Pumpkin Seed Cilantro Pesto

Pumpkin Seed Cilantro Pesto Ingredients

My pantry is taking over my life. Each time I open my pantry doors, I anticipate something to fall out and spill all over my kitchen floor. What will it be this time? The high-mountain green tea my Mom brought me from Taiwan? Or the canister of Greek olive oil from Santorini that I carried with me for a whole month while backpacking through Europe?

I really need to start organizing my life and use up all these ingredients. One thing about being an avid cook is that the ingredients really do pile up. For example, I have a hefty 1 lb bag of pumpkin seeds that’s been sitting in there for quite a while, from which I’ve only used a few cups worth for my 7 Ingredient pumpkin spice granola. Living in a tiny studio apartment, space becomes real precious. Time to use up those pumpkin seeds!

Pumpkin Seed Cilantro Pesto I’ve actually been fiending for pesto lately. But I wanted to make something creative, not just the usual basil and pine nuts combo. Recently, I had an amazing pumpkin seed salsa from my favorite vegan restaurant in San Francisco. The flavor in this thing was pure umami. The salsa was indescribably nutty, deep, slightly smoky, and creamy. I never knew that pumpkin seeds could taste like that! Thus, I was inspired. Rummaging through my fridge I search for what I could use as the green part of the pesto. To my surprise, I find a huge bunch of cilantro that I’d completely forgotten to use for a Spanish Chicken dish I made for supper on Sunday. Don’t you hate when that happens? Luckily, it inspired me to make this Pumpkin Seed Cilantro Pesto. Continue reading

Pumpkin Thai Red Curry

Pumpkin Red Curry with Kabocha Squash

It’s been rather chilly here in the Bay recently, and there’s nothing that will warm you up better than a bowl of warm curry. Especially, some spicy red pumpkin curry.

My pumpkin of choice is the Kabocha squash—also known as a Japanese pumpkin. It’s that dark green, squat shaped melon-like thing you’ve been seeing at the grocery store. It’s delicious. It’s flavor is much like a butternut squash, but 10x sweeter and much creamier in texture.

Peeling Kabocha Squash

It works magically in this curry recipe because as the curry simmers, the pumpkin sort of melts away and breaks down and thickens the sauce. No cornstarch needed here.

I threw some cauliflower into the mix to add some crunchy texture amidst the rich creaminess of the overall dish. I also threw in a few red jalapenos as well, for a pop of color, and also because I like things to be nice and spicy. This curry is packed with flavor, mostly because I didn’t skimp on the aromatics—ginger, lemongrass, and chili. No I didn’t use the dried stuff, it is pertinent here to use fresh. And although you will end up with more lemongrass stalks than you can think of ways to use, the flavor is incomparable and totally worth it.

Pumpkin Curry Lemongrass Red Curry Paste Ingredients

By the way, anyone have some lemongrass recipes for me? Continue reading

San Francisco Eats: Gracias Madre

Gracias Madre vegan restaurant san francisco Mission

Something has always eluded me about Gracias Madre. From the name alone, I knew it was a Mexican restaurant, but then I started hearing that it was actually a vegan spot. A vegan Mexican restaurant? Well, that’s just unheard of.

How can Mexican food be Mexican, without carne asada, pollo asado, and my favorite, lengua? These are the flavors that I’ve associated with real Mexican food growing up in various parts of Los Angeles and San Diego, where there are taquerias on every street corner filling the air with aromas of roasted carnitas.

Needless to say, I had my doubts. It didn’t really help that this seemingly “pseudo-Mexican-vegan-hippie place” was established in the Mission—home of the hipsters. Therefore, it took me about one year of passing by this place numerous times, to finally walk-in and give it a chance. I also had to stop hating on this place because my good friend now works there.

Well, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised.

Gracias Madre vegan dining

First off, the ambiance is intimately festive and inviting. The warm tones of natural wood from floor to ceiling really make this place feel cozy. The handpainted Mexican tiles along the walls and floor, add just the right touch of color and festivity without being tacky. It’s as if you are walking into your abuelita’s house for dinner, where she’s been spending all day cooking a fulfilling meal just for you. The kitchen is open, and I love it when restaurants are set up this way. I love being able to have full visibility of how my food is being prepared. It adds another level of feeling connected to what you are about to put into your body, and another level of trust that is established with the people that are feeding you.

As my crew and I sit down, the first order of business is of course, drinks. Here, they offer a small, yet wonderful selection of organic wines and locally-crafted beers, as well as a variety of craft cocktails spiked with Soju. You won’t find hard liquor here. They even have a wine made from the grapes harvested from the restaurants’ farm in Sonoma. I end up ordering the El Burro–a Moscow mule type of drink with house-made ginger beer, mint, and Soju.

Gracias Madre Vegan Restaurant Mission San Francisco

Yes. Gracias Madre has their own bio-dynamic farm, the Be Love Farm, where they source most of the ingredients they use in the kitchen. They even make their own tortillas from non-GMO corn grown on the farm. This place isn’t just riding on the trend of sourcing local organic ingredients, they’re really embodying the philosophy. This is really as local as it can get.

You’d be surprised at how many places in the city can claim to be using local ingredients, when they’re really not, considering that a dinner in the city can cost an arm and a leg these days. As someone who used to work in the kitchen of a top restaurant in the city, it’s easy to play the part when the customer already assumes that they are eating local; especially in the Bay Area where the best produce in the nation comes from.

Anyways, where were we? Yes, the food.

I always love trying new restaurants with a group of people, so that you can order a bunch and try everything. I’ll go over the dishes here one by one:

Gracias Madre Kale and Orange salad in a chipotle dressing

Ensalada de Cole Rizada

Kale salad with orange slices, shredded jicama, carrots and toasted almonds dressed in a smoky yet light chipotle vinaigrette

An explosion of flavor, yet refreshing and light. The crunchy textural elements played nicely with the tender kale. The tartness from the flavorful vinaigrette really gets the salivation going in preparation for the following dishes. A great starter to the evening.

Continue reading

Detox Rainbow Chard and Kale Salad

Detox-Salad Ingredients

It’s time for a detox. For the past few weeks, I have been spoiling my body with unnecessary indulgences, such as eating out way too often (which is also hurting my wallet), having one too many cocktails while eating out, and consuming heavy amounts of sugar from tasting new dessert recipes at work. I feel fatigued, my body is dragging me down, and my energy level is low. I also experienced my first bad sugar withdrawal. You know…that feeling you get when your body is craving sugar and the only thing you want in this world is a decadent red velvet cupcake stuffed into your mouth. So what’s a girl to do? Well whenever I am feeling like this, like the life is slowly being sucked out of me…there is one friend that I can always depend on…

Detox Rainbow Chard, Kale and Quinoa Salad

KALE to the rescue! My life would not be the same without this superhero vegetable. I am a big fan of kale recipes, and this one may be the best one I’ve ever come up with. This kale salad is loaded with antioxidants, protein, and fiber, which is why I’ve called it a DETOX salad. It will make you feel fully satisfied without weighing you down, and the nutritional benefits will boost up your energy level.

Rainbow-Chard Continue reading