On my latest book tour, I had the pleasure of staying at the Hotel Vitale in San Francisco, which is just a crosswalk away from the famed Ferry Building, a food-lover’s paradise. If you are going to San Francisco, it is worth staying there to immerse yourself in the local food scene. You can taste coffee, fruits, pastry, roasted chickens, spices, oysters … the list goes on. Plan your trip around the Saturday morning outdoor market – there is nothing like sitting on a bench underneath the Oakland Bay Bridge, eating breakfast and talking food politics with the locals.
I always try to find out what’s cooking with the local chefs, and was thrilled to discover chef Kory Stewart at Americano Restaurant. There is a vibrant bar scene in the front of the restaurant, and behind a curtain there is a small dining room turning out some sensational dishes. Not only is Stewart an incredibly talented chef, but he also has a thing for candy cap mushrooms; he forages for them on his time off. I was lucky enough to taste ice cream with some of the dried mushrooms – simply amazing. One dish I couldn’t stop thinking about was Bruschetta With Shrimp and Romesco Sauce. It is a sublimely simple recipe made for the home cook.
Bruschetta is thick-sliced bread, grilled and scented with garlic, usually drizzled with fruity olive oil. While we usually think of this dish as topped with tomatoes, actually it is a blank canvas for other savory ingredients. As an aside, let’s clear up the pronunciation of “bruschetta.” Some people mistakenly say “bro-shetta,” whereas it is correct to say “bro-sketta.” However you say it, this classic Italian appetizer is a winner.
I think you will appreciate the unexpected topping on this bruschetta recipe. If you can find fresh shrimp, you will be rewarded with a double dose of deliciousness. If not, ask your fishmonger for the best shrimp available (16 to 20 count) and have the shrimp cleaned and deveined. This roasted pepper, garlic and almond sauce is quite versatile, and it beautifully complements the sweetness of the shrimp. Any leftover sauce is also wonderful as a dip for vegetables or a finishing sauce on any grilled fish, chicken or meat.
Diane Rossen Worthington is an authority on new American cooking and the author of “Seriously Simple Parties.” www.seriouslysimple.com