Squash Season: Freestyle Crunchy Chopped Salads


We’re still eating our way through squash season in the studio. My very serious research into squash recipes tells me that people are looking for any way to modify squash to do things other than be squash. Lots of people make chips. Others took a cue from the cauliflower pizza crusts of late and make a similar squash crust. While, on their own, they are interesting ideas, I can’t really get behind the concept that I’ve watered my garden during a drought only to desiccate its bounty. There are a few where you salt & drain off some liquid, but that’s as far as I’m willing to go.

Turning to a kitchen tool that opens up a lot of possibilities, the mandoline can really put a new spin on your squash experience. Unlike squash that’s been sitting for a week, fresh picked squash has a good tooth to it, and does well with other crunchy veggies in a crunch salad. When every ingredient is reduced to basically the same shape & size, you can mix any ratio of any selection of veggies, dress them and enjoy the freshness. These salads are off the charts for Vitamins A & C as well.

I used generally similar amounts of mandolined yellow squash, red daikon radish, cucumber and carrot. Then I chopped purple cabbage, kale and red pepper in a similar fashion. This left me with roughly 10 cups of chopped veggies, to which I added 4oz feta cheese, olive oil and lemon juice to toss together and store. For each serving, I add some capers and nuts.

The great thing about these freestyle salads is that you can use what you have. I like a variety of flavor and color, but you could do only a few ingredients if you want. They’re also filling and so so healthy!


Squash Season: Roasted Yellow Squash Soup


For the first time in my life, I have room for a full-sun garden at my own home. Though we didn’t get this one started until mid-spring, due to moving in and finishing up our livability projects, the luck of a long season in LA means we still have a pretty happy garden on a later start. I’ve been documenting the changes at our house on our house blog, and specifically took a bunch of garden progress pics here. However, our yellow squash wasted no time in growing and maturing, and we’re currently in the full onslaught of about 2 large, ripe squash per day.

When you look up things to do with zucchini or yellow squash, many recipes go straight to breads, which aren’t breads at all, but sweet cakes. I just can’t do it, I tell you! Though I am keeping a particularly good selection of breads and converting them to grain-free coconut flour recipes, I’m setting out on a challenge to make as many fresh, healthy things with squash as I can! I wrote about pattypan squash for LAist back in 2011, and I’d like to thank me of the past for all those good ideas, along with this hilariously Dr. Seuss-inspired line on using squash blossoms: My favorite way is to stuff them with ricotta, but they also go well in any tortilla or frittata. Ha!

One way you can really enjoy the flavor of summer is to roast a mix of summer veggies as a precursor to soup. I’ve started with a base that can be blended and then seasoned in virtually any direction. To prevent from having to have vegetable stock around, we’re roasting onions, garlic and carrots along with celery seeds in the same pan, so your mirepoix is already in the mix.


Roasted Yellow Squash Soup

1 medium onion, sliced
3.5 cups thinly-sliced summer squash
3.5 cups thinly-sliced carrots
1/4 tsp celery seeds
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 tbs oil of your choice [olive, coconut, butter all work fine]
1 cup water or vegetable stock
salt & pepper

Coat a roasting pan with 1tb of your oil and layer in the sliced onion. Add a layer of carrots over the onion, and sprinkle the garlic and celery seed on top, along with 1tb of oil and a pinch of salt. With the mirepoix set, add alternate layers of squash and carrots, each with a drizzle of oil and pinch of salt until each is complete.

I like to alternate fats on each layer, so i go between olive oil, coconut oil and butter. I also add veggies that go with the flavor profile I’m going for, so on this batch, I added yellow peppers.

Roast at 350 for 1 hour. Toss to mix, turn off oven, leave pan in to cool with oven, or roast until you have a bit of caramelization happening on some edges. The veggies will reduce in size and When cool enough to mix, blend to desired consistency, adding water or vegetable stock as needed to blend it up, then pour into a pot. Bring to simmer and season as desired. Simmer as long as you need to for the seasonings or additional veggies you’re using.

I decided to go for a curry flavor, adding 7oz coconut milk and curry spices, so I only simmered 5 minutes. Last time I simmered 30min with parmesan rinds, adding 1/4c parmesan cheese. Top however you like: green onions, chives, cheese, oil, hot sauce …

This soup is very flavorful, and is equally delicious hot or chilled. You can also blend it into gazpacho when your tomatoes are ripe.

creative inspiration: big design for small markets

this week we’re looking at 3 small specialty shops that have big brand ideas, leaving no touchpoint unturned. these suites bring taste and flavor to the forefront with striking packaging and multi-use labels and stickers, leaving no question as to where you picked up these fine food finds.

the dirty apron

the dirty apron
image: lovelypackage.com

the dirty apron delicatessen uses a clever system of branded bags, hang tags and package closure tape with various versatile fill-in labels for an identity system that appears much bigger than it is. the branded items allow for multiple placements, and the labels allow for one collection of shapes to serve as fill-ins for every item in the store. see the whole collection at lovelypackage.com.


image: thedieline.com

grazia, specializing in sweet and savory delicacies, uses a wonderful system of branded boxes, bags and stickers, all in their signature 2-color palette, featuring cross-sections of raw ingredients. i find this system to be stunning in versatility and simplicity. see more at thedieline.com.

f. ménard

f. menard
image: lovelypackage.com

this family-owned butcher specializing in ethically-raised pork products has an identity system that pays special respect to the art of the craft. soft duotone photography is paired with a strong color palette and bold type, mostly using a label system for products in the store, and branded bags for your groceries. see more at lovelypackage.com.

creative inspiration: thai-inspired branding

in my never-ending design research, i saw a few pieces of thai-inspired design that caught my attention. i say thai-inspired because these 3 products and places are far from thailand, but each are borrowing their own elements from the design landscape and making them their own with great results.

my thai

my thai cordials
image: thedieline.com

this series of brightly flavored and colored cordials are just one aspect of the branding for brazillian restaurant, my thai. the color palettes are outstanding, and a lovely contrast from the cordials inside. see more at thedieline.com.

pak pao

pak pao branding
image: underconsideration.com

dallas-based pak pao has a lovely logo & wordmark with shapes that echo each other in a uniquely satisfying way. they have done a great job of mounting clean & simple menus to painted boards with lots of orange-over-orange reverberations. see more at underconsideration.com


sway branding
image: identitydesigned.com

austin-based sway is a very extensive environment brand experience right down to the last detail. starting with the wordmark, the voice of sway is bilingual from the wayfinding to the menu. the stark and clean design of both print and environment is accented with bright color in coasters, placemats and matchbooks. see the whole profile at identitydesigned.com

creative inspiration: design for food

image: thedieline.com
image: thedieline.com

some beautiful examples of food-related design lately include this really nice packaging for earl’s best, using typography based on hand-lettered signs. see the collection at thedieline.com

image: underconsideration.com
image: underconsideration.com

i’m really liking this simple & traditional seal for fred’s market, paired with the clip board menu system. nice hardware and easy to switch out. see more at art of the menu.

image: underconsideration.com
image: underconsideration.com

this menu has more going on than appears in this photo. i really like the typography for each section. the pages are stacked above, but the final presentation has them hand-stitched together, and marked with a wax seal. very nice handmade work! see more at art of the menu

open season on the parlato design patio


i was escaping the early-season heat on the patio last night with a friend, when i realized that maybe it’s time i combine my love for making snacks and drinks and my love of patio sitting with friends into one thing: patio season!

here’s how it works. choose a morning coffee [10:30am] or evening happy hour [5:30pm] appointment, tuesday, wednesday or thursday. tell me when you’d like to meet and what you’d like to talk about. if it’s open, i’ll make the drinks & snacks, you come over and we chat. about design, about business, about ideas, about food stuff–whatever, up to 2 hours.

i’m interested in connecting with old friends, colleagues i don’t see often enough and meeting new people. we’ve got the shade of the loquat tree and a nice breeze. pick a slot and let’s hang!

condiments at poketo with zach negin


so, like i said, on sunday i took a condiment class at the poketo store as part of their new series of workshops. our instructor in the photo above, zach negin, is telling us about great books for homemade fermentations. he’s a co-founder at sono trading company whose product, the mustard, i was introduced to at my first artisanal LA event. so cool to see small, handmade food companies making success happen. zach talked about using only natural ingredients, cooking with lard, and highly recommended sandor katz’ books, so we are totally on the same page, food-wise.


we were 15 people, set up around 3 long tables covered with vinegars, syrups, herbs & spices. we had basic instructions and some mixing implements. yet, in a mere 3 hours, we flavored and blended our own mustards, chopped chilis and prepped sriracha to ferment for a week before finishing, seasoned and blended a lacto-fermented ketchup, and cooked up a vegan worcestershire sauce—all with time to spare for a tasting of some of sono trading’s “in development” creations with complimentary wurstkuche fries from next door. what a fun day!


i made a yellow mustard with lots of red flavors, including some red fruit vinegar, pomegranate molasses and cassis syrup. we all made notes about our flavor profiles so we could possibly try to recreate them again, or compare with future recipes. i can see that mustard on its own is a pretty exciting world of possibilities. i can’t wait to try some variations on my own, but i’ll try to eat this up first so i don’t end up with a fridge full of mustard.

poketo has a great write-up here. they were gracious hosts, keeping our equipment clean, visiting and saying hi to each of us, giving gift bags [!] and offering a discount on same-day shopping [of which i took advantage]. they announced that the next class will be about kimchi, so i know i’ll be watching the site to make sure to get in.

condiment class

image: poketo.com
image: poketo.com

one of my recent monday mornings at the back door coffee club introduced me to zach negin, co-owner of sono trading company, and the instructor of poketo’s upcoming condiment class. i tasted their mustards at my first visit to artisanal LA and really enjoyed them. of my experiments with condiments, these 4 are not ones i’ve tried yet, so i figured why not learn from a pro?

spaces are limited and nearly sold out, but sign up if you’re interested: condiment workshop with zach negin.

natural egg dyes

image: apartmenttherapy.com

are you decorating easter eggs this year? personally i prefer poached eggs and don’t really want to hard-boil so many of them, but there are so many beautiful techniques for decorating with natural dyes and pigments, i thought i’d share the round-up posted on the blogs i follow.

> naturally dyed eggs from designsponge.com
> all-natural easter egg dye recipes from better homes & gardens
> 6 resources for making fun and colorful, naturally-dyed easter eggs from apartmenttherapy.com
> natural egg dyeing techniques from marthastewart.com

have fun & happy easter this weekend!