Recipe with Notes and Resources first, scroll down past the photos for the story after.
{ click for Roasted Salmon Nicoise Salad Board recipe }

avocado citrus salad with feta and pistachios


serves 4

Through March, citrus is at the peak of its season, so there will be everything from deep dark red blood oranges to peachy pink Cara Cara oranges to bright white oro blanco grapefruits at the markets. You can use whatever you want, but try to find a mix of colors and at least one grapefruit to have something very tart, otherwise the salad might be a little too sweet. See notes after the recipe for more information on citrus, as well as brands/resources for the ingredients and additional recipe tips.


6-8 citrus fruits, any kind: blood orange, cara cara orange, navel orange, oro blanco grapefruit, pink or red grapefruit, pomelo
4-5 kumquats, thinly sliced cross-wise, seeds removed
2 firm ripe avocados, peeled and sliced lengthwise
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
juice from half a lemon
¼ cup thinly sliced red onions, soaked in cold water for 10 minutes
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
½ cup roasted pistachios, roughly chopped
flaky sea salt and pepper


Peel citrus, separate segments, and carefully remove the thin skin and white pith from each segment. It is time-consuming and very tedious, but sometimes you need an activity that lets your mind wander while keeping your hands away from your phone. You can of course, peel the citrus, and cut cross-wise into round slices that look like bright colorful suns.

Arrange the citrus segments and avocado slices on a serving plate with high sides (to keep the citrus juices). Add sliced kumquats. Drizzle citrus and avocado with olive oil and lemon juice. Scatter red onions, feta cheese, and chopped pistachios over the citrus and avocado. Sprinkle with ground black pepper and a little bit flaky sea salt (will depend on how salty the feta cheese and pistachios are).

Citrus segments by themselves, i.e. without olive oil and additional salad ingredients, can be kept in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for two days. Avocados will not last, but why wouldn’t you just eat them all.

avocado citrus salad with feta and pistachios

citrus-roasted-wild-salmonRecipe first, personal notes and shopping resources after.

{ click for CITRUS-ROASTED SALMON with HERBS recipe }

Pho Ga (chicken pho) with Quinoa

Pho Ga to phight phlu. Quinoa for january qleanse. Recipe first, cook’s notes and shopping resources follow.
chicken Pho Quinoa, closeup
Yes, that is parsley in my pho. I can’t stand cilantro.
chicken Pho Quinoa,bowl

Pho Ga Quinoa (Chicken Pho with Quinoa) Recipe

Guided by recipes from Charles Phan, Steamy Kitchen, and Viet World Kitchen

serves 4


For the Quinoa:

2 cups quinoa, uncooked
2 garlic cloves, lightly crushed
1-inch piece ginger, lightly crushed
1½ cups filtered water

For the Soup Base:

1 medium onion, cut in half, unpeeled
1 3-inch piece of ginger
1 whole chicken, quartered
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
10-12 sprigs fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 pod star anise
½ stick of cinnamon
5-6 whole black peppercorns

For Garnish:

sliced scallions
sliced onions
fresh bean sprouts
cilantro (I HATE cilantro, so I use parsley, which is totally sacrilegious, I know, but who cares when you’re using QUINOA instead of noodles already?!)
sliced jalapeño or serrano peppers
lime wedges
sriracha hot sauce, garlic chili sauce, and hoisin sauce


Cook the Quinoa: Rinse the quinoa in a pot of cold water until the water runs clear. Drain the rinse water, then add the garlic, ginger, and filtered water for cooking. Place the pot on the stovetop over high heat. Once the water boils, turn down the heat to medium-low or low and simmer the quinoa uncovered until cooked, about 20 minutes.

If you have an electric rice cooker, use it to cook the quinoa with the garlic and ginger. You can also use plain cooked quinoa that you already have.

Make the Soup Base: Turn one of the burners on your gas stove to medium-high. Using a pair of metal tongs (and wearing a heatproof mitt or glove), place the onions and ginger directly on the burner over the flame, turning them occasionally until they are charred black all over, about 10 minutes. If you don’t have a gas stove, you can get the same effect with a grill, the broiler in the oven, possibly a toaster oven. Allow the ginger and onion to cool, then remove the black charred skins by running the onions and ginger under water and rubbing the skins off with your fingers. Use a few paper towels to dry off the onions and ginger, rubbing to remove any remnant charred skin.

Place the charred onion and ginger, chicken parts, and the remaining Soup Base ingredients (salt, fish sauce, sugar, cilantro, coriander, star anise, cinnamon, and black peppercorns) in a large stock pot. Fill the pot with about 5 quarts cold, filtered water, or at least enough to cover the chicken by several inches. Bring to a boil, then immediately turn the heat down to medium-low. Simmer uncovered until the chicken is cooked through, about 25-30 minutes, skimming the surface of the soup to remove foam and fat globules with a mesh skimmer. I use a spoon because I’m too cheap and lazy to buy a special utensil.

Remove the cooked chicken parts from the soup base with a pair of tongs to a plate. Keep simmering the soup base, while the chicken cools. Once the chicken parts are cool enough to handle (about 10 minutes), peel off the skin and tear the meat from the bones. Cover and refrigerate the chicken meat until serving. Return the skin and bones to the simmering soup base and allow the soup base to simmer for 1½ hours on very low heat, covered with just a little bit of airspace to let steam escape.

Strain the soup base through a colander lined with cheesecloth or a large sieve, pressing down on the skin, bones, onions, ginger and spices to extract all the flavorful liquid. Discard the skin, bones, onions, ginger, and spices. Taste the soup base and adjust the seasoning with any more of salt, fish sauce, or if you must, sugar.

(I try to stay as far away as possible from any added sugar to anything, especially savory food even though I KNOW sweetness brings out the contrasting savory and sour flavors. OMG THERE IT IS – contradiction.)

If planning to eat immediately, return the strained soup base to the cooking pot and place over low heat to keep the soup base hot. If planning to eat later, cool the soup base to room temp, cover, then refrigerate.

To Serve the Pho Ga Quinoa: Place about 1 cup of cooked quinoa in each of four bowls. Ladle hot soup base into each bowl. Add a handful of shredded chicken meat to each bowl, along with some sliced scallions and sliced onions. Serve with plates of the remaining garnishes on the side (fresh bean sprouts, mint, basil, cilantro, sliced jalapeño or serrano peppers, lime wedges, sriracha hot sauce, garlic chili sauce, and hoisin sauce).

To Store Leftovers: If they are kept in separate containers and covered, leftover quinoa, soup base, and cooked chicken can all be stored in the refrigerator for a day or two. Reheat individual components separately then assemble to eat again. Pho Ga Quinoa that has been assembled in the bowl doesn’t keep well so plan accordingly.

chicken Pho Quinoa


  • QUINOA. I buy organic quinoa from the bulk bins at Whole Foods.
  • CHICKEN. From Puritan Poultry/Marconda’s in the 3rd/Fairfax Farmers’ Market (LA)
  • SUGAR. More traditional pho recipes incorporate “rock sugar” which is literally giant rock crystals of sugar, slightly amber in color. I have a bag that I bought when I visited a Vietnamese market in Orange County, but it’s not super easy to find, so substituting regular sugar is fine. If you are avoiding refined sugar, just leave it out. (If you’re eating truly low-carb, you wouldn’t be eating this with quinoa either.)
  • FISH SAUCE. There are many brands of fish sauce out there, but I use Red Boat fish sauce, which I have found in the larger Whole Foods markets in my city (Los Angeles), though it may not be available in all regions. You can always buy Red Boat fish sauce online.
  • SRIRACHA. We all know the sriracha sauce that comes in the rooster bottle with the green top, but that is not the only one. I found a (mostly) organic sriracha sauce by Sky Valley at Whole Foods.
  • All other produce and ingredients from local farmers’ markets or Whole Foods (though my local Ralphs grocery store is ever-expanding their organic selections).

star anise, cinnamon and coriander

cranberry cheddar grilled cheese { click for CRANBERRY WHITE CHEDDAR BRIED GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICH recipe }

dessert cheeseboard with dark chocolate and matcha chocolate bark
They say the best way to get out of going to All! Those! Holiday parties! this season is…by throwing your own.

And since the whole point is to keep your life simple and stress-free, the last thing you want to worry about when you’re busy bedazzling your cocktail sweatpants is what to feed your guests. There is nothing easier than throwing together some fruit and cheese onto a dessert cheeseboard, and nothing more impressive than featuring something you made yourself like these gorgeous glossy dark chocolate barks studded with roasted salted Wonderful Pistachios No Shells.

The barks are so pretty, no one will know you threw them together in a few minutes, hm kind of like you right before your own party. Each dark chocolate bark takes about 10 minutes to make with chocolate that’s melted in the microwave oven, and Wonderful Pistachios that are roasted, salted, and ready to go into the bark virtually right out of the bag because they’re already shelled.

I know. You’re welcome. But don’t blame me when everyone expects you to host four more parties before the end of the year now.

p.s. Wonderful Pistachios Sea Salted Dark Chocolate Bark and Wonderful Pistachios Matcha Dark Chocolate Bark are also great Holiday gifts! [click to continue…]

green shakshuka with chard kale zucchini { click for GREEN SHAKSHUKA with CHARD, KALE, and ZUCCHINI recipe }