Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Cavallo Point Cooking School - The Main Course

Don and I didn't work on the entree. But I kept a close eye on what was happening.  I did help on the salad team. And wouldn't you know it, it's a tomato salad I have made many times. The only thing I do different is add fried shallots on top. Where she added croutons.

Grilled Salmon with Peas and Mint
Potato Gratin with Artichokes
Heirloom Tomato Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

Before we started to cook, Jayne, the head chef, told us about where she got the salmon. She is all about farm-fresh vegetables and sustainable farmed seafood and meats. So it was important to her that we knew about the fish.

She only buys fish that is in season, from a restaurant/fish market here in Sausalito called FISH because they have such strict policies with the fishermen they buy from. They have to abhold to a one man, one pole, one hook policy. That way they only fish for, and hopefully catch, what they set out to get. I guess I never really thought about it before. But it makes a lot of sense.

Of course there is a price ($$$) to pay for this type of fishing. Plus, the fact that there was only a very brief, 4-day salmon fishing season this year. And kaching. The salmon is $40/lb. They bought a nine pound fish. Holy moly. That's $360 of fish. The good news is it was really, really good. And we ate every bite. So now you know why seafood is so expensive in restaurants.

The fish was served with fresh peas and mint. Of course the peas were shelled. No frozen peas in this kitchen! The garlic was sauteed in butter before adding it to the fish. The fish was lined on parchment paper, lightly seasoned with salt and pepper and baked in the oven for 20 minutes. And it was perfect.

The potatoes were a very basic gratin preparation, with a twist of course. The bottom of the dish was lined with chopped baby artichokes that had been sliced and sauteed in butter and white wine. Her tip to make sure the potatoes are cooked through and that the top layer is not dried out is to pull out the pan after about a half hour and press down on the potatoes to force some of the liquid (milk) to rise above the top layer of potatoes. They were gooooooooood.

For the salad team, we got a lesson in the the proper way to hold the knife and a tip to help chiffonade the basil and leaves. (You roll the leaves like a cigar, then slice.)  They also taught us how to properly emulsify the oil and vinegar for our salad dressing. We thought we had it perfect. Then the chef came over and immediately had a coughing attack and quickly muttered "...olive oil. It needs more olive oil." So we added more olive oil!!!!

While we were all madly cooking. Little helpers set the table. It looked really beautiful. And we were all ready to sit down.

They served a nice glass of wine to each person during dinner. But that was it! We each got one glass. Don and I both would have liked another glass. But they only had two bottles and 24 people. So that didn't happen. But that's ok. I'm sure a bunch of people running around a kitchen with sharp knives and wine is probably not the best idea.

Everything was so fresh and delicious. It was really a treat. I hope I can make this exact same menu for a group of friends and family some day.

There's a link below to one of Peggy's cookbooks. In case you're in the market for a new cookbook.

Roasted Salmon Smothered in Peas, Green Onions and Mint

1 pound wild king pacific salmon
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2-3 T extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 pounds English peas, shelled
12 small spring onions, thinly chopped (or one large white onion diced)
12 mint leaves, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 375º

1. Season the salmon with salt and pepper. In a large heavy skillet is is oven proof, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. When it gets hot, add the fish, skin side down.
2. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until you can see that it is turning pale pink. Flip it over carefully with two spatulas.
3. Add the garlic and a splash of the wine.
4. Roast it in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes.
5. Remove it from the oven when done and transfer the fish to a warm platter. If the skin is still on, peel it off and discard it.
6. Place the skillet back on medium high and add the green onions, peas and the rest of the wine. Swirl the pan a few times and add the mint. Pour the pea mixture over the fish and serve with lemon wedges on the side. 

Potato Gratin with Artichokes

6 T. butter
6 baby artichokes, trimmed with outer tough leaves peeled away and sliced thin, lengthwise
Splash of white wine
Salt and pepper to taste
4 large yellow yukon gold potatoes, peeled and sliced thin (on a mandolin preferred)
1 cup whole milk

Preheat the oven to 350º

1. Grease a shallow gratin dish, 9 x 12" with one tablespoon of butter.
2. In a medium sized heavy skillet, warm 2 tablespoons of the butter and cook the artichoke slices, with a splash of wine. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange the slices evenly on the bottom of the pan.
3. Layer the potato slices in an overlapping patter on top of the artichokes. Season each layer with salt and pepper. You should have two to three layers.
4. Pour the milk over the top so that it comes to the bottom of the top layer. Add more it you need to. Dot the top with the remaining butter, about 3 tablespoons. Season again with salt and pepper.
5. Bake in a preheated oven for one hour or until hot and bubbling and golden brown. While the potatoes are baking, after about 30 minutes, press down on the potatoes with a spatula so that the liquid comes up over the top and keeps the top layer moist.
6. The potatoes are done when they are fork tender when pierced with a fork.

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

1/2 to 3/4 of a crusty country loaf
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 200º

Tear the bread into small pieces about the size of a quarter. On a baking sheet toss the bread with the olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Bake until the croutons are toasty and crunchy, about 30 minutes. Watch carefully. Turn the oven off and leave them until you are ready to make the salad.


1/4 t. sea salt
1 large shallot, finely diced
2 T. red wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, excellent quality
Freshly ground pepper

Place the sea salt in a small bowl and add the shallot and vinegar. Let the shallot macerate for 10 minutes. Just before serving, whisk in the olive oil, one drop at a time, until well blended. Take your time. Add pepper to taste.

Tomato Salad

4 to 5 pounds tomatoes, preferably heirloom and multicolored, sliced
1 pint multi-colored cherry tomatoes
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Hand full of fresh basil leaves torn or cut into very thin strips

Arrange the tomatoes on a large white platter, scattering the cherry tomatoes over the top. Spoon the dressing lightly over the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, and scatter the croutons and basil on top.

Simple Soirees: Seasonal Menus for Sensational Dinner Parties


  1. PLease! Ahem, Excuse me, Yahoo! It's me your mother!
    Sign me up for your dinner....anytime............anywhere!

    Your loving, affectionate and caring Mother!
    Love you aalways and forever.....hmmmmmmmmmmm

  2. Ha! Of course you can come over for dinner. It is a bit of a drive from Phoenix. So you better reserve a room at the Mulkey Inn!


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