Cooking Class with Chef Michael Rossi, The Ranch


Award winning executive chef at The Ranch in Anaheim, Michael Rossi, charmed  students with his skill and culinary passion in a recent cooking class. It was the first class taught in the beautiful teaching kitchen on the sixth floor – high above the restaurant.

Twenty-four students sipped sparkling wine in this intimate-yet-high tech setting while watching Rossi’s every move. If they wanted a tight shot of the action, they could view it on three large screens arranged to capture every move.

He flawlessly prepared 5 dishes, everything from appetizers to main course, while his brother, award-winning executive pastry chef David Rossi, taught the dessert; scrumptious Butterscotch Pots de Creme.


Wild Mushroom Ravioli with Brown Butter, Sage and Parmigiano-Reggiano

Pasta made from scratch …

The menu was themed to fall, a season that cooks look forward to for its richly flavored ingredients, slow braises and decadent desserts. Wild Mushroom Ravioli made with from-scratch pasta wowed the crowd, each pillow-like disk generously filled with irresistible flavors.


A tomato salad showed off a wide variety of heirloom tomatoes harvested at “the farm;” the colorful concoction was napped with a classic vinaigrette and topped with blue cheese and house-cured bbq bacon (note anything with blue cheese and bacon in my opinion is a big winner). ranchtomatotrimmings

Even the trimmings are pretty ….

The main course was Veal Osso Buco served with Anson Mills’ polenta and roasted root vegetables.



Appetizers are always high on the list of what home cooks want to master.


His Fig & Burrata Toasts were easy to prepare and designed to tempt any palate. (If you want to prepare this and figs are out of season, substitute cubes of caramelized butternut squash tossed with dried cranberries, or diced Fuyu persimmons). Here is the recipe:

Fresh Figs and Burrata Toast
Yield: 6 servings
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon minced orange zest (colored portion of peel)
2 teaspoons honey, divided use
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon minced fresh basil and 1 teaspoon minced fresh mint
Kosher salt to taste
12 fresh figs, stems removed, halved lengthwise top to bottom
Nonstick spray
6 slices baguette or rustic Italian bread (1/2-inch thick)
Extra-virgin olive oil for lightly coating bread slices
6 ounces burrata cheese
Maldon salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Garnish: microgreens  (I buy them at Trader Joe’s)
1. In a medium bowl, combine vinegar, zest, 1 teaspoon honey and olive oil; whisk to combine. Stir in basil, mint and salt. Add figs and toss to coat. Set aside for 10 minutes.
2.Spray grill pan with nonstick spray and heat on medium-high. Brush both sides of bread lightly with olive oil. Grill bread until nicely toasted; set aside. Grill figs on cut side until soft but not squishy, about 2 to 4 minutes. Return figs to bowl with residual marinade and cool; toss. Cool bread.
3. Tear pieces of chilled burrata cheese to fit the top of each bread slice. Top with figs, cut-side up. Drizzle with reserved honey and season with Maldron salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Top each with a smidgen of microgreens. Source: Michael Rossi, executive chef, The Ranch, Anaheim


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Roasted Asparagus with Crunchy Parmesan Cheese? Please!

Asparagus and cheese – a marriage made in food heaven.

Roast asparagus topped with crunchy Parmesan cheese is a favorite.



The short video shows how easy it is!


Roasted Asparagus with Crunchy Parmesan
Yield: 4 servings
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 bunches medium-sized asparagus, tough bottom portion of stems trimmed off
Coarse salt, such as kosher, to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese or Grana Padano cheese
1. Adjust one oven rack to bottom position, the other rack to a position about 6 inches below broiler element. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spread asparagus out on large rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with oil. Use clean hands to roll asparagus in oil to coat the entire surface. Arrange so that asparagus is in a single layer. Sprinkle with salt. Roast on bottom rack until tender-crisp, about 5 to 7 minutes (time depends on thickness of asparagus).
2. Remove from oven and turn on broiler. Top asparagus with the cheese; place on top rack in oven over the broiler. Broil until cheese is browned and asparagus is tender but not squishy.cathythomascookslogoModified

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Shaker Salad with just-right salty-sweet elements to make it irresistible

I love Giada’s Shaker Salad.


Limp greens and soggy veggies are often the fate of a made-ahead salad destined for the lunchbox. In Giada De Laurentiis’ newest cookbook, “Happy Cooking,” she provides a shaker jar strategy. Chill. Shake. Enjoy.

Start with a wide-mouth quart-size jar.

Giada’s Shaker Salad
Yield: 1 serving
1 tablespoon store-bought hummus
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup canned black-eyed peas, rinsed, drained
1/3 cup red seedless grapes, halved
1 celery stalk, chopped
3 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
1 cup chopped radicchio or shredded green cabbage
1 cup loosely packed chopped romaine lettuce, about 2 leaves
1 tablespoon slivered almonds
1. In small bowl, whisk hummus, juice, oil and salt. Pour dressing into bottom of a wide-mouth quart-size jar or sealable container. On top of dressing layer: peas, grapes, celery, feta, radicchio or cabbage, romaine and almonds. Seal and refrigerate up to 6 hours.
2. When ready to eat, shake the jar to coat and mix the entire salad in the dressing.
Source: adapted from “Happy Cooking” by Giada De Laurentiis (Pam Krauss Books, $35.00)





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Sweet-Tart Kiwi Sorbet: Small portions or large, it’s an alluring treat


Kiwi Sorbet can be prepared in either in a standard freezer, but is best made in a machine specifically made for making ice creams (it’s lighter and fluffier that way).

I have a simple machine that uses a chilled canister;  I store the canister in the freezer so it is ready when I need it.



If you like, accompany a hearty scoop with a crisp cookie.  Or, it’s fun to serve one or two tiny scoops in shot glasses; they are perfect as diminutive treats at the end of a big meal where a larger dessert might seem like a too-much finale. Here is the simple recipe:

Kiwi Sorbet
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
5 kiwi
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 egg white (optional for standard freezer method), see cook’s notes
Optional garnish: 6 sprigs fresh mint
Cook’s notes: When making sorbet in a standard freezer, a small portion of raw egg white added to the sorbet improves its texture.
1. Combine water and sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, gently shaking the handle occasionally to distribute and dissolve sugar; boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cool sugar syrup mixture to room temperature.
2. Peel and slice kiwi fruit and puree in food processor fitted with the metal blade. Measure 1/2 of sugar syrup mixture and add to kiwi.
3. Add lemon juice and process until blended.Now you have the choice of two different methods of making the sorbet.

Procedure in ice cream machine: Process kiwi mixture according to manufacturer’s directions.

Procedure in standard freezer: Pour mixture into shallow pan and place in freezer. Freeze until almost hard. Break up sorbet and process in food processor fitted with the metal blade until smooth. Add egg white and return the mixture to the freezer until it is the consistency desired.

Presentation: Scoop into stemmed glass and garnish with a sprig of fresh mint. Serve with an assortment of good quality cookies.

Yield: Makes 12 tiny scoops or 6 large scoops.


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Roche Harbor, Dungeness Crab Paradise




Dungeness crab tastes sweeter at Leigh and Judy Ross’ summer home in Roche Harbor, an idyllic spot on San Juan Island off the Washington State coast. It sits along the Haro Strait close to the Canada–United States border.


During our stay last summer, those chilly clear-blue waters provided us with a generous harvest of wiggling crabs – Dungeness beauties with pink, succulent flesh.

Just-trapped and cleaned, they were ready for our boiled crab feast.


Leigh Ross is no stranger to shellfish cookery. Long ago he owned and operated a seafood shack in Brandon, Vermont. Clams and fries were the specialty at his place, but an entree of boiled crab was also on the menu.


He is adamant about what he considers the proper way to clean crabs, contending that his technique makes the crab meat tastier, edged with a lovely sweetness – both in taste and aroma. Working on the dock next to his mooring, he concentrates on one crab at a time, first stabbing with a sharp pointed knife for a quick kill (yes, this prevents those frisky claws from wrecking havoc).  Next he cleverly uses the cleat on the dock for leverage to pull off the carapace, in the end yielding two chest-leg halves. Those halves are washed with a power hose to make them clean as a whistle.


(Note: Julia Child used a lot of words explaining how to remove a crab’s carapace by hand in “Mastering The Art of French Cooking Volume Two.” Guess she didn’t have any dock cleats.)


Have a look at the video; Leigh is cooking the crab in a big pot set atop the barbecue on the balcony (yes, the view is spectacular – lanky pine trees frame bobbing boats moored in the azure waters). The boiling water used to cook the crabs is augmented with Old Bay seasoning and sea salt.


“Covered and cooked for fifteen minutes does the trick,” Leigh explained to pal Marcia Kay Radelet. 


Judy cooked the sides and made a delicious blueberry pie with local berries for dessert. Mmmmm.










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Pickled Summertime: All In Good Brine


QUICK-PICKLED – “REFRIGERATOR FRUIT PICKLES”: No steaming water bath or hours spent in a hot kitchen laboring with knife work.

Quick pickling is fast and easy.




Refreshing and unbelievably simple to do, summer fruit tastes delicious pickled this way.

Some suggestions …

*They make a tangy cocktails; use as a garnish or muddle with gin, fresh lime juice and simple syrup – serve on the rocks and garnish with mint. pickledstrawberriesCockCrop

*Use in an arugula or spinach salad topped with shaved Pecorino or baked disks of goat cheese coated with bread crumbs. pickledstrawberrrysalad

*Serve on a charcuterie platter with assorted cheeses and meats (such as prosciutto and salami).


*For a sundae with sweet-sour surprise, spoon some over or under coconut ice cream or chocolate sorbet.


*Pickled grapes are delicious served with pork or duck.


*Serve atop crostini or crackers spread with a little soft garlic-herb cheese or goat cheese.


Quick-Pickled Strawberries
Yield: one-quart jar
1 pound ripe but firm strawberries, hulled, halved if extremely large
1 1/2 cups white balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1  tablespoon kosher salt
2/3 cup water
1. Place strawberries in a clean 1-quart heatproof jar. Bring vinegar, sugar, salt and water to boil in small saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar and salt. Pour over strawberries. Cool; cover and refrigerate.
2. They are delicious for 5 days, but I like them best after 2 days. They aren’t harmful after 5 days, but they start to turn pale and can get squishy. Adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine


Pickled Grapes
Yield: about 3 cups
2 3/4 cups seedless red and/or green grapes
3/4 cup white wine vinegar
3/4 cup water
1 teaspoon kosher salt (you may find that you want them saltier)
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
2 small garlic cloves, peeled, crushed
Leaves from 1 (2-inch) rosemary sprig
Optional: pinch dried red chili flakes
1. Pack grapes into clean 1-quart heatproof jar. Pour vinegar and water into saucepan and bring to boil over medium heat; add salt, sugar, garlic rosemary and chili flakes (if using). Bring to simmer and stir to dissolve salt and sugar. Simmer 1 minute. Pour over grapes, adding enough brine to cover grapes (transfer any rosemary or garlic to the grapes if they didn’t make it to the jar).
2. Cover tightly; shake to distribute seasonings. Uncover and cool. Cover again and refrigerate 5 days. Adapted from Wall Street Journal.



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Luscious Layered Panna Cotta, Eye Candy from Chef David Rossi


Chocolate Panna Cotta layered with raspberry and passion fruit “jellies.”

David Rossi, award-winning executive pastry chef at The Ranch Restaurant in Anaheim, triumphs long before dessert arrives. Served at the start, his puffed-to perfection, piping hot popovers accompanied with house-made jam, show off his skill and attention to detail.


The dessert finales reaffirm Rossi’s expertise. Some are classics, his versions augmented with unique twists to make them better than traditional renditions. His sticky toffee pudding saddles up with cream cheese ice cream. Crème brulee doesn’t stand alone; it’s teamed with scrumptious seasonal madeleines, shell shaped cake-like cookies, his far more attention-grabbing than most.

the ranch

Other offerings showcase sweets that are whimsical yet seriously alluring. His Milky Way Chocolate Bars, and the Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars (with caramelized banana ice cream) are two examples.


So visually stunning, it is a joyful surprise to taste the irresistible flavors that his painterly presentations present.

One of my favorites is his panna cotta, a light silky egg custard made rich with high-quality cacao-rich dark chocolate. I was thrilled when he consented to show me each step of its preparation.


Layering it in glasses, he adds colorful stripes of both raspberry and passion fruit “jellies.” Beautiful and luscious, he often prepares these portable wonders for large parties and weddings, adding a topping of crunchy chocolate crumbs for textural constant. Petite raspberry meringue drops crown each dessert, as well as a leaf or two of micro sorrel.


For me, another reason why I love this panna cotta is because it can be prepared a couple of days in advance and refrigerated. But I admit that for home use, I greatly simplify it.


At-home simplification!

I use just the chocolate panna cotta and serve it in shot glasses topped with fresh blueberries and blackberries, plus tiny mounds of whipped cream.  But watch the master at work in the video. He is truly a dessert artist.


Chocolate perfectionist: Rossi spent a week last fall on cacao plantations and dairies in Equator to research chocolate. He sampled the beans right out of the pods, discovering that the very sweet and floral membrane looks much like litchi fruit.

Homework: At home in Huntington Beach he studies and experiments with techniques and flavor profiles.  His dabbling includes pickling, preserving, canning and making bacon.

The Competition: His favorite restaurant (other than The Ranch) is Napa Rose. He worked there prior to The Ranch Restaurant and says that Executive Chef Andrew Sutton taught him myriad skills, including paying close attention to details. He met his wife of eight years, Erika, while working there.

Tipples: IPA style beer is his choice for the moment. Sculpin from Ballast Point Brewing Company in San Diego is a favorite.

David Rossi’s Layered Panna Cotta
Yield: about 8 (12-ounce) glasses
Chocolate Panna Cotta:
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
150 grams (about 1 cup) chopped dark chocolate (65 to 73 percent cacao preferred)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
4 sheets bronze gelatin sheets, see cook’s notes
1/3 cup sour cream
Passion Fruit “Jelly”:
4 sheets bronze gelatin sheets, see cook’s notes
1 cup concentrated passion fruit puree, see cook’s notes
1 cup water
3/4 cup granulated sugar
Raspberry “Jelly”:
1 cup raspberry puree, see cook’s notes
1 cup water
3/4 cup granulated sugar
4 sheets bronze gelatin sheets, see cook’s notes
Optional garnishes: chocolate crumbs (see cook’s notes), tiny raspberry meringue drops, dots of passion fruit puree and micro sorrel leaves
Cook’s notes: Fruit purees and gelatin sheets are sold online and at Surfas Culinary District in Costa Mesa. Chef makes the chocolate crumbles from scratch, but for an easy version  place half of a 9-ounce box of Famous Chocolate Wafers (plain chocolate cookies), about 18, in food processor; process until coarsely ground. Add 2 tablespoons soft butter; pulse until combined. Spread out on rimmed baking sheet and sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon of coarse salt. Bake in 350-degree oven until crisp, about 6 to 8 minutes. Cool.
1. Prepare panna cotta: In medium saucepan combine milk, cream and sugar; place on medium heat. Stirring frequently, heat until hot to dissolve sugar (mixture needs to be hot enough to melt gelatin and chocolate, but shouldn’t boil). Meanwhile, place gelatin sheets in bowl of cold water.
2. Place chocolate in bowl. Pour hot milk mixture over chocolate and stir with a whisk to melt chocolate. Stir in sour cream. Add drained gelatin and stir until dissolved. Cool.
3. Prepare passion fruit jelly: Place gelatin sheets in cold water; set aside. In a medium-large saucepan, place passion fruit puree, water and sugar. On medium-high heat, stirring frequently, heat until hot (but not boiling). Add drained gelatin sheets; off heat, stir to dissolve. Set aside to cool.
4. Prepare raspberry fruit jelly: Use same procedure as passion fruit jelly, substituting raspberry puree. Set aside to cool.
5. Using 12-ounce clear glasses pour a layer of panna cotta in each glass; chill until firm. Add a layer of passion fruit jelly; chill until firm. Add another layer of panna cotta; chill until firm. Add a layer of raspberry jelly; chill until firm. Add another layer of panna cotta; chill until firm. Chef David Rossi tops each with crunchy chocolate crumbs, tiny raspberry meringue “drops,” tiny dots of passion fruit puree and sorrel microgreens. For an easier at-home approach, top with fresh berries and a little whipped cream.
Source: David Rossi, executive pastry chef, The Ranch Restaurant, Anaheim

Thanks to Curt Norris, videographer and photographer,  for your wonderful work!-



Blackberries and fresh sweet cherries have such complimentary flavor profiles.


Bing (bright red to mahogany red) is most common variety in the marketplace, but others such as Rainiers (yellow with a red blush) can be substituted. The easiest and least messy way to remove the seeds is to use a cherry pitter. The gadget works something like a scissor-style paper punch with a shaft that pushes the pit out.

Cherries Poached in Red Wine with Blackberries and Mint
Yield: 8 servings
2 1/2 cups dry red wine
1 cup sugar or agave syrup
2 (2-inches wide) strips of orange zest or tangerine zest, colored portion of peel
1 1/2 pounds fresh sweet cherries, pitted, halved
1/2 pound whole blackberries
Optional: 2 teaspoons minced fresh mint
3/4 cup plain fat free Greek-style yogurt
1 tablespoon honey
Optional garnish: 8 sprigs of fresh mint
1. In a large saucepan (not aluminum) combine wine, sugar and strips of zest. Bring to simmer on medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add cherries and reduce heat to maintain a simmer until cherries are just barely tender, about 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. When lukewarm, add blackberries and mint, if using. Gently toss.
2. In small bowl, stir yogurt and honey until combined.
3. Divide cherry-berry mixture into 8 small bowls. Top with dollop of yogurt mixture. If desired, garnish each serving with a small sprig of mint. From “50 Best Plants on the Planet” by Cathy Thomas


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Ecology Center’s From-Scratch Heirloom Granola Bars


Kerri Cacciata is the chef in residence at The Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano, a non-profit educational center that teaches hands-on environmental solutions for homes, workplaces and communities (

Cacciata prepares dishes for events and whips up made-from-scratch jams and products to sell at the Center’s gift shop. Leading workshops on topics such as food preserving and seed saving are also part of her duties.


She stopped by my home kitchen to tape a video to show how to prepare her favorite granola bars – treats that she explained that are delicious, reduce packaging waste and use many local ingredients to diminish the carbon footprint. These family-friendly bars are simple enough for kids’ school lunches, while being impressive enough to please adults with sophisticated palettes.

Although she said that heirloom grains add more flavor and complexity, grains purchased from bulk bins at health food stores are perfectly acceptable.

As for choosing which dried fruits and/or nuts to use, she said to incorporate what is available at local farmers’ markets. She used dried apples and dried figs at my house, but revealed that one of her favorite combinations is dried apples and pitted dates augmented with ground cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg.


Born and raised in Orange County, she earned a bachelor’s degree in community organizing, followed by local culinary studies, finding harmony when the two subjects came together. She has worked in non-profit agencies, farmers markets, and in a number of professional kitchens including Park Avenue in Stanton and Mozza in Newport Beach.


Blade Trade: The first knife she bought was a 7-inch Wusthof; the trusty blade continues to get her through every event and project. She also appreciates her Shun cleaver and Opinel pocket knife.

Maximum mentor: Chef Paul Buchanan, Primary Alchemy Catering, for his ever-changing menus and culinary playfulness, as well as his longtime dedication to fighting for local sourcing and seasonal cooking. His Tri-Color Heirloom Gazpacho is a favorite. It shows off different colors layered in small tray-passed glasses.


Fridge Raid: She likes pickling, so inside her refrigerator is everything from pickled beets to pickled strawberries. Also there’s an obscene amount of dairy product – some homemade, some not. Plus a bottle of Rosé.

Secret Talent: Befriending “unfriendable” cats.



Cacciata’s Heirloom Granola Bars
Yield: 12-16 bars, depending on slice size
1/2 cup wheat germ
2 cups rolled oats, or a combination of other cereal grains such as amaranth, oats, barley and quinoa
1 1/2 cups nuts and seeds, such as 3/4 cup salted pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and 3/4 cup pecans, both coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup honey, local preferred
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup of dried fruit, chopped finely, such as dried apples and dried figs
1/4 teaspoon each of finely minced lemon and orange zest
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1. Place wheat germ in small skillet and place on medium heat. Toast it to a light brown, stirring frequently; set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toast grains, seeds and nuts on a rimmed baking sheet tray for about 10 to 15 minutes, stirring a few times during the process and monitoring to prevent burning. Remove from oven to cool, and reduce heat to 300 degrees.
2. Combine butter, sugar, honey, vanilla and salt in a large saucepan; place on medium heat and stir until sugar melts completely. Remove from heat and add wheat germ, toasted grains and nuts along with the dried fruit, zest and ginger. Stir to combine.
3. In a parchment paper lined 9-by-9-inch (or 8-by-12-inch) baking dish, cautiously pour in the mixture, being mindful of the heat. When cool enough to touch, press the mixture down to even it out with wet fingers. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until it is a light golden brown. Remove from oven, and let cool a few hours before removing, peeling off parchment paper and slicing into bars.
Source: Kerri Cacciata, Chef in Residence at The Ecology Center, San Juan Capistrano




Dukka (also spelled “dukkah”) is an Egyptian specialty that is blend of spices, roasted nuts and toasted sesame seeds. One way to serve it is to combine the blend with good olive oil and dip bread or grilled pita into it. When eating it this way, I like to include a good dollop of yogurt as well.

Dukka makes a crunchy coating for cooked chicken or fish. It is delicious sprinkled over mixed green salads or green beans tossed with a little olive oil. The recipe used here is adapted from a formula devised by Susan Carter, manager at Savory Spice Shop, Corona del Mar. Carter adds sunflower seeds and Sucanat (whole cane) sugar to her blend.

Yield: about 1 1/2 cups
2/3 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup roasted, salted cashews
1/4 cup roasted pistachios, salted or unsalted
3 tablespoons ground coriander seeds
2 tablespoons ground cumin seeds
Optional: 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste, see cook’s notes
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Cook’s notes: If using salted nuts do not add salt. Most cashews in the marketplace are roasted. If you buy raw pistachios, roast them on a rimmed baking sheet in a 350-degree oven until lightly browned. Watch carefully because nuts burn easily. Cool nuts before using in this recipe. This mixture is delicious sprinkled on the kale salad (recipe included).
1. Toast sesame seeds. Place a rimmed plate or bowl next to stove. Place half of sesame seeds in medium-sized dry saucepan on medium heat. Toast until golden (lightly browned) using a spatula to stir constantly (a heatproof silicone spatula works well). Sesame seeds burn easily. Place seeds on plate and repeat process with remaining sesame seeds. Set aside to cool.
2. Place nuts in food processor. Pulse until nuts are chopped (some pieces will be fairly large, others ground into a powder). In a bowl, stir together the nuts, cooled sesame seeds, coriander, cumin, salt (if using) and pepper. Store in an airtight container. Best used within two weeks (it usually disappears in just a few days at my house).
Nutrition information (per teaspoon): 50 calories, 95 percent of calories from fat, 5 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 8 mg cholesterol, 0.5 g carbohydrates, 0.5 g protein, 15 mg sodium, 0.1 g fiber


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Irresistible Layered Bombay Spread Meets Newest SOMM Documentary


Food and wine offer so many surprises. There is always something new to learn.


Recently I joined longtime Huntington Harbour residents Darlos and Dave Cauble at their home for a sneak peek at Jason Wise’s new documentary, “Somm: Into The Bottle.”  It’s a follow-up to the 2012 “Somm.”

The new film rejoices in the history, joy, and repartee of wine told through opening ten very different bottles. The Caubles’ eloquent son, Ian Cauble, a certified Master Sommelier, is one of the stars. I enjoyed every minute.


Several friends joined in the fun. Each guest was asked to bring an appetizer to share.




I brought my Bombay cheese spread, a layered concoction made perky with chutney, curry powder and assorted toppings. They ate every bite and begged for the recipe. So, here it is.

(The film is available on Netflix and iTunes.)


Six-Layer Bombay Cheese
Yield: about 30 servings
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 cup mango chutney
2 tablespoons unsweetened flaked coconut
1/4 cup toasted pecans, roughly chopped, see cook’s notes
1 tablespoon finely chopped green onions (include dark green stalks)
1 1/2 tablespoons dried cranberries
For serving: water crackers and apple wedges, see cook’s notes
Cook’s notes: To toast nuts, place in single layer on rimmed baking sheet. Place in 350-degree oven until nicely browned, about 4 to 5 minutes. Watch nuts carefully because they burn easily. Cool.
To prevent apples from discoloring, place apple wedges in a bowl of cold water augmented with a teaspoon of fresh lemon juice. Allow apples to soak for a minute, then drain on clean kitchen towel.
1. Combine cream cheese, grated cheddar and curry powder in food processor fitted with metal blade. Whirl until smooth. Shape into ball or disc; wrap in plastic and refrigerate until firm. Can be prepared to this point two days in advance of serving.
2. Unwrap cheese and place on serving tray. Dump garnishes on top of cheese ball, starting with the chutney and ending with the cranberries. (I garnished the top with a chive flower from my garden.) I like to assemble the spread in a shallow bowl, and then set the bowl on a larger platter to hold the crackers and apple slices.
Source: Jane Packer





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Cha Cha’s Short Rib Tacos, Cinco de Mayo or Any Time


Cha Cha’s Latin Kitchen in Brea is a Mexican cantina with a frisky vibe. At the heart of its allure are the boldly-flavored dishes and handcrafted drinks.


The menu showcases unique twists on Latin American cuisine, modern takes on everything from wood-oven roasted Jidori chicken spiked with Yucatan spices, to the decadent caldo with a saffron-tomato broth rich in fresh seafood and toasted angel hair pasta.



The Guajillo Braised Short Ribs are a favorite. Joseph Martinez, Cha Cha’s chef de cuisine, slow-simmers the meaty bone-in beef ribs in a made-from-scratch tomato based sauce accented with Guajillo and arbol chilies.

Tender and spiced with a just-right amount of ground cloves, cinnamon and cumin, Martinez uses the tender rib meat in a several dishes, including open faced enchiladas and tacos. Both of these dishes are garnished with crumbled goat cheese, arugula and crisp radishes.


Gratefully Martinez agreed to share his recipe and show the step-by-step procedures for preparing his scrumptious tacos. In the video that we taped, he explained that when he makes the ribs at home, he cooks them in for six hours in a slow cooker, rather than braising them in the oven. Slow and easy. Home-style.


The braising sauce … and the veg and chilies that go into it and make it luscious.



A graduate of the Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena, Martinez started working the line at Cha Cha’s many years ago and in the process worked his way to the top with hard work and culinary creativity. His oh-so-popular Chipotle Honey Glazed Salmon along with those irresistible beef ribs became integral to the restaurant’s menu. Learning to trust himself was essential to his professional growth.

He lives in Brea with his wife Michaeleen and their infant son Ezra.




Secret Talent: He is a pen and pencil artist, drawing a wide variety of subjects. He started drawing comics as a child.

Home Pantry: Tortilla chips, Jalapeno Kettle Brand Potato Chips and El Pato hot sauce are always on hand in his house. As well as the ingredients for chilaquiles and enchiladas.

Drink of Choice: hand- crafted Basil Hayden Bourbon. Neat.

Cha Cha’s Guajillo Braised Short Ribs
Yield: about 8
Cook’s notes: The sauce and ribs can be prepared two days ahead and refrigerated.

Sauce “Salsa” (for braising):
1 dried arbol chili, seeds and stem removed
5 dried Guajillo chilies, seeds and stems removed
8 medium tomatoes, cored
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 large brown (yellow) onion, peeled, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 1/4 teaspoons salt, kosher preferred
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
Spices: 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves, 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons water
Short Ribs:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 to 3 pounds thick bone-in beef ribs, excess (but not all) fat trimmed, patted dry
Salt and pepper to taste, kosher salt preferred
About 1 2/3 cups chicken broth
About 8 corn tortillas
Baby arugula
Crumbled goat cheese
Radishes, watermelon radishes preferred, cut into julienne strips
Limes, halved or cut into wedges
1. Prepare sauce: Adjust oven rack to 6- to 8-inches below broiler element and preheat broiler. Place tomatoes in a single layer on one side of a rimmed baking sheet. Scatter garlic and onions on opposite side. Broil until lightly browned, about 4 minutes; add chilies on top of onions and return to broiler. Broil until chilies are browned (keep an eye on them to prevent burning). Place in large blender. Add salt, sugar, cilantro, cloves, cinnamon, cumin and water. Blend until smooth.
2. Prepare meat: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large deep ovenproof skillet, heat oil on medium-high heat. Add ribs and deeply brown ribs on both sides. Cautiously add broth (it may splatter) and enough of the pureed sauce to generously cover meat. Cover skillet and place in preheated oven for 3 hours (or put mixture in a slower cooker on low setting for 6 hours). Remove meat from bones, breaking it up. Mix it with some of the sauce that it was cooked in (enough to coat and moisten the meat).
3. Heat tortillas on both sides over a gas burner. Top with meat, arugula, goat cheese and radishes. Garnish plates with limes. Serve. Source: Joseph Martinez, chef de cuisine at Cha Cha’s Latin Kitchen
Cha Cha’s Latin Kitchen, 110 W Birch St #7, Brea, CA 92821  714-255-1040


The finished ribs … yum-oh-lah.


THANKS, as always, to CURT NORRIS for the time and talent he uses to produce quality videos and beautiful photos.



Here’s a quick tip from Melissa’s!

Sweet and Spicy = Delicious piquant-sweet melon.


Use any ripe melon for this delicious dish. I like to serve this as a first course or as part of a showy buffet.

(Make the syrup in advance if you like, and then drizzle on the melon up to 30 minutes before serving.)

Spicy-Sweet Melon
Yield: 8 to 10 servings
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1-1/2 teaspoons seeded and minced serrano chili
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon minced fresh mint
2 tablespoons minced red bell pepper
2 large, ripe cantaloupe
1. In a small saucepan, make a chili syrup by combining the sugar and water over medium-high heat and boiling until the sugar is dissolved. Pour into a small bowl and let cool. Stir in the chili, lime juice, mint, and bell peppers.
2. Cut the melons in half and remove the seeds. Cut into wedges or other interesting shapes and arrange attractively on 8 chilled plates. Drizzle about ½ cup of the chili syrup, or to taste, over all the melon. Reserve the remaining chili syrup for another use.




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