Dishes you can make as good or better at home


Avocado Toast.


I have tried and failed to make avocado toast as good as Bartavelle’s. Maybe it just tastes better if I didn’t make it myself.


you can have your excess and I’ll practice my moderation, tyvm.


It’s not excess vs. moderation, it’s current nutritional understanding vs. outdated misinterpretations and agribusiness disinformation. A low-fat, high-simple-carb diet is the contemporary version of eating partially hydrogenated oil in place of butter.


I’m going to try the cast iron skillet first. If it works well I may invest in bincho for another occasion.


Maybe not better, but definitely as good: hummus, spaghetti with tomato and basil, guacamole, tabouleh, pierogi, eggplant parmigiana, baked artichokes, shrimp cocktail, fried okra, and mac & cheese. I feel stupid paying for any of them.

On the flip side, although I can make a serviceable tuna melt, any random diner can make a better one. There’s a low-rent quality to my ideal tuna melt that I can’t seem to replicate, even with chunk light tuna, Kraft singles and Levy’s squishy Jewish rye. The secret ingredient might be margarine, but I’m not buying margarine. That’s a bridge too far.


I do not understand the popularity of restaurants that specialize in mac & cheese.


There’s one near me. I’ve eaten there a couple of times, it’s pretty good, and I credit them with introducing me to mac & cheese with brie, shiitakes, figs and rosemary. Which I can now make at home, because it’s not rocket surgery, and it’s also not worth $8.50 for a small.


Classic jewish chicken soup.

Most places use a broth base to extend it and - no. Just - no.


A few times I’ve had broth at Chinese and Laotian places that was like the best homemade.



Oh… I’ve never had Laotian chicken soup. Something new to hunt and try! Thank you! (Any recs? I am by Glendale.)

A few Chinese places - yes, you are right. But I no longer eat pork so getting won ton soup is a bit more challenging! Many ramen places make me happy. Love the chicken pho at Good Girl Dinette.

But just a classic bowl of chicken soup? Still a tad hard to find.

That said, I checked out the New York Deli (in the old brownstone pizza location( today. Their lunch special for $6.99? A spinach or potato knish, with french friends and gravy. Haven’t seen such a carb fest in years and my heart went “Yes.” So I will be back there to check out their specials and, they do make and sell matzo ball soup…


The Laotian place is Champa Garden in Oakland. The Chinese places it was served with Hainan Chicken or just plain.


I like my hummus better than any I’ve had in a restaurant, probably because I use a lot more tahina.

I pound the garlic with salt in a mortar, then pour some olive oil on top and let it sit for at least half an hour. This cuts the bite while keeping the strong garlic flavor.

Then for 7-8 oz. (dry, before cooking) of chickpeas I use a quarter cup of olive oil, half a cup of tahina, and 1-2 tablespoons of regular lemon juice or the juice of half or a whole Meyer lemon. If it’s really stiff in the food processor I add a little water.


Robert -

Wow, that hummus sounds awesome! And yes, you use way more tahini then the “norm.” No wonder it’s so tasty!

For convenience, I am a huge fan of “hummus in a can” that you can get at Super King or Jons and all you do is add a few glugs of olive oil, a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime (or orange!) and then garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste. Not as good as your hummus or the stuff you can get in restaurants but, when you are pooped or the fridge is bare because you are pooped, it’s a wonderful thing to look in the cupboard and go “A hah!”

Funny, there are fast difference between the brands and I swear, it’s that one (the pricier brand) has more tahini then the cheaper brand!


I strongly urge you to grab a chili hummus from the case at Gjusta. It is amazing. The garlic flavor is amazing and the tingle from the fermented chili is great. I put it on celery sticks, pita chips, Fritos scoops, naan, whatever is it just makes everything taste better.

Check out the label, the ingredients list is quite interesting. If you ever go back to Gjusta, grab one of these. IMO one of their best items and not badly priced at $5.


Why should fermented chili sauce need vinegar? Mine is nothing but salt and chiles.


Flavor. Or more precisely, depth and nuance of flavor.

Many Asian styles of fermented chili sauces use vinegar, as well as sugar. Think Sriracha (the traditional one not the Huy Fong one).

Read the book Asian Pickles. It’s an interesting foray into fermentation from the other side of the Pacific.


I started making my own chile sauce because it annoyed me that I couldn’t add heat or chile flavor without also adding vinegar. If a dish needs vinegar or fish sauce I can add it to taste.


There is not an insignificant difference in adding a flavor component before (or during) the cooking process as compared to after.

The former is transformative, the latter merely additive.

It’s why, for example, when making tomato sauce one would add garlic, olive oil, salt, basil, thyme, etc. to the tomatoes before and during the cooking process and not just heat up a pan of tomatoes, dump that on some cooked pasta, then drizzle the entire plate with some EVOO, a bit of garlic and a handle of chopped basil.


In most recipes, I don’t want vinegar at all, probably because I’m usually going to drink wine with the meal.

To my taste, adding vinegar to chile sauce overpowers the more subtle, complex, and wine-friendly sourness produced by lacto-fermentation.