Category Archives: Great Finds

Your New Favorite Winter Salad — And It Doesn’t Involve Kale

A simple salad that hits all the notes.

A simple salad that hits all the notes.

 

From get-go, you know you’re in for a cookbook packed with thoughtful culinary wisdom and wicked, sly humor when it’s entitled, “Almonds, Anchovies, and Pancetta: A Vegetarian Cookbook, Kind Of” (William Morrow).

After all, anchovies and pancetta are as far removed as you can get from being vegetarian. But they are flavor boosters like no other, adding salty, meaty umami notes to anything they touch, even in minute proportions.

And who knows better about that than a chef who cooked at Chez Panisse for 22 years? Cal Peternell is now a best-selling cookbook author and the creator of the marvelous podcast, “Cooking By Ear.”

Almonds Anchovies and Pancetta

Peternell’s newest cookbook will make you a better cook — by offering up easily doable recipes, all written with mouth-watering descriptions, that teach you why certain ingredients work so well with others, and how a dish built around just a handful of items can truly sing. Enjoy everything from “Steamed Clams with Almond and Parsley Butter and No Linguine” to “Caesar’s Gougeres” and “Almond Granita.”

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Andrea Nguyen’s Herby Oven-Steamed Eggs

This herby oven-steamed egg custard is one smooth operator.

This herby oven-steamed egg custard is one smooth operator.

 

One of the dishes I most fondly remember my Mom making when I was a kid was a Chinese savory custard, redolent of seasoned ground pork and with a surprise duck egg yolk the color of a Hawaiian sunset hidden at its very center.

I also remember her expression when it did not turn out perfectly smooth.

She’d wait till it was done steaming to lift the lid to reveal the outcome. If it had a bubbly interior, she would frown and fret — even if the taste was still delicious. But if it was as smooth as creme brulee, she would take it as a personal triumph.

I thought of my late-Mom when I spied “Herby Oven-Steamed Eggs” in the new “Vietnamese Food Any Day: Simple Recipes for True, Fresh Flavors” (Ten Speed Press), of which I received a review copy. It’s the latest and greatest by my friend and colleague, award-winning Bay Area food writer Andrea Nguyen.

Vietnamese Food Any Day

As the name implies, this cookbook aims to streamline Vietnamese dishes so you can enjoy the vibrant flavors of the cuisine any day of the week without special trips to Asian markets.

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Happiness is Chocolate Popcorn

Hooray! This homemade version of chocolate popcorn is pretty darn close to the one I fell for in Seattle.

Hooray! This homemade version of chocolate popcorn is pretty darn close to the one I fell for in Seattle.

 

Ever since a trip to Seattle last year, I have been obsessed with chocolate popcorn.

My first taste of this crunchy, chocolatey treat came courtesy of the Cinerama movie theater in downtown Seattle, where the marquee not only flashes its availability in bright lights, but the intoxicating smell of it wafts out its doors.

The late Paul Allen, a co-founder of Microsoft, bought the iconic theater and proceeded to seriously up the game on the concession stand. Fortunately, you can even walk into the lobby and buy some of this popcorn without even buying a ticket to a movie.

That’s what my husband and I did after our interest — and nostrils — were piqued. On the second to last day of our trip, we bought a small ($6.50), which is fairly sizeable. One taste and we were completely hooked. In fact, I like chocolate popcorn way better than caramel corn because it’s not as cloying. We nibbled to our stomach’s content and even had enough leftover to bring home on the plane.

After the last of the chocolate popcorn was gone a couple days later (and mind you, it was still wonderfully crisp even at that point), I began to have serious withdrawal. So much so that I even looked online to see if the Cinerama might possibly do mail-orders of the popcorn. But alas, no.

So I was determined to try to make my own at home.

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Making Manresa Bread’s Terrific Tahini Cookies

Nutty, elegant tahini cookies.

Nutty, elegant tahini cookies.

 

Nothing beats the high of discovering a favorite new treat at a bakery or restaurant.

And nothing stings like the blow of finding out the establishment has decided to take it off the menu.

We’ve all been there, right?

When Food Gal reader Kristy W. discovered that her favorite tahini cookies had been yanked from the bakery case at the new Manresa Bread in Campbell, she was beside herself.

So what did she do? She asked yours truly if I could somehow get the recipe.

Well, Kristy, your wish is my command.

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Got 5 Minutes? Make Hummus — Just Like That

Five-minute hummus with cinnamon-scented chicken.

Five-minute hummus with cinnamon-scented chicken.

 

These days, hummus is so ubiquitous that you can pick up a tub at most any store. You can even find snickerdoodle and brownie batter hummus — abominations that are enough to make the mind reel and the taste buds go into perpetual hiding.

But for a real treat, try making hummus yourself.

In his first cookbook, “Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Chef-Owner Michael Solomonov of Philadelphia’s landmark Zahav restaurant, provided a detailed recipe for making hummus from scratch with dried chickpeas that need to be soaked overnight before being cooked until — yes — mushy to get the best consistency.

In his second cookbook, Israeli Soul: Easy, Essential, Delicious” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), of which I received a review copy, Solomonov and business partner Steven Cook acknowledge that few Israelis make hummus at home because they can get their hands on great versions so easily at supermarkets or hummusiyas.

Israeli Soul

In contrast, the quality of store-bought hummus in the United States can vary greatly, as anyone who has bought a tub can attest. To make it easier for home-cooks here, Solomonov provides a more streamlined hummus recipe in his newest cookbook that makes use of canned chickpeas instead. “5-Minute Hummus” really does come together as fast as it implies. As Solomonov quips, it will take you longer to clean your food processor afterward than it will to actually make this wonderful hummus.

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