Join a cooking class at Cavallo Point Lodge
The route to Cavallo Point Lodge is almost a secret -- a quick right turn off the exit on the Sausalito side of the Golden Gate Bridge leads down a narrow twisty decline and around a corner. There, a tidy half-circle of cream-colored buildings faces an incredible vista of the San Francisco skyline; to the right of this picture-postcard view is the graceful, stupendous span of the famed bridge.
Established in 1897 as Fort Baker and now part of Golden Gate National Park, the former Army post opened as Cavallo Point Lodge in July 2008. Its spacious officers' quarters have been renovated into comfortable eco-friendly accommodations. The lodge boasts a superlative restaurant, a 13,000-bottle wine cellar, spa facilities, an art gallery, and -- the reason we're here -- an excellent cooking school.
Photography: Micheal Venera
Cooking school director Kelsie Kerr is a former chef at Chez Panisse, the restaurant owned by sustainable-food advocate Alice Waters. Kelsie has co-authored four books with Waters.
Classes cover heirloom produce and the triumvirate of chef, farmer, and vintner. "The opportunity to provide an empowering (and delicious) culinary experience and introduce people to our network of local producers marries what is most important to me," Kelsie says. Her day starts at the San Rafael market, a bustling hodgepodge of colors, fragrances, and tastes where home cooks and local chefs banter with farmers who are experts in organics. For tonight's menu, Kelsie gathers shelling beans for ragout, plump fresh figs, curly frisée, escarole, and just-ripe pears.
Today's once-a-month class, "Cooking from the Farmers Market," showcases the area's rich abundance. We'll prepare a seasonal dinner with ingredients Kelsie purchased this morning from the farmers market.
Our class begins with a glass of Prosecco, crunchy crudités, and a discussion of the menu. We divide into groups to prepare the dinner recipes. The first course is Escarole and Frisée Salad with Roasted Figs. Kelsie shows how the best frisée is "blanched," that is, covered during growth so the tender inner leaves retain a delicate white-green hue. Sturdy escarole provides contrast to the frisée. Dressed with red wine balsamic vinaigrette enriched with pan juices from the roasted figs and accompanied by pancetta-wrapped croutons, the salad is a pleasing combination of salty, sweet, and tart.
Fresh figs, like Kadota and Mission, are in season from late summer through fall.
Kelsie and cooking school manager Jayne Reichert start students with salad preparation. Several chefs are on hand to assist in teaching classes.
A second group handles the main course, Lemon-Fennel Roasted Pork Loin. A generous seasoning of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper ensures a delicious crust; the lemon-fennel stuffing imparts a subtle tartness to the meat. "The secret to this dish is seeking out the best pork you can find, preferably from farms that support sustainable practices and allow livestock to free-range," Kelsie advises.
Slow-simmered cranberry beans and French horticultural beans just out of their shells yield a creamy seasonal side dish, Fresh Shell Bean Ragout.
Golden Pear Cake bakes in a cast-iron skillet for even caramelization of the pears. A gooey brown sugar-and-butter topping seeps into the tender cake when it's turned onto its serving platter. Kelsie stresses finding the best produce available for this homey dessert and checking fruit for fragrance and absence of bruises.
Chicory Salad with Roasted Figs
2 medium heads frisée
1 medium head escarole, torn
9 fresh ripe figs
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon each kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 recipe Red Wine Balsamic vinaigrette (see recipe below)
4 3/4-inch-thick slices levain or country bread
12 thin slices pancetta or 12 slices bacon
Tear off and discard tough dark outer leaves of frisée. Remove root end. Separate leaves; wash and dry well. Remove root end of escarole; remove any blemished leaves. Separate leaves; wash and dry. Toss leaves together in very large bowl; set aside.
Preheat oven to 375°F. Cut figs in half; arrange in a 2-quart baking dish cut side up. Drizzle with 1tablespoon balsamic vinegar and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Bake 7 to 10 minutes or until soft and puffed.
Prepare Red Wine Balsamic Vinaigrette; set aside. For croutons, cut each slice of bread lengthwise into three 1/2-inch-wide sticks. Cut off and discard crusts. Brush bread sticks with 2 tablespoons oil. Wrap each with pancetta slice in a spiral. Place on baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes, or until pancetta is crisp.
Gently toss greens with vinaigrette. Serve with figs and pancetta croutons. Makes 6 servings.
Red Wine Balsamic Vinaigrette:
In bowl combine 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and red wine vinegar. Stir in shallot. Let stand a few minutes to allow shallots to macerate. Whisk in 5 tablespoons olive oil. Adjust to taste with additional vinegar, oil, or salt. Stir in any roasting juices from figs.
Lemon-Fennel Roasted Pork Loin
Ask your butcher to remove chine bone from roast, but leave rib bones attached. Kelsie accompanies the roast with Fresh Shell Bean Ragout and roasted tomato halves topped with olive oil stirred into a mixture of bread crumbs, garlic, and basil.
1 (3-pound) pork loin center rib roast
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1/2 to 1 lemon, very thinly sliced
1/4 cup snipped fresh fennel fronds or 2 to 3 tablespoons snipped fresh sage or rosemary
Salsa Verde (see recipe below)
Cut pork loin along rib bones lengthwise to separate meat from bones. (Do not cut all the way through.) Sprinkle roast with salt and pepper. Place lemon slices and fennel inside cut. Tie roast into original shape with kitchen string.
Preheat oven to 400°F. Place roast in shallow roasting pan fat-side up. Roast, uncovered, for 1-1/2 hours or until thermometer inserted into meatiest part of roast registers 130°F to 135°F.
Cover roast with double thickness of aluminum foil. Let stand 20 minutes or until temperature registers at least 145°F. Remove string. Cut ribs from meaty portion; discard lemon and fennel. Slice roast. Separate ribs; serve alongside roast. Serve with Salsa Verde. Makes 6 servings.
In bowl combine 1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley; 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil; 1 tablespoon finely shredded lemon peel; 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed, drained, and coarsely chopped; 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt; and 1 small clove garlic, finely chopped. Season to taste. Cover; let stand while roast cooks. Finely chopped herbs may be substituted for parsley. Hard-cooked egg, anchovy, or shallots may be added. Add lemon juice or vinegar to brighten salsa to taste.
Fresh Shell Bean Ragout
Fresh shelling beans, such as cranberry, cannellini, flageolet, lima, or French horticultural beans, show up at farmers markets at the end of July through the fall months. The color of the pod generally indicates the color of the bean. Look for pods that have a leathery feel and are lumpy, an indication the beans inside are plump and ready to be eaten.
2 pounds fresh shelling beans, such as cranberry, cannellini, flageolet, or lima beans
1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 to 3 teaspoons fresh savory
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
Shell beans. Place shelled beans in 4-quart Dutch oven; add water to cover. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat; add the 1 teaspoon salt. Cover; cook 20 to 30 minutes or until tender. Remove from heat; let beans cool in their liquid, about 1 hour.
Drain beans, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid. In same Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium-low heat. Add onion. Cook until tender, stirring occasionally, about 12 minutes. Add garlic, savory, ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper. Cook 2 minutes more. Return beans and reserved liquid to pot; stir. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes. Season to taste. To serve, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil.
*Dried Bean Option:
Rinse 8 ounces dried cranberry or cannellini beans. In Dutch oven, combine beans and 5 cups water. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Cover; let stand 1 hour. (Or, omit simmering; soak beans in cold water overnight in covered Dutch oven.) Drain and rinse. In same Dutch oven combine beans and 5 cups fresh water. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours or until beans are tender, stirring occasionally. Drain beans, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid. Proceed with paragraph 2 above.
Make Ahead Tip: Beans may be shelled the day before use. Store, covered, in refrigerator.
Golden Pear Cake
The next four slides (after this one) demonstrate technique for making Golden Pear Cake.
3/4 cup butter, softened (divided)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
4 medium or 3 large pears (11/2 pounds), cored, peeled, and sliced 1/2 inch thick
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup milk
Poire Williams Cream (see recipe below)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Place 1/4 cup butter in 9-inch cast-iron or other oven-proof skillet. Melt butter in skillet over medium heat. Stir in brown sugar. Cook and stir until sugar is melted and bubbly; remove from heat. Set aside; cool. (Or, make brown sugar-butter mixture in saucepan; pour into 9-inch round cake pan, spreading evenly, and allow to cool.) Arrange pear slices in skillet or pan.
In small bowl combine flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In large bowl beat remaining 1/2 cup butter with mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Beat in granulated sugar until combined. Beat in vanilla. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition. Alternately add flour mixture and milk to butter mixture, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined. (Batter may appear curdled.) Spread batter evenly over pears.
Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until pick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack 5 minutes. Loosen cake from pan; invert onto plate. Serve with Poire Williams Cream. Serves 8 to 10.
Poire Williams Cream:
Beat 1 cup whipping cream with electric mixer on medium speed until cream just thickens. Add 1 tablespoon Poire Williams or other pear brandy and 2 teaspoons sugar. Beat on high speed until soft peaks form.
1. Arrange sliced pears in concentric circles over melted butter and brown sugar.
2. Spoon batter over pears and spread evenly to edge of pan. Bake 40 minutes.
3. Insert wooden pick into center of cake to test for doneness. Cool cake 5 minutes.
4. Use two hands and pot holders to carefully invert cake onto serving platter.