All posts by sienna

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.

Grilled Halloumi & Herb Salad

Corn and Fregola with Grilled Halloumi Cheese

Summer is for grilling and picnics and fresh produce and spending less time cooking and more time outside. This Grilled Halloumi & Herb Salad covers all the bases, somehow managing to deliver bite after bite that’s all at once smoky, fresh, tender and crunchy. Plus, it gets better with age, as all those flavors marinate and meld into one another. It’s the gift that keeps on giving!

With so much going on at once, it’s hard to say which component is the centerpiece, but the grilled halloumi cheese is a good place to start. This Greek sheep’s milk cheese is a grill’s best friend. It gets charred and crispy on the outside, a great canvas for those glorious hash marks. Meanwhile, the inside softens up just so, releasing it’s complex, briny, mint-infused flavors. Torn into the salad along with grilled and shaved corn, halloumi adds some smoky, salty flavors to an otherwise bright meal.

grilled halloumi salad

To counter that big, bold flavor, fresh torn herbs bring the salad to life. Basil, mint, parsley and scallions make this a complete sensory experience – adding sweet, summery aromatics to every bite and whiff.

Holding it all together are our friends fregola and walnuts. Their toasty notes and prominent texture speckled throughout keep things from getting out of hand. Think of them as the cool chaperone at the party.

israeli couscous herb salad

All together, this torn, toasted, grilled, dressed salad is refreshing and substantial. It’s made to last, so make extra and thank yourself later. And hurry! Summer isn’t getting any younger, the corn is as sweet at it’ll ever be, herbs are cheap and everywhere, and your grill has a hot date with some halloumi cheese.

Adapted from Bon Appetit


  • 1 cup walnuts, toasted
  • 1 cup fregola or Israeli couscous, cooked and cooled
  • 2 ears corn, husked
  • Olive oil
  • 8 oz. halloumi cheese, cut in ¾ inch slices
  • 2-3 scallions, chopped
  • ½ cup chopped parsley
  • ½ cup basil leaves
  • ½ cup mint leaves
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
  1. Turn the grill on to medium heat. Brush halloumi slices and corn with olive oil and place on the grill, arranging halloumi on the least hot areas. Flip the halloumi after 3-5 minutes, when brown hash marks have formed. Cook for 3-5 minutes on the other side and remove. Rotate the corn until slightly charred on all sides. Let both ingredients cool down for about 10 minutes.
  2. Once cooled, cut the corn off the cob, tear halloumi into bite-sized pieces and add both to a serving bowl. Add fregola, scallions, parsley and walnuts. Tear basil and mint in just before serving. Add lemon juice, vinegar, a glug of olive oil and salt to taste. Toss to combine. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Summer Panzanella

summer panzanella

Panzanella is Italian for “bread salad,” and there’s nothing wrong with that! Swap out a few of the traditional ingredients with their better-tasting contemporaries and things are looking too good to be true.

There’s just about nothing better than a simple arugula salad. Crunchy, peppery greens are cut with lots of sour lemon juice, grassy olive oil and flaky Maldon salt. It’s my favorite lazy side dish – the perfect accompaniment to just about anything I tend to cook.

Heirloom tomatoes are summer’s candy. The heavy, gnarled fruits are literally bursting at the seams with juice, the ultra-thin membrane just thick enough to contain the outrageous flavor within. They’re good enough to eat like a peach – standing over the kitchen sink with the juices running down your wrist.

There’s almost no feeling more satisfying than that which is experienced upon piercing a shimmering, delicate ball of burrata cheese. The stringy, salty outer layer contains light, unbelievably creamy curdles of nearly liquefied mozzarella. If eating an entire ball is sinful, I hope they have burrata in hell.

I’ll never forget the pungent, porky smell of my neighborhood grocery store in Italy, where entire legs of cured pig dangled from the ceiling. Prosciutto is a delicacy both bold and versatile – thinly sliced, fat-laced pieces drape gracefully on a cheese plate but a quick pan-fry brings out smoky, salty notes and crumble without hesitation for a crunchy finish on any dish.

crispy prosciutto

The transformation that flour, yeast and water undergo to create bread is both magical and mysterious. A fresh baked loaf of thick-crusted, fluffy sourdough or ciabatta needs no dressing up and is perhaps best eaten torn with nothing added (though a smear of butter never hurts). Though the half-life of this euphoria is short – as soon as it’s out of the oven it begins to go stale – a toss in olive oil over a hot stove breathes new life. Fresh croutons bring out the best in bread – its crater-like crumb allowing oil to moisten the inside and crisp up the outside.

panzanella salad recipe

Separately, these foods reach unparalleled heights of perfection – obvious winners in their own categories. Each ingredient is self sufficient, needing no accouterments to bring out their best. Typically, ingredients like this are attention hogs – they need to be the stars of the dish they’re a part of – the flavor centerpiece that the rest of the meal is built around.

It seems sacrilegious, almost, to take that away from them. But together, these ambrosial ingredients create a powerhouse of flavor and texture that is so complete and diverse that there’s no turning back. The impossibly creamy cheese cuts the acidic tomatoes. That indulgent, velvety burrata is challenged by salty, crunchy prosciutto and crispy, jumbo croutons soak up every flavor without giving way to the juiciness surrounding them. Last but not least, arugula gives a burst of verdancy that keeps the whole thing tasting fresh.

arugula burrata salad

This Summer Panzanella is the kind of dish that arouses and challenges the taste buds – rock star flavors enhance one another without losing their own identities, resulting in an experience that’s at once encompassing, indulgent, and seasonal.

Ingredients (serves 2-4)

  • 2 cups arugula
  • 1 ball burrata
  • 2 cups day-old bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 large heirloom tomato or 2 handfuls heirloom cherry tomatoes
  • 4 slices prosciutto
  • Olive oil
  • Flaky sea salt
  1. Heat a non-stick skillet. Lay the prosciutto pieces flat in the skillet and flip once or twice until slightly shriveled. Set aside to cool. Once cooled, chop into bite size pieces.
  2. Make the croutons. Add a few glugs of olive oil to the skillet. Once hot, add the bread pieces and toss to coat. Continue turning until bread is toasted on all sides and still soft in the center.
  3. Chop the tomato into bite size pieces. Add to a large serving bowl with arugula and croutons.
  4. Cut the burrata into pieces. Don’t worry if it’s gooey!
  5. Add burrata to the serving bowl and toss with a some olive oil and sea salt. Top with crumbled prosciutto and serve!

Ricotta-Stuffed Squash Blossoms

stuffed squash blossoms

Squash blossoms are to summer produce what ricotta is to cheese – humble and subtle characters in a cast of bold-flavored knockouts. Separately, there’s not much to them, but together, they steal the show.

ricotta cheesestuffed sqush blossomseasy summer appetizer recipe

In this classic Italian recipe, the super delicate flowers are stuffed with a lemony, minty ricotta filling, lightly coated with seltzer-spiked batter, and shallow fried until the petals are crispy crunchy and the inside is warm.

lemon ricotta recipesummer squash recipestuffed12  fried squash blossoms

It’s the perfect beginning to a long summer night and a refreshing break from the heirloom tomatoes and peaches that are reigning supreme these days.

ricotta stuffed squash blossoms

Make some raw tomato sauce for dipping or dig in straight up!

Ingredients (serves 2-6)

  • 6 fresh squash blossoms (the larger the better)
  • 1 cup fresh ricotta
  • Handful mint, chiffonade
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 3/4 cup Parmigianino Reggiano, grated
  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ cup seltzer water
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cups canola oil
  1. Make the filling. In a bowl, mix the ricotta, mint, lemon zest, parmesan and egg yolk until consistent.
  2. Make the batter. In another bowl, combine flour, seltzer, salt and pepper. Add more seltzer until consistency is similar to pancake batter.
  3. Stuff the blossoms. Delicately peel back the petals just enough to create a small opening. Gently (using your fingers, a tiny spatula, or a butter knife), fill the blossoms all the way up with the ricotta mixture. Once filled, carefully twist the ends of the petals between your index finger and thumb to seal.
  4. Batter the blossoms. Place a blossom in the batter bowl and gently rotate until blossom is completely coated. Repeat with remaining blossoms, and set aside for frying.
  5. Fill a heavy bottomed skillet ½ an inch high with oil. Heat until small bubbles form. To test the oil, drop a tiny bit of batter in the oil. If it sizzles and floats, it’s go time!
  6. Place the blossoms in the oil, but don’t crowd them! Fry for 1-2 minutes, until the bottom side is brown and crispy. Gently flip them over and repeat on remaining exposed sides until blossoms are universally golden. Remove from oil and place on a paper towel lined plate to drain.
  7. Sprinkle with a little salt and enjoy right away!

Kop Khun Ka, Thailand!

Thailand has been on my bucket list as long as I’ve had one. Since high school, I’ve been trying to coerce various friends to make the journey east with me, so the second Harley and Gerard said “yeah!” I was on scoping out tickets. We made out like bandits, since the dates we picked were right at the beginning of low season. (Low season = torrential downpours, possible monsoons, etc. etc.) You’re only young once!

We’d spend two weeks hitting the major stops – Bangkok, Chaing Mai and the southern islands, eating as much as possible along the way. I’ll spare you the details of the major sights to see, hotels to stay in and activities to do – TripAdvisor has got you covered there. But I will say this – Thailand is a seriously special place. The colors are unbelievably vivid, from the flamingo pink royal buildings in Bangkok to the aquamarine beaches. There’s never a dull sight – the fast paced, organized chaos of the cities is captivating and the sleepy stoner beach villages feel like the last of their kind. Travelers, donning overstuffed backpacks and baggy elephant pants roam from hostel to bar to hostel, their only goal to exist and experience. Locals welcome visitors with the kind of gratitude and hospitality I didn’t even know existed. From the subtle head bow that comes with every thank you (Kop khun ka) to the great lengths some will go to help you find your way, I’ve never felt so welcome in a place that wasn’t my home. This country is a treasure trove of flavor and color and energy that piques the senses and the mind.

elephant nature park chiang mai  wat po bangkokwat po bangkok  railay beach lagoon thailand

And the taste buds! (I know that’s why you’re here) Thai food, I learned, is so much more than pad thai and chicken satay – it’s definitely those things, but it’s also slow cooked pork with fresh chilies and garlic cloves, it’s fried-before-your eyes noodles and coconut milk soup so spicy you might cry a little bit. For all the complexity in this cuisine, it’s really very simple. The ingredient list is short for Thai cooking, but the combination of texture and preparation mixed with years of repetition makes this food nothing if not life changing. I know I tend to exaggerate, but the meals I ate in Thailand are without question some of the best I’ll ever have.

It started in Bangkok, where culture shock is the name of the game. New country, new language, new everything – we were drowning in newness and didn’t even know where to begin. Our first meal was at a ramshackle garage-turned-restaurant. The kitchen was set up in the alley and we sat in the garage, beads of sweat dripping generously from our faces. We exchanged an awkward smattering of English and Thai words with our host and ended up with a plate presumably piled with pad thai. We guzzled it, mesmerized by this setup and even more by the $1 check. This was only the beginning.

bangkok street food bangkok street food

That night, Harley’s family friend took us out to for a “royal Thai” meal at Blue Elephant. Despite the pages long menu, I’m pretty sure we ordered one of everything. This ornate restaurant catered to the upper echelon of Bangkok locals and expats – this was no street food. We received order after order, served in extravagant spindly dishes, carved out coconut shells, and the like. When asked how much spice we wanted, we told them “Thai spicy.” Our host and waiter laughed in our faces, and continued to do so as we struggled to finish our Tom Kha Gai soup. Many many courses later, we were comatose, bloated, and sleeeeeepy.

The next morning, we were up bright and early for our flight to Chiang Mai, a busy town nestled between rainforests in northern Thailand. We didn’t know this yet, but Chiang Mai would be our favorite stop on the trip and undoubtedly the most delicious.

chiang mai  sticky rice chiang maichiang mai marketchiang mai curry  swiss lana lodgechiang mai grand canyonfried chicken chiang mai

Anxious to follow in the footsteps of OG hedonist Anthony Bourdain, we B-lined it to the street food. Chang Puak market sits just outside the stone wall surrounding the Old City and is a bustling convergence of locals, tourists and a LOT of meat. Each cart has a different claim to fame – the best ones marked only with Thai lettering, no translations to be seen. Lucky for us, we were with Jay, our guide from Chiang Mai Street Food Tours (seriously, if you wind up in this crazy city, make this tour a priority). Jay, whose catchphrase was “Oh my Buddha,” moved from rural northern Thailand to Chiang Mai because he wanted to eat more meat. In his childhood, meat was a once a week luxury. Given the savory delights we tried that night, I don’t blame him for chasing his swiney, soy-marinated dreams.

chang puak market

Jay knew this market well, and the cart owners knew him too. They were encouraged by our curiosity, and generously plied us with a spread so extravagant and spicy we could hardly keep up. With big bottles of Chang and Singha beer by our sides, we guzzled everything in sight, always just in time for the next round.

chang puak market chang singha

My all time favorite was the Kao Ka Moo – fatty, tender, braised pork knuckle that puts the best carnitas you’ve ever had to shame. Shame! A smiling lady sporting a wide-brimmed cowboy had plucks a knuckle from her homemade supply and chops it emphatically with a cleaver that screams “I don’t fuck around.” She then slops it on a plate with some steamed rice and an oozy soft boiled egg. Each ramshackle table is equipped with bowls of fresh chilies and mini garlic cloves, both of which are meant to be consumed with each spoonful of the salty pork goodness. This, friends, is not a plate I’ll soon forget.

cowboy had chang puakKao Ka Moo chiang mai

We ate Laap Moo and Nam Tok Moo with our hands, making pockets of steamed sticky rice to pick up the spicy ground and sliced pork. We picked out a frog bathing in questionably sanitary water (allegedly once ice) and watched it be chopped and wok-fried before our very (mesmerized) eyes. It tasted like the best fried chicken on the planet, with little crispy, salty bits abound. We sat curbside and chased shots of rice whisky with fried crickets and ogled at the Kanom Krok lady, making fluffy, custardy spheres of fried coconut batter in her pockmarked and battle-scarred cast iron stove. There was bright red jerky-like smashed beef and herb speckled “Chiang Mai Sausage” with a thick, snappy casing.

frog chiang mai  chang puak chiang maifrog chang puakLaap Mo chiang mai  Nam Tok Moo chiang maifried crickets chiang mai

Unbelievably, there was room for dessert (isn’t there always?) the likes of which were sticky, sweet, and bathed in pandan-infused condensed coconut milk. This description could only belong to the one, the only: Khao Neow Mamuang or Mango Sticky Rice.

mango sticky rice chiang maimango sticky rice chiang mai

We caught Thailand at the height of mango season, where trees are abundant with the ripe, juicy fruit we so tragically get the dregs of in the US. At Chang Puak, and everywhere else we guzzled this stuff, the street vendors cut through the mangos as if they’re slicing room temperature butter, quickly sliding their way through before flaying the fruit across hot, sticky rice, drizzling it with sweet coconut milk, and sprinkling the final touch of crunchy dried mung beans on top. To our chef, it’s no biggie, but every time, without fail, we watched with wide eyes and dropped jaws before destroying the stuff in just a couple gulps.

As you can imagine, this night set the bar high for the rest of the trip. It’s fair to say we peaked at Chang Puak, but our insider look into Thai street food culture mitigated our culture shock, tooling us with at least more context than we had at the back-alley garage where we blindly enjoyed our first meal.

A couple days later, after our bodies has almost forgiven us for the trauma we had inflicted upon them, we set out on wobbly, rusty bikes in pursuit of Kao Soi, one of northern Thailand’s specialties. In many places throughout Thailand, soup is a perfectly acceptable breakfast food, especially in hot weather. We were in luck – by 7AM, it was already sticky and humid, the kind of heat that slows everything down.

Everything that is, except traffic. We bobbed and weaved on our rickety bikes away from the hustle and bustle of the city toward an unmarked restaurant in Fa Ham, the spot, we were told, for legit Khao Soi. The unassuming roadside Lam Duan was the place to be, said every blogger ever.

swiss lana lodge chiang mai

We were seemingly the first patrons of the day, but they were ready for us. Before we knew it, we were presented with piping hot, seemingly bottomless bowls of opaque curried broth filled with chewy tangles of wheat noodles, pickled onions, and crispy fried noodles. We hunched over our bowls, trying to savor every moment before it was over.

Lam Duan kao soi

Chiang Mai was a playground for the taste buds, and by the time we left we had thoroughly worn them out. When we arrived down south in Railay Beach (by sketchy moonlit longtail boat, I might add), things slowed down. Surrounded by limestone cliffs, it’s a sleepy place with a Rasta vibe and not much to do beyond rock climb, sip mango smoothies, and play cards.

railay beach thailandclimbing thailand islands  climbing railay beach thailandrailay beach krabi thailand

We arrived on the heels of the rainy season’s premature grand entrance, and so were not treated to the drowsy beach afternoons we anticipated. Instead, we adventured, ate garlic and pepper fried fish, adventured some more, and ate some more fish.

In pursuit of better weather, we hopped to Koh Phi Phi, an alleged gem, though not so much a hidden one. Here, we were treated to glistening water, sunset snorkeling, and yet even more garlic and pepper fried fish. What?! We have a type!

snorkeling koh phi phi

In all reality, the islands we visited were major tourist destinations, and due to their rural nature, it’s much less easy to have an authentic experience. Most places push papaya salad and pad thai like it’s the only food in the whole country and around every corner is another person hounding you to sit in their empty restaurant. My recommendation – go after the spots with the freshest looking fish (i.e. no foggy eyes, fishy smell, nor pools of murky water) and at least a couple other brave souls to follow in the footsteps of.

Post-Phi Phi, we left the mostly rainy Andaman Coast and travelled to Koh Samui, one the largest islands, located in the apparently less inclement Gulf of Thailand. By this point, we were pooped (let’s not go there) and ready for some R&R. We spent one glorious day at Vikasa, a yoga retreat perched high above the ocean with sweeping views of the dreamy coastline. Between downward dogs, revolutionary meditations, and sea-breezed massages, we enjoyed a bougie buffet like no other. I’m almost ashamed to say (but not too ashamed to write) that after so much spice and unfamiliar flavors, I’ve never been happier to eat chia seeds in my life. The dishes were bright, mildly Thai in preparation, all cooked with locally grown produce. The local kombucha was really the fermented cherry on top of the whole shebang.

vikasa yoga retreat  bio fizz kombucha thailand

Back in Bangkok, we had but 24 hours to go before our impending return home. It was an edible race to the finish line. Dinner was in the Chana Songkhram area at Hemlock, where we went all out with spicy Panang curry, crunchy banana leaf salad, drunken noodles, et al. It was the kind of meal that was prematurely nostalgic, as we sat there recounting our adventures and already missing every last bite.

hemlock bangkok

The next morning was our last, and we were all of a sudden desperate to see Bangkok’s Chinatown before hitting the road. It was an overcrowded zoo of tchotchkes, bizarre foodstuffs, and red and gold explosions. After a few close calls with losing each other Simba-Mufasa style in the stampedes, we decided to dine at an open-air eatery packed with Chinese and Thai patrons. We shared a table with a family of Chinese tourists, who guided us through the menu and steered us in the direction of crispy pork and braised duck. By this point, we were running late, so we practically shoveled the salty stuff down our throats before regretfully leaving without seconds.

bangkok chinatown street foodbangkok chinatown

The trip home was long and grueling, if not for the abominable “egg” sandwich I found in Taipei, then for the sleepless 18-hour journey back. Even a month later, I still remember everything – the flavors, colors, and textures of Thai food are seared into my memory and the electrifying culture is forever ingrained into my worldview. Like Thai food, Thailand doesn’t have one thing that makes it special – it’s the sum of its parts that together create an irreplaceable experience I’ll forever be chasing.

Toasted Farro Salad with Rocket & Fresh Peas

toasted farro salad

This salad is really nothing surprising. It’s ancient grains, because I’m still obsessed with those, kale because I’m forever trying to find ways to tolerate it, arugula and goat cheese because they’re perma-residents in my fridge and heart, and English peas and fresh mint because the farmers’ market told me to.

It’s nothing fancy either. Just a bunch of raw to slightly cooked things mixed together and eaten with a spoon. It doesn’t ask for much of your time, your energy, or your money.

In other words, it’s perfect. This Toasted Farro Salad with Rocket & Fresh Peas is simply a collection of refreshing flavors and hearty ingredients – the perfect balance after a long day when the last thing you want is to be beholden to a complicated recipe nor the dishes that come with the territory and take-out sounds like more trouble than it’s worth.

Ingredients (serves 2-3)


  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • Sea salt

Other ingredients

  • 1 cup farro
  • Olive oil
  • 1 cup English peas, shelled
  • 2 stems Lacinato kale, cut into thin strips
  • 2 cups rocket/arugula
  • 10 mint leaves, thinly sliced
  • Salt
  • Goat cheese
  1. To make the dressing, combine all ingredients in a small jar or Tupperware container and shake until incorporated. Set aside.
  2. In a medium, heavy bottomed pot, heat a couple glugs of olive oil. When hot, add the dry farro and toast until it has a fragrant nutty aroma and turns a shade darker, 3-4 minutes. Fill the pot with cold water and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down so the water is simmering, and cook for 25-30 minutes, or until farro is chewy and tender. Drain and pour into a salad bowl on top of the kale strips.
  3. Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil and prepare a bowl with ice water. Blanch the peas by submerging them in the boiling water for 60 seconds and then quickly transferring them to the ice water to prevent them from cooking more.
  4. To assemble the salad, add arugula, mint, goat cheese and vinaigrette to the salad bowl and toss to combine. Add more salt and olive oil as necessary.

Purple Kale Caesar Salad

kale casear

It was, Sunday, early evening, and we were settling into our seats in the bright 18 Reasons classroom in the Mission. The post-Dolores Park crowd flooded the sidewalks, ice cream or Tecate or fine leather dog leash in hand, peering into the space with curious if not slightly faded eyes. This was my first visit to 18 Reasons, and I was excited to break in my new membership. This wonderful Mission-based non-profit hosts cooking classes, dinners, and community events, funneling the profits into Cooking Matters, a program that teaches culinary skills in low-income communities around the Bay Area.

We sat on wooden benches at equally wooden tables, surrounded by fresh flowers, stacks of cook books, and whimsical paintings of produce hanging on the walls. I’ll spare you the details of what I learned about heritage grains (maybe another time), but the intro of the class went something like this: “First we’ll hear from our first speaker. Blah blah blah blah blah. And then we’ll take a quick salad break before hearing from our next speaker.” A quick salad break?!? Was I dreaming? Alas, I was lucid, and after a most enlightening hour learning about gluten allergies and other lies, we broke for greens.

I soon discovered that this wasn’t just any salad. It was Caesar salad. But not just any Caesar salad. It was Bar Tartine’s recipe for Kale Caesar tossed with Pain Bakery bread-turned-croutons. We guzzled the stuff, which needed no instruction.

Now, I like a good Caesar salad like any good American. I grew up begging my Grandma to make her famous dressing, slathered generously and tossed effusively with crunchy romaine and topped with crumbled garlic croutons. This was the real deal, but I also didn’t discriminate against the creamier bastardized Caesars of the world, which graced my plate many a dining hall repast.

Despite my grandma’s words of encouragement, I never had the gumption to give making the dressing a shot myself. And yet, one bite in to my bowl of salad-break salad and I was hooked. I needed this again, and I needed it soon. I hopped online and found the Bar Tartine recipe, got my butt to the grocery store, and gathered supplies. I was high on a feeling and I didn’t wanna come down.

I made this salad, night after night, until every last anchovy was called for and all the purple kale had been stripped, massaged, and consumed. I made croutons with homemade bread, and brought home a loaf of Pain Bakery’s walnut bread when I ran out of my own stuff. All in all, there were 5 meals of this salad in a row. If that’s not a rave enough review, I don’t know what is.

homemade croutons recipebar tartine caesar

They say “everything in moderation,” but if this salad is good enough to get me to eat raw, purple kale (and love it) that often, I say screw moderation, “everything with salad breaks!”

Though romaine is traditional, I really love the hearty texture and bold flavor of purple kale. It holds its own against the spicy, creamy dressing, which could easily steal the show if you let it. Don’t skimp on the croutons either – you want to toss these into the bowl right out of the skillet, when they’re still sizzling and crunchy with a little give on the inside. Together, these three simple ingredients make killer meal, a hearty side, or even just a reason to take a quick break.

hearty salad recipes

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 6-8 anchovies in olive oil
  • 2 large cloves or 3-4 small cloves garlic
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 thick slices day-old bread (country loaf, sour dough, ciabatta, whatever)
  • More olive oil and salt
  • 1 bunch purple kale
  • Parmesan cheese


  1. In a small food processor, puree the anchovies, garlic, and lemon zest until they form a thick paste.
  2. Add the egg yolk, a pinch of salt, and a few drops of lemon juice, and blend completely. Dressing should begin to liquefy and emulsify.
  3. In tiny batches, add the olive oil, blending to combine completely before adding more.
  4. Add the rest of the lemon juice and more olive oil in small (but less tiny) batches until you’ve reached the desired thickness. Add extra salt and lemon juice to taste.


  1. Cut bread into 1-inch cubes.
  2. Heat a few generous glugs of olive oil in a skillet until a little bubbly. Add the bread and a little salt. Toss to cover in olive oil and toast, tossing occasionally, until all sides are slightly browned and crispy.


  1. De-stem the kale, tear into small-ish pieces, and rinse. Give the kale a good squeeze to break it down a bit. Add it to the salad bowl.
  2. Add the croutons and dressing, tossing until the kale it nicely coated.
  3. Use a microplane zester to grate some fresh Parmesan cheese on top and serve!
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