Category Archives: General

A Farro Salad to Fall For

A lovely, lively grain salad to enjoy any time.

A lovely, lively grain salad to enjoy any time.

 

Grain salads and grain bowls are so very trending now.

Which is a wonderful development, given that we should all try to eat more grains because they are rich in nutrients. Plus, it doesn’t take a lot to get you full for quite awhile.

I love farro, an ancient wheat grain that cooks up delightfully chewy with a subtle toasted nutty flavor. It’s high in fiber, Vitamin B3 and zinc, too.

Normally, I cook it like risotto. But summer’s warm weather had me eyeing this recipe for “Farro Salad with Fennel, Radicchio, and Pistachios.”

It’s from the new cookbook, “One Pan, Two Plates: Vegetarian Suppers” (Chronicle Books), of which I received a review copy. The book is by cooking school teacher and caterer, Carla Snyder.

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Picks For Your (Late) Summer Reading

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“32 Yolks” by Eric Ripert

With his ever calm, cool and collected demeanor, celebrated Chef Eric Ripert is the epitome of poise under pressure.

But it wasn’t always that way.

Ripert, chef and co-owner of Le Bernardin, the Michelin three-starred and New York Times four-starred gastronomic landmark in New York, has already written five cookbooks. But in his memoir, In “32 Yolks: From My Mother’s Table to Working the Line” (Random House), of which I received a review copy, he bravely reveals his often painful path to becoming one of the greatest chefs in the world.

Born in Andorra, a small country in France just over the Spanish border, he grew up a sullen, angry child, following his parents’ divorce. While his stylish mother expressed her love for him through cooking, his step-father routinely expressed his disdain for him by berating him and slapping him around.

His first mentor was Chef Jacques, who let the unhappy young boy find solace in the kitchen by helping with tasks and by feeding him endless bowls of chocolate mousse. It wasn’t long before Ripert realized it was in the kitchen that he felt most at home.

At 17, he was working at La Tour d’Argent, where he quickly realized his culinary school degree made him no match for the skills needed at one of Paris’ most vaunted establishments. It grew even worse when he landed a job working under the great Joel Robuchon, where the entire kitchen crew quaked in fear of the legendary chef.

Thirty-two yolks refers to the number of yolks needed to make a perfect batch of hollandaise at La Tour d’Argent, a task Ripert failed epically on his first day there. But through the pages, you witness the fortitude and passion that made him what he is today.

The book ends before he gets to Le Bernardin. But for those interested in that part of his life, just pick up his other book, “On The Line” (Artisan), a masteful, detailed behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to run a restaurant of that caliber.

“Waste Free Kitchen Handbook”

With food waste such a hot topic these days, Berkeley’s Dana Gunders, a staff scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, has written a handy-dandy book to teach easy ways to use up more of your provisions so less ends up in the trash.

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Ancient Wheat For Those Who Are Gluten-Sensitive — And A Food Gal Giveaway

Italian cookies made with specialty einkorn flour.

Italian cookies made with specialty einkorn flour.

 

It’s a flour that has 30 percent more protein than modern wheat, along with ample amounts of B vitamins and iron.

But that’s not the only reason you should get to know einkorn. It’s also reportedly the world’s most ancient wheat and the only type to never have been hybridized.

What’s more, the gluten in einkorn lacks the high molecular weight proteins that many people can’t digest. If you are sensitive to modern wheat, einkorn can provide a delicious alternative.

Carla Bartolucci and her husband started growing it in northern Italy seven years ago, after discovering that their daughter, who has gluten sensitivity, was able to eat pasta, bread, and other baked goods made with einkorn with no adverse effect. Today, the family is the largest grower of einkorn in the world.

They sell the flour, as well as products made from it under the Jovial brand. I had a chance to try samples recently, all of which are made in Italy.

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Behind the Scenes as El Celler de Can Roca’s Roca Brothers Cook in San Francisco

"The World'' being assembled at the San Francisco dinner prepared by the Roca brothers.

“The World” being assembled at the San Francisco dinner prepared by the Roca brothers.

 

It was a little like getting a backstage pass to a U2 concert.

Only way better.

That’s how I felt when I was invited to hang around in the kitchen on Wednesday night when the three Roca brothers, owners of the illustrious El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain, were in San Francisco to cook a series of dinners at the Julia Morgan Ballroom.

After all, in the culinary world — Joan (chef), Josep (sommelier and maitre d’) and Jordi (pastry chef) — are rock stars of the utmost magnitude. Their restaurant not only has garnered three Michelin stars, but is rated #2 on the current list of “The World’s 50 Best Restaurants,” (they were #1 in 2013 and 2015).

Jordi, Joan and Josep Roca in the Julia Morgan Ballroom.

Jordi, Joan and Josep Roca in the Julia Morgan Ballroom.

What’s more, the multi-course, three-hour dinners were not open to the public. Instead, they were by invitation-only, with the 100 guests each night predominantly clients of Spanish bank BBVA Compass, which was sponsoring the Roca brothers’ whirlwind cooking tour. It spans three continents in five weeks with stops in London, Hong Kong, Phoenix, San Francisco (this week), and finally, Santiago de Chile.

Although Joan had come to the Bay Area in the spring on a prior scouting trip, this was the first time the other two brothers have visited San Francisco.

The 2016 tour is the third time BBVA has sponsored such an endeavor for the brothers. And what an undertaking it is. El Celler Can Roca closes for the entire month of August just for this, and almost the entire staff comes along for the ride. We’re talking the brothers plus 40 others.

The ballroom before the guests arrived.

The ballroom before the guests arrived.

Some of the featured wines for the evening.

Some of the featured wines for the evening.

Besides their personal luggage, the brothers travel only with their knives, and a few special ingredients, such as distillations that would be too difficult to make on location. One-of-a-kind serving ware is sent ahead. They go through one Iberico jamon leg per dinner. They source most everything else locally, making a point to use a few key ingredients particularly indigenous to the cities they are cooking in.

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Cheesy Zucchini and Olive Bread — For Breakfast or Dinner

A decidedly not-sweet zucchini bread.

A decidedly not-sweet zucchini bread.

 

If given the choice between sweet and savory, I will almost always veer at full speed toward sweet.

But a dinner four years ago at San Jose’s The Table had me backpedaling.

That was when I had Chef de Cuisine Anthony Jimenez’s take on zucchini bread.

It wasn’t served for brunch or dessert, but as an accompaniment to roast chicken. The slab of zucchini bread had been sliced, then griddled until it was slightly crisp on the exterior. Its sweetness had been remarkably dialed down. It was tender with some parts soft, some crispy — and it reminded me very much of Thanksgiving stuffing.

Who knew zucchini bread could be enjoyed quite like this?

Katie Sullivan Morford, for one. A Bay Area food and nutrition writer, she’s written a new cookbook, of which I received a review copy: “Rise and Shine: Better Breakfasts for Busy Mornings” (Roost Books). The lovely photos are by Bay Area photographer Erin Scott.

RiseandShineBook

It’s filled with 75 inventive recipes for the most important meal of the day. Some can be made in a flash, such as “Orange Almond Date Lassi.” Some are remarkably time-saving, such as “Better Than Boxed Instant Oatmeal” and “Make-And-Freeze Buttermilk Waffles.” And some are designed more for weekends, such as “Big Joe’s Huevos Rancheros.”

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