Author Archives: foodgal

Jammin’ Fig Jam Bars

These delicious, hearty oat bars get baked up with a layer of homemade fig jam.
These delicious, hearty oat bars get baked up with a layer of homemade fig jam.

Why go to the trouble to make your own fig jam to bake a batch of fig bars?

Just let me count the reasons why.

One, fresh figs beckon like crazy at the farmers markets right now.

Two, making fig jam prolongs the life of this exquisite fruit that’s highly perishable and can turn moldy in an instant once ripe.

Three, all it takes is one taste to make you glad you made this lovely jam that’s redolent of cardamom and ginger.

And four, frankly, freshly made jam in freshly baked jam bars just can’t be beat.

That’s why I decided to devote the time to making both the “Fig Jam” and the “Jam Bar” recipes from the new cookbook, “It Starts with Fruit: Simple Techniques and Delicious Recipes for Jams, Marmalades, and Preserves” (Chronicle Books), of which I received a review copy.

The cookbook is by Jordan Champagne, the co-founder of Happy Girl Kitchen in Pacific Grove, know for its pickles, shrubs and jams. With that kind of background, it’s no wonder that this is such a definitive guide to making all manner of preserves.

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Where I’ve Been Getting Take-Out of Late, Part 3

Poulet Grand Mere from Zola in Palo Alto.
Poulet Grand Mere from Zola in Palo Alto.

Zola, Palo Alto

On first reflection, you might not think that beef bourguignon and chicken with egg noodles in a lavish cream sauce would be what you really want to dig into on a warm summer evening.

But these French classics, done so right at Zola in downtown Palo Alto, end up not necessarily feeling heavy and rich, but downright as comforting as a hug. And in this time of upheaval, who wouldn’t want to be enveloped in that kind of contentment?

Zola only offers its to-go food on Fridays and Saturdays. The week’s menu is usually posted on Wednesday (sometimes on Tuesday), so you can start reserving your picks then. The earlier the better, too, because some items sell out fast.

The new sign in the window for these new times.
The new sign in the window for these new times.

While most other restaurants provide the food warm with instructions to reheat a few seconds in the microwave when you get home, Zola actually goes the heat-and-eat route, meaning everything is refrigerated, and you need to heat it to enjoy it.

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Tantalizing Farro and Tomato Salad with Fish-Sauce Vinaigrette

This is bound to be your new favorite summer salad.
This is bound to be your new favorite summer salad.

If like me, you can’t get enough of nuoc cham — that zesty, indispensable Vietnamese dipping sauce for spring rolls, rice noodle salads, and so much more — you will go bonkers for this summery tomato and grain salad.

“Farro and Tomato Salad with Fish-Sauce Vinaigrette” takes a dressing with a similar profile as nuoc cham — minus the lime juice — to dress a colorful, bountiful mix of chewy, nutty farro grains with fresh heirloom tomatoes, crunchy cucumbers, and a lavish amount of fresh parsley and tarragon leaves.

The recipe is from Chef Joshua McFadden of Ava Gene’s in Portland, as published in Bon Appetit magazine.

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Cinnamon-Scented Sweet Tahini Rolls

Beautifully golden rolls swirled with cinnamon sugar and tahini.
Beautifully golden rolls swirled with cinnamon sugar and tahini.

In the early days of shelter-in-place, I felt as if I was living through a “Seinfeld” episode.

Specifically, the one where Elaine is beside herself when she learns her favorite contraceptive sponge is being discontinued. Guarding her precious remaining supply tightly, she’d pick apart any new suitor to determine if they were indeed “sponge-worthy.”

I did the same — only with yeast. Because it was scarce at supermarkets and I had only three packets left, I found myself loathe to try any new recipes using yeast lest they turn out to be disappointing failures.

After all, I simply couldn’t afford to waste those few precious packets. So, I made only tried-and-true recipes that I knew were absolutely, without a doubt, yeast-worthy.

Until now. Three weeks ago, my husband miraculously scored yeast at Whole Foods. Hallelujah!

Now, restocked and raring to go, I couldn’t wait to try some new recipes that used yeast. The first one to catch my eye was “Sweet Tahini Rolls” from the new cookbook, “Falastin: A Cookbook” (Ten Speed Press), of which I received a review copy.

The book is by Sami Tamimi, executive chef and founding partner of the Ottolenghi restaurant group, and Tara Wigley, a long-time Ottolenghi recipe writer. They titled the cookbook, “Falastin,” after the Palestinian newspaper that brought diverse people together.

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The Time Is Right For Séka Hills New Tribal Blend Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Liquid gold -- Séka Hills' 2019 Tribal Blend Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
Liquid gold — Séka Hills’ 2019 Tribal Blend Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

These days when we are all cooking from our pantries so much more, it really does pay to have some stellar olive oil on hand.

Just a drizzle can turn grilled bread, simple salad greens, or even a tub of store-bought hummus into something special.

And if you can get your hand on a bottle of the new limited-edition 2019 Séka Hills Tribal Blend Extra Virgin Olive Oil, then you really have struck gold.

Fortunately, a sample landed in my mailbox recently, and I’ve been using it liberally on thick asparagus spears, summer squash, and even fresh popped popcorn (for all those Netflix nights, of course).

The olive oil is made by the Yocha Dehe Wintuan Nation, which sustainably manages more than 22,000 acres on its tribal land in the Capay Valley.

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