Category Archives: Fruit

The All-Natural Red Velvety Strawberry Cake

A most unique red velvet cake.
A most unique red velvet cake.

Admittedly, the hoopla over red velvet cake has always left me perplexed.

Sure, the dramatic color captures your fancy — for a hot second.

Then, as quickly, reality tells you that’s all due to red food coloring. At which point, I say, “Pass me a wedge of all-real devil’s food cake instead.”

“Red Velvety Strawberry Cake,” though, sparked a far different reaction.

It had me all in from the get-go.

Nope, no artificial anything in this stunning cake. No food coloring whatsoever — only an entire bottle of red wine.

And if that doesn’t grab you, I don’t know what will.

Now, that my friends, is a cake.
Now, that my friends, is a cake.

To be fair, this cake doesn’t possess that vivid maroon you expect from red velvet. Instead, the wine, which first gets reduced before being added into the batter, adds the merest bit of rosiness to the dark chocolate-colored cake. The wine (I used a Pinot Noir) also adds a touch of acidity to balance out all the sweetness.

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David Kinch’s Ricotta Gnocchi with A Simple Tomato Sauce

Pillowy ricotta gnocchi in a fresh and lively tomato sauce.
Pillowy ricotta gnocchi in a fresh and lively tomato sauce.

If you’re someone who was mesmerized by the beauty, creativity, and precision of the “Manresa: An Edible Reflection” (Ten Speed Press, 2013) cookbook, you are not alone.

And if you are someone who sheepishly admits to never having actually cooked anything from it, I am right there with you.

Because let’s face it, few — if any — of us have the daring or dexterity to cook Michelin three-star food at home.

Chef-Owner David Kinch knows that.

That’s why his newest cookbook, “At Home in the Kitchen: Simple Recipes from a Chef’s Night Off” (Ten Speed Press) focuses not on what this renowned chef creates at his revered Los Gatos restaurant, Manresa, but what he cooks at his Santa Cruz home, particularly on Tuesdays, his day off, when he’s apt to invite friends over for impromptu, beachy eats .

The book was written with Devin Fuller, a former Manresa backserver and expeditor who is now a freelance writer.

Included are more than 120 recipes, including “Baked Miso Eggplant,” “Pasta with Pesto & Avocado,” “Trout with Fennel & Grapefruit,” and “Almond Granita.” Each recipe includes a fun addition: a song recommendation by Kinch, a vinyl fan, to play while indulging in the dish.

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Stuffed Peppers Of A Different Sort

Feta, olives and pesto make up the delectable filling for these stuffed peppers.
Feta, olives and pesto make up the delectable filling for these stuffed peppers.

Take summer bell peppers from supporting players to superstars.

The fruit that we mistakenly think of as a vegetable is so often relegated to a secondary role, cut up for salads, soups, and stir-fries, where it lingers in the background of so many other ingredients.

But “Peppers, Pesto, Feta” shines the spotlight directly on them prominently.

This super easy recipe is from ““Greenfeast: Spring, Summer” (Ten Speed Press), of which I received a review copy.

By best-selling food writer Nigel Slater, this is the companion cookbook to his “Greenfeast: Autumn, Winter” (Ten Speed Press), which debuted last year.

Like that book, this one is also vegetarian, comprising 110 no-frills recipes that take the simple approach to highlighting the fresh bounty of spring and summer.

The recipes all take their name from the three ingredients they most highlight. Most of them require only a handful or two of total ingredients, too, many of which you probably already have on hand, to create such delights as a salad of “Bulgar, Nectarines, Parsley,” the contrast of “Eggplant, Honey, Sheep Cheese,” the unique combo of “Green Falafel, Watermelon, Yogurt,” and a jammy compote of “Plums, Cloves, Bay Leaves.”

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Fabulous Fig Clafoutis

Fig clafoutis baked at home -- the next best thing to being in France.
Fig clafoutis baked at home — the next best thing to being in France.

As much as I long to wander the cobblestone streets of France again, to nosh on freshly made crepes from a sidewalk vendor, and to sit at an outdoor cafe to watch chic Parisians flit by, I don’t think I’ll be getting on a plane anytime soon.

Yeah, thanks very much, Covid.

But I can still live vicariously and bring a taste of the French table to my own Silicon Valley kitchen, thanks to “À Table: Recipes for Cooking and Eating the French Way” (Chronicle Books), of which I received a review copy.

The new cookbook is by Rebekah Peppler, an American food writer and stylist who makes her home in Paris now. (Yes, lucky her!)

The cookbook contains 125 recipes that are home-cook-friendly. They’re lavishly photographed by Paris-based photographer Joann Pai, whose images are bathed in that lovely golden light that brings the city to life.

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Plumb Good Plum Cake

Summer was made for plum-filled cake.
Summer was made for plum-filled cake.

When Zoë Francois singles out a particular recipe as being her favorite in her new cookbook, you’d be a fool not to make that one first.

Her “Plum Cake” from “Zoë Bakes Cakes: Everything You Need to Know to Make Your Favorite Layers, Bundts, Loaves, and More” (Ten Speed Press), of which I received a review copy, easily merits that adoration.

Francois, who studied at the Culinary Institute of America in New York, and worked as a pastry chef at several Minneapolis-St. Paul restaurants, is also the creator of the wildly popular web site, ZoëBakes.

The cookbook is a must for anyone who loves baking cakes. Many of the recipes are unfussy enough for any home-cook to bake, such as “Lemon-Curd Pound Cake,” “Banana Cream Cake,” and “Olive-Oil Chiffon Cake.” For those who want to take things to the next level, Francois also includes detailed advice on working with fondant and piping bags, along with more ambitious recipes for “Blackberry Diva Cake” and a DIY “Wedding Cake.”

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