I was in California recently, enjoying the company of friends, a warm climate, beautiful scenery, and of course, wonderful food. My first few days were in L.A., catching up with friends and the grazing on the many amazing Middle Eastern food options in that part of the state. Persian food in particular rocks in SoCal. Yet many cups of tea and many rich meals into my trip, I began to crave lighter fare.
Light in a literal sense and also lighter on my wallet. My SoCal friends Sunny (above) and Nikki thoroughly spoiled me during that leg of my trip. I plan to post some of the recipes they fixed for me eventually, but suffice it to say, every meal we had together was lovely. Not just because the food was exquisite, but because their company was a blast.
By the time my first night in San Francisco rolled around, I was so used to being spoiled that I splurged on a nice dinner. Then I resolved to try to live a bit more off of the land, foodwise. Some people spend money on shoes and clothes. As a rule, that’s not me. When I travel, I’d rather hit a local food market than a boutique. That’s just how I roll.
So anyways, well before dinner rolled around that night, I had a plan, and an appetite from having spent hours exploring the city on foot. I knew Chinatown would be full of wonderful produce at bargain prices. My hunch was right. I stocked up on a few items.
While in Chinatown, I took a peek inside a tiny fortune cookie factory, snapped a picture (below) and grabbed a sample. Dessert before dinner. Free!
Later, it was my good fortune to run into a farmer’s market near Yerba Buena park. There, a vendor of Afghani style breads and sauces hooked me up with loads of samples. Heck, I could’ve had dinner just off of the generous samples on offer from the numerous vendors. But I had other plans. By the way, here’s a pic of the lentil flatbread that later became the base of my dinner:
I bought one of the bolanis that East and West Gourmet Afghan Foods sells at the Yerba Buena market. The lentil-stuffed wheat bread wasn’t heavy, but still filling. Bonus–I love lentils, and they’re high in filling protein and fiber.
Bolani can be stuffed with a variety of fillings, such as potatoes, pumpkin, spinach, or even leeks. My friend Kat makes a mean bolani. Hmmm, that reminds me to ask if I can get her to whip some up for the benefit of this blog.
Once back at the hotel, I sliced an avocado from Chinatown and added a few baby spinach leaves , tomatoes, and pine nuts procured from a small side salad I’d bought at a nearby deli. I topped all of this with a sprinkle of the homemade harissa sauce my friend Nicole had given me back in L.A. A squeeze of fresh juice from a lime picked fresh off of a local tree in L.A. and a bit of salt finished the sandwich beautifully. The result was an amazing foldover sandwich with local ingredients, a Middle Eastern flair and a comforting feel.
Total cost? Around $10. That might now sound like a bargain for a sandwich, but I actually got TWO meals out of this, so the real cost for dinner was a measly $5!
You see, I had another avocado on tap, plus enough bolani, lime, and harissa to make the sandwich (minus the spinach) for lunch the next day. I enjoyed it in a cute neighborhood park with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge. This was a beautiful lunch on so many levels. Here’s the view I had:
Sometimes when traveling, I come to miss preparing my own food. I think doing so is very healing and nurturing. Don’t get me wrong, no one loves the thrill of a new restaurant quite the way that I do, but sometimes it’s good to get back to basics.
Stay tuned for more posts inspired by my California travels and friends.