cayenne pepper

The humongous bag of Meyer lemons our friend Kristen gave us in early April lasted for more than a month. I just love how aromatic Meyer lemon juice and zest are. Sometimes I just enjoy eating them whole, skin and all. When I saw this recipe for pickled Meyer lemons on Just Homemade, I knew what to do with the remaining 8 lemons in the fridge.

Indian inspired Meyer lemon pickle

Indian inspired Meyer lemon pickle

Preserved lemons are super simple to make and work beautifully as an added flavor to stews, couscous, pilafs, grilled fish and the list goes on. Rely on them to add another dimension of flavor. If you haven’t yet tasted preserved lemon, then what are you waiting for?

I’ve never had pickled Meyer lemons before so this was exciting!! The original recipe calls for chili pepper powder. However because I’m wild about chili powder and spices, I got creative. I used three kinds plus added some nigella seeds to the pickle. I sort of respected the overall proportion of chili dictated by the original recipe.

Indian inspired Meyer lemon pickle

8 Meyer lemons, lightly scrubbed with a sponge, rinsed, dried, quartered and seeded
4 tbsp sea salt (or less)
3 tbsp gochugaru pepper flakes
¾ tbsp pasilla pepper powder
¾ tbsp cayenne pepper powder
1 tsp nigella seeds (kalonji)
2 tbsp fenugreek powder
2 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
Couple of pinches asafetida

Glass jar cleaned and thoroughly dried
Parchment paper, cut to fit the top of the jar

step one, preserving the lemons:

lemon quarters and salt ready to cure

lemon quarters and salt ready to cure

Begin by adding ¾ tbsp salt to the bottom of glass jar. Partially squeeze the juice of a few lemon quarters. Arrange these partially squeezed quarters at the bottom of the jar. Sprinkle with salt. Repeat process until done. Place parchment paper on top of the jar and cover with lid. Give it a good shake so salt dissolves and juices permeate lemons. Let stand at room temperature for about 5 days. Shake the jar every day to ensure juices percolate through the lemon pieces.

….on the 4th or 5th day, step 2:

Heat a skillet on high. Add fenugreek seeds and barely warm them through. This process will bring the aromas out. Don’t toast or burn it. It will be too bitter. I burned mine the first time around so had to re-do this part. Transfer to a grinder and whiz it to pulverize. Set aside.

Return pan to the heat; add oil followed by the mustard seeds and cook until seeds begin to pop. Remove from heat. Add asafetida and let cool completely to room temperature.

Add chili peppers, nigella seeds, and ground fenugreek to a stainless steel bowl. Mix to combine. Empty the jar of lemons with the liquid over the spices. Mix to combine. Add cooled combo of popped mustard, asafetida and oil to the lemons and toss to combine.

Return lemons to the jar with the entire thick sauce. Cover and refrigerate. Use as a condiment or serve it as a side dish. This is salty so use it parsimoniously. Once we finish this batch I am going to experiment with it to make a less salty version.

We enjoyed this delicious pickled Meyer lemon last Monday with a basmati pilaf Steven made like this one.

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fried lotus root chips

by Stevie on March 1, 2011

I was so impressed with myself after making fried lotus root chips. To me, these are the be-all, end-all of exotic vegetables. How disappointing (and slightly embarrassing) to read later in the raw epicurean that lotus root can be a potato-substitute and on serious eats all the myriad ways one might prepare them. Well, in my defense I grew up in the suburbs in Virginia. In the Eighties, this was not lotus-root country. But armed with my new knowledge, it only makes me want to experiment more with this delightful rhizome.

fried lotus root chips

fried lotus root chips

Serious eats has an incredibly thorough description of the lotus root, including how it grows, its meaning in Asian cultures and various preparations. I knew about lotus roots and lotus flowers all this time but somehow never put two-and-two together. They’re from the same plant. I suppose that I’d always imagined all those images of the Buddah meditating on a lotus flower as part of a mystical theology that had no clear relationship to my dinner plate. Turns out that the flower, the younger leaves and the lotus root are all edible. Hmm.

I got my lotus root pre-peeled from Nijiya Market, which saved a little time.

packaged peeled lotus root

packaged peeled lotus root

fried lotus root chips

2 lotus roots, peeled and sliced thin
Vegetable oil to fry
Splash of olive oil
Kosher salt to taste
Pinch of cayenne pepper

All I did was slice it thinly, fry it in some vegetable oil mixed with a splash of olive oil, let it drain for a bit on paper towels and sprinkled the chips with salt and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Yum!

Next time, I’m going to try something a bit more ambitions.


high-protein tofu parmesan

by Stevie on June 11, 2010

I don’t like tofu substitute foods at all. Usually they repulse me, in fact. All of that fake tofu sausage, “tofu chicken,” tofurkey, whatever: yuk! But I actually do like tofu, so long as it’s not pretending to be something else. Generally, the soft tofu is best, I think, because it has an interesting texture and is very versatile. The firmer ones get more and more like bricks and don’t meld well with the other ingredients in a dish. I sort of overcame that last week with the Mediterranean lemon tofu with artichokes, olives and herbs dish. The tofu was super firm, but since it was the center of attention, it worked okay with the dish.

high-protein tofu parmesan

Maybe that’s a meat-eating issue? Traditionally, isn’t the meat served at the center of the dish with all of the vegetable and starch “sides” just that: on the side? But it doesn’t have to be that way. Lots of Chinese dishes, for instance, use meat and/or tofu sort of blended in with the rest of the ingredients. Everything has equal pride of place. Perhaps those tofu substitute foods are for folks who haven’t figured out how to make the mental switch from meaty dishes and servings to a different cooking and presentation strategy?

Well, today you folks are in luck, because this dish has you written all over it!

In my family, whatever-parmesan has gone through an evolution. When I was a young child, my mother would make this with veal: veal parmesan. I used to love it! But eventually, as people became more knowledgeable about food and the poor conditions in which “veal” are raised, she refused to make it any longer. Instead, she switched to chicken parmesan. Of course, most chickens are raised in dreadful conditions, too. But at home, that wasn’t a concern for some reason. Instead, the issue was that Mom’s allergic to fowl: hence, the transition to eggplant parmesan. I like that just fine and have been making it periodically for ages. But back to tofu!

We had this block of the stuff sitting around in the fridge. What to do? I thought that it might be a good substitute for… eggplant! That’s right, a tofu substitute for a vegetable. Got you, didn’t I?

It’s made more or less the same way as all of the whatever-parmesan dishes are: batter fried then baked in cheese with tomato sauce. I made a double batch of the Roman style tomato sauce and used mozzarella and grated parmesan for baking.

It worked well but the texture wasn’t much like eggplant. Perhaps if I had used soft tofu? But then it would probably have fallen apart while frying, so wouldn’t work. The flavor was different, but what it most reminded me of was… veal. Oh dear!

high-protein tofu parmesan

1 lb. block of high protein, extra firm tofu
Kosher salt
3 eggs
3 tbsp. plus more grated Parmigiano Reggiano
2 cups Italian breadcrumbs
3 tbsp. flour
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
½ tsp. dried basil
Fresh black pepper
6 anchovy fillets (optional)
Vegetable oil for frying
Splash of extra virgin olive oil
6 slices mozzarella cheese
Tomato sauce of your choosing

Rinse tofu then slice into ½ inch rectangular pieces along the longest part of the block. Place in a bowl with a couple teaspoons of salt. Fill with water to cover tofu. Allow to soak in this brine for at least thirty minutes.

Beat eggs with 3 tbsp. Parmigiano Reggiano and a pinch of salt in a shallow bowl. In a second bowl, add breadcrumbs, flour, cayenne, basil, several turns from a mill of black pepper and a pinch of salt. Mix dry ingredients with a fork.

tofu slices soaking in egg mixture

Heat oil in a large skillet. Use enough to immerse tofu pieces. Add the splash of olive oil and anchovies to frying oil to increase flavor. Fried anchovies can be added to the dish for baking, too.

While oil heats, rinse tofu and dip first in egg mixture then in dry mixture to completely cover with crumbs. Fry in oil for about three to five minutes on a side. Turn to finish frying. Tofu doesn’t need to be cooked so just fry the cutlets until they turn a golden brown. Remove from oil to large platter covered with paper towels to drain.

Pre heat to 350F.

Pour some tomato sauce in the bottom of a large glass baking dish. Layer with fried tofu. Spread mozzarella slices over tofu. Cover with more tomato sauce then sprinkle with grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Cover with foil and bake about 20 to 30 minutes until cheese melts.

I served this with a simple pasta sautéed in olive oil, garlic, crushed red pepper and more grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

high-protein tofu parmesan served family style, what else?


oven roasted sweet potatoes before "the accident"

Eat your sweet potatoes! They’re tasty (and sweet). They make a perfect side dish for almost any meal: breakfast, lunch or dinner. They’re good snacks, too. Plus they’re nutritious with loads of vitamin A, complex carbs, protein and so on.

This oven-baked sweet potato chip recipe is really easy to make. It’s delicious and has vibrant and inviting colors, which adds to their overall appeal. Unfortunately, we only had the chance to sample a few from this batch. You see, I accidentally dropped the tray on the floor! Ughhh! According to Murphy’s Law, the buttered side of the bread always hits the ground first. Well, in my case, the sweet potatoes made it first. I’m not that clumsy normally. I just don’t know what really happened to me that day, At least Clarence loved the extra treat he got for dinner that day.

Oven-baked Sweet Potato Chips

4 longish sweet potatoes in mixed colors (mine were orange and yellow)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp canola oil
1-2 tbsp potato flour
Cayenne pepper (optional)
Sprinkle of lemon juice (optional)

Pre-heat oven to 450F.

Peel sweet potatoes and cut into long strips or chips. Add to a bowl and toss with salt, pepper and oil. Dust chips with flour. Place chips sparsely on a tray that has been greased or lined with parchment paper. Transfer to oven and bake for about 10 minutes. Carefully turn chips over and bake an additional 15 minutes or until chips have shriveled up a bit and become browned.

Serve hot but be careful: these things can quickly get out of hand and hit the floor!


I’ve been feeling like eating Indian food lately. There are a few great restaurants here in San Francisco for South Indian, like Dosa and Udupi Palace. However, whenever possible, I prefer making Indian food at home. This way I learn more about the cuisine and I can play with the ingredients that go into each dish.
Often, I’ll use less ghee or cream or even replace them with something else. We’re trying to eat less dairy lately. Adding things like edamame is also something that works well though I suspect that you won’t find that at an Indian restaurant.

spicy Indian-style cauliflower with edamame

I served this spicy cauliflower with okra edamame aloo mutter and cumin carrot basmati rice. The meal was delightful, flavorful and the leftovers; as is frequently the case, was even more incredible.

pan roasted cauliflower at rest

Spicy Indian-style Cauliflower with Edamame

1 head of cauliflower, broken into small florets
1 cup frozen edamame
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 onion, minced in food processor
3 ripe Roma tomatoes, skin removed, chopped
1 tsp fresh ground ginger
1 tsp fresh mashed garlic
1/8 tsp cayenne chili pepper
Kosher salt
Pinch garam masala
4 tbsp olive oil

cumin seeds make this dish pop!

Place 1 tbsp of oil in a hot skillet. Add cauliflower and cook on high, stirring occasionally until cauliflower browns a bit. Set aside. Add remaining oil to skillet. Add cumin seeds and toast a minute or so. Add onion and garlic. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until raw smells are gone and the air gets permeated with a sweet onion aroma. Add tomatoes and cook until dissolved. Fold in cauliflower and garam masala. Salt to taste. Cook for another 10 minutes over very low heat. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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simple shrimp stir fry

by Jasmine Turner on August 25, 2009

enjoying simple shrimp stir fry with a glass of wine

enjoying simple shrimp stir fry with a glass of wine

I wanted to impress my husband, as usual; and also cook up something tasty and healthy. WC crew members are constantly surprising me and wooing me with cooking inspirations. Because I’m sort of a newbie home chef and kinda wobbly when with complex recipes, simple preparations are very appealing! All the hype about the Julie & Julia movie and the fun and joy cooking brings me also got me warmed up.

My Dad used to make tofu stir-fry all the time! That’s the origin of my Timely Tasty Tophu. Over the years I’ve learned to appreciate all the healthy food he cooked and prepared for us with so much love and care! Ahh Dada! Thanks! Sorry I was such a bratty gal and didn’t want veggies, brown rice, and tofu back then. Ironically now I cook with “his” ingredients and find them delicious!

Stir fry is generally healthy, as they’re mostly some type of protein with veggies and a bit of oil. Really, they’re an ideal food combination. I did some reading about food combining. They suggest that mixing protein with veggies is better than protein with starch. This is kind of one of the themes in French Women Don’t Get Fat too. That book also says that American women find dining out is seductive but French women think cooking at home is sexy! Since I love the French, and it is Julia Child’s birth month, it just fits that I should be making this perfect healthy meal for in-house dining.

Originally, I tried this with the pre-prepared bag of veggies form TJ’s and made it with tofu. It was good but I thought that I could improve on it with shrimp and selecting my own fresh veggies. I used frozen shrimp from TJ’s and the dish turned out to be perfect! This recipe only takes ten to 20 minutes to prepare and then you’ve got your din-din!

stir frying the previously frozen shrimp

stir frying the previously frozen shrimp

Simple Shrimp Stir Fry


3 cloves garlic
½ each of a green and red bell pepper
½ cup snow peas
½ onion
3 tablespoons chopped ginger
1 cup bean sprouts
½ cup TJ’s or other cooked frozen shrimp (tofu, or other meats or faux meats will work too)
Olive oil for pan
3 teaspoons of low salt soy sauce or Tamari
Cayenne pepper or other hot sauce (optional for use as a condiment)

Process: Defrost the shrimp.
Chop: onions, ginger, garlic, and bell peppers and set aside.
Heat pan with olive oil and then set the shrimp in the pan and turn them until they are to your liking, (I like them a little crispy with some brown edges, but you may prefer a pinker tone)
Add the rest of the ingredients and stir around until the onions and bell peppers look a little crispy, and “Voila” it’s ready to serve! Enjoy!

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It’s another end of the week and the fridge is getting empty; just a few items left here and there. I opened the fridge and just found 2 green cayenne peppers, a red bell pepper, 1 onion, 2 Serrano chilies, 3 ultra ripe tomatoes, 4 cloves of garlic, and a container of tofu. Slim pickin’s!

close up of my spicy pepper and tofu entree

close up of my spicy pepper and tofu entree

I remember I went to an Indonesian restaurant in the gourmet ghetto of Berkley few months ago. We had gone for an art show benefit at the greenlighting institute where our friend Christian works. But looking at art can make a man hungry. At the restaurant I ordered a dish with vegetables that was oozy, spicy, sweet, savory and sour. Basically perfect. I forget the exact name and my online search did not return any result. All I can say is that it was tasty and healthy. So I tried to reproduce it at home as follows:

Vegetarian Spicy Tofu and Pepper Surprise Entrée

3 tbsp canola oil
All the veggies above roughly chopped (remove the ribs and seeds of Serrano peppers)
1/3 cup ketchup
Black pepper
Rinsed and dried tofu cut into medium sized cubes

How too:
Using a non stick pan, add oil and sauté peppers and onion for about 10 minutes on high heat, stirring constantly until vegetables shrink and begin to brown. Add garlic and tomato, stir. Let cook until tomato pieces collapse and skin begins to separate from flesh. Remove tomato skin if you wish. Add salt and black pepper to taste. Add ketchup and tofu. Give it a good stir and cook for another 5-8 min so all flavors marry together.

Serve it over Thai fragrant jasmine rice. The crowd will love it! This time around though, I served it with my Japanese kabocha risotto.

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quinoa love

by Heguiberto on July 25, 2009

it's always a party with quinoa love!

it's always a party with quinoa love!

This is the best time of the year for locally grown produce: Summer! Last Sunday we went to the farmers market at the UN plaza and found beautiful vegetables on sale for cheap! In fact vegetables are always cheap at this market. Many times they are organically grown or at least grown free of pesticides which is a good thing. This week the organically grown collard greens were on sale: 3 large bunches for only 2 bucks. The dry farmed cherry tomatoes were just a dollar a pound. You really can’t beat that anywhere else in San Francisco. Dry framed tomatoes may not be the cutest but I think that they’re especially flavorful due to the stress the plant goes through receiving only rain water. Don’t be afraid of vegetables that don’t appear classically shaped or colored. In the case of tomatoes, for example, the oddly shaped and colored ones tend to be more packed with flavor that the more conventional round, plump red ones. I almost wonder why they still even produce the flavorless tennis-ball varieties anymore.

fresh collard greens from the farmers market

fresh collard greens from the farmers market

The same day that we went to the farmer’s market we were also invited to our friend, John’s house for dinner, sort of last minute. I was already preparing Quinoa Love, so we offered to bring it over. Amazingly, John was thinking of making the same dish himself that very night! It was kismet, no?

How could we decline having a meal with friends? The food always tastes even better and more company makes the conversation more lively. Plus Clarence, our bulldog, was invited. He really enjoys visiting John’s. So it was a win-win situation all around.

This recipe is simple though it requires several steps to make. It is a complete meal packing everything you need including lots of protein coming from the tofu and quinoa. The meal is ultra healthy and light and tasty. This is not one of those old-fashioned hippie vegetarian recipes with no flavor that makes you run to the loo the whole next day, so don’t worry! It has tons of flavor, interesting textures and is a real crowd pleaser every time. I’ve served this to people who’ve never had quinoa and to regular meat eaters and never had any complaints. Actually they ask for more most of the time.

A note on quinoa, I thought that quinoa was a cereal much like rice or corn, but I was wrong about that. It’s what they call a “pseudo-cereal.” Apparently it’s related to beets and spinach. Even so, you can cook quinoa much the same way you would when making rice. In the taste department I would say it is nutty and smells a bit like oatmeal. Quinoa is another exquisite and nutritious contribution from the Americas to world cuisine.

Quinoa Love

TJ's quinoa

TJ's quinoa

Here’s the recipe:

1 cup of dry quinoa, rinsed
1 bunch of collard greens, rinsed, stems* removed with leaves cut in thin strips 2-3 inches long
1 ½ lbs. cherry tomatoes
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp sugar
5 ears of fresh sweet corn
½ bunch of Italian parsley chopped
1 block of tofu cut into 5 squares
Pinch cayenne pepper
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tsp of balsamic vinegar
½ cup pesto American Style
½ jar of sundried tomatoes packed in oil, cut into strips
4 cloves of garlic
Kosher salt
Fresh black pepper
¾ cup pumpkin seeds

*Collard green stems tastes like broccoli, don’t discard them just steam them and add to salads, soup, rice, etc

How to:

Cut tomatoes in halves. Toss with sugar, olive oil, salt and black pepper. Place tomato halves on a cooking pan cut side up and bake it in the oven for about 50 minutes at approximately 380F.

Add quinoa to a pan with 2 cups of water and salt, heat to boiling then turn temperature to low. Simmer covered for 15 to 18 minutes. Remove from heat. Let rest for 5 min.

chopping collard greens

chopping collard greens

Lay tofu squares on a dish, sprinkle salt, black pepper, cayenne and nutritional yeast over it on both sides. Add 2 tbsp olive oil to a pan and sauté tofu squares about 5 min per side. Sprinkle balsamic vinegar over them. Remove from pan and set aside. Using the same pan, add two tbsp of olive oil and 2 crushed garlic cloves. Sauté till fragrant. Add collard greens. Toss to coat with olive oil. Sauté for about 5 minutes until collard greens have wilted to about half of the original volume and the color is bright green. Remove from pan and set aside. Using the same pan, heat 4 tbsp olive oil and the remaining garlic. Sauté till fragrant then add corn, salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper. Cook corn for about 5 minutes while occasionally stirring. Add parsley to corn about half way through cooking. Remove from pan and set aside.

To assemble the dish mix the quinoa, corn, collard greens, pumpkin seeds, sundried tomatoes together in a large bowl. Stir in pesto. Place mix in a large serving dish. Cut tofu squares diagonally into triangles and lay them on top of the quinoa mix. Top with baked tomatoes, along with their juices. This dish makes about ten to twelve servings. It tastes great the next day too.

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eggplant parmigiano

July 23, 2009

I rarely make this recipe now that I’ve entered “middle age” with all of the inherent health “issues.” However, once in a while it’s fun to be a bit naughty and Hegui loves the dish. When I was a kid, my mother would regularly make it, or the meaty versions with chicken or veal, for […]

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feta zucchini borek

July 21, 2009

For the Macedonian party we had the other day I made borek. This classic dish also goes by börek or burek depending on the nationality of origin. Aleks introduced me to it the last time we went over for BBQ at his place and I fell in love with it. It was lightly pan fried […]

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