Breakaway Cook

Some Changes to Breakaway Cook


A much-belated happy new year to all. A month seems like the new week now, and an entire year goes by in a quarter, doesn’t it? I’ve been pretty inactive here lately, though hyperactive on the fronts of matcha, cooking for events, editing, and ghostwriting. One big change of late: I’ve discovered that having an office away from home (even if it’s just a five-minute walk away) means that my food photography has waned, since most of my cooking is done in the evenings now, and I’ve never mastered the art of the flash — I just can’t seem to make food look good without natural light. I still feel that having a good photo on top of these blog posts is pretty necessary; it just makes it more fun to look at and read. And my lack of photos recently has impeded blogging, for sure . . . .

Another problem with this blog is the crazy amount of spam it generates. For some reason the blog attracts all kinds of black-hat SEO types who want to sneak links in through the comments section, despite the otherwise-excellent Akismet antispam software I have installed; battling them has become such an unpleasant chore that I’ve decided to disable comments altogether for now, I’m sorry to say. (It’s still easy to reach me via email though, and I do enjoy email exchanges with readers). And there’s plenty of commenting opportunity on twitter and facebook, where I love to engage. I also think I’d like to make this space a tad less formal, to publish shorter pieces on all kinds of subjects, and to just write a little more freely.  I do love hearing comments from genuine readers, and even like the comments sections of many blogs, which are the key attraction to so many, but I think it’s time to try something else.

Thanks for hanging here with me, I do appreciate it! Lots more breakaway goodness to come.

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The Breakaway Facelift! + Matcha Store Goes Live

Well we did it — the Breakaway Matcha webstore is now live! For those of you reading this in a web browser, you’ll see MATCHA on the navigation bar. For those reading this via some other method, please check it out at

The response to the matcha has kind of blown me away. I’ve put a little of the correpsondence I’ve had with people in the testimonials section of the site; it makes me very happy to know that people are digging it as much as I am… :^)  if you haven’t tried it yet, please do! It also makes a pretty cool gift.

I’m still working on the section I’m calling “master class in matcha” — it’s going to feature just about eveything you’ve ever wanted to know about matcha. I’ll be rolling that out in phases, and adding to it over time, but wanted to make the webstore section live as quickly as possible. So here we are!

You’ll notice — I hope! — that we’ve completely redesigned the website. It was about time, and I want to thank the fabulous Stephanie Sawchenko for all the design work she did.

Feedback is EXTREMELY welcomed — if you find anything that’s broken, unclear, or just not to your liking, let me know. Gratitude in droves to all.

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Big List of Recipes From Past SF Chronicle Essays

For some unexplainable reason, I haven’t been linking my articles from the SF Chronicle here, so I thought I would remedy that while it’s still forefront in this aging brain of mine. I’ll try to be better about providing links here just after new ones are published. And yes, that is Daphne’s hand on this freshly cut red beet!

But before I list the Chron articles, please note that I’ll be teaching a public class at Draeger’s, in San Mateo, on October 26 — there are a few slots left so please do sign up soon if you’d like to attend. It’s going to be an autumn, vegetable-driven menu. And please introduce yourself!

The SF Chronicle series started off with a nice profile of breakaway cooking and four recipes:

I then wrote a paean to ginger, and offered the Triple Ginger Salad

followed by an encomium to fresh herbs, and their use in the breakaway kitchen and a recipe for Herby Summer Udon

For Father’s Day I wrote about one of my all-time favorite breakfasts,

And here’s a great way to use up all the veggies in your fridge:  an intensely flavored crustless quiche.

One of my current favorites, one we eat all the time around here, is the Spiced Tofu in a Ginger Broth — can’t get enough of it.

As regular readers of this space know, I’m pretty obsessed with injecting umami into everything, and one of the easiest ways to do that is to add copious amount of pulverized shiitake into dishes. Here is that story, along with a recipe for Shiitake Powdered Steak With Ginger and Shallots.

Happened to be looking for Braised Plummy Chuck Roast? Look no further!

And finally, my love affair with carrot juice, along with recipes for

A few of the above are from the new book, which I’m STILL working on. Video editing is complete, which paves the way for the design stage. We WILL get there! Now all of you have to go buy Ipads …. :^)

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A Few New Public Cooking Classes

What does this post have to do with our family trip to Toronto (here, Niagara Falls)? Nothing, but it’s been a while since I’ve posted a Daphne picture!

I’m doing a few public classes around the SF Bay area in October that I want to mention. As always, I’d love for you to come to one (or more!) if you can. Make sure you introduce yourself, too, if we haven’t yet met in person.

October 7, 6:30 – 8:30 pm: Homeward Bound, in Novato, CA. A fantastic organization that helps homeless people, including families, in dozens of ways. They’ve set up an impressive culinary training center, which is where we’ll do the class. They were even kind enough to send me a few free tickets for this event, so if you’d like to come and really can’t afford it, let me know. If you can, though, they can really use the support.

October 23, 2 – 6pm, followed by dinner: San Francisco Zen Center. More zen cooking! A vegetarian class, co-taught with maestra Dana Velden, who also led the Tassajara cooking retreat we did a few months ago. Another remarkable setting, in the Julia Morgan-designed ZC building on the corner of Laguna and Page. This will be a slower, more deliberate class that I know will strike all the right chords for many of you.

October 28, 6:30 – 8:30 pm, Draeger’s Cooking School in San Mateo. An autumn-inspired menu, for folks in the south bay.

Hope to see you at one of them!

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The Breakaway Vegetarian Cook, Phase I Videos Done!


Happy to report that we finished a slew of dishes for the filming of the new cookbook, The Breakaway Vegetarian Cook, and had a blast doing it. Here’s what we made and filmed:

  • Ginger Syrup
  • Dutch-Indian Baby
  • Gingery Oatmeal
  • Dukkah
  • Easy Picked Onions
  • Yuzu Kale Chips with Flowers
  • Green Tea Soba with Vegetable Medley
  • Fragrant Umami Noodle Soup
  • Three Ginger Salad
  • Winter Citrus Salad with Gingery Yogurt
  • Roasted Fingerlings with Saffron Breadcrumbs

It’s all very exciting for me, and finally becoming real. Now it’s time to put the finishing touches on all the recipes, and to start writing the intro, which will focus on why umami is so key to vegetarian (indeed all) cooking. Dishes are just a million times more satisfying when the umami factor is amped up. To me, dishes without umami are every bit as unsatisfying as dishes without any salt — something is sadly, and wrongly, missing.

The book is going to first appear as a digital product: it will be available as an Ipad/iphone app, and as an e-book, both for less than $10. Every recipe will have a video attached to it, with me demonstrating and commenting on the dish. Concepts, ideas, and mini-recipes within dishes will be linked to various writing I’ve done on those subjects, a feature that’s just not possible with a regular paper-based book. It will make the book vastly richer as a result, and will cost about a third the price of a paper cookbook. But for folks who still prefer a “real” book, no worries: I’ll still issue it in paperback. I just can’t help but feel the digital product will outshine the paper one by several orders of magnitude at a fraction of the price.

Here are some of the dishes we’ll be shooting next:

  • Triple Tomato Eggs
  • Daikon Wafuu Salad
  • Green Papaya Salad, Breakaway Style
  • Nutty Herby Tofu
  • Freshness Itself Herb Soup
  • Lotus Crack
  • Breakaway Tomato Spread
  • Umami Vegetarian Burger
  • Ginger Potstickers
  • Persimmon Udon
  • Vegetarian Pad Thai with Extra Umami
  • Herbed Kabocha
  • Carrot Cookies with Matcha Creme

All of these are new — it’s been very difficult NOT to blog about them!

I’ll be giving regular progress updates. I can’t wait to share all of this.

In other breakaway news, I was JAZZED to get a phone call from the Commonwealth Club of California (in SF); they invited me to give a talk! It’s going to concentrate on the cult on of authenticity, why blind tasting is the shortest and best route to becoming a better cook, and why blind tasting is an excellent metaphor for living an examined life one’s own way, to not simply accept what is considered authentic to others. It will take place on November 30 — it would be fantastic if we filled the place, so please do come if you can!

And today’s last bit of news: I’m the featured chef at Cookstr on Thursday — do check it out if you can.

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Got a Great Breakaway Idea? Guest Posts Welcome!

Microsoft Word - schemata3color.doc

When I first started writing about cooking with Japanese ingredients in unorthodox yet simple and delicious ways, way back in the 90s in Japan, I knew that I couldn’t be the ONLY person interested in cooking this way. I knew that using global ingredients to breathe fresh life into simple dishes we already know how to cook — eggs, salads, rice dishes, simply prepared fish and meat dishes, pasta, etc. — was fun, nourishing, liberating, healthy, and even life-changing — because our steady stream of really happy guests confirmed it. Busy people who grew up eating “ethnic” cooking in restaurants were especially open to simple combinations of great produce/meats/fish with “ethnic” flavors like miso, tamarind, lemongrass, umeboshi, etc., with recurring starring roles from ace ingredients like Greek yogurt, pickled ginger, flavored salts, fresh herbs in large quantities, good oils, etc. Sometimes in my cooking classes I hand out the above schemata just to give the whole idea a slightly more visual flavor.

I’ve been encouraged by all the comments, emails, and feedback I get from readers. It’s kind of a cool little tribe we have here, and I’m grateful to the entire breakaway community.

My idea du jour: I’d love to open up this space to anyone who’d like to contribute a short essay and photo on some aspect of breakaway cooking. If you’ve got a killer breakaway dish, idea, or even experience that you think the community would enjoy, just let me know. I will of course continue to do most of the writing, but the parachuting of our baby daughter into the world sometime around November 21 means, perforce, that I’ll have a lot less time on my hands! Lots more on that development later!

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Administrivia — Please Resubscribe! (plus: we got chicks!)

four chicks

Lordy, my tech wounds on this site have reached rather deep. Many of you have received emails from me, requesting that you resubscribe (via email or via rss). But for anyone reading this who hasn’t resubscribed, and who would like to, please do so! The links are to the upper right, just above my photo. I’d love to bring all the old Feedblitz people over to the new software, so come on, please.

Other breakaway news: we got four chix! They’re now quite a bit bigger than they look in this photo; they grow like little monsters. We somehow built a coop — pix of it soon. I am the original neanderthal carpenter, so it’s a total miracle it got built, but we got some crucial help from our superfriend and wonderneighbor, Dave Harp (that link includes of a photo Lucelle, the ubergardener, chicken sensei, and cook I’ve written about before; she’s married to Dave).

The middle two are aurecana chickens, the kind that lay the green/blue eggs, and two are vanilla brown crankers. We can’t wait! Look like the due date for the first batch is August. My egg habit is about to go out of control.

We leave for Holland next week. I’ll be chronicling the adventure here, so stay tuned! But I have a few posts queued up in the meantime, so stay tuned for those as well!

And welcome back to the fold, my little stray breakaway flock!


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Some of you may have noticed that I got rid of the Google ads that were on the site. They started out rather promising, and generated a very small amount of income, but over time became so pathetically off-topic most of the time that I just decided to yank them altogether. I also disliked their cluttered look. So they’re gone. I also cleaned up the right sidebar in general to create more negative space. More changes to come.

I’m very interested in hearing from you on what would make this blog more compelling FOR YOU. Clean design, innovative cooking ideas, good photos, occasional cookbook reviews (next entry will be another), focus on one ingredient at at time . . . . What else would make this place really valuable to you? Any widgets? More focus on vegetarian/vegan cooking? More thoughts on shopping/ingredients? Anything that would make you want to rush out and tell your good friends about it? I’m doing my best to grow our little community here, and would love to hear from you about changes you’d like to see to make your lives easier as innovative and experimental home cooks.

I know that many of you have already done this, but: if you know anyone that might benefit from being part of this community, please tell them about it. Thanks.

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The All-New Wall of Spices!

Some exciting breakaway news: we moved! To Marin county (just north of SF), into an older house with lots of sweet Japanese-ish touches. It needs lots of love and attention, and the kitchen needs some serious rethinking, but I’m ecstatic to be here under these hallucinagenically blue hot skies. I look forward to sharing all the new concoctions that come out of the new space. And, for once, one goal realized: I can see all my spices!

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Squash and Collard Soup with Homemade Beef Stock

The other day I roasted a huge batch of beef bones, since they came with my recent purchase of the amazing meat raised by Mike Gale at Chileno Valley ranch (four of us split an entire cow, yielding roughly 110 pounds of meat each — more on this later if anyone’s interested). In they went at 400, and out they came an hour later, browned and marrow a-bubble. After making a tasty little snack of toasted Tartine country loaf schmeared with marrow, avocado, and lavender salt, I threw them in two big stockpots, covered with water, and simmered for about six hours. I let it sit overnight, and in the morning each pot had a solid inch of fat on top. That got skimmed and used to make some seriously good French fries, and the stock was poured into eight ziplock bags and frozen.

Today I pulled a bag out and let it thaw. Meanwhile I chopped up a yellow zucchini, some de-backboned collard greens, a bunch of green onions, and sprinkled in plenty of smoked paprika salt and freshly ground pepper. The stock was added to that, then everything got blended in the VitaPrep. It was good, possibly even ethereally good. Another excellent quickie soup for the lunch repertoire.

It’s a rare treat for me to make beef stock — I wouldn’t really seek out 10 pounds of bones, roast them, do all the icky de-fatting (it gets *everywhere*), but when they’re presented to me in a bag, I certainly will. I normally use, and am happy with, the organic beef stock sold at TJs and Whole Foods in the tetrabox. I have a hunch my homemade would prevail in a blind taste test, but not by that much — maybe not enough to make it worthwhile on a regular basis. But then again, I did get eight quarts out of it . . . .

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