All posts by Mahin Arastu

3 Ingredient Peach + Fig Summer Substantial Salad

Hello Substantial Living!

With my time going towards commercializing my pickled products soon to be sold in West Elm, I have missed writing about beautiful and Substantial food and design, so here I am back to the blogs!  With little cooking breaks and inspiration gained from people I meet,  here’s my new simple 3 ingrediant Substantial summer salad.  So simple, fragrant and healthy- perfect for warm summer days.



The Prettiest Spring Salad

Hello Substantial Living beauty and health lovers!

As the spring season takes us out of the winter coldness, we see signs of life through blooms throughout the country.  It’s always magical for me to see nature evolve out of the hibernation of winter. In honor of the blooms, and the weather getting warmer, I thought what better way to honor our mother earth than to create something simple, fresh, and believe it or not, very approachable.  You can buy all the ingredients at Trader Joes!

The first step is to make a Basil Vinaigrette.  Here’s the recipe:


  • 1.5 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
  • 6 TBSP of EVOO
  • 2 teaspoons of red wine vinegar

Place all ingredients in a blender except the EVOO, and blend initially slowly adding the EVOO while mixture is blending.

Once you have the basil-vinaigrette made, take a tablespoon of it, and place it on a plate.  With the bottom of the spoon smear the vinaigrette in one fluid motion in a circle around the plate (or whatever shape you desire-get creative).



  • 3 baby heirloom tomatoes (preferably different colors)
  • 1 Baby fresh mozzarella ball hand-torn into smaller pieces
  • 3-4 Micro greens
  • 3-4 Fresh english peas
  • Pink peppercorns
  • 1 Tsp of EVOO
  • 1 drop of Balsamic Vineger

Add these components anywhere your creativity feels like it on the plate.  I liked to place them over the basil vinaigrette, but there is no right or wrong way to style a salad!  Sprinkle with sea salt or fleur de sel and ENJOY!  It’s simple, gorgeous and a show  stopper!



My Crunchy-Creamy Avocado Toast Salad

Hello My Substantial Living Green Food Lovers!

As we are bombarded with avocado yumminess everywhere, I figured why not try some new healthy initiatives mixed together for a new flavor and texture.  This toast is a nice mixture of the creamy goodness of avocado and hummus, mixed with the crunchy goodness of different types of seeds.

This is a new spring recipe that I came up and it’s so delic, healthy and Substantial.  I love it!  It’s filled with seeds of all kinds:  sunflower seeds, poppy seeds, sesame seeds and one could even add pumpkin seeds if inspired.


These ingredients are in order of application to a slightly toasted baguette, from bottom up

  1. Trader Joes Artisan Sunflower Seeds Whole Wheat Baguette
  2. 2 TBSP Garlic Hummus
  3. 1/2 Cup Mescaline Salad
  4. 1/2 Sliced Avocado per Half Baguette
  5. 1 TSP Trader Joes Everything but the Bagel Sesame Seasoning
  6. 1 TBSP Substantial Living Mixed Pickled Vegetable Achar
  7. EVOO + Sea Salt
  8. 4-5 Basil leaves  (optional)

You can always add a poached or fried egg, or scrambled eggs to make this into a nice brunch or breakfast.  Enjoy and happy spring!  XO

3 Simple Foods to Host Your Friends

Hello Substantial Living!

Part of my job is to make sure people love their home through healthy food and design.  However, the most important part of my job is to make sure people share their space and connect authentically to other people.  You know, something a little more substantial.

Here’s a really simple appetizer platter containing spicy cashews and fresh black olives from Rainbow Grocery.  Dessert is one of my favorite- milk chocolate pretzels from Trader Joes.

All simple, tasty, mostly raw, and great paired with any types of beverages.  You don’t need a lot of bells and whistles to share simple foods with other people.  Go ahead, try it.  It will help you connect with all natural things and your friends in a deeper way.  XO

Icelandic Fish Stew with a Saffron Leek Broth

Hello Substantial Living!

As the flowers are popping out of the earth and we say goodbye to winter in the last rainy days of San Francisco, I was inspired to create this recipe.  It was shortly after I was having some Chinese lychee tea with my lovely friend, Kamila, whose fashion designs always make me feel feminine, elegant, and beautiful.  While most of our conversation revolved around our entrepreneurship  hopes and dreams, the last part of our chat inspired me to cook.  What a surprise!!  We ended talking about living in Europe, growing and making our own rustic delicious foods, and so I was inspired to make something rustic and comforting as we say goodbye to the rain (and hopefully snow for my East Coast besties!), with this super rustic, Icelandic fish stew.

While I spent over a decade enjoying the classic New England chowders-a meal certainly not tremendously healthy, but hey, it can be so good on a cold, snowy day with a sourdough rustic bread!  You can’t say no to a properly reduced broth made into a cream sauce!


  • 3-4 TBS butter
  • 2 small onion – finely slice
  • 1/2 leek – finely sliced
  • 3 tomatoes – chopped into very small pieces
  • 2 small stalks celery, finely sliced
  • 6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup sherry (optional)
  • 3 TBS tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp saffron powder
  • 1 tsp red chili powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 3-4 TBS wine vinegar
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine (optional)
  • 3 cups jumbo shrimps
  • 4 cups cod or salmon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 TBS chives-finely chopped
  • 1 TBS Microgreens + Fresh English Peas (Garnish)

Melt butter in a large cast iron pot, add all the vegetables (except the tomatoes) and cook for 10 minutes until tender. Add sherry and white wine and reduce for 4 minutes. Add the stock, tomato concentrate, saffron and vinegar.

Boil for 15-20 minutes. Add the fish, shrimps, red chili powder, paprika and chopped tomatoes, bring to a soft boil and simmer for 5 minutes.  Add cream and stir. It is important not to make the soup boil again (as the cream might ‘break’/curdle). Garnish with micro greens, chives, and english peas.

Serve with some warm bread and butter on the side.


Susan Linss: The Mind Behind the Design

A few months ago, serendipitously I was introduced to NYC designer Susan Linss by my colleague and friend, Edreece Arghandiwal, CEO and Founder of an innovative video journaling app Jurni, who sent me a recent article in Hypebeast featuring Susan as Kanye West and Hype William’s Production Designer.

Needless to say, she is a creative force more than admirable, with a genuine down-to-earth personality.  Her Persian heritage and artist father brings a wealth of taste and talent to the table-from history, to architecture to culture.  She uses her background mixed with her art of human connection to create.   Her client list is impressive from artists such as Kanye, Rihanna, Mariah Carey to companies such as Neiman Marcus, La Perla, and Pfizer.  She also teaches as the School of Visual Arts in New York City.  What I love the most about her work is its diversity and ability to create experiences through multiple venues: from photography to production design to even custom designing a pair of sunglasses for Kanye West in collaboration with French designer Alain Mikli.  Now she spends time on her new venture, a design firm called Safa + Noor creating something meaningful for herself.

As Co-Founder of Substantial Living, I always find inspiration through seeing other peoples work, and then gaining an insight on what it is that motivates people to put that work out there in the world.   As I’ve been getting to know Susan over the past few months, I sat down with her and talked to her about her passions and thoughts-hoping to bring a little insight for all aspiring artists, entrepreneurs, women, creatives-anyone with a vision or dream…

Q: What gives you meaning to create?

I feel our culture is rampant with lack of self respect, negative use of social media, “reality tv”, obsession with body image and “beauty”, racism, classism, sexism and so on.

Substantial Design Thoughts from Susan

  1. Human contact is nurturing of relationships, self love, love for others.

Susan and her father pictured above are both artists, who are driven passionately by their love for their work and what it means to them.

2.  Appreciating what is beauty and what is not.

  1. Diversity, being open minded, being open hearted. Having depth.

  1. Soulfulness is looking beyond the surface of anyone/thing, seeing character, depth in a person, art form, tradition, a belief.

  1. Hope is about change for me. Positive change. To have the ability to take a challenge, obstacle and overcome and make a positive impact.

  1. Mystery and Magic come from my Persian heritage, which is filled with love, beauty, darkness, passion and strength  among other things. Example: A concept I have for a massive architectural installation, an experience is a large cathedral like tunnel that the viewer can experience and enter. The tunnel of hope. Hope is what lies within each of us..and there is no ceiling.

Susan’s father, Ali Dowlatshahi (whose painting is seen above), a fine art painter whose work has been displayed in places such as the United States White House to the American History of Natural History in New York has been a major contributor in Susan’s life and work.  His work ethic and incorporation of art, history and music has transcended into Susan’s DNA and career, as she creates her magic.

I love the idea of art as experience, that is essentially what I have done with the worlds I have created in my career.  Meaningful design has to come from a place of love and passion for me. You can feel it and see it.

 To me, my inspiration comes from travel, experience and open mindedness. Understanding humanity. Beauty is truth to me. Being vulnerable and almost weightless in our growth.

I look at everything. Fashion, fine art, history, photography, travel to different cultures. Architecture. Spirituality. Literature. I am constantly feeding my soul and searching for magic in everything. Inspiration is everywhere. That is what feeds me. I want to reeducate our youth about this.

My experience as a female entrepreneur… I have to be fearless..even when I am not. I do everything that makes me uncomfortable and take risks. It’s harder for me not to try than to try.  I push, I persevere.  I believe ANYTHING is possible. ANYTHING. If I can imagine it, I can create it.

I spoke of my inspiration. I  look everywhere for it. My next step is my new company  SAFA+NOOR which means Love and light.

We created this company to create art with meaning. To influence, to give hope, to talk about issues in our culture and country. To give a voice to those that may not have the opportunity. We will create a very diverse outlet. I will create my art installations, furniture designs, short film on social issues. TV series on social issues. My documentary “A Soul on Fire”, directed by Mike Rhodes is the story of my career. The film will have a soundtrack, art book, a line of jewelry.  So, from very high- end to raw, real and gritty.

I was created to create. The expression of my art is my lifeline. My breath. I want to create work that touches the soul. I also want to give back. We will have a division called “Taj” which means crown in Farsi. It is about a creative outlet for our youth and to pay it forward as they get it.

3 Best Things You’ve Done for Yourself:




Thank you Susan! You are a beautiful soul with inspiring words and work.  XO

Mom’s Life Style Bowl

Here’s a yummy healthy bowl of rice, my basil-coriander green lentils recipe on my blog, and my mom’s yogurt chickpea flour curry called kadhi in Indian, topped with cilantro, radishes and cucumber. My mom sends me weekly food because she knows how busy life can get. Today I wanted to give her a shoutout. I am so grateful to have made the move to SF, to see her and eat her Substantial food regularly, to be inspired by her recipes and sense of style, and to just have her in my life. No amount of money or success can replace a mom, I am blessed.  Part of living a Substantial life style, is having small little moments of gratitude like this one… XO

Rustic Vegan Paella with Global Spices

Hello Substantial Living!

As we experience cold weather from coast to coast, what better way to warm our hearts than a rustic vegan paella?  Paella is a one pot dish and much easier than we often think of it, and always tasty.  Here’s my version of a vegan paella with the addition of Harissa and Turkish chili called Urfa Biber.


  • 6 TBS Olive oil
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium red bell pepper cut into 1/4 inch strips
  • 1 cup caned fire-roasted tomatoes or 1 medium tomato
  • 1 TBS Harissa powder
  • 1 can artichoke hearts
  • 6 cups of vegetable broth
  • 3 cups of Arborio rice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp urfa biber
  • 1/4 tsp ground saffron
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • Garnish: fresh cilantro leaves, lemon wedges, red onion or scallion
  1. Preheat oven to 400F
  2. Heat 4 TBS of olive oil in paella pan over medium heat and add onion, tomatoes, garlic, harissa, bell pepper.  Cook and stir for about 10 minutes.  Lower the heat to medium and continue to cook until mixture turns into a think paste.
  3. In separate pan, heat vegetable broth to boil.
  4. Add to paella pan with tomato paste: paella rice, salt, paprika, urfa briber, and saffron; stir to mix.
  5. Add hot vegetable broth to rice vegetable mixture, and heat until broth is boiling.
  6. Place pan into oven for 15 minutes at 400F.  Do not stir
  7. Sprinkle peas, corn and artichoke heart on top and return to oven for 10 additional minutes; or until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is no longer crunchy.
  8. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving; garnish with raw onion or chopped scallion, parsley, lemon wedges, and for an non-vegan option  I sometimes sprinkle some pecorino cheese on top!

A Little Napa Courage from Mahin

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine was visiting San Francisco for some work at Stanford University.  He wanted to meet up after and take a day trip to Napa.  For those of you who know me, taking leisurely day trips to Napa is no longer a part of my genetic makeup-and by that what I mean is that business takes up much of my time these days.   However, the temptation for beautiful lunches and vineyards remains the same!

Consequently, I had just finished reading Phil Knight’s latest memoir called Shoe Dog.  An inspirational read for entrepreneurs, and also just anyone.  It’s his story of how he created Nike from his “Crazy Idea” to one of the most successful companies in the world.  There were many things that resonated, and some that were enlightening.  For example, he grew his company without the help of emails, internet, online shop etc…for the first few years.  He just went up to people and talked to them to sell his product!  Cold calling left and right-and mind you, he’s an introvert.  It was not his thing.

In today’s world we have to make appointments, go to conventions, meetings, networking events, and have everything digital…In keeping track of all of that, we sometime loose our ability to communicate as people, as humans.   I realized after reading Shoe Dog, as a neurobiologist, I’ve had no previous experience in sales until recently, so I made myself a commitment that this is what I’m going to work on and learn for 2017, uncomfortable or not!

Now going back to Napa, I’ve been wanting to pitch my product to the community up north because it’s a great fit for the market and I decided that taking my friend up to Napa is going to be my first “cold-calling”  experience-just like what Phil Knight did.  So I packed up 10 bottles of my Substantial Living LONGEVITY probiotic vegetables, some business cards, a little explanation of the products and my little black notebook that goes everywhere with me.  I told my friend that I’ll go if he doesn’t mind the cold-calling!  I decided to get warmed up by calling V. Sattui at their amazing artisanal market and spoke with someone and left the buyer a message that I would be in later that day.  Okay, it’s not that bad, I thought.

So off we went to our appointment at Biale Vineyards-which is a beautiful little vineyard right off the main strip.  I had left my bag of probiotic goodies in my trunk, because I didn’t want to seem too crazy!

As we were going through the tasting and the guy was chatting I was listening to his interesting story and tidbits.  When he walked to the other table, my friends asked me a few times “are you going to say anything”, and I said, “yes, when the moment is right”.  I had no idea when that moment would be.   After he told us about a lamb recipe and french blue cheese wrapped with pistachios, dates and Biale porte, I jumped in about my product being a great addition to any cheese board in wine country.  I had no idea what was going to happen next.  Was I nervous?  Hell YA!  Was I scared? Not really-entrepreneurship takes that out of you.  Once I got started talking about Substantial Living and my story as to why I do what I do, and my product, he got so interested that he started giving me names of people at Biale I should talk to.  I offered him to try my product, and he loved the idea, so here I am walking to my car to the trunk and thinking, “wow this is really happening”.

As I walk back to the table, there’s someone else waiting there to talk to me, he was the head chef of the vineyard.  We talked for a good 30 minutes, and turns out he used to own restaurants in Napa and knows the whole community.  He gave me 14 names of local places with the buyers he knew! It was amazing and insane (in a good way!)!

We are so into protocols and ‘right or wrong’ ways of doing things in todays’ world.  What I learned from Phil Knight’s book, was to find your way.  Be self-aware and know what you are good at, and what you need to do better.  We all have insecurities, but if we allow ourselves to be open to experience or learn from someone else’s story, the courage or intention will lead to great places.  So my friends, anything is possible, anything…don’t get bogged down by convention.  Easier said than done I know-but nonetheless it gets easier, and more fun.  After all, the human connection is the strongest bond-technology is only a tool to strengthen the bond.  I knew I wanted to work on the art of selling cold-calling.  It’s not something I have experience with, and frankly it’s not comfortable for introverts, ie. me.  As a CEO, you have to learn the trade of all departments to be able to understand what they need to grow and work together.  My dad’s friend was the ex-president of Fujitsu and he told me that at the beginning of my business career not so long ago.  Every little insight helps in building something truly great, and insights come from being uncomfortable and putting yourself out there.  A little tidbit from my desk to yours this week.  Happy Monday everyone!  XO