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About Spontaneous Tomato

This is the website of someone who loves to eat. Cooking makes me happy too, but it’s secondary in my mind to the eating.

I cook what I’m craving. As you can imagine, I now have quite the collection of spices and sauces on hand in my kitchen cabinets. (In particular, I have a bit of an Asian condiment and snack-buying problem…) I also eat out in restaurants. A lot. But there is nothing more enjoyable than sitting down, with friends, to a sizzling dinner or a fresh, colorful brunch that you’ve prepared yourself at home.

I love to cook with friends, with music, and with an often-forgotten glass of wine on the counter. I don’t really love to cook with recipes, but I’ll try my best to measure or guesstimate the ingredients I use, just for you.

This is also the website of someone who loves to travel. I’ve eaten pizza in Brazil, curry in New Zealand, and pancakes in Cambodia. I lived briefly in Spain and South Korea, and for a few years in Japan, so most of my travels have been in Asia and Europe. I plan to share a smattering of food photos from my traveling adventures here, mixed in among the recipes.

My obsession with food:
I lived in Japan before the era of Top Chef, cupcakeries, food trucks with twitter feeds, and cooking blogs with cookbook spin-offs, but Japan was way ahead of the curve: it seemed to me that every time I turned on the television there, a food show was on. And not just a Julia Child-style how-to-cook show; a zoomed in close-up (part hedonistic, part sadistic) cook-off or taste-test or speed-eating contest or restaurant review, replete with backstories and lush images of every ingredient, and with famous TV personalities sighing, oishisou! (looks delicious!), umai! (yum!), or karai! (spicy!).

Something about Japan’s national food obsession, and the way nearly EVERYTHING looks and tastes so delectable there, made me a little obsessed with food myself. (Once, on a ten-day trip to Singapore, I kept a travel-log and wrote down everything I ate, rather than everything I did.)

I started taking food photographs too, just for the record… In the U.S., I used to feel a bit embarrassed taking photos of what I was about to eat; in Japan, I’ve always been in good company.

Eating Nakji-Bokum (Korean Spicy Stir-Fried Octopus) at an outdoor food stall in Namdaemun Market, Seoul, South Korea.

About my cooking:
All of this has made me an adventurous and enthusiastic eater. I’ve tried—and enjoyed—raw fugu (potentially poisonous blowfish) in Japan and squid cooked in their own ink in the Basque Country.

Some of my cooking is in pursuit of re-creating something scrumptious I have eaten on my travels. The rest might be simply whatever I’m feeling like at the moment, or inspired by a new gift for my kitchen, or a Farmer’s Market produce purchase.

I don’t bake much. I most certainly have nothing against eating baked goods; it’s just my reluctance to follow recipes and measure things. (I hope with this website, though, that will start to change.)

I don’t eat pork or beef (for no particular reason other than 20 years of habit, but this might change, too…).

I don’t have many fancy kitchen gadgets, but I absolutely love my cast iron pan (an excellent gift from a friend!). I was once intimidated by the complicated-seeming care instructions, but now I’m thoroughly converted, and I use it to make huevos rancheros or fried eggs nearly every morning. I also love going thrift-store shopping in search of new (old) dishes.

A little more about me:
I’m a language nerd. I speak Japanese and Spanish, and I’m studying Korean and Arabic. (I also know a tiny bit of some other Romance languages and ASL, and would like to learn more.) I use the life-changing (and free) Anki to study language flashcards.

I was born in the great food city of Madison, Wisconsin, then spent some time living in Philadelphia and western Japan, before moving to southern California. (While in Philly, I occasionally wrote food blog posts for Uwishunu, the Official Tourism Blog of Philadelphia. You can find my archived uwishunu posts here.)

My wife’s name is Paula. She’s a certified ophthalmic assistant. She bakes all of the bread around here, and sometimes writes guest posts like this one.

I’m not a morning person, but brunch is my favorite meal.

I have a special fondness for tomatoes, eggs, and cilantro.

Some of my favorite foods to make (and eat) are:

huevos rancheros, oyako-donburi (Japanese chicken and egg over rice), kimchi fried rice, poached eggs over sautéed kale, chana masala, saag paneer, mango lassi, gazpacho soup, pita chips, vegetarian sushi, Thai yellow curry, tom kha gai soup, avocado tomato toast, and blueberry muffins.

Some of my favorite things to eat that I would like to learn to make (better/more often) are:

crepes, Vietnamese spring rolls, chicken mole, malai kofta (Indian curry with cheese and vegetable dumplings), samosas, pad thai, sashimi, agedashi-tofu (Japanese deep-fried tofu in ginger broth), steamed shrimp dumplings, pickled tomatoes, chilaquiles, eggs benedict, and lemon bars.

I hope to cook my way through these recipes and more, while sharing my kitchen successes, failures, and tips with you. I hope to hear from you, too: I welcome your comments on recipes if you have questions or suggestions of your own!

Happy cooking!


247 Comments leave one →
  1. September 20, 2013 10:59 pm

    great blog, allison! so glad i found you!!

  2. September 26, 2013 11:21 am

    Hi Allison! I nominated you for the Shine On award. Just a little recognition for your creative and inspiring blog! You can see details at: Congrats! -Laura

  3. October 2, 2013 7:13 am

    Hello! I don’t cook, but followed a WP suggestion to your blog, and just wanted to say that I love the way you write! There’s something so engaging and spontaneous and well, delicious, in your phrasing and choice of words. Such a pleasure to read, that I’m almost tempted to start cooking. Almost ;)

    Fabulous stuff. I’ll probably stop by again, not for the recipes, but just to read your writing. ^^

    • October 3, 2013 4:19 pm

      Wow, what a lovely compliment! Thank you so much for taking the time to comment about my writing. Your comment made my day! (And please do stop by again, whether or not you plan on actually cooking.) ^^

  4. November 4, 2013 6:11 am

    Hey! I just wanted to let you know I’ve nominated you for the “I am a part of the WordPress family” award – find out more here:

  5. November 15, 2013 3:22 am

    What a lovely site – everything looks so fresh and appealing!

  6. November 16, 2013 2:47 pm

    Loving your blog! And love how you also just posted something with pomegranate seeds. I did that as well. And, by the way, I’m also a tomato fanatic! It’s one of the perks living in Florida… :)

    • November 17, 2013 8:54 pm

      Thank you, Jenna! I’m always glad to meet other tomato fanatics! That would be a definite perk of living in Florida… California is pretty amazing in that way, too (especially compared to Wisconsin, where I’m from, which also has awesome farmer’s markets, but only from April through October).

  7. November 17, 2013 12:46 am

    I just love your blog and that’s why I’ve nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award. I hope you choose to accept it. For more information, see my post on Awards:

  8. elamb permalink
    November 18, 2013 4:42 am

    I love your blog and I am passing along the Blog of the Year 2013 Award to you. As usual, participation is optional. If interested, please visit this link:

  9. November 19, 2013 2:39 am

    Hi Just wanted to say I’m really enjoying your blog, so I have nominated you for a Versatile Blogger award, I know you have been nominated already this month but I just wanted to pass on my appreciation!!!

  10. November 23, 2013 3:40 pm

    Hi Allison, I wanted to let you know that I nominated you for the WordPress Family Award, because I consider you as part of my WordPress family. Participation is voluntary of course ;-) Thanks & hugs, Sylvia
    Here is the link for it:

  11. thoughtsaboutveganism permalink
    November 25, 2013 3:42 pm

    I just awarded you with the Dragon’s loyalty award – come check it out!


  12. November 26, 2013 2:13 am

    I think I am going to enjoy following your blog. Keep up the wonderful work, fellow traveler. Isn’t it just wonderful to have an adventurous palate?!

    • November 27, 2013 11:10 am

      Thank you, Anke! It is indeed wonderful; the only problem is that there’s not enough time(/money/stomach space) to travel everywhere and try eating everything the world has to offer! :) At least I can reproduced just a small percentage of it all in my kitchen…

  13. November 30, 2013 1:28 am

    Hi there, I’ve nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award!

  14. December 5, 2013 12:42 pm

    Hi there, I have nominated you for the Most Influential Blogger Award. No pressure to do anything with it, I like to direct people to blogs I enjoy. If you do want to pass it along here’s how:

  15. December 9, 2013 10:55 am

    Es una maravilla disfrutar de la gastronomia y tú eres uno de ellos…
    Los txipirones en su tinta del Pais Vasco es una receta que a nosotros los vascos nos encantan junto con la merluza en salsa verde y el bacalao al pil pil.
    Felicidades por tu magnifico blog.
    Saludos y miraremos mas a menudo tus post.

    • December 12, 2013 12:04 pm

      Muchas gracias por tu comentario.

      Me gustaron mucho los txipirones en su tinta que comí en un viaje a San Sebastián (¡hace diez años!). Nunca he probado merluza en salsa verde ni bacalao al pil pil, pero por supuesto me gustaría probarlos.

      Me alegro de haber descubierto tu blog también.

  16. December 12, 2013 10:53 pm

    I know you’ve already amassed a ton of these, but add my nomination to the list for another Versatile Blogger Award! You can find the info on my Awards page at

  17. December 15, 2013 7:45 am

    Thanks for subscribing to The Garum Factory. Articulate, funny, photographer, language geek–okay! I’ll sign up back at you. (Love love love octopus – have 2 10 – lb monsters in my freezer as we speak, waiting for Christmas.) ken

    • December 19, 2013 10:31 am

      Thanks, Ken! I’m honored to have you guys follow my blog back, since I love your blog’s recipes and gorgeous photos! …can’t wait to see what you guys do with that 20 lbs. of octopus! I’ll stay tuned. :)

  18. December 19, 2013 3:43 pm

    Love your blog!!!

  19. December 22, 2013 9:47 am

    Thanks for the follow, I really like the look of your blog & am envious of the food you got to eat during your Asian travels! Look forward to seeing more of your recipes. My partner is also the bread master around here ;)

    • February 5, 2014 9:52 am

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting! Aren’t we lucky to have bread-baking partners!? Fresh, homemade bread (that I didn’t make) is just about one of the best dinner party tricks I can think of. :)

  20. December 30, 2013 6:21 pm

    Hi Allison, You have a lovely blog which I enjoy following. Just wanted to let you know that I nominated you for the Liebster blog award –
    Have a wonderful New Year!

    • February 5, 2014 9:55 am

      Thanks, Ahila! (And sorry it’s taken me so long to respond to your comment.) Hope you are (already) having a wonderful New Year, too! :)

  21. January 23, 2014 1:58 pm

    Nice to meet a fellow capricious vegetable!

  22. Ann permalink
    February 6, 2014 1:50 pm

    Hi! I recently stumbled on your blog and I have to say: you are fantastic! I love Japanese + Korean cuisine, and I live in Madison too (whoopwhoop Madtown)! Anyway, I can’t wait to follow your blog and see what other things you come up with :D

    • February 7, 2014 4:12 pm

      Aw, thank you so much! And welcome! I don’t actually live in Madison anymore, but I spent my first 18 years growing up there, and most of my family still lives there so I try to go back at least once a year—I love it there and wish I could go back even more often… (I’m living in Santa Barbara, CA right now.)

      Anyway, I hope you’ll continue to check back for more recipes, and I hope you’re staying warm in Madison; I’ve heard it’s the worst winter there in ages!

  23. February 8, 2014 4:25 pm

    OMG! I am so happy I came across your blog so that I can try out your delicious recipes! I am so sold. Keep it up!


  24. March 13, 2014 5:31 pm

    Hey Allison! We just nominated you for the Sunshine Award! Hope you accept it. Check it out here:

    Aditi & Nikhil

  25. MyKabulKitchen permalink
    March 16, 2014 4:21 pm

    Interesting blog, definitely something new and unique every post, I love it!

  26. March 18, 2014 11:27 pm

    Hi. Thank you for following my blog. I saw you had lived in Japan and South Korea. Am quite jealous! I’m just started exploring these cuisines.
    Your blog has great food, love to read some more.

    • March 19, 2014 10:14 am

      Thanks! I know how you feel… I’m jealous of people who still live in Japan or S.Korea—so many good things to be eaten in both places! (And right now I’m living in a town that doesn’t really have any good Korean or Japanese restaurants… but that’s a good thing, too, because it’s made me get way more into cooking more of the dishes I miss for myself.)

      Looking forward to following your blog, too! It seems like we share similar taste in food, but you have way more patience for arranging it into a cute/clever presentation. :)

      • March 20, 2014 2:06 am

        Luckily there are lots of Korean restaurants nearby where I live. Plus supermarkets.
        I don’t have that much patience though, compared to some other bloggers my efforts are quite humble.

        But I really love making boxed lunches and that’s the main thing anyway.

      • March 20, 2014 9:28 am

        Yes, and boxed lunches are the best! We nearly always pack lunches from home using dinner leftovers from the night before—though usually that means just one main dish + rice, rather than a variety of small dishes, like a real Japanese bento lunch. I have a few nice bentos from Japan that we occasionally use to bring lunches, but some of them aren’t microwaveable, so they don’t get used very often.

  27. March 23, 2014 12:59 pm

    Hey Allison! I really like your Blog it’s fresh and different! Cant wait to try your recipes!
    Your recipes are so easy and stress free! That’s why I nominated you for “The Sunshine Award”! Here’s the link:

  28. March 24, 2014 1:47 pm

    Hi Allison! I also have nominated you and your lovely blog for the Liebster Award!
    Take care, Marina

  29. March 27, 2014 1:01 pm

    Thank you for visiting my blog and taking the time to look at so many of my posts. I loved reading your about page and I’m happy to have found your blog too.

  30. March 31, 2014 7:45 pm

    Hello Allison, wonderful collection of recipes that you have created in this blog and a nice, candid ‘about’ page. I’m glad that I stumbled upon this blog. It’s true, I’ve heard too that the Japanese view food almost as art. Looking forward to learning from your future posts and the ones already in here…

    • April 3, 2014 11:37 am

      Thanks, Apsara! Yes, some of what makes Japanese food so good is sometimes the attention paid to the presentation, but also I’ve really enjoyed so many things I’ve eaten in Japan—even slightly odd, non-traditional Japanese twists on international food, like at Italian or Indian restaurants in Japan. In my experience, so many restaurants there are so good at putting the TASTE of food first, even above the presentation, and that makes me respect those restaurants so much more than all the mediocre-food restaurants that are par for the course, at least in southern California, where I’m living right now.

      Anyway, welcome! I’m glad you stumbled upon my blog, too! :)

  31. April 7, 2014 11:05 am

    Hello! Just letting you know I’ve nominated you for the versatile blogger award. As always, acceptance is purely optional, so if you’re interest then please visit my post here

  32. April 10, 2014 1:49 pm

    Hi Allison, I wanted to let you know that I´ve nominated you for the Sunshine Award. Hope you´ll accept… please yo there if you like :
    so see what it´s about . Have a great day, Sabine

  33. Victoria permalink
    April 11, 2014 8:36 am

    Fabulous blog and glad I stumbled upon it!

  34. May 1, 2014 10:23 pm

    Hi Allison, just found your blog and am already contemplating the huevos rancheros…but it’s six in the morning and I have to head to work :-(
    See you later, spontaneous tomato

    • May 3, 2014 7:06 pm

      Hi, and welcome! Sorry to hear that you discovered the huevos rancheros too late to make them before work… they also make a pretty good dinner!

  35. May 29, 2014 3:11 pm

    Hi Allison! I’m so happy I found your blog! It popped up on my wordpress reader and who can resist the name “Spontaneous tomato”?! Love it!

  36. June 30, 2014 8:48 am

    Hello Allison,

    I’ve just randomly came across to your blog and…I can not stop reading it! :) I love everything and look forward to getting to know you better! :)

  37. July 6, 2014 9:11 pm

    Hey Allison, big fan of your recipes and photography, do you want to join our WP group board on Pinterest? Here’s my post about it Let me know if you are interested. Would love to have you:)

  38. July 14, 2014 12:48 pm

    I’m new here :D and this blog is like… PARADISE *-* It make me so happy having began a blog too when I see how good it can become. Sorry I got carried away a bit , probably because i’m a big food lover .
    thank you so much I don’t know with recipe to start :)

  39. November 25, 2014 8:20 am

    Hey, I’ve been reading your blog for a while now, and i really do enjoy it thus I’m nominating you for the sisterhood of the world bloggers award. You can give it a look by hitting onto the link provided herein with.

  40. December 12, 2014 9:14 pm

    I´m a huevos rancheros lover too!!! I´m gonna enjoy this blog!
    Love and peace!

  41. March 22, 2015 6:16 am

    Hi Allison, great blog. I don’t know with recipe to start, so glad I found you again!
    See you later

  42. June 18, 2015 12:41 pm

    Woah! Cool blog! I am a lover of food and cooking as well (had a food blog previously) AND I love learning languages. Awesome.

  43. July 15, 2015 12:27 pm

    What an awesome blog!! I love all of the asian recipes you have too! I have spent some time travelling in Japan and though out south east asia and am completely in love with all asian foods. I have not been to Korea yet but it is on my list and I know I will get there one day. For now I will enjoy reading through your blog and making some of these delicious recipes!

  44. August 8, 2015 7:14 am

    Tolle Gerichte und gute Fotos

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