Fresh and Seasonal


I always get excited about cookbooks with a connection to the Bay Area. There are so many things that make eating here special. Of course, it's the fresh produce, but it's much more than just that. It's also the vibe, the service and personality of our local restaurants. The latest crop of cookbooks capture much of that.

cookingmyway.jpgIt may sound odd to say I don't go to Mitchell Rosenthal's restaurants, namely Town Hall and Anchor & Hope (never been to Salt House) primarily for the food. Oh the food is good, some of it is outstanding, but I really go because those restaurants just feel so good and welcoming. It's like a party every night, at both places, not in a rowdy way, in a "I can't remember the last time I had so much fun at a restaurant" way. At Town Hall I always sit at the communal table, and I love it. You cannot eat there without making friends with your neighbors and chatting over your dishes. Rosenthal's new cookbook, Cooking My Way Back Home, manages to share a lot of the fun through stories and photos, not to mention recipes.

Thankfully my favorite dish from Town Hall is in the new cookbook, it's Faith's Warm Ham & Cheese Toast with Jalapeno Cream as well as my favorite bite from Anchor & Hope, Angels on Horseback with Remoulade. The recipes are a mix of Southern and Jewish/Deli favorites with a few Mexican, Seafood and barbecue recipes and somehow it all works. I'd call it comfort food meets party food. Bookmarked recipes to try include Hot Mixed Nuts with Truffle Honey and Maldon Salt, Sweet Onion and Funky Cheese Fondue, BBQ Shrimp with Toasted Garlic Bread and Lemon Chicken with Olive and Feta.

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jamieathome.jpg My son Ethan and I once tried to cook our way through Jamie Oliver’s Italy—he was going off to school and had some delusional fantasy that there would be a kitchen in his dorm (not!) and that he would be able to cook for his friends and his girlfriends and somehow simulate some of the cuisine he was accustomed to...  It was great.  Everything we made was perfect.  I don’t even like swordfish and Jamie Oliver’s swordfish is one of the best things I’ve ever had.  He thinks “fruit is lovely”, he uses words like “drizzle” and you sort of feel like he’s in the kitchen with you. 

So, I was really excited when Jamie Oliver’s new book “Jamie at Home” arrived in the mail.  And it’s xmas and it’s chaotic and I haven’t had time to even begin to cook my way through it.  But I’m really pleased that they’re allowing us to excerpt some of Jamie Oliver’s new recipes.

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salad-263x300.jpgPatricia Wells’ “Bistro Cooking” is a staple in our kitchen. The hearty, fresh, robust, easy-to-follow recipes were inspired by the famous bistros in France and, now, we could make them at home.

So, I was incredibly excited when Patricia Wells’ Salad as a Meal: Healthy Main-Dish Salads for Every Season arrived on our doorstep. It was summer. And she was Patricia Wells. And she understands that salad as a meal isn’t simply two slips of lettuce and a tomato from the garden. It’s salad as a meal!

The salmon gravlax with potato and parmesan galettes. The idea that you could make salmon gravlax at home was incredibly appealing. Okay, it takes three days, but it’s really fun and it’s completely delicious. And what could be wrong with potato and parmesan galettes?! The lobster salad with green beans, apple, and avocado is divine. (My method, order a really large lobster at a restaurant because you’re celebrating something and bring home the leftovers for a salad!) But you can also buy two small lobsters (which aren’t that expensive in the summer) and make the whole thing at home.

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Imagine a chef who spends six months a year in a restaurant making food for the fussiest guests and six months in a tiny galley kitchen with a rickety stove and barely any counter space. Meet David Tanis of Chez Panisse. His recipes are mostly pretty easy, but rely on the best quality ingredients.

Bookmarked recipes: Celery, radish and watercress salad with walnut oil, Buckwheat galettes with ham and cheese, Black sticky rice pudding with coconut cream.

It's fascinating to see the way a restaurant chef cooks at home, when he wants to, to please himself and his friends.

Anyone who has access to fantastic quality ingredients and wants to learn how to make them shine.

visualfood.jpgThe Visual Food Lover's Guide is a terrific resource that I can't stop leafing through. In fact, it has taken up residence next to my bed along with a few other treasured tomes. It has the basic information on how to buy, prepare, cook, serve and store over 1,000 types of food. It also gives you the rundown on nutritional information. It's nowhere near as personal or opinionated as "Jane Grigon's Vegetable Book", but with hundreds of entries it is much more comprehensive.

I really like that there's a color illustration of each item and some photos for techniques like how to make bread or pry open oyster shells. The entry for anise has an illustration of the flowering plant, star anise seeds and pods. That level of detail is what makes it so worthwhile. They've also done a great job making sure that produce and seafood from different geographic locations are included. My only complaint is that the mushroom section is a bit thin. I would have loved to have seen mushrooms such as hedgehog, lobster and lion's mane included.

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