Everyone’s telling me to batter these shishito peppers and do a tempura. Or just fry them in a skillet and eat plain with salt.

I think this is a better option. If you drizzle olive oil over the bruschetta before serving, it feels like you’re in a restaurant.

Shishito Pepper Bruschetta
makes 6 little appetizers

6 slices of bread from a nice crusty country white loaf
1 avocado, roughly mashed
15 or so shishito peppers
olive oil, salt, and pepper
aleppo or marash pepper for sprinkling

Toast the bread. I like to drizzle it with olive oil on a sheetpan, broil a minute or two, then lower the heat to 450 until the bread is crisp.

In a non-stick pan over medium-high heat, fry the whole shishito peppers in a little olive oil until they’ve got brown spots on all their sides. They’ll continue cooking after you remove them from the heat, so just aim for the brown, burnished spots and you’ll be fine. Remove them from the pan, salt them, let them cool a little, then slice.

Spread the toasts with a relatively thin layer of avocado. I say “thin” because I would usually aim for 1/2″ of avocado here, but that’s too much. You want just enough for the peppers to stick to, roughly equal amounts avocado and shishito. Season with salt and pepper.

Pile some peppers onto each slice. These are mild, so don’t be afraid. Use them all. Then drizzle with olive oil, and dust with a little smokey aleppo or marash pepper. Serve immediately.


The CSA boxes come from Davis and end up three blocks from me in Oakland, up a hill whose very top is graced by highway 580. The boxes are in the back of the driveway, under an old carport, and they share the space with abandoned kids’ toys and loose Trader Joe’s paper bags. Tick your name off the list, take your stash. The waxed cardboard box gets strapped to my bike rack and it’s almost as tall as the seat, which means I can feel it bouncing under me as we bomb down the three blocks back to my apartment.

Lots of tomatoes these days. Lots of tomato breakfast sandwiches.

My mom used to make these with cheese instead of sausage. They will burn your mouth.

Open-faced Breakfast Sandwiches with Cashew Sausage
serves 2

2 English muffins
one small tomato, sliced
2 slices sweet or red onion
1/3 to 1/2 C sausage (recipe below)
olive oil, salt, and pepper

Preheat the oven to 450. Toast the English muffins. Spread each half with about 1 1/2 T sausage mixture. Top each with a slice or two of tomato, and some onion filigree. Transfer the muffins to a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.

Bake for 5 minutes, then turn on the broiler for 1 minute. Serve immediately; when they’re hot you’ll need a fork and knife, but then you can use your hands.

Cashew-tempeh Sausage
inspired by Julia
looks time-consuming, but it’s not
makes about 1 C

4 oz. tempeh, cubed
1/2 C raw cashew pieces
1 T sausage seasoning
1/4 t table salt
1 T olive oil
1 C water

Sausage seasoning:

2 t red pepper flakes
1/2 t ground black pepper
4 t ground sage
1/2 t ground nutmeg
1 t dried thyme
4 t fennel seeds
1 t garlic powder

Make the sausage seasoning; you’ll only need a tablespoon now but you’ll enjoy having it on hand! Make tempeh gravy with it.

In a food processor, pulse the tempeh, cashews, seasoning, and salt together until the mix is crumbly. (Of course you can chop these by hand and stir in the seasoning.) Heat the oil in a non-stick pan over medium-high heat and saute the sausage for 8 or so minutes, until it begins to get toasty and darker brown. Add the water and simmer until most of the water is evaporated–you want the mix to be spreadable so don’t let all the water escape! Transfer to a bowl, and spread away.

Recently Justine and I have been talking about how much we miss good Chinese-American food. Authentic Chinese food is easy to find in LA. I don’t live there anymore, but maybe it’s easy to find in the Bay Area as well. It’s much harder to find a decent egg roll, the kind with pretty thick skin and lots of cabbage inside, that you spread all the hot mustard on.

Now that I’ve parted ways with meat, some of Chinese-American food dreams have faded. I would love to find a pan-fried, doughy dumpling stuffed with gingery, scallion-studded seitan–but considering that I never found its porky cousin on the West Coast, I’m not holding out.

On summer breaks from college, waitressing and hostessing at the pizza place and being the produce girl at Amber Waves, I would go out with my coworkers after dinner service to the Peking Palace, where we would blow our tips on fried appetizers and flaming scorpion bowls with little reservoirs of highly flammable Bacardi 151. Scallion pancakes didn’t come with the old school Polynesian Pu-Pu platter, nor did we get them on the rare occasion we ate out when I was a kid. But I liked to order them anyhow–savory fried dough is never out of place.

This recipe is a pretty standard one across the internet, but I added black rice to the filling for some visual interest and a little grainy, nutty flavor. The cakes are labor intensive and fatty, and there’s no way around it. If you use coconut oil you’re at least getting some good fats in there, in addition to all the gooey white flour. No apologies. I ate these with a simple bok choy and soft tofu stir fry. They’re a nice accompaniment to miso soup too, if you want to get pan-asian. They fry up just like you remember.

Scallion Pancakes
makes four pancakes
adapted from Ming Tsai

1/4 C black rice
2 C AP flour, plus more for dusting
1 C boiling water
1/4 t table salt
1/2 t ground black pepper
1 T toasted sesame oil
3/4 C sliced scallions
1/4 C sesame seeds
coconut oil

ginger dipping sauce

Bring a few cups of black rice to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the black rice, return to a simmer, and cook according to package directions. Drain and set aside (this makes rice with very separable grains–perfect for this application).

In a food processor, blend together the flour, salt and pepper (you can also do all this in a big bowl). With the machine running, add the boiling water in a stream until a dough ball forms. Turn out the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel, and let it sit for 30 minutes.

Sprinkle your work surface (I use my biggest cutting board) with lots of flour. Dump the dough out and flip it around in the flour so all sides are nice and dusty. At this point keep dusting with flour as needed to prevent the dough from sticking to your work surface. Roll the dough out roughly into a thin rectangle (or rough oblong shape…it really doesn’t matter.) Brush the dough with the sesame oil, then sprinkle with the scallions. Roll up like a jelly roll and cut into two equal pieces. Set aside one of them.

Roll out the other piece, using more flour as necessary, into a smaller rectangle (again–looks do not matter here, just roll that dough out). Sprinkle with 3 tablespoons of cooked black rice. Press the rice into the dough and roll up like a jelly roll again. Cut that piece in half. Repeat this process with the other half of the dough. Now you have four pieces of dough, and they all have scallions and rice in them.

To recap: you started with one piece of dough. You rolled it out, added sesame oil and scallions, and jelly rolled. Then you cut the roll in two. Then with each of those two pieces, you rolled out, sprinkled black rice, rolled up, and cut in two. Now you have four pieces.

Take one piece and get it floured all over and on both ends. Stand it on one end and push down to form the beginning of a pancake. Using your hands and the rolling pin as necessary, make it into a 6″ pancake.

Preheat your oven to 200 and throw in a sheet pan with a cooling rack on it.

Heat 1 T coconut oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. I used a baby frypan just the size of the pancakes and it worked great. Spread out the sesame seeds on a plate and press the pancake into the seeds, on both sides, so that some seeds are sticking to the cake. Fry in oil, 3-5 minutes per side, checking frequently and flipping with tongs when the bottom is a nice golden color. When it’s perfectly golden on both sides, introduce it to the warm oven. Add another teaspoon or two of coconut oil, and repeat with the next pancake. Keep going until all the pancakes are crispy and ready to eat.

Cut each pancake into four, and serve with the ginger dipping sauce.

Many, many people have asked me for this recipe. We used to make it for our deli at Amber Waves, and when we stopped, addicts forced me to give it out. It comes originally from the Mori-nu tofu company, I changed it a tiny bit, subbing red onion for scallions. I’ll include a substitution for the hard to find Simply Organic onion soup mix as well.

Spinach Dip

1 10 oz. package Mori-nu silken tofu, or other silken tofu
1 10 oz. pkg frozen, thawed, organic spinach
2-3 cloves garlic
1 pkg. Simply Organic onion soup/dip mix
1/2 C Veganaise
1/4 C chopped red onion
1 8 oz. can waterchestnuts, drained, rinsed and diced

Peel the garlic and put the cloves in your food processor. Pulse until tiny bits cover the sides of the bowl.

Squeeze thawed spinach over the sink with all your might, you want it pretty dry. It takes me three handfuls to accomplish this.

Add squeezed spinach, Veganaise, onion soup mix and tofu to processor, buzz till smooth.

Remove dip from processor and put it in a mixing bowl. Coarsely chop the waterchestnuts, finely dice the onion, and mix in by hand. Yeah, you can throw them in the processor, but the texture comes out too fine to notice there’s anything different in there. You want a nice crunch.

Serve with chips, or spread on sandwiches. Because this is tofu based, this
dip will not freeze. Keeps well in the fridge – about a week!

Substitution for onion soup mix:

2 T dried onion flakes
1 T tamari soy sauce
1 vegetable bouillon cube (one that makes 1 C, I have to cut mine in half as they make 2 cups)
1 T boiling water

Dissolve bouillon in hot water, add to tofu mix along with the onion flakes and tamari. Onion flakes take longer to hydrate in the dip than the soup mix, so plan to let the dip sit for an hour before serving.

A word to the wise–DON’T use Knorr onion soup mix. It’s just plain terrible. I know.

Katherine recently mentioned a coconut lime sorbet (served with a friendly helping of tequila on top) and I got a little obsessed. Luckily this is about the easiest thing in the world to make. I have a very responsible, pantry-friendly, delicious pasta recipe on the docket, but I sort of think this needs to happen first.

White stuff is difficult to photograph. But you should know that this comes out better than any dairy- or egg-based ice cream I’ve made (the fattiness of coconut milk is key) and even when it’s frozen solid it has a slightly moussey texture.

Coconut Lime Sorbet
makes about a pint and a half

1 15-oz. can coconut milk (full-fat)
1/2 C brown sugar
zest of 1 lime
1/4 C fresh lime juice
1 T vanilla extract

In a small saucepan over medium heat, stir together the coconut milk and sugar until the mixture is warm and the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat. Stir in the remaining ingredients and chill overnight. Process in an ice cream maker, move the sorbet to another container, and freeze 20 minutes. Zest a little extra lime on top, especially if you’re trying to photograph this white mess. Serve.

The last produce order at Amber Waves contained a case of fairly ripe avocados, and they’re not selling very well. I brought home two, and when I unloaded my bag in the kitchen, I saw that Jim had brought one home too! We’re already sick of guacamole, avocados with chili powder and lime and a little salt (my daughter’s trick), avocado slices squishing out of sandwiches, avocados stuffed with tuna or egg salad, etc.

So I went online to find the avocado chocolate mousse recipe I’d heard customers raving about, and with a little tweaking created
a cool summertime treat that has lots of great avocado omegas and chocolate flavonoids, doesn’t heat up the kitchen, and takes one bowl of the food processor to make!

Avocado Chocolate Mousse
makes 6 1-cup servings

3 ripe avocados, peeled and cut in large chunks
1 C dutch cocoa (use what you have, as I did)
1 1/4 C agave syrup
2 t vanilla
dash of salt

Toss the chunks of avocado in the processor, pulse a few times, and scrape down the sides. Process again until avocado is smooth.

Add cocoa, agave, vanilla, and salt. Pulse, scrape, and process till smooth and creamy. Spoon into dessert dishes, lick the spoon, and chill the mousse.

Serve with berries or whipped cream or chopped nuts or nothing at all!

Straight from the fridge, this mousse is very thick and rich. Letting it temper for 10 – 15 minutes would improve its pudding-like quality. One of the recipes I reviewed mentioned this makes a great frosting, I can imagine it on a chilled cake!

Driving way too far to buy a two-dollar sandwich is one of the only things I miss about eating meat. I would often stock up, buy extras for friends, and eat mine on the return drive. My seat was routinely dusted in baguette crumbs. (This was my favorite place; the website is shockingly nice considering that the place is smaller than my living room and located in a strip mall.)

HOWEVER. I have discovered the perfect non-meat (seitan) and preparation method (marinating and high-heat stir fry), and once you fix up all the bahn mi fixings, you can make these sandwiches ad nauseum (for me, that usually happens when I run out of bread). This recipe is cobbled together–the seitan is from post-punk kitchen, the bahn mi assembly from an enthusiast’s website. I’m offering the marinade.

I also have some tips.

-Slice your bread down the middle, leaving one bread edge intact (see the photo below). Wrap it in foil, put in in a 350 oven for 5 minutes, then assemble the sandwich.
-Don’t use too much of any filling. A two-dollar sandwich doesn’t have much of anything in it, and at home it’s easy to pack the thing too full.
-Be especially careful with the jalapenos. I always think I’ll want one with every bite, and really I just want one every five bites.
-Sear the seitan over really blistering heat. Open the windows, turn on your fans, etc.

If you’re scared of seitan, I have a couple ideas for you. First–buy it at the store instead of making it yourself. If you like it, then you can start boiling your own hunks of gluten brain. Second–in my experience it is the favorite non-meat of omnivores. So if you haven’t tried it before, and you’re a meat-fan, you will probably enjoy it a lot.

Vegetarian Bahn Mi with Stir-fried Seitan

one batch seitan

2 t grated ginger
2 t dark soy sauce
2 t sugar
1 t toasted sesame oil
3 T canola or other mild oil, divided

pickled daikon and carrots
sliced cucumber
sliced jalapeno
cilantro sprigs

Make your seitan, or buy some. (I use the PPK recipe, but since I’m lazy I used 1 t garlic powder instead of fresh, and halve the cooking liquids.)

Slice it very thinly. In a large bowl, mix together the ginger, dark soy, sugar, sesame oil, and 1 T of the canola. Squeeze dry the sliced seitan and dump it in the bowl. Stir to coat, and marinate for at least an hour, up to a day.

Heat a large skillet or wok over high heat for five minutes. Add the remaining 2 T canola oil and swirl the pan to coat it. Add the seitan in a single layer and let it sit without touching it for 2-3 minutes. Then stir, and let it sit again for 2 minutes. Once more, and you’re done. You’re aiming for crispy, caramelized slices.

Now, go to this website, look at the pictures, and assemble the sandwiches according to your desire. AGAIN: go easy on the jalaps.

I just got back from a very important wedding in St. Louis, where I ate frozen custard twice and, in one memorable sitting, twelve tea sandwiches. Today marked my third visit to LAX in the past week, and between that and the general fattiness lining my mouth I was hoping to make something light and simple.

So this is the soup I made after a nap, when I could fathom leaving the apartment and getting nice green beans at the store. Whatever other spring vegetables you like in a soup would be ideal here, obviously. The part of this recipe to steal is the leek-tarragon-lemon-parsley part. And maybe also the couscous and the chickpeas, they’re very nice. The part you can futz with is the specific veggies. I really wanted green beans in there, so that’s what I bought. I also had some peas and artichoke hearts in the freezer, so I used those too. What else. Really fresh little carrots, zucchinis, spinach, asparagus. Asparagus would be great. If I had had any of those things I would have used them, but I stuck with beans, peas, and artichoke.

If you steep the tarragon in the soup as it simmers you get a delicate licorice flavor without bits of dried herb floating around. The lemon zest at the end complements that sweetness, and with a little grassy parsley in there the result is a very subtle, fresh, soup.

Spring Vegetable Soup with Lemon
serves 4-5, depending on how hungry they are

Soup base:
1 T olive oil
3 leeks sliced and washed thoroughly
2 stalks celery, sliced
7 C vegetable stock
1 t dried tarragon

Here are the approximate veggies I used–go wild:
2-3 C green bean pieces (about 1″ long)
2/3 C green peas
2/3 C chopped artichoke hearts

Finish with:
1/2 C israeli couscous or orzo
1 can chickpeas
zest of half a lemon
1/2 C chopped parsley

Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven or soup pot over medium high heat. Add the leeks and a big pinch of salt. Stir those around while you prepare the celery, then add it as well. Saute until the veggies are wilted, and add the stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.

Stick the tarragon in a tea infuser and pop it in the soup. (This is sort of like a bouquet garni, which I have never made because I am lazy–a tea infuser, however, is very easy.) Then add the green beans. From this point the soup cooks 20 minutes–that’s if you like a tender but not mushy green bean. I have grown to loathe squeaky green beans so I go out of my way to cook them thoroughly.After ten minutes, add the peas, artichoke hearts, couscous, and chickpeas. Bring back to a boil, and reduce again to a simmer for the final ten minutes.

Turn off the heat. Stir in the lemon zest and parsley and serve immediately. A baguette wouldn’t be inappropriate.

I should never be surprised by the things my mom knows how to make off the top of my head, but once in a while I am. I guess miso soup isn’t very complicated. But I had been daydreaming about it, and mentioned it to my mom, and the she rattled off her recipe, step by step, and I went out and made it. Miraculous and easy. The years of macrobiotics pay off.

Obviously one of the beauties of miso soup is that you can put whatever you want in there. But I am very partial to this combination of things, and think you should try it. I know miso soup is supposed to be simple, and this one isn’t really. But it’s mealtime miso. Really savory and satisfying but also healthy as all get out–I don’t say that much but this soup fits the bill. And also simple. No sauteing. One pot. Lasts for days.

Miso Soup with Udon and Greens
serves four hungry people who like 2 bowls of soup each

2 pieces of kombu (approx. 1″ by 4″)
a knob of ginger, about tablespoon sized, sliced into matchsticks
1/2 C dried shiitake pieces, soaked in 1 C warm water (optional)

1/3 lb. fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced
4 oz. dried udon noodles
1/2 C light yellow miso paste
2 bunches spinach, stemmed, washed, and roughly chopped
12 oz. silken tofu, cubed
4 scallions, finely sliced

sesame oil, for serving

First you make the stock, which is flavored with seaweed, ginger and mushrooms. I soak the mushrooms separately though because they can be gritty. So in a big pot, add the kombu and ginger to 8 C water and bring to a boil. Fish the soaked shiitake pieces out of their warm water bath, finely chop them, and add them to the pot along with the shiitake soaking water, pouring slowly to make sure that any residual grit doesn’t make its way into the pot. Cover, turn the heat off, and let sit for at least an hour (I usually do this in the morning or early afternoon). After an hour, fish out the kombu and slice it very thinly, then add it back to the stock.

When you’re ready for soup, add the fresh sliced shiitakes to the stock and bring to a boil. Add the udon noodles, bring back to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, and cook according to package directions. When the udon is done, ladle some of the stock into a bowl and add the miso. Whisk to combine, then dump back into the pot. (This is easier than chasing lumps of miso paste around the pot of soup.) Add the spinach and tofu and stir very carefully until the greens are just wilted. Turn off the heat, stir in the scallions, and serve with a little anointing of sesame oil.

I was looking through my trade magazines last Saturday, checking out the new products and reading vitamin articles when I spied this recipe. Although it’s actually a beef noodle soup, I thought maybe I could try it with seitan (wheat meat). So Sunday morning I got up and made the broth, sauteed a few aromatics, added the seitan, and brought the rest of the ingredients to my cousin’s house to finish it.

The soup was a total success, even my cousin’s brother ate some, saying the noodles reminded him of Korean fare. His regular diet consists of burgers, chips, coffee and fig newtons, so he surprised me by saying he was craving something with complexity. If you eat beef, I bet this would have even more depth, although it is very good vegan fare as well!

Niu Rou Mian (Spicy Chinese Seitan or Beef Noodle Soup)

2 oz soy sauce
1T + 1 t hoisin sauce
1 star anise or 1/2 t whole anise seed
1/3 stick cinnamon
zest of 1 small orange, peeled in thin strips
4 C water

1/2 T vegetable oil
1 bunch scallions, chopped, 1/2 for soup, 1/2 for garnish
1 T ginger, minced
5-6 large cloves garlic, minced
1 t red pepper flakes, or less if you want less heat
1 lb cubed seitan or beef stew meat
2 carrots, sliced
2 small zucchini, sliced

2 oz bean thread (cellophane) noodle
1/2 lb baby spinach leaves
2 t toasted sesame oil
1 lime, in wedges

In a large pot combine ingredients from the first group, bring to a boil, lower heat and gently simmer 20 min. Strain.

In a large saute pan or soup pot heat the oil, add the scallions, ginger, garlic and red pepper flakes, stir briefly, add 2 cups of the stock and bring to a boil. Add seitan or beef, simmering for 20 minutes for seitan, 1 1/2 – 2 hours for the beef. (If you’re using seitan, add the carrots at this point as well. If you’re using beef, add the carrots for the last 20 minutes.)

I discovered the seitan absorbs an astonishing amount of stock, and added water, 1 – 1 1/2 C. It didn’t seem to affect the flavor much, at the end I added a bit more soy sauce.

When the soup is almost done, add the zucchini and simmer 5 minutes. Put the bean thread noodles in a saucepan of cold water and bring to a boil. Cut the noodles with scissors in several places when they are soft, it makes it much easier to get the soup into the serving bowls. Drain the noodles, add them with the remaining stock and spinach to the soup. Stir briefly until spinach is wilted, ladle soup into bowls, top with remaining scallions and a little sesame oil. Serve with a lime wedge.