All posts by sienna

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.

Silky Garlic Soup with Poached Eggs & Breadcrumbs


garlic soup recipe

Soup is binary. At its best, it’s the ultimate comfort fare – a mystifying combination of flavors and textures that spoon-feeds its eater pure unadulterated warmth and nourishment. At its worst, it’s a sloppy sludge of lopsided flavors and offensive texture destined for the compost bin.

Adding lots of random things to a pot and heating them up is a risky move. Sure, some combos are as old as time (we’re looking at you, butternut squash and green apple), but the more complex creative stuff takes a real kitchen maverick to not screw up. You’ve gotta have an intimate understanding of flavor combinations and an acute textural grasp to master the art of soup making, and let me tell you, I am no virtuoso. Yeah – we can all follow a recipe, but give me a farmers’ market and a pot to work with and you’d better find an excuse to cancel our dinner plans.

Perhaps it’s the past few unfortunate batches of botched broth that’re tearing into my ego, but I’ve been feeling pretty down and out about this whole soup thing. Then, I found this recipe and all hope was restored.

poached egg soup garlic

With relatively few ingredients and a short to medium cook time, it’s nearly impossible to fuse flavors that aren’t meant to be. And because it’s blended, you can always add more broth as a Hail Mary if your soup looks more like concrete than dinner.

So, how about all the garlic?? Yes, this recipe uses A LOT of that stuff. Slow sautéing all those cloves catches garlic’s sweet spot – right between its raw spicy moment and its toasted nutty one. Sautéing them until they’re super tender but not browned reveals their velvety, confit-like texture and mellow aromatic sweetness that sets the tone for the rest of the dish. The result is a savory, silky smooth soup that’s completed with a runny poached egg and some crispy breadcrumbs.

bon appetit garlic soup

Unlike other soups, I find this one is best eaten right after blending. Add a little extra broth if/when you heat up the leftovers to avoid sloppy (not silky) seconds.

*Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit

Ingredients (serves 2)


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ baguette
  • Kosher salt


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 ½ heads garlic – cloves, peeled
  • ½ large leek, halved lengthwise, very thinly sliced (white and light green parts only, dark green parts discarded)
  • ½ tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 4 small-medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into small pieces
  • 2 cups vegetable broth (or Better Than Bouillon and water)
  • 1 tablespoon sour cream
  • Kosher salt


  • 2 eggs
  • 1 drop distilled white vinegar


  • Fresh flat leaf parsley
  • Flaky sea salt
  • Black pepper


  1. Tear the baguette into pieces and place in a food processer. Pulse until bread has become chunky (not dusty) crumbs.
  2. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet. Add the breadcrumbs and salt to taste and toast, stirring often, until golden brown. Remove from skillet and set aside.

*Make ahead! These last one week.

* Variation: Use ½ regular olive oil and ½ roasted garlic infused olive oil


  1. Heat olive oil and butter in a small-medium pot over low-medium heat. Add garlic, leeks and thyme and stir often until the garlic is super soft. If the garlic starts to brown, turn the heat down.
  2. Add the potatoes and broth and bring pot to a simmer. Cook until potatoes are very tender, about 20-25 minutes. Add the sour cream.
  3. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until the texture is uniform. Add salt to taste and some extra broth if the soup is too think for your liking. Cover and set aside.


  1. Fill a skillet with water and a drop of white vinegar and bring to an almost-simmer.
  2. Crack each egg into a separate ramekin or small bowl.
  3. Gently slip each egg into the water with enough room between each one. Use a rubber spatula to coerce the dancing wisps into the center of the egg. Once the yolks have set (about two minutes), lift each egg out with a slotted spoon and gently transfer to a paper towel.


  1. Ladle some soup into a bowl. Top with one poached egg, a sprinkle of breadcrumbs, some fresh parsley, flaky sea salt and fresh cracked pepper.

Cranberry-Lime Pie

cranberry lime pie

As I flipped through the pages of Bon Appetit’s annual Thanksgiving issue, I saw the usual suspects: off-kilter turkey brines, ambitious stuffings and minute-by-minute instructions for how to stay sane the weekend-of. All of this was a little irrelevant to me. My family is chock-full of kitchen alphas, making that room a veritable combat zone in which it’s every man for himself and we’re all fighting for oven territory. As you might imagine, this has really brought out the pacifist in me. I’ll lend a helping whisk here, lower the turkey into the deep fryer there, but on this weekend I relinquish the helm to the more tenured folk and plop myself down with a glass of red to watch the theater of the day unfold.

But being the that Mintz I am, I can’t sit still on the sidelines for too long. Usually, I’ll make a guest appearance in the kitchen to whip up a pumpkin pie – my perennial responsibility. This year, Bon Appetit’s Cranberry-Lime Pie struck my attention – it looked rich, festive and to my happy surprise, made way ahead of time! So, I’m forgoing the baked-just-before pumpkin pie ordeal and starting a new tradition. Not only is this an unexpected twist on Thanksgiving mainstays, but baking and assembling it at home means I surrender the oven to no one and I don’t have to share the leftover curd.

make ahead holiday piecranberry pie recipe

The holidays are an orgy of butter-logged, sugar-dusted hedonism and for that, I am grateful. But what often comes with that territory is cloying desserts that will sooner send you to the dentist than back for seconds. This recipe scratches that itch for holiday sweets without the saccharine stereotype. With a gingery aromatic crust and velvety, bright red cranberry-lime curd, it’s tangy, fruity indulgence at its best.

easy thanksgiving recipes

Whether you’re a Thanksgiving pacifist like me or are already knee-deep in turkey brine, this recipe is a great way to shake things up. It requires but TEN minutes of oven time and depending on the state-lines of your holiday kitchen, can be made way ahead or just a couple hours before the dinner bell.

(adapted from Bon Appetit)



  • 4 oz. gingersnap cookies
  • 1 cup pecans
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar


  • 12 oz. fresh or frozen (thawed) cranberries
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • ½ cup fresh lime juice
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into slices


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Pulse cookies in a food processor until finely ground. Add pecans and pulse until finely ground. Add butter and brown sugar and pulse to combine.
  3. Dump into a 9” pie dish and use your fingers and fist to press the mixture into the bottom and edges of the pie tin. The crust should eventually evenly cover the entire surface area of the dish.
  4. Bake for 10-15 minutes. Let cool.

Filling and Assembly

  1. Bring cranberries, 1 cup granulated sugar and ¼ cup water to a boil in a saucepan. Simmer until cranberries burst and most of the liquid evaporates, 12-15 minutes. Puree in a food processor. Let cool.
  2. Clean the cranberry pot and fill with 3 inches of water. Bring to a simmer.
  3. Whisk together eggs, egg yolks, lemon zest, lime zest, lime juice and salt in a large glass bowl. Once the cranberry puree has cooled, whisk that in too.
  4. Place the glass bowl on top of the pot with simmering water. Stir with a rubber spatula often, until curd thickens, 8-10 minutes. Transfer to a mixing bowl and let cool until just warm.
  5. Using an electric mixer, beat curd on medium-high, adding butter a piece at a time and incorporating after each addition.
  6. Pour and scrape into the crust and chill until firm, about 2 hours. Serve chilled with whipped cream.



Curried Snacking Chickpeas

curried chickpeas

Run, don’t walk, to your nearest bulk bin section. That’s what I did on a last minute beer run to Berkeley Bowl the other day. While my friends were deciding between one craft beer and another, I was wandering – eyes wide and jaw dropped – through the sprawling mecca of bulk goods in the back of the store. This is a place devoid of flashy packaging, suggested serving sizes and cringe-worthy markups. It’s just stacks on stacks of plastic cases filled with nuts, grains, flours, seeds, beans, lentils…you name it, they got it. Pick your poison, grab a scooper, and go wild. No ones looking, so go ahead, take an extra scoop of chickpeas…treat yourself!

Such was my inner dialogue on that afternoon in Berkeley, and before I knew it I was headed to a house party with a backpack full of chickpeas, chickpea flour and raw almonds. Never show up empty handed!

Like the overzealous cook I am, I boiled every last chickpea, despite the recipe I was following only calling for half. Left with a boatload of the starchy spheres otherwise destined for the compost bin, I made these!

crispy chickpeas

To be honest, these Snacking Chickpeas turned out better than the original dish I made. They’re seasoned with smoky, spicy, aromatic stuff and roasted until crispy all around, but still a little creamy on the inside. You’ll ask yourself, “Are these fried?” as you shovel handful after handful into your face. I urge you, whether at the bulk bins or huddled over a bowl of these chickpeas, to not ask questions and just keep shoveling.

You can use canned chickpeas, although I’ve tried this recipe both ways and the self-boiled variety has a much better texture. These are perfect for an afternoon snack, cheese plate accouterment, or even on top of a simple salad. I like the spices listed below, but you can get creative with whatever toasty, roast-worthy spices you’ve got on hand. Snack away, chickies!

roasted garbanzo beans


  • 1 -2 cups dried chickpeas
  • Salt
  • Olive oil
  • Cumin
  • Smoked paprika
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Cayenne powder
  1. Soak the chickpeas in a large bowl of water overnight.
  2. Drain and rinse the chickpeas. Add them to a large pot of salted water. Bring to a boil and then turn the heat down until the water simmers. Cook like this until the chickpeas are cooked through with creamy, not chalky insides. Drain and let cool to room temperature.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350.
  4. Pour the chickpeas onto a baking sheet. Drizzle with enough olive oil to coat and go crazy with spices. I recommend going heaviest on the smoked paprika, but turn up the heat with more cayenne if that’s your style.
  5. Use your hands to get the spices all up on the chickpeas. Spread out the chickpeas so the all have enough personal space on the baking sheet. Depending on how wild you went at the bulk bins, you may need to use two baking sheets.
  6. Bake for 20-30 minutes, shaking the sheets occasionally to rotate the chickpeas. If they’re not getting crispy like you want ‘em, turn up the heat to 400 for the final 5 minutes.
  7. Let cool for a sec and serve hot or room temperature. Store extras in an airtight container, though let’s be real, there will be no need for that.

Salt-Baked Trout

Mckenzie river oregon trout

Earlier this summer, I spent a week fishing for trout on the McKenzie River in central Oregon. The days were simple: wake up, row, cast, eat, row some more, cast some more, watch the sunset, sleep. I was with my family, generally reputed as a feral bunch of intrepid extroverts ranging in age from 16 to 80. On the McKenzie, we were forced to ditch our antsiness and discover an unknown peaceful, still group dynamic.

helfrich mckenzie river fly fishing oregon

Fishing is about patience. As my dad says, “it’s called fishing, not catching.” Lucky for us zealous city folk, the McKenzie River lends itself to a life of plenty. With a little finesse and the right fly, you’d have a trout on your line more times than not. The slightest flick on the surface of the glassy water would send them zipping toward your bait in no time, and you’d be set for lunch way ahead of schedule.

fly fishing trout oregonmark mintz sydney mintz

Lunch was a hedonistic mess of butter, cast iron and rainbow trout. We’d dock on the river’s edge, stoke a mighty fire and nestle a behemoth of a skillet right in the flames. Then, in went the pound of butter with the cleaned fish following close behind. We were each allotted three trout a day, each one flaky and soaked to the bone with nutty, rich brown butter and simply seasoned with some unidentified spices our guide brought along.

cast iron trout

Day one was a dream. I sat hunched in my sun-faded camping chair over a greasy mess of fish meat, forgoing my fork for some griddled bread used to scoop up every last bite. It wasn’t my prettiest moment, but I enjoyed every bit of it.

As the days lingered on, I settled into the quiet of the river, the meandering conversations, and the routine repetition. But as my tranquility improved, my hunger for trout waned. Five days of pan-fried, butter blasted fish will do that to a person.

Back home, I didn’t dare look in the direction of a single fish for weeks. Eventually, I dipped my toes back in by way of sushi, grilled salmon, and only now, trout.

If there was one recipe ideal for trout reintegration, it was this. Salt-baked fish is at once a science experiment, magic show, and performance art. Since salt has a crazy high melting point, it can withstand super high heat, so packing it around anything creates an airtight oven without permeating whatever it’s encapsulating. It’s also a preservative, so though the fish inside is fully, perfectly cooked. It looks like it just hopped out of the McKenzie when you crack that salt shield open. Oh yeah – and that’s the most impressive part. Prying that sucker open is just about the most dramatic, eye widening party trick in the book.

salt baked recipewhole foods trout

Tldr: Packing your fish in salt keeps it super moist. No, it doesn’t make the fish really salty. I stuffed mine with thyme and lemon, which was yummy. Trout is crazy cheap, so the real magic trick is eating fish without breaking the bank.

lemon thyme trouthuckberry salt baked trout

Due to the showy, salt-hogging nature of this recipe, it’s not necessarily a weeknight quickie, but if my past experience with trout means anything, this fish is best filed in the delicacy department. I’m back on track day dreaming about riverside trout, but this recipe will keep me busy until next summer in Oregon.

sienna mintz pantry raid

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 1 1-1.5 lb trout, cleaned (pick the one with the clearest eyes)
  • 4 cups coarse kosher salt
  • 5 dried bay leaves, torn
  • 1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
  • ½ lemon, sliced
  • 4-6 springs fresh thyme
  1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
  2. Line a baking sheet with tinfoil.
  3. Place the cleaned fish on the baking sheet and stuff the belly with lemon slices and thyme.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, combine salt, bay leaves, and peppercorns. Slowly pour in some water, mixing as you go, until mixture feels like damp sand and vaguely holds its form.
  5. Tightly pack the salt mixture onto the fish, leaving the head and tail exposed, but not letting any air in.
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest 1-2 minutes.
  7. Crack the salt casing open and push aside. Serve straight up, or chop the head off and easily peel off the skin to reveal the meat.
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