Breakaway Cook

Yuzu — You NEED This Citrus


If you’ve never tasted yuzu, you’re in for a delightful surprise. It is usually translated as “Japanese citron,” but that doesn’t tell us much. It is about the size of a tangerine, and has a yellow-orange rind. The mature fruit is very seedy, and produces little juice, but  is mostly highly prized for its fragrant and florally zest, which seems to combine the best flavors of meyer lemon, mandarin orange, and grapefruit. The unripe fruit, with its green rind, does provide some juice, which is exceedingly sour yet delicious.

It’s almost impossible to find fresh yuzu outside Japan, but bottled yuzu juice—which is almost as good, and certainly more convenient—is becoming widely available in Asian markets, especially Japanese markets. A 10-ounce bottle will cost you around $12, but it will last a long time, since you need only small quantities at a time.  Yuzu powder—dehydrated and pulverized yuzu zest—is also becoming increasingly easy to find. Googling “yuzu juice” will yield a list of online purveyors. Intrepid gardeners can even try their hand at growing this thorny yet beautiful citrus. I’ve ordered two from Four Winds Growers, and both are doing well in our Marin climate, but, because it’s one of the few citruses that actually tolerate frost well, it should do well in chillier areas, too, as long as it has excellent drainage and at least six hours of direct sun a day.

In Japan, yuzu zest is used mainly to accent cooked vegetables, hotpots, custards, and fish, and is sometimes added to miso and to vinegar to infuse them with its florally wonders. Juice from green yuzu is often mixed with soy sauce (and often other ingredients) to form a dipping sauce known as ponzu. Many Japanese women love to put cut-up yuzu in their baths; there are even hot springs on the island of Shikoku, the heart of Japan’s yuzu country, that specialize in yuzu baths.

Yuzu has become the darling of many brand-name chefs, who are discovering its many joys and pushing the boundaries as they use it in ice creams and other desserts, cocktails, salad dressings, and all kinds of savory dishes. I’m told that the waiters at Jean-George, in New York, even put yuzu juice in an atomizer and spray it tableside on a scallop dish.

I like to use a small amount of yuzu juice—its intense power means that one must be careful of quantity—in braising liquids for fish and vegetables, and to combine some yuzu with raw tuna and eat it spooned over good bread. It’s also delightful mixed into a spoonful of miso, and then spread on fish and broiled. Or try some in a salad dressing along with some good olive oil, yogurt, and maple syrup.

Hunt it down–you’ll be really glad you did.

(photo by Craig Lee; originally appeared in the SF Chronicle on October 9, 2011)


Toro Avocado Yuzu Crostini

Makes about 24 small or 12 full-size crostini

These make wonderful starters for a dinner party. The secret, as usual, is to use the freshest of everything, especially the toro. You can substitute halibut or hamachi, or even cooked Dungeness crab works, too. The yuzu is well worth seeking out, but you can substitute a combo of Meyer lemon and grapefruit juices.

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 cup finely diced shallots
  • — Sea salt
  • — Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 pound toro (fatty tuna belly), finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fruity extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon (or more) yuzu juice
  • 1 ripe but firm medium avocado, sliced into 1/2-inch cubes
  • — Zest of 1 Meyer lemon, minced or grated
  • 1 tablespoon minced Italian parsley
  • — About 24 lightly toasted baguette slices or 12 thin slices of sourdough batard

Instructions: Heat the butter in small skillet over low-medium heat. Add the shallots, and cook, stirring, until they brown and become crisp (about 5 minutes); be careful not to burn them. Transfer the shallots to paper towels, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and set aside.

In a bowl, gently mix together the toro, olive oil and yuzu juice. Taste for salt. Gently fold in the avocado cubes.

Spoon a heaping tablespoon (or more) onto each slice of bread, Top with the crisp shallots, lemon zest and parsley.

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Breakaway Matcha at the Remodelista Market in Marin, December 3



It’s happening again! For those of you who couldn’t make it last year, we’ll be frothing up cups of the tastiest matcha on earth next Saturday, Dec 3, in Larkspur Landing, in Marin County. It’s sponsored by the wonderful folks at Remodelista, headed by my long-time good friend Sarah Lonsdale.

It’s an excellent chance to pick up all your xmas gifts early (and be done with it). Breakaway Matcha is in excellent company (check out the list of vendors below), but here ar the essential details:

  • Date: Saturday, December 3rd, 10am to 4pm
  • Location: Marin Country Mart, 2257 Larkspur Landing Circle, Building B, Larkspur CA 94939.
  • Parking: Free, or just hop on the Golden Gate Ferry to Larkspur Landing (Marin Country Mart is across the street). Coming by car? Directions here.
  • Admission: Free; lunch offerings from The Farmer’s Wife.

I’ve also got a good supply of lovely black cotton furoshiki, in which I’ll be wrapping matcha gift sets. Do come by, say hello, and have a cup if you can.

Vendors include: Ambatalia Fabrics, BFF Bags, Breakaway Matcha, CC Made, Cocoa, Dagmar Daley, Erica Tanov, Foraged Flora by Louesa Roebuck, Heidi Swanson 101 Cookbooks, Heritage Culinary Artifacts, June Taylor Jams, Marie Veronique Organics Skincare, Mato Creative, Mint Design Play, Pope Valley Pottery, Public Bikes, Richard Carter Studio, Rough Linen, Sefte Living, Studiopatro, Whim and Caprice.



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Giving Thanks To All Breakaway Cooks!

Many of you are no doubt doing some last-minute scrambling to get your Thanksgiving table in order. It’s a fun and meaningful holiday (imagine that!), as long as the THANKS gets more emphasis than the GIVING. Give all that you’re capable of, to be sure, but don’t sweat it too much. You’re never going to have some textbook, idyllicized day and meal, no matter how hard you plan it, so why not take most of the pressure off yourself and just relax into it, knowing it’s all going to turn out just fine, or better than fine?

That said, I might try a few different things year, including spatchcocking and grilling the bird, maybe with some Vietnamese influences (fish sauce and chile and fresh herbs and grilled turkey sound great to me), plus maybe a new, fruit-based stuffing with a few kinds of rice (lately I’ve been combining brown, red, wild, and japonica, held together with olive oil and minced herbs), and maybe some simple persimmon-based dessert. I’m also going to try making quince paste/membrillo, except I plan to use persimmon instead, to be served with some fresh-baked bread and good cheeses. With some good wine, that ought to do it. Some effort, yes, but no going crazy.

The best part is consciously being thankful for this surreally blessed life of ours. Try to list a few things you’re insanely grateful for, and — this is the harder part — sustain that feeling for a good 10 minutes, multiple times throughout the day. Drop whatever you’re doing, and just let that gratitude flow, unencumbered, for a while. It’s an instant cure for any anxiety you might be feeling about the meal.

And thanks for reading and participating here. I’m grateful for our little community, too.


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Persimmon Grilled Cheese

A simple but amazingly satisfying sandwich:

  • * goat gouda (Trader Joe’s sells a really nice and inexpensive one)
  • * chevre
  • * slices of very ripe fuyu persimmon

All dusted with good salt and pepper, of course. The bread is the magnificent TJ English muffin bread, but any good sturdy bread will do. The perfect five-minute lunch. Well, true perfection would be a bottle of Belgian abbey-style ale, some lotus chips, and a plateful of breakaway superkraut, but perfection’s elusive anyway.

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Raptor Eyes, and the Breakaway Breakfast Burrito


Thanks to the many of you who’ve written to inquire about why the hell I haven’t posted in so long, and to check in on how Part II of my eye surgery went. To which I’m very happy to report: it went swimmingly! The lasik procedure was fast (maybe one minute per eye; I was in and out of there in about 90 minutes), completely painless, and just crazy interesting. Dr. Mark Mandel, maestro among maestro, is one of those exceedingly rare MDs who can not only explain his art to lay people like myself, he has the magical ability to put his patients — or at least this patient — at complete ease. It takes quite a bit to surrender and totally trust someone who props your eyes open with a speculum (so that you can’t blink), wheels you under a huge humming machine, and tells you with a soothing voice, “Don’t worry, but everything’s going to go dark now.” But he made it easy. He’s even become a matcha convert/evangelist!

For the first time in my life, I now wake up and marvel at the fact that I no longer need to fumble for my glasses. It’s an amazing feeling. Mandel even “optimized” my vision to give me perfect distance vision in one eye, and excellent up-close vision in the other. The brain just somehow deals with it. Night vision is the best — I feel like a raptor!  Evolution has given birds of prey a high density of receptors and other adaptations that maximize visual acuity that I don’t actually have, but it sure feels like I do, given the contrast of what I had before. I’ll spare you any further rhapsody, but let’s just say that I am one happy raptor camper. One who’s been devouring some really great breakfast burritos of late.


I’m such a sucker for breakfast burritos. I don’t think I’ve ever had one I didn’t like. How wrong can one go with scrambling some eggs with various ingredients, wrapping it all up in a tasty local tortilla, and eating it with salsa?

Now granted, starting the day with a carb-load of corn, rice, and beans might not be the smartest or healthiest route to take. But that of course refers to the traditional morning burrito. In the breakaway version, we can stuff it with whatever we like.

It’s not a lightning-quick breakfast, and you’ll need two pans (instead of the optimal one), but the dish scales up quite nicely, so you can feed quite a few people with essentially the same amount of work as feeding just two. And we also suppose that you can get your hands on very good eggs, since their quality in this dish more less controls how good the final dish is.

The idea is very simple:

  1. saute vegetables in olive oil, salt and pepper with a generous hand
  2. prepare the Herby, Fluffy Eggs recipe outlined in the Breakaway Cook (quick version of that recipe: melt butter in stick-resistant heavy pan, gently stir eggs, yogurt, and plenty of fresh herbs, plus s&P)
  3. combine the veggies and eggs
  4. spoon into stovetop-toasted large flour tortillas
  5. wrap, inhale

It’s not really a sit-down, lingering sort of breakfast; it’s one best enjoyed with few table manners at all, when one is very hungry, not sort of hungry.  You can easily scale the recipe up, by adding more veggies and more eggs (and more tortillas).

A final word on tortilla preparation: It’s good to lightly steam them, if you have time — this can be done first, by heating the oven to 250 and wrapping a few tortillas in a damp clean dishcloth, which goes inside a lidded casserole dish or pot. The idea is to not let the steam, once it’s created, escape, so you want a rather tight-fitting dish/lid. Alternatively, you can microwave them: stack them between layers of very damp/almost wet paper towel, and try not to let the paper towels catch on fire. You can also toast them in a dry cast-iron skillet, or place them directly on the gas burner, flame very low, and carefully flip them around (I just use my fingers, but tongs might be advisable) until they begin to lightly char. Use caution with this latter method, since they can burn/char easily from a moment’s inattention. It’s a great mindfulness exercise!


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