Labneh is sort of a Lebanese version of sour cream or perhaps a very creamy cream cheese. Joumana uses it to great effect on her food blog. Look here, here and here for some excellent ideas. Hegui was so inspired that he bought a large container of labneh, mostly to snack on, it seems. I used it with this quick bread as I thought the tanginess would complement the pumpkin and herbs. You can use it like sour cream in most recipes that call for it. I wonder how Polish sour soup would taste with labneh? Mmmm.

savory pumpkin bread with garden herbs and labneh

savory pumpkin bread with garden herbs and labneh

This recipe comes from, though I’ve modified it a bit. Aside from adding dollops of labneh, I used a bit less sugar, soy milk instead of cow’s milk, and more randomly mixed in herbs from our community garden plot. In mine, I used chives, mint and sage. You can add basil and cilantro, too. I thought about Italian parsley but decided that it would overpower everything else. Next time, I intend to top the loaves with jalapeño slices for a bit of heat.

my container of labneh, here spelled labne

my container of labneh, here spelled labne

savory pumpkin bread with garden herbs and labneh

2 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
½ cup soy milk
1 cup mashed pumpkin (here it was kabocha)
2 cups flour
1 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
3 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp mixed fresh herbs
1 tsp per mini-loaf labneh

Preheat oven to 350F.

Beat eggs then mix in liquid ingredients, pumpkin and herbs. In another bowl, blend dry ingredients. Then mix into wet. I used disposable mini-loaf pans to reduce mess. If you use a regular baking dish, grease liberally. Add batter to mini-loafs just over half full. Dollop labneh in center of each mini-loaf. Bake about 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.


I made this tasty and healthy dish from germinated red lentils. Hegui sprouted them from dried a few days before. Inspired by all the fresh herbs in our community garden plot, I used a mix of chive, mint, Italian parsley, sage and lemon thyme. Any combination might do. The kale stems are sort of optional. They add a nice green color. And of course we have a huge abundance of them with the success of the kale right now. What do you do with your leftover kale stems?

germinated red lentil sprouts with fresh garden herbs

germinated red lentil sprouts with fresh garden herbs

This sauté reminds me of a warm salad. Fragrant from the herbs and nutty, the lentils are a bit crunchy, too.

germinated red lentil sprouts with fresh garden herbs

2 cups germinated red lentil sprouts
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 cup kale stems with some leaves, finely sliced
3 tbsp olive oil
½ cup dry white wine
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 to 2 tbsp fresh herbs: chive, mint, Italian parsley, sage, thyme

Heat olive oil in medium skillet. Add onion. Sauté on medium until onion becomes translucent. Add kale stems and garlic. Sauté a bit more then add white wine, cover pan and allow to steam. Add sprouted red lentil and fold vegetables together. Add salt and black pepper to taste. Cover and cook until lentils heat through. Mix in fresh herbs. Serve.


The inspiration for this dish came from necessity: Hegui carved a truly gigantic French pumpkin into medium sized cubes to make pumpkin coconut compote, but there was too much pumpkin. He also made a variation on Brazilian quibebe, but there was still too much pumpkin. He gave some to Jasmine T for her pumpkin pie obsession, but, still, there was too much pumpkin.

What to do?

ravioli stuffed with pumpkin and shitake in sage and trumpet mushroom sauce

ravioli stuffed with pumpkin and shitake in sage and trumpet mushroom sauce

There are lots of recipes for ravioli stuffed with pumpkin all over the Internet. Here’s one; and another; and one more. I ended up with a variation on What’s Cooking America’s shitake pumpkin raviolis.

We had just been to Nijiya Market so we were well stocked with interesting mushrooms. Their recipe uses wonton wrappers to make the shell. Instead I went back to the Cookie Crumbles and prepared their dough, which apparently comes from Marcella Hazan. I love her! I won’t re-write the dough making process in detail, but suffice it to say, I followed the instructions to the letter. Check the link to make this yourself. Since most of the fun of ravioli making lies in the production of the pasta, I’ll summarize what we did (this is a two-person job).

I made a mushroom sauce, which is not at all necessary. I just happened to have a lot of mushrooms for Chinese New Year. Really just olive oil, garlic, salt and black pepper would do.

ravioli stuffed with pumpkin and shitake in sage and trumpet mushroom sauce

for dough:

2 cups flour (I used all purpose)
3 eggs

for shitake pumpkin filling:

4 cups fresh French pumpkin or butternut squash (un-cooked)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 to 2 cups white wine
8 medium shitake mushrooms, stems removed and chopped fine
2 shallots, peeled and chopped fine
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
¼ cup mozzarella, shredded
¼ cup parmesan cheese
1 tsp minced fresh sage
black pepper to taste
kosher salt to taste

for trumpet mushroom sauce:

1 cup trumpet (or other) mushrooms
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter (optional)
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tbsp minced fresh sage
Kosher salt to taste
Black pepper to taste

at this point, pasta strips are about half-way flattened

at this point, pasta strips are about half-way flattened

To make pasta:

Usually you’re supposed to pour the flour on a work-surface then mix in the egg. Counter space is at a premium in my tiny kitchen so I beat the eggs for a couple minutes in a small bowl, then mixed them with the flour in another. Then I dumped everything onto a floured surface and kneaded it for eight (8) minutes. (I set my kitchen timer.) The kneading is the key step and really it is sort of magical as about seven minutes on, suddenly the flour-egg dough starts to do something amazing! It turns into pasta! You can feel it in your hands literally changing. Sure, that is what you’re making so should not come as a surprise to anyone. Nevertheless, whenever I make pasta, I am always stunned that it actually works!

Roll dough into a ball then cut it into six equal pieces. With your pasta machine on the widest setting, roll each piece through once. Then fold the edges of each piece together towards the middle and pass it through the machine again, still at the widest setting. Repeat with each piece so that they’ve all been rolled and folded about three times. When not working with a piece, lay it on a clean kitchen towel and be sure not to let it touch any of the other dough.

Here we've completed rolling the pasta. Look how long they've gotten!  They barely fit on the counter any more.

Here we've completed rolling the pasta. Look how long they've gotten! They barely fit on the counter any more.

After that, reduce the width of your pasta maker by one notch and pass each piece through. They will slowly start to get longer. Repeat at next lower notch and so on until you get to the penultimate. By now, your dough should be quite thin and very long. This is why it helps to have an extra set of hands. (Also it is good if your pasta machine has the clamp part that holds it to the counter! I lost ours so Hegui had to do double-duty—holding the machine down as I cranked it and holding the ends of the long pasta sheets to prevent them touching one another or falling to the floor.) Once you’ve finished set aside.

placing the filling on the pasta

placing the filling on the pasta

To make filling:

In a medium saucepan, add 1 tbsp olive oil, some salt and pumpkin. Cook on high for a few minutes then add white wine. Cover, bring to a boil then reduce to simmer. Cook until pumpkin is soft (about 45 minutes). Add more white wine as needed.

Remove from heat then either run through a food processor or strainer. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, add remaining olive oil, some salt, shallot, garlic and shitake. Sweat for about ten minutes. Add black pepper, sage then fold into pumpkin. Let cool. Mix in cheeses.

To assemble ravioli:

Use about a tablespoon of filling for each ravioli. Start on one end of ribbon of pasta leaving about an inch border. Place the filling in a small mound. Continue along the strip of pasta, spacing them about 1½ inches apart. My pasta was not as wide as I had hoped so I ended up covering one strip with another. If yours turns out to be wider, then fold over. Use a little water to close the pasta making sure to push out air bubbles. I cut ours with a knife to make sort of freeform shapes. (I don’t have a pasta cutter.) Make sure that you don’t let individual ravioli touch one-another as they’ll stick.

cutting the stuffed pasta into ravioli

cutting the stuffed pasta into ravioli

To prepare final dish:

Boil ravioli in salted water about four minutes. Meanwhile, sauté mushrooms in olive oil, garlic, and butter until they are cooked. Add sage, salt and black pepper to taste. Drain ravioli and add to pan with sauce. Carefully toss together. Serve.


Delfina is my favorite restaurant in San Francisco. I really love other places, like The Slanted Door and Gary Danko, but to me Delfina reigns supreme. They make Italian food with a California influence, or perhaps it’s vice-versa? We’ve been going there for years now to celebrate special occasions. The reason we enjoy Delfina sparingly is not because of the price as it’s affordable. Rather, it’s because it’s small and very popular. Thus you need a reservation well in advance unless you’re willing to wait interminably. And it’s only for special occasions that we ever get around to planning things. I keep wishing that they’d expand their business so it would be easy and convenient to get in last minute. But at the same time perhaps it’s better this way: small and of consistently high quality. Well enough free advertisement for Delfina!

warm white bean frisée salad with grilled calamari

Last week, I was channeling Delfina and decided to try reproducing what for me is one of their signature dishes: warm bean salad and frisée topped with grilled baby calamari. I love the creamy texture, the earthy flavor of the beans, the tanginess/bitterness of the greens and the yummy umami flavor of the grilled baby squid. The restaurant serves this as an appetizer, but at home I made it into an entrée. I’ve no idea what their recipe is so I improvised. Nevertheless, it turned out marvelously!

warm white bean frisée salad with grilled calamari

1 cup great northern beans, picked over then soaked in water for 3 hours
8 baby calamari and tentacles, cleaned and drained
3 pressed cloves fresh garlic
Juice of 1 lemon
Zest of half lemon
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of dried savory (less than 1/3 tsp)
Pinch of dried sage (less than 1/3 tsp)
4 tbsp olive oil plus more for finishing
½ head of frisée, cleaned and cut into bite size pieces
1tsp water
1 tsp sherry vinegar

Drain soaked beans then transfer to a pot and fill with water to about 1 inch above level of beans. Bring to a boil then reduce temperature to medium/low and simmer till soft but not mushy. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Add more water if needed.

Once beans reach the texture that you like, add salt, olive oil, 2 cloves of garlic, dried savory and sage. Continue to simmer. Transfer about 2 cups of beans to a bowl and blend with a stick blender (or in a food processor) for few seconds. Return blended beans to pot, and simmer on low heat.

Meanwhile, fire up the grill and bring temp to high (450F). Season your baby calamari with salt, a clove of crushed garlic, pepper, some lemon juice and zest. Grill baby calamari for no longer than 4 minutes total, two minutes on each side. Cooking it longer will make it rubbery.

To make the salad, mix frisée with salt, pepper, lemon juice, sherry vinegar, water, olive oil and toss with your hands to coat the leaves completely with dressing.

To assemble the dish, place salad in the center, add a ladle or two of bean around it followed by calamari on top. Drizzle a bit more of olive oil and another squirt of lemon and voilà!

Note: It did take time to make, but that’s part of the inventing process. Sun Fat had two types of fresh squid, clean ones from China and whole wild ones from the Monterrey Bay, near here. I decided to go local. The disadvantage is that I had to clean them. It is a bit gruesome, but now I know how so I’ll be mentally prepared for next time.

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