Category Archives: Going Green and Sustainable

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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Shaved Asparagus Salad with Asparagus Buttermilk Dressing and Pickled Asparagus Tips

Asparagus shines three ways in this composed salad.
Asparagus shines three ways in this composed salad.

With his trademark crisp white shirt, Christmas-red bow tie, and denim overalls that he’s never without (not even at the black-tie Jame Beard Awards), Farmer Lee Jones is a larger-than-life character.

But he is no caricature.

He is the real deal.

When his family nearly lost its soy bean and corn farm in Ohio during the 1980’s economic downturn, he managed to save it by taking a gamble to transform it.

Instead of growing feed crops like soybeans and corn, he downsized to nurture obscure specialty herbs, fruits and vegetables after a chance meeting with a chef looking for someone to grow squash blossoms.

Today, the small, sustainable Chef’s Garden is revered by chefs nationwide, including Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud, and Jose Andres. It’s this farm that we have to thank for the whole microgreens movement. During the pandemic, the farm adapted to changing times once again, offering delivery of its produce to consumers so that Jones wouldn’t have to lay off any employees, despite its main customer base, restaurants, ordering far less because of curtailed operations.

Jones’ story is captured in “The Chef’s Garden: A Modern Guide to Common and Unusual Vegetables–with Recipes” (Avery), of which I received a review copy. Written by Jones with Kristin Donnelly, former food editor at Food & Wine magazine, this lavishly photographed 240-page book is not only packed with recipes, but detailed information about selecting, storing, cleaning and using a wealth of produce. The book hones in on both the familiar and the esoteric, from ramps, hearts of palm, and bamboo shoots to amaranth, arrowhead root, and crystal lettuces.

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Where I’ve Been Getting Takeout of Late, Part 21

A small, 6-inch chocolate silk pie from Manresa Bread.
A small, 6-inch chocolate silk pie from Manresa Bread.

Manresa Bread, Campbell, Los Altos, and Los Gatos

Manresa Bread is a must-stop any day of the week. But come holidays, it shines even more.

That’s what I discovered when I dropped by last week to pick up Valentine’s Day treats. It pays to heed the window for early pre-ordering, too, as popular items will sell out fast.

Pastry Chef-Founder Avery Ruzicka built a reputation for her outstanding breads, made with organic flour milled on site. Those are a must-purchase, especially the profoundly crusty baguette, which quite frankly is a steal for $4, and the oblong levain ($9) with such depth of flavor from a combination of organic whole wheat, organic white, and organic rye flours in concert with a sourdough starter.

Manresa Bread's version of a Basque cheesecake.
Manresa Bread’s Basque cheesecake.

Admittedly, I was there for two holiday items in particular: the 6-inch chocolate silk pie ($22), and the Basque cheesecake ($35).

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Pork Cheeks Braised in Tomato Wine Sauce

Have you tried pork cheeks? If not, you are missing out.
Have you tried pork cheeks? If not, you are missing out.

This is one of those no-fail, largely hands-off, wintery main courses, in which the oven does all the work.

In fact, the only real heavy-lifting you’ll have to do is procuring the pork cheeks, which is not an easy find at most supermarkets. Nor is it a necessarily inexpensive one, either.

I lucked out in buying mine from California’s only commercial Iberian pig operation, Encina Farms. What makes Iberian pork so sought after is the fact that the pigs are finished on acorns, giving their meat incredible richness. In fact, in Spain, this is the pork that’s cured into luxurious jamon Iberico.

Encina Farms does sell out of pork cheeks fast, especially since there are only two cheeks per pig, of course. But if you are serious about buying some, fill out its contact form online, and the farm owners will either alert you when the cheeks are available or save some for you.

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