This month, I photographed the April event hosted by Fresh Starts Chef Events, a project to support Homeward Bound of Marin, a homeless shelter in Marin County providing food, shelter and job training for those in need. This event marked the fourth return of Chef, James Beard Award-winning cookbook author and television personality, Joanne Weir. She is the host of the TV series, Joanne Weir’s Cooking Confidence, which airs nationally on Public Television. Once again, Joanne taught in front of a sold-out crowd and shared recipes from her restaurant, Copita Tequileria y Comida, located in Sausalito, California. This restaurant, which she co-opened with restaurateur Larry Mindel of Poggio in 2012 began from inspiration from her book, Tequila.
The meal began with a delicious Sweet Pea Guacamole. I have tried chunky guacamoles with tomatoes and red onions before, but never with peas. The peas were a fresh accompaniment to the guacamole, perfect for Spring. The guacamole was presented in homemade tortilla shell bowls. The guests I sat with started eating the guacamole before I could get a proper picture, which shows just how good it was!
Chef Weir then prepared her Green Rice, filled with Polano peppers and lots of flavourful cilantro, to accompany her main dish of salmon.
The ingredients were blended and then added to the rice while it cooked.
The second accompaniment to her main dish was a delicious Tomatillo, Mint and Avocado Salsa. The salsa was to be shared among the table, but I could have easily eaten a whole bowl all by myself!
One great trick Chef Weir shared from her time working at Chez Panisse is to chop garlic with the blunt side of your knife to yield the most garlic flavour. I’m excited to try this tip at home!
The main dish of the evening was Salmon, Shrimp and Spring Vegetables Baked in Paper. Chef Weir demonstrated how to cut the parchment into a heart shape and then wrap the seafood and vegetables inside.
Each guest received their own individual salmon present to open up. The salmon was so moist and flavourful, especially with the splash of wine added to the dish before it was wrapped and baked.
The meal ended with a delectable Tequila-Mi-Su, which is like a Tiramisu, but with tequila added to the espresso! As a great fan of coffee-flavored anything plus some creamy goodness, this dessert was right up my alley. Joanne shared some great tips, like putting the bowl on the stove until the egg whites are warm to the touch and the bubbles are small and consistent in size, and not twisting the spatula when folding the cream, but rather turning the bowl and seeing the inside of your wrist for proper technique.
Chef Weir auctioned off licking rights to both the spoon and bowl she used to make the dessert, as well as the entire dessert itself! Guests were eager to get a taste of this luscious dessert and support a great cause in the process.
What’s not to love about layers of espresso-tequila-dipped ladyfingers, marscapone cheese with whipped cream and bananas all covered in mexican chocolate?
It was such a fun evening with lots of learning and great, flavourful food! Chef Weir has such an infectious smile — you could tell she simply loves what she does!
Now off to make some salmon!
Salmon, Shrimp and Spring Vegetables Baked in Parchment – Serves 6
3 small carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces on the diagonal
6 very fresh salmon fillets (6 oz. each)
6 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
1 lime, thinly sliced
6 spears asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces on the diagonal
1 cup sugar snap peas, strings removed
¼ cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
Bring a saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the carrots and simmer for 3 minutes. Drain and set the carrots aside.
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cut 6 pieces of parchment paper (or foil) in the shape of a heart, about 20 inches across at the widest part of the heart. Brush each piece liberally with olive oil.
Place one piece of salmon on half of the heart and top each with one shrimp. Season with salt and pepper and place a slice of lime on each fillet.
Divide the carrots, asparagus and snap peas evenly among the 6 parchment hearts, scattering them on top of the salmon. Sprinkle a tablespoon of white wine on top of the fish and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
To seal each parcel, fold the heart in half and begin by folding and creasing the edges to enclose the salmon and vegetables. Continue folding the paper down over itself until the parcel is completely enclosed.
Place the parchment parcels on a baking sheet and slide into the oven until well puffed, about 15 minutes. To serve, place one parchment parcel on each plate and snip the center open with scissors.