Kumquat Marmalade

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When I was testing recipes for Cookie Love last year, I needed to make a marmalade with kumquats for kolachkes, Polish cookies. The problem was that kumquats, a spring fruit in Northern California, were already out of season (this was July).

Fortunately, I had a lucky break. After telling Rebecca, a baking enthusiast, that I couldn’t find any more kumquats at the market, she said she could climb a tree in her backyard and pick the fruit that were hanging over her fence. So not only were the kumquats fresh-from-the-plant sweet, they were also free. (I owe you one, Rebecca.)

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This year, while I didn’t have to test any specific kumquat recipe, it was still hard for me to pass them up [click to continue…]

Smashed Cucumber Salad with Chiles

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Foraging may be all the rage in western chef communities, but in Hong Kong, foraging takes on a different significance.

Or so Alvin Leung wants you to believe. “I don’t understand why chefs want to forage for vegetables and herbs,” he told the audience at last week’s Worlds of Flavor conference as he stared down the crowd through blue-tinted glasses.

“In Hong Kong we forage for handbags. I foraged over in Hong Kong and I was arrested for shoplifting.”

Leung, raised in Toronto, is the mind behind Bo Innovation in Hong Kong, where he serves X-Treme Chinese Cuisine (his words). He also says he makes Frankenstein food, funky stuff. He finished the plate he was demonstrating on stage by slamming a fat daisy in the center. He found the flower while foraging in the Napa Valley—at a cemetery. Or so he claimed.

Leung’s presentation was one of many at the CIA’s annual conference held at the culinary school’s Greystone campus in St. Helena. [click to continue…]

Where to go in Raleigh, NC

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Beers al fresco at Trophy Brewing & Pizza Co.

Anyone who has driven down Highway 101 from the Bay Area toward the California coast has passed a sign proclaiming “It’s Happening in Soledad.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. My cousins have a ranch in Soledad. I assumed they used it to get away from all that is happening. Soledad is near the Pinnacles national park, a prison, and little else. My memory of the actual town (visited circa 1988; we ate honey-filled sopaipillas in a no-name diner) is sparse. I think of tumbleweeds rolling down the main drag, although the tumbleweeds probably only existed in my imagination.

Raleigh, though it doesn’t have a sign that says so, is truly happening. Before Mindy’s book launch and after the IACP conference in D.C., I put aside a few days to pay my friend Liz a visit. Liz and I met in grad school at Northwestern. She ended up covering banking for Bloomberg in New York City. My path–working for a trade magazine in which whiffle ball game participation was mandatory–was completely different. Maybe that’s why we got along so well: we respected that each of us would do our own thing. [click to continue…]

Cookie Love is out! April Cookbook Events

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At last, it’s Cookie Love‘s on sale date! Mindy has hit the road (she’s currently in NYC), and I’ll be meeting up with her when she arrived in San Francisco later this week. I wrote a bit about the backstory of Cookie Love for Taste Book. (It involved listening to early Black Sabbath.) And if you’re in NYC, SF, PDX, Seattle, or Chicago, here’s where to catch Mindy this month (and snag a signed book). [click to continue…]

What to Ask Yourself Before Collaborating on a Chef Cookbook

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Paul Virant glazing a tart for The Preservation Kitchen, Jeff Kauck with the camera.

This past weekend, my panel at the IACP conference hit on a lot of important points about chef cookbook collaborations. (Before the conference, I had posted this piece about my experience writing chef cookbooks.) After our panel discussion, I thought I’do take a deeper dive into the subject and write a post about what we talked about at the conference to help people navigate this nebulous side of cookbook writing.

And so: If you are a writer who wants to write a book with a chef, here is a list of questions to ask yourself before you start. [click to continue…]

The Truth about Chef Cookbook Collaborations

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On Saturday, I’ll be on a panel at the IACP conference in Washington, D.C. The subject we’re tackling is cookbook collaborations—mostly of the chef-writer variety— and I’ll be sharing some of the tips I’ve learned on how to make it work.

What has been fascinating about putting together the presentation is talking about the subject with fellow panelists Anne McBride, Amy Collins, and Jody Eddy (although Jody is stuck in India on assignment and it looks like she’ll miss IACP, sadly). It is gratifying to know you’re not the only one who has been in odd or tough situations before (and I guarantee that everyone who has written a book with a chef has some choice stories to share). It is also inspiring to talk with individuals who get a lot out of the collaboration process. We don’t need to do it: we want to. [click to continue…]

Irish Soda Bread with Tea-Soaked Currants

Irish Soda Bread

There are many things I miss about Chicago, but St Patrick’s Day is not one of them. Far better than drinking green beer at O’Shaunnassey’s Blarney Stone Saloon, Bar & Grill and trying to avoid falling into an atomically green Chicago River is to escape the city altogether. And one way to do that is to head to dinner at Vie in Western Springs.

While I don’t think he does it any more, Paul Virant, a friend of mine and the chef and owner of Vie, used to do this low-key prix fixe dinner for St. Patrick’s Day. One of my favorite dishes from the dinner was dead-simple: a toasted slice of Irish soda bread [click to continue…]

Off the Grid

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The first time I heard someone say he was going off the grid, I assumed that he was going to unplug and live somewhere in the woods, preferably in Wisconsin.

In the Bay Area, though, Off the Grid means grazing amid food trucks and tents serving a cultural mishmash of food. Since Off the Grid launched in 2010, visiting these food-truck markets has become weekly rituals for many in and around San Francisco. Off the Grid now operate in more than 40 locations, stretching from the North Bay to the South Bay and all the way east to Pleasant Hill and Concord. Personally, I’m looking forward to the new Off the Grid in San Francisco opening just south of ATT Park on 3rd Street (previously an underused parking lot during the baseball offseason).

But the biggest and brightest OtG is the Friday night market at Fort Mason Center. It kicked off the season on March 6th, and it will go through October 30th.

Last Friday, Matt Cohen, the OtG founder, gave a group of us a tour of the market’s newest vendors. I asked him what he looks for when accepting new vendors. He said he looks for vendors who [click to continue…]

Brownie Cookies

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This past weekend was packed with baking and cooking projects. Some of it was prompted by a cleaning-out-the-freezer impulse. (I blame Marie Kondo.) I unearthed some chicken backs and wings and turned them into stock with some celery that needed to be used up. Two lost bags of frozen blueberries became an experimental chia seed jam. Oats, nuts, seeds, and coconut morphed into a kitchen-sink granola. And, unrelated to the spring-cleaning mission, I made cute little cinnamon rolls from the Nordic Bakery Cookbook just because.

The results were mixed. The stock was good, but it’s hard to mess up stock. My experiments with chia have been lackluster, and the jam was no exception (though I suspect that the frost-bitten blueberries were at fault here). It did not spark joy. The granola wasn’t bad, but I have made better. And while I liked the cinnamon rolls, I felt that I needed to improve the filling-to-dough ratio (it was too skimpy).

I figured one of those projects would warrant a post this week, but no. Fortunately, I still had a few odds and ends to clean out of the kitchen. I’m in a transition mode—moving from one book project to another. That was part of the reason that it was time to clean house.

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Last year, while testing recipes for Mindy Segal’s cookie book, I accidentally bought unsweetened chocolate discs from the bulk bins at Berkeley Bowl thinking they were bittersweet. The discs have been hanging around since June, and I wanted to unload them. I also still had some prune puree left in the refrigerator since making this banana bread. And just the other day I landed upon an old recipe for espresso cookies from my days as a La Farine baker. Which made me remember I also had instant coffee also left over from cookie recipe testing. Something good had to come of all this.

And so I cobbled together this chocolate cookie recipe. [click to continue…]

Seed + Salt, a Restaurant Focused on Seed-to-Stalk cooking

Nut Loaf from Seed+Salt

sprouted S+S nut loaf with housemade nutella

When I first heard about Seed + Salt, I was immediately hooked on the name. Last year I drafted a cookbook proposal focused on baking with nuts and seeds, and while the project never got quite off the ground, I never stopped thinking about the culinary attributes of nuts and seeds—and their under-tapped potential. I had to pay this new place a visit.

Seed+Salt Entrance

Seed+Salt entrance

Seed + Salt, which opened on the north side of Chestnut Street in San Francisco on Black Friday, 2014, takes the nut-and-seed idea to a whole new level. [click to continue…]