Sage Seasoned Cannellini Beans: A Simple Summer Supper for San Francisco

The perfect San Francisco summer meal needs to warm you up from the cold, wind and fog creeping over the hills like dragon’s breath.  This recipe hits that spot perfectly and it’s easy too.  With a nice side salad (such as watermelon and feta salad) and crusty bread on the side, it makes a perfect meal.

This is an awesome weeknight dinner for those foggy SF summer nights.  If you’re like me and have baggies of tomato paste dollops and sage leaves in the freezer, this recipe also ends up being really cheap and requires minimal grocery shopping.

I’d like to imagine these beans being cooked in a dutch oven on a French/Italian farm served with crusty bread from the village bakery with a hint of greek island from the watermelon feta mint salad.  Enjoy!

Stewed cannellini beans

Serves 3

  • 1 can (15 oz) cannellini beans, washed and drained
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 Tbs tomato paste
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly smashed.
  • 1.5 Tbs oil
  • 8-10 sage leaves, torn
  • 4 allspice berries (optional)
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

Heat oil in a sauce pan over medium heat.  Saute the onions for 5-10 minutes until they are fully softened and translucent.

Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.  Add the tomato paste and the cannellini beans and cook for another 2 minutes.    Add 1.5 cups of water and the allspice berries.  After the water has come to a simmer, reduce the heat to medium-low and let everything cook for 20 minutes.  Add the torn sage leaves and cook for another 10 minutes until the cannellini beans are meltingly tender.

Optional:  Serve with grated or shaved parmesan cheese on top.


Cooking Diaries: Enchiladas from Scratch

Many Saturdays ago, I wandered down 24th Street in the Mission when I came across La Palma, a small “Mexicatessen” where business was already booming at 9 am.   There was a small provisions store up front, somewhat sparse by Mexican grocery standards, but I saw that most of people in the store were looking at a big menu in the back full of burritos, tacos, tamales, huaraches, pupusas and other masa based specialities.  There is a tortilla machine on the side, churning out piping hot corn tortillas.  It was the right start to a day for making an enchilada sauce based on an adobo, a chili based puree with tang from vinegar.

I had learned about adobos from Truly Mexican*, an amazing treasure of a cookbook I had found in the used section of Green Apple Books, a glorious bookstore in the Inner Sunset.  It is a fat, coffee-table sized book with beautiful pictures that lends itself to browsing while munching on a snack or having dinner alone.  Over time, I’ve built up plenty of theoretical knowledge about the myriad Mexican sauces/dips such as adobos, moles, salsas, guacamoles and pipianes.

The enchilada sauce I tried out is based on Adobo D.F. from Truly Mexican, with the primary flavoring coming from ancho chiles (dried poblano peppers).  The ancho chilies give it a slightly bitter, raisiny quality that is complemented by the side notes of chocolate, cinnamon, garlic and vinegar present in the sauce.  Although it takes a little time to deseed and devein the dried chiles, it’s the perfect activity to do while watching TV.

While tasting the sauce while making it, it had a slight bitter taste from the anchos.  However it went perfectly with the queso fresco and the final dish has a beautiful complexity.

Serve with curtido, refried beans, avocado slices and wedges of lime.

Ancho Chocolate Enchilada Sauce (a finishing sauce based on the Adobo D.F.) in Truly Mexican.  This recipe by Rick Bayless is a good equivalent especially if you add a piece (1/6 of a wheel) of Mexican chocolate when you’re cooking it.

For Assembling the Enchiladas

  • 1/4 cup of vegetable oil
  • 16 small corn tortillas
  • 4 oz. queso fresco, crumbled
  • 1/2 a white onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • Other garnish ideas:  sauteed vegetables, corn, avocado, sour cream or crema

Arrange two frying pans on the stove.  One will be used for lightly frying the corn tortillas to make them pliable.  Fill the other with the enchilada sauce.

Put a few tablespoons of vegetable oil in one frying pan over medium high heat.  Hold the enchilada sauce over low heat in a second frying pan.  The sauce should have the consistency of heavy cream.

Dip a corn tortilla into the hot oil and cook on both sides until it is pliable.  Drain the oil and then place it in the pan containing the enchilada sauce. Make sure that both sides of the tortilla are covered in enchilada sauce and then fold into quarters, leaving in the pan.  Repeat 3 more times and then transfer all four folded tortillas to a plate.  Top with queso fresco, white onion and cilantro and any other garnishes.  Repeat for other plates and serve hot.

* If you are looking for a Mexican technique book, I cannot recommend Truly Mexican enough.  Santibanez introduces the most common ingredients, how they are combined to make foundational sauces in Mexican cooking and how these can then be used in entrees.  It’s probably not the right book for someone who doesn’t know an enchilada from a taco but if you already like Mexican food and are looking to up your game, it’s Uh-Mazing

Summer Dinners: Thai Slaw and Crispy Pan Fried Tofu

Note:  This is an old blog post from last year that I forgot to publish until now:

Thai Slaw is the perfect dish to bring to a picnic.  It’s full of fresh crunchy veggies like cabbage and carrots but is also zingy and hearty from the peanut sauce.  For complete disclosure, I had actually meant to make this dish for a picnic on Angel Island but I didn’t wake up early enough to make this salad and catch a 9:30 am ferry (it was a Saturday morning).

Instead of eating this at a picnic, I converted this to a light dinner by serving it with thin slabs of crispy tofu which I topped with a little sheen of hoisin sauce.  While you often expect fried tofu to be heavily sauced, I was surprised at how much I liked the fried tofu plain.  As I was frying batches of tofu, I found myself nibbling on the plain fried tofu enjoying it thoroughly.  The fried tofu would be excellent with a light tempura dipping sauce.  In all, this is a healthy, delicious meal to bring to the table fast.

There might be some days where you want to make unhealthy takeout style food at home.  This tofu would be the PERFECT base for “orange tofu” or any other Chinese-American “sauce covering fried nuggets” type dish.  I haven’t tried it yet but for the time when I want something unhealthy, it is on my list.

Thai Slaw Adapted from Elizabeth Rider

Serves 4-6 people

If you’re planning on making this, (which  you should because it is easy and delicious), I would recommend visiting Elizabeth Rider’s site as the original recipe is awesome and she has some great technique videos.  My adaptations are based largely on what I already had in my pantry or fridge or appliance collection.

Cooking Notes:  I used a microplane to grate the garlic, ginger and jalapeno.  I also made the sauce before prepping the veggies so the flavors in the sauce had time to mingle with each other.


  • 4 cups shredded red cabbage
  • 1 yellow bell pepper thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and julienned
  • 6 scallions (1 bunch) sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
  • 1/3 cup mint chopped or torn


  • 2 Tbs tamari
  • 2 Tbs apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbs maple syrup
  • 3 Tbs smooth peanut butter (I used a natural peanut butter where the oil and solids can separate)
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 clove garlic grated
  • 1 inch piece of ginger grated
  • 1 tsp grated japaleno (1/2-1 inch from the bottom)

Whisk together all the ingredients for the sauce.  It may look a little clumpy, especially with fresh peanut butter but keep mixing until it comes together.

After prepping the veggies, toss the cabbage, bell pepper, carrots and scallions together in a large bowl.  Rewhisk the sauce, pour it over the veggies and toss until everything is well mixed together.

Fried Tofu

Serves 3

I had remembered reading in several recipes to dredge tofu in corn starch before pan frying so I tried it out.  Kitchn has a more detailed technique which is I highly recommend reading through.

  • 8 oz block of firm or extra firm tofu (I used a block of Wildwood)
  • 1/3 cup corn starch for dredging the tofu
  • vegetable oil (or another mild oil with a high smoke point) for pan frying
  • 2 Tbs Hoisin sauce

Slice tofu into thin slabs.  Mine were about 1/3 inch by 1 inch by 2.5 inches.  This gives more surface area for crispiness.  Pat them dry with a paper towel.

Pour ~3 Tbsp oil into a frying pan over medium-high heat.

Add the corn starch to a medium-sized plate.  Dredge the tofu in the corn starch so it is lightly coated on all sides with corn starch.

Working in batches and adding more oil as necessary, pan-fry the tofu over medium to medium high heat.  Flip over the pieces when a solid crispy crust has formed on the tofu and is very lightly golden (it will not form a rich golden or red-gold crust).  It should take about 3-4 minutes on each side.  After removing from the heat, lay out on plates lined with paper towels to soak up extra oil.

Brush the top of each tofu piece lightly with hoisin sauce.  Divide into 3 servings and serve with a hearty scoop of slaw on the side.  Serve immediately.