It’s a given that “State Bird Provisions: A Cookbook” (Ten Speed Press) is one of the most anticipated cookbooks to arrive this year.
After all, Chef-Owners and husband-and-wife Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski (who wrote the cookbook with J.J. Goode) own one of the hottest restaurants in the country. When State Bird Provisions opened in San Francisco in 2012, it wasn’t long before Bon Appetit magazine named it “Restaurant of the Year.” That was followed by a James Beard Award in 2013 for “Best New Restaurant,” as well as a Michelin star.
The restaurant’s inventive dim sum-like service, where diners choose dishes from cart or trays ferried to their table, proved irresistible, especially because of their array of eclectic, globally-inspired small plates. The place got so mobbed that hackers even broke into the restaurant’s reservations system to try to snag a hard-to-get table.
Even after opening a second restaurant next door, The Progress, State Bird Provisions remains a tough ticket today, with folks still lining up on the sidewalk long before the doors open to try to get a walk-in spot.
Brioza grew up in Cupertino, and he met Krasinski in a photography class at a South Bay community college. Such success couldn’t have happened to a nicer couple. Other chefs who have worked with them routinely praise their worth ethic and talent
The cookbook, of which I received a review copy, tells the story of how the two launched this unique restaurant, boot-strapping it, and developing the dim sum-style after seeing how guests at their catered events enjoyed noshing in this fashion.
It also gives a glimpse into their thought-process for developing dishes, some of which now can be ordered off a menu, rather than just off the carts, such as the namesake “State Bird with Provisions,” the signature fried quail with caramelized onions and Parmesan. If you’ve dined at the restaurant, you’ll also be glad to know the recipe for the wondrous “Peanut Muscovado Milk,” that tastes like peanut butter in milk form, is included.
Some of the recipes can be more challenging than others with quite a few components, such as the “Everything Pancakes with Smoked Mackerel, Cream Cheese, and Sweet-and-Sour Beets,” “Spiced Guinea Hen Dumplings with Garlic Chives and Aromatic Broth,” and “Coconut-Shiso Ice Cream Sandwiches with Figs, Melon and Olive Oil.” But of course, you could take the easy way out and just make the ice cream and not the rest of it, and still have an enjoyable dessert.
Other dishes are quite straightforward, such as “Pork Ribs Glazed in Their Own Juices,” which I’ve made before and loved because it also appears in my cookbook, “San Francisco Chef’s Table.”
Because it’s autumn, it was the “Persimmons with Kinako Dressing and Black Sesame Seeds” that really piqued my interest. It’s also one of the quickest recipes in the book.
Fuyu persimmon slices are served with a thick, creamy dressing made with the toasty-tasting soybean flour known as kinako. It’s simply whisked with grapeseed oil, sesame oil, rice vinegar, ground ginger and a pinch of salt to create a rich, savory, nutty-tasting sauce that has real presence and pop.
Black sesame seeds are ground with sea salt, then a smidge is sprinkled on over the top of the persimmons to add another level of nuttiness. When you grind the sesame seeds with the salt in a mortar and pestle, you’re in for an intoxicating aroma. Finally, a little more kinako is sprinkled over the top just before serving.
The persimmons retain their sweetness yet gain a beguiling savoriness from the sauce. The dish tastes complex even without a lot of ingredients, taking the persimmons into a whole different realm.
Is this a snack? First course? Or side?
It can be all three. It can even be a dessert, if you’re craving something fresh, not necessarily sugary, and utterly distinctive.
Persimmons with Kinako Dressing and Black Sesame Salt
(Serves 4 to 6)
1/2 cup kinako (roasted soybean flour), plus more for sprinkling
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
6 ripe Fuyu persimmons, peeled and cut into 8 wedges
2 tablespoons Black Sesame Salt (see recipe below)
Combine the kinako, kosher salt, and ground ginger in a medium bowl and stir well. Slowly pour in the grapeseed oil, sesame oil, and vinegar, whisking constantly until the dressing is well combined.
Pour the dressing in shallow serving bowls, arranging the persimmons on top, and sprinkle on the black sesame salt and a generous pinch of kinako. Serve right away.
Black Sesame Salt
(Makes about 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup pre-toasted black sesame seeds
1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt
Combine the sesame seeds and salt in a mortar and pound until the mixture resembles coarsely ground black pepper.
Transfer to an airtight container and store in a cool, dry place for up to 2 weeks.
From “State Bird Provisions: A Cookbook” by Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski with J.J. Goode
Another Recipe With Kinako: Kinako and Black Sesame Cupcakes
Plus Another Persimmon Recipe: Persimmon Salad with Sweet Ginger Vinaigrette
And Another: Pickled Persimmons
More: Dinner at The Progress