Author Archives: foodgal

Neat and Tidy with Ratatouille Tian

Neat as a pin, ratatouille tian.

Neat as a pin, ratatouille tian.

 

I read an amusing article recently about how so many of us love the uncluttered esthetics of open-concept, minimalist home design — yet so few of us can really pull that off because we just have too much darn stuff.

I count myself among those. I readily admit I have countless cookbooks in nearly every room of my house. Though, I’m not as bad as one chef I know, whose wife told me he even has cookbooks stacked underneath the sink. I draw the line at that.

Notebooks teeter in a mountain on my desk. Knickknacks vie for space on living room shelves. My pantry groans with sous vide, pasta, and ice cream maker contraptions. And my kitchen spice cabinet does overflow. So much so, that my husband is sometimes afraid to open it, lest an avalanche of mustard seeds, star anise and za’atar come tumbling down upon him.

As much as I love the look of clean lines, my house will probably never fully achieve that calm, sparse vibe.

So I take comfort where I can, such as in “Ratatouille Tian.”

It’s zucchini, eggplant, and tomatoes, sliced into rounds of the same size, then arranged just so in neat rows in a baking pan. It’s so simple yet so striking in its appearance.

It’s an orderly dish for those times when chaos typically rules.

It’s the perfect delicious anecdote.

And it’s from the new cookbook, “In the French Kitchen with Kids” (Penguin Random House) by Mardi Michels, of which I received a review copy.

In The French Kitchen With Kids

Michels is a full-time French teacher to elementary school kids. Twice a week, she gives them cooking lessons, too. She also is the creator of the blog, Eat.Live.Travel.Write.

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Cento Osteria — Italian Fare on the Embarcadero

Mushrooms, ricotta, tomato and cotto on a puffy, blistered crust at Cento Osteria.

Mushrooms, ricotta, tomato and cotto on a puffy, blistered crust at Cento Osteria.

 

Chef Donato Scotti is on his way to building a Bay Area restaurant empire with the addition of his fourth establishment — and first one — in San Francisco.

Cento Osteria on the city’s Embarcadero joins the others in his Donato Restaurant Group: Donato Enoteca in Redwood City, Cru wine bar in Redwood City, and Donato & Co. in Berkeley.

His newest opened in May. My friend Ben of the blog, FocusSnapEat, and I were invited in as guests to check it out recently.

The dark wood interior gives the dining room warmth while its walls of windows give it airiness.

The open kitchen.

The open kitchen.

The dining room.

The dining room.

Chef Chris D’Andrea, formerly of Saison and Eight Tables, both in San Francisco, heads the kitchen.

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Two Treats In One: Blackberry Torta Della Nonna

Perfect little mounds grace this intriguing tart.

Perfect little mounds grace this intriguing tart.

 

How magical and intriguing is this tart?

What could possibly create all those perfect little mounds that give this Italian dessert its distinctive look?

When James Beard Award-winning Chef Alon Shaya first laid eyes on this treat in Italy while working at a salumeria-restaurant, he thought it surely must be extremely difficult to make, a laborious affair that demanded the highest precision.

He soon learned how wrong he was.

Eddy, a matronly and motherly cook who took him under her wings, learned how to make this from her mother, who learned it from her mother before her. And she gladly taught it to Shaya.

The secret to its perfect little mounds?

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Korean Comfort Food At Berkeley Social Club

G.I. Fried Rice -- with Spam -- at Berkeley Social Club.

G.I. Fried Rice — with Spam — at Berkeley Social Club.

 

Steven Choi may have 11 restaurants in the Bay Area now, including Surisan in San Francisco and Fred’s Place in Sausalito. But Berkeley Social Club, which opened in 2016, was the first one to really take inspiration from his Korean heritage.

Located in the heart of Berkeley’s bustling University Avenue corridor, it features an eclectic mix of brunch classics and contemporary Korean fare. It’s pure comfort food with global panache, as I discovered on a recent early Sunday evening, when I visited for dinner with my husband, paying our tab at the end.

Take a seat at the bar.

Take a seat at the bar.

The soaring space is done up with Edison chandeliers, a cement bar, and exposed pipes on the ceiling to give it a trendy industrial vibe.

Choi has made his name with Millionaire’s Bacon, which is served at almost every one of his restaurants. He didn’t necessarily invent this sweet, spicy, smoky porcine treat (he’ll be the first to acknowledge it was inspired by a dish he tried elsewhere years ago), but he surely has perfected it.

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Grilled Sesame Shrimp For The Win

Tahini helps marinade the shrimp and creates the foundation for the dipping sauce.

Tahini helps marinade the shrimp and creates the foundation for the dipping sauce.

 

Tahini is having a moment.

And it’s about time.

If you love peanut butter, almond butter or any other nut butter, you will easily fall for its cousin, tahini, which is essentially a form of sesame butter. Raw or toasted sesame seeds are ground, releasing their oil, and creating a creamy, thick, velvety, and spoonable sauce redolent of pure sweet nuttiness.

It’s what gives hummus its unmistakable lushness. It’s what fortifies so many great Middle Eastern dressings and spreads. And it’s what perks up palates with interest anew after tiredness sets in from same ol’, same ol’ peanut butter.

Levant Book

Restaurateur Rawia Bishara calls it one of her favorite pantry items. She says she could devote an entire book to it. She hasn’t gone that far, but she does include quite a few recipes using the sesame paste in her new cookbook, “Levant: New Middle Eastern Cooking From Tanoreen” (Kyle), of which I received a review copy.

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