Off the Menu Podcast: Shady Business and Awkward Moments



Elephant in the room: Mr. Burch and Junior are vegan and vegetarian, respectively, and have been so patient with my continuous stream of pork/beef/cheese compliments. In this edition of Off the Menu, we finally address the awkward moments. We also discuss that girl who allegedly sprayed Windex in her roommates’ food.

Gee, Vocal Chords. You Suck. : A Miso Soup Re-Run

Dear Vocal Chords, you’ve got to understand where I’m coming from. Your decision to go on strike is getting a bit out-of-hand. If it’s about indulging in dairy products or consuming alcohol, we can discuss other options besides a complete shut-out. I feel like it’s the 90s and any minute now, Ashton Kutcher is going to walk out with a Zoo York or Von Dutch trucker hat and tell me I’ve been Punk’d.

Exhibit A. Him holding a T-Mobile Sidekick is just a bonus.

I didn’t realize how upsetting a sudden onset of vocal chord drama could be. This is nothing compared to the misunderstood teenagers on Degrassi: The Next Generation.

I digress.

I’m pretty rough on my vocal chords. I’m sure I could be a better human by valuing my ability to speak. I have no other symptoms of misery – fever, chills, etc. – just a cough worthy of Lifetime movie drug addicts and no sound when I attempt to speak. I’m a loon, and as such am not using sick leave from work, and have been getting by with e-mails, a notepad, and goodwill of others.

And miso soup. Misoshiru, for members of my family reading this who think I’ve forgotten all of my toddler Nihongo.

I’ve posted about miso soup before. I’ve even made a shitty video with no background music attempting to demonstrate how to make it. It is disturbingly simple to make, and miraculously healing. That is quite a deal – a lot for soup to give you in return for a trip to a Japanese market or international aisle/section of a grocery store.

We’re going to have a brief discussion about miso. Roll your eyes, but if you end up with nasty or weak-tasting soup, don’t come back crying. These next two paragraphs are crucial.

The type of miso you use will drastically change the flavor of your soup. All misos are not created equally. My mother (and entire family) uses Shiromiso, or white miso. It is the most widely produced type of miso, and uses the least amount of soybeans and fermentation time. The taste is consequently sweet, soft, and light. Awase miso is my favorite. It mixes white and red miso together for a slightly stronger taste without losing the light texture.

After choosing your miso wisely, choose your proportions wisely. Since I like stronger miso, 2 tablespoons dissolved in 2 cups of boiling stock is more than enough for me. Experiment. You’ll be buying these ingredients in bulk, anyway.

Misoshiru aka Miso Soup


  • 1/2 stick iriko dashi – Japanese Soup base. The tubes look like blue pixie sticks with Japanese writing on them. They come in large bags at Japanese markets. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, you want konbu dashi, since iriko dashi is made with a fish base.
  • 2 cups Water
  • 2 tablespoons awase miso (or shiro miso)
  • 4 inari – Fried Bean Curd. Eat them, don’t eat them, choose your own adventure. Buy them and use them to give your soup flavor, even if you don’t like eating the curd itself.
  • 1 block Extra-Firm Tofu, cut into bite-size cubes – Anything less firm than Extra-Firm will fall apart in the soup and look gross. Tofu is like binary code, use the right kind (1) or nothing at all (0).
  • Green Onions – Roughly Chopped

Combine the iriko dashi and water together in a pot over High heat. Stir until the dashi powder is dissolved. Bring to a solid (not rolling) boil, then turn the heat down to medium. Add the miso, and stir until it is completely dissolved.

Once the miso is dissolved, add the inari and tofu.

Let everything simmer together until the tofu is cooked to your liking.  (15 minutes? 20 minutes? Something like that.)

Cure yo’self.


No Muss, Some Fuss: Cumin and Citrus Roasted Carrots

One of the reasons self-diagnosed lachanophobics still risk the possible horror of eating vegetables is the possible magic of beautiful and delicate flavor. Sometimes it’s best to steer into the curve and forgo meat in favor of vegetable authenticity. Plus it couldn’t hurt to throw the vegan, gluten-free members of my core a bone. Or carrot top, since nothing they eat involves bones. Hey! No judgment. This recipe is warm and luscious with a spicy edge, just like that George Clooney scene in “Out of Sight.” See below for reference.

As an alternative, I also present a synonym to this level of steaminess: Jessica Alba and Paul Walker in “Into the Blue.”

This recipe is from a Jean-Georges cookbook, which makes it elegant and flavorful, with a hint of food-snob. Get “kinda interested,” in this one. I know you’re probably not in the market for a celebrity chef commitment, but this recipe takes less than an hour to throw together. That’s not even enough time for two episodes of “Friends” on Netflix.

The light-hearted references aside, this is one of those perfect recipes that will make you look like a more talented cook than you actually are. Your day will change. And don’t worry, it’s not always perfect in Curating My Cooking Land. Later this week, I’ll update you on what happened when I tried to mess with creamy salad dressing. For now, just make these carrots.

Roasted Carrots with Whole Cumin and Citrus


  • 1/2 pound medium carrots – peeled
  • 3 garlic cloves – finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds aka “Whole Cumin” if you shop at Vons or Whole Foods
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • Red Chili Flakes
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Equal parts (about 1 to 2 tablespoons each) Red Wine Vinegar and Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 orange
  • 1 lemon

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees and bring a pot of water to a boil. Salt the water and boil the carrots for 20 minutes.

While the carrots are boiling, combine the garlic, cumin seeds, thyme, red chili flakes, salt, and pepper together in a bowl. Whisk in the red wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.

Remove the carrots from the boiling water with tongs, so they keep their pretty shape. Place in a small baking dish, and pour the cumin seed dressing/marinade thing over the top. Slice the orange and lemon in half – squeeze the juice on top of the carrots, and leave the halves resting on top during the roasting process to infuse the flavor.

Roast for 25 minutes.

Shazam. Flavor.


Great Pumpkin Soup, For Those Of You Who Don’t Want To Wait in a Pumpkin Patch with Linus

I waited until almost the last possible second to make this. As a Thanksgiving-ish baby who chowed-down on full-size pumpkin pies instead of birthday cake, my pumpkin season begins during the week of Halloween. After prancing about in a culturally-contrived “sexy” costume for a few evenings, I finally let peer pressure run its course and slide into legwarmers, sweaters, and seasonal Starbucks drinks.

What is everyone doing for Halloween, by the way? Are you dressing up? Staying in? Staying in and dressing up? Ordering pizza, watching horror films, and passing out candy? None of the above? Have I inquired enough into your personal lives?

I’m sorry, by asking you too many questions, did I become this girl?

As opposed to this girl?

The original recipe for this came from food52, I’ve supplemented a few of my own proportions, beer preference (did I forget to mention this soup is flavored with pumpkin beer), and – because the pumpkin I purchased for this purpose was utilized in a homebrew experiment – canned pumpkin.

Pumpkin Soup with Pumpkin Beer and Various Bourgeois Toppings

  • 1 can Pure Pumpkin (go with Libby’s on this one, most other canned varieties use a lower quality of squash instead of anything remotely sweet and orange-colored)
  • 2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted Butter
  • 1 finely chopped Sweet Onion
  • 4 finely chopped Garlic Cloves
  • 16 Ounces Pumpkin Beer – I used half of one Growler Saranac Pumpkin Ale and drank the rest. A 12-ounce Dogfish Head Punkin Ale would also be perfect. (Tangent: There’s so much shitty pumpkin beer on the market. It’s unreal.)
  • Nutmeg
  • Cinnamon
  • 2 cups Vegetable Stock
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 heaping tablespoon Brown Sugar

Bourgeois Toppings:

  • Pepitas (That’s Spanish for “Pumpkin Seeds,” for those new to the class.)
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Sage Leaves
  • Goat Cheese

Heat the Extra Virgin Olive Oil over Medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute until soft. Pour in the pumpkin and season to taste with cinnamon and nutmeg (be generous, but remember you can always add more later if it’s not saturated enough with autumnal spice.)

Turn heat up to High and pour in the beer. Leave uncovered and let half of the beer burn off. (It should almost not smell like beer anymore.)

Turn heat down to Low and pour in the Vegetable Stock. Let simmer for 20-ish minutes. Stir occasionally so disgusting scalded soup won’t ruin the pot you’re cooking in.

Puree until smooth using an immersion blender – (Real talk, I highly recommend investing in one of these. It cuts hot soup puree time in half.) – or in batches in a Vitamix/stand blender. Once smooth, stir in the heaping tablespoon of brown sugar, then season to taste with salt and pepper.

I might be stating the obvious here, but TASTE YOUR FOOD. If it’s too bitter, add more brown sugar. If it doesn’t taste like anything besides pumpkin, add more cinnamon and nutmeg. If it’s missing something, but you can’t tell what, it’s bland, i.e. add salt.

To prepare the bourgeois toppings:

Toast the pepitas in a dry pan over Medium-Low heat until slightly fragrant or one of them pops. (Take it off the heat if they pop. You’re not in a movie theater. The time for popcorn-esque things is later.)

Heat Extra Virgin Olive Oil in a pan over Medium heat and fry the Sage Leaves until they’re crispy, but not brown and dead-looking.

For the goat cheese, you have two options: crumble it on top, or place a disc of it somewhere near the middle.

Drizzle Extra Virgin Olive Oil (no more than a tablespoon) on top of your vat of soup slash whichever garnishes you elect to make use of.

pumpkin beer soup

“Baby’s First Curry” Has a Better Ring to It than “Baby’s First Steps”

The first time I had curry and remembered it was at a Japanese restaurant I frequented growing up in Sacramento. A new collaborative chef-partner revised the menu after I left for college. While home for a visit and out to dinner with friends, I randomly selected one of the new dishes to try. My initial reaction was to look around in shock, my eyes widened and most likely dilated. “Guys, this is f**king perfect. I’m serious,” I said.

After that, I didn’t speak very much. I was too busy shoveling as much curry as possible into my mouth like a truck driver. The restaurant in question passed to new ownership last year. This broke my heart, but I’ll always have my spicy and creamy memories.

Do not fret. I won’t get on a plane and leave you without giving you this curry recipe. I’d regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of my life.

My preference for curry exploded during my senior undergraduate year. A conservative estimate is that I ordered or ate curry out once every other week. I’ve calmed down about various combinations of garam masala, coconut milk, tamarind, ginger, chilis, papadum, sambal, etc. from various parts of South Asia, but this doesn’t mean I’ve stopped imbibing occasionally. On the rare irksome day where I come home and the thought of cooking fills me with anxiety, I will inevitably roll lazily to my computer, where curry is only a few clicks away.

The title of this post is deceptive, because I’ve actually attempted making my own curry several times; usually when I look at charges made to my card, and realize that I could probably figure out how to satisfy my own craving.

Curry is a difficult thing to execute correctly. The spicy, sweet, creamy, and crisp stars all need to align into a gorgeous constellation of flavor. This isn’t an easy task to accomplish. Unless perfection is staring you straight in the face, you’ve failed miserably and should run along and play with other toys for awhile.

I still want to refine this recipe, but it’s the closest to a restaurant love-affair with a curry recipe I’ve ever gotten. The original proportions for the curry paste came from the Foot Network website, but the vegetables and methodology have been revised considerably to suit my kitchen.

Almost-A-Love-Affair Green Curry


  • Green Beans
  • Small Purple Potatoes
  • Broccoli Florets
  • 1 teaspoon Cumin
  • 1 teaspoon Ground Coriander
  • 1 bunch Cilantro, roughly chopped (No that’s not an error. Use the ENTIRE bunch.)
  • Fresh Ginger, roughly chopped – I used a piece that was the size of my two thumbs held together
  • 1 Jalapeno, seeded
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1 Lime’s-worth of Juice
  • 1/2 cup Vegetable Stock
  • 1 cup Unsweetened Condensed Coconut Milk – Yes, the kind from a can, guys.
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of water to boil over High heat. When the water boils, add a large pinch of salt. Throw in the potatoes and let summer for 5-ish minutes.

While the potatoes are cooking, toast the cumin and coriander in a tiny (as tiny as they make them) skillet over medium heat. When you can actively smell the spices without trying too hard, they’re ready.

Blend the toasted spices, cilantro, ginger, jalapeno, garlic, onion, lime juice, and 2 tablespoons of water until a thick paste forms. This is your curry paste (duh.)

Throw the broccoli into the boiling water and cook for 1-ish minutes. Stir in the green beans and let them cook for another minute. Drain the vegetables (careful of the boiling water and steam, I accept no responsibility for you inadvertently scalding yourself) and put them back into the pot.

Pour in the vegetable stock, coconut milk, and 3 tablespoons of the prepared curry paste from the blender. Bring everything to a simmer, then serve over steamed rice or coconut rice.

Green Curry

Try not to shove your face into the bowl. I know it’s tempting.

Wake Me Up When September Ends: Denial of Summer Growing Season Ending Charred Corn Salad

“Don’t you love New York [i.e. Los Angeles] in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I’d send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.”

-Meg Ryan (sort of) in, “You’ve Got Mail”

Things that excite me about September:

  • Not being socially shunned for drinking hot coffee
  • Festive legwarmers and boots
  • Soup, Stew, Chili, and every other warm, hearty comfort food

Things that are the opposite of exciting in September:

  • Pumpkin mania – Thanks, Starbucks for killing my soul by offering Pumpkin Spice Lattes in 95-Degree August Los Angeles weather
  • The implication of everything becoming serious again, i.e. school beginning for those still doing that sort of thing and work vacation time elapsed with no end in sight until Thanksgiving and Christmas
  • The end of the summer growing season

I love so many things about autumn, but I’m definitely attempting to ignore summer being over like a parent dealing with a bratty child….which is not unlike how decent human beings treat ratchet girls at the club…..I digress.

This recipe is ridiculously simple. Twenty minutes gate-to-gate simple. Use-up-the-last-summer-corn-before-it’s-too-late-you-fool simple. Seriously, go make it. Slice some avocado on top of it, while you’re at it.

Charred Corn Salad

  • 4 Ears of Corn, Shucked
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Kosher Salt and Pepper to Taste
  • 1/2 Small Red Onion, Thinly Sliced
  • Juice of 1 Lime
  • 1 teaspoon Pure Maple Syrup
  • 1 Jalapeno, Diced
  • Mint
  • Parsley
  • Cilantro

Brush the corn with olive oil and season with salt and pepper before grilling over Medium-High heat for 12-ish minutes, i.e. until charred all over.

Meanwhile, let the onion sit in the lime juice for 10 minutes to mellow out the flavor. After 10 minutes have passed, add the maple syrup, jalapeno, and 2 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Once the corn is charred to your liking, remove from the cob and toss with the dressing you’ve just made. Tear the mint, parsley, and cilantro leaves – because chopping is too much damn work when you’re hungry – and add the torn leaves to the corn mixture to your liking.


Asparagus and Lemon Risotto: Patience is a Virtue, and Other Profound Life Lessons

I don’t know why I always choose to try recipes I’ve never prepared before when company is coming over.

One of our best friends currently attends the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma. She’s a lovely girl: full of barbed wit, euphemisms, and confidence. It takes a very secure person to take as many selfies for SnapChat as she does. I met her through Mr. Right, and was instantly taken with her, since she reminded me of my twenty-year-old self. Obviously, I plan to teach her all sorts of terribly wonderful things, like how to make a man faint with one sultry raised eyebrow and start a campfire without a handy stick lighter.

A fabulous representation of us on one of our more rebellious evenings.

I learn plenty from her, though. This lovely girl is allergic to several things in life. Without listing a long series of medical terminology, we’ll identify her as someone required to eat in the style of a gluten-intolerant vegan.

While cooking for her is difficult, she’s not exactly restricted to nuts and berries. She eats a lot of curry when she’s away at school, so I wanted to give her a different sort of rice dish. A risotto: Deceptively creamy. Extremely filling. And, per usual when I have company coming over, something I’ve never made before.

The only culinary trivia I knew for certain about risotto before embarking on a search for sample recipes was that risotto is the name of a cooking process, and not the dish itself. Confused? I’ll elaborate.

The word “risotto” refers to a cooking procedure, in which a grain with very high starch content releases those starches into the liquid its cooked in, consequently creating a creamy texture. In the states, this is usually done with arborio rice, but any high-starch grain will suffice. For example, “Top Chef: All Stars” winner Richard Blais (who just made my heart sing by following me on Twitter and Instagram – celebrate with me, small victories excite me) has a recipe for Oatmeal Risotto in his book I’m enthused to try, now that I feel more confident in my ability to execute the risotto cooking process.

You will hear every chef providing instruction related to risotto emphasizing patience, and I’m not going to tell you anything new. Risotto is a process. I watched a lot of Giada de Laurentiis videos when looking up inspirations for this recipe, and one of the first things she said in each one of them was that risotto isn’t a cooking process you can walk away from. When making risotto, you have to be willing to stand next to the stove and stir the rice for twenty minutes. It’s easy, provided you have that sort of patience.

It’s not as demanding as it sounds.

I gave up on making truffles due to their time-consuming nature. So, if I have the patience to make risotto, I hope you will as well.

 Asparagus and Lemon Risotto


  • 6 cups vegetable stock
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 small onion – finely diced
  • 1 cup Arborio Rice
  • 1/2 cup white wine – I used Riesling for this, since Riesling has tons of citrus notes
  • 1 bunch asparagus – cut into 2-inch segments
  • 1 cup thawed frozen peas
  • 1 lemon – for zesting and juicing
  • Fresh Parsley
  • Salt & Pepper

Bring the vegetable stock to a simmer in a separate small pot. Keep a ladle next to you, and keep this stock simmering during the entire risotto cooking process.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the Extra Virgin Olive Oil in a pan over medium heat, and toss in the onion and arborio rice.

It’s time to start stirring. Get your guns ready.

Cook the rice and onion mixture until the edges of the rice start to become transparent. Get down on the pan’s level, and actually look at the rice.

Once the edges of the rice are transparent, pour in the wine. Keep stirring until all the wine has evaporated.

Now, the real process begins. No, it hasn’t really started yet.

Add the stock to the rice and onion mixture one ladle at-a-time. Keep stirring until the liquid completely dissolves, and keep adding stock in one-ladle increments until the liquid starts to remain in the pan and look creamy. Once the mixture starts sticking together, taste the rice to see when it becomes al dente.

(No, I can’t give you a solid cooking time estimate, because the dish will be done when the rice is cooked. Twenty-ish minutes. Have patience.)

Once the rice is al dente (sort enough to bite through, firm enough that it’s not baby food), add the asparagus. Keep stirring until the asparagus is heated through and also al dente. Next, add the peas and stir for one minute ish.

Remove the pan from the heat, and stir in the juice and zest of one lemon, chopped fresh parsley to taste, and two tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. (Adding the Extra Virgin Olive Oil at the end of the cooking process gives texture and brightness against the vegetable stock taste.)

Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately.

Divine. Especially with a glass of Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio.

“Bark” Desserts Aren’t Only for Cold Weather

I grew up in Northern California, and consequently have huge appreciation for Ghiradelli and Scharffen Berger chocolate. I’ve toured the factories, looked up the histories of their processes, and always buy their respective peppermint barks when bagged versions hit stores in Los Angeles for the winter holiday season.

I’m not entirely certain who I was trying to fool with that above sentence, but the truth is, I eat peppermint and mint ice cream/frozen yogurt as often as I can get it all year. So why not peppermint bark? Why not orange bark? It’s delicious, and ridiculously easy to make.

Remember, this is coming from someone who believes she is genetically conditioned against making dessert. Below is an accurate visual reference of what usually occurs when I consider baking.

This week, peppermint bark has turned my heart into a melted puddle of unicorn rainbow joy.

My Dad is a big on dark chocolate/orange things. Mr. Right (or rather, his entire family) enjoys the peppermint bark that mixes white and semi-sweet chocolate. So this one goes out to all the badass men in my life who make it seem like the holiday season year-round.

FYI: Writing this post was also a great excuse to create a Pandora Holiday station.

Peppermint Bark


  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate – if you buy a baking bar, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • Peppermint Extract
  • 1 pound white chocolate – once again, cut into 1/2-inch pieces if you buy a baking bar
  • Candy Canes or Peppermint Candies (Crushed) OR your grocery store may sell peppermint pieces by the jar…but this takes away from the therapeutic nature of smashing this ingredient yourself

Line a baking sheet with foil – shiny side up.

Time to make the classic chocolate-melting double-boiler: Heat one inch of water in a saucepan until steaming and make sure whatever bowl you’re going to melt the chocolate in is nonreactive (i.e. glass) and can wedge in the top of the saucepan without the bottom of the bowl touching the water. – DON’T let any water get into the chocolate. I’m serious. This will kill the flavor of the chocolate, and that’s a buzz-kill party foul.

I now provide you with a guide to tempering chocolate that’s so easy to accomplish that my fears of working with chocolate have become permanently alleviated.

Sydney, what the f**k does tempering chocolate mean?

I’m so glad you asked.

Tempered chocolate is what non-pastry-chef earthlings like me inadvertently associate with professional chocolate products and desserts. Chocolate that has gone through the tempering process has a smooth texture and look, with a shiny finish. When you break it into pieces, it snaps crisply and cleanly. In other words – you eat with your eyes first, and tempered chocolate provides that.

Back to your recipe – it’s time to melt (and temper) the chocolate you’re working with.

Separate about 3/4 cup of the semisweet chocolate. Place the rest into the nonreactive/heatproof bowl you’ll be melting the chocolate in. Set the bowl over the saucepan of steaming water and stir until about one-third of the chocolate in the bowl melts.

Now, remove the bowl from the heat. The bowl has already heated enough to melt all of the chocolate. Stir in the reserved chocolate until melty goodness is achieved. If you need to, return the bowl to above the saucepan of steaming water for more heat power (but I doubt you’ll need to.)

Your chocolate is melted and tempered! Does it look shiny and pretty? Good. If not, you’ll get it next time.

Stir 3/4 teaspoon of peppermint extract into the chocolate and pour onto the foil-lined baking sheet. Spread it out evenly with a spatula or back of a spoon. Tap the sheet on your countertop a few times to get rid of any bubbles. Let sit at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes (i.e. while you’re preparing the white chocolate.)

Put aside about 1 cup of the white chocolate, then dump the rest into a new nonreactive bowl (or be lazy about dishes like me and wash/dry the bowl you just used to melt the semisweet chocolate.) Repeat same melting process used above. Stir in 3/4 teaspoon of peppermint extract once fully melted, tempered, and pretty.

Pour the melted white chocolate over the semisweet chocolate and spread around evenly. (Some mixing of colors will probably occur here – don’t stress. It looks marbled and lovely.) Sprinkle with crushed peppermint.

Refrigerate for 1 hour or freeze for 30 minutes. When ready to serve, lift out of the foil and break into pieces.

Tidings of comfort and joy. No, really. I was actually unable to be sarcastic for a full hour after consuming this.

I realize I also promised you Orange Bark. I wanted to let you know that most dark chocolate is vegan….i.e. the Awesome Former Roommate and all your other vegan friends can consume this one with glee. Plus, dark chocolate is an antioxidant. So eat it and get happy, damn it.

To make orange bark:

Melt 1 and 1/2 pounds of dark chocolate using the double-boiler method described above. Set aside about 1 and 1/4 cups of the chocolate to stir in as described. Stir in 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of orange extract. Pour onto a baking sheet lined with foil shiny side up, spread evenly, and tap to get rid of any bubbles. Zest 1 orange over the top and sprinkle with sea salt. Refrigerate for 1 hour or freeze for 30 minutes. Break into pieces when ready to serve.

It’s enough to make me emotional.

Fifty Shades of Salad #2: Scallion White Wine Vinaigrette

Maybe I’m not the biggest White Wine Vinegar fan? Maybe I’m craving whole grain mustard instead of a singular texture? I’ll try again with my work salad today. Regardless of my “meh” feeling, this one got the seal of approval from various gentlemen visiting our apartment – all claiming willingness to have this dressing again.

While I’m thinking of it: what are your opinions on bottling homemade salad dressings for Christmas gifts? I’m not trying to start a holiday panic; I’m trying to think ahead. I always see the most interesting glass bottles and other eclectic craftsy things on sale during the summer. Is it because people are too busy flocking to beaches and vacation destinations to craft things? People who are talented at this sort of thing (crafting), please fill me in….

The original version of this recipe in my notes called for one raw shallot, but multiple years of avoiding green onions in my stereotypically-Japanese-American favorite childhood snack of miso soup has made me use them in en masse.

P.S. If you chop an onion while it’s submerged in water, your eyes won’t tear up. Stay happy! Cooking is fun!

Scallion White Wine Vinaigrette

Whisk together 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar + 2 teaspoons Dijon + 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt + pepper to taste + 3 green onions, tips cut off, thinly sliced + 1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

I’m Not Julie or Julia, but I Still Like Potatoes

The first recipe Julie Powell made from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking before writing that blog-then-book-now-movie “Julie and Julia” was potage parmentier – potato and leek soup.

In an attempt to convince Mr. Right that reading this book wasn’t a complete waste of my time, I decided to prepare the recipe that inspired a blog, book, and mediocre romantic comedy.

Two problems:
First, Mr. Right isn’t the biggest fan of leeks. 
This point was driven home by the leeks at the market looking anemic and sad. Frustrated enough to seek out an extra bottle of wine to drink while cooking, I returned to the produce section and grabbed a ton of green onions.

Second, Awesome Former Roommate is….vegan. Thankfully this is primarily for health reasons, so I don’t feel like I’m killing his soul when I bring home thick-cut bacon and goat cheese logs.

Still, why is this a problem? Julia Child’s recipe for potato soup only calls for three ingredients besides water and salt: potatoes, leeks, and….butter.

I didn’t think this one through all the way. Clearly. Cut to me staring glassy-eyed at shelves of butter and butter-substitutes, mindlessly chewing on my cell phone case and hoping what I put together won’t be disgusting. My eye falls on a tub of something called “Smart Balance Buttery Spread: Made with Olive Oil. 100% Vegan.”

I know somewhere my parents, Anthony Bourdain, Paula Deen, and every other chef in existence is shuddering. I know guys…..I’ve failed you. I promise I use real unsalted butter, like a good girl. The recipe in my head had already been screwed up, so I grabbed a box of vegetable stock and hoped the soup would taste like something besides boiled potatoes. (I can feel all of you shuddering. My head is hanging in shame as I write this.)

Less than an hour later, there was much rejoicing in the kingdom, and Smart Balance has become a fridge staple ever since. Huh.

Not Julia Child’s Potato Soup


  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter or Smart Balance Olive Oil Spread
  • 3 to 6 bunches green onions – sliced thin, tips cut off, both white and green parts
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 6 cups (about 1 box) vegetable stock
  • 1 and 1/2 pounds boiling potatoes – peeled and sliced as thin as possible
  • salt and pepper to taste

Put a large pot over low heat and melt the butter. Add the green onions and cook until tender (make sure to stir them around so they don’t burn) – 3 ish minutes – then add the garlic and stir up until things start smelling divine (30 seconds at most).

Pour in the chicken stock and drop the potatoes in the pool. Cover and simmer until the potatoes pierce extremely easily with a fork.

Remove pot from heat and puree the soup in batches in a blender until smooth. Pour back into the pot once smooth and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Once it’s ladled out you can garnish it with fresh herbs or (if you’re not vegan) sour cream or cheese.

Mr. Right insisted on garnishing mine with sour cream, but I promise this tastes perfectly lovely plain. As you can see, we like cheese. For once, he consumed more cheese than I did.