In the spirit of “get back in shape” month, here are a few of my favorite dishes for keeping it light and healthy. Even if you do drop that new gym membership in February, these are dishes you’ll still want to eat simply because they’re delicious.
CHERRYSTONE CLAMS: SWAN OYSTER DEPOT
1517 Polk Street (at California)
Cherrystone clams are as common on East Coast menus as oysters are here. You rarely find them in the Bay Area, and I’m not sure why. Marina Times editor in chief Susan Dyer Reynolds says she likes them better than oysters (she also spent her summers in Rhode Island, where she started slurping them raw at the age of three), and I understand why: Eating raw cherrystone clams is like eating the ocean — they’re brinier and less creamy than oysters, with an incomparable bright, sweet taste. Cherrystones are hard-shell clams, about two to three inches in diameter (little necks are the smallest hard-shell clam and the most expensive). I think the ones at Swan Oyster Depot are the freshest in the City, and I can eat about two-dozen by myself. The texture is slightly crunchy and, while you can add a squirt of lemon or some cocktail sauce, I think the natural juices are all you need.
HIJIKI AND SOYBEAN SALAD AND BURDOCK AND LOTUS ROOT SALAD: DELICA
1 Ferry Building, Shop 45
I’m far from vegan but that all changes while I’m having lunch at Delica, where there are two vegan salads I can’t resist. I almost always order the hijiki and soybean salad, a unique, perfectly balanced combination of seaweed mixed with dried soybeans, edamame, konnyaku (more on that below), daikon, wild mizuna (Japanese mustard), fried tofu, and goji (wolfberry) cooked with soy sauce. This is a very light dish, but incredibly satisfying.
The spicy burdock and lotus root salad is the other vegan dish I crave at Delica. The salad’s stars are spicy braised burdock, lotus root, and konnyaku. What is konnyaku, you ask? It’s a gelatinous substance made from the pounded roots of a mountain yam called konjac. Konnyaku has almost no calories, has no sugar or fat, and is 90 percent water, but the remaining 10 percent is glucomannan, a soluble fiber. Before you say, “Yuck!” you should also know it’s a big part of the diet on Okinawa, an island off the southwest coast of Japan, where the people boast the longest life expectancy in the world with a high proportion of centenarians who experience almost no cardiovascular disease or cancer. And, when tossed with spicy braised burdock and lotus roots, thin slices of white onion, julienned carrots, and wild mizuna, konnyaku is also refreshing and delicious.
CRAB AND SHRIMP LOUIE: THE ROTUNDA
150 Stockton Street
(at Geary inside
I’m a shopaholic so you’ll find me at Neiman Marcus a lot. Whether I’m shopping for myself in the men’s department or picking out a pair of Manolo Blahnik or Prada shoes for a lady I’m dating, I always end my shopping excursion at the Rotunda for a crab and shrimp Louie, made with ultra-fresh Dungeness crab, shrimp, romaine lettuce, cucumbers, avocado, tomatoes, and, of course, classic Louie dressing. It’s always my favorite and least expensive purchase (and something I never have to return). I’d mention the amazing popovers with strawberry butter that come with every meal at the Rotunda, but we’re trying to be healthy here.