All posts in Spicy

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.

Plantain Tacos with Spicy Crema

healthy fried plantains

“Number six, no beans, extra rice, extra sauce.” Such was my mantra, spoken in a perpetually raspy voice on each occasion when my parents brought me to my favorite restaurant – Versailles.

Some of my earliest memories belong to that no-frills strip mall restaurant – The rotund waiter looking down at me in my high chair with the biggest grin I’d ever seen, the white bread slathered in garlic butter we could never get enough of, the speedy service that left us waiting never more than five minutes for our food, and the cheesy décor alluding to a place I’d been told we couldn’t visit.

versailles cuban food

Cuban food is something I know about only through the lens of Versailles. What’s more, the Number 6 is all I’ve ever ordered there. The half chicken gives “garlicky” a new meaning. Marinated in Versailles’ signature Mojo sauce, a happy marriage of garlic, onion, and don’t-ask-don’t-tell spices, it’s then twisted and turned on a rotisserie until the skin is crispy and the meat falls off the bone. Alongside it come rings of almost raw onion, soaked below the rotisserie in Mojo drippings, buttery rice, and the piece de resistance – fried plantains.

versailles fried plantains

If Versailles is my favorite restaurant, plantains are my favorite food. The three piece rationing of sweet, smooth, fried perfection were never enough. When prompted to order more, my parents would suggest that we’d “See how I’m feeling” after we finished the Number 6. Sure enough, I was always stuffed, thoroughly garlic-breathed, and already dreaming of our return.

Today, eating at Versailles is of the highest priority whenever I visit home. The ambiance has been classed up a bit and I don’t quite fit in the high chairs any more, but nothing else has changed. Not the staff, not the white bread, not the speedy service, and definitely not the plantains.

spicy crema recipe

If I still lived in Los Angeles, that frying oil would course through my veins. Luckily, San Francisco is a place where, if you want something done, you do it your god damn self. And with that, I was on a mission to make my own plantains.

mission market sf

Gathering supplies in The Mission.

Hesitant to buy out Costco’s vegetable oil supply, I turned to my handy friend, coconut oil. With its high smoke point and mild flavor, it seemed like it just might be the perfect companion for my high maintenance plantains. Sure enough, it was. This recipe for fried plantains forgoes saturating the stuff in oil, manages to get the inside nice and smooth, and gives the outside a caramelized crunch. The best part is that there’s no three-piece limit in my house. No parents, no rules!

vegetarian taco recipe

Ingredients (serves 2-3)

  • 4-ish tablespoons coconut oil
  • 2 very ripe plantains (they should have lots of brown spots on the outside)
  • Salt
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 lime
  • Your favorite hot sauce

Sautee the plantains:

  1. Peel the plantains and slice them on an angle, about 1-inch thick each.
  2. In a heavy-bottomed skillet (I use cast iron), heat the coconut oil until melted.
  3. Once the oil is melted, add the plantain slices. Season with a little salt. Flip over after a few minutes, once the undersides have begun to brown. Continue sautéing until plantains are tender on the inside. Set them aside on a paper towel lined plate.

Make the Crema:

Combine sour cream, lime juice, and as much hot sauce as you can handle.

Prepare the Tortillas:

If you have a gas stove, turn a burner on low. Place a corn tortilla directly on the grate and use a spatula to flip it after 30-ish seconds. Repeat with remaining tortillas.

Taco Time!

  1. Drain and rinse the beans. Mix in a small amount of cumin and heat up in a small pot or in the microwave.
  2. Slice the avocado.
  3. Put it all together: taco, plantains, beans, avocado, crema and voila!

P.S. San Francisco does have some plantains that rival Versailles. My favorites are Limon’s fried plantains and Little Chihuahua’s plantain and black bean burrito. Even still, you never forget your first!

Spicy Crunchy Cauliflower

spicy crunchy cauliflower

When I left San Francisco for my WWOOFing adventure, I didn’t know when or if I’d be returning. That sounds more ominous than it actually was, but at the time it felt just as ominous as it sounded. I was a recent college grad – jobless, homeless (in reality, I had a lot of homes), and freaked the heck out about my undetermined future.

But, as they tend to do, things worked themselves out and I found myself a wonderful job smack dab in the middle of San Francisco. That took care of the job part; now how about the home part? Luckily enough, my Illinois-based grandmother had decided to spend the winter in San Francisco and sublet a charming flat in Noe Valley. Guess how many bedrooms. Two! It was smooth sailing.

The past couple months have been exceptional. Our place is a 15-minute bike ride to work and a mere two blocks from the Mission. Plus, I get to live with my grandmother, which is a pretty sweet deal if you ask me. Now I know that not all grandmothers are alike, so I can’t exactly advise that if you ever have the chance to live with your grandmother, you should take it. But I can say with confidence that if you ever have the chance to live with my grandmother, you’d be a fool to walk away.

If there’s one thing she and I have in common, it’s a love of food. Even more so, it’s a love of cooking it. Where I’m usually winging it in the kitchen, Savta (grandmother in Hebrew) knows every trick in the book. Together, we’ve played around with cake, kale, salmon, and now – you guessed it – cauliflower.

organic cauliflower

A couple weeks ago, my dad was in town for the holidays. Being the pizza aficionado that he is, it only seemed right to taste test one of SF’s beloved ‘za spots. Pizzeria Delfina is right in the neighborhood – just a few steep hills away. In addition to the carbonara pizza (wow!) and burrata (double wow), we ordered a side of their famed cauliflower. In the past, cauliflower never really crossed my mind as something I would want to eat. It never occurred to me that this cabbage-y thing was anything special. But, per the waiter’s recommendation, I obliged.

whole foods cauliflower

Good thing, too. This cauliflower was charred and crunchy, spicy and rich. The flavors and textures were better than most Brussels sprouts I’ve eaten, which is saying a lot because b-sprouts are my main squeeze. Here was a wholesome veggie-forward side that rivaled the pizza as the favorite dish of the night.

delfina cauliflower recipe

I might have ordered seconds if not for the burrata that swooped in and captivated my attention.

Much like the Schoolhouse Kale Salad, I finished that meal knowing I’d have to recreate it. A simple Google search led me right to the recipe, but we didn’t have all of the ingredients on hand, so, instead, we created a simplified, though similarly prize worthy rendition.

pizzeria delfina cauliflower

By pan-frying the cauliflower, the outside gets brown and crispy while the inside stays tender and creamy. Sautéing it with the spicy pepper infuses a slight tinge of heat – just the right amount so you taste it, but not so much that your lips go numb.

sauteed cauliflower recipe

Though we served it as a side (along with a whole pan-grilled Branzino), this could easily hold its own as a main course, or even beneath a soft poached egg.

spicy cauliflower easy

I’m telling you, cauliflower is the new Brussels sprout. Delfina is on to something, and Savta and I are following.

the pantry raid

Ingredients (serves 2-4)

  • 1 head cauliflower
  • Olive oil
  • 1 2-inch calabrese or other hot pepper, seeds removed and sliced into small pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • Salt to taste
  • Few pinches Parmesan cheese
  1. Rinse the cauliflower and cut florets from one another. Halve or quarter them, depending on size. Each piece should be no longer than 1.5 inches. Small bits will fall off, which is desired.
  2. In a medium frying pan, heat ½ an inch of olive oil until just bubbling. Add the cauliflower and a pinch of salt to the hot oil and sauté for 5 minutes, until pieces are starting to get browned. Keep the heat high.
  3. Add garlic and pepper and sauté until most of the cauliflower is charred and the insides are tender but not mushy.
  4. Place in a serving bowl and top with fresh Parmesan cheese. Serve piping hot.

Schoolhouse Kale Salad

schoolhouse kale salad

The first time I visited The Albion Schoolhouse, I slept in the principal’s office. No – this is not the beginning of some fetish-y erotica…sorry Tinder stalkers. On the contrary, The Albion Schoolhouse is a 1921 school-turned-vacation-rental recently purchased by two of the coolest women I know. My aunts – Rabbi Sydney Mintz and documentary filmmaker Justine Shapiro – bought the Albion Schoolhouse this summer, and our lives haven’t been the same since.

albion schoolhouse

The Schoolhouse is one of those places where stories are made. Walking through the colossal front doors and into the library/stage room, you’re overcome with the sense that this place is more than plaster and windows and floor – its energy is inviting as you are beckoned in to make your own memories within its walls.

the albion schoolhouse

This summer, Sydney and Justine convinced me to play hooky from work and join them for a long weekend in Mendocino, where The Schoolhouse is located. We spent the weekend arranging and re-arranging furniture, attending the Mendo Music Festival, curling up in front of the enormous blazing fire, and speculating on all of the iterations that the space could embody.

Since then, the Principals – Justine and Sydney, have been hard at work getting the place in tip-top shape. From the Wolf range to the roof to the piping and beyond – this house has been keeping my aunts plenty busy. Today, you can book your vacation on VRBO, learn about the house’s history on The Albion Schoolhouse’s website, and stay up to date on the official Facebook page.

mendocino event rentals

As beautiful as the place looks online, the real magic happens when you see it in person. Hence, Justine and Sydney decided to play show and tell and invited their friends and colleagues to join them for a party worthy of The Albion Schoolhouse.

albion school mendocino

In true wacky ASH form, this was a pajama party. Two hundred of San Francisco’s finest caravanned up the California coast and filed between those giant front doors dressed in flannel, silk, lace and fleece. The night was a memorable one, despite the constant flow of Moscow Mules and local wine. Between the passed hand-dipped corn dogs and the, uh, entertaining(?) talent show, we all piled into the master bedroom-turned-dining hall for a feast like no other.

sienna mintz

Hard at work or…

When they said there would be kale salad the likes of which I’ve never before tasted, I scoffed. Salad is rarely the centerpiece of a dinner party. It’s kind of like the thing before the thing; an inferior prelude before the big shebang arrives. Well, this salad was the big shebang. That’s not to say that the mulligatawny stew that followed wasn’t also a wow dish, but dammit if I’ll ever look at kale the same way again.

organic lacinato kale

The salad was shiny with lemon juice. The kale was macerated just so – not too soggy nor too hearty. The slight kick of fresh garlic and rich Parmesan flavor were subtle, but there. Everyone was shocked; jaws dropped as they fought over the leftovers and licked the serving bowls. This wasn’t just a good salad. This was something that I wanted to eat every single day for the rest of my life.

The Schoolhouse salad stuck with me. That certain je ne sais quoi was seared into my taste buds for good, leaving me jonesing for more. Back in San Francisco, I had no choice but to do everything in my power to replicate it.

parmesan cheese

What I came up with was pretty darn close. It was a game of improv, in which I did my best to transport myself back to that unforgettable Albion night and channel the balance of flavors in the schoolhouse salad.

The good news is that, as far as salads go, this is as easy as it gets. (That is, aside from buying a Chicken Caesar Salad at Starbucks, which is criminal.) The ingredients are few and it’s a “set it and forget it” dish that you can prepare long before the guests arrive. Plus, it’s a three-in-one. The stems left behind after you strip the kale (which sounds like sneakers on a basketball court) can be sautéed with garlic and butter for a delicious snack. And, the excess green lemon juice/olive oil stuff, left after massaging the kale, makes a great simple dressing for a crunchy romaine salad the next day.

Both salad and kale get a facelift in this recipe. Believe me, you’ll never think of either the same way again. Extra points if you make it while staying at The Albion Schoolhouse!

Ingredients (serves 2-3)

  • 8 cups Lacinato kale
  • 1 large lemon
  • Olive oil drizzle
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  1. Rinse and de-stem the kale. Pinch the base of each leaf, and pull the stem through, releasing it from the leafy parts.
  2. Slice kale into small strips.
  3. In a bowl large enough to fit all the kale, combine greens, lemon, and little olive oil. Use your hands to macerate the kale, squeezing it like it’s a stress ball. Do this until it almost looks like mush.
  4. Mix in garlic and Parmesan cheese. Set aside for at least 30 minutes or, at most, one day. Serve at room temperature.

So Sweet Tomatillo Salsa

tomatillo salsa

As a self-proclaimed food blogger, people hold me to a pretty high standard when it comes to epicurean trivia. This is flattering, for sure, but it also means that I look like a complete dufus when I have no idea what they’re talking about. I’ll usually admit my naiveté, but sometimes my conversational counterpart sounds so confident that I know who/what/where the heck they’re talking about that I have no choice but to nod along in agreement.

This, I can handle. What’s really embarrassing is when someone, especially an older and wiser someone, leaves the night’s menu in my hands, or asks my advice on how to prepare something and I am just at a complete loss. Sure, I know how to cook, and my gracious taste testers say that I’m pretty good at it, but keep in mind, people, that I’ve only been doing this thing for a few years!

The other day, for example, cousin and granola artisan, Deborah, showed me the correct way to dice an onion and, dang, was she proud that she taught the food blogger something about cooking. Lest we forget, this woman has a culinary degree and used to run her own stand at the infamous Marin Farmer’s Market. Welp, this is what I get for shamelessly self-promoting on any and every possible social network. I’ve fashioned some mighty big shoes to fill, and if you’ve ever tried to run in too-big shoes, you know that it can be tough to keep up. Sometimes, it’s just better to roll with the punches.

Such was the case with the tomatillo. If I’m being honest, until very recently I was pretty sure this was just a fancy word for tomato. Like, this month, recently. Call me a poser, a sham, a good-for-nothin’, but tomatillos are new to me. Yeah, I’ve had plenty of tomatillo salsa at taquerias, but my brain was never like, “Hmm, I wonder why this salsa is not red like the others.” It just never crossed my apparently color blind mind.

organic tomatillos

So you can imagine that when Lucie, fellow WWOOFer at Bobcat Ridge Avocados, plucked a bunch of weird flower looking things to make tomatillo salsa, there was some cognitive dissonance going on in this head of mine. I helped her peel back the delicate paper-like leaves to reveal a little green sphere that looked not unlike a tomato. But unlike the tomatoes we were harvesting practically hourly, these guys were no succulent afternoon snack. Simmered though, the combination of tomatillos with all the fixins’ transformed into a decadent, sweet, and mild salsa.

salsa verde recipe

I’ve been hooked ever since. I practically guzzled Lucie’s entire batch, then embellished Robin’s recipe at FlipJack, and was chasing the high all the way to Loló, a bangin’ Mexican tapas spot in San Francisco’s Mission district with perfectly spicy tomatillo salsa. Back in Los Angeles, I couldn’t wait to show off my newfound cooking skills, starting with this here recipe.

My captive audience

Over at Whole Foods (sorry TJ’s, this girl is moving on), the summer crops were waning, but there were a few sunny day treats that remained. Tomatillos were among my haul, along with a beautiful Delicata squash because, let’s face it – it may not look like fall in California, but the dog days are over.

simmered tomatillo salsa

Back to our lovely tomatillos, though. This was my first time making this salsa unassisted. I was Lucie-less and Robin-less with only my memory to inform my next move. Luckily, that month of farming stuck with me like you wouldn’t believe, so it wasn’t too tough to recall the major steps.

easy salsa recipe

The result? I’m still hooked. This salsa is refreshing as ever. It’s the kind of stuff that makes you want to eat outside, with a beer in one hand and a salsa-topped tortilla chip in the other. It’s sweet, smooth, and fit for chips, rice, quesadillas, or you name it. I recommend that you make as much as possible and learn a thing or two about preserving. You’ll be thanking yourself in a few months whilst wondering if there’s anything else that grows on this good earth besides kale and squash.

Ingredients

  • 2 handfuls fresh tomatillos
  • ¼ yellow onion
  • 12 sprigs cilantro
  • 1 jalapeño pepper
  • Juice of ½ a lemon
  • Black pepper to taste
  1. Remove tomatillos from their husks. Cut onion into chunks. Remove cilantro leaves from stems. Cut jalapeño into pieces, removing seeds.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Pulse until mixture is uniform and relatively smooth.
  3. Heat salsa in a saucepan over medium heat (or whatever heat level keeps it simmering gently) for 10-15 minutes. Color will transform into a darker green and flavors will become more pronounced.
  4. Remove from heat and refrigerate until cool. Serve with chips, over rice, or with quesadillas!

Whole Wheat Lentil Samosas

whole wheat lentil samosas

I’m one week into my organic farming adventure and have somehow managed to cheerfully adopt the vegetarian lifestyle. The food my host prepares is seriously good and animal free. As a life long omnivore, I’ve always considered veggies a side dish. And when it’s the main dish? Well, then I seriously deserve a pat on the back. But alas, at Bobcat Ridge Avocado Farm, we enjoy a major spread of farm to table deliciousness night after night after night. Nancy’s cooking makes me forget that meat ever existed, and our conversations about vegetarianism almost make me want to quit eating meat altogether. Almost.

So, the other day, when Nancy asked Lucie (the other WWOOFer) and me to prepare dinner, I was a little nervous. Like an episode of Chopped, we were given our featured ingredient and the timer was set. By 6 PM, we were to have prepared a feast, with lentils as the piece de resistance. Luckily, this all went down around 8 AM, so we had plenty of time to get cooking.

Since Lucie and I are basically obsessed with grinding our own wheat flour, we decided to try crafting whole wheat samosas. A lofty goal, considering that neither of us had done this before and ordering pizza ‘in case of emergency’ would likely be frowned upon. Nevertheless, we carried on.

whole wheat flour

We worked on these suckers throughout the day, taking breaks to water our seedlings, pluck Bermuda Grass weeds, and tend to the avocado trees, as per usual. We even cooked our lentils in the sun oven.

green lentil recipe

Now, this won’t take you all day long as it did for us. We just wanted to ensure that our recipe wasn’t a total flop, so we started early and took our time.

baked samosa dough

The result was revolutionary. It was a filling, healthy, veggie-friendly meal that made me forget that deep fryers were ever even a thing. Sadly, I was reminded of their existence the next day at the Santa Cruz County Fair. Not so sadly, I discovered that fried artichokes are a genius invention.

samosa5samosa9

The outside of the samosas were crispy and rich, like a spiced pastry. Inside, the lentil mixture was soft and flavorful, with just a little kick. We each had firsts, then seconds, and somehow managed to save some for lunch the next day.

lentil samosabaked samosas

I can’t say I’ll be a vegetarian forever, but it’s recipes like this that remind me that balanced, healthy, and flavorful meals don’t always need to include something that moos, squawks, or gobbles.

baked samosa recipe

Make these Whole Wheat Lentil Samosas for your main dish or as an appetizer, and definitely save some leftovers for lunch the next day. If you can’t help but eat the whole lot, there should be some leftover filling that’ll heat up nicely.

Ingredients (makes 18 small samosas)

Samosa Dough

  • 2 ½ cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted, room temperature butter
  • 3 tablespoons unrefined coconut oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 6 tablespoons plain yogurt
  • ¼ cup water

Samosa Filling

  • 2 cups cooked lentils
  • 1 medium sized potato
  • 1 small white onion (diced)
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 tablespoon unrefined coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons garam masala
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika

Dough:

  1. Combine flour, baking soda, turmeric, and salt in a large bowl.
  2. Create a small clearing in the center. Add coconut oil and slices of butter and use your fingers to pinch the mixture together until it forms a crushed graham cracker like consistency.
  3. Add the yogurt and use your hands to form dough into a ball. Add water, if necessary.
  4. Separate dough into 18 small balls. Place on a floured cookie sheet and store in the fridge (covered), for at least an hour, or until you’re ready to prepare the samosas.

Filling:

  1. Chop potatoes and carrots into small cubes. Steam them for five minutes, or until slightly tender.
  2. Combine lentils, potato, carrot, diced onion, and spices in a mixing bowl.

Assembly:

  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
  2. Remove dough balls from fridge and let sit for a few minutes.
  3. Press and shape each dough ball into a half circle. Use your fingertips to smear water around the edges of the semicircle. Fold in half to form a cone and pinch the sides to seal, leaving the top area open.
  4. Stuff with lentil filling. The dough is strong, and can hold more filling than expected. Pinch the top shut and place on the cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining dough balls. Store in fridge until 30 minutes before mealtime.
  5. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until dough is firm to the touch. Serve immediately.

wwoof usa

Super Soba Bowl

super soba bowl

I like micro things. Micro greens, microwaves, microbrews, micro fleece…all wonderful in their own right. Microclimates, though? That’s another story. Because San Francisco is so friggin’ hilly, it’s a different season around every corner. For me, this means bundling up in my stuffed animal pelt in the morning and stripping down to spaghetti straps by the time I get to work. It’s a strange way to live, I tell ya!

As micro as the climates are here, the neighborhoods are even more so. Lower Haight and “The Haight,” for example, are opposite worlds, where an invisible line is drawn between brunch territory and stoner stomping grounds. The other day, I found myself at Haight & Ashbury, where I invented the game ‘Homeless or Millennial.’ The street was sprinkled gingerly with head shops intermingled with dive bars, while the potent scents of marijuana and Nag Champa were relentless.

While most might consider the generous supply of dispensaries to be the defining characteristic of The Haight, the real crown jewel of this micro-hood is the Whole Foods store. For one, it’s filled with seriously good eats, and for two, the outdoor seating area is peopled generously with ‘Homeless or Millennial’ test subjects.

I went into Whole Foods in pursuit of some veggies for this here recipe, which is nearly identical to one that Deb Perelman recently posted on her food blog, Smitten Kitchen. The produce department was colorful and abundant with the likes of heirloom everything and non-local nothing. Reaching in for the radishes, I noticed that they were actually dirty, and as a result, so was my hand. After being vaguely frustrated about the mud on my paw (what am I, a Bichon Frise?), I realized that radishes come from the ground and hence should be dirty. And, for that matter, ALL of this super pricey stuff came from somewhere near or in dirt! Is it really that remarkable that some of the leftover brown stuff stays stuck?

whole foods produce

Thing is, I’ve got a relatively serious compulsion for shopping at Trader Joe’s. As much as I love not spending “Whole Paycheck” on dinner, I don’t love that all my produce comes pre-bagged, pre-washed, and pre-prepped. Call me crazy (or just a genuine San Franciscan) but I want to have a relationship with my produce – a relationship not unlike that between a helicopter parent and her offspring. I appreciate the effort Joe, I really do, but I like my radishes dirty and their leaves attached. And damn it if I don’t have the right to read their text messages, too!

buckwheat soba

I like Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for a few reasons. 1. It’s quick. 2. There’s no rush. Since it’s served cold, there’s no running around the kitchen like a Mexican Jumping Bean. 3. It’s easy. Really, very little “cooking” is asked of you. 4. It’s good. I’m talking refreshing, crunchy, healthy goodness that screams summer, especially if you don’t live in one of the polar vortex microclimates like some of us. If you do, though, put on a sweater and make this anyway. You won’t regret it, at least not nearly as much as you’d regret most other purchases in The Haight.

healthy dinner recipe

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces buckwheat soba noodles
  • 1 tablespoon white miso
  • 1 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • ½ teaspoon granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
  • Juice of ½ a lime
  • 4 radishes
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 scallion
  • ¼ of a large cucumber
  • 1 avocado

1. Follow cooking instructions on soba noodle package. I boiled mine for about 8 minutes. Once done, pour the noodles into a colander and rinse under cold water to prevent sticking.

2. While noodles are cooking, make the sauce. Whisk together miso, ginger, sugar, Cayenne, rice vinegar, soy sauce, and lime juice.

3. Slice radishes and cucumber tissue-paper thin. Slice avocado lengthwise. Chop scallion.

4. Divide noodles between two bowls. Pour half the dressing into each bowl and gently toss until the noodles are coated. Arrange veggies in the bowl and enjoy!

Kale Pesto

kale pesto

What do olives, feta, Dolmas, and kale have in common, aside from their Mediterranean origins? Easy – They were all considered utterly repulsive by yours truly, at one point or another. These delicacies have all, gratefully, recovered from their former habitation on my do-not-get-anywhere-near list and have since climbed the ladder into my good, no great, graces.

Kale is a particularly interesting case. I don’t quite know when I hopped on the Kale Caboose (possibly sometime around when this Instagram was taken), but I do know that I jumped aboard like a desperately unpopular hobo afraid of being left behind. If everyone jumps off a bridge, you probably shouldn’t, but if Bon Appetit says you should eat kale, you’d better oblige.

healthy pesto recipe

I started with simply sautéed kale. A bit of lemon and garlic made me nearly forget that what I was eating tasted all too similar to the innards of a lawn mower. I soon learned about massaging the kale! Not only was this green stuff the object of everyone’s affection…now it demanded to be pampered like a self-righteous bachelorette! Yet, like a 6’3 and brawny Swedish woman living full-time in Vegas, I obliged, and massaged the heck out of that damn kale till it was good and tender.

magic bullet recipe

With time, I became fond of my leafy, leathery, and all too trendy captor. I raved (and still dream about) Mei Mei’s Magical Kale Salad and would travel offensive distances for my helping of Sweetgreen’s Kale Caesar. I might have a case of Stockholm syndrome for my dearly beloved kale, but I’m happy being naïve enough to go on loving it.

homemade pesto recipe

This Kale Pesto has been in the making for quite some time. That’s not to say I’ve been tweaking and perfecting multiple batches before sharing with you. No! To be fair and honest, this is the first time I’ve made it. What I mean is, my willingness to potentially defile the great and sacred name of  “pesto” with a potentially malicious and bitter vegetable was no small accomplishment. It took a lot of gumption to get where I am today, but I am proud to say that Kale Pesto is actually, really and truly, good eats.

pantry raid

Now, when you make this – and I really hope you make this – don’t expect it to come out like pesto of the basil variety, because it won’t. This stuff is intense. Good intense! This pesto forgoes the stubborn texture of the raw leaves for the silky, rich, and entirely pungent flavors within. It’s sharp and green-tasting in the best way, and blends flawlessly with potent parmesan, citrusy Meyer lemon, and earthy pine nuts. It’s all brought together in harmony by the olive oil, which makes everything silky and whole.

magic bullet pestopine nuts and kale

Like traditional pesto, its uses are rather diverse. In the few days that it’s been in the fridge, I’ve mixed it with gnocchi, tossed it with salad, smeared it on crackers, and fluffed it into couscous. I can imagine it would also be delightful on turkey sandwiches, with over easy eggs, or with sautéed summer veggies. Unlike kale’s rather rigid posture, this pesto is malleable in every which way.

healthy pasta sauce

And, while traditional pesto will usually cost you an obnoxious amount of money for fresh basil, this recipe calls for less than a bunch of kale, leaving plenty of leaves left over for Swedish massages, should you be so inclined.

Ingredients

  • 8 leaves of your favorite kale (I used Dinosaur from my garden)
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves fresh garlic
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese, shredded (But not the pre-shredded kind. C’mon!)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest (Use Meyer lemon for a sweet touch)
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • Salt to taste.

1. Tear kale into pieces, removing the stiff stems.

2. Combine all ingredients in a food processor or super-awesome blender. Pulse until combined. You may need to use a spatula to coax ingredients together every so often. Add more olive oil if mixture is too thick. Serve immediately or store in the fridge, where the flavors will magically meld together.

Hurried Curry

trader joes curry

Ah, curry. It’s the sometimes mysterious, often spicy, and always comforting dish native to many many cultures. It comes in green, orange, red, and every color in between; a combination of spices and flavors that’s difficult to discern. It’s not just curry powder that makes this dish so special, but the hours spent simmering and bubbling as who-knows-what sneaks its way into every crevice and aperture of whatever exotic vegetables are graced with its presence. It’s the indescribable combination of this powder and that pepper that somehow creates a similar, although entirely unique, flavor.

It’s the fragrance of cumin, coconut, exotic pepper, and so on that makes you swoon the moment it comes into contact with your nostrils, which are pining desperately for another whiff. It’s best enjoyed in dingy restaurants where you wouldn’t dare try to pronounce its name. “I’ll have the Pra-.” The waitress finishes your sentence, though you have no idea what she just said. It’s a blind draw, most of the time, though what lands in front of you is worth the risk. Whatever kind of curry it is, it’ll likely make your nose run and make you empty  your water glass over and over again. Your only reprise is the moist rice, which gives you a break from it all, but also serves as the perfect vehicle for soaking up the last drops of curry sauce, once the potatoes, meat, and the myriad vegetables beyond recognition have been consumed.

Let it be known, this is not that kind of curry. This is the kind of curry made by people like myself, whose pantries are not stocked with whatever insanity goes into the real stuff but sometimes, in the comfort of their own PJs, crave the styling’s of non-descript Thai restaurants. Order in? Not on my watch!

easy curry recipe

This is not to say that this curry is no good. In fact, it’s very very good and very very easy. You’re in for a creamy and smooth texture made rich with coconut milk and the spices of my favorite trader, Joe. You can use whatever veggies you like, but I found the combination of waxy potatoes, bright carrots, and bristly broccoli create the perfect trifecta of flavors and textures to soak up the mouthwatering curry.

hurried curry

This dish takes about thirty minutes, which is no small feat in the world of curry curation. In so many words, this dish is simple, easy, delicious, and reminiscent of (but not identical to) late nights in Thai Town and early mornings with leftovers. And, made entirely with Trader Joe’s ingredients, it’s a perfectly affordable recipe that won’t send you to the ends of the earth to track down rare and exotic ingredients. You can “Khorb Khun Ka” me later.

easy thai curry

Ingredients

  • 4 small Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • 2 large carrots, sliced
  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, cooked (optional)
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 cup Trader Joe’s Thai Yellow Curry Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chili paste (more for a spicier curry)

1. Bring a medium size pot of water to a boil. Add potatoes. Cook for 5-8 minutes, until potatoes are just tender. Remove, and slice into quarters.

2. In a large pot, bring coconut milk and curry to a boil. Add potatoes and carrots and turn heat down to a simmer.

3. Simmer for about 5 minutes. Then add in broccoli, chicken, and chili paste.

4. Stir and simmer until vegetables are the desired tenderness and add more chili to taste.

 

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