Friday, November 30, 2018

Sage Advice

Our garden is overflowing with beautiful sage.  I enjoy, especially at this time of year, cooking with this luscious aromatic herb which fills my entire home with intoxicating aromas reminiscent of the holiday season.  I also add sage to small floral bouquets, or frequently to my holiday table-scapes where it is not only adds elements of brilliant silver-purple color, but it is complimentary to many of the flavor profiles of autumn dinners.

Sage hasn’t always been a culinary item.  During ancient times it has been used to treat a variety of health conditions.  A member of the mint family, sage is still thought to have some medicinal value.  The Romans supposedly used it as both a diuretic and an antiseptic.  In fact, modern research shows that sage may enhance brain function.

Here are three of my favorite recipes for sage.  One is an ethereal cornbread that is sure to become a go-to for this time of year.  Julia Child’s veal and mushroom dish is another special one…note that I often substitute sage for tarragon.  The last one is a chicken recipe from an old Bon Appetit.  It’s always a crowd-pleaser.

Sage Cornbread: 

Julia's Veal Scallopini: (remember to substitute sage for tarragon!)
If you don't have Julia's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, here's an online rendition:

Chicken with Olives, Carmelized Onions & Sage:

Friday, November 16, 2018

A Unique Thanksgiving Cocktail

How about a little something different other than a glass of wine to begin your festive Thanksgiving celebration?   I have a great option.  This recipe combines two of my favorite cocktails:  Aperol Spritz and a Pimms Cup.  I’m assuming you’ll have a crowd for your holiday dinner, so I’ve made the recipe for 8 persons and adjusted the process to make it easy-peasy.


10 paper thin slices of cucumber (sliced on a madeline, or other such instrument)
Hand full of fresh mint leaves
¼ Cup Pimms No. 1
½ Cup Aperol
1 cup Apricot Liqueur
½ Cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
½ Cup simple syrup
½ Cup Tonic Water


Muddle the cucumber and mint.  Add all the ingredients and ice, then stir.  Strain out into martini glasses.  Optional:  top with a mint leaf or thin circle of cucumber.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 9, 2018

Autumn Cocktail

                                 The Sazerac cocktail, like jazz, was birthed in New Orleans

It was a cold autumn night in San Francisco when I first had a Sazerac cocktail.  I was at the marvelous Zuni Café with a group of my closest women friends.   Another woman, who was a solo patron, saw us having so much fun that she sent this cocktail to us in the spirit of the X chromosome.  It was fifteen years ago and I have never forgotten the gesture, or the cocktail.

The Sazerac cocktail was developed over 150 years ago in pre-Civil war New Orleans.  Some say that it is the oldest American cocktail.  Named after its original major ingredient, Sazerac cognac, the drink was first concocted by a liquor importer who mixed cognac with the city’s famous Peychaud Bitters and then added a splash of another French liquor called Absinthe.  When France’s vineyards were by Phylloxera in the late 1800’s the cognac was replaced with American Rye Whiskey.

However, it’s not simply the ingredients that make the Sazerac.  The process in which the drink is made is key.   First, two chilled glasses are used (typically old-fashioned glasses).  Glass number one is swirled with a wash of absinthe…this adds flavor and aroma.  Glass number two is used to combine the remaining ingredients, ice is added, the drink is stirred, and then the contents are strained into the original glass.  Voila!

Below is the recipe for this autumn cocktail.  Serve it on a cool night, with a roaring fire.

1 sugar cube (or one teaspoon)
1.5 ounces of Rye Whiskey
2 teaspoons Absinthe (or an anise flavored liquor)
3 dashes Peychaud Bitters
Lemon peel for garnish

Friday, November 2, 2018

My Fave Autumn Recipe

Caponata is a quintessential recipe for the Fall season.  A Sicilian dish, caponata is somewhat Italy’s version of French ratatouille.   Think autumn’s prime veggies:  eggplant, red and green bell peppers, and onions.  Then add one of Sicily’s most famous culinary items, capers, along with another Sicilian hallmark, olives.  Magic.

Caponata, however, is one of those delicious dishes where the sum exceeds the parts.  Not only is the mélange of ingredients a marriage made in heaven, but the sauce is transformative as well.  Known as an agro-dolce (sour-sweet), it has elements of sweet (from raisins, tomatoes and a little sugar), as well as sour notes (brined capers and olives along with red wine vinegar), to perfectly balance this holy union.

This outrageously divine dish can be used as an entrée for vegetarians, or is often combined in Sicily with swordfish to create a complete meal.  It’s also a magnifico side dish with items such as roasted chicken or grilled lamb.   Leftovers can be easily repurposed as a delectable pasta dish. 

This recipe is from the Weezie Mott Cooking School in the Bay Area from 35 years ago.  Weezie and I taught together at the university and she is still teaching cooking classes in her 90’s from her home in Alameda.   Her rendition is one of my favorites.  A tip?  Make sure to cook the recipe at least one day before serving (actually, I find the flavors are at their prime after two or three days).