Check out my foodie adventures at Foodspotting and Foodgawker

Thursday, January 28, 2010

SF Underground Farmers Market: Tonight!

Whew! It has been a crazy busy week for me. It's been practically raining for ten days straight. We've had house guests. And on Friday, I am heading to Santa Barbara for a wedding! How are you holdin up?! Thursdays can get kinda hairy, I understand. Just hold on tight for just a little bit and soon the weekend will have you scooped up in its warm, cozy arms.

I just wanted to stop by to to tell you that if you are in SF, be sure to check out the Underground Farmer’s Market this evening from 5-11 pm in the Mission…I will certainly be there scouting out what people are making in our foodie community!

(Also, there is a Vegan Bakesale on February 13...could it be your baking debut?!)

Monday, January 18, 2010

BBQ Chopped Salad at California Pizza Kitchen

I am not sure I have ever been so excited about a post before! Are you ready for this?! I have successfully made the BBQ chopped Salad from California Pizza Kitchen, which I have been smitten by since I first had it several years ago. And even more exciting--I made a vegan version by omitting the chicken and making a vegan garden herb ranch dressing. Since I know I am not the only one who loves this salad (and CPK's miso salad), I thought I should show you how you can make it too!

I should probably point out that I am not vegan and it isn't generally my mission to veganize things, but there is a really easy explanation for making vegan versions of things. You can usually make vegan versions with the stuff that you already have in your kitchen, refrigerator or pantry! It's true. That's how this salad came about--I didn't have any chicken in the house or ranch dressing.

My friend, Eli, says that the best restaurants are those that create dishes that inspire you to want to figure out how to make the dish yourself in your own kitchen. I have to agree. I am not a trained chef and I often eat wonderful, delicious things that make me think "I have absolutely no idea how to make that". But what really makes me excited is when I eat something and I can detect all or most of the ingredients. Then I feel pretty confident that if I just gather those familiar ingredients up, I will likely be able to recreate that dish even without a recipe. That is what makes me excited about cooking in my kitchen or sharing those experiences and knowledge with all of you.

At CPK, a half order costs $8.99 and a full order is $12.49, plus $2.00 if you want to add on a half of an avocado. It's a pretty pricey salad, which is partly why I desperately wanted to make it at home. Here is the thing about this salad--it does have many ingredients, but it is not necessarily labor intensive. It's just a matter of assemblying it all together. Of course, I am sure that it's much easier at a restaurant when all the items are prepped and chopped and the prep cook just mixes up a serving when ordered. But since you and I don't have prep cooks in our kitchen (or, if you do, can I come over?!), just put a little music on and chop away and it will be pretty simple to mix altogether once you have all the items ready. Also, if you aren't vegan and already have some ranch dressing, go ahead and use that! And if you want to add some protein to the salad, you could throw in some cubed or marinated tofu (or even brown up some diced tofu and simmer it for a couple minutes in some of the bbq sauce).

Now, the star quality of this salad is its crunchiness--every element is meant to give the salad a great, satisfying crisp crunch. All of these crunchy bits are what saves it from the fact that it is a fairly wet salad, as salads go--the ranch dressing is pretty thin and then it is topped with bbq sauce. This is why I don't recommend putting any tortilla strips or chips into the salad to be mixed in because it tends to become soggy too quickly--just keep it as a garnish for the top!

Adapted from the original recipe from California Pizza Kitchen


* 6 oz. silken tofu (like Mori-Nu) or 1/2 package of tofu
* 1/2 cup vegenaise
* 1/4 cup green onion, chopped (about 2-3 stalks)
* 4 tsp. lemon juice
* 1 Tbsp. freshly chopped parsley
* 1/4 tsp. dried dill (or 1/2 tsp. freshly chopped dill)
* 1.5 Tbsp. tamari or soy sauce
* 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
* 1/2 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
* 3 tsp. red wine vinegar
* 3 tsp. agave nectar


* 2 cups shredded romaine lettuce (about 1/8-inch-wide strips)
* 6-8 fresh basil leaves, shredded into 1/8-inch-wide strips
* 1 medium sized jicama, diced into small cubes
* 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
* 1 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
* 1 cup sweet white corn kernels (freshly cut off the cob if possible)
* 3 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped
* 2 large ripe fresh tomatoes, diced (save a handful for garnish)
* 1 ripe avocado, diced (garnish)
* 1/2 cup good quality bottled barbecue sauce (for garnish; I like Trader Joe's Kansas-style BBQ sauce)
* 1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions (for garnish)
* large handful of tortilla chips, lightly crushed (for garnish)
* lime wedges (for garnish)


* In a blender, whizz all the ingredients for the salad dressing together until smooth. Don't worry, it will be a little runny.
* In a large bowl, mix together all of the salad ingredients except for the garnish items (some tomatoes, bbq sauce, tortilla chips, and lime).
* Add the ranch dressing to the salad in small increments until it is dressed to your liking. I used less than 1/4 cup so there will be plenty of dressing leftover.
* Pile the salad onto a large plate or serving platter. Add the diced tomatoes around the edges of the salad, top with the avocado, scallions, tortilla chips and lime wedges. Drizzle some bbq sauce over the whole thing.


Monday, January 11, 2010

Winter Lettuces with Roasted Beets, Chèvre and Hazelnut Butter

I have a few friends who adamantly proclaim that they don’t make soup in the summertime or that they don’t bother with salads in the winter when there are plenty of stews and soups and root veggies. I think growing up in Hawaii caused me to miss this seasonal bandwagon.

I am currently reading Barbara Kingsolver's Animal Vegetable Miracle, which has been teaching me all sorts of new seasonal facts about the lives of various produce. For example, I had no idea asparagus had such a short frenzied season where the young shoots spring up sometimes six inches in just one day and that the stalks start losing flavor, vitamins and nutrients the second you whack off the little young shoots?! Who knew?!

I am really fortunate to live amidst the produce bounty of the bay area and have daily access to one of the world’s best farmers markets. I stopped in on a cold and windy Thursday and found a bounty of various winter greens from the chicory family. I walked over to the girl chanting “We've got beautiful bitter greens—there are no sweet lettuces in winter!” I purchased a mix of gorgeous seasonal greens, some golden beets and fingerling potatoes and a nice scoop of fresh chèvre from Cowgirl Creamery. I was in business.

I made a quick salad for dinner by tossing the greens in the best olive oil I own and a splash of muscat vinegar and then I topped the greens with the roasted beets and fingerling potatoes and flung about some of the chèvre. And a nice hunk of french bread. But the best compliment to the salad was a generous smattering of hazelnut butter along the rim of the plate so I could press my fork into it for each bite.

I first learned of the magical union between beets and hazelnuts from a Spruce salad consisting of paper-thin shaved beets, tangerine segments, chèvre and toasted hazelnuts.

A glass of nice crisp white wine and I'm all set.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Sprinkles Cupcakes. and more cupcakes.

If you look at my datebook for December 14, all that is written for that date is "get a Sprinkles cupcake". On that day, the famous Sprinkles truck was going to drive up from Los Angeles and park itself a block away from my work. I vowed to eat one, so I put it in writing as a little contract of sorts. You see, these things are important to me. Who cares about my 3 pm meeting or a 10 am conference call?!

And have one, I did.
You might know that I am obsessed with red velvet cupcakes and am continuously on a search for the most delicious one. The red velvet cupcake from Sprinkles was better than That Takes the Cake. The cake was so dense and moist and flavorful and the icing was delightful. The cupcakes were so popular that by noon, the truck had sold out of its stock and had to send another truck up from its Palo Alto location to replenish the cupcakes and feed the anxious line squiggling around Justin Herman Plaza. Thankfully, Sprinkles will be opening up a location in SF later this year. Thank you for that--I can't wait!

My office recently ordered some cupcakes from Kingdom Cake, which has an astounding menu that includes creative flavors like White Russian, Vanilla Chai Tea, and Eggnog. You can even get Pancakes n' Bacon or a savory Butternut Squash cupcake with Sage frosting and a Pineapple Custard filling. Squeal! Unfortunately, we only ordered Mimosa and Basil Lemon Blueberry (which were absolutely amazing), so I need to go back and try the red velvet. Maybe I will order the $9 King Size one. Mission Minis just opened up in SF and they are next on my list. And, sadly, I still haven't tried the famous red velvets from Auntie Em's of Los Angeles, which I admit I never knew about until seeing it on Throwdown with Bobby Flay despite the bakery being really close to my old college campus in Eagle Rock. If you aren't in LA, the red velvet guru, Terry Wahl, has graciously shared her coveted recipe with the red velvet freaks like me.

Of course, as much as I love red velvets, I would gladly trade even the world's best red velvet cupcake for a plain old fashioned vanilla cupcake with vanilla frosting from Magnolia's.Because nobody does cupcakes better than Magnolia's. Nobody. Good thing a Los Angeles location will be opening up shortly.

Cupcakes = Love.

Friday, January 8, 2010


Happy New Year, friends!

Where do I even begin?! My holidays were filled with travels in Vegas, San Diego and Temecula—a nice string of movement and fun-filled activities, delicious food and, of course, family. My 7-year old niece, Hana, had received a Wii for Hannukah and quickly became an avid champion who beat all other kids and adults alike. I did, however, play a remarkable game of bowling, in which I got six strikes in a row to finish off at 223 points. S-I-X. Apparently, it's called a "six-pack" (and three in a row is called a "wild turkey"). That never would have happened in real life bowling.

As for Vegas...I don’t believe that there is a good way to “recap” Vegas. I shocked even myself by staying up until 3 am or 4am every single night I was there. Aside from eating many meals at very odd hours, I also squeezed in some dinners at Hubert Keller’s Fleur de Lys and Burger Bar (there is now one in SF) and Michael Mina’s Stripsteak. And since no vegas trip is complete without an excessive buffet, we stopped in at the Paris buffet.

Of all the foodie delights, Stripsteak was the highlight. It helps that they give you a complimentary order of perfectly cooked french fries with a trio of homemade sauces. And then, they also bring you a personal cast iron pan of sizzling hot rosemary potato focaccia. Nothin like free food to make you feel special. The focaccia was the best bread item i have ever eaten. The potatoes are milled through a ricer to help create a light and fluffy texture to the bread, it was perfectly seasoned and the cast iron created a nice crispy crust for each bite. I understand it's a steakhouse, but they literally had no vegetarian entree item on the menu. None. I had to get "chef's selection," which was a pitiful round up of every side dish and garnish that is generally used for the meat dishes. A platter came out with some olives, a dollop of celery root puree, a little pile of brussel sprout hash, a few sprigs of arugula with a sliced tomato and then the "main" centerpiece was a huge scoop of truffled mashed potatoes. It was exceptionally disappointing. Luckily, I did also order a fantastic spinach souffle, over which the waitress poured some parmesan cream. Yum.

But mainly what I wanted to tell you about is the gambling. Naturally. It was my first trip to Vegas as an adult--I had been many times as a kid and teenager, but had not really remembered the layout or what it is like to gamble. When I was little, my dad would let me pick out numbers for an occasional game of Keno, but that's about it. While sitting very quietly trying to observe the black jack table and mind my own non-gambling business, someone gave me a $25 chip to play on account of my “good luck presence” that raked in several hundreds of dollars since I had first sat down. Somehow, I magically turned that $25 chip into over $700 in chips within two hours. Hellooooooo, Vegas.

We did get to see Vegas' newest shining beauty, the City Center anchored by the gorgeous Aria Hotel & Casino. The Aria's new casino is about to change the face of Vegas forever--it is as though the W hotel became a casino. Dark cherry wood, nice lighting, contemporary furniture and modern decor everywhere you turn. I loved it (and yes, I checked out the buffet and it looked great).

Sometimes when you have a nice long vacation, you come back only to realize you need a little vacation from your vacation. It took me a few days to unpack, put away holiday decorations and get my head in gear for the work ahead. But, I am ready.