Potato, Leek and Kale Soup




I’ve been out of sync with my kale intake recently. It is usually my go-to green, but lately it has languished in my fridge’s back drawer, getting brittle and crumbly, long abandoned for more exciting produce. Feeling the need for its powerhouse nutrients in between these food rich holidays, and not wanting just another boring old kale salad, I decided on a soup. That way I could use an entire bunch of those curly greens but still insert some other flavors so dinner would be a bit more exciting. Za’atar toasted chickpeas added the flavor, texture and thrill element.

Come this new year, I plan to get back into my green smoothie routine. Blending, freezing and defrosting those mason jars full of scary looking liquid by the office space heater. Best way to breakfast. Throw in some chia and flax seeds, maybe some spirulina or chlorella? Go ahead and mock, you wouldn’t be the first one.

Try out this soup as a mini respite in between gravy slathered turkey, buttery mashed potatoes, cinnamon rolls and mocha cheesecake. A real nice accompaniment is cheddar toast, so it isn’t too healthy. Wouldn’t want your body to go into shock.


Potato, Leek and Kale Soup with Za’atar Chickpeas

Trim, clean and slice up 2 large leeks along with 1 shallot and a large sweet onion. In a soup pot, heat up a good sized knob of butter until it begins to foam then add a heavy drizzle of olive oil. Once it gets hot, add the sweet onion and shallot. Sprinkle some salt and let cook until just translucent, stirring once in a while. While the onion sweetens, roughly chop up one to four potatoes, depending on size and your preference. Finely chop  1-2 garlic cloves. When the onion is super soft and before it gets any coloration, add in the leeks. Stir to combine, add a bit more salt and oil if necessary. After the leeks start to soften add fresh thyme, a couple sprigs worth. Stir occasionally and watch to be sure they are softening and cooking but not browning. They’ll meld and almost look a bit goopy. Add in the chopped garlic and potatoes and stir all up. Let cook for another minute or two and add vegetable broth, a large carton full or more, depending on your pot size. Cover and bring to a light boil until the potatoes are very soft, 20-30 minutes. Stir and taste occasionally, adding salt as needed.

As the soup cooks, drain a can of chickpeas and heat up a good amount of high heat oil in a pan. Once hot, add the chickpeas and add about a tablespoon of za’atar, adding some sesame seeds if you feel like it. Season with salt and pepper and fry the spiced chickpeas until crispy and dark brown but don’t burn! Let cool if they finish before the soup.

For the cheddar toasts, thinly slice up a baguette. I love the crust to be full of sesame and poppy seeds, great in partnership with sharp white cheddar. Slice up some sharp cheddar and lay a slice of cheese on each slice of bread. Toast in a hot oven until cheese just bubbles. Take out to cool.

Once the potatoes are pretty soft, add in the leaves of an entire bunch of kale. Stir up to completely wilt then take the pot off the heat. Using an emulsion blender ( or appropriately using a regular blender), blend up the soup until pureed. Include a glug or two of milk to make it creamy and blend to combine.

Serve soup with some toasted chickpeas, a swirl of olive oil and some fresh parsley. Cheddar toasts on the side for dipping purposes.




A Pastry Pilgrimage to San Francisco



Traveling with my family is not for the faint hearted. Nor is it for the sightseers, the hikers or the museum wanderers. Sure, we do a little of that when we explore a new place, but all those activities are the background, done partly out of obligation to the idea of the classic tourist.  They are “well we are in Florence so I suppose we should take a peek at the Uffizi” or ” well we are in Venice, so I suppose we should take a gondola ride.” ( I have a thing for Italy).


Traveling with the Cerquitellas is for the ever-voracious, the espresso sippers and those with a high threshold for teasing and tolerating a constant high pitched stream of chatter. There are a lot of girls in my family. And somehow, when we are all together, our voices all turn morph into the same high shriek while the males stare in abject horror at what their wives/girlfriends have turned into. Oh boys. Just wait till the Dutch Blitz cards come out.


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A few months ago my mom called to propose a Pastry Pilgrimage to  San Francisco, inspired by Bon Appetit’s August article. My older sister was working in LA in early December and we could all meet up for a quick jaunt to eat our way through San Francisco. DONE.


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First stop was b. patisserie.  Our hotel was out by the airport, so to get into the city we had to use a “Yuber” as my mother called it. Adorable but tiny, this bakery was filled with the crispiest, most gorgeous croissants I’ve ever seen. It was also overflowing with slim, yoga pants clad middle aged women. Why they all had nowhere else to be on a Friday morning I do not know. Were buttery confections the usual post-workout meal in San Francisco? We had decided to get a little to eat at a lot of places this weekend so we tried not to overdo it at our first place. One chocolate kouign amann and a gougère would certainly tide us over for a bit.

Nope. Mom insisted we get a passion fruit tart as well. So much for our plan.


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Then we walked. Walked and walked. I’m pretty certain we walked around 20 miles over the 3 days we traipsed around San Francisco. Wandering in and out of stores, poking around vintage kitchen ware stores, corner liquor stores and more gifty shops than I ever thought existed. Sharing a slice of toast at The Mill was a delicious and slightly pretentious experience. It isn’t normal to be condescended to while ordering toast at a coffee shop is it? Well, maybe if they are charging $4 for a slice of toast they can. The cafe was pretty and minimal with ultra cool customers and gorgeous bread. Now that I think of it, that entire aesthetic and character was a theme for San Francisco. Everywhere was artistically curated, snobby with impeccable gluten items.


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Our objective was The Mission District. Tartine to be exact. Tales of its bread and pastries are epic and that was our landmark of orientation to the rest of the city. Hearing of its ludicrious lines, we were prepared for a wait. However, 3:30 on a Friday proved to have a very small line. Score! Thinking of Tartine immediately brings to mind brown, blistered, crusty and flour specked loafs but, upon entering the bakery there was not a loaf to be found. Had we missed them all?! Was the entire trip for naught!?  Were we doomed to suffer through this banana cream pie with no hope of ending our afternoon with a bite of a crackling, warm, buttered baguette?


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Not to fear. As it turns out, Tartine brings out its famous loaves after 4:30 daily. Something about toast for breakfast and fresh bread for dinner. So we were just a bit early, which was fine as we made my sister wait in line for a couple loaves the next day.


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Saturday, we grabbed a hotel shuttle into downtown where Mom found a Ferrari store and practically ran there. Cause, you know she is always on the lookout for a luxury vehicle. Thankfully it was empty and shut down. Seems she was the only one looking for a Ferrari in San Francisco. We ended up at The Ferry Building where the weekly farmer’s market was set up. Any food lover must visit this mecca of gorgeous foodstuffs and quirky gift shops. Samples galore: cheese, burnt caramel, granola and ice cream. Everything “artisanal” and “hand crafted”. Everything impeccably packaged and lust worthy.

Breakfast was Blue Bottle coffee with a couple Craftsman and Wolves scones at their farmer’s market stands. We had stopped by Craftsman and Wolves location in the Mission the day before, but were too full to do more than ooh and ahh over their masterfully artistic baked sweets. These scones were small and just packed with flavor. We swooned especially over the thai curry coconut. Walking around food stands for hours certainly gives you an appetite so we soon needed a small lunch.

Knowing we’d never get in for dinner, we opted for a quick shared lunch at The Slanted Door. This is how we riff raff do fancy dining. We shared a vegetable spring roll and asian pear salad. Yes, we also shared a boozy cocktail and it was only noon. But, you know, YOLO. Perfect, perfect lunch.


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Afterwards, we were on a mission to find Lombard Street, our one tourist trap. This was due to a scene in our family movie, What’s Up Doc, having a car chase scene down the crooked street.  This meant we walked up, up, up. Which also meant when we finally reached the top and took the requisite photos, we took off our shoes and both walked sock footed for the next mile or so, downhill this time.


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More walking, through parks, beaches, wharfs and into old pier buildings brought us to West Coast Craft which was overflowing with gorgeously styled hipsters, weavings, pottery and an almost incredible number of overpriced aprons. A stressful cocktail experience at The Interval at Long Now combined with aching feet made me cranky. So we “Yuber-ed” it to meet my sister who was chomping on a fresh, warm loaf of bread on the corner outside Tartine.

Dinner was multiple sides, burrata and a pizza at Pizzeria Delifina. Simple, elegant and inviting we gabbed in between moans of pleasure. Afterwards, Mom needed her mandatory nightly treat and so we hopped into Dandelion Chocolate where all was laid out like a museum display.


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I was leaving Sunday afternoon and was so destined to lug around my suitcase on our travels the last day. My Tartine loaf safely tucked away inside comprised approximately 5 lbs of my bag’s total weight. Numerous times I dallied with the idea of tossing out items to lighten the load, but abandoning that glutenous loaf of crusty perfection was never even a fleeting option.


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Our breakfast was at the irresistibly charming 20th Century Cafe, which reminded us of our Eastern European past.  I wish I got had gotten a picture of the top of their seed and salt encrusted bagel. Gorgeous. You’ll have to just go yourself.  A couple coffees and savory bites enlivened our spirits to explore the surrounding neighborhoods. A million more gift stores, candy shoppes and incredibly overpriced clothing boutiques later, our appetites had returned.


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2 Sisters Used Books and Bar was an ideal final stop for me. Dark and cozy with a cushioned reading window, we sat snug at the lower bar. Presented with a cheese plate which included a surprise bundle of roasted garlic prompted all three of us to gasp in delight simultaneously. The three luxurious deviled eggs were sublime. Lounging, we sipped, nibbled, chatted and Instagramed.


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After many more hills and miles wrestling my bread laden luggage, it was time for me to grab a BART to the airport. A delightfully delicious trip all around. We Cerqs travel right.



Food Themed Gift Guide

If you are still in the throes of gift buying, here are a few ideas that are food related for the kid, bacon lover, art appreciator, game player and Do It Yourself-er.



Kids book, Calendar, Coffee print, Foodie game, Coffee and espresso mug,
Camping dinners, DIY bacon, Food writing course, Tea kettle, Carry on cocktail kit,
Traveling coffee kit, Bitters kit, Uuni wood oven, Cutting board