A couple of weeks ago, I attended an outdoor movie at Campovida in Hopland, enjoyed Mendocino Farms’ wine, and almost made a delicious picnic dinner for my son Charlie and myself.

I say almost, because while the apple slaw was perfectly delicious, I made a horrible error that doomed the main course, slow braised pork belly, to complete and utter failure.

I saw salt pork, and recognized it as pork belly, but having not worked with it before had no idea how irredeemably salty it was. I slow cooked the meat, taking over 4 hours to turn out something nearly inedible and totally unpalatable.

I mention this because I am ordinarily a very good cook, better than just about anyone I know, but when I screw up somehow it causes glee, or at least provides some twisted entertainment, for my friends. People like it when a a dose of humility comes around, and mine was self delivered.

I took the inedible meat, trimmed it to find the soft less salty inner meat, cut it up and used it, along with a host of fresh veggies, to flavor a mixed bean soup for the next day’s main meal. I was able to save a bad dish, or at least recycle, repurpose, reuse for a different, good, dish.


The movie was absolutely wonderful. Outdoor movies on Summer evenings are one of my favorite things. Thanks to Campovida’s Gary and Anna, and everyone at Magnanimus Wine Company , for being such wonderful hosts.

Oh, one last note: a pair of bocce courts are being put in right outside the Magnanimus Wine art gallery and tasting bar at Campovida. I love bocce, and look forward to returning to play.


Today, I am making the Banana Fritters that saw cheftestant Ed Cotton win the first half of the two part Top Chef finale in Singapore. Last year’s winner Michael Voltaggio recreated the dish in an online video. Here is the recipe as I transcribed it:

Ed’s TC Banana Fritters


2 Cups Flour

2 TBS Black and White Sesame Seeds

1 tsp Baking Powder

3 TBS Sugar

1 tsp Salt

1 TBS Honey

2 Eggs

2 Cups Beer

2 Cups Red Chili Paste

4 Bananas

1/2 Cup Sugar

1/4 Cup Cinammon


Add ingredients Flour through Beer, in order, to large bowl, mix with whisk for a few minutes until everything “hydrates into the beer,” taking care not to over mix.

Slice bananas into 3/4 inch medallions.

Skewer each medallion, using the large, non pointy end, for greater adhesion – skewers aid in adding paste, batter, and deep frying.

Brush each medallion with a little red chili paste.

Dip each chili pasted banana medallion in batter to coat.

Move to a 350˚ deep fryer, or a preheated small pot with vegetable oil at 350˚, letting the battered banana off the skewer.

Remove with small mesh strainer or slotted spoon when cooked, puffed and brown, to a paper towel covered wire rack to cool.

Dust with a 2 to 1 Sugar/Cinnamon mix.



I also bought a half flat of beautiful strawberries from a door to door fruit salesman today, and will be making homemade strawberry ice cream.

Here’s what I plan:

John Cesano’s Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream


5 cups whipping cream

2 1/2 cups half and half

2 1/2 cups whole milk

2 1/2 cups plus 6 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 cups strawberries

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

zest from 1 lemon and 1/2 orange

4-7 cups rock salt

10-15 lbs crushed ice


1. Clean, core, and quarter the strawberries; cook down the strawberries with lemon juice, lemon and orange zest, and 6 tablespoons sugar, about 5 – 6 minutes, until soft. Refrigerate mixture.

2. Scald milk until bubbles form at edge of pan, remove from heat. Add sugar and salt. Stir until dissolved.

3. Stir in half and half, vanilla extract, and whipping cream. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes.

4. Combine refrigerated apple and cream mixtures.

5. Place refrigerated mixture into cooled 6 quart ice cream can, filling ice cream can no more than 3/4 full as it will expand during freezing.

6. With 4 cups of rock salt for making, another 3 cups for hardening, and 15 pounds of ice cubes for both, churn ice cream 20-40 minutes.

7. Pack ice cream into containers, allowing 1/2 inch for expansion, and freeze several hours to ripen and harden home made ice cream.


I will be serving the Banana Fritters with Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream on the side, and pairing it with a 2009 J. Lohr Estates Wildflower Monterey Valdiguie. I’ll let you know how that works out.