Free Event! Farmers’ Market: Shopping & Cooking Secrets for Spring Produce

blog post photo

Have you been trying to eat more vegetables?

Have you been intrigued by all the bounty at the farmers’ market, yet shy away from it because you don’t know how to cook and enjoy it?
Well, this photo is from Kyoto, Japan, but when I saw these vegetables at the market, I felt the same way.  I wished someone would help me how to use these unusual vegetables — something I’ve eaten and liked at the restaurants, and want to try at home too.

So… I’m hosting a free class next weekend to help you with these spring bounty at our local Farmers’ Market!

What: “Farmers’ Market:  Shopping & Cooking Secrets for Spring Produce”

When: Saturday, April 24th 2010  1-3 pm

Where: Oakland Lakeview Branch Library
550 El Embarcadero, Oakland, CA  510-238-7344

We’ll meet at the I-580 side entrance of the Oakland Lakeview Library at 1pm, stroll through different booths at the Grand Lake Farmers’ Market, and discuss different produce and cooking options until about 1:45pm. (You can eat lunch during that time. Lots of great options!)

Then back at the library at 2pm, you will learn my secrets — how to optimize what you bought for your everyday cooking so that you can create one week’s worth of many different dishes with half the time and effort while having a lot of fun!

Of course, there will be demos and sampling! The class will end around 3pm.

Depending on your schedule, you can only join the farmer’s market part or the class part.

The space is limited (esp. the library portion). My last free class at this location filled in a few hours — so please RSVP by clicking here now while there are only few — about 25% of the spots left.

If you have any questions, please leave me a comment.

Hope you can join us!



Batch & Fridge/Split: Curry Base

From top left: mango lassi, chana masala, raita, potato and swiss chard curry, keema curry

L to R: mango lassi, chana masala, raita, potato and swiss chard curry, keema curry

One of my (many many) favorite cuisine is Indian food.

It’s really fun to go to Indian restaurant with whole bunch of friends and share various curries and tandoori dishes.  (OK, I love sharing and trying various dishes with any cuisine, and am known to get really disappointed when some people don’t like that idea. (Maybe they are worried that their share will be mostly end up in my stomach?)

I cook curry periodically.  One of my dilemma had been this — when I cook curry at home, I only made one kind.  If I wanted some other curry, I had to wait until next time I felt like eating it, which in our household, well over a month later.

Now I figure out how to cook various curries easily all at once, so our single curry days are over.  Just like at the Indian restaurants — at home.

Do you want to know the secret?

It’s pretty simple. You just make a large batch of curry base, and then split it and cook with any cooked vegetable or meat you have.  For example, one will become Keema curry, one with eggplant, one with potatoes, one with spinach, one with cauliflower…  The choice are endless, only limited by, pretty much what else you have in your fridge, ready to go and your imagination. If you use leftover blanched or sautéed vegetables like I did, it shorten the process significantly.

So today, I’ll explain how to make the base.  Later this week, I’ll share the recipe on how to make other kind of curries.

Curry Base: 2-3 servings


  • Vegetable oil – 2 TBS
  • Garlic (minced) – 2 cloves
  • Ginger (minced) – 1 inch/2.5 cm
  • Curry Powder – 2 TBS
  • Cumin powder – 1 ts
  • Garam masala – 2 ts
  • Onion (chopped) – 1 large
  • Tomato (chopped) – 2 large, or 1 small can chopped tomatoes


  1. Heat oil in a skillet on medium heat.  Add minced garlic, ginger, and once it becomes fragrant, add the spices, stir briefly until the mixture becomes fragrant with the scent of curry spices.
  2. Add chopped onions and cook until soft (and a little browned, if you have time), stirring occasionally.
  3. Add chopped tomatoes and cook until most of the moisture evaporates and the mixture gets a bit “pasty”.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

You can keep this in the fridge for a few days.

Be sure to check back for curry recipes you can easily make with this…  Or simply choose one of the subscription options (email, RSS feed, or Networked Blogs Face book app) so that you will not miss them!

Batch and Fridge: Flavor Booster: Chorizo and Onion Mixture

One of my favorite base I keep in my fridge is Chorizo and Onion mixture.

Chorizo is packed with flavor, it’s so handy as a flavor booster for soups and vegetable dishes, especially Portuguese or Spanish inspired dishes. If you don’t like it spicy, feel free to substitute with other kinds of sausage.  They now have “Turkey Chorizo” (or was it chicken?) at Whole Foods.

Do not use this for things like Bolognese sauce or Chili, it will be too “Chorizo-ey”.

Chorizo and Onion Mixture:

  1. Sauté 1 –2 cloves of garlic, 1 large onions (sliced), and 1 uncooked chorizo out of casing in EVOO until cooked.

Usages: soup, potato dishes, braised vegetables, egg dishes, lentils, stuffing, risotto, etc…  Just like Sautéed Mirepoix Meat mixture.  Also great with seafood, especially clams.  Yum!

Unless you like it really spicy, you’d need only a little bit, so add a little less than you think you need – it’s always easier to add than subtract in kitchen math!

I will share a great “Restaurant-Inspired Recipe” using this mixture on my next post.  So stay tuned… Or better yet, subscribe to “Secrets of a Kitchen Wizard” via Email or RSS from the link above the calendar!

Happy cooking!

Storage – Packaging Part 1. Freezing Thin with Cleavage

Packaging is important!

Are you shocked that was the first thing I uttered?  And that I mentioned cleavage?  This is a family-friendly site!  Rated-G!

I’m talking about when you store things – FOOD. Especially when frozen.

Have you ever frozen a bulk package of ground meat you bought on sale, thinking you’d never be able to use it in one shot, so you’ll save it for later. When you are ready to defrost, you realized, “Oh, shoot… I never be able to use it in one shot, and once it’s defrosted, I’m not supposed to refreeze…  Oops…”

So it requires a bit of pre-planning and strategy.

Kitchen Wizardry is all about how to make things easier to use later without heavy planning. (I’m not a good planner.) It’s about smart cooking and storing.

When something is in the fridge, you can just scoop it out and use it right away.  When frozen, all you have is a solid block, if you don’t plan carefully. It’s really important to make it easier to thaw and use when you store food for freezing.

There are different ways to freeze different things. Today, I’m going to talk about freezing something moist and spreadable (sautéed vegetables, sauces, etc.)

Here are the tricks.

  • Use the same size Ziploc bag whenever possible. For most freezers, quart size is ideal. For smaller amount, I use snack size.
  • Spread the contents thin – ideally 1/4 to 1/3 inches maximum.
  • Then lay the bag down flat and create deep creases across the bag, both vertically and horizontally before freezing.  This is to make it easier to break it off small pieces in the amounts you need. (Use the flat side of a rubber spatula or pointed tip of a chopstick to create these lines.)
  • Lay them flat inside the freezer until frozen – a cookie sheet works well. (Otherwise, all the contents will be balled at the bottom, ruining all of your efforts!)
  • Once frozen, store them vertically (like books) for easier retrieval.
  • You may want to label on the side, so that you can see the contents without taking out (again, just like books!)

Not everything can be shaped like this… or needs to be.

Stay tuned for other cool freezing tricks in future posts… (Click “Subscribe to Secrets of the Kitchen Wizard” via Email above the calendar, so you won’t miss them. : ))