Category Archives: Chefs

Pasta That Does A Body — And Planet — Good

A Japanese-influenced cacio e pepe made with a new high-fiber, nutty tasting artisanal dried pasta.
A Japanese-influenced cacio e pepe made with a new high-fiber, nutty tasting artisanal dried pasta.

Pasta has gotten such an unjust bum rap of late.

Too many carbs. Full of gluten. Way too caloric.

Yet few foods are as craveable, comforting, and lusty.

So, go ahead and indulge, especially when it comes to Semolina Artisanal Pasta Upcycled Strozzapreti, a dried pasta that purports to be good not only for your body, but the planet.

That’s because this pasta was made in partnership with ReGrained, the innovative Bay Area company upcycles or reuses spent grain from beer-making and turns it into nutritious new products such as energy bars and snack crisps. ReGrained’s resulting SuperGrain+ — made of barley, wheat, and rye — has more than three times the fiber of wheat flour, and twice the protein of oats.

Leah Ferrazzani of the Semolina Artisanal Pasta company in Pasadena, whose pasta products are beloved by Southern California chefs, took that SuperGrain+ and combined it with her usual semolina to create strozzapreti, the striking elongated, twisted noodle shape. But it took a few fits and tries to get it just right.

The pasta has a suede-like hue and a singular shape.
The pasta has a suede-like hue and a singular shape.

“We had to find the right ratio of semolina to SuperGrain+, and extrusion speed, to help maintain texture and shape, and to keep a balanced flavor,” Ferrazzani told me in an email. “The resulting pasta packs a punch — the flavor of the SuperGrain+ isn’t subtle — but it’s something truly unique and special.”

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Join Yours Truly At Holiday reFresh 2021

Mark your calendar for 4 p.m. Nov. 7, when I’ll be one of the moderators for this year’s virtual Holiday reFresh, which brings together a stellar roster of Bay Area chefs for conversations and cooking demos centered on plant-based celebratory dishes for the upcoming holidays.

This free event, which is open to the public, is brought to you by Acterra, a Palo Alto non-profit dedicated to supporting a healthy planet.

Sharing moderating duties with me will be the Bay Area’s Liren Baker of the popular Kitchen Confidante blog and podcast.

Join us as we host an incredible line-up of chefs, including:

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Dining Outside at Le Papillon

Brioche, quail egg and caviar -- one of the many amuse-bouches that kicked off the meal at Le Papillon.
Brioche, quail egg and caviar — one of the many amuse-bouches that kicked off the meal at Le Papillon.

This might be one of the South Bay’s best-kept secrets: You’ll find zero mention of it on its web site, but San Jose’s venerable fine-dining Le Papillon actually offers outdoor dining.

Granted, not much of it, as there are only three tables.

But for those like myself who still prefer dining al fresco in these times, it’s definitely news you can use and appreciate.

When my husband and I had driven past the elegant, 44-year-old restaurant, which is located incongruously on the edge of a strip mall off congested Saratoga Avenue, we thought we caught a glance of a small outdoor area at the rear. A look-see of Yelp images showed what appeared to be a couple tables outside there. Finally, a quick call to the restaurant confirmed it.

When you make a reservation online, you can request an outside table, though it’s not guaranteed. However, if you make a reservation on the early side on a weeknight, and show up a few minutes beforehand, there’s a good chance you’ll score a patio table.

The compact patio is done up nicely with potted plants and other greenery.
The compact patio is done up nicely with potted plants and other greenery.

When my husband and I dined with another couple last week, we were the only ones dining outside along with one larger party. It’s a small, slender space, which is why it can accommodate so few. But it’s a very sweet spot, dressed up with walls of live succulents and pretty potted plants. There are plenty of heaters, too, which will keep everyone toasty enough after the sun sets.

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Almond Cake With Italian Meringue Buttercream — Aka My Wedding Cake

A simplified version of my incredible wedding cake.
A simplified version of my incredible wedding cake.

When I wed years ago, the dress, the setting, and the food were of utmost importance, of course.

But what was absolutely paramount was the cake.

After all, with my enormous sweet tooth known far and wide, my family and friends fully expected a wedding cake to remember.

I am happy to report they were not disappointed in the least.

Just how unforgettable was this moist almond cake adorned with the silkiest Italian meringue? With nary an ounce of shame, many of the guests will attest that they indulged in not one, not two, but even three slices that evening.

Leftover cake? I was lucky to claim just the top tier as my own. Every other piece was devoured.

And if you think I tucked that top away for a year to languish in my freezer, forget about it. I took it to my parents’ house the very next day, where my family, new husband, and I demolished it with gusto. Moreover, when Mother’s Day rolled around the next year, I had the baker who made it recreate it in a smaller size to give to my mom because that’s just how good it is.

One for the ages, if there ever was one, this cake was made by professional baker Nancy Kux, who used to own Nancy’s Fancies in San Carlos. I had sampled quite a few cakes from other bakers. But none had us scraping the box for every last crumb and lick of frosting like hers did.

My actual wedding cake was four tiers. This is a home-version that's two layers.
My actual wedding cake was four tiers. This is a home-version that’s two layers.

This is not a light, fluffy, airy cake, but one that has a little more heft to it. It is buttery, tender, and full of almond flavor. It stays moist for quite a while, too, whether you store it in the fridge for a couple of days or freeze for a couple of months. As one wedding guest swooned about its Italian meringue buttercream: “This is better than whipped cream!” Indeed, it is. When enjoyed at room temperature, it softens like butter on the tongue, leaving behind a caress of sweetness.

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Twice As Nice Artichokes

Now's the time to indulge in artichokes with artichoke aioli.
Now’s the time to indulge in artichokes with artichoke aioli.

Who grew up eating artichokes, leaf by leaf, dunked into Best Foods mayonnaise?

Show of hands, please.

If you’re a native Californian like me, no doubt you did from childhood on.

“Twice As Nice Artichokes” riffs on that favorite combo by grilling the artichokes after first boiling to give them pretty charred edges, then levels up plain mayonnaise by mixing it with garlic, lemon, parsley, and marinated artichoke hearts.

The recipe is from the cookbook, “Malibu Farm Sunrise to Sunset: Simple Recipes All Day” (Clarkson Potter), of which I received a review copy.

The book is by Helene Henderson, chef and owner of Malibu Farm, a restaurant that grew out of the cooking classes and dinners she hosted at her home. Now, Malibu Farm spans eight locations not only in Malibu, but Lanai, Miami, New York, and Tokyo. The African-American, Swedish-born Henderson is self-taught, and is married to actor-director John Stockwell.

The 100 recipes reflect a chill California vibe in dishes such as “Surfers Rancheros,” “Chicken Parm From the Farm,” and “Caffe Latte Ice Cream.” There’s also a delicious dose of Swedish skal (“cheers”) with a whole chapter on fun drinks such as “Rhubarb-Infused Aquavit” and “Coconut Horchata.”

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