Salad for Dinner

A lot can happen in a week.

Hurricane Sandy blew in late Sunday and into Monday, taking down trees and power lines in the area. I am okay. My apartment is okay. But most important: THE GIANTS WON THE WORLD SERIES. What other unfortunate event could allow me to stay with my boyfriends parents where I have unlimited access to the 24-hour world series celebration on MLB Network! It’s almost as fun as being in SF celebrating with 10,000 other fans and my dad at the San Francisco Civic Center. I do not miss the crowds that are at the parade today. Two years ago was a madhouse and I doubt this year is much different. Bart won’t know what hit it.

In other news I started my Kalydeco last Monday. After a full week, I am hopeful it is working. I am coughing up a LOT more stuff, which is saying something since I coughed up a lot before I started. More plugs are coming up and I generally feel like I am getting more air in when I take a breath. It’s only been a week, though, and I did just finish a course of IVs, so who knows how much of it I can attribute to the Kalydeco. I will know in a couple weeks whether my PFTs and sweat chloride is at all changed, which will be the real determining factors of Kalydeco’s efficacy.

Last week I was trying to brainstorm uniquely San Francisco foods that I could make here in NYC to bring a bit of the west here. I couldn’t think of anything that wasn’t made by a specific company (Ghirardelli sundaes or Bi-rite ice cream), or that wasn’t obscenely expensive to obtain in NY (Dungeness crab). Yes I know there are garlic fries and wine and many other SF treats I could have made, but I finally settled on Chicken Tacos (not uniquely Californian, but much more west coast than east coast). Unfortunately for you, I do not have my camera with me here in the ‘burbs, so you’ll have to wait until I make them again to get the recipe.

I will, however share with you a recipe that I made last week for a quick weeknight dinner: braised leeks. I was walking through the greenmarket (why are they not called farmer’s markets in New York?) and saw piles upon piles of leeks. I made mine on the stovetop, since I refuse to turn my oven on unless I absolutely have to. Instead of cooking the leeks in a baking dish, I covered my cast-iron skillet with foil and left it on the stove over low heat to braise. Also, because I was cooking in a cast-iron skillet, I browned my leeks in the butter before pouring in the chicken broth.


Braised Leeks
type: Side Dish
author: Julia Child, The Way to Cook
prep time: 10 mins
cook time: 30 mins
total time: 40 mins
serves: 4
  • 6 large or 12 small leeks (1-2 per person)
  • water or chicken broth
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1-2 T butter
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Butter an oven proof baking dish big enough to hold the leeks.
  3. Prepare the leeks by cutting off the root end, leaving the end in tact. Cut off the stiff green tops of the leeks, leaving them 6-7 inches long. Cut off any remaining stiff green leaves at their base. Slit the leeks in half lengthwise, stopping at the white part. Turn an quarter turn and slit again. If the leeks are large, cut in half lengthwise.
  4. Arrange the leeks cut side down in the buttered baking dish. Pour in water to come halfway up the leeks, salt lightly, and place a dot of butter on top. Cover with buttered wax paper and foil and either simmer for 15-20 minutes on the stovetop (what I did), or bake 30-40 minutes in the oven.
  5. Serve Hot
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This post is dedicated to our sister, Rachel, who will one day learn to roast a chicken.

Some people start a blog because they’re bored; others do it to spark change in their life. I have tried to start a blog many times over the past few years. One, I successfully wrote for most of my nine months of pastry school. For others, I have taken the requisite pictures, written drafts, and even dabbled in creating a website.

I am hoping this blog will be different, because today (well next week, actually) marks a new chapter in my life. And possibly not just a new chapter—it has the potential to give me a new chance at life. Today, my health insurance company approved me to take Kalydeco, the first gene therapy drug to target the underlying cause of cystic fibrosis.

This news could not have come at a better time for me. The last four months, my health has taken a sharp turn for the worse. I am on my second IV course and second prednisone burst in the last four months. My lung function went from sitting in the 42-45% range down to the low to mid 30’s. A trip to the grocery store this morning was all I could muster for the day. And then this news. I am hoping Kalydeco works for me. There is good reason to hope that it will change my life, but I am trying to temper my hopes.

Back to my trip to the grocery store. Whenever I am sick, I crave the most basic meal: roast chicken. Not just any roast chicken, though. I crave the roast chicken from Zuni Café, a San Francisco staple. No matter how long I’ve been in NYC, you can’t get the California out of me.

What better way to start this new chapter of my life than with my favorite comfort food.

I didn’t take the time to let the salt soak in. The chicken only had a few hours in the fridge instead of the overnight it deserves, but it should still hold up.

My goal for this blog is to chronicle my life through food. I want a forum with which to relay my health news, but that is not focused on my health. It is also a blog about sisters. Robin will be posting with fresh, seasonal cooking from California while I blog about living and eating in NYC.

Roast Chicken and Big Health News
type: Entree
author: Judy Rogers
prep time: 30 mins
cook time: 1 hour
total time: 1 hour 30 mins
serves: 2-4
I did not have time to let the chicken season overnight, and it was just as delicious as it is when I let it sit for a day or two. I also added a lemon and a few cloves of garlic to the inside of the bird to give it a brighter flavor.
  • 1small chicken, 2-3/4 to 3-1/2-pounds
  • 4 tender sprigs fresh thyme and rosemary
  • Salt
  • 1 lemon, pricked all over with a knife
  • 5 whole cloves garlic
  • About 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  1. (One day ahead) Remove and discard the lump of fat inside the chicken. Rinse the chicken and pat very dry inside and out. Approaching from the edge of the cavity, slide a finger under the skin of each of the breasts, making 2 little pockets. Now use the tip of your finger to gently loosen a pocket of skin on the outside of the thickest section of each thigh. Using your finger, shove an herb sprig into each of the 4 pockets.
  2. Season the chicken liberally all over with salt and pepper. Sprinkle a little of the salt just inside the cavity, on the backbone, but don’t otherwise worry about seasoning the inside. Twist and tuck the wing tips behind the shoulders. Place lemon and garlic cloves inside the cavity. Cover loosely and refrigerate.
  3. Preheat the oven to 475. Depending on the size, efficiency and accuracy of your oven, and the size of your bird, you may need to adjust the heat to as high as 500 or as low as 450 during the course of roasting the chicken to get it to brown properly. If you have an oven thermometer, use it. I know my oven runs 20 degrees hot, but I have the thermometer in there to double check every time.
  4. Choose a shallow flameproof roasting pan or dish barely larger than the chicken, or use a 10-inch skillet with an all-metal handle. I used my 10-inch cast-iron skillet. Preheat the pan over medium heat. Wipe the chicken dry and set it breast side up in the pan. The legs should be raised in the air, opposite of how you usually see a chicken on a platter. It should sizzle.
  5. Place the bird in the center of the oven and listen and watch for it to start browning within 20 minutes. If it doesn’t, raise the temperature progressively until it does. The skin should blister, but if the chicken begins to char, or the fat is smoking, reduce temperature by 25 degrees. If you are me, and you live in a small NYC apartment with a 20-year-old oven, your smoke alarm will go off. I had to open all the windows and door to my apartment to get it off and had many neighbors peeking in to see what was cooking!
  6. After about 30 minutes, turn the bird over — drying the bird and preheating the pan should keep the skin from sticking. Roast for another 10 to 20 minutes, depending on size, then flip back over to recrisp the breast skin, another 5 to 10 minutes. Total oven time will be 45 minutes to an hour.
  7. Lift the chicken from the roasting pan and set on a plate. Carefully pour the clear fat into a heatproof container, leaving the lean drippings behind in the pan. Add about a tablespoon of water to the hot pan and swirl it.
  8. Slash the stretched skin between the thighs and breasts of the chicken, then tilt the bird and plate over the roasting pan to drain the juice into the drippings.
  9. Set the chicken in a warm spot and leave to rest while you finish preparing the rest of your meal. The meat will become more tender and uniformly succulent as it cools.
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Today we have a guest post from my sister, Molly, who’s a pastry chef in New York City. Here’s Molly:

I spent a spring—or Spargelzeit, as the Germans call it—studying abroad in Berlin during college. If you’re in Berlin in the spring and you don’t like white asparagus (“Spargel”), well, you’re going to have a tough time finding local, seasonal, delicious dishes.

Take it from me: I couldn’t stand the stuff when I first arrived. This was problematic. Every single restaurant, didn’t matter the cuisine, had a special Spargel Speisekarte—a menu featuring white asparagus. The time of year even has a name: Spargelzeit or Spargelsaison. Fortunately, I came around to it by the end of the season. Spargel is traditionally served with hollandaise sauce, but my favorite presentation is in spargelcremezuppe.


In this light creamy soup, the asparagus is simmered in stock with onions until tender, then blended. It is traditionally garnished with finely chopped chives, which enhance the onion-y flavor. I didn’t have chives on hand, so I garnished mine with balsamic vinegar instead.

Many recipes call for the addition of heavy cream or milk, but it’s not necessary. The asparagus is creamy enough on its own that it doesn’t need the extra dairy. Many also called for sugar, which I omitted because the onions add enough sweetness for me.

For a little bit of extra flavor and New York spring flare, I used ramp butter for both the soup and the crostini. The recipe for the ramp butter follows.

type: Soup
author: Molly,
prep time: 15 mins
cook time: 30 mins
total time: 45 mins
serves: 2
A lightly creamy, traditional German soup made of white asparagus.
  • 1 T butter
  • 1 sweet yellow onion, diced
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 1 bunch white asparagus
  • 2 C fish stock
  • tsp black pepper
  • 1ish tsp balsamic vinegar
  1. Melt the butter in a heavy pot. Add diced onion and celery and cook over low heat until fragrant.
  2. Meanwhile, peel the asparagus with a veggie peeler, starting from just under the buds. This removes the tough outer layer and will make for a much more tender soup. Trim both ends, reserving the buds for later use. Dice the remaining asparagus and add to the pot.
  3. Add in the fish stock and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the asparagus is tender.
  4. Puree with an immersion blender or in batches in a regular blender.
  5. Bring back to a boil until thickened to the desired consistency.
  6. Ladle into bowls and garnish with fresh cracked pepper and balsamic vinegar.

Based loosely off the recipe found at Almond Corner:

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Ramp butter

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart

Makes ½ cup

5 ramps
2 sticks butter, room temperature
1 tsp salt

Blanche ramps in boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain and immediately plunge into ice bath. Finely dice white and red stems. Reserve greens for another use (ramp pesto?).

Mix ramps and salt into butter with a fork until well incorporated.

Roll into a log in wax or parchment paper. To get a nice round log shape, place dollops in a line in the middle of the paper. Fold the paper over it towards you so that the top is an inch or so shorter than the bottom. Gently form into a log with your hands. Then, place your right hand perpendicular to the counter just next to the butter. Using your left hand, carefully pull the bottom layer towards you. The butter will roll and create a perfect log from the tension.

Freeze and enjoy all year round, long past ramp season.


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It’s Tuesday! You’re back from an exhausting work trip, and too lazy tired to stop at the grocery store on the way home. You open the fridge. The landscape is barren: slimy cilantro, moldy sour cream, suspiciously dated milk, a package of tofu. There’s hope in the freezer. Frozen salmon filets and beluga lentils in the pantry make a quick meal, but what is a home-cooked meal without vegetables, especially after several days of restaurant and hotel cuisine?

Lying in the produce drawer you find some carrots and half-used fennel bulb from last week’s shopping. You remember the delicious carrots you had at Thanksgiving last year, and then: the languishing cache of smoked paprika in the spice cabinet, and those hazelnuts from last summer that may or may not be bordering on rancid. Hallelujah! A vegetable side dish fit for a Thanksgiving table is re-created on another dark winter evening while lentils cook.


Smoky Spanish Carrots and Fennel with Toasted Hazelnuts
type: side dish
author: robin,
prep time: 10 mins
cook time: 30 mins
total time: 40 mins
Smoky Spanish paprika adds depth to caramelized fennel and carrots. Adapted, loosely from Susie Middleton’s Fast, Fresh and Green.
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 lb carrots, cut into coins
  • 1 small fennel bulb, chopped into small pieces (or half a big bulb)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 Tbsp. sherry or rice wine
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked Spanish paprika
  • 3 Tbsp. chopped, toasted hazelnuts
  1. Heat olive oil over medium heat and add carrots and fennel. Season with salt. Cook on low until tender and caramelized, ~30 min. They should be brown and roasty, and it’s easier to do this if you don’t stir them too much at first, then stir more later.
  2. When all is cooked, add sherry and stir until evaporated.
  3. Sprinkle with paprika. Garnish with the toasted hazelnuts.
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Risotto used to be a magical food to me. Creamy and flavorful, I don’t recall eating much of it growing up, except at restaurants.

When I began cooking in college at a vegetarian co-op, I decided it was also one of those things that must have taken hours of hot work over the stove to produce. Which was probably true when you were cooking for 60 people. But when I left the nest and began cooking for myself, risotto was one of the first one-pot meals I tackled.

Turns out, it doesn’t take much to make delicious risotto, as long as you’re not afraid of a little butter and cheese. Even better, it’s infinitely adaptable: I’ve made risotto with sausage and fennel; mushrooms; squash and sage; and any number of other ingredients that have lost their way in the crevices of my produce drawer. Since I’ve discovered how easy it is to make, risotto has become a staple weeknight dinner option.

This is a somewhat non-traditional version, with goat cheese and meyer lemon to brighten up the winter, and a bit of kale tossed in for color.


Meyer Lemon, Goat Cheese and Kale Risotto
type: main dish
author: robin
prep time: 10 mins
cook time: 30 mins
total time: 40 mins
A bright and colorful winter risotto, with extra tang from the goat cheese.
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 of a yellow onion, diced
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3 cups vegetable stock or water
  • zest of 2 meyer lemons
  • 2-3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2-3 oz shredded lacinto/dino kale (about 1/3 of a bunch–this is what I used, but I’m sure red Russian or normal kale works as well)
  • 1/3 cup parmesean cheese, grated
  • 2 oz goat cheese
  1. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, shallots, and garlic, and saute until soft. Add risotto and saute for another minute.
  2. Add wine to the pot and simmer until it’s almost all absorbed.
  3. Begin adding the stock, about half a cup at a time. Wait for the grain to absorb most of the liquid before adding the next half-cup. You’ll know the risotto is done when it’s soft and no longer crunchy.
  4. Turn off the burner, and add the kale, lemon zest, goat cheese, and parmesean. Stir to incorporate all ingredients evenly, until kale wilts and cheese melts.

Swap out farro or pearled barley for the arborio rice for more of a whole-grain-y meal. You’ll need to up the stock and the cooking time, since they’ll take longer to cook and absorb more liquid in the process.

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We recently returned from a trip to New York visiting friends and family. We also played tourist: taking in the view from the Empire State Building by night, visiting Central Park’s bright fall leaves, and sampling local delicacies. We ate bagels, banh mi, brunches, even a local take on poutine and a delicious meal at Prune.

By the time we returned, I was ready to eat only rice, beans, and vegetables for a week. Often after a holiday, vacation, or work trip, I crave simple, healthy food. I lay off the booze for a few days–no glass of wine with dinner or beer to unwind–and overcompensate for buttery and salty restaurant meals with lighter, greener fare.

avocado salsa

This soup was the result of my post-NYC craving. It’s smoky and spicy and sweet and salty all at once. The chipotle peppers and adobo sauce (I’m still working my way through the can I opened for this) add a kick of spice, and sherry at the beginning of the cooking deepens the flavor. The soup is mostly based on this recipe from Food and Wine, and the chipotle idea I borrowed from Deb at Smitten Kitchen.

I’ve been eating chipotle peppers in everything ever since I made this soup. Chipotle eggs for a weekend breakfast. Chipotle peppers in mac and cheese. Chipotle sweet potato tacos. Quesadillas with chipotle sour cream. It’s the first can I’ve ever opened. My cultural association with chipotle is the McDonald’s-owned burrito brand, famous for their mildly crowd-pleasing burritos, which, so far as I can tell, contain no real chipotle peppers. The name has been co-opted, but the real deal, original peppers are a Mexican grocery dream.

black bean soup with avocado salsa

chipotle black bean soup with sweet potatoes and avocado salsa
type: soup
author: robin,
prep time: 15 mins
cook time: 15 mins
total time: 30 mins
serves: 4
Smoky chipotle peppers add a kick to classic black bean soup.
  • 3 15 oz cans black beans
  • 1 tablespoon chipotle peppers from a can
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 cups water or chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup sherry
  • 1 medium sweet potato or yam, peeled and diced
  • 1 tsp fresh black pepper
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 2 avocados
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  1. Blend half the beans with about 1 cup water or stock until pureed. Set aside.
  2. Heat vegetable oil over medium heat, and add onions, garlic, and pinch of salt. Cook without browning until onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the sherry and turn up the heat. Cook until sherry is reduced by half.
  3. Add the chopped chipotle, remaining stock, pureed beans, and diced sweet potato. Simmer until sweet potato is almost cooked through, but not quite about 8 minutes. Add remaining beans and Worcestershire sauce, and simmer for another 5 minutes or so.
  4. Meanwhile, make the salsa by combining avocado, lime juice, cilantro, and salt to taste.
  5. Serve soup topped with salsa.
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I am a convert to the charms of Rancho Gordo beans. They’re creamy and flavorful, don’t require soaking, and cook to perfection in under an hour. They’re even local. What’s not to love?

The price tag, I suppose. These buggers cost $6 a pound, while normal beans cost maybe $2, but usually more like $0.99. I don’t cook beans often, though, so it’s not a tough cost to justify, especially when a pound stretches over many meals.


Beans have a special place in my past. When I first moved to Washington, DC after college to work for the government and non-profits, I didn’t have much money. It was years before I felt comfortable spending more than $20-$30 per week on groceries. I survived for several years eating a diet heavily dependent on beans, rice, cabbage, and sweet potatoes. Beans and tofu were my primary source of protein in those years, crafted in more permutations than I care to recall.

As I’ve grown my grown-up income and therefore my food budget, my shopping habits have diversified. I’ve relegated beans to “that protein in kale soup”, “a nice extra to throw on quick quesadillas”, or “the once a year bean dip batch”. This dish helps beans level up to sophistication, with the sweet tomato accent and spicy arugula playing off each other and the creamy beans. It’s a perfect fall dinner, at least here, where you can still find straggling tomatoes in the farmer’s markets even in early November.

roasted cherry tomatoes

flageolet bean ragout with roasted tomatoes, arugula, and sausage
type: entree
prep time: 30 mins
cook time: 30 mins
total time: 1 hour
serves: 4
Tender white beans simmered in olive oil with garlic and spring onion, then tossed with sweet roasted tomatoes, savory sausage, and spicy arugula.
  • 1 cup dried flageolet, navy, or cannelini beans (any white bean will do) or 2 15 oz. cans
  • 1/4 of a white onion, peeled
  • 1 carrot, chopped coarsely
  • 3 sprigs of thyme
  • salt
  • 2 spring onions or leeks
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, roasted (instructions below)
  • 1 lb sweet Italian sausage, optional
  • 1/4 lb arugula
  1. Prepare the beans (if using dried beans): Cover beans with water, about an inch above where the beans stop in the pot. Add the onion, carrot, and thyme, and bring to a boil. Turn down heat, and simmer until beans are tender, anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours, depending on your beans.
  2. Roast the tomatoes: Preheat oven to 375. Slice tomatoes in half lengthwise and toss with 2-3 T olive oil, 1 tsp sugar, 1 tsp salt and ground black pepper. Arrange seed-side up on baking sheet, and put them in the oven for 30-40 minutes, until they are sweetly roasted.
  3. Cook the sausage: Remove the sausage from its casing and add to a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat with 1 T olive oil. Brown the sausage, breaking it up into smaller pieces as it cooks.
  4. Once sausage is mostly browned, turn the heat down to medium low, and add the sliced spring onions or leeks and remaining olive oil. After 3-4 minutes, add the garlic, and cook until onions or leeks are translucent.
  5. Add the beans and tomatoes, and stir to coat with olive oil. Simmer for several minutes longer.
  6. Remove pot from heat. Mix in the arugula.
  7. Serve warm with crusty bread.

If using normal dried beans, I like to soak them overnight before cooking. I used Rancho Gordo beans, which they say don’t require soaking (and they’re right!). They cook much faster, have a creamier texture, and are more delicious than most dried beans, but also have the price tag to prove it. Canned beans also work just fine if you don’t have the time to cook your own.

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We came home several weeks ago to our landlord removing the blistered skin from 28 pounds of New Mexico hatch chiles at the picnic table behind the building. She used to live in New Mexico, and told us that green chile season was short and prized there. She, like many other New Mexico expatriates and chile fanatics, troll the internet and pester the Raley’s groceries where they are known to appear, for weeks ahead of the late August/early September arrival. The stores sell the chiles fresh, or after they have roasted them in enormous drums. In New Mexico, friends gather to roast and peel dozens and hundreds of pounds of chiles during harvest season, to freeze, preserve, and use all year. Our landlord did 28 pounds, by herself, in our backyard, no problem.

autumn sutro


And then, she gave us about a pound of her bounty, which I dutifully froze within 24 hours, as she instructed, for future use when I was really ready.

It took me weeks to decide how to make chile verde with my chiles. There are hundreds of recipes for chile verde floating around, yet few seem definitive. Many use tomatillos for the green color, while others use peppers. None of the pepper-based ones I found struck my fancy, so I made one up. I used a combination of this Chowhound commenter’s methods with Emeril’s Food Network recipe ratios (approximately 1 part pork to 1 part chiles). The result may not have been exactly what you would get at Green Chile Kitchen, but it was fabulous enough to write down.

I added a few tomatillos for their sour flavor and acidity. You could also make this using all poblanos, or some combination of those with other chiles, like California or pasilla peppers, that you may be able to find at your local Mexican grocery. Of course, you could always email Raley’s next September to find out when they’re roasting their chiles again, or mail order some straight from the source.


Chile Verde with New Mexico hatch chiles, pork, and potatoes

I mostly made this up, based on recommended techniques and ingredients from around the Internet. A classically trained French chef would probably do something more elegant with the flour + cornstarch thickening combination, based on one of the mother sauces, but the way I’ve described it here worked for me.


  • 1 onion
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 pound roasted, skinned New Mexico hatch chiles or other New Mexico green chiles
  • 1 pound poblano peppers, charred and skinned
  • 2-3 tomatillos (about 1 pound), husks removed, roasted and skinned
  • 2 1/2 pounds pork shoulder, or other fatty cut of pork
  • 1 – 1 1/2 pounds potatoes (about 6 small red potatoes), cubed
  • 3 tbsp. canola oil
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 3 cups water or chicken broth (add an extra tsp. or two of salt if you use water)
  • 1 tbsp. corn starch (optional)
  • 2 tbsp. flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped


1. Trim fat from pork, and cut into cubes (3/4 in. will do). Season with salt and pepper.

2. Brown the pork: Heat oil in dutch oven, or other heavy-bottomed pot. When it shimmers, add the pork cubes and brown on at least two sides, 5-7 minutes per side. It helps to do this in batches, so that you’re only browning as much pork as can line the bottom of the pot. You don’t want to be stacking the pork in multiple layers, or it could end up gray, not brown (ick). Remove pork from the pot.

3. Turn down heat and add onions and garlic to oil (you may want or need to drain off some of the pork fat here, depending on how into extra fat you are). Saute until onions are translucent, taking care not to burn the garlic. Add herbs and 1/2 tsp. salt, and cook for two more minutes, stirring. Add flour and stir again. Finally, add the peppers and tomatillos and saute for 2 minutes more.

4. Add the water and browned pork and cover pot with lid. Once the mixture comes to a boil, turn down the heat to a low simmer, and cook for 45 minutes.

5. Add the cubed potatoes, and continue simmering for another 30-45 minutes, depending on your patience and level of hunger. Add cornstarch if needed for extra thickening.

6. Turn off the heat and add the cilantro. Taste, and add more salt if needed. By this time, the pork should be tender and pull apart easily, and the potatoes almost falling apart.

7. Serve garnished with cilantro, sour cream, lime wedges, and warm corn tortillas.

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The sun is setting before 7pm now, casting golden glows of Indian Summer over the fogless Twin Peaks. The past few weeks at the market and in the kitchen I’ve been desperately hanging on to the last fruits of summer: sweet corn, juicy heirloom tomatoes, and the final peaches and nectarines, no longer quite as sweet, and quickly molding in the warm, early autumn air that stuffs our kitchen. All of this adds up to more vegetable matter than we can reasonably eat in fresh form.

heirloom tomatoes

corn cob, pulped

It also means that in addition to fried and cheesed zucchini, we’ve eaten a lot of corn soup this summer. Or corn chowder, I suppose. See, it’s unclear what really distinguishes a chowder from a soup, especially when it comes to corn. I put cream or milk in other soups, but don’t call them chowders, and many corn chowder recipes seem not to call for the thickener that Wikipedia tells me is the mark of a chowder. What’s more confusing, Epicurious defines a chowder as “any thick, rich soup containing chunks of food,” but no one seems to have a recipe for any chowder other than corn or seafood.

corn chowder, variation 2

Corn chowder

I discovered this version of corn chowder last summer, when I picked up my cousin’s CSA box in the waning August light and found bounty of fingerling potatoes, fresh sweet corn, ripe heirloom tomatoes, and a bunch of basil.  What to do with all of this? Google, of course. Which led me to this New York Times recipe for corn chowder.

corn chowder with tomato, basil and lime

The original Times recipe called for much more corn than I had, and cherry tomatoes, not heirlooms. I’m sure it’s delicious their way as well. I’ve adapted it to fit a smaller amount of corn, different tomatoes, and to be a bit less fussy in ingredients. I’ve also made variations on this with a half-cup of cream and blending the soup base before adding half the corn, while leaving out the lime juice and basil, or adding an extra cup of zucchini to the mix, from all that surplus zucchini we had earlier in the summer. Corn soup is endlessly adaptable, but this is always my go-to flavor combination.


  • 4 ears corn, shucked
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped finely
  • 3 cups water or broth (I use water with some extra salt to taste, but you can use broth if you prefer)
  • 1 pound waxy potatoes (red or Yukon Gold or fingerling are good), cut into bite-sized cubes
  • 2 medium-sized tomatoes, diced
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • Crème fraîche or sour cream, for serving (optional).


1. Cut the corn off the cobs (Simply Recipes details a clever way to do this using a bundt pan). Squeeze the pulp out of the remaining cobs by running  the back of your knife along the cob.

2. Heat the butter (or olive oil for vegans) in a heavy saucepan or dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions, and saute until translucent. Add garlic after several minutes, being careful not to burn it. Add the potatoes, and saute for 2-3 minutes.

3. Add water and reserved corn cobs to pot, and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to a simmer, and leave for 15 minutes or so.

4. Add tomatoes and corn, and at this point, check to see if you’ll need more salt, and adjust accordingly. Simmer for another 15-20 minutes. Remove and discard cobs, and test for salt again. Turn off the heat, and add the basil and lime juice. Let soup cool for 10-15 minutes before serving. Serve with creme fraiche or sour cream.


Add 1 cup shredded zucchini when you add the potatoes in the saute phase. Reserve half the corn kernels when adding corn to mixture. After removing the cobs and turning off the heat, and before adding basil and lime juice, puree the  mixture. I use a stick blender for this step, but if you don’t have one, carefully transfer the hot soup to a normal blender and do it there, then transfer back to the pot. Turn heat back on to low, and add 1/2 cup heavy cream or half and half and the remaining corn kernels, and basil and lime juice. Let cool for 10-15 minutes, then serve garnished with basil (leave out the sour cream on this one).

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It’s finally nearing the end of zucchini season. It’s been a big season for zucchini for us, because of the prolific plant in my mom’s garden. That thing has probably been responsible for at least 30lbs of squash this season.

These fritters were part of our epic Zuke-fest. I don’t particularly care for raw zucchini, or even fried coins, or grilled squash, so I’m always looking for ways to disguise the zukes in cheese and tomatoes, soups, breading, or other creative forms of destruction.

measuring zucchini

Which is why I turned to fritters. There are myriad zucchini fritter recipes floating around the internet. Mine is a bit of a southwestern take on the item. Adding corn brightens up the dense shredded zucchini, and red onion and jalapeno give these a sharper edge than a basic latke-like fritter. A creme fraiche or sour cream garnish adds a creamy, tart finish that feels like summer.

The key to crispy ones that fry up nicely and don’t fall apart is leaching the water out of your zucchini first by salting it, so don’t skip that part.

Now that it’s finally summer in San Francisco, it’s time to whip out the summer classics, like this. You still have another week or two to procure zucchini and corn before they disappear until next July, so hurry up before they disappear.

zucchini fritters frying

zucchini, corn, and jalapeno fritters

Adapted loosely from Simply Recipes.


  • 2 cups shredded zucchini (1-2 medium-to-large vegetables, probably about 3/4 lb.)
  • 3/4 cup sweet corn (frozen, or cut straight off the cob)
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion
  • 1 jalapeno
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup canola, grapeseed, or olive oil (preferred frying oil, really)
  • dollop of creme fraiche or sour cream


Set grated zucchini in strainer over a bowl or the sink and salt generously. Let sit for at least 10 minutes, then wring out as much water as possible with paper towels or in the strainer.

Whisk egg in large bowl, then mix in onion, corn, zucchini, jalapeno, flour, salt, and pepper.

Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Drop mounds of batter into oil and flatten slightly with the back of a spatula. Flip after 4-6 minutes of cooking, when one side begins to look brown. After a few minutes on the second side, remove from pan to paper towels on a plate.

Serve immediately with creme fraiche or sour cream, or keep warm in the oven if necessary.

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