Grilled Polenta with Blistered Snow Peas & Bok Choy

This is the recipe I wrote for the Sunday meal at Rancho La Puerta during my week as visiting chef. Originally, I’d planned on serving the polenta with slender spears of broccolini, but we had a giant box of snow peas and beautiful bok choy fresh from the garden, so Chef Eddy and I changed it up a bit. I love searing squares of this polenta in some hot olive oil—or charring it on the grill as I do here—and serving it with just about anything: An egg and some greens in the morning, a mushroom ragu or tomato sauce at night. It’s super versatile and a great thing to have in the fridge for easy meals throughout the week.


Rancho La Puerta … Take Three

This was my third year returning to Rancho La Puerta Resort and Spa in Mexico to teach at their La Cocina Que Canta cooking school. And, honestly, it gets more blissful every year. I’ll let the pictures and video clips speak for themselves.

The scenery and landscaping is striking, from tiny details to broad vistas. The natural beauty evokes a deep feeling of timelessness, while man-made additions–like sculptures that take your breath away dotted all over the property–drop you into the moment of Here. Now.

There’s a simplicity to the Ranch that instills serenity. Lines of nature are paralleled in various touches that feel as if they’ve been there forever.

And then there’s Tres Estrellas …

Tres Estrellas is the Ranch’s five acre organic garden, presided over by genius gardener Salvador (I actually wrote a poem for Salvador the first year I was there). Spend three minutes with Salvador and you’ll know that you’re with a man who has found his calling. He claws up earth to wax on about healthy soil and beams at rows of healthy eggplant as if he were praising his own children. It’s always a delight and a privilege to take students out into the garden with Salvador before cooking the ingredients he’s harvested for us (you can see a clip of that down below).

… And La Cocina Que Canta

Ah … La Cocina Que Canta. It’s heaven for cooking teachers and students alike. A gorgeous kitchen, incredible staff (that’s Gabby, Celia, Melissa and Alejandro there with me below … and my BFF, Julie, who took these pics and videos!) and all in all an inviting place to be.

Wish you could be there for a class? Watch these videos and you’ll get a taste …

It starts like this …


And then we head out into the garden …


Then I talk through what we’re cooking and give some mini lessons on nourishing principles …


And then we cook! In my classes, the students do most of the work, but here I’m doing a sauteing demo with some gorgeous baby zucchini (blossoms on) that we harvested from the garden.


I’ll see you next year at Rancho La Puerta!

The Kitchen That Sings

La Cocina Que Canta; the kitchen that sings. It’s the name of the cooking school at Rancho La Puerta Spa in Mexico where I’ve been teaching classes this week. My aim here, as it is with NOURISH Evolution, is to show people how to enjoy food that’s healthy for both our bodies and the earth. Nothing fancy, nothing extravagant; just incredible flavor coaxed from inherently healthy ingredients eager to give it.

[ photos clockwise from top left: a storm brewing; one of the many fountains gracing the grounds; sunrise on ancient “metate” divets in stone; sunny flowers swaying along the pathways ]

We start in the garden harvesting basil or spinach or greens or eggplant—and a bundle of fresh herbs for centerpieces—with Salvadore. Salvadore is the man in charge of the six acres of organic gardens. The man whose eyes twinkle with pride as he lifts handfuls of soil up to people’s noses. The man who brings me “dancing carrots” each morning, of roots entwined together in odd shapes. The man who stops to point out a bee burrowing in a head of romaine to explain that it, too, is looking for food.

[ photos clockwise from top left: a sculpture blessing the garden; rich, organic earth; Salvadore’s “dancing carrots”; students ready for the garden ]

Then it’s inside to the airy tiled kitchen where I encourage the students through chopping and slicing and pounding and grilling their way towards our meal. Some learn new techniques for chopping garlic. Others reconnect with roots through long-forgotten words and scents. Still others discover the ease and enjoyment of pounding the day’s pesto with the basalt molcajete mortar and pestle.

RLP-3[ photos clockwise from left: slicing figs for the mini oatmeal tarts with figs and honey; a very content instructor; pounding several varieties of basil for the pesto ]

What we do in the kitchen is really just gilding the lily on what’s already been accomplished outside in Salvadore’s soil, whether the end form is a creamy corn polenta, a fig and oatmeal tart or a smoky melizansalata with Mexican spices.  This is healthy cooking. This is cooking that’s gentle on the earth. This is cooking that brings a smile to the soul . . . and to everyone seated at the table.

Si, this kitchen sings indeed.

Salvadore’s Garden

Leaves rustle,
A rooster crows,
Laughter wafts over fields of green

And gold and crimson
And plum and rose.
More than a meal, a feast.

South of the Border Melizansalata (Eggplant Dip)

I created this eggplant dip for a class I’m teaching at Rancho La Puerta spa in Tecate, Mexico, to take advantage of all the gorgeous vegetables in their organic gardens. It’s a spin on one of my favorites from Greece—melinzansalata — and makes a tasty summer appetizer.