Recently I had lunch with James Beard Award winner Nancy Silverton at her Chi Spacca restaurant on Melrose. It was an informative afternoon that also included Cheryl Forberg, the nutritionist for the popular television show, The Biggest Loser in a promotion with the American Pistachio Growers.
I learned a lot about celebrity chef Silverton and pistachios as I sipped a flute of Prosecco and nibbled on falafel with pistachios, bacon terrine with pistachios and a pizza with pistachios, red onion, Castelvetrano olives, thyme and fennel pollen.
Silverton offered a cooking demonstration on how to make two salads: a market rucola and wild cress with pistachio aillade (like an aioli), and a marinated radicchio and beet salad with goat cheese balls rolled in pistachio.
While Silverton was making her salads, she shared some personal facts that many people may not be aware of about this talented chef.
Here are the Top 10
1. It took Silverton over one year to perfect her crust for her pizzas.
2. She recently returned from Israel with a photographer and will collaborate with him on his book by adding a few of her own recipes.
3. Silverton never uses store bought salad dressings. She makes a simple, yet fresh and delicious dressing using only four ingredients: balsamic vinegar, shallots, extra virgin olive oil and salt.
4. She is the only pastry chef in the world to receive a James Beard Award. Since the culinary industry around the world is still considered a man’s world, for her to have this designation is big time and terrific.
5. Silverton has a wild garden at her villa in Italy. She grows a lot of herbs in the garden and enjoys visiting her house in Italy during the summer months.
6. Silverton likes to layer and season each ingredient in a dish.
7. One of her favorite lettuce to use in a salad is radicchio, which is from the chicory family. Silverton likes to strongly massage the red leaves in her four-ingredient dressing to bring out the wonderful flavors.
8. She doesn’t like the way beets bleed onto white goat cheese in a salad. She said it reminds her of how a woman wearing lipstick sometimes bleeds on her lips and looks messy. Silverton rolls her goat cheese in pistachios in order to keep the salad clean and to add texture to the dish.
9. Her first job in Los Angeles was as an assistant pastry chef at Michael’s restaurant in Santa Monica, before becoming the Head Pastry Chef at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago Restaurant on Sunset Boulevard. Later she opened La Brea Bakery and Campanielle.
10. Silverton has been cooking with Chad Colby for over ten years. They worked side by side at Campanielle. Silverton invited Colby head her chic Spacca kitchen when it opened. He makes a wonderful grilled swordfish with basil and curled zucchini.
Our lunch ended with a pistachio budino that was as luscious as the butterscotch budino she serves at Pizzeria Mozza.
Nancy Silverton has come a long way from cooking vegetarian cuisine while studying at Cal State University Sonoma to running one of the most successful restaurant empires in the world.