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Saturday, April 11, 2009

That Takes The Cake: Cupcakes in SF

My mother is Catholic, so we have always celebrated Easter. And when it came time for The Easter Basket, she was always a big fan of that colored, shredded cellophane--gool ol' easter grass that you could buy at K-Mart for 99 cents a bag. (Nowadays, its more earth-friendly and green to use shredded recycled paper as easter grass) Besides the purple or blue or green or pink colored grass, the basket was always filled with the usual suspects: marshmallow peeps, M&M's, Whopper Robin Eggs, chocolate-shaped bunnies (I never understood the allure of those), jelly beans and whatever egg-shaped candy had been on clearance sale.

Now, please don't judge me, but I believe I was about eleven or twelve years old when I announced that I no longer wanted a basket full of cheap candy and started asking for pricey fruit baskets from Harry & David. I think I had first come across some fruit shipped from Harry & David from a gift basket one of my parents had received and I remember thinking "this is the best pear I have ever tasted!" In fact, I became so enamoured with these fruit baskets that I promised myself that, when I got married, I would register for or request the Fruit of the Month Club where a box of seasonal fruit would be delivered monthly to my home for an entire year! I still feel starry-eyed about such a thing and I hope I do get it someday, even if it requires ordering it for myself!

My Saturday was filled with errands. Not necessarily in preparation for Easter Brunch, but more because being a working girl doesn't leave much time for anything else so all errands get pushed to the weekend. I purchased some fancy Saucony running shoes from this awesome Noe Valley store called See Jane Run (and one of these nifty gadgets for rolling over tight calf muscles). I was long overdue for proper new shoes. In fact, the girl helping me with my fitting was unmistakably angry at me for even showing her my 6-year-old New Balance shoes. I got a good scolding, nodded my head, swiped my credit card and promised I would never insult her by doing such a horrific thing again. I then went to Trader Joe's to get groceries for the week so I can take yummy lunches with me to 1) motivate me to get through the day and 2) help me avoid eating out for lunch.

And then I treated myself to a red velvet cupcake (aka Gentlemen Prefer Reds) from That Takes The Cake in the Marina.I am a big fan of red velvet cupcakes-and might even go so far as saying I am a red velvet cupcake conoisseur (so far, no cake has outshined the red velvet cake this woman made on special order for my brother's wedding). But, this one, at $2.95 a piece, was absolutely delicious. The cake was incredibly moist (the tricky part with this kind of cake) with a buttery, deep red crumb that sticks to your fingertips. The cream cheese frosting was amazing--not too sweet and very smooth and creamy. They also sold a tiny mini version for $1.50 that constitutes about half of one bite, which, to be honest, would just make me plain mad. I want to savor multiple bites--lots of delicious cupcake bites in rapid succession. Oh, and if you aren't familiar with this cake flavor, the secret is in the cocoa powder...

All in all, it was a lovely Saturday to welcome the arrival of Spring (which, incidentally, is also asparagus and artichoke season!!!).

Happy Easter! Happy Spring!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Healthy Green Goddess Dressing

My uncle Lee owns a 30-some-odd acre farm in Haiku, Maui. He is what I like to call an all-around guru. He knows something about everything. Everything. He can stretch out your spine and tell you how your nerves in your feet are connected to other parts of your body (my friend Pete can attest to this). He can prepare a Hawaiian fish like you have never seen or tasted before (which is how he introduced me to Herbamare). Years and years ago, I came across his huge 5-gallon glass containers with a 3-inch thick mushroom molded to the shape of the glass for making homemade kombucha tea (this was waaaaay before kombucha tea became trendy and companies started selling commercial versions with pretty labels and fruity flavorings). He can whip up an all-natural elixir to cure any ailment you might have. He can build a house. With a pool. He even built a traditional Hawaiian hale (pronounced ha-lay), which are gorgeous, traditional structures from old Hawaii and you can rent them if you find yourself on the beautiful island of Maui. The hales are built by hand using all natural materials from the land-no nails, no screws. Amazing, right?! I know.
My uncle Lee also serves these amazing salads in giant gorgeous wooden bowls. And, somehow, I am always lured away from other meal items to take seconds (or thirds) from the never-ending-giant-bowl-of-salad. I don't know why I am perpetually surprised by his salads. I mean, the man also grows his own mangosteen and hearts of palm. And sweet white pineapples. And apple bananas that look like this, which, in my opinion, if you have never tried an apple banana, is worth the entire trip out to the islands. You gotta love the man. He is...amazing and wholesome. Going to his house, even if it is just for dinner, is like a little retreat to a healthy land of feeling good and full of energy and life.

I wish I had a more exciting post to go with this story of my uncle. But it is about salads. Well, about a salad dressing that kind of reminds me of his magical salads.

I wonder, since when did the "garden salad" get such a bad rap?! I like lettuce. I love cucumbers and tomatoes. I dunno. Is it because it seems a little boring?! Maybe. I love salads (especially chunky, chopped ones) that have all sorts of neat ingredients. But if you are gonna go the simple garden salad route, I think you need a snazzy dressing to get things going.

So I gave some thought to some of my favorite salad dressings and, while I love a good balsamic vinaigrette, I have always been a fan of Annie's Green Goddess dressing. So, I thought I would try my hand at making Green Goddess Dressing using the good natural fats of olive oil and tofu rather than the more traditional sour cream and mayonnaise. It turned out great and I am so glad I can make it at home now!


* 1 shallot, minced finely
* 1 clove garlic, minced finely
* 2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
* 3 tsp. lemon juice
* 3 Tbsp. olive oil
* 6 ounces of silken tofu
* 1/4 tsp. anchovy paste (optional)
* 1 scallion, chopped
* 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley leaves
* 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil leaves
* 1/4 tsp. sea salt (or more to taste)
* 1/4 tsp. freshly ground cracked pepper

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. I like to put it into a squeeze bottle so I can drizzle it on salads...

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Tofu Steaks with Miso-Pinenut-Pistachio Glaze

I have to share something with you because I am a little unnerved about the whole situation. I went to bed. And I woke up. With 12 spider bites. T-w-e-l-v-e! Little sequential red splotches; very itchy. I was so freaked out, I immediately stripped the bedding, washed everything in sight, vacuumed the floors, scrubbed counters, and took a hot shower. No sign of any spider. Gross. I can't even let myself imagine what happened while I lay sleeping because I get too creeped out at the slightest thought of it.

Okay, I feel a little better now, not just because I shared my horrorifying experience, but because my apartment is clean. I mean, I always like a clean apartment (who doesn't?), but if for some reason it wasn't clean, it certainly is now.

Now that that is out of the way, I can talk to you about tofu. Tofu is like a blank canvas just waiting for some creativity to come rescue it from the depths of boredom. It begs for anything at all, so forgiving and so grateful for any little improvement you can offer. A friend of mine told me she wanted to eat more tofu, but didn't know what else to do with it besides soaking it in a little soyaki sauce.

So, I thought I would share my rendition of these creative little tofu steaks served up the lovely Medicine Eat Station in San Francisco.


* 1 block extra firm tofu
* 1.5 Tbsp. pinenuts, ground
* 1.5 Tbsp. pistachios, ground
* 1/2 Tbsp. white miso paste
* 1/2 tsp. soy sauce
* 1/2 Tbsp. agave nectar
* 1 Tbsp. water
* 1/4 tsp. rice wine vinegar
* 1/2 tsp. mirin


* Cut the block of tofu in half lengthwise and then in thirds so that you have 6 rectangles.
* Combine the ground pinenuts, ground pistachios, miso, soy sauce, agave, water, rice wine vinegar and mirin in a bowl and mix until it forms a paste. Set aside.
* In a skillet over medium high heat, heat a couple teaspoons of oil and cook the tofu steaks until the edges brown on all sides. Remove from heat and put into a heat safe dish.
* Spread out a scoop of the miso paste onto each tofu steak and place under the broiler for a few minutes until it bubbles a little and browns slightly on the top. Take care not to burn it because the miso topping will burn very quickly if left unattended!

Note: Serve over brown or red rice and a side of steamed edamame!