Cucina Mia Farm-to-Table

DIY Açaí Bowl

For years I’ve been enjoying these tasty concoctions (pronounced ah-sigh-EE) at Cafe Brasil in Santa Cruz and at Surfdog’s Java Hut in Encinitas. I’m also looking forward to trying the many different versions at Mana Bowls in Fairfax. But today, I just wanted one for breakfast. At home. In a pinch.

I took this one myself. Can you believe it?
I took this one myself. Can you believe it?

As fate would have it, we had everything I needed in the freezer, including these great Sambazon açaí berry packs you can find at your local health food store (a.k.a. Good Earth). I thicken up the berry mixture with banana and Manitoba Harvest Hemp 50 powder, packing in 15 grams of plant-based protein.

For me, this breakfast is a four hour hunger-killer — a great meal to have before a long surf session or trail run.


2 servings (2 bowls)


2 sleeves frozen Sambazon Açaí berries (sold 4 sleeves to a pack)

2 frozen bananas

1 cup frozen blueberries

3–5 frozen dark cherries (add more for richness)

8 T hemp powder

2 C almond milk

1 C granola

1 fresh banana, peeled and sliced into medallions

A small handful of fresh berries

2 t honey (to taste)

A few sprinkles of unsweetened coconut (optional)


Place all the frozen ingredients, the hemp powder and the almond milk into a powerful blender and blend on high until smooth.

Fill two bowls in this order, dividing everything up into halves:

  1. 1/2 the granola (~1/4 C)
  2. blended açaí mixture
  3. the rest of the granola (~1/4 C)
  4. banana medallions
  5. fresh berries
  6. honey
  7. coconut (optional)

As you eat this, you’ll realize that you’re going to have a great day. And if you don’t, it definitely wasn’t the açaí bowl’s fault.

Cucina Mia Farm-to-Table

Classic Pesto

Pesto — a zesty northern Italian vegetarian sauce — can be customized in innumerable ways. The basil can be replaced with spinach, arugula, kale, or cilantro; the pine nuts subbed with hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, etc.; and the pecorino romano switched with literally any hard, dry cheese with a high salt content.

Trofie al Pesto
Photo credit: Edwin Garrubbo

However, whenever I tweak this dish, I’m left longing for the original. This is the recipe that’s been passed down through the generations in my family.

Where pesto was born, in Liguria (the northwest coast of Italy), they serve it atop trofie, a little “twist” of pasta that is said to capture just the right amount of pesto for each bite. I’ve found fusilli to be a pretty good — if not entirely authentic — substitute.


4-6 servings


6-8oz of basil, washed and stems removed (about three bunches)

4oz of whole pecorino romano cheese

1/3 to 1/2 C pine nuts (more for a richer sauce)

2 T olive oil

~1/4 C milk (more if necessary, note: the Nonna uses heavy cream)

1 small clove of garlic, peeled

Salt and pepper to taste

A pinch of crushed red pepper (optional)

1 lb dry trofie (or fusilli)


Traditionally, Ligurians made pesto with a mortar and pestle, but I just throw everything but the milk in the blender or food processor until it’s pulverized and then add just enough milk to make it take on a sauce-like consistency.

(If you’re feeling ambitious, you can add a smoky flavor by toasting the pine nuts lightly on low heat in a pan, then allowing them to cool before adding to the mixture. If you over-toast the pine nuts, they turn rancid and need to be thrown away, so this is a perfectly good way to waste a really expensive ingredient. YMMV.)

Cook your pasta al dente (as there is no other way) and then drain (but do not rinse) and toss with the pesto while the pasta is still hot. Serve immediately.

If you’re not serving the pesto immediately, place it in an airtight container, cover tightly with plastic wrap, then seal the lid. Air contamination will cause the pesto to turn brown. It will still taste fine, but no one will want to eat it. (You might get away with sneaking it onto a sandwich, again, YMMV.)