I am trying to eat more healthily, but who isn’t really? I have this recipe for an omelet that I got from my acupuncturist. I’ve been going in hope of relieving a muscle spasm that has resulted from a bulging disc in my lower back.

spicy scrambled eggs with onion, garlic, celery, tomato and avocado

spicy scrambled eggs with onion, garlic, celery, tomato and avocado

He always lectures me about eating more veggies; taking proper supplements like MSM and vitamin D, iron etc.; and relaxation and exercise. It’s the same prescription for health and well-being you get across the board: eat right, exercise and relax. Life is usually good and in balance if you fulfill these basic requirements.

Anyhow, nutrition plays a big part in making the body work properly. So, I am constantly on a quest to achieve better nutrition. However, cooking omelets is still a challenge, as I can’t ever seem to turn them correctly, so inevitably I switch it up for a scramble. (I think that Julia Child had the same problem when she was starting out.)

key ingredients for spicy scrambled eggs with onion, garlic, celery, tomato and avocado

key ingredients for spicy scrambled eggs with onion, garlic, celery, tomato and avocado

I’ve been eating this quite a bit lately with pleasure and happy in the knowledge that I am following “Doctor’s orders.” My muscle spasm is improving. Who knows, maybe it’s the placebo effect. Whatever the reason, this dish is easy to make and I love to spice it up afterwards with Tabasco sauce, cayenne pepper and coriander. My acupuncturist also says to eat as much raw garlic and cayenne pepper as possible too, so I am on board with that, no problem. It probably helps with inflammation or something.

spicy scrambled eggs with onion, garlic, celery, tomato and avocado

2 eggs
¼ onion
1 clove garlic
½ avocado
½ tomato
1 teaspoon oil
some sticks of celery
cayenne, coriander and Tabasco sauce for spice (optional)
salt to taste (optional)

Crack eggs and mix up in a bowl. Chop up tomato, celery, onion and garlic into small pieces and mix in with the eggs. Heat skillet and add oil. Poor egg mixture onto hot skillet. Cook. If you’re brave, try flipping to make an omelet. Otherwise, scramble. Serve with avocado. Salt to taste. Add optional spices. Get out a plate and have a nice meal!


I don’t understand why in Brazil we call potato, ‘English Potato’ or ‘ batatinha Inglesa’ as we all know that the potato originates in another South American country: Peru. My guess is that potatoes arrived in Brazil after they’d already crossed the Atlantic to the United Kingdom and Ireland, got introduced to Portugal and then traveled closer to their home of origin from there. I’ve not researched it, so this is just speculation. I think it makes sense at least.

batatinha frita com vinagre

batatinha frita com vinagre

Well, as it turns out, the prosaic potato was not widely available in the region where I grew up in Brazil. My mother claimed that there was some sort of fungus that prevented the plants from developing properly. Since we ate mostly locally grown produce, and we couldn’t deal with the potato fungus, this delectable tuberous was something of a rare and special treat. Whenever we were so lucky as to have them, portions were parsimonious. Usually potatoes got served as a side dish to go with rice, beans, sautéed collard greens, meats and salad. That’s still more or less the way that I like them, no matter how many carbs you are ingesting. Steven finds it funny eating fried potatoes and rice at the same meal. I think it is perfect, especially if we’re talking my mother’s fried potatoes.

She always fried them in fresh neutral oil for the best flavor. If you don’t have fresh oil, then don’t bother. Towards the end of the cooking process she would toss a sliced onion and a couple of garlic cloves into the pot and let them cook for a minute to just wilt a bit. Then everything would be turned out onto an absorbing paper or kitchen towel to let the excess oil drain off. Next she’d toss the fried potato with salt, pepper and a couple of tablespoons of red wine vinegar. This is so good that my mouth has started watering as I write and remember this recipe…

I used a one-pound mélange of organic “baby” potatoes I got at our local TJ’s that came in different colors. They were incredibly sweet and had different textures. The bag had purple Peruvian, Yukon gold and Russet pink potatoes: beautiful color combinations.

batatinha frita com vinagre AKA fried baby potatoes tossed in red wine vinegar

1lb mixed organic baby potatoes, skin on, rinsed, dried and halved
1 white onion, peeled then halved and sliced into half moon shapes
2 garlic cloves
Neutral oil (e.g. canola or corn) enough to fry
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2-3 tbsp high acidity red wine vinegar or malt vinegar

Crowd halved potatoes in a small saucepan (about 1½ quarts or 6½ inches in diameter). Add enough oil to barely cover potato. Fry for about 8 minutes or until potatoes are slightly brown. Add onion and garlic towards the last minute of cooking. Fry a bit longer. Using a slotted spoon remove from oil and let drain on a paper towel for a minute. Place potato, garlic and onion in a bowl. Add salt, pepper and vinegar. Toss well and serve!

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biscoito de polvilho azedo AKA sour manioc biscuit

Growing up in the countryside in Brazil was not fun in the sense that we didn’t have a bakery to go to every morning to get bread. On the other hand, it was great because my mother liked to bake. She had a rustic wood burning oven built outside the house near the kitchen in the same style that you might see at California pizza shops. She would fire up this oven once or twice a week, to bake for the crowd. The aromas that permeated the air are still vivid from my childhood memories.

One of the things I adored was the biscoito de polvilho azedo or sour manioc biscuit. This Brazilian biscuit has the consistency of profiterole shells; they’re soft, chewy, airy inside and crunchy on the outside. But whereas profiterole shells are almost flavorless, biscoito de polvilho has a salty and tasty sour flavor which I think goes well with dinner or with a good cup of black coffee or even café au lait.

I’ve forgotten my mother’s recipe but the other day I was looking at my blogger friend, Neide Rigo’s site and found one there that resembles my mother’s. Neide calls it Rosca de Polvilho, which is the name for the same dish in the southern part of Brazil.

I made it at home and it turned out fabulously.

some key ingredients for biscoito de polvilho azedo AKA sour manioc biscuit

biscoito de polvilho azedo AKA sour manioc biscuit

1 cup flavorless oil (e.g., canola, almond)
1 cup water
2 tsp kosher salt
5 to 6 cups of sour manioc flour/starch
1 cup whole cold milk
2 eggs
grated cheddar (optional)

Pre-heat over to 485F. Grease a couple of large baking trays and set aside.

Bring water, oil and salt to a boil. Place about 3 cups of manioc flour in a large bowl. Whisk in boiling liquid to scald the manioc flour. Mix until incorporated. Add milk and eggs then continue mixing. Add remaining flour in stages until it’s all incorporated. The dough will be ready when it stops sticking to your hands.

Shape dough into ping-pong ball size rounds and place them 2 inches apart on baking tray. Bake for about 22 minutes. The biscoitos will puff up and the bottoms will brown a bit.

mixing the dough

preparing the dough for baking

hot from the oven

Serve hot. I added grated cheddar at the top for additional savory flavor, but you can leave the cheese out.


fresh cranberry quick bread

by Stevie on January 5, 2010

For ages I’ve been relying on a recipe for cranberry quick bread that I got on the back of a bag of fresh cranberries from Ocean Spray about twenty years ago. It calls for a lot of orange juice, which I find too intense. Since I don’t make the bread that often as cranberries are only really available in Fall/Winter, it’s never been a problem. I got a bag of fresh cranberries last week with vague plans of making the bread while my friend, Gordon, was visiting from New York, but I never got around to it. They’ve been sitting in my fridge until yesterday.

fresh cranberry quick bread

Over X-mas another friend, David, gave us some homemade crystallized orange and lemon peel and some mixed nuts roasted in spices. I wanted some recipe that combined all three but didn’t know where to turn. Oh, my! I looked at the New Joy. They’ve got several recipes for quick breads but strangely none with fresh cranberries. I ended up improvising, combining two of their recipes: the one for a quick bread with fresh pears and pecans, and the one for dried cranberries with nuts.

This bread is moist, light compared to other quick breads, sour from the fruit, crunchy from the nuts, chewy from the crystallized peel and sweet. I had three slices for breakie the first day!

Fresh Cranberry Quick Bread

1 bag fresh cranberries, rinsed and picked over
1 ½ cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
Zest from half lemon and half orange
Juice from one orange (I used mandarin)
¼ cup water
½ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup crystallized lemon and orange peel, chopped (optional)
½ cup mixed spiced nuts, chopped (optional)

fresh cranberry quick bread goes well with your morning coffee

Pre-heat oven to 350 F. Grease a 9” by 5” loaf pan.

Mix flour, sugar and baking soda in a bowl. Set aside.

Beat egg with vanilla, zest, orange juice, water and vegetable oil. Mix cranberries into wet ingredients. Fold dry ingredients into wet. If using crystallized peel and nuts, fold them in after batter starts to become fully moistened. Pour batter into loaf pan.

Bake for 1 ¼ hours until a toothpick piercing the center of the bread comes out clean. Remove to cooling rack. Let rest for about fifteen minutes. Remove from pan. Allow to cool completely.

Serve with coffee at breakfast, at dinner with a savory meal or as a started with a creamy goat or blue cheese.

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I’ve adapted this recipe from an original, Dau Dua Xao Tom, that calls for shrimp instead of tofu. It’s a stir fry which I think works better on a gas stove. We live in earthquake prone San Francisco so have a glass top electric one. It doesn’t caramelize like I want but still the dish turned out well. And clean up is a lot simpler.

long bean tofu stir fry, Southeast Asian style

Long Bean Tofu Stir Fry, Southeast Asian Style

1 pound tofu, cut into 1 inch thick cubes
1 tbs fish sauce
6 garlic cloves, minced
¾ tsp sugar
4tbs vegetable oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large onion cut into thin half moon slices
1½ lbs. long beans, cut into 5 inch lengths
¼ cup soy sauce
½ tbs kosher salt (optional)
4 scallions, chopped

How to:

Mix together half the minced garlic, 1 tablespoon of fish sauce, ¼ tbsp sugar and black pepper. Add tofu cubes, toss and let them marinate for approximately 30 minutes.

Steam long beans for about 5 minutes or until tender but still retaining a slight crunch.

Heat two table spoons of oil in a large skillet on high. Fry tofu with marinade for about 8 minutes turning every now and then. Transfer to a bowl. Cover to keep warm. Using the same pan add remaining oil then fry onion till golden brown. Add long beans. Toss. Add soy sauce and salt if needed. Cover pan and cook on high for a few more minutes. Return tofu to pan. Add scallions. Gently fold beans and tofu. Cook for a few minutes more then plate over rice and serve.

fresh long beans


portobello mushroom tofu

by Stevie on October 22, 2009

portobello mushroom tofu

portobello mushroom tofu

I threw this dish together the other night to go with Hegui’s kimchi fried rice. We had these stunningly beautiful portobellos from Trader Joe’s. Our original plan was to stuff them but that didn’t seem to match well with the rice. Fortunately I had some Chinese bean sauce, spicy garlic sauce and a vegetarian mushroom oyster sauce lying around. I cut the mushrooms into large cubes and the tofu into bite size ones. The mushrooms shrink with cooking, making the two about equal in size by the time the dish is served.

This dish is earthy, salty and spicy. The textures of the mushrooms and the tofu are nice contrasts. I thought that the color of the final dish was stunning visually, too.

Portobello Mushroom Tofu

black bean sauce and vegetarian mushroom oyster sauce

black bean sauce and vegetarian mushroom oyster sauce

1 package tofu, cut into bite-sized cubes
Kosher salt for tofu “bath” and to taste
4 fresh Portobello mushrooms, cleaned and cut into large cubes
2 tlbs. oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp garlic chili sauce or similar
2 tsp black bean sauce (I used Lian How Brand)
2 tsp vegetarian mushroom oyster sauce
Soy sauce to taste

To give the tofu some extra flavor, place tofu cubes in small bowl filled with warm water and about two tsps. Kosher salt. Let sit for about twenty minutes. When ready to cook, drain and rinse.

Sauté mushrooms in a non-stick pan with half the oil for about five minutes or until they have released a lot of their liquid and have shrunk in size. Set aside.

Sauté tofu in same pan with remaining oil for about five to ten minutes until tofu has browned a bit and released some of its water. Set aside with mushrooms.

Add garlic, garlic chili sauce, black bean sauce and oyster sauce to pan. Sauté for about a minute. Add mushrooms and tofu. Fold mushrooms and tofu into sauce. Add some soy sauce and salt if needed. Cover to warm through. Serve with rice.

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almost vegetarian pad Thai

almost vegetarian pad Thai

Cooking Thai food without a wok or a high octane burner can be tricky! After we moved from NYC to San Francisco we sort of stopped using our wok for cooking Asian dishes. It had a round bottom and did not sit well first on the coils of our ancient electrical stove in our Eureka Valley rental and worked even less effectively on the tempered glass cook top in our Potrero Hill condo. Eventually we did get another wok with a flat bottom but I still think it doesn’t really work because it can’t get hot enough without gas. I really miss that special touch that fire, smoke and metal brings to stir-fries with high heat, especially when cooking Thai food! Gas is dangerous in an earthquake zone, so I’d opted to just give up this kind of cooking. I didn’t see how it could possibly taste “right” with sub-optimal cooking conditions.

Well, on several occasions Steven encouraged me to try again but I kept saying “no!” Perhaps it was simply “no” without the exclamation point, but I was pretty persistent. Instead we just ate pad Thai out at restaurants. But it was never as good as I remembered when I worked at a Thai place in London in the 1990’s, or as good as the Thai restaurant near our old place in Queens. I am picky. When we traveled to Thailand, I preferred the pad Thai from Queens!

After eating a lot of second rate pad Thai and with continued domestic pressure, I decided it was about time for me to make it at home again, despite the setup not being so ideal. Instead of a wok, I am now using a non-stick heavy paella pan. It’s not quite right: a bit hard to stir and there’s that subtle smoky/high heat part still missing. Overall, though, it turns out really well. We invited our friends Carey and Wendy for a “Thai-style” dinner the other night and they approved.

Squid Brand Fish Sauce

Squid Brand Fish Sauce

This recipe feeds about 4 people with a bit left over. It requires a fair amount of prep time, but I think it is fun making it. It is nice to see how the flavors come together.

Almost Vegetarian Pad Thai without the Wok

1 package of rice noodles soaked in tepid water for 30 minutes
1 shallot, sliced
2 cloves garlic,sliced
4 whole scallions, cleaned and sliced on the bias (never discard the green parts!)
¼ of a tamarind block/bar soaked in 1 & ½ cup warm water for 20 minutes
Juice of 2 limes, plus lime wedges for decoration
5 tbsp chopped cilantro leaves
1 tbsp sugar
3 to 4 tbsp fish sauce (you could leave this out to make the dish completely vegetarian and use soy sauce instead but the taste is totally different)
1 lb block medium-firm tofu, rinsed and cut into 5 squares
3 eggs (leave yolks out if you have cholesterol concerns)
2 cups of bean sprouts (Moyashi)
5+ tablespoons canola oil

How to:

Use your fingers or a fork to mash tamarind into a thick paste. Pass it through a strainer and discard the solids (pod and seeds). For this dish you need ¾ cup of the thick paste. Left over paste can be made into a tamarind juice. Just add more water and sugar, some ice and drink it while making your pad Thai!

Add fish sauce (or soy for vegetarian) and sugar to tamarind paste. Mix.

Drain Noodles and using a pair of kitchen shears, cut strings into 10-14 inch long pieces.

frying tofu with garlic and shallot

frying tofu with garlic and shallot

Heat your paella pan or wok with one tbsp of oil. Sauté tofu squares on medium heat with garlic and shallot for about 4 minutes on each side to slightly brown. Transfer to a platter and keep warm. Return pan to burner and fry and scramble eggs for a minute or so. Reserve cooked egg with tofu. Return pan to stove, crank temperature to high and add remaining oil followed by noodles. Give it a good stir. Add half of the tamarind mixture and stir until incorporated. Add the rest tamarind mixture. Fold in egg and tofu, scallions and sprouts, garlic and shallot, stirring gently to warm everything evenly. Adjust flavor with extra fish (or soy) sauce if necessary. Add lime juice.

Transfer to a serving platter. Sprinkle with cilantro leaves and lime wedges and serve immediately.

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corny coconut corn cake

corny coconut corn cake

We ran out of bread yesterday and I forgot to stop by Whole Foods to get some more on my way home. By the time I did get home, I didn’t want to go out again for anything! We’d have been forced to have oatmeal for breakie the next day. But Steven is constantly driving me crazy with complaints about oatmeal! When will he ever learn?!

Sometimes when I’m feeling ambitious I end up making granola or another version that I call “wet granola” that is very popular in this household, but I was so not feeling it.

Steven suggested that I make a cake, but turns out that we used up all of the wheat flour. We did have the flocão that I purchased last time I went to Mercado Brasil, a store that sells Brazilian products in the Mission district here in San Francisco. Flocão is a sort of corn meal. It looks something like corn flakes and couscous at the same time. It is made by grinding yellow corn coarsely, soaking it in water, followed by baking and turning it into flakes by rolling a stone over it. Flocão is a staple in the north eastern part of the country where they steam and eat it much like couscous with smoldering savory or sweet sauces. It is pretty good. Another way to enjoy flocão is by turning it into a cake. And that’s what happened.

Whenever I do make cakes, I try to reproduce the ones I used to eat during my childhood. The first that I remember were baked by my mother. Later, my homemade cake memories come from inherited recipes elaborated upon by my older siblings: Pedro, Ana, Dora, Tinha and Nelson. They are all very talented cooks! Every time I am in Brazil I indulge myself with their amazing foods. Cheers to all you guys!

This cake has an intense coconut and corn flavor. It’s also very moist. I just love it.

Here’s the recipe:

Corny Coconut Corn Cake AKA Bolo de Flocão

2 cups of flocão (Brazilian coarse corn meal)
1 cup sugar
½ cup canola oil
1 & ½ cup soy milk
Pinch of salt
3 large eggs (1 yolk only)
1 cup dry grated coconut
1 tbsp baking powder

How to:

Grease baking pan (nine inch round glass dish) with canola oil and dust with flour (I used chickpea flour because we’d run out of wheat.)

Place flocão, sugar, salt, oil and one cup of milk in a pan, and cook the mixture on medium heat stirring constantly till thickened, about 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat and let it rest for about an hour or so till it has cooled completely.

Heat oven to 350F.

Add remaining soy milk, coconut and baking powder to batter. Using your electric mixer beat egg whites and one yolk for a couple of minutes till peaks form. Fold beaten egg into batter. Transfer to baking pan and bake for 35 to 45 minutes or till a tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Towards last five minutes increase temperature to 375F to brown the top of the cake. Serve with a good cup of black coffee or tea. This is great in the morning but also is sweet enough to make a delightful dessert.

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my spicy chana recipe

August 28, 2009

Chana is the Indian name for chick pea or garbanzo bean. My recipe is inspired by a wonderful chick pea dish called Kaabli Chana that I order from Rotee Express, an Indian restaurant that I go to for lunch every now and then. This restaurant is conveniently located around the corner from my office on […]

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vegetarian spicy tofu and pepper surprise entrée

August 12, 2009

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! […]

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