Chef Heidi Krahling of Insalata’s | Marin County Food Photography

Neely Wang Marin County Food Photographer

Last week, I had the pleasure of photographing the November event hosted by Fresh Starts Chef Events, a project to support Homeward Bound of Marin, a homeless shelter in Marin County, California, providing food, shelter and job training for those in need. This month’s event featured local Marin County favorite, Chef Heidi Krahling of Insalata’s and Marinitas of San Anselmo, California. She shared her delicious Mediterranean flavoured dishes, as well as recipes from her newly released book, “A Tale of Two Restaurants: Insalta’s and Marinitas.”

Locals simply love her gracious and authentic personality as well her unforgettable food, as evidenced by the number of guests that evening, which surpassed the number for any chef event to date! Her restaurants have each earned the Michelin Bib Gourmand distinction, which recognizes “good cuisine at a reasonable price.” My husband and I had visited her restaurant a few years back on a “date” night and remember the restaurant fondly.

Neely Wang Marin County Food Photographer

The menu for the evening began with a delicious Haydari (Turkish Yogurt Dip), Turkish “Spoon Salad” and Handmade Flatbread. There is nothing quite like warm handmade flatbread that has been grilled and slathered with a cool dipping sauce — so good!

Neely Wang Marin County Food Photographer

The haydari tasted similar to a cool tzatziki cucumber sauce, but instead of cucumbers, grated yellow beets were used, mixed with goat labne. The spoon salad was a mix of chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, piquillo peppers, jalapeno peppers, garlic, italian parsley and harissa.

Neely Wang Marin County Food Photographer

Neely Wang Marin County Food Photographer

Neely Wang Marin County Food Photographer

Chef Krahling also shared her recipe for Italian Fennel Salad. The salad was filled with red endive, grapes, kalamata olives, asiago cheese, and pine nuts. The zesty lemon shallot vinaigrette was the perfect accompaniment for the distinct liquorice flavour of the fennel.

Neely Wang Marin County Food Photographer

Neely Wang Marin County Food Photographer

Neely Wang Marin County Food Photographer

The main dish of the evening was Swordfish with Salmoriglio Sauce.

Neely Wang Marin County Food Photographer

I always thought swordfish was a very meaty, dense fish, but the swordfish we had this evening was so moist and simply melt-in-your mouth good!

Neely Wang Marin County Food Photographer

Chef Krahling shared that salmoriglio sauce, a sicilian salsa verde, was something she added to everything, hence the nickname, “Heidi’s Ketchup.” This sauce is a tasty mix of olive oil, fennel, capers, garlic, lemon, oregano and parsley. I’d love to try this sauce on another type of fish, or maybe chicken or flank steak, or simply straight out of the bowl!

Neely Wang Marin County Food Photographer

Neely Wang Marin County Food Photographer

Neely Wang Marin County Food Photographer

The swordfish paired very well with the fennel salad, and the students preparing the dishes were quite generous with the cheese — look at those strips of asiago — my favorite!

Neely Wang Marin County Food Photographer

Dinner was capped off with sweet and spicy Double Ginger Pecan Cookies from the Chef’s restaurant. These cookies were the perfect sweet treat for a filling meal! The cookies were laced with cinnamon, molasses, ground and crystallized ginger and pecans.

Neely Wang Marin County Food Photographer

Stop by next month for East Meets West with Chef Mei Ibach and Chef Jon Ash. This class is already sold out! Can’t wait for some yummy Asian Fusion food. In the meantime, enjoy this delicious recipe for Swordfish Salmoriglio.

Swordfish Salmoriglio

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely diced fennel
2 TB thinly sliced green onions
2 TB capers, drained and coarsely chopped
1/3 cup finely chopped italian parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 preserved lemon, rinsed and finely chopped
1 TB finely chopped fresh oregano
1 TB lemon zest
2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of sugar

Directions:

For the salmoriglio sauce:
Put all of the ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and lemon juice.

For the swordfish:
1. Prepare a grill for medium-high heat grilling.
2. Arrange the swordfish on a baking sheet. Brush with olive oil, and season generously with salt and pepper.
3. Grill fish until just cooked through, about 3 minutes per side, depending on thickness.

To serve:
Transfer fish to platter. Spoon some of the salmoriglio sauce over the fillets and serve the rest on the side.

Lost in the Fog

Fog | Neely Wang Nature Photography

One thing I love about living in the San Francisco Bay Area is the fog that creeps in around Autumn up to Marin County, California. Marin County is located north of the Golden Gate Bridge and the further north you go, the sunnier and warmer the weather gets. It’s not as cold as the City, and definitely less gray and foggy. The longer I live in California, the more I realize that I’m a sunny-weather girl and that I’ve become a bit of a baby when it comes to cold weather (yes, I did grow up in frigid Chicago!).

Fog | Neely Wang Nature Photography

But too much sun is not always a good thing, and when the fog makes its way up to Marin in October and shows up during the wee hours of the morning, I immediately become like a kid in a candy store. I just love the way the cool, misty air feels on my skin, and the way everything looks so mysterious and ethereal.

Fog | Neely Wang Nature Photography

When I walk through these fields on a normal, sunny day, all I see are grasses and trees. But once the fog settles in and the dew finds a resting place, things suddenly appear, like these beautiful webs that magically fill the meadow.

Fog | Neely Wang Nature Photography

Fog | Neely Wang Nature Photography

The handiwork of these spiders never ceases to amaze me.

Fog | Neely Wang Nature Photography

And these paths that lead you to a sea of white.

Fog | Neely Wang Nature Photography

Only to have these trees gracefully greet you.

Fog | Neely Wang Nature Photography

Fog | Neely Wang Nature Photography

Fog | Neely Wang Nature Photography

Fog | Neely Wang Nature Photography

I love the quietness of this older couple sitting together and looking out into the nothingness. 

Fog | Neely Wang Nature Photography

And these spiky weeds that grab hold of my pants and scrape my legs — still beautiful in spite of it!

Fog | Neely Wang Nature Photography

Fog | Neely Wang Nature Photography

So many places to see and explore before the warmth of the sun burns it all away.

Fog | Neely Wang Nature Photography

Fog | Neely Wang Nature Photography

Fog | Neely Wang Nature Photography

Fog | Neely Wang Nature Photography

Fog | Neely Wang Nature Photography

I just love getting lost in the fog…

Chef Tanya Holland of Brown Sugar Kitchen | Marin County Food Photography

Neely Wang Marin Food Photographer

Last week, I had the pleasure of photographing the October event hosted by Fresh Starts Chef Events, a project to support Homeward Bound of Marin, a homeless shelter in Marin County, California, providing food, shelter and job training for those in need. This month’s event featured acclaimed Chef Tanya Holland of Brown Sugar Kitchen and B-Side BBQ in Oakland, California. People come to Oakland to eat her organic, sustainable, local and healthier California-ized soul food, but mainly they come for her famous Fried Chicken and Waffles! Although I was disappointed she didn’t share her famous chicken and waffles recipe at the event, her other menu items made up for it!

Chef Tanya Holland Dirty Rice

Besides working at her restaurant, Chef Holland has also demonstrated her delicious soulful on “The Talk” on CBS, “The Today Show” on NBC, and she was the host and soul food expert for the “Melting Pot” on Food Network. She studied at the University of Virginia (almost becoming an engineer) and later at La Varenne Ecole de Cuisine in Burgundy, France. She gave up her vegetarian ways while living in France and enjoying its food, which she claims she’ll eat all of, except for horse. Chef Holland is a repeat Chef to Fresh Starts and shared mouthwatering recipes from her new cookbook Brown Sugar Kitchen: New-Style, Down-Home Recipes from Sweet West Oakland, which she warmly calls, “Her love letter to Oakland.”

Neely Wang Marin Food Photographer

The evening began with a delicious plate of corn fritters, buttermilk cornbread and the most heavenly brown sugar butter for spreading. I probably could have eaten that entire bowl of butter if no one was looking — it was that good!

Neely Wang Marin Food Photographer

Look at that yummy goodness!

Neely Wang Marin Food Photographer

The main dish on the menu was Blackened Catfish with Collard Greens and Vegetarian Dirty Rice

Neely Wang Marin Food Photographer

The fish was super flavourful and full of spice! Here is the fish right when it was placed in the skillet.

Neely Wang Marin Food Photographer

And here it is all nice and blackened!

Neely Wang Marin Food Photographer

Chef Holland chiffonading the collard greens, which paired nicely with the spicy fish.

Neely Wang Marin Food Photographer

The chefs and students preparing the plates in the kitchen, while Chef Holland gave her demonstration in the front.

Fresh Starts Culinary Academy

Chef Tanya Holland Homeward Bound

Neely Wang Marin Food Photographer

Chef Holland also shared her delicious Buttermilk Cornbread recipe made in a cast-iron skillet. For the past year, I’ve been saying that I need to try making cornbread in my cast-iron skillet after experimenting with various cast-iron skillet recipes like this blueberry dutch baby or this blueberry peach cobbler — now I have the perfect cornbread recipe!

Chef Tanya Holland

Buttermilk Cornbread Recipe

The evening was capped off with delicious Beignets with Jam. Truthfully, I will probably never try making beignets at home because a vat of hot oil is not something I prefer to mess around with, but you just can’t beat the taste of a fresh beignet right out of the fryer! Soft, warm sweet dough dipped in homemade jam — yum!

Neely Wang Marin County Food Photographer

Neely Wang Marin Food Photographer

Neely Wang Marin Food Photographer

One person from the audience asked if they could try one of the beignets she had just finished frying up, and by the end of the evening, the beignets slowly disappeared one-by-one as guests followed suit. I’ll admit I snuck one as well, and they were fantastic!

Neely Wang Marin Food Photographer

Here are the students’ version of the beignets — they looked a little more like donut holes, but still very tasty!

Fresh Starts Cooking

Homeward Bound Cooking School

Check back next month for Chef Heidi Khraling, founder of Insalata’s and Marinitas in San Anselmo, California. She’ll be serving Turkish yogurt dip and spoon salad, warm flatbread, italian fennel salad, and swordfish with salmoriglio sauce.

In the meantime, grab your cast-iron skillets and try this delicious cornbread recipe! Don’t forget to mix-up your own brown sugar butter, too!

Buttermilk Cornbread

Ingredients:
1 egg
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melter, plus 1 tablespoon for the pan
3/4 cup cooked fresh corn kernels
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 425F. Put a 12-inch cast-iron skillet in the oven to preheat.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg and buttermilk. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar.
3. Add the flour mixture to the buttermilk mixture and mix with a wooden spoon; do not overmix. Stir in the melted butter. Gently fold the corn kernels into the batter until just combined.
4. Remove the skillet front the oven, and add 1 tablespoon butter to the hot pan. When the butter melts, brush it evenly over the bottom and sides of the skillet. Pour the batter into the skillet.
5. Bake until the cornbread is browned on the edges and a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean, 20-35 minutes. Let cool slightly and serve warm. Cornbread is best eaten fresh.