Guys! Big news.

I found roma tomatoes on the vine at the market this week. What, you thought I was going to make some other sort of announcement?!

Seriously though, if you’re in Guangzhou, put on your shoes now and run to your nearest wet market, I want to know if you find them, too.

I bought a couple pounds worth, a total impulse purchase, but one that was far wiser than other impulse purchases I’ve made in the past (read: Richard Nichols pants, books on how to code CSS, a dog). The tomatoes were so perfectly ripe that I almost refrained from cooking them. Almost. I decided instead to give them a nice slow go in the oven. Slow roasting tomatoes creates an extra flavorful tomato that is ten times tastier, and a perfect compliment to summer pastas or salads…or simply slathered on a piece of crunchy toast.

In my case, I was looking forward to creating some breakfast meals in my new cast iron skillet pan. The tomatoes are sitting in my fridge now, ready to dance with some potatoes or eggs. I’ll let you in on how that works out, sometime in the next few days…

Slow Roasted Tomatoes


  • 1-2 lbs. small tomatoes (cherry tomatoes, roma tomatoes, etc)
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Dried Herbs (Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano, Parsley, or Sage)


  1. Cut tomatoes in half. Sprinkle with a generous helping of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, and whatever dried herbs please you- in my case, I used oregano and rosemary. Peel and crush a few cloves of garlic and toss into the pan. Douse with a good amount of olive oil, enough to coat the tomatoes and then some.
  2. Roast at 275 degrees F for 2 hours. Tomatoes should be shriveled but still moist. Allow to cool to room temperature, and store in a air-tight container along with all the extra juices, olive oil, and garlic.

Routines and Changes: A Recipe for Hearty Tomato Sauce

I used to think I was spontaneous. I also used to think I was an extrovert. Well, according to the Myers Briggs test I am not the latter, and after living with a super spontaneous partner-in-crime/roommate/boyfriend who is totally averse to routine, I’m decidedly not the former.

Of course, I’m not a freak robot, and I like doing fun, random things. But in my daily course of life, I’m into a bit of order. I like routine. In fact, I depend on routine- my routines- to navigate through my days. From the way I get out of bed, to the steps I take to lather and rinse and condition my hair in the shower, to the list of websites I check when I first log onto my computer. I’m telling you, there are steps for everything. Doing things out of order stresses me out a bit…are there any other Type A’s out there with me on this?

So what happens when suddenly you don’t have the energy to do things in order? What happens when some days you stay in bed until 10am, decide to skip the part in the shower where you wash your face, and leave Google Reader blogs unchecked for a few days? What happens when parts of your routine are left unattended and ignored?  What I’m asking is, when exactly do I have to pull out a brown paper lunch bag and start breathing into it?

Luckily the paper bags are still safely stored under the sink without any need for them. That’s not to say I haven’t had any minor stress attacks, but I’ve been able to deal with an adjustment of my routines with a bit of re-evaluation and a great deal of acceptance. In the almost-29 years of life, who’s to say that a little change of routine isn’t for the better? There must be some quote somewhere about change, and making one stronger, right? About routine only being for the dead? Something like that…?

That’s why the kitchen is my safe place. In the kitchen, I’ve never sacrificed the traditional or the routine, nor would I ever want to. Now that I’ve found myself back in the kitchen, in a changed way of living where I am constantly establishing new routines, I find solace in the regular chopping of vegetables for a salad or the dicing of carrots for a mirepoix. Yeah, I’m one of those crazy people who can find Zen while making 1/8 inch cubes out of vegetables.

This recipe for tomato sauce exemplifies routine. It’s my go-to sauce, for spaghetti paired with meatballs, for a rich and hearty vegetable lasagna, a base for homemade pizzas, and in general one I keep in the freezer for a quick and easy dinner. It’s rich and tangy and filling and is easy to prep. It’s now a no-brainer recipe for me, where I can go on auto-pilot to make the sauce. I even mull over the same set of optional ingredients that I must contemplate whether to throw in (mushrooms, yes or no? Garlic scapes, yay or nay?). Where I am now trying to adjust all my routines outside of the kitchen, it’s nice to know there are some basics that I can always go back that make me feel normal and grounded. I hope you can somehow make it part of your routine, too.

Hearty Tomato Sauce


  • 1 red onion, finely diced
  • 1 leek- whites and greens, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 carrot, finely finely diced into cubes
  • 1 celery stalk, finely diced
  • optional: 4-5 cremini mushrooms, 2 garlic scapes, tomatoes that have been sitting on the counter for too long….
  • 1 14 oz. can peeled whole tomatoes
  • 1 6 oz. can tomato paste
  • 2 Tbsp. light brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp. sage
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper, to taste


  1. In a nonstick or cast iron 5-qt. pot, sautee the onions and leeks for 4 minutes on med-high heat until soft. Add carrots, celery, and garlic. Cook for 5-7 more minutes, stirring constantly. If using other vegetables, add them into the pot at this time and cook for a few more minutes.
  2. Add canned whole tomatoes and tomato paste into pot, bringing down heat to medium. When the tomato sauce begins to simmer, add brown sugar, butter, spices, and a teaspoon or two of salt and pepper.
  3. Bring to a simmer and cover. Turn down heat to low and allow to cook for 30-45 minutes.
  4. Take the sauce off the burner and let cool for 5-10 minutes. In a blender or using an immersion blender, puree sauce until smooth.
  5. Use as you like.

Yield: 6-8 servings, enough for 2 lasagnas, or a few pizzas.

Rice is king: a rice monologue

I’ve been thinking about rice for awhile- and perhaps because it is such a big part of Asian cookery, it’s been a bit daunting to sit down and actually write about. Rice is a pretty big deal around these parts of the world, and though I knew it, it was hard to be convinced. But going to Bali changed my mind for good.

For a long time, I thought rice was bad.  I mean, evil-bad. It was something unneccessary used to fill your stomach, especially when you could have much better selections like meat and vegetables. In Chinese cuisine, rice is often served at the end of the meal, to act as a filler and a last-resort, in case your guests were not completely satisfied. Asking for a bowl of rice at the end of a fancy banquet is as spiteful as spitting in the host’s face.

Particularly having lived in Los Angeles for five years, rice was Atkins’ and my worst enemy. Obviously I think about rice, noodles, and bread differently now- now that I know rices has better and more realistic things to do than to make me gain 20 pounds.  However though I more frequently devour baguettes and pizza without caution, I still have some beef with rice (is there a pun there?  I can’t quite tell)- after all, rice is not only uselessly filling, but in the Western world it’s just so boring.

I’ve been reading more about rice lately, by way of books like these, and combined with my own rice-ventures, am starting to realize that it actually deserves more credit than I’ve given in the past.  Rice has sustained cultures and societies for ages, and it has provided for communities in the same way that coffee, tobacco, and corn crops have around the world. Passing through rice fields first in Yangshuo and finally in Bali, I was able to see the beauty of the plant like I had never before, and quite literally, a bigger picture. I was able to relate rice to a life form- to a cycle,to the earth, and just as realizing your meat comes from animals, this makes eating it a little bit different.

In Bali, many “traditional” Balinese foods involve rice.  Even those that don’t, come served with a side of rice.  It’s not only necessary, but a symbol of self-sustainability, of living off the land, and of a living food culture.  As I ate my tofu and tomatoes off a cheap plastic plate, with a side of “Balinese greens” and little mound of rice, I casually thought about these things and decided that rice wasn’t so bad after all.

We have an a-yi, or our “auntie” who cooks for us once a week.  A little while back, she came to me with a sac of rice tied in a plastic bag, boasting that she had purchased this special type of rice for us- the kind the she likes the best. It was more expensive at the market, but definitely worth it.  Living in a place where we select rice the same way I selected tomatoes on a warm summer day at the Union Square market, I am finally able to view rice at it’s rightful place in the food pyramid: at the top.

Liu Gong- small town living

Where does an hour and a half down the Li River take us?  Nowhere, really.  But in the middle of nowhere is a small town called LiuGong (留公).

In our exploration of the small village, we came across as family restaurant on the top of a hill overlooking the river. Built on a cement slab with a stone roof that looked like a carpark, the aesthetic was pretty similar to the rest of the town.  A small group of Chinese tourists and a couple of Czech bikers were sitting around the fire pit in the middle of the concrete floor- so of course we were inclined to join.

As the river and cold had built up our appetites, we ordered a few plates of homestyle fried rice.  I’ve just finished reading Jen Lin-Liu’s Serve the People- a stir-fried journey through China, and there are a few passages that jumped out at me while reading.  One is a bit of advice which was passed down to the author: “there is a difference between best restaurants and favorite restaurants”.  In the states, I don’t think I had much of a distinction.  I though Franny’s, or Prime Meats, and ok Blue Hill too, were simultaneously my favorite and the best restaurants.  But things differ in China, where class distinctions are so apparent, and there is such a huge jump between new and old.  The best restaurant in town might not be my most favorite, and vice versa.

Something about this meal- eating on fold-out mini chairs on a concrete slab, among karsts rising out of the fog, with and international cast of characters snapping pictures left and right- I found to be so memorable and endearing.  One of my favorite meals in China so far- even if it wasn’t really a full “meal”.  I had ordered a tomato-beef fried rice, and each time my huge spoon hit the bottom of the shallow cheap plastic plates, I scooped another spoonful of beefy tomato-y rice into my mouth with glee.

No substitutes.

My last can of San Marzano Tomatoes.  A very special moment, for given the standard 28oz. can size I’m unable to order these online.  If anyone swings by my way, make sure to bring a can or six.  I don’t regret much when it comes to what I chose to ship (or not ship), except for this.  I wish I packed 8 cases of San Marzanos.  Nothing says pizza like a can of these bad boys, which is exactly what I did with ’em…


What’s a taco without salsa?  Here’s a few recipes for three great, easy salsas: a red, a green, and a pico de gallo.

Pico de Gallo


  • 6 medium sized ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, minced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, stemmed and rinsed
  • 1 jalapeno pepper
  • juice of one lime
  • salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Finely chop tomatoes, onion, cilantro and jalapeno.  Combine in a large bowl.
  2. Add lime, and a generous dose of salt and pepper.
  3. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes for the flavors to meld and the onions to lose their harshness.  I like to let mine sit in the fridge for at least an hour…

Mild Green Salsa


2 lbs. mild green peppers, like poblanos, roasted and peeled

  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1 small tomato, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, stemmed
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
  • 1/4 onion, diced
  • salt, sugar, limes


  1. Char the peppers: preheat the oven to broil, rearranging the oven racks so the top rack is directly under the broiler.  Lay the peppers (you may need to do this in batches) on a large flat pan covered with foil.  Put the pan in the oven, checking every 5 minutes and turning with long tongs when each pepper begins to blister.  It’s okay for the peppers to burn and blacken- that’s the point.
  2. When a pepper is blackened on all sides, place in a medium bowl covered with a thick towel.  Once all the peppers are in the bowl, set aside for 15-30 minutes.
  3. After this time remove the towel and peel each pepper.  The skin should slide off without too much effort.  Discard skin and seeds.
  4. Combine peeled peppers, chicken broth, onion, tomato, jalapenos, cilantro and garlic.  Using an immersion blender, mix until smooth.
  5. Add salt and lime to taste, adjusting with sugar if the salsa is too sour.  Let sit for at least 15 minutes for flavors to meld.

Spicy Red Salsa


  • 1 28oz canned roma tomatoes
  • 1 cup cilantro
  • 2 serrano or other hot pepper, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons chile powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • Salt, lime, sugar


  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl.  Using an immersion blender, mix until smooth.
  2. Add salt and lime to taste, adjusting with sugar if the salsa is too sour.  Let sit for at least 15 minutes for flavors to meld.