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Recently, I read a New York Times article about the composed salad, in French, the "salade composee." Something about this concept intrigued me, so Monday I bought a lot of beautiful, fresh, organic vegetables and made my first composed salad. It was the perfect summer meal: so fresh and delicious.

Yesterday, I was going to lunch at a friend's house and decided to bring my second composed salad. Another friend had just given me a lovely dish to put it in. Here's a photo:

Although one can put anything in this salad, here's what mine contained:

Grape tomatoes, sliced in half

Cucumbers, peeled, halved, and seeded

Shredded carrots

Breakfast radishes, sliced thinly

Arugula sprouts

Capers

Shallots (diced)

A mix of feta and various olives

I sprinkled it with an Oliviers and Company herb/salt mix, squeezed lemon on top and drizzled with good olive oil.

I can imagine so many other ingredients to put in it: tuna or smoked trout, red peppers, peas, fava beans, lentils. This is such a versatile salad, one that I'm sure I'll eat repeatedly throughout the summer!

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Last week I was in Berkeley for several days, working as a reviewer for the National Writing Project's Continued Funding Applications. This event was so well thought out--new reviewers were supported and mentored through the process of reading and writing responses to each site's CFA. Leaders emphasized the need to give feedback that would help each site to accentuate their strengths and follow the model of putting teacher expertise at the center of all we do. I have come to love all things NWP; I love spending time with positive, good hearted people who engage with current research about teaching writing and who are committed to making education better.

This post, then, is for some new friends that were intrigued when they found out that I like to blog about food. Kim and Amy had never heard of food blogs and were bemused when they found out that I have one (oooh, I guess "had" since this blog includes a little bit of everything). Anyway, here goes.

Berkeley has so many wonderful, organic restaurants. Since NWP provided food for breakfast, lunch, and one dinner, I only had time to fit in a few meals out. My first stop when I hit Oakland was Burma Superstar. I ordered "The Lunch;" the tea leaf salad wasn't as good as it usually is, but the samusa soup was so rich and flavorful--and the combination of chunks of samusa and falafel with cabbage created a nice depth to the soup.

After a long day's work, Friday night a group of us went to Venus, a restaurant that my friends Alex and Kyle recommended. I loved the interior of the restaurant which felt cozy and warm. My meal was good, but not great. I ordered short ribs, which were a bit too fatty though I liked the gremolata on top. I was much more enamored of the mashed yellow finns (potatoes), parsnips, and kale underneath the meat.

The real stand out of the meal for me was the toffee pudding which was rich and decadent with its topping of coriander cream. I shared with everyone, but the pudding was so rich that I still had more than enough.

Saturday night, my wonderful table leader Karen invited us to dinner. Her friend Pat really loves Five at the Hotel Shattuck, so that's where we ate. I decided to order the stuffed pepper and, oh, was it good! Filled with a combination of "ancient grains," pistachios and spinach and topped with ricotta cheese and romesco sauce, the stuffed pepper had a wonderful texture that was both chewy and silky smooth. I've never been a fan of stuffed peppers, but I am now. This meal was by far the best one of the trip.

To end my Berkeley food experiences, Joanne and I ate at Karma Kitchen (which runs out of the Taste of Himalayas restaurant on Sundays). My meal there was just average, but I loved the concept. Here's their description: "Imagine a restaurant where there are no prices on the menu and where the check reads $0.00 with only this footnote: 'Your meal was a gift from someone who came before you. To keep the chain of gifts alive, we invite you to pay it forward for those dine after you.'" A sense of giving permeated the restaurant, both from the volunteers who waited tables and the diners who felt part of a transitory community of givers. As I paid the check, I didn't care how much the food was worth, I just wanted to make sure this tradition continued.

As I drove home Sunday afternoon, I felt a glorious sense of well being. I suppose the beautiful weather and good food contributed to that feeling, but I also felt a sense of work well done and joyous camaraderie with like-minded people.

Burma Superstar
4721 Telegraph Ave
Oakland, CA 94609
510 652-2900

Venus
2327 Shattuck
Berkeley, CA
510-540-5950

Five
2086 Allston Way
Berkeley, CA
510-225-6055

Karma Kitchen/Taste of Himalayas
1700 Shattuck Ave
Berkeley, CA

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Tonight, my friends Alex, Kyle, and I wanted to grab a bite to eat. I had checked my twitter feed earlier and learned that Dusty Buns, a traveling taco truck, was going to be in the Tower District tonight. A couple of months ago, I had read Joan Obra's column about Dusty Buns, but what can I say? I'm slow in getting things done--before tonight, I'd never visited the truck.

When we arrived, there was a long line. Our friends and fellow CSUF faculty Melissa and Michelle were there . . . and later on Randa, Russell, and Angelo showed up as well. While we were waiting, we made a recording to memorialize our (my?) excitement:

We ordered food, waited some more chatting with other people in line--and when our food was delivered, we hightailed it to my house in order to eat it while it was still hot.

I had "le grilled cheese"--Angelo warned me that I had to use "le" because "they" would punch me if I said I wanted "the grilled cheese." I ordered as Angelo instructed and wasn't punched. Thanks, A, for the tip! My sandwich isn't much to look at in this photo, but, oh, it was good. Bravo Farms aged cheddar, country-style bacon, an heirloom tomato slice, organic greens, and herb mayo.

Kyle had the Veg Out, a sloppy joe style sandwich made with squash, eggplant, olive tapenade, and parmesan cheese. Alex had one of the specials for the night: steak tacos with heirloom salsa. They both loved their food. We ordered one side of potato salad (with more bacon) and two Tasty Cakes (basically, pecan blondies) as well. Both were fantastic and not very expensive. Alex's food was the most photogenic of the evening, so here's a picture:

Our first visit to Dusty Buns was a huge success. As we devoured our food tonight, we wondered why Fresno, a city located in the heart of one of the richest agricultural areas in the nation, didn't have more restaurants that served only organic, local ingredients. It's really pathetic that the restaurants Fresnans get excited about are national chains like Tahoe Joes and P.F. Changs. The food prepared by Dusty Buns is so delicious--it's clear that it's not made somewhere else, frozen, and then shipped across the country. Dusty Buns Bistro is my new favorite Fresno restaurant, er, I mean taco truck.

Dusty Buns Bistro
locations change, check their twitter feed