What did I hate eating when I was younger? How did you deal with that?

-Fish and Avocados. We just didn’t try to feed you fish and we made guacamole out of avocados. 

 

What did I love eating?

-Quesadillas. Apples and Cheese. Mrs. Fields cookies. And nowadays, if there is one thing you can’t get enough of it is our breakfast potatoes.

Did you cook different things before you were married than after?

-Yes.  I didn’t cook a lot before I was married and when I did, they weren’t time consuming, labor intensive recipes. I didn’t enjoy doing that with nobody to share with. Once I was married, I cooked lots of different things for Mom to try. And later, I cooked simple things, but also challenging things for you and your sisters. One thing I like to make myself is Clams and linguine but I stopped making it when were married until I realized Delaney liked it and she would love using the shells to scoop up the broth and eat it, of course getting it all over her 2 year old self!

 

How has your relationship with food changed over the years?

-It has become more passionate as I have learned more about food and about cooking technique. My travels have been a blessing here because I have been lucky enough to experience many different cultures, cuisines and ingredients.  Because I am in the wine business, I have also had the good fortune to meet and converse with great chefs and writers who are so knowledgeable that they both inspired and helped me to push myself to make things I might not have had the confidence to cook otherwise.

How did you start cooking?what made you want to start? 

-My Grandmother – Nana Michelina, helped to raise my siblings and me. She was a legendary “home cook” as well as an engaging personality and high energy person. She would not abide anyone just sitting around doing nothing so, if I was home just hanging around, then I was put to work in the kitchen.  And I simply adored my grandmother, so spending that time with her was terrific for me and I took a keen interest in learning what she was trying to teach me.

What is your favorite meal to make?

-Homemade Ravioli, with homemade sauces. These illicit wonderful memories with both my grandmother when I was young, but also with you when you were young.  In fact, when you would have sleep overs and mom wasn’t around to do things with, you would request that we make ravioli with your friends. It made me happy to see how proud you were to make it with them, and then deliver the pasta along with several sauces to your friends’ parents when they picked them up.

 

 

What were my table manners like as a kid?

-They were good, you were fastidious, even then. The fact that your younger sister Corinne was great at throwing food all over herself and the kitchen from her high chair made you even more proper as you wanted to show us how “good” you were.

How was your parents? cooking?

My mother is a good cook, however, she always deferred to her mother, Nana Michelina, who enjoyed cooking and feeding people so much that there was never a need for Mom to take control of that during my childhood.  From what I understand, my own daughter’s – you know who you are – consider my mother’s meatballs to be even better than mine!

What did your parents cook?

-My grandmother cooked everything. It didn’t matter what it was, as long as it was homemade. Every Sunday there was a huge pot of homemade tomato sauce, usually with pork or meatballs along with pasta. We would then have the sauce once or twice more during the week. She also made squid, chicken, meat and lots of unusual vegetables and greens (weeds) like burdock and dandelions. My mother stuck to meat and potatoes outside and pasta sauce.

What are your favorite food memories of me growing up?

 -You have a remarkable sense of taste and smell. I had a kit with a hundred different scents for evaluating wine and I was always amazed at how many you could quickly identify. You could do this as well with almost any food in almost any restaurant. You put your finger on whatever “that taste” was that we all recognized, but nobody else could name. I also loved how patient you are in the kitchen. Other kids would start and leave to go do something else, you would want to see a recipe through and finish with me or Mom no matter how old you were. Another of my favorites is that you would bake for your friends’ birthdays or just to have something to bring to school for friends and teachers. 

 

Now that you’re older I get a kick out of one thing. Since I don’t usually use recipes and make things up as I go along, I started writing down the foods that you guys “actually liked.” Now it’s kind of a family cookbook in my own handwriting that has pages torn and worn from the years. One day I pulled that notebook out to look up something for Mom and I saw that you took the liberty of putting a note on the front that said “Property of Michelina!”  That made me smile.

Why did you cook more than (other parent/person)?

-Because I love cooking and I love making things that you and your sisters enjoy. Mom’s a good cook, but it doesn’t excite her to do it.  I don’t like making the same things very often so I had you trying lots of different things. I think I made you guacamole a lot and of course I always try to make you breakfast potatoes. Since your senior year in high school, I have made a lot of halibut especially for you.

 

 

 

Do you regret cooking or feeding me anything?

-Well, there was the time, it is said, that you were promised a new car for eating a certain kind of raw fish… I can’t agree that it’s true, but if it were, ha ha, that would be a regret…

Is there a special food that reminds you of me?

-Ravioli! It’s Italian – like us, it’s something you loved to make and you are named after my grandmother who taught me how to make them so I think of you when I think of Ravioli. The other food is Farro because the first time I actually noticed it was when and I were starving in Rome and found a little outdoor café and they made us that amazing faro salad.

Did you cook for me or for yourself? (Like ?Luxury,? where the mom cooks for
her kids and doesn?t cook her favorite meals anymore)

-Both. I love to make things that are your favorites – I believe I named a rice dish I made up just for you! – but I also cooked things that I liked even though they were a bit too sophisticated for kids, and made sure you tried them. some you liked and some you didn’t but you were seldom afraid to try and I think it helped you to realize that there are a lot of things that are a surprise that you didn’t think you would like.

What foods did you stop cooking once you started a family?

-Oh nothing. Maybe if I had junk food a little when I was single, I wouldn’t do that when I was cooking for you guys because we always tried to have balanced meals. Not health food per se, but definitely a good balance and limited portions of richer foods.

How did you think you?d feed me when I was little, and did that change?

– I never thought much about it. I think I’m always eating so you would always be tasting. I would go to the farmers market on Saturdays and cook different things all day. Some you liked, some you didn’t but I never cooked you “little kid” food. It definitely changed as you got older because you consciously tried to eat really healthy food as opposed to just trying not to eat things that were bad for you. so that was a challenge to come up with things to make with more grains, fresh fruit etc.

How would you rate yourself as a cook?

-Passionate and intense. I know a little bit and I enjoy it a lot.

Did you have any kitchen disasters?

-Just recently, I made these pork “steaks” that I think are amazing. They are slow cooked in homemade BBQ sauce for hours then finished on the girl to add some smoke. I was really excited because I think they are incredible and I knew Corinne would like them – cause she LOVES Barbeque and it was her first trip home freshman year of college. Well, as you may recall, we were all sitting in the kitchen from where we can see the outdoor kitchen we heard a loud bang, almost like a gunshot.  Then I noticed flames coming from the grill, which was closed. When I went to check, there was a full on fire out there! the glass dish I used to bake them is cracked and everything ran down into the burners which created a dangerous situation and a cleanup disaster. Needless to say, Corinne did not get to try these pork steaks on that day.

What do you hope I?ll cook when I have my own family?

-All things Italian and as much as you can that is homemade. And, I hope you’ll cook with me with your family! And definitely, homemade ravioli!

Do you wish you made more of something that you don?t cook very often?

-I cook what comes to me when I think of who is eating or what is in season, so not really. I guess maybe homemade bread which I don’t love cooking since I worked as a baker my freshman year in college and made Jewish rye bread from scratch in an open hearth oven until it was coming out of of my ears. So baking bread lost its appeal even though fresh made bread is a real treat and gives the house this fantastic smell.

If you could have any meal (the ultimate meal) what would it be?

-it would have to start with the freshest egg straight off the farm either scrambled in EVOO with tender, rich calamari (which I’ve had in Spain) or else soft boiled with a dollop of caviar and crème fresh and a touch of cream.  After that simply roasted half lobster tossed with homemade gnocchi, EVOO, garlic and red pepper flakes.  Main course would be a perfectly roasted free range chicken with roasted root vegetables and jus.  For dessert?  Chocolate birthday cake a la Michelina.

Do you enjoy cooking, or do you do it because you have to?

-There is no doubt that I love cooking but that has something to do with loving to eat and the best way to eat things you love are to learn how to cook them. Cooking is also something that I love to do for those I love so if it makes you happy, then I get some “selfish” satisfaction out of that as well. In addition to those I love, cooking means sharing in general so it can be very rewarding socially as well. “Breaking bread” with others is as old as mankind and as basic an interaction as we can have.

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Chocolate in the raw? Vegan soup? Sorbet? Ginger cupcakes!? Yes please! Gourmet Ghetto here I come! These foods are all right up my alley.

 

            This is why I took a food class! Wow the gourmet ghetto was everything I was hoping to get out of Jan Term. I care about the foods I put into my body, which unfortunately makes me a little picky when going out to eat and what not, but this food tour was phenomenal. I could pretty much find something to eat at everyplace, which sometimes can be quite difficult. However, the food mixed with the people in charge made this a wonderful experience. These chefs were so passionate about their food and product it was insane. They had so much knowledge and passion towards what they sell it made the experience much more enjoyable.

            My favorite though had to be the Claudio Corallo Chocolate experience. I have never had the pleasure of tasting a pure cocoa bean before, my goodness it was so pure and full of flavor. You just know it’s in the raw. Most of the other students did not enjoy it very much but I think I fell in love with this chocolate. If they weren’t so expensive I would have bought a few boxes right then and there. When I buy chocolate I can NEVER buy milk chocolate, I do not like it at all. Milk chocolate has no depth of flavor like dark chocolate does. I am a dark chocolate fiend, and I have rarely tasted any chocolate as pure as this before. The flavors just fill your mouth and leave the most exquisite satisfying endorphins filling taste.

            There were a few different chocolates we had the opportunity to taste. Starting with a whole 100% cocoa bean, then 80%, 75%, 73.5% with niblets of the cocoa bean in them, then one mixed with orange zest. Different to most of the other students, my favorites were definitely the ones with the highest chocolate percentage: 100% and 80%. However, the one I found most interesting was the 73.5% mixed with niblets of the cocoa bean. I actually found this one quite enjoyable because even though it lacked in the chocolate percentage, the niblets gave something more to the chocolate. I loved the creamy texture mixed with the crunch, and because it has some of the 100% mixed I think that evened out the lower percentage flavors. I highly recommend trying these chocolates, once you do there’s no way to go back to the plain old store bought processed junk. 

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What ingredients await my own personal cooking challenge? Hearing the ingredients of a few people in front of me make me a little nervous: squid? Shark mixed with marshmallow? This really will be a challenge. I reach into the bag and grab three scraps of paper that have the names of the ingredients I will use to create a dish. Dunh Dunh Dunhhhhh.

Lemons—ok basic ingredient used in many recipes, no problem. Cinnamon – another decent ingredient, I’m now leaning toward a desert dish. Vanilla extract— yep definitely a dessert dish.  Ok these ingredients are so simple can create something easy. As always when I brainstorm a meal or dessert I of course need my Dads input. I give him a call to hear his ideas with what’s best to do with these ingredients. He comes up with apple galettes. Perfect!

Apple galettes—mini flaky dough with a sweet apple filling. I decided to drive home to Sacramento to go visit my family and make the galette’s with my Dad.  First thing, our go to baking book, Baking with Julia by Julia Child. We use her galette dough recipe all the time, usually for a savory galette filling but with my ingredients it calls for a sweet filling. The dough took about 8 minutes, a super easy recipe, then it sits in the fridge for 30 minutes. In the meantime my dad and I peel a couple green apples and Fuji apples, throw them in a pan with some butter. Let those cook for a few minutes then threw in some apple juice, squeezed a fresh lemon over the top, and then added some brown sugar. Then shook some cinnamon over the top mixed that it, and last poured in vanilla extract. The vanilla extract was the ingredient that gave the whole dish more oomph. It made it a little more tangy and sweet, it just brought out all the other flavors in a way that is very pleasant to the palate.

They turned out to be a delectable little bite sized apple cinnamony treats. It has an essence of the apple cinnamon snack I’m sure most, like myself, ate as young children, but with an added sophistication of new flavors mini treats tend to give. The flakiness of the dough mixed with the sweet but sour tangy apple flavor blended into the perfect dessert. The chopped challenge was a success. 

Darkness came and I was hungry. What sounds good? Chow Mein I decide. My “Go-To” specialty when hunger strikes. I Started out cooking as I normally did, boiling the water, chopping the vegetables. Creating my delicious semi Chinese meal that would sure to satisfy my craving.  Little did I know what was coming.

The water was bubbling, showing it had come to a boil and ready for the spaghetti noodles, an Italian spin on Chinese noodles I guess, it was all we had. Anyway, the cooking didn’t start off very well. I burned the zucchini I was cooking on the stove and had to start over. That was frustrating, but I pressed on, threw them out and started over. The next batch came out well so they were set aside.

For some reason that night my family had some company over and I was not happy about that. They were very annoying and noisy, so no wonder I was having a hard time concentrating right?   I decided that after I was finished eating I would  go over to one of my friend’s houses just to get out.  I then began rushing through the rest of the steps. The pasta was done so I brought the hot pot full of water and noodles over to the island sink to pour it into the strainer. Now you think it’s an easy task where there is not even a need to really pay attention, but trust me … Do not get distracted by noisy guests gathering around you!  Otherwise the outcome could be very painful. In mid-sentence, I began pouring the boiling water  and it  proceeded to spill all down my shirt! Ouch ouch ouch! Hello Michelina pour much? What made it worse, I had to act like nothing happened, as if I didn’t just spill searing water on myself burning my skin. So mental note to me: Rule #1 pay attention to what you are doing and then I can avoid the pain. I am left with a pretty good scar on my stomach as a reminder to always pay attention when working with boiling water.  I haven’t made my favorite Chow Mein since.

Recipe:

Olive oil

Zucchini

Onions

Carrots

Celery

Boiling water (with out spilling)

Noodles

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Last Wednesday I received a surprise call from my Dad!  He was in the city and wanted me to join him for dinner. He had been talking about this restaurant in Berkeley for ages. Going on and on about how I would really enjoy it, well we finally got a chance to go together, a father-daughter dinner date! Couldn’t ask for a better date, he knows his food and is always the best company. Every new restaurant experience with him is a great one. He always pushes my limits in discovering  new and interesting foods. This meal was no exception. If I was in a restaurant with anyone else I probably would not have chosen any of the items on the menu we chose that night.

Starting off the meal different from normal.. I order a D’Arbo Elderflower Fruit Soda… my goodness the best, most refreshing drink I think I have ever tasted. Right then I knew the rest of the meal was going to be amazing as well. The waitress brought bread and butter to the table. We asked for a side of olive oil because well I think it tastes much better then butter. Our waitress forgot though for a while.. So we sat there eating the bread forgetting ourselves we ordered olive oil a while ago. By the time the oil got there only the innards of the bread were left, we both love the outside crust I suppose. For the food starters we  order the Halibut Carpaccio with shaved fennel, radishes, and chiervil. Now, I love halibut but the fact it was raw and not sushi made me a little nervous, there was no need however for it was delicious! Especially when bitten with the fennel. We also had the Cannard Farm Rocket with marinated beets, mustard and egg. (I knew he ordered this for me because I love beets).

Our main meals however were not as interesting, but they sure were good. My Dad ordered a Grilled chicke all mattone with fried cardoons, watercress, and marsala sauce. He said he chose this because the fried cardoons reminded him of his child hood growing up with his grandmother cooking those for him and his siblings. Not knowing myself what a fried cardoon was, they were actually pretty good. A cardoon is a weed in the dandelion family, eaten by many Italians…Who Knew? For myself I ordered a Moroccan vegetable tagine with couscous, chickpeas, harissa and chermoula. This dish was so rich and satisfying, delicious flavors from the slow cooking and spices.    The entire meal was huge, but I ate every last bite. I was left with a major food baby, but it was so worth it. Chez Panisse Cafe will be on my list of restaurants I will definitely visit again. This was an amazing meal with an amazing Dad.

It was a beautiful morning in the mission district with delicious food waiting for the group of us in numerous places: an ideal day ahead. My thoughts “What could be better?” well as it turned out I used more sight and smell senses instead of taste. Guess it’s a good thing taste is like 90% smell, because I was able to at least imagine the flavors of the foods I was unable to eat (the dairy and red meat products).  Dietary restrictions are not the business people, especially when watching everyone else enjoying the foods that look so incredibly irresistible. The most painful one to pass up was the grilled cheese at Local Mission Eatery, a quaint little place within the district. This was no ordinary grilled cheese, it had caramelized onions and some other unique flavors to it.  I could just imagine the sweetness of the onions mixed with the flavors of the savory cheeses and the thick bread that was so perfectly golden brown. The look of this dish a long with the smell was enough to make anyone’s mouth water.

Looking.. No.. staring..  at the plate of the mini sandwiches, there were a few left and I was itching to grab one. I restrained myself, but by the “ooooos” and “omg yumm’s” echoing around the room I could tell it tasted as good as it smelled. This visit ended with a hint of jealously toward everyone who enjoyed what seemed to be a delectable snack. The group and I then moved on to the next one, with an excited anticipation.

Growing up in the Friend house my sisters and I have been lucky enough to have a father who is amazing in the kitchen. He doesn’t usually follow a recipe, he sometimes gets ideas from them, but for the most part he just cooks what he feels will work best. (Always tailoring each creation to my Mama, my sisters, and my own preferences of course). So our everyday meals were never just meals, and we never really ate the exact same dish twice. Sunday morning breakfast however, being the exception. With this there have been countless memorable Sunday morning meals with my family.

Every Sunday morning my sisters and I were awoken upstairs by the rising aromas of sizzling bacon, fresh pancakes, and the best breakfast potatoes. My dad’s breakfast potatoes actually triumph over all others. The smell of these potatoes is a part of home. The initial smell is onions sautéed in butter and olive oil. Then other ingredients are added to build up the flavors. You cannot just throw all the ingredients into the pan and expect them to come out right, there is a process and the process must be followed.  Now, I do not know the process perfectly myself, but I do know it works. The final product are potatoes that are like crack, so addicting. I can’s even wait until they are served on a plate to begin eating, I just grab a fork and eat them right out of the pan. The potatoes call to me, the crisp browned outside, moist soft inside, sprinkled with chili powder giving them a beautiful reddish tint enhancing the flavors, mmmmmmm.  The proportion of the bite must be right though. The fork must pick up a potato (the crunchier ones in my opinion are best because the have soaked up the most flavor and give the texture a lil more oomph) and then one of the softened but sweet onions along with one of the small red peppers. Then Voila! The perfect bite of breakfast in the most perfect atmosphere: my Dad’s kitchen with my family.