mustard greens – fermented and pickled


I have been enamored of the Northern Thai dish Khao Soi Gai for some time now and thanks to this recipe have discovered that with a little work, it’s not too difficult to make your own version of this rich, coconutty, impeccably spiced noodle dish at home.

It starts with a curry paste from scratch. This takes a little effort, but is made 10 times easier if you cheat and use a food processor (not a mortar and pestle). I wholeheartedly recommend making at least a double or triple batch and freezing. This stuff is delicious and versatile and since it’s a tad time consuming up front, you’ll be so thankful you made extra. From there, really it’s just a matter of cooking up the paste with coconut milk, some liquid and a few other key ingredients. Where do the mustard greens come in you ask? Well as you see from the recipe, these are a topping (along with sliced shallots and crispy fried noodles) and give the rich broth a nice sour balance. In short, this all comes together to create a decidedly “dank” mix of flavors.

IMG_4686So when I recently wanted to make this for friends I thought I would try making my own pickled mustard greens instead of using store-bought. After some searching I realized I had a couple of options: one that would give me results within a day and one that would take a few days of pre-planning. I tried both and here’s what I found.

The first recipe I tried was this one from Ted Allen. Essentially you are making a pickling brine and pouring the hot brine over the greens to sit for a while and voila, you have your pickled greens. I substituted one Serrano pepper instead of the Thai bird chilies and that gave a perfect subtle touch of spice. These were ready to go in a couple of hours once they had cooled.

The second recipe I tried was this one for fermented mustard greens. Key difference here is that these get their tang not from vinegar but through fermentation. I would say it took a good 3 days at room temp for me to get the greens to the level I wanted them. After that, they went into the fridge. The flavor here is a little different – you get that tangy, slightly effervescent effect from the fermentation (not to mention the beneficial bacteria!).

There you have it, pickled mustard greens two ways! Ready and able to top a steamy bowl of Khao Soi Gai, or any other dish that needs a sour, salty note.




i love JONS


Live in Los Angeles? Want to have pushy elderly people invade your personal space? Hear one of your favorite En Vogue songs as you peruse the produce? Stock up on delicious Armenian goodies? Then look no further…

For a couple years I lived down the street from the Hobart/Santa Monica Blvd location of the Southern California grocery store chain, Jons. In my opinion this is by far the best Jons location and will be the focus of this post. But if we’re getting technical I’d say the Glenoaks Blvd location in Glendale is my second favorite.

The fact that this was my neighborhood go-to market was both a blessing and a curse. I could literally traipse down and in a few minutes have affordable groceries, including lots of tasty deli, produce and imported items at my fingertips. I was so close, my phone would often default “geo-locate” my photos at Jons. Ah the good old days…


Here are handful of Jons pros and cons:


  • A substantial selection of produce, including some hard to find items (fresh endive anyone?)
  • Best music I’ve ever heard in a grocery store
  • Affordable!
  • No shortage of Persian cucumbers
  • Lots of labneh to choose from
  • Hibiscus flowers in bulk
  • Cheap booze and interesting Eastern European beers
  • Almond Roca at the checkout
  • Amazing check-out staff
  • Next door to Paro’s Chicken
  • Ample parking
  • Fresh Armenian flatbreads
  • Once I saw a man pushing a full-sized cart up to checkout with literally one item in it: a tall can of Budweiser


  • Extreme paucity of hand-held baskets
  • Long lines at peak hours (like, really long)
  • Lack of respect for personal space at the checkout
  • Unabashed line cutters

I’ve been back a few times recently and was definitely reminded of the cons, but nonetheless they had all the random items I was looking for: Matzos, tomatillos, tahini, labneh, pasilla peppers. I was also delighted to find that they started carrying more organic produce and had installed those thunderstorm sound effects that go off when the produce gets a misting. I love sound effects in the grocery store! And of course, I heard one of my favorite Earth Wind and Fire songs on the PA. Can’t complain there.

Jons has also introduced me to new foods – for example, this delicious Armenian eggplant “caviar.” Spread some of this on fluffy flatbread from the deli and rejoice!


Some other random thoughts: I love that they always have super glue at the checkout, booze is cheap, and there is a coinstar. Also worth noting – the restaurant next door, Paro’s Chicken, is dang good. I love the “ootee” sandwich: grilled chicken, basil, feta, grilled onions and peppers(?) and delicious pickled veges on the side. Treat yourself to one after having stood in line for a half hour and your frustrations will melt away.

Oh and there is a scene in Jons from the 1993 erotic-thriller Dream Lover, starring Madchen Amick and James Spader!

Bon appetit!



cilantro & pumpkin seed dressing


This is a very easy “dressing” that I have been making lately and mixing with brown rice. The flavored rice makes a great base for a bowl. I like to top mine with black beans, avocado, pickled onions, extra dressing and a little labneh. The recipe is very flexible, but here is the gist.

In a food processor or blender add:

  • 1 small handful of cilantro roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup raw shelled pumpkin seeds
  • juice of half a lime
  • 2-3 tablespoons of grapeseed, olive or canola oil
  • enough water to blend and thin the dressing (I’d start with 2 tablespoons and add a little as you go if needed)
  • salt to taste

Blend until smooth and add more oil or water to get it to a smooth consistency. I leave it a little thick if I’m mixing it with rice and thin it down to drizzle extra on top if I’m doing a rice bowl.


summer tomatoes



Ahh sweet sweet tomatoes of summer. So perky, so deceptively simple. Gardening sites abound with photos of lush plants dripping with ripe fruit, perfectly plump for the picking. But my relationship to them is fraught with woe. I have tried on numerous occasions to grow my own – in containers, in a community garden, on a rooftop – and in all efforts I failed. Although I have a fairly good sense of why, I am not eager to jump back into the tomato game. So for now, I hold out hope that some kind soul will share a bit of their bounty. That is the origin of these lovelies to the left. I “traded,” a.k.a. forced a bottle of Concord grape kombucha on my friend in exchange. Someday I will try my hand at growing again, perhaps when I have better conditions to work with – namely a self-watering container and less of a chip on my shoulder.

So what did I do with these tomatoes you ask? Two things so far: served sliced up with some persian cucumber, labneh, coarse ground pepper and smoked salt on pita bread. Bomb. And…sliced up on top of my new favorite pizza recipe: Serious Eats foolproof pan pizza. Pray for a cool evening and crank that oven to 500 degrees cause it’s worth it.


pomegranate molasses soda


This is an excellent, sparkly alternative to soda that I can’t get enough of. Pomegranate molasses has a deliciously tangy, caramel flavor that when mixed with bubbly water makes for a special treat.

Pomegranate molasses is available locally at stores like JONS and SUPER KING. Just mix with bubbly water to taste and put that beverage on ice! Yum.