Sewing up a Cross Back Apron

tl;dr: How I customized Purl Soho’s Cross Back Apron for myself and rocked a dinner party. My alteration process included (in case you want to adapt it)

Like so many garment sewing projects, I finished this apron just hours before an occasion where I wanted to wear it. If you are wondering (rightfully), what exactly is the right event for an apron, it is the once-a-year dinner party that the S.O. and me host for our friends.*

I have been lusting after Purl Soho’s Cross Back apron for months. It is a minimalist, utilitarian apron that oozes modern artisan — perfect for my San Francisco sensibility. From the beginning, I was also certain that I wanted it in that color known as “burnt orange” after seeing a picture in my Pinterest feed of a model wearing a one-shouldered burnt orange dress. The color looked so good against her brown skin that I needed it in my wardrobe immediately. When I saw the Purl Soho instructions and came across burnt orange linen at Discount Fabrics in San Francisco, I knew it was fate.

During the sewing process, I was struck by the little details like side pockets and cross-backed straps that rest on your shoulders rather than your neck. What a delight to sew and I’m sure that I’ll enjoy wearing this in the years to come.

Altering the Purl Soho Cross Back Apron to be “Me-Sized”

I’m on the small side of “one size fits many” so I altered the pattern to be “me-sized” aka XS. I think my approach could be used to make the apron bigger or smaller especially since there are no curves to this pattern.

One thing to keep in mind is that you’ll need the same amount of fabric for seam allowances. As you draw out the updated dimensions of the apron, You’ll want to figure out by how much you are increasing or decreasing each dimension. In my images below, I represent these “relative changes” inside parentheses.

Step 1: Identify the dimensions of your desired apron.

Original Measurements of the Purl Soho Cross Back Apron

I’ve included the original dimensions of the apron as provided by Purl Soho and the dimensions I wanted for my final project. The dimensions you’ll definitely want to track include:

  • Front Panel Width
  • Front Panel Height
  • Back Panel Heights
  • Side and Back Panel Width
  • Pocket Depth (relative difference from original pocket depth is fine)
  • Strap Length (note: I just eyeballed this)

Step 2: Identify the difference between each of the original dimensions and the desired dimensions

This part is really important because you’ll make adjustments to each of the pieces you cut out based on how your measurements differ from the original. I’ve included the differences between my apron and the original for each panel in parentheses.

Desired Measurements for the Purl Soho Cross Back Apron

Step 3: Calculate dimension of pieces for your pocket panels

The hardest part of modifying this pattern was figuring out how to modify the pocket panel. The pocket panel is constructed like a sandwich. The top of piece A will become the top of the entire pocket panel. Pieces A and B make up the pocket. They are stitched by their bottoms to form the bottom of the pocket. You still need a panel that goes to the bottom of the apron. This is where piece C comes in. The top of piece C is stitched with the top of piece B and forms the front of the pocket panel.

Pocket Panel of the Cross Back Apron

I’ll walk through the process of updating the panel length and pocket depth below since those are the hardest parts. For simplification, I only walk through modifying the long sides of each of the pieces A, B and C. You will want to reduce the length of the short sides of pieces A, B and C by the same amount that you reduce the length of the long sides.

I’ll go through process via the visuals below but in a nutshell

  • Altering Pocket Depth: Alter the length of pieces A and B by the desired amount
  • Altering Panel Length: Alter the length of piece C by the desired amount.
How I updated the length of the pocket panel of the Purl Soho Cross Back Apron

Step 4: Draw out the altered pieces to cut out

Now you are ready to draw out the set of updated pieces for your apron. For your front and back panels, you can directly adjust the height and width of the pieces based on the alteration amounts you came up with in step 2. You will also be able to directly adjust the width of the pocket A, B and C pieces. For the length adjustments to pocket pieces A, B and C, we walked through the process for adjusting pocket depth and side panel length in step 3.

Step 5: Go sew up your apron and host a dinner party

This part magically happens right?

* Post dinner party, the S.O. and I decided we can host more (especially with a stronger potluck component) but I didn’t know that while racing to finish the apron and I didn’t want to wait a whole year to show it off.

Patchwork Quilted Coasters

Batik quilted patchwork coasters on a coffee table

I made these gorgeous Aloha themed patchwork coasters from some lovely fabric that I purchased in Maui. I love how they look against the living room coffee table. They are the perfect pop of color to complement our mostly neutral apartment furniture and go perfectly with our coffee table book on Hawaiian shirts.

These were a really fun, low pressure project to make. Many of the non-sewing steps also lend themselves to being done while watching TV.


My primary focus was on completing the project with minimal fuss (read: not too much precision, technique or accessories). I loved the small imperfections in each individual coaster and found it gave them character.

I approximated all the fabric measurements. I started by measuring the first coaster next to our old coasters and went from there. A ruler probably works better

I used the backing of the coasters to create a faux binding. I adapted this technique from Pretty Prudent but went even simpler with my corners (simply folding the sides on top of each other).

The important part of this project is picking fabrics that you like and go well together. Remnants from a fat quarter pack would be a good option here.

What you need:

  • Fabric scraps to make the patchwork fronts
  • Batting (~4.5 in square per coaster)
  • Backing fabric
  • Thread
  • Iron and Ironing board
  • Sewing Machine
  • Scissors
  • Ruler (optional)

Making the fronts

  • Sew scraps of fabric together to create a patchwork front.
  • Trim and press your seams to one side (Note: I accidentally pressed my stitches open) in preparation for stitch in the ditch quilting.
  • Trim the entire piece to 4 inch squares (or your choice of coaster size).
  • Cut a piece of square of batting that is half an inch larger on either side.
  • Cut a piece of fabric backing that is one inch larger than the front on either side.
  • Sandwich the backing between the front and backing (centering both the front and batting on top of the backing) and quilt the pieces together using the “stitch in the ditch” method. Snip the thread edges.
Stitch in the ditch quilting the patchwork coaster
Stitching in the ditch quilting

Binding the Coasters

I adapted the faux binding technique from Pretty Prudent but made the corners even simpler.

  • Trim the batting so its edges are flush with the edges of the front.
  • Fold the edge of the backing fabric on each side so it is flush with the batting and front
    • Pro Tip: Leave a tiny gap (maybe 1/8 inch) between the folded edge and batting so it is easier to fold the edge of the batting.On each side, fold over the edge of the backing so it is lined up with the edge of the batting and press.
  • Snip off the corners to reduce the extra fabric bulk
  • Fold each of these folded edges over the front of the coaster to create the faux binding and stitch through the binding, the front, the batting and the bottom so that everything stays in place. You can sew each side individually or sew it all in one go: when you come to a corner, use the back stitch function of your machine to create the cross effect.
  • Once you’re done, clean up your threads and you’ll have a coaster ready to go.

There you have it. Some beautiful bright patchwork coasters to show off your fabric stash and brighten up your morning tea!

Six new coasters for the coffee table to add some Hawaiian brightness, even on grey days.

Vegetarian Friendly Maui

Maui Beach

Whoever said Maui was a special place was spot on.  In my opinion, it’s one of the most relaxing places in the world.  I love spending time both at the beach but also on the verdant mountainside of Haleakala.

As a vegetarian, it can be hard to find good food at restaurants in Maui.  Its food scene celebrates island seafood and the paniolo steak traditions.  When I travel to Maui, I always end up balancing meals outside with home cooked meals.  However, I’ve also had the opportunity to have some really delicious food.  Given the research and recommendations it can take, I thought I’d pass along a summary.

Some of my favorite vegetarian-friendly restaurants in Maui to eat and drink

  • Maui Tacos (Kihei, Kahului) – Good, cheap, classic beachside Mexican chain.  If you get a burrito, I suggest you get it ‘WET’ — smothered with enchilada sauce and cheese.  ($)
  • Fred’s Mexican Cafe (Kihei) – A solid vacation town Tex-Mex joint.  It’s a perfect place to get veggie fajitas and a margarita (or two) after a morning of stand up paddle boarding.  If you’ve expended the effort to lug your SUP board from the beach to the rental shop, you deserve it.  ($$)
  • Cafe des Amis (Paia) – A free-spirited cafe serving French, Indian and Mediterranean dishes and beach town cocktails (Passion Fruit Margarita, anyone?).  I’ve been here multiple times and every single time, I order the savory crepe filled with Italian lentil and tomato stew, pesto and mozzarella.  This dish is so good that every time, my dining partners have regretted not ordering this crepe.  Writing about it makes me hungry. ($$)
  • Monkeypod Kitchen (Kaanapali, Wailea) – A New Hawaiian-American restaurant with a great vibe, great cocktails and a solid number of fresh-feeling vegetarian options.    Their Kaanapali location has an open patio looking out onto the beach which was an added plus.  My family enjoyed the pumpkin patch ravioli, the coco corn chowder, the margherita pizza and their kale salad along.  Of all the cocktails I tasted in Maui, Monkeypod probably has the best.  The White Walker was especially tasty.  As a fun fact, they also serve their drinks in great glasses – I ended up buying a carton (24) of glass tiki glasses that I saw at Monkeypod to keep and gift to friends. ($$)
  • Hali’imaile General Store (Hali’imaile) – For a night with a classic Hawaiian fine dining vibe, check this restaurant.  This is where locals do special nights out.  They have a vegetarian menu and and excellent set of cocktails. ($$$)

Some sweet snack shops also worth checking out

Stick Doughnuts
Waiting in like to get stick doughnuts and other goodies at T Komoda
  • Cinnamon Roll Place (Kihei) – Sticky, sweet cinnamon rolls so massive they could feed 2 or 3 people apiece.
  • Sugar Beach Bake Shop (Kihei) – for malasadas and other breakfast goodness.  Mmm, doughnuts
  • T Komoda Store & Bakery (Makawao) – I was skeptical by the somewhat flakey hours (they close for vacations) but I will admit that the stick doughnuts are some of the best doughnuts I’ve ever had in my life.  There’s a huge line of tourists when it opens but after the initial tourist rush, it’s a little less busy. 
  • Beach Street Maui Shave Ice (Kihei) – Shave Ice, which is the hawaiian snow-cone.  Be sure to get ice cream on the bottom.
  • Ulalanis (Kihei, Ka’anapali) – Shave Ice, which is the hawaiian snow-cone. Be sure to get ice cream on the bottom.
  • Banana bread from a local joint, extra points if it’s still a little warm

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.

On food and food blogging

Experimental Vegan Cheeze
Vegan Cheeze – a successful experiment

While eating breakfast this morning, I flipped through a cookbook.  Not unusual for me — as you may or may not know, I do this during most meals I eat alone.

The book I happened to be reading was David Rosengarten’s It’s All American Food which captures recipes from a wide variety of the multicultural and regional culinary dialects that have contributed to American cuisine.

It might be the hipster San Franciscan in me but so much of the food that seems ubiquitously trendy or now a timeless norm is missing from the book…like Buddha bowls, veggie burgers or even kale salads.  Even if the first two foods might still be a part of my diet in a bubble, surely it’s reasonable to say that the kale salad has now gotten nation wide recognition although probably had not broken out in 2003 when the book was written.

And so what if veggie burgers and buddha bowls are part of a culinary “dialect”.  It’s one of the dialects I speak.  It’s also part of the larger food conversation and how environmental and health trends continue to shape the foods we eat.

As to my own personal food choices, they have also evolved over time.  In college, my speciality was a very mean penne a la vodka with a made-from-scratch sauce.  I had little regard for how much cream went into the sauce and even less for how much vodka went into my mouth during the cooking process.

But times (and my metabolism) have changed.  Nowadays my favorite things to cook with friends are things like Angela Liddon’s Thai Sweet Potato Veggie Burgers with Spicy Peanut Sauce that are chock full of the veggies, protein and flavor.  Me from 10 years ago would not have believed that today’s me has discovered how to make a pretty delicious vegan cheeze that both my vegan, gluten-free lactose intolerant and event VEGETARIAN friends find delicious…even if it isn’t brie or parmesan.

Perhaps I’ll actively post and I’ll get thousands of viewers to this blog.  However, even if no reader sees this, this blog will still be a personal record for me as every recipe has been for the person who passed it forward.  Somewhere in the writings will be the answers to questions like Who am I?, Where did I come from?, Where did I live?, What did I find delicious?, What was important to me?, How did I live my life? and so much more.  I won’t always be sure of the questions or the answers but somewhere in this written record about my connection to food and how I think about it in the NOW, they’ll be there.

Curried Corn and Potato Soup


How do you make a hot summer soup that is hearty enough to be a meal but not siesta inducing?  This question and a picture of a chef shaving off kernels of corn in Ottolenghi’s Plenty serve as the inspirations of this soup.

I wanted the soup to be served hot and highlight the sweetness of fresh-off-the-cob corn.  At the same time, some potato would add substance and body to the soup.  I decided to use two lonely mushrooms in my fridge to add some umami flavor.

I am very happy with how the soup turned out and would definitely make it again. If you don’t have all the spices, you can experiment with flavors that you have in your own pantry.

The only thing I would change for next time would be to leave out the buttermilk.  The corn and potato bring plenty of flavor and vegetal creaminess.  This soup would be nice to serve with chips and fresh guacamole.

<h2>Curried Corn and Potato Soup</h2>

Serves 3

  • 2 ears of corn, shucked
  • 2 small red-skinned potatoes, scrubbed well and finely diced into 1/4 in. thick pieces the size of corn kernels.
  • 2 mushrooms (optional), finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic finely chopped
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 10-20 fresh curry leaves (you’ll need less if you’re using fresh leaves and more if you are using frozen leaves)
  • 3 Tbs vegetable oil
  • Tiny pinch asafoetida (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp salt or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 cup buttermilk (optional but I’d probably omit next time)

Corn Soup IngredientsIMG_0331

  1. Heat oil over medium high heat in a wide frying pan that will be deep enough to hold all ingredients.
  2. Add the asafoetida and curry leaves to release the flavors of these spices.
  3. Add onions and cook for 5 minutes until translucent.  Then, add mushrooms and potatoes.  Stir occasionally.  Cook for another 5-7 min.
  4. While the other ingredients are cooking, use a sharp knife to shave kernels off the cobs of corn.
  5. Check a piece of potato.  It should be relatively soft but may have a little bite.  Add the garlic and reduce to medium heat.  Cook for 1 minute.
  6. Add corn kernels, salt and spices and fry for another 3 minutes.
  7. Stir in 1/2 cup of water and cook for another 10 minutes or until the potatoes have cooked through.  If you are adding buttermilk, reduce heat to low and heat until the buttermilk has been warmed through.
  8. If you want a very pretty soup, you can remove all the curry leaves at this point.  Add half the solids to a food processor and blend to a paste.  Add this paste back to the soup and stir until the soup is evenly thickened.  Add water if you wish to thin out the soup more.  Reheat if the soup has cooled.
  9. Divide the soup among 3 bowls and serve.  You can garnish with fried curry leaves if you’d like.

* Confession – I’ve never actually had chowder but recalling from memory, many seem to have potatoes and corn.

Tomato Jam

One of my favorite part of the summer are all the tomatoes at the farmer’s markets.  Living in San Francisco, I’m incredibly spoiled — I have a small farmer’s market  3 blocks from my house and a larger market only a 5 min drive away.

Last year, I bought Sheri Castle’s The New Southern Garden Cookbook from A Southern Season in Chapel Hill.  The book caught my eye given how vegetarian friendly it is for a Southern cookbook.  What I really like about this book is how Sheri Castle mixes traditional recipes with modern revisions of recipes.

My favorite recipe in the book is her tomato jam recipe.  Last year I made two batches and a couple weeks ago, I made a double batch and put half in the freezer for later in the year.  This tomato jam is DEELICIOUS and it’s a good condiment to have on hand.  I’ve had it schmeared on hunks of sour flour bread with fancy cheese, as a replacement for achaar as a condiment with Indian food, as a topping for crumpets and alongside Greek-style fava.

Tomato Jam (adapted from Sheri Castle’s The New Southern Garden Cookbook)

(time required:  a morning or an afternoon although borrowing a friend will reduce prep work time)

(yield – 5ish cups)

  • 10 cups peeled, seeded and chopped plum tomatoes**
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup peeled and grated fresh ginger
  • 4 garlic cloves finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 Tbs chai masala*
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 jalapeno chopped (adjust to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup sherry vinegar
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup honey (can be omitted to be vegan)
  • 4 Tbs lemon juice (around 1 1/2 lemons)

* I use a homemade chai masala based on Tarla Dalal’s recipes but if you don’t have chai masala, use a mix of cinnamon, cloves and allspice.  I’m sure a little pumpkin pie spice would probably work in this scenario

** I accidentally used heirloom tomatoes which was a bad idea.  While they have a lot of flavor, they’re really watery so they’re not good for making jams.

  1. To peel your tomatoes, slit tiny x’s (just enough to pierce the skin) into the bottom of whole tomatoes, put them in boiling water for a few seconds and then put them in a bowl of ice cold water for a few seconds.  It should now be much easier to peel them.
  2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally until the onions are soft and translucent, about 5 min.
  3. Stir in the ginger and garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring.
  4. Add all the spices and cook for 1 minute, stirring.
  5. Add the tomatoes, salt, brown sugar and vinegar to the pot.
  6. After the ingredients have come to a gentle boil, reduce the head to medium low and cook until most of the water has evaporated and the mixture is thick and jammy.  For me, this took about 3 hours which was spent cleaning up and reading cookbooks.
  7. Stir in the pepper and honey and boil until the jam is shiny — about 2 minutes.
  8. Let the jam cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.
  9. Transfer the jam into clean glass jars with tight fitting lids.  The jam will keep a couple months refrigerated and up to a few months if frozen.

Sunshine Soup in a Culinary Terrarium: Golden Gazpacho

If you have been searching for liquid essence of the summer sun, this is the soup for you.  The yellow gazpacho recipe from Ana Sortun’s Spice cookbook has a vibrant tomato flavor and a velvety texture from bread and good extra virgin olive oil.  Since the summer sun also has heat, I added a quarter of a habanero pepper which gives it a lovely floral citrusy punch.  If there is any chance you get pints of high quality cherry tomatoes (sungold or even red), please make this recipe before the end of the summer.

Although the recipe is simple (throwing a few things in a blender or food processor), I want to point out a couple techniques in the recipe which are important in terms of texture and consistency:

  • Using bread as a thickener in the soup.  Gazpacho without bread will separate out into liquid and pulp.  The bread acts as a “body” keeping the pulp, juice and olive oil to produce a well-bodied, smooth texture.
  • Straining the soup (in my case, a metal tea strainer) to get rid of skin and seeds and larger bits of bread.
  • Use of contrasting textures between smooth soup, crunchy juicy peppers and crunchy dry home-made croutons

Golden Gazpacho with Habanero

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