Mediterranean Cauliflower Kale Roast with Feta

Mediterranean Cauliflower Kale Roast with Feta

Winter vegetables can seem bleak without the variety of the summer harvest. It’s why of all the recipes I cooked from Myra Kornfeld and Stephen Massamilla’s food poetry cookbook, Cooking with the Muse, I asked if I could share her Mediterranean Cauliflower Kale Roast with Feta. This vegetarian side dish packs in bold flavors and served with baked tofu or salmon, is my kind of healthy meal. What makes their way of approaching recipes extra special is how Massimilla provides a poet’s note and in this case, a snippet from an Auden poem to accompany Kornfeld’s recipe creation. Food poetry synchronicity at its finest!

Mediterranean Cauliflower Kale Roast with Feta

A poet’s hope: to be,

like some valley cheese,

local, but prized elsewhere.

—W.H. Auden, from “Shorts II”

Mediterranean Cauliflower Kale Roast with Feta

Recipe and poet’s note republished with permission from Cooking with the Muse by Myra Kornfeld and Stephen Massimilla (Tupelo Press, 2016).

Roasting gently browns the cauliflower florets and crisps the kale leaves, coaxing deep flavor out of the vegetables. Following this recipe will render them toasty and juicy at once. The combination of garlicky olives, capers, lemon, and oregano lends a slightly citrusy, almost buttery quality to the dish. A sprinkling of a good feta cheese from a pasture-raised sheep or goat adds one more element of delight and surprise. The literary history of pastured sheep’s and goat’s milk feta dates back to the Odyssey, a foundational epic poem of Western literature (see the Poet’s Note.)

Serves 4 to 6
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3/4 pound curly kale, stemmed and torn into bite-size pieces
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup chopped pitted kalamata olives
1 tablespoon capers, drained, rinsed and chopped
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons fresh oregano
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces feta cheese (preferably sheep’s milk feta), crumbled (1/2 cup)

  1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Have ready a parchment paper–covered baking sheet.
  2. In one bowl, toss the cauliflower with 2 tablespoons of the oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Spread the cauliflower on the baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes, turning once halfway through.
  3. In another bowl, toss the kale with 1 tablespoon oil. Massage the oil into the leaves so that each leaf is lightly coated. Sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon salt.
  4. After the cauliflower has roasted for 30 minutes, add the kale to the baking sheet, return it to the oven, and roast for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until the cauliflower is browned and the kale is crispy. Remove from the oven.
  5. Warm the remaining tablespoon of oil with the butter in a large skillet until the butter melts. Add the garlic, olives, and capers and cook for a minute or two, until fragrant. Stir in the cauliflower and kale, the water, and the oregano; combine thoroughly. Stir in the lemon juice and a sprinkling of pepper.
  6. Serve hot, with feta scattered on top.


Poet’s Note

This literary history of feta dates back to the 8th century BCE, though the emphasis in the epics that have come down to us was on hecatombs—sacrificial roasts of large animals on spits—the mainstay of a masculine warrior’s diet that was likely even then reserved for the upper classes. Feta, that tangy, salty, crumbly, quintessentially Greek cheese—which was originally aged and brined to keep well in a hot, arid climate—is described. Indeed, the equipment used to make sheep’s milk cheese in the Cyclops Polyphemus’s cave in Book IX of Homer’s Odyssey is much like that used by Greek shepherds to make feta today. Odysseus made the imprudent decision to raid the larder of a gigantic man-eating monster (who was fortunately myopic enough for Odysseus later to blind and outwit by escaping on the underbelly of a sheep, though some of his men didn’t fare so well):


We entered the cave and took stock of everything inside.

His baskets were loaded with cheeses, and his pens spilling

over with lambs and kids, divided into separate groups…

And all his vessels, milk pails, and pans into which he milked,

were brimming with whey. Seeing all this, my men begged me

to let them steal the cheeses, and make off with them to the ship…

but I wouldn’t listen to them; I wanted to meet

the owner first, in the hope that he’d give me a guest present.


Later, as they observe the giant, he goes on to prepare the whey cheese:


He drew off half of the milk to curdle it, and set it

aside in strainers made of wicker, stored for cheeses,

but let the other half stand in the milk pails…


Before disembarking on the island of the Cyclops, Odysseus and his men had surveyed the land with thoughts of colonizing it. They’d noticed that the carnivorous giants had no social customs and that their sheep were allowed to cavort everywhere without any pens to hold them. Though he and his crew were not in serious need of provisions and Odysseus was certainly foolish to tarry in the cave in hopes of receiving an extra “guest present” from an uncivilized monster, it is perhaps no surprise that Odysseus risked his life and those of his men to raid this cave for cheeses, lambs, and kids in the first place. Even by Archaic Greek standards, these livestock were seriously free range.

Greek cuisine in the 4th-century classical age was more sparing. The Greek poet Archestratus lived in Sicily, which was regarded by tradition to be the original island of the Cyclops. Archestratus, who lived there after it had really become a Greek colony, was perhaps the first Western cookbook writer whom we know of, though the fragments we have are from a parodic poem that advises the gastronomic reader on where to find the best food. His recipes rightly emphasize the fresh local quality of the ingredients.



Sunday Roast Cauliflower

Sunday Roast Cauliflower

Is it possible that we have recreated the Tower of Babel by emoji? With the right string of icons, anyone can now communicate by smiley face or thumbs up. And, new smart phones feature them as one might find an alphabet or keyboard of letters. It’s easier than ever before to connect and communicate. Or, is it? Deep down, I wonder.

Years ago, I used to take walks with a friend who also worked as a community manager, managing the online community  for her company through social media. We wondered out loud about how to give the right content to our community, flooding their feed regularly with mouth-watering snapshots of food that they had signed up for. It sometimes gave us pause to scratch underneath the surface of what it is exactly that they had signed up for. And, more importantly, how could we create and curate content that would get to that deeper impulse underneath appreciation for a branded product in the grocery cart, transferred to the pantry and then to Facebook. We would hike around the edges of Lands End in San Francisco and mull what our customers didn’t see about the food industry–the things that can be maddening like free-fills in retail stores (providing free stock to a store to sell through but the company not reaping any profit on those items) or how sometimes people visit company web pages with the sole aim of discord. I lived for those walks. And in hindsight, I can see that part of what made them invaluable was the companionship of someone who understood the inner workings of the business side of the social platforms that for some are time sucks for most people, as time for personal fun.

Moving to a new town, not so far away, and yet not close enough to tie on my walking shoes and drive or take two forms of public transportation to traipse through the quiet hills on the edge of Lands End evenings after work, I’ve had to change my rhythm. And, this has included walks with food writer friends to talk about cookbooks, blogging, and the inner workings of living life digitally and by recipe. I have stepped into a leadership role with IACP. This new rhythm also included joining a local meet-up for Food Content Creators. Around a table with mugs of hot tea, several of us meet regularly as part of a writing group I cherish. How we form community in our everyday lives as we get older and especially in the transient world of big cities can nudge you out. I was reminded recently how sometimes the places we think we might find community can make us feel marginalized and unexpectedly more alone in a group of people than we were by ourselves at home. 

This brings me to the idea of a Sunday roast. It strikes me as subject matter for Norman Rockwell, where all eyes around the table watch as the carving fork stabbed the meat and the slender knife trimmed juicy slices. Growing up, this tidbit of Americana cuisine passed over our house. Instead, on a good Sunday, my mom and I might venture out to Luby’s where I awaited crispy fish and mashed potatoes with a pool of tartar sauce. Maybe the point of the Sunday roast was to start cooking something that would be finished and ready to eat when you returned home after church. I don’t honestly know. Instead, there is a mystique to that meal and the idea that Sundays meant gathering around the table for this traditional repast. So, what kind of food do you eat on Sundays? At one point, Olga and I had the intention of making Sunday supper a place to invite friends regularly to the table. We wanted it to be a given that dinner would be served and friends would be welcome. It never came to pass, ultimately falling into the bin where good ideas go to fester.

So, where do you congregate with your community? Does it happen on a specific day each week or does it instead only happen at holidays and celebrations? In the age of the emoji, communicating might be simpler than ever before, but community is more complex. The table itself has become sometimes the symbol of dissonance where one person’s avoidance stems from a political perspective or allergies impact menu planning. But, it doesn’t have to be difficult. The simple Sunday roast might not make the cut anymore. So, instead, I offer the suggestion of a Sunday Roast Cauliflower where the crown of the platter comes cruciferous with crispy edges. It’s plentiful enough to carve into to serve your community, wherever you find it.

Sunday Roast Cauliflower  

Sunday Roast Cauliflower

If you’ve never roasted a whole cauliflower before, it leaves quite an impression upon all who partake of it. Imagine spearing it like you might a steak and pulling out your most trusty sharp chef’s knife to hack a section of the head to serve. And, who doesn’t like turning the idea of a Sunday roast on its head (of cauliflower). I like to make this dish during the week when my workdays run long and I need more time tying up that day’s details. It fills the house with the aroma of onions as a reminder that while I’m working, so is dinner. We serve this with steamed jasmine rice and spoon the Tea Umami sauce on it from Steeped or Carrot Top Pesto. Comfort food comes to the table roasted during fall and winter.

Serves 4

5 carrots, peeled and chopped into 2-inch pieces
1 cup celeriac, peeled and chopped into 2-inch chunks
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 red onion, peeled and quartered
1 head cauliflower, cored with the leaves removed
1 tablespoon plus 3 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat your oven to 375. Place the carrots, celeriac, garlic and onion in a bowl. Pour 1 tablespoon of the oil over them and toss to coat. Distribute them evenly in a Dutch oven. Crown the vegetables with the head of cauliflower. Drizzle the remaining olive oil over the cauliflower. Sprinkle the salt and pepper over the cauliflower and vegetables. Cook for 1 hour. Crank up the oven to 415 and cook for an additional 15 to 18 minutes to brown the top of the cauliflower a bit more.


Carrot Simmer Sauce Recipe

fusili in carrot sauce | annelies zijderveld

Who do I thank for the extra hour of sleep this morning? We have officially turned the corner into fall even in our still sunny landscape. The leaves got the memo and have begun turning red and burgundy across the street, letting a plume of wind set them in flight. I have pulled out my warmer pajamas, which isn’t saying much since we are still in California. But as the weather begins dipping into chillier degrees, I join the rest of root vegetable lovers the land over in praise of the roast and braise. In the spirit of embracing the seasons as they change, I decided to take that as a challenge for pasta sauce and developed a comforting carrot simmer sauce that decidedly clings to each curlicue. This is a recipe perfect for the long nights ahead. Garnish a bowl of it with savory Carrot Top Pesto.

I am thrilled to be a new contributor to The Weiser Kitchen and will be writing about married life and sharing recipes in a column called Eat Takes Two. Sometimes my love of wordplay and cheeky banter find their own marital bliss. Head over there for the Carrot Simmer Sauce recipe.

Fusili in Carrot Sauce with Carrot Top Pesto | Annelies Zijderveld


When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Tortilla Espanola

Baked Tortilla Espanola with Sungold Tomato Salsa

So you might be scratching your head and holding up two words, weighing them to see if they might possibly even each other out, “lemons, tortilla espanola?” I know. It perplexed me too. What happens when you unwittingly walk away from a rather impromptu visit to Sacramento with three ginormous Meyer lemons in tow? You make lemon curd, naturally. Then, if you’re like me, you begin plotting other uses for the gelatinous goo of egg whites filling a pint glass and mocking you from the inside of the refrigerator. They taunt, “Don’t make us into meringues again?!” And this time, you listen to them.

On a Monday night, you fire up the oven amid the sound of silent castanets cracking overhead, fingers clicking one egg, then two into the growing egg goo. Before long, the Espanola is in sight. Reason number 876 to be happy living in California might just have to be ripe tomatoes in November. They may not be the stellar outcroppings of September, but really, my farmer’s market still stocks strawberries like it’s the peak of summer. So, you have to make the most of these gifts from the heavens. You roast squash and root vegetables like the rest of the country but you silently give thanks as you pop a sungold tomato, its flavor sweet like the last summer sunset.

Then you break out of your reverie and scamper about throwing together an easy meal for a Monday night like this Baked Tortilla Espanola. Trust me, no turkeys, cranberries or stuffing cubes have been harmed in making this dish. There will be time enough for all of that soon enough. Instead, the leeks scent the olive oil and the boiling water takes the edge off the potatoes. All those egg whites find their own rhythm, and the slippery sauteed leeks blend their way into a sweeter sungold tomato salsa. Cut into a slice with a fork and you too may be hearing the call of the castanet.

Baked Tortilla Espanola with Sungold Tomato Salsa


For this recipe, you want to use a heavy bottomed pan that can go from stovetop to oven. If you have leftover salsa, spoon it onto a baked sweet potato or serve with crudités. Feeling spunky? Drizzle it onto exotic nachos laced with red pepper hummus, white cheddar, fennel pollen flecked goat cheese and creme fraiche. 

YIELD: 4-6 portions

For the Tortilla

  • 1 pound small potatoes
  • 1 1/2 cup sliced leek, white part only (4 1/4 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper

For the Salsa

  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 1 1/4 cup sungold cherry tomatoes (7 ounces)
  • splash of hot sauce
  • pinch of smoked paprika
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • crack of black pepper



Make the Tortilla
Preheat the oven to 350.

Rinse and scrub the potatoes. Slice them thinly into 1/4 inch rounds. Bring a pot 3/4 full of water to a soft rolling boil. Place the potato rounds into the water for 4-5 minutes to take off some of their crunch. Drain them in a colander.

Place a heavy bottomed pan over medium low heat for 1 minute. Swirl in the olive oil and add the leeks. Cook for 4 minutes or until the leeks are translucent. Strain leeks out of the oil and reserve.

Place potato rounds into the oil and cook for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile whisk together 2 eggs with the 6 egg whites and add in the salt and pepper. Pour whisked eggs evenly over the potatoes and cook on the stovetop for 2 minutes to set them. Then transfer the pan to the oven and bake for 35 minutes or until the eggs are cooked though and don’t jiggle when you jostle the pan. Cool for five minutes.

Make the Salsa
Drizzle the vingear into the receptacle of a blender. Spoon the sautéed leeks on top and then add in the rinsed sungold tomatoes. Puree until almost smooth- a bit of chunkiness is inviting in salsa. Stir in the hot sauce, paprika, salt and pepper. Spoon the sauce in a circle on each plate.

Plate the Tortilla and Salsa
Slide a spatula around the edge of the pan several times carefully, helping loosen the tortilla from the sides. Once the edges have pulled away a bit, slip the spatula under the tortilla to begin carefully loosening it from the bottom of the pan. Bring a large plate to the top of the pan and invert the pan onto the plate so that the tortilla transitions from the pan to the plate. Cut a slice of the tortilla to serve on top of the salsa.


Creamy Chickpea and Yogurt Casserole

Let’s talk about hummus. It’s a good place to start. When most people think about Mediterranean food, this dip perfectly scooped up by pita comes to mind. You could say it would be on the top five list for a Family Feud quiz. And who would disagree? The creaminess of chickpeas blending with garlic, just the right amount of lemon juice and tahini makes for that distinctive flavor profile.

Now, let’s move to Tissiyeh. This Creamy Chickpea and Yogurt Casserole might be the cousin to hummus. Like hummus, it includes chickpeas, garlic, lemon, tahini and salt. And yet, it goes so much farther. The toasted pine nuts and oil give the complexity characteristic of pignolas. The bright and creamy yogurt is a bit of a revelation and yet if you consider how much yogurt makes its way into Mediterranean cuisine, it’s not an altogether surprise. Oh, hummus lovers, you are in for a real treat.

Making the casserole perplexed me. While cooking through “An Edible Mosaic” cookbook, the photo and description enticed me enough to include it on a weeknight menu. But, how to serve it? Is it an appetizer? Is it a dinner entree? Is it just plain comfort food in the first order? At this point in our cook-the-book exploration, I trusted cookbook author Faith Gorsky enough to just go with it. Don’t get me started on how much we looked forward to her Fish Pilaf leftovers…

We modified the recipe ever so slightly to make it compliant with how we eat in our home. In place of  the flatbreads recommended in the Creamy Chickpea and Yogurt Casserole recipe, we heated up some gluten-free pizza crusts. I figured this substitution would still achieve the same textural goals of the original. This dish came together in such a short time and found it to be quite filling. Gorsky describes Tissiyeh as a traditional dish served in Damascus, Syria, where her family lives.

So when you’re in the mood for a light dinner, an interesting appetizer or comfort food in a bowl, whip up your own batch of Creamy Chickpea and Yogurt Casserole and leave the hummus for tomorrow.

An Edible Mosaic- Creamy Chickpea and Yogurt Casserole




by Faith Gorsky from “An Edible Mosaic”.
*Reprinted with permission and a minor adaptation

YIELD: 4-6 servings

2 gluten-free pizza crusts

2 16oz. cans chickpeas, reserve the liquid

2 cups water

2 teaspoons ground cumin, divided

3 1/2 cups plain yogurt

1/2 cup tahini

4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons olive oil or clarified butter

4 tablespoons pine nuts

1 tablespoon minced parsley leaves (optional, for garnish)


Preheat oven to 250. Put the flatbread directly onto the oven rack and bake until brittle but not burned, about 15 minutes, flipping once. Cool the bread completely, and then break into bite-sized pieces. Line the bottom of 1 large serving bowl (or 4 individual bowls) with the bread and set aside.

Pour the chickpeas (and their liquid), water, and 1 teaspoon of cumin into a medium saucepan; bring to a simmer over medium heat. Ladle a bit (about 1 – 1 1/2 cups) of the chickpea cooking liquid onto the dried bread to make it moist, but not soggy, pressing down with a spoon to help the bread absorb the liquid. If you add too much liquid, just drain off any excess. Remove 4 tablespoons of chickpeas to a small bowl and set aside, and spoon the remainder of the chickpeas onto the moistened bread.

Whisk together the yogurt, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, salt, 1/2 cup chickpea cooking liquid, and the remaining 1 teaspoon of cumin in a medium bowl. Pour the yogurt mixture into the chickpeas and sprinkle the remaining 4 tablespoons of chickpeas on top.

Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat; add the pine nuts and cook until golden brown, about 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly; set aside. Drizzle the pine nuts and their oil on top, and sprinkle on the parsley, if using. Serve immediately.




Spanish Lentil Mushroom Stew

The meal after the Meal- I have been contemplating Black Friday in a new way this year. None of the scheming and planning for wee morning hour wake-up calls to shop. Oh, no. As home cooks across the country are putting into action this week’s game plan for Thanksgiving, I’ve set my eyes on Friday.

Thanksgiving should require its own lexicon. It starts on Sunday when the candies get made. Tuesday might as well be dedicated to pie day as pie crusts get filled with gooey pecans and syrup or with spiced pumpkin puree. Wednesday becomes the day for making any side dishes that can sit overnight to let the flavors meld. And we all know what Thursday means, or at least our belts know what it means.

This year I wanted to take a different approach to the day after Thanksgiving, usually a repeat of leftover favorites refashioned into day-after delivery or served up in the array most beloved by each participant. This year, while in Texas, I wanted to bring a bit of California to the table or at least, the way we usually eat chez nous. It saddens me to think that while my Dad was alive I didn’t really get a chance or make the effort to cook for him. I know that one Thanksgiving I had a chance to contribute a salad, done my way and he, the antagonist of “rabbit food” ate it and enjoyed it. And cooking is after all one of my love languages I can imagine many of us speak to the people we love.

So, in the spirit of bringing California to Texas, I’ve decided to make the meal vegetarian. It’s not some sort of political statement, as I can put down smoked brisket with the best of them, but it reminds me of the home and style of living and eating we have cultivated in California. This opportunity arrives for me to make a succulent feast of fresh foods bursting with seasonal flavor. After all of the tryptophan and Red Rooster imbibing of Thursday, Friday is a chance to turn a corner in a different direction.


B L A C K   F R I D A Y   M E N U

Sweet Potato Crostini with Celery Parsley Salad, Lemony Yogurt and Pomegranate Seeds

Massaged Kale Salad with Persimmons, Cranberries, Chevre & Toasted Almonds

Spanish Lentil Mushroom Stew
Grilled Organic Polenta

Yogurt Pudding with Spiced Pear Compote


I kept my tastebuds open and exploring the past few months, testing recipes and ideas of foods that would work for this Black Friday Feast  and be family-approved. This Spanish Lentil Mushroom Stew below by Michael Natkin completely bowled me over. The sherry vinegar and paprika give a heartiness to the mushrooms and lentils. Below, the stew is served with sliced Early Girl tomatoes and basil. Since they are not quite in season right now, we will be foregoing them and I might opt to offer some quick-pickled onions or some such notion. Who knows, maybe this is a family tradition in the making?

Spanish Lentil and Mushroom Stew



From “Herbivoracious” by Michael Natkin. Reprinted with permission.

YIELD: 4-6 servings

5 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 small white onion, finely diced

3 garlic cloves, minced

kosher salt

2 cups French green lentils, rinsed and picked over

4 cups water

1 pound Crimini mushrooms, quartered lengthwise

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

12 big basil leaves, rolled into a bundle and cut into thin strips (chiffonade)

freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic and a pinch of salt and saute until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the lentils and water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook, uncovered, until lentils are tender but not falling apart, about 20 minutes. Drain.

2. While the lentils are cooking, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in your largest skillet over high heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the mushrooms in a single layer and sauté, turning occasionally, until well browned, about 5 minutes. If your skillet isn’t big enough to hold the mushrooms in one layer, work in batches. Season the mushrooms with 1/4 teaspoon salt.

3. Put the lentils in a mixing bowl and add the smoked paprika, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 tablespoon of the sherry vinegar. Taste and adjust seasoning.

4. Toss the cherry tomatoes and basil with the remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil, remaining 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

5. To serve, divide the lentils among bowls. Top with the mushrooms, and top the mushrooms with the tomato salad. Give the whole thing a grind of black pepper and another dusting of paprika if you like.





Dark Rye Grilled Cheese Sandwiches with Rubbed Garlic


For most people, October conjures up smiling jack o’lanterns with their toothsome grins or perhaps the month that a brisk breeze begins to blow summer away once and for all. For me, for my husband, October brings an anniversary and the play-offs. It’s important to note that the year we married, the Giants clinched the World Series title. I was invested in them going all the way, as we had just committed to happily ever after. I even doctored and dedicated a cookie recipe to celebrate them.


Fond memories of the honeymoon include the innocuous visits to a dive bar in the town we were visiting, licking the suds of a Sam Adams’ Oktoberfest from the lips of our glasses as we bellowed at the TV screen behind the bar. It felt good to jeer, to holler whoops and exchange high fives when our team scored and rounded the bases. If marriage isn’t an experiment in teamwork, I don’t know what is.


Better together. Some things that are already good are far better together.

Before Beck and I knew each other and I only had hints to who he might be, really, there was a self-styled description of a sandwich with turkey and ham. Being a natural ham myself I mused that my sandwich would also have a smear of fig jam, both to complement the saltiness of the ham and because of my need to sneak in figs whenever I find occasion. This icebreaker had served its purpose.

So, it’s only fitting to celebrate our anniversary this year with a sandwich.

The sandwich of note sizzles garlic into oil, scenting it with a slightly pungent flavor and aroma that sears the dark rye bread and begins melting the sharp cheddar inside. Better together, eh? My ulterior motive here involves that second October certainty, letting the San Francisco Giants colors work their magic in a sandwich that does its best to cheer on the home team, bedecked in orange and black. And we listen raptly to Johnny Miller call the plays- we wait to see our team, victors.Dark-Rye-Grilled-Cheese-Sandwiches-with-Rubbed-Garlic


DARK RYE GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICHES WITH RUBBED GARLIC Making a good grilled cheese sandwich, like marriage is not a perfect science, but there are several elements you expect to find. For a sandwich, you want to rub the outside bread with butter or oil so it can crisp up. You want enough cheese so the sandwich doesn’t seem stingy and you want to deck it out with proper bedfellows. Rye and sharp cheddar take grilled cheese to a new level with the garlic-infused oil. Not sure what to do with the browned garlic? Mince and add to vegetables for easy seasoning.

 YIELD: 2 sandwiches

  • 4 slices of dark rye or pumpernickel bread
  • 4 ounces of good sharp cheddar cheese, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 + 1 teaspoon of safflower oil
  1. Smash garlic cloves with the butt of a knife. Peel off and discard papery skin. Pour 1 teaspoon of oil in a small pan and over medium heat, sauté the garlic, letting it scent the oil. Remove the garlic with a slotted spoon from the oil, once it begins to brown.
  2. Assemble 2 ounces of cheese slices on one side of the bread.  Close the sandwich with the other slice of bread.
  3. Once the garlic has been removed and the sandwich is ready to go, place it in the oil and let cook for 1-2 minutes. Flip the sandwich to the other side and let cook for 1-2 minutes or until the cheese is melty and begins oozing out of the side. Carefully sidle the sandwich onto a plate.
  4. Repeat steps 1 through 3 for the second grilled cheese.



Saag Tofu




From “The Inspired Vegan” by Bryant Terry

Bryant Terry figured out a way to make a Palak Paneer or Saag Paneer that’s flavorful and not as heavy as the version I enjoyed in India. I’m a sucker for Indian food. The creamy and complex flavors coalesce into something that transports me back to a small walk-up restaurant during a visit to Delhi. This Saag Tofu dish mimics its namesake, Saag Paneer but swaps out the paneer cheese for cubes of tofu. While I wouldn’t say this is exactly light fare, it sets a high bar for one of my favorite Indian dishes that feels healthier. This recipe comes together pretty quickly, so it makes a good meal for weeknights. You’ll find the recipe for Terry’s Yellow Basmati Rice in The Inspired Vegan, though you could easily swap in brown rice instead.

TIME: Around 40 minutes
YIELD: 4-6 servings

1 pound extra-firm organic tofu

1 teaspoon cumin

¾ teaspoon turmeric

¾ teaspoon mustard seeds

½ teaspoon fennel seeds

coarse sea salt

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 pounds fresh spinach, washed and trimmed

1 small yellow onion (about 1 cup), chopped finely

1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger

2 small green chiles, seeded and minced

½ teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 large garlic cloves, minced

1 ½ cups unflavored rice milk


Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Place the tofu cake on its side and slice in half. Lay the tofu down flat, keeping the layers together, and slice it, widthwise, into three even slabs. Slice each of those slabs into quarters widthwise, leaving you with 24 cubes. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine ½ teaspoon of cumin, ½ teaspoon of turmeric, ½ teaspoon of mustard seeds, ¼ teaspoon of fennel seeds and ½ teaspoon of salt and mix well with a fork. Add a tablespoon of olive oil and mix well. Add the tofu cubes and gently toss to coat with the mixture.

Gently transfer the tofu cubes to a parchment-lined baking sheet in a single layer.

Roast for 30 minutes, gently turning with fork after 15 minutes.

While the tofu is roasting, combine 3 quarts of water and 1 teaspoon of salt in a large pot and bring to a boil. Add the spinach and blanch until softened, about 1 minute, drain in a colander, and chill under cold running water. Squeeze the water out of the spinach with a clean kitchen towel, then chop coarsely and set aside.

In a medium-size saucepan, combine the onion with the remaining olive oil and the ginger, chile, coriander, and black pepper, and the remaining ½ teaspoon of ground cumin, ¼ teaspoon of turmeric, ¼ teaspoon of mustard seeds, ¼ teaspoon of fennel seeds, and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Saute over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring often, until the vegetables are soft and browning. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes.

Add the spinach and the rice milk to the saucepan and simmer over medium-low heat, covered for about 15 minutes, until the spinach is creamy. Add eight to 12 tofu cubes to the spinach, avoiding overcrowding the spinach with tofu, and simmer for 5 more minutes (reserve the additional tofu for later use in another dish). Season with additional salt if necessary. Serve hot.

*Reprinted with permission from The Inspired Vegan by Bryant Terry. Copyright 2012 by Da Capo Lifelong Books.




Fresh Fennel Lychee Spring Rolls with Black Tea Dipping Sauce

VEGETARIAN RECIPES- Fresh-Fennel-Lychee-Spring-Rolls-with-Black-Tea-Dipping-Sauce_IMG7743

We stop to smell the roses. We stop to find their petals caress our fingertips, soft as rustling silk. We find their sweet aroma lingers into the rest of our day, its faint residue a recollection of gathering the mind swell of remembering we are part of life once.

Travel can be such a disjointed event, as if excising a limb from the rest of the body. Apart from the central nervous system, the phantom limb pains come in as text messages from the body of I miss you. Come home soon. With it comes the setting off to explore and entrench oneself deeply into the alien environs even if there is a modicum of familiarity in the place being visited. The adage, “You can never go home again” bodes true. Regardless of how deeply ingrained a place is with your spirit, something about you has changed since you last visited and the same is true of the place. Perhaps it’s the old house knocked down to build a McMansion or the discovery of a second bakery opened up in the quaint small town.

Life does not stop as we move forward by plane, train or automobile. People still get married and people still die. We are just out of pocket to respond accordingly.

Recently, I traveled for a wedding and found myself consoling the bride in her dressing room. Her hair piled high and her face made up, she fanned her eyes to try to avoid letting tears that tugged at the corners from making their imprint in mascara. Some things you can talk away and others assert themselves as unexpected guests that you can’t politely escort out. We sat there in the bridal dressing room with me trying to make the bride laugh, using my recent comical comings and goings as fodder. I succeeded once, but what transpired is not something easily passed off.

On the day of the wedding, a day several years previous that the father of the bride had passed away from cancer, the mother of the groom did not wake up but was instead non-responsive and rushed to the hospital, in the midst of her own battle with cancer. The classical guitarist charged through his set of music and repeated the set as the wedding was delayed and inevitably started without the groom’s parents present. We hold the bitter and the sweet enough to understand that’s why we’ve been given two hands. Ultimately, the joy of two families forging as one played itself out. The mother and father of the groom arrived at the end of the reception, their presence such a sweet gift and a reminder that like the bubbles we blew as the couple departed, our lives are iridescent and infinitely fragile.

Another trip followed. This time a phone call pulled me from the reverie of being ensconced in the small town where I ventured for a self-imposed writing retreat. After the usual cavalcade of conversation, we arrived at the gist of the phone call, the death of our friend and landlord. Just a week prior, he had been brought home with his living room outfitted to accommodate his hospital bed. I had barged into the room to usher in our eagerness to have him back and to give him a box of cereal. As my eyes took in the situation and the whiteboard with the words “difficulty swallowing” scrawled by black dry erase marker, the cereal box felt superfluous and I stood there trying to cheer the man whose blue eyes used to dance with the playfulness of a vibrant zest for life but now appeared lackluster. “See, I’m not teasing her,” he said as he proceeded to tell me how I looked more svelte. Ever the generous bighearted fellow, he tried to pull himself from the bed to sit on the couch, wanting to properly spend time with his guest. We each acknowledged this misstep with “maybe later in the week” and my reclamation of the cereal box for a promise to make something “ridiculously good- a pureed soup!” He smiled at me and I told him I would come visit again in a few days.

We see what we want to see.

While his stalwart spirit had diminished and he appeared shrunken, I let myself believe he would be on the mend as he had been countless times before and that soon, we would hear him hollering through the floorboards when the Glasgow Celtics scored a goal or singing a song in his assured tenor. Sometimes what is required is bending to what must be, and finding the grace to let what will be begin its unfolding. The news on this telephone call with me as far from home as I could be without leaving the United States left me feeling distant and trying to process this new fact and that I would miss the memorial service. That his hand was held by his life partner in his final moments – that he rested comfortably as his spirit departed from his body makes the finality of his passing bearable and gives levity to something so somber.

During that stint on the East Coast, I talked with a fellow writer about how the seasons evoke themselves into friendships. Where one friendship may be in its peak of summer, another settles into autumn or winter. I have stopped fighting this natural progression. Call it a Darwinist evolution of living that as we change and others change, paths will diverge. Just as the bride and I have held our friendship since our mothers’ meeting in lamaze class, so too the landlord and I find our friendship pinned to the memories of recollection, a flower pressed in between pages of a favorite book.

How sweet and rare are the friendships of kindred spirits who have moved far away and upon meeting up again, things resume as they once were. These are valuable gifts. 

In spite of what is happening around us, people still get married and people still die. In this truth lies the wisdom to celebrate the moments and opportunities as they come- to smell the roses and let their lingering aroma envelop us with sweetness.

Fresh Fennel-Lychee-Spring-Rolls-with-Black-Tea-Dipping-Sauce




YIELD: Makes 20 spring rolls

My friend Pamela taught me how to make spring rolls years ago when she lived in the Mission district and we would get together weekly for dinner and conversation. I look back on those times with the fondness of creating community and a long-lasting friendship. This past weekend with a birthday party potluck in store, I found myself thinking of Pam and her Mango Spring Rolls. Given that the birthday girl has a bit of an adventurous foodie flair, I thought she wouldn’t mind this revision as our potluck dish, even as I gifted her with Dark Chocolate Campari caramels and two books of poetry- one by Kaminsky and another by Prado. Indeed, the spring rolls brought a bit of  surprise by lychee that makes them a tasteful and refreshing dish for summer potlucks or parties. You’ll find the black tea brings a bit of astringency to this dipping sauce that complements rather than masking the subtle flavors of lychee and fennel.

20 fresh lychees

½ fennel bulb

½ cup fresh mint leaves

3 ½ ounce rice noodles

20 rice paper wrappers


1 tablespoon English Breakfast black tea

1 cup water

1 teaspoon sambal oelek (chili paste)

¼ cup rice vinegar

1 garlic clove, minced

1 ½ tablespoon raw honey


  1. Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a medium sized pot. Turn heat off and add in the rice noodles to soak for 10 minutes. Assemble your mise en place (“putting in place” all the bowls of fillings) while the rice noodles soak.
  2. Peel skins off of lychees. Then peel the lychee off of the nut in quarters. Set aside in a small bowl. Cut the fronds off of the fennel bulb and then cut the bulb in half. Then cut into thin matchstick slices and set them aside in a bowl. Pull fresh mint leaves off of the stem and place them in a small bowl.
  3. Drain the rice noodles and then run cold water over them until cool. Set aside to drain the water from the noodles. Fill a pie plate or medium sized pan with warm water (whatever will fit the diameter of the rice paper wrapper). Position a dry cutting board next to the pie plate and you’re ready to go.
  4. Dunk one of the rice paper wrappers into the pie plate until submerged under the water and soft (between 10-15 seconds- you can tell when the rice paper goes from feeling inert to pliable). Remove the rice paper from the water and place on your cutting mat. Once you’ve gotten the rhythm of filling the rolls, put a new rice paper wrapper into the water as you’re filling the ready-to-go wrapper.
  5. Place a few pieces of fennel sticks in the middle of the rice paper (about 2 large ones and 2-3 small pieces). On top of that, add a pinch of rice noodles (eyeball it at about 1 tablespoon) and make sure they’re nice and snug in that middle section. Place 4 quarters of lychee over the noodles lined up like a marching band. Then place one large mint leaf or two smaller ones atop. Next, sprinkle on a smidge of green onion.
  6. Now that you’re ready to wrap, take the top section of the rice paper and fold it down. Take the bottom section of the rice paper and fold up. Pull the left side of the rice paper wrapper and fold it in tightly. Then flip and roll the rice paper wrapper toward the open right side until the roll is sealed. Place in a large casserole dish, butted up against one another. Keep rolling until you’ve exhausted your ingredients.
  7. Make your dipping sauce by setting the water to boil over medium high flame. Once the water is boiling, add in the tea leaves and turn the flame down to medium. Steep tea leaves for four minutes. Turn off heat and strain tea from the tea leaves. Set aside. In a small bowl (or pint sized mason jar), add rice vinegar, honey, sambal oelek and minced garlic, whisking together. Add in two tablespoons of the brewed black tea and whisk until combined. (You can add more to taste).


NOTE: If you struggle with the rolling technique, it should become easier as you do it. My first rolls always seem to be a practice run and opportunity for a teaser taste test.




Mee Goreng

Who says the street food craze can’t be brought home? This recipe while it may look daunting requires time for prepping the ingredients and is easy to make for a weeknight alternative to take-out. I give you the insanely good Mee Goreng recipe. Yotam Ottolenghi has really outdone himself with this recipe. I made it three times in the span of just as many weeks which could either mean I’m someone on a mission or someone who needs to plan a trip to Malaysia where this street food is regarded with fondness. We recently discovered Mee Goreng on the menu of our favorite Thai take-out restaurant. Their version used thicker wheat noodles shellacked in a spicy sauce but missed the  stir-fried vegetables and garnishes that make Ottolenghi’s recipe shine.




Recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi from his cookbook “Plenty.” Reprinted with permission. Published by Chronicle Books.

The original recipe in “Plenty” uses egg noodles (as pictured above) but I wanted to try a gluten free variation of this dish and after having tried it with egg noodles and then with rice noodles, found I preferred the rice noodles. I also substituted scrambled eggs instead of tofu and found that worked well texturally and flavor-wise. The original recipe also calls for 2 tablespoons of thick soy sauce and 2 teaspoons of light soy sauce. We opted to use the Liquid Aminos as that is a mainstay in our kitchen. Feel free to go the route that works for you. Lastly, I added sliced radishes as a garnish finding the crunch and slight zip of spice it lends to this already assertive dish one that is in good company. If you live in San Francisco and are looking to purchase sambal oelek, head over to New May Wah on Clement Street. Otherwise, purchase it online.

YIELD: 2 servings

2 tablespoons peanut oil

1/2 onion, diced

4 eggs, scrambled hard

4 ounces green beans, trimmed and cut in half at an angle

4 ounces bok choy, cut into large chunks (both leaves and stalks)

11 ounces rice sticks (rice noodles)

1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

2 teaspoons sambal oelek ( or another savory chili paste), plus extra to serve

3 teaspoons Braggs liquid aminos

1 tablespoon water

2 ounces Mung bean sprouts

handful of shredded iceberg lettuce

2 tablespoons of thinly sliced radishes

1 tablespoon crisp-fried shallots

lemon wedges to serve

1. Set a wok or large pan on high heat. Once hot, add the oil and then the onion, and cook for about 1 minute to soften a bit. Add the sliced green beans and scrambled egg and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir gently so as not to break up the eggs into pieces that are too small.

2.In a large pot of hot water, place the rice noodles to soak. Drain after 5 minutes and then set aside.

3. Next, add the bok choy. When it wilts, add the noodles and carefully spread them in the wok using tongs. You want the noodles to get a lot of heat, almost to fry. Mix gently, cooking the noodles for about 2 minutes. Then add the spices, sambal oelek, liquid aminos, water, bean sprouts and toss carefully. Cook for about a minute or until the noodles are semisoft.

4. When ready, top with lettuce, transfer to serving bowls and sprinkle crisp shallots and radish slices on top. On the side, serve lemon wedges and a small bowl of extra sambal oelek.


PAIRING SUGGESTION: Try this with a chilled glass of Riesling.




Artichoke-Rosemary Tart with Polenta Crust

Artichoke-Rosemary Tart with Polenta Crust from Ancient Grains for Modern MealsIt’s no secret that my dear sweet Beck’s appreciation for artichokes and cheese almost rival his fondness for beer and cheese. Where the Wild Rice Frittata called out to me from the table of contents of the “Ancient Grains for Modern Meals,” the Artichoke-Rosemary Tart with Polenta Crust had Beck written all over it.

I thought it might be a delectable splurge in our gluten free exploits and knew it would provide many meals for Beck while I traveled for work this week. With rapt attention, he dove into his slice of tart. There might be a very good chance that this tart might find its way onto the table for his birthday or perhaps the Sardine Tart with Sweet Bell Peppers and Currants (p. 174) with a modified gluten free crust.

While the recipe below may look arduous and long, it’s quite easy to pull together and makes for great leftovers.

VEGETARIAN RECIPES- Artichoke-Rosemary Tart with Polenta Crust



Reprinted with Permission from “Ancient Grains for Modern Meals” by Maria Speck. Copyright 2011 Maria Speck. Printed by Ten Speed Press.

YIELD: 4 main course servings or 8 starter course servings

1 ½ cup low-sodium vegetable broth

1 ¼ cup water

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

1 ¼ cup polenta or corn grits

½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese (about 2 ½ ounces; use the large holes of a box grater)

1 large egg, at room temperature

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


1 cup plain whole-milk Greek yogurt

2 large eggs

½ cup finely chopped green onions (about 3)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary

¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 (12 ounce) package frozen quartered artichoke hearts, thawed and drained

2 ounces crumbled goat cheese (about ½ cup)

½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese

To make the polenta crust, bring the broth and water to a boil in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the salt. Using a large whisk, slowly add the polenta in a thin stream, and continue whisking for 30 more seconds. Decrease the heat to low and cover. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon about every 2 minutes to keep the polenta from sticking to the bottom. Remove the saucepan from the heat and let sit, covered, for 10 minutes, stirring a few times. The polenta will be fairly stiff. Stir in the cheese, egg and pepper.

Grease a 10-inch ceramic tart pan with olive oil or coat with cooking spray, and place on a wire rack. Have ready a tall glass of cold water. Dip a wooden spoon into the water as needed as you spread the polenta mixture across the center of the pan, pushing it up the sides. Set aside to firm up at room temperature, about 15 minutes, and then form an even rim about ¾ inch thick with your slightly moist fingers, pressing firmly. No need to fret over this- it’s easy.

Meanwhile, position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375.

Prepare the artichoke cheese filling. Place the yogurt, eggs, green onions, parsley, rosemary, salt and pepper in a 2-cup liquid measure or a medium bowl and combine well with a fork. Distribute the artichoke quarters over the crust, cut sides up, forming a circle along the rim and filling the center (you might not need all the hearts). Sprinkle the goat cheese on top and gently pour the filling over the artichokes. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese.

Bake the tart until the top turns golden brown and the filling is set, about 45 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and set aside at room temperature to firm up for at least 20 minutes, 40 if you can wait. Using a sharp serrated knife, cut into slices. Serve with more freshly ground pepper on top if you like.


The polenta crust, as in steps 1 and 2 can be prepared 1 day ahead, as can the entire tart. Cool to room temperature, chill for a couple of hours, and then cover with plastic wrap. Allow the tart to come to room temperature before serving or gently reheat to warm (not hot) in a 325F oven for about 30 minutes.

Use 1 cup non- or lowfat Greek yogurt in the filling instead of whole-milk yogurt.




Creamy Mint Pesto Quinoa Noodles

It’s a weekend night. It has been a doozy of a week and I crash through the door with the intention of dinner in an hour. The catch is there is not a bone in my body really rendering its services for the task. Do we head out in what is the second storm to move through San Francisco in a week in search of hot food and a quick turn-around? Do we hail the almighty delivery person with their promise of pizza in under an hour that might leave us feeling not so great? I would like to say we never respond with either of the preceding responses, but let’s just admit that’s not the case. On this particular night, I got a hankering and as I am wont to do went in search of a way to scratch the itch. Pesto in the winter- it sounds now like a movie Nathan introduced “The Lion in Winter.” In this case, the lion was our stomachs and the winter was the rain lashing gashes into our windows. I scrounged. I coddled. I conquered.

Ah, pantry and refrigerator, how you spoil me with your conquests!

The key to making easy last minute ridiculously good food that gets you a smile, hug and a kiss is a properly stocked fridge and pantry. They are your allies when the going gets tough. If you’re interested, I can go through a pretty rudimentary list of our must-have’s, just leave me a comment and I will be sure to plan on covering the fun topic of the LBD in our fridge and pantry.

Tonight’s secret weapon: quinoa linguine. To go out of the ordinary from regular semolina linguine, you’ll find this gluten free pasta a winner with its combination of organic corn flour and organic quinoa flour. It’s a bit of a departure, but looks familiar.

Now for the Pesto in Winter (see how that rolls right off the tongue)? Pesto is comprised of several key ingredients: basil leaves, garlic, pignola, freshly grated parmesan, and olive oil. In the spirit of my kitchen, we work with what we have which this evening did not include the pine nuts, basil and I decided to forego the olive oil in place of grape seed oil. Instead, I began salivating over the idea of mint and pistachios, which are already salad mates, as picking up the ingredient slack. Then there was the addition of kefir. Let me just tell you, you might be seeing a lot of kefir in coming weeks so we will plan a more formal introduction later. The resulting creamy sauce clung to the al dente noodles. With freshly grated parmesan dusting the top of the dish, I found this too good to keep to myself.

Consider it my St. Paddy’s Day gift to you: a dinner that takes less than 30 minutes on a night where you need a bit of a boost.

VEGETARIAN RECIPES- Creamy Mint Pesto Quinoa Noodles




YIELD: 4 servings

1/2 cup plain organic kefir

1 cup mint leaves

1/4  cup unsalted pistachio meat

2 tablespoons grapeseed oil

1 garlic clove

1/4 cup grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese plus more as desired for garnish

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

kosher salt, to taste


1.  Remove mint leaves from stalk and rinse.

2. Add mint leaves, pistachios, oil, salt, pepper, Parmesan Reggiano, garlic and 1/4 cup kefir. Puree until smooth. Taste and add the other 1/4 cup kefir plus a bit more salt if you want. Puree until smooth. Set aside.

3. Bring 4 quarts of water to a rolling boil in a large pot. Then add the quinoa linguine noodles, broken in half and added by dropping them into the pot. Cook for 6-9 minutes uncovered and make sure to stir frequently, as you do not want them to clump. I tend to stir with tongs to make sure the noodles are circulated enough. You want them cooked al dente, so around the 8-9 minute mark, you should be good to go.

4. Drain pasta and reserve 1-2 tablespoons of pasta water. Set aside.

5. You will combine the noodles and pesto in three batches, to ensure coverage. Start by adding 1/3 of the hot noodles to a large pan with 1/3 of the Mint Pesto sauce. Add in 1 tablespoon of pasta water and drag them around in the pesto until covered. Add in the next round of noodles and pesto and drag to combine. Do it one last time and add in the other tablespoon of pasta water if it feels too thick.

6. Serve with freshly grated parmesan Reggiano on top to taste.


SERVING SUGGESTION: This would actually go very well with a side salad, and perhaps a nice piece of poached salmon.