Written by Patti FedDersen Photography by Michael Coons
Sunday dinner. It’s that time-honored tradition when family and friends come together to cap off the weekend with a leisurely meal and camaraderie before the daily grind begins again. As the days grow shorter and the weather cools, what better time to rediscover the custom?
The meal needn’t be complicated, says Lisa Biondi, executive chef at Mediterraneo Restaurant and Stonehaus Winery in Westlake Village. Instead, it should be casual and served family-style using fresh, seasonal foods thoughtfully prepared. That’s just how it was decades ago when Lisa’s family gathered on Sunday afternoons at her grandparents’ Burbank home.
“It was mostly our friends, who felt like they were part of the family, and my uncles and all of my grandma’s Italian friends,” Lisa reminisces. “We would play bocce ball outside with my uncles and their friends while my grandma and her friends were inside preparing the meal and visiting. I look back and think how fortunate I was to be exposed to such fresh ingredients cooked with such love and care.”
Lisa’s grandmother, Nona, grew her own vegetables and raised chickens to ensure she’d have fresh eggs to make her pasta. Tortellini en Brodo, Torte de Nonce, and zucchini flowers with prosciutto are a few of Lisa’s favorite family dishes.
Her mother, Marie, fried chicken while her father, Piero, chef and owner of Piero’s Italian Restaurant in Burbank, made meat patties with ricotta stewed in fresh tomato sauce with bacon and peas. And her Uncle Olinto, a baker by profession, made “the best bread and delco cookies,” the familiar folded pastry with a fruit spread filling.
Surrounded by so much enthusiasm in the kitchen and the delicious dishes that emerged from it, Lisa was inspired to cook at a young age. She took notes on the backs of envelopes as she watched her grandmother because Nona never used written recipes. Later, while earning her bachelor’s degree in business, she worked in her father’s restaurant and found herself spending more and more time in the kitchen.
But seeing firsthand her father’s long hours and the extreme heat of his work environment, Lisa resisted the notion of becoming a professional chef. Then, one night after work while she was sitting at the bar at Piero’s with a glass of wine, she yielded to the reality that cooking was her passion. Within two weeks she was enrolled in the California Culinary Academy of San Francisco, graduating in 1996.
“Here I am and loving it. And I married a chef. What was I thinking?” she teases.
Lisa’s husband, Wayne Shearon, is executive sous chef at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks. As fellow chefs, the couple share an understanding of the dynamics of the business and the demands of the career, including long hours and uncertain schedules. And because they both work at places known for delicious cuisine and beautiful surroundings, the holiday season is especially busy for the pair.
But they still make spending time with family a priority. As often as they can they get together with Yvonna and Joe Claridge, Lisa’s sister and brother-in-law; their children, Gina and Michael; and Joe’s mother, interior designer Gail Claridge.
Recently, the family gathered at Stonehaus for a casual Sunday dinner prepared by Chef Lisa.
The meal began with a charcuterie plate with layers of cheese, prosciutto, salami, cornichons and crostini served with whole-grain mustard and glazed fruit. Grilled Radicchio Pear and Marcona Almond Salad with Citrus Dressing accompanied Roast Chicken with Bacon Rosemary Root Vegetables. Pinot Noir and Côtes du Rhône were the recommended wines. Butterscotch Pudding and Hot Buttered Spiced Apple Cider provided a sweet finish to a lovely family dinner.
Grilled Radicchio, Pear and Marcona Almond Salad
2 heads radicchio, quartered and soaked in
cold water for 1 hour to remove any bitterness
1 ripe bosc pear, thinly sliced
⅓ cup gorgonzola cheese crumbles
¼ cup marcona almonds, roughly chopped
Preheat grill or grill pan to medium-high.
Coat radicchio wedges with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill radicchio uncovered until light grill marks appear.
Arrange grilled radicchio on platter with pear slices and crumbled cheese. Drizzle with dressing and sprinkle with almonds.
Makes 5 cups
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
¾ cup lemon juice
½ cup rice vinegar
¾ cup honey
3 cups canola or olive oil
½ cup water
Combine all the ingredients except the oil and water in a blender. Blend on medium to puree, then slowly drizzle in the oil. Use water to thin if dressing is getting too thick. Season with salt. Store leftover dressing in refrigerator for up to one week.
Roast Chicken with Bacon Rosemary Root Vegetables
1 4½-5-lb. roasting chicken
3 Tbsp. Kosher salt
2½ tsp. chopped fresh thyme
½ tsp. fresh ground pepper
1 lemon, halved
1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise
6 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large yellow onion, thickly sliced
1 dozen fresh baby carrots (not bagged), unpeeled and scrubbed
1 celery root, washed, peeled and cut into thick planks
2 parsnips, scrubbed and cut into 2″-thick disks
3 medium turnips, peeled and cut into thick wedges
2 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into medium chunks
salt and pepper
6 small beets, scrubbed and cut in half
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped
4 slices bacon, frozen and cut crosswise into ½” strips
Remove the excess fat from the inside of the chicken. Remove the wishbone, if desired, for greater ease in carving. Rub the chicken all over with the combined dry brine ingredients and place on a large plate uncovered in the refrigerator overnight. This will help dry out the skin and make it crisp.
Preheat oven to 475°. Remove chicken from refrigerator at least 1 hour before cooking to bring to room temperature. Place the halved lemon and the garlic bulb inside the chicken. Truss the chicken and place in a large roasting pan and rub the skin with 1 Tbsp. olive oil.
In a large bowl, toss the remaining oil with all the vegetables except the beets (if red). Add the rosemary. Season with salt and pepper. Toss red beets separately with additional 1 Tbsp. oil, salt and pepper to avoid discoloring the other vegetables. Arrange the vegetables around the chicken in a single layer and divide the frozen chopped bacon around.
Roast for 25 minutes at 475°, then reduce temperature to 400° and cook an additional 45-55 minutes or until done and the thickest part of the thigh registers 155-160°. Remove and let rest 15-20 minutes.
Turn off the oven and keep the vegetables warm while the chicken is resting.
Hot Buttered Spiced Apple Cider
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup unsalted butter
1 Tbsp. plus 1tsp. cinnamon
1¼ tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
½ tsp. sea salt
4 cups vanilla ice cream
4 cups unsweetened apple juice
Melt the first 7 ingredients over medium heat, then allow to cool but not solidify. Using the paddle attachment on a standing mixer or using a hand mixer, beat the cooled combined ingredients with the ice cream until smooth. Freeze mixture overnight.
When ready to serve, bring apple juice to a boil. Fill each heat-proof cup ¼ with ice cream mixture and ¾ with hot apple juice and stir. Top with whipped cream, ground nutmeg and a cinnamon stick to stir.
Add rum or whiskey if desired.
Leftover ice cream mixture can be stored in the freezer up to one month.
Yields 6 ¾-cup servings
9 egg yolks
1½ cups brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
½ vanilla bean
3½ cups heavy cream
Caramel sauce (see recipe)
Whipped sour cream (see recipe)
In a large bowl whisk together the egg yolks and set aside. Melt the butter over medium heat, whisk in the brown sugar and salt, stir in the scraped vanilla bean and cook over medium heat until sugar darkens slightly and takes on a caramel fragrance, about 5 minutes.
Turn the heat to medium low and whisk in the cream, pouring slowly. The sugar will harden but will dissolve as you stir. Stir until it just begins to boil. Remove from heat and mix a small amount into the egg yolks before gradually adding the egg yolks to the hot liquid. Strain and pour into oven-proof ramekins.
Bake in water bath at 325° covered until custards are just set but still jiggly, about 55 minutes. Refrigerate until cool. Serve chilled, topped with Caramel sauce, Whipped sour cream, roasted peanuts and a sprinkle of sea salt.
2 cups sugar
½ cup water
1½ sticks butter
1½ cups cream
Combine sugar and water in heavy-bottom pan and cook until deep amber. Add the butter and stir until melted and well blended. Add the cream a little at a time and stir; the sugar will harden but melt again. Stir until completely smooth.
Whipped sour cream
½ cup whipped heavy cream
½ cup sour cream
¼ cup powdered sugar
Beat heavy cream, sugar and sour cream on medium high in standing mixer with whisk attachment until thick. Adjust amounts to taste. Should have a slightly tangy flavor and not be too sweet.