Your New Favorite Winter Salad — And It Doesn’t Involve Kale

A simple salad that hits all the notes.

A simple salad that hits all the notes.

 

From get-go, you know you’re in for a cookbook packed with thoughtful culinary wisdom and wicked, sly humor when it’s entitled, “Almonds, Anchovies, and Pancetta: A Vegetarian Cookbook, Kind Of” (William Morrow).

After all, anchovies and pancetta are as far removed as you can get from being vegetarian. But they are flavor boosters like no other, adding salty, meaty umami notes to anything they touch, even in minute proportions.

And who knows better about that than a chef who cooked at Chez Panisse for 22 years? Cal Peternell is now a best-selling cookbook author and the creator of the marvelous podcast, “Cooking By Ear.”

Almonds Anchovies and Pancetta

Peternell’s newest cookbook will make you a better cook — by offering up easily doable recipes, all written with mouth-watering descriptions, that teach you why certain ingredients work so well with others, and how a dish built around just a handful of items can truly sing. Enjoy everything from “Steamed Clams with Almond and Parsley Butter and No Linguine” to “Caesar’s Gougeres” and “Almond Granita.”

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Andrea Nguyen’s Herby Oven-Steamed Eggs

This herby oven-steamed egg custard is one smooth operator.

This herby oven-steamed egg custard is one smooth operator.

 

One of the dishes I most fondly remember my Mom making when I was a kid was a Chinese savory custard, redolent of seasoned ground pork and with a surprise duck egg yolk the color of a Hawaiian sunset hidden at its very center.

I also remember her expression when it did not turn out perfectly smooth.

She’d wait till it was done steaming to lift the lid to reveal the outcome. If it had a bubbly interior, she would frown and fret — even if the taste was still delicious. But if it was as smooth as creme brulee, she would take it as a personal triumph.

I thought of my late-Mom when I spied “Herby Oven-Steamed Eggs” in the new “Vietnamese Food Any Day: Simple Recipes for True, Fresh Flavors” (Ten Speed Press), of which I received a review copy. It’s the latest and greatest by my friend and colleague, award-winning Bay Area food writer Andrea Nguyen.

Vietnamese Food Any Day

As the name implies, this cookbook aims to streamline Vietnamese dishes so you can enjoy the vibrant flavors of the cuisine any day of the week without special trips to Asian markets.

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Camper Stakes Its Claim In Menlo Park

Beautiful yellowtail crudo at Camper in downtown Menlo Park.

Beautiful yellowtail crudo at Camper in downtown Menlo Park.

 

On a rainy, dreary Friday afternoon in Menlo Park, Camper was full of — yes — happy campers.

The restaurant, which pitched its home in the former LB Steak locale last year, was buzzing and completely full at lunch time, as I found when I met a friend and colleague there, with both of us paying the tab at the end.

Roland Passot, owner of La Folie in San Francisco and former owner of LB Steak, partnered with Chef Greg Kuzia-Carmel, who cooked at New York’s Per Se and San Francisco’s Cotogna, and Logan Levant, who owned Buttercake Bakery in Los Angeles, to open this smart spot built around hand-made pastas and elevated classics with global influences such as Crispy Fried Chicken “Milanese” ($14) and Overnight Yucatan-Style Braised Pork ($18).

The bar.

The bar.

The airy dining room.

The airy dining room.

It’s a handsome restaurant done up with light wood, plenty of windows, a long back-lighted bar, and a dough room just off the entrance, where you can watch the pasta being made.

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Valentine’s Day Calls For Some Special Chocolate

A great start to a Valentine's Day.

A great start to a Valentine’s Day.

 

Yes, roses are lovely.

But chocolate is where it’s at.

At least that’s my philosophy for Valentine’s Day.

And nobody makes chocolate like Burlingame’s Guittard Chocolate Company, a family-owned craft chocolate maker that celebrated its 150th year in business in 2018.

In honor of that monumental anniversary, Guittard created a limited-edition Eureka Works 62 Percent bar, named after the first factory that founder Etienne Guittard set up in San Francisco in 1868.

It’s a blend of cacao beans from its earliest sourcing locations: Indonesia, Hawaii, Ecuador and Brazil. What’s more a portion of proceeds from every bar sold will go to the Heirloom Cacao Preservation Fund, a not-for-profit that works to preserve the rarest cacao trees that produce the highest quality chocolate and to help the farmers who grow them.

Guittard's special, limited-edition Eureka Works chocolate.

Guittard’s special, limited-edition Eureka Works chocolate.

The huge 500g bar ($29.95 on the Guittard Web site) is lovely to look at — molded with a nifty cacao bean imprint design. And the taste? I was fortunate enough to receive a sample recently. It’s a smooth, complex chocolate that tastes prominently of dark cherries and a touch of pineapple. It has some acidity and bitterness, but in measured amounts to let the fruitiness of the bar shine through.

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Happiness is Chocolate Popcorn

Hooray! This homemade version of chocolate popcorn is pretty darn close to the one I fell for in Seattle.

Hooray! This homemade version of chocolate popcorn is pretty darn close to the one I fell for in Seattle.

 

Ever since a trip to Seattle last year, I have been obsessed with chocolate popcorn.

My first taste of this crunchy, chocolatey treat came courtesy of the Cinerama movie theater in downtown Seattle, where the marquee not only flashes its availability in bright lights, but the intoxicating smell of it wafts out its doors.

The late Paul Allen, a co-founder of Microsoft, bought the iconic theater and proceeded to seriously up the game on the concession stand. Fortunately, you can even walk into the lobby and buy some of this popcorn without even buying a ticket to a movie.

That’s what my husband and I did after our interest — and nostrils — were piqued. On the second to last day of our trip, we bought a small ($6.50), which is fairly sizeable. One taste and we were completely hooked. In fact, I like chocolate popcorn way better than caramel corn because it’s not as cloying. We nibbled to our stomach’s content and even had enough leftover to bring home on the plane.

After the last of the chocolate popcorn was gone a couple days later (and mind you, it was still wonderfully crisp even at that point), I began to have serious withdrawal. So much so that I even looked online to see if the Cinerama might possibly do mail-orders of the popcorn. But alas, no.

So I was determined to try to make my own at home.

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