Yogurt Dip with Fresh Herbs

Getting a large bunch of mint all at once in a CSA box creates time pressure to eat it all before it goes bad. Here’s a good way to use up a large amount: Mix up a raita-like dip with yogurt, crushed garlic, chopped scallions, and lots of fresh herbs. Delicious! We did mint and dill tonight.


  • Change up the herbs.
  •  Add sliced cucumbers, sliced radishes, shredded carrots, slivered almonds, or anything else that sounds yummy!
  • Thin it with milk to make it a soup.

Irish Soda Bread

I just baked my best loaf of Irish soda bread yet. Adapted from Mark Bittman’s recipe in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, with variations:


  • 2 cups white flour
  • 2 cups wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups kefir

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix all ingredients in food processor until dough forms. Knead by hand until uniform in texture. Let dough rest a few minutes. Lightly grease a 10 inch cast iron pan. Form a round loaf in the pan.

Bake for one hour until nicely browned.

Changes: Original recipe had 3/4 tsp baking powder, 3/4 tsp baking soda. The 45 minute bake time meant I consistently underbaked the loaves (my fault, not Bittman’s – he said “at least 45 minutes”). Finally, cast iron simply makes everything better.

Lacto-Fermented Pickles

I love Mark Bittman. How to Cook Everything Vegetarian introduced me to sourdough by making it so easy, it didn’t cross my mind to get caught up in elaborate preparations or find myself a pedigreed strain.

Similarly, I tried making refrigerator pickles from his Kosher Pickles, The Right Way recipe and they came out salty rather than sour, which I found delicious. Later, I realized that all I had to do in order to get the lacto-fermentation that would produce the probiotic benefits and familiar sour flavor was to leave them out longer than the 12-24 hours in the recipe recommended. I’ve had success pickling cucumbers, kohlrabi, and fennel, and I look forward to experimenting with more vegetables as the summer progresses.

The only important variables seem to be a) deciding what vegetables to pickle, b) finding a way to make sure the vegetables stay completely submerged, and c) brine strength. Varying the spices is fun, but doesn’t affect the science project. As it turns out, I lucked out by following Mark Bittman’s recipe using a glass baking dish with a lid. Inverting the lid over the dish handily keeps vegetables submerged, while putting a plate underneath collects runoff water (the vegetables will give off water at first, and the water will dribble out the sides).


Mark Bittman’s recipe for Kosher Pickles, The Right Way calls for 2 pounds of cucumbers, 1/3 cup kosher salt, spices, and enough water to fill the bowl. This obviously doesn’t create a brine of a precise strength, but it doesn’t matter because the pickles are only intended to be cured at room temperature for 48 hours, and stored in the refrigerator for a week or shorter.

What I found in practice with my particular bowl was that I could see visible results of lactofermentation (bubbles and cloudiness) within a day, and taste the results over the course of several days (the pickles went from being merely salty to pleasingly sour). So even though the amount of salt seemed to be way more than in many other recipes, I trusted that the science project was proceeding as expected.

I am honestly unlikely to veer from this formula, which is convenient if imprecise:

  1. Put about 2 lb of vegetables into the glass dish, along with any desired spices.
  2. Boil 1 cup of water, dissolve 1/3 cup of salt into it, and then add ice cubes until the brine is cool enough to handle.
  3. Pour the brine over the vegetables. Then pour water on top until the container is filled.
  4. Top with the inverted lid, making sure that the vegetables are fully submerged and no air comes in contact with them.

After a day or so, the brine will start to turn bubbly and cloudy, a sign that the fermentation process is working. You can jumpstart the process by including some brine from a previous batch of pickles, but it’s not necessary.

A footnote about food safety:

Most bloggers claim that pickling is fairly idiot-proof because a) bad batches happen rarely, and b) a bad batch will smell and look foul and no one in their right mind would eat it. The important thing is to keep the vegetables fully submerged in order to prevent the growth of mold, yeast, and fungus. While I did read one scientific paper about how the Listeria bacteria can survive the fermentation process, I’m not sure how it’s relevant. Pickling doesn’t kill the Listeria, but you would have gotten sick if you’d eaten the raw cucumber anyway. Cooked food is safer, but no one cooks cucumbers.

In conclusion, I feel safe making pickles that ferment at room temperature for under a week, are stored in the refrigerator, and are consumed quickly. I suppose the probiotic benefits would be greater with a longer ferment, but I don’t want to let the perfect be the enemy of the very good (and easy).

What vegetables can be pickled? Almost anything. Cucumbers, obviously, but also root vegetables like radishes and onions, and fruits like peppers and green tomatoes. I’ve read that it’s best to pickle beets with other vegetables because of their high sugar content, but that’s easy enough. And pretty much anything goes with spices as well – fresh herbs, peppercorns, dill seeds, mustard seeds, coriander seeds.

Baked Whole Salmon

I bought a whole frozen 1.5lb salmon for about $4.50 a pound at the farmer’s market, which is extremely cheap by farmer’s market standards. Googling for recipes turned out to be a bit tricky because I didn’t want a recipe, I just wanted to bake it. As it turned out, this recipe from Livestrong was a pretty good starting point. Here’s what I did (though all the flavorings are actually optional – what matters is the fish):

  • whole salmon
  • 1 lemon
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Slice the lemon in thin rounds. Rinse the salmon in cool water. Scale as needed (run a knife lightly over the scales to get rid of them). Put the salmon on an aluminum foil-lined pan (cut off the tail if it doesn’t fit). Rub olive oil, salt, and pepper on both sides and in the cavity of the salmon. Arrange the lemon slices in a row inside and on top of the salmon. Cover the whole thing with aluminum foil and put it in the oven. Bake for approximately 35 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.

Nora’s Eating at 20 Months

Nora is slowly becoming less picky. She still prefers meat, but her repertoire is expanding gradually. In particular, her sudden willingness to eat green peas is a huge win. (My dad eats them for lunch nearly every day. One day, she decided she wanted some. The next day, she ate a lot. The day after that, she allowed a small amount of frozen mixed veggies to be included among the peas.)

New staples

  • peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
  • steel-cut oats with milk, walnuts, and lots of raisins
  • green peas
  • meat and fish stews with grains and veggies
  • milk
  • eggs
  • Cheerios
  • pizza
  • nori

Need to try Again

  • bean stews
  • edamame
  • carrot peanut soup
  • peanut noodles

Consistent standbys

  • fruit
  • meatloaf (with carrots, cabbage, onions, and water chestnuts)
  • salmon
  • slow-cooked pork shoulder
  • bread
  • yogurt

On-the-Go Snacks

  • fruit
  • squeezies
  • peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
  • Cheerios
  • Trader Joe’s salmon jerky

Veggies (usually small quantities and inconsistent)

  • mashed yams with lime juice, olive oil, and salt
  • kale chips (only the expensive farmer’s market ones – Trader Joes’s was rejected)
  • homemade kale chips
  • grated orange salad with currants (went for currents first, but also ate carrots)
  • nori


  • cookies
  • candied ginger (go figure!)

Still rejects

  • cheese
  • tofu
  • tempeh
  • potatoes (hash browns, mashed potatoes, even French Fries)
  • Western-style pasta (need to try smaller ones, like macaroni)
  • ice cream (this won’t last long, so we might as well enjoy it while we can)

Fish Head Stew

This fish head stew turned out to be quite good. I made the stock in the Instant Pot, but cooked the stew on the stove top. The consistency of the stew is intended to be like a very soft porridge – spoon-feeding consistency for a toddler.

  • Two King Salmon fish heads and trim
  • 1 cup millet
  • 2/3 cup frozen green peas
  • 2/3 tbsp salt
  • pepper to taste

Put the salmon trim in the Instant Pot with 6 cups water and salt. Cook on High pressure for 20 minutes (this could probably have been way less – I’ll try 10 minutes next time).

When the stock is done, transfer the liquid to a pot on the stove, bring to a boil, and add a cup of millet. Let the millet simmer for about 20-30 minutes. While the millet is cooking, work with the fish heads over a colander to extract the salmon flesh and remove the bones. There will be a lot of tedious little bones.

Add the salmon flesh and any stock that dripped through the colandar to the stew. When the salmon bits are hot, add the frozen green peas. Stir and remove from heat.

When we served the stew to Nora, we also added some leftover baked salmon we had in the refrigerator. This was a tasty addition, but not strictly necessary.

Ramen-Style Noodles in Pig Trotter Broth

I bought two big pig trotters at a farmer’s market, then let them sit in the freezer for a while because I didn’t know what to do with them. This is a more time-consuming recipe than chicken broth because of all the extra steps (roasting, cooling to skim off fat), but it’s very good. The pork broth makes for a nice, gelatinous ramen-style broth.

  • 1 pig trotter
  • 1/2 pound pork stir-fry meat (optional), finely sliced
  • 5-6 shiitakes, soaked in boiling water until soft
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 onion
  • 1/2 head of Napa cabbage
  • 2 bundles of udon noodles
  • soy sauce to taste

Roast the pig trotter in the oven at 425 degrees for about 15 minutes per side. More is probably better, but I still haven’t figured out what’s optimal. Any temperature between 400 and 450 and any time range between 20 minutes and a full hour probably works – more is better, but the perfect shouldn’t undercut the very good.

Put the pig trotter in the Instant Pot with a bay leaf, 2/3 tbsp salt, and water between the halfway and 2/3 of the way up the pot. A splash of cider vinegar too, if you remember (it’s supposed to help pull minerals out of the bones). Cook on high pressure for 2 hours.

Remove bones, pull off and reserve meat (there won’t be much, but it will be very tender). Let cool in refrigerator and skim off fat. This removes most of the gamey odor, which I personally am not a fan of.

Make the rest of the soup the stovetop. Stir-fry the onion and carrots on the bottom of a large pot. Add the shiitakes and broth. When the broth is boiling, add the stir-fry pork. Cook for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and the stir-fry pork is done. Add the reserved meat from the broth and the noodles and cook until the noodles are done. If desired, add a small amount of soy sauce, to taste.

I added the extra stir-fry pork mainly for Nora’s benefit. She enjoyed the broth and was willing to eat the veggies and noodles, but only if there was a little bit of meat on the spoon.

Vegetarian Eggflower Noodle Soup

I haven’t been blogging much because, frankly, Nora hasn’t been eating much new food. But she has thankfully resumed eating my fish and chicken stews, and she’s been sampling odd things – for example, she loved dipping breadsticks into pesto, and she was willing to eat small amounts of peanut butter and hummus after having rejected them for a while. She also finally drank cow’s milk – or rather, half-and-half for my coffee at a restaurant when she was hungry and food service was slow.

This veggie noodle soup is quite strongly flavored with ginger and chili pepper. The secret ingredient to the broth is the egg. It gives the soup a nice rich mouthfeel and keeps the chili pepper from being overpowering. Nora didn’t eat a lot, but she didn’t reject it either, which I’ll count as a win. (She was willing to eat the noodles and cabbage, but not the carrots. I didn’t even try offering the shiitakes.)

  • 2 carrots
  • 1/2 head cabbage
  • several cloves of garlic
  • 6 coin-sized slices of ginger
  • 1 dried chili pepper, minced and optionally de-seeded
  • 6 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 2 eggs (or more, for richer soup)
  • 2 packages of udon noodles
  • olive oil for sautéing

Soak the shiitakes in boiling water until soft. Slice the carrots, ginger, and garlic, mince the chili peppers, and sauté these ingredients in the bottom of a stockpot. Slice the shiitakes, chop the cabbage finely, and add them to the pot. Add plenty of water and salt (I add more as I go along, adjusting to taste) and let simmer for 10-20 minutes until the vegetables are almost to your preferred consistency. Then add the udon noodles.

When the noodles are done, ladle out a cup of the hot soup. Beat the eggs in a bowl and slowly add the hot soup a little at a time, whisking briskly. Then pour the egg mixture back into the pot while stirring it. This will give the soup an eggflower texture and slightly thicker consistency. If you like, pick out the ginger slices before serving. (I don’t bother.)

If you don’t have time to rehydrate shiitakes, wakame is a good substitute. I’ve made the stew both ways. And, of course, wakame and shiitakes together would also be good.

Sourdough Pan Bread

We’ve been maintaining a sourdough culture for several years. It survived dehydration and rehydration when we moved from Seattle to LA and has been going strong ever since. It is based on the recipe in Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything Vegetarian, which made sourdough seem so simple that it didn’t occur to me to get lost in the vines and groves of sourdough geekdom on the Internet. We bake bread and pizza with it all the time.

I discovered a pancake recipe that turned out to be much more like a fluffy flatbread. These are delicious and to my mind, more convenient to make than a loaf of bread because the only activity happens the night before, in the morning, and right before cooking with no rise time. Not having to wash a food processor sticky with dough also saves a lot of time.


Here is my take on the recipe, based on my Mark Bittman starter:

  1. Feed the starter its usual 2 cups white flour and 1 3/4 cups warm water in the evening.
  2. In the morning, stir the starter down and measure out 1 3/4 cups of starter. Put the rest back in the refrigerator.
  3. Mix the 1 3/4 cups starter with 1 1/4 cup white flour. Let the dough sit until dinnertime.
  4. Put a cast-iron pan on the stove at medium heat (for the sake of speed, I use two pans simultaneously).
  5. Beat 2 eggs in a bowl with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp baking soda and use two forks to mix it into the starter. This will not be the easiest task, as the dough will be sticky and it will take a while for the eggs to be mixed in.
  6. Add oil or butter to the pan and wait for it to get hot.
  7. Make pancake sized-dollops of batter on the pan (it will be thicker than pancake batter) and spread them into circles. Cook on one side for a few minutes, then flip and cook on the other side.
  8. Serve immediately.

I’m not convinced I need the baking soda at all, but I have yet to try the recipe without it. The original recipe called for 1/2 tsp baking soda, and I halved it on my second try with no difference in taste or texture.

Toddler Pickiness

Ever since Thanksgiving, Nora has been very difficult to feed because she’s been rejecting my fish and chicken stews. Since that was my main vehicle for getting a variety of veggies, grains, and legumes into her, I’m floundering again. She has also rejected plain chunks of cheese, which takes away a large category of snack food.

At the moment, the only foods she will eat in bulk are

  • fruit (berries, pears, oranges)
  • eggs
  • whole milk yogurt
  • my mom’s pork meatloaf (with cabbage, carrots, onions, and water chestnuts)
  • restaurant omelets with cheese and veggies (cannot replicate at home)
  • plain pieces of fish or meat as finger food
  • avocado
  • bread
  • Cheerios
  • chips, crackers, cookies, and other treat foods (offered sparingly)

There are a few other foods she will occasionally sample, but not consume more than a taste of. This list changes on an ongoing basis.

  • green peas
  • cooked tomatoes (for example, on pizza)
  • whole milk (on Cheerios)
  • apples
  • baby carrots
  • nori

For the most part, I’m not too concerned nutritionally, especially since I hope this is a phase, but I would like to find a way for Nora to consume

  • bone broth
  • probiotics
  • nuts and other allergens

I would also like to be less dependent on my mom’s cooking and restaurant food as a vehicle for veggies. Finally, I’d like to be able to eat as a family again without all this constant brainstorming.

I’m not sure if the best strategy is to keep doing what we’re doing (scattershot offerings that usually result in rejection but occasionally result in tasting), or try a full-court press of one item until it’s accepted. The real problem is that all the candidates for a full-court press are items we rotate or don’t eat on a daily basis – we’d get sick of eating the same veggies day in, day out, so we don’t.

  • whole milk
  • kefir
  • zucchini
  • leafy greens
  • carrots
  • sweet potatoes