Author Archives: foodgal

Chicken (Or Turkey)-Zucchini Meatballs With Feta

Zucchini stars in this meatball dish two ways.
Zucchini stars in this meatball dish two ways.

Blessed — or cursed — with too much zucchini?

Then, get grating. And slicing.

Not for ubiquitous zucchini bread. But for dinner on the table in no time flat with the warmth of cumin and the zing of feta.

And all cooked on one sheet pan in the oven.

“Chicken (Or Turkey)-Zucchini Meatballs” is from Brooklyn-based recipe developer Ali Slagle. Published in the New York Times’ “At Home” section during the pandemic, it immediately caught my eye because who doesn’t love meatballs?

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Dining Outside at Saffron

Smoky, spiced tandoori prawns at Saffron.
Smoky, spiced tandoori prawns at Saffron.

Owner Ajay Walia can’t help but chuckle these days when patrons — and even long-time regulars — walk past his Saffron restaurant in San Carlos, only to back-peddle in a double-take.

Like some other establishments, Walia decided to use the time during the pandemic when his 19-year-old restaurant wasn’t operating at full capacity to refresh its look.

The result is night and day. The once near-black exterior is now bright white. The interior, once much more traditional in vibe with gold and saffron-hued walls, is now as crisp and fresh looking as a starched summer shirt with white walls and banquettes, and loads of greenery. With so many of us spending time in our own backyards during lock-down, Walia says he was inspired to bring the outdoors in.

If you’re like me and still only dining outdoors at the moment, though, you’ll be glad to know that Saffron also has a few tables outside its front doors. That’s where I parked myself when I was invited to dine as a guest last week.

The refreshed exterior.
The refreshed exterior.
And the inviting interior.
And the inviting interior.

Walia, who also owns Michelin-starred Rasa in Burlingame, has updated Saffron’s menu, even going so far as to do away with the restaurant’s long-time buffet, to concentrate on quality rather than quantity. I’d say the food’s never been better.

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Dining News Around The Bay

"Fall Off the Bone'' wings from alaMar Kitchen & Bar. (Photo by Dana Plucinski)
“Fall Off the Bone” wings from alaMar Kitchen & Bar. (Photo by Dana Plucinski)

Nelson German of “Top Chef” Reopens Indoor Dining at alaMar Kitchen & Bar In Oakland

After months of doing only takeout and delivery, alaMar Kitchen & Bar in Oakland reopened last week for indoor dining. Come by to say “hello” to Chef Nelson German, whose time on this season’s “Top Chef’‘ was cut short by an injury from which he has thankfully recovered.

The lively restaurant, which blends Latin, Caribbean, and Mediterranean flavors, has undergone an interior refresh. The menu also has been updated with some new offerings, including shrimp tacos “quesa style” with Oaxaca cheese, chow chow and salsa criolla; roasted oysters with salsa verde, pork longaniza, and Parmesan butter; and stuffed masa, a recreation of his “Unidentified Dominican Object” created in an episode 6 challenge of “Top Chef.”

Chef-Owner Nelson German. (Photo by Melati Citrawireja)
Chef-Owner Nelson German. (Photo by Melati Citrawireja)

Perennial favorites, “Fall Off the Bone Wings” and “Peel and Eat Shrimp,” that proved popular during takeout can still be enjoyed on the dining room menu, too.

For more fun, pick up a copy of my cookbook, “East Bay Cooks: Signature Recipes from the Best Restaurants, Bars, and Bakeries” (Figure 1) at the restaurant, local bookstores or on Amazon. It features recipes and stories from a roster of top East Bay chefs, including German.

Scott’s Chowder House Opens in San Jose

Scott’s Chowder House, a more casual spin-off from veteran Scott’s Seafood, opened in downtown San Jose last week, with another planned to debut next month in San Francisco at 334 Grant Ave.

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A Unique Rice Cake

A showstopping crusty rice cake that's super rich and creamy within.
A showstopping crusty rice cake that’s super rich and creamy within.

As a kid, I remember feeling a little burst of joy whenever the rice steamed and rested just long enough in the hot rice cooker to build up crispy little bits on the bottom.

My mom would scrape them up and pile them on my plate, knowing how much I couldn’t resist the juxtaposition of soft fluffy grains with cracklingly crunchy ones.

Later as an adult, when I first tasted tahdig, the Persian rice specialty that guarantees a bottom crust of full-on golden crunchiness, I was even more smitten.

Now comes “Rice Cake,” which much like this inverted dish itself, I’ve completely gone topsy-turvy for.

It’s Persian goes Italian.

Or tahdig in the spirit of risotto.

As it’s fortified with a load of butter, Parmesan, and creme fraiche.

This amazing recipe is in the new cookbook, “Bavel: Modern Recipes Inspired by the Middle East” (Ten Speed Press), of which I received a review copy.

It’s by husband and wife, Chef Ori Menashe and Pastry Chef Genevieve Gergis, owners of the acclaimed Bavel and Bestia restaurants in Los Angeles. It was written in conjunction with Lesley Suter, the former food editor for Los Angeles magazine.

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Miso Pork Stuffed Eggplant

Eggplant cups stuffed with a savory pork and eggplant mixture.
Eggplant cups stuffed with a savory pork and eggplant mixture.

As someone who keeps a bare minimum of apps on her phone, I admit that Kitchen Stories was new to me.

The app was founded in 2014 by two business students with a penchant for cooking. They bill Kitchen Stories as the first video-based, design-oriented cooking app.

Now, the two have come full circle with a Kitchen Stories cookbook, “Anyone Can Cook” (Prestel), of which I received a review copy.

In the cookbook, the app team, based in Berlin, offer up a globally-inspired array of recipes such as “Glass Noodle Salad with Lemongrass Dressing,” “Spicy Chickpea Burgers,” “Savory Dutch Baby with Smoked Salmon and Horseradish,” and “Rigatoni with Walnut-Ricotta Pesto.”

I decided to give it a whirl with “Miso Pork Stuffed Eggplant,” which reminded me of an oversized version of a dim sum specialty.

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