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Spanish Heart, San Fran Swagger

By Warren Rojas

“Pintxos: Small Plates in the Basque Tradition"

“Pintxos: Small Plates in the Basque Tradition.” Gerald Hirigoyen with Lisa Weiss. Ten Speed Press. $24.95

If the household budget keeps shrinking, but your appetite for variety refuses to acquiesce, chef Gerald Hirigoyen’s “Pintxos” cookbook may be the culinary prescription you’ve been pining for.

The displaced Spaniard—Hirigoyen owns/operates two San Francisco restaurants, Piperade and Bocadillos—stretches his homeland’s infinitely adaptable tapas model with a slew of American influences, yielding hybrid snacks that romance the palate rather than ravaging the senses.

The cooking guide features over six dozen quick-bite recipes, including: cold melon soup with Serrano ham crisps, piperade-braised beans with baked eggs, a commemorative fried-chicken sandwich (favored by Williams-Sonoma founder Chuck Williams), seared sea scallops over lychee gazpacho, calf’s liver and caramelized shallot brochettes, vegetable tempura with orange-saffron aioli and roasted beets with Morrocan spices and aged sherry (very Basque).

Hirigoyen rounds out the text with unabashed praise for his Spanish cooking—“The Spanish have turned the concept of small plates into both a social event and a culinary art form,” he proclaims—an indispensible appendix of pantry staple preparations (flavored aoilis, lemon confit, romesco sauce) and some of the most lustful snapshots this side of food porn (Ms. Caruso—your imagery is blissfully intoxicating).

 

(June 2009)

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