Cardoon Moroccan Stew (Vegan!)

Cardoon Moroccan Stew.jpgCardoons, or Cardoni, are one of those things that you’ve probably passed by in someone’s garden or a city park, not realizing that a delectable treat was just at your fingertips (if you’re willing to brave the prickly leaves, peel away the fibrous strings, chop them, and boil them for thirty minutes before you even get close to eating them). But bare with me, because they’re worth the work.Cardoons.jpg

If you don’t believe me, trust the millions of Mediterraneans who have enjoyed this vegetable for thousands of years, Imagine a meaty, juicy stem that tastes like artichoke. See? I told you they’re worth it.Cardoon Moroccan Stewjpg

I first discovered cardoons two years ago while working on a small family farm in a remote village of Spain. The farmer’s mother, who lived down the road, marched over at least every other day in her black shawl and wool skirt at a pace that was shocking for her 80+ hard-lived years. I usually found her collecting eggs to take back home to make a tortilla de patata for her husband. But one day I spotted her cutting away giant stalks from a large prickly plant that I had assumed was some sort of annoying weed or a lazy artichoke plant that didn’t produce artichokes (they are, in fact, a type of thistle related to the artichoke). I walked over and asked her what it was. “Cardo, niña,” she said. And then she started to explain how she cooks it, all whilst hacking away at the plant and tossing the stalks in a pile on the earth with more energy than I had felt all morning at my easy task of collecting asparagus. “No te preocupes, yo te lo traigo. Ya veras.” Not surprisingly, she promised to bring me some later to try. Typical hospitable Spaniard.

Farm in Spain.jpeg

Dusk on the farm in Spain

Later that day she delivered on her promise and brought me my first pot of cardoons. Those giant, intimidating stalks with their prickles and fibers were transformed into tender morsels that had soaked up the flavor of the olive oil and garlic she sauteed them with. I reacted with such love and appreciation for her dish that she invited me over for lunch the following Sunday, where I got to enjoy more of her good cooking. When my time at the farm came to a close a few weeks later, I spent my last evening chatting with her in her kitchen.

Leaving the farm

Leaving the farm

Once I knew that cardoons existed, I started seeing them around town, in stores and in the ground. Berkeley Bowl has cardoons in Spring, and the workers in the produce department have lots of great tips on how to prepare them. It was chatting with one of them that gave me the idea to introduce more of of the Moroccan spices that so remind me of Spain, and to serve it on couscous, as I do in this recipe. But if you don’t want to bother with all that, you can try the cardoons “Esperanza style” with a drizzle of good Spanish olive oil and sauteed garlic. Either way, I think it’s impossible not to love them.Cardoon Moroccan Stew.jpg

Cardoon Moroccan Stew (Vegan!)

Caroon Moroccan Stew.jpg

  • 1 lemon
  • 1 bunch cardoons
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 2 Tablespoons minced ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Fresh cracked pepper
  • 1 pound red potatoes cut into bite-sized cubes
  • 1 pound tomatoes, chopped
  • ⅔ cup assorted olives, pitted
  • ⅔ cup chopped cilantro
  • ⅔ cup chopped parsley

Fill a pot with cold water and squeeze the lemon juice into it. Bring to a boil while you prepare the cardoons. Cut the base off the bunch of cardoons and discard. Cut the tops containing any large leaves off each stalk and discard. Now working with each stalk one-by-one, use a paring knife to peel away the long edges of the stalk to remove any remaining small leaves or prickles. Then peel away the strings and thin silvery skin along the length of the stalk (similar to de-stringing celery) using a paring knife, or scrape them off using a sharp flat-edged knife on its side. Once the entire stalk has been cleaned, chop it into 2-inch pieces and place them in the pot of lemon water so they don’t discolor. Boil for thirty minutes and drain.

Heat the olive oil in a large dutch oven or flat-bottomed skillet over medium-low heat. Add the sliced onion and saute for 5-10 minutes until the onion is softened and begins to caramelize. Meanwhile, pound the saffron, ginger, turmeric, garlic, and brown sugar in a mortar and pestle until it forms a paste. Add to the onions and saute for an additional 2 minutes to release the flavors. Add the drained cardoon pieces, water, wine, salt and pepper, potatoes, tomatoes and olives and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until the potatoes and cardoons are tender.

Serve garnished with cilantro and parsley over a bed of couscous.

Romanesco Two Ways: Pickles and Slaw

MyBerkeleyBowl_Romanesco.jpgLast week I got to do the equivalent of hanging out back stage at a Rolling Stones concert — I got to go to a “managers’ breakfast” with the rock stars of Berkeley Bowl. Diane and Glenn Yasuda opened up Berkeley Bowl in the 1970’s and have built a dedicated team of produce buyers and managers that all gather for breakfast once a month. One of the highlights for me was when one of the managers and photographer extraordinaire, Javier, showed us some of the close-ups he took of Berkeley Bowl produce and we all played “name that exotic vegetable.” Even after blogging about exotic produce for months, the produce buyers Glenn and Nick were hard to beat. It was also fun chatting with Diane, a fellow dietitian and foodie.MyBerkeleyBowl_Romanesco.jpg

I knew this was a family business, but what struck me is how much their staff is an extension of this family, sticking together throughout the years. Some of them started hanging out at the store as kids and twenty years later are still working there. I think that is a testament to the heart and soul behind this iconic establishment.MyBerkeleyBowl_Pickled Romanesco.jpg

After breakfast we all walked over to Berkeley Bowl and parted ways to get to work. As I ran around the store looking for inspiration for my next recipe, it felt different. This place that I’ve been shopping at for fourteen years and blogging about for months felt a little more like home now that I knew some of the faces and stories of the people making it possible.

Maybe that was what made me finally pick up the romanesco. Like Berkeley Bowl as a whole, romanesco is immediately impressive to anyone who walks in off the street. But when you look a bit closer and understand the intricacies behind what you’re looking at, it becomes even more impressive. Aside from its electrifying chartreuse color that draws curious shoppers like a moth to a flame, the close-up is what is truly jaw-dropping about this vegetable.MyBerkeleyBowl_Romanesco.jpg

Remember “fractals” from geometry? No? Fractals are infinitely complex patterns that are self-similar across different scales, formed from chaotic equations — in other words, beautiful natural patterns that break into smaller sections that are similar to the original. Well, romanesco is a perfect, natural example of a fractal. In fact, if you want to get really nerdy, it’s actually an approximation of the golden spiral, in which every quarter turn is farther from the origin by a factor of phi. It’s as if God let his nerdy mad scientist friend, Marv, take a stab at improving the cauliflower. As the Fractal Foundation nicely puts it, fractals are SMART: Science, Math, and Art! What could be better?MyBerkeleyBowl_Romanesco Slaw.jpg

With a similar taste and texture to it’s relative, the cauliflower, romanesco is delicious prepared in any method that compliments cauliflower: roasting whole, cutting into crunchy florets for crudités, steaming for a quick and healthy side, or sautéing to throw on pasta or with stir-fry. This vegetable is just too much fun to look at and to eat, so I decided to prepare it two ways for my blog.MyBerkeleyBowl_Romanesco Slaw.jpg

As someone who loves to snack on pickles as a tasty and light after-work snack, I decided to throw some romanesco florettes into a jar for some quick pickles and boy oh boy, were they crunchy and delicious. I also wanted to keep one raw to preserve its bright green color and crunch, so I combined it with purple cabbage in a super-healthy slaw that is as chromatically attractive as it is delicious.MyBerkeleyBowl_Romanesco Slaw.jpg

Whatever preparation method you choose, don’t forget to take a minute to stare at the intricate spirals and marvel at the exquisite beauty contained in our universe. And then maybe bust out your old AP calculus graphing calculator and calculate the logarithm of your fractal veggie. Or not…

Pickled Romanesco

  • Servings: one 24-oz jar
  • Time: 5 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 2 cups waterMyBerkeleyBowl_Pickled Romanesco.jpg
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seed
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 inch nub of fresh ginger, chopped
  • 1 red chili, sliced
  • 2 sprigs of fresh dill
  • 1 romanesco, cut into florets

Heat water, vinegar, salt and sugar in a small saucepan until just simmering and the salt and sugar are dissolved. Meanwhile, place all remaining ingredients in a 24-oz jar with a lid. Pour the hot vinegar solution over the top. Let cool before covering with a lid and storing in the refrigerator. Pickles will be ready to eat after a couple hours but will be more flavorful if you let them sit at least a day or two. 


Romanesco Slaw with Apples and Walnuts

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Time: 15 mins
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
MyBerkeleyBowl_Romanesco Slaw.jpg

  • 3 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/2 head of purple cabbage, shaved
  • 3 green onions, white and green parts sliced
  • 1 romanesco
  • 1 green apple, seeded and sliced thinly
  • 2/3 cup chopped walnuts

Combine the first four ingredients to make a dressing.  Pour over the shaved cabbage and green onions in a large salad bowl and allow to marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or overnight.

When ready to serve, prepare the romanesco by separating into florets. Set aside the smallest, bite-sized florets, and chop the larger florets into 1/2-inch pieces. Add the chopped florets and apple slices to the cabbage slaw and mix well. Top with the walnuts and decorate with the small romanesco florets before serving.

Roasted Leeks with Blood Oranges

MyBerkeleyBowl_Roasted Leeks Blood Oranges.jpegThis week’s recipe is one that I developed for an article I wrote for Bay Area News Group, just released this morning. Given the Roasted Leeks Blood Oranges.jpeg“mainstreamedness” of the readership, I had to keep things a bit more tame to be accessible to a wider audience, while still giving the recipes an “exotic” spin to stay true to the My Berkeley Bowl theme. This recipe must be my favorite of the four new ones I developed for the article, because I’ve made it five times in the past month.

While neither leeks nor blood oranges are blow-you-out-of-the-water exotic, I figure that since blood oranges are not readily available at most “normal” grocery stores, they fall on the exotic side of the line. And leeks — well, most people that have used leeks have only sliced them up as a muted ingredient playing a minor role in the background of soups or casseroles, like an extra in a movie. So in that sense, I think this recipe is super exotic because leeks are the star of the show for once.MyBerkeleyBowl_Roasted Leeks Blood Oranges.jpeg
 I remember the first time I took a bite of protagonistic leeks like a girl remembers her first kiss. It was a cold, rainy day of February in Northern Spain and my mom, husband and I were on a road trip. We ordered a roasted leek salad in a nondescript bar filled with old spanish men sipping beer and escaping the rain. (Spoiler alert: when you order whatever dish is carelessly scrawled across the chalkboard hanging over a dingy locals’ bar on a quiet street in a Spanish town, Spain always delivers.) This salad came out topped with caramelized leeks as thick as rolling pins, and when I bit into them, I was blown away by how velvety, delicate, and exquisitely flavorful they were when prepared that way. My mom immediately shouted “otra!” to the waiter, knowing that we’d need at least one more salad if she actually wanted to get any (she couldn’t out-fork Mike and I when it was that good).MyBerkeleyBowl_Roasted Leeks Blood Oranges.jpeg
 That salad we had in Northern Spain was the inspiration for this dish, in which I braise leeks with wine and thyme until they are just as velvety and rich as the ones I had that rainy day in February. The sections of blood oranges add the brightness and color that make this dish all the more memorable. It makes a beautiful and unique side dish for a dinner party, or if you love leeks as much as I do, you can enjoy it on its own as a light dinner like Mike and I have been doing.MyBerkeleyBowl_Roasted Leeks Blood Oranges.jpeg
 As a side note, I discovered in my research that blood oranges are actually a result of a natural mutation! How splendidly wonderful is nature?!? Apparently, the Italian dude that first peeled one of his oranges thinking it was just a regular old orange-colored orange was so shocked to see the deep red color that he shouted “tarocco!” meaning “fake” or “phoney” in Italian, and is now the name of one of the three main varieties of blood oranges (along with Moro and Sanguinella). How rare is it now in day to find that something so beautiful and unique is made that way naturally, not by some gimmick or trick? MyBerkeleyBowl_Roasted Leeks Blood Oranges.jpegFortunately, this whole dish is free of gimmicks — just 100% natural, delicious, beautiful goodness. I hope you enjoy this first recipe of 2016.

Roasted Leeks with Blood Oranges

  • Servings: 4 as starter or side dish
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
MyBerkeleyBowl_Roasted Leeks Blood Oranges.jpeg

  • 6 leeks, roots and dark green tops removed
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup vegetable stock
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 blood oranges


  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Sherry vinegar
  • Black pepper and a pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove the tougher, outermost layers of the leeks and discard. Slice them in half lengthwise and run under cold water to remove all the grit, ensuring to rinse between the layers. Place the leeks in a single layer in a 9×13″ roasting pan, cut side down. Drizzle with the olive oil, wine, and vegetable stock (the liquid should come about halfway up the leeks), and snip the thyme sprigs over the top. Roast for 35-45 minutes, flipping the leeks over halfway through, until they are tender and lightly browned. Allow to cool to room temperature.

Arrange the leeks on a serving platter. Cut the rind off the blood oranges, slice into sections, and arrange over the top of the leeks. Place all the ingredients for the dressing in a small jar and shake to combine. Drizzle over the top of the leeks and oranges. Serve room temperature.

Carnival Cake (Vegan!)

IMG_20151115_223114As I already explained in Part I of Squash Week, this is a big freakin’ deal in our household. It’s like when the fair comes to town, except that instead of feeling all gross inside after gorging on funnel cake and corn dogs, we feel all warm and gooey inside after gorging on one of the world’s healthiest foods.

IMG_MyBerkeleyBowl_carnivalcakeFor Part II of Squash Week, and in honor of the fair, I chose this fun, bespeckled squash with the apt name: Carnival Squash. I realize that it’s kind of a cop-out to pretend that I created a recipe for an exotic produce item like Carnival Cake when, really, you could substitute any winter squash. But…well actually, I don’t have a but. I just have some delicious cake in front of me. So there.IMG_MyBerkeleyBowl_carnivalcakeDid I mention this cake is vegan? And whole wheat? I have served this at many gatherings to unknowing carnivores and lacto-ovo vegetarians, and always leave with a tube pan full of crumbs.IMG_MyBerkeleyBowl_carnivalcakeI’ll keep this cozy and sweet, since that’s how this cake tastes. If you’d like more background on winter squash or on Squash Week, see the previous post.IMG_MyBerkeleyBowl_carnivalcake

Carnival Cake

  • Servings: 12
  • Time: 30 minutes active time, 100 minutes bake time
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1.5 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 Tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups Carnival Squash puree* (or substitute any winter squash puree)
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 cup chopped fresh cranberries
  • Toppings: 1/2 cup roasted pumpkin seeds and 2 Tablespoons demerara sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice, and salt in a bowl. In a separate, large mixing bowl, combine the remaining ingredients (except for the toppings) and whisk until smooth. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until combined. Pour into a greased and floured tube pan and top with the pumpkin seeds and demerara sugar. Bake for 60 minutes. Allow to cool before removing the outer part of the tube cake pan and serving.

* To make the Carnival squash puree: slice the squash in half and scoop out the seeds, place cut-side down in a baking dish and add about 1/2 inch of water. Cover the pan with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 30-50 minutes or until the squash is very soft when you pierce it with a fork. Scoop out the cooked squash with a spoon and mash with a fork or blend in a food processor until you have a smooth puree.

Berkeleyside NOSH

Blogger inspired by unique, exotic at Berkeley Bowl

I had the immense pleasure of being interviewed by Alix Wall, a writer for Berkeleyside Nosh and fellow Berkeley Bowl fan. She really captured the inspiration behind this project and what drove me to this insane challenge of designing a recipe for each and every unusual fruit and vegetable at Berkeley Bowl.

Please check out MBB’s media debut on Berkeleyside Nosh. The cover photo is by the incredibly talented Mike Byrne.

Blue Hokkaido Spiced Rice

As fleeting and wonderful as Shark Week, another much-anticipated period hits my household each year: Squash Week (Dun dun dun!). But unlike Shark Week, Squash Week is free of junk science and sensationalism. Well, fine, here’s a little sensationalism for you Shark Week fans:MyBerkeleyBowl_Blue Hokkaido_Squash WeekSquash Week airs in the McLively household mid-November, when Berkeley finally gets a mid-60’s “crisp” in the air that piques those fall flavor cravings. The farmers’ markets fill up with squash options of all shapes and sizes. Sure, you have your typical butternut squash and sugarpie pumpkins, but the real treat is picking out those more exotic varieties that you may have missed last fall. And since this is a blog about exotic produce, that’s exactly what I did.

I picked these three out at Berkeley Bowl for my blog, plus a spaghetti squash and delicata squash to whip up some quick work-week lunches. As a result, there has been squash roasting in my oven all week long, as is stipulated in the Squash Week terms of agreement. I’ll roll out the recipes one at a time so I don’t spoil you…MyBerkeleyBowl_Blue Hokkaido_Squash WeekFor this first recipe, I’m starting with the most unique: the Blue Hokkaido. I think this must have been the inspiration for Walt Disney’s pumpkin carriage in Cinderella, which has this same smoky blue color and is equally enchanting. Inside this beauty is a deep orange flesh that is probably the sweetest squash you’ll ever taste. It has a nice firm texture that is great for roasting, and because it’s a kabocha-type squash, you can eat the skin.MyBerkeleyBowl_Blue HokkaidoThis squash, like kabocha, is a Japanese variety, named for the island of Hokkkaido. Like all winter squash, it is a great source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, potassium and iron, with some calcium as well. In fact, winter squash is considered one of the healthiest foods out there, with blow-your-socks off levels of carotenoids (a potent antioxidant). Its high fiber content is also a huge plus.MyBerkeleyBowl_Blue HokkaidoThe recipe I created for the Blue Hokkaido was inspired by my brother-in-law, Mike Byrne, who dropped an entire flat of pomegranates by my house this week (his work as a professional photographer has many perks, like taking home the edible set props). I couldn’t think of a better way to highlight the bright hues of the pomegranates and the squash than a colorful rice dish.MyBerkeleyBowl_Blue Hokkaido_Pomegranate Rice
I even had some preserved lemon still left over from this summer that gave this dish even more bursts of zestiness to compliment the rich spices like cardamom, cinnamon, and saffron.
MyBerkeleyBowl_Preserved LemonMyBerkeleyBowl_Blue Hokkaido_Pomegranate RiceI had bought some hazelnuts to toast and sprinkle on top but, in the race against the sun, I forgot to put them on before photographing it. I tried them later and they are a delicious way to add some protein to the dish. Try it with nuts, or don’t — either way, you’ll love it.MyBerkeleyBowl_Blue Hokkaido_Pomegranate Rice
MyBerkeleyBowl_Blue Hokkaido_Pomegranate Rice

Spiced Rice with Blue Hokkaido Squash

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: medium
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MyBerkeleyBowl_Blue Hokkaido_Pomegranate Rice

  • 1/2 cup wild rice
  • 1 Blue Hokkaido Squash, sliced in half, seeded, and cut into 1″ cubes (leave skin on)
  • 5 Tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and fresh cracked pepper
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Spices: 1 cinnamon stick, 1 star anise pod, 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, 5 cardamom pods, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric, 1 pinch saffron
  • 1 1/2 cup basmati rice
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 2/3 cup fresh chopped parsley
  • Seeds from one pomegranate
  • 2/3 cup chopped roasted hazelnuts
  • optional: preserved lemon

Put the wild rice in a small saucepan with a lid and cover with water until the water covers the rice by 2 inches. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil. Cover and let rice simmer on low for about 50-60 minutes or until rice is tender but not mushy. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop cooking and set aside for later.

While wild rice is cooking, place cubed Hokkaido squash on a baking pan and drizzle with 2 Tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and fresh black pepper and toss to coat. Roast in a preheated oven at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes, or until squash is tender.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 3 Tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet with a lid over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and sauteé for 5-10 minutes or until the onion is soft and beginning to caramelize. Add the garlic and spices and sauteé for 1-2 minutes to release the flavors in the spices. Add the rice and stir to coat the rice in the oil and spices. Add the water and 1 teaspoon sea salt and bring to a boil. Cover the pan and turn heat to low to simmer rice for 15 minutes. Turn off heat and keep the lid on to let the rice steam for an additional 10 minutes.

When ready to assemble, place the wild rice, basmati rice, lemon juice and parsley in a large bowl and toss to coat. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust seasoning. Top with the pomegranate seeds and roasted squash and toss lightly to mix through. Garnish with preserved lemon and chopped hazelnuts if desired. Serve slightly warm or room temperature.

Poached Quince and Beets, a.k.a. Quincy Jones Salad


There’s a satisfying logic to why I named this salad after the legendary music producer, Quincy Jones. (Well, it’s satisfying if you love puns and music trivia as much as my family does.) Here’s the logic:

  1.  The exotic fruit I feature in this recipe is quince, Mr. Jones’ fruit namesake. I’ll talk more about quince in a minute.
  2. Like quince, beets also remind me of Quincy Jones. For those who love their music trivia, you know that he produced Michael Jackson’s Beat It (along with Thriller and so many other hit songs). Who doesn’t love a beet/beat pun?
  3. In an interview about Beat It, Quincy Jones said that to make a hit “…you have to go for the throat in four, five or six different areas.” This salad follows his recipe for success by going for the throat with five distinct flavors: quince, beets, fennel, mustard, and clove.
  4. Quincy Jones is a complete badass and deserves to have a salad named after him. If I were to list all the credentials and accomplishments that mark one of the most prolific musical careers of all time, I’d take up at least 45 minutes of your time. I would know, because my mom once spent an entire car ride from Sonoma to San Francisco reading all of Quincy Jones’ accomplishments off her iphone to my sister and me (she often gets wrapped up in her enthusiasm to learn about a new subject and falls into the rabbit hole of wikipedia). We eventually had to stop her because we’d reached our saturation point, and now “Quincy Jones” has become the code word we use to clue in my mom that she has been going on too long about a subject. E.g. “Wow mom, all that stuff about banana slugs is really interesting. I bet Quincy Jones loves banana slugs…”  (By the way, banana slugs actually ARE insanely interesting, especially what they do with that hole on the side of their head. You should wikipedia them.)

wpid-2015-11-08_15.00.02.jpgNow that I’ve explained the meaning behind the Quincy Jones Salad, let’s move on to why you’re really here: quince.wpid-img_20151108_145337.jpgQuince is a fruit that looks like a pear or yellow apple, but is sour and as hard as a rock (have I sold you on it yet?). But with some poaching, stewing, or roasting, quince transforms under heat to a soft, peach-colored, sweet fruit that has a wonderful floral aroma. Quince has a very high pectin content so it has long been used to make jams and conserves, such as the Spanish delicacy, membrillo, which is quince cooked down to a jelly-like paste and traditionally served with Manchego cheese (here it is on the menu of a Spanish restaurant right down the street, Venga Paella).wpid-img_20151108_145007.jpg

In this recipe I lightly poach the quince with some clove and star anise until it has a tender yet firm texture similar to cooked apples. The end result goes really well with crisp fennel and earthy roasted beets, and the mustard vinaigrette brightens it all up a bit. To stay true to my Spanish roots, I crumbled some aged Manchego over the top of my salad, but you can leave it off if you’d prefer.wpid-img_20151108_145427.jpg

I’ll give it a rest before you all start commenting, “I wonder if Quincy Jones likes quince…”

Quincy Jones Salad

  • Servings: 6
  • Time: 35 minutes plus 1 hour roasting time
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

  • 2 large beets or 4 smaller beets, washed but with skins still on
  • 2 quince (substitution: you can try green apples or Bosc pears, but poach for half the time)
  • 6 cloves
  • 6 peppercorns
  • 1 star anise pod
  • 2-3 strips lemon or orange zest
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup white balsamic or apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 fennel bulb, halved and sliced thinly
  • 4 Tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt and fresh cracked pepper
  • 1 oz aged manchego, crumbled with your fingers

Wrap each beet in foil and roast in the oven on a roasting pan for 45-60 minutes at 375 degrees F, or until the beets are tender. Once cool, rub the peel off (they should be easy to remove) and slice into wedges.

Meanwhile, peel the quince, cut them in half and remove the core/seeds. Slice each half into 8 slices and put them into a saucepan with the clove, peppercorns, anise, lemon zest, water, vinegar, sugar and salt. Bring to a boil and let simmer uncovered for 20 minutes or until the quince slices are tender yet hold their shape, like cooked apples.

Make the vinaigrette by whisking the olive oil with the mustard, lemon juice, balsamic, salt and pepper. When ready to assemble the salad, layer the beets, quince and sliced fennel in a bowl and drizzle with the vinaigrette. Top with crumbled manchego cheese or serve as is.


Pea Shoot Pizza with Chive Ricotta and Egg

wpid-img_20150410_201434820_hdr.jpgThis weekend marks the twelfth year my husband and I have been together, so to celebrate I decided to cook us up one of our favorite things in the world: pizza. But being a nutritionist means that I can’t serve up some meaty, cheesy bread with little more nutrition than a Lunchable without self-destructing.  So I headed to Berkeley Bowl and scoured the aisles looking for this week’s exotic veggie that would star in my nutritious-but-delicious anniversary pizza.

wpid-img_20150410_184422123.jpgIt just so happens that one of the things I love as much as pizza is alliteration (thank you IB English), so when I spotted those tender pea shoot leaves with their delicate tendrils in the Asian greens section, I simply smiled. Pea Shoot Pizza… now doesn’t that have a nice ring to it?

I first fell in love with pea shoots at Burma Super Star, where they stir fry them in garlic and white wine — delicious.  I had never heard of them before, but they have been considered a delicacy in Asia for centuries and have only recently caught on in the U.S.   Similar to the green garlic I featured a few weeks ago, pea shoots are another example of harvesting and enjoying a plant at various stages of its life. In this case, we are going to enjoy the hell out of the young stalks, leaves, and tendrils of the pea plant long before the peas are ready.  Because green garlic and pea shoots are immature versions of their more popular, mature selves, you better act fast because these babies grow up quickly and are only available for a few weeks of the spring season.

wpid-img_20150411_095951.jpgEating pea shoots is like taking a bite out of spring.  They taste fresh, grassy, and mildly pea-pod-like, and are great raw or lightly wilted. They’re bunched into the “leafy green” family, which always gets the top grade in nutrition class. Packed with antioxidants, phytochemicals and vitamins like A, C, and E, but incredibly low in calories, pea shoots give you a lot of bang for your buck.wpid-img_20150411_095445.jpg

Since this pizza was to be our meal, I decided to add some protein in the form of a couple
cracked, gooey eggs on top and some chive and chili-flake ricotta spread over the crust.  The balsamic onions add just the touch of acid it needs for blissful balance.

There are a zillion recipes for pizza dough, so take your pick. In my case, my full-time job and crazy week did the picking for me: Trader Joe’s pizza dough.  But whether homemade or store-bought dough, make sure you use a pizza stone.  There is really no excuse for making pizza on anything else.

Pea Shoot Pizza with Ricotta and Cracked Egg

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Time: 30 mins
  • Difficulty: easy to moderate
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  • 1 lb fresh pizza dough
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 red onion, peeled and sliced thinly
  • 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 6-8 oz pea shoots, washed and spun dry
  • 1 cup ricotta
  • Salt
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
  • 1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • 4-6 oz fresh mozzarella
  • 3 eggs

Place the pizza stone in the oven and pre-heat to 450 degrees.

Place a large skillet on the stove over medium heat.  Pour 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil in the pan and add the sliced red onion. Sauté for 5-10 minutes, stirring regularly, until the red onion begins to caramelize.  Add the balsamic vinegar and sauté for another minute or two until the vinegar is absorbed into the onions.  Turn up the heat to high and add the pea shoots and about a 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Sauté the pea shoots with the onions until the shoots are just wilted but still bright green.  Turn off the stove and set the pan aside.

On a floured surface, roll or stretch the pizza dough out to a thin, 12-inch round.  Place the dough on a pizza board or cutting board dusted with cornmeal and brush the dough with some olive oil. Stir the chives, red pepper flakes, a good pinch of salt, and about 1 teaspoon olive oil into the ricotta and spread the mixture over the pizza dough. Next, spread the onions and pea shoots over the ricotta and place the thin slices of fresh mozzarella on top.  Finally, make three indentations in the center of the piled greens for cracking the eggs into (but don’t put the eggs on top yet because they will run all over when you transfer the pizza to the stone).

Open the oven and carefully slide the pizza off the board onto the hot pizza stone.  Quickly crack an egg into each of the indentations in the pizza and shut the oven door.  Bake the pizza for 8-15 minutes, depending on how strong your oven is, how crispy you like your crust, how bubbly you like your mozzarella and how runny you like your eggs.

When the pizza is done to your liking, remove it from the oven, crack some black pepper over the top, and drizzle it with a little more aged balsamic if you wish (this is highly recommended).  Enjoy it piping hot with a green salad.

Tortilla Thailandesa Featuring Taro and Cassava

I probably shouldn’t admit how much I love Tortilla Española — a “good nutritionist” wouldn’t advocate a dish made up of simply potato, oil, egg and salt. But my philosophy has always been “everything in moderation,” so when I get my hands on a slice of fresh tortilla made by my a master like my mom or my tía, I enjoy every last bite of it.

Tortilla Española, or tortilla de patata as it’s called in Spain, is as commonplace in the Spanish home as potato salad–  everyone knows how to make it, everyone has their own technique, and everyone thinks their tweaks to the four ingredients are the best. And similar to potato salad, everyone thinks their mom’s is the best (although I think my mom and aunt are tied for first).

So please forgive me, mom and tía, for the sin I am about to commit… Tortilla Sacrilege.

Cassava and Taro

It all started during my last trip to Berkeley Bowl when I spotted the hard, waxy cassava root in the very farthest corner of the produce section. It almost looked inedible, like a hairy branch. Next to it was taro, another giant root veggie with enough armor on it that I always run the opposite direction to pick out something that looks less labor-intensive.  However, for the sake of this blog, I stopped and faced these two monsters head on. I stared at them. They stared right back.  I pondered them. I searched the internet for them.  I kept seeing the word “starchy”…

I knew that cassava is the same thing as yuca, but I did not know that it’s also where we get tapioca (from treated, dried cassava).  My Tongan patients often talk about cassava and taro as their main source of starch, but I what did not know is that these two tubers are one of the most important sources of carbohydrate in all the tropical regions of Southeast Asia, Africa, and South America.  When I learned that Thailand is the largest global exporter of cassava, it got my wheels turning and my mouth watering for the Thai flavors I love so much: coconut milk, thai chili, tamarind, cilantro…

Then it hit me. A thai-inspired tortilla would be the perfect way to use these starchy vegetables in a totally new way. I ran around the store gathering up my ingredients and headed home with my bounty.

Peeling Taro

Chopped taro and cassavaI have made Tortilla Española many times in my life, so modifying the process to incorporate my Thai ingredients was the easy part. The hard part was figuring out how to peel, chop and prep the taro and cassava. Both veggies have toxic properties if not prepared properly or eaten raw, so I wanted to be sure to do it right (although according to UCLA Botanical Garden, the sweet cassava variety you find around here doesn’t have those toxic properties. But I’ll play it safe). A good peeling and boiling is all they need to neutralize the toxins, so I decided to peel and chop them and throw the pieces into boiling water to simmer until done (rather than sauté the raw potato in oil like one would do for a Tortilla Espanola).

Scallions and ChiliMeanwhile I sautéed a bunch of chopped scallions and some Thai chilis in coconut oil to release the flavors.  I whisked the eggs with coconut milk and added the sautéed scallions to have everything ready.  I drained the cassava and taro and dumped it in the bowl with the egg mixture, folding it all together until combined.

Loosening panWith my super non-stick tortilla pan ready over medium heat with some sizzling coconut oil, I dumped in the contents of the bowl in one fell swoop.  I immediately took my heat-safe spatula and worked my way along the edge of the tortilla to release it from the edge of the pan.  Then I gave the pan a couple of hard jerks/jiggles to make sure the bottom of the tortilla was not sticking.

After about six or seven minutes the sides were nice and set, with the middle still looking a bit runny.  This is the time to flip it.

I didn’t learn how to flip a tortilla until high school, as it was something that always intimidated me. I would watch my mom balance the plate on the heavy, sizzling hot skillet and use all her might to flip it over quickly without letting the uncooked egg and scalding oil run out onto her forearm.  Once I got up the courage to try it, I discovered that, similar to most things in the kitchen, it’s all about confidence.

I thought it would be easier to show you how to do it than to explain it through written directions, so my husband Mike was nice enough to film me during The Flipping.  Have a look.

This really tastes nothing like Tortilla Espanola, but is so delicious in it’s own right.  The potent olive oil taste of Tortilla Espanola was replaced by the delicate flavor of coconut and the slightly sweeter taste of cassava and taro.  The thai chili and scallion give it a nice kick.  The tamarind sauce was the perfect tangy accompaniment. Man oh man, sacrilege tastes good!

Tortilla Thailandesa with Tamarind Sauce

Tortilla Thailandesa with Tamarind Sauce

  • Servings: 10
  • Time: 1hr
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print


  • 1 small cassava
  • 1 small taro
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 bunch scallions, chopped
  • 2 thai green chilis, minced
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, cut the ends off the cassava and taro root and slice off the outer peel. Slice them in half lengthwise and chop into thin half-discs. Salt the boiling water and add the cassava first. After 5 minutes, add the taro and boil for an additional 7-10 minutes or until both are tender.  Drain and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the coconut oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the scallions and Thai green chilis and sauté three minutes until softened and the flavors are released.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg, coconut milk, and salt until combined. Add the sauteed scallions and chili, and the cooked cassava and taro pieces. Fold until combined.

Heat the remaining coconut oil in a clean, medium-sized non-stick skillet over medium heat.  When the oil is hot, pour in the contents of the bowl and let sit for one minute. Unstick the sides of the tortilla from the skillet using a heat-proof spatula, and give the pan a few shakes/jerks to loosen the bottom of tortilla from the pan.

After 5-8 minutes the sides should be set and the middle should still look a bit runny. Shake the pan once again to loosen the tortilla. Brace a large plate on top of the skillet and flip the whole thing over on itself so that the tortilla is now on the plate.  Replace the skillet onto the heat and slide the tortilla back into the skillet.  Cook for 1-3 minutes longer until the tortilla is set.

Flip the tortilla back onto a plate using the same method, and then flip that plate onto a serving plate so that the first side that was cooked is face-up.  Serve hot or at room temperature with the tamarind sauce and cilantro and lime as garnish.

Tangy Tamarind Sauce

  • Servings: 10
  • Time: 15 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 3 scallions, chopped fine
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup tamarind paste
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar

Heat the coconut oil in a small skillet over medium heat.  Add the scallion and garlic and sauté 5 minutes until the garlic begins to turn light golden. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for 5 minutes, breaking up and dissolving the tamarind paste. If the sauce looks too thin, continue to simmer until more water evaporates.  When finished, pour the sauce into a blender and blend until the sauce is smooth.

Kicking it off with the Black Spanish Radish

wpid-img_20150317_122628331_hdr.jpgMaybe it’s the fact that I just returned from a year-long sabbatical in Spain, or the fact that I love radishes in winter, but after deciding to do my Berkeley Bowl Challenge my legs walked me straight over to the Black Spanish Radish. This little black bugger has been staring me down for years. At first I thought it was a type of truffle. Then I thought it was a beet.  Nope, it’s just a really, really, realllllly black radish.

After years of thinking about this dark and mysterious member of the brassica family, I have finally brought him home with me for my first recipe featuring an exotic veggie.  I took a small nibble to see what I was dealing with. My wheels started to turn, trying to think up a recipe that would incorporate something so peppery and, well, black.  This calls for tangy and sweet, don’t you think?  I decided that pickled kumquats are exactly what my Spanish radish needs.

As I let my kumquats pickle, I read up on the Spanish Black Radish to feed my dietitian brain. According to some studies and sites I perused, it’s quite a nutritional powerhouse; full of vitamins and minerals and with some unique perks for the thyroid and liver.

With my kumquats perfectly pickled, all that was left to do was slice up the radish on my mandolin, whisk together a dressing, and bejewel a bed of arugula with the goodies. The result was delicious, both visually and taste-budly.  I hope you enjoy it as a quick lunch or light dinner as much as I did.


Black Radish Salad with Pickled Kumquats (5 minutes)

  • 2 Tablespoons good olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
  • Juice and zest from 1 lime
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Black pepper
  • 1 bag-full of arugula
  • 1/4c pickled kumquat slices (recipe below)
  • 2 black spanish radishes, sliced thinly (a mandolin works best)
  • 1/4 cup roasted pistachio nuts
  • 1/4 cup shaved parmesan cheese

To make the dressing, put the first seven ingredients into a jar with a lid.  Shake the contents of the jar until the ingredients are combined and then taste to adjust the seasoning.

Place the arugula in a large salad bowl and sprinkle the remaining ingredients on top.  When ready to serve, drizzle the dressing on top and toss the salad lightly to coat.

Pickled kumquats (5 minutes)

  • 1 cup kumquatswpid-img_20150316_151625842_hdr.jpg
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 peppercorns
  • 3 cardamom pods


Trim the ends off each kumquat and slice each into about 3-4 discs.  Combine them with all the remaining ingredients in a small pan over medium heat.  Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer for 2 minutes.  Turn off the heat and pour the contents into a jar to cool and to use on the salad later.