Dining Outside at Anatolian Kitchen

The delectable mix appetizer platter at Anatolian Kitchen.
The delectable mix appetizer platter at Anatolian Kitchen.

When the devastating earthquake hit Turkey last month, restaurateur Dino Tekdemir set to work immediately to launch a GoFundMe, and to donate 40 percent of proceeds from sales at his Anatolian Kitchen in Palo Alto on Feb. 16 to the victims of the disaster.

Born and raised in Turkey, Tekdemir, also owns the Austrian cuisine Naschmarkt restaurants in Campbell and Palo Alto.

With the people of Turkey still prominent on our minds, two friends and I took advantage of a brief respite from the savage rainstorms of late to dine outside at Anatolian Kitchen last week. With outside tables that spill onto the sidewalk and into the street that’s still closed to cars since the pandemic, it makes for a fine place to have a gal-pal lunch.

The restaurant's outdoor dining area.
The restaurant’s outdoor dining area.

A must-order is the mix appetizer platter ($29.95) that’s perfect for sharing and noshing. It’s an assortment of cacik, a tzatziki-like yogurt-cucumber-garlic dip; a thick, coarse hummus; moderately spicy muhammara made with walnuts ground with roasted bell peppers and a touch of pomegranate molasses; smoky eggplant puree; skinny dolmas rolled around rice pilaf with currants and pine nuts; and my favorite of fried eggplant chunks in a saucy mix of tomatoes, garlic, and bell peppers.

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Make It A Pasta Night

Luscious red wine-simmered lamb and sweet peas combine for this easy rigatoni dish.
Luscious red wine-simmered lamb and sweet peas combine for this easy rigatoni dish.

If I had my druthers, I would indeed make every night “Pasta Night”

It’s no secret that I love my carbs, so naturally this cookbook (Rizzoli, 2022), of which I received a review copy, definitely spoke to me.

This collection of more than 60 recipes is by Deborah Kaloper, a Californian turned Aussie, who’s a food writer, chef, pastry chef, and food stylist.

The recipes range from quick sauces to more-time consuming dishes if you want to make your very own pasta to go with. Enjoy everything from “Grilled Lobster Tails with Garlicky Salsa Verde Butter” and “Pappardelle with Beef Cheek Ragu” to “Vegan Mac ‘N’ Cheese” and “Spinach and Three-Cheese Manicotti.”

Just pick up a package of dried rigatoni, turn on the oven, and let it do most of the work for “Lamb Ragu with Rigatoni” that will have your kitchen smelling heavenly.

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Dining At Afici

A spectacular uni pasta at Afici in San Francisco.
A spectacular uni pasta at Afici in San Francisco.

Few good things resulted from the pandemic. But one of them is surely Afici.

This South of Market fine-dining restaurant in San Francisco grew out of the pasta-oriented pop-up and takeout that Executive Chef Eric Upper of Alexander’s Steakhouse did during shutdown. A New York City native who worked at Auerole in New York, and Joel Robuchon in Las Vegas, Upper had the opportunity to lean into his Italian heritage, having studied Tuscan cuisine at Lorenzo de’ Medici School in Florence.

The pop-up proved so popular that it led the Alexander’s Steakhouse Restaurant Group to open Afici last summer.

The result is a stylish restaurant featuring inspired Italian specialties not found easily elsewhere, including house-made charcuterie made exclusively with prized A5 Wagyu.

I had a chance to experience Afici last week, when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant.

Afici's bar and lounge.
Afici’s bar and lounge.

With the wacky weather of late that’s brought snow to the Bay Area, it was an especially nice touch to be greeted at the host stand with cups of warm ginger-infused tea.

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Time to Warm Up With Adaptable Winter Squash and White Bean Soup

An easy soup with surprising depth of flavor.
An easy soup with surprising depth of flavor.

If this isn’t soup weather, I don’t know what is.

Between the hail, frost, snow-dusted city streets, and astonishing videos of people cross-country skiing through white-covered Wine Country vineyards, I feel like I need to pile on every wool sweater and down coat that I own just to walk out my front door.

The time is right to quash that chill — with squash.

With “Winter Squash and White Bean Soup” to be exact.

This hearty, velvety and nourishing soup recipe is from “The Complete Modern Pantry” (2022), of which I received a review copy, by America’s Test Kitchen.

This handy-dandy book features more than 350 recipes and tips to teach how to better cook from your pantry, as well as recommendations for ingredients to always keep on hand.

What I especially love about this book is that each recipe features a specific “pantry improv,” so if you don’t have a certain ingredient on hand, there’s a suggested alternative. For “Bucatini with Peas, Kale, and Pancetta,” for instance, you can sub in spinach in place of the kale, and frozen fava beans or edamame for the peas. For “Skillet-Roasted Carrots with Spicy Maple Bread Crumbs,” use honey or agave syrup for the called-for maple syrup or let parsnips stand in for the carrots. For “Caramelized Black Pepper Chicken,” feel free to mix it up and use pork tenderloin instead. And for “Tahini-Banana Snack Cake,” peanut butter or sesame paste can replace the tahini.

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Get Your Mojo On With This Delicious Chicken Dish

A chicken dish that honors the flavors of Puerto Rico.
A chicken dish that honors the flavors of Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico exists in the in-between.

The Caribbean island is a U.S. territory whose people are U.S. citizens. But yet, they cannot vote in U.S. presidential elections.

And when calamities like so many devastating hurricanes of late hit, Puerto Rico can seem even more isolated and alone.

Illyanna Maisonet aims to bridge that void with her thoughtful book, “Diasporican” (Ten Speed Press, 2022), of which I received a review copy.

Born in Sacramento to Puerto Ricans who moved stateside, she became the first Puerto Rican food columnist for a major newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle.

The cookbook includes more than 90 recipes, many of which she learned from her mother and grandmother, such as “Rabbit Fricassee with Chayote,” “Puerto Rican Laab,” “Pernil” (crispy-skin pork shoulder studded with garlic cloves), and “Ron del Barrilito Rum Cake.”

Through this feast, she shows how Puerto Rican cuisine shares commonalities with that of Hawaii, Guam, and the Philiippines, and take influences from Caribbean Taino, Spanish, and African cultures.

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