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Hi! Lenore here again, stealing a moment while Bob is too busy to write. Lots of people are asking about SPINACH!

“Why” spinach? How it is responsible for such a wide spread serious foodborne outbreak? Maybe you might remember the apple juice incident a few years back. Again “why” apple? Both of these foods seem low on the foods that cause illness list. Fish, beef, chicken, sure, these are the food safety red-flag foods. What happens to fruits and veggies to make them dangerous, too? In both the current spinach and apple juice outbreak, the cause is contamination with E.coli, the same nasty bug that caused illness from raw or undercooked hamburger. In both cases, the organism was found to be inside the cells of the spinach and apple, rendering thorough washing ineffective.

The CDC has been good about finding and letting us know the source of the tainted spinach, and the fact that they have traced such a wide spread outbreak back to a few counties in CA is very good news. This means the systems are in place for doing such a trace and notification is fairly swift. I congratulate our main food purveyor, Food Services of America, for being the first to let us know. Their email notice was in my mailbox the morning it was reported in the news. Of course, those who have suffered in this outbreak may not think highly of the pace for notification, and I am sure the CDC strives to become speedier. This outbreak began August 1 and the product recalls began Sept 15. If we look from the perspective of the CDC and powers that be, we can understand why they don’t want to label the source too quickly. Case in point, a few years ago the California strawberry was named in an outbreak from a parasite, and later, they discovered that it wasn’t strawberry but red raspberry sauce on the strawberry dessert that caused the outbreak. The raspberries came from a country that didn’t, at the time, use chlorinated water, and the chef didn’t wash or cook the raspberries in making the sauce. Either potentially would mitigate such an outbreak.

Both the spinach and raspberry stories gives credence to my favorite mantra—buy locally! Spinach from farms in Oregon and Washington as well as many other states are now exempt from the recall, according to the CDC this week. Hopefully people will continue to buy spinach. They say the California Strawberry farmers unfortunately never recovered the year of the red-raspberry outbreak; strawberry sales remained flat all season. I often wondered why the news doesn’t mention that spinach may be cooked to 160, for 15 seconds, to ensure safety. When used in fillings such as our Florentine crepes, it is safe because the filling reaches well over 160 degrees.

I have talked allot about the “what”—but now a few stabs at the “how.” The source of E.coli is from animal or human feces, so it is reasonable to think the contamination occurred in the field; not enough Port-a-potties in the fields to manage safe picking, I think. Improperly cured and prepared manure for fertilizing organically is another potential cause. And since most of the spinach had been prewashed, it certainly could have happened in the food packing plant, too. Whenever these outbreaks occur, it seems we never really get the lowdown on how it happens. Some form of human error is almost always a factor. Maybe by the time they narrow it down, it isn’t much of a news story anymore. I used to find out because I attended health department workshops that covered all recent outbreaks. I miss going to those meetings. It helps me know how to play it safer in my own food handling, and what to emphasize in my classes. It is how the health departments come up with their rules of safe food handling.

In summary, for now we can know only that we should avoid CA spinach until otherwise given the all clear. Continue to buy from local sources and, if we don’t know the source, we can cook it thoroughly to be safe. Oh, and continue to wash all greens, fruits and vegetables thoroughly whether cooking or eating raw.

Fresh Spinach Filling for Crepes (Florentine) For Florentine filling:
1 TBS shallots, minced
1 TBS garlic minced
4 bunches fresh spinach, cleaned, chopped
2 TB salted butter
2 oz. heavy cream, reduced by half
TT sea salt, ground pepper, ground coriander
TT Pernod
2 TBS Panko bread crumbs
2 tsp tarragon, chopped
Method Heat EVOO in sauté pan; add shallots and garlic; sauté until aromatic and slightly translucent. Add spinach and cook until it’s tender. Add butter and cream and season with spices. Add Pernod and cook for 10 more seconds; adjust consistency with bread crumbs and finish with tarragon. Place into oven proof dish and finish cooking in 350 degree oven for about 20 min or until to 160 degrees F. Fill crepes.

Whole Wheat Crepes
½ cup whole wheat flour pastry flour
½ cup AP flour
¼ tsp salt
3 large eggs
½ cup milk
2 tsp EVOO
½ c seltzer water or club soda Method Combine in a blender or food processor until smooth. Transfer to bowl, cover and refrigerate 30 min or overnight. At service, slowly whisk seltzer water or club soda into batter. Heat small nonstick skillet; lightly oil surface with cloth or paper towel dipped into oil, and ladle 2 TBS batter into skillet—tilting and rotating the pan to spread the batter evenly over bottom. Cook until lightly browned—30 seconds. Using small spatula, lift the edge and flip the crepe over. Cook second side about 20 more seconds. Slide onto plate.


Hi! Lenore here, writing in Bob’s Blog. I know Bob as one of the most romantic men on the planet, but he probably wouldn’t think to write about this topic here. However, I have been anxious to share this with you since it happened a few weeks ago now. It all started when Tony called to make a reservation to bring his girlfriend, Honora to class, with a special request. (Oh a birthday, I thought, maybe a cake!) I said, ìSure!î He explained that they love to cook and last time Honora was here she enjoyed the evening so much that he thought this is the perfect place to pop the question! Ahhh!of course, I was hooked! A couple weeks before the date, Tony called again with his plan—weíll surprise her by presenting the ring as a course, on the plate, he said. Our staff would have to get the ring, figure out how to put it on the plate, switch plates during service, and make sure that plate is placed last! Tony requested this be done right away, the first course—because he was a little nervous and wanted to get it done to enjoy the rest of the evening! ( He must know she’ll say yes, I thought to myself. Finally the day was here. Linda and I practiced the hand off. Tony would arrive a little early, excuse himself to use the rest room, and when inside, place the ring in the locker marked, ìThyme,î as in ìthyme to do it!î That went like clockwork! Linda had the velvet bag of goods in her apron pocket. The first course was on trackóBob gargling wine and setting the plates. Time to serve—Linda positions herself behind the post, out of guestís view. Rebecca and I begin to serve, orchestrating the starting points so that Honora would be last. I picked up the last two plates to serve, and at the post, I hand off one food plate and take the plate Linda had readyóthe ring sitting now on top of the velvet pouch! I hold it high—place Tonyís plate first, and then, Honoraís. For a few seconds, she starred, hands over her mouth, so Tony picked up the ring, and started to explain his purpose for the charade! He said Honora has always known the way to his heart was threw his stomach, and itís their love of food and cooking that makes this moment so right; he bent down on one kneeóthe class gave a collective sigh of approval, and he popped the question! Honora, still a little stunned, teary eyed by now, and smiling, spoke for the first time, ìYES,î she said! Clapping, hooraying, and again, a collective, ìAhhhhh!î He did it! A magic moment shared with 20 others in an intimate space around the stove! Hot, really sweet, and hot!

Smoked Salmon

Soup and chowder sales always seem to pick up as the weather turns cooler on the coast. Anyone visiting the area can find a good array of seafood-based soups, stews and Cioppino. Lenore and I decided to introduce our smoked salmon chowder to the local scene with great success about four months ago and many people have asked for the recipe.  The chowder recipe is here.

The key to any recipe is beginning with great ingredients and we begin our chowder with wild pacific salmon that we smoke in house.

Smoking isn’t really a big deal but many cooks are slightly intimidated. Let me walk you through our method:

Brine for Smoked Salmon
4 quarts water
1 quarts soy sauce
1 pounds light brown sugar (2 cups)
1/2 cups sea salt
6 pounds fresh wild king salmon

Combine water, soy, sugar and salt; mix well to dissolve; break down salmon and cut each side in half through the center segment. Cut each segment into smaller, manageable pieces about 4-6 ounce portions and place in brine for 70 minutes. Remove after 70 minutes and place on rack on sheet pan, and refrigerate unwrapped 2- 24 hours to continue curing.

To smoke: Prepare smoker pan (a foil disposable works here) using desired wood chips on bottom (about 1-2 cups only) and cookie rack over chips to raise fish above chips. Place salmon on rack. Place over gill or burner and turn to high heat. When chips begin to smoke, cover and start timer for 60 SECONDS, (one minute). Turn off heat and time for one additional minute.

Remove fish from pan and place into refrigerator uncovered  for 2-24 hours before cooking or freezing.  When ready to cook 4-6 ounce fillets, place onto sheet into 400 degree F preheated oven for  7-10 minutes. Fish is done when starts to part on sides when pinched, but remains together in center. Slightly “au point,” meaning to the point of just under. (About 138 F) Then some carry over cooking occurs to take it to the 140F required.


Fall is coming…

With the weather at the coast changing and the new varieties of vegetables showing up on my order guides, it is beginning to smell and look like fall. Since our move to the coast I have been enjoying the many seasons that transpire here. From a culinary perspective there are many more than four seasons. Last count I figured there were somewhere between ten and fourteen.

Most people donít realize it but if you take a moment and reflect about your own experiences at the local grocer, you have undoubtedly seen your favorite vegetables/fruit come and go to be replaced by other favorites. Imagine that change on a larger scale and you are tracking with our order guides.

The bottom line results in a great shopping cart of fruits and vegetables, not to mention seafood and meats, that makes for great menu planning. Enjoy the bounty!

Ciao – Bob