Spanakopita (Greek Spinach Pie)

One bite of spanakopita from a little bakery in Santorini 4 years ago and we fell in love. Spinach and feta make a delicious savory filling, sandwiched between sheets of buttery phyllo dough (or if your store is out of it, as ours was, puff pastry makes a good substitute). We tried making spanakopita once in Japan, but the filling turned out a tad bland. This time we used the same recipe as a guide, but added some minced garlic and some extra salt & pepper. When cut into small squares, spanakopita makes the perfect appetizer since you can serve it either hot or at room temp.


(Adapted from the recipe in Modern Greek by Andy Harris)

10 oz. frozen spinach (or a little less than a pound of fresh spinach)
3 green onions, including green stems, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
6 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
1 egg, beaten
freshly ground back pepper
1 TBS olive oil
1 package of frozen puff pastry (containing 2 sheets), defrosted according to package instructions
melted butter (about 2-3 TBS)

  • Defrost the spinach in the microwave according to directions. If using fresh spinach, blanch in boiling water. Drain spinach thoroughly by placing in a kitchen towel and squeezing until no more liquid comes out. Roughly chop spinach. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool.
  • Add the green onion, garlic, feta, egg, salt & pepper, and olive oil to the bowl with the spinach. Mix well.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a baking dish that is roughly the same size as your puff pastry. Place one sheet of puff pastry in the bottom of the dish (it’s ok if some of the pastry drapes over the edge of the baking dish; just fold over and pinch like a pie crust). Brush with melted butter. Add the filling and spread evenly. Place the remaining puff pastry sheet on top. Brush with melted butter. Pinch the edges of the two sheets together.
  • Sprinkle a little water on top to prevent pastry from burning. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until top is golden brown. Slice into squares. Serve either hot or cold. Serves 3-4.

CSA Vegetable Frittata

Can you believe we’ve never made a frittata before!? Well, that’s not true. In Japan we tried to make one once, but when we added the egg mixture to the skillet, we had the heat up too high and ended up burning the bottom before it even went in the oven. The top was edible, but …. yeah, anyway … we definitely redeemed that tonight! We had fresh eggs from TLC Ranch, potatoes, young white onions, and arugula from Live Earth Farm (our friends graciously allowed us to consume their veggies while they’re on vacation!) and one fat zucchini that we grew in our own backyard! Instead of starting the frittata on the stove top and finishing in the oven, we baked the entire thing in the oven — much easier this way (though it took longer than we expected).

Frittata makes a great breakfast, dinner (we ate it with a salad and some buttered sourdough toast – comfort food!), or appetizer (make ahead of time, cut into squares and serve room temp). And of course, use whatever veggies and/or leftover meat you have on hand! What a versatile dish. This recipe serves about 4. We made extra because we wanted to eat leftovers for breakfast 🙂

6 eggs
a splash of milk
salt & pepper
a small handful of Parmesan cheese, plus more for sprinkling on top
olive oil
2 medium potatoes, washed well and cubed
2 small white onions (or 1 medium), diced
1 zucchini, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
a few big handfuls of arugula

  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a medium bowl, beat together the eggs, milk, salt & pepper, and cheese (and whatever other spices you like in your eggs). I think we added a few dashes of Tabasco sauce as well! Set aside.
  • In a frying pan over medium high heat, sauté the potato in some olive oil until starting to turn golden. Transfer to a large bowl.
  • Add a little more olive oil to the same pan and sauté the onions until translucent and starting to turn golden. Transfer onions to the same large bowl.
  • Sauté the zucchini and also add to the bowl.
  • Finally, add the minced garlic (add more oil, if needed) and cook for 1 minute. Then add the arugula and cook until wilted, stirring frequently. Add the garlic and arugula to the bowl.
  • Allow the veggies in the bowl to cool a little bit, then pour into a buttered baking dish (we used a 9” round glass baking dish). Pour the egg mixture on top of the veggies, making sure the egg is evenly distributed. Sprinkle the top with some more cheese.
  • Bake until set, about 50 minutes. If the top is still not set, you can turn on the broiler to finish it off at the end, but be sure to keep an eye on it.
  • Slice and serve warm or at room temperature. As you can see, I doused mine with plenty of Sriracha:

“Thai” Basil Stir Fry

One of our favorite Thai dishes was the inspiration for this meal, except that we used regular basil instead of thai basil – the kind that everyone has tons of right now that screams caprese salad or pesto. Well, we wanted to do something a little different with ours. We found it was the perfect addition for a stir fry! Mizuna, carrots, and green beans were sitting in the CSA box waiting to be used, which we coated in an almost-perfected sweet/spicy/salty sauce. As usual, the measurements I’m giving you aren’t specific, but there are some guidelines. Trust your tastebuds! When we were done, it tasted pretty darn close to Thai take-out! If you desire to give your basil a break from Italian food, we recommend this dish.

sesame oil and canola oil
1 large clove of garlic, minced
a spoonful of hot chile paste and/or 2 small dried chiles, sliced
2 scallions, white and light green parts chopped, and dark green parts chopped and reserved for garnish
a couple generous handfuls of mizuna leaves
(it cooks down a lot, so don’t be shy)
4-5 small carrots (or 1 large) , sliced into medallions and blanched for 1-2 minutes
(you can skip the blanching if your slices are thin)
a few handfuls of green beans, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
soy sauce
rice vinegar
fish sauce
brown sugar
a handful of fresh basil leaves, washed, dried, and sliced

  • Heat a splash (about 2 tsp.) of sesame oil, and a bigger splash (about 2 TBS) of canola oil in a wok until very hot.
  • Add the garlic, chile paste and/or dried chiles and stir fry for 1 minute.
  • Add the scallions and stir fry for another minute.
  • Add the mizuna and green beans and stir fry for 3-4 minutes until mizuna is wilted and green beans are still slightly crisp. Add the carrots and cook a minute or two longer.
  • Add about 1 TBS each of soy sauce and rice vinegar. Add about 2 tsp. each of mirin and fish sauce. Add about 1-2 tsp. of brown sugar. Stir everything together.
  • Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking (remember, fish sauce is salty so don’t add too much without tasting!)
  • Turn off the heat and stir the basil into the stir fry until it’s wilted.
  • Serve on top of steamed jasmine rice and garnish with reserved green part of scallion.  A dry Riesling would go great with this meal.

    Asian Meatloaf with a Sweet & Spicy Glaze

    I have to admit I was more the souf chef for this one. Dustin comes up with the greatest recipes. I’m proud to have a husband who enjoys being in the kitchen! I had an idea a few weeks ago about making some sort of Asian flavored burger. He was thinking along the lines of meat loaf (which we’ve never made before). So we combined the two and the result was one of the best dinners we’ve had in a while (though the spicy pork tenderloin on Sunday was pretty hard to beat). You can change this recipe any way you like – try adding shredded carrot or chopped water chestnuts, or anything else you desire. We used ground pork and beef, but you could also sub turkey or chicken. Steamed rice seemed like the natural accompaniment, and since the oven was already on for the meatloaf, we roasted some asparagus that I tossed with sesame oil and chili flakes.

    For the Meatloaf:

    2 TBS. red miso, dissolved in a little water to form a paste, divided
    1/2 lb. ground pork
    1/2 lb. ground beef
    1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
    1 egg
    4 green onions, white & green parts chopped
    1/2 cup chopped shitake mushrooms (we used baby shitake mushrooms)
    a thumbnail-sized piece of ginger, peeled and minced
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    2 TBS. soy sauce
    1 1/2 tsp. fish sauce
    1 1/2 tsp. rice vinegar
    a squeeze of honey
    1 1/2 tsp. mirin
    1 tsp. brown sugar

    Simply Asparagus

    For the Glaze:

    1 TBS. chili paste (such as Sambal Oelek)
    squeeze of honey
    squeeze of hot chili sauce (such as Sriracha)
    1/2 tsp. brown sugar

    • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a little bowl, combine the red miso and a little water to form a paste. Set aside.
      • In a large bowl, combine the ground meats, breadcrumbs, egg, green onion, mushrooms, ginger, garlic, and 1 TBS. of the miso paste. Mix with your hands until combined.
      • In the same little bowl as the remaining miso paste, add the soy sauce, fish sauce, rice vinegar, honey, mirin, and brown sugar. Mix well. Spoon this mixture a little at a time into the meat mixture, and use your hands to incorporate it in. Reserve about a spoonful of sauce in the bottom of the bowl to make the glaze.
      • Shape the meat-mixture into a loaf-shape on a greased baking sheet.
      • To the bowl with the reserved spoonful of sauce, add the chili paste, honey, hot chili sauce, and brown sugar. Stir to combine. Spoon on top of the meatloaf.
      • Bake the meatloaf for about 45 minutes or until done. If making a side of roasted asparagus, toss the asparagus on another baking sheet with a drizzle of sesame oil, a sprinkling of chili flakes, and some salt & pepper. Put in the oven for the last 10-12 minutes of baking time.
      • Serve with steamed rice. Serves 2.

      Vegetable Lo Mein with Salmon

      Our bowls and chopsticks often inspire me to make dinner. Each one tells a different story and conjures up a different time and place. These bowls were hand-crafted at a local artisan shop downtown and were given to us as a wedding gift 3 1/2 years ago. I love that they have little indentations on the edge for resting your chopsticks. The chopsticks came from a student of ours in Japan as a goodbye present. My decision to make something Asian-inspired for dinner came from looking at these bowls and wanting to eat something out of them! Stir fried noodles seemed appropriate because it was one of our weeknight standby meals in Japan. I don’t know how it never made it on the blog, but finally it’s making an appearance. We enjoyed a nice Junmai-style sake (best when served at room temp) with this meal and it transported me back to our tiny apartment in Osaka.

      Vegetable Lo Mein with Salmon:

      1 package Chinese Style Noodles (such as Nasoya brand)
      3 to 4 TBS. canola oil
      2 cloves of garlic, chopped
      1 white onion, diced
      1 cup snowpeas, ends trimmed and cut in half
      1 cup sliced shitake mushroom, stems removed
      a small head of broccoli, florets removed, and stems cut into equal-sized pieces
      3 to 4 TBS. soy sauce
      1 TBS. hot chili sauce (such as Sriracha)
      2 TBS. rice wine vinegar
      2 tsp. mirin
      2 tsp. brown sugar
      salt & pepper to taste
      3/4 lb salmon, cooked and flaked*

      *This recipe is ideal for using up leftover salmon (or other meat), but this time we cooked ours on the same night: We preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl, Dustin mixed up our usual Honey-Soy Glaze that we often put on tuna in Japan. We poured some of the glaze mixture over the salmon in a baking dish before putting it in the oven, then based it every 10 minutes until the salmon was done (about 20 minutes) and we could easily flake it with a fork.

      • Cook the noodles according to package directions (we boiled them for 3 minutes), drain, rinse with cold water, and drain again. Set aside.
      • Heat the oil in a wok until very hot. Add the onion and garlic and stir fry for 1 minute. Add the broccoli and put a lid down over the veggies for about 3 minutes to speed up the cooking. Remove the lid and add the shitake mushrooms and snowpeas. Stir fry for about 2 minutes. Add soy sauce, vinegar, chili sauce to taste (we add a lot), mirin, brown sugar, and salt & pepper to taste. Stir together with the veggies. Tilt the wok so the sauce runs to one side. Cook sauce over the heat for a minute until it begins to thicken a little, then combine with the veggies again.
      • Add the noodles to the wok, and drizzle a little oil over them (about 1 tsp). Stir fry for a few minutes, combining them with the veggies and sauce. We found using tongs worked best for this!
      • Add the flaked salmon and toss to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Serve in your most beautiful bowls 🙂

      Asparagus Pesto Pasta

      My cousin Nikita emailed me this recipe a few weeks ago and said that we had to make it together. Embedded in the email was a mouth-watering picture that drew me in: two asparagus tips neatly garnished a tangle of green pasta, dotted with pine nuts and sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. How could I say no? For the entire week I looked forward to this meal. I love that our family is so food oriented. We can plan an entire evening around the food, whether it’s a holiday, or a weeknight meal like this one. And while we’re eating one meal we’re already talking about the next one! Anyway, asparagus is my favorite spring vegetable. I thought I’d had it prepared every way until I saw this recipe. What a great idea – blanching asparagus and turning it into a pesto with baby spinach, pine nuts, garlic, and olive oil! It tastes so fresh and surprisingly the asparagus flavor was not as strong as we thought it would be. But it’s just subtle enough to remind you of its presence. Leaving some whole pine nuts to toss in at the end adds the perfect crunch to this beautifully verdant pasta dish.

      Asparagus Pesto Pasta
      (From Simply Recipes)

      1 bunch asparagus spears (about 1 lb), trimmed of tough ends and halved crosswise
      3 handfuls baby spinach leaves
      2 cloves garlic, peeled
      1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
      1 cup pine nuts
      1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for topping
      Juice of 1/2 a lemon*
      1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
      8 ounces of dried pasta or 12 ounces fresh -linguini, fettuccini, or spaghetti**

      *we used a lime from our tree instead

      **the original recipe suggests mixing regular pasta with spinach pasta for a medley of colors

      • Bring two pots of water to a bowl – one large one for the pasta and one medium sized one for the asparagus.
      • While the water is heating, put the pine nuts in a single layer in a large skillet. Heat on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and lightly browned. Remove pine nuts from pan and set aside. (You will use 3/4 cup of the pine nuts for the pesto and 1/4 cup to mix in whole).
      • Salt the asparagus water and drop the spears into the pan. Cook for only 2 or 3 minutes, until the spears are bright green and barely tender. Drain under cool water to stop the cooking. Cut the tips off, and set aside, several of the asparagus (diagonal cut about an inch from the end) to use for garnish.
      • Add the asparagus, spinach, garlic, Parmesan, and 3/4 cup of the pine nuts to a food processor. Process until smooth. With the motor running, drizzle in the 1/4 cup of olive oil until a paste forms. If too thick, thin it with a bit of the pasta water. Add the lemon juice and salt, taste and adjust seasoning.
      • Salt the pasta water well and cook the pasta until just tender. Drain and toss immediately with 1 cup of the asparagus pesto.
      • Serve sprinkled with the remaining 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts, a dusting of Parmesan, and a light drizzle of olive oil. Serves 4 to 6.

      Fava Bean & Green Garlic Hummus on Crostini

      Fava beans and green garlic make hummus especially “springy” and an even more fabulous spread for crunchy crostini! (Special thanks to our friends Tony & Miriam for sharing their veggies from Live Earth Farm!)

      Fava Bean & Green Garlic Hummus:

      1/4 cup + 2 TBS. olive oil
      1 stock green garlic, washed, tough outer layer of stock removed, and sliced
      a few handfuls of fava beans, shelled
      1 can of chickpeas, drained
      1 spoonful of tahini
      juice from 1 lime
      a handful of chopped, fresh oregano
      paprika, cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper to taste

      • Saute the green garlic in some olive oil (about 2 TBS.) until tender. Add the shelled fava beans and saute for a minute more. Remove from heat.
      • In a food processor, combine the chickpeas, green garlic-fava bean mixture, tahini, lime juice, oregano, and other seasonings. Process until smooth. While processor is running, add the olive oil (about 1/4 cup) in a light steady stream until it becomes a nice consistency.
      • Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Transfer to a serving bowl. Serve with homemade crostini. Serves 4-6 as an appetizer.

      And this is the beautiful and delicious stir fry that Tony made for our main dish, using the other veggies from the farm – carrots, baby tatsoi, mizuna greens, oyster mushrooms, and broccoli. The sauce involved soy sauce, rice vinegar, mirin, chili paste, and fish sauce. Oishii! It was served over an exciting (well, exciting to me) green rice, made green from bamboo extract.

      Happy Easter! Part 2: Lemony Couscous with Peas, Mint, and Pea Shoots

      This may have been another Easter side dish, but my fork kept gravitating to it on my plate, as if it were the main dish. We dressed couscous up for spring with peas, cumin seeds (ground in a mortar and pestle), fresh mint from the garden, refreshing pea shoots (I love how much delicate pea flavor is concentrated in the shoot), and a scattering of crunchy almonds. It would be delicious on its own for lunch, with kabobs, salmon, or ham for dinner … ok, pretty much anything! The measurements aren’t specific because depending on how much couscous you make, you add the other ingredients in proportion to that, using your own judgment.

      Lemony Couscous with Peas, Mint, and Pea Shoots:

      1 package of couscous
      olive oil
      green onion
      snow peas
      ground cumin seed
      fresh mint, chopped
      1-2 lemons
      fresh or frozen peas
      salt & pepper
      a splash of tangerine (or orange) juice
      pea shoots
      almonds, roughly chopped

      • Cook the couscous according to package directions, adding some olive oil or butter along with the hot water. When it’s ready, fluff with a fork and set aside.
      • In a large serving bowl, toss in some sliced green onion, snow peas that have been cut in half, some ground cumin seed, chopped fresh mint, and the juice of a lemon.
      • Add the couscous (it’s ok if it’s still warm) to the bowl, and a few handfuls of peas. Gently combine. Taste and add more lemon juice. Season with salt & pepper. (Can be refrigeratred overnight at this point, covered).
      • Just before serving, add a splash of tangerine juice to the couscous salad and gently stir. Arrange the pea shoots around the bowl. Sprinkle some chopped almonds on top.

      Couscous making its debut next to the Easter ham.

      Happy Easter! Part 1: Farro Salad with Marinated Baby Artichokes

      May the freshness of spring remind you of new hope, new life, and new beginnings. This Easter felt extra special because it was the first one in 3 years where we were surrounded by family and friends back in our own country. We enjoyed a feast full of fresh spring produce, ham that came from a happy (and local) TLC Ranch pig, a few ping-pong games, and of course an egg hunt or two! I’ll be posting some recipes in a few separate posts, but in this one I’ll paint the general picture and share the first of two springy salads.

      Farro Salad with Marinated Baby Artichokes:

      Farro is my new favorite grain. I’m glad that I recently became aware of its existence. It takes longer to cook than other grains, but its sweet, nutty flavor and slightly chewy texture in the end is worth the wait, especially in this simple salad with baby artichokes, bell pepper, rosemary and lemon. When my mom and I went shopping for Easter dinner ingredients, we were immediately attracted to some cute little artichokes. When we got home, we boiled them, pulled off the leaves until the tender ones were exposed, trimmed the stems, cut them in half lengthwise and threw them into a bowl, where they mingled with the juice of a lemon, chopped fresh garlic, olive oil and parsley overnight … resulting in the perfect DIY marinated artichokes!

      We toasted the farro in some olive oil in the bottom of a heavy pot until it was fragrant and nicely coated with oil, about 3 minutes. Then we added water to the pot, brought it to a boil, and cooked the farro until tender (according to package directions, about 20 minutes). After draining the farro, it cooled on a cookie sheet for a little while. Meanwhile, we cut bell peppers into strips, chopped some green onions, and some fresh rosemary. When the farro was cool enough to touch, we poured it into a large bowl, added the marinated baby artichokes from the day before, the bell pepper, green onion, rosemary, more lemon juice to taste, and seasoned with salt.

      Colorful flower pots containing spring seeds, chocolate, and other springy surprises awaited each “kid” (though most of us have grown up):

      Easter is that special day on which you can keep a bowl of pastel-colored candy on the counter and eat it all day.

      My brother unveiled the 3rd batch of his beer – this time an Irish Porter. We enjoyed its refreshing, complex flavor while devouring a cheese plate. Then we piled as much of this menu as we could onto our plates and ate outdoors on the deck, taking in one of the first warm days of spring:

      *recipe coming soon … these are the things that I helped make this year.

      Thyme Honey Glazed Ham
      Grilled Salmon
      Grilled Asparagus with my brother’s homemade Green Garlic Aioli
      Farro Salad with Baby Artichokes
      Couscous with Peas, Lemon, Mint & Pea Shoots*
      Roasted Beet Salad with Pine Nuts & Goat Cheese
      Mixed Greens with Edible Flowers
      Francese Bread

      And of course something sweet:

      Pashka (a traditional Russian Easter dessert)*
      Chef Panisse Almond Cake
      Rhubarb Tarts with Orange Glaze*

      Faith takes a moment to rest. It takes a lot of energy to beg for Easter ham.

      Spicy Peanut Noodles with Fresh Vegetables

      Yesterday it was 75 degrees. My cousin Nikita, Dustin, and I were in the backyard wearing short sleeves, enjoying pints of Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing Company beer, BBQ-ing Cornish game hens to accompany spicy peanut noodles, and listening to the screams of delight that waft up the hill from people riding the Giant Dipper at the Boardwalk. Ok, hold that picture in your mind because today it’s cool and rainy and it feels sort of funny to write about such a summery dish. Now pair that first scene I described with cool noodles tossed with crunchy peanut butter, tangy rice vinegar and lime, sweet & spicy Sriracha chili sauce, and fresh, crunchy veggies. Do you feel like it’s summer? We sure did! As we were chopping the vegetables for the noodles, Nikita and I were laughing because we didn’t have the patience to cut everything into matchsticks. Instead we ended up with small, misshapen vegetable pieces that amused Dustin. Consider it the “rustic” look. We hope you’ll keep this recipe in mind for your next BBQ or outdoor party. We really enjoyed it with a Dry Riesling.

      Spicy Peanut Noodles with Fresh Vegetables
      (Slightly adapted from Rachael Ray)

      3/4 pound spaghetti
      3/4 cup crunchy peanut butter
      Juice of 2 limes
      1/4 cup rice vinegar
      1 1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
      a few squeezes of Sriracha Chili Sauce
      4 carrots—peeled, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
      1 cucumber—peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded and sliced crosswise
      1 red bell pepper, cut into matchsticks
      6 scallions, thinly sliced

      • In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the spaghetti until al dente. Drain, rise with cold water, and return to pot. Set aside.
        • In a medium bowl, whisk together the peanut butter, lime juice, vinegar, red pepper flakes, Sriracha, and a 1/4 cup water. Taste and season with salt.
        • Pour the sauce over the pasta and toss to coat. Add the carrots, cucumber, bell pepper, and scallions, and toss. Serve immediately, or cool completely in refrigerator before eating with your favorite grilled meat. Serves 4 hungry people.

        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:

          Honey Mustard Pretzel Chicken with Sautéed Collard Greens

          A restaurant in downtown Santa Cruz, Clouds, used to have a pretzel-encrusted chicken entrée that always intrigued me. I only ordered it once because I’m more of a small-plate kind of girl (I love to try little amounts of a lot of things) and I could never pass up their sushi offerings on the menu, but the pretzel chicken obviously stuck with me. When I couldn’t fall asleep the other night, I was pondering what to make for dinner. I thought about chicken because we hadn’t had it in awhile. Then my mind wandered to the pretzel coating at Clouds, then it jumped to Dustin’s favorite flavor of Snyder’s of Hanover Pretzel bits: honey mustard & onion. Hmm … instead of coating chicken with honey-mustard flavored pretzels, the honey-mustard could act as the adhesive for the crushed pretzels. I won’t bore you anymore with the thought processes of Brianna, but I will share the recipe. To go with the chicken, Dustin sautéed some lovely collard greens in olive oil until they were wilted, then he added salt, pepper, and a small spoonful of … you guessed it … mustard (but not honey mustard; spicy brown), covered the pan, and continued cooking until the greens were tender. The mustard flavor went really well with the greens, and the slight bitterness was a nice contrast to the chicken.

          Honey Mustard Pretzel Chicken
          Serves 2

          1 chicken breast half
          3-4 TBS. prepared honey-mustard (or mix Dijon with some honey and a squeeze of lemon juice)

          One 7-ounce bag of pretzels (we used Newman’s Own Organics’ Salt & Pepper Pretzels)
          olive or canola oil

          • Split the chicken breast in half again lengthwise (or ask your butcher to do it for you), and cut into 6-8 “chicken tender-sized” pieces, about an inch thick.
          • Pour the pretzels into a gallon zip lock bag. Seal securely and pound with something like a skillet or a can of soup until pretzels are broken up in breadcrumb-sized bits. Place pretzel bits on a plate.
          • Spoon the honey-mustard into a wide bowl.
          • Put a drizzle or two of oil in a large frying pan or on a griddle. Heat over medium heat.
          • Working with one chicken piece at a time, place in the mustard bowl and lightly coat with the honey mustard using one hand. Carefully lay chicken onto pretzel plate and press to adhere pretzels to bottom of chicken.
          • Using your dry hand, flip chicken over and press to coat other side of chicken. Repeat with remaining chicken pieces.
          • Cook until done, about 4-5 minutes per side, and the pretzel crust is lightly golden.
          • Serve with sautéed collard greens.

          Welsh Rarebit & Roasted Broccoli

          Whether you say welsh rarebit or welsh rabbit, when Guinness Stout meets melted extra-sharp cheddar cheese, an irresistible open-faced sandwich is born. You might need a knife and a fork, but even if you tackle it with your hands, it’s well worth it and might even become your new favorite comfort food. I served this sandwich with some roasted broccoli spiked with chili flakes, because broccoli is one of those vegetables that has a great relationship with cheese. Enjoy this meal with a glass of Guinness, of course!

          Welsh Rarebit (From the January 2009 issue of Food & Wine) and Roasted Broccoli

          1 cup Guinness Stout
          1 cup heavy cream
          9 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (3 cups)
          4 large egg yolks
          1 1/2 TBS. Worcestershire sauce
          2 tsp. dry mustard
          salt & freshly ground pepper
          1 sweet baguette, halved lengthwise and cut into 8 pieces, toasted
          2 small heads of broccoli
          extra virgin olive oil
          chili flakes

          • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees for the broccoli
          • In a small saucepan, boil the Guinness over high heat until reduced to 1/2 cup, about 4 minutes.
          • Add the cream and boil until reduced to 3/4 cup, about 4 minutes.
          • Scrape into a bowl and let cool to room temperature.
          • Meanwhile, cut the tough stems off of the broccoli and toss the florets with olive oil, salt, pepper and chili flakes on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Stir with a spatula and continue roasting for 5 more minutes or just until starting to brown on the edges. Take broccoli out of the oven and set aside.
          • Turn off the oven and preheat the broiler.
          • To the Guinness-cream mixture, add the cheddar, egg yolks, Worcestershire sauce and dry mustard. Stir to combine and season with salt and pepper.
          • Arrange the toasted baguette pieces on a large rimmed baking sheet. Spread the toasts with a 1/4-inch-thick layer of the cheddar mixture. Broil 4 inches from the heat for about 2 minutes, until the topping is bubbling and browned around the edges. Serve right away with the roasted broccoli. Serves 3-4.

          Farfalle with Golden Beets, Beet Greens, and Pine Nuts

          Reasons to love this dish: 1) It’s Green! Using both the beets and their greens means less waste (and less money at the store). 2) If you used red beets in this recipe, you would have pink pasta! Valentine’s Day idea, anyone? Ok, that’s a silly reason to love this dish. 3) The earthiness of the beets goes so well with the slightly bitter greens, the sweet onions, and the toasty pine nuts. Really, it’s a brilliant combination. We halved the recipe below because it serves 4-6. It paired beautifully with this 2007 Roussanne from Lavender Ridge Vineyard in the Sierra Foothills.

          Farfalle with Golden Beets, Beet Greens, and Pine Nuts
          (From the Feb. 2009 issue of Bon Appetit)

          cup pine nuts

          4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
          2 large onions, quartered lengthwise through root end, sliced crosswise (about 4 cups)
          3 garlic cloves, minced
          2 bunches 2-inch-diameter golden beets with fresh healthy greens; beets peeled and cut into wedges; greens coarsely chopped
          12 oz farfalle (bow-tie pasta)
          1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese plus additional for serving

          • Toast the pine nuts in a skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl.
          • Add 2 TBS. of olive oil and the sliced onions to the same skillet. Sauté until beginning to soften and turn golden, about 10 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium-low and continue to sauté until onions are browned and caramelized, about 30 minutes longer.
          • Add the garlic and stir for 2 minutes. Scatter the beet greens on top of the onions. Drizzle with remaining 2 TBS. olive oil, cover, and cook until greens are tender, about 5 minutes.
          • Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the beet wedges until tender, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer beets to a medium bowl.
          • Bring the water back up to a boil and add the pasta to the beet cooking liquid. Cook until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid. Return pasta to pot.
          • Stir onion-greens mixture and beets into pasta. Add pasta cooking liquid by 1/4 cupfuls to moisten. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir in 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese. Divide pasta among shallow bowls. Sprinkle with pine nuts. Serve, passing additional cheese at the table.

          Veggie Crudités with Minted-Pea Yogurt Dip

          Green foods are sometimes not as photogenic as others, but putting that aside, this dip is fresh, healthy, and a good match for cold, crunchy, seasonal veggies. We served this dip while we were watching the Oscars on Sunday – with radishes, carrots, Belgian endive, red and yellow bell peppers, and snow peas. What I love about Jamie Oliver’s recipes is that they are so simple and really showcase the ingredients that are in them. This dip tastes like the beginning of spring to me – the mint and the lemon really brighten up the peas. In the spirit of the way Jamie writes his recipes, the amounts are given in “handfuls” rather than exact measurements. We like that approach. Taste and adjust things to your liking.

          Minted Pea & Yogurt Dip

          (From Jamie’s Dinners)

          2 handful of fresh mint leaves
          12 oz. of plain yogurt (I accidentally grabbed non-fat at the store, which was fine, but if I made it again I’d use greek yogurt)
          4 handfuls of frozen peas (let thaw in the fridge for an hour or so before making the dip) or fresh
          2 handfuls of Parmesan cheese
          Juice from 1 lemon

          Salt & Pepper to taste

          In a food processor, blend together the yogurt and the mint leaves for about 30 seconds. Add the Parmesan cheese and the peas and blend until smooth and it becomes a lovely green color. Add the lemon juice and salt & pepper and blend to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Because my yogurt was thinner than I anticipated, I ended up blending in some extra peas at the end. Don’t be shy with the peas. That’s what this dip is all about! Serve with veggie crudités.

          Spicy Turkey & Chickpea Burgers with Sweet Potato Fries and Kale Chips

          We loved these burgers! First you make a hummus-like concoction in the food processor, then mix it into the ground turkey, creating a very moist and flavorful burger that’s reminiscent of falafel. It’s served on a soft french roll with baby spinach leaves, red onion, Dijon mustard, and a little mayo. The idea came from the Jan/Feb 2009 issue of Clean Eating, but we made some changes (as we usually do): To the chickpea mixture we added a large clove of chopped garlic, some chili powder to spice them up, and a handful of chopped fresh parsley. We opted for the chewy french roll over the whole wheat bun they recommend, but use whatever buns you have on hand! We served our burgers with some baked sweet potato fries seasoned with salt, pepper, brown sugar, and chili powder, and some kale chips — crunchy, nutty in flavor, and definitely the coolest new way to eat this veggie!

          Spicy Turkey & Chickpea Burgers
          (Adapted from Clean Eating)
          Serves 4 (or 2 with leftover patties)

          1 (15 oz.) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
          3 green onions, white and green parts, chopped
          1 clove garlic, chopped
          1 tsp. ground cumin
          1/4 tsp. chili powder
          1/4 tsp. salt
          1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
          a handful of fresh parsley, chopped
          2 TBS. Worcestershire sauce
          3/4 lb. ground turkey
          2 TBS. olive oil
          2 sweet french rolls
          a large handful of baby spinach leaves, washed
          1/2 a red onion, sliced
          mayo & Dijon mustard

          • In a food processor, combine the first 9 ingredients (through Worcestershire sauce). Pulse until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.
          • Transfer chickpea mixture to a large bowl and add the ground turkey. Mix together until well combined, then form patties (we made a total of 7 patties, about 3 inches wide and 1-1/2 inch thick).
          • Add some olive oil to a frying pan (a few times around the pan). Heat over medium high heat. When hot, fry the patties, about 4-6 minutes on each side depending on thickness of patties. You may have to cook them in 2 batches.
          • While patties are cooking, toast your rolls.
          • Assemble burgers on rolls with the spinach leaves, red onion, mayo and/or mustard. Add tomato if in season!

          Sweet Potato Fries
          Serves 2

          1 large sweet potato (we used the ones with the white flesh)
          1 TBS. olive oil
          chili powder
          brown sugar

          • Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
          • Wash sweet potato and pat dry. Cut in half, then place cut side down on the cutting board. Cut each half into slices. Cut those slices in half. Repeat until fries are the shape you want!
          • Toss fries in a bowl with about 1 TBS. of olive oil, and salt, pepper, chili powder, and brown sugar (no need to measure — just sprinkle and feel it out).
          • Spread onto a baking sheet in a single layer.
          • Bake for about 15 minutes. Flip fries over with tongs, then continue baking for another 10-15 minutes. When they start to look golden and caramelized on the ends, they’re ready!

          Kale Chips

          1 bunch of red kale, washed, and stems and center ribs removed (we used red curly kale)
          1 TBS extra virgin olive oil (1 TBS. coats about 12 leaves – if you have more kale, increase olive oil as needed)
          kosher salt

          • Toss the kale in a large bowl with the olive oil, making sure all the leaves are lightly coated. Sprinkle with salt.
          • Spread kale leaves on a baking sheet in a single layer. Sometimes I need to use 2 baking sheets, depending on how big my bunch of kale is.
          • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place baking sheets in the oven. After about 7 minutes, gently toss the kale on the baking sheet with tongs (and rotate the pans, if using 2). Then bake for another 7 minutes or until crisp. In the last couple minutes, really keep an eye of them. The kale leaves will wilt and feel slightly crisp when you toss them with the tongs. Also, the edges of the leaves will turn a little brown. Like popcorn, kale chips are done when they smell kind of sweet and toasty.

          ( You can also bake at a low temp (250 degrees) for about 30 minutes, like this version in Bon Appetit, but we use the above method to save time!)

          Somehow Arius always finds a way to make it into my pictures … coincidence?

          Spinach & Pork Wontons

          Folding wrappers over a filling and pinching the edges closed is fun, especially when there’s two of you so you can converse while you’re doing it. My Mom and I made these wontons the other day after she was inspired by the recipe in Food & Wine. Since we couldn’t find fresh wonton wrappers at our store, we used frozen gyoza/potsticker wrappers, which changed their shape from the traditional pointy triangles to half moons. But we still deem them a success! The filling is really tasty, and packed with nutrient-rich spinach. The sauce has a nice spicy kick from the chili oil, and the cilantro is the natural accompaniment to sprinkle on top. We served the wontons with an Asian-inspired slaw: My Mom tossed our leftover peanut sauce from the chicken satay a few nights ago with shredded cabbage, some rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, and sugar. It was finished with a sprinkling of peanuts on top. Since it was inauguration night and all, we decided to open a bottle of sparkling wine, which paired nicely with the Asian flavors.

          We ended up changing a few things from the original recipe: First, the serving size. It supposedly served 6 as an appetizer, but a 1/4 pound of ground pork didn’t seem like enough, even for 4 people. So we doubled the recipe and it was enough as a main dish for 4. Second, we encountered some difficulty in the last step of the recipe, when we were told to toss the boiled wontons in a bowl with the sauce — ours must have been more delicate than Food & Wine’s because they started to break apart! We abandoned the tossing, and decided to spoon the sauce over the wontons after plating them.

          Spinach-and-Pork Wontons
          (Adapted from the January 2009 Food & Wine)

          4 cups baby spinach, washed
          2 TBS + 3 tsp. soy sauce
          2 tsp. sesame oil

          2 tsp. dry sherry (or madeira)

          1/2 tsp. salt

          1/2 tsp. sugar

          freshly ground black pepper, to taste

          2 small scallions, chopped
          1/2 tsp. fresh ginger, grated
          1/2 lb. ground pork
          cornstarch, for sprinkling
          60 potsticker/gyoza wrappers, thawed if frozen
          4 TBS chile oil
          4 TBS sesame oil
          2 large garlic cloves, minced
          4 TBS chopped cilantro

          • Cook the spinach in a skillet, stirring until wilted. Transfer to a colander. When cool enough to handle, squeeze out the excess moisture, and chop. Set aside.
          • In a bowl, combine 3 tsp. of the soy sauce, the sesame oil, sherry, salt, sugar, black pepper, scallion, and ginger.
          • Add the ground pork and spinach and mix with your hands until combined.
          • Dust a large baking pan with corn starch. Fill a small bowl with water. On your work surface, lay out 4 wrappers at a time. Place a small spoonful (about 1 tsp) in the middle of the wrapper. Dip your finger in the water and wet the edge of the wrapper. Fold the wrapper in half over the filling and pinch together, forming a half moon shape. Place on the baking pan. Repeat with all the wrappers until you’ve used up all of the filling. (Make ahead: You can cover the pan of wontons with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight)
          • Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add the wontons and simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally. When they float, cook for 3 more minutes. Drain the wontons well.
          • In your serving bowl, combine the remaining 2 TBS. of soy sauce, chile oil, sesame oil, and garlic. Add the wontons, and try to toss gently. If they start to break apart, abandon the tossing and simply serve the wontons, then spoon the sauce from the bottom of the bowl over them. Sprinkle with cilantro and enjoy!

          Aunt Doris’ Lentil Soup

          I’m excited to share this family recipe that goes back to my Mom’s great-aunt Doris. It’s also the lentil soup that I grew up eating. The ingredients are so simple and adaptable (we added some chard; sometimes my mom has added sausage), it uses water instead of broth, making it very economical, and it’s a link to the past, making it timeless. Serve with Tabasco sauce on the table so that people can make it spicy if they desire. The best part is the aroma that permeates the house as this soup is simmering on the stove top. Make a huge pot tonight and freeze the rest for a meal another night.

          Aunt Doris’ Lentil Soup

          (Serves 4 with leftovers)

          2 cups lentils, washed
          2 quarts (8 cups) water

          2 slices chopped uncooked bacon
          1 onion, chopped

          4 cloves of garlic, chopped
          1 carrot, chopped
          3 stalks of celery, chopped

          fresh parsley and oregano, chopped (together, about a handful)
          2 tsp. salt

          freshly ground pepper
          to taste
          1 large (28 oz.) can of diced tomatoes

          1 bunch of red chard, washed and roughly chopped

          2 TBS. vinegar
          (we used red wine vinegar)

          • Place all ingredients (except tomatoes, chard, and vinegar) in a large soup pot.
          • Cover and simmer 1 and 1/2 hours.
          • Add canned tomatoes, chard and vinegar.
          • Cover and simmer another 30 min.
          • Serve with Tabasco sauce on the table.

          Dustin’s Garlic-Pepper Pork & Green Beans

          This was a really tasty dish that uses familiar ingredients that you might already have at home! We love to just throw stuff together around here, instead of following an exact recipe; that’s why our measurements aren’t very specific. Just have fun with the seasonings, and then serve with some steamed rice and a bottle of dry Riesling. *Hint – make enough rice so that you have 1 1/2 cups leftover and keep it in the refrigerator. You’ll want to use it to make the next recipe that I’m going to post!

          vegetable oil, about 2 TBS. (enough to coat bottom of wok)
          1 center-cut pork chop, fat and bone removed, cut into 1/2 inch pieces (or sub any kind of pork or other meat you want)
          a couple handfuls of green beans, trimmed and halved
          salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper
          3 cloves of garlic, minced

          1/2 a white onion, diced

          soy sauce (about 3 TBS.)

          rice wine vinegar (about 1-2 teaspoons)

          ketchup (about 3 squeezes around the pan)

          brown sugar (1 TBS. or less)

          • Heat the oil in a wok over medium high heat until hot.
          • Season the pieces of pork with lots of black pepper and some salt.
          • Cook the garlic and onion until garlic is turning golden and onion is translucent.
          • Add the pork and cook until done, about 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently.
          • Add the green beans and cook for another 3 minutes, stirring frequently.
          • Add the soy sauce, vinegar, ketchup, brown sugar, and more black pepper.
          • Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Serve with steamed white rice.

          sweet, sour & spicy

          Taverna-Style Baked Feta Dip

          Once upon a time, on our first night in Oia on the island of Santorini, we were starving and jet-lagged, walking along the cobble stone streets in search of something to eat. There were many stray dogs and cats wandering the streets, almost all of which appeared to be well fed and taken care of by the many shop owners. One tall dog that came up to my hip started walking alongside of us. Delighted (because I love dogs, especially big dogs), we continued on together, until the dog diverted to the right and bolted inside a small, dimly-lit taverna that was blaring jolly music. We decided this was a sign and followed the dog into the restaurant where we were greeted by a smiling Greek man who didn’t speak much English. We ordered this appetizer from him, along with a basket of crusty bread, and a bottle of local Santorini wine; it was heaven. As we spooned the hot feta and veggies onto our sliced bread, we were happy to see that the dog also received a treat for entering the restaurant. Throughout the meal we talked about how to recreate it at home. Luckily, the ingredients were so simple that it was possible to do so, even in Japan. Now we’ll share it with you!

          1 block of feta cheese
          Extra Virgin oilve oil
          cherry tomatoes, sliced
          green bell pepper, cut into bite-sized pieces
          red onion, cut into bite-sized pieces
          1 clove garlic, minced
          dried oregano, to taste
          salt & pepper, to taste

          • Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
          • Place the feta in the middle of a small ceramic baking dish. Add the olive oil to the dish until it almost reaches the top of the feta.
          • Scatter the tomatoes, bell pepper, onion and garlic around the dish. Add the oregano, salt and pepper.
          • Bake for 15-20 min. or until the olive oil is bubbling nicely, and the feta is starting to melt around the edges. Let rest for 5 minutes. Place in the center of the table and serve with lots of sliced bread and a spoon for serving.