, art reigns equal to food and wine.  Art is the pursuit of beauty (for me at least).  The very act of celebration in which elevates humans to glory in our finest state.  If you think about it, it is Art and Music and Architecture (& Rationality) that cannot be snuffed out by even the most repressive regimes and ideologies.  At least, not yet.

For those of us that are lucky to live in cultures celebrating independence, Rationality, and beauty — and for those of us that are more sensory driven, I believe that art is every bit a key part of the human maturation process.  We start out with cheap prints of Monet’s “Water lilies” or Munch’s “The Scream” in our dorm rooms. Drinking $2 Buck Chuck.  Then graduate to generic Z-gallery collages, $11 bottles of wine, and geometric mirrors.  In short, rooms designed for us by catalogue people.

I may be a dick for saying this but I fear most of us stop here.  And neglect to explore the very real world of real artists, real chefs, real growers of real produce, and real wines.  And the very real joys and color such things gift us.

Here my brother hangs Hoshino's Oyster's next to Ziemienski's Tomatoes...above a New Orleans scene Dean bought from an unknown street artist.

Here my brother hangs Hoshino’s Oyster’s next to Ziemienski’s Tomatoes…above a New Orleans scene Dean bought from an unknown street artist.

The thing is – real art, like real wine, enriches our lives each and every day. That first sip of hot coffee as the sun breaks over the Mayacamas warms my soul just as much as cooking dinner beneath Dennis Ziemienski ‘s “Tomatoes” or Robert Townsend’s “Pastries.”  At the other side of the day, drinking fine Annadel Estate wine by the fire under Whitney Abbot’s cows or Nicola Hoshino’s abstract Oysters.

Nicola Hoshino's amazing Oysters

Nicola Hoshino’s amazing Oysters

Truth is, I’d rather die than hang a Thomas Kinkade on my wall.  Or drink $2 Buck Chuck, for that matter.  My friend and esteemed gallerist Michael Hollis once said something like “we all start out with college posters and cheap wine but we grow into fine wines and real art.”  So that is my goal here, to celebrate real Art in a new chapter for the Kitchen called “Abi’s Farmhouse Gallery.”

I promise the art and artists I highlight will be worth the few minutes you spend here…or the money you wisely investing in these fine artists.  Because art (& wine) make the very best gifts to ourselves.  Ever!

A Noble Pursuit: Food

I should be writing my article.  I have a deadline tomorrow.  But my heart is still mulling the rich shelves of the local bookstore’s food section.  My Mom watched our kids for an hour and I happily got lost walking book spines through countless countries and the luscious table lores from France, Holland, India, and Italy… before leaving to buy diapers.   I picked up Blood, Butter & Bones by Gabrielle Hamilton.  I think I could spend thousands of dollars on cookbooks.  All at once.  But then you’d get overwhelmed as a cook and don’t give each authoress a chance to woo your plates with her wares.

Lately, I’ve been cooking from old family favorites but also still trying new dishes.  Dishes culled from the mountainous pile of cookbooks I have in our Butler’s Pantry.  Yes, we have a Butler’s Pantry.  It’s awesome.  An old perk from our 1880’s farmhouse.  And ours is filled with family glassware, funky treasures, Anni’s preschool art, and my ever-growing collection cookbooks.    There may be a second pile in the guest room holding up a bookshelf… but you didn’t hear it from me.

Some women buy new shoes often.  And aside from a rather astute investment into Uggs amazingness, I laregly buy cookbooks and food books.  I think I may almost have a problem but my heart and the soul of our family, the kitchen table, is better for it.  Richer and full of warmth and love.  And new foods!

I love to feed good people – the friends and family who fill our lives with shared laughter and a togetherness felt nowhere else besides around a happy table with chilled wines in our glasses, nurturing foods on the plate, and the stove still ticking it’s way back into a cooling slumber.

And for whatever reason, the cookbook authors and writers I’ve been loving lately are all women.  Ruth Reichl, Dorie Greenspan, Julia (always), Lidia Bastianich, Sondra Bernstein, Alice Waters, Madhur Jaffrey, and a new songbird – Elizabeth Bard.  I just finished her book, Lunch in Paris: A Lovestory with Recipes this afternoon. Book Jacket

It may seem overly light at first glance but inside Bard’s simple, direct prose unfolds a woman waking to the simple, truer pleasures of food, love, and marketing.  Not marketing as in “advertising” but marketing as in buying freshly grown vegetables and fruits, grains and meats in an ever revolving door of changing seasons.  Granted, Bard is brave enough to jump countries and find herself in Paris (easier said than done) and a huge undercurrent of the book is devoted to this New Yorker navigating French culture and red-tape, some of it heart wrenching.  But Bard builds herself plate after plate and finds solace and inspiration at the stove during a time when the food revolution was NOT in full swing.  She encounters many of the strident feminist objections I faced when leaving professional life to cook and make wine, and later babies.  Perhaps that will ring truer for me than for you.  But what Bard shares with her fellow female authors and cooks – indeed what I’ve warmed to most as I get a handle on this cooking thing and my worship of the plate and glass – is the returning to the table as a source of happiness.  And beauty.  And love.  Those are not anti-feminist pursuits.  Women authors and chefs are increasingly coming forth from the largely male-dominated professional kitchens and cooking publications to celebrate that stewardship of the hearth and home and pantry can be a significant source of happiness.

Whether you are a woman or not, gay or straight: Feeding loved ones and doing it well is a return to the natural rhythms of our humanity.  That finding happiness amidst our pots and pans is noteworthy and admirable.  And worthy of ardent pursuit, the written word, and press.

All this from a former NASA wonk and Los Angeles politico.  Pretty progressive, huh?  But that’s it for tonight. My article on buses and commercial tourism won’t write itself.  That, and I’m stewing Pomi tomatoes, pancetta, butter beans, and baby kale tonight for the family – topped with a softly fried egg.  YUM.

Harvest “Salad” with Duck Confit


Once the weather properly cools and it’s really “Fall”, I can pretty much guarantee I’ll gain a good 3-4 pounds. In about a week. Something about the heart warming smells and tastes of slow cooked, rich foods that makes me not care (too much) about a slight increase in girth.

Out comes my Dutch Ovens (love Staub) and in goes Cassoulet, red wine braised Short Ribs, fresh baked breads, Moroccan lamb apricot tagines, and Minestrone. Dishes that after a bit of leg-work, take hours to simmer or bake. Filling our home with love and physical heat… and gifts me a bit of chub.

I keep saying, next week, I’ll go back to making kale salads three nights a week. Next week…. But not yet!

And this latest find of a recipe is soooooo worth the two solid pounds it temporarily added to both my husband and I. As Dean ate last night, he alternated between “oh wow. Oh wow, this is good” and “this is NOT a salad.”

But I promise, worth every bite! I’ve tweaked it from the original Bon Appetite recipe to fit our more Italian tastes for heavier use of herbs and garlic…. Aside from the slow roasting of duck, the whole assembly takes about 20 minutes.

Harvest Duck "Salad'

Harvest Duck “Salad’

HARVEST “SALAD” with Duck Confit

Serves 4

DUCK: This will take some time in the oven. Take your duck breast or 2-3 duck legs. Optional: Trim unnecessary fat. Pat the duck dry and season liberally with kosher salt. Tuck fresh sprigs of thyme (at least 5-7 sprigs) and course chopped garlic cloves (at least 4) around each duck piece and place snugly in a shallow tureen. Cover with tin foil and marinate in the fridge for at least an hour. Heat oven to 325’ and slow roast duck, still covered in tin foil, for 3&1/2 hours or so. Remove from oven, uncover, and begin assembling salad.

Tuck lots of fresh thyme and quartered garlic around the duck!

Hello Ducky!

SALAD: In a sauce pan, hard-boil 2 eggs. Takes 7 minutes once water is boiling. Remove eggs from water and let cool on counter.

  • In a small bowl, create your dressing:
  • 4-5 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2-3 cloves chopped fresh garlic
  • Pinch kosher or sea salt and fresh cracked pepper
  • 1 tspn stone ground mustard
  • 1 tspn Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons good extra virgin olive oil

Let sit and marinate. Whisk with a fork occasionally.

In a large pretty bowl, collect:

  • 2 large handfuls fresh arugula
  • 2 large handfuls spinach or baby kale
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs broken apart (rustic style) by hand – its okay if yolk is not cooked thru entirely
  • Crumbled good quality blue cheese
  • Optional: thinly sliced red onions to taste (I think too strong)
  • Your duck “confit” – using your hands shred the warm duck meat over the top of everything in the salad.

CROUTONS: In a small sauce pan, pour in the rendered fat from the shallow tureen. If you don’t think you have enough to toast croutons, add two or three pats of butter or good olive oil. Toast 2 slices bread. Using your hands, coarsely crumble the toast and quick fry them in the hot duck fat and butter/olive oil. Season liberally with salt. Add to salad.

Whisk your dressing one more time and pour over salad. Toss and serve.

Pair with our 2009 Annadel Estate Winery’s “Anni’s Blend”. A medium bodied red wine goes well with this warm duck salad and really brings home the warmth of incoming Fall.

Last Night with the Old Girl

The Old Girl: our Occidental Automatic ca 1941 here in the Farmhouse Kitchen

The Old Girl: our Occidental Automatic ca 1941 here in the Farmhouse Kitchen

Tonight is the last night with our old stove.  Our Occidental Automatic ca. 1941.  She has turned an obvious corner and become unsafe.  She isn’t lighting, no longer holds consistent temperatures, burps tufts of gas, and her enamel between the 2nd and 3rd burners has cracked a good five inches.

I’m not surprised this day has come.  Her inevitable decline has been happening gradually for a good year.  To be fair, Dean found the old girl in the once-rundown Carriage House when he bought Annadel six years ago.  But for as long as Dean and I have been in love, she’s been chugging and gurgling away.  Keeping us warm and fed for more than 5 years now.  And I am strikingly sad to see her retire tomorrow morning.

It was here on this old farm, in what is now our home here at Annadel Estate Winery, that I learned to cook on this funky stove.  Before Pearl Harbor, before color TV, before women like me quit jobs for NASA to make wine and wear jeans and boots, before Julia Child was Julia Child for crying out loud… The Old GIrl has been heating and feeding her people.  There is something so beautiful and familial in that continuity of nurturing.  An earthly grace that to me transcends our particular time or even this particular family.

I want to write more.  The 28 hours making of traditional Cassoulet springs to mind and how I fell asleep at the kitchen table half way through dinner.  Or ‘perfecting’ Oatmeal Raisin cookies with Anni week after week trying to keep warm.  But we’ve got a chicken to roast.  And our son just filled his diaper… And candidly there’s too much to say to her.  I know I am an idiot.  She’s just a stove! An oven and four burners…2 of which don’t even work.  But she is MY old stove.  My Partner, besides Dean, in seeing me blossom from an ex-government, Cellar Girl to a happily hard-working artist wife and Mommy of two.

Dean promises to restore her for my birthday.  But it may be a year or two.  Until then I have to cook on a new spare stove that is so….modern.  And aesthetically SO boring.  But  we have vines to plant, a winery to literally build, and two kids to feed, raise and school.  I know tonight may not be our last dinner together but it feels like it.  And I am going to miss her.  Deeply.

I DO know though that I cannot bear to be here tomorrow morning at 9:00 AM when they come to move her.  I am taking the kids for Pancakes at Rosemarie’s instead….