Back to the Kitchen: Favorite Recipes from the Heart of San Francisco

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Growing up in the San Francisco bay area, it was a real treat to go into the city for meals. From North Beach to Fisherman’s Wharf to Ghirardelli Square, I could happily eat my way across town! When I am not able to get there I have my own versions of some of the most famous culinary delights. Last week some local friends asked for a couple of my dad’s favorite recipes from our gorgeous city by the bay and looking for them made me very homesick! Tonight I will sip a good Sonoma Pinot and fantasize of the marina as the fog rolls in.

San Francisco memories conjure up recipes from the heart. PHOTO: Karen Young

Lovely Lisa’s Minestrone

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 yellow onions, diced

6 stalks of celery including leaves, thinly sliced

3 carrots, chopped

1 tablespoon Italian herbs

Sweat above ingredients in covered large soup pot 5 minutes

Uncover and add

4 cloves garlic, minced

Sauté 5 minutes


12 cups of chicken or veggie stock

3 cups canned chop tomatoes

2 Yukon gold potatoes diced

2 cans 15 oz cannelli beans, drained

1 small head Savoy cabbage, quartered and sliced

Bring to boil and simmer 30 minutes


8 oz pasta of your choice

6 more cups of stock

2 cups green beans cut into 1-inch pieces

Simmer 15 minutes

Serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese

San Francisco Style Clam Chowder

6 slices bacon, chopped

4 scallions, thinly sliced

3 Russet potatoes, peeled and chopped in ½ inch pieces

1 green pepper, chopped

1 celery stalk, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

2-cup water

1 teaspoon Kosher Salt

½ teaspoon white pepper

Splash Tabasco and Worchester Sauce, to taste

2 cups raw clams with juice

2 cups heavy cream

Sauté bacon until crisp in a large stockpot. Add onions, potatoes, green pepper, celery and garlic. Add 2 cups of water and season with salt and pepper, Worcestershire and Tabasco. Cover the pot and simmer for 15 minutes. In a separate pan heat the clams and their juice for 3 minutes. Add the clams and juice to the pot, pour in the half and half. Heat, stirring until piping hot. Makes 6 servings.

Pasta e Fagioli

1 cup dry cannellini beans or red kidney beans, soaked

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, minced

1 stalk celery, chopped

1 carrot, minced

1 cup chopped pancetta

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes

4 cups beef stock

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

1 bay leaf

1 pinch ground black pepper

2/3-cup seashell pasta

Drain the beans and set aside.

In a large stockpot heat the oil over moderate heat until hot. Add the onion, celery and carrot and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add pancetta and garlic and cook stirring for 1 minute. Add tomatoes, beans, beef stock, thyme, bay leaf and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Transfer 1/2 cup of the beans to a small processor or blender and puree. Return beans to pot and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring liquid to a boil and add pasta. Simmer until pasta is tender, about 6 minutes.

Fish Soup (Zuppa di pesce or cioppino)

1 lb white fish fillets

1 lb salmon filets

1 lb mussels

1 lb little neck clams

1 lb cleaned squid, cut into rings

6 shallots, thinly sliced

6 cloves garlic, chopped

1 tablespoon crushed red pepper

4 tbsp olive oil

2 14-ounce cans imported Italian plum tomatoes, diced

1 small can tomato purée

1 cup white wine

1 chunky sprig oregano

1 chunky sprig of thyme

4 cups fish stock

Salt and Pepper

Chopped Italian parsley, chopped foe garnish

Cut the fish fillets into chunky pieces. Scrub the mussels clean, pull away any beards and rinse thoroughly in cold water. Throw away any that have broken shells. (Mussels that are gaping open should be tapped firmly on the work surface. If they close up they are fine, but if they remain open discard them). Rinse Clams thoroughly and discard any that do not close when tapped firmly.

Sautee the shallots, garlic and red pepper gently in the oil until the shallots are tender and translucent.

Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato purée, thyme, oregano and a little salt and pepper. Simmer down until thick. Stir in the fish stock and wine and bring to the boil. Simmer for two minutes, taste and adjust seasoning. The stew base is now ready. Shortly before you wish to eat, bring the base back to the boil. Add the mussels and clams cover and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the fish and the squid, cover again and simmer gently for another 5 minutes until the mussels and clams have all opened (discard any that stay firmly shut). Serve right away in large bowls sprinkle with Italian parsley.

Sourdough Bread

1 cup starter

1 package dry yeast

2 cups warm water

2 teaspoons sugar

1-teaspoon salt

6-7 cups flour


Let starter come to room temp. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, sprinkle yeast over 1/4 cup of warm water. Add sugar and let stand for about 5 minutes. Stir in the rest of the water and the starter. Add four cups of flour. Mix to blend then beat at medium speed until smooth and elastic about 5 minutes. Gradually beat in 2 cups more flour, then add up to 1 cup more to make a stiff dough. Turn dough out on to a board coated with remaining flour. Knead until dough is springy and small bubbles form just under the surface. (15-20 minutes) Or place in bowl of electric mixer fitted withy a dough hook and process for about 10 minutes.) Turn dough into a greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and a towel; let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk about one hour.

Punch dough down and let rest for a few minutes. Divide into 2 equal parts and shape each one into a ball and place on greased cookie sheets that have been lightly dusted with cornmeal. Cover lightly with a towel and let rise until doubled, about one hour. With a very sharp knife cut a Chris cross in each loaf about 1/4 inch deep. Preheat oven to 400. Bake until golden brown and loaves sound hollow when tapped about 1/2 hour.

Sourdough Starter

1 Package dry yeast

1-cup warm water

1 cup warm nonfat milk

2 cups flour

In a medium bowl mix yeast over water. Stir and let stand for 5 minutes. Mix in warm milk. Add flour; mix to blend then beat until smooth. Transfer to a large container. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and then with a towel and let stand at room temperature 24-48 hours. Stir down upon occasion. It will be quite active for several hours after it is prepared. Use starter or refrigerate in a tightly covered container until ready to use.

Basic Chocolate Truffles

12 ounces Ghirardelli 60% dark chocolate chips

1 stick butter

1/2-cup ground chocolate

In a double broiler, melt the chocolate over simmering water, stirring constantly. (Or a metal bowel over a pot of boiling water, just remember to be careful.) Remove from heat. Add butter stirring until melted. Chill until firm enough to form into small round pieces. Roll in ground chocolate. Chill overnight in refrigerator. Makes about 40.

Gwen Kenneally is the owner of Back to the Kitchen, Full Service Catering and Party Planning. She is the co-founder and master baker at Magpie Gourmet Mini Pies. Check out her websites and She wrote a weekly food column for the Sun Community Newspapers.

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About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.

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