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.
Sometimes the best things in life happen by complete accident.
Take my discovery of this amazing recipe for “English Muffin Bread” that’s “baked” in your microwave in mere minutes. I kid you not.
A month ago, Rebecca from New Hampshire, emailed me out of the blue, frantically searching for this recipe by cookbook author Lora Brody. She’d made it before, loved it, but couldn’t for the life of her lay her hands on it again at the moment. So, she did what we all do: She Google’d it. The search engine returned a link to where she could find it: FoodGal.com. Trouble is I not only didn’t have that recipe on my blog, but I’d never even heard of it. Go figure.
After she and I exchanged perplexed emails, Rebecca eventually found the recipe again in Brody’s cookbook, “The New England Table” (Chronicle Books), and sent me a copy. It’s adapted from a James Beard recipe.
And it’s a marvel.
Sure, you’ve baked many a meat loaf. But have you ever smoked one — over hickory chips no less?
It may spoil you for any other version.
A beguiling smoky, woodsy flavor permeates this very moist “Slow-Smoked Barbecued Meat Loaf” from “Cooking My Way Back Home” (Ten Speed Press) cookbook, of which I received a review copy late last year. The cookbook is by Mitchell Rosenthal, co-owner and executive chef of three San Francisco restaurants: Town Hall, Salt House, and Anchor and Hope. The book features more than 100 hearty, Southern-inspired dishes from those restaurants.
This is one flavorful meatloaf, as the mixture of ground beef, pork and veal is suffused with your favorite barbecue sauce, Dijon mustard, grated Parmesan and a spice mixture that includes cayenne, paprika, cumin, coriander, oregano, celery salt and dry mustard.
The meat loaf can be cooked either inside a loaf pan or on top of a sheet pan. The latter will expose it to more of that lovely smoke, so that’s the method I chose.
We’ve all learned that to make the perfect, flaky crust, you need cold butter, cool hands and a resulting dough that must be chilled before it’s baked.
Now, take those techniques that you’ve labored to master all these years — and throw them out the window.
Because here’s a supremely flaky crust that breaks all those rules.
It’s made with boiling hot butter that’s mixed with flour to form a dough that you press — while still warm — into your pan before baking.
How crazy is that?
It’s almost embarrassingly easy and pretty fool-proof. And it produces a crust that would rival any at a fancy patisserie.