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Chile Crunch - ala Walt

Chile Crunch - ala Walt

We haven't been the best at keeping up our blog during the pandemic 🤦‍♀️ but as of April 2021 we're back at it sharing recipes and musings from Sonoma County's wine country as life slowly returns to some semblance of normalcy. We hope you'll enjoy them and maybe even make a few of the recipes.


My dad always had a giant vegetable garden.  When I was a kid, I remember shoving my hands in the dirt, planting plants, watering by hand and harvesting – the best part.  Well, maybe not the best part, as hanging out with my dad was the greatest.  Now, one would think with all of these home grown, organic vegetables that we probably ate like lords.  But alas, cooking the food was not a strong point.

Despite some unforgiveable food, it must have struck a chord somewhere as I now love to tend my own giant vegetable garden.  And, thankfully, years working in the wine business and the opportunity to taste fantastic food ignited a passion for cooking too.  I am very thankful to live in a place where those two things converge so beautifully.

Over the years, I have gone from planting every vegetable I like to only those that taste a million times better when they are home grown.  Think tomatoes, fava beans and, yes, celery.  Right now, the fava beans are nearly a foot tall, and my kohlrabi is starting to look like something other than a weed.  The herbs are booming with the spring sun and the blueberries are forming. 

In the next few weeks, I will start my tomatoes and my beloved peppers.  I always grow a small “hedge” of chile d’arbol.  I rarely use them fresh, except for the occasional fresh salsa, but I do dry them and use them all year.  Anytime I sauté onions, I throw a few in for an added dimension of flavor, I add some to the boiling water when I steam corn and I love using them in winter soups, especially my kale and white bean soup.

Then last Christmas, my dear friend Kyle sent me a lovely box from Momofuku.  In it were a couple of nice salt mixtures, but the real prize was the chile crunch.  My first instinct was to put some in a breakfast sandwich.  Perfection!  My second instinct, or rather the discovery that it was sold out and I could not order more, was to make my own version.  After several trial versions, I have now settled on my preferred method/blend.  And we have it on breakfast sandwiches nearly every Sunday.  I wish my dad were here to have one with us.  He would appreciate the home grown effort.

Chile Crunch (Inspired by Momofuku)

2+ cups neutral oil (I use sunflower, but grapeseed works too)

10 small shallots, minced

4 heads of garlic, peeled and minced

4 cinnamon sticks

5 star anise

½ cup crushed red pepper

2 large handfuls (or more for extra spicy) of dried chile d’arbol

5 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp coconut sugar

1 pack (1 oz) of roasted and salted seaweed snacks

4 tbsp toasted white sesame seeds

1 piece of ginger (about four inches), peeled and grated

Add oil to saucepan, then add shallots, garlic, cinnamon and star anise.  Add more oil to cover if not covered already.  Bring to simmer, then cook on low (bubbling, but not boiling) until shallots and garlic are golden brown.  This will take about 30 minutes depending on your stove.


Meanwhile remove stems from chile d’arbol and add to food processor.  Add seaweed.  Cover and blitz until everything is in small pieces.  Add to large heatproof mixing bowl, then add all remaining ingredients.

When shallot/garlic mixture is finished, strain hot oil mixture over mixing bowl holding other ingredients and let cool.  Once cool, remove the cinnamon sticks and star anise pieces.  Add shallot/garlic into other ingredients and stir to combine.

Let sit for a day or two to let flavors combine. Should mostly fill a large (32oz) jar

Add to eggs, soups, pasta, noodles…..anything! Our current fave is the Sunday Egg Muffin Sandwich mmmm...

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Wild Rice, Edamame and Cranberry, Almond Salad

Wild Rice, Edamame and Cranberry, Almond Salad

A longtime favorite of ours. We take it on most of our picnics as it's easy to transport and leftovers are just as tasty the next day. 

1/2 cup blanched slivered almonds

2tbsp White sesame Seeds

4 cups cooked Wild Rice

3 Scallions, thinly sliced (white and light green parts only)

2 cups Shelled Edamame

2 medium Carrotts peeled and diced

1/2 cup dried Cranberrries

3tbsp Olive Oil

2tbsp Sesame Oil

1/4 cup Rice Vinegar (more if needed)

Kosher Salt and freshly ground pepper

Place almonds in frying pan over medium heat and toast, stirring often, until golden brown (8-10mins - do not burn). Transfer to large bowl. Repeat with sesame seeds (2-3mins) Transfer to bowl with almonds. Add rice, scallions, edamame, carrots and cranberries. Toss to combine.

Whisk olive oil, sesame oil, rice vinegar and a pinch of salt and pepper in a medium bowl until combined. Drizzle over rice mixture and toss to combine. Taste and season as needed with more salt, pepper and vinegar. Cover and chill at least one hour. Makes 6-8 servings. We sometimes double to enjoy as leftovers as it really can last 3-4 days. 

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Burrata, Cherry Tomatoes, Pine Nuts with Balsamic Drizzle

Burrata, Cherry Tomatoes, Pine Nuts with Balsamic Drizzle

Who doesn't love creamy, dreamy Burrata? We opted to tweak the traditional way of serving it by using our yummy Sweet 100 tomatoes from our garden. Because of early Coronavirus lockdown we planted these cherry tomatoes early and already have a huge bounty.  Looking forward to enjoying this dish many more times in the next month.It couldn't be easier.


One ball of burrata cheese

2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved

2 tbsp toasted pine nuts

1 small clove of garlic, crushed

1 tbsp fresh, chopped basil leaves

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp sherry vinegar

25 year old balsamic vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste



In a small mixing bowl, stir together tomatoes, pine nuts, garlic, basil, olive oil and sherry vinegar.  Let rest for 10 minutes to combine flavors.


Place Burrata cheese on center of serving dish and score the top.  Spoon tomato mix around cheese and drizzle with aged balsamic vinegar.  Season with salt and pepper.


Serves 6 as an appetizer or side dish.


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Grilled Pizza - You select the toppings

Grilled Pizza - You select the toppings

One of our favorite family activities is making grilled pizza. In the middle of Quarantine it seems even more popular than ever and has become the highlight of the week. It's really affordable, the whole family can join in and its pretty darn tasty. We all have our favorites - Walt and I love the Radicchio and our kid loves the Pesto.

So here's how we do it. Ingredients are based on three of our faves, pesto, smoked mozzarella and vegetable primavera and lastly the smoked onion radicchio. 

1 ball of pizza dough (available at your fave pizza joint or at most gourmet grocery stores) This will make 3 pizzas. Don't worry about the shape it's all about the goodness.

Pizza One - Pesto

crushed garlic in olive oil mozzarella cheese
Pizza sauce (we make our own) but bought is perfectly fine Pesto Sauce (we use Kirkland brand from Costco)
Parmesan Cheese

Take original dough and split into three equal size balls of dough. Cover with a damp linen cloth and let rest for 20mins at room temperature. Take first ball and stretch out as far as you can without putting dough on surface but without tearing the dough. Use your knuckles instead of your fingertips at this stage.


Once you feel it is going to tear put on counter and continue stretching out edges using your fingertips. 


Next, lightly oil the back side of a large sheet pan.  Place flattened dough on top and continue pressing/stretching the dough until it is very thin, but not so thin that you can see through it.  Your dough is now ready for grilling!


We use a wood fired grill and about 2/3 of a chimney full of charcoal briquettes. Once they are ready, we pour them out on one side of the grill and add some chunks of mesquite wood to kick up the heat. Place dough on grill over medium high heat by turning the baking sheet upside down slowly. This can be cooked on either a gas or charcoal grill - we prefer charcoal because of the smoky flavor.  

Once dough is on the grill, you will see it start to puff up in spots.  After a minute or so, use longish tongs to move the dough around the heat to cook/char all parts of dough.  Once it has a deep color, but not burned, move to cold portion of grill and flip dough over.  Next, spread some garlic oil on the crust, then dollops of pizza sauce.  Don't use too much or it will get soggy.  Then add your other ingredients. For pesto pizza add tomato sauce, mozzarella and large dollops of pesto.

Slide dough back over the heat and turn frequently in a clockwise direction so that the bottom cook evenly.  Again, cook until it has a deep color but is not burned.  You will see the sauce and cheese begin to bubble.  If the crust is cooked, but the top is not bubbly, move to cold side of grill and cover for a couple of minutes to finish cooking.

Next, remove from grill onto a cutting board.  we use tongs and simply pull the pizza onto the board.  Let it rest for a minute or so before cutting and serving.

Pizza Two - Veggie Primavera

crushed garlic in olive oil grated smoked mozzarella cheese
Pizza sauce  various veggies, precooked but not mushy
cherry tomatoes whipped goat cheese

Follow all steps as before until flipping the pizza. Drop chunks of pizza sauce, sprinkle mozzarella liberally along with cherry tomatoes, asparagus, zucchini and return to the grill as before. After a few minutes remove from grill, add dollops of whipped goat cheese and let rest. Slice and serve.

Pizza Three - Grilled Radicchio, Smoked Onion and Aged Balsamic

crushed garlic in olive oil radicchio
1 onion  liquid smoke (about 2 tsp)
mozzarella cheese burrata cheese
aged balsamic vinegar

To prep for the pizza toppings you'll need to caramelize some onions, adding a little liquid smoke at the beginning. Chop the radicchio into bite sized pieces and saute in a separate pan. Set both aside. Follow all directions for prepping the pizza dough as above. After flipping pizza top with dollops of sauce, mozzarella, raddichio, smoky onions and dollops of burrata. Finish with a drizzle of aged balsamic. Simply SUBLIME!!


Our latest experiment was a corn, tomato and cotija cheese pizza. 5-21-2020

This one is shaped a bit like the state of California LOL! Delicious.

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Pasta Con Broccoli

Pasta Con Broccoli

This is a recipe I learned as a young 20something living in Boston and working at an Italian restaurant there. It was a frequent staff meal request. 


3 tbsp Olive Oil 

3 large Broccoli

1 Onion

1 cup Cream

1/4 cup white wine

Parmesan Cheese

Red Pepper Flakes


Cut off stems of broccoli and dice. Chop onion. Pour Olive Oil in saute pan on medium heat. Cook onion until soft and translucent (not browning) add diced broccoli stems and soften. This should take about 10-15minutes depending on how small you have diced the broccoli. Once softened puree the broccoli onion mixture. Return mixture to pan and add cream on low to medium heat. Once sauce starts to thicken add wine and continue simmering until sauce like. Add in a sprinkle of red pepper flake depending on how spicy you like it.

Bring water to boil for pasta, salt the water. Add in broccoli florets from top of broccoli. Blanch for about 3 minutes in the boiling water until they change color or are cooked but not pulverized. Remove Broccoli and add pasta according to cooking instructions. When cooked remove and add to broccoli mixture. Garnish with Parmesan Cheese - YUMMM and so easy


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Open Faced Rock Shrimp Ricotta Ravioli

Open Faced Rock Shrimp Ricotta Ravioli


1 lb        Rock Shrimp (peeled and deveined), rinsed and patted dry

4             4”x4” pieces of lasagna noodles (Capellos Gluten Free Lasagna Sheets work great) cooked to package instructions

1 cup     Bellwether Farms Sheep’s Milk Ricotta (or similar)

2 cups   Baby Spinach

½ tsp     Meyer lemon zest

1 tbsp    Extra virgin olive oil

1 lb        Unsalted butter

½ tsp     Espelette pepper (or similar)

2 tbsp    Dry white wine

1 tbsp    Chives, finely chopped

               Salt and pepper



In a small mixing bowl, stir together ricotta, olive oil and lemon zest until creamy.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

In a small saucepan, heat white wine on medium low heat until just simmering.  Add butter to wine in chunks of one tablespoon at a time, whisking constantly to maintain emulsion.  Once all butter is incorporated, add the Espelette and stir to combine, then add the rock shrimp, stirring to coat all pieces and increase heat to medium.  Stir frequently and cook through, about 3-4 minutes.

Pre-heat a large sautée pan over medium heat.  Add two tablespoons of butter mixture from the rock shrimp, then add spinach and cook until just wilted, stirring often, about 1 minute.

Meanwhile, spread a small amount of ricotta mixture in the center of four warmed plates to hold pasta in place.  Place one lasagna noodle on top of ricotta, then spread the rest of the ricotta evenly on top of the noodle between the four plates.

Divide the spinach among the four plates and place on top of ricotta.  Divide the rock shrimp evenly between the four plates on top of the spinach.  Season the rock shrimp with salt and pepper.  Spoon some of the butter cooking liquid over each plate as a sauce.


Garnish the top of each plate with chives and serve immediately.


Serves four as a heavy appetizer.

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Ahi and Avocado with Macadamias

Ahi and Avocado with Macadamias

With Valentine's fast approaching we wanted to share this oh so simple way to impress. Be sure and acquire some extra fresh sushi grade Ahi Tuna for the purpose.

1/4 pound Ahi, sliced into sashimi

1/2 avocado, thinly sliced

1/4 cup chopped macadamia nuts

Ponzu sauce


Arrange ahi and avocado on platter. Pour ponzu over fish so there is excess on platter, about 2 tablespoons. Sprinkle ahi and avocado with sea salt, then macadamia nuts. 


Serve immediately. A nice appetizer for two with some tasty bubbles. 

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Butter Poached Lobster and Beet

Butter Poached Lobster and Beet

The inspiration for this dish came from Thomas Keller of French Laundry and Per Se- considered two of the best restaurants in the United States. While we don't live in Maine and can't access lobster all the time we do consider it a complete treat when we can get it. This definitely takes a little prep time but is relatively straightforward to make. One of the big bonuses of this dish is that the leftover lobster infused butter can be stored in the freezer and used for making scrambled eggs - how decadent.

We thought the dish itself might be a nice one to share coming up to the holidays when we all should find a way to treat ourselves and our loved ones. Enjoy.


2 live lobsters - 1 ¼ to 1 ½ pounds

2 medium red beets

1 pound unsalted butter (we're partial to KerryGold Irish Butter)

1 cup dry white wine

1 tbsp chives, finely chopped

¼ cup white vinegar




Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Trim greens and root from beets so there is about ½ inch remaining, then rinse in water and pat dry.  Wrap each beet in heavy duty foil, place on small baking sheet, then roast in oven until tender, about one hour.

Bring 12 quarts of water to a boil in a large stock pot.  Place lobsters in a wide pot, so they fit tightly.  When water boils, add vinegar, stir, then pour over lobsters.  Let sit for two minutes, then remove lobsters.  Separate the legs and claws and return to the water for five more minutes.  Remove meat from tail by snapping off the whole tail and back flipper, then pushing meat through with your thumb and set aside. (The meat will look translucent as it is not completely cooked) When ready, remove legs and claws from water, then remove meat by cracking the shell and carefully removing the whole pieces. 

When beets are nearly finished, create the poaching butter for the lobster.  Chop the butter into chunks.  Set a small saucepan over medium heat, add white wine, and bring to simmer.  Reduce heat to low, then whisk in pieces of butter, one chunk as a time, until it is all melted, but still emulsified.  Whisk occasionally to keep it emulsified.

Remove beets from oven.  Remove from foil and slice the top and bottom off.  Remove skin, then slice each into four equal rounds. 

Turn up heat on butter emulsion to medium low.  Slice each lobster tail in half lengthwise, then put all lobster pieces into butter and poach until just cooked through, about 4 or 5 minutes.  Stir occasionally to be sure all pieces of lobster are submerged in liquid.  While lobster is cooking, place one beet round onto each plate and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Stack second beet round on top and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Remove lobster from butter and stack on top of beets, being careful that each portion has a claw, a tail piece and knuckle meat.  Spoon some of the butter poaching mixture over top of lobster, season to taste with salt, then sprinkle chives over the top.


Serve immediately.  Serves four people as an entrée.


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Pork, Beans and Tomato Jam

Pork, Beans and Tomato Jam


Pork Rib Roast - 4-6 bones

1 1/2 pounds fresh cranberry beans, shelled

1 medium onion, diced

1 basket orange cherry tomatoes

6 tbsp butter

1 garlic clove, crushed

1/4 cup mirin (Japanese cooking wine)



Crushed red pepper (if desired)


Start a charcoal fire, separating coals in piles on both sides of grill for indirect heat.  Pour hickory (or other type) of wood chips into bowl and soak with water.

In a six quart saucepan, add cranberry beans and cover with water by 2 inches and bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer so it is gently bubbling.

Cook until beans are tender, about one hour, and remove from heat and drain.

In a small saucepan over low heat, add 4 tablespoons of butter and mirin.

When butter melts, add tomatoes, garlic and red pepper (if desired).  Cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes have melted and the entire mixture thickens, about 40 minutes.  Add salt to taste.

While these are cooking, remove pork from refrigerator and pat dry.  Score the fatty side until meat is just exposed and season liberally with your favorite spice rub (for better results, do this a day ahead and wrap until using).  Place roast on grill over indirect heat and roast.  Add a handful of coals to each pile every 30 minutes while cooking to maintain heat.  Add a small handful of soaked wood chips to each pile of coals every 30 minutes for smoky flavor.  When a meat thermometer inserted into thickest portion of roast (not touching the bone!) reaches 135 degrees, remove from grill and let rest.

While pork is resting, melt remaining 2 tablespoons of butter to skillet on medium low heat, add onions and cook until soft, about 15 minutes.  Add cranberry beans and continue cooking until beans are hot.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Reheat tomato mixture if needed.

Remove bones from roast and separate, then toss with some additional spice rub.  Slice pork into 1/2 inch thick steaks. 

Arrange all items on large platter and serve.  Feeds 4-6 for a main course.


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