Ronda’s Romesco — You’ll Want To Put It On Everything

Ronda's Romesco will add punch to most anything, such as these shrimp-zucchini-onion kebabs I grilled at home.
Ronda’s Romesco will add punch to most anything, such as these shrimp-zucchini-onion kebabs I grilled at home.

If you’ve gone bonkers for Sichuan chili crisp like everyone else, you might wonder what the next ”It” condiment will be to supplant its runaway popularity.

I’m here to say it just very well might be romesco.

Because one taste of Ronda’s Romesco had me convinced.

Ronda Brittian of Petaluma is a trauma nurse. Raised in a family of accomplished home cooks, she’s also a food entrepreneur who has joined forces with her life partner, Steve Davis, a food brand manager, to create a line of jarred romesco, the classic Spanish sauce of almonds, tomato, garlic, red wine vinegar, red peppers, and olive oil.

I make my own romesco from scratch now and then, but having it ready-made in a jar sure makes it extra convenient.

Regular and Spicy varieties.
Regular and Spicy varieties.

I had a chance to try samples of Ronda’s Romesco, which come in two varieties: regular and spicy.

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A Yogurt Cake — That’s Almost All Yogurt

Would you believe there's only 3 tablespoons of flour in this yogurt cake?
Would you believe there’s only 3 tablespoons of flour in this yogurt cake?

I’ve made many a yogurt cake — but never one that was nearly all yogurt and only a smidge of flour.

This “Yogurt Cake” is so different.

Rather than yogurt being a mere supporting ingredient to give the cake extra moistness, it is the star here in abundance, creating a light, fluffy texture almost like an airy, crustless cheesecake.

The recipe is from “Claudia Roden’s Mediterranean” (Ten Speed Press, 2021), of which I received a review copy.

The incomparable cookbook writer, who was born in Egypt and now lives in the United Kingdom, has been chronicling Middle Eastern cuisines for decades, and educating all of our palates along the way.

Her latest cookbook showcases the classics she loves to prepare for friends and family, which are imbued with the flavors of Provence, Cairo, Sicily, Morocco and beyond.

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Biscuit Berry Nests — Two Treats In One

Holes get punched into a big round of biscuit dough, then filled with fresh berries, before being baked.
Holes get punched into a big round of biscuit dough, then filled with fresh berries, before being baked.

If you adore fruit baked into your biscuits or even biscuits slathered with fruity jam, then you will go bonkers for “Biscuit Berry Nests.”

Because a jumble of fresh berries is baked into an actual hole punched into each biscuit. Not only that, but those “holes” are also baked, creating regular biscuits, too.

It’s like donuts plus donut holes — but in biscuit form.

This fun little recipe is from “Hot Little Suppers” (Harper Horizon, 2021), of which I received a review copy.

It was written by Carrie Morey, founder of Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit, a South Carolina business based on her mom’s from-scratch biscuits that has now grown to encompass eateries, a food truck, and mail-order items.

Of course, you’ll find biscuit recipes galore inside, including “Cinnamon Biscuits” and “Whipping Cream Biscuits,” plus accompaniments such as “Savory Thyme Butter,” along with clever ways to use up leftover biscuits (does that ever happen?) in dishes such as “Toasted Maple Biscuit Casserole.” Since one can’t live on biscuits alone, there are also entree recipes such as “Lemony Crab Pasta” and “Salty Sticky Sweet Pot Roast.”

The "holes'' get baked, too, to create individual biscuits.
The “holes” get baked, too, to create individual biscuits.

When I saw the photo of these clever biscuit nests in the book, I knew I had to make them. They didn’t disappoint, though, I did have to tweak the recipe in a number of areas.

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Frijoles Rojos for Cinco de Mayo — And Beyond

Garnished with creamy, crumbly queso fresco and cilantro, these hearty Mexican black beans can be a meal on their own with rice.
Garnished with creamy, crumbly queso fresco and cilantro, these hearty Mexican black beans can be a meal on their own with rice.

No Cinco de Mayo celebration would be complete without a soul-satisfying pot of hearty and tender beans.

“Frijoles Rojos” is all that — plus vegan.

This classic bean dish is from “Provecho” (Ten Speed Press, 2021), of which I received a review copy. The cookbook is by Edgar Castrejon, a Bay Area chef, recipe developer and photographer, who grew up in Oakland to parents who emigrated from Mexico.

The title of the book comes from the Spanish expression to “wish someone a good meal.” The 100 vegan recipes embody that sentiment in rustic, homey dishes such as “Columbian Empanadas,” “Adobo Mushroom Tacos,” “Tortas de Tofu,” and a clever “Coconut Aquachile” in which the flesh of young coconut stands in for the usual fish.

“Frijoles Rojos” can be made with canned beans or dried. I used Rancho Gordo Midnight Black Beans, soaking them overnight, before cooking them the next day.

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The Art of Being Earnest at Ernest

Chilled asparagus spears with furikake potato chip crumble and chunky Jidori egg salad -- at Ernest.
Chilled asparagus spears with furikake potato chip crumble and chunky Jidori egg salad — at Ernest.

Ask Chef Brandon Rice how long he toiled to open his first restaurant, Ernest, in San Francisco, and he’ll tell you the short answer is three years, but the long answer is his entire life.

No matter how you cut it, the endeavor took untold blood, sweat, and tears, plus enduring the standstill of a global health crisis. Named after his grandfather, a Virginia butcher, Ernest, finally opened in March 2021 to widespread acclaim, making it a tough reservation to land almost from the get-go.

After being invited in as a guest of the restaurant last week, it’s easy to see why. Rice is the former chef de cuisine of Rich Table in San Francisco. If you’ve enjoyed the playful, creative fare there, you’re guaranteed to relish it here, too, with its similar whimsy and daring confidence.

While Ernest offered some outdoor dining tables last year, it’s unlikely to do so this year, even when the weather warms. San Francisco weather being what it is, it proved too unpredictable to count on.

Chef Brandon Rice in the open kitchen at Ernest, the first restaurant that's his own.
Chef Brandon Rice in the open kitchen at Ernest, the first restaurant that’s his own.

However, the restaurant’s interior boasts 16- to 20-foot high ceilings, a bonus for air circulation. The soaring, light-filled space, done up with ash wood tables, actually used to be the shipping dock and warehouse for Best Foods mayonnaise, Rice says.

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