Check out my foodie adventures at Foodspotting and Foodgawker

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad: Revisited

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I wanted to revisit my Roasted Butternut Squash Salad post and provide you with an actual recipe that you can use! It is also really cheap to make!


* 1 butternut squash (or other winter squash), de-seeded and cut into quarters
* 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
* 2 Tbsp. olive oil (or vegetable broth or water for a fat-free version)
* 1/4 cup dried cranberries
* 2 Tbsp. orange juice (or water)
* 1/2 tsp. maple syrup (or brown sugar)
* 1 tsp. red wine vinegar (or rice vinegar)
* 1 tsp. sherry
* 3 tsp. thyme leaves
* salt and pepper to taste


* In a 375 degree oven, roast the squash in a shallow baking pan with about an inch of water for about 30-40 minutes or until fork tender. Allow to cool and then use a peeler to peel off the skin and cut the squash into cubes (this step can be done a day in advance).
* In a small bowl, combine the orange juice, maple syrup, and vinegar and sherry.
* Add the dried cranberries and allow that to sit for about 10 minutes so the cranberries plump up a bit.
* In a heavy bottomed pan, heat the olive oil on medium high heat and saute the red onion for 1 minute and then add the chunks of butternut squash for a few more minutes.
* Add in the cranberry mixture, turn the heat down to medium and cook for 3-5 minutes until the juices thicken into a syrup consistency.
* Sprinkle in the thyme leaves and salt and pepper and toss.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Seared Albacore Spinach Salad with Rosemary

My dear friend, Valori made this salad, which she describes as being "packed full of fresh flavors just waiting to burst in your mouth! It is filling, visually pleasing, and above all healthy! Great for a late lunch or a light dinner".

Salads are a great way to explore flavor combinations, use up what you have in your fridge and cupboards and get a significant amount of healthy vegetables into your diet. Make sure that you wash all vegetables thoroughly because any pesticides, grit, dirt or residues could make the salad bitter and be harmful to your health. I try to buy organic vegetables whenever I can, but especially when it is for a salad or will otherwise be eaten raw.


* 1 cup olive oil
* 1/2 c. balsamic vinegar
* 3 or 4 cloves garlic, minced finely
* 3 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese
* Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk together vinegar, garlic and grated cheese. Gradually add the olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste. Set aside to let the flavors develop. You do not need to refrigerate the dressing while you prepare the salad because you want the oils to remain room temperature for the flavors to marry and avoid becoming thick.

Note: If you use a store-bought salad dressing instead, I would recommend avoiding fruit based or flavored ones because it will be too sweet for this kind of salad.


3 cups of fresh spinach
3 leaves of fresh romaine lettuce, ribs removed and leaves torn
1 fresh ripe avocado, diced with a squeeze of lemon juice to prevent browning
1/2 washed red bell pepper (optional); diced finely
6-8 fresh cherry tomatoes
1/2 ripe mango
1/2 cup fresh raspberries
1 Tbsp. sunflower seed oil
1/8 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped finely
4 ounces of fresh albacore, sashimi grade, between 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick
5 Tbsp. Balsamic Vinaigrette (recipe above)
2 Tbsp. slivered almonds, unsalted (optional)


* Thoroughly wash, rinse and dry the spinach and romaine lettuce.
* Slice the mango into thin slender slices about two inches long, squared ends, and about 1/4 of an inch thick.
* Drizzle a small puddle of the vinaigrette on the bottom of two deep plates.
* Place a big handful of the spinach and lettuce mix on top of the balsamic dressing.
* Sprinkle on the bell pepper and divide up the avocado slices and cherry tomatoes between the two plates. Line the edges of the side with the raspberries.
* Neatly place 5-6 slices of mango around salad poking outward like a porcupine.
* Rub 1 tsp. of the oil onto the outside of the fish, salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle on the fresh rosemary.
* In a heavy bottomed non-stick skillet on medium-high heat, heat oil and place fish on the skillet for about 15-30 seconds on each side. A nice hot pan will ensure that the fish is seared quickly without cooking it all the way through. Be careful not to overcook--you want the fish to be lightly cooked (white in appearance) about 3 millimeters on each side.
* Remove fish from heat, allow to cool slightly and slice into 1/4 inch pieces.
* Arrange slices of seared albacore in a fan-like design over the prepared salad.
* Drizzle on more balsamic vinaigrette if desired.
* Optional: garnish with slivered almonds.

Serving Suggestion: Serve salad with a glass of blush wine.

Thanks, Valori, for your recipe contribution! If anyone else is interested in doing a guest spotlight, feel free to contact me and provide a blurb, photo and instructions! :)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman

I am sure that we have become good enough friends that I can tell you something.  A few years ago when I was trying to make the transition to eating much more vegetarian meals, I actually said aloud to someone "I seriously cannot think of how to make entire vegetarian meals.  I mean, I can think of some side dishes and salads, but then the whole "dinner" ends up being just a bunch of side dishes with no real star of the show..."  Shocking, I know.  I actually felt that way at one point when I was trying to shed the meat & fish laden foods I had grown up with in Hawaii and wasn't seeing the whole picture about the beautiful, sexy world of vegetables...

Now, if you can believe it, cooking full vegetarian meals is like second nature to me.  I would even go so far as to say I can dazzle my completely vegetarian friends at Supper Club.  But I also managed to have my carnivore friend, Aja, over for a veggie-filled pasta dinner, and she says to me "This is really delicious, but I did find myself saying where's the meat?!"

If you have ever found yourself in the same predicament or just want to explore more vegetarian cooking--beyond the simple use of marinara sauce and pasta or stir-frying some tofu with veggies--I must recommend a vegetarian bible of sorts (nearly 1,000 pages!).  It is such a big book that anything you could possibly imagine is likely to be in its comprehensive index...
Now, Mark Bittman is not a vegetarian, but I think that gives him perspective on how to make similar tasting vegetarian versions of traditional recipes with meat.  Like me, he is an omnivore searching for a more health-conscious and planet-friendly diet while also having an appreciation for food and knowledge about balancing your diet.  This cookbook is incredibly innovative with recipes that span across all ethnicities and includes thorough descriptions and techniques on how to make things like dough, fresh pastas, sushi, etc.  He has endless ideas to really get you motivated to try out some new dishes with sometimes unfamiliar ingredients and most of his recipes are followed by a list of creative variations on that recipe!  

Just to give you some ideas, I opened its pages randomly and put my finger on a few recipes such as:

* Buckwheat Stew with Tofu and Kale
* Japanese Egg Crepes
* Braised Tofu with Eggplant and Shiitakes
* Quinoa and Parsnip Rösti
* Chinese Egg Noodles in Soy Broth
* Bulgur Croquettes with Walnuts
* Seitan and Lentil Loaf

I highly recommend this cookbook!  I would even recommend it to my vegan friends who can test out their "veganizing" skills by using his recipes as a guideline for making vegan adaptations (and he also has lots of vegan versions or recipes already provided).  I am so glad I purchased mine and I think you will be too! 

Monday, November 17, 2008

Flying Apron Bakery: Seattle, Washington

Baked goods put a smile on my face. Who doesn't love a good bakery?! When I visit a new city, I like to explore the different levels of bakeries (and restaurants) and always pay attention to recommendations from locals. Always. Always.

There are famous places like Mike's Pastry in Boston where millions of people (including President Bill Clinton) clamor for their traditional italian cannoli's. My friend, Laura, used to live right across the street from Mike's and said that the constant flow of people coming and going was mind boggling. Personally, I wasn't a huge fan of the goodies and thought that the popularity was probably continued by their name and reputation. But I was quite impressed with their immaculate and creative selection of Marzipan. Yes, that is a homemade chunk of marzipan shaped and decorated like a hot dog.
And then there are little hole-in-the-wall places like Magnolia Bakery in New York City that start out perfecting one simple item like a cupcake in a way that is pure, mystifying magic and then can barely keep up with the demand of people lining up around the corner and down the street. In fact, Magnolia's is so completely amazing that I will have to save its review for a separate post (but suffice it to say that I am in awe of these little cupcake gems).

During my recent Seattle visit, my friend Alex took us to this vegan bakery in Fremont in Seattle for a little breakfast goodie buffet.
It's a vegan "sustainable bakery" that uses local ingredients, wholesome organic and unrefined ingredients and all of the ingredients are gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free and mostly soy-free. Instead, they use all sorts of creative ingredients like garbanzo bean flour, brown rice syrup, palm oil, molasses, arrowroot powder and evaporated powdered cane juice.

Luckily, I was there with friends so we got an assortment of goodies because it really was impossible to narrow down the selection. We got an assortment of scones, maple bars, cookies and other indescribably yummy things!
I liked the bakery for its originality and plethora of interesting flavor and texture combinations, but all told, I wouldn't return because I have had better vegan pastry such as the People's Donuts, the vegan apricot almond cookie at Arizmendi Bakery and, of course, the all time best vegan pumpkin scone I have had in my entire life at Mana Foods in Paia, Maui. 

Friday, November 14, 2008

Mission Street Food, San Francisco

The first rule about Underground Dining is you don't talk about Underground Dining. Hahaha...actually, in the foodie world, the opposite is true--all people do is scurry around trying to get their hands on the hippest and hottest so they can blog about it and rave about it to their friends. Word of mouth spreads fast in this big little city, and I'm not just talking about foodie gossip...

When I was in Sydney, there was a guy in Surry Hills who started Table for 20 and opened up his space for friends and strangers and people who want to share in good food. Carl, my co-worker at the time, had been and recommended checking it out, but I never got a chance to!

I have been doing some investigative work of my own into the underground dining scene in San Francisco. My friend Jason is going to check out Radio Africa Kitchen, which is a nomadic restaurant that focuses on using sustainable methods and foods. I will have to find out what he thought of it.  

In a similar nomadic vein, Anthony Myint is experimenting by renting out a space in another resturant for one night a week to make innovative yet affordable food for the SF community. "Ideally, this will be part of an indie cooking movement that will let talented cooks reach the public without the risks of opening a conventional restaurant—and let the public enjoy great food without the costs of dining at a conventional restaurant". What a great idea!  I had heard about Mission Street Food, but then I saw the Beer and Nosh post and was sold on the photos alone.  I thought the menu would be different everytime, but we went lastnight to check it out and the menu was the same as Jessie had described it. So we did what any rational foodie would do when no dish costs more than $7.00: We ordered one of everything to share amongst the group!

I didn't have my camera since we hussled over in a cab as soon as we realized it was Thursday, so thank you to Jesse Friedman of Beer and Nosh for his well-captured photos:

"PB & J" : Kurobuta Berkshire Pork Belly & Jicama w/ pickled jalapeno and cilantro aioli on fresh homemade roti pancakes. ($5.50)  The roti was chewy and warm and bursting with a delicate flavor that took me right back to my roti canai obsession when I was in Suva, Fiji.  I don't have any photos of those days, but I did come across this awesome photo.  You know, roti canai is generally made with a simple list of flour, water, salt and ghee but you can just taste the love that is put into making it...I don't eat pork, but I grabbed a quick inaugural bite of the piping hot roti with a bit of crisp jicama with the really fresh cilantro aioli.  It was delicious and my friends, who are pork eaters, loved it too!

"MSF RICE": Smoked Rice fried with duck fat and served with liberty duck confit, cracklins, shitake, scallions and cauliflower. ($7)
My friends loved the rice!  I ordered the Vegan VSF RICE, which I loved! It was smoked Rice fried with olive oil and accompanied by breaded tofu, shitake, scallions and cauliflower. ($5.50):

"ONO KAUSWE": Coconut Curry Soup with noodles, spicy chicken, egg, cilantro, lime, chili flakes, and fried shallots. ($6):  This dish  Silky, thin noodles in a rich, creamy curry sauce with just a faint touch of heat that is mellowed out by the fresh taste of lime and cilantro.  Yum!  

We also ordered dessert for $2, which was homemade coconut ice cream with a little "fortune cookie". The ice cream was absolutely fantastic. It was smooth and creamy with a rich coconut flavor and a hint of salt--imagine "salted caramel ice cream" but with coconut instead of caramel. Delicious!

I loved the idea.  I loved the food.  I loved the spirit of the people clamoring to get into a tiny restaurant space that is nearly empty on every other night...

Go get your Mission Street Food.  And pass the word on.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Superhero Breakfast

I promise you, I'm not lying when I say this breakfast will make you a superhero--it is packed with superfoods, minerals, nutrients and antioxidants and will definitely put a spring in your step and get your day going!

Did you know that cacao beans have the highest amount of natural antioxidants you can find--more than blueberries and even green tea! I order my organic roasted cacao nibs from Theo, of course, but you can find them at any good healthfood store or online...


* 1/4 cup of raw cashew or almond butter (crunchy or smooth)
* 2 Tbsp cacao nibs
* 2 Tbsp shelled hempseed
* 2 Tbsp honey
* 1/2 tsp. ground flax seed
* 1 banana, chopped

Mix it all up on a plate or in a bowl and eat it with a spoon!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Korean Noodles: Jap Chae

Noodlie noodlie! Who doesn't love noodles?!

There is something inherently comforting about noodles. I've had a long, long, looooong week and the idea of curling up with a bowl of warm noodles really makes me feel a lot better. Have you had a hard week too?! It's understandable, I hear you...well, I think noodles could make you feel better too!

Jap Chae is one of my favorite traditional Korean dishes because it is mildly sweet and I looove the slurpy noodles! It is traditionally made with strips of beef, but I just omit that to make a vegetarian version...You will be able to order them at almost all Korean restaurants, but it is so inexpensive to make that I needed to make a really big batch on my own...One of my favorite places to get them when I am visiting San Diego is at the very authentic Friend's House Korean (4647 Convoy St, San Diego, CA 92111, 858-292-0499). I highly recommend that place!


* 8 oz. sweet potato starch noodles (Dang Myun)
* 2 Tbsp. canola oil
* 1 small zucchini, julienned
* 1 medium carrot, julienned
* 1 small yellow onion, julienned
* 1 cup chopped cabbage
* 1/4 cup chopped green onion
* 1 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds (optional garnish)


* 3 Tbsp. Tamari
* 2 Tbsp. light sodium soy sauce
* 3 Tbsp. sugar
* 6 Tbsp. water
* 2.5 Tbsp. sesame oil
* 3 cloves garlic, crushed or finely minced
* 3 Tbsp. mirin


* Soak the noodles in a bowl of warm water for 15-20 minutes.
* Combine all sauce ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk together.
* Heat canola oil in a deep pan or wok.
* Sautee onions for 3-4 minutes. Add carrots and cook for another 3 minutes.
* Add in zucchini pieces, green onions, and cabbage and cook for another 4 or 5 minutes until vegetables are tender but still slightly firm.
* Season vegetables with freshly cracked pepper to taste and set aside.
* Place noodles in boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Drain and set aside. The noodles will be slightly al dente, but they will continue to cook in the pan when you add the sauce.
* Return the wok or deep pan to the stove and add the noodles and cook for 1 or 2 minutes.
* Stir in the sauce mixture and cook on high until the noodles soak up most of the sauce.
* Fold in the vegetable mixture.
* Garnish with sesame seeds.

Note: Sometimes I swap out the zucchini for watercress, mushrooms, or napa cabbage.

Love your noodles. Your noodles love you.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Beer & Cheese Tasting Club Is Growing!

So a couple of months ago, a few beer geeks from Beer Advocate got together and decided it would be fun to start a little Beer & Cheese tasting club, if you will, so that the SF community can get in touch with other beer lovers and foodies and share in good beer and good cheese. Yes, please! There is usually a selected style of beer and a type or style of cheese to go with it (which sometimes turns into a free-for-all cheese party because sometimes you just don't know what type of cheese will bring out the various notes in a beer) and it is generally hosted monthly. It's really fun because 1) there will always be new people to meet since everyone spreads the word and invites friends and 2) there will always be new beers and cheeses to try because that is the ultimate beauty of a pot luck! Admission: One beer and one cheese. Come one, come all with a desire to learn, a desire to share and a desire to be amongst friends.

On August 31, Jason and I hosted the very first installment of the Beer & Cheese Tasting Club. Everybody brought hoppy beers (mostly IPAs and Imperial IPAs), which were paired with sharp cheeses such as extra sharp cheddars and aged goudas. The second gathering found the group tasting Oktoberfest beers (unfortunately, we missed this gathering due to our road trip to Seattle).

This past weekend, we went to the 3rd one (beautifully captured by Jesse from beerandnosh), which was hosted twice in a row by the ever gracious Tim. The theme was focused on dark beers in honor of Halloween. Porters, stouts and specialty beers (including Dogfish Head's Theobroma, which is brewed with honey, ancho chilies, annatto and Askinosie cocoa nibs!) were shared from acclaimed breweries such as Three Floyds (and the ever coveted Dark Lord), Dogfish Head, Southern Tier and Troegs. The cheese array was dazzling...but the best pairings of the afternoon involved big imperial stouts and funky blue cheeses. My favorite cheese was the Montagnolo, which is a Bavarian triple cream soft-ripened cheese (imagine a triple cream brie making sweet cheesy love to a delicate blue cheese and this little baby was born). It was outstanding!

If any of you dear readers are in the San Francisco area and interested in attending a gathering, feel free to get in touch with me on here and I will keep you posted!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Taco Twist a la Trader Joes

I was in Trader Joe's the other day and they were sampling this unique twist on tacos. I was initially skeptical of the ingredients at first, but it really tasted yummy and unique to my taste buds. So easy. So yummy. So much healthier.


* 1 jar of your favorite salsa (12 ounces)
* 1 cup raw, unsalted sunflower seeds
* 1 cup raw, unsalted cashews
* Lettuce leaves

Blend the salsa, sunflowers seeds and cashews in a food processor until smooth and then spread a large spoonful onto a lettuce leaf and roll it up like a little taquito or taco. You can also add additional flavorings such as a Tablespoon of taco seasoning. Get creative! It would also be a yummy dip for chips or veggies.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Incredible Edible Tofu Chocolate Chip Cookies

Is the phrase "healthy cookie" an oxymoron?!

What if I told you that you could have low fat, soft, moist, chewy oatmeal cookies that contain NO oil, NO butter and NO eggs! Really, it is possible, but I bet you are wondering how. I will tell you. But I have to say upfront that even though you might be a little skeptical of the ingredients, you will not believe how amazing these cookies are unless you just trust me and make some! You trust me, don't you?!
Sometimes...sometimes you just need a cookie. Go ahead, you can have two.


* 1 and 1/4 cups oat bran
* 2 Tbsp. wheat germ
* 1 Tbsp. ground flax seed
* 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
* 1/2 tsp. salt
* 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
* 1/4 cup chocolate protein powder
* 3 ounces of extra firm tofu, pressed and drained
* 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
* 1/4 cup nonfat plain yogurt (or vanilla)
* 2.5 Tbsp. vanilla soy milk
* 3/4 cup all natural peanut butter
* 1 cup sugar
* 2 Tbsp. molasses (secret weapon ingredient!)
* 2 tsp. vanilla
* 1 cup chocolate chips (I used a mix of semi-sweet and white chocolate chips)
* 1/2 cup raisins or chopped walnuts (optional)


* Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
* In a large mixing bowl, combine the first seven ingredients (oat bran, flax, wheat germ, flour, salt, cinnamon, and protein powder). Use a whisk to stir out any lumps. Note: 1) if you do not have wheat germ or flax, just bump up the oat bran to 1.5 cups or 1.25 cups if you are using oatmeal; and 2) if you wanted to make cocoa cookies, substitute the protein powder for unsweetened cocoa powder.
* In a food processor or blender, puree the tofu briefly and then add the applesauce, yogurt and soy milk and blend on high until smooth.
* In another mixing bowl, combine the peanut butter and sugar.
* Then gently stir in the tofu mixture into the peanut butter and sugar mixture and mix until combined.
* Stir in the molasses and vanilla.
* Slowly add the flour mixture in small batches and gently mix until the dough is formed and no flour mixture remains.
* Fold in the chocolate chips (and raisins or walnuts if you want).
* Use a 1/4 cup or ice cream scoop to measure out fairly large scoops of the batter--these cookies hold together better when larger and they will not spread out much at all.
* Bake for 18-20 minutes and then allow the cookies to cool on a wire rack (the cookies will still feel "under-cooked" and soft to the touch when they come out of the oven, but they are meant to be soft baked cookies!)

These hearty cookies stay moist and chewy, but they do not have a long shelf life so either eat them within a day or two, share them with friends or refrigerate them...

Makes about 15-16 large cookies.