Please vote for our Blanching Peas video! Pretty please… with sprinkles on top! :)

Dear Martini

saveur video festivalDear Martini is absolutely thrilled to be a part of  the first-ever SAVEUR Video Festival.  As a celebration of food and film online, it will be a curated presentation of the most creative and beautifully-told culinary stories in the world of video.  SAVEUR is a publication that celebrates authentic food, culture, and travel; they crisscross the globe to find honest and surprising stories about people and the meals that bring them together.

This week, after much nail-biting and sleepless nights, announced finalists for their first-ever Saveur Video Festival.  A call for submissions took place earlier in January, asking for videos related to the following categories:

  • Ultra-short form (Less than 60 seconds)
  • How-to and Recipe
  • Documentary
  • Animation and/Experimental
  • Culinary Travel

blanch peas

Dear Martini is excited and proud to announce that we have been picked as a finalist!  Our Blanching Peas video is eligible to win a People’s Choice Award in the…

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A few months ago, I answered a call for guest bloggers from The Ranting Chef. His posts are prolific, entertaining and always inspiring when I’m looking for a new recipe idea or a twist on a familiar idea. I’m so happy he accepted my post and published it today. :)

Rantings of an Amateur Chef

Today we have a great post from Terri from Dear Martini. Like Terri, I love a good hot soup on a cold winter’s day. Check out Dear Martini and Terri’s post below…

In the post-Holiday winter months, my food choices always lean towards soups that are hearty, nutritious, comforting and budget-friendly.  It might be due to the over-indulgence of food and wallet over the Christmas holidays; but regardless, it’s a great time to make soups to warm both the house and soul.

I stock my kitchen pantry with a variety of items that I can put together for a soup at a moment’s notice:  canned beans, canned tomatoes, frozen stocks, dried pastas and grains. During times when I have more vegetables languishing in the produce drawer than I have time to cook them, I dice them up and keep them in freezer bags.  That way, I’ve got pre-chopped veggies…

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Happy Thanksgiving! Here’s a little something for the veggie lovers out there!

Dear Martini

The Vegetarian Thanksgiving —  it’s a topic that’s coming up more often now.  Years ago, if a vegetarian came to Thanksgiving dinner, all he or she could hope for was to enjoy some of the meatless side dishes, salads and of course pumpkin pie.  In more recent years, folks are becoming more health-conscious and in general adopting a meat-free lifestyle.  A happy consequence:  dinner hosts are also becoming more conscientious and planning for more meatless options for the Thanksgiving Table.

I originally developed this for my sister, Alex.  I wanted to make something unforgettably special for her that was filling, delicious and healthy… something that would be so special, she wouldn’t miss having turkey at all.

As I heartily encourage you to make this recipe, I am obligated to warn you:  it’s not something that can be quickly thrown together.  This recipe is for a very special occasion, so please…

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Sautéed Greens

A follow-up to my Farmers Market post a few months ago… we just can’t get enough of our delicious dark green leafy veggies!

Dear Martini

Everything but the kitchen sink. . . La Cucina literally translates as ”the kitchen” in Italian.  It is also used in the Marche region as the colloquial name for a dish of mixed sautéed greens that includes whatever you have on hand.  This sautéing method works well for a wide variety of hearty greens.  The dish works best if you use a combination of mild and bitter greens.  Mild varieties include: beet greens, chard, kale, cabbage, and spinach.  Bitter varieties include: chicory, dandelion, and mustard.

Dinosaur Kale, or Tuscan Kale grows in abundance locally here.  The lush, dark green, bumpy leaves are super-nutritious: a cup provides more than 100% of the daily value of vitamins K and A, and 88%of the DV for vitamin C. Like other members of the cruciferous family (cabbage, collards and Brussels sprouts), kale is a rich source of organosulfur compounds that have been linked…

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We’re at the peak of Brussels sprout season and I couldn’t be happier! :D

Dear Martini

In Defense of Brussels Sprouts

There comes a time in one’s life when a singular event makes such an impact, there is time BEFORE, and time AFTER.  And, every human adult’s life in Western Civilization begins with intense dislike for Brussels sprouts.  At some point, either in early adulthood or even much later on in life, one might be fortunate enough to be reintroduced to the Brussels sprout and find he comes to like the pleasant delicious vegetable after all.

I can honestly say I’ve never known another fruit or vegetable that remains so divisive — there is the WE LOVE camp and the WE HATE camp.  And why hate?  There is nothing this humble mini-cabbage has ever done to make one hate it so much.

Tips for cooking Brussels sprouts for maximum potential:

  1. Buy them fresh, still attached to the stalk.  They stay fresher for up to a week…

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Time to think about what to make for dinner tonight. This is an easy, quick, no-clean-up idea! Check out the short how-to videos, too! :D

Dear Martini

Fish Wrapped

It’s that time of year again — as we approach the fall and winter seasons, the days get shorter, nights get chillier and when we get home from work, our tired souls want a comforting, delicious meal that is virtually effortless to prepare and equally effortless to cook.  Some might consider this request to be a tall order… but here at Dear Martini, we’ll deliver that to you gift wrapped (bow, extra)!

The concept of cooking en papillote ( in paper) is so simple.  Creating an air-tight pouch using parchment paper, aluminum foil or even a simple brown paper bag delivers many benefits:  the food is both steamed and roasted in its own juices, there is minimal clean-up,  it’s the most flavorful form of low-fat cooking available, and the possibilities and combinations are endless!

The principles of cooking en papillote:

1)  Choose a delicate, lean protein — fish…

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Bacon and Egg Salad

Sunday Morning… thinking about having a hearty brekkie… and then it hit me: I should make a bacon and egg salad! :D

Dear Martini

Have you ever tried this salad?  It’s simplicity is what makes it so special.

We dare you to make this salad and NOT fall in love with it.  If you cook the egg properly, when the yolk runs together with the vinaigrette, the balance of the rich yolk and the vinegar is sublime.  Combine that killer yin-yang pairing with crunchy croutons, salty, crispy bacon and feathery frisée — this salad becomes something that is an experience, not just a dish.

Bacon and Egg Salad

Serves 4

Preheat a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat. Cook bacon until crisp and golden brown, about 5 minutes. Drain bacon on…

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Steak… with benefits

Dear Martini

It’s a universal truth that all cooks have to know how to properly sear a steak.  And yet only a few well-trained cooks know that properly searing a steak pays off dividends in the end.  Our preferred cut of steak is the New York; also known as the strip steak, the club steak or the  Kansas City, this particular cut of steak is flavorful and tender so there is no need to marinate.   The dividend?  When pan searing steaks, you can use the pan drippings to make a quick sauce.  In the time it takes for the steaks to rest, you can make a delicious light pan sauce.  It’s a benefit you should really take advantage and try.

Pan-Seared New York Steak with Red-Wine Pan Sauce

Serves 4

2 (10-ounce) New York strip steaks, cut 1-½ inches thick
Kosher salt and finely ground black pepper
1-½ tablespoons clarified butter

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Farmers Market Dinner Inspiration

What’s for Dinner?  Get some inspiration at your local Farmer’s Market!  The bounty of veggies and fruits can get your creativity going!

When I am able, I really enjoy heading down to the San Mateo Event Center’s Night Market with friends, cruising through the food trucks and watch the families enjoy the great weather and live music; however, I am always drawn to the farmers on the other side of the ring.  This summer we enjoyed a bounty of berries, asparagus, corn and salad greens.  But now, the produce is transitioning into autumn flavors  and I COULDN’T BE MORE EXCITED!  Fall is a special time for me. My favorite holidays are coming — Halloween and Thanksgiving.  I love the crisp cool fall air, how twilight drapes over us earlier… and most of all, I love cooking warm, comforting dishes for dinner.

Dino Kale! Their bumpy leaves resemble the texture of dinosaur skin!

Fennel — oh how I love your sweet licorice taste!

While I was down at the Night Market last Wednesday, I noticed that my two favorite vegetables are coming into season:  fennel and dino kale.  I bought some of each and was inspired to make this dish for dinner the next evening.  I would love to share my recipe with you, which can be made now through the winter.

Dino Kale and Fennel with White Beans

Serves 4

**  The dark green, bumpy leaves of the dino kale, or cavalo Nero (black cabbage in Italian) are savory, pleasantly and slightly bitter and hearty enough to sauté with garlic or add to soup.  I could eat dino kale every day.  Paired with the sweet, licoricey flavor of fennel, it’s a match made in heaven.

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

half a yellow onion, diced

1 medium fennel bulb, sliced lengthwise

4 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped

1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

pinch red pepper flakes, to taste

1 teaspoon ground cumin, optional

1 cup low-sodium chicken stock (or vegetable broth)

1 bunch dino kale, washed and cut into bite-sized pieces

2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, optional

In a medium-sized sauté pan over medium heat, add the olive oil, onion and fennel.  Toss to coat the vegetables with oil and cover to sweat, about 8 minutes.  Stir occasionally.

When the onions are translucent and soft, add the garlic and beans.  Sauté until the garlic is fragrant.  Season with salt and pepper, and if desired, add the red pepper and cumin.  Add the chicken stock and the dino kale.  Mix together and cover.  Turn the heat down to simmer and simmer with the cover on for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

When the kale is tender, remove the pan from the heat and serve immediately with a sprinkling of cheese.

** Note:  I like to stretch my efforts and toss this recipe together with some cooked pasta.  Add a half-pound of cooked pasta to the recipe and toss together for a nice, light meal.

The San Mateo Night Market runs weekly every Wednesday from 4:30 – 8:30pm.  Parking in the Delaware lot is free.  Come down for a unique event combining gourmet food trucks, local farmers and live music.  Check the Night Market’s Facebook Event Page for more information:


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Let them eat CAKE! (part 2)

Intermission:  I am my own worst enemy

Before we continue with Act 2, please let me state that I’m not a whiny, complainy little brat when it comes to my craft.  Professionally, it’s my responsibility to maintain control over every type of situation that occurs in the kitchen.  I have a very strong “the show must go on” philosophy.   But here, we’re not talking about my work.

On a strictly personal level, I love to bake.  I love creating beautiful, ethereal cakes that bring happiness and joy to others; so it’s slightly possible that I am a bit over-ambitious in my planning.  But it’s my destiny to be my own worst enemy.  When I’m at home, in the weeds, when it becomes a Stage 5 shit storm, Terri with the cool, calm and collected demeanor ceases to exist and she implodes into a black hole of self-doubt, despair and hopelessness.  Briefly.

When others around me begin to spiral out of control I can reach in and ground them quickly with a simple reality check.  Unfortunately, at 2am, no one is actually available to perform that service for me.  After 10 minutes of self-torture and wallowing, I’m able to pull myself together and get on with what needs to be done.  Call it “experience,” but I’ve come to realize that the unexpected events that trigger my implosions are actually part of  my creation process.  While I am trying to pull myself out of the black hole, I have the ability to visualize the end product, to see the cakes as they are completed and to feel that overwhelming sense of accomplishment that I know will come once we’re serving the cakes.  That visualization gets me through that dark hour of despair.  And yes, I have this episode every time I bake.  After all, I am human.

Act 2: Cake or Death?

As I slept, I had nightmares about over-baking the dacquoise (imagine if that actually happened: there would be no time to do it over again).  I kept waking up and checking my alarm clock. When the alarm finally went off, I stumbled downstairs to take it out of the oven; falling down the stairs on my way to the kitchen.  Awesome.

I don’t actually remember taking the dacquoise out and turning the oven off.  I don’t even know how I got back upstairs and into bed.

I woke up at 7am on Sunday, slightly nauseous, mildly panicking.  The tasting was scheduled for 2pm.  It had to be perfect.  The gravity of the situation was starting to sink in:  I was making my brother’s wedding cake.  If I couldn’t pull this off, I’d consider myself a failure on every level.  Not only that, my parents were coming – this is their first time attending a cake tasting of mine.  Not only that, the bride’s parents were attending as well.  The stakes were so high.  I was feeling quite small and overwhelmed.  Deep breathing.  A strong cup of coffee.  Staring out the window with unfocused vision.  Pull yourself together.  It’s only a tasting – it’s not the actual wedding cake.  They have never been to one before – no one has any expectations, except you, you crazy bitch.

I triaged the situation down in the kitchen and decided that while Paul went to get the groceries, I would assemble the chocolate cake and measure out the ingredients for the other two cakes.  It wasn’t so bad:  I needed to bake 2 cakes, let them cool and assemble.  The fillings and frostings were already made and ready.  How bad could that be?  Would I need all 6 hours before the scheduled tasting?  Please.  I’m a professional!

Chocolate cake assembled and in the fridge.  Tally: 2 cakes completed.  Feeling better.  I was standing on semi-solid ground again after feeling like I was hopelessly sinking into quicksand.  Groceries were procured.  I was back on track.  I baked the next two cakes, cleaned up the kitchen while they were cooling and even managed to eat a bit of breakfast.

While I was assembling the third cake, the Strawberry Dream, my headspace moved into deeper, more soulful areas.  I started to take my time with the cake.  I thought about the other cake tastings we’ve had over the years.  Did we have set-backs?  Yes.  Did I prevail?  Most certainly, I did.  Did the guests enjoy themselves?  Gosh, I hope so.  Were they just humoring me?  Oh, maybe…   I ran through the list:  Antoine and Robert, Ford and Christin, Ming and Jason, Peter and Christine, Naz and Andrew… each event was special and meaningful.  Today would be no different.  I thought of my brother.  I thought about the first time I made a strawberry tart with vanilla pastry cream and how much he loved it when he first tasted it.  I thought about the first time I had this cake in culinary school.  Before I had even tasted it, I told my pastry chef instructor that it was my FAVORITE CAKE.  I thought about my chef instructor, who eventually became one of my dearest and best friends.  When I finished assembling this cake, I knew this would be one of the contenders.

I moved the strawberry cake down to the fridge and started cleaning up to prepare for the last cake.  Paul was getting the rest of the house ready for our guests.   It was a gray and rainy morning, but I was feeling surprisingly warm and relaxed.

As I set up for the last cake, a phrase popped into my head.  In Larry McMurtry’s book, Lonesome Dove, he talks about a particularly difficult cattle drive:  it was a long, dry, hot, dry and difficult travel between two rivers.  Towards the end, the cattle were struggling from dehydration and exhaustion.  The cowboys were despairing, hoping they would reach the next river before the cattle all died.  Suddenly, they began to notice signs along the way that indicated they were approaching water.  As I remember the phrase, “the cattle began to quicken their pace, despite their exhaustion as they began to smell the water.”    Yes, I’m a cow, and yes, I could “smell the water.”  The end of this cake prep was near — we were about to have a party!

~~~~~~~~~~~~ TO BE CONTINUED ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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