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Thursday, December 23, 2010


Most of the time, holidays induce extraordinary joy and an abundance of smiles, family, gifts, laughter, and happiness. But sometimes, for some people, holidays can be gut-wrenchingly tough and the absence of such joyous luxuries is loud and painful. For my family, this is going to be one of those tough holidays, I think.

This is the first Christmas my newly-widowed aunt will spend without her husband of 52 years. Fifty-two. My uncle lovingly called her "Sweets" for fifty-two years. Unfortunately, I couldn't attend the funeral in Hawaii. I have never wanted so badly to fold up a thousand hugs into a envelope and put it in the care of the United States Postal Service. Instead, I sent my Aunt a card expressing my best wishes in celebrating his life.

My second cousin, who was younger than I am, past away suddenly a couple of months ago. And, to tell you the cold hard truth (just as it was told to me) two people among my friends and family have recently been diagnosed with a terminal illness. I am still trying to figure out what to say. Maybe I will have another go at folding hugs into envelopes.

Such devastating loss seems to suck the holiday spirit down into a twisted pipe that funnels it all away to be trapped in a deep dark place. But, I have seen first hand that you can't hold love back. Or down. Or at arms length. It can wiggle through even the smallest of cracks. I've seen it happen with my own eyes. And heart.

In Kyoto, Japan, there is a famous temple called Kiyomizudera and on its grounds is the Jishu shrine, which has been rumored to be the dwelling of the god of love (okay, and matchmaking). Well, there are these two "love stones" placed about 20 to 30 feet apart and, if you can successfully walk between them blindfolded, then you will supposedly attain great love in your life. It's not a difficult test, but there's a lot going on around you. There are pushy tourists trying to take their carefully calculated photos, a whole slew of Japanese chatter, and, believe it or not, some people actually try to lure you away from a direct path. It's just sinister. And, oh dear, the pressure.

I took a deep breath and tried not to picture myself as a loveless loser pining away throughout my spinster days. I closed my eyes and listened to the good guidance of someone who wanted to see me make it to the end as much as I did.

And, can you believe it, I made it.

So, love is what I have to offer my family and friends this year. I’m not going to tell you that it's going to easy. But we will be together and that will be worth it. What I hope really rings true is that we can lean on each other and hold onto what we do have with just a little bit tighter grip. We are still gonna have some egg nog and I might muster up the nerve to make a pear ginger molasses cake that I know will garner a smile or three.

Love is also what I have to offer you, too. Thank you for being such a patient listener and always digging up some courage and support when I need it most.

Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

December New Taste Market

Just the thought of holiday shopping makes me feel exhausted. I am a pretty resilient and fiesty woman, but honestly, I sort of crumble in the face of pushy crowds, forced shopping deadlines and endless mental sales calculations to figure out how much money I am spending. This year, my family has opted for a Christmas Eve dinner with a singular $20 gift exchange (distributed according to my mom’s favorite gift exchange game). My gift, not surprisingly, will be food-related (any suggestions?).

In an effort to avoid chaotic holiday shopping, I'm thinking I might either make gifts or pick up some locally-made gifts to celebrate the talents of others who make some fine products. I started collecting some local goodies and DIY projects to give away as gifts. At the November New Taste Marketplace, I bought some homemade tofu and a DIY tofu-making kit from Emily's Tofu and some small batch organic coffee beans from Tutmak Coffee. I'm not entirely sure which relative I could realistically give a tofu-making kit to, but I'll worry about that later.

If you still need to do some holiday shopping and want some homemade gifts, come check out the December New Taste Market on Saturday, December 18 from 4pm-9pm.Over 30 vendors will be offering everything from garam masala granola and artisan chocolates to homemade fermented miso and maple soda! Besides giving gifts made with love, you are helping St. Gregory's Food Pantry, which gives away tons of fresh food to more than 1,200 households each month. Holiday spirit doesn't come in a better form than helping others in need.

And...due to some begging requests, the pickled grapes are back!Come find me at the market and sample some! They are fanastic additions to salads, cocktails and cheese platters.

Photo courtesy of Jesse FriedmanThe pickled grapes are inspired by Susan Kaplan and Renee Erikson's pickled magic of Seattle's Boat Street Cafe, where they pickle everything from figs and asparagus to prunes!

I bought heaps of local grapes and hand cut each and every little sphere to let the pickling liquid really seep into the flesh. The grapes take a little swim in a white wine vinegar bath flavored with heaps of black pepper, freshly-cracked cinnamon bark, mustard seeds, cloves and just a hint of star-anise, for good measure. They snap open with a burst of sweet juice and just enough tang to make you wonder why you haven't thought of pickled grapes years ago.

I hope to see you at the market on Saturday!

Happy Holidays, dear readers. I hope it is really special.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


While at my weekly Will Power & Grace class, my friend and instructor, Kim, reminded me that you know you really love something when you want to share it. If you've seen the movie Into the Wild (or read the book), then you also know that happiness is best when shared.

Thanksgiving has always held a special place in my heart. While I didn't always have the luxury of flying home to Hawaii to see my own family for holidays, I was grateful that incredibly kind people took me in and shared their family with me. Also, there is nothing like looking into the window of another family over the holidays. You may find the family you never had. Or, you may even learn to expand your definition of crazy. I've never done the same thing twice for Thanksgiving, and I've been so lucky to experience the variety, traditions and love of many different families. It's also the only holiday centered completely around food, which, for me, is reason enough to be happy. And, it's my reason to create new things in the kitchen and share my mistakes and successes with you.

It's too bad that there is something about the holidays that causes many people, including me sometimes, to be completely stressed out. But, maybe if you focus on the things you want to share with others, you can hold onto some happiness and be reminded of the things for which you are grateful.

This year, I am staying put. But Boyfriend's family (2 parents, 2 grandparents and 2cousins) are coming to San Francisco to stay with us. Including myself, Boyfriend and James-the-Doctor, that is 9 people. N-I-N-E. Gulp. If you find that you, too, have nine people coming for Thanksgiving (and rolling out an airbed in your kitchen or any extra floor space), try this: not cooking. Or minimal cooking. I know, right! What a concept. In true San Francisco style, we are rounding up all the local favorites and having a Thanksgiving crab feed.

Fresh crab, picked up right at the dock (already cooked, cracked and cleaned)
Country Bread from Tartine
Local Sourdough bread from Sour Flour
Roasted Broccoli with Lemon
Roasted Garlic
Coctail sauce
Lemon wedges
Melted butter
Mustard remoulade
Pecan Pie from Humphry Slocombe
lots and lots of wine


Also, I have something really special to be thankful for and some good news to share! My brother, Chad, and his wife, Hiromi, are finally pregnant after 2 difficult years of trying to conceive. The baby is due in April and hopefully that means a trip to Maui to welcome a new addition to our family.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Korean Tofu Kimchi Stew

One week ago, I took a plane from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Harmless enough (if you don't count having to get up at 4am to take the first flight out and then go straight into work toting luggage). Exactly 24 hours after the flight, I was attacked by a heinous sore throat and a pounding headache that made my whole face melt. If I get sick 24-48 hours after a flight, I think it's a safe best that someone was sharing their germs with the innocent people on the aircraft. I barely made it through the Foodbuzz Festival over the weekend and hoped no one noticed that I had morphed into a quiet, seemingly timid wallflower.

When under the weather, there was only one thing I could do. Eat soup. Since things were getting pretty desperate in the breathing department, I immediately resorted to the secret weapon. Vegetarian Matzoh ball soup with rye croutons. Nothing tells a cold to take a hike than a hot brothy soup with fluffy balls of matzoh. Then I filled the fridge with asparagus soup and red lentil soup with lemon. Equally good soldiers.

With the grace of a few days time and many hours of sleep, I am starting to feel a little better. However, Boyfriend got sick too. Since he likes spicy food and we've already been through a pretty heavy soup rotation, I decided to make something a little different for his sore throat.
You can find this tofu kimchi stew called Jigae at any authentic Korean restaurant. It is a deeply satisfying brothy soup made with tofu, onions, ginger and scallions that is kicked up a notch with some spicy fermented cabbage.

This recipe is the sort that only grandmothers would pass down. But this one didn't come from my grandmother. But it did come from my trusty collection of Hawaii cookbooks that are filled with family secrets, so it was likely passed down by someone's grandmother. I'm sure of it. Jigae recipes vary from family to family--some are made with pork, some swear by using silken tofu instead of firm tofu, and some . I used extra firm tofu because I really wanted the tofu to hold up in the mass of broth, but many people prefer to use silken tofu. Also, I like this recipe because it includes a defiant scoop of miso to add some body to the soup and smooth over the fire. If you like spicy food and kimchi, then I am sure you are going to love it.Note: Vegetarian/vegan kimchi can be difficult to find, since most kimchi is made with shrimp paste. So read labels carefully and you can always make your own if you want this dish to be vegan.


* 2 Tbsp. oil
* 1 medium onion, sliced thinly
* 1 Tbsp. grated ginger
* 1 Tbsp. grated garlic
* 1 tsp sea salt
* 1/2 tsp white pepper
* 2 cups kimchi (with liquid, loosely packed)
* 6 cups water
* 4 three-inch strips of kombu
* 1/4 cup miso
* 1 package of extra firm tofu (or silken, if perferred), cubed
* 2 green onions, thinly sliced


* In a large pot or enameled cast iron dutch oven, heat the oil and cook the onions on medium heat for about 3-4 minutes.
* Add the kimchi, ginger, garlic, salt and pepper and sautee for another 5 minutes.
* Then add the water and kombu strips (you can cut the kombu into smaller strips or leave it large). Bring to a boil and turn down the heat just a little bit so it holds a steady simmer for about 25-30 minutes (uncovered).
* Then stir in the miso and gently add the tofu and let simmer for another 10 minutes.
* Then add the green onion.
* Serve as a soup or ladle over some steamed rice.

Also, if you want to decrease the spice level, you can use a mild kimchi or you can decrease the amount to one cup and add in a bunch of chopped napa cabbage. You can also add in other vegetables like shredded carrot if it isn't already in your kimchi. You can also add a splash of sesame oil right at the end.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Foodbuzz Festival 2010

It was my first time attending the Foodbuzz Festival. What a weekend! The itinerary was filled with extravagant meals, workshops, trade shows, and scavenger hunts, but the best part was having people who share my foodie interests come together to indulge in some foodie fun. The weekend kicked off with a street food dinner at Fort Mason, which included 4505 meats (aka Ryan Farr), Tacolicious, Pizza Politana, Spencer-on-the Go, Roli Roti and Namu, and some Off-the-Grid vendors like Curry Up Now. Luckily, I have the privilege of considering these guys “the usual SF suspects”, so I didn’t feel as pressured to go around and have 9 dinner portions that could only result in a food coma and/or tummy ache. I still managed to eat my fair share, though. And then some. Somehow, I didn't take many pictures of the food like these smart people. But I did eat two of these paneer kati rolls from Curry Up Now.
When feeling a little nervous and intimidated by a large crowd of new people, a little gift exchange can quickly put foodies all on common ground. Kath gave me some of her husband’s homemade “Matt’s Crack’s”. And I got to give Mama Pea some 100% Maui Coffee, which she said her hubby would greatly appreciate.

Saturday started bright and early with a little workshop on photography.Laura of The Cooking Photographer and Marc of NoRecipes shared some photography tips and talked a lot about various types of lighting set-ups that you can use at home for food photography.For lunch, we shuffled over to the Metreon for a trade show of gourmet food purveyors. Imagine 350 food bloggers and their family and friends surveying the scene, snapping photos, eating, collecting cards and eating. I also met Sabrina of Rhodey Girl Tests, who confided that she loves to test out recipes and agreed to work on the ever troublesome recipe for chickpea fries to find one in which the fries actually hold up in shape and texture. Now that’s a foodie friend I am grateful to have! There is one highlight I must mention. We were head over heels for Annie The Bakers cookies that are suspended in the cookie dough state before actually becoming a cookie. She actually designed a recipe and technique to capture the shape, texture and taste of cookie dough despite being thoroughly baked. If you love cookie dough, order these now!

Dinner was served in the historic SF Ferry Building, with food catered by Paula LeDuc and wine pairings by Bonny Doon. I sat at a table with some lovely new friends who candidly shared their stories about food blogging and made me feel welcome.

Golden beet tart with crimson beets, feta, currants, argula and basil puree:

Seared scallops with braised fennel and champagne beurre blanc sauce:

For the vegetarians, a fancy tofu option:

Pan-seared black cod over a butternut squash puree with wild mushrooms:

After dinner, several enthusiastic bloggers set out for a scavenger hunt, but I was so sleepy from the busy day that I headed straight home. On Sunday, we had a nice brunch and said Farewell to our new-found foodie friends.

The food throughout the weekend was nice and all, but I have to say that it is meeting all of you that truly inspired me. It made me so happy to know there are people crazy foodies out there just like me who love to talk about food, who scan their fridge in the morning already thinking about what they will make for dinner, who like to go home and cook to relax after a long day. I even found other lawyers with food blogs! I was reminded why I love cooking and sharing my experiences with all of you. I hope I can stay in touch with those that live across the country and maybe even put together some meet-ups for us local SF bloggers!

Friday, October 29, 2010

New Foodie Market!

My best friend, Elianna, is a go-getter. A Master of all things. When you say "But I don't know how to doooo that", she calmly responds with "Well, we will figure it out". I am positive that she is the kind of person everyone needs in their life. She works at the San Francisco Food Bank and teaches food safety classes and cooking classes how to use local produce in new and exciting recipes. I know, I am in awe of her too. Her latest conquer-the-world project is organizing a community-based market to raise funds for a local food pantry. Here's where you come in: She is looking for vendors to come sell their delicious homemade artisan goodies at the first markets in November and December!

If you just wanna come by and check out the goodies and say hello, I will be a vendor at the December 18 market. Remember when I sold pickled grapes at the Underground Market?! I'm not sure what I will make this time, but I promise it will be yummy and unique.

For more details, see her press release details below:

New Taste Marketplace Wants You As A Vendor

Foodies, makers, picklers, & chefs: you are invited to be part of an amazing new community food event. New Taste Marketplace is a community market and a fundraiser for The Food Pantry and St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church. The Food Pantry gives away tons of fresh food to more than 600 families every Friday. The church is a center for the neighborhood, a beautiful space for people to gather, and a home for artists, iconographers and musicians.

The first two markets will be Saturday, November 27th Noon-5pm and Saturday, December 18th 4pm - 9pm at St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church, 500 DeHaro at Mariposa in Potrero Hill.

New Taste Marketplace is currently seeking vendors who make local, homemade, or foraged products. Your grandmother’s famous fig bars or your pickled creations that cause your friends to exclaim, “you should sell this!” Here is your chance. Be creative, have fun and make it delicious. Vendor space is still available please email to share your creations with the world.

Contact Elianna Friedman @ for more information.


New Taste Marketplace
Market Director

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Plum: Oakland

I’m pretty sure the San Francisco foodie culture is boosting the chef profession to celebrity status. In this city, people ooh-and-ahh about who is cooking their meals, they read blogs and articles about their backgrounds, tattoos and philosophies and they stalk restaurants hoping for a glimpse (or even better, a conversation) with the chef, much in the same way paparazzi stalk celebrity homes. We know when chefs migrate from one place to another and we study up on when they grow executive chef wings and ditch the close kitchen supervision to take off on their own projects. And when we see a flashy name like Daniel Patterson being waived around, we know we are in good hands and there is good food ahead. It’s like reassuring freeway signs that point you in the direction of good food so you don’t miss any critical exits and you can see and taste all there is on the great highway of food.

On Monday night, I went to see Sufjan Stevens at the Paramount Theater in Oakland (brilliant show), so I seized on an impromptu opportunity to stop by Plum for some dinner before the show. The hostess apologized for only having room at the “kitchen bar” not knowing that it was exactly where I was hoping to be seated. After all, the food begins way before it is plopped down on your table by the hand of a waiter—it begins in the kitchen with creative minds and many hands finessing every detail and tastings and seasoning every element that you will encounter. So why not watch it?! Kitchens all around are transforming because diners are slowly coming around to being interested in this step in the process. These transparent kitchens are windows into foodie entertainment where the aesthetics and lighting match the restaurant décor, everything is clean and tidy, the cooks are busy cooking and quietly concentrating on assembling dishes (sometimes with tweezers!) and no one is getting yelled at. Imagine that.

While I did not have my camera, you can see some online photos of the food and I will do my best to describe my dishes on the menu. Let’s see how well I can describe the food without the easy comfort of relying on a photo—it’s a good exercise because restaurant lighting is generally terrible for photos anyway and without smell-ivision, you’re gonna have to rely on my descriptions. And I don’t want to disappoint.

We started with chickpea fritters and potato “chicharrones”. The chickpea fritters (3 on a plate) were gussied up falafel balls with a dense hearty texture that caved in on a small pocket of gooey cheese in the middle. They tasted earthy and were complemented by a little pool of yogurty sheeps’ milk cheese with flecks of fresh herbs. The potato chicharrones were crunchy sticks of a potato substance that had been pressed into strips and deep fried. It wasn’t magical, but I appreciated the effort behind the concept of taking an ordinary vegetable and altering its shape, texture and flavor to bring something totally new to the table. That is what innovative dining is all about and it’s a sure fire way to excite a Foodie. If you can magically change the familiar into something complex and totally baffling such that the Foodie says “how in the world did they do that?”, then i think you’ve got yourself a firm stake in the ground.

Next came a very unique and stunningly delicious soup made with turnips, apples and miso. It was a creamy beige-colored poor of earthy soup that was topped with thin ribbons of shiso leaves and a pepper cream that melted into a frothy puddle. I think the hint of sweetness from the apples really complemented the distinct slightly spicy flavor of turnips while the miso went around like a janitor polishing it up and smoothing over any rough edges.

The chicory salad was one of my highlights. It had various colorful chicory greens tossed in a very light date-yogurt vinaigrette. I couldn't taste any date (I really wanted to taste dates), but the yogurt dressing was light and creamy. The bitter chicories were delicately tempered with sweet snappy bites of matchsticks of asian pear, mint and pomegranate seeds. It was such a perfect union of flavors that I could have eaten three bowls and called it a night.

The artichoke terrine was a well-thought out dish comprised of many intricate elements. It started with a swipe of tapenade of olives crushed into a bright and vibrant olive oil. A slender block of forest green artichoke jello (for lack of a better description) was nestled into the tapenade and topped with a stripe of creamy goat cheese mousse. Then wedges of tender artichoke hearts sunk into the mousse and the whole thing was topped off with some shaved artichoke and shaved baby fennel that had been lightly dressed in olive oil. It was novel and delicious and watching the salad guy carefully garnish the dish with a delicate lacing of chervil only made my excitement grow as I squirmed in my seat waiting for it to arrive in front of me.

The braised cauliflower with bulgur, almonds and dandelion salsa verde was a slight disappointment for me. I had been hoping for a more robust flavor, but the bland cauliflower, clearly depending on the dandelion salsa to jazz it up, was only left with an odd tangy and acidic flavor that was pretty unpleasant.

I quickly moved on to the colorful pile of carrots. The carrots were perfectly cooked to be sweet and tender and then mixed up with some softened slightly-pickled green garlic stalks and sauced up with the most gorgeous brown butter and tooped with toasted breadcrumbs and purslane. It was not even the slightest bit greasy despite the distinct buttery taste and I attempted to drink the brown butter with my spoon. It tasted light and silky like it had a splash of white wine.

My companions shared a beef cheek and oxtail burger on a griddled bun. I opted for a slow-cooked farm egg over savory farro with veggies and sprouts. This dish was the major disappointment and I deeply regretted ordering it. While everything was perfectly cooked, I just did not care for the flavor combination and, to be honest, the chicken really derailed everything. It was a train wreck and I passed the dish off to my friends (who seemed happy to eat it) and I sauntered back to my lovely bread-crumb dusted carrots.

Beyond the food, what I want to speak about is the service. I don’t usually comment on service because really good food can get me to easily overlook things like shabby décor, snotty hostesses and poor service. But, I do acknowledge that these little details do enhance the overall dining experience, and I found Plum to be no exception. The kitchen team was calmly lead by Daniel Patterson himself, who had the most charming quiet and soothing demeanor. I tried my best not to act like a crazed fan or paparazzi, but I did ask him a couple of questions about his preparations. I even boldly asked him if he would be offended if I asked him about Jeremy Fox’s departure from the Plum project (to which he politely responded “No, not at all…but I think you’ll have to ask Jeremy Fox about his reasons). When we ordered some toasted brioche ice cream, he gently said “ah, yes, but you must try the white chocolate parfait”. When I confirmed that the parfait was, indeed, the winning dessert, the Chef softly reminded me that the desserts have feelings and it’s not a competition. Oh, but it is.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Monkey Bread

I’m kind of fascinated by 1950’s cookbooks. My mom gave me a collection and I always look for more so I can browse through the delicate pages when in a thrift store or an antique shop with vintage housewares (which, incidentally, is also the best place to buy pre-seasoned and well-loved cast iron pans). I get a little queasy when I get to the jello mold section or the tuna casserole or chicken salad heaped onto a bed of lettuce. Or anything made with the canned cornstarch goop called creamed corn. Yikes! But still, there is just something about them that says home. I imagine that food in that time came to be closely associated with the comfort of home.

One day, my boyfriend’s father was pouring over some coveted recipes he had collected while in the military. If you’ve seen popular military recipes before, then you know that they involve obscene amounts of meat, salt, fat and carbs. And sometimes they have “dirty language” names. One of his recipes that caught my eye was for Monkey Bread—a seemingly harmless pull-apart bread made with bits of dough baked in butter, cinnamon and brown sugar. I had seen this dish in plenty of old cookbooks, but I had never actually had it and, these days, I think you could even call it a bit of a dying art. Sometimes Monkey Bread was made with a homemade sweet yeasted dough, but once refrigerated biscuit dough rolled out onto the scene, you couldn’t pay housewives to stop serving it. Apparently, even Nancy Reagan served Monkey Bread at the White House. Now, that’s a dish that says A-m-e-r-i-c-a.

There are a few naughty, naughty recipes that I feel completely guilty making, usually due to the high fat content or artificial/hydrogenated ingredients. Like buffalo chicken dip. Or anything else that calls for a whole block of cream cheese or butter. It’s like I have to close my eyes and hold my breath while making it just like I would do when trying to hold my breath and swim a lap or drive through a tunnel. I just wait to get to the end and then declare that the dish has been made and there is nothing I can do about it, except eat it or share it. That's when I a) whisk it away to a picnic or party before I eat it all, b) invite friends over impromtu, or c) leave it on a neighbor's doorstep, knock and then run away.
Monkey bread is one of those kind of recipes. I find it really satisfying to pick off the nub that calls out to me. You bite into a soft dense pillow-like biscuit enrobed in a sweet carmelized sugar glaze. Plus, you would not believe how easy it is to make in comparison to how delicious it tastes. You cut up some biscuit dough and toss it in a bag with some cinnamon and sugar. Then you melt a ballsy two sticks of butter and some brown sugar. Dump the coated dough bits into a bundt pan (shape is totally irrelevant). Pour over the butter-sugar glaze and bake. That's it. The ratio of work to pleasure is so disproportionate, it's shocking.

You should also take comfort in the fact that any (and possibly all) potential guilt about making this dish will be quickly soothed over by an overwhelming cascade of compliments and oh-my-god-I-need-that-recipe praise. And with good reason. It is down right addicting in some magical way that couldn’t possibly just be broken down into dough, cinnamon, sugar and butter. The sum of these parts transcend this dish to a whole other ethereal galaxy. Just make it. You’ll see what I’m talking about. And then people will ask you for the recipe. And you can share it. And so on and so forth. And, together, we can revive this dying culinary art from 1950’s called Monkey Bread.


* 1 cup white sugar
* 3 tsp. cinnamon
* 3 cans of refrigerated biscuit dough (buttermilk is good, but I don't recommend using the artificial butter flavor)
* 2 sticks of butter
* 1/2 cup brown sugar
* 1/2 cup pecans (optional)


* Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
* Cut the rounds of dough in half and then cut in half once more (so you have 4 pieces of the same size)
* In a resealable bag, mix the white sugar and cinnamon together and add the wedges of dough.
* Close the bag and gently toss the dough to coat all pieces.
* If you are going to use nuts, sprinkle them around the bottom of the pan--be sure to use a bundt pan or angel food cake tin (do not use a springform pan because the sugar syrup will leak out and create a big burnt mess in your oven!).
* Pour the dough pieces and any extra sugar mixture into the pan.
* Over medium heat, melt the butter in a saucepan and add the brown sugar.
* Continue stirring until the sugar melts into the butter to create a syrupy glaze.
* Pour the butter glaze over the biscuit pieces (try to evenly coat all of it).
* Bake for about 35-40 minutes until top is golden brown.
* Allow to cool for 15-20 minutes and then invert onto a serving platter.

Note: I try my best to avoid hydrogenated products, so I look for an all-natural version of biscuit dough (yes, it does exist). Or you can make your own dough.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Food Stamped: A Documentary

Lastnight, I saw a great documentary called Food Stamped: A Documentary by Shira & Yoav Potash. It is a short film about a married couple in Berkeley who decide to follow the footsteps of some US Senators who took the Food Stamp Challenge. That involves eating $1 meals for 3 meals a day, per person--the typical American food stamp allotment. Except, they decided to try to do it eating healthy food (as much whole grains, protein, and organic produce they could afford) instead of eating cheap ramen, processed foods, pesticide-sprayed produce, etc.

They went to an excellent grocery store called the Berkeley Bowl and purchased bulk grains, lentils and beans and organic produce and spent about $48. Then, they planned out 7 days of meals with the food they had purchased. To measure their healthy eating decisions, they took their food journal to a nutritionist at the end of the week to see how well they did on get caloric needs, vitamins, food groups, etc.

Photo courtesy of Shira & Yoav Potash:
It was a very interesting and educational film and I dearly wish it could reach a wider audience. I plan to purchase the DVD and host some informal screenings for friends & family, but I thought maybe you would like to check it out as well and hopefully you can buy the DVD and share it with others.

Update: As part of the SF Indie Film Festival, Food Stamped is going to be playing in San Francisco on February 13 and 15, 2011.

Monday, October 11, 2010

S'mores Pie

On Monday morning, I had woken up early for work and went to email my Office Manager about something and she responded with “Morgan, today is a firm holiday—Columbus Day”. WHAT?! This was news to me. Where have I been? I squealed, I was so excited. So you’re telling me that not only can I go back to sleep, but I don’t have to go to work?? AND! I had already done the "responsible adult" weekend chores like grocery shopping and laundry. I had even washed all of the dishes and cleaned. I had a whole free day—unplanned and unexpected. This is the best feeling ever.

What to do with myself?! I packed up a picnic lunch and headed to Stinson Beach and then went for a little hike on the Hillside Trail in Muir Woods. The weather was perfect—just slightly cooler than body temperature and you can breathe in cool air and the smell of the redwood trees is down-right invigorating. We saw a mule deer grazing along the boardwalk fence. He was unimpressed with the crowd that was gathering to take his photo.

It was such a lovely afternoon. The kind that leaves you feeling relaxed. And inspired. I wanted to set up camp amidst the trees and make a fire and eat s’mores. Of course, you can’t have a campfire in Muir Woods. But, you know what you can do when you have newly discovered extra time on your hands? You can make S’mores Pie.

In Marin (right by Muir Woods), S’mores Pie is a flagship dessert at the Buckeye Roadhouse. It has a thick graham cracker crust with a thin layer of rich chocolate sauce that pools at the bottom. Because this is s’mores for grown-ups, this particular chocolate sauce is spiked with just a little liquor for a subtle boozy flavor. You could use use brandy, grand marnier, Maker’s Mark, bourbon or rum. Then the whole thing is filled with a marshmallow crème that gets torched to a golden brown right at the end to really seal the deal. I’m sure you’ve figured out by now that this kind of gluttony is not for the weak.
Don’t be intimidated by the steps. You essentially press together a crust and melt some chocolate and liquor to make a sauce. The hardest part is making the marshmallow topping, but afterwards you will be so impressed with yourself for making marshmallow from scratch! Then you don’t even really bake this pie—you just lightly brown it in the oven for 5 minutes or so. Voila!

S’mores Pie
Adapted from Robert Price, executive chef of Buckeye Roadhouse.

Ingredients for chocolate sauce:
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
3 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon dark rum (or rum liqueur, if you have it)
1 Tablespoon bourbon (or Grand Marnier, if you prefer)
2.5 Tablespoons corn syrup
2.5 Tablespoons whole milk or heavy cream

Ingredients for graham cracker crust:
1.5 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 Tablespoons sugar
½ tsp. salt (kosher or sea salt)
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
2 Tablespoons honey

Ingredients for the Marshmallow topping:
1/2 Tablespoon vanilla extract
2 packets of Knox powdered gelatin
2.5 Tablespoons corn syrup
1.25 cups sugar
4 egg whites
1 pinch of cream of tartar
1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips


For the chocolate sauce: Put an inch or two of water in small saucepan over medium-high heat and fit a glass bowl over it. When the water comes to a boil, turn the heat down to a simmer. In the glass bowl, combine chocolate, butter, liquor of choice (2 Tablespoons in total) and corn syrup. Stir frequently until the ingredients are melted. Remove bowl from heat and stir in whole milk or heavy cream and set aside.

For the graham cracker crust: In a large bowl, mix the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, salt, melted butter and honey until well combined. Press the mixture evenly into a 10-inch pie tin. Pour about a 1/2 cup of the chocolate sauce over the crust and set aside.

For the marshmallow topping: Combine 1/2 tablespoon of cold water with the vanilla extract in a small bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin over the vanilla mixture and set aside. This will create a firm disc of weirdness—do not be alarmed. It will work itself out. Combine 1/2 cup of water, corn syrup and sugar in a heavy bottomed pot and bring to a boil. Place a candy thermometer in the sugar mixture and cook until the temperature reaches 240° degrees. While the sugar mixture is cooking, whip the egg whites and cream of tartar in an electric mixer until they form soft peaks. When the sugar reaches 240°, remove from the heat and carefully pour over whipped egg whites while the mixer is on low speed. Add the disc of gelatin mixture and mix on medium high speed until dissolved and well incorporated. It should be fairly firm enough to hold soft peaks.

Preheat oven to 450°.

Assemble the pie: Sprinkle the semisweet chocolate chips over the crust and chocolate sauce. Pour about 1/3 of the marshmallow over the chocolate chips. Drizzle remaining chocolate sauce across the marshmallow. Finish off with remaining marshmallow, mounding it toward the center to create a domed effect. If you lightly press a fork or spatula into the marshmallow and then quickly pull upwards, you will create nice little spikes that look pretty professional.

Bake in the over for 5-7 minutes until the marshmallow is golden brown. Remove and let cool. If you cannot wait, you can eat some warm, but it will be a warm spoonable gooey mess. If you somehow find inordinate amounts of patience to refrigerate the pie overnight to allow the marshmallow to set, you will be able to slice yourself a nice pie wedge. You can brown each slice in the oven (or with a kitchen torch) before serving. You could also brown it under a broiler, but be very careful because sugar burns quickly!

You will NOT regret this.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Dining in the Dark

Years ago, someone had given me a copy of The Miracle of Mindfulness written by a Zen Buddhist monk named Thich Nhat Hanh, who is famous for a metaphoric passage that speaks about the act of washing dishes as a meditation practice. Consciously living in the moment. He walks you through each step as you take your time with each dish, being fully aware of the dish, the water, and movement of your hands. He says that if you are already thinking of what you will do next after you’ve washed these dreadful dishes, then you will always be dragged into the future, never able to live in the present moment. The metaphor of striving to live fully in the present really resonated with me and when I am rushing through something or want to be sure that I pay close attention to something, someone or some moment, I always think about washing the dishes. So to speak.

Fast forward about five years to find out that James the Doctor has been practicing mindfulness meditation for a few years now. Admirable, for sure. I had once mentioned to James the Doctor that San Francisco has a dark dining restaurant called Opaque, which is, apparently, modeled after a similar European sensation. When he suggested hosting a similar dinner for his fellow psychiatry residents, I was excited to partake.
Mindful of various textures, flavors and smells, he planned out a unique 5-course menu. I had helped with cooking and preparation so I knew the menu in advance. Still, I decided to join the table and see how it felt anyway.

That's me sitting in the black leather chair while James the Doctor is being a gracious host to my right (with the help from his brother, Jason). It wasn't feasible to create a pitch-black dining environment, so we had the next best thing: eye masks. While the experience was slightly different for me in comparison to my fellow diners, it was still a new and interesting experience eating each course while blindfolded and listening to others guess the ingredients.

Like any classy dinner, it started with hot hand towels that had been soaking in lavender-scented water. Then out came a plate of scattered arugula and tear-drop shaped tomatoes that had been injected with a balsamic glaze. The scent of the argugula and its bitter taste was instantly recognizable, but it was the pop of the tomato bursting with sweet vinegar that surprised many.

Next came a little appetizer trio with a small wedge of smoked gouda, a slice of ripe kiwi fruit with its fuzzy skin, and prunes split open and filled with a smoked almond butter and smoked sea salt.At first, it felt a little uneasy being in the dark. I kept my left hand anchored on the edge of the plate in front of me as a sort of compass and used my right hand to feel and touch my nearby surroundings. I was grateful for the mini water bottle that had been thoughtfully provided because it eliminated the fear that I might knock something over. I took comfort in knowing the shape of the water bottle and that I knew how to close it while blindfolded.
Each dish was a new sensation in taste and smell. We all loved the feel of the silky ribbons of cabbage gratin. But I was most excited about the main course: smoked chicken (from the tuesday/saturday special at Memphis Minnies) that was griddled right into a light waffle batter and served with a thin lacing of a spicy bbq maple syrup. I touched the edges of the waffles slowly and reached my fingers into its comforting grooves as I bit into it with the unshared confidence of knowing what was in it since I had prepared them just minutes before the guests had arrived. But still, the flavor and texture was still pronounced to me. The edges were crisp and warm on my tongue, but it quickly gave way to the soft custardy webbing of the interior of the waffle.
I tasted just a hint of spice from the maple bbq syrup and concentrated on the smoky chicken bits hiding around the waffle like a treasure trove of flavor. The other diners were guessing it contained bacon, pork, and even Indian curry spices. None of the above, actually, but I could see where they were coming from.

Dessert was a baked butter mochi with blueberries. I developed this recipe because I love mochi desserts, which are popular in Hawaii. The butter creates a delicate flaky crust, which gives way to a dense and chewy interior made with rice flour, coconut milk and vanilla.
Afterwards, James the Doctor revealed each dish that we had eaten and confirmed or denied our wild guesses. It was really a unique dining experience. Even though we hadn't consumed a large quantity of food, we felt full because we ate very slowly, taking the time to contemplate each bite using our senses. We ate with mindfulness.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Good Things To Come.

I must apologize--it's been an embarassingly long time since I have written. But, I leave for Tokyo in two days for an insane ramen odyssey, so I promise to return with plenty of stories and photos! I am also going to Osaka, which is, apparently, the mecca of street food. There is a saying for Osaka called kuidaore, which my Japanese sister-in-law, Hiromi, translates to mean "eat 'til you drop" or "eat 'til you go bankrupt" or "eat 'til you burst". Ziiiiing! Osaka has found my life motto, and I haven't even been there yet.

I just realized how nerdy I have become about food when I started planning this vacation around where I can eat the most talked-about food and where the crazy grocery stores are located. That's right, people, I loooove to go to grocery stores in foreign countries. My brother would say that is totally absurd.

See you soon! T.O.K.Y.O.


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Lobster Rolls.

I don’t eat seafood too often these days. I do like me some fresh sashimi or sushi on occasion. Or some roasted crab with garlic noodles if I really want a treat (and don't mind the tedious work and mess). But I do have a strong love for lobster, most notably in lobster rolls. The straightforward no-nonsense kind with buttered and grilled brioche bread with slits down the middle and stuffed with fresh lobster meat with a light mayo dressing. Most places mix in some chopped celery, but, unless it is just a barely noticeable speckling of celery, I prefer scallions instead. The first time I ever had one was while on a trip to Boston. I pretty much haven't been able to stop thinking about them since.

I’ve scoured the city for where to find good lobster rolls, but only came up with a handful of sure bets. Anchor & Hope ($24), Nettie’s Crab Shack ($35 per roll, gasp!), Thermidor ($18), and Woodhouse Fish Company ($17 for half or $24 for full). Of these four city joints, I've only tried Woodhouse Fish Company and it was delicious. But, if you don’t mind just a short drive away, you can get them at Sam’s Chowder House in Half Moon Bay ($20) or Sam's ChowderMobile ($15 or $10 for a shortie).

But, if you’re really serious about this whole lobster roll thing, you will want to go the Old Port Lobster Shack in Redwood City ($18.75 for one or $35 for two).

And one glorious holiday Monday following July 4, I was serious about it. I met the owner, Russell Deutsch (who used to also own the now-closed SF location called North Beach Lobster Shack). See how the bread might masquerade as a hot dog bun? Don't be fooled, dear friend. It is, in fact, not even remotely close to a hot dog bun. It is a rich, dense brioche with a delightfully chewy texture that is so satisfying. And, if you ask nicely, Russell will sell you a tidy row of 12 buns for $6.50. When I thanked him for such a well executed meal and expressed my sadness at its distant location, he told me that he closed the SF city location down because constantly removing graffiti was a hassle and there just wasn't enough parking for the customers who just wanted to get their hands on a lobster roll. He has a good life now focusing his efforts on his extremely busy Redwood City location. And for good reason. His lobster roll is p-e-r-f-e-c-t. He grills up a fresh baked brioche roll and generously stuffs it with at least one CUP of lobster meat dressed in a light mayo sauce with green onions. It is served with a basket of french fries, some pickles and coleslaw. Simple perfection. It’s an expensive treat for sure, but let me tell you - it is worth it. It transports me to a hot summer day when you want a refreshing cold sandwich and tall glass of iced tea. Or some cold, local beer.

Since we're all drooling over lobster rolls, I really should mention that the other dish you that will surely win your lobster-loving heart is the Shanghai Lobster at Chinois on Main in Santa Monica, CA. Every time I go to visit my brother in LA, I have to go get this dish. I cannot get enough of it. The thing about this particular Wolfgang Puck restaurant is that everything is perfectly seasoned. Every bite you take is the most flavorful and delicious bite you have had. The Shanghai Lobster starts with steamed rice that is most likely wok-fried and seasoned with some elusive Chinese salt and pepper spice mix. The chef pan sears fresh lobster (warning: do NOT sit at the bar if you are squeamish about these things) and assemble all of the lobster meat (tail and claws) atop the rice. A slightly sweet but deeply savory curry sauce made with plum wine and heavy cream is poured all over the lobster and rice. Then, the whole plate is piled high with a large mound of fried spinach leaves that taste light light pillowy fluffs of the best tasting spinach you have ever had in your life.

Summer + Lobster = Bliss. Or Summer = Lobster, however you visualize the equation.

Update: I took those brioche buns home and froze half until I get my hands on some more lobster. In the meantime, I made a nice salmon sandwich with broiled salmon topped with cabbage coleslaw and scallions. Winner. I am also hoping to try a veggie version and a breakfast version, maybe with sliced banana and pecan butter.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sprouting. Turned Blue.

Lately, there’s been a lot of DIY projects going on at my home. Mostly because we recently got an industrial balls-to-the-wall Kitchen Aid stand mixer. I'm told it can hold 14 cups of flour. Whoa. We introduced it to our home by making Julia Child’s challah. And then there’s pickled grapes and green garlic, pickled radishes and pickled turmeric (yes!). The Kombucha (used to scare away any squeamish visitor). I also planted a few seeds to grow edamame, although it's turning out to be more finicky than anticipated. And hopefully some wildflowers will be growing shortly.

Now, I understand that DIY experiments are inherently risky. And that’s okay in our house. In fact, it is preferred. But the other day, while sprouting, something happened with our latest DIY project that has left all of us baffled. Including the Doctor! We used broccoli seeds to sprout a large batch, gave it some sunlight, harvested the sprouts and collected a hand full of sprout tails that got disconnected. We put it in the fridge to store, but, within a few hours, the tails that were formerly a delicate white color had turned blue. BLUE.

It was kind of like when garlic turns blue when its sulfur compounds meet something that has a trace amount of copper (water, butter, lemon juice, vinegar) and forms copper sulfate. It’s very strange. After some research, I learned that broccoli sprouts have a large amount of sulforaphane. So there must be traces of copper in our tap water. I learned something today.

Very interesting, Watson.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Ready-to-Go Ramen

I am not a “routine” kind of person. Some days I like to go straight home from work and find a little relaxation by cooking (I can think of a few people who would say that cooking is the last thing they’d want to do after a long day at the office). Other days I can only muster up enough brain power to think of which Indian restaurant will comfort my sorrows.

I don’t shower only in the evenings (which is, apparently, very odd to my friend, Penny, who wouldn’t get into bed without a shower no matter what time she got home or how many late-night margaritas she may have had). In my college days of being the master of my own time, I’ve even been known to shower at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. Some weekends I might sleep in past 10 am (gasp!) and by the time I’ve made a lazy Sunday brunch it’s suddenly past noon. But sometimes I might be bright-eyed at 8 am ready to start my day. You just never know, no--wait, I just never know. Sometimes I wonder if the routine-type folks are having a better time. Maybe they are more relaxed, more efficient.

I went to the gym after work and just needed to assemble something quick for dinner. Ramen to the rescue! Vegetarian, of course. No, not that instant package of squiggly noodles you can buy for 30 cents. At Nijiya market in Japan town (or other similar Japanese grocery markets), you can buy packages that contain a packet of soy broth and fresh egg noodles to make ramen at home. Yes, really! Nijiya's ramen packages are actually flown in from Hawaii, which really excites me and makes me a little less homesick for those islands.
I cut up some veggies and gave them a quick stir fry in a hot pan. Added in a soft boiled egg and some cubed fresh tofu. Boiled the fresh egg noodles for 3-5 minutes and heated up the broth.


1 package fresh egg noodles with soy broth
1 bunch bok choy
green onion, sliced thin
tofu, drained and cubed
enoki mushroom (or shiitake)
1 soft boiled egg (boiled for 5-7 minutes, cooled and peeled)

** The picture above was taken before I poured the broth over the noodles and ramen goodies.

End result: Delicious ramen to comfort your soul.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Homemade Kombucha

April just flew right by me.

One week into April, we got word that my boyfriend’s brother, James, would be moving to San Francisco for his medical residency at UCSF (!!!) so we started the arduous hunt for a new apartment to make some room for him. We found a fabulous apartment just down the street—and it has a large outdoor deck, which is c-o-v-e-t-e-d in San Francisco. We moved into new said apartment. And we ate a lot of take-out during the process because we had exploded one kitchen in order to set up another kitchen. We got some Chinese food from King of Noodles. Some Indian food from Indian Oven and Rotee. Some Thai food from Chabaa and Chilli Cha Cha. And then, just like that, April was over.

And then May swooped in and James arrived with all sorts of things in tow to add to our home. Like, for example, he tripled my already extensive tea collection and he brought a juicer! I really do love new kitchen gadget additions! And he's making kombucha at home, just like my uncle did when I was in high school. Kombucha is a combination of a live bacteria culture and fungus that uses tea and sugar to ferment and create a slightly sour natural beverage. Feeling a little squeamish and wary myself, I decided to ask ask Doctor James why he wasn't concerned about the issue of bacteria in something like this. His explanation was that the kombucha creates a colony of positive, good bacteria that acts like a barrier to push out any bad bacteria that could try to enter. And then he puffed up his arms and made a face as if to say to bad bacteria: move on, there is no room for you in here! Ok, I think I can deal with that. I wanted to share this photo with you despite the fact that it may look a little...creepy. I am a believer of knowing where your food comes from and seeing how stuff is made even if there are unsavory aspects to that process. Homemade kombucha is, if you didn't know, a weird process in of itself--it even makes "babies" which can be passed on to share the kombucha love. It's kind of like the starter for Amish friendship bread where you pass a hunk of dough on to a friend. James got his starter from the Kombucha Kollective for $10, but honestly if you tap into the kombucha network in your city I am sure you can find fellow brewers who are eager and willing to pass on a starter for free. And if you are a kombucha newbie who hasn't already shelled out for a trendy bottled version, you might want to try some on tap at Whole Foods. I think James' first batch will be a black tea kombucha infused with pineapple and mint.

May started waving its goodbye just as I was cutting up some watermelon for memorial day weekend. We spent 70% of it out on the deck talking about how grateful we were for our patio furniture and some sunshine. And now that we are approaching summer, I can start making good use of that deck by hosting many more parties, bbq’s and outdoor meals.

It’s very exciting, indeed.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Product Review: Kaia Foods

I like raw food because I can appreciate its incredibly creative and interesting raw versions of familiar non-raw foods like pizza. Like making something creamy or cheesy out of cashews! Or using ground nuts and seeds to make delicious crumbly crusts for dessert. But I don't like raw food when it involves large amounts of coconut oil or the torture of delayed gratification while things soak for hours or slowly sprout or that many inventive recipes become inaccessible to the average household that doesn't own a food dehydrator. In addition to the occasional meal at Cafe Gratitude, I like to keep an eye out for tasty raw snacks that I wouldn't be able to make at home.

My latest raw obsession is this breakfast bowl sold at a stand at the Saturday Farmer's Market at the Ferry Building in San Francisco. The name escapes me (but I will find out and update), but the guy makes a lovely collection of raw smoothies, raw chocolate mousse and raw sushi rolls wrapped in nori or kale leaves stuffed with all sorts of goodies. But the breakfast bowl has this addictive flavor that outshines the rest. It is simply coconut water, coconut, apples, salt, vanilla beans all blended together and then topped with some fresh blueberries (or other seasonal fruit) and flax oil. So freaking delicious.

Since I am not into waiting for things to sprout and don't own a dehydrator, I had been wanting to find some local raw snacks that I could take with me to work. So when the good people at Kaia Foods in Oakland asked me to try some of their sprouted products, I jumped at the chance.

Buckwheat Granola (Cocoa Bliss):
This tasty sprouted granola contains sprouted buckwheat, agave nectar, raisins, flax seeds, sprouted sunflower seeds, cacao powder, sprouted pumpkin seeds, sprouted walnuts, dried coconut, vanilla extract and sea salt. I loved the crunchy texture of the buckwheat, but I wanted the cocoa flavor to be stronger. I ended up using it as the base of a delicious trail mix to which I added some chocolate chips and almonds. I really want to try the Dates & Spices granola!

Raw Fruit Leathers:
My favorite thing about these 30 calorie gems is how simple and pure they are--the ingredients are typically a pureed blend of 2 or 3 fruits and either a spice or vanilla extract. That's it! Gluten-free, raw and vegan. They are not as moist as traditional fruit leathers, but they have a clean and natural flavor that really lets the fruit shine. I tried Goji Orange, Vanilla Pear and Spiced Apple. The vanilla pear was my favorite although I wished it had vanilla beans instead of extract--I think seeing those little black specks makes me really believe in the presence of the vanilla. I really want to get my hands on the lime ginger one made with orange, banana, kale, lime juice, and ginger powder.

Sprouted & Dried Sunflower Seeds:
These came in very creative flavors: teriyaki, cocoa mole, garlic & sea salt and sweet curry. I was not a fan of the teriyaki flavor--it had an odd sweetness that I just could not get used to. The cocoa mole was a little bland in flavor, but a great addition to oatmeal or trail mix. The garlic and sea salt flavor was the best candidate for being a snack all on its own. And, surprisingly, I really enjoyed the sweet curry flavor--it had good a nice flavor of cumin and curry powder rounded out with a pinch of cayenne pepper. I made a big green leafy salad with carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, and avocado with some green goddess dressing) and then sprinkled on some of the sweet curry sunflower seeds and some garlic and sea salt sunflower seeds. Kaia also has a nice little recipe booklet with some great salad dressing ideas such as Agave Lemon Dressing or Thai Dressing.

I also heard that they will be making kale chips, which I am really excited about because homemade kale chips involve some tedious care (think of washing and drying each leaf by hand) and have a very short shelf life.

Kaia Foods has a motto I can stand behind: keep it simple. I appreciate the thought and effort they put into making creative and healthy snacks. They are making a good effort to ship all over the country, so check them out at a store near you!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Vegan Thai Red Lentil Soup with Lemongrass

I don’t make a lot of Thai food at home. Despite my fantastic success with the occasional pad thai and summer spring rolls with peanut sauce (I should really tell you about that sauce later), I’ve failed miserably at tom kha soup and a few other Thai dishes. So I would never go out of my way to just make up a Thai recipe on the fly and hope for the best. Except for this past Monday night. I was with my friend Eli, who always inspires cooking confidence. Maybe it’s because she went to culinary school; maybe it’s because she is a good friend that cheers you along no matter what your goal is.

Eli and I listened to a little Nina Simone, and within minutes of dancing around the kitchen, I was on my way to making a Thai red lentil soup. This soup is a bit unconventional in its method. A rebel to authenticity even. It starts with a flavorful “soup base” made with garlic, ginger, lemongrass and spices. And then develops that fragrant base in to a silky soup with the addition of onions, red lentils, coconut milk and a hint of cinnamon. Trust me (I say that a lot, huh), once you taste the final product, you will understand the method to the madness.


* 1 shallot, chopped
* 1 stalk lemongrass, bruised and minced (only use up to 2/3 of the stalk from the white bottom up towards the green tops)
* 1/4 or 1/2 of a small Thai red chili (cut in half and remove seeds and then quarter; use more or less for desired heat level)
* 4 cloves garlic, chopped
* 1 two-inch piece ginger (or galangal if you can find it), sliced
* 2 Tbsp. tomato ketchup (told you this wasn’t authentic)
* 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
* 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
* 1/4 tsp. ground white pepper (or black pepper)
* 3 Tbsp. soy sauce (omnivore option: you can use fish sauce)
* 1.5 tsp. sugar
* 1 tsp. chili powder
* 1/4 can good-quality coconut milk (reserve remaining liquid for the soup)
* Juice from 1/2 lime


* Puree all ingredients in a food processor or blender (it won’t be completely smooth—it will have a more gritty texture).

Note: This will make about 3 portions of soup base so divide it into thirds and the remaining base will keep in the refrigerator for up to one week or you can freeze it. I imagine the base would work nicely with curries or just a thinned out simple sauce for stir fry with tofu and veggies!


* 3-4 Tbsp. oil (light extra virgin or vegetable oil)
* 1 large onion, sliced finely
* 1 cinnamon stick
* 2 stalks of lemongrass, gently bruised to open up flavors
* 2 kaffir lime leaves (optional)
* 4 tbsp. of soup base (about 1/3 of what you made for the soup base; see above)
* 2 cups vegetable broth (omnivore option: chicken broth)
* 6 cups water
* 3 cups red lentils (rinsed and picked over for debris)
* 3/4 can of coconut milk (using the rest of the unused can from making the soup base)
* Juice from 1 lime
* 1/2 tsp kosher salt (or to taste)
* 2-4 tsp. soy sauce (to taste)
* Cilantro or fried shallots (optional garnish)


* In a large heavy-bottomed pot or dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat until glossy.
* Add onions and sautee for up to 10 minutes or until softened.
* Add in the cinnamon stick, lime leaves, lemongrass stalks and soup base and cook for another 3-5 minutes to release all the flavors from the soup base.
* Add the broth, water and lentils and turn the heat up to medium high to bring to a boil.
* Carefully remove and discard the cinnamon stick, lime leaves and lemongrass stalks.
* Cover and turn the heat down to a medium simmer for 15 minutes or until lentils are soft.
* Using an immersion blender (or food processor in batches), puree the soup until silky smooth.
* Add in the coconut milk, lime juice, salt and soy sauce and adjust seasoning if necessary.
* You can add more water to achieve desired consistency—the soup will thicken considerably when cooled so you would want to add a little more water when reheating.
* Garnish with cilantro and/or fried shallots if desired.

Note: This recipe makes about 8 servings. If refrigerated, the soup will thicken considerably so you can just thin it out to desired consistency before re-heating.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Croissant Bread Pudding with Strawberries & White Chocolate

Is it just me or did your heart skip a beat reading that title?! To be honest, bread pudding doesn’t usually excite me. Until you start talking about croissants, which changes the game entirely.

When I was in law school, I used to host a Holiday dinner or an Easter Brunch for friends who couldn’t be with their families during holidays. I liked hosting it because many generous friends had taken me in over various holidays during college (since I couldn’t afford to fly back to Hawaii) and I remember how good it felt to take part in another family for a holiday meal. On one such Easter Brunch, my friend, Claire, wowed the crowd with a chocolate croissant bread pudding.

Then, one night, I was lying in bed thinking about using up the contents of my fridge (this is kind of a menu planning ritual for me) when I remembered I had a couple of weary croissants moping about. I figured I might make a vanilla-based adaptation of that beloved chocolate croissant bread pudding.

Sometimes you just need a naughty treat. Or maybe you’re part of the sneaky folk who likes to bring the full-fat outrageously unhealthy crowd pleasers to potlucks so you can win best-in-show despite the fact that you may only have a bite or two. (I’ve been known to save up some of those recipes that I could never eat all by myself at home, so I wait for a willing group to try it out!)


* 3 croissants (preferably 1-2 days old), cut into 1-inch cubes
* 1 Tbsp. butter
* 1 cup fat-free half and half (or half & half if you prefer)
* 3 oz. white chocolate (chopped or chips)
* 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract OR seeds from 1 vanilla bean pod
* 1 egg
* 1/3 cup sugar
* 1 cup roughly chopped strawberries (fresh or frozen; other berries would be great too!)


* Heat oven to 350 degrees.
* Toast croissant cubes on an ungreased cookie sheet for 5-8 minutes or until lightly toasted. When cool, place cubes in an ungreased 8 x 8 pan or small casserole dish.
* In a saucepan on medium-high heat, bring the butter and half & half to a slow boil. Turn down the heat to a simmer and whisk in the white chocolate and vanilla.
* Once melted, remove pan from heat and let cool for 10 minutes.
* In a small bowl, mix the sugar with the egg. Slowly whisk this mixture into the half & half mixture.
* Gently mix the strawberries in with the croissant cubes.
* Pour custard mixture over the croissant and strawberries and place in refrigerator for up to 1 hour (to soak up all the goodness).
* Bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes or until top is lightly toasted and custard has set (no longer too wet or jiggly).

You're going to love this. Yep.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Gricia Pizza: Pizzeria Delfina of SF

Remember when I mentioned Spring poking its head around the corner in the shape of a cheese? And how the word fresh starts to have meaning again after the winter starts to fade into a memory?

In San Francisco, the restaurants all have a close ear to the ground, carefully listening for the latest, freshest seasonal produce pushing its way through the earth. The seasonal menus change so fast that your best bet is to read the daily menu or twitter feed and then frantically rush over there like eating there is part of the Amazing Race and hope that you get there before they sell out of whatever magic they produced that day. Yup, that just about sums up the typical dinner plan of an SF foodie. Or me, at least.

I should mention that I have since revisited my signs of Spring’s arrival after eating a pizza that highlighted the delicate flavor of fresh spring onions on the "Gricia" pizza at Pizzeria Delfina. Not the young green onions or scallions, but the more mature stalks with fat round bulbs like these. The second I stepped out the door after paying the check (and after scribbling an embarrassingly crazy note on the back professing my love for Craig Stoll’s superb pizza genius), I vowed I would drop all plans and leave my typing mid-sentence to get over there if I ever saw it again on the special's list.

It’s a humble pie, really—the unassuming kind that sneaks up on you as your dinner company catches you staring out at the wall with glossy eyes as you concentrate on its sneaky flavors dancing around in your mouth. Now, there is no tomato--it's a white pie. But, here is the real shocker--there is no cheese, people. No cheese!

Photo courtesy of nosaladasameal.(I had no camera with me when I had bolted out of the office to get my hands on this pizza, so I am so thankful for those who came more prepared than I did.)

Like all good pizza, it starts with the perfect wood-fired crust that bubbles around the edges—the kind that screams “we know what we are doing, here. And we mean business”. They scatter small shavings of salty guanciale and a noticeable amount of freshly cracked black pepper for a little kick and then cover it with long, thinly shaved ribbons of spring onions that roast in the high heat until they curl up and tuck into themselves. Then—get this—just as it comes out of the searing hot oven, they pour a small drizzle of cream over the whole thing, which melts into the sweet onions creating a delicate lacy sauce. Ping!

It's true, i like to replicate a restaurant dish when I can to save money, in the event that an oven that burns above 500 degrees isn't required. Despite my mom saying "quit spending you're money eating out" (we obviously have different priorities), I'd sell my personal belongings to shell out $16 to have this pizza if it came down to it.

That is all I can say about that. I just noticed it is on the menu today at the Mission location. I’m out.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Underground Market: The March Results

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for coming out to support our foodie community at the underground market! It was a total success. We sold out of the fresh home brewed ginger beer, the hawaiian coconut mochi and about 75% of the pickled grapes and green garlic that we had made.

Photo courtesy of Jesse of beerandnosh

I handed out samples of pickled grapes to many people who were excited to try something new and I convinced quite a few people to venture out into the unfamiliar and try the Hawaiian adaptation of mochi. Some may have wiggled their noses in doubt, but, wouldn't you know, you all had such nice things to say and I'm so proud of you for having a go.

I won't lie--it was still crowded (over 1,200 people came!) and there were still lines, but people came out with smiling faces and generally seemed pretty happy and interested in trying what everyone had to offer. And, boy, was there plenty to choose from! Gluten-free items, raw food, laotian Nam Khao, granola, jams and jellies, fermented and pickled goodies, local honey, foraged mushrooms, all sorts of baked goods, sasparilla, fresh homemade salsas, dips, cheeses and charcuterie, kombucha, spices, breads and drinks...But I have to admit that it was, above all, the sense of community that made it all worthwhile. Let's face it, most of these vendors are not in it for the money as they operate on a small scale and have small profits margins of maybe $75 - $300 -- and that's only if you just consider the material costs and assume free labor and time. Instead, they do it for the love of food and for the love of sharing their work, passion and talent with you. So, thank YOU, for making it possible by supporting all of their hard work! It really means a lot.

It was my first time as a vendor and I had a great time. I even got to meet some of my readers, including the founder of Foodgawker.

I believe these markets will continue in monthly installments so look out for the next one!