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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Looking for a healthy alternative to burgers for this 4th of July?

Try ground Bison (otherwise known to some as buffalo)! This meat is leaner, more flavorful and juicier than ground beef.

My friends and I recently tried out a couple of different toppings on simple grilled (on a non-stick grill pan) burgers. To make them even healthier I went with a “slider” style mini burger. Making sure that the burgers where more portion control friendly.

The first was a play on the traditional burger~ Bison Burger Topped with Dill Pickle Slices, Ketchup, Dijon Mustard, Mayonnaise, Shredded Oxcan and Cheddar Cheese Blend, and Quick Pickled Grilled Red Onions.

The second burger with a healthy option~ Bison Burger Topped with Arugula, Avocado and Quick Pickled Grilled Red Onions.

The final burger was made to really showcase the meat and it’s full flavor~ Bison Burger Topped with BBQ Sauce.

To be honest we loved them all. There was no clear winner. The burgers where all a hit! So whatever you want to top your Bison burger with feel content in knowing that you are eating healthy.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Grilled Stone Fruit Sundae~ From Alchemy of the Hearth "Whats Local and Fresh Cooking Class

With all of the great stone fruits in season right now I though I would share with you a recipe from my recent cooking class (at Alchemy of the Hearth in San Marcos). This is a super simple way to make use of the summers bounties.

Grilled Stone Fruit Sunday

Serves 4

4 Stone fruits (peaches, plums, nectarines, etc.) cut in half and pit removed
3 tbsp Unsalted butter, melted
4 tbsp Vanilla sugar*
½ pint Vanilla ice cream
1/3 cup Toasted almonds

Pour melted butter over the cut side of the fruit.
Dip fruit into sugar.
Place fruits cut side down onto a non-stick grill pan or a non-stick pan. Cooking for 2 to 3 minute (or until golden brown grill marks develop), then turn fruit 90 degrees and cook an additional 2 o 3 minutes to create a perfect cross hatch pattern.
To serve place fruit onto a plate. Top with ice cream and toasted almonds.

*To make vanilla sugar- cut 1 vanilla bean in half and scrape out seeds. Place seeds and vanilla beans into an air tight container along with 2 cups sugar. Seal container and store for at least 2 days before using.
If you are unable to make vanilla sugar, place 1 tablespoons vanilla into melted butter.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The ingredient of the week ~~Cherries~~

The ingredient of the week is Cherries!! The tasty treat used in everything from pies to savory sauce for venison and steaks.

Cherries are said to have been around since the time of the Ancient Greeks.

There are two main groups of cherries; the sweet. Firm, heart-shaped sweet cherries can range in color from dark red to purplish black (as seen in the picture). They're delicious for eating out of hand and can also be cooked. One of example of this cherry is the “Bing”, it is my favorite cherry. With its sweet, slightly tart flavor (and when perfectly ripe) dripping with juice. Then there is the “Rainier” cherries, across between the “Bing” and “Van” cherries. “Rainiers” are sweet cherries with creamy-yellow flesh (the other cherry shown in the picture).I find that these cherries tend to look better than they taste, but can add a great mild cherry flavor to salads, salsas and sauces.

While the sour are smaller, softer and more globular than the sweet varieties. Most are too tart to eat raw, but make excellent pies, preserves. Although I prefer to blend both the sweet and the tart when I cook; finding that you end up with a better balance of sweet and tart flavor in your final product.

Another way to do this is to mix sweet cherries with tart strawberries, blueberries or black berries.

Most fresh cherries are available from May (June for sour cherries) through August. Choose brightly colored, shiny, plump fruit. Sweet cherries should be quite firm, but not hard; sour varieties should be medium-firm. Stemmed cherries are a better buy, but those with stems last longer.

Store unwashed cherries in a plastic bag, with a folded sheet of paper towel (to wick away excess moister), in the refrigerator.

Ingredient of The Week~~Fresh Masa~~Masa is a Spanish word meaning "dough".

Masa traditionally made from a field corn, called maiz blanco or "cacahuazintle" [kaw-kaw-WAH-SEEN-til] which was dried (it can be both sun dried and fire dried), treated with a lime water solution or lye, then cooked and finely ground. The final product can be mixed with other ingredients to make tortilla or tamales. Masa can be purchased fresh or dried (dried finely ground masa that is turned into a flour id referred to as Masa Harina).

There are many tortillarias in San Diego and in the east county that carry fresh masa (as well as fresh masa premixed for making tamales).

Although dried masa can easily be used in its place the results can be a world apart. Dried masa can easily go rancid and develop off flavors. That is not to say that fresh masa does not have its flaws as well. You want to make sure you use your fresh masa the day you use it, as it can sour over time; or you can freeze (but then that kind of defeats the point of using something fresh)

Here is my recipe for homemade tamales, using fresh masa.

Mini Tamales

Serves 6 to 9

1/3 cup Lard, shorting, unsalted butter or bacon fat

1/8 tsp Sugar

1/8 tsp Salt (omit if using bacon fat)

¼ tsp Baking powder

1 cup Fresh masa

¼ cup Chicken broth, warm

Beat lard, sugar, salt and baking powder using an electric mixer at medium speed until combined, till light and fluffy.

Divide masa into 4 equal portions and add 1 portion at a time into the lard. Beat till fully incorporated before adding the next portion. Continue till all the masa in incorporated.

Slowly add broth to the masa. Beat until dough is a smooth


2 dozen Dried corn husks, cleaned of debris

Soaked husks in warm water until pliable (about 20minutes.) Then pat dry with towels. Rip 2 or 3 husks length wise into thin strips. These will be used to tie tamales shut. You can also use butchers twine.

Scoop masa into a large plastic bag, push into one corner of the bag and cut off the tip.

Squeeze masa onto the husk, pressing the bag against the husk, in 3 or 4 strips. Add about 1/2 tsp of your chosen filling. Fold one edge of corn husk to the center and pull into filling (like making sushi roll). Then roll filling over its self. Repeat with remaining corn husks, masa and filling.

Cook tamales in a tamale steamer or in a pot with a steamer insert.

Steam tamales for about 35 to 40 minutes. They are done when the masa no longer sticks to the corn husks when tamales are unrolled.

Friday, June 11, 2010

San Diego Zoo Does a Farm to Table Dinner...Guess The Lions and Tigers and Bears Are Happy They're in The Zoo!

The San Diego Zoo is dedicating an evening to local food--and there are still seats left at this amazing dinner! On Saturday, June 12 at 6 pm, Albert's Restaurant at the Zoo will be serving a five-course meal featuring local and artisanal products including Carlsbad mussels, local halibut, Knight Salumi sausage, and produce from Sage Mountain Farms and Smit Orchards. Learn more at the San Diego Zoo website (, or check out the flier on Slow Foods Urban San Diego's facebook page!

The cost is $69 per person plus tax and gratuity. To make reservations, call 619-557-3964 and ask for Farm to Table reservations.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Tour the Vista Farmers Market with Chef Jenn

I will like to invite you all to my first foray into farmers markets. This Saturday from 8 am to 12 pm I will be at the Vista Farmers Market (located at in the parking lot f the Vista Court House off of Melrose).

Vista Farmers Market

Saturday: 8 am - Noon

County Courthouse 325 S. Melrose Drive, Vista

(just South of Highway 78), Vista, California 92081

Phone: (760) 945-7425



My plan is to offer four 20 minute tours of the market for $5 (where we will chat and sample from different farmers) and short cooking demonstrations.

Would love to see all of my students and friends there; for a bit of moral support (and some nice people to talk to).

Thank you very much.

Chef Jenn

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

End of Year Letter to Students

Dear All Students,

With the school year ending, you will not able to find me at Mission Hills High School every week. But I promise that I will around. As of right now I have started scheduling classes at Alchemy of the Hearth in San Marcos. My first class will be on June 24 at 6 pm (Explore What’s Fresh and Local- a seasonal cooking class focusing on local ingredients) and I will soon have classes there throughout July and August.

My plans for the summer are to finally get my cook book together! It will take a village to raise this cookbook; I will need your help with testing and reading recipes. That is not to say that I will not be teaching, I will be available for private and small group cooking classes. I am looking into using the kitchen at Alchemy of the Hearth for private group classes. As well as private “Cooking Up Seduction” events with my friend Dr. Jenn.

With my web site under construction (it has been a long time but I hope to have up and running by the end of July) keeping students updated is a little more difficult and I would like to keep you all up to date. I will continuously be updating my blog ( with upcoming classes and other fun stuff I am doing. Otherwise please contact me, as I need to update my mailing list and keep students informed of upcoming classes.
There have been a lot f questions regarding classes for next school year, and as of right now I do not have an answer. I hope to have an answer soon and if I have your contact information I will let you know what the next school years class schedule will be.
I have enjoyed having every single one of you in my various classes and look forward to seeing you all in classes again.

Chef Jenn

World Cup Soccer at The Linkery and a New Addition to There Family

The Linkery will be open at 6:55am on most game days for this years (soccer) World Cup, including for Friday's tilt between Mexico and South Africa. Every day, we'll also be featuring sausages from two countries in action -- on Friday we'll have boerewors and longaniza. Saturday is a *huge* game between the USA and England at11:30am -- and also, banger v. American Farmhouse.

For a complete opening schedule go to

Also the Linkery is celebrating the opening of a new addition to there family! Here is a letter they sent out, inviting you to reserve a table for there "preview dinner".

The second big event for us this week is the rolling out of our new gastro-cantina, El Take It Easy, at 3926 30th Street (about 200 yards north of the Linkery). Max has developed a very innovative, compelling
small-plates menu using the world-class farm-to-table ingredients we pride ourselves on, and Steph and Bobby have assembled a drinks menu that excellently pairs the food and ambience. I think you will find that there is nothing else like El Take It Easy in San Diego, and we hope you will enjoy the breadth it adds to our City's dining scene.

It means a lot to us that you, who have sustained the Linkery for all these years, should have the opportunity to enjoy and experience this new venue before we open it to the general public. For that reason we are beginning with a five-day "preview" period, Thursday through Monday. During this time, we are seating by reservation only, and are only publicizing it by this email, and through our Facebook and Twitter accounts.

While many of you have already made reservations, we still have about half of our bookings available for these nights. If you would like to reserve one of the available tables, please email me ( with the subject line "preview dinner". I'd particularly recommend Thursday, while space is available, as our friends from So Say We All intend tochristen the place with toasts they have composed for the occasion, which I expect will be quite entertaining.

Starting next week (on the 16th), we will seat on a walk-in basis; on Thursday the 17th we will host the opening of an excellent art installation by Tijuana painter Enrique Ciapara; and on June 30th we will celebrate 30th on 30th with a proper Grand Opening party for El Take It Easy. Some time by then we'll even put a proper website up.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Summer Classes at Alchemy of The Heart~ Menus

I am putting together menus for my summer classes at Alchemy of The Heart (a small local hands on cooking school). My classes are all about what is fresh and local in the San Marcos, Vista, and all around San Diego areas. Please take a look and let me know if there are any great local places that I might have misses.

Exploring what’s local and fresh

Tamales (masa from San Marcos tortillaria and beer from local brewery)

• BBQ Pulled Pork or Braised Pork Tamales with Tomatillo Salas and Red Chili Sauce

• Spinach, Orange Jicama Salad with Chipotle Orange Dressing

• Pinto Beans with Stone Brewery Beer

• Grilled Stone Fruit Sunday

Grilled Local Fish stuffed with lemon verbena and fresh herb salad (Fish from Catalina offshore and herb salad from local farms like La Milpa Organica)

• Whole Local Fish Stuffed and Grilled with Lemon Verbena and a Citrus Buerre Blanc

• Fresh Herbs Mixed with Local Salad Greens

• Summer Squash, Zucchini, and Tomato Gratin with a Panko Bread Crumb Crust

• Rustic Blueberry Tart with Caramel Sauce

Sausage, Pepper and Onion Sandwich (home-made Sausages from T and H meats and bread from local baker)

• Spicy Italian Sausage Grilled and Serve with Sautéed Onions and Peppers, Served on Crispy Artisanal Bread

• Fresh Ricotta Cheese

• Fresh Ricotta, Heirloom Tomato, and Corn Salad with Pesto Dressing

• The Perfect Cheese Plate

• Summer Berries Parfait with a sampling of local chocolates (berries from local farms and chocolates from Eclipse and other local chocolatier)

If you are interested in my first class (Tamales) "Exploring What is Fresh and Local" ~June 24 from 6 to 9 pm~ $ 50 at Alchemy of the Hearth

To register online go to

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Ingredient Of The Week ~Lemon Verbena~

Ingredient Of The Week ~Lemon Verbena~

This wonderful lemon scented herb is a great addition to any garden and a great addition to your culinary repertoire. Not only does it add a beautiful color to your garden, with its bright green leaves and it’s petite white and purple flowers. It is also useful in everything from teas and cocktails to fruit salads and cheesecakes.

This herb can be chopped fine and used as a substitute for lemon or lime zest in any recipes.

It also beautifully flavors oils (this can be done several ways but I love to puree the leaves with oil and then strain through a sieve, releasing both the amazing flavor and a beautiful green color). Use this oil to drizzle over grilled fish, to decorate plates, or make wonderful salad dressings.

Lemon verbena is not just for savory foods, it can be used to satisfy your sweet tooth too. Use it to infuse its flavor into sugar (by placing ¼ cup leaves in a 16 ounce mason jar full of sugar; cover and allow to permeate for 2 weeks). That can be used for anything from sugar cookies to riming cocktail classes. Other sweet to eat uses range from custards to cheesecakes.

For a great lemon verbena cocktail recipe, using lemon verbena infused vodka, go to . I am going to try infusing my own vodka with lemon verbena shortly, pictures and story will be posted at sometime sooner than later.

This versatile and wonderful plant can be a little hard to find, sometimes vendors at your local farmers markets will carry them. I purchased mine at my favorite local garden shop, Cedros Gardens in Solana Beach (

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Learning to Cook with Chef Jenn

Recently a student in my San Marcos (11 week) ROP class entered an essay contest and I loved the kind words that she wrote about the cooking class so much that I wanted to share it with the world.

It warms my heart to know that my classes not only teach students; but gives them inspirations and drive to better themselves.

As a teacher, I do what I do because I love what I do. Knowing that what I do helps other is just a bonus. An amazing bonus, which brings me the greatest joy!

Learning to Cook with Chef Jenn
by Beverly A.

My first and only formal cooking experience started with the San Marcos ROP Culinary Arts class. Wow! I was hooked after the first week. Chef Jenn’s culinary class is extraordinary and full of cooking challenges, yet such a confidence builder! Each week I learn about exotic cuisines, unique foods and where to shop for the freshest vegetables, meats and fruit. These lifetime skills are taught by a world-class professional chef in a state of the art, fully equipped kitchen. How great is that? In addition, my weekly class is introduced to new kitchen aids and fabulous full course menus. At the same time, we work together in small groups, learning to prepare and cook meals while learning team-building skills.

As an elementary teacher and tutor, I think cooking is a fun way to enhance children’s reading and math skills. Now I can add to lessons by demonstrating ounces, gallons, and liters with measuring cups and even ordinary kitchen tools. This cooking class also showed me how everyone learns uniquely. I’m the learner who understands a concept better when there is a “hands–on” demonstration, not only reading from a book. Just like a lot of the kids I teach!

I’ve also found its more rewarding and enjoyable learning about cooking by doing with others in a classroom setting. I enjoy the aroma of bacon cooking (or burning if I’ve become distracted), the sound of chicken pieces crisping with olive oil in a sauté pan or watching whipping crème in the mixer finally turn into nice white, soft peaks. Nothing compares to the self-satisfaction of successfully completing the weekly meals and finally tasting the rewarding, but hard-earned team prepared meal!

Since the class is reasonably priced (which is why I never considered cooking classes in the past) I now have the skills to consider yet another career. With today’s job market in such a fluctuating state, it’s a good feeling to know I have added valuable skills to my resume.

My dream job would be to work for a business that teaches children to cook and have fun experimenting in the kitchen. I would like to introduce students to unique and healthy cuisines, showing them how many foods are surprisingly tasty, good for you and fun to learn about. This class opened up such horizons for me that I don’t think I’m even aware of all the possibilities. I do know that once a week I get the chance to put aside all the worries and weekly stress and play like a kid again. Thanks for such an incredible lifetime opportunity!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Memorial Day Feasting on Surf and Turf

Memorial Day Feasting on Surf and Turf

By the Memorial Day I had already done the burger thing, the hot dog thing, even the soul food thing. Such a beautiful day called for something special…..

Kumamoto ( a petite oyster with a creamy briney flavor) Oysters on the  Half Shell with Lemon Zest Infused Cocktail Sauce as well as Fresh Squeezed Blood Orange Juice

 Kobe Beef Steaks topped with Sautéed Shitake and Oyster Mushrooms with a splash of Cognac, Grilled Lemon and Blood Orange Marinated Mexican Shrimp (so large and so meaty they almost reminded me of grilled Mexican lobsters) , Roasted Corn on the Cob (done the classic way with a ton of Fleur De Sel, fresh black pepper and loads of butter), and a simple Mixed Herb Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette.

That day was a good day!!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Soltan Banoo~ Restraunt Review (it rhymes!)

When you work with a vegetarian you often find yourself with an interesting challenge; finding places where the menu satisfies you both!

American cuisine tends to be meat centric so when dining with people whose diets differ (vegan, vegetarian, and so many more) from mine, I think the best bet is to try ethnic restaurants as they often offer a variety of selections which appeal to varying tastes and diets.

Soltan Banoo, a charming Persian restaurant in the University Heights area, was my choice for a recent business luncheon. The restaurant has a cozy, inviting atmosphere and offers numerous vegetarian and vegan options on its exotic menu.

Our meal began with the Pomegranate Soup (a hearty lentil style soup with beans, wheat, spinach, and herbs cooked with pomegranate juice, served with pita bread). This wonderful medley of legumes made the soup familiar while the use of pomegranates added a wonderful flavor that was both slightly sweet while being very savory.

Following our soup appetizer, we tried their Potato Pancakes with quinoa and served with a yogurt dipping sauce.

I found the pancakes, though nice and crispy on the outside, lacked a bit of flavor. Luckily their great texture and “light as air” taste were well complimented by the wonderful dipping sauce.

As an entree I had the Koubideh Kabob (seasoned ground beef, marinated with Persian spices, wrapped around skewers and grilled on open-flame) served with Basmati rice. This too was not as flavorful as I would have liked but had great texture and with a little sprinkling of Sumac they turned out very nice.

The restaurant scored highly with my vegetarian friend as she ordered the Veggie Kabob (marinated tofu, mushrooms & veggies) served with brown rice and Shirazi Salad. With a large portion size and full of flavor, she was extremely satisfied.

My vegetarian friend loved the food. She and I both noted that the restaurant had numerous vegetarian and vegan options on the menu. She loved all the vegetarian options on the menu.

I am hoping they just had a bad day when it came to the seasoning on a few dishes, because with such an amazing atmosphere and selection, I’m very eager to go back and try a few of the daily specials.

P.S. Here is a coupon for your visit


A note from a recipes

Hi Jenn,

I tripled your fried vegetable dumplings recipe for hors d'oevuers to serve 12 and cooked them 2 hrs. ahead of our guests' arrival as you advised. Not a dumpling was left. I have cooked them for family to be eaten immediately and they were even better that way. I tripled the spicy sweet and sour garlic shrimp for the entree and stir fried it while our guest were here. They loved it. We also followed your advice to have fun so, as I feared,we forgot to take pictures.

Thanks again,

Well if Pam likes I think you will to; here is the recipes for my vegeteble dumplings.
Fried Vegetable Dumplings
Serves 4 to 6

1 cup Spinach
½ cup Napa Cabbage, finely sliced
1 tsp Ginger, minced
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 tbsp Vegetable oil
1 tbsp Sesame oil
¼ cup Carrots, peeled and small dice
2 tbsp Celery, diced small
2 tbsp Soy sauce
2 tbsp Hoisin sauce
1 tbsp Water chestnuts, finely chopped
1 tbsp Rice vinegar
2 Green onion, finely chopped
1 Egg
12-16 Wonton wrappers
2 cup Vegetable oil

Preeat oil to 350º.
In a sauté pan heat vegetable oil and sesame oil over medium heat, add spinach, cabbage, ginger, and garlic.
Cook till spinach is lightly wilted and garlic is fragrant; add carrots and celery, lightly cook carrots and celery.
Remove spinach mixture from heat, place in a bowl and add soy sauce, Hoisin sauce, water chestnuts, rice vinegar and green onions. Allow to cool completely before stuffing wontons.
Strain spinach liquid into a bowl and add egg, whisk to combine.
Place 1 heaping teaspoon of filling into wonton wrapper. To seal line the edges of the wonton with egg mixture, then press edges together to seal.
Fry until golden brown and serve with dipping sauce.

Dipping Sauce

6 tbsp Sweet chili sauce
2 tbsp Rice vinegar

In a bowl stir together rice vinegar and sweet chili sauce.