Anniversary at Gather, Berkeley

Posted by: on Sep 28, 2012 | No Comments

Vegan Charcuterie

I had been meaning to make the drive up to Gather since I saw it on Check Please!, Bay Area. J and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary this past weekend. We aren’t big into gifts and a dinner out has marked each of our previous anniversaries. On the show, Gather looked like just our kind of place with interesting local food and dairy-free options. I knew I would have to order the Vegan Charcuterie after seeing it on the show, and I suspected he would try the Vegan Pizza.

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We are somewhat predictable with our choices, but we were not disappointed. We started with the Vegan Charcuterie. The photo above has our favorite selection from the plate: Smoked Cashew with tomato strawberry mole, habanero and pickled carrots. I may have had more than my fair share. The plate also had Heirloom Tomato with seaweed ranch, tomato hot sauce and tofu skin, Smoked Gravenstein Apples with wine grapes, walnut juice and lemon verbena chili and Watermelon and Figs with olives, fig barbeque sauce and dulse. The combinations really weren’t as strange as they may sound. We especially loved the crispy tofu skin!

Spicy Vegan Pizza

J defiled his Spicy Vegan Pizza by ordering it with an egg on top. He said it was probably the best vegan pizza he has had and it would be even better topped with pancetta.

Eggplant Bolognese

I had the Eggplant Bolognese with caponata, and I absolutely loved it. This was a dish for someone who really loves eggplant, which I do. It was pretty much eggplant wrapped in eggplant topped with eggplant. I have no problem with this combination. In fact, I may try to recreate it at home.

We were admittedly pretty full, but we weren’t really tempted by any of the dessert options. They did score bonus points with us for having almond milk lattes though…and look at the prettiness. I’m a sucker for prettiness.

Almond Milk Latte

Overall, we really loved Gather. We spent about $45 dollars per person without alcohol. For  the excellent food, knowledgeable waitstaff (so important with food sensitivities) and a fun atmosphere, I think it is a pretty good value relative to the price. J’s love of the pizza and Gather’s proximity to Games of Berkeley (nerd alert!) pretty much ensure we will be back in the relative near future.

Gather is located at 2200 Oxford Street  Berkeley, CA 94704

Disclaimer: I was not paid or compensated in any way for this post. All opinions are my own.

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Scenes From Today…

Posted by: on Sep 23, 2012 | 2 Comments

Thompson grapes

After a relaxing day yesterday, we made a quick stop at the farmer’s market this morning before the craziness of the week creeps in to this afteroon. I really want some tomatoes, and I felt like buying a fresh almond milk smoothie rather than making one. Grape season is in full swing here, and it is amazing how many different kinds were out, including these tiny sweet Thompsons.

Pomegranates

This was the first week I have seen pomegranates at the market. I am surprised how often I see them growing in people’s front yards in the bay area. Maybe they are easier to grow than I thought? I guess they are another thing I can add to my future tiny farm list.

Heirloom cherry tomatoes

I have half of these tomatoes roasting in the oven as I type this. They are destined for a Tomato Dill Soup (recipe to follow). I found out I have one less thing to do this week, which is a welcome relief. My to-do list is piling up quickly, as it always seems to this time of year.

Sunflowers

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Grain-Free Salmon Cakes

Posted by: on Sep 20, 2012 | 2 Comments

Grain-Free Salmon Cakes

These delicate salmon cakes are grain-free, flavorful and healthy. They are a great alternative to crab cakes. Unlike heavier fish cakes, these are really delicate. They are perfect served with a salad or you can go against the whole grain free thing and eat them on a sandwich like J did. I love salmon broiled simply with olive oil, salt and pepper. However, J isn’t such a fan of plain salmon, but he will eat it if it is dressed up a bit. He really loved these, and they are a great use of my leftover plain salmon. That makes this recipe pretty perfect in my book.

Grain-Free Salmon Cakes
Adapted from Balanced Bites

8-10 oz. salmon fillet, cooled and flaked
1/4 onion, very finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp dijon mustard
1 egg
1 tbsp coconut flour
2 tbsp finely chopped chives (Dill or parsley would also work well.)
zest and juice from 1 lemon
1 tsp of salt
1/2 tsp of pepper

Enough oil for shallow frying (sunflower, coconut or any high heat oil you prefer)

Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Shape the cakes into portions of about 2 tablespoons each using your hands. They will be delicate and can be arranged on a plate prior to cooking. Heat a pan over medium high heat and add enough oil to fully cover the bottom. Once the pan is heated, gently add the cakes without crowding them. When they are brown on one side, carefully flip them. Once cooked, serve immediately. I think they are great with fresh lemon and a light sprinkling of sea salt.

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Scenes From Today…

Posted by: on Sep 17, 2012 | No Comments

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After an amazing vacation it was nice to be back to normal things like the Sunday Farmers’ Market, baking and long wandering walks around town. I wanted to grab armfuls of these dahlias and bring them home.

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We went the more practical route with string beans. Although, I did pick up the black ones. I may pick up the striped ones next week. I’m thinking they will probably be served with garlic, ginger and sesame oil. We have really developed a partiality to all green drinks. J got some kind of ginger green juice, and I went for a green smoothie. So good.

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I saw these Jujube Chinese dates, but I really don’t have any idea what to do with them. I tasted them, and had even less of a clue.

Jujube Date

On our walk, we passed on of the many fig trees with little fruit starting sprouting out on the branches. If I ever have a yard or a patio, I plan on doing my best to get one to thrive. My Italian grandmother grew them in the city. They were working class immigrants, but it seems the height of luxury to have fresh figs in one’s backyard.

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(From Sunday…but things were down here yesterday!)

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Peach and Tomato Salad

Posted by: on Aug 27, 2012 | 5 Comments

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I often like to serve in season fruit plain and unadorned. Cherries and most berries usually just get washed before they make it to the table. Peaches are the exception to this rule. I love them baked, in savory dishes and in salads. I have been making some version of this salad nearly everyday for lunch. This plan will continue until they disappear from our farmers’ market. This peach, sunflower seed and tomato combination is one of my favorites. It is followed closely by peaches, raspberries and slivered almonds over greens. I like using the ratio of 1 peach: 2 tsp something crunchy: 3 cups of greens: 3 tbsp of dressing for two people. A perfectly ripe tomato, handful of raspberries or avocado slices are a nice bonus.

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I think it is all about getting the right balance of sweet, crunchy, greens and acidity. The sweetness of the peaches pair really well with a more acidic dressing. For this salad, I just whisked together 2 parts balsamic vinegar with one part olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. Sometimes there is no reason to make things more complicated, and this makes for a simple and easy weekday lunch.

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Peach, Tomato and Sunflower Seed Salad
(Serves two)

1 ripe yellow peach, sliced
2 tbsp of raw unsalted sunflower seeds
1 tomato, diced
3 cups of spring mix

For the dressing:

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 1 tbsp olive oil, 1/4 tsp sea salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, the juice of a lemon wedge whisked together.

I like to toss all the ingredients in the dressing and save the sliced peaches to add to the top.

Peaches

Check out some other ideas for peaches from the archives:

Ginger Peach Skillet Pie

Ginger Peach Skillet Pie

Peaches & Cream Pancakes
Peaches and Cream Pancakes

Peach and Cream Cake

Peaches and Cream Cake 

Peach Yogurt Parfait
Peach and Yogurt Parfait 

Peach and Basil Salsa
Peach and Basil Salsa

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Scenes From Today…

Posted by: on Aug 20, 2012 | 4 Comments

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I went for a run tonight for the first time in ages. It was actually the first time since we moved to California over a year ago. I walk everywhere and workout pretty often, but I am not a runner. At least, I have always told myself that. I have been following Angela’s at Oh She Glows posts for her August Challenge this month, and it has been inspiring. She is so open about working through fear. What I am afraid of? It made me feel that I should just go out and run tonight, and I ran further than I thought I could.

Of course, I still stop and take pictures because somethings simply can’t be helped.

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Crazy tall sunflowers and lemon trees for example…

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…and white flowers at dusk stop me in my tracks. I am becoming fairly certain that I will never tire of taking pictures of palm trees regardless of how long we live here. This photogenic cluster was a good excuse to just hit pause and feel grateful for my much improved health and Sunday afternoons.

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Chimichurri Sauce

Posted by: on Aug 13, 2012 | 3 Comments

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I have had chimichurri that is far too vinegary or garlicy, but I think this version strikes a nice balance. For me, it is all about adding some lemon to brighten the flavors and using a mellower vinegar that doesn’t overpower the herbs. Chimichurri is traditionally served in Argentina with steak. I actually used the leftovers as a dressing for greens, tomatoes and beans. It pairs well with any protein, and I have even seen it mixed with pasta. It’s really easy to make and worth having extra to pull together quick weeknight dinners.

Chimichurri

Adapted from Simply Recipes and Kalyn’s Kitchen

1 cup of flat leaf parsley, chopped with the stems removed
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tbsp vinegar (I used white balsamic vinegar)
4 cloves of garlic
2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 lemon zested and juiced
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp salt

I prefer this to be a fairly smooth texture, and pulsed the ingredients in food processor until well combined.

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Scenes From Today…

Posted by: on Aug 9, 2012 | 2 Comments

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It has been a busy summer, and J and I haven’t had a lot of free time together. I decided get up early so we could get meet for a few free late morning hours together. We wandered around the city and explored the inside of City Hall. I have been past it a bunch of times but this was the first time I had been inside. The sunlight streaming though the porticos was gorgeous. The huge red lotus flower is a moving sculpture by Korean artist Choi Jeon Hwa called Breathing Flower. It was so nice to take a short break to just wander around. We really should do it more often.

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Peach and Basil Salsa

Posted by: on Aug 9, 2012 | 2 Comments

UntitledUntitledPeach and Basil Salsa

We bought a bunch of perfectly ripe peaches at the market this weekend, and I knew I wanted to use some to make a salsa. This was was so good you could really just eat it with a spoon, but I served it with a roast chicken breast. I knew I would be alone for dinner tonight, and I have no problem making a special dinner for one. In fact, I like it. Usually, I just make something J hates, but since I knew he would love this I made extra to send with him for lunch. I will be making more of this salsa next week and hopefully buying extra peaches for making jam. I’m feeling ambitious.

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Peach and Basil Salsa

3 1/2 cups of diced yellow peaches (about 3-4 peaches depending on size)
1/4 cup diced onion
juice of one lime
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 cup basil, lightly packed
pinch of salt

Toss all the chopped ingredients together with the lime juice, salt and cayenne pepper. Allow to sit for about five minutes prior to serving. It is best served the same day, but you can refrigerate it overnight if necessary.

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Sunday at the Farmers’ Market

Posted by: on Aug 5, 2012 | No Comments

Flowers and Greens

Weird Cucumbers

Peppers

Carrots of many colors

Buckets of flowers

I bought some of those crazy looking pale green cucumbers (edit: Bitter Melons!). I’ll admit I thought they were a kind of squash. There were so many different kinds of peppers today, and I bought an assortment of colors to have with flank steak and chimichurri sauce tonight. After a compelling free sample, we were lured to buy a huge Crenshaw melon. So, that will be dessert tonight, and probably tomorrow too.

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