BrokeAss Gourmet

BrokeAss Gourmet

Matzo Kugel with Spinach and Goat Cheese

  • Prep Time 0:15
  • Cook Time 0:40
  • Estimated Cost $12

I first made this for a Seder led by my friend Dana to rave reviews, but then went on to find myself craving it, even long after Passover had ended. It's kosher for Passover, but it's so delicious that I make it throughout the year, accompanied by a salad and maybe a roasted vegetable for a quick vegetarian dinner.

Fresh feta cheese, or even cream cheese can also work in place of the goat cheese.

If you keep kosher and you want to serve this with meat, simply skip the cheese, and use almond or soy milk in place of regular milk. It will still be delicious.


  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more for the pan Pantry
  • 1 medium onion, chopped $0.50
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped Pantry
  • 2 carrots, grated $0.50
  • 4 cups (packed) fresh baby spinach $2
  • 1 cup milk (any %) $1.50 for a pint
  • 4 eggs $1.50 for 6
  • 4 sheets plain matzo, crumbled into 1/2" pieces (or use matzo farfel) $2.50 for a 16-oz. box
  • 1 tsp each salt and pepper Pantry
  • 1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese $3.50

Recipe Serves 6


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. 
  2. Lightly oil a 9"x11" casserole pan and set aside.
  3. In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. 
  4. Add the chopped onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, allowing it to caramelize.
  5. Increase the heat to medium and add the garlic, carrots and spinach. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the spinach has completely broken wilted. 
  6. Remove from heat.
  7. In a large mixing bowl, combine the milk and eggs. 
  8. Whisk until completely blended.
  9. Pour the crumbled matzo into the milk-egg mixture and stir well. Let sit for 5 minutes.
  10. Pour the cooked vegetables into the milk-egg mixture and stir a few times to incorporate. 
  11. Add the salt and pepper and stir again.
  12. Scrape the entire mixture into the prepared casserole pan. 
  13. Top with the crumbled goat cheese and push down slightly, allowing it to sink in.
  14. Bake for 24-28 minutes, or until set and golden-brown on top.
  15. Let cool slightly before cutting into squares and serving.

Marinated Goat Cheese and a Young & Hungry Preview

  • Prep Time 5 minutes
  • Estimated Cost $4.50

I live for food TV. Ted Allen on Chopped is reason enough to spring for cable (or, um, to sweetly ask to "borrow" your parents' Comcast log-in). You can keep your Angelina Jolies and Brad Pitts--the celebrities who make my heart skip are the Alex GuarnaschellisTom Colicchios, and Michael Voltaggios of the world. 

That said, I do think that cooking shows can sometimes have the unintended effect of making good food feel unattainable, impractical and expensive to the amateur cook. After all, the food you see on television is always beautiful (thanks to a small army of on-set food stylists), and often prepared with high-tech, pricey equipment by trained professionals. It's easy to watch Bobby Flay pour foie gras-infused custard into the Iron Chef America industrial ice cream machine and think to yourself, "" 

But guys, it doesn't have to be that way. Don't worry: I'm in no way advocating that we all buy industrial ice cream machines (though, if you can swing it, this at-home one is awesome). Rather, I think we need to change the way we look at food and cooking. Truthfully, if you like to eat, chances are good that you already possess the skills necessary for cooking food that you enjoy--but you have to get out of your own way first. 

Instead of attempting long, complicated recipes with hard-to-find, expensive ingredients, start with simple, satisfying dishes. Taste your food as you cook. Don't fear salt and fat--they're what gives food flavor. Always opt for fresh vegetables over frozen or canned. It's much cheaper to learn a few basic techniques than it is to buy a fancy piece of kitchen machinery that you might only use once. 

To help build your confidence, start with this wildly easy cheese preparation: marinated goat cheese. It literally could not be easier. It's just stuff you probably already have on hand (and if you don't, it's common, affordable stuff that you can find at any grocery store), sealed in a jar and left in the fridge. 

Just let it marinate for at least 3 days (and up to a week), and serve with slices of crusty bread, crackers, sliced vegetables, or over a salad. It couldn't be easier, and it's a great object lesson on the joys of simple food. The flavored oil left in the jar also makes a wonderful base for a salad dressing.

And since we're on the subject of food TV, I wanted to share the newest trailer for my forthcoming sitcom, Young & Hungry on ABC Family, premiering Wednesday, June 25th at 8 PM. The show follows Gabi Diamond, a "feisty young food blogger" and her adventures in and out of the kitchen. Here's a full description. And you know what goes great with fabulous food TV? Marinated goat cheese on toast.


  • 6 oz. goat cheese (chèvre) $3.50
  • 3-4 small sprigs of fresh rosemary, chervil or thyme $1 for a bunch
  • a few grinds of black pepper or a few whole peppercorns Pantry
  • extra virgin olive oil Pantry 

Recipe Serves 3-4


  1. Run a sharp knife under cold running water, just to wet it. 
  2. Use the knife to slice the log of cheese into medallions about 1/2" thick.                        
  3. Layer the cheese medallions into a small glass jar.                                               
  4. Tuck the sprigs of herbs into the jar, in between the cheese medallions. 
  5. Sprinkle the pepper or peppercorns on top of the cheese.
  6. Pour in extra virgin olive oil to cover.                                                                
  7. Seal the jar tightly and refrigerate for at least 3 days, and up to a week.                  
  8. Serve with bread, vegetables, or on a salad. 

Candy Cane Beets with Yogurt and Pistachio-Mint Pesto

  • Prep Time 10 minutes
  • Cook Time 25 minutes
  • Estimated Cost $8

Early on in my relationship with Evan, our friend Ellie commented that Evan and I were perfect for each other because I cook, and he is invariably the loudest, most enthusiastic eater at the table. She was right--his moans and groans and fluttery eyelids last throughout most meals, no matter how seemingly simple the food. The guy simply loves to eat.

The first time I saw him eat sushi, we were on a double date with a friend of mine and her new boyfriend, and I was slightly embarrassed (every piece of every maki roll got plenty of verbal and nonverbal attention), but mostly, I was enamored--and felt damn lucky: Somehow I had managed to find the greatest guy in the world, and he REALLY loves food. Obviously, this was meant to be.

Of course, not every dish warrants a standing ovation. He's honest about when something needs a little salt (or has too much of it--sometimes I have a heavy hand in that department). And by the same token, some dishes go above and beyond his regular (very optimistic) expectations. This dish, I'm happy to tell you is one of them.

I first made this a few weeks ago after a long Sunday of socializing and catching up with work. Our brains and nerves were fried, so we decided that a relaxing evening of dinner and an episode of Orange is the New Black were in order. I wanted our meal to be easy to make and fun to eat. I also didn't want to go to the grocery store, so, I worked with what we had. And what we had was beets, yogurt, pistachios and mint.

The result was Middle Eastern meets Sonoma wine picnic, and it was just what we needed. Tender-crisp, sweet beets, dragged through creamy Greek yogurt and a pistachio-mint pesto that tastes like much more than the sum of its parts. This would soon become a regular addition to our meal rotation. I was proud to have created something that illicited so much praise from Evan, but the truth is that the beets were just so sweet, the yogurt so creamy and the mint-pistachio combination so perfect, that the only thing I really deserved credit for was bringing them all together. 

As usual, we had a ball of pizza dough in the fridge, which I rolled and cooked into naan-like flatbreads, and served alongside to scoop up this platter of goodness. Quinoa, tabbouleh or brown rice would also be a good addition.

I like to serve this as the center of a meal, but it also makes a lovely appetizer, especially with chilled white wine or Prosecco. 


  • 3 large or 4 medium candy cane beets (red or golden beets will also work), tops removed and saved for another use $3
  • cup fresh mint leaves (about 1 small bunch) $1
  • 1/3 cup toasted, shelled pistachios (buy in the bulk section), plus a few for garnish $2.50
  • clove garlic, peeled Pantry
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste Pantry
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil Pantry
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice (from about 1/4 lemon) $0.50 for a whole lemon
  • 2/3 cup Greek yogurt (preferably full fat) $2 for 8 oz.
  • freshly ground black pepper Pantry

Recipe Serves 2-3


  1. Cook the beets in boiling water for 20-25 minutes, until tender.
  2. Under cold running water, slip the skins off the beets and discard.
  3. Slice the beets into 1/4" rounds. Set aside.
  4. In a blender or food processor, combine the mint, pistachios, garlic, salt, olive oil and lemon juice. Pulse until a thick paste forms, and stir in the salt.
  5. Spoon the yogurt into the center of a large dinner plate.
  6. Arrange the beets around the yogurt mound.
  7. Drizzle the pesto around the outside of the beets.
  8. Garnish with pepper and a scattering of pistachios.
  9. Serve immediately.

Shirataki Noodle Salad with Tofu and Peanuts

  • Prep Time 15 minutes
  • Cook Time 15 minutes
  • Estimated Cost $13

I need to tell you about yesterday because it was completely amazing.

It all started about a month ago, when the Young & Hungry writing team was just getting started. Dave Holden, the head writer and creator of the series, wanted his writers to experience my San Francisco food world firsthand, so he asked me to organize a day of eating, drinking and fun for them, in order to help inspire their telling of fictional Gabi's world.

I reached out to some of my favorite Mission District food businesses, and put together what turned out to be the most fun day ever.

I brought along my food blogging buddies, Irvin Lin (of Eat the Love), Sean Timberlake (of Punk Domestics), and Sabrina Modelle (of The Tomato Tart), so the writing team could learn learn a bit about the food blogging scene (and also because I like eating and drinking with them so much), and we set off on our foodventure.

We toured the Dandelion Chocolate shop/factory, and tasted pure chocolate straight out of the mixer.

We sampled cheese and beer at Mission Cheese and pastries from Craftsman and Wolves and Tartine.

We had an incredible wine tasting at 18 Reasons, led by Bi-Rite's amazing John Lee.

We gorged ourselves on Korean tacos, mushroom dumplings, spicy chicken wings, okonomiyaki, and pickles and beer at Namu Gaji, and then headed next door for Bi-Rite ice cream

And then, when the writers' plane was delayed 2 hours, we headed to Elixir, my go-to watering hole, for more drinks.

By the time we said our final goodbyes, I was feeling drunk, happy, and incredibly full.

So, the plan today is to keep things light, food-wise.

Enter shirataki noodles.

These miraculous (and, admittedly, kind of weird) noodles are made from soy and sweet potato. They come in 7-ounce bags, packed in a strangely fishy-smelling liquid, but don't be put off by this. Draining and rinsing them well, along with a quick boil will make them pleasantly chewy and pretty damn similar-tasting to wheat or rice noodles. 

Even better, a serving has a mere 25 calories, 5 grams of carbohydrates, 2.5 grams of fiber, no gluten, and zero fat. If you're going to be eating noodles, I highly suggest swapping these in every now and again. They're satisfying, tasty, and spare you the "oh-my-god-I-just-ate-enough-food-for-3-people" feeling that so often follows a pasta meal.

My favorite kind is the Spinach Fettucine variety from Wildwood, but plain or any other flavor will work just fine.

Here, I toss the noodles with crunchy cabbage, shredded carrots and simple, uncooked tofu. Feel free to use shredded chicken, poached prawns or even grilled beef as your protein component. 


  • 2 7-ounce packages of shirataki noodles (typically found near the tofu--I'm particularly fond of the "Spinach Fettucine" variety from Wildwood's Pasta Slim $3
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil Pantry
  • 2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar $2.50
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce or tamari Pantry
  • a few drops of sesame oil Optional
  • Asian chili paste to taste Optional
  • 1 clove garlic, minced Pantry
  • 1 teaspoon sugar or honey Pantry
  • 1 cup thinly sliced red cabbage (about 1/2 small head) $1.50 for a whole head
  • 2 carrots, grated or cut into matchsticks $0.50
  • 6 ounces medium-soft tofu, cut into small cubes $1.50 for 12 oz.
  • 2 scallions, sliced $1 for a bunch
  • 1 small handful fresh mint leaves $1 for a bunch
  • 1 small handful fresh cilantro leaves $1 for a bunch
  • 1/4 cup shelled, roasted peanuts (buy in the bulk section), crushed $1.50

Recipe Serves 4


  1. Take the noodles out of their packages and drain the liquid they come packed in.
  2. Put the noodles in a strainer and place them under a cool running faucet for 30-45 seconds, to remove as much of their "fishy" smell as possible.
  3. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil and add the noodles.
  4. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. 
  5. Drain and rinse noodles in cool water, then set aside.
  6. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, soy sauce, sesame oil, if using, chili paste, if using, garlic, and sugar or honey. Set aside.
  7. Place the shredded cabbage and carrots in a large bowl, and toss with half of the dressing. 
  8. Layer the dressed veggies on a serving platter or in a serving bowl.
  9. In the same bowl you tossed the veggies with dressing, toss the cooked, rinsed noodles in the remaining dressing.
  10. Layer the dressed noodles atop the dressed cabbage and carrots.
  11. Top the noodles with the cubed tofu, scallions, mint, cilantro and crushed peanuts.
  12. Serve immediately.

Raising Whitley and Blueberry Applesauce

  • Prep Time 10 minutes
  • Cook Time 35 minutes
  • Estimated Cost $7
  • 1 Comment

Last night, I had the incredible privilege to appear on my friend Kym Whitley's reality show, Raising Whitley on OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network! Kym and I met in November at the taping for the Young & Hungry pilot (she stars as Yolanda, housekeeper extraordinaire). At the taping, Kym told me about her 2 1/2 year old son, Joshua and her struggle to find healthy, easy-to-cook recipes for the two of them to enjoy together. Joshua has a lot of allergies, and Kym doesn't have a lot of cooking experience, so she was faced with a challenge. A few weeks later, Kym called and asked me to come down to LA and give her a cooking lesson.


I arrived with groceries for some healthy, fun food, and copies of my books, The BrokeAss Gourmet Cookbook and Pizza Dough: 100 Delicious, Unexpected Recipes, to help Kym continue to cook after I left.

Together, we made three simple recipes: 

Crunchy, easy Brussels Sprouts Chips

My Basil-Feta Turkey Burgers (minus the feta)

And this delicious applejuice-sweetened Blueberry Applesauce. (I'll get to the recipe shortly.)

It was incredibly fun! We made some delicious, simple food and I got to teach Kym the joys of the immersion blender (the best budget appliance a cook with little space and money can own!) Kym is one of most warm, generous, talented people I know, and she kept me laughing and smiling the whole time, as did Joshua.

Read on for the applesauce recipe (which, by the way, is just as delicious with pork loin and potato pancakes as it is on its own), and check out your local listings to tune into next week's season finale of Raising Whitley!


  • 2 pounds tart apples (like Granny Smith), peeled, cored and chopped $2
  • 1 pint fresh or frozen blueberries $3.50
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened applejuiice $1.50 for 8 oz.
  • dash cinnamon Optional
  • dash salt Pantry

Recipe Serves 4


  1. Put all ingredients in a large, heavy-bottomed pot with 1/2 cup water. 
  2. Cook covered over medium-high heat, until mixture begins to bubble.
  3. Reduce to medium-low, and simmer for 20-25 minutes, until very soft.
  4. Puree using an immersion blender, regular blender or food processor, until only slightly chunky.
  5. Let cool, then serve or store in an airtight container. The applesauce will keep, airtight, in the fridge for about a week.