Category Archives: appetizer

meet me in muskoka + a mushroom, cheddar, and leek pie, lake style

mushroom tart

If you follow me on Instagram you may have already seen various points of the mileage I mentioned yesterday; to be quite honest, I was actually surprised at how little pictures I actually took during our travels, and that goes for most of our adventures as of late.


{captain + first mate}

I’ve been really bad about carting my DSLR on vacations with me lately (partly due to the fact that I desperately need a new telephoto lens – which obviously doesn’t come on the cheap – and I’ve been sticking my head in the sand and pretending my old one works just fine….it doesn’t), and it’s too easy to fall into the habit of snippity snapping away with ye old iPhone.


I yammered on enough yesterday about how wonderful island living is up in Muskoka, but it would be remiss of me not to mention this mushroom pie – even though I’ve got but one photograph as evidence of it’s brief existence.

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coming in hot: thai green curry cod cakes with avocado cucumber relish

thai green curry cod cakes with cucumber avocado relish

I’m in the camp that excessively dieting in January to adhere to the constraints of some self-imposed and totally unrealistic ‘resolution’ is a bunch of malarky.

thai green curry cod cakes - pacific cod

But really, who am I kidding – it’s only because I know that I’ll totally throw my own game by kamikaze-ing myself with a cheeseburger, a (craft!) beer, and some killer garlic-truffle fries….just for good measure.

thai green curry cod cakes - chopping peppers and onions

Having my sand in the toes here in much-more-SoCal has definitely got my wheels turning however, and I am hesitant to say it but… the rest of the country has been beaten tortured to an inch of their frostbitten life by the ‘polar vortex,’ I’ve been cruising around in a t-shirt and flip flops, taking nightly sunset runs on the beach, and have even managed to pick up just a hint of a tan.  The bathing suit….it is on the horizon my friends.

thai green curry cod cakes - green curry paste

[Ducks to avoid rotten tomatoes]

thai green curry cod cakes - avocado cuke relish!

As with San Francisco, the community here in Santa Barbara is super active; with the pleasant weather, everyone is biking, hiking, running, spinning, juicing, and perfecting their yoga poses.  There is a farmer’s market that runs 7 days a week – year round, rain or shine – and a fishmarket out on the pier that rotates in the catch of the day quite literally right from the (frigid!) waters of the navy blue Pacific.

thai green curry cod cakes - cod pulsed in processor

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a perfect balance: summer quinoa salad – chinese eggplant, sweet corn, red onion, & toasted almond

summer quinoa salad with chinese eggplant, sweet corn, red onion, and toasted almonds

Clearly I’m jumping the gun here a bit on “Summer,” but I’ve got a racer-back tan-line seared between my shoulders and the imprint of (my favorite) teeny-tiny wedge sandals emblazoned on the tops of my bare feet, so I can’t be that far off in my seasonal labeling, right?

chinese eggplant from the farmers market

They keep telling me that “it’s never like this;” they being those more seasoned San Franciscans than I, and this being the exceptionally perfect seventy-five-and-no-cloud-in-the-sky weather we’ve been having straight up on the reg.  I know I keep saying it, but there’s been some killer days here; the kind that make me actually excited for the in-betweens when the fog rolls in, and for that perfect time of evening when the eerie echo of the foghorn picks up at dusk.

fresh summer corn right off the cob

We had barely even fifteen minutes indoors this past weekend, with Saturday enjoyed posted up at picnic tables and grilling oysters with friends at Tomales Bay, and Sunday spent having our first taste of Bay to Breakers, an annual road race that seems to be much less about the race and much more about who can wear the most ridiculous costume.  (And…ahem…about lots of random naked people.  Being naked in public is a big thing here, folks.)

chinese eggplant ready to roast

Though sweet corn and eggplant are two things I associate more with July and August, I found both at the farmer’s market last week, and therefore – Summer, shes’a close.

taking the bite out of some red onion

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sum of it’s parts: roasted cauliflower with lemon tahini sauce

roasted cauliflower with lemon tahini sauce and sesame seeds -

Roasted cauliflower….again?

cauliflower florets chopped up and ready to be roasted

I know. It’s boring, it’s bland, it’s the last man standing on the sad veggie tray in the corner, always.

“Caulifower is my favorite vegetable” said no one, ever.

I know all of this.


And yet I’m still forcing cauliflower recipes upon you! What can I say….I’m sadistic like that.

black and white sesame seeds, for flavor and color

Truthfully I’ve been making cauliflower a lot around here lately. I’d say it’s in season, but I don’t think it is for most of the country – apparently, in California, everything is in season all the time. (I tell ya – it’s really rough living here.) So I’ve been scooping it on Sundays from the Fort Mason Farmer’s market, and trying to use it’s meatiness in vegetarian dishes that need a little bulking up. I’ve roasted it in thick slices like steak, tossed it with arugula and shaved parmesan, and even dusted it with cumin and tucked it into tiny corn tacos – perhaps my favorite thus far, actually.

lemons from a friend's garden

But after overzealously purchasing three heads last week, I had cauliflower-mental-block. I was perfectly fine slicing up the florets and roasting them (yet again….), but was looking for a simple spin that would fool us into thinking we had something other than roasted cauliflower on the side of our plates. Again.

crispy cauli!

By the power that is Google, a quick search returned a deceptively simple recipe for my same roasted cauliflower equation only doctored up with a quick pan sauce of garlic, tahini, and lemon. I should mention I’ve not only been on a cauli-kick as of late, but am also in the midst of a mean homemade hummus streak (that’s normal, right?), so given the fact I had about a gallon of tahini in the fridge and a sun-ripened lemon freshly picked from a friend’s yard right here in the city, this cauliflower just had to be made.

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pickle magic: pickled red onions (garlic, black peppercorn, star anise, and california bay leaf)

pickled red onions, inspired by zuni cafe - delicious on everything!

I happen to be married to someone who L-O-V-E-S all things vinegar, and I swear years ago when I first saw his hand stray over to the malt vinegar as we shared our first platter of fish’n’chips (sappy who?), my heart went all aflutter.

red onion waiting to be sliced

I, too, love the stuff, and especially when there are various vegetables and spices bobbing about inside of it. I’ve long been a fan of pickles (in college I grossed out a roommate or four by standing in front of an open fridge and housing pickled pepperoncinis, hand to mouth), and truly adore them in any form: cornichons on a well-dressed cheese tray, kimchi over a bibimbap, juicy slices of pickled watermelon rind in the Summertime, and even spicy pickled okra – something I was introduced to by my friend Kerri, who craved it somethin’ fierce when she was pregnant with her son.

pickled red onions - star anise, garlic, cali bay, and pepper

(I’ll admit, I was skeptical, but that stuff is g-o-ooooood!)


But anyway, the Husb likes him some vinegar and he likes him some onions, so naturally when I first made these pickled red onions for him, to say they were a hit is the understatement of the century. He literally loves them, and puts them on anything and everything. Suddenly it’s no longer a tuna sandwich for lunch (womp…), its a tuna sandwich WITH-THOSE-PICKLED-ONIONS! We’ll never have grilled cheese (womp womp…), it’s grilled-cheese-WITH-PICKLED-ONIONS!!!!

star anise pods add a great flavor

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a healthy alternative: chickpea “tabbouleh” (gluten-free & vegan!)

chickpea 'tabbouleh' (gluten-free & vegan!)

I happen to still currently live in the “Gluten Free Capital” of the world (seriously….which also happens to be located smack in the center of the “Napa Valley of (glutinous) Beer” – go figure!), and though I certainly haven’t jumped on the wheat-free bandwagon and shunned all things bready, wheaty, and piled high on a blistered pizza crust (nothankyouverymuch), it has definitely influenced how I look at how much wheat I eat mindlessly on a daily and weekly basis (I do spend my days in a bakery, for Pete’s sake).

chickpea 'tabbouleh' whole chickpeas

chickpea 'tabbouleh' chickpeas chopped

I’m not about to go all glu-tard (haywire) on you and announce that I’m shunning my favorite carb, but I do like that this frame of mind has made me search for different meals and side dishes that aren’t sandwiched between two pieces of bread.

Everything in moderation, right?

chickpea 'tabbouleh' ingredients assembled

I love tabbouleh (an incredibly good plum iteration last seen here), but while making fresh hummus a few weeks ago I was struck by how similar in size and texture to bulgur the chickpeas appeared when I had coarsely chopped them in my processor. A quick google search confirmed that I was not the first to think of this, and I mentally cataloged the idea as a great make-ahead-take-along lunch.

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and it just hit the spot: sweet potato and pea cakes with fresh mint and basil

sweet potato and pea cakes with fresh mint and basil

A few weeks ago, in San Francisco, I was wandering around Pacific Heights after finishing an awesome breakfast and popped in to a charming news shop in search of a thank-you card for a friend who graciously let us take over her (adorably decorated) studio apartment for the weekend.

sweet potato and pea cakes quartered potato

Aside from inexpensive street flowers and dirt cheap mani/pedi’s, one thing that cities just seem to nail are news shops. Of course anywhere you can dash into a Walgreens for your monthly fix, and there usually is something palatable to be had in the check out line at the grocery store — but for those hard to find gems and international glossies, a good news shop is essential.

sweet potato and pea cakes green peas

After finding the perfect card (a letter-pressed specimen with a Frenchie and the words “Merci Beaucoup!” emblazoned on the front), I found myself plunking down an extra $10 for an issue of Donna Hay magazine. It’s undoubtedly an exorbitant price to pay for a magazine, but if you’ve ever seen a Donna Hay magazine, then you’ll know why I felt totally justified. (James on the other hand might not agree.)

sweet potato and pea cakes shredded potato

With her fresh aesthetic and simple yet impossibly elegant recipes, Hay is Australia’s answer to Martha Stewart, or Ina Garten – but younger, hipper, and trading out upstate New York and the Hamptons for the Outback (or something like that). The weighty issue beckoned to me with an incredibly gorgeous cover photo of spring pea and mint risotto, and was packed with light and Spring-y recipes that sounded perfect for weaning myself off of a steady diet of Winter fare and a triumphant football season full of buffalo wings (and sandwiches!).

sweet potato and pea cakes fresh herbs!

{but wait! there’s more…}