As much as food lovers might like to, it just isn’t practical to dine out all the time. Here, some top Bay Area chefs featured in our profile pages weigh in with favorite shortcuts that can make eating at home a five-star experience.
Back in the day when I worked at Santa Fe Bar and Grill in Berkeley with chef Jeremiah Tower, one of my favorite “family meals” to make was pizzas done on French bread. Pick up a large loaf of any great focaccia or sourdough bread and slice it lengthwise to use as your base. Go with basic cheese or get creative. The salad/olive bar at your local grocery can be a great source of toppings without having to do all the prep yourself. One of my favorite combos: tomato sauce, fresh garlic, oregano, canned tuna, and oil-cured olives. Always top with fresh herbs, good salt, and extra-virgin olive oil, and you’re golden. Louise Franz, owner at Pizzalina
I always befriend the produce workers at Berkeley Bowl so they can give me the insider information on which fruits and vegetables are tasting particularly good this time of the year. They are also so generous with the samples, so I can taste for myself. Felicia Ferguson, owner at Piazza D’Angelo
I buy peeled garlic and then cook it slowly in olive oil. When it’s soft I season with salt and sprinkle it on pizza. I also cook Russian fingerling potatoes in lightly salted water and then cut them lengthwise, slowly brown them in butter, and finish with anchovy paste and parsley — yum. Ralph Burgin, chef at Cliff House
Canned San Marzano tomatoes are really great to use as a base for pasta sauces. There’s a knee-jerk reaction here in the States that anything canned can’t be good. Many Italians will tell you that fresh-packed San Marzanos are better than fresh tomatoes for sauces. Ben Balesteri, chef at Poggio Trattoria
If you’re looking for soup stocks, go with boxed beef or chicken broth over canned stock. It’s lighter and doesn’t overwhelm whatever you’re using it for. Of course, if you’re making your grandma’s chicken soup, you’ll probably want to go with canned stock, although it has more of a metallic taste. Boxed is the bomb. Daniel Tellez, chef at Copita Tequileria y Comida
My grandmother, the same one who gave us our famous Chicken Okasan, taught me a little trick that makes for a great fast weeknight meal. You take a packet of instant ramen, quickly boil the noodles, then pan-fry them till crispy; the trick is to spread them out like a pancake and not move them, so they form a nice crust. In the meantime, sauté thinly sliced onions, garlic and whatever veggies or meat you have leftover in the fridge. Add soy sauce, a pinch of sugar and chicken stock, and you have an instant noodle stir-fry. Whenever I make it, I think of my grandmother. Erin Miwa, owner at Comforts
I always keep frozen puff pastry on hand at home. I buy mine at Whole Foods in Mill Valley. It has many uses for quick preparations. Some of my favorites and often go-to creations: a quick smoked salmon and onion tart, with crème fraîche; a Provençal-style tart with tomato and anchovy; simple fruit tarts with a sprinkle of sugar; and quick light cookies dusted with cinnamon and sugar. Roland Passot, chef at Left Bank Brasserie
This article originally appeared as partner content in Marin Magazine’s print edition with the headline “Kitchen Tips”.