A Press Democrat Blog

Kitchen Talk

Turn up the heat on home cooking

Squash and zucchini overload? Pickle it

If you’ve got a squash fairy in your neighborhood like I do, you know your  fridge is starting to reach its capacity. And in case you are the one bestowing the squash on your neighbors, here’s a reminder that Aug. 8 is “Sneak Some Zucchini onto Your Neighbors' Porch Day.”  Here is a handy recipe from chef Peter Janiak of Seghesio  Family Vineyards for pickling all that excess bounty, from your garden  or somebody else’s. “I created this recipe for… Read More »

Learn to cook like an Italian nonna at VJB


Maria Belmonte, matriarch of VJB Vineyards and Cellars, gained a following for her fabulous cooking when the Belmonte Family owned Caffe Portofino in downtown Santa Rosa for nearly two decades. Along with her son Henry, Belmonte will host a series of summer cooking classes at VJB”s outdoor demonstration kitchen, starting this Saturday, July 20. Students in the intimate classes will learn some of the secrets of classic, Italian dishes like Veal Saltimbocca, Spaghetti Carbonara and Chocolate Truffle Budino. And the… Read More »

Handlebar Farm popping up in new market spots

    Ian Healy and his wife, Emily Mendell, of Sebastopol ‘s Handlebar Farm are two Midwesterners who met in Alaska, then started their own farm on two acres south of  town.    Boasting everything from  cucumbers and kale to zucchini and zinnias, the Handlebar farmstand has been popping up like a gopher’s head all around the county. These enterprising, young farmers have  found some sweet spots to sell their high-quality,affordable produce.    West County folks can find them from 3 to… Read More »

South American grills heat up Wine Country on food show

  Two chefs from Wine Country will be featured on the Cooking Channel’s “Man Fire Food” show at 5 p.m. tonight and 11 a.m. July 7 during an episode on “South American Grilling.”   The show features Chef Stephen Barber of Farmstead Restaurant in St. Helena, who built a “live fire” cook area complete  with  planchas and metal crosses for Argentinian Asado cooking. Stephen and host Roger Mooking will slow cook a spring lamb seasoned with Mediterranean flavors.     In… Read More »

Chef Mark Stark shares his secret of success with CIA grads

   Santa Rosa’s “other” celebrity chef  Mark  Stark has been getting a lot of exposure lately. First, he was nominated by the James Beard Foundation in the category of Best Restauranteur  (but didn’t win).  Then he was chosen to cater the  auction dinner for the  B. R. Cohn Fall Music Festival set for Sept. 20 to 22 at the Glen Ellen winery    (Little known fact: Stark was a band geek in high school.)      More recently, he was asked to… Read More »

Street food from Bangkok Floating Market

   With the weather still hot and the evenings steamy, it’s a lovely time to think about  eating an Asian salad for dinner.    Chef Mei Ibach, who just got back from a two-week jaunt to Asia, shared this recipe from the Street Food class she is going to give this Saturday at Relish Culinary Adventures in Healdsburg.      This salad is traditionally made using a large mortar and  pestle to blend, thus softening the green papaya, tomato and marrying the… Read More »

A lesson in making Pad Thai Noodle Salad

    Lately, I haven’t been doing  much cooking at home.  Maybe it’s the fact that my 50-year-old oven is on the blink and in the process of being fixed.  Or maybe it’s just that I need of a break and want to get out and try some new restaurants.     Coming to my rescue last month, some friends invited my husband and I  to  a cooking party at their home with instructor Mary Bergin, who has worked at  restaurants such… Read More »

Lighten up with savory, Saigon Crepes for the new year

   Chef Mei Ibach of Eight Cuisine & Wine in Sebastopol  has been making lots of these Vietnamese crepes in the new year for her family and friends. The crepe batter is made with rice flour and coconut milk,  so it is nice and light but filling enough for brunch or dinner.        Feel free to substitute  filling ingredients.  For a slightly heavier crepe, use a blend of sausages, mushrooms and crabmeat. For a lighter crepe, throw in some sliced, seasonal veggies like… Read More »

Find comfort in a steaming bowl of spaghetti and meatballs

   As soon as the barometric pressure starts plummeting and the clouds scud across the sky, there’s only one thing to do:  get out the braising pot and make a big batch of comfort food.      You can always roast a chicken and recycle it into a chicken pot pie (using ready-made puff pastry, to save time). Or slow-cook a pork shoulder, then reinvent it as a yummy, pork hash the next day, and the next.     But when I’m… Read More »

Try a dry brine for a juicy turkey

   If you are freaking out about how to brine your turkey – and where to find a container big enough to hold the bird AND  the water –  this recipe will come to your rescue.     It’s a dry-brined alternative from Rick Rodgers, author of “Thanksgiving 101,” which calls for a turkey-size oven bag , and that’s it. No sloshing, no dripping, no bags of  ice to keep the whole thing cold in a cooler.  Just slide the turkey into your… Read More »