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Visit Temecula Valley Shares Spring Recipes from Temecula Valley Chefs

Friday, April 2, 2021 4:00 PM

Rosemary and other fresh spring herbs make Pork Rilletes by Chef Matthew Steffen at Cork Fire Kitchen. Valley News/Courtesy photo

TEMECULA – Two top chefs in Temecula Valley share their favorite spring recipes and the inspiration behind them. Spring is a favorite time of year to visit to enjoy the outdoors and colorful blossoms. Dining options both indoor and out are available in Old Town Temecula and Temecula Valley Wine Country. Temecula Valley’s standout chefs blend their creativity with locally grown ingredients, as demonstrated in the following recipes. 

Executive Chef Matthew Steffen at Cork|Fire Kitchen, Temecula Creek Inn says, “I’ve chosen to share this recipe because this was a winning dish for the SoCal Chef open. It features pork, which is a nod to our mascot Porter the pig, and it incorporates fresh items from our own on-site garden.” Chef Steffen goes on to explain the dish, “This dish is a play on charcuterie, which demonstrates CFK’s ability to take inspiration from a well-known dish and add our own little twist to it. Instead of typical pork rillettes, I took inspiration from Southern California and modified it to embody the farm-to-table movement. I love being able to use locally grown springtime favorites such as avocados and gooseberries to make this award-winning dish.”

Executive Chef Leah Di Bernardo at E.A.T. Marketplace shares the inspiration behind her dishes, “My daughter was recently diagnosed as celiac combined with a gut issue that means no dairy.  I challenged myself to come up with a gluten free pasta in a decadent cream sauce that any 18 year old would love.” Chef Di Bernardo goes on to share the background of the recipe, “This dish is inspired by many years of making my Nona's pasta recipes but tweaking it to a vegan and gluten free dish.  The star ingredients are cashews because cashews have amazing heart-healthy fatty acids, trace minerals, magnesium, copper and are super low in sugar, making them great brain food.”


Pork Rilletes by Chef Matthew Steffen, Cork|Fire Kitchen

  • 20 to 25 black peppercorns
  • 4 allspice berries
  • 2 cloves
  • 8 coriander seeds
  • 2 pounds fatty, pork head and belly, cleaned head
  • salt
  • 1 garlic clove, lightly crushed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 2 cups unsalted chicken stock
  • 2 sprigs cilantro
  • 1 cup orange juice

Heat the oven to 275 degrees. Put the peppercorns, allspice, cloves and coriander in a spice grinder or clean coffee grinder and process until finely ground. Put the pork in a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven and sprinkle with salt and the spice mixture. Add the garlic, bay leaf, rosemary and stock and put the pot over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, cover and put the pot in the oven. Cook, checking every now and then, until the pork is falling apart and beginning to caramelize and the stock has almost entirely evaporated. Remove the cover if necessary to get the liquid to evaporate; the bottom of the pot should be just about all melted fat when done, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

Strain the mixture; reserve the fat and discard the garlic, bay leaf, rosemary and any gristle. Transfer the pork to a bowl and mash it into small shreds with the back of a fork. Add 1/4 cup of the reserved fat and stir to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper (keep in mind that the colder you serve the rillettes, the less salty they will taste). Roll the rillettes into a roulade and refrigerate (covered tightly, they will keep for at least a week). Serve cold or at room temperature.

Raw Salsa Verde

  • 1 bunch green onions
  • 5 tomatillos
  • 1 garlic clove, sliced
  • 1 lemon (zest only)
  • ½ oz serrano chile
  • ½ cup cilantro
  • 1 oz rice wine vinegar
  • 2 oz olive oil

In a robot coupe blend all ingredients and season with salt and pepper.

Gooseberry Salsa

  • 1 pint gooseberries (quartered)
  • 1 julienned
  • 1 lemon (zest)
  • 1 oz – hickory smoked olive oil

Place all ingredients in a mixing bowl and season with salt and pepper

Garden Chile Harissa

  • 1 small carrot
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 red tomato
  • 1 Fresno chile
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp harissa spice
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp sherry

Roast all dry items in the oven until all items are caramelized. Place ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth finishing with the vinegar and salt and pepper.

Asparagus Salad by Chef Leah Di Bernardo, E.A.T. Marketplace

  • 1 lb large asparagus, woody ends trimmed
  • 3 oz fresh arugula
  • ¼ shredded radicchio
  • ½ cup fresh peas- blanched, then immersed in ice cold water for 10 minutes or until cool
  • 1 large avocado, pitted, peeled, and chopped
  • ¼ cup vegan cheese *or however much floats your boat!
  • ½ cup chopped pistachios
  • 1 blood orange- supreme
  • 1 tsp hemp seeds
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


  • ¼ cup olive oil (not too grassy, a lighter flavored OO or avocado oil is best)
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp champagne vinegar
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

First, make the dressing. In a small bowl or jar, whisk together the lemon juice, vinegar, agave/honey, and smashed-minced garlic and one tsp blood orange juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste, whisk well, then slow drizzle in olive oil while whisking. Keep in a jar and shake vigorously before using.

Wash your asparagus, pat dry with paper towel. Cut 1-1.5 inches of ends off, making sure to get the lighter-green woodsy ends off. Using a vegetable peeler, lay asparagus spear flat on a cutting board. Starting at the bottom end, use the peeler to shave it into long thin strips or ribbons. Put shavings in med-large bowl until done. (This can also be done the day prior, hold shavings in ice-cold water over night, drain and pat dry.)

Peel blood orange from top to bottom, removing all white pith, revealing the flesh. Cut segments between each membrane.

Add the arugula and shredded radicchio to the shaved asparagus, peas, and pistachio then lightly toss. Add medium diced avocado, lightly toss again, add salt and pepper to taste. Top with blood orange segments, shaved cheese, and hemp seeds. Drizzle more dressing over the salad and serve.

Vegan Creamy Mushroom Pasta by Chef Leah Di Bernardo, E.A.T. Marketplace

Decadent creamy vegan pasta bowl with pan fried mushrooms and cashew cream sauce.

Cashew Cream Sauce

  • 1 1/2 cup cashews, soaked overnight in cold water or soaked 30 minutes in boiling water
  • 1 cup plant-based unsweetened milk
  • 2 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

In a blender, add all ingredients for cream sauce: soaked/drained cashews, unsweetened milk, ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard, paprika, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, and salt. Blend on high speed until the cashews turn creamy with no lumps. If there are lumps in the sauce it may be because the nuts didn’t soak long enough or that the blender doesn't have enough power. That's okay, the sauce will still be delicious anyway. Set aside.

Notes: Soak the cashews at least 12 hours in cold water. Soaked cashews become really soft and can easily blend into a thick cream when combined with liquids. That is the trick for a smooth cashew sauce. The liquid can be vegetable stock, nut milk or a combo of both. The best ratio of soaked cashews/liquid to create a creamy vegan pasta sauce is 1 cup of liquid for 1 1/2 cup of soaked cashews. Then, depending on desired creaminess of pasta, liquid can be reduced to 3/4 cup or increase and simmer the pasta into the sauce to thicken. Nutritional yeast is great to add a cheesy flavor to the vegan creamy pasta sauce. Other great spices to add are garlic powder, onion powder, salt, cumin or turmeric or cayenne to spice it up.

Mushroom Pasta

  • 2 ½ cups sliced/chopped mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon vegan butter (or use more olive oil)
  • 2 garlic cloves peeled, smashed, minced
  • 1 tablespoons parsley cleaned, dried, chopped
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard (optional)
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 4 cups cooked pasta of choice (about 250g uncooked)

Boil water in a large pot, add salt so it tastes like sea water. Cook off pasta, strain, rinse and hold. (Gluten-free pasta likes a lot of water.) In a large saucepan over med-high heat, add olive oil. Once hot, add sliced mushrooms and stir 4-5 minutes, or until they begin to brown- DO NOT crowd the mushrooms, they will steam instead of caramelizing.

Turn heat down to a medium flame, stir-in vegan butter and minced garlic. When the vegan butter is melted, add veggie stock, stir to incorporate then add cashew pasta cream sauce and stir well then add cooked pasta and toss to coat pasta with sauce. Taste and adjust salt and pepper before serving. Serve with fresh Italian parsley, toasted pine nuts or vegan parmesan.

Note: To thin out sauce, add a little vegetable stock at a time until desired consistency.

Follow Visit Temecula Valley on Instagram to crave more chef spring creations @visittemecula.