It is so much fun seeing old friends. Susan and I first met in 1989 when we worked together at San Francisco General Hospital. She was a registered dietitian and I was a food service supervisor. What a wild place it was. From the AIDS wards to the prison wards, crack babies to naked people coming into the Emergency Department on any number of drugs, gun shots and trauma, there was never a dull moment. It was actually fascinating. looking back. However, while I was there, I think my main goal was just to stay out of the Director’s way. To say that the place was disorganized and morale was always low would be painting a rosy picture. It was a difficult job, but we always made the best of it – and did a great job in spite of the many obstacles.

You know how jobs are often about who you know?!? Well… that’s how I was originally hired. Bob, the manager who interviewed me, was best friends with Wayne, who I had recently worked with at the Westin in Indianapolis. Bob called Wayne, Wayne said hire him, and Bob hired me.

I ended up going to UCSF a year later – I was a provisional employee with the city with no prospects of getting on permanent – and needed to get into a retirement system.

In the meantime, Susan met a cute Dr named Rob who has become a renowned robotic cardiac surgeon. Two kids and a half-dozen cities later, they may be moving east and becoming our neighbors – or, at least, neighbors withing an hour’s drive! And we’re all still friends.

It’s amazing how things work out.

Susan sent me an email saying they were going to be back here doing some interviewing and we needed to get together for dinner. She said they’d take us out. I said we’d cook. It’s easier to sit around and talk for hours when there’s not a waiter hovering, ya know?!?

Besides. We like to cook. And they brought along their friend Patty who is also an SFGH alumni. She is a Respiratory Therapist. We didn’t know each other at General, but we all became fast friends tonight.

We chose a rather eclectic menu – a couple of goodies from our Sicily trip, and a couple of favorites. And an awesome dessert.



We started off with the Focaccia Ragusa – two varieties, peppers and eggplant. It has become one of my most favorite things to eat.

Focaccia Ragusata

(makes two)

  • 9 oz all-purpose flour (Italian “00″ if you have it!)
  • 5/8 cup warm water
  • 1/2 tsp yeast
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • pinch salt

Proof yeast in warm water. Add flour, salt, and oil, and mix well. Knead about 5-6 minutes or until a smooth, elastic dough forms. Roll into a ball, cover, and let rest 30 minutes.

Divide dough in half and roll into a large, very thin circle. Spread with a very thin layer of tomato sauce and then top with a thin layer of ricotta. Add slices of fried eggplant.

Fold sides to almost meet in the center. Brush new tops with a bit of sauce and cheese. Fold in half, again, and press lightly to seal. Paint a bit of sauce on top.

Put into a preheated 475° oven and bake for 20-30 minutes or until dark brown. Take out of the oven and cover with a towel to trap steam and soften the top.

I tell ya – it is one easy dish to make. And it’s really, really good.

The second thing to come back from Sicily was the Bresaola and Arugula pictured above. This is i=one of those pure genius recipes. All it is is bresaola wrapped around arugula and drizzled with olive oil and a bit of parmesan cheese. I placed them on thick slabs of beefsteak tomato. Really, really good.

Then the eclectic started…

Phoebe’s Baked Beans. My go-to baked beans for years, now. They are perfectly spicy and always a crowd-pleaser.

Phoebe’s Baked Beans

  • 1/2 cup minced shallots
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup tomato puree (I use tomato paste – I never have puree in the house!)
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 chipotle chiles, canned in adobo sauce, seeded and chopped
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans baked beans

Preheat oven to 300°.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add shallots; sauté 4 minutes or until golden. Add cumin and garlic; sauté for 1 minute. Add tomato puree and oil, and cook for 2 minutes or until thick, stirring constantly. Add remaining ingredients (except beans.). Reduce heat; simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Combine beans and shallot mixture in a 2-quart baking dish. Bake at 300° for 1 hour or until thick and bubbly.

And a couple of coffee-rubbed tri-tips. The first one was a bit over done. That’s what happens when you’re talking instead of paying attention to cooking. Oh well. It was still really good – and the second one came out better.


And what’s a summer gathering without corn on the cob?!? I made a sun-dried tomato butter to spread over it. Pretty good stuff – and the kids loved it!


I used a small food processor to chop the ingredients and then just smooshed them into a cube of butter.

Sun-Dried Tomato Butter

  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 2 tbsp sun-dried tomatoes in oil
  • 2 tbsp fresh basil
  • 2 tbsp Italian parsley
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 tsp pepper

Finely mince all ingredients and fold into softened butter.

You can add anything to a cube of butter. Anything.

And then when we were all nice and full, we had dessert. Grilled peaches with homemade lemon ricotta and raspberry caramel.


This rocked the casbah.

Victor made his fabulous fresh ricotta and added just enough lemon and sugar to make it even more awesome than it normally is. I mean, awesome.

Fresh Ricotta

1 cup heavy cream
3 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp finely grated lemon zest

Add all ingredients to a heavy pot and simmer 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to sit for 30 minutes.

Scoop curds into a cheesecloth-lined sieve and drain about 30 minutes. Squeeze to remove as much whey as possible.

Cover and chill.

Omit the sugar and lemon for a traditional ricotta.

And then the raspberry caramel…

Raspberry Caramel

  • 2 cups raspberries
  • 3/4 cup sugar + 2 tbsp
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp Chambord
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup of raspberries with 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1 tablespoon of water. Cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the berries start to burst.
Smash them as they cook until they are nearly smooth. Whisk in the cream, raspberry liqueur, vanilla and salt. Strain out the seeds.

In a medium saucepan, combine 3/4 cup of sugar with 1/4 cup of water. Cook over moderate heat, swirling the pan and brushing down the side with a wet pastry brush, until the sugar dissolves.

Cook undisturbed until an amber caramel forms, about 7 minutes. Add the raspberry cream and simmer, whisking, until the caramel is smooth, 1 to 2 minutes.

Let cool slightly, then stir in the remaining 1 cup of raspberries; let cool to room temperature.


This works over grilled peaches, over pie or cake, and as a fantastic ice cream topping. You can switch out the berries to just about any fruit you can imagine.

So we ate, talked, laughed, and ate some more. Great fun and a great time.

Can’t wait to do it, again. Of course, we need to get Bob back here, as well…