Zest Dinner Club – “Japan” June 22, 2013

My culinary travel to Japan…


I have loved Japanese food for a very long time and these are some of my favorite dishes. If you can attend I would love to share these courses with you. I may also add some treats along the way if I can!

Starter: Sushi Sampler
Course 1- Uni Carbonara with Sake Sampler
Course 2- Foie Gras Chawanmushi with Sake Sampler
Course 3- Mangalitsa Miso Ramen with Foie
Course 4- Dessert

Menu Items Subject to Change

Buy tickets for Zest Dinner Club – “Japan”

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Mangalitsa Pork Ramen Event by Zest Dinner Club



Location: Palo Alto @ 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. at Mitchell Park 600 E Meadow Dr Palo Alto, CA 94309

Come out on this warm spring day for the first official Zest Dinner Club event.

Price: $16/bowl for Mangalitsa Pork Belly Ramen with 63 degree egg, mushrooms, home-made ramen noodles in a pork miso broth.

We like to keep our casual events simple by having only one flavor of ramen and limited to the first 12 customers served first come-first serve. Payment by credit card using PayPal card reader, or cash (exact amount appreciated).

disclaimer: The payment is for a one-time membership to the Zest Dinner Club and not for food.

Please call 650 996 0487 or email zestdinnerclub@gmail.com with any questions.

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Polenta, 63 Degree Egg, Mangalitsa – Dish In Process

This is one of the dishes for the July 14th dinner in Pacifica and I wanted to share it while I am perfecting the final version. When I thought of this dish for the dinner, I imagined buttery mashed potatoes with butter poached prawns and a 63 degree egg. One night I was cooking and I saw a box of polenta. So I gave this dish a whirl with polenta mixed with marscapone and butter. Topped with a 63 degree egg and some sous vide pork loin you have this very decadent dish. The final dish will have a larger portion of mangalitsa pork belly, the egg, micro greens, and a generous portion of polenta.


Puree of Sunchoke Soup, Radish Shoots, and Baby Mushrooms

Sorry for the long period of neglecting the GourmetDad blog. I have been working so hard in trying to get La Bombilla off the ground that I just didn’t have time. The GourmetDad blog will more active going forward, and if you have time, I would welcome you to look at my La Bombilla Dinner Club blog.

Now to the tasty world of cooking and this comes from the French Laundry cookbook, and the Puree of Sunchoke soup was amazing to eat. For this recipe, I didn’t make the Argula pudding but I can say that we made it at the last La Bombilla event and it was extremely good. For this version I had extra baby mushrooms that I didn’t want to waste so I put them to work with some radish shoots.

Sunchoke Soup – From French Laundry Cookbook (10 servings)

50 grams butter

50 grams thinly sliced onions (Cippolini)

400 grams thinly sliced peeled sunchokes

4 grams sugar

12 grams kosher salt

1 kg chicken stock (vegetable stock for vegetarian )

100 grams heavy cream

½ pound of mushrooms

Radish shoots

Melt the butter in the saucepan

Add onion and sweet until soft

Add sunchokes and then add sugar, salt, and stock

Bring to a simmer and cook until sunchokes are soft and stock reduced in half.

Add cream and bring to a simmer.

Puree soup immediately, or refrigerate.

For the mushrooms

Heat saute pan with olive oil and add mushrooms

Cook until done, and add salt and pepper to taste.

To finish add mushrooms and radish shoots to bowl and then add warmed up soup to the bowl. Serve and enjoy!

My El Bulli Inspiration Using Foie Gras

I was watching an old episode of No Reservations who was visiting El Bulli for the first time and there was one dish in particular that inspired me. This dish looked so good that I had to make it. What dish was it? It was the foie gras powder with consomme that really showed a different way to serve foie gras. Since then, I have wanted to replicate that dish, but along the way I utilized that inspiration to develop my dish.

My version, foie gras served with a mushroom consomme infused with ginger, star anise, and cippolini onions. Served in a bowl with more cippolini onions and small cherry tomatoes slices.

I spent a good amount of time trying to mix foie with tapioca maltodextrin but it never turned out right for me. Instead I switched gears and concentrated on making a very good consomme and fried some foie gras. This was my way to test the flavor combinations. It turned out way better than I could have ever hoped. The slight spiciness of the broth  balanced the richness of the foie. An amazing evening of experimentation.



233 Grams of Shitake Mushrooms

20 Grams of Sliced Ginger

25 Grams of Cippolini Onions

2 Grams of Salt (more or less based on your taste)

1 Star Anise

1000 Grams of Water


Thinly Sliced Cippolini Onions

Thinly Sliced Cherry Tomatoes

Put all of the ingredients into a pot and bring to a boil, reduce heat and let it simmer.

After 20 minutes remove star anise.

When liquid has reduced and the liquid is dark, lower heat and keep warm. Add salt if desired.

On a very hot pan, fry a piece of foie gras until it is brown on both sides. Place in center of bowl with four slices of tomatoes and cippolini onions. Spoon consomme around piece of foie and serve. Enjoy!

Thomas Keller’s Potato Gnocchi – The Kids Cook Monday

I love gnocchi and when I saw this recipe in Thomas Keller’s French Laundry cookbook I wanted to give it a try. The strange thing, it’s incredibly easy to make and it’s a good recipe to let your kids cook with you. Here is the list of ingredients you will need, and it’s important to note that all of these ingredients are common pantry staples.

French Laundry Potato Gnocchi: ( by Keller, Ruhlman and Heller Publisher: Artisan)
2 pounds of russet potatoes
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 all-purpose flour (I used slightly less)
3 large egg yolks (bring to room temperature)
2 tablespoons kosher salt
The first step is to bake the potatoes at 350 degrees for an hour or until done. If you are able to poke holes into the potato with ease they are ready. Let them cool slightly, and scoop out the potato from the peel and you will then press them through a tamis or a potato mill. The former being a cheaper kitchen accessory.
Mound the milled potatoes into a mound, and place 1/2 of the flour into the mound then the eggs, followed by the remaining flour. Chop up the potatoes, eggs, and flour with a dough scraper. Do it quick, 15 to 30 seconds, because if you overwork the dough it will become very dense. Gather some of the mixture and roll it lightly on a floured surface to make a log. You will then cut small pieces off the log to make your gnocchi!! This is a good place to have your toddler practice some knife skills.
Once you get your little army in-line, you can also have your child place little indention marks on the gnocchi. To cook, place them in boiling salted water until they float and use a slotted spoon to take the gnocchi out of the water and dry them on a paper towel. You can then eat them or they refrigerate well.
I am still shocked at the simplicity of this recipe, but this shows you why Thomas Keller is so amazing. He wants the food to taste good and refined, not necessarily to complicate it.
Our first dish with them was cooking bacon with some collard green and tossing them with the gnocchi.
Our second use of the gnocchi was a sous-vided rump roast with sausage, mushrooms, and gnocchi. My daughter ate four servings.

Where Has Gourmet Dad Been?

I am so sorry for being so remiss and unable to write anything about my cooking. There has been many days of cooking with Alessandra, but I have also been dreaming of the ultimate cooking experience. Before I mention my dream, I will say that Alessandra and I have been cooking away and she recently took on a Ferran Adria recipe with grand style. It’s from the book “The Family Meal” and it’s a great book for any family. I will write on that for tomorrow’s The Kids Cook Monday.

Now, I want to explain my dream. For the longest time I have always wanted to cook for people on a regular basis. If I had the money, I would probably cook every Saturday for 20 people, but I just cannot afford to do it. That’s when the “light bulb” came on, and the realization of having an underground restaurant would be perfect. Now, this isn’t to make a ton of money but it will help supplement each meal. We have called it, La Bombilla. In Spanish that means the light bulb. The goal is have many courses, treat each course with equal importance, and use local and organic ingredients to provide a great dinner experience at an affordable price.

Our first dinner will be December 3. You can see the sister blog at La Bombilla

I hope you take a look at the menu and hopefully I can have the ultimate honor of serving you dinner.


The Kids Cook Monday – “Going Old World”

If you listen to most chefs, they got started in the kitchen at a very early age, and normally in old world kitchens. That got me to thinking that tried and true methods of cooking are a great way for a child to play an active role in the kitchen.

The mortar and pestle!!  Wanting to keep it easy and simple the first time, we did pesto. I saw Michael Symon doing this on Iron Chef America and the results of the pesto were thicker and more fresh. Using the same ingredients as regular pesto, you simply replace the food processor or blender for the mortar and pestle. I found that working in small batches and tearing up the basil first made it a little easier for my child. Now you just let your child smash-up the pine nuts and basil, as you add the olive oil little by little. It’s done when you get a consistency that is appealing to you. Add a little garlic, salt and pepper, and finish with cheese.

Your child will be the main participant and you will get a great sauce for pesto or bread.




  • 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino cheese or favorite type of cheese such as Parmesan Reggiano. I prefer Pecorino because of the subtle but noticeable saltiness of the cheese.

The Kids Cook Monday September 5, 2011 Tomato Tartare “Alessandra Takes On The French Laundry Cookbook”

After three months of no cooking, Alessandra and I are finally back in the kitchen together. At the beginning of the summer I ruptured my achiles tendon, requiring me to get surgery and be non-weight bearing for two months and with limited mobility for the remaining time. I am happy to report that this painful chapter is coming to a close and time to get back and do some fun activities in the kitchen.

The first recipe that we did was a tomato tartare and after looking through many recipes, we found one in the French Laundry cookbook. Strangely enough, this version was the most approachable, and the results were amazing. Salad of Haricots Verts, Tomato Tartare, and Chive oil on pg 64. I am not going to copy the recipe since it’s from a published book, but there are quite a few recipes that many people can do from this book.

The first step is place the x marked tomatoes in hot boiling water until the skin loosens up and place the tomatoes in an ice bath. After I peeled the tomatoes, seeded and cut them, Alessandra then got them ready for the oven. She placed a sprig of thyme on each tomato, sprinkled some salt and pepper, and then drizzled some olive oil onto the tomatoes. After baking at 250 degrees for 1:45 minutes we pulled them out of the oven and let them cool in the refrigerator drizzled with the oil from the pan. Discard the thyme sprigs.

The next step is to blanch green beans in a big boiling pot of water that has been heavily salted. Cook the beans until done and the color of the beans turn a vibrant green. Quickly place the beans in a bowl of ice water. We can now make the cream vinegar sauce and coat the green beans until needed. Finely chop the tomatoes into a very fine dice, and add balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, shallots or green onions, and chives.

Now we are ready to plate. Alessandra did one of the plates all by herself with just words of advice. She scooped out the tomato tartare into a ring mold and made it nice and even. Afterwards she grabbed some of the green beans from the sauce and placed them on the tartare, and then covered it with a small handful of arugula. The recipe asks for frisee, but I went with arugula for personal taste reasons. The result was superb and a great way to use summer tomatoes. For time sake we didn’t do the tomato powder or the chive oil but next time we will. It was so good I will want this for myself many times over before the heat of the summer is gone. Alessandra loved the cream and vinegar sauce, and I must say I could use it as a winning salad dressing in its own right.

I just loved how Alessandra wanted to get back into the kitchen with me and I cannot wait to share more time with her in the near future. Thank you sweetie for making our first cooking adventure in a 1/4 year a success.

Here is the closeup view of the tartare.

The Kids Cook Monday – Monday June 27, 2011 – “Mangalitsa Lomo”

I apologize for the long delay in writing for The Kids Cook Monday. A rather eventful couple of months, but hopefully things will calm down soon.  I am happy to report that our attempt to cure mangalitsa loin was very successful. In my prior post I talked about how Alessandra and I made Guanciale, and we also wanted to make lomo, or cured pork loin. The result was amazing and it is surprisingly easy and quite easy for Alessandra to help out.

She was able to coat the meat with the cure using plastic gloves and there is very little that can go wrong. As long as the meat is evenly covered this is a stress free step of the curing process, but it really allowed her involvement. We repeated after 7 days for the remaining cure. For a curing chamber, I used our wine refrigerator and kept a bowl of heavily salted water in the bottom to create the humidity and I fanned fresh air into the refrigerator twice a day.

After the two stages of curing, I rinsed off the meat and patted them dry. Now it’s time to hang the lomo to air dry for 45-60 days. I tied each section up like a roast, weighed and took notes of each section, and then hung them to dry. The rule of thumb is to allow the meat to dry out, losing a 1/3 of its weight. In the end you get a perfectly colored slice of cured meat that is great for lunch or cheese and crackers. This wasn’t really something that Alessandra likes at this time, but she had fun looking at the meat through the window. Now we just got to get back into our routine of cooking together. I miss her in the kitchen!!

Below is the recipe that I used to cure the loin, and I must say the cure smells so good.

Lomo (Cured Pork Loin)
Chef Justin Everett of El Dorado Kitchen—Sonoma, CA
Adapted by StarChefs.com
July 2009
5 pounds pork loin
60 grams turbinado sugar
9 grams pink salt
9 grams toasted Tellicherry black peppercorns
9 grams toasted fennel seeds
9 grams toasted coriander
45 grams Kosher salt
7 grams sweet paprika
3 cloves chopped garlic
3 grams thyme leaves
3 grams cayenne pepper
White vinegar

Mix sugar, salt, peppercorns, fennel seeds, coriander, salt, paprika, garlic, thyme, cayenne, and coat evenly all sides of the pork loin, reserving a third of the spice mixture for a second cure. Place pork loin in a non reactive container and refrigerate for 7 days. After 7 days, apply the reserved spice mixture and refrigerate for 7 more days. Rinse the pork loin and tie with butcher twine. Store hanging at 60°F at 70% humidity for approximately 45 days. Meat should not have developed mold, but should be firm to the touch and smell sweet. Remove from storage and wipe the surface of the loin with a lint- free cloth dipped in white vinegar. Place in sealed container and store for up to two weeks in the refrigerator.