Whether you loved Elizabeth Gilbert's "Eat, Pray, Love" memoir or rolled your eyes over its self-absorbed tone, most of us can agree on one thing: The author knows how to eat.

In the throes of her post-divorce depression, the memoirist immersed herself in Italy's culture, as well as its flame-torched pizza and icy gelato. She traveled to the land of exotic curries and spicy chutneys to find spirituality, and discovered love in the tropical forests of Indonesia, where the flavors of lemon grass and galangal mingle on the palate.

With the cinematic version of the best seller now in theaters, we decided to jump on the "eat" portion of the equation, asking three chefs to awaken our appetite with an "Eat, Pray, Love" menu of their own.

We turned to the new Mediterranean-inspired Locanda de Eva in Berkeley, Calif., the eclectic Indian Junnoon in Palo Alto, Calif., and the Indonesian-focused Straits restaurants group.

Huw Thornton, executive chef at Berkeley's Locanda de Eva, is quick to point out that "Eat Pray Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia" is not on his reading list. Still, he skimmed the sections about Italy to come up with his recommendations.

"The Rome section is," he says, "well, not sex-obsessed, but that plays a part. So I thought of voluptuous, luscious, sexy food."

This includes a salad with fried sunchokes and ripe, juicy peaches.

"Spaghetti carbonara is a gooey, lustful pasta," he says. "And goat stew -- or lamb stew, for the home cook -- is gutsy and hearty, earthy and rustic."

To end the meal, Thornton would serve a creamy panna cotta, flavored with honey, orange and fresh mint, the perfect dessert for a home cook. If these flavors and textures don't reawaken your love of life, he says, a year of globe-trotting won't do it either.

> Passionate India

Kirti Pant, executive chef at Junnoon, Palo Alto's modern Indian restaurant, came up with a menu that would speak to the author, who discovered in her ashram meditations that contentment lies not just in passion, but in balance.

Indian food awakens the senses with its diversity of spices and flavors, says Pant. "But the underlying common thread is always a good balance between all the different senses, the sweet and the sour, the salt and the sugar."

He suggests a cocktail party-ready menu of marinated chicken tikka skewers, mint- and cilantro-infused lamb kebabs, and a salad of bean sprouts, oranges, peanuts and ginger that fairly sizzles with flavor.

> Beautiful Bali

Gilbert's year of globe-trotting came to a close in Bali, where she fell in love on the tropical Indonesian island. Located halfway between Australia and India, this nation of islands reflects its position at the crossroads of Indian and Asian cultures. And the food, says Straits executive chef Chris Yeo, incorporates elements of Thai, Indonesian, Indian and Vietnamese cuisines.

"Indonesian food appeals to people because of the ingredients -- the lemon grass, the garlic, the Kaffir lime and chilies -- melting together," the Singapore native says.

So Yeo suggests dishes that meld savory and spicy flavors, including prawns in sambal, a spicy homemade chili paste, and tender short ribs bathed in coconut milk and steeped in lemon grass, chili paste and ginger.

The menus are enough to make anyone eat, pray, love -- and eat some more.

* * *

Fried Sunchokes With Peaches, Almonds, Radicchio, Endive and Parsley

Handful of sunchokes

Grapeseed or canola oil

1 or 2 white or yellow peaches

1/2 head radicchio

Belgian endive

Italian parsley

1/2 cup toasted, crushed almonds

Red wine vinegar

Extra-virgin olive oil

Salt to taste

Cut the sunchokes into small chunks. Heat oil to 350 degrees and fry the sunchokes until they color a bit on the outside, and get a little tender on the inside. Drain on paper towels.

Cut the peaches into desirable chunks; chop the radicchio and endive so they're a little chunky, but nothing fancy.

Assemble your salad with everything but the sunchokes, adding vinegar, oil and salt to taste. Refry the sunchokes a second time, getting them nice and crispy on the outside, but still tender. Add the hot sunchokes to the salad, toss and serve.

-- Huw Thornton

* * *

Spaghetti Carbonara

1 box semolina spaghetti

1/2 pound hunk of guanciale or pancetta

Black peppercorns, lightly fried in olive oil, then crushed

2 eggs plus 2 egg yolks

Pecorino Romano

Cook the spaghetti. Meanwhile, thinly slice guanciale or panchetta into strips, and fry until they begin to crisp. Set aside, reserving the fat.

Whisk together the eggs and yolks. Set aside.

Return guanciale and a generous spoonful of its fat to saute pan. Add a healthy handful of fried black pepper. When the guanciale is crispy, remove the pan from the heat and hit it with a little water to stop the cooking.

Drain the pasta and add it to the guanciale, along with a little pasta water. Set the pan over moderate heat, tossing the pasta as you go. When almost dry, remove from heat, add eggs, and toss thoroughly until a thick, creamy sauce forms. Serve in bowls with grated pecorino on top.

-- Huw Thornton

* * *

Lamb Kebab Roll

4.5 pounds of ground lamb

1/2 bunch mint

1/2 bunch cilantro

1/4 cup ground coriander

1/4 cup ginger-garlic paste

1/4 cup chopped jalapeno

1 yellow onion, minced and sauteed till golden

1/4 cup salt

1/2 cup clarified butter

1 teaspoon garam masala

Mint chutney, sliced red onion, paratha bread for serving

Mix the ingredients thoroughly. Form into meatballs, thread onto skewers and grill over medium heat for 8-10 minutes, or roast in a tandoor oven at 600 degrees for 5-8 minutes. Serve with mint chutney, sliced red onion and paratha bread. Serves 25

-- Kirti Pant, executive chef, Junnoon

* * *

Anglo-Indian Sprout Salad With Peanuts and Orange

3 cups bean sprouts

1/2 cup English cucumber, julienned

1/2 cup each frisee, white parts trimmed; radicchio, shredded; red onion, sliced thin; orange segments; crushed fried peanuts

2 teaspoons each minced ginger, minced jalapeno, chaat masala

2 tablespoons each cilantro, cut in a chiffonade; lemon juice, extra-virgin olive oil, honey

1 teaspoon crushed black pepper

1 teaspoon salt

Toss all the ingredients together and serve.

-- Kirti Pant

* * *

Beef Rendang

1 1/4 pounds beef chuck or short rib meat, cut into 1 1/4 -inch pieces

1 -inch chunk fresh ginger, peeled and finely minced


1 -inch chunk fresh galangal, sliced

5 candlenuts, soaked for 10 minutes

3 stalks fresh lemon grass, trimmed and sliced

6 shallots or 1 1/2 onions peeled and halved

5 cloves garlic, halved

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 tablespoons red chili paste


6 Kaffir lime leaves

1/2 can unsweetened coconut milk, shaken well

Juice of 1/2 lemon

4 teaspoons sugar

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup water

Toss the beef with the ginger. Set aside.

Grind the paste ingredients in a blender. In a pan over medium heat, stir-fry the paste for about 2 minutes, or until a reddish oil seeps through.

Mix sauce ingredients and add to paste mixture, cooking over medium heat until fully blended. Add beef and simmer for 3 hours or until tender. Serves 4

-- Chef Chris Yeo, Straits Restaurant, Santana Row

* * *

Kueh Naga Sari

1 cup rice flour

1 tablespoon corn flour

Salt to taste

4.5 cups coconut milk

3/4 cup light brown sugar

A few drops vanilla

Bananas, sliced

Banana leaves or foil cut into 6-inch squares

In a saucepot, blend the rice and corn flours, coconut milk and salt. Add sugar and bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens.

Put a tablespoon of the mixture in the center of a banana leaf, top with a slice of banana, wrap and place in a steamer over simmering water. Steam for 10 minutes. Serves 20.

-- Chef Chris Yeo, Straits Restaurant, Santana Row