Monsieur Benjamin Est Tres Bien

Quail at Monsieur Benjamin.

Quail at Monsieur Benjamin.

 

In the Bay Area, it’s Asian flavors that seem to be on everyone’s plate and palate these days.

So much so that French cuisine — though not its classic techniques — seem to have fallen out of favor.

But leave it to Monsieur Benjamin, which opened last summer in San Francisco’s Hayes Valley, to remind us why French food — just like a sharp little Chanel suit — truly never goes out of style.

Korean-born Corey Lee may imbue his Michelin three-starred Benu with breathless Asian flair, but with his second, more casual restaurant, Monsieur Benjamin, he stays the course of timeless French dishes yet gives them a touch of modernity.

His right-hand man is Chef Jason Berthold, late of RN74 in San Francisco, who worked with Lee when both were at the French Laundry.

Chef Jason Berthold deep in concentration in the kitchen.

Chef Jason Berthold deep in concentration in the kitchen.

The bistro doesn’t try to recreate the look of one in Paris. Instead, it very much fits in with its San Francisco surroundings, incorporating a lot of stainless steel, clean lines and striking black walls.

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Get the Fireworks Started with Dorie Greenspan’s Blueberry-Corn Tart

A dazzling tart topped with blueberries and corn. Yes, corn!

A dazzling tart topped with blueberries and corn. Yes, corn!

 

On a recent episode of “MasterChef,” the contestants were initially befuddled when asked to make a dessert using the secret ingredient: corn.

It’s not such a daft ingredient for a sweet, as you might first think.

Sure, we may associate it most with the savory side — grilled corn on the cob, succotash, corn salads, corn chowder and the like.

But I can remember digging into a bowl of corn ice cream and a warm, airy corn souffle at restaurants, and breaking into a delighted smile.

After all, corn is naturally sweet, especially modern-day varieties, which are bred to be higher in sugar.

So last fall, when I finally got my hands on a review copy of the newest cookbook by culinary treasure, Dorie Greenspan, “Baking Chez Moi” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), I waited to bake from it. And waited. And waited.

Until fresh corn and fresh blueberries finally came into season, which is now.

Greenspan’s “Philadelphia Blueberry-Corn Tart” is worth all of that patience.

Imagine a crumbly shortbread-cookie crust mounded with a creamy, honey-scented filling that’s heaped with gorgeous jammy blueberries and fresh corn kernels.

It’s a beaut. A real attention-getter. Just the dessert you want on a summer holiday like the Fourth of July.

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Test-Driving (And Cooking) Sun Basket

I made this for dinner from a Sun Basket cooking kit.

I made this for dinner from a Sun Basket cooking kit.

 

There are enough meal delivery start-ups these days to make your head spin and your stomach growl over just which are worth ordering — if any.

When I was invited to try out a free delivery by San Francisco’s Sun Basket, I was swayed to do so by a couple of factors.

First, the recipes for the cooking kits were developed by Justine Kelly, former executive chef at The Slanted Door in San Francisco. Second, the quality of ingredients is impressive. The kits include organic, seasonal ingredients from highly regarded purveyors such as Dirty Girl, Far West Funghi, Water 2 Table, and Marin Sun.

Sun Basket was founded by Adam Zbar, a serial entrepreneur who found himself 50 pounds overweight from binging on burgers and pizza like so many young techies. That led him to develop meal kits that would make it easier for busy people to cook nutritious dinners at home.

All you do is go on the site a week ahead of time to order your weekly delivery, which consists of three different meals that you choose from Sun Basket’s menu. Each recipe is designed to take about 30 minutes to prepare, and has 500 to 800 calories per serving. There are also gluten-free, paleo and vegetarian options. Each meal is $9.99 per person.

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Corny Cookies

Baking with corn nuts. Who would have ever thunk it? Mindy Segal, that's who.

Baking with corn nuts. Who would have ever thunk it? Mindy Segal, that’s who.

 

Lugging a backpack full of textbooks in middle school, while walking to the bus stop after class, and suffering from a serious case of the munchies.

That’s truly the last time I think I’ve bought corn nuts.

Until now, that is.

Leave it to Pastry Chef Mindy Segal to get me to venture into a nearby 7-Eleven for the sole purpose of buying corn nuts.

But her recipe for “Corn Nut Cornmeal Shortbread” captivated me so much, I just had to do it.

The recipe is from her cookbook, “Cookie Love” (Ten Speed Press), of which I received a review copy.

CookieLove

A James Beard Award-winning pastry chef, Segal is the proprietor of HotChocolate Restaurant and Dessert Bar in Chicago. The book was written in conjunction with Kate Leahy, a San Francisco food writer and recipe developer.

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Heavenly Hummus

Miso makes this hummus something special.

Miso makes this hummus something special.

 

There are few things I’m fanatical about.

Hummus happens to be one of them.

It all started when I tried the one at Oren’s Hummus Shop in Palo Alto. It took awhile, though, since the small cafe always has a line out the door, no matter what time of day or night. But it also has tubs of hummus to grab-and-go at a refrigerator case.

After one taste, I was hooked for life. And no other hummus would do.

That’s because Oren’s hummus is the smoothest, creamiest version ever. It’s like the creme brulee of hummus. And I can eat it by the spoonful — non-stop.

The Palo Alto shop, as well as the second one in downtown Mountain View, was opened by start-up investor Oren Dobronsky, who is so finicky about his hummus that he imports the garbanzo beans from Israel.

So, when I spied a recipe for “Hummus with White Miso,” I was intrigued, but dubious. Intrigued, because I wondered what the addition of miso would impart. And dubious, well, because how could it be better than the hummus at Oren’s?

Seven Spoons

The recipe is from the new cookbook, “Seven Spoons” (Ten Speed Press), of which I received a review copy. It was written by Tara O’Brady, a celebrated food blogger in Canada.

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