Grilled potato salad with ember-roasted garlic dressing — to put pizzazz in your Fourth of July.
Men like to play with fire. And male chefs sure like cooking with it.
In fact, cooking in embers is all the rage now at places like Saison in San Francisco, and the Restaurant at Meadowood in St. Helena.
What’s the appeal? First, the primal aspect of it all. Second, the technique makes use of the residual heat that would otherwise just dissipate and go to waste. Third, it adds a gentle yet deep smoky quality.
I thought I’d give it a try, particularly when a free copy of the new “Michael Chiarello’s Live Fire” (Chronicle Books) landed in my mailbox for reviewing. Chiarello is a major fan of live fire. Every Northern California he’s worked in or owned — Tra Vigne, Bottega and Coqueta — all feature grills with live fire.
The book includes 125 recipes for cooking everything from seafood to pizza to desserts over a live fire. Of course, not many of us may have the space to cook a whole baby goat on a spitjack in our backyard, but there are plenty of recipes easily do-able even on a compact grill.
Who doesn’t need an extra pair of hands when cooking the holiday feast?
If you have a rice cooker in your kitchen, you are good to go then.
Because it’s almost like having an extra helping hand.
Especially when it comes to making risotto.
Imagine being able to make this creamy rice dish without having to stir it constantly. The rice cooker will free you up from that.
“Risotto Milanese” is from the 10th anniversary edition of “The Ultimate Rice Cooker Cookbook” (Harvard Common Press) that was written by my two good friends, Julie Kaufmann (my former editor at the San Jose Mercury News), and Beth Hensperger, a James Beard award-winning and most prolific cookbook author.
The book boasts 250 recipes, many of which you’d never guess could be made in a rice cooker, including tamales, puddings and porridges.
The latest culinary rock star appropriately enough sports a mane of long blond hair, a scruffy beard, a too-cool aura and a laid-back cerebral nature.
If Rene Redzepi put Danish cooking on the map when his Noma restaurant in Copenhagen was named San Pelligrino’s “Best Restaurant” in the world for three years running, then Swedish sensation Magnus Nilsson of Fäviken Magasinet has only solidified the fact that Nordic cuisine’s moment has arrived with a wallop.
Nilsson, who previously cooked at three-Michelin starred L’Astrance in Paris and is a trained sommelier, took over Fäviken Magasinet in a remote, rural part of Sweden four years ago. The rather improbable restaurant is located in an isolated 24,000-acre hunting estate. Like Redzepi, Nilsson is all about cooking only with local ingredients. That may be fine in temperate California. It’s a whole ‘nother thing in the wilderness of northwestern Sweden, where the winters are beyond brutal.
Even so, Nilsson, who’s not yet 30 years old, has managed to turn this tiny, isolated 12-seat restaurant into not only one of the Top 50 in the world, but the most talked-about sensation these days in the culinary stratosphere.
With the launch of his first cookbook, “Fäviken” (Phaidon), he’s been bringing a taste of his innovative cuisine to the United States, including to Coi in San Francisco, where he cooked an extraordinary dinner with Chef-Proprietor Daniel Patterson on Saturday, to which I was fortunate to be invited as a guest.
SPQR’s Executive Chef Matthew Accarrino made me peel tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes. A whole cup and a half of them.
He also made me smoke durum flour in a stove-top smoker to make my own linguine noodles.
At this rate, you’d think I was a sous chef at his San Francisco restaurant.
But nope, I was just making a recipe from his new cookbook with SPQR Proprietor Shelly Lindgren, “SPQR: Modern Italian Food and Wine” (Ten Speed Press), of which I recently received a review copy.
“Smoked Linguini with Clams, Cherry Tomatoes and Basil Pesto” was a triumph of a dish, even if it did take a couple of hours for my husband and I to make. Nothing is necessarily complicated; it’s just a dish where every component needs careful attention. If you have a few hours on a lazy Sunday evening like we did, it’s a project well worth doing, not only for the experience, but for the taste of it all at the end.
The cookbook is like an Italian travelogue that takes you through the artisanal wines and handcrafted dishes of central and northern Italy that make their way onto the tables at SPQR in San Francisco.
The recipes range from dried biscotti and nut biscotti with sweet wine granita, and bolognese with egg noodles to the more challenging bone marrow sformato with stuffed baby artichokes.
Ever since dining at AQ Restaurant in San Francisco last year where I enjoyed it for the first time, I’ve been rather fixated on barley risotto.
Oh, don’t get me wrong; I still adore the traditional version made with tender yet toothsome short-grain Italian rice.
But when it’s made with barley, it takes on a whole different personality — heartier, chewier and with a more roasty-toasty flavor.