Monthly Archives: March 2012

Gourmet Mexican in the Heart of the Marina: Mamacita San Francisco

Lime-cured ceviche at Mamacita, San Francisco

The best part of being a chef is being inspired by other chefs! I love dining out just as much as I love to cook (which says a lot!), so I can’t help but get really excited when I’ve found a local favorite spot to frequent or show to out of town guests.

If you’re looking for gourmet fare, and have a special place for Mexican food in your heart, then look no further than Mamcita. Unlike your standard taqueria, this beautifully designed restaurant is just as stylish as its upbeat patrons.

Located on Chestnut street, in the heart of the Marina district of San Francisco, Mamacita offers a lively ambiance and a diverse menu. Whether you desire scallop tacos, lamb enchiladas, or two different types of fresh ceviche, this restaurant has you covered!


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Filed under EATERY LOVE

The World’s Best Mac ‘N’ Cheese

You heard me: this recipe yields the best mac ‘n’ cheese you will ever taste.

This edition, courtesy of Gourmet Magazine’s special comfort food edition (recipe found here), is superior to all other recipes because it is a simple classic. You just can’t go wrong. Plus, the creamy sharp-cheddar sauce combined with breadcrumbs and parmesan will tempt you to eat the whole batch (watch out)!

If you’re looking for an excuse to stay in because of the rain, then this mac ‘n’ cheese is sure to keep you warm and cozy!

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Barley with Benefits: Wild Mushroom Barlotto

Wild Mushroom Barlotto with Asparagus, Leeks, Pine nuts, Manchego, and Mint

The feat of a completely balanced daily diet can be daunting, so make it easy by choosing nutritious and tasty foods that make you feel great.

If you have a thing for risotto, but want to avoid starchy carbs, then consider organic pearled barley as your next go-to whole grain. Barley, with its nutty, pasta-like consistency, has numerous health benefits (full of fiber and good for your heart!) so it’s the perfect substitute for rice. Plus, this version of Barlotto (barley risotto) is so smooth and velvety, but only uses a bit of olive oil instead of butter or cream.


1 cup organic pearl barley

4 1/2 cups organic chicken stock

1 cup dry white wine

1 pound assorted wild mushrooms (try oyster, trumpet, and shiitake), sliced

1 bunch organic asparagus, bottoms trimmed, 1″ pieces cut diagonally

2 medium leeks, trimmed and cleaned, sliced into thin half moons

1 medium yellow onion, diced

1 large shallot, chopped

3 sprigs mint, cut into thin ribbons

1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted

3 oz grated manchego or Spanish sheep milk cheese

1 cup of pea shoots to garnish

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1. Using a large sauce pan, simmer chicken stock (do not boil)

2. Preheat a large skillet, with medium heat, and add extra virgin olive oil

3. Add onions and shallot, and saute for 5 minutes or until translucent. Add chopped leeks, and continue to saute for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. Add mushrooms, and cook for 2-3 minutes or until juices release

5. Add barley, and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add 1 cup of white wine, and stir constantly.

6. When white wine is absorbed, add 1 cup of hot chicken stock. Stir constantly, or until stock is absorbed. Continue to add 1 cup of hot chicken stock, while constantly stirring, and let absorb. Repeat this process until barley is slightly al dente and has a creamy texture.

7. Add chopped asparagus with the final cup of broth, and cook until tender but has a slight snap.

8. Stir in pine nuts, mint, and freshly grated manchego. Garnish with pea shoots. Enjoy!




Splurge for the Scallops and Stay In

Seared Sea Scallops with Gingered Pea Purée and Cilantro Gremolata

Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for going out on the town with girlfriends, but sometimes it’s nice to switch things up and bring the party inside for a relaxing dinner soirée. We decided to dine in style by serving up some seared sea scallops, preceded by a cheese and cracker spread. This scallop recipe (courtesy of, found here) is the perfect light yet luxurious alternative to steak, as it packs intense flavors but will not induce a food coma. All you need is a delicious French white Burgundy as your beverage of choice, and you have the perfect night in with friends.

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Skinny Green Ginger Stir Fry

When it comes to good nutrition, let’s face it… you are what you eat. If you’re looking for an easy weeknight meal that promotes a healthy workout regime, then be sure to add green vegetables and fresh ingredients to your shopping list.

Baby broccoli and bok choy, enhanced with freshly chopped ginger, are the green heavy hitters in this asian-inspired stir fry. Try it over your favorite whole-grain, such as quinoa or barley, for a complete meal.


1 bunch of Baby Broccoli (cross between broccoli and Chinese kale), chopped – include florets

1 head of Baby Bok Choy, chopped – include leaves

1 sm. carton crimini mushrooms, sliced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 yellow onion, diced

2 tbsp freshly chopped ginger

1/2 cup organic chicken broth

sea salt

freshly ground pepper

Extra virgin olive oil

1. Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil in a large frying pan and heat for a few minutes on medium. Add onion, and sauté for two or three minutes, or until translucent. Add garlic and ginger, and cook for another two minutes.

2. Add mushrooms and cook until soft and wilted. Add broccoli, bok choy, and chicken broth. Stir, and continue until broth is absorbed and veggies have a slight snap, about five minutes. Remove from heat and serve immediately. Just like that – easy, healthy weeknight meal.



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Golden Winter Salad

Sometimes I forget that most of the country is at the mercy of a cold winter. It’s like San Francisco and the sun worked out some kind of agreement, so we can just skip the cold weather altogether and participate in outdoor activities that probably involve food and drink. Oh, to be anything but a San Franciscan seems quite unimaginable at times.

I was inspired to make this winter panzanella style salad by the beautiful weather. I wanted to create a salad fit for summer sunshine but hearty enough to compromise an entire meal. Panzanella is a Florentine salad that uses stale soaked bread, and is most popular in the summer seasons. Don’t be fooled by the rustic toasty bread, as the main act lies within the golden roasted beets and roasted fennel with orange zest. It’s positively yummy.


5 large golden beets, roasted, peeled and chopped

Sherry Vinegar

2 large fennel bulbs, sliced, and roasted with salt, pepper, and olive oil

Orange zest

1 loaf of french bread, cut into cubes and soaked in olive oil

1 head of butter lettuce

1 cup of goat cheese

1/4 cup of pine nuts, toasted

1 cup of simple garlic lemon dressing

salt and pepper to taste

extra virgin olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 375° F. Chop bread into 1″ cubes and soak with 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil. Season with sea salt, and roast in oven for 15 minutes or until crispy.

2. Clean and prepare beets. Slice off tops and stems, and arrange in a deep baking dish or dutch oven. Fill dish with enough water to cover half of the beets or 1″. Cover and roast for 30 minutes to 1 hour, until beets are just tender and can be pierced with a fork. Remove from oven, and let rest for 5 minutes. Remove skins when cool enough to handle, and chop. Add sea salt to taste and a few dashes of sherry vinegar. Set aside.


3. Once the beets are in the oven, clean and prepare the fennel. Remove bottoms and stems, and slice into thin strips. Place on parchment lined baking sheet and toss with extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, and freshly ground pepper. Bake alongside the beets for about 30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven, season with orange zest, and set aside.

4. Assemble salad: combine beets, fennel, chopped butter lettuce, and toss with crumbled goat cheese, toasted pine nuts, and simple garlic lemon dressing (below).

Simple Garlic Lemon Dressing

2 garlic cloves

2 lemons, juiced

1/4 cup olive oil

sea salt and pepper to taste

1 tbsp honey

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.

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Filed under FRESH FETE

Quinoa Croquettes

If you have yet to discover the wonderful world of quinoa, then it’s about time you gave it a shot. Quinoa, a substantial gluten-free “seed”, is a great substitute for starches in many dishes (such as rice, for example), and provides protein, fiber, and magnesium, among other health benefits.

I discovered Quinoa Croquettes from Anna Getty’s Easy Green Organic, available at Chronicle Books. These “croquettes”, a traditional Spanish tapas recipe, take on a healthier form with vibrant veggies and little fat. The recipe takes no longer than 30 minutes to prepare and cook all together, so it’s a great weeknight meal. The ingredients are also very versatile, so creative substitutions are highly encouraged.


1 cup quinoa, washed thoroughly, and prepared

1 medium carrot, peeled and grated on medium holes

1 small zucchini, grated on medium holes

1 scallion, finely chopped (white and green parts)

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon salt

6 sprigs fresh parsley, stemmed and minced

1 large egg

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Grapeseed oil for cooking (or extra virgin olive oil)

1. Combine cooled, prepared quinoa with the carrot, zucchini, scallion, garlic powder, salt, parsley, egg, and flour. Mix well. Using your hands, form the mixture into patties about 1/2 inch thick and 2 inches in diameter.

2. Put just enough oil in a large skillet to cover the bottom of the pan, and heat the oil over medium heat. Working in batches, lay the quinoa cakes in the pan and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. (You can probably cook 5 to 6 patties at once.) When the cakes are golden, turn them over and cook until the second side is golden.

Remove cakes from pan, and serve hot along side your favorite dipping sauce. Enjoy!