Tag Archives: Flour+Water


Our daughter, Carol, has been visiting us for a few days without her family. For her it has been a relaxing time with no chauffeuring duties to swimming, school meetings, the morning school rush, and cooking. She has been doing some work from her office, but she has also found time to sleep a little late, to shop, and to eat out.

Carol has her own big library of cookbooks, but it is different from my collection, so she has spent time leafing through some of my newer acquisitions. She also enjoys working in the kitchen with Susan and me, and we enjoy that, too.  We agreed to cook together on a recipe that appealed to her. She found a recipe in Flour + Water (Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, 2014), the eponymous cookbook from the San Francisco restaurant owned by Thomas McNaughton, a friend of Sarah and Evan.

The recipe she chose was entitled, “Corzetti with Sausage, Clams, and Fennel”, page 186. It involved making pasta – which sounded like fun. The challenge was to re-create the corzetti. Oretta Zanini de Vita (Encyclopedia of Pasta, translated by Maureen B. Fant, University of California Press, Berkeley, 2009) describes the pasta dating back to the thirteenth century and consisting of a bit of pasta dough with two thumb indentations to resemble an “8”. That shape was apparently for commoners because by the Renaissance the pasta was often pressed with special wooden stamps that included coats of arms and other designs. These days you can buy corzetti stamps on the Internet. They are designed to cut the pasta into circles with an imprint on both sides. The little devices are often made of exotic woods and quite beautiful. Trouble is, you have to make a lot of corzetti to justify the purchase as the stamps run $60 or more.

We made do with what I had: a 1½ inch ring from my nest of pastry cutters and a wooden mold that I use for butter and springerle cookies. Carol and I wound up imprinting only one side of the pasta, but that was effort enough for two cooks. The finished pasta, though, cooked beautifully, and the sauce was delicious. It all turned out to be a perfect meal with a nice Italian red, a tossed salad, and a fresh baguette. Pistachio gelatto finished it off. This recipe should serve four generously.

Note: Fennel “pollen” is a common ingredient on the West Coast as wild fennel grows prolifically along the roadsides from south of Big Sur to north of the Bay Area. The yellow “pollen” (I think it is actually the flowers and seeds) is often foraged by chefs from the Bay Area. Ground toasted fennel seeds will make an adequate substitute.




  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1½ teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • water


  1. Heap the flour in the middle of a large, flat, clean surface. Form a well in the middle. Add the salt
  2. Add the eggs, egg yolks, and olive oil to the well, and with a fork, combine the eggs and oil, being careful not to incorporate any of the flour. When the eggs are combined, gradually pull bits of the flour into the mixture until it is completely incorporated. Sprinkle in a few drops of water if you cannot incorporate all of the flour.
  3. Draw the mixture into a ball. Knead for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and slightly shiny. Add a few more drops of water if necessary. Wrap with plastic film and let rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
  4. When you are ready to roll out the pasta, cut the dough in fourths, working with one piece at a time and rewrapping the remaining pieces.
  5. Pat the piece of dough into a flattened, elongated piece and run it through the pasta machine rollers at the widest setting. Fold in thirds and run through the rollers once more. Repeat the process one more time. Then run the dough through the rollers, decreasing the setting by steps until you have reached the thickness you desire.  (Different machines will have different settings.) You shouldn’t need to flour the dough, but if it is too sticky, lightly dust it while you roll it out.
  6. Place the rolled dough under a clean kitchen towel while you roll out the remaining pieces of dough.
  7. With a 1½ inch circular pastry cutter, cut the sheets of pasta. Then, using a stamp of the same diameter, press firmly on each dough circle to form an imprint. Separate the imprinted circles from the remaining dough (Save that for some other use.) and let rest until you are ready to boil it.

Sausage and Clam Sauce


  • 3 pounds Little Neck clams
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil + more for sautéing the sausage
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups + ½ cup white wine
  • 8 ounces bulk pork sausage
  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • ½ teaspoon fennel pollen (if you can’t harvest your own fennel pollen, dry-toast fennel seeds and grind finely in a spice grinder. Substitute ½ teaspoon of the ground fennel
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 tablespoon snipped chives
  • grated Romano cheese (optional)


  1. Scrub the clams and let them stand in cold water in a colander for a few minutes to give up their sand. Drain.
  2. In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over a high flame. Stir in the shallot and cook until translucent. Add the sliced garlic, 2 cups of white wine, and the washed clams. Cover and cook until the clams open, about 10 minutes. Remove the clams and continue to boil the liquid until it has reduced by half. Cool the liquid completely.
  3. Remove the clams from their shells and return to the cooled liquid. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  4. Wipe the sauté pan clean and return to high heat. Add a tablespoon or so of the olive oil. Then stir in the sausage and brown on all sides, breaking it up as you cook it. Stir in the red onion. Cook until the onion is translucent, about 2 minutes.
  5. Stir in the fennel and minced garlic. Continue to cook until the garlic is lightly browned (Do not burn!). Add ½ cup of white wine and boil until it has almost completely evaporated.
  6. Add the chicken stock, the clams, and their cooking liquid. Bring to the simmer.


  1. Cook the pasta by adding it to a large pot of boiling, well-salted water. Return to the boil and cook for 3 – 5 minutes or until the pasta is al dente. Be careful not to overcook.
  2. Drain the pasta and add to the sausage and clam sauce. Simmer the mixture for 2 to 3 minutes until the sauce thickens a bit. Adjust the seasoning with lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.
  3. Divide the pasta and sauce between four plates, top with parsley and chives, and serve immediately. Top with optional grated Romano cheese.


Filed under Food, Photography, Recipes, Restaurants


This is the time of year when you can find Meyer lemons in abundance in California, especially in the Bay Area. They are delicious and very different from the usual Eureka lemons you find in the grocery store. At their best, Meyer lemons are large, nearly the size of oranges, and a beautiful golden-yellow color richer than store-bought lemons. They have a citrus smell that seems like a cross between lemon and orange, and they are sweeter than Eureka lemons, though not so sweet that you would eat one out of hand.

With the abundance and special qualities of Meyer lemons, California chefs – and even those in Santa Fe – go crazy with Meyer lemon curd, Meyer lemon pie, Meyer lemon cake – you get the idea.

On our recent trip to San Francisco, I found some beautiful Meyer lemons at the Marin Farmers’ Market in San Rafael. I bought a couple of pounds, and brought them home in my checked bag. I didn’t have any specific plans for them, so I leafed through some of my new Christmas-gift cookbooks from the Bay Area. Thomas McNaughton, chef at Flour+Water, had an interesting recipe for preserved Meyer  lemons in his book, so I thought I would give that a try.

I followed McNaughton’s recipe (sort of) with the plan of making a gallon of preserved lemons. I had to buy a gallon-size glass jar, and unfortunately I wound up not having enough Meyer lemons. I found some at our local Whole Foods, offered in little net sacks. The lemons were literally a pale comparison with my California beauties. They were yellow, small, and blemished with soft spots. Still, I bought them, and wound up needing about 7 pounds of Meyer lemons in total to complete the recipe.

Preserved lemons are a tradition in the cuisines of North Africa. The basic preservation method is brining, so most cooks wind up not using the flesh or juice, but just the peels, finely cut, to provide a citrusy taste to many things including meats and stews. (there are some recipes for using the flesh, but it must be incredibly salty.)  Cookbooks provide an abundance of methods for preserving lemons. Sandor Katz describes the basics in his encyclopedic, The Art of Fermentation and Deborah Madison gives a simple recipe in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.

McNaughton’s recipe calls for way more salt than I used. Even at that, the undissolved salt sits at the bottom of my jar of lemons as they preserve away in the coolness of the garage. Sugar and spices make McNaughton’s recipe unique, and I followed his guidance.


Preserved Meyer Lemons


  • 7 pounds large Meyer lemons
  • 6 cups pickling and canning salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 pieces star anise, broken into smaller pieces
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • 2 large bay leaves, crumbled


  1. Sterilize a 1-gallon glass container with non-reactive lid by boiling in water for 10 minutes or washing in dishwasher set on hot.
  2. Wash and dry the lemons.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the salt, sugar, and spices.
  4. Prepare the lemons by slicing them in half from the pointed end to the stem end, stopping ½ inch from the base. Turn the lemon one-quarter turn, and make a similar cut so that each lemon has four quarters joined together by the uncut portion.
  5. Pour ¼ inch of salt-sugar mixture into the bottom of the glass jar.
  6. With a tablespoon, sprinkle a heaping tablespoon of the salt sugar mixture into the cut lemons, one by one, and then arrange them, cut-side up, in the jar. Pack tightly.
  7. When you have a layer of lemons packed in the jar, sprinkle more of the salt-sugar mixture on the top, pressing down with a potato masher to express as much juice as possible.
  8. Layer by layer, continue packing the jar with prepared lemons and adding a layer of salt-sugar mixture on top of each layer.  Continue to press down each layer with the potato masher. Top the lemons with more salt-sugar mixture, seal the jar, and set it aside for 48 hours.
  9. At that time, add more salt-sugar mixture and, if necessary, lemon juice so that the lemons are completely covered. Seal the jar tightly and set in a cool, dark place for three months.
  10. When the lemons have been completely preserved, store them in the refrigerator for up to a year.


  • Other recipes call for less salt, and I think you could cut back on the salt.
  • Use pickling and canning salt. Regular table salt may leave a residue from the anti-caking agent that is used.
  • The lemons must be completely covered with liquid, otherwise they are likely to spoil.
  • Use tongs when removing lemons for use. Hands, no matter how clean, may introduce organisms that can lead to spoiling.
  • Rinse the lemons well before use, as they will be quite salty. Use the rind and discard the flesh – unless of course you want to experiment with it.


Filed under Food, Photography, Recipes


For Christmas, Sarah and Evan gave us autographed copies of cookbooks written by some of their San Francisco colleagues and friends. They are all beautiful books, and certainly worth a place of honor on my cookbook shelves. Good and successful restaurants seem to go through the same sort of trajectory. First, there is the nervous anxiety after the opening and before reviews appear. Then, there are professional reviews, almost always glowing. Next come the Yelpers (I call them Whiners) with their smarmy comments: “Why do they charge so much; who do they think they are?” ” I could do better at home on my hot plate.”  “They seated someone else at my table even though I was only an hour late for my reservation.” ” When I told them I didn’t like the filet mignon after I had eaten it all, they refused to comp me.” After the whiners, the real customers take over, and the restaurant is wildly popular. Then there are demonstration tours, and finally a thick, beautifully illustrated cookbook appears so that the diner can try making the dish at home – ha.

Coi, Bar Tartine, and Flour+Water are three of the best, most popular, and most successful restaurants in San Francisco, so it is not surprising that they all have beautiful cookbooks. Here are some of my random thoughts on all of them. Cookbooks-3 Coi: Stories and Recipes by Daniel Patterson (Phaidon Press, London and New York) is really more of a memoir than a cookbook, and it is illustrated with lush images of the California countryside along with relatively few food shots. Daniel Patterson is an accomplished writer as well as a Michelin-starred chef. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Lucky Peach, Food and Wine, and the Financial Times among other publications. The photographer, Maren Caruso, clearly knows how to operate a camera. Besides all that, Patterson is gracious in recognizing many of the cooks who have helped to make Coi a success. To be sure, there are “recipes” although they do not appear in the typical format of lists of ingredients and the steps in putting them all together. In my view, you can reproduce some of the dishes only if you study the instructions very carefully and already possess a high level of cooking skill. The most engaging parts of the book are the personal stories and philosophical statements – meditations, really – that accompany each of the recipes. The feeling that the reader comes away with is that of understanding the author as a thoughtful person as well as an accomplished cook. Cookbooks-2 Bar Tartine: Techniques & Recipes by Nicolaus Balla and Cortney Burns with photographs by Chad Robertson (Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 2014) is reminiscent of Chad Robertson’s already classic Tartine Bread except that there is a lot more color. If you have been lucky enough to eat at Bar Tartine, you know that Nicolaus and Cortney have fun with their cooking. It has the same precision that you expect in high-end food, but at the same time it is playful. The chefs delight in using ingredients you may never have heard of, or in ways that you have never thought of. And that’s sort of how Balla and Burns approach their cookbook. There are delicious recipes and gorgeous images aplenty, but the emphasis is on ingredients  The first sixteen chapters are devoted to topics like “Drying”, “Assorted Powders”,  “Spice Mixes”, “Sprouting and Soaking”, “Oils & Animal Fats”, “Vinegars”, “Pickles & Preserves” along with suggestions about how to use ingredients like dried strawberries (The two love their dehydrator), kefir butter, schmaltz, and even burnt toast. The recipes look accessible but you will definitely need to expand your pantry. For me, the book is more like a beautifully illustrated instruction book than a conventional cookbook, and there are detailed instructions about how to make all of the powders and dried foods that serve as the basis of or as seasoning for the fabulous foods of Bar Tartine. The images by Chad Robertson add greatly to the final product, and in the credits, Balla, Burns, and Robertson also do all of the food and prop styling. The book is beautifully done and truly a labor of love, just like a meal at Bar Tartine. Cookbooks-1 Flour+Water: Pasta by Thomas McNaughton with Paolo Lucchesi and photography by Eric Wolfinger (Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA) is a detailed treatise on pasta, but it is fascinating reading and studying. There is a two-page spread immediately after the frontispiece showing the author intent on rolling out a length of pasta dough. From that single image you get the feeling that McNaughton wakes up and goes to sleep thinking of pasta. His descriptions about seemingly arcane topics such as the differences between Italian 00 flour and semolina flour turn out to be fascinating reading. And coupled with detailed, well-organized images, the narrative provides step-by-step instructions that even a tyro is willing to try. There is also an abundance of recipes for what to do with the pasta once you have made it. “Mouth-watering” does not adequately describe the images of some of the spectacular dishes: spaghetti with black trumpet, poached egg, and cured yolk; burrata triangoli with preserved lemon, summer squash, and mint. A bonus is the back story of McNaughton’s pilgrimage to Italy and his long, humbling hours of learning how to make pasta  under the tough guidance of a room full of Italian grandmothers. With that, the reader realizes that anything done well requires commitment along with hours, days, and years of practice.


Filed under Food, Photography, Restaurants