Farm to Table Cooking Class with Amy Pennington

One of my favorite things to do at the Ranch is attend cooking classes at our cooking school, La Cocina Que Canta.  Why, you ask?  Well, let me count the ways.  It’s incredibly beautiful inside the kitchen as well as out on the farm.  The first time I stepped foot into the Cocina during the Organic Breakfast Hike I was impressed by not only how gorgeous it was, but also warm and inviting.  And how it sort of feels like home.  I didn’t want to leave.  Then there’s the six acre organic farm, Rancho Tres Estrellas, which right now is blooming head to toe with flowers.  So, that being said, you can start to see why I love coming to the Cocina.  And I haven’t even gotten to the food yet.

If you can while you’re here, attend one of the cooking classes.  In some ways it’s a life changing experience even though it’s only about three hours.  There’s a lot that goes on!  First you learn from not only our amazing chef, Denise Roa, but also our guests chefs who come to share their stories and their approach to cooking.  Then comes the tour of the gardens where you’ll be able to pick vegetables for the recipes you’ll be cooking and then of course, is the actual cooking.  However, what makes each class so special is truly working together as a group to make a spectacular meal and sharing it together.  It’s really hard to describe how unique that is until you’ve actually done it.  By the time you leave class, you’ll all feel like old friends.

This class was no exception.  The ride back to the Ranch afterwards was filled with laughter and stories from people who had first met just a couple of hours earlier.  A lively group I must say!  And of course there was the food.  Amy, whose background specializes in urban farming (she has an amazing website by the way) came up with a menu that honestly, I would eat every day.  Completely up my ally.  Veggie heavy recipes that taste delicious and are super healthy.  My favorites were the Lettuce Bowls with Shrimp, the Sweet Potato Salad, the Sautéed Escarole, well actually, pretty much everything on the menu!


Lettuce Bowls with Clove Pickled Beets and Grilled Shrimp

Herbal Minestrone- Stock, Bean, Zucchini and a Handful of Herbs

Panzanella with Crushed Tomato and Pickled Red Onion

Barley + Sweet Potato Salad

Grated Cumin Carrots and Raisins

Sautéed Escarole with Smashed Garlic

Orange Slices with Orange Flower Water and Pistachios

Stay tuned for recipes we’ll be posting soon from the class!

Don’t forget about our Culinary Week, La Fiesta De La Cocina Que Canta with Deborah Madison, John Ash, Marie Simmons and Nani Steele!  September 28-October 5th!  Book by August 1, 2013, limited space available.

Glazed Roasted Salmon En Croûte

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This beautiful, phyllo-wrapped Wellington looks impressive, but it is quick and remarkably easy to make. Sliced, it reveals layers of pink salmon, sautéed spinach, and rice, speckled with sweet peppers. Jesús prefers the taste and color of wild trolled salmon, which also contains more healthy omega-3 fats.

Serves 6 to 8

For a larger group, double the recipe and make two this size—it’s easier to handle than one large one. Use a serrated knife to cut 1-inch slices, or serve it buffet style.


  • ¼ cup plus 1 teaspoon olive oil, plus more to spray the phyllo
  • ⅓ cup diced red bell pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • ¼ cup finely diced white onion
  • 6 ounces fresh spinach, stemmed and roughly chopped
  • 1 ½ cups cooked brown rice, wild rice, or whole-wheat couscous
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 package phyllo dough, thawed according to package directions
  • 2-pound salmon filet, skinless (preferably a center piece)
  • Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons agave syrup
  • Lemon Zest Aioli
  • Lemon wedges
  • 1 tablespoon drained capers


1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

2. In a large sauté pan, heat 1 teaspoon of the oil. Cook the bell pepper, garlic, and white onion until slightly softened. Add the spinach and cook, stirring, until the spinach is wilted.

3. Stir in the rice, green onions, dill, lemon juice, and salt. Taste for seasoning—it should be strongly seasoned. Set aside to cool.

4. Unfold the phyllo sheets. Lay 1 sheet out on a baking sheet or cutting board and spray the dough lightly with oil. Next, lay 2 sheets over the first one, slightly overlapping the sheets to make a 14 × 18-inch rectangle. Brush the dough with olive oil. Repeat 4 more times. (To prevent drying, always keep the phyllo dough covered with a dry kitchen towel when not in use.)

5. Run your fingers over the salmon and remove any small bones you feel. Trim away any dark flesh or fat along the thin (belly) edge. Season well on both sides with salt and pepper.

6. Drizzle the syrup over the salmon, sprinkle lightly with salt, and place the salmon, skin-side (gray marks) up, in the center of the phyllo sheets. Spoon the spinach mixture on top of the salmon and pat into an even layer.

7. Fold the short sides of the phyllo over the salmon, then firmly fold the other two sides in to make a neat, firm package. Flip the package over onto a lightly oiled baking sheet, and bake for 30 minutes until crisp and golden-brown and the internal temperature measures 150 degrees F.

8. Let the salmon rest for at least 15 minutes. Then, using a sharp, serrated knife, slice the salmon into 1-inch slices and serve with the aioli, lemon wedges, and a few capers on the side.


※ Sprinkle chopped fresh herbs, such as dill or tarragon, between the layers of phyllo.

※ Add ¼ cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes to the rice mixture.

※ Serve with Roasted Root Vegetables

Vegetable Egg Rolls with Ginger-Plum Dipping Sauce

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Makes 12-14 Egg Rolls

Egg Roll Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons ginger, minced
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups white mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cups shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 medium carrots, julienned
  • 1/2 medium onion, sliced thin
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced thin
  • 2 cups shredded cabbage
  • 1 1/2 cups bean sprouts
  • 1 cup celery, sliced
  • 4 teaspoon chili flakes
  • 1/3 cup light soy sauce
  • Fresh-ground black pepper
  • 12-14 egg roll sheets

 Ginger-Plum Dipping Sauce Ingredients

  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon agave syrup
  • 1 fresh red chile pepper, seeded & minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger root, grated
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 4 prunes, re-hydrated by simmering in 1-cup water
  • 2 tablespoons sliced green onion, including green shoots

Egg Role Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350˚F.
  • Sauté ginger and garlic in oil until nicely browned.
  • Add the vegetables and sauté for 5 minutes.  Do not over cook; the vegetables should remain slightly crispy.
  • Add the chili flakes, soy sauce and black pepper, cooking for 2 minutes more.  Set aside to cool.
  • Lay an egg roll sheet on a dry surface. Place one heaping tablespoon of stuffing on the bottom third of the sheet, brush a little water along the edges and roll up like a burrito.
  • Spray a sheet pan with olive oil and put the rolls on the pan. Lightly spray the rolls with olive oil and bake for 25 minutes at 350˚F.

Dipping Sauce Instructions

  • Combine the garlic, agave, red chile, ginger and lime juice in a small bowl.
  • Bring the water to a boil and add 4 dried prunes, reduce to a simmer and cover.  Simmer the prunes for about 5 minutes, or until very soft.  Remove from heat and cool.
  • Add the prunes and their liquid to the ginger and lime mixture and transfer to a blender.  Puree until smooth.
  • Serve sauce in small bowls with a sprinkle of green onion in each bowl.


Butternut Squash Flan

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Traditional flan is creamy, rich, and heavy. This lightened version is based on naturally sweet butternut squash puree with a zing of orange in the syrup. Baked pureed yam may be substituted for the squash.

Serves 6


⅓ cup plus ¼ cup packed light brown sugar

3 tablespoons fresh orange juice

3 cups milk

4 extra-large eggs

¾ cup cooked, pureed butternut squash

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Finely grated zest of 1 orange

Seasonal fruit


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. In a small saucepan, combine ⅓ cup of the brown sugar and the orange juice, and cook over low heat until the sugar is melted and bubbles form across the surface of the syrup, about 3 minutes.

3. Divide the syrup evenly among six 6-ounce ramekins.

4. In a medium saucepan, combine the milk and ¼ cup brown sugar. Heat over low to medium heat, stirring constantly, to dissolve the sugar. Set aside to cool.

5. In a bowl, whisk the eggs until frothy. Add the squash, cinnamon, vanilla, and orange zest. Stir in the cooled milk mixture. Strain the custard through a fine-mesh sieve to remove any traces of the squash fiber.

6. Divide the custard evenly among the ramekins, filling to within ¼-inch of the rim.

7. Place the ramekins in a rectangular baking pan with high sides and carefully pour 1 inch of boiling water into the pan. Cover with foil and bake on the middle rack of the oven for 30 minutes, or until the custards are no longer jiggly in the center and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven, take off the foil, and let the custards cool in the water bath. Once they are cool, remove from the pan, cover, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

8. To unmold, press gently around the edge of each flan to break the seal. Invert onto a dessert plate. If you prefer, the flan may be served right in the baking dish. Top with seasonal fruit.