Brain Rumbles to Ponder…Again?

Apr 02


Lots of “Brain Rumbles to Ponder” seems to be the order these days. In no particular order (as if there ever would be any ‘order’ here!) :

PASSOVER SEDER MEAL – Early in March, I was fortunate while visiting Tapalaya Restaurant , the owner and my friend Chantal, where  I was introduced to Kathryn and Eli, two lovely, energetic and engaging young folks. We had some lively conversation about food and I mentioned my blog…and how much I enjoyed sharing my stories. They were kind enough to invite me to be a guest at their annual Passover Seder Meal on March 31. They plan every detail and this was their seventh year of the presentation.  Every year the attendance grows,and the work to pull it off does too. They told the story of the Exodus of the Jews with all the details,the important people in the story…all in such an entertaining way. There were skits,prizes for right answers to questions about the story. Lots of audience participation and the room had a magic rumble and an electric energy about it. The food at the meal– very inviting, well planned, thought out  and presented. Pretty challenging for them, since the space had only the minimum of equipment and a sparse layout. I met some wonderful new friends and a special evening was had by all, I’m sure. Kudos to Kathryn and Eli

Lamb Shashlik

plus their excellent small Army of helpers.

Lamb Shashlik-Le Tonneau Restaurant
Recipe type: Skewers for the charcoal grill
Cuisine: Russian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 

Serves: 8

Serves 8 as an entree or 12-14 as an appetizer Best over plain or rice pilaff with fresh lemon wedges as a garnish Top with coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 3 pounds of boneless leg of lamb- most tender cuts, in 2″ pieces w/out shank meat
  • 5 peeled shallots finely chopped
  • ½ med. head of garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • ½ cup of sweet paprika
  • 8-10 dried bay leaves
  • 3 lemons,cut in quarters
  • 2 Tablespoons black peppercorn
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 large red onion,peeled,cut into “petals” top to bottom
  • 2 large bell peppers, trimmed and cut into 2 ” pieces
  • 8 metal skewers 8-12 ” (if using wooden skewers,soak in cold water before using)

  1. Put all meat in a stainless bowl or ceramic container with a tight fitting lid
  2. Add shallots, garlic, bay leaves,paprika,peppercorns and salt; stir until coated well
  3. Squeeze lemons into meat mixture and add lemon pieces
  4. Add red wine vinegar and olive oil, stir until well coated
  5. Cover and refrigerate at least over night, but as long as three days; stir once a day
  6. Assemble skewers with alternate lamb,pepper and onion pieces
  7. Charcoal over well heated coals 5-7 minutes and turn for another 5-7 minutes
  8. Make sure meat is marked well from the grill for best flavor
  9. With a fork or tongs slide meat and vegetables onto a bed of favorite rice

42 YEARS AGO : I was at Le Tonneau Restaurant in Corte Madera, Marin County working as an apprentice . In the daytime, I sold life insurance. I worked every day for three years without one day off. I wanted this experience, Iwas learning the fine dining racket, hoping to be a chef and to have my own “piano”,as the French chefs call their kitchen; to have a chance to share my passion. We prepared and served a “Continental” menu.Dishes in the style of France,Austria,Spain,Hungary,Russia,Belguim,Italy and so on. Veal, abalone, Petrale sole, tripe,sweetbreads, were items we prepared, along with the usual meats, including beef, chicken, shrimp,duckling,lamb and such. I was learning a huge 40 entree menu,a la carte and four course dinner menu. All entrees were done to order (except sadly for the vegetables-that has changed for the good) by two of us….for up to 150 diners a night. We did a pretty darn good job of it too. I call it “kitchen choreography”. You had better have your “mis en place” ready , tools and knives in the right order, and back up products and foods easy to grab , when service began. If not, you did not have several compadres to bail you out when it got tough, there was just Chef Bernard and myself! I see the kitchens today and the food is wonderful,presented in a picturesque manner- delicious. The crews manning the stations seem to be more than double the number than what we ever had. Two different worlds and two different times, but the results had better be the same- happy diners that return and also spread the word! I think the kitchens today are much more talented and knowledgeable than we were; but we might give them a run for their money-cooks have always had pride in our craft.

CURIOUS FACT: 90 % of all meat consumed by humans on the planet is goat! I remember trying to buy some young goat meat some to serve as a special at my restaurant Belinda’s, in 1980. I contacted one of the few goat farms in Oregon (they made cheese); told I would have to wait until a nannie gave birth, then hope it was a male and then compete with the Mexican workers, who valued “cabrito’ in their home cooking, to secure one.(They kept the females for milk-didn’t need many males) I decided to wait until there was a ready source. I never did serve goat. Now all one has to do is contact Geoff Latham at Nicky USA  for all the specialty and exotic meats one would want to serve. Time marches on for chefs and it’s definitely a good thing!

MY DREAM HOME KITCHEN: It definitely would have a huge French Lacanche range-maybe in purple or red enamel. The equipment and cabinets(read no doors) and shelves would be so much like a commercial kitchen that the designers would have a kanipchen fit (as my Mom would have said). Lots of windows and natural light, no storage down by the floor, WOODEN BUTCHER BLOCK COUNTER TOPS-maybe of bamboo. A huge S/S farm style sink and a giant island to keep gawkers and’ question askers’ on the other side of the work. Interaction encouraged, but bumping into well meaning guests not allowed.Lots of drawers and a pantry the size of Lady Gaga’s walk-in closet.(Who in their right mind would prefer stone counter tops in a kitchen?Cold and uninviting, I say!)

Why would one want to make a hamburger with turkey or with beef that had less than 80/20 meat to fat ratio? That is not a burger. Have yourself a good old American” grease runnin’ down your chin,drippin’ onto your good pants” hamburger. Just have them less often!

Thank you for spending some time with me here. Until the next offering.

“Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

Berthold Auerbach 1821-1882




  1. Julia /

    Ha! I’ll never forget the *one* time you cooked in my kitchen with lots of other people around. Was it one of Matt’s birthdays? Didn’t know I should have roped off my kitchen and posted a sign ‘Warning: Chef at Work!’. I remember having lots of fun, though.

    • Yes, I remember too. It’s just that I can not cross over from a professional approach to a communal gathering type celebration. They are different occasions. It is my flaw , however I am a great guest, if I’m not in charge and am there to enjoy other folks efforts.

  2. Little bit crotchety in the kitchen, Ross? :)

    Mmmm. Burgers. I knew I shouldn’t have read that right before lunchtime!

    • As I replied to Julia earlier…not crotchety, just flawed. If my name is on it, I must be single minded with my efforts. That makes it kinda tough on the normal “let’s hang in the kitchen and talk to the cook” activities. At least I know it and I try not to make people angry by being a jerk- that’s a good thing…yes?

  3. I was wondering about the Seder-sounds like it was truly special. What a neat experience!

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