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A Syrian Menu for Two (with leftovers)

Do you love sweet and sour dishes? I didn’t til I sat at my love’s Syrian-Jew-But-Also-Italian table.

Traditionally made with apricots, I noticed how Dan’s mom, Lori, would also add an equal amount of prunes to her Yebra (stuffed grape leaves), which are smothered, gently, with a tamarind sauce. It’s a beautiful, vibrant-tasting dish. When I decided to challenge myself by making these for my love (or making these at all–I didn’t want to ruin a gorgeous recipe!) a light-bulb struck. Why not use another dried fruit that I adore?

Figs.

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Let me tell you. Eating this made me want to buy fresh figs and roast them in this sauce–which actually might be a recipe coming soon–but I digress.

Did I eat more figs than grape leaves? Probably. But mostly because I wanted their to be enough of the leaves themselves for Lori to try. When I told her I was making Yebra, I received a stream of expected texts, “did you rinse them first? Dry them? Did you soak the rice? Make sure you lay them vein-side up.” I didn’t have much time to reply (because..yes..I was doing all those things!) I have made these a few times with her and my confidence in the kitchen that morning sang through the window on the 5th floor of my mom’s tiny UES kitchen. Upon the first bite (I swear it!) my guy teared up. All I heard was “…babe.” And he then came at me for a bear hug and a hundred kisses. Next day, I received a text from Lori that said it tastes just like Aunt Sara’s. Which, BTW, is the ultimate compliment. For as long as I’ve sat at their table, Dan has always said “Please make it taste like Aunt Sara’s.” I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting her, but here’s to you, Sara.

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Stuffed Grape Leaves with Figs and Apricot in Tamarind Sauce

1 lb hashu, recipe follows
8 oz jar of grape leaves (about 30-36)
10 dried mission black figs
8 dried California apricots (do not use Turkish here)
juice of large lemon, plus more to taste
5-6 tbs tamarind concentrate
pinch of brown sugar
pinch of salt
4 cups water (plus more)

Hashu (Meat and Rice filling)

1 lb beef
1/3 cup basmati, soaked for 15 minutes, drained
1 small onion, finely diced
1 heaping tsp allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cardamom
1 tbs vegetable oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt

1. In a bowl, gently mix by hand all the ingredients and spices for hashu and set aside. *Set oven to 350 degrees unless you plan on cooking these babies on the stove from beginning to end.

2. Drain grape leaves, carefully taking them out of the jar. In a large pot, bring water to a boil and add the grape leaves, carefully turning them with tongs, for about a minute. Then quickly get them into a big bowl of ice water. Pour them over a colander and begin to dry each one, while cutting off their stems. Make sure you lay them vein-side up when done.

3. Take a heaping teaspoon of hashu (more or less, depending on the size of the leaf), and place the spoonful at it’s center closest to the stem. Fold in the sides and roll them semi-tightly.

4. In a dutch oven or pot, drizzle a little vegetable oil on the bottom and start arranging your stuffed grape leaves and dried fruit, creating about 2 or 3 layers of them, depending on how many grape leaves you were able to stuff. (Some come torn up in the jar). My pot ended up with only two layers–about 32 grape leaves.

5. On med-high heat, cover the pot and let steam for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, make your sauce. In a medium bowl, add your lemon juice and tamarind. Whisk in about two cups of water and a pinch of brown sugar and salt. Pour over the grape leaves. Add another 2-3 cups of water so that it almost reaches the top layer of grape leaves, about 3 quarters of the way. A lot of the liquid will decrease as it cooks, and you’ll want some later. It’s the good stuff. You don’t want it soup-like, though.

6. Place a heat-friendly plate directly on top of the leaves to keep them from unraveling (or don’t. I didn’t. But if you’re making a lot it might be wise to.) Simmer up to 45 minutes on the stove or in the oven, covered. Spoon sauce over the top leaves occasionally. When some leaves have caramelized, turn them onto a platter and serve with all the things.

Syrian Menu for Two (with leftovers)

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Yebra served with homemade Za’atar Flatbread.

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And hummus topped with warm chickpeas that simmered in it’s own broth with toasted cumin seeds, then got tossed in an olive oil and lemon dressing, topped with za’atar and Aleppo pepper.

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And a very fresh, colorful market haul salad made of very finely chopped parsley, red cabbage, scallions, cherry tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers. I suppose all that’s missing is the bulgar!? (There was bulgar, guys. But since it was so fine (I bought it to make kibbeh), it turned to mush.) Kitchen fails are welcomed here. This salad was beautiful and simply wanted to be without.

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On the table, which is actually the gorgeous cheeseboard my guy got me years ago sitting atop a radiator by the windowsil (because good lighting!), is a precious tea towel Tory gave me recently. It has a Syrian recipe of anise bread printed throughout. I love it so!

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I sent over a grape leaf question to Kathryn from Cardamom and Tea the other day, and she responded with absolute kindness. I might have an opportunity to learn how to forage for fresh leaves and I do hope to meet this amazing woman whose food speaks to my soul. Lori already said she’s coming with! A day out with new friends and family in spring sounds like just the thing.

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Miss-You-Spring Galette

Are you over citrus season yet?

Not I.

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But I wanted my next recipe to lean into spring as if it were only 10 days away. (It is. It doesn’t feel like it, but I promise you, it is. My latest trip to the farmers market told me so!)

Some will say I jumped headfirst into our neighboring season with all these glorious yellows, oranges, and greens, but then that buttery, flaky, pie dough keeps things real cozy, just in time for that moment you realize it’s 23 degrees outside and not as sunny as what’s comin’ out the oven.

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I didn’t know what to name this! It’s basically one of my favorite salads nestled into pie dough. Roasted beets and oranges, topped with lots of spicy greens, and feta.

Cara Cara and Golden Beet Salad Galette AKA Miss-You-Spring Galette AKA Fav Salad Galette?

-2 small golden beets, peeled and sliced crosswise
-1/2 tbs blood orange olive oil (or regular olive oil)
-salt and pepper, to taste
-1 Cara Cara, peeled and sliced
-9 inch pie dough (homemade or store-bought)
-milk or eggwash
-pinches of spice blend (or cracked pepper, flaky salt)
-1/2 cup feta, or more!
-1 1/2 cup arugula or microgreens, dressed however you like, I used a citrus balsamic

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

1. In it’s own bowl, toss sliced golden beets in olive oil, salt and pepper.

2. Roll out your dough on a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper and layer it’s center with beets and oranges. You’ll want enough room to fold in the edges. You can even add some crumbled feta at this point, reserving the rest for when it’s out of the oven.

3. Brush any exposed oranges with olive oil.

4. Brush milk or eggwash on the folded edges and sprinkle some seasoning. I added Aleppo pepper, salt, roasted garlic, parsley flakes.

5. Bake at 375 degrees for about 35-40 minutes. Let it cool down a little before piling on your greens and cheese.

I repeat: 10 more days!

Also, just for photographing purposes, I used way less greens and cheese so that you can see the oranges and beets. But please, pile everything on (and some), should you want to. I’ve even placed extra greens and cheese in bowls in case others wanted more. Maybe offer olives, too!

Blood Orange Z’hug

“…What is Z’hug!?” was a popular question I received last week when I shared the recipe to a Citrus and Z’hug Marinated Manchego party-starter (and maybe ender. You decide). While it used a spice blend inspired by z’hug’s main ingredients, this is all fresh and seriously addictive.

It’s a gorgeous green sauce originating from Yemen that is delicately spiced with cardamom, cumin, coriander, and crushed red pepper. It also packs a punch from using fresh, hot chile peppers and garlic. What makes this z’hug (AKA zhoug) a bit less traditional is that I’ve added citrus flavors because, well, it’s still citrus season and I’m still celebrating. You’ll want to drizzle this onto everything, spoon it into anything, swirl it, plop it, drop it (like it’s hot). Okay, I’ll stop.

Need some ideas?

It goes with ANYTHING tomato. Fresh or roasted or even sauce!

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I made a pumpkin cannellini bean stew and swirled green right into it. You can add this to any stew, soup, spread. It’ll also make a nice addition to your next cheeseboard.

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Use it as a quick marinade by adding some more fresh juice to it. I’ve rubbed a fair amount of blood orange z’hug onto a whole chicken, veggies, and even a tenderloin, which roasted so nicely in the oven. It’d be perfect for grilling season.

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It shares a similarity to my other favorite green sauces: chimichurri, sofrito. But it’s my go-to now because it contains the spices I love most. Try to only use freshly ground spices or high quality bottled up ones. This sauce is as much about the spice as it is the green. You can use plain (but very good) olive oil, and any hot pepper you adore. Play with the greens, too. Some recipes use all parsley or all cilantro. Some add mint. Sky’s the limit on which citrus you’d like to use. I hear Sumos hit the markets very recently and everyone’s going crazy for them.

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Blood Orange Z’hug (Yeminite Green Sauce), small batch

– 1 cup fresh cilantro with small stems, tightly packed
– half cup parsley leaves, tightly packed
– 2 garlic cloves
– 1-2 jalapeños, sliced (or other pepper variety)
– 1 tsp freshly ground cumin, toasted
– 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
– 1/2 tsp ground coriander, toasted
– 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper (I use Aleppo), or more to taste
– 1/4 cup plus 1 tbs Blood Orange Olive Oil
– juice from 1 small blood orange, or other orange variety
– small squeeze of fresh lemon
– zest from orange
– salt, to taste

Directions: Add everything to your food processor and blend til thoroughly combined. Feel free to add more olive oil and fresh juice if you’d like a looser consistency. Use z’hug for all the things.

Let me know how you end up using it!

This is what z’hug looks like when you use a blender instead of a food processor BTW:

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Still edible. And pretty.

Citrus and Z’hug Marinated Manchego

When Saratoga Olive Oil Company asked me to write recipes for them using their latest products, I said YES, PLEASE AND THANK YOU, knowing full well that I had a million other things on my plate, including moving in exactly two weeks. Thankfully, I had this recipe in mind for awhile and a plate full of marinated cheese ain’t something to be stressed about.

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I think you might’ve heard me talk about their olive oil before. But here’s a reminder: five years ago during my first picnic, an incident occurred. To keep the story short, my Canon Rebel had Herbes de Provence olive oil seeping out of it’s pores for 3 months straight. Fun times.

I’d love to tell you that I was real chill about being asked to create these recipes and that I didn’t spend an entire day testing out 5 of them at once, but you know I did. I even enjoyed every minute of it.

The menu was inspired by their blood orange olive oil, cara cara vanilla balsamic vinegar, and their z’hug spice blend that I have been putting on literally everything. It has a few of my favorite spices and a few of my new favorites: cardamom, caraway, cumin, coriander, roasted garlic, parsley, tellicherry pepper, Turkish Marash pepper, lemon and Himalayan pink salt. This blend is amazing, especially for being the dry version of something so fresh and so green.

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So, in order to meet a deadline, I stayed true to myself and the first thing on the menu was CHEESE. Marinated cheese. Manchego. The kind of cheese I’d bring to my next party or picnic or next series binge before bed.

This young manchego is marinated in Blood Orange Olive Oil, lightly sweetened with Cara Cara Vanilla Balsamic, and gently spiced with Z’hug. Basically, what cheese lovers should make for other cheese lovers. If you don’t have this spice blend on hand, try a combo of cumin, dried herbs, red pepper flakes. Try to use only the white balsamics or honey.

Citrus and Z’hug Marinated Manchego

-7 oz young Manchego cheese (3 months), broken into small pieces
-1/2 cup SOOC Blood Orange Olive Oil (or regular olive oil)
-2 TSP SOOC Z’hug seasoning
-1/2 TSP cumin seeds, toasted
-5 strips of orange zest
-2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
-1 sprig rosemary
-2 TSP SOOC Cara Cara Vanilla Balsamic Vinegar
– drizzle of SOOC Blood Orange Olive Oil (optional)

1. In a small saucepan under medium-low heat, add olive oil, z’hug, cumin, orange peels, and garlic. Sauté for 5 minutes before adding the rosemary, then continue to sauté for another 5 minutes.

2. Set aside and let cool completely. Add Cara Cara Vanilla Balsamic Vinegar and stir.

3. Pour over cheese, gently tossing to make sure everything is coated.

4. Cover and chill for 12 hours, or up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Note: Feel free to add a long, fresh drizzle of Blood Orange Olive Oil. You can also try this recipe using other varieties of semi-firm cheese and spices. Serve with bread.

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Danny told me he thought it looked like marinated cauliflower for a second. I’m not mad.

citrus green bean salad & Tuscan-style beans

If you can find me competing with squirrels for my neighbor’s figs, then you best believe I was found, on vacation, taking the neighborhood’s oranges from trees bustling with these thick-skinned globes.

As if I didn’t have enough of them, I purchased honeybells, meyer lemons, and tasted a variety of oranges at the farmers market. They made a wonderful addition to a refreshing green bean salad that I made not once, but twice.



Inspired by a meal I shared with Victoria Anzalone in Astoria at Milkflower right before heading to Englewood, Florida, I fell in love with it’s simplicity. The green beans were kept crisp, tossed in a vinaigrette, and topped with sharp cheese, orange segments, slivered almonds, and quick-pickled radicchio. That’s it.

Mine was inspired by Florida and everything I fell in love with at Englewood Farmers Market.

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Wild orange roasted nuts, which were handed to Dan and I with the promise that we’d pay this kind man a week later because we ran out of cash. We paid Ashley Gray, suitcases in tow, an hour before hopping on the plane heading to NY. The cheese we used was a creamy asiago aged with raspberry ale from Stamper Cheese Company. The oranges were sorta-kinda stolen, and used for a citrus vinaigrette to toss the beans with.

Citrus Green Bean Salad

Directions:

We’re using a pound of green beans, trimmed, boiled in salted water for 2 minutes, placed in ice water, then drained. The color of your beans should be bright and glorious. Toss them with a citrus vinaigrette (juice from half a small orange, couple of splashes of apple cider vinegar or rice wine vinegar, little bit of olive oil, salt and black or red pepper.) Keep in fridge marinating in this dressing for at least 30 minutes before serving. Plate the beans, top them with orange segments, crushed nuts of your choosing, your favorite sharp cheese.

I love seeing them on the plate. When I returned home, I made this again but with blood oranges, feta, no nuts, and golden raisins. The dressing was a fig balsamic. Use what you got, I always say!

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I served this with brothy, Tuscan-inspired beans with greens. A beautiful lunch made with ingredients I bought from a Korean farmer at Fresh Harvest who is head-over-heels in love with everything she grew. She handed me the perfect cherry tomatoes, long beans, chinese broccoli. The leafy broccoli and colorful tomatoes were perfect for this.

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Ingredients


for the beans
– 1 cup dried baby lima beans, soaked over night
– 1 large garlic clove, smashed gently
– half a small onion
– bay leaf or sprig of rosemary
for the “soup”
– 4 garlic cloves, chopped
– 1 small onion, diced
– 1 large carrot, diced
– cherry tomatoes, chopped
– fresh thyme
– dash of white wine or rose, optional
– parmesan rind
– 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
– 1 cup variety of greens (parsley, chinese broccoli)

Directions

In the morning, drain beans after it’s over night soak, cover with fresh water in a medium saucepan along with 1 garlic clove, half onion, and bay leaf. Let simmer for 2 hours or til tender. Time varies. In a pot, drizzle olive oil and saute garlic, onion, carrot, tomatoes and thyme for a few minutes. Add the cooked beans and everything but the greens. Cook for 30 minutes more and then add your greens. Simmer for 5 more minutes. Serve with garlic crostinis and salad.

New Years celebration involved a cheese platter with everything from the market, including a Pear Habanero Jam and a Strawberry Chocolate jam. I smuggled these onto the plane and have been using them like crazy.

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Dessert was kept simple, thanks to Jamie Oliver’s New Years advice: frozen grapes with chocolate bark. 

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2019 started off beautifully and, I might say this every year, but I think it’s going to be a good one. I’m moving out next month. I’m getting a shout-out in Edible Queens magazine for the Swedish Meatballs I recently shared on my Instagram. My friendships and family remain fiercely solid. I’m going to live about 30 minutes away from my job, which gives me more time in the kitchen and even more time to do personal chef side jobs in the summer. I’m finally listening to Danny: no more maybes, much more doing, a whole lot less self-induced anxieties. I hope your year started off on a good note as well. We need a good one, don’t we? 

 

Syrian Rice: Bizeh b’Jurah

“Let me make you guys a nice, Syrian dinner on Sunday” was really my way of saying, I need a day in the kitchen. An entire day, please and thank you. One beginning with an early morning trip with Lori to a couple of Middle Eastern markets where rose petals, olives, barrels of legumes, Syrian cheeses, jarred tamarind, freezers stocked with homemade kibbeh and sambousaks, still-warm jelly and custard donuts, are aplenty. (Y’all know I came out with allll the donuts. And cheese.)

It’s the first day of Hanukkah, guys, and I needed to do something I love for people I love, and I needed to slow everything down so I could enjoy every second of it. That includes hugging the wonderful woman who brought out her freshly made donuts. If I couldn’t do any of this, a meltdown in the very near future would occur LET. ME. TELL. YOU.

It’s been over two months since I shared something with you. I get up in the mornings to cook something quick for dinner, then run out to work. I get home at 9pm. I’ve been feeling a disconnect in my kitchen and will like to borrow yours on the weekends. Let me feed you!

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Bizeh b’Jurah is Syrian rice with peas and meat. I made it a couple of years back on Rosh Hashanah after having seen the recipe in Lori’s copy of Aromas of Aleppo: The Legendary Cuisine of Syrian Jews. I LOVE THIS BOOK. It feels most family to me. Every month or so I crack it open for inspiration. This recipe is simple and hearty. It could be a side dish but it could also be a main. I made a few changes to the original recipe. Where she uses coriander seed, I use cumin. Where she uses water, I prefer a rich beef stock. At some point you’re supposed to create a paste with garlic and seed but I omit that part because I adore the wholeness of sliced garlic and seeds. For color and texture, grated carrot or shredded purple cabbage, a variety of fresh herbs and/or spring onions. I turn to the season for this one.

Bizeh b’Jurah, 6-8 servings

  • 4-5 garlic cloves, sliced
  • olive oil, enough to coat pan
  • 1 pound flanken, cut in 2-inch cubes, seasoned with salt n pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 cup long grain rice or basmati (rinsed)
  • 1 cup of frozen peas
  • 4 cups beef broth/stock (or water, or vegetable stock)
  • fresh herbs, chopped (any green that you love)
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced purple cabbage or grated carrot (optional)

In a medium saucepan, sear the flanken on both sides and set aside. Add a little more oil if needed, then add cumin seeds and garlic to the same pan, saute for about a minute. Add meat back into the pan and pour the stock over it. Cover and simmer for about an hour and half, til tender.

Using a strainer to catch the meat, pour the liquid into a measuring cup. Measure out two cups of the broth because that is all you’ll need. Return the broth and meat into the pot and add the rice and peas, giving it a quick stir. Cover and let simmer til liquid is absorbed, about 15-20 minutes.

Toss in any herbs or crisp veggies you’d like, or leave as is!

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In keeping true to what I needed that day, I took my time with everything. I learned how to make Syrian stuffed grape leaves (Yebra) and enjoyed rinsing, drying, and trimming each small-to-enormous leaf. Adding meat and rice to each one and rolling them, sometimes sloppily, was fun. I eventually got the hang of it. In this recipe, also found in Aromas of Aleppo, you get a tanginess from lemons and tamarind (ou), and added sweetness from dried apricots and prunes.

Even tearing a part Syrian cheese was done slowly. I can eat a whole bowl of this (okay, I actually did eat a whole bowl of this.) I love the addition of nigella seeds.

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I hope that we all take a moment to self-care this winter. I always find getting through the cold and all the holidays pretty difficult, but HEY, for Christmas and New Years I’ll be on the beach away from New York, and that is MAJOR self-care. If you can’t get away, please do something you love. Take your time in doing it. It’s that necessary.

Chickpeas + Your Market Haul

Let’s be real. Your chickpeas are grateful when spring and summer at the farmers market debuts their color, crunch, earthiness, herbiness, bitterness, spiciness, and sweetness. My new thrift shop platters are pretty grateful, too. Nevermind how work-friendly chickpea salads are, they are FUN, filling, and way too easy to put together.

Sometimes I have a neglected radish in the crisp drawer, or a wedge of red cabbage left (you’ll be amazed by how long and fresh they last!) They make wonderful additions to any salad that contains legumes and/or avocado. I’m a sucker for balancing out textures. Creamy wants crunch. My sweet buds want earthy and spicy. I always want cheese. Perhaps I want it all.

Here’s a recipe that comes with many variations. Everything depends on your market haul. One week string beans were everywhere and so, a green and yellow bean salad with chickpeas and yellow tomatoes had to happen. (Beware: the beautiful purple variety turns green when cooked). Then squash makes an appearance. Soon, every tomato you can imagine. Sometimes you’ll want to use a different lugume. Sometimes, depending on the size of your haul, you won’t need them.

But when I’m going to work, I need to know I’m taking something hearty with me. Something that doesn’t make me want to demolish Levain Bakery’s chocolate brioche. Which I have done and just did thank you very much. It is literally the size of a hero.

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This addictive chickpea and avocado salad was created by my haul from Down to Earth Markets in Jamaica, Queens the very first day they made an appearance. I will make variations of this forever. Also, don’t be lazy. Peel your chickpeas if you’re not in a rush!

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-29 oz canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed (peel em)
-2 shallots, minced
-1 large hass avacado, diced
-2 medium tomatoes, diced or variety of cherry
-3 long radishes, sliced and quartered
-1/2 cup purple cabbage, chopped
-1/2 cup fresh herbs (parsley, basil, dill, whatever you like)
-lemon zest (tiny bit)

Toss with a quick dressing of juice from 1/2 a large lemon, good olive oil, oregano, salt n pepper. Your favorite dressing will do, too.

Add some crumbled feta. I didn’t have any the first time around. Small pastas like orzo make a fine addition, too. Grate a carrot. Chop olives. Sweet and hot peppers. Cucumber! CORN (in season right now!) We’re trying to eat healthy and seasonally here. Can’t you tell?

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You Have Five Days in New Paltz, Part 2

During our winter visit in 2017, I remember we quickly drove past a shop in town that had the word CHEESE in it’s name. That’s all I saw. Cheese. We didn’t have time to check it out (every shop closes by 6PM!) but for the next six months, I knew it’d be a priority visit for me if I had a chance to return. Well, a few weeks ago, we walked a couple of miles into town, hangry, and I asked, “Where’s the cheese!? I don’t see the cheese!” Then I remembered all trees were bare the last time we were here. I spotted the only tree-lined block to our right and told Dan it had to be behind them. And there it was, a cheese shop with two entrances, held in what seemed to be a secret block of independent shops.

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At first, I thought it would be similar to World of Cheese in Forest Hills, where, simply put, they sell cheese. But since they’re called The Cheese Plate, I am happy to announce that they sell cheese, but with a cheese-mongers excitement, will put together a cheese board for you to enjoy inside, or outside, their shop. This would be our first meal of day 4. I told them Dan and I enjoy firm cheeses, and we settled on an Italian variety called Piave Vecchio, and Jake’s Aged Gouda. A cross between Parmesan and Asiago, Piave Vecchio crumbled onto the wood. Jake’s was firm and nutty, cut into hearty strips. Then quince paste was added to the board along with pistachios and almonds, olives, slices of apple, and soppressata. They gave us a generous amount of cheese for two people. I’m not complaining.

THEY ALSO SERVE ICE CREAM. And after a walk around town, we decided to return to go get some. We got chocolate, coconut, and blackberry. But alas, this isn’t about the wonderful way we started our 4th day, is it? But look how cute that guy is, handing me creamy blackberry amazingness.

Now, there are many places to eat around here, but when you know you only have 5 days in New Paltz, you eat at the one and only locally sourced Indian restaurant that you fell in love with during your first visit. And you don’t eat there once. If you’re anything like Dan and I, you eat there 3 very magical times and wish you ordered Chicken Masala to take back with you to Brooklyn. This is because every vegetable, cream and butter, is farm fresh. You can TASTE the difference. Coconut samosas? Such a wonderfully sweet departure from the savory potato or meat one we’re used to. The naan? Just look at it.

When we overheard that they serve a buffet on Tuesdays, we changed our plans to accommodate this feast.  Dan truly stuck to his favorite masala and I can’t say I blame him. Tomato and cream have never tasted so rich. We almost thought it was butter.

It was on Tuesday, day 3, that I fell in love with a soup. A thin, extremely fresh-tasting broth, heavy on the cilantro, mildly spiced, reminded me of a cross between my tomato soup and my carrot masoor dal. I kept eating small spoonfuls just to identify everything I could. I gave in and asked them about it, and was told it’s their vegetable soup, pureed with red lentils, and that if I return on a regular day when it’s made to order, it’ll be even better.

IHEARYOU.

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On the 5th day, the day we were set out to leave, I discovered it was their South Indian Mulligatwany. Guys. I’ve had mulligatawny many, many times. But never like this. I am convinced it has to do with the very ingredients they use, and how they use them. When we returned, with our suitcases in tow, needing to catch a train 2 hours from when we sat, I ordered this again. It was thicker. Richer. I think coconut milk was present. I loved it. But is it strange that I love their thinly-brothed version even more? It holds true to what Mulligatawny means: pepper water.

In my version, I use everything I thought I had tasted, and I came so very close to how it actually tasted. And yes, every single veggie and fruit came from the farmers market. I seriously encourage this. Heirloom tomatoes are IN and if I find out you store-bought yours, I already know you will not be able to experience this soup the way I swooningly did.

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A variety of carrots and onions are everywhere. Fresh herbs a must. Fresh spices, yes please. Peppers! Oh my goodness the peppers. Use sweet and ones with heat. You won’t regret it. The color of the soup will also depend on the color of the tomatoes and sorts of peppers you used. Mine were a variety of yellows and reds. It’s lighter-looking than what I had in New Paltz, but that’s also because sunshine lit this bowl up.

 

A Summer Mulligatawny

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted
  • long drizzle of olive oil
  • 1 small onion or shallot, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • an inch knob of ginger, grated or finely chopped
  • 1 large heirloom tomato, diced (a pound and a half)
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 serrano pepper, diced
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tbsp garam masala or maharajah curry
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2-3 cardamom pods, gently cracked open
  • 1/2 cup dried red lentils (masoor dal)
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/4th cup coconut cream
  • cilantro, chopped

Directions

Gently toast cumin seeds in pot, about 30 secs, then semi-coat with olive oil. Add your onion, garlic, and ginger. Saute for a couple of minutes then add tomatoes, carrots, peppers, and spices. Let the spices perfume your kitchen and then stir in your lentils, add your stock, bring to a boil then simmer for about a 1/2 hr, stirring occasionally. Add coconut cream. Puree with an immersion blender or whatever blender you have. Serve with cilantro. For a heartier meal, also serve with basmati.

Variations
For a thicker soup, add more of the veggies you love, and/or add another half cup of red lentils. Some recipes call for an apple. Why not? You could also use coconut milk instead of cream, I was just aiming for richness here. I welcome any herb you’re growing here, too. Add a dried pepper for extra heat! I ran out of em. OH, and try grilling your tomatoes for a few minutes before adding it into the pot. I know that’s exactly what I’m going to do the next time I make this!

Okay. We didn’t just eat 5 days straight. We walked in the rain, too. We walked A LOT.

And in the walks, there was a heart.

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When Farms Give You Jewels (New Paltz, Part 1)

A fallen nest. A single, big-headed dandelion for one adult wish. Plenty of wild onions and flowers. The silhouette of Mohonk Mountain and it’s house. A field of corn, and then a single tree in a field of thousands of corn. These are only some of the things we eyed on a roadside in New Paltz.

We were either walking to the farm a half mile in, into town two miles in, or to a strawberry field we never actually found. Long story short–we walked and we ate. We walked in the rain, sharing a small umbrella. We did this often. We walked under the sun and pointed to all the beautiful roadside things, and sadly, the not so beautiful. We toyed with the idea of someday doing a catering business, using local ingredients only, maybe from a town like this. Maybe I’m not even toying around at this point. But what I do know: walks with my best friend have healed the part of my brain that was loud with awful news, social media, worry. While I can’t get rid of what’s happening, I can do more and be more ready to give my all, for myself, and for others.

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Only a half mile away, Wallkill View Farm had everything I needed, stocked full of local preserves, pastas, cheeses, sauces, spices, and allllll the produce. Every fruit and vegetable was minutes-ago-picked. On our first day, I bought generous-looking figs, raspberries which were on the tart side but immediately made me think JAM, plums, peaches, cherry and plum tomatoes, a banquet of basil that looked too beautiful to put into our next few meals. I bought creamers (baby red potatoes) that hold ridiculously true to their name. Applewood smoked bacon that lasted us 5 days, to be served alongside farm fresh eggs. My sweet guy made us breakfast every morning.

We bought prosciutto that ended up on one of our homemade pizzas. A single eggplant that was sweet and fed us for two days. Cinnamon raisin bread and a cinnamon crunch ice cream from Jane’s creamery in Kingston. Perhaps I’ve never been happier. I did not plan this trip whatsoever. This was all Dan with the help of Aunt Donna, whose beautiful home felt most like the grandest escape from city life.

What more did I do with this market haul? Guys. I could cry while telling you how each ingredient made me feel the most comfortable in my own skin. I made pesto out of some of the basil, pistachios I found in the fridge, capers, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. I tossed creamers with a few spoonfuls of this and roasted them. They were crisp on the outside, creamy on the inside. Easily the best roasted potatoes I’ve ever had. I served the rest of the pesto with sliced cherry tomatoes and mozzarella. This was our lunch before we went to A Tovola, where we ordered hand-rolled pasta reminiscent of the pasta-making class we recently saw at Eataly.

One night we made pizza so good that we swore we could open up a restaurant. I made sauce out of the plum and cherry tomatoes. I woke up early to work on the dough so it could rise while we walked into town. We topped one pie with prosciutto. It was thin, sturdy, crisp. It was everything. Dan even made panko-breaded eggplant, which we decided is the only way to bread these babies.

Now let’s talk about the fruit. You gotta know I made jam, right? And you must know it was THEE BEST small batch jam I’ve ever made. While we couldn’t find the destination for picking strawberries, we ended up at the Dressel Farms market itself to buy the small, jewel variety.

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Quick recipe for my small batch berry fig jam:

You want about 4 cups total of chopped fresh fruit, which makes about 2 cups of jam. I used:

  • 2 cups strawberries, hulled and chopped
  • 1 cup raspberries
  • about 5 big figs, diced
  • 1/2 cup sugar (more if your fruit is not sweet enough)
  • tsp lemon zest
  • fresh squeeze of lemon

Put all berries and figs in a pan over medium heat. Break them down with a masher and add your sugar and zest. Let simmer for about 15-20 minutes, stirring often. I like to leave my jam a bit chunky but feel free to mash some more or use an immersion blender. Add a fresh squeeze of lemon (or orange!) towards the end to brighten up the flavors.

Sometimes I add other things, like mint, thyme, or freshly cracked black pepper, or even booze. But I wanted this to be all about the fruit and nothing more. BECAUSE:

It was also meant for pop tarts. You heard me. Pop tarts. Dan has been asking me to make these hand pies and I thought this was the perfect time to do so.

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For the pastry, all I used was:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
  • 8 oz cream cheese, room temp
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp salt

In a big bowl, cream your butter and cream cheese together with sugar, salt, and extract til light and fluffy, about 3 minutes in your stand mixer with a paddle attached. Slowly add in your flour, continuing to mix for another minute or two til well incorporated. On a floured work surface, divide this into two equal parts, pat both into rounds and individually wrap them in plastic wrap. Chill for at least 1 hour, or longer.

Dan rolled one out and used a pizza cutter to cut rectangles out of them. Then we filled em up with a big tbsp each of jam. Used a fork to seal the edges. We made a quick glaze of confectioners sugar, squeeze of lemon, dash of vanilla extract, and a tsp of jam. It was delicious!

The morning before our last day, I remembered I had a second dough chilling in the fridge. I also had 2 peaches, 1 plum, and a handful of strawberries. I sliced them up so they could take center stage of a galette. I topped it with a cinnamon, brown sugar and pistachio crumble, and served it with cinnamon ice cream. No regrets.

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This post did not even begin to touch all the wonderful stores we walked into, or the restaurants we ate at. One truly needs to be talked about, but I think I’ll save that for the next one. For now, I leave you with desserts and love. Next might contain soup, and more love. And definitely more support of local farms, with recipes to go along with it. I bought this book at Wallkill View Market and am feeling very, very inspired.

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Plus, I returned home to find that my purple tomatillo plant grew a foot, and it’s tiny little husked fruits are beginning to grow. Heirloom beets are almost ready to be pulled out. Cherry tomatoes are about to debut their flowers. Dan’s are already blooming! There’s so much beauty to what’s to come.

 

While Waiting for His Cherry Tomatoes to Grow

“We ordered wings and kinda ate them,” was what Dan said to me the other night when we thought about our first date six years ago. Which, BTW, lasted about 8, really beautiful hours, sooo…butterflies-in-the-tummy much!? That night, we picked at our platter of BBQ fried wings at a pub by Rockefeller Center like we were two love-birds who could care less about food. If you saw us now, you might just laugh yourself to tears. Butterflies have cleared the tummy and made a home at our hearts, if only but to make room for all the really amazing meals we share together.

Today, a waiter at La Villa half-jokingly tells us that we need to bring together two tables in order to accommodate our order of arancini (stuffed with cheddar!?), a bowl of delicately fried eggplant sticks, a 1/2 dozen baked clams, baby green salad topped with slow-roasted beets, which then has large parmesan shavings piled on top, and don’t forget the Margherita pizza with pepperoni, please. Did we order pasta, too? I wouldn’t doubt it. We are ridiculous and ridiculously in love with food. We will either sit there, quietly eating. Or with hands flailing discuss every bite and compare notes. Next in conversation is how I can bring this beautiful simplicity into the house so we don’t have to leave so often (or spend that much money).

A beautiful-tasting tomato sauce is at the heart of a lot of our favorite dishes. I’m sharing a recipe with you that is quite helpful for when tomatoes are not in season. I am, quite literally, counting the minutes to when I get to pick from his 4 cherry tomato plants. Then let the freshly roasted tomato sauces and bisques begin!

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Parmesan Pomodoro

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • long drizzle of olive oil
  • tsp red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
  • small onion, finely diced
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 carrot, scrubbed and halved
  • fresh herbs, such as thyme, rosemary, bay leaf (opt)
  • 3 14-oz canned cherry tomatoes*
  • 3 med-sized parmesan rinds or 4 small**
  • 2-3 full sprigs of basil
  • 1 cup grated parmesan, divided
  • 1 pound pasta of choice

*You can order canned cherry tomatoes online or find them in specialty markets. They are robust in flavor and slightly sweet. I buy La Valle or Mutti, but you can also use any of your favorite canned sauce.

**I buy a container of parmesan rinds from any supermarket that has a major cheese section (Fairway, Whole Foods, Italian markets). Or simply start freezing the rinds to your whole parmesan wedges! You can use them in soups and stews as well, so please don’t throw those babies out.


Directions

Heat olive oil in a dutch oven. Gently fry your red pepper then add your onion, stir til translucent. Add your garlic, carrot, fresh herbs if you have any. After about 2 minutes, add your canned sauce. I like to crush some tomatoes with my hands as they go in but you can smash with a wooden spoon as well. Then add your parmesan rinds and basil. Let it do it’s thing for about 40 minutes, stirring once in awhile to make sure the rinds do not stick to the bottom of your pot. Take out the rinds, basil, and carrot. Cook your pasta separately but drain a couple of minutes earlier than the instructions tell you to. Finish cooking it off in the sauce with 1/2 cup grated parmesan stirred in. Serve with more parmesan and fresh basil.

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Once I started to add parmesan rinds in my pot, I’ve never stopped. In fact, I refuse to make sauce unless I have at least one around. They are nutty and salty and make the sauce. And a sauce made well actually will let the butterflies do a little swing dance. Everyone’s happy and in love. Promise.

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A Recipe for (Almost) Forgotten Beets and Radishes

If you’re anything like me, then you, too, got overly excited to see many of your favorite greenmarkets return, selling many of your springtime favorites.

This means you purchased everything (beets, radishes, asparagus, ramps, chives, thyme, rhubarb, tomatoes, lemons, the list goes on) for ONE MEAL. I did this for Mother’s Day. Mom deserves it all, amiright? Even fava beans! Which I walked to 4 stores to find them and took 20 minutes to shell them (worth it), just to make the Spring Pilaf she requested. The prep work itself was a meditation. I missed it.

But let’s just say not everything made it to the table. Yes, I slow roasted cherry tomatoes again, to accompany Branzino.

Yes, the Spring Pilaf was a thousand times Spring in taste AND color. (Always add shredded carrot, maybe shredded purple cabbage, and ALL the greens you can stand).

Yes, I threw baby potatoes, chunks of purple cabbage, ramps, asparagus, slices of lemon, chives into a cast iron and roasted it all with two, lightly seasoned branzinos right on top. But where the hell are my beets? My radishes!?


So two days later, this very simple, very earthy, very spring soup happened. Cooked gently in your favorite stock with thyme, ramps, ginger, garlic, and chives, it’s sunshine broth will make you feel good.

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Ingredients

  • drizzle of coconut oil or olive oil
  • 3-4 thyme sprigs
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1-inch knob of ginger, grated
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 4 small golden beets, halved and sliced
  • 5 radishes, halved and sliced
  • 4 whole ramps
  • chives, finely chopped

Directions

In a heated pot with oil, add thyme, onion, garlic, and ginger. Sautee for a few minutes. Add your stock and bring to a light boil. Add beets and let it do its thing for about 20 minutes. Then add your radishes and ramps. Cook another 8 minutes. Add salt and pepper and any fresh herbs/greens you’d like. I used chives. I imagine dill would be beautiful here. Enjoy warm or even chilled!

I can’t wait for more spring cooking (and cleaning! and gardening!), though I have a feeling summer will arrive much sooner than scheduled. Hit your local market and/or farm ASAP! Let me know what you come home with ❤ I’ll be trying this recipe again when my own variety of beets start growing. Or sooner!

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Thai-inspired Chicken Noodle Soup

Jen is sick again! So here’s to making another pot of this soothing, spicy soup. And look, it got a photo upgrade.

cook on your nerve.

A Healing Soup for Jen

All soups are meant to heal, but this one’s for my sister-in-law who has saved me one tiny bowl each time I’ve made big pots of it. I’d receive a text from her while at work that’d say, “Sorry. Don’t hate me.” She had a sore throat all week long and this was the only thing that was soothing to her. How could I be mad? When I was not feeling myself for a good week, she was the one who made us dinner each night. I sent her a text giving her all my thanks and told her I’d get right back in the kitchen very soon.

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Jen and I are spice maniacs. She introduced me to Valentina hot sauce and I now put that on (almost) everything. That is, when I’m not using sriracha, which this soup has plenty of. There’s heat, acidity…

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