Grilled Opah with Hawaiian Sea Salt and Mango-Papaya-Avocado Salsa

Opah is a Hawaiian fish that grills beautifully thanks to its meaty texture, but has a mild flavor that even hesitant fish eaters can appreciate, especially when topped with a fresh tropical fruit salsa with creamy avocado. I don’t know about you, but I sure could use a mental vacation right now, in lieu of real one, which would require too much money and require boarding a plane with my toddler.

I’ll never forget our last spring break in Japan in 2008 when we met my family in Kauai for several days.  On our second evening there, my dad barbecued mahi-mahi and opakapaka (Hawaiian pink snapper) and we ate on the ocean-view porch of our Waimea Plantation Cottage. The combination of the grilled local fish, the mai tais, and the sunset was heaven, and it fully rejuvenated us to return to Japan to finish up our semester of English classes.

Dustin was recently given two types of Hawaiian sea salt as a gift from a co-worker. When we saw the beautiful Opah fillets at the fish counter, we remembered our Kauai vacation and knew they would be a perfect match for our Hawaiian salt. The first one is “Black Lava” and is a mixture of flake sea salt and charcoal, hence its pitch black color. The other is “Alaea Red” and is a coarse sea salt that gets its color from ‘Alaea or Hawaiian red clay.

When we took the Opah off of the grill, we let it rest  like you would with any thick cut of meat, then topped it with generous spoonfuls of our colorful mango-papaya-avocado salsa, and served it next to a scoop of white rice, sprinkled with a little of the black lava salt. Some arugula lightly dressed with fresh lemon rounded out this healthy summer dinner. If you don’t have a Hawaiian vacation coming up (I can sympathize), make this for dinner, fix yourself a mai tai (or pour yourself a glass of beer – beer pairing suggestion below), enjoy the lingering daylight, and give yourself a break. You deserve it. Sunset not included.

Grilled Opah with Hawaiian Sea Salt and Mango-Papaya-Avocado Salsa

(serves 4)

2 lbs. Hawaiian Opah*
Extra virgin olive oil
Hawaiian sea salt (check out for the varieties I mentioned) or just sub coarse salt or Kosher salt
1 mango, pitted, peeled, and diced (don’t know the best way to cut a mango? Here’s a hint)
1 small papaya, peeled, seeds removed, and diced
1 ripe avocado, diced
Juice from 1 small lime (or to taste)
Agave nectar, to taste
A pinch of chili flakes (optional, but tasty)
Accompaniments: steamed rice; arugula tossed with fresh lemon juice

*We bought one huge piece of Opah that we later cut into individual portions, but you can also buy 4 fillets, about 1/2 a lb. each

  • Take the Opah out of the refrigerator rub with olive oil. Season lightly with sea salt (we used a little of each variety of Hawaiian sea salt) and set aside (at room temperature). Meanwhile, prepare a charcoal grill (or a gas grill on high heat).
  • In a small bowl, combine the mango, papaya, and avocado. Add lime juice, a drizzle of agave nectar, the chili flakes (if using), and a little salt and pepper. Gently stir everything together, taste, and adjust seasonings as necessary. Cover and refrigerate.
  • When the grill is ready, oil the grill grates. Add the Opah and grill until just cooked through, but not overdone, about 3-6 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of your fillets (ours were about 2-3 inches). Let rest for a couple minutes, then cut into 4 pieces.
  • Place the Opah on plates and spoon some salsa over the top. Serve with steamed rice, and a handful of arugula tossed with some freshly squeezed lemon juice. Go ahead and add a little sprinkling of sea salt too!

Beer Pairing Suggestion: We opened up a bottle of Tiger Baby: Open Windows Open Hills (how’s that for a name!? – it’s actually named after a Danish electro-pop group) by Mikkeller. To quote one fan from Beer Advocate:  ” In the aroma, citrus notes of island fruit. In the taste, sweet to dry fruitiness and citrus, especially mango. A small fruit bite and a medium bodied mouthfeel, with a small citrus fruit skin in the aftertaste. Big fruity presence, almost chardonnay like, quite superb!” We happened to agree. It went especially well with the mango-papaya-avocado salsa.

Pork Scaloppine with Lemon, Capers, and Arugula with Zucchini Pancakes

I’ve always loved to read cookbooks; I certainly grew up around plenty of them, along with every issue of Gourmet since the late 60s. We have three shelves in our own kitchen that are filled with cookbooks and another bookshelf in the living room that’s reserved for food magazines (because apparently it’s in my genes; I can’t throw them away). The cookbooks’ colorful bindings caught Levi’s eye at a young age. In fact, he invented a game with his grandma called “count the cookbooks” – we stand in front of the shelves and he makes his counting sound, which sounds like “one-two-one-two” repeated over and over, while pointing to as many as he can.

I’ve been drooling over this particular one for a while now; I bought it as a gift for my mom several years ago and just recently acquired it last Christmas, thanks to my aunt and uncle – Heart of the Artichoke by David Tanis. For more than 25 years, he was the chef at Alice Waters’ restaurant, Chez Panisse in Berkeley (retired in October), which I’ve mentioned before is one of my absolute favorite restaurants. The set menu in the fancy downstairs restaurant changes nightly and revolves around whatever fresh, seasonal ingredients are available on that particular day, and the café  upstairs offers seasonally inspired pastas, pizzas and more in a slightly more casual, kid-friendly environment. Heart of the Artichoke features several menus for each season, prefaced with a section called “Kitchen Rituals” where he shares 14 “cooking moments” – either small cooking projects for 1 or 2 people, or simply a food experience/memory, such as eating oatmeal for breakfast as a child.

This meal in the “Spring Menus” section was beckoning to me back in March, but I was jumping the gun a bit with my seasons and zucchini had not yet appeared at the store. Now that it’s June, it’s plentiful, and I’m glad that I saw the bookmark in my cookbook, reminding me to make pork scaloppine with zucchini pancakes! It’s a wonderful feeling when you sit down to dinner, take that first bite, and exclaim “hey, I’d pay for this.” That was the case for this meal, so naturally, I’m recommending this cookbook for those who strive to eat simply and by the seasons!

The thin slices of pork for the scaloppine come from the lean end of a boneless pork loin (ask your butcher to do this and hopefully yours will happily comply as ours did). They cook nice and quickly and remain tender. The sauce takes under 60 seconds to make but is full of bright flavors (in fact, if you decide to halve this recipe for a family of 2-3, I’d recommend making the full amount of sauce; it won’t go to waste). You simply heat olive oil in a skillet, add garlic, capers, lemon zest, and parsley and let it sizzle for just under a minute. You pour this awesome concoction on top of your slices of pork and top with verdant, peppery arugula and lemon wedges. You can see why taking that first bite made me happy. And I haven’t even gotten to the zucchini pancakes yet!

Grated zucchini and finely chopped green onion bound with egg and a little flour are fried in olive oil and scream “beginning of summer!” While they make a great accompaniment to the pork scaloppine, I plan on making them on their own as an appetizer sometime in the near future; Maybe topped with some minted yogurt or a dollop of fresh ricotta cheese. I made the zucchini pancakes first and kept them warm in a low oven while we cooked the pork (because we only have so many skillets), but they would be best eaten hot out of the pan!

Pork Scaloppine with Lemon, Capers, and Arugula

(From Heart of the Artichoke by David Tanis – Serves 4-6)

12 thin (about 3/8-inch-thick) slices pork loin
Salt & Pepper
1/2 cup olive oil (give or take)
2 TBS. roughly chopped parsley
2 tsp. grated lemon zest
1 TBS. capers, rinsed and roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 lb. arugula, chopped (we bought baby arugula and left the leaves whole)
Lemon wedges

  • Season both sides of the pork slices with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil. Heat 2 cast iron skillets over medium-high heat. When the pans are hot, lay 6 slices of pork in each pan and cook for about 2 minutes, or until nicely browned. Turn and cook for another 2 minutes on the other side. Remove the scaloppine from the pans and transfer to a warm serving platter.
  • In one of the pans, heat 2 TBS. of olive oil over medium heat. Add the parsley, lemon zest, capers, and garlic and let sizzle for a bare minute. Turn off the heat. Spoon the sauce over the scaloppine and top each slice of pork with a handful of arugula. Garnish with lemon wedges and serve immediately.

Zucchini Pancakes

(Also from Heart of the Artichoke by David Tanis – Serves 4-6)

8 to 10 small zucchini, about 3 lbs.
2 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 bunch scallions, finely chopped
3 TBS. all-purpose flour
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano (optional – we decided to omit this as we wanted a pure zucchini flavor, but Tanis says that adding the cheese reminds him of eating a zucchini frittata, which sounds delicious)
Olive oil for frying

  • Grate the zucchini using the medium holes of a box grater. Toss the grated zucchini with the salt and let drain in a colander for about 20 min. Squeeze very dry, using a clean kitchen towel.
  • In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs with the pepper and scallions. Add the flour, then add the grated zucchini and the cheese (if using). Mix thoroughly.
  • Pour olive oil into a cast iron skillet to a depth of 1/4 inch and heat over medium heat. Carefully place spoonfuls of the zucchini mixture into the pan and flatten into discs with a 2-inch diameter. Make a few at a time, so as not to overcrowd the pan. Turn them once, letting them cook for about 3-4 min. on each side or until golden. Keep the heat at moderate so they don’t brown too quickly. Serve immediately or transfer to a warm oven until the entire batch is cooked. Serve with the Pork Scaloppine.

That beer in the background? It was a German Hopf Helle Weisse – a type of Hefeweizen. It paired wonderfully with this meal.

Frita Cubana Sliders (for Krystal’s Virtual Baby Shower!)

When I first started this blog back in 2007, I wanted to archive the recipes that we threw together on a weeknight in our little Japanese kitchen. I never gave much thought to the people actually reading it, except maybe close friends and family. But then something happened over the next year or two – I discovered a community of people who also love to take pictures of their food and write about it, and a handful have become good friends.

Although I’ve never met any of these ladies in person (yet!) I feel like I know them, which is a pretty cool thing. Take Krystal for example, of Mrs. Regueiro’s Plate. We were first “introduced” on a recipe board where we both are frequent posters. When I was assigned her thin-crust pizza for an Italian-themed recipe swap, we were able to talk more about our experiences in Italy. Through comments back and forth on our blogs, it’s pretty safe to say that this Santa Cruz girl and LA girl would get along quite well. Guess what? Krystal and her husband Eric are expecting their first child in May (gender is a surprise – I love that!)

To celebrate this exciting time in their lives, Joelen of What’s Cookin’ Chicago is hosting this virtual baby shower, and I’m so excited to be a part of it. In honor of Krystal’s Filipino background and Eric’s Cuban background, Joelen asked some of Krystal’s favorite bloggers to prepare either a Filipino or Cuban dish for a baby shower fiesta.

Excited to try a new type of cuisine, I spent an afternoon doing some research.  I found myself leaning towards a Cuban dish because I was intrigued by the flavors and knew the least about the culture. I came across several recipes for a Frita Cubana – or Cuban Hamburger – and was drawn to the concept. A beef & chorizo patty is topped with a liberal handful of fried shoestring potatoes, and a generous amount of sweet & vinegary spiced ketchup. Festive, flavorful, and undeniably Cuban, I decided this was going to be my shower offering! Krystal, these sliders are fun and will add a little spice to the party – just like you! I wish you the best as you get ready to welcome your little one into the world!

To accompany your frita cubana sliders, I made a refreshing salad of fresh, chopped romaine, crunchy jicama, sweet orange, and cool avocado.

Visit the full roundup here! Krystal & Eric’s Baby Shower Fiesta!

Frita Cubana Sliders

(makes 12-16 sliders – slightly adapted form Saveur)

1 lb. ground beef
1/2 lb. Spanish chorizo, casings removed
1/2 cup crushed saltine crackers (about 10)
2 TBS. finely chopped yellow onion
1 tsp. smoked Spanish paprika
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
Kosher salt
Canola oil, for frying
2 large russet potatoes, peeled
soft slider rolls, split in half
Secret Sauce (recipe below)

  • In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, chorizo, crushed crackers, onions, paprika, garlic, salt, and pepper; Using your hands, mix everything together until just combined. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate for 30 minutes. Form into slider-sized round, thin, patties.
  • Pour oil into a 4-qt. saucepan until it reaches a depth of 2 inches. Heat over medium-high heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 330°. Meanwhile, working over a large bowl, grate potato using the large-holed side of a box grater. Soak grated potatoes in water for 1 minute and drain. Spread potatoes on a kitchen towel and pat dry. Working in batches, fry potatoes until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer potatoes to paper towels and season lightly with salt; set aside.
  • Prepare a charcoal grill. Grill the patties until cooked through and nicely browned. Spread some secret sauce on each slider bun, and place the patties on top. Top with a generous mound of fried potatoes. Drizzle with more sauce.

Secret Sauce for a Frita Cubana

(from 3 Guys from Miami)

1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1 1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons sweet Spanish paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon salt

  • Mix all of the ingredients together in a two-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes or until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and let cool. Use generously on your frita cubana sliders!

Grilled Halloumi with Rosemary-Grape-Walnut Relish & Garlic Bread

Here we are in the heart of grilling season. There are a lot of enticing recipes out there – most of which revolve around meat – but I’m going to share something a little different, and if you’re a cheese-lover like me, you are sure to get excited about this one. It’s a cheese plate on the grill! A grilling cheese like halloumi or yanni can withstand the heat of the grill without melting. It softens nicely on the inside, and appealing golden grill marks form on its exterior. The creamy, slightly salty taste is a brilliant match for the sweet rosemary-grape-walnut relish and the the rustic, grilled garlic bread. The relish gets a delicious sweet, smoky flavor from cooking the bunch of grapes directly on the grill (I bet you’ve never grilled grapes before!) The garlic bread adds a nice savory counterpoint. Try this as an appetizer at your next BBQ, or as a dinner in itself (as we did) served with a salad dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette. Dining al fresco makes it taste even better.

Grilled Halloumi with Rosemary-Grape-Walnut Relish & Garlic Bread

(From the June/July 2011 issue of Fine Cooking)

1 medium red onion, cut into 3 to 4 thick slices
2 Tbs. plus 4 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 oz. halloumi cheese, cut into 3/8-inch-thick slabs (we used Yanni, a Mediterranean grilling cheese)
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 small loaf of ciabatta (about 8 oz.),cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
1/2 cup walnuts
1 tsp. minced fresh rosemary
1 large bunch seedless black or red grapes (about 1-1/4 lb.)
2 to 3 tsp. balsamic vinegar

  • Prepare a charcoal or (high) gas grill.
  • Drizzle the onion slices with 2 tsp. of the oil and lightly season them with salt and pepper.
  • Pat the cheese dry and drizzle with 2 tsp. of the oil.
  • In a small bowl, mix the remaining 2 Tbs. of oil, the garlic, and a pinch each of salt and pepper; brush the mixture evenly over one side of the bread slices.
  • Meanwhile, toast the walnuts in a small skillet over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until golden-brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Coarsely chop the walnuts while still hot and transfer them to a medium bowl. Mix in the rosemary.
  • Place the onion slices and the bunch of grapes on the grill. Cover and grill, turning once, until the grapes are bursting and the onions are grill marked, about 10 minutes. Transfer the grapes to the bowl with the walnuts, and the onions to a cutting board.
  • Use tongs to pull the grapes from their stems as well as crush them one by one before dropping them into the bowl with the walnuts & rosemary. Chop the grilled onions and add them to the bowl. Season to taste with the vinegar, salt, and pepper. Set relish aside.
  • Clean and oil the grill grate. Place the bread and cheese on the grate and grill uncovered, turning once, until there are nice grill marks on both sides, 4 to 5 minutes. Divide the bread, cheese, and relish among 4 plates (if enjoying as an appetizer) or 2 plates (as a main dish) and enjoy immediately. A lighter bodied red wine pairs wonderfully with this meal.

And yes, I’m aware of the sippy cup in the background of our pictures. “You know you’re food blogger-mom when …”


We miss our “yakitori man.” There was a supermarket right across the street from our apartment in Japan, and every Friday a man would set up a little red cart right out front. Starting at about 10 am, we’d start to smell that sweet sauce brushed over skewered chicken (and other meats) cooking over an open flame, and it became the official smell of Fridays in Japan. Especially in the winter (because the warmth of the grill felt good in the 20 degree air), we would walk across the street to get yakitori for dinner. We were the only foreigners in our neighborhood, so I wonder if he thought it was slightly odd that these Americans stood in his line on Fridays and butchered the ordering of his tasty, skewered treats.

In Japanese, the counting system is far from consistent. Depending on the shape of the item (flat, round, stick-like) or the state of its being (animal, human, large electrical appliance) there is a different way to count. Of course the first time we tried to order 8 yakitori skewers, we used the wrong word for 8, and he kindly corrected us. That’s how we learned the correct way to order 8 stick-like objects.

The chicken itself was never the best quality. In fact, most of the pieces were more fat than meat. But the sauce that the yakitori man brushed on those skewers as they were cooking was so addicting, that somehow we tolderated the fatty chicken and ate it anyway. To enjoy yakitori at home, we recommend using boneless skinless thigh meat, like we did last night. Serve the skewers over steamed white rice and some cucumber salad (marinate sliced cucumbers in rice vinegar, sliced chiles, and salt and sugar to taste), because something pickled cuts through the richness of the sauce and the slight amount of fat on the chicken.


(serves 3-4)

1 1/2 lb. boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup mirin (Japanese sweet cooking wine)
1-2 TBS. brown sugar
5 green onions (thick green onions work best)
6-8 bamboo skewers

  • Combine equal parts soy sauce and mirin (we used about 1/4 cup each), and the brown sugar in a large baking dish that’s long enough for the skewers to fit into.  Taste and add more brown sugar if you like a sweeter sauce. Add the chicken pieces and toss well to coat. Marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or overnight.
  • Meanwhile, soak bamboo skewers in water.
  • Slice the thick part of the green onions into 1-inch long pieces, reserving the thinner green part for another use. Set aside. Prepare your grill (use charcoal for best taste!)
  • Assemble the yakitori. Take the chicken pieces out of the marinade and put on the skewers, along with the green onion pieces. Grill for 5-6 minutes on each side, or until chicken is browned and cooked through.
  • Serve with steamed rice, cucumber salad, and miso soup.

Olive Oil Poached Tuna with Caper-Olive Vinaigrette

They say you learn something new every day. Well, yesterday we learned about poaching. Fish, in particular. It’s a pretty cool process. You allow a 1 inch-thick cut of fish (like tuna, halibut or salmon) to sit at room temperature for an hour. Then you submerge it in a bath of warm oil and immediately transfer it to an oven where it hangs out for 25 minutes at a low temperature. At the end of 25 minutes, these weird little white dots form on the surface of the fish (called albumin, which are protein) and that’s your cue that it’s ready to eat. The result is tender, flavorful fish!

This is the first recipe we’ve tried from Fine Cooking magazine, and we loved how easy and straight forward the directions were. (I’m still in denial that Gourmet is gone, but so far Fine Cooking is filling a tiny part of that void in my life). Our tuna didn’t look as pink as the magazine picture when we took it out of the oil, but it tasted amazing, so we’re going to assume that we did everything fine! You’ll love the caper-olive vinaigrette (which we had to make in a food processor, since we don’t have a blender). It’s something that you’ll want to make again to accompany any kind of fish, shrimp, or even lamb. Some roasted vegetables (fingerling potatoes, carrots, parsnips, and red beets) were a nice accompaniment. This recipe serves 4.

Olive Oil Poached Tuna with Caper-Olive Vinaigrette

(From the April/May 2010 issue of Fine Cooking)

For the Tuna:

1 clove garlic
Kosher salt
1 tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
4 to 6 cups extra-virgin olive oil*
4 1-inch-thick tuna steaks (6- to 7-oz. each)

For the Vinaigrette:

1/3 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 TBS. capers, rinsed and drained
4 Kalamata olives, pitted
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 tsp. white wine vinegar
1/4 tsp/ granulated sugar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • Peel and smash the garlic clove and a pinch of salt to a paste (using a mortar and pestle or by mincing and mashing with the side of a chef’s knife – we did the latter).
  • Combine the garlic paste, rosemary, 1 tsp. salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Add just enough oil to turn the spice mixture into a smooth paste, about 1/2 tsp. Rub the paste over the tuna. It will be sparse. Let the tuna sit at room temperature for about an hour.
  • Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 225 degrees.
  • Measure the thickness of the tuna steaks and add the same depth of oil to a 10-inch straight-sided sauté pan.
  • Heat over low heat until the oil reaches 120 degrees, 2 to 3 minutes. Put the tuna steaks in the oil in a single layer and immediately transfer the pan to the oven. Poach until a few small whitish droplets rise to the surface of the tuna, and the center of the fish is rosy, 25 minutes.
  • While the fish poaches, combine the parsley, capers, olives, garlic, vinegar, and sugar in a blender and blend to a coarse puree. With the motor running, pour the olive oil through the hole in the blender’s lid and puree until incorporated. Taste for salt (it may not need any — we didn’t add any) and set aside.
  • Transfer the tuna to a wire rack set over paper towels to drain for a few minutes. Serve with the vinaigrette spooned over each steak.

* this recipe uses a lot of oil, doesn’t it? You can save it to do more poaching (of fish) in the near future – let it cool to room temp, then strain through a sieve lined with a coffee filter (but stop straining before you reach the bottom because the seafood releases some liquid during cooking that settles there). Refrigerate for up to 3 weeks. But our advice is just to buy some cheap-ish olive oil at the grocery store, because really, how much poached fish can you eat in 3 weeks?  It’s up to you!

Turkey-Pesto Burgers with Grilled Onions

Do you ever go to the store with no idea of what you want to make for dinner? Last Monday was one of those days. I went to the Butcher counter and started to panic because it was almost my turn and I couldn’t focus: Hmm…that fish looks nice and fresh…So do those steaks…Dustin would like steak…But I feel like chicken…hmm…boneless and skinless chicken thighs…Would those be good on the BBQ?…no…oh, ground meats…what about … ?? “Can I help you?” The butcher asked, startling my train of thought. So I asked for the thing that was right in front of me – ground turkey thighs. Whew. Now that the protein was taken care of, things started to fall into place in my brain. I remembered that we had fresh basil at home, as well as tons of mizuna so I immediately thought of pesto and went straight to the bulk aisle for walnuts to add to it.

So that was my boring thought process of how I ended up mixing pesto into our turkey burgers. The result was a really moist, flavorful burger. I called Nikita (if you haven’t noticed, we love to cook and eat dinner together) to inform her of the menu, and soon she came over to enjoy them with us, bringing with her some summery micro brews and a bag of Kettle Chips (our favorite flavor “Buffalo Bleu”). We ate our burgers on sesame-wheat buns (brushed with olive oil and lightly grilled), with sliced tomato, grilled white onions, and mayo. They were sort of messy (think Carls’ Jr. ads) but delicious. I can’t wait to see what happens next time I’m under pressure at the meat counter!

Turkey-Pesto Burgers with Grilled Onions

2-3 cups of basil leaves, washed and dried*
a big handful of walnut pieces, lightly toasted in a skillet
1 clove of garlic
a handful of Parmesan cheese
juice of 1/2 a lime
about 1/4 cup of olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
1 lb. ground turkey
hamburger buns of your choice
1 sweet white onion, sliced into thick rings
tomato slices

*I didn’t have quite enough basil, so I added some mizuna leaves. It gave the pesto a wonderful bite to it. You could also add arugula for the same effect.

  • First, make the pesto: Combine the basil, mizuna (if using), walnuts, garlic, Parmesan, and lime juice in a food processor. Process until smooth. With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil, until it reaches a good consistency. Season with salt & pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Pour pesto into a small bowl, cover, and refrigerate until use (Makes about 1 cup – more than needed for the burgers, but you can freeze it if you want).
  • Place the ground turkey in a large bowl. Season the top with salt & pepper. Add 3 or 4 heaping spoonfuls of pesto to the bowl. Mix with your hands until pesto is incorporated into the meat. Divide meat into 4-5 portions (depending on how thick you like your burgers), form patties, and place on a plate. Cover and chill while you prepare the grill.
  • Brush the tops and bottoms of the buns with olive oil and set aside. Brush onion slices with olive oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Grill onions until nice and charred, about 3-4 minutes on each side.
  • Grill burgers about 4-5 minutes on each side. When the burgers are almost done, grill the tops and bottoms of the buns until golden and toasty.
  • Assemble burgers how you like – we used this order: mayo, patty, grilled onions, tomato. Dig in!

Lamb Tikka Masala

Our lamb traveled from Greece to India this week, appearing first in gryos and then in a spicy masala sauce. We used Jamie Oliver’s recipe for this one. It just so happens to be in his top 10 favorite meals. You can use any kind of meat you like, since it’s cooked separately from the sauce; making it ideal for using up leftovers. The only change we made was adding a lot more spices than the recipe called for. We tasted it at the end and pretty much doubled the amount of paprika, cumin, coriander, and salt. Did you know that some of the best Indian food we’ve ever had was in Japan of all places? We used to go to this one place in a small town called Minou — the people who worked there were always so friendly. Maybe they were happy to see some fellow foreigners come into their restaurant. One man in particular was very animated and used to beam at us through the kitchen window, while he was preparing chicken to throw into the tandoori oven.

Lamb Tikka Masala
(From Jamie’s Dinners)

6 cloves of garlic, peeled
3 inches of fresh ginger, peeled
2-3 fresh red chiles, de-seeded

olive oil

1 TBS. mustard seeds

1 TBS. paprika

2 tsp. ground cumin

2 tsp. ground coriander

3 TBS. garam masala

a generous 3/4 cup plain yogurt

leftover cubed lamb, or 4 medium skinless chicken breasts, cut into large chunks

1 TBS. butter

2 medium onions, peeled and sliced

2 TBS. tomato puree

1 handful of ground cashews


1/2 cup heavy cream

a handful of fresh cilantro, chopped

juice of 1-2 limes

  • Grate the garlic and ginger on the finest side of a grater into a bowl. Chop the chiles very finely and add them to the bowl. Mix together.
  • Heat a good splash of oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds. When they start to pop, add them to the bowl with the ginger-garlic mixture, along with the paprika, cumin, coriander, and 2 TBS. of the garam masala. Put half of this spice mixture into a slightly larger bowl and add the yogurt and the lamb (or chicken) pieces to it. Stir to coat the meat and allow to marinate for about 20-30 minutes.
  • Melt the butter in the same pan the mustard seeds were in and add the sliced onions and the remaining half of the spice mixture. Cook gently for about 15 minutes without browning too much. It will become very fragrant and you’ll want to eat it right then and there!
  • Add the tomato puree, ground cashews, 2 1/2 cups water, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Stir well and gently simmer until it reduces and thickens slightly. Turn off the heat.
  • Take the meat out of the mariade and cook until done on a bbq, or in a pan (if using already cooked meat, this obviously won’t take as long. You mostly want to reheat the meat and let the marinade cook off a bit).
  • Warm the sauce and add the cream and the remaining 1 TBS. of garam masala. Taste and correct the seasoning if necessary (this is where we added more of every spice!) As soon as the sauce comes to a boil, take off the heat and add the grilled/cooked meat. Check the seasoning once more and then sprinkle the cilantro over the top. Finish with the lime juice. Serve with steamed basmati rice. Serves 4.

Grilled Lamb Gyros with Tzatziki & Summer Chickpea Salad

We’ve been thinking about gyros ever since we went to a Greek Food Festival with our friends last month. I think my favorite part of a gyro is the tzatziki. The cucumber, lemon and yogurt make for a refreshing sauce that goes perfectly with grilled meat, tomatoes and onions. Last night we made our own version of a gyro by wrapping pita bread around grilled lamb that was marinated in olive oil, herbs, and garlic, some homemade tzatziki, and a summery salad of chickpeas, cherry tomatoes, red onion, feta cheese and herbs that I found in one of my favorite Jamie Oliver cookbooks. Some grilled summer squash rounded out what we deemed the perfect summer BBQ meal.

Last night was a wonderful night to eat outside. Not only are we approaching the longest day of the year so it stays light long enough to finish both dinner and dessert (and a bottle of wine or two), but it’s been staying warm until the sun goes down. Also, we planted a little vegetable garden today and wanted to be near it! Some sugar snap peas will soon be growing up bamboo sticks. Grow, peas, grow!

We also planted two varieties of tomatoes (Early Girl and another that I’ll have to get back to you on, but it’s an heirloom variety), an artichoke, a zucchini, and basil! Look how cute this little sugar snap pea plant is! I haven’t gotten around to photographing the other plants yet, sorry!

Unrelated to vegetables, the hydrangeas are gorgeous right now! Don’t they make you want to be outside? My cats love to jump around and try to catch the bees that hover over their flowers. Sometimes they do little back-flips in the process and it’s very entertaining to watch. Cats really do always land on their feet! Ok, now let’s get to some recipes …

Summer Chickpea Salad
(Slightly adapted from Jamie Oliver)

1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 clove of garlic, minced

2 fresh red chilies, de-seeded and sliced

2 handfuls of yellow pear tomatoes (or cherry tomatoes), halved

2 limes

extra virgin olive oil

salt & freshly ground black pepper

chili flakes

1 14 oz. jar of chickpeas, drained

a handful of fresh mint, chopped

a handful of fresh basil, finely ripped

7 oz. feta cheese

  • In a bowl, combine the sliced onion, garlic, chilies, and tomatoes. Dress with the juice of 1 1/2 limes and about 3 times as much olive oil. Season to taste with salt, pepper, cumin, and chili flakes (or whatever combination of spices you desire).
  • Heat the chickpeas in a pan. Add 90% of them to the bowl. Mush up the remaining 10% and add these to the bowl as well (Jamie says they give a nice, creamy consistency. They sure did).
  • Allow salad to marinate for a little while and serve at room temperature. Just before serving, add the fresh mint & basil. Taste one more time and adjust the seasoning. You can also add the juice from the remaining lime half if you think it needs it. Crumble the feta cheese over the salad and gently mix. Serves 4.


1 english cucumber
1 cup yogurt

2 garlic cloves, minced
juice from 1/2 a lemon
1/4 of a small red onion, minced (optional – we had some leftover from the salad)
a handful of fresh oregano, chopped

salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with a spoon. Grate the cucumber onto a kitchen towel or heavy duty paper towel. Pick up the towel and squeeze the excess moisture out of the cucumber. Do this several times until no more water is coming out of the towel.
  • In a small bowl, combine the grated cucumber, yogurt, lemon juice, red onion, minced garlic, oregano, and salt & pepper. Mix well. Cover and let chill in the refrigerator for a little while so the flavors can mingle. Taste again before serving and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Grilled Boneless Leg of Lamb Gyros
(We explained to our butcher that we wanted to grill lamb to slice to make gyros. He was very helpful and offered to sell us the boneless legs that they usually use to make the marinated lamb cubes. The moral of the story is – don’t be afraid to ask your butcher if you don’t know exactly what kind of cut of meat to get! They are there to help you out!)

2 lbs boneless leg of lamb

salt & freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
several cloves of garlic, minced
fresh rosemary, chopped
fresh oregano, chopped
about 1 TBS red wine vinegar

  • Make a dry rub out of enough paprika, cumin, salt and pepper to cover every surface of your lamb. Place in a baking dish or pie pan.
  • In a small bowl, combine enough oil, minced garlic, chopped herbs, and vinegar to create a pesto-like consistency. Rub this mixture all over the lamb. Allow to marinate for at least an hour. Two is even better. Prepare a charcoal grill (we used mesquite charcoal for a delicious, smoky taste). Let lamb come to room temp before grilling.
  • Remove the lamb from the marinade and place on the grill. Cook, turning occasionally until the meat reaches an internal temperature of about 145 degrees for medium-rare. Let rest 10-12 minutes before thinly slicing.
  • Assemble the gyros by heating up some whole wheat (and/or regular) pitas on the grill. Top with a few slices of lamb, a spoonful of chickpea salad, and some tzatziki. Alternatively, you can enjoy “de-constructed gyros” by placing all these components on your plate and enjoying in whatever order/combination you like!

Spice-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin with Ancho Chile-Mustard Sauce

We took pork tenderloin to a whole new level last night. I had confessed over dinner with our friends that I often get bored with pork tenderloin. Well, when I took the first bite of the meal that we had made together, I took it back. Wow. The pork was tender, moist, and spicy! The sauce provided another layer of spiciness, this one more subtle, and balanced by the sweetness of maple syrup. We owe the complexity of flavor to the fact that we had at least 4 different kinds of chiles in our kitchen doing various things – being ground into powder, being steeped in hot water, and being pureed into a paste. The smell lingered in the house for awhile, and if we closed our eyes it was like we were standing in the middle of a spice market. As we always say as we’re sitting down to dinner, “Go team!” We’re thankful to have friends who enjoy cooking together and savoring the results! Speaking of savoring, the Primitivo that we opened went wonderfully with the earthy spiciness of the various chiles.

Spice-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin with Ancho Chile-Mustard Sauce
(Adapted from The Cookbook Critic. Original recipe from The Food Network)
Serves 4

For the Spice Rub:

3 TBS. olive oil
1 TBS. achiote paste
3 TBS. chile de arbol powder (we used whole dried chile de arbol and pulsed them in a food processor)
2 TBS. chile powder (whatever is in your spice rack)
salt & pepper

For the Ancho Chile-Mustard Sauce:

4 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup maple syrup
3/4 cup water
6 black peppercorns
zest of 1 lime
2 tsp. puréed canned chipotle in adobo
4 TBS. ancho chile purée (*see below for instructions)
1 TBS. dijon mustard
2 TBS. plain yogurt
juice of 1 lime

For the Tenderloin:

2 pork tenderloins, about 12 oz. each

  • Prepare a charcoal or gas grill. Make the Spice Rub: Put the olive oil into a small bowl. Add the achiote paste and mix together. Add the remaining rub ingredients and stir together. Set aside.
  • Combine the chicken stock, maple syrup, water, peppercorns and lime zest with the chipotle and ancho purées in a medium saucepan over high heat and reduce to a sauce-like consistency, about 15 to 20 minutes. Whisk in mustard and yogurt and cook for 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper to taste and stir in the lime juice. Set aside.

  • While sauce is reducing, rub with tenderloins with the olive oil-spice rub mixture.

  • Grill until the tenderloins reach 155 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Remove from grill and let rest for 10 minutes.
  • Slice tenderloins and spoon the ancho chile-mustard over the top.

*Ancho Chile Puree:

Soak a 3-oz. package of dried chiles in hot water to cover for about 1 hour. Drain, then pull the stem ends off and discard. The seeds can be discarded or blended with the chiles, depending on how spicy you want the purée to be. Blend the chiles in a food processor until smooth, adding a small amount of their soaking water if necessary (no more than 1/4 cup). This makes plenty of chile purée (more than what is needed for the recipe) You can freeze the leftovers for up to 3 months.

What did we eat with our spicy pork tenderloin? I was getting to that! We made a salad of baby tatsoi, strawberries, pasilla peppers, and red onion with a cilantro-lime vinaigrette. It was inspired by a salad that our friend enjoyed at Red Restaurant & Bar in downtown Santa Cruz. We made two major changes, however: 1) the store was out of poblano peppers so we had to use pasilla peppers and 2) we forgot to grill the pasilla peppers. Oh well. The salad was still refreshing and summery! We’ll be trying it again soon the *real* way!

For dessert we had strawberry shortcake, using my Quick Yogurt Biscuits as the base (I added 2 TBS. of sugar to the recipe this time). They were a great canvas for sliced strawberries and freshly whipped cream!

Flank Steak with Arugula Pesto & Roasted Fingering Potatoes

On the eve of St. Patrick’s day I inadvertently made a lovely green pesto as an accompaniment for pan-fried flank steak, roasted fingerings, and a salad with avocado and mushrooms. Using arugula for the pesto gave it a nice spicy edge; so easy to make and delicious on many things! Dustin made a creamy lime dressing to go on our salad – he mixed a few spoonfuls of mayonnaise with the juice of a lime, a tiny splash of cream, and salt & pepper to taste. A great weeknight meal.

Flank Steak with Arugula Pesto & Roasted Fingerling Potatoes:

a few heaping handfuls of fingerling potatoes
a couple handfuls of arugula
a handful of pine nuts, toasted

3 cloves of garlic

a handful of grated Parmesan cheese

juice from 1 small lime

olive oil (a few Tablespoons)

1 to 1 &
1/2 pounds flank steak

salt & pepper

  • Preheat oven to 375. Rinse any dirt off the potatoes, pat them dry, and place on a rimmed baking sheet with a couple drizzles of olive oil, salt & pepper. We threw some garlic cloves in there too for good measure. Who doesn’t love roasted garlic!? Roast until potatoes can be pierced easily with a fork, about 15-20 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, prepare the pesto by placing the arugula, pine nuts, 1 clove of the garlic, cheese, and lime juice in a food processor. Process for a few seconds until combined. While processor is running, pour in a light steady stream of olive oil until the consistency is how you like it. Taste and season with salt and pepper if necessary. Transfer pesto to a small bowl and set aside (or refrigerate) while you make the steak.
  • Season the flank steak on both sides with paprika and salt & pepper. Mince the remaining 2 cloves of garlic and press into the meat. Heat some olive oil in a skillet until hot. The steak should sizzle nicely when it meets the skillet. Cook until desired doneness, depending on the thickness of your steak (medium rare took about 7-9 minutes for us, flipping several times).

  • Transfer steak to a cutting board and let rest for several minutes. Slice the steak and put onto 2 plates.

  • Place the roasted potatoes on the plate and spoon some pesto over the steak and/or the potatoes. Enjoy with a nice Syrah. We like to drink local:

    Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce

    We’ve been having unusually warm weather for January! Last Sunday we pretended it was summer (although it wasn’t that hard to pretend when it was 70 degrees at 5:00 in the evening), fired up the BBQ, and invited some good friends over for appetizers. They brought rounds of polenta (both regular, and sun-dried tomato) topped with sautéed collard greens (fresh from their CSA box), bacon, shrimp and a dollop of roasted red pepper & artichoke tapenade. We loved the combination of flavors and textures – the saltiness of the bacon complimented the sweet polenta, the bitter greens, and the briny shrimp.The tail was even taken off the shrimp making it easy to eat. Well done!

    Our contribution was chicken satay with peanut sauce, one of the first things that we ever made together when we started cooking in college. Strips of chicken are marinated in coconut milk, curry power, fish sauce, and cilantro, weaved onto wooden skewers and then cooked over a charcoal grill. Paired with a slightly crunchy and spicy peanut sauce, you will definitely want to serve these at your next party, no matter what temperature it is outside!

    Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce
    (adapted and reworded from William Sonoma Asian)
    Serves 4 as an appetizer

    1 1/2 lb (750 g) boneless, skinless chicken thighs
    1 1/2 cups coconut milk, divided
    4 TBS fish sauce, divided
    5 TBS. brown sugar, divided
    2 TBS. chopped fresh cilantro, plus 1 TBS. chopped stems
    1 TBS. hot curry powder
    1 shallot
    2 garlic cloves
    1 TBS. peeled and chopped ginger
    1 TBS. peeled and chopped lemongrass
    1 fresh hot red chile, seeded and chopped
    1 TBS. canola oil
    1 TBS. fresh lime juice
    1 cup unsalted peanuts, toasted and minced
    12-15 bamboo skewers

    • Start soaking the bamboo skewers in a pan of water.
    • Prepare your charcoal (or gas) grill.
    • Cut the chicken thighs into strips, about 3 or 4 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide.
    • In a large bowl, combine 1/2 a cup of the coconut milk, 2 TBS of the fish sauce, 3 TBS. of the brown sugar, the curry powder, and the cilantro. Add the chicken strips and toss to coat. Let marinade in the refrigerator while you prepare the peanut sauce.
    • In a food processor, throw in the shallot, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, chile, and cilantro stems. Process until combined, then add 1-2 TBS. water until it reaches the consistency of a paste.
    • Heat the 1 TBS. of oil in a saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add the shallot-garlic mixture. Sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
    • Stir in the remaining 1 cup coconut milk, 2 TBS. fish sauce, 2 TBS. brown sugar, the lime juice, and peanuts. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens, about 7 minutes. Taste and add more sugar, fish sauce, or lime juice if you desire.
    • Drain the skewers. Working with one skewer at a time, take a strip of chicken out of the marinade, shaking off excess. Weave the chicken strip onto the skewer (if chicken strips are short, weave 2 or 3 onto 1 skewer).
    • Place the skewers on the hot grill, away from the direct flame. Cover the grill and cook chicken until opaque, about 5-6 minutes.
    • Transfer the skewers to a platter and serve with peanut sauce on the side.

    Roasted Rocoto Pepper and Tomato Salsa

    My Dad has been growing these little peppers in our backyard for a while now. Rocoto peppers look like miniature bell peppers, but they’re actually quite hot. They originate in Peru and Bolivia. There are so many of them, we wanted to put some to use. They worked perfectly in this roasted salsa. Add another pepper if you want it to be even more ass-kickin’.

    2 Rocoto peppers
    3 vine ripened tomatoes, halved
    5 small cloves of garlic, unpeeled
    Olive oil, a few tablespoons
    1/2 a white onion, diced
    a large handful of cilantro
    1 small lime
    cumin, to taste
    salt & pepper, to taste

    • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a baking sheet, arrange the tomato halves, garlic cloves, and rocoto peppers. Drizzle with olive oil. Roast for about 50 minutes. Remove the garlic cloves and peppers and continue roasting the tomatoes for another 10-15 minutes.
      • When cool, peel the garlic cloves and remove the stems from the rocoto peppers. Place in a food processor.
      • Gently peel the skin off the roasted tomatoes and add to the food processor with the garlic and peppers. Process for about 5 seconds.
      • Add the onion, cilantro, lime juice, cumin, salt and pepper. Process until consistency is smooth.
      • Eat immediately with chips or as a taco sauce, or cover and refrigerate for later.

      Tempura: Out of the frying pan and into … my mouth

      Hands down, tempura is my favorite Japanese food. And yes, I cheated below and used a picture from our lunch in Kyoto two weeks ago. My student Mieko and her husband Koichi invited us over for a Father’s Day dinner last Sunday, but we were so enthusiastic about eating the tempura hot out of the fryer that we neglected to take a picture. Besides, our fingers were too greasy. Forgive us. Anyway, Mieko and Koichi are such a great family. From day 1 in Japan they’ve been like our parents away from home. In fact, they are very welcoming to all foreigners. They often host international students in their home, and Koichi loves teaching Japanese.

      We ate cook-your-own-tempura in the middle of the table. Mieko made her special tempura batter. She starts with the store-bought tempura mix that is made from a blend of wheat flour, cornstarch, and baking powder. Then she mixes it with shochu (a distilled spirit that’s sometimes made from sweet potatoes, but also barley or rice) and egg yolk. Ice water is most commonly used to make the batter, but she loves the flavor from using shochu instead. When the batter was ready, we dipped skewered shrimp, eggplant, onion, and peppers into it and fried them in vegetable oil until they were golden and crunchy. We dipped them in a dish of tempura sauce mixed with fresh grated daikon (white radish). There was also a beautiful plate of sashimi – salmon, tuna, and sea bream – a bowl of sushi rice, and a stack of seaweed squares ready for assembling temaki-sushi (hand-rolled sushi).


      1 egg yolk
      3/4 cup ice water (or cold shochu)
      1 cup tempura flour (or 1/2 cup cornstarch mixed with 1/2 cup flour)
      Japanese egg plant, cut into medallions
      onions, cut into sections (see picture below)
      green bell peppers, cut into pieces or thick strips
      vegetable oil for frying

      • Combine the egg yolk, and ice water in a bowl. Add half the tempura flour and whisk together. Add the remaining flour and mix until almost incorporated. A few lumps are okay.
      • Skewer your veggies. Make 3 or 4 slits along the underside of the prawns to prevent them from curling when fried.

      • Heat your oil to 180 C (350 degrees) in a deep fryer or saucepan.

      • Coat the veggies and prawns in batter, and fry for about 3 minutes, turning once. They should be very lightly colored. Remove from the oil and serve immediately with tempura sauce, either store-bought or homemade.

      Tempura Sauce

      • Combine 1/2 TBS sugar, 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup mirin, and 1 cup dashi soup stock (if difficult to find, substitute with any broth, but the taste won’t be exactly the same) in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Pour into dishes and top with freshly grated daikon.

      Full of Thanks

      Things I’m thankful for (in no particular order):

      1. My kitten
      2. German Shepherds
      3. My family
      4. My husband
      5. Forgiveness
      6. Good wine

      The hardest time to live abroad is over the holidays, especially a year when your birthday and Thanksgiving finally fall on the same day. This was our second Thanksgiving without family or turkeys (the latter are about as common in Japan as English speakers. Ok, not really. Even rarer). But regardless, we’re still very thankful for each other and our small Thanksgiving feast sans the bird. Actually, we had part of a bird. We roasted some chicken breasts with lemon slices, garlic, and thyme under the skin. They turned out really moist and delicious, but there are no pictures to do them justice because our silly Japanese-style oven/microwave thing didn’t crisp up the skin to our liking! So sorry! Anyway, these are some of the highlights from our Thanksgiving sides and dessert:

      Mixed Greens, Apples & Candied Pecans with Red Wine Vinaigrette:

      I made a mistake and included celery in this recipe (I had a leftover stalk from the stuffing), and it turns out Dustin doesn’t like raw celery. Only in soup. Oops. So he had to pick his out. We’ve only been married 2 years. Give me a break.

      1 Fuji apple peeled and sliced
      1 stalk of celery, sliced
      2 big handfuls of mixed greens
      candied pecans (or nut of your choice)
      1/2 shallot, chopped
      olive oil & red wine vinegar
      salt & pepper

      • Combine the olive oil and vinegar to taste in a small bowl (I like my salad’s fairly vinegary). Season with salt & pepper.
      • Stir in the shallot, celery and apple slices. Toss with greens, and throw in a handful of broken glazed pecans before serving.

      Creamed Onions with Thyme & Sage:

      We saw this in Food & Wine and wanted to try it. My mom always uses pearl onions in this dish, but the regular onions tasted great and were easier to find in Japan. The recipe serves 12, so we quartered the recipe below (Although he did the math. Fractions have never been my friends).

      2 tablespoons unsalted butter
      4 large onions (about 2 pounds), cut into 1-inch dice
      1 1/2 teaspoons chopped thyme
      1 1/2 teaspoons chopped sage
      1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
      1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper (we used black)
      1 1/2 cups heavy cream

      • In a large skillet, melt the butter. Add the onions and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 30 minutes.
      • Add the thyme, sage, nutmeg and white pepper and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.
      • Add the cream and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 5 minutes.
      • Season with salt, transfer to a bowl and serve. (The onions can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. Reheat gently).

      Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting:

      (From Ashley of Delish. You can find the original mouth-watering recipe here)

      For the Cake:

      4 eggs
      1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
      1/4 cup vegetable oil
      1/2 cup applesauce
      2 cups pumpkin
      2 cups all-purpose flour
      2 teaspoons baking powder
      2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
      1 teaspoon salt
      1 teaspoon baking soda

      For the Icing:

      8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
      1 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar
      1 tsp vanilla extract

      • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
      • Using an electric mixer at medium speed, combine the eggs, sugar, oil, apple sauce and pumpkin until light and fluffy.
      • In another bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda.
      • Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and mix at low speed until thoroughly combined and the batter is smooth. Spread the batter into a greased 13×10″ baking pan.
      • Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting.
      • To make the icing: Using an electric mixer in a medium bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add the sugar and mix at low speed until combined. Stir in the vanilla and mix again. Spread on cooled cake.

      This cake was the perfect ending to a day of cooking and eating. Since September I’d been saving one lone can of pumpkin that I found at the import store, and was waiting for just the perfect recipe inspiration to come along. A few days ahead of time, I made my own apple sauce for the cake. This was a great recipe from that made lots of leftovers.

      Apple Sauce:

      4 apples – peeled, cored and chopped
      3/4 cup water
      1/4 cup white sugar
      1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

      • In a saucepan, combine apples, water, sugar, and cinnamon. Cover, and cook over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes, or until apples are soft. Allow to cool, then mash with a fork or potato masher.

      “Angry” Gnocchi, Fried Mozzerella Salad & Zucchini Sticks

      Arrabbiata is one of our favorite sauces for pasta — it’s a garlicky, spicy tomato sauce and its name means “angry”. But garlic and spice make us happy! That’s why this is our weeknight standby pasta sauce.

      Dustin’s Arrabbiata

      2 1/2 TBS olive oil
      2 cloves of garlic, minced
      1 can of crushed tomatoes
      1 TBS sugar
      2 dried red chilies, chopped
      a few leaves of fresh basil, torn
      salt & pepper

      • Heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and chilies and sauté until garlic is golden. Turn the heat off and let cool one minute (to reduce the tomatoes splattering). Add the tomatoes, salt, pepper, basil, and sugar. Simmer for at least 10 minutes.
      • Cook the gnocchi according to the package directions (until they float to the top), and drain. Spoon on the arrabbiata sauce and finish with some freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

      To accompany the gnocchi, we tried this recipe for Arugula & Fried Mozzarella Salad with Tomato-Basil Vinaigrette from The Nest and it turned out great! There’s something so satisfying about fried cheese. I just love it. And the spicy arugula was delicious with the sweet vinaigrette.

      And the frying continues! We’re not condoning this as a healthy meal, but when you have flour, egg and breadcrumbs already out (from making the fried mozzarella for the salad), and a wonderfully spicy tomato sauce for dipping, it just cries out for fried zucchini! We cut zucchini into strips, coated them in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs, and fried them until just tender inside and golden outside. Mmmm…