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Appetizer of Eggplant, Tomato and Burrata with Anchovy Breadcrumbs

If you have plans in the future to visit San Francisco and wonder where to eat, let me recommend a couple of restaurants to you that are really exceptional - A16 and SPQR.  They are sister restaurants, with the same owner, Shelly Lindgren, at the helm.  They are both Italian restaurants and serve outstanding food and wine.  I guarantee you will not have a bad meal at either place.  A16 focuses on the food and wine of the Campania (Naples) region of Italy.  A16 is the name of the road that runs through that part of Italy.  SPQR, if you have ever been to Rome, are the initials that are stamped into everything in the city - from manhole covers to coins. It means "The Senate and People of Rome".  Tip: if you go to SPQR, sit at the Cook's Counter and watch them prepare the food. 

When Shelly Lindgren and the other original owners opened A16 back in 2004, they wanted to open a great wine bar that served Neapolitan style pizza, something lacking in the Bay area.  Since then, A16 has become much more, with incredible handmade pastas and other dishes on the menu. It's wine service and menu is so outstanding it won a James Beard award this year.   Yet this little place is unpretentious and casual but the food will knock your socks off.  The servers do an excellent job of helping you choose a wine - they steered us to a little known organic wine from Puglia that we had never heard of and we thoroughly enjoyed it.  

The last time we were here, we had an appetizer of eggplant, tomatoes, burrata and anchovy breadcrumbs that I absolutely loved.  It inspired me to try to recreate it. Here's my version.  It's simple and easy to whip up - no frying of the eggplant, just a quick roast in the oven.  If you've never had Burrata cheese, it's actually much easier to find now in the grocery stores.  It's fresh mozzarella balls that have cream in the middle.  It's super luscious.  Then you add raw tomatoes, fresh basil and divine crunchy breadcrumbs that are crisped up in a little olive oil and melted anchovy. Don't let the anchovy scare you - it adds a layer of flavor to the breadcrumbs that you absolutely want.  Be brave.  Give it a try.

Open up a great red wine and enjoy.


Eggplant, Tomato and Burrata with Anchovy Breadcrumbs

for a printable recipe click here

serves 4-6 as an appetizer

for the eggplant:
2 small eggplant, cubed
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon sea salt 
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 

for the tomatoes:
28 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil 

for the breadcrumbs:
1 Tablespoon olive oil 
1 anchovy filet
½ cup freshly grated breadcrumbs (you can use a coarse cheese grater or a food processor)
¼ teaspoon sea salt 

a few leaves of fresh basil
4-6 ounces of fresh Burrata
sea salt 


Preheat the oven to 400° F.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray lightly with cooking spray.

Toss the eggplant in a medium bowl with the other ingredients for the eggplant.  Spread on the baking sheet. (Don't wash the bowl. ) Roast for about 20 minutes. Spread the eggplant on a serving platter and allow to cool slightly. 

In the same bowl, toss the tomatoes with the vinegar, sea salt and olive oil.  Allow to sit while you prepare the breadcrumbs.

In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil and gently fry the anchovy until it dissolves.  Add the breadcrumbs and salt and fry until golden brown. Remove from heat and spread on a plate to cool.

Layer the tomatoes on top of the eggplant.  Shred basil leaves over the top.  Take the balls of Burrata and pull apart and lay on top of the tomatoes.  Sprinkle a little sea salt on top of the Burrata. Sprinkle the anchovy breadcrumbs on top. Serve immediately. 


Artisan Bread Update and a Bread Cloche Giveaway!

In all the years of writing this blog, the most popular post ever has been the one I wrote about No-Knead Artisan Bread.  This method, popularized by Zoe Francois and Jeffrey Hertzberg, revolutionized homemade bread baking.  Instead of making up a batch of dough every time you want to bake bread, you make up a large batch of very wet dough and let it do a long, cold fermentation in the refrigerator - no kneading, no fuss. You can store the dough in the fridge for up to two weeks, tear a hunk of dough off and make bread whenever you feel like it. A variation of this method was also developed by Jim Lahey of the Sullivan Street Bakery. Suddenly, it seemed, everyone was making homemade bread with these methods.  In the five years since I wrote that post, I've learned a few things and tweaked the recipe a little.  I thought it was time to do an update.  

Zoe and Jeffrey's approach is to make a very wet dough, let it rise and then let it sit overnight in the fridge. You then shape a piece of the dough, let it rise and then bake it on a pizza stone in the oven.  They liked to place a cup of water into a pan beneath the rack with the bread, creating a little steam for the crust.  In Jim Lahey's version, a smaller batch of wet dough is worked up and allowed to rise about 18 hours then wrapped in a towel to rise again and baked in a heavy cast iron or ceramic pot.  Both methods are terrific.  I like making up a larger batch of dough so I can keep it in the fridge and just make bread or rolls whenever I want.  I was baking my bread on a pizza stone but then tried Lahey's version of baking it in my Le Creuset pot. I really liked doing it this way and that's how I've been doing it for a while.

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Ragu with Fresh Tajarin Pasta

We were recently in Seattle, visiting one of our sons, and had dinner at Spinasse. Spinasse is known around Seattle as one of the best places to go for homemade pasta and it did not disappoint. There were a lot of moans and groans coming from our table. The meal was delicious, from the amuse that they brought out (a heavenly little bite of crostini with butter and anchovy) to an oustanding dessert of coconut gelato with dark chocolate flakes.  But the real star of the show was, indeed, the pastas.

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