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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Wealth of Techniques Shared in Bar Tartine's New Cookbook

Posted By on Wed, Dec 10, 2014 at 11:10 AM

click to enlarge bar_tartine_cov.jpg
Bar Tartine: Techniques and Recipes by Nicolaus Balla and Cortney Burns (Chronicle Books) is one of the more unusual cookbooks I’ve seen. It’s an astounding look inside the culinary minds of those behind the stove of one of San Francisco’s beloved restaurants. The techniques section makes up a good third of the book, giving painstaking detail as to what is in their pantry.

In just one example, they are huge on powders, and not of the molecular gastronomy variety. There are no chemicals in theirs, just straight-up dehydrated herbs or vegetables or alliums, ground down into powder form. The Allium section discusses the different types they make: charred green onion powder, green onion powder, sweet onion powder, smoked onion powder, black garlic powder, and green garlic powder.

And then in the Assorted Powders section they discuss the other types: from sauerkraut to yogurt to huitlacoche, to burnt bread to parsnip. 

They also make their own vinegars, pickles and syrups; they sprout, they dehydrate, the render and cure.

As they themselves say, “We have what we call ‘projects’ in every nook and cranny of the restaurant. On any given day, spices are drying, cheeses aging, pickles bubbling, sprouts growing, and meats curing.”

The recipes themselves are not difficult, but many call upon pantry items earlier discussed. One must read each recipe more carefully than usual, to make sure it doesn’t include something that had to be started some days ago.

I tried out the recipe for Sauerkraut Soup, a favorite of Nick’s that his father made when he was living in Slovakia, with my own homemade sauerkraut. Besides the jar of kraut, which I usually have in my fridge anyhow, and chicken stock, which I usually have in my freezer, it didn’t call for any other unusual pantry items. Sausage, bacon, potatoes, vegetables, tomatoes, loads of paprika and a bit of dried fruit are simmered with kraut and kraut brine for a Slovak version of comfort food.

Though I love spicy food, I wondered about the optional chipotle or arbol chiles and left them out; I also deseeded and deveined my Serrano peppers (they didn’t say to do this), and for me, the spice level was perfect. If I had used both the dried peppers and Serrano seeds, I can only imagine the spice level would have been through the roof.

The soup was hearty and complex, completely different than anything I usually make, and perfect for a rainy winter night.

Nicolaus Balla and Cortney Burns will be at Omnivore Books Saturday, Dec. 13 at 3 p.m. 

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About The Author

Alix Wall

Alix Wall

Alix Wall is an Oakland-based freelance writer and certified natural foods chef. Her web site is

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