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.

Curry Chicken Salad Over Baby Kale. With a Side of Politics.

A good friend from my old life popped in for a short visit this past Saturday. I was knee-deep in my family reunion and had 40 wonderful Palmers running about so she couldn’t stay long.  But today, while the kids nap a bit longer (a joy unto itself!), I find myself remembering my life before and my friendships with the amazing men and women I worked with in public service.  So instead of shaving my legs or doing the dishes, I will wax  on about food and memories and then give you an amazing recipe for lunch.

I am missing yet another reunion of the Team Hahn. I’d just love to go…  For four years (+ campaign), I worked for one of the finest elected officials in the history of all elected officials.  Jim Hahn was a one-term Mayor of the City of Los Angeles who unfortunately lost a second term to a slick suited, fast talking rat who’s since seems to have been caught with his pecker out more often then he’s been seen at his desk.  But back to Jim Hahn — it has been proven that to be a Statesman, a person of candor and caliber, to be the person making the right decisions at the right time for an old and complex City, is a tough and thankless job. But Jim did just that.  And I was proud each and every day to work for Jim Hahn.  And Doane Liu and Tim McOsker and Matt Middlebrook.  No matter what some newspaper said.  To work with men and women fighting for change and better lives in their communities like June Burlingame Smith and Greg Fitchitt and Glen Dake.  It was a heady and exhausting time.  I wore black suits and heels and the dreaded pantyhose.  Thank God for Donna Karan.  I drove three hours every day to work nonstop for 11-12 hours days.  I didn’t cook.  I didn’t garden.  Candidly, I didn’t have the spirit for long-term politics.  And I left the Mayor at a time when he needed solidarity most…I logically rationalized that I left him to work on amazing space missions at NASA but I still feel guilty sometimes.  It was one frenetic energy, power job after another.  And by the end of my decade in public service, after grad school and with no real support at home, I was burnt and exhausted and frayed.  And I flat out left it all in a frightening blaze of mid-life-crisis-at-29 glory after one weekend in Sonoma.  And never looked back.

But one thing that I did develop during this heady time, that has stayed with me, was a devoted and ardent love for lunch with friends.  Even if it was quick and only every other month or peppered with work, lunch was a highlight.  Friends keep us sane.  Real friends keep us grounded and smiling.  Lunch with Lindsay Watson was a real favorite.  The hugely busy Scheduler for Mayor Hahn, she always ate yummy looking salads and was so nice and pretty, she’d make anyone gloomy or frayed feel brighter and prettier too.  I forget the name of the place we went to every now and then but they had a golden curry chicken salad that somehow made my feet hurt less, made the horrific LA commute go smoother, made my sad first short marriage seem sort of hopeful (sort of), and gave me the strength to get back to my ardent, sincere job working for a great man and for a region I still admire.  It seems silly but I now know I am a food lover.  Always was.  That I should have been reading the signs that shouted “turn this way!” towards a more sensory-driven life with every emotional high because of a great dish or perfect pop of cheese or a fine glass of wine… even perfectly blended iced teas!  That my life was not meant to be lived out in a pair of constricting high heels or black crepe woolery or sit long in the Junior League.  I don’t want some corner office!  Even though I cherish those times and I still wear my pearls and lip gloss daily, as a rule! People… I love being a Mom first and foremost, but in those few bits of “me” time, I love working in this old Farmhouse Kitchen, in our gardens, reading cooking books, finding new recipes, sharing the joy of food and wine and art, and writing here…even if no one ever reads this.  I live a simple, luscious little life of joy.  For my family and friends. In my Frye boots.

So: This recipe is one that I’ve frankly perfected beyond that sweet little downtown bistro.  And my newfound love for baby kale is what rockets it through the roof…  Happy Eating!

Curry Chicken Salad Over Baby Kale

Curry Chicken Salad Over Baby Kale


Mix in one bowl and chill for 30 minutes at least:

  • 2 cans good quality chopped chicken — or better yet, 2 -3 cups chopped fresh chicken if you have it
  • 1-2 heaping soupspoon(s) full Mayonaise made with Olive Oil
  • 2 stalks diced celery
  • 1/2-1/3 cups chopped raw walnuts
  • 1 apple (red or green) cored and roughly diced
  • 1/8 – 1/4 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1 clove garlic diced
  • 1/2-1 tablespoon curry — the depth of spice will depend in it’s freshness.  Season to taste
  • 3 shakes of tumeric
  • 1-2 pinches sea salt
  • ** Sometimes I add a handful of golden raisins for variety.

Mix and chill.

In a small bowl, whisk:

  • 1-2 cloves minced garlic
  • 2-3 glugs of fine quality Olive oil
  • Pinch sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 glug (or 2) of Walnut or Champagne Vinaigrette or White Balsamic Vinegar

Let stand while chicken curry salad is chilling.  Stir occasionally with a fork.

Once you are ready to eat, take your pre-washed package of Baby Kale — or harvest it from your garden — and toss it with your salad dressing.  Plate it or serve both bowls (leafy greens and chicken curry salad) on the table.  Let people help themselves.  I promise, you will not have a thing left!

When to Drink Your Best Wine

There are probably sexier things to mull over on a breezy Saturday afternoon but… Leftovers get a bad rap.  They do.  Some dishes actually improve with time in the fridge or reheated on the stove.  The spices intensify or the flavors muddle together more subtly.  And a great time to drink those amazing bottles of wine you keep cellaring? Is with leftovers.  Or with a “kitchen sink” dinner — i.e. where you make a great salad of whatever is left in your vegetable bin and grill a simple burger patty because you’re out of cheese and buns.  And mustard.

Last night, we had friends over to grill lamb burgers.  Nothing special.  Just a week night with friends who work as hard making a life in wine as we do.  We each brought out some of our best wines to share and I made a hodge-podge salad with a little arugula, some leftover baby kale, older tomatoes nobody noticed had started to whither and half an avocado left from yesterday’s lunch.  And it was killer.  The lamb was delicious (Dean is a master griller) and the salad was good…but it was the GREAT bottles of wine that made our meal of mostly leftovers taste fantastic.

We had our Big Pink open from a tasting and our 2009 Annadel Estate “Anni’s Blend” (below).  We also enjoyed a bottle of Idle Cellar’s new Syrah (thanks Ben!)  Vallerie brought yummy cherries from down the road.

The right time to drink that great bottle of wine? Is now

The right time to drink that great bottle of wine? Is now

So the next time you decide to pass over that great bottle of wine because your meal isn’t 100% perfect or thought out or celebrating something rather… Remember that here in Wine Country, the best time to drink your best bottles? Is tonight.  Or Tuesday night.  Or Wednesday.  Whenever is an average day with a decent meal of leftovers.  Because really, what more are you waiting for?

Wilson’s Salad — your new Summer staple!



Wilson's SaladIt’s turning warm out.  Downright hot for some of you.  And here in Sonoma, the greens are starting to ripen and gathering at Farmer’s Markets is a community staple.  Salads are now the perfect meal.  Here is one that my stepdad Wilson shared with us last month and we’ve enjoyed every week since. Clearly, I have to share this with you!  Sure to be as much of a staple in your house as it is here in the Kitchen.

Takes mere minutes to make and is perfect for potlucks, outdoor Bar B Qs (even if they are a drive away), and dinners any night plus leftovers for lunch…

Wilson’s Salad:

Mix all ingredients in one bowl.  Best to do this in advance (as in an hour or more) and let the flavors all melt together.  The best part about this salad is that it’s all to taste and amenable to what you have in your fridge…

  • Plum Cherry Tomatoes (I like red and orange) — cut in half
  • Kalamata Olives (pitted) course chopped
  • 1 Cucumber — peeled, quartered and course chopped
  • 1 Bulb Fennel — sliced thin and then course chopped.  I add in some of the fronds too (chopped) for sweetness
  • 1 Bunch Scallions — thinly sliced
  • 2 stalks (or more) celery — chopped
  • 1/2 Fresh Lemon Juice
  • your good quality Olive Oil (to taste)
  • Kosher Salt and a few grinds of pepper

Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

If you have it, I like adding just before serving:

  • Cubed fresh avocado
  • 1 can Tonno (drained) for protein.  Tonno is the fancy Italian tuna… Divine.

Drizzle Balsamic Vinegar around the edges of the salad.  Serve cold and with a glass of Annadel Chardonnay or iced tea with lemon…!


Divine Beets, Goat Cheese and Spinach Salad

Beets are one of the few vegetables you can buy, stick ’em in your fridge drawer and legitimately come back to them a week or so later and say, “I forgot you were there! Huh… what can I make with you today?”

Yummy & Healthy: Goat Cheese, Roasted Beets, and Spinach salad

I came up with this dish mostly out of laziness this past summer…as I kept encountering week-old beets and mismashed veggies left over from other meals.  But this week, I toasted left over pine nuts (from garden pesto) and it is now ready for prime time sharing with you!

The prep time is easy but roasting Beets takes about an hour but your kitchen is infused with a fantastic, earthy aroma.  Like you are baking the Gods’ favorite dish.  But once the beets cook, prep time is 5 minutes and everyone is happy.  Even your toddler!

Beet & Goat Cheese Salad:

You will need:

  • 3 red beets
  • 3 gold beets
  • 5-7 oz Goat Cheese — I prefer Laura Chenel Goat Cheese
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts — Toast them in a small pan until lightly brown and set aside
  • 5-6 handfuls of fresh Spinach leaves (or Augula, whatever they have that is a dark green salad leaf)
  • Olive oil

Preheat oven to 325′. Line a small roasting sheet (or whatever you have) with tin foil.

Red beets ready for cleaning

SCRUB beets and trim off the root end and any funky looking parts.  Rub cooking olive oil all over the beets with your hands and place in a single layer on the sheet.  Slide into the oven for 55-65 minutes, or until beets are roasted through.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together:

  • 2 cloves chopped garlic or shallots
  • 2-3 tablespoons of your good olive oil.  — Not your cooking oil but your drizzling/dressing oil
  • Pinch sea salt and 2 twists fresh pepper
  • 1 heaping teaspoon Dijon mustard (stone ground or smooth)
  • 2 tablespoon white wine vinegar

Let mixture stand and marinate while Beets cook.

Beets are finished when a fork side through. Once finished, remove beets from the oven and skin them using a fork and knife.  Quarter the beets and let cool a few minutes while you put the spinach in a salad bowl and whisk the salad dress mix one more time.  Taste for seasoning.

Add beets to spinach and crumble goat cheese over the beets.  The still warm beets will slightly melt the white goat cheese, making the cheese a fun pink. Toss salad with dressing and toasted pine nuts.

Serve immediately with a chilled, CRISP Rose or White wine.