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During the third week of January, I visit the famed Rancho La Puerta, a spa known for its excellence in Tecate, Mexico, where I give two sessions on spa cuisine. The program is tailored for savvy people who want to get fit through diet and exercise. Of course, the spa wants to send their visitors home with a workable program both for their health and image. That’s where Cooking With Class fits in.

Currently, my program begins with a talk about the history of grains, one of the most basic and healthful components of a good diet. Cooking with grains is a challenge since we are a culture of fast foods and most grains require a little more care and time in cooking.

Along with the delicious nutritional benefits of eating grains and introducing the group to grains they might not know, we go into the kitchen and prepare a dish to demonstrate how to cook and flavor them.

The second session is a cooking demonstration, either in the meeting room or at the ranch’s own organic farm. It’s fun and informative for guests to see how they can create gourmet foods using healthy ingredients fare.

The best part comes when we all sit down to eat a very special dinner comprised of all vegetable and grains. For those who want to add meat, I offer suggestions that make it simple and still healthful.

I hope you enjoy the following recipe from my January visit to Rancho La Puerta.


Serves 8

8, 4-ounce center cut wild organic salmon fillets with skin
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 large sprig rosemary leaves, chopped
2 to 3 sprigs fresh thyme leaves, chopped
Few Anise leaves if available or fennel fonts, chopped
4 large leeks, finely chopped
Extra Virgin olive oil for drizzling
2 to 3 tablespoons white wine, for drizzling
8 lemon wedges for garnish

To prepare:

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Wash and chop parsley, rosemary, thyme, and anise leaves and set aside. On a shallow baking pan lined with parchment paper, sprinkle the paper with olive oil then scatter the chopped leeks evenly on the pan. Scatter a fistful (according to personal preference) of chopped herbs over the leeks and season to taste with salt and pepper. Place the salmon, meat side down (so you see the skin) on the bed of leeks, leaving about one or two inches of space between each piece of salmon. Scatter another fistful of herbs on top of the salmon skin and season to taste with pepper, drizzle olive oil and white wine over the whole affair. Can be done ahead and refrigerate until ready to roast. Remove about thirty minutes before roasting.

To roast and serve:

Roast for five to six minutes, or until desired doneness. Remove from oven and let stand at least ten minutes. It should spring back lightly to the touch of your finger. Salmon is best when served moist. Overcooking will result in dryness. Transfer the leeks and salmon to a warm platter and serve with fresh rosemary sprigs, garnish with wedges of lemon.


Salmon is rich in EPA AND DHA, two omega-3 fatty acids that are known for beneficial effect on the heart and immune system. It is also high in protein, vitamin A and B-group vitamins. 4 ounces weigh in at about 200 calories.


Serves eight to ten generously

About 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
1/8 teaspoon saffron threads or more to taste
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small red bell pepper, diced
1 small yellow bell pepper, diced
1 small green bell pepper, diced
1 teaspoon toasted fennel seeds, crushed, or more to taste
2 cups short grain brown rice
Small bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
Pinch fresh thyme, chopped
Pinch fresh rosemary, chopped
Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 cups hot vegetable stock
1/2 cup wheat berries – cooked in vegetable stock
1/2 cup pearled barley – cooked in vegetable stock
1/2 cup quinoa – cooked in vegetable stock

To prepare:

Prepare wheat berries, barley and quinoa each separately according to directions on the side of the package. Soaking over night if necessary and slowly cooking until tender but still chewy to the “tooth.” And set aside. For rich flavor, cook wheat berries, barley and quinoa in vegetable stock.

To prepare the rice:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a large heavy casserole over moderate high heat, coat the bottom with oil. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until the vegetables are soft, about four minutes. Add the bell peppers and fennel seeds and sauté until the mixture becomes aromatic, about five minutes. Add brown rice, herbs, salt and pepper; stir until the rice is coated with oil. Add the HOT stock, all at once. Stir well, cover, and place in the oven and bake until all the stock is absorbed and the rice holds to the side of the pan, about thirty to thirty-five minutes.

To serve:

In a very large bowl, toss the rice, wheat berries, barley, and quinoa together with chops sticks, being careful not to crush the rice or grains. Taste and correct the seasonings. Can be done ahead, reheated in a heavy casserole in oven or microwave. Garnish with fresh herbs on top.

If you would like more information on my program at Rancho La Puerta, email me at or call (212) 517-8514. For more information on Rancho La Puerta, visit their website at