Profile: HR Director Jeff Belloli
Jeff Belloli is a very good cook. One recent Sunday, he invited me over for brunch at his light-filled, modern apartment in San Francisco’s Dogpatch neighborhood, where he lives with his wife Kat and their black standard poodle named Winston, who’s currently sporting an of-the-moment mohawk coat-cut.
We were drinking champagne, devouring all the scrumptious food Jeff made from scratch—a lush avocado toast, crunchy salad with Persian cucumbers, red and gold beets with dill, and a feathery vegetable frittata—and chatting about all things culinary.
He was raised in Southern California—along with his fraternal twin brother—by parents who were great cooks. “Growing up,” said Jeff, “my mom didn’t stick to just one cuisine. She would make a tuna casserole one day and a pot-au-feu on another.” As a boy, Jeff preferred assisting her in the kitchen instead of doing yard work.
He also has fond memories of his Italian grandmother visiting from St. Louis and whipping up batches of authentic ravioli. She made the dough, ground the meat for the filling, and assigned Jeff and his brother to cut them into shapes with a crinkly cutter. “We used our ping-pong table during the prep,” he remembered, laughing. “Because she made hundreds of them, for months our whole freezer was full of ravioli.”
Between the ages of 21 and 25, Jeff was a professional tennis player, playing singles and doubles on the ATP tour, including at Wimbledon and the Australian Open. This endeavor demanded a sharp focus on nutrition—he’s been a vegetarian since his senior year in college—but it also opened his eyes to regional specialties and gastronomic traditions around the world.
“For example, I would go to a market in San Marino [in Europe], pick the best bread, cheese and vegetables, and make sandwiches,” continued Jeff while we happily moved on to Kat’s freshly baked, mouth-watering walnut brownies served with sturdy Nomad caffè lattes.
In San Francisco today, Jeff religiously visits the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market every Saturday and stocks up on fresh local and seasonal items, which he later turns into delicious meals.
“I make dinner four or five times a week,” he said. “I start cooking when I’m selecting the ingredients—like, the size of a cucumber or tomato will determine what I’m going to do with them.”
Age 45 — Hometown Placentia, California — Where do you live? San Francisco (Dogpatch) — Occupation Human resources director at Yahoo — Signature dish I think I’m more known for using fresh, local, seasonal ingredients and vegetarian cooking versus an actual dish. That said, the one I love making is kale enchiladas. — Who taught you how to cook? It would be my mom and strong influence from my dad’s mother, whose parents emigrated from Northern Italy. She introduced me to risotto (Milanese). — Favorite kitchen tool One of my knives, depending on which one I’m gravitating toward at that moment. Right now, it’s this eight-inch carbon steel knife by Sabatier. It has a low profile, keeps its edge, and is really good for things like onions. — Always in your pantry Saffron, because my wife is Persian. — Go-to snack Hard-boiled eggs, nori, yogurt with almond butter and honey. — Favorite cuisine It’s really a tossup between Italian and Indian—Italian for its simplicity, Indian for its complexity and lots of vegetarian options. — Do you diet? I don’t diet, but I do occasionally try to limit the volume of food that I eat. — Food addictions I don’t have any food addictions, because that would imply I am burdened by the habit. I am perfectly fine with my “addiction” to French fries. — Food allergies Only food made without care and with poor ingredients. — Food fad pet peeve I don’t know if it’s a fad yet, but it’s something I’ve seen on the menu in San Francisco restaurants: celtuce. It is essentially the root of a head of lettuce; I can’t believe they’re getting away with this shit. — Who’s your sous chef? When I think of this, I think of my friend Jesus—not that Jesus—Jesus Aguilar. If you asked him the same question, he would probably say me; so who’s the sous chef? — Drinking while cooking? I was going to say always, but that’s not 100% true; it’s like 90% true. — What’s for dinner tonight? I just went to the Ferry Building Farmers Market, and it’s a great time of the year here, where you still have tomatoes, yet you also have squash. There are so many options: I have bok choy, little gem lettuce, carrots, pomegranates, persimmons, cucumbers, cipollini onions... So, we’ll see. Maybe there’s a part two where you find out what I actually made from all those ingredients? — Do you ever cry over spilled milk? Yes, I do—particularly if I am the one spilling it. I tend to think, oh great, I just made more work for myself. But then I get over it and move on. — Best meal you ever had This is such a big question and honestly changes over time, but the first thing that comes to mind is the Margherita pizza at Tony’s here in San Francisco. Everything was perfect about it: the chewy crust; fresh, flavorful tomato; the amount of cheese cooked just the right amount.
Deconstructed Kale and Potato Enchiladas With Spicy Sauce
In this homey, exquisitely flavored dish, Jeff doesn’t fill and roll the tortillas individually like you would with typical enchiladas. Instead, he layers them flat between the sauce and filling, very much like a lasagna—hence “deconstructed” in the title. He took the basic recipe from Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero.
The sauce—an amalgam of crushed tomatoes, fragrant spices and hot jalapeños (by the way, use less and scoop out as many seeds as possible for a milder heat)—perfectly sings with the unpretentious filling of mashed potatoes, sautéed garlicky kale, crunchy pepitas and cheese.
When I tested it, I used an 8x8 casserole dish that’s 3½ inches deep. That allowed me to stack the tortillas pretty high, resulting in a sort of torte shape, which I then sliced into cool-looking triangular serving portions. You can definitely use a wider baking dish, too—9x13 inches works great—and overlap multiple tortillas in one layer.
- Serves 4–6
- 1–3 jalapeños
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup yellow onion, peeled, finely diced (about 1 medium onion)
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes with juice
- 1 pound gold or red potatoes, peeled, cut into 2-inch pieces (about 5 medium potatoes)
- 10 ounces kale, destemmed, chopped
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled, minced
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- 3 tablespoons lime juice, freshly squeezed
- ¼ cup pumpkin seeds, dry-toasted, chopped
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1½ cups (vegan) cheese, grated, divided
- Corn tortillas
- Prepare the sauce. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and line a baking pan with parchment paper. Place the whole jalapeños on the pan and roast in the oven until soft and the skin is blackened in spots, about 30 minutes. Remove, and when cool enough to handle, cut the stem off and scoop out the seeds—the more seeds you remove, the less spicy the sauce will be.
- Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the onions and sauté, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 5–6 minutes. Stir in the spices, pour in the tomatoes with their juice, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 3 minutes.
- Blend the sauce using an immersion blender or a stand blender, until smooth. Taste and add more salt if necessary.
- Prepare the filling. Place the potatoes in a medium-size pot, cover with water, add 1 teaspoon of salt, and boil until tender, about 15–20 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- While the potatoes are cooking, heat the olive oil in a large saucepot over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and sauté, stirring frequently, until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the kale and stir until wilted and coated with oil and garlic, about 8¬–10 minutes.
- Place the potatoes and kale in a large bowl, and add the cumin, lime juice, pumpkin seeds, salt and ¾ cup of cheese. Beat the mixture with a potato masher until smooth and well combined.
- Assemble the enchiladas. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cover the bottom of a casserole dish with ½ cup of the sauce, top with a tortilla, and spread ¼ cup of the filling over the tortilla. Continue in the same pattern—sauce, filling and tortilla—until you use up all the sauce and filling. Finish with a layer of the sauce, and sprinkle with ¾ cups of the cheese. Cover the dish tightly with a lid or aluminum foil, and bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Uncover and continue baking until the cheese is golden and the sauce bubbly, about 10 minutes.
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