Curried Cauliflower Fritters with Parsley and Lemon Juice

When it comes to cauliflower, I am always torn. Cauliflower always presents itself as a paradox of sorts. From the way it smells to the way it looks to what I expect it to taste like–all scenarios, without fail, result in unexpected satisfaction and enjoyment. I liken the experience salad-making. My self-assembled salad never tastes as good as one prepared for me by someone else. Aloo gobi via Bombay Grill (local Indian spot) is infinitely better than the one I made at home.

My Hamlet moment came when I was at the farmer’s market and was presented with the most anatomically correct cauliflower with a delicate, beautiful green stem. “To cook, or not to cook…” The question loomed. Luckily, I was only contemplating Monday night dinner and not death, so I bought it. Life is all about trials and tribulations anyway. And by trials and tribulations, I mean “possibly vomit-inducing foods”.

And as usual, Jamie Oliver comes to the rescue. I scoured his books/website for the perfect recipe, one out of left-field that wouldn’t completely disguise the cauliflower’s flavor and texture. After all, this little guy was farmer’s market-fresh!

His curried cauliflower fritters recipe jumped out at me. My spice cabinet is rampant with Indian spices, and this dish called for black mustard seeds, whole cumin seeds, and turmeric. This was also a great opportunity for me to test out my new mortar and pestle! Nerd alert!

Me and my roommates spice cabinet, after our journey through the Spice Route

The batter was incredibly easy to whip up. The infusion of beer and flour reminded me of the beer-battered fish I made for tacos one night. With the addition of spices however, this version had way more depth and character. Side note: I think I may try this batter out with fish and tofu next time.

Deep-frying the cauliflower was probably the only tedious part. Tip: Get a spider, those brass mesh skimmers popularized by Chinese cooks. It will take the load off of lifting deep-fried foods out of blistering hot oil. Yes, I said, “blistering”. Mind the hot oil, people.

Anyway, I was really satisfied with the results. Shockingly enough, the cauliflower as prepared by moi, tasted good. No, not just good. Delicious! With a bottle of Duvel and some squirts of lemon, the pub-friendly cauliflower fritters were just the thing to have on a Monday night–in front of the TV of course.

When I see this photo, Michael Jackson’s “Gonna Be Startin’ Something” comes to mind.

Up close and personal (and spicy!).

I may have to just use this as a stock photo for recipes involving cake/pancake batter or custard.

Screw Monday night yoga classes. Here’s to my current “work hard, play hard” mentality.


•1 cauliflower
•flour, for dusting
• vegetable oil
• optional: a small piece of potato, peeled
• a small bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked
• sea salt
• 1 lemon

for the batter
• 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
• 2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
• 2–3 dried red chillies
• 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
• 200g self-raising flour
• ½ teaspoon turmeric
• 350ml cold beer
• sea salt

Trim the bottom off the stalk and break the cauliflower into bite-sized florets. Slice up the stalk into 2cm pieces – this way it will all cook at the same rate. Wash the cauliflower, drain it and pat dry with kitchen paper. Place the cauliflower pieces in a bowl and dust with a little flour.

Pour the oil into a deep saucepan – you want it to be about 10–12cm deep – and heat it to 180°C. If you don’t have a thermometer don't worry, just drop a piece of potato into the oil. When it floats to the surface and starts to sizzle, the oil will be at the right temperature so remove the potato from the pan.

Shake any excess flour off the cauliflower. One by one, dip the pieces into the beer batter, then carefully place them in the hot oil, moving them away from you as you do so. Make sure you stand back so you don’t get splashed. It’s best to fry them in batches so you don’t overcrowd the pan (but serve them as soon as each batch is ready). Each time a batch of cauliflower is nearly ready, add some battered parsley leaves to the pan and fry for 40 seconds (you want to serve them scattered over the fritters). Fry the pieces gently, turning them a couple of times with a slotted spoon. When they’re browned and crisp, lift them out of the oil, allowing any excess to drip back into the pan, and drain on kitchen paper. Dust with sea salt and squeeze over a little lemon juice.


I'm back!

Insalalata di faro con verdure

My boss, Katie, has built and impressive track record of cooking during the week, despite her stressful job which often results in late nights at the office. Somehow, she still manages to chef it up in the kitchen. As her assistant, I reap the benefits of her culinary adventures (today, it was a blueberry tart with a crust made from scratch). Recently, she had a farro epiphany that inspired her to make a grilled vegetable farro salad, which she shared with me and which I fell fast and hard in love with. I decided to try my hand at a similar recipe, by Mr. Jamie Oliver, that required roasted vegetables and farro.

Farro is a grain similar to barley; it’s an ancient spelt grain that used to be ubiquitously grown in the BCs but now, mass produced only in Italy’s Tuscan region. Most of the time, farro requires overnight soaking before cooking, which yields a firm chewy texture. Good things don’t come easy folks. Semi-pearled farro (which can be used immediately) is hard to find. But regular farro is only slightly more available and can be purchased at specialty food stores or Whole Foods…which…kind of sucks. Clearly the demand is not there. So loyal readers/fans-of-ancient-food-consumption, please write your local market and “demand” that this old-school wheat be on the shelves!

If finding and cooking the farro was an episode of the Wire, chopping up the veggies was like watching a candle burn out. Slow. Monotonous. Boring. But I was excited about summer vegetables like eggplant, fennel, and bell peppers, I had stocked up on for the salad. I grilled the veggies with garlic and red onion, tossed everything with the cooked farro, and dressed the salad in heaping spoonfuls of olive oil and lemon juice. Unfortunately I was kind of a miser with the herbs. There just wasn’t enough in the salad. While eating the salad, I felt as uncomfortable and annoyed as I did when I forgot to wear my socks during gym class in 6th grade. Something was clearly missing. In 6th grade, it was the socks. But on this particular night, that something was my culinary competency.

Overall, this was a fantastic summery dish. It’s healthy too. Maybe a little too healthy. It could have definitely used a glass of Pinot Gris on the side, or maybe just a juice beef burger.

Japanese eggplants that my mom picked up at the local farmer’s market.

Cutting into the fennel, I could already feel the anise-y crunch to come.

A colorful mélange of chopped vegetables. It’s like, a party in a baking dish.

Farro, a delicious wheat grain, that is not oft used at home here in the States.

This is what I’ve dubbed a “party in my mouth”.

Blueberry scones from the Rose Bakery Cookbook.

PS. This is my friend Jeanne's farro salad.


guest blogger / Robert Festino

Sorry for the lack of updates, I have been busy working on other projects. Lucky for me, my friend, photographer and graphic designer Robert Festino decided to give a Jamie recipe a shot. I'm annoyed that his photos are so much better than mine! Read his account below. - DC

Robert's take on Jamie's South American Fishcakes

Fishcakes, fishcakes, rolly polly fishcakes! Okay, I don't even know what that pop culture reference is at this point, but I cannot get it out of my head. The other night I was starved for something A) fried B) bites sized, and C) from the seafood counter of Whole Foods market. I had just made some wonderful baja style fish tacos a few weeks before and craved the same. Since I'm in need of improving on my culinary repertoire I wanted to make something new this time. This is where Jamie Oliver and Diane Chang enter the picture. Fishcakes, fishcakes....

I looked up Jamie's recipe for South American Fishcakes. No surprise to anyone, this recipe completely fit the bill. Jamie recommends haddock, but I picked up tilapia. Sure the flavor profile would be different, but it's supposed to contain much lower mercury levels, and I really like tilapia. Okay, enough of that business. Let the cooking begin.


Prepping the ingredients here is really fast. First I started boiling my big pot of water. I quickly threw my bay leaf covered fish fillets onto a bed of milk and into the oven. The idea of cooking fish in milk was curious to me, but who's to question these things in life? I assumed it added flavor and moisture to make the fish more fibrous in the mixture. He calls for baking them 15 minutes in a 375 F˚ oven. While that was happening I grabbed my knife and started chopping and peeling. I don't own a peeler so my knife skills on the potato, which are lacking, came back to haunt me. I've peeled many carrots with a knife. Peeling potatoes should be no problem, right? Well, let's just say it was a time suck. We only had 15 minutes here! So after dicing them and throwing them into boiling water, I hit the rest of the ingredients with my knife. All chopped and ready to go, lovely.


The fun part is mashing everything together in the bowl. I love this stuff. After that, I actually placed the bowl in the fridge for a while. I was in need of a nap. Sorry, I had a long day.


Awake and ready to get back at it, I heated the sunflower oil. Then floured my cutting board and started rolling out the little palm sized cakes. This, again, was fun. The first few formed nicely. The fourth bunch were a little tricky. You definitely want to keep your hands well floured in order to avoid stickiness.


Watching the cakes fry for five minutes is where the real fun began. I did four at a time. They came out golden brown, perfect. Honestly, I recommend this dish to anyone, even the novice cook. I am experienced enough in the kitchen, and frying, which once was a challenge is no longer one, but these cakes are so well formulated that there is no chance of them falling to bits within the pain. The consistency is that solid.


Eating them was exciting. I paired 'em with a Pinot Grigio.

Oh, now that I think of it, the original verse was FISH HEADS, not cakes. Gross! Jamie's (and mine) FISHCAKES, delicious.


By: Robert Festino



This past weekend, my friend Robert and I went to the Santa Monica Farmers Market to do some shopping. Well, I shopped and he played with his camera. The trip was such a success, meaning such a money-suck, that I will be doing group trips to the local farmers market every Sunday starting from now on. So if you are interested and in the Los Angeles area, give me a holler. We can ooh and ahh over the season's bests together.

Watermelon salad, anyone?

Stone fruit du jour. Picturesque white peaches. Truly.

Bounty for my soon-to-be assembled farro salad.

I wasn't at Scarborough Fair. I was at the Santa Monica Farmer's Market.

Aubergines or eggplants, call em what you will. They taste great grilled, steamed, sauteéd, raw, how-eva you like them.

Pretzel roll, not doing a yoga pose but kind of just being round and plump and delicious.

Peep show.

Ever seen Twins with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny Devito? This is the tomato version.

Thank you and good night.

While I was mostly impressed with the market's offerings, I was disappointed by the lack of essential ingredients like ginger, garlic, shallots, and red chilies. There was definitely an emphasis on fruit; tables of various stone and citrus fruits were on display. I did pick up an interesting cabbage/radish hybrid called the raphanobrassica. The vendor suggested that I shave it into salads. I think I might include it in my highly-anticipated farro salad with roasted vegetables, via jamieoliver.com.

images courtesy of Robert Festino


Santa Monica Farmers Market
1901 Main St # 2
Santa Monica, CA 90405-1082
(310) 458-8712


Organic + farmers market fresh Roasted Carrots and Beets and the Juiciest Pork Chops

First off, you're probably thinking "pork chops, again?" (See this post.) Cooking and blogging about bone-in pork chops two times in one month might appear suspiciously unoriginal, but I swear I'm no one trick-pony. I
just happened to have beets and carrots from the farmer's market lying around that day and that needed to be used immediately. As bad as I am at this, I attempt to use veggies the day of purchase in order to maximize the freshness. Actually, I usually suck at this so it was time for me to shape up.

Here's the thing about beets. I love to eat them, but I hate cooking with them. The long scraggly leaves, the dirt that collects in the crevasses­ all these factors leave me feeling lazy and uninspired. All the peeling and slicing and boiling and dot dot dot. With that being said, the beets I saw at the farmer's market last weekend were gorgeous: Robust, with healthy green leaves, unusual for beets sometimes. So I bought some, not knowing what would befall upon one of my weeknight meals until I found Jamie's pork recipe. My last "Jamie" pork was such a success that this one seemed like a smart investment. This project has turned me into a day trader I tell you.

The sage + pork combination was going to be a surefire winner. Sage is so good with most meat dishes. It's kind of woodsy and savory. Burn it and you ward off evil spirits, or something of that auspicious nature. Press it onto a pork chop, and you get a fatty, juicy decadent dinner entree. Sage is awesome and in my own kitchen, a very underrated herb.

The carrots and beets were roasted until glazed. The carrot was dressed in an orange juice, garlic and thyme mixture while the beets were dressed in balsamic, garlic, and rosemary. I think Jamie did this so both would achieve similar levels of sweetness. And the sweetness was just enough to balance the natural saltiness of the pork loin.

Overall, this dish was good, but maybe it lacked a little oomph for a Monday night. Back to the drawing board, I guess.

Here I am, chopping off my thumb, as usual.

Segregating my root vegetables.

I always cook my pork under the guise of the yin-yang symbol.

The directions said to deglaze the pan with lemon juice, giving me delicious
citrusy crispy pork bits to spoon over my dish. Perhaps, my favorite component of the dish.


The Best Chicken and Sweet Leek Pie with Flaky Pastry

A wise man once said, “homemade pot pie is waaaayyyyyyy better than frozen pot pie”. And today, I can say that I whole-heartedly agree.

Let’s backtrack. I didn’t grow up on the typical American diet, but rather, on my grandmother’s cooking, which is largely Sichuan with some Taiwanese strewn about. This happens when one is born and raised in the US, but under the strict surveillance of immigrant parents. But my parents weren’t totally heartless–I had my fair share of McDonald’s Happy Meals and macaroni-spaghetti. Oh, and microwaveable chicken pot pie, courtesy of Marie Callender’s. In my mother’s defense, she really tried her best to incorporate Western cuisine in our diet. But whipping up an American feast was not instinctual. And pot pie was one of those mythical dishes that seemed impossible to make. I mean, the buttery, flaky crust alone…how does one…

With leftover roast chicken finding solace in my fridge, I decided that it was time to disturb the peace and make a pot pie. I had seen a gorgeous-looking chicken pot pie in the Jamie’s Dinners book that needed to be brought to life. The other challenge was to use everything left over from the last meal, which has been an uphill battle since I started cooking on my own. As you can see from the last post, I had plenty of purple potatoes and onions left. All I needed was some carrots for the mire poix, which was merely a quick visit to the market. But at the checkout counter, I suddenly remembered the other essential piece of the pot pie puzzle– flaky pie crust! I hurriedly grabbed the frozen Pepperidge Farms puff pastry dough and tried not to feel too guilty about the short cut. EDITOR’S NOTE: Jamie actually calls for packaged puff pastry in the recipe. Phew.

Making pot pie isn’t as daunting as one would think. It’s actually kind of a meditative experience. There’s a lot of stirring and waiting involved. Basically, you chop everything up and cook it all together in a pot over the fire. I took a detour from Jamie’s original recipe since I was working with pre-cooked chicken, which clearly would yield no broth. I used boxed chicken broth instead, using more of the broth than milk. I figured that I’d at least try to make a healthy pie. (I always have chicken broth on hand- it’s such a great substitute for salt and butter and I often stir a little bit of broth into my cooked veggies.)

After all’s said and done, the defrosted puff pastry was rolled out over the pie dish and the cooked chicken stew. With a little egg wash and fake knife-drawn lattice pattern, the pie was ready to be baked. And while it was baking and filling the kitchen with a scent that caused hunger pangs, I made a quick butter lettuce salad.

When the pie was ready, it had a perfect golden brown crust. I was really impressed with how beautiful it turned out. At first it looked a little puffed up on steroids, but after a few pokes with a fork, the pie crust found its way back down to earth.

Using my Alessi pie server, I served myself perhaps the most scintillating pot pie experience, ever. Maybe I was tipsy from all wine that went into the stew or maybe making my own pie was just that extraordinary of a feat, but I ate myself silly and have been dusting off my shoulder since then. I wonder if my mother would prefer it over Marie Callender’s?

Maybe not.

Choppity chop chop

So. Much. Chopping

A colorful mélange of a delicious mire poix

ROYGBIV vegetable action

If you think Brits look doughy…how about this raw pie crust?

Pepperidge Farms did not let me down!

I must say, this is the best pot pie I’ve ever had. Yes, I am patting myself on the back right now.

Now you see it…

And now you don’t.

Serves 4-6
Olive oil
2 knobs of butter
2 medium leeks, trimmed, washed, sliced into ½-inch pieces
2 carrots, peeled, roughly chopped
2 sticks of celery, finely sliced
3 cloves garlic, smashed
handful of thyme leaves
2-3 cups of left over shredded roast chicken
leftover roasted potatoes/onions/veggies
2 tablespoons flour
salt and pepper
1 glass white wine
½ cup milk
1 cup organic free range chicken broth
chopped parsley

1 sheet all-butter puff pastry from package
1 egg (for wash)

Preheat oven to 425˚F. Add oil to medium pot over medium heat. Add leeks, carrots, celery, garlic and thyme and cook until soft and translucent, about 15 minutes. Add flour and keep stirring. Add chicken and other leftover vegetables. Season with salt and pepper. Add wine, milk, and broth. Continue stirring and cooking for about 30 minutes until stew is thick. Stir it every so often so it doesn’t catch on the bottom of pan. Sprinkle chopped parsley before removing from heat.

Pour chicken mixture into 9-inch round pie dish. Roll out pastry to about ¼-inch thick. Egg-wash rim of dish and drape over pastry. Use knife to trim edge of dish. Use back of knife to lightly criss-cross the top (this allows pastry to go crisp and flaky). Bake in oven until crust is golden brown, about 30-40 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.


Roast Chicken with Lemon and Rosemary Roast Potatoes deconstructed

This past weekend, I had the luxury of spending 4tj of July in the Bay Area, among the bounty of delicious foods and superb bread. I wouldn’t say that SF and/or Berkeley surpasses us in fine dining or ethnic foods, but Northern California bread is pretty hard to beat, especially with Acme doling out its beautiful baguettes. While this post is not entirely about bread (and mostly about chicken as you can see), it was the natural precursor to chicken consumption. How can one enjoy really fresh-baked, local bread without wanting some kind of equally fresh protein?

I returned from 6 hours on the road with an Acme baguette and a hankering for some really good roast chicken. Roasting chicken has never been my thing. I always find chicken roasted at home to be too dry and bland. My friend Alice recently cooked up a pretty good bird that was juicy and lemony. I wanted to see what Jamie would do in my situation, so I decided to test his Roast Chicken recipe online. Lucky for me, a friend emerged from the woodworks with a desire to cook chicken as well. That friend and I decided that it would be “chicken” night at my house, though I felt it was more like Acme baguette-night with a side of roast chicken.

Jamie says to go for organic, free-range chicken. We found one at Gelson’s that was the perfect size, enough for 2-4 people. A bouquet garni was prepared in advance; it was some rosemary, parsley, and thyme, tied up and stuffed in the chicken cavity. We also cut up some lemon halves to be “jammed” inside the chicken. Jamie says that “the benefits of the hot steaming lemon going into the chicken are very obvious as the meat tastes amazing, and the chicken cooks slightly quicker because of it.” Everything else that happened was more spontaneous. I had to put the recipe down because what with poultry juice all over my hands, it seemed necessary to go with gut instinct from then on. A garlic, parsley, French butter compound was rubbed all over the chicken exterior and thinly sliced lemon was neatly inserted under the skin. Under the roasting rack and in the pan, we placed thinly sliced onions, more lemon, and purple potato pieces lightly seasoned with salt and pepper. The side veggies needed very little flavor enhancement. Chicken fat alone would be flavor enough.

We popped the set up in the oven and during the 30 minute wait period, I cut up some Acme bread and made a grilled peach salad with leftover arugula, toasted walnuts, goat cheese, and peaches. Like I said, I wasn’t expecting too much from the chicken so I was sure I would be happy just with the salad and bread. But then…

The roast chicken emerged from the oven and holy mother of God, it was glistening with juice and begging me to eat it. The slightly charred skin looked crispy enough for my tastes. And the smell of citrus drowned out any desire to kill off the rest of the bread. We watched in awe as the juice just squirted with each slice. Ok, that sounds a bit pornographic, but I was truly in an insatiable beast-state of mind. And I didn’t even describe the potatoes yet...

The chicken dinner was simple, light yet hearty, and yielded enough leftover chicken for additional meals, and perhaps two of the best meals I’ve whipped up in ages…

Stay tuned…

Sitting pretty on the rack; about to get some sauna work.

Acme bread, gazing up at me, wanting to be devoured.

Almost being devoured!

Now, tell me this isn’t a Bon Appétit magazine cover shot!?

This was really tasty. Purple potatoes and onions with chicken fat, a sprinkling of sea salt, and tons of lemon juice!

Acme Bread Company
1601 San Pablo Ave
(between Cedar St & Hopkins St)
Berkeley, CA 94702
(510) 524-1327