Tag Archives: Chez Panisse

The Power of Restaurants

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I finished another day at work and I realized how sad of a place I am working. The head chefs treat me like I am a complete idiot and yell a lot across the room at me and their other employees. I am not the kind of person that works well in a para military kitchen because I question authority.

I thought back today why I don’t feel that way about Chez Panisse and I realized that it all has to do with family. Chez Panisse is incredible because it isn’t just a restaurant it is an institution, a home that aims to teach each generation a simple, local, and delicious revolution. I was never yelled at or made to feel dumb for simply asking a question.

Restaurants have the power to radically change and inspire their employees to greatness or they can keep them down in boxes and make them feel worthless. I wonder how many talents are out there being abused and made to feel less than all because of egos in the restaurant industry. I for one will not be abused or abuse others. I hope to be a great teacher and knowledgeable chef who can teach the next generations just as Alice Waters has done.

It is why I have decided to throw in my butcher apron and replace it with a smaller restaurants waist apron, one with a bit more soul.  Boot and Shoe is located in Oakland and is also a part of the Chez Panisse family, not to mention its only a few blocks from my house!  They even have a vegan pizza on the menu!  This new job will allow me time to work at Chez Panisse again as an intern and regain control of my life and who I am as an individual.

One of the things that is very important to me is food ethics, and it is why I am please to announce the March Against Monsanto coming your way on the 25th of May!  For years Monsanto has sat in the background pulling strings like a puppeteer, and this March means education.  Get involved, it is the most important battle of our generation.  For more on Monsanto click here.

For now its time for a Chez Panisse cake recipe veganized….

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Vegan Ginger Cake:

2 1/2 C All Purpose Flour

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1 C Molasses

1 C Granulated Sugar

1  C Grape seed Oil

1/4 c organic non-gmo soy milk

1/4 c applesauce

2 tsp baking soda

1 c boiling water

4 oz fresh ginger (chopped and then processed, do not grate or you will end up with fibrous strands, see pictures. When you cut it width first before processing or mincing it the fibers will be broken and it won’t feel like you have eaten a hair)

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees (yes 300)

2. Sift together dry ingredients in a medium bowl (flour, cinnamon, and clove).

3. Whisk or put your wet ingredients into a stand mixer for a few minutes until fully combined.  In a few batches add the flour mixture until fully incorporated.

4. Pour your baking soda into the boiling water and add it along with the ginger to the batter until it is just incorporated.  Pour the batter into a spring form that has been greased and has parchment on the bottom and bake for 50 minutes.  After 40-50 minutes turn the temp up to 350 and bake 10 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

I served mine with a bit of house made blood orange banana sorbet and some candied kumquats…but you can pair it with whatever you want.

Serves 12 🙂

Farmer’s Market Inspired Salad

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Who doesn’t love salad? If your answer was no to that question then you haven’t been looking too hard! There are so many delicious combinations especially in the winter when all the varieties of greens are out to play a staring role in your meal!  January and February bring bountiful blood oranges to California which even a few decades were not grown Here. When Chez Panisse started a delicious revolution people began to demand that farmers grew more than just the average navel.  Blood oranges are only in season for a few months and I definitely try to get the most out of them!

In preparation for a dinner party I went down the road to my local farmers market to pick the best salad combination I could find.  I am lucky to have an amazing farmers market on hand; it is a social gathering, harvest celebration, and market all in one.  I used to get up early and go at 10:30 in the morning, but I soon realized that the deals came nearer to the close. Many stands will offer bargain bags and 1/2 off deals because anything not sold may meet its fate in a compost bin as greens surly do not last long. I now go to my local farmers market around 1, and yesterday I got out with:

2 bunches of broccoli

2 bunches of scallions

1 lb bag of salad

3 bunches of arugula

3 bunches of beets

1 bunch of parsnips

1 shallot

1/2 lb bag of walnuts

5 lb bag of blood oranges

ALL FOR $16 DOLLARS,  let me repeat that organic pesticide free produce for $16 dollars!

This salad was inspired by Alice Waters who in her simplicity creates great flavor combinations.  The arugula adds a peppery flavor to this salad, and the beets and blood oranges balance each other and lift this salad to new heights.  Add a dash of walnuts for that buttery flavor and you begin to see why eating a plant based diet is utterly delicious and healthy.

A side note on blood oranges. They are beautiful, but don’t taste much different from your average orange, I use them here merely for presentation, so if you have other oranges don’t be afraid to throw them into the mix instead!  All of these ingredients were bought that morning at my farmers market, and it really showed! The lettuces were divine with freshness, so pack your reusable bag ladies (and gentlemen) and hit your local far mar to get your seasonal salad! Don’t be afraid to scavenge and let your taste buds do the purchasing, your stomach and health will thank you!

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Blood Orange, Beet, and Walnut salad with Simple Vinaigrette 

Time: 1 hr 15 min (15 min once the beets are roasted)

serves 6

Ingredients:

3 bunches of beets in a variety of colors greens cut off

2 blood oranges supremed and sliced (see step-by-step below)

a handful of walnuts

a bag of arugula (this doesn’t have to be specific, find a ratio that works for you)

salt and pepper to taste

olive oil

For the Dressing:

3 Tbsp canola or high grade olive oil

1 Tbsp red wine vinegar

1/4 shallot chopped thin

a dash of blood orange zest

salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the beets with tops removed in into glass baking pan, drizzle, and stir to coat with olive oil and cover with aluminum foil.  Bake for 40min to an hour or until a fork can be placed into the center of the beet without too much trouble.

2. Prep the blood oranges by supreming them. Here is a step-by-step of how to do so. For this salad pay attention to 1:16-1:53 of that video! 

3. Wash, dry, and cut the fresh greens into eatable pieces.

4. To make the dressing combine all ingredients and mix well.

5. Take the beets out of the oven and let cool. Then cut off a little more of the top and and place your fingers around the top and pull down to the bottom to completely remove the skin.  If this does not happen easily they probably need a bit more time in the oven.

6. Mix together all the ingredients and serve immediately!

Shadowing Simplicity in Panisse- Almond Nougatine

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I had two weeks between my trial day and official first day at Chez Panisse.  It was awesome to be back in the kitchen after a brief hiatus, and it was what I remembered and more. I started out my second day at 7:30 in the morning, the earliest I can remember waking up since Brendon and I flew to Minnesota to see his family in early December.  I will have to get used to it, though I am genuinely happy that I am waking up to do something I am passionate about and enjoy…who else gets to say that? (My mother does).

My first task with the other pastry intern I was shadowing was to slice apples for the galette of the day which made with pink lady apples and prunes.  The culinary artist sarah gave her own unique spin on the design and it reminded me in that moment that food is art.

After finishing the apples, we supremed and segmented blood oranges. Before we cut them all we always taste one first, giving it too the shift leader.  The oranges were rather bitter so we soaked them in some caramelized blood orange juice  to make them a bit sweeter.  Supreming citrus is when you take off the peel of the fruit with the knife, and segmenting is cutting out each individual segment of the orange.  The pros at Panisse make it looks very simple, but capturing a perfect sphere is a difficult task…I am sure I will be supreming often and will eventually get the hang of it.  It was then time to get the prunes, deseed them, and roughly chop them for the base of the tarts. It was an easy task and we completed it in minutes.

Next I was set to cut up Brittle for the topping of one of the desserts, I was absorbing so much information at this point that I have no idea which dessert it was to crumble upon.  As I was chopping away, a film crew from some Eastern European country entered and began to film me chopping the brittle. I surely hadn’t asked to be filmed, but I kept silent and stuck to my task…eventually they left me alone.  I am sure I will have to get used to cameras working in such a famous kitchen.  At about 11:30 we bring down one of each dessert to taste so that adjustments can be made to them before lunch begins.  I kept quiet, I am interested in their expressions and the way each pastry chef connects with the food.  Nothing is changed, and everything is impeccable.

20 cored apples, and a lot of small talk later it was time for the best part of the day. Lunch.  I ate a little of everything, chomping my way through food specifically made for the “family”. I made myself an espresso and sat outside on the steps with the other people in pastry enjoying and remembering my slice of heaven.  It behoves you to eat quickly at Chez Panisse, as there is a lot of work to get done. I am finished within 20 minutes and resume my various projects.  An hour or so later, Carrie, the head pastry chef walks in and begins checking in with her staff.  It is like a wave of calm, her demeanor and smile show she is passionate and sincere. It is a breath of fresh air as my shift is a couple hours away from being over.

Then it was time for the dreadful eggs, the task that took me an hour and a half the first day. I was immeasurably better and was able to use the shell to finished in no time at all. Whew, I am getting the hang of this all I thought to myself.

Except…has anyone ever used kumquats?  Sure we all know what they are but they have very little meat inside, and loads of seeds. My task was to cut them thinly deseeding as I went. 4 cups turned out to be what seemed the longest project of the day, and by the end my fingers burned with the acidic juice. I was ready to wash my hands of the project and end the day.  I am exhausted but excited to get up even earlier tomorrow and practice more technique. Until then, here is a simple recipe inspired by Chez Panisse.

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Almond Nougatine:

Makes 4-6 servings

10-15 minutes

5 ounces Almonds Chopped fine

5 ounces granulated sugar

a pinch of cream of tartar or a squeeze of lemon juice

canola oil

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Chop the almonds up in to small pieces, this can be done with a lot of knife work, or in a food processor, just take care to not process too much otherwise you will end up with nut butter. Then place them in the oven on a baking tray with some parchment paper.

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2. Pour the sugar and cream of tartar of lemon juice into a saute pan and heat over medium heat. Watch the sugar, do not stir.  A hot spot will occur where the sugar will begin to turn dark. Wait until the sugar becomes dark like caramel and begin to stir the sugar until there is no more granulations.  After all syrup is a liquid and easy to work with,  turn off the heat and stir until all the granulations disappear.

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3. Stir in the almonds and work quickly to incorporate the almonds into the syrup.

4. Dump out the almonds on a well oiled counter or oiled marble slab, making sure to use a well oiled rolling pin. Roll quickly until thin as they will dry and cool in no time. Enjoy these after they are rolled, they are an easy and delicious dessert to entertain your guests…or your evening appetite!

Digging in the Dirt with Chez Panisse

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Today was my first day as an intern at Chez Panisse. There is nothing that can describe the beauty of the kitchen or the way that it functions. When I arrived the head pastry chef was not there yet, but others in pastry knew I was coming and began to show me around. The restaurant itself is within a craftsman house, the interior is hardwood, and the kitchen spans what seems to be longer than the dining room.

The kitchen was stunning, warm and inviting. Wood and marble were woven together as art, a place where artisans created the desserts for the day. I was excited to get started, it was still hard to imagine that I had somehow found myself in the epicenter of the culinary world. My first task was to separate egg yolks from egg whites for tart bases. Not too difficult of a task, but 9 cups stretches the project for over an hour. I was then assigned to take the darks skins off of the pistachios with a pairing knife and when it occasionally flaked off at the gentlest knife scrape I felt a sense of joy…its always the little things that get me.

After I was done with the pistachios it was time to have lunch, and what a decadent staff meal it was. Strewn across the counter were various dishes from meats to vegetables all looking and tasting amazing. The lettuce was fresh, divine, and perfectly dressed. The pastry people sat outside on the steps and I was able to get to know the people I was working with a bit more. I had made it to lunch, and I was ready to finish my day strong. I returned to the kitchen to begin peeling, quartering, and coring Pink Lady apples for a beautiful tart. I had a stack too big to fit into a deep hotel pan, and I found myself overwhelmed with apples. But I noticed that with each task, after a few times, I would get a rhythm and the kitchen meditation I love would send my mind internally. Baking is a pleasure, and even the simple and sometimes monotonous tasks are therapeutic. Who wouldn’t rather knead dough or pick huckleberries than sit in a cubicle?

The head pastry chef sent me home with some pistachio cake which I knew my boyfriend would eat in the car on the way home. Next time I go in I will be shadowing one of the more experienced interns to learn a day in the life and continue to get my bearings. Overall the day was a success and I am thankful to have begun working in the uniquely wonderful environment.

The staff members at Chez Panisse work differently from any restaurant I have worked in, they don’t yell, or tell you what to do in a do-what-I-say-or-else sort of way. It felt more like a school, where the professors were understanding, informative, and patient. The head pastry chef told me that they try hard to be a teaching kitchen, maybe other restaurants should take note…their protege have gone out and made some of the greatest restaurants. Every time I look in any cooking magazine Chez Panisse pops up several times, it is no wonder, their methods are flawless, and their staff is passionate about food. I am excited to soak up all the information I can get from this internship, excited for the experiences that await me, and excited to begin this new chapter in my life.

Bon Appétit!

In other news, Brendon and I have been working the garden soil to death! It seems rocks were deterring any growth and we had to excavate a foot deep. Today we drove up to Marin County, just north of Oakland, to get some free aged horse manure. And after today the garden is finally coming together!

These are the two rows we finished today and pictures of the ranch where we went to get the compst:photo-16 photo-17

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And coming up soon, tomato soup and french bread. Delicious!photo-20photo-18