Wild Mushroom Crostini

Wild Mushroom Crostini


This recipe comes from week 7 class of Pro Chef classes at New School of Cooking in Culver City, CA. We made several fall dishes that week, and this recipe is such a fabulous appetizer that I wanted to share it with you. Wild mushrooms usually can be found at your local farmer’s market or higher end grocery stores.

Wild Mushroom Crostini
Recipe type: Appetizer
This is a very impressive and tasty appetizer.
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1½ ounce butter
  • 1 tablespoon cognac (substitute pear, peach, or apricot juice)
  • 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • salt and pepper
  • ¼ cup creme fraiche
  • 1 lb. fresh wild mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons chopped thyme leaves
  • 2 teaspoons chopped marjoram ( I used fresh oregano from my garden)
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • sliced baguettes, brushed with olive oil and lightly toasted in oven
  1. Sauté the shallots in the butter until browned. Add the cognac. Flame. Remove from heat. When flame subsides, add the vinegar, lemon juice, and creme fraiche. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  3. Remove any hard or dry stems from the mushrooms. Use a pastry brush to remove any sand or dirt. Cut into ¼″ slices. Toss the mushroms with the olive oil, herbs, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Put them into an earthenware baking dish large enough to hold them in one layer.
  4. Roast mushrooms until tender and juicy, about 15 to 20 minutes. Add to the shallot mixture. Return to the oven and cook another 5 minutes. Adjust seasoning.
  5. Serve on top of toasted baguette slices.
Cook time: 30 mins Serves 8-10

This recipe was wildly popular with my holiday guests.

Read full story · Comments { 3 }

methods & madness…

class 6: fruits, veggies, herbs & salads

Persimmons - Pomegranate Salad

 Recipes & Ramblings from Chef School

Fall has arrived in Southern California bringing a crisp chill to the air. That’s when I gravitate towards steamy soups; but did you know Fall is actually great weather for salads? Many salad greens grow best in cooler weather. Add some seasonal fruits and vegetables and you’re on your way to some exciting Fall dishes, including today’s recipe. If you’re looking for a festive holiday salad, this one is a showstopper!

In addition to salads, this week we learned about herbs, seasonal fruits and vegetables.

Herbal Essence

Ancient Greeks crowned their heroes with dill and laurel. Today, fresh herbs are the jewels in our culinary dishes, paramount to any great recipe. Additionally, fresh herbs add flavor without the calories. They’re easy to use and can last over a week, if stored properly.

How to Store Fresh Herbs

  • Rinse fresh herbs well, lay on a paper towel. A salad spinner works great.
  • Wrap loosely in the paper towel, then place in zip-lock bag, leaving bag open.
  • Store open bag of herbs in your refrigerator’s crisper.

Cooking with Fresh Herbs

  • If you are substituting fresh herbs for dried ones, use about three times as much.
  • Add the more delicate herbs a minute or two before completion of cooking, or sprinkle on food before serving.  e.g. parsley, cilantro, mint, chives, cilantro, basil, and dill.
  • The less delicate herbs, such as oregano, thyme, rosemary, tarragon and sage, can be added in the last 20 minutes of cooking. Continue Reading →
Read full story · Comments { 5 }

Insalata Bianca (White Salad)

Insalata Bianca (White Salad)


This recipe comes from week 6 class of Pro Chef classes at New School of Cooking in Culver City, CA. We made 11 salads that week, and this one was just exceptional in my book. I actually thought I didn’t like fennel until I tasted this. If you aren’t a fan of fennel… I dare you to try this one.

Insalata Bianca (White Salad)

From New School of Cooking
Serves 4-6


  • 2 fennel bulbs, tough outer leaves discarded, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 celery stalks, thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 Belgian endives, stem ends trimmed, cut lengwise into julienne
  • 1 bunch radishes, ends trimmed and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup Reggiano parmesan shavings

Combine all ingredients except the parmesan cheese in a large bowl and toss.  Serve on a large brightly colored platter with parmesan cheese shavings scattered over the salad.

Let me know if you make it and what your thoughts are one this one.


Read full story · Comments { 3 }

methods & madness…

class 5: dairy and eggs

This week’s class was jam-packed full of information about dairy and eggs. We learned all about milk, cream, butter, cheese, hollandaise sauce and eggs. We tasted some fabulous cheeses and cooked up some eggs-traordinary dishes.

So not to double up on information please read Rona’s blog for the basics. She covered all that we learned and still managed to make it funny. I will be writing this blog from a historical & fun facts angle.

Holstein CowDistinguished Dairy

We will start with the food that we all began our lives with… milk. It is one of the most versatile foods. Milk is on average 87% water, 5% milk sugar (lactose) and the rest fat, protein and minerals.

 What are the different kinds of milk?  

  • Pasteurized – milk that has been heated to a temperature between 140-160 degrees to kill any potentially dangerous bacteria. Unfortunately it kills the good bacteria as well.
  • Unpasteurized – also known as raw milk. Europeans swear by it. Canadians, Australians, and 28 U.S. States have banned the sale of it. I grew up drinking raw milk and I turned out ok. Wait a minute… this could explain some things!

If you want to know more in detail about other types of milk such as homogenized, UHT, dried milk, evaporated and condensed CLICK HERE to read a great article by MM Del Rosario.

Holy cow… did you know?

  • It used to take a person 1 hour to milk 6 cows by hand. Today, a person can milk 100 cows in an hour with modern machines.
  • Average U.S. cow produces 90 glasses of milk each day.  
  • Milk is the official state beverage of 20 states; here in California it’s wine.

Cream of the Crop

Cream is the fat that rises to the top of whole milk. It has to be at least 20% fat to be called cream. We learned about the differences of fat in cream and what each cream’s function is.

I was excited to learn how easy it is to make one of my favorite creams – Creme Fraiche (krem fresh).  It is a thick and smooth heavy cream with a nutty and slightly sour taste. Much better than sour cream in my book. It is so simple to make at home.

Make your own Creme Fraiche 

Simply combine 1 cup heavy cream with 1 tablespoon buttermilk and stir. Allow the mixture to stand in a warm place, loosely covered with a towel, until thickened but still pourable. This can take anywhere from 8 to 36 hours, but taste every 6 hours. It is ready when it is thick.  Refrigerate.  Will keep up to a week in the refrigerator.

For comprehensive overview on cream, check out JoyofBaking.com.

Big cheese

Cheese is one of the oldest of made foods. The earliest records come from cave paintings in the Libyan Sahara dating from 5000 B.C.  Traces of actual cheese have been found in an Egyptian tomb around 3000 B.C. Source: The Oxnard Companion of Food

Cheese is basically curdled milk of sheep, goats, cows, or other mammals. The distinction between true cheese and things like cream cheese, creme fraiche, etc. is the way in which the milk is curdled. Milk can be curdled either by acid and/or by rennet.

My mother believes no meal is complete without cheese. She is not alone. Americans consumed an average of 31 lbs. of cheese per person per year. The largest consumer is Greece with approx. 63 lbs., followed by France with 54 lbs.

Blessed are the cheesemakers…

There are over 2000 varieties for cheese makers to choose from. With so many cheeses, the taste ranges from mild to extremely strong/stinky.

The fat ranges from 1% to 75%.  The lowest being Schabziger – a hard, green cheese with a strong flavor from Switzerland (no, not the moon).  The highest being Brillat-Savarin – a triple cream, cow milk brie with a luscious & faintly sour flavor from France.

Cheese bites

Our selection of cheese in class came from The Cheese Store of Beverly Hills and featured a few classics.

Bucherondin de Chevre Cheese

Bucherondin de Chèvre – is a soft, but semi-firm in texture goat milk cheese that is a native of Loire Valley in France.

Brie_de_Meaux Brie de Meaux – is the first brie ever made. Brie is considered the French cheese’s king of kings.  The flavor is nutty and complex with wild mushroom nuances.

romao cheese from Spain Romao – is a dry, salty and tangy Spanish cheese rubbed in olive oil and rolled in rosemary. This cheese would be an interesting Parmesan substitute.

Abbaye de Belloc – this French unpasteurized hard sheep cheese was first made by the Benedictine monks of the Abbaye de Notre-Dame de Belloc. It is firm and dense, yet still creamy and the flavor is rich, buttery, nutty, and fruity with hints of caramel.

Fourme-d'Ambert blue cheeseFourme d’Ambert  – is a soft, mild blue that is slightly creamy and very spreadable. It is one of France’s oldest cheeses, and dates from as far back as Roman times.

If there were only 1 cheese left on the planet, I would want it to be a sweet, fresh cheese called Burrata.

burrata cheese

The outer shell is solid mozzarella while the soft buttery inside contains both mozzarella and cream. Yum! I love it with fresh heirloom tomatoes and prosciutto.

Some day when I am feeling like a culinary rock star I will make my own Burrata with these simple instructions.

Now Rona is a goat cheese girl.  She likes them all.

Humbolt Fog Cheese

My favorite is a creamy and tangy goat milk cheese called Humboldt Fog. This local cheese is made in Arcata, California.

Behold the power of cheese

  • Relieves stress and induces sleep
  • Help prevent tooth decay
  • High concentration of essential nutrients including proteins and calcium
  • Reduce problems associated with PMS.
  • It makes my mother very happy… and that makes me happy. 

Cheesy thoughts to ponder

If cheese is made from animal milk… and we know milk isn’t yellow… but we know how yellow snow is made… should we be concerned?

Originally, cheese could be different shades depending on when it was made and what the cows had eaten. In the spring and summer, cows eat fresh grass and other plants that contained beta-carotene and vitamin D. This results in yellow cheese. In the winter, cows eat hay instead, so the cheese is pale.

Engaging Eggs 

Last but not least, we learned about another kitchen marvel… the egg. They are one of nature’s most perfectly balanced foods, containing all the protein, vitamins (except vitamin C) and minerals essential for good health. All that for only 71 calories! The edible part of a chicken’s egg is approximately 74% water, 12% protein, and 11% fat.

According to chefs and professional cooks, there are over 100 ways to cook eggs. The simplest ways to cook eggs can be divided into four categories: frying, scrambling, boiling, and baking.

We also learned how to scramble, fry, poach, and make a French omelet.


Rona explains the egg-cellent techniques on her blog CLICK HERE to read.

Cracking Up 

  • The older a hen gets, the larger her eggs become. Hmmm… sounds like my thighs.
  • A hen can lay about 250 eggs per year.
  • Hens with white earlobes produce white eggs, and hens with red earlobes produce brown eggs.

Classroom Assignment:

In class we each made a cheese soufflé.  It was surprisingly easy and tasted oh so good.

Cheese Souffle

Egg whites whipped into a stiff peak and gently folding in the egg whites are essential for a good soufflé. CLICK HERE for the recipe.


We also poached an egg and made hollandaise sauce.

For my homework I chose to make Eggs Florentine.  It was a lot of work but worth every bit of the effort. I added the Canadian Bacon. I would like to egg you on to try this scrumptious recipe.

Eggs Florentine

From New School of Cooking
Serves 6


  • 6 English muffins ( I used crumpets)
  • 1 lb. spinach washed & dried
  • Olive oil for sautéing spinach
  • 12 poached eggs
  • 1 recipe for Hollandaise Sauce – see below
  • Canadian Bacon – optional
  • Butter – optional
  • Chives for garnish – optional


  • Sauté the spinach in a small amount of olive oil until just limp. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
  • Poach the eggs, set aside.
  • Make the Hollandaise sauce.
  • Toast and butter the English muffins.
  • Meanwhile, reheat the eggs if necessary. Distribute the spinach between the English muffin halves. Sauce with the Hollandaise. Garnish with chives.

Hollandaise Sauce

  • 1 cup clarified butter or melted butter
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3 T. water
  • Lemon juice to taste
  • Salt and cayenne pepper


  • Whisk egg yolks and water together in a stainless steel bowl.
  • Gently heat over a barely simmering bain marie (water bath), whisking constantly, until eggs are thick. (don’t let the water boil)
  • Beat the sauce briskly with a wire whisk as you slowly pour in the butter.
  • When all the butter has been added, check consistency and season with lemon juice, salt and a small amount of cayenne.

If you are short of time, you can try this quick blender version.

Leftover sauce can also be served on vegetables or fish.

“A true friend is someone who thinks that you are a good egg even though he knows that you are slightly cracked” – Bernard Meltzer

So here’s to imperfection!
…and then, she paused for thought

Hope you have enjoyed our adventure in the culinary classroom. Join us each week as we continue learning new culinary skills.

You can also read about Rona’s experience on her blog or What’s Cookin online magazine.


Read full story · Comments { 8 }

methods & madness…

class 4: savory sauces

Salsa Verde on Steak


Recipes & Ramblings from Chef School

I had no idea there were so many types of sauces.  From savory to sweet, the list is endless.  Growing up in the Midwest, “sauce” meant BBQ or booze, not Beurre Blanc.

Wow, I have a lot yet to learn!

Sauces add flavor, texture, moisture, and visual appeal to food. Sauce is a French word taken from the Latin salsus, meaning salted.  Finally… a French word I can pronounce!

This week we each made two classic sauces in class – Beurre Blanc (white butter) and Mayonnaise.  Check out Rona’s blog for both recipes.

Making Mayonnaise at New School of CookingThis is what mayo should look like. The yellow color comes from the egg yolk. Store-bought mayonnaise is white because it doesn’t contain egg yolks and is made by combining oil, emulsifiers, proteins and a few other undesirable things like calcium disodium EDTA.  See how simple it is to make here.  It is even quicker with an immersion blender.  Really all you need to know is the ratio: mayonnaise is 20 parts oil to one part liquid (plus yolk).

 “A sauce gives the chef the chance to create something with the perfect texture, balance of acid and richness, complexities of flavor, and visual appeal that will change a plate from just a serving of protein, vegetable and starch into a unified culinary statement.” – Joe Abuso

Sauces 101

There are two types of sauces – classical and contemporary. In ‘classical’ French cuisine, sauces are the defining component and based upon the 5 Mother Sauces. (see week 2 blog) All other sauces are considered ‘contemporary.’

Classical vs. Contemporary Sauces

  • Classical – velouté, béchamel, demi-glace, hollandaise, mayonnaise, and crème anglaise. (basically anything that will clog your arteries)
  • Contemporary – infusions, purées, vinaigrettes, salsas, pasta sauces, Asian-style dipping and chutney, to name a few.

What makes contemporary sauces different from classical:

  • Less time to prepare.
  • More likely to be specifically tailored to a given food or technique.
  • Lighter color, texture and flavor.
  • More likely to be thickened and finished using emulsions, modified starches or reduction and less likely to contain roux.
  • From what I can see… a whole lot healthier!

 Selecting the appropriate sauce:

  • The sauce’s flavor should not overpower the food
  • It should be compatible with main ingredients’ cooking technique.
    e.g. If you are roasting or sautéing, make a sauce with the drippings.

French de jour

Fond –  A classic French culinary term meaning the browned caramelized and concentrated bits or residue that remain in the pan after cooking meat. The fond is what you are after when you “deglaze” a pan for flavoring sauces and making gravies. This is what made veal broth in our second class so yummy.

Nap or Nappe – French word that means to completely coat food with a light, thin, even layer of sauce or jelly. Also refers to the ability of a liquid to “coat the back of a spoon”. This is what our Beurre Blanc had to do. 

Saucier for the evening

Our group project was a contemporary sauce of Vinaigrette.  I guess I didn’t consider salad dressing to be a sauce. Rona suggested Orange-Basil vinaigrette, which turned out to be a winner.Rona Lewis making salad dressingThe base of vinaigrette is three parts oil/fat to one part acid.  So we used three parts olive oil and one part orange juice, then added fresh basil and orange zest. Let your head go with whatever you have in your kitchen. Other projects of the evening were harrissa, tapenade, and my personal favorite, Salsa Verde.  Naturally I choose that for my homework assignment.

Week 4 dinner at New School of Cooking

Homework Assignment:

I have several vegetarian friends, so I thought I would make two meals that would go great with the salsa verde. I grilled filet mignon and tofu. I am not a lover of tofu, but I was surprised at how good it tasted grilled. In class we were served salsa verde with roasted fingerling potatoes. That is a great option as well.

Salsa Verde

From New School of Cooking
Serves 6


  • ½ bunch mint leaves
  • 2 bunches Italian parsley (leaves only)
  • 4 scallions
  • 6 anchovy fillets
  • 3 T capers
  • Zest from 1 lemon
  • 2 T red wine vinegar
  • 4 T extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper


  • Chop all of the ingredients finely and mix together.  Season.
    Serve on meat, roasted potatoes or a tofu steak

Tofu Steaks


  • 1 package of extra firm tofu
  • salad dressing or marinade of your choice


  • Drain extra firm tofu and cut in half so you have two large flat ‘steaks’.  Pat tofu dry with paper towel.
  • Marinate tofu in your favorite dressing or marinade sauce.
    Note: Marinade containing a little sugar is best, as it will caramelize. So add a bit of sugar, rice wine vinegar, honey, agave or maple syrup to your marinade.
  • Prepare your barbecue grill with a non-stick cooking spray or by rubbing it with oil.
  • Heat grill.
  • Place tofu on grill for 5-7 minutes on each side until well browned, brushing occasionally with extra marinade.
  • Top tofu steaks with a generous dosing of the salsa verde.

Salsa verde is so versatile and easy to make.  I hope you will add it to your cooking repertoire.  If you serve it on something else, please let me know.

Lesson learned:

French sauces no longer intimidate me, nor should they intimidate you. I challenge you to try your hand at sauce making… see how simple it can be.

“A well made sauce will make even an elephant or a grandfather palatable.”
Grimod de la Reynière

Brilliant quote from someone whose name sounds like a French sauce!
…and then, she paused for thought

Hope you have enjoyed our adventure in the culinary classroom. Join Rona and me each week as we continue learning new culinary skills.

You can also read about Rona’s experience on her blog or What’s Cookin online magazine.

Read full story · Comments { 2 }