Tipping Point…

Had a really great time doing a cooking class for 25 or so folks over at CookHouse SF. It was a really great day filled with nerves and anticipation, but it helped that good friends and colleagues Irene and Joe were there to help out.

A big thank you to those two as well as Maggie from WhiskSF for coordinating and planning the class with local non-profit Tipping Point. Delicious locally caught Halibut, provided by Water2Table and Chocolate from Guittard Chocolates.



Holiday Cornbread

5f3f26b45a1511e392900a27148c0424_8I meant to post this recipe during the Thanksgiving holiday season, but since it has long passed might as well go into the other holiday season. Christmas.

We ended up at a friend’s house for Thanksgiving, a close friend of ours Alanna and Arlo. They have had us over at their house for the past couple of years, along with a great handful of other friends.  It’s really fun, and always jam-packed with different nibbles and sides galore. So the challenge was what to bring this year?

This wasn’t procrastination, instead it was another moment of playing “Hey whats in my pantry?”, maybe it was both.  Alanna usually masters the turkey and invites a hoard of folks over with their favorite sides. This year was a bit more mellow, so I came with three dishes. One of the dishes was a carrot, green bean and walnut salad with browned butter, the other was a little gem salad with watermelon radish apples tossed with a lemony tarragon and blue cheese dressing, and this little one; a blue corn and cranberry upside down skillet bread. Think of it like your average savory cornbread mixed with an upside down cake.  I happened to have some blue corn on hand. It’s been hiding in a dark corner in my pantry waiting for me to use it, and what a perfect time to do so. I didn’t have enough cranberries to make a sauce, plus the hostess already made a really great fig and cranberry one, so there you go an impromptu side. It’s nice, slightly tart from the cranberries, slightly sweet, buttery, and savory.  I really suggest the coarse cornmeal for these type of recipes because they just have a better texture, the crunch is a little more interesting.

I could imagine this recipe being really great with fresh herbs lightly sautéed into the cranberries right before the batter is even spooned over, right before being plopped into the oven. I used a coarse heirloom corn variety that I got from the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s market. I can’t remember the name but it’s the stall where the lady sells her pepper jams, and beans…towards the middle back…can you help me? Anyways, I’ve been wanting to use this for a while and this was the perfect opportunity to do so. Hmm…this would also be really nice with citrus on the bottom…stop me now.



For this recipe I have replaced the coarse blue cornmeal with coarse yellow cornmeal. It’s just easier to get, I recommend Bob’s Red Mill because it’s pretty much available at most markets.  I also used chickpea flour in the same amount, but regular AP flour works just fine.

Cranberry Upside down Skillet Cornbread

  • 2 cup coarse yellow cornmeal –
  • 1/2 cup All-purpose Flour – or chickpea flour if you can get it
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cup Buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 3 whole eggs
  • 1 stick butter – melted
  • 1 cup cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup cane sugar
  • 1/8th teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 400°.

For the first part of this recipe combine the dry ingredients; cornmeal, flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, etc. Mix all ingredients together, to well incorporate. Then add the wet ingredients into the same bowl; buttermilk, eggs, melted butter, water. Using any type of utensil that you need, incorporate dries and wets together to form a batter. Let sit.

Meanwhile, in a cast iron skillet, combine cranberries, olive oil, sugar and salt, cook on medium to medium low heat until cranberries have softened and skins have blistered.

Pour/spoon batter over cranberries and spread evenly. Lightly drizzle edges of pan with olive oil and place in oven while skillet is still hot.

Bake for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Out With the Old

Hey look below…it’s a mermaid staring into the sun…59f5aef0cd6911e2bdcf22000a1fbe62_7

Sometimes a break if given to you. When you don’t want it. When you don’t think you need it.

Sometimes I wonder, what did I do wrong? Not much sense in trying to make sense of the wrongs. I’d rather move on to find the right.

Starting about 2 weeks ago, I no longer work at this establishment mentioned in a previous post: Read All About It… It looks like I am off again to another chapter.

I don’t visit many blogs, but one I often go to for inspiration is Heidi Swanson’s. This recent recipe by Heidi is a stupidly delicious mung bean hummus. I mean…really really addictive. It is heavily reminiscent of my Vietnamese flavors found in soups and other savouries that remind me of my childhood.

 101CookBooks – Visit here for a medley of inspiring and outrageously clean and delicious recipes. Thank you Heidi for the hello! HELLO!!

I must say,

If you like that then you will also love…

QuitoKeeto – Visit here for some really beautiful items and recipes.



LInk to the story of the song, the singers and the writer. love, love, love love lovvvveeee Read here : LINK.

Sleeping Trees

I feel like taking a nap. Somewhere warm. Ocean breezes. Sea Air. YES YES and YES.

In between naps I usually need a little time to creatively purge. Events, baking bread w/ my own starter, and other experiments…

Special credit goes out to Barbara Caldwell for making some really really good pies.

Follow : Flour Water Salt Butter 


2bdb0eccb98a11e2bbe722000a9f1253_7For years now, I have spent many moments thinking about a milk broth.

This is my proudest moment with it yet.

Roast of Lean Pork. Spring Favas and Sweet Corn in a Milk Brodo steeped w/ Lemongrass and Leeks.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YZJTJAM4G8]

Tina Loves Italy

I’m back.  My first time traveling alone unraveled lots of insecurities and falsities that stresses in life have given me.   I fell in love with Italy when it opened up to me, or was it when I opened up to it.

Unorganized, unplanned and it was just what I wanted.  I encountered the traveler with just a ticket, the organized boutique traveler, the backpacker, the traveler to whom just wanted that passport littered with stamps, the lusty traveler, the party traveler, the farmer traveler, the other persona traveler…

Traveling is part relaxation, part adventure, and part learning about the people the places and the culture.  Of course that always includes the food.

What traveler was I?  I was the naïve traveler, the unorganized traveler, the lonely traveler, the one to be ignored, the voyeur.  The one who really wanted to sit down in someones home and eat a home cooked meal.

Traveling unraveled itself in my 20’s when I worked as a waitress at a local Irish bar, I met countless people who backpacked, or traveled through Europe, Asia, South America.  I vicariously lived through their stories and as my glazed eyes stared into space, I placed myself in a time when I could finally do this myself.

I flew into Heathrow and found out that my room in Rome was already rented, and that my money was refunded.  There was no time to assess my surroundings, I had landed and planted myself at Roma Termini, and I quickly had a love hate affair with Rome.   The train station slapped me in the face.  My body felt weightless, like being suspended on a bed of clouds, still trying to take in the fact that I had no bed secured for the night…

I highly romanticized Rome, and thus far the act of the lonesome traveler…I had no idea what I would be expecting.

Freshly jet lagged and tired from carrying a heavy backpack through terminal after terminal, I was ready to tear up.  Frustration peaked through and made me weak.

In my first Roman taxi, the driver questioned why I did not know the language and it was only then that I opened myself up tospeaking the language.  My voice trembled and my adrenaline rushed when I told him “Io non capisco l’Italiano”,  I felt like jumping out of the taxi and not paying him after that comment, but I understand.  After coming across so many tourist that just speak English and don’t even make an effort, flocks of disrespectful tourist is a recipe for the angry taxi driver.  To him I was just a number, until I made that effort.

In Italy… I met a stranger and together we ventured off to Cinque Terre and Venice, stayed at an all women’s hostel formerly ran by nuns sleeping in a room with 13 other women, then there were magical times like waking up to the sounds of church bells, hearing Italian children whining for their mothers in the early morning, beautiful seaside towns, Venetian alleys, seeing an a little old woman canning tomato sauce, but of course I also had encounters with aggressive men, sleeping at an airport, holding the frail hand of an Italian nonna, went to the hospital and got treated for dehydration in Milan, drinking prosecco and valpolicella while eating lunch with an Italian family, drinking lots of wine, trying horse meat, and donkey meat in one sitting,   walking…walking…walking…pizza pizza …pasta… pasta…

It was in Milan and Verona that I felt the safest and the most at home.  I can’t give thanks to Mateo and Valentina enough, I can’t tell you how much I fell in love with Dido, Antoinetta, Domenico, Anna, Nico, and their whole community of friends and family.

When asked what I would do differently, my response would be absolutely nothing…but it would have been nice to just have more money on the trip.  Especially when I saw that hefty green wool Dries Van Noten coat that was heavily discounted at a little boutique in Verona. Most importantly after feeling so weak, I was able to gain back the strength that laid dormant after my father passed away.

While laying in bed I found myself planning my day…should I walk to the Duomo and head to the Pinacoteca today?  Should I go walk to the park? What else can I do?  Still in a bit of a dream state…still waking up.  I miss most, the sounds of Italian conversations, and the hand gestures, and the cheeky kisses

I’ve gotten the bug.




I finally have some time, rest and a computer to write on.  So far it has been 19 days since I last stepped foot on American soil, the delays, the waits, the confusion with my first time traveling were at a point unbearable.    My trip has been nothing less than an amazing experience.  Seems like all emotions have been put forth on a platter, and i’ve given myself the opportunity to take it all in, and leave some excess behind.

I won’t be posting much until I get back to the states, then I can sit down and write stories that accompany the pictures that I have taken.  Even though I am a cook, I did not come to Italy to only seek out food, I came to seek out the culture, the people, the language and to fulfill my fascination with this country.  The food…uhhhh the food, I think I have to do a total detox when I get back to the states.  There was one night when I ate so much charcuterie, that I felt really sick.  Forget about EAT PRAY LOVE…that was NOT the reason why I wanted to spend 35 days in this beautiful country.

Milano is my base right now, and I have the greatest host.  Matteo Musci  who has given me an Italy that I would have not been able to experience, if I were to be alone.  His community of childhood friends, family, and everyone in between has been warm, gracious, caring and open.  This trip has really made me want to study the Italian language.

My backpack can tell stories, and so can my Iphone camera, but all those just do not give the moments spent alone justice.  When my Lonely Planet guide could not help me, and when Io no capisco Italiano was all I knew.

I worked in a small bites bar called a cichetteria in Venice, I got yelled at by a lady in Corniglia for petting a sleeping cat, I met a solo traveler named Aaza and followed her to Cinque Terre and it was in Venice where we got ourselves into a little bit of a mess.

Ah yes, traveling alone also consisted of me crying to complete strangers.  When my frustrations built up, when my knowledge of the Italian language was just shitty, when even walking into a pastry shop seemed like an ordeal.   When nothing seemed to work out, but then when it started to work out…

All moments on this trip so far have been eye opening and amazing, and as I continue on the days, time, and everything becomes even more surreal and it becomes segmented by experiences and towns as opposed to days and time.  Oh yes, I am only a little over halfway into my journey.

I have been losing sight of reality, as everything seems to be totally dreamy...sognante.  In a dream, in a daze, and all I want to do is cook…for anyone and everyone that I come across.

When I open up a conversation with, food here, the locals go on a bit of a tangent.  Where is your favorite place to eat, what region, where did you grow up…FOOD becomes the language that I speak.  Hand gestures, and words that I have learned from cooking has really helped me to get in touch with strangers.  We all love food, and everyone in Italy seems to want to show me their favorite food, favorite place to eat, secrets that the Lonely Planet guides could never tell me about.

Every city I come across has been my favorite…but it was in Verona that my hosts Anna and Nico were so inviting that I contemplated a move.   They have the cutest shop called FOLKS where the most outrageous collections of Vans Shoes can be found.  I wish I had the time to tell you more…

Ciao!! Off to Torino tomorrow then to Florence then???? Until next time…

Music choice by Matteo.


Everything is going to be…

If it doesn’t then I just have to throw my arms up at the moon…

I would say, I am at my infancy still…

That I couldn’t mask… to make  it through the next couple of years without some type of humility ….the years where I haven’t sacrificed enough…because I love it.

The years where my growth as a chef would have been far greater…or would it have.

When asked what I do now I reply with a multitude of explanations.   I shy away, and in an attempt to sound like I havent given up…I explain…and in a dull attempt I explain…

But it isn’t that bad.  It’s actually relaxing, to do and bask in nothing…that doesn’t mean that I don’t work.   Metaphorically speaking, the past couple of years I waded in a pool, in a half state of consciousness.  Bobbing up and down, floating… getting by…I could do it… a real ego driven state of mind.  Thinking that I must become a chef…a something….the later robbing me of my quality of life and I began to sink…I said hey let’s stop and take a break, and donde esta my life vest.  Why was it that bad?  I’ve always dreamed of it…this was what I always wanted to do!!

I pondered a life , my future and career, the images blanketing my psyche and I was determined…was given and told that this was what I could do…would accomplish, and most importantly am on the road to becoming.   My mentors my peers…the hooplah of it all.

It ain’t so bad…i’m not giving up, it’s more like a renaissance.  I don’t know what will happen next, and I dont mind to, because I’ve spent the past years worrying in woes about it all.

Your not giving up when you are figuring things out, if you can every step is important to OWN ones journey…

When you feel like you’ve given up, the fight the want, the need to be a title, to endure the hours…

To live within the conscious time when you can bask in the fruits of your labor…