Zahav Challah

This time last year, I was traveling around Israel with a ragtag group of twenty somethings cashing in on our “trip of a lifetime” intended to recruit the next generation of Zionist young adults. Instead, I left Israel and Birthright not particularly proud to be Jewish. This community and culture I’d passively associated with my whole life seemed to be the culprit for a whole lot of violence and hate. Visiting the Holocaust museum reminded me of the generations of persecution “my people” have suffered, and yet outside in Jerusalem lived a segregated, hateful world.

It was only through the food that I saw a pluralistic perspective at peace, where histories and borders mingled together in a way that actually made sense to me. Unlike people and land, flavors and ingredients can’t be silenced, sequestered or claimed by one side or the other – eating in Israel is a reprieve from the otherwise palpable unrest.

(side note, if this kind of thing interests you, check out In Search of Israeli Cuisine on Netflix. It’s a fascinating and mouthwatering documentary by the guy who wrote this challah recipe!)

I landed back in San Francisco with more questions than answers about my identity. 2018 ran its course only to create more uncertainty. As a woman, the Kavanaugh trials and #MeToo movement left me speechless as the world debated whether or not we should believe women. The hoards of children separated from their families at the border shocked me at what our government has become, the wildfires in California literally took my breath away, and the shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh that left eleven dead was yet another reminder that we need gun control—only this time, it was personal.

Of course, these weren’t all the major news stories that ravaged our country this year, but they’re the ones that reminded me that as a woman, an American and a Jew, those stories are my stories.

While Israel awakened a stronger political and moral awareness in me, it also seriously tickled the travel bug. Looking back, I feel remarkably privileged to have spent time in so many unique parts of the world. I found time to drink natural wine in Paris, eat waffles and frites in Brussels, surf and hike all over Oahu, dance in the streets in New Orleans, surf and taco tour in San Pancho and sip coffee while dodging rain in Vancouver.

Back home, Andrew and I signed a lease and built a home together. It feels so sweet to come back to our little space filled with flea market finds, plants, and an occasionally-tangled up Roomba. We’ve made a point of cooking with the goodies that arrive outside our front door at the Clement Street Farmers Market, a constant reminder of how lucky I am to live in such a beautiful state.

I baked this challah on New Year’s Day of this year out of Michael Solomonov’s cookbook Zahav, which is named for his eponymous Philadelphia restaurant. It felt like the perfect way to end 2018 and begin anew, braiding together the past year (travels, soul searching, home making) with the new year (resolutions include deeper Jewish learning, bread baking and definitely not eating fewer carbs).

All this aside, this challah is just really freaking good. The dough is made rich and moist with lots of egg yolks and the braided loaf lends itself well for pulling apart and smearing with butter. It’s also the perfect base for sandwiches, sops up sugary egg like a dream for French Toast and is the perfect companion to a bowl of warm soup.

Best of all, this bread comes together without overnight rising or well-fed starters or any of that complicated stuff. Start to finish – you’re only looking at a few hours. And with a stand mixer, it’s crazy easy to get the dough just right. Plus, unlike crusty bread which goes stale right quick, this challah stays fresh all week!

So, here’s to 2019, a year I hope to be filled with learning and carbs. Let’s tear it up.

Recipe is from Zahav, with some added instructions from me.

Ingredients (makes one large loaf)

  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 4 cups bread flour
  • 7 large egg yolks
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  1. Mix the yeast with 1 cup warm water in a small bowl and let stand for 5 minutes, until foamy.
  2. Combine the bread flour, egg yolks, sugar, salt and oil in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the yeast mixture and kneed on medium-high speed with the hook attachment until the dough comes together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 2 minutes. Cover with a towel and let rise until doubled in volume, 1 to 2 hours, depending on the warmth of the kitchen. (warmer = faster)
  3. Punch the dough down (literally, just punch it) and then divide it into 3 equal pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece into a rope about 18 inches long. Braid the ropes to form a loaf, place on a parchment or silicone mat lined baking sheet and cover with a towel. Let rise again until doubled in volume, about 30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F. Brush the loaf with the beaten egg and sprinkle with the sesame seeds. Bake until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes before tearing into it (or let cool completely if you have it in you). Keep at room temperature in a ziploc bag or wrapped in cellophane.

Herby Fried Falafel

bon appetit herb falafel

As it turns out, deep frying at home is no biggie! I’d always steered clear of recipes involving boiling oil for fear of splattered walls and gnarly burns. Instead, I’d partake in oil-logged dishes at restaurants, where the submersion happens out of sight. So when I came across Bon Appetit’s Fresh Herb Falafel video, in which Molly Baz declares that baked falafel is a sin and demonstrates how straightforward and simple fried falafel can be, I proceeded with cautious optimism.

deep fried falafel

There were no burns and no splatters, just perfectly golden, crispy spheres of chickpea, herbaceous goodness. The outside is crunchy and the inside is a vibrant, bright green thanks to the abundance of herbs. I’ve officially sworn off baked falafel and have stockpiled a gallon of canola oil to further enable my newfound appreciation for at-home deep frying. This recipe is cheap and fast, just like your neighborhood Mediterranean spot, only better.

homemade falafel recipe

(recipe adapted only very slightly from Bon Appetit’s Fresh Herb Falafel)

Ingredients (Serves 4)

  • 8 ounces dried chickpeas, soaked 8-12 and drained
  • ½ yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • ¾ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • ½ cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons chickpea flour
  • 2 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • Canola oil (a lot of it)
  1. Pulse chickpeas in a food processor until they have a similar consistency to chopped nuts and transfer to a large bowl.
  2. Pulse onion, jalapeno, garlic, cilantro and parsley until coarsely chopped. Add to chickpea bowl.
  3. Add chickpea flour, salt, baking powder, coriander and cumin and mix it all up. Form mixture into golf ball sized spheres.
  4. Pour oil into a heavy pot so it’s at least 3 inches deep. Stick a deep fry thermometer in there and heat oil over medium-high until the temperature reaches 330°-350°.
  5. Working in batches, add a few falafel balls to the oil at a time, turning occasionally, until deep brown and crisp, about five minutes. Transfer cooked falafel balls to a paper towel and let cool.
  6. Serve over salad or stuffed inside a pita with hummus and vegetables.

Brown Sugar Brined Pork Chop

My birthday was a couple Mondays ago, and instead of having a “Mondays suck” pity party, I had a pork chop party! After a weekend of celebrating in the park with friends and dining out at the v-hypeworthy Petit Crenn, I was ready for a low key night that still kept the birthday spirit alive.

fennel pork chop

Enter the Brown Sugar Brined Pork Chop! It’s brined overnight, then cooked in a low oven and finished with butter in a screaming hot cast iron skillet. Juicy on the inside with a crisp crust. Perfect for a special occasion. Just like a steak, only better.

The apartment was buzzing with energy (and smoke alarms(?)) as Andrew and I danced around the kitchen basting the chop with butter, setting the table, assembling the salad and pouring the wine.

cast iron t-bone pork chop

Once it all came together, we sat triumphantly at our wobbly flea market table and carved bites off our shared masterpiece, exchanging weekend memories and sipping a juicy wine from Martha Stoumen, the natural wine world’s current luminary. The meal ended with near-plate licking and some shameless fat nibbling experiments. It was an intimate, cozy meal – exactly what I was looking for to cap the birthday festivities.

serious eats pork chop

I’d always thought of pork chops as a corrugated cardboard meatstuff until I moved to San Francisco and discovered Nopa, the OG Divisadero Corridor fine dining destination. If it’s not for an impulsive late night burger run, I’m ordering their famed pork chop. The towering cut is served medium rare with an expert sear that will have you swearing off steakhouse beef. Nopa’s magic is in its versatility, consistently providing a menu and space that’s just as suitable for a reservation with parents as a raucous bar drop in with friends. This birthday, I was after Nopa-level vibes at home.

To help me out, I turned to the ever-reliable and precise Kenji Lopez Alt, author of The Food Lab, an encyclopedia of all things cooking. In it, he explores the chemistry of cooking, grounding his recommendations for the perfect anything in science—(I recently got to see him speak about his very personal journey of opening his restaurant, Wursthall, at the Real Food Real Stories Story Slam, which I think is just the most magical event series ever. This Freakonomics podcast features Kenji and covers similar material.) The recipe below is based very closely off of his, with a couple Pantry Raid adjustments for #flare.

But before we dive in, let’s cover some fundamentals of cooking the perfect birthday-worthy pork chop.

  1. The thicker the better. Buy the thickest friggin’ chop you can find. Your local butcher should be able to cut a special one for you if you call ahead. This ensures you’ll end up with a juicy (not dry) piece of meat.
  2. Bone in chops only! The bone adds a ton of flavor and helps the meat stay moist. You can use a porterhouse/center-cut chop (with the T-bone running through the center) or a rib chop (with a long bone running along one edge). I liked porterhouse because there’s more meat-bone contact, guaranteeing plenty of super juicy bites.
  3. Brine that baby! Pork tends to expel lots of moisture during the cooking process, but brining it makes sure this doesn’t happen. This recipe calls for a stupid simple dry brine (salt n’ sugar), while other recipes call for wet brines.
  4. Fat is phat. When you sear this bad boy on a piping hot cast iron skillet, some of the fat will melt away and help caramelize the chop; whatever is still attached to the chop will then crisp up on the outside and get buttery (like, spreadable buttery) in the middle. These are THE most decadent bites.

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 1 super thick bone-in porterhouse or loin pork chop
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • Seeds of ½ a pomegranate
  • 2 bulbs fennel, thinly sliced
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  1. Pat chop dry with a paper towel. Combine salt and sugar in a small bowl. Rub the mixture all over the pork chop, ensuring the brine has covered the entire chop. Place the chop on a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet. Place in the fridge 8-24 hours.
  2. Preheat the oven to 250°F. Place the baking sheet with the wire rack and pork chop on it in the oven. Cook until a meat thermometer registers 100-110°F, about 30 minutes.
  3. Heat oil in a cast iron skillet over high heat until nearly smoking (apartment dwellers, open a window!). Place chop in skillet and cook, turning occasionally for about 1 ½ minutes. Add the butter, shallots, most of the pomegranate seeds and fennel and continue cooking, basting the chop with the melted butter and turning occasionally. Do this until the chop has formed a dark golden crust, about 2 minutes. Pick up the chop with tongs and sear the fat caps. Transfer chops to a clean rack and let rest for 3-5 minutes.
  4. While the chop rests, continue to cook to fennel, shallot and pomegranate until the fennel is tender and caramelized.
  5. Serve the chop whole and garnish with fresh pomegranate seeds. Serve with caramelized fennel.

Vancouver: Cozy, Outdoorsy, Delicious

vancouver harbor

Vancouver needs #nofilter. Beneath dense and leafy trees, you’ll find charming neighborhoods filled with friendly locals walking their damp Doodles, curated shops offering trendy everything and cozy cafes serving locally roasted coffee.

gastown clock farmer's apprenticebeaucoup bakery vancouver university of british columbia

The town seems built to support a lifestyle hallmarked by the semi-permanence of clouds and drizzle, fueling all your cozy endeavors, whether they be over a coffee and donut at 49th Parallel, cooped up with a board game at Storm Crow Tavern, flipping through used records whilst sipping sour beer at Neptoon Records or at home with a pre-roll from one of the many dispensaries.

neptune records lost sound tapes the shameful tiki

But when the clouds part, the city transforms into and outdoorsy dreamland, replete with green space, harbors and pathways, all ready to accommodate the many bikers, runners, kayakers, et all, who traipse through the city in their Lululemons en route to their next adventure.

nora lang

Tourists can tap into the fun and ride rented bikes around the Seawall at Stanley Park, a paved four mile path that loops around the massive, water-surrounded park.

stanley park vancouverstanley park sculpture

Over by the University of British Columbia, Wreck Beach is clothing optional and abuts a woodsy forested hiking trail that eventually leads to the school’s botanical garden, where you can climb a wobbly suspension bridge through the treetops.

wreck beach vancouver greenheart tree walk vancouver ubc botanical garden food 

The Gastown, Kitslano and Mount Pleasant neighborhoods are populated by an impossible number of upscale, Millennial-forward shops, showcasing local neighborhood-scented candles, oversized and blingy earrings, sarcastic handmade greeting cards and Jungalow plants, among other pricey trinkets. The streets are nearly ubiquitous in their eery cleanliness, but lined by an innumerable variety of maple trees, making wandering these hoods pleasant in rain or shine.

the farmers apprentice vancouver

Nearly surrounded by water, it’s no surprise that fish finds its way onto every menu, from lightly battered cod with chips on Granville Island to a delicately prepared filet at the latest-to-open restaurant to briny oysters on the half shell – it’s tough to stay away. Aside from the hyper local fare featuring the best and brightest produce British Columbia has to offer (there’s a lot!), you’ll find an abundance of authentic Asian food, whether you fancy dim sum, noodles or BBQ, and eateries range from hole-in-the-wall affordable to gold-plated opulence.

congee noodle delight vancouver

Wash it all down with one of Vancouver’s many microbrews (like Collective Arts Brewing and Category 12) or a natural wine made not too far away (track down Little Farm and A Sunday in August).

a sunday in august wine

With so much to see, taste and do, cross your fingers for (but don’t count on) good weather. Bring a raincoat and tennis shoes – you’ll find fun in any event. If you’re headed to Vancouver, check out my map below and on the City Guides page, featuring my favorite stops discovered over a long weekend trip!

kitslano vancouver

Israeli Cuisine: Made of History, Making History

I recently returned from two weeks in Israel. At first, with Birthright, I was shepherded around the country, given an admittedly one-sided perspective of Israel’s history and legitimacy. But despite their best efforts to enlist me in a new generation of unquestioning Zionism, I was hungry for more perspectives. In this pursuit, I listened with all my senses, not the least of which was taste.


Unlike Birthright, the food of Israel tells a more holistic story. One of pride, fear, legacy and perseverance from all sides—not just the Jewish one.


It paints a picture of immigration and exile, from this place and to this place as well as to this place and from it.


After Birthright ended, I next spent a reflective and exploratory few days alone in Tel Aviv, where I had the space to make meaning of my experience with Israel’s most secular city as my backdrop.


To help me along that journey, I did what I do best. I ate.


To eat in Israel is to experience its history, intensity and magic first hand. The recency of Israel’s inception as a nation, the ebb and flow of its borders, the diaspora itself, and a culture of innovation and perseverance are all major players in making the food there so fascinating.

falafel eli levinsky market

Firstly, this is a new and changing cuisine. As Israel is relatively new, so is its food. As its inhabitants can hail from near and far, flavors and influences are global in nature. Israeli food is different from what we think of as “Jewish food’—the brisket, kugels and latkes we were raised on—even though it certainly does take inspiration from Eastern Europe (thanks to the pre and post Holocaust Jews who made Aaliyah— the religious move back to Israel). Nor is Israeli food exclusively the falafel, hummus and shawarma you normally associate with the Middle East—like the unending disagreement about rightful borders, many of Israel’s neighbors claim these recipes as their own, brought to Israel by immigrants but certainly not belonging to it.

druze cooking druze lamb kebab

And as will become abundantly clear if you visit Tel Aviv, which has the most startups outside of Silicon Valley, Israel is a place of innovation. Young chefs like Eyal Shani and Michael Solomonov are constantly reinventing and rapidly popularizing the cuisine, winning hearts and stomachs across the globe.

miznon tel aviv

Today, pomegranate, date, and orange trees proliferate throughout the country, growing roots into a once swampy, barren desert land transformed by the first Zionist settlers in the early 1900s. The improbability of this evolution adds a sense of wonder to Israel’s food.

machane yehuda the salad trail

Israeli cuisine is as mysterious as it is addictive – a literal melting pot of societies, opinions and ingredients that by all accounts should not exist where it does. And yet, it does. Biting into a succulent Sabich sandwich, a hearty Boureksa, or a messy Shawarma, you taste a hopeful future for Israel. One in which people exist the way their food does – where cultures, stories and history communicate progressively and can challenge one another for better, not for worse.


Below are some of my favorite foods I encountered in Israel. Click here, and you’ll find a map of Tel Aviv, which I have filled with dropped pins of my favorite places (not only for food), which are accompanied by a few words on what makes them so special to me. I hope that if you ever have the chance to visit, you’ll consider what’s below a bucket list on your own journey in understanding the Israeli experience.

Street Food

Sabich – A fluffy pita stuffed with slices of juicy, fried eggplant and hard boiled eggs. At Sabich in Tel Aviv (see map), the eponymous pita is artfully composed with layers of Israeli salads, whipped feta, eggplant and egg. While it may sound like a bizarre combo, there’s truthfully nothing more satisfying.

sabich tel aviv

Kebab – Ground, spiced meat (usually lamb) is grilled over hot coals and stuffed into a pita otherwise slathered with hummus et al. It’s a juicy, delightful mess.

Shawarma – Slabs of meat (usually chicken) are layered atop a giant, rotating skewer which rotates seductively around a blazing hot fire. The meat glistens in the light as beads of moisture drip down, often onto lucky potatoes below. Ordered in a pita (smaller) or laffa (larger), the meat is shaved off and into its fluffy glutinous repository where it is met with hummus, cabbage salad, spicy condiments, and if you’re fortunate – those potatoes.

jerusalem shawarma


Bourekas – A triangular puff pastry filled with cheese and topped with sesame seeds. The perfect morning pastry or afternoon snack.

Khachapuri – A Georgian bread boat that’s baked and filled with soft cheese. It’s indulgent in the most dairy-forward way I know.

Rugelach – A tasty cookie that looks like a tiny croissant. Dough is rolled up with chocolate (or sometimes other flavorings) and baked. The rugelach from Marzipan at Machne Yehuda Market has unfortunately ruined all other competitors for me!


Hummus – Perhaps it’s something in the air, or the fact that everyone makes theirs fresh, but the hummus in Israel is like no other. Silky, fluffy and light – it seems to be eaten morning and night. Hummusarias (literally exactly what they sound like) are found everywhere, where friends gather to catch up the way us SF folk do over five dollar cappuccinos.

Israeli Salad – A controversial name, as neighboring nations will fight to claim its origin story as their own. Chopped cucumber and tomato are dressed lightly with lemon and olive oil. It’s refreshing and simple and a favorite staple in Israeli breakfasts!

Yemenite Shug/Zhug – Basically the best thing that ever happened to me. This Yemenite condiment is chimichurri living its best life. It’s cilantro, parsley, coriander, cumin and a bunch of other spices and herbs that are pulverized together to create a bright, spicy sauce that’s ideal on top of rice, eggs, bread, or just by the spoonful. I’m obsessed.

Labneh w/ Za’atar – Labneh is essentially just Greek yogurt, but a little thicker and a little cheesier in flavor. At many of the kibbutzim where we stayed, it was served with breakfast, drizzled with grassy olive oil and sprinkled with za’atar (a spice blend that includes sesame seeds, sumac, oregano, etc.). Spread on some toast or eaten with savory granola, it’s pretty dreamy.

labneh za'atar

Cottage Cheese – Light, fluffy and clumpy. Call me crazy, but the cottage cheese in Israel is better than anywhere else.

Jachnun – This is a rolled Israeli flatbread that is traditionally served on Shabbat, when cooking is forbidden. It’s made by rolling the dough out, brushing with clarified butter, rolling it up into a long cylinder, and baking at a very low temperature Friday night through Saturday morning. The result is a Shabbat-approved, flaky, pull-apart pastry which is delicious with a little Zhug and labneh.

Chatzilim – This is a cold eggplant salad which tastes like a fusion of caponata and Chinese eggplant in garlic sauce. Could the best of both worlds truly exist in one bite? Seems like it!


Bamba – Imagine a peanut butter flavored cheeto puff. That’s Bamba. Irresistibly crunchy at first, they quickly transform into creamy, peanut buttery goodness in your mouth. If you have an addictive personality, snack with caution.

bamba israel

Falafel Doritos – It’s a thing. That is all.

Pop Rocks Chocolate – Look for the red chocolate bars with fireworks on them. This milk chocolate is infused with pop rocks for a truly bizarre snacking experience.


Halvah – A dense, fudge-like confection made from sesame paste and sugar. It’s nutty, aromatic, a little crunchy and a little chewy. Look for it in the markets, where giant blocks are embedded with the likes of pistachios, candied fruit, Oreos…you name it.

halvah levinsky markety tel aviv

Mahalabia – A gelatinous pudding made from whole milk and sweetened with rose water. It’s strangely refreshing and like nothing I’ve tried before.

Main Dishes

Azura – Half a fried eggplant stuffed with braised, spiced ground lamb and pine nuts. It’s palpably soul warming and is the kind of bite you think about for the rest of your life. We indulged at Azura, located in Jerusalem’s bustling food market, Mahane Yehuda.

Kubbe – An Iraqi-Jewish recipe, this comforting dumpling has perogies beat. The outside is made of bulgar and the inside is stuffed with spiced beef. Boiled and served in a bright pink beet broth, it’s an Instagram-worthy dish if I ever saw one.

azura jerusalem

Shakshuka – Eggs baked in a cumin-spiked tomato sauce and topped with parsley. Enjoy with a fluffy pita and you’re in business!

Arayes – Holy moly. These are lamb-stuffed pitas which are thrown on the grill. The juiciness of the lamb is trapped inside the pita, which becomes remarkably crispy crunchy thanks to the fat that seasons it from the inside out. I had my taste at M25 (see map), where my Arayes were smacked down on my table in a paper bag. It was arguably one of the top three bites of the trip.

arayes m25 carmel market tel aviv


Turkish Coffee – Not for everyone, but the primary method in which Israelis drink their coffee. Mix the ground beans into hot water, let them settle and drink up. The coffee is rich and dark. Beware of the “mud” at the bottom!

Gold Star – Cheap beer with good flavor. Hard to miss it!

Pomegranate and Jaffa Orange Juice – Fruit, specifically pomegranate and oranges, propagate in Israel. The Jaffa orange put Israel on the agricultural map after Jews first began to settle there after WWI and is sweet and juicy like you wouldn’t believe. Stands in markets and on roadsides will sell fresh squeezed juice by the glass, a delicacy in the US, but a cheap thrill worth daily indulgence in Israel.

jaffa oranges

Mango, Cucumber & Crunchies Salad

summer salad recipe

Summer makes improvisational cooking a no-brainer. The abundance of aromatic fruit, crunchy veg and verdant herbs, for me, means heading to the farmers’ market with no plans at all. While June’s arrival in San Francisco has offered a dearth of sunshine, the markets allude to sunnier pastures, signaling our tastebuds’ sprint into summer vacation.

These days, heading to the farmers market feels like a reunion with long lost friends – piles of peaches remind me of early evening crisps, bushels of bright herbs trigger sultry solstice memories, and stemy dahlia buds cue nostalgia for the summer I fell in love with San Francisco. Reveling in these memories tends to incite a desire to re-create them, but the overstimulation of colors, smells and noises usually instead lands me with a smattering of produce intended for no recipe in particular. Back at home, and after some lite mental shaming for the lack of forethought, I’ll remember that summer is on my side. In the haze of farmers’ market euphoria, I’ll have undoubtedly collected enough components to create something tasty. Because summer produce needs little work to make it palatable, there’s a good chance a random sample of seasonal goods can be combined to create a sum somehow greater than its parts.

mango salad recipe

This week, I found myself with a fridge full of Crunchy Asian Salad stragglers, a drawer of nostalgic, though directionless lemon cukes and a bowl of impulse buy mangos that weren’t getting any younger. What resulted was another salad for the books (shoutout best new years resolution ever). As I assessed the options, I sought guidance from past salad architecture wins. The perennial mantra: build a salad that offers a variety of textures and flavors in each bite, landed me with this beaut.

crunchy mango cucumber salad

On the texture side of things, juicy, slippery mango and lip-smacking cucumbers are balanced by crispy fried shallots and crunchy chopped peanuts. Over in flavor town, the balance of fresh flavors (herbaceous, sweet, spicy) are only heightened by the presence of complex, earthy and nutty “dry” goods. The result is a salad that kept me surprised bite after bite, not only by its complexities, but by its outspoken side-dish chutzpah. It’s the perfect partner-in-crime for a simple grill night (prep ahead and toss the crunchies on at the end) or as a hit of freshness in a Southeast Asian or Indian-style stew. While I’ll certainly keep this recipe in my back pocket as summer rolls on, I’m crossing fingers that this is only beginning of the season’s creative developments.

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 2 ripe mangos
  • 3 small fist size lemon cucumbers (substitute with 1 English cucumber or a couple Persian cucumbers)
  • 2 scallions
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro
  • A few mint leaves
  • ¼ fresh jalapeno
  • 1-2 large shallots
  • 5 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 handful roasted, unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 handful roasted, lightly salted peanuts, chopped
  • 1 lime
  • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
  1. Slice the mangos along either side of the pit. Cut the halves into quarters and carefully cut the skin away. Slice the quarters into thin strips. Add to a serving bowl.
  2. Use a peeler to remove the skin from the cucumbers. Slice into thin wedges and add to the bowl with the mangos.
  3. Chop the cilantro, slice the scallions on the bias and chop the jalapeno (tasting first for spiciness). Add to the bowl.
  4. Juice the lime into the bowl and add the rice vinegar and 1 tablespoon of oil. Toss to combine all ingredients.
  5. Slice the shallots thinly against the poles. Heat 4 tablespoons canola oil in a skillet until very hot (test by dropping one shallot slice in – when it sizzles immediately, it’s ready). Scatter the shallots in the pan, avoiding crowding. Stir/flip occasionally until golden and crispy. Remove and place on a paper towel until cool.
  6. Top the salad with crispy shallots, coconut flakes and chopped peanuts. Give it a final toss to combine and serve immediately. Alternatively, combine the crunchy toppings and set aside until you’re ready to serve.

Kale & Mint Salad with Spicy Peanut Dressing

For how much I delight in cooking complex, elaborate and time insensitive recipes, it’s remarkable how lazy I can be. And for how lazy I can be, it’s remarkable that I rarely ever order take-out. This obstinacy means I wind up with a cast iron skillet full of Brussels sprouts – aka “the usual” on any night I don’t have planned out. And while I do love me some crispy brassicas, this whole salad for dinner resolution thing isn’t going to resolve itself!

In a recent bout of 6PM hanger, I scrolled through Food52 in search of a salad recipe that required very little effort/ingredients but could also be a stand alone dinner. I know – tall order. Luckily, this recipe saved the night! A quick trip to the store and a deep dive into my Asian pantry for dressing ingredients, and dinner was done.

kale salad spicy peanut dressing

This recipe is quick and painless. The spicy peanut dressing is the star of the show – it’s thick and creamy thanks to the peanut butter with just enough acid from the rice vinegar to stand up to that “green” kale flavor. The kale, hearty as it ever was, is the perfect canvas for this thick dressing, which creeps into each leaf’s nooks and crannies. The mint brings a nice fresh surprise to every few bites without being overpowering. And the walnuts are the perfect crunchy companions to the leafy greens. It’s a healthy, fulfilling, 10-minute meal that with a well-stocked pantry, shouldn’t cost you more than $4! Hanger, begone!

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 1 bunch lacinato kale, stems removed and leaves cut into thin ribbons
  • 1 cup fresh mint leaves, chiffonade
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted natural peanut butter
  • 3 tablespoons warm water
  • 3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses (I used tamarind paste)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried chili flakes
  1. Place peanut butter, water, rice wine vinegar, pomegranate molasses, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, sesame oil and dried chili flakes in a food processor. Blend until fully combined. Taste, and add more salt (soy sauce), acid (rice wine vinegar), heat (ginger, garlic or chili flakes) or creaminess (peanut butter or sesame oil) to taste.
  2. Toss kale ribbons, mint and walnuts in a serving bowl. Add half the dressing and toss to combine. Use clean hands to get the greens fully covered. Give them a squeeze to help break the kale down and make it less tough. Add more dressing as needed. Enjoy immediately, or save up to two days in the fridge.

Late Winter Fattoush

late winter fattoush

It’s been a rough winter here in San Francisco. Go ahead, tell me to “check my privilege,” but there’s no convincing me that this never-ending torrential downpour, which has permanently drenched me to the core, doesn’t suck big time. Nevertheless, I’ve persisted – dripping and shivering – each week, to the farmers market, where I’ve been met with slim pickings of kale and Brussels sprouts week after week.

Now let it be known that I am brassicas’ number one cheerleader. But after a while, a girl starts to miss that crunch of fresh, waterlogged produce that bursts with flavor and tastes best raw. I’ll also be the first to admit that after an entire summer of heirloom tomatoes, avocado and snap peas, I’m ready for something with a little more heft.

This is all to say that right now, we’re in that sweet spot between winter and spring when produce variety is peaking. Citrus is sweet and juicy for a few more weeks, lettuces still reign, root vegetables are hanging out but not stealing the show, and succulent summery vegetables like cucumbers are peaking their way into things. For just a couple weeks, we get the best of both worlds. This salad tastes best right now, but can be twisted and turned throughout the seasons.

fattoush salad recipe

Fattoush is a Middle Eastern salad traditionally made with pita, cucumber and tomato. It’s sort of like the Mediterranean version of Panzanella – lots of toasty bread and a few fresh vegetables soaking together in savory harmony. This fattoush takes a different route – the za’atar pita chips take a backseat to crunchy and sweet produce like romaine hearts and cara cara oranges.

About those oranges – they’re the sweetest, most preciously pink, juicy citrus spheres on the planet, and they’re only here for a quick stint. Get them while you can and eat them with everything (salads, parfaits, cocktails…).

cara cara orange mint

As I’ve learned since resolving to “eat more salad” in 2017, a good salad has lots of layers of texture and flavor. First and foremost – crunch factor is at an all time high here since the bowl is filled with snappy vegetables and crispy pita chips. We’ve also got complex flavors going on: sweet (cara cara), spicy (radish), aromatic (fennel, mint), funk (za’atar) and tang (sumac). Texture and taste play together to pique the senses with a little bit of everything.

spring salad recipe

This is a great main dish, especially if you toss in some quinoa or grilled chicken, but I served it alongside shakshouka (an Israeli egg and tomato dish) with mint iced tea on an sunny Sunday afternoon. As for that dreary San Francisco winter, things seem to be shaping up. Don’t worry, I’ll be “checking my privilege” all the way to the farmers market!

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 4 pieces fresh pita
  • Olive oil
  • Za’atar
  • Kosher salt
  • ½ red onion
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 head romaine lettuce
  • 1 small fennel bulb, plus some fronds
  • 2 Persian cucumbers
  • Handful small radishes
  • 1 cara cara orange
  • 1 tablespoon sumac
  • Flakey sea salt
  1. Cut the red onion in half and slice thinly, following the lines on the outside and cutting inward toward the center.
  2. Place onion in a small bowl with lemon juice. Toss to coat and set aside.
  3. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
  4. Cut the pita into 1-inch long rectangles. Place on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, za’atar and salt. Toss to coat pita and add more oil if it still looks dry. Bake until crispy, but not rock solid – about 15 minutes.
  5. Chop the romaine into 1-inch pieces, discarding any parts that are particularly leafy.
  6. Thinly slice the fennel, cutting pole to pole.
  7. Cut the radishes and cucumbers into 1/4 inch half moons.
  8. Using a sharp knife, cut the skins and pith off of the orange. Try to not sacrifice too much of the meat, but cut enough of the skin off that the remaining outside is shiny and pith-free. Turn the orange on its side and slice it into ½ inch rounds. Cut those rounds into quarters.
  9. Add all ingredients, plus a few fennel fronds, fresh mint, olive oil and sumac to a serving bowl. Toss to combine, adding more lemon, sumac and salt as needed.

Chickpea Socca with Greens & Garlic

socca recipe

Socca is an eggy, savory chickpea pancake from Southern France. In many ways, it’s the southern version of a crepe, and in many ways, it’s way way better.

I discovered socca in Nice, on a cloudy day at the Flower Market during my study aboard spring break. I was wandering aimlessly, awe struck by the colors, the language and the abundance of fresh produce, when I noticed a frenzied crowed. They were hovered around a massive cast-iron skillet, from which a voluptuous woman was doling out slices of a golden pancake, the likes of which were no smaller than four feet in diameter.

I didn’t know what it was yet, but managed to muster up enough coins to afford a slice. She passed over a steamy, shiny with oil, slightly fluffy piece of socca and I retreated to revel in what would be one of the most memorable meals of my time in Europe. (No, I didn’t forget about you Roman Carbonara!)

The socca was rich, nourishing, subtly savory and clearly a labor of love and routine. I dream about it often, as it marked the true beginning of my locavore-style travel tendencies. That meal was a full sensory experience. The sounds of the sizzling pancake and the muffled French conversations, the sharp early Spring chill in the air and the smell of toasted oil and nutty chickpeas radiating from the skillet were all seared into my memory at first bite. At a time in my life that was moving so so fast, when I was incredibly naïve and surrounded by unfamiliarity, it’s these hyper-sensory moments in time that remind me where I’ve been and inspire me to keep exploring.

I’ve since learned that socca is almost too easy (and cheap!) to make. Re-hydrate some chickpea flour with water, add spices and egg and cook it mega-pancake style in a well-oiled cast iron skillet. Top with sautéed vegetables and eat for breakfast, lunch or dinner!

This recipe calls for Indian spices, because I like how the bold aromatic flavors partner with the savory and nutty chickpea flavor. Truth is, the flour isn’t that intrusive, so you can and should play around with what you mix in.

squirl socca recipe

Sqirl, for example, throws vegetables into the batter instead of on top. I’d also love to try out fresh herbs like basil and thyme or dried herbs de provence. You can make one big pancake – niçoise-style, or try smaller fritters for a more traditional pancake serving style. There are really, seriously, no rules here. Go with what sounds good today and you’ll be golden as a socca in the sunshine!

Ingredients (makes 1 big pancake or 4 small ones)

  • ¼ cup chickpea flour
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 eggs
  • Cumin seeds, turmeric, cumin powder, paprika, salt
  • Olive oil
  • Lacinato kale, de-stemmed and cut into ribbons (or fresh spinach)
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  1. Whisk chickpea flour and water until incorporated. Let rest for 15 minutes. Meanwhile…
  2. Heat some oil in a cast iron or non-stick skillet. Sautee greens and garlic with a little salt for about 5 minutes. Turn heat up higher for crispier kale! Remove vegetables and set aside.
  3. Add eggs and spices to rehydrated chickpea flour and beat until texture in uniform.
  4. Add a nice coating of oil to the skillet and heat until shimmering. For a large pancake, pour batter in to coat entire skillet. For smaller pancakes, give enough space between them so they can spread out. Cook over medium high heat for 3 minutes, checking that the bottom is nice and golden before flipping. Cook on the other side until pancake feels firm and batter is cooked through.
  5. Remove from pan, top with vegetables, and enjoy!




Crunchy Asian Salad

crunchy asian salad

My half-hearted new year’s resolution to “eat more salad” was admittedly in direct response to the weeks of gluttony that preceded it, but was also a personal challenge to explore beyond the bounds of my weeknight dinner mainstays (I’m lookin’ at you, pesto pasta).

It began just as soon as the holiday remorse set in, on my cross-country red-eye that topped off a rather indulgent Manhattan day. We’re talking Russ & Daughters, Eataly and $1 pizza slices over the course of eight hours. Yeah, I’m impressed with me too.

As I sat on the plane, loopily searching for inspo on my favorite food blogs, I began to compile a Pinterest board: Salad For Dinner. On it, you’ll find hearty, seasonal, droothworthy photos that make (mostly) raw stuff look pretty damn good.

I’ve been working my way through the recipes, picking out my favorite elements of a few and throwing them together for dinner and next-day lunches. The rules are simple:

  1. The fewer the leaves the better. For a girl whose former salad expertise topped out at Kale Caesar, this one is tough.
  2. It’s gotta have protein. What are we, bunnies?! This is dinner we’re talking about! Beans, nuts or quinoa do the trick for vegetarians, but juicy shredded chicken adds an unparalleled texture to an otherwise crunchy pile of goodness.
  3. Cut wisely! An interesting salad means lots of fresh ingredients so what you see is what you get. Pay extra special attention to the way you cut everything for maximum prettiness.
  4. Dress to impress. Pick a theme, and run with it. Here, I was going for sweet and nutty. Creamy and herbaceous is another good one. I like to make dressings that are light in color, so the ingredients don’t all turn brown.

chinese chicken salad recipe

The rest is up to you! But, if you’re like me, you are a creature of habit, and by habit I mean comfort. Eating salad for dinner is already a little….progressive, so I’m totally on board with finding a go-to and sticking to it.

asian sesame slaw recipe

This Crunchy Asian Salad is just about perfect in every way a salad can be perfect. It’s hearty (you won’t be hungry again in an hour), it’s healthy (cabbage! green stuff! chicken breast! oh my!) and it’s even better the next day (hellooooo lunch). Plus, these ingredients are pretty much available year round and are the perfect vehicle for practicing your knife skills.

Shout out to rule #1 – this salad is leaf-free, making it more of a slaw without the “side dish” reputation. Finely shredded cabbage is crinkly, sweet and crunchy but is totally ready to share the stage with scallions, celery and jalapeño. The juicy shredded chicken adds a different texture, giving the salad some heft that makes it feel dinner-y. The dressing is sweet and nutty, but not too intrusive. It just provides a slick coating for the salad and gives it a discernibly Asian flavor. Salty peanuts and toasted sesame seeds finish it off, adding earthy, salty and a different kind of crunch.

cabbage slaw asian

The result: a full meal that’s easy, healthy, fridge-friendly and ready to make you forget that you ever dismissed salad as a main dish.

Ingredients (serves 3-4)


  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons vinegar
  • ½ inch ginger, skinned and finely grated
  • 1 tablespoon Sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ¼ lime


  • 1 ½ pound boneless, skinless chicken breast (or cooked chewy grain!)
  • Canola oil
  • Kosher salt & pepper
  • ½ head green cabbage
  • ¼ head purple cabbage
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 3 scallions
  • ½ large jalapeno
  • 10-ish mint leaves
  • Handful salted, roasted peanuts
  • Toasted sesame seeds



  1. Combine ingredients in a small, sealable container and shake it up!

Salad & Assembly

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Prepare a small baking dish by lining with tinfoil with excess on either end.
  2. Heat some canola oil in a cast iron skillet until shimmering hot. While it’s heating up, season chicken breast with salt and pepper. Sear chicken breast for 2-ish minutes on each side, until a nice brown crust has formed on each side. Transfer to baking dish and wrap the tinfoil around the chicken to seal in moisture. Bake at 375 degrees until a meat thermometer reads 165 degrees, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven, unwrap, and let cool.
  3. Cut the half green cabbage into two quarters. Slice the cabbage very very thinly, with the base of the cabbage facing you. Discard any overly large, chunky pieces. Repeat with purple cabbage.
  4. Slice both the celery and the scallions very thinly, on the bias. You’re trying to make the slices as long and thin as possible.
  5. Remove jalapeno seeds, and chop into small pieces. Taste it first to gague spiciness!
  6. Chop the mint.
  7. Once the chicken has cooled enough to handle, pull it apart with your fingers to create shreds.
  8. Add vegetables, herbs, chicken and peanuts to a serving bowl. Give the mixture a toss to combine before adding dressing. Add half the dressing and toss to coat. Taste it! If it needs more, you know what to do.
  9. Serve immediately or store in the fridge for a less crunchy, but even more juicy version that will last up to two days.
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