Category Archives: FOOD!

Dear New Zealand

Dear New Zealand,

As you know, people travel to New Zealand for your magnificent scenery and adventure sports, certainly worthy highlights, but they are not what we miss most, it’s the freekah, the labneh, the Afghans, and the Bauernbrot!  It’s about your FOOD!


House made granola, lentil pie & flat whites.

It’s not just what you eat, it’s the whole food culture that was such a pleasant surprise to me.

P1010635Judging by the widespread use of organic, fair trade, pasture raised, sustainable, and local products, most Kiwis seem to expect quality ingredients and care about where they come from. So many have their own gardens, and stock honor boxes in their front yards to share the bounty.


“Honor boxes” – take what you need, leave the money in a can!

In many areas we saw beehives stacked along the roadside, and bought, or were given, local honey. And the BREAD – I was so excited to find the bakers in NZ know how to make my favorite German sourdough rye.

Bauernbrot and soup

Bauernbrot and soup

Where I live, the “farm to fork” movement is gaining momentum, but in NZ, it’s just a way of life, no catchy names or movements necessary. Do you realize how lucky you are??

Afghan cookie

Afghan cookie

 A flat white and a slice…

I never would have thought that New Zealand would have the best espresso in the world. We became connoisseurs, sampling from one end of the country to the other, even developing favorites (the Italian style roasts at All Press & Havana). I was impressed how often we saw “fair trade” promoted, and that Havana uses their own, “Real Trade” designation to educate consumers about economic fairness and sustainability. I learned so much from you Kiwi foodies!

drooling yet?

drooling yet?

Aside from the espresso, the food selection in your café’s is so creative, fresh and a good value. We had real muesli, “veggie stack”, frittata, grain & kale salads for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And then of course we couldn’t resist the “slices” and “Afghans”.  It’s refreshing to find so many places where everything is made from scratch – no bulk batters, packaged mixes, bottled dressings.

P1010077As far as I am concerned, there is only one major blemish on New Zealand’s foodie nirvana cafes – for crying out loud, how can you serve those McDonalds-style, deep-fried patties and call them hash browns? I was crushed. One chef I questioned said that they used to make real hash browns, but the Kiwis prefer the packaged ones.

Real potato pancakes at the Courthouse Cafe!

REAL potato pancakes at the Courthouse Cafe!

My favorite breakfast of the whole trip was at a place in Golden Bay that made real potato pancakes topped with avocado, spinach, poached egg and hollandaise. I still dream about it. Maybe the esteemed district councils could outlaw the frozen hash-slabs and require real, grated potato hash browns?

Now that's a sandwich!

Now that’s a sandwich!

I thought maybe our experience in NZ was unique – we just got really lucky and happened upon fantastic meals? But then I noticed that people who have traveled in New Zealand, always mention the food, before I get a chance.  That’s when I knew I had to write, to make sure you realize that your culinary culture is special. Please, continue to appreciate the healthy options you have and protect them, don’t take them for granted. Bigger and more is not better. Pay attention, be diligent, don’t let your food supply become corrupted in the name of “advancement” and profits.

Missing New Zealand!

fresh berry ice cream!

fresh berry ice cream!

Julie & David

My favorite fall salad…

IMG_2003I look forward to fall for many reasons – the leaves changing colors, the crowds disappearing, and Fuyu’s!I discovered Fuyu persimmons a few years ago and fell head over heals for them.

Fall is for Fuyus!

Fall is for Fuyus!

Fuyu’s are not at all like the other persimmons, you eat them when they are firm and a little crisp, not mushy. And if you cut them thru the middle, they reveal a gorgeous star pattern.

Here’s my “Three P’s Salad” recipe – persimmon, pomegranate & pecans – a light, healthy, anti oxidant-packed addition to the Thanksgiving spread!IMG_3015

Citrus Dressing: Mix olive oil; lemon or lime juice, and/or vinegar; a teaspoon of Dijon mustard; and pomegranate, tangerine or orange juice (to balance the acid with some sweet). Make it as sweet or as tart as you like.

Use one, or a mixture of several – baby kale, European salad mix, spinach, and I love to include arugula. There is a new Earthbound Farms baby kale and asian greens mix called “Zen” that I like.

Toss greens with dressing, add slices of one persimmon, or two. Add 1 cup of pomegranate seeds, preferably fresh (I have not found the frozen ones to be very good). Add 1/2 cup of pine nuts, or pecans. Distribute to plates, and crumble goat or feta cheese over the top.


The secret to creamy white bean soup!

Tuscan White Bean Soup

Tuscan White Bean Soup

Once again, I don’t really use recipes, but here are the basics, and my special tip!

You can use any white beans, I prefer dried navy beans – they are slightly larger than some of the other white beans. (You can also use canned beans)

Cook the dried beans in water with a couple of bay leaves and some Italian seasoning, (NO SALT), for a couple of hours, until soft but not falling apart or mushy.

Dice one of each : onion, fennel bulb, carrot, 1 bunch of kale, 2+ garlic cloves, and anything else that sounds good to you.  Also chop, or buy already chopped, Pancetta, or you can use bacon, or ham.

Saute onion on low to med heat (never on high!) for a couple minutes, add the pancetta and let it cook a bit, then add the rest of the veggies as you finish chopping them, kale last.  Enjoy the aroma!

When beans are almost done, about 1.5 – 2 hours, (at altitude, you may need 2-3 hours!) ladle out 2-3 cups of beans and cooking liquid and puree in a blender, then add back into the pot. You can make the soup more creamy, or chunky, by the ratio of pureed to whole beans.

Now, Time for my Secret ingredient!

To the pot of beans, add the leftover rind from a chunk of Parmesan cheese. Boil the beans and rind for about 20 minutes, until the soup is looking thick and creamy.  Remove the rind, and I like to scrape off as much of the melted cheese as possible and add it back into the beans.

Now add in the sauteed veggies, pancetta, and some black pepper. Unless you like a lot of salt, you will not need to add any, the pancetta and parmesan give it plenty of flavor, and saltiness.

Enjoy with a Chianti!

Enjoy with a Chianti!






Kale Salade Lyonaisse…

I was recently featured in Edible Reno-Tahoe for their annual “Cooks” issue, where I shared my kale version of the French classique, Salade Lyonaisse.  For the full color, photo’s included version of the article, get the magazine, or click the link above.

I never follow a recipe, I just use them for ideas & rough guidelines on measurements. I am always improvising and substituting, based on what I have on hand. I really want to encourage you to be brave and experiment – take whatever you have in the fridge, and make something up!

This “recipe” was inspired by our travels in France, and one of my all time favorite things – salad with an egg on top. We rarely have eggs for breakfast, I save them for lunch or dinner. We have this for dinner at least once a week.  My husband was raised on the all-American meat & potatoes diet, so salad was never on his list of dinner favorites, until now!

The traditional French Lyonnaise salad, on which this is loosely based, is made with Frisee, lardons and croutons.  For my healthier version, I use kale, spinach, mixed greens, and/or arugula; and chopped peppered turkey lunch meat, leftover grilled chicken, sausage, or salmon, and once in awhile I use some bacon!

For the dressing, you can experiment with bacon grease instead of, or in addition to oil. Other oils work, but a good quality olive oil is the best. It’s typically made with red wine vinegar, but for less acid, use cider or balsamic vinegar, and fresh lemon, lime, or tangerine juice.   Please do add whatever fresh herbs you have around – like tarragon, Italian parsley, or dill (dried are fine too), and chopped shallots or garlic, are also often added.

Sometimes I use grilled asparagus, roasted Broccolini, or Tru Roots “sprouted Bean Trio” instead of meat. And I love potatoes in this salad – you can reheat some leftover roasted potatoes (kinda like croutons if they are crispy), saute diced potatoes, or for a lighter salad, use boiled potatoes. (Add them to the salad warm!)

Top with a poached egg, or if poaching is too much trouble, a fried egg is perfectly acceptable! (Traditionally the yoke should be soft and runny)

To make the dressing:
whisk together with a fork (I never measure, just taste, add more of whatever)
Olive Oil
Red wine vinegar
Dijon mustard
a dash of hot water, S & P,  herbs, shallots or garlic

(As a starting point: roughly 1/4 C oil, to 3+T vinegar & 1T Dijon – it’s best to develop your measurements based on your own taste, size of your salad, and how “wet” you like it)
If using kale, chop it up & sprinkle with some of the dressing (or vinegar & oil) and let it sit for a while to “relax” while you prepare the other stuff.

Add dressing, chopped meat, warm potatoes or beans, and whatever else sounds good, to the greens, toss well, divide onto plates, and top each with an egg.

If you are into presentation, you can decorate with avocado slices, maybe some asparagus spears, with the egg artistically placed on top. I usually opt for serving a delicious, jumbled-up mess with the egg on top. Works for us.

before the egg

before the egg

Have fun experimenting!

Exotic burgers…

Moroccan Meatballs

Moroccan Meatballs

When we drove around Morocco, I fell in love with the bbq’d lamb meatballs, sold at roadside stands, grilled on a hibachi. For dinner tonight I recreated something in between meatballs and burgers, and they were YUMMY! Sorry, can’t give you real recipe – I always wing it – but hopefully this will get your creative juices flowing and encourage you to give it a try.

I used spices that sounded right to me – ground cumin, fennel, coriander, cayenne, turmeric, dried mint, crushed garlic, harissa, and a little plain kefir for moisture (no egg or breadcrumbs). Just google harissa if you are not familiar. I made it myself, but you can buy it.

As a side, I mixed couscous and lentils with harissa and similar spices mentioned above, with a little cinnamon and nutmeg added, then felt it needed a little ‘brightness’, so threw in some fresh chopped tomatoes at the end.  And for veggies, I roasted some broccolini in the oven – 350 for 30 mins, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt, (let it get a little crispy!) and grilled eggplant coated with harissa on the bbq with the mini-burgers.

Give it a try, it was YUMMY!

*Yes the “burger” is tiny, by normal standards, but we tend to eat 3/4 veggies and grains, and small portions of meat. I had 3 more burgers which were saved for lunch tomorrow!

*I used Hulsman Ranch (sustainably raised, grass fed) ground lamb, which I think I got at our local health food store “New Moon”.



My NYC journal…

The view from our room at 70 Park Ave Hotel

I fell in love with New York City when I spent 6 weeks there training to be a stock broker in the late 80’s. For many years, David and I would go for my birthday in December, but work has kept us away for the last few years. So, when the opportunity arose to return this year, I was more than ready!

My favorite museum in NYC


My perfect day in NYC: Start with a late morning brunch at a European style bistro (must have excellent coffee). Window shopping, and scoring some cute shoes on sale. Either wine and crostini at a cozy Enoteca, or hit an Indian buffet. More coffee, (or chai). Late afternoon spent in awe of our planet’s many miracles, at the AMNH – “Beyond Planet Earth” for David, followed by an amazing butterfly exhibit and the Asian cultures wing for me. And, back out on the streets to find another latte, or maybe a happy hour…

I want this dish NOW! Boqueria tapas...yum!

Dinner…so many choices…

We try to enjoy as many different types of cuisine as we can in 5 days!

After dinner, and coffee, wander the streets in search of live music. This is one of my favorite things about the Big Apple – all of the small clubs, where you can just happen upon great jazz or blues any night of the week. Finally, walk, or taxi if we must, back to our hotel by 3:00am to get some sleep! And that explains why our day always starts with a late morning brunch, and good coffee!

Thank God Manhattan is so well suited for walking, it enables us to eat our way from uptown to downtown without gaining weight! Strolling the various neighborhoods, scouting for our next meal, and just soaking up that unique NYC energy, is the best way to appreciate the city.

Cafe Lalo & classic upper West side neighborhood


Below is a list of places we enjoyed on this trip. All are worth a visit, but I encourage you to wander the city without a plan and make your own discoveries!


Campbell Apartment at Grand Central, no tourists here on a Wed nite! Martinis in a historic room filled with locals and commuters. Check out the ceiling!

The Modern – Loved this French-American with an Alsatian twist. Great service, stark, contemporary decor, extensive (but expensive) wine list. Dine in the happenin’ bar, or on the other side of the room with lovely views onto the MOMA sculpture garden.

Barcibo Enoteca – upper West side, near Lincoln Center, hence a tad pricey, but loved the menu – grilled squid with spinach – and nice selection of wines and crostinis, for late afternoon break.

Vin et Fleurs – Quaint, tiny SOHO bistro. Have some sparkling with lunch and be transported to France.

Takashi – Beef, beef nothing but the beef. Japanese Korean BBQ where all parts of the cow are gloriously celebrated and consumed. (Chef buys only the highest quality beef)

Cafe Lalo – Get buzzed on coffee and atmosphere at this Upper West side cafe. Great menu using high quality, locally sourced, or organic ingredients.

Boqueria – Great selection of authentic Spanish tapas, including Jamon!

Picking cow parts from teeth. (beef stomach is tasty, but chewy)

Buvette – West Village. Tiny, ultra cute, stop in any time of day for a lite meal, with great coffee & and wine by the glass. Also high quality, locally sourced, or organic ingredients.

Jazz & Blues…

Smalls, Greenwich Village

La Lanterna di Vittorio and The Bar Next Door

Terra Blues, Groove, Cafe Wha?, Arthurs Tavern, Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola at Lincoln Center

My latest addiction…

Tapas bar in northern Spain.

On our trip to northern Spain last year, our local friend taught us all about Iberian ham. It was love at first bite.  As soon as I got home, I began my research on Jamon Iberico, a.k.a. pata negra, cerdo negro, or black pig. I was planning to buy a whole, cured, leg, like they have on display in tapas bars all over Spain, but, much to my dismay, discovered it has only been available in the U.S. for a few years, and is very expensive (like $1300. DOLLARS for a leg!)

The most delicious, and healthy, of the Spanish ham is the “jamon Iberico de bellota”, which comes from free ranging, black pigs, that eat mainly acorns. I read that because of the pigs diet, this ham has more “good” fat than olive oil, helps increase HDL, and lowers LDL, not to mention the taste is out of this world. Ditch the statin drugs America! Sign me UP for the Jamon diet!

On our recent trip to NYC, I was on a quest to find my new drug of choice, eat as much as possible, and bring some home, hoping it might be more readily available and less expensive in New York, as they are closer to Europe than our home in California. (European wines are always a better buy than California wines in NYC) Mission Accomplished! We scored a 1/4 pound of the deep red, fat streaked, delicacy at Murrays for about $30.

Tonite, while winter rages outside (finally), we broke out a bottle of Tempranillo (from Rioja, via Trader Joes) and I made Pan Tomaca (a.k.a. pan con tomate, pan tumaca, or pan amb tomaquet). It’s similar to Italian Bruschetta (Brus-Ketta, not Bru SHetta!), but the tomatoes are not chopped.

There are many ways to make it, but this is how I was taught in Spain:

Carefully unwrap the delicate sliced ham, which should be separated by wax paper, and rolled, as they did for us at the deli in NYC.

Position a flat cheese grater over a bowl to collect the juice and pulp, rub tomato over the grater until all you have left in your hand is skin, discard skin.

Add a little (Spanish) olive oil and salt to the pulp/juice in bowl.

Toast or grill some good bread until crunchy.

Rub raw garlic over the bread, or not, if you prefer a cleaner, more pure tomato taste.

Add a slice of Jamon Iberico, or Jamon Serrano if you don’t want to splurge on Iberico de Bellota.

Pour a glass of wine, bite into crunchy, salty, dripping toast, enter heaven of the taste buds!

My new retirement plan now includes living in Spain, or raising my own cerdo negro on a farm somewhere!

Great article in the NYTimes on acorn fed pigs – a must read!!







My summer “travel”…

As much as I enjoy writing, and sharing my oh-so-enlightening thoughts with all of you, I am a slacker blogger. (I feel much better getting that off my chest)  It is tough to find a better place to be in the summertime than Tahoe. After the “awesome” or “horrendous” (depends on your perspective) winter we had, I am really appreciating this “beach weather”. If Mother Nature cooperates, I can comfortably run around in my sarong and bathing suit for about 4 months, so I make the most of it – work, beach volleyball, outdoor concerts, the farmers market, and cooking keep me busy. I like to say “God didn’t make gorgeous sunny days for sitting at your desk, it is your DUTY to get out and enjoy the day, at least for  little while!”


Because I cherish being home in Tahoe, my travel during the summer consists of COOKING! When I get antsy for far away places, I dig up ethnic recipes, hit the farmers market, and transport myself via taste and smell – Indian & Thai curries, steak with roasted potatoes and arugula, Brazilian cod stew with coconut milk, Salade Lyonnaise with a farm-fresh egg on top (my healthy version, with peppered turkey), quinoa & grilled veggie salad, Moroccan tagine, “Caprese” pannini, salsa fresca, guacamole, fresh lime margaritas … those are just a few of my favorite culinary get-aways.

I keep my cupboards well stocked with exotic spices and I buy lots of fresh herbs at the farmers market. I’d share my recipes, but I typically just google the ingredients I want to use, pick a couple of recipes that sound interesting, and then wing it. (I take what I like from 2 or 3 recipes, I never follow one completely) The more specific and bizarre the ingredients you google, the better the search results. So hit your local market, buy whatever looks good, google, and get creative!

Let me know how it goes!

Bon Appetite!