Cooking for the Stars: Wolfgang Puck’s Kale Salad

wolfgang puck kale salad
85th Academy Awards Governors Ball Menu
Kale, Grilled Artichoke, Radicchio, Pine Nut, Golden Raisin
Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette

With 19 Oscar menus under his belt, Chef Wolfgang Puck has created another inventive bill of fare for the 85th Academy Awards Governors Ball including old favorites, signature smoked salmon creations, and several fashionable new dishes. This year’s menu includes many vegetarian and vegan offerings, as well as items like Kobe Burger with Aged Cheddar & Remoulade and Chicken Pot Pie with Black Truffle. The Chef shares his menu in photos on a page called “A Taste of the Oscars” here. (Check out those Huckleberry Macarons!) But it was the vegan Kale Salad that immediately caught my attention ~ bright winter color and various textures pair with smoky artichoke and a sunny sweet Meyer lemon vinaigrette. I served the salad as a meal, unlike at the Governors Ball, where some 30 to 35 dishes will be served as small bites to over 1600 people.

And The Oscar Goes To:

photo credit:

Raw kale is a bit chewy and not exactly tender, so it is best sliced thin, taking care not to press down and bruise the beautiful curly edges. Mildly bitter and peppery radicchio is also thinly sliced. I used fast & fabulous packaged grilled artichoke hearts from Monterey Farms which are available at Whole Foods Market. Without a recipe, I prepared this salad from the photo ~ tossing kale with radicchio, artichoke hearts, lightly toasted pine nuts, and golden raisins with a Meyer lemon vinaigrette. The plate was garnished with a few Meyer lemon wheels and a sprinkling of nuts and raisins.

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When to “Doggie Bag?” Your Thoughts?

peking duck, steamed buns, wolfgang puck duck, wp24

Leftovers of Peking Duck with Steamed Buns
Accompaniments: Scallion, Pickled Daikon, Cucumber, Sugar, Hoisin

The concept of a “doggie bag” or taking home leftovers from a restaurant meal is not an American invention. It’s been around since the sixth century B.C. when Romans would wrap up goodies from a banquet meal and take home the leftovers in a cloth. It showed respect and honored the host, implying the food was good and was worthy of taking home. Food preparation way back then could not have been easy, so, seriously, whose ancestors wouldn’t take the bountiful offerings from the big buffet back to their humble abode?

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Sweet Spicy Eggplant & Shishito

sweet spicy eggplant shishito
Japanese Eggplant & Shishito Peppers
Sweet Spicy Soy Glaze
Crispy Garlic & Chopped Peanut Topping
Chinese Chive Blossom Garnish

Back in August we had a most memorable meal at Wolfgang Puck’s Chinese Restaurant WP24. One of the many noteworthy side dishes was called “Hunan Spicy Eggplant, Roasted Shishito Peppers, Chili, Crisp Garlic.” Wanting to serve something similar at a recent dinner party but having no recipe, I decided to create my own interpretation of Wolfgang’s excellent side dish. It was a hit.

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We LoVe LA & Wolfgang Puck

ritz-carlton, los angeles
The Ritz-Carlton, Los Angeles

We LoVe LA & Wolfgang Puck

Roll down the window, put down the top
Crank up the Beach Boys, baby
Don’t let the music stop
We’re gonna ride it till we just can’t ride it no more

From the South Bay to the Valley
From the West Side to the East Side
Everybody’s very happy
‘Cause the sun is shining all the time
Looks like another perfect day, I loVe LA

original spago c. 1989
The Original Spago c. 1989

Spago in West Hollywood on the Sunset Strip

Back in the late 80’s, maybe 1989, my foodie friends and I first dined at Spago. For better or worse, the word “foodie” was coined in the 80’s. We worked, lived, and breathed restaurants – we were chefs (Aldo & Bruce), bartenders (Tamara), waiters (Lauren & Scott)  – and I had the restaurant business in my blood – having been a restaurant cook, bookkeeper, manager, hostess, and waiter. At the time most of us were working at a cutting-edge restaurant in Redondo Beach called Chez Mélange. My friends from Aspen, Aldo and Bruce, were in town and we were dying to take them to Spago. Inspirational restaurateur and owner of Chez Mélange, Michael Franks, graciously called over to Spago to secure us a reservation. We felt like we were on the A-list. Upon arrival, Michael had surprised us with a big bottle of Champagne, and we were thrilled when Wolfgang Puck himself brought over a duck sausage pizza to welcome us. (It never occurred to me to take a photograph of the food, my how times have changed!)

Spago Hollywood wasn’t stuffy or traditional. Wolfgang’s then-wife Barbara Lazaroff  designed it to be friendly, fun and colorful – where everyone could see and be seen!  Were we really “hanging spoons” at Spago? She designed the first exhibition kitchen in the United States for a fine dining establishment, the view of the city from high above Sunset Boulevard took everyone’s breath away. It was so California!

Wolfgang Puck redefined pizza. That they came topped with everything from goat cheese and Black Forest ham to artichokes and exotic mushrooms was totally new back then. Duck sausage pizza was legendary as was his famous pizza of smoked salmon, creme fraiche, chives, red onion and a dollop of caviar.

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