Asian Pear and Chicory Salad

Asian pears have a light, crispy texture and are VERY jucy

A light, crispy texture and VERY juicy

     Whenever I see an Asian pear, I’m transported back to my youth and the pear farms near my family’s home in southern Placer County.  Rocklin, California, to be precise.  We were fortunate to have many Japanese friends, who brought Asian pears to the area, and who had plenty of harvest to share with us.

     Eaten out-of-hand, the Asian pear’s unmistakable crunch is quickly followed by the burst of sweet juices so abundant they run down your chin if you aren’t quick enough to catch them all.  Common Asian pears are typically round and a bit squat.  The skin can range from pale yellow, to light green to russet.

     There are several varieties, made more prolific now they have become more popular.  Commonly found varieties include “Hosui”, “Kosui” and “Shinko”.  As with different apple varieties, each Asian pear type has unique properties:  sweet, tart, light and crisp, dense, etc.

     Now I’m a city gal, so I depend on my favorite farmers at the market for my supply of Asian pears.  If this scrumptious fruit is new to you, I highly recommend you seek them out!  Your local farmers market is an ideal place to try them, as farmers will be sampling a wide range of available varieties for you to taste.

     Asian pears are best eaten fresh.  They are light and crisp, more like an apple, but with a distinctive pear taste.   Do not let them ripen to the point they become soft, as  you might enjoy a Bartlett pear.  If an Asian pear becomes soft, it is well past its peak.

     The fancy chicories I’ve pictured here are most likely only found at a farmers market.  You might find more common varieties such as Belgian endive or radicchio at well-stocked produce aisles.  It’s all good!

Fancy chicories at the Grand Lake Farmers Market

Fancy chicories at the Grand Lake Farmers Market

     The accompanying salad dressing recipe is in frequent rotation at our house lately.  Its lemon-y, honey brightness is perfect with salad greens that tend toward slightly bitter.  The freshly grated ginger adds a warming note, very timely for an autumn salad.

     By all means, take this idea and make it your own!  Possibilities for substitutions are nearly unlimited:  kale, spinach or dandelion greens would be delicious in any combination; other types of pears, apples or crunchy Fuyu persimmons are a likely substitution for the Asian pears.  Additions might include avocado and even roasted winter squash.  Fancy it up with pomegranate seeds.  Oh my!


Asian Pear and Chicory Salad

For the Dressing:

  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, mild flavored
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated ginger, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/ 4 cup shallot, thinly sliced or minced

Combine lemon juice, ginger, honey, salt and pepper in a small bowl.  Whisk in the olive oil until combined.  Add the shallots and stir to ensure they are well covered with the dressing.  Set aside at least 15-20 minutes until the shallots soften a bit.

For the Salad:

  • 4-5 cups chicory leaves, torn into large, bite-sized pieces
  • 2 Asian pears, sliced into 1/ 4-inch wedges
  • 1/ 2 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted

Combine the chicory and Asian pears in a large salad bowl.  Add in the dressing and toss to evenly coat the chicory and Asian pears.  Sprinkle on the toasted, sliced almonds and enjoy!

Asian pears grown at Inzana Ranch

Asian pears grown at Inzana Ranch

Miso Chicken Overhead 2

Miso Marinated Chicken

DJQ Cropped 20160804   A recent trip to Hawaii is the inspiration for this chicken recipe.  Within a short week’s time, I enjoyed several variations of the wildly popular misoyaki butterfish, made famous by chef Nobu Matsuhisa.  Small wonder this dish is so popular.  It.  Is. THAT.  Good!

   Misoyaki butterfish is typically prepared with Black Cod, also called butterfish owing to its creamy texture.  One might certainly substitute another fish for the Black Cod, but using chicken may bring wider appeal for its familiarity (read:  acceptance to new flavors for a familiar food) and accessibility (read:  much easier on your shopping budget).

   The instructions for misoyaki call for marinating the fish for several days, two to four.  I suppose one could marinate chicken for as long, but I’m more comfortable with an overnight or up to 48 hour marinade, unless your chicken is so fresh it has the echo of a cluck when putting it in its salty-sweet immersion.  And your refrigerator is very, very cold.

   If the Japanese wines, mirin (typically used for cooking) and sake (typically used for beverage), are new to you; do not fear.  They are both readily available in most well-stocked Bay Area markets.  Extra bonus points if you select sake and mirin made right here in Berkeley, CA at Takara Sake.  I enjoy several of their offerings, and used Sho Chiku Bai Nama Sake Organic for my recipe.

   If you haven’t been to the Takara Sake tasting room, I highly recommend checking it out.  Once inside you will feel transported to Japan, and into a serene environment with very knowledgeable staff to take you through varying flights of sake, from clean and dry to highly sweet.  Their museum and educational displays on sake history and production are very well done.

   I also highly recommend trying your hand at preparing this dish with Black Cod sometime.  The marinade is the same (although my version includes far less sugar, and cooking method and time differ).  The link for my original source is below.  You can watch Chef Nobu prepare it here.  And if you’re more into the details, here’s an interesting article on preparing the recipe from the folks at The Food Lab/Serious Eats.

Miso Chicken & Vegs

Miso Marinated Chicken

Adapted from Nobu:  The Cookbook/via


  • 6-8 chicken thighs, boneless skinless (substitute chicken breast if you must)
  • 1/ 4 cup mirin (substitute dry sherry, sweet marsala, dry white wine)
  • 1/ 4 cup sake
  • 1/ 2 cup white miso paste
  • 1 tablespoon sugar


  1. Bring the mirin and sake to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Let the wines boil for about 20 seconds to burn off the alcohol.  Reduce the heat to low and stir in the miso until it dissolves.  Increase the heat to medium-high and add the sugar, stirring until it dissolves.  Remove the pan from the heat and let cool to room temperature.  This yields about 1/ 2 cup of marinade.
  2. Place the chicken in a large bowl (suggest glass or stainless steel). Add the cooled marinade and mix well to ensure the chicken pieces are evenly coated with marinade.  Cover and store in the coldest part of your refrigerator overnight, up to two days.
  3. When ready to cook, preheat BBQ or grill pan. Grill over medium, indirect, heat (not over open flame) for 5 minutes, then flip the pieces over and grill for 5 minutes on the other side.  Turn the chicken pieces over onto the first side cooked and grill an additional 5 minutes.  Turn the chicken one last time if needed to complete cooking.  Total cooking time, about 15 – 20 minutes, will depend on the thickness of the chicken pieces and the heat of your grill.
  4. Check the chicken every few minutes. The marinade has high sugar content and will burn quickly.

Note:  For fancy grill marks, the first side you place onto the grill is the “top” of the piece.  When you flip the chicken back onto this first side, turn it to a 90-degree angle from the initial grilling position.

Pasta Plated Cropped

Fresh Tomato Basil Pasta

Tomatoes and Basil. Nature's Perfect Pair!

Tomatoes and Basil. Nature’s Perfect Pair!

     Tomatoes are the star here, so when local tomatoes reach their peak of perfection, my family eats this.  Often.

     Preparation is super simple.  The sauce is fresh and no-cooking is involved. (Except for the pasta.)  The most important aspect for its scrumptiousness is vine ripened, flavor-packed tomatoes.  Any tomato variety will do:  cherry tomatoes, to Early Girl, to gi-normous beefsteaks.  You can mix and match tomato varieties for a full spectrum of tomato-i-ness, and making for a colorful presentation too!

     Shop your local farmers’ markets for the widest selection of tomatoes.  There are so many varieties it could be daunting, so if in doubt start with Dry-Farmed Early Girl, Cherokee Purple or Red Brandywine varieties.  These are my current favorites, and each has a distinctive tomato taste profile and texture.

Dry Farmed Early Girl Tomoatoes with Basil

Dry Farmed Early Girl Tomoatoes with Basil

     I took these photos recently at the Grand Lake Farmers’ Market to show just a few farms’ bumper crops.  Notice they display their tomatoes with bunches and bunches of basil?  They are a perfect pairing; and when you see them together, it’s time to make this sauce.

So Many Varieties

So Many Varieties

     Obviously if you grow your own tomato and basil crops, all’s the better!

     Almost any pasta shape will do, but steer clear of too big or thick.  It will inhibit absorption of the sauce.  I generally prepare this with cappelini, Angel Hair pasta, for fastest cooking time.  As a summer bonus, this keeps your kitchen cooler on hot days, or more likely near San Francisco a “Spare the Air” day.

     The flavor profile of the dish can be changed up significantly, but this recipe is pretty close to my favorite way to enjoy it.  Here are a few variations for future reference:

  • Substitute cilantro for the basil and go in a south-of-the-border flavor profile with cumin and chiles;
  • For a hint of Spain, use flat leaf parsley, adding paprika, piment d’Esplette and blooming a pinch of saffron into the sauce;
  • Can’t handle raw garlic? Give it a quick sauté in olive oil, or substitute scallions or shallots for a mild, but important, flavor boost.
  • Substituting “zoodles” is fine too, if you must.

     Let me know how you adapt the recipe!  Sharing is caring…

Pasta Plated 1 Cropped

Fresh Tomato Basil Pasta

Makes about 5-6 cups


  • 1-1/ 2 pounds vine-ripened tomatoes, any variety, coarsely chopped; about 3 cups
  • 2 – 3+ tablespoons fresh basil, minced, to taste
  • 1 – 3+ cloves fresh garlic, minced, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/ 2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/ 2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground, to taste
  • Pinch – 1 tablespoon chile flakes, to taste
  • 1/ 2 pound pasta, Capellini (angel hair) or any that is not too thick


In a large, non-reactive bowl, combine chopped tomatoes (pulp and seeds included), garlic, 1 tablespoon of the minced basil, vinegar, olive oil, chile flakes, salt and pepper.  Taste and adjust seasonings accordingly.  Sometimes if tomatoes are particularly sweet, I add additional vinegar.    Cover with cling film and set aside at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.  Add the remaining 1    – 2+ tablespoons of minced basil just prior to adding the pasta.

Bring about 2 quarts of water to a rapid boil in a large saucepan.  Season the water liberally with salt.  Cook pasta according to package instructions, just to the al dente stage.  Remove from heat and drain well.  Do not rinse the pasta.  Add the still hot pasta to the tomato basil sauce and stir well to combine.

Garnish with more basil.  A flourish of freshly grated Parmesan cheese too, as you like.

Fresh Tomato Basil Sauce

Fresh Tomato Basil Sauce

HB 8

2 Scoops Served 2

Peaches and Crème — A Perfect Pair

Variety of Peaches     A “milestone birthday” celebration in May for my friend, Ginger, found us in the Dordogne region of southwest France.  This rustic, and fertile river valley deserves its reputation as the soul of French cuisine.  The region’s gastronomic treasures include truffles, walnuts, goat cheeses and all manner of duck delights.

     In addition to taking in our share of castles and prehistoric caves, we visited local farmers’ markets and ate our way through memorable meals from the most humble menus to Michelin-starred affairs.  All very satisfying!  IMG_2515

     Now it’s getting hot out there, and many of us dread the thought of firing up the oven.  I get it.  This recipe is a no-cook, no-fuss option that’s brimming with fresh, seasonal peaches.  It’s satisfying without being cloyingly sweet or rich.  As a matter of fact it’s mostly peaches, frozen and whizzed up with a dollop of crème fraîche and a bit of sugar to taste.  Three ingredients.  Done.

     I’ve been making a version of frozen fruit ice creams and sorbets for a while.  It was an easy adaptation from making a too-thick fruit smoothie just once, and preferring the semi-frozen texture over a slushy one.  Improve the texture, add a bit of sweetness and voilà – dessert!

     Imagine my delight whilst enjoying a day-long market tour and cooking class at Le Chevrefeuille Cookery School in St. Cyprien, France; when Chef Ian Fisk included a banana ice cream recipe using the same technique. (He uses a commercial-strength food processor.)  His unique twist uses crème fraîche (we were in France after all), and of course he also amps up the flavor by including vanilla beans.  He’s “chef-y” that way, and will tell you so himself, with a wink and a grin.

     Side note:  Ian and Sara Fisk live here with their family.  It is charming and I highly recommend staying here as your base when traveling in the area.  Sara Fisk’s deft hand with accommodations assures your comfort; and your meals taken there will be fantastic!

Chef Ian Fisk's Banana Ice Cream with Chocolate Cake

Chef Ian Fisk’s Banana Ice Cream with Chocolate Cake (Prepared by moi in his kitchen at Le Chevrefeuille)

A few suggestions:

  • Prepare in advance by cutting and freezing the fruit.
  • Substitute any fruit that is not too watery; nectarines, firm berries, mango, bananas, etc. Or mix and match!
  • Fold in small pieces of a complimentary fruit, nuts or chocolate bits after the ice cream is blended. Example:  raspberries into peach, chocolate into banana.
  • Boost the flavor by adding mint, basil, grated citrus zests; or vanilla bean as does Chef Ian.
  • Use caution when stirring down the fruit in the blender or food processor! Use an appropriate tool such as a tamper or suitable spatula.
Fun and Tasty

Fun and Tasty Ice Cream Sandwiches Made with Ginger Snaps — Another Classic Pairing

Peach “Ice Crème” – Blender Easy

Adapted from Ian Fisk’s Version

Makes about 4 cups


  • 4 cups peaches; peeled, pitted, sliced into 1/ 4” wedges and frozen
  • 1/ 2 cup crème fraîche
  • 2 -3 tablespoons powdered sugar, to taste


  1. Remove frozen peaches from the freezer and place into the refrigerator for about 20 minutes to soften them slightly.
  2. Break them apart and put half of the still frozen, but slightly softened, peaches into the blender or food processor.  Add half of the crème fraîche and 1 tablespoon of the powdered sugar.  Whizzzzz until it begins to emulsify, looks a bit creamy and the fruit easily moves about the bowl.
  3. Add the remaining frozen peaches and 1 tablespoon of powdered sugar.  Whizzzzz again until it is all creamy and the consistency of ice cream.  Taste for sweetness and add sugar as needed.
  4. At this point the texture will be soft and creamy.  It is excellent at this stage (actually my favorite), as you will discover when tasting for sweetness!  This is also the stage when I scoop it to make ice cream sandwiches.  It may be served immediately, or if preparing in advance, transfer the ice cream to a storage bowl and store in freezer.
  5. Remove it from the freezer about an hour before serving and place it in the refrigerator for easier scooping and softer texture.  (Remember, it’s mostly peaches, so it will freeze quite hard.)
Four Cups of Prepared Peaches Fill a 9 x 13-inch Pan

Four Cups of Prepared Peaches Fill a 9 x 13-inch Pan; Ready for the Freezer

1. Peaches 2. Creme Fraiche 3. Sugar THREE Ingredients!

1. Frozen Peaches 2. Creme Fraiche 3. Sugar

Stored for Freezing 2

Peachy Keen and Smooth.  Make Ice Cream Sandwiches Right Out of the Blender.

With Chef Ian Fisk in his Le Chevrefeuille Kitchen. Thanks for the fun day!

Preparing Asparagus with Chef Ian Fisk in his Le Chevrefeuille Kitchen. Thanks for the fun day Ian and Sara Fisk!