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lentil and sweet plantain chorizo soup

This was on the very top of my list of older recipes I needed to revisit. And since every new viewer lately has been turning to it, it was time for a new look.

Using odds and ends from the fridge, I whipped up something I had to jot down and share with you–right after putting the spoon down. It’s seriously GOOD. It’s also a reminder as to how my blog got its name. Cook with what you already have, with a sort of witchery, going with your gut and, how Frank O’Hara would put it, on your nerve.

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This soup is a combination of spicy, savory, and sweet. You probably already have some of these ingredients at home and if not, it’s still pretty easy and inexpensive to get. Pick yellow plantains that are heavily black-spotted if you like them more on the sweet side like I do. Not entirely black, though. That kind of ripeness turns to mush when cooked.

We’re currently growing a lot of oregano, both Greek and Italian, and that’s the perfect herb to use when involving chorizo. I’ve found beautiful bundles of them at the farmers market yesterday so check out your local market, too. Garlic scapes went into this batch which made this even easier to put together. Yay to no peeling garlic cloves! I’m grateful for easy today seeing that I woke up with flu-like symptoms. I’m adding extra hot pepper to this baby in hopes it’ll heal me!

Lentil and Sweet Plantain Chorizo Soup (serves 4)

-7 oz fresh chorizo, 2 links
-1 small onion, diced
-3 garlic cloves or garlic scapes, chopped
-1 large carrot, sliced
-1 corn on the cob, kernels only (optional)
-1/2 cup red lentils
-5 cups chicken broth (more depending on how brothy you like it)
-1 tsp fresh oregano
-1/4 tsp cumin
-1/4 tsp hot paprika or other red pepper
-1 sweet plantain, halved and sliced
-cilantro, handful, for serving
-sliced red cabbage, for serving (optional)
-salt n pepper to taste

Remove chorizo from its casing and crumble onto a skillet that’s under med-high heat. Stir and crumble some more with a wooden spoon. After about 8 minutes, remove crumbled chorizo from pan and place onto a paper towel to absorb some of it’s oil.

Return pan to medium heat and saute onions, garlic, and carrots for a couple of minutes. If there wasn’t enough chorizo oil left in the pan, use a little olive oil to saute them with. Now add your lentils, corn, broth, oregano, cumin and hot paprika. Simmer til lentils are cooked through. Add the sweet plantain and cilantro. Stir in the crumbled chorizo, cook for another 3 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

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Variations
If you don’t have (or don’t like!) chorizo, give hot Italian sausage a try. Want it to be a heartier bowl of soup? Serve it with avocado. And if you happen to have split peas but not red lentils, use that instead! I love how both lose their shape and become very much part of the broth.

Let me know what you think!

grilled escarole, cabbage, and apple salad

After a week of celebrating Dan’s birthday and graduation with beautiful Syrian, Mexican, Chinese, Ramen, Italian, and Peruvian food OMG, I severely missed a home-cooked meal. A healthy-and-grilled one please. While dipping fresh tortillas in a cast iron full of 3 cheeses and chorizo is spectacular, I have to admit, I don’t feel that spectacular afterwards.

Bring on the simple veggie platters!

This was the first thing I made when I got home, and it took all but 20 minutes to put together. The addition of feta on the slightly bitter greens with a squeeze of that grilled lemon was beautiful. But I encourage you to take a knife to the greens and cabbage, and get yourself the perfect bite of sweet apple and onion along with the salty-and-creamy feta. You won’t regret it.

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-1 head of escarole, quartered lengthwise & cleaned well
-1/2 a head of red cabbage, sliced into wedges
-1 red onion (or half vidalia), wedges
-1 big apple, cored and cut into wedges
-about 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
-salt and pepper, to taste
-1 lemon, halved, for serving
-feta, for serving

After giving your escarole a good bath

(it seriously needs one), place them in a large bowl and drizzle some of the olive oil onto the leaves and season with salt and pepper. Massage the leaves a bit. In another bowl, add your sliced cabbage, onion, and apple, and gently toss with olive oil, salt and pepper.

In a cast iron grill pan under medium-high heat, sear cabbage, apples, and onion til grill marks occur on both sides, about a minute a side. You may need to do this in 2 batches. Lay them on a platter when done and start grilling your escarole, about a minute a side as well. You’ll want to see them charred and tender but still a bit crisp. Plate them.

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Serve with grilled lemon halves. Maybe a little tahini. Maybe some grilled meat if you’re into that. OR beans. I’m into that.

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rose harissa chickpea and eggplant stew

It’s a Thursday, and I can be found shouting ROSE HARISSA from the rooftop of my Manhattan building, where I’m sure I’m not allowed to be. But just like Ottolenghi, I want you to know about it. Know it. And use it! often. A spoonful of it into or onto your favorite weekday dish will elevate the simple ingredients, as it does this stew.

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There’s heat, but the addition of rose petals to this North African chile paste calms it. I use Belazu’s rose harissa, as he recommends, but if you find something else please use less than what I’ve suggested here, before adding more to your desired taste.

This is a super quick stew with very few ingredients. Yet it’s hearty and flavorful, and it’s rich color is so very pleasing to the eye. Double up to feed more mouths! I added sugar snap peas AND snow peas when I first made it, but decided sugar snaps were best. They can be found at your local farmers market today.

– vegetable oil, enough to coat pan
– 3 garlic cloves, chopped
– 2 heirloom carrots, sliced
– 1 med eggplant, diced
– 1 15 oz can chickpeas, drained
– 2 tsp rose harissa (more or less to taste)
– 1 tbs pomegranate molasses
– 1 cup water
– 1 8 oz can tomato sauce
– 1 cup sugar snap peas, trimmed
– salt, to taste
– cilantro or parsley, for serving

Heat oil in a pot and saute garlic with carrots for about a minute. Under medium-high heat, add your diced eggplant, chickpeas, and rose harissa, sauteing a couple of more minutes. Add your molasses, tomato sauce, water, give it a stir, cover, and simmer for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. You’ll then add your sugar snap peas and cook til tender, about 6 minutes. Give it a taste! Add salt, and see if it needs more harissa. Serve with rice if you’d like!

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Thousand Flowers Tart

When Jennifer from The Burley Hen purchased a tiny vial of millefiori, putting a single drop into her pancake batter, she somehow knew, at first taste, that I should have it instead. And so it made a short trip from Queens to Manhattan, a single drop less, and waiting. Most likely waiting for me to turn on my poet-brain. This entire recipe, from thinking it, being frustrated with it, to tasting it multiple times, brought me back to those days I’d fuss over a single poem.

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While I was super excited to have this flower concentrate in the house, I also had no idea what I wanted to do with it, as there are not too many recipes online. Mostly a lot of Pastiera; an Italian Easter cake. (That’s another thing I miss about writing a poem. The researching that comes with it.)

It wasn’t until receiving sunflower flour from Tory that this idea for a tart came to, well, you know, blossom. As she handed the bag of flour to me, along with a spankin’ new tart pan (my FIRST!), it was a no-brainer. I wanted everything about what I create to somehow be about flowers, but in subtle ways. The crust, the filling…and what about toppings? I spent an entire day looking for edible flowers the first time I tested out this recipe and found not a single one. Mind you, they were EVERYWHERE at the greenmarkets of NYC the weekend before. But then it hit me.

FIGS. Inverted flowers. The loves of my life.

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Developing a recipe out of ingredients that were all gifts makes this special to me. The sunflour, which is darker than flour, adds depth to the crust. The crushed graham sweetens it, but also tones down the possibility of a bitter and very dark crust. Look at this color contrast!

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for the crust

– 1 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
– 1/4 cup sunflower flour (from Hudson Valley Cold Pressed Oils)
– 1/4 cup brown sugar
– few pinches of salt
– 7 tbs unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 225 degrees. (We’re just gently toasting the crust.)

In a medium bowl, whisk your dry ingredients til well incorporated and, using a fork, stir in the melted butter. In a 9″ tart pan with removable bottom, press mixture with hands or the bottom of a measuring cup til everything is nice and compact. Bake for about 8 minutes, til fragrant.

Cool down 1 hour before use.

for the filling

– 2 cups half and half
– 3 long strips of orange zest
– 1/2 cup sugar
– 4 egg yolks, from large organic eggs
– 3 tbs cornstarch, sifted
– pinch of salt
– 1/4 tsp millefiori (flower concentrate)
– 2 tbs unsalted butter, cut

1. Under medium heat, scald milk with orange zest and pour into a measuring cup. Set aside for 10 minutes so that the orange lightly infuses the milk. Stir in the flower concentrate.

2. In a medium pot, whisk together your eggs and sugar and then add your sifted cornstarch and salt. Whisk whisk whisk for about 5 minutes, or until the mixture becomes light in color.

3. Remove orange zest from the milk and gradually pour into the egg mixture, whisking continuously. At this point you’ll turn on the heat to medium and whisk whisk whisk til the mixture thickens. Remove from heat. Let it cool down a couple of minutes before stirring in the butter.

4. Place in a heat-proof bowl and cover with plastic wrap. The plastic wrap should make direct contact with the top of the pastry cream so that a skin does not form. Let it cool down 15-20 minutes more and then put it in the fridge to chill for at least 4 hours, or up to 2 days.

5. When ready to assemble, smooth out the pastry cream into the cooled-down crust, and decorate!

topping suggestions

– figs
– edible flowers
– any berry in season

After you take your photos, “pour on the fruit” as my mother would say. I made this tart right before strawberries arrived at the farmers market. They’d make a beautiful addition to the floral flavors here.

Happy June, my loves!

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A Month with Simple

There have only been two cookbooks my hands have ever taken turns being attached to: Aromas of Aleppo, and Tasting India. With Ottolenghi’s Simple now being added to the list, (thank you Danny) my hands don’t even know what to do with themselves. I’ve made about 8 of his dishes within 3 weeks, and have picked up certain things from them that I can’t wait to try out in some of my own recipes. For instance,

FRIED CAPERS. Shut the front door.

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On the day I came back with the first of the asparagus, purple and green, I knew I wanted to smother them with buttered, toasted almonds, fried capers, and dill. Because that’s what page 82 told me to do. Everyone at the table loved that extra touch of salt on fresh tender stalks.

The next day, I wanted to try the capers out in a cantaloupe salad, because while I crave sweetness, I tend to crave the saltier side of things a tad bit more. I’m still developing the recipe for this one but YES, it worked out pretty nicely: cantaloupe, blood oranges, green olives, sumac caramelized shallots, crispy tarragon, fried capers, feta, sorrel and radish microgreens.

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ORANGE PEELS and SEAFOOD and SPICE oh my (a much-needed reminder)

My family’s favorite was this shrimp with orzo and marinated feta. It reminded me of mussels I make with orange peels and canellini beans (which is a recipe I should definitely write up!). I’ve had a similar dish, minus the peels, at MP Taverna about a year ago. It was called a seafood paella and it, too, had feta and orzo and lots of red pepper. In short, Ottolenghi had me at orange peels. And marinated feta. If you look back in the archives, I have at least 10 recipes using orange peels, and one with marinated cheese. I’m a little in love over here.

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GRATED FRIGGEN CAULIFLOWER

Now on to this bright one. I adored this salad. While most of the cauliflower gets roasted (including it’s leaves, which is so very elegant and is zero-waste friendly), some of it is grated raw and tossed in with pistachios, pomegranate seeds, parsley. It added a beautiful crunch and freshness to this salad and I can’t wait to grate cauliflower into other dishes, too.

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PEAS AND CILANTRO (and how it’s currently peas season so let’s play)

I took some liberties with this one by adding cumin and aleppo pepper to the green sauce, and blistered shishito peppers to the potatoes. I want to put this sauce on everything! I also want to try out other herbs and flavors, so look out for something similar by me in the near future. We are in the thick of sugar snap season!

MARINATING TWO DAYS IN ADVANCE: Chicken Marbella

When I read that this chicken can be left alone, in the fridge, with olives and capers and dates and all the things, I was happy. This meant I could spend my Thursday morning working on my blog instead of being in the kitchen, fussing over chicken, because I did all that fussing two days ago. All I had to do was pop it in the oven and go about my business, and return to a beautifully flavored meal, sticky with pomegranate molasses.

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I’m not even close to spending less time with this book. My rose harissa just arrived, the very one that Ottolenghi suggests we use. There’s also tomato after tomato recipe, eggplant recipes…I’m simply waiting for the right time.

In the Garden

We just planted Black Cherry tomatoes to go along with 3 other tomato plants, and scarlet runner beans that hopefully will not find it’s way to our Sicilian eggplants’ mauve flowers. If they do, (or if the new furbaby does) well, there goes that roasted eggplant with curried yogurt my hand keeps returning to. Page 66.

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Roasted Cheese-Stuffed Spiced Tomatoes

There’s a roasted caprese I love to make for the family: campari tomatoes stuffed with ciliegine, basil, and topped with seasoned bread crumbs. While I was craving them last weekend, I was also craving sambousak, a buttery, sesame pastry filled with muenster cheese. Lori serves them whenever she cooks a Syrian feast. In fact, it’s how we begin one. While she works the stuffing, I am usually put on sesame seed duty. Dipping and pressing each pastry into a bowl of seeds, then lining them up on a baking sheet and popping them into the oven. The aroma of that moment is what I’m after.

In a perfect world, I would’ve made both. But it’s finally truly warm out and I wanted to fully embrace “less is more” on a Sunday afternoon. The only solution was this: stuffing tomatoes with muenster cheese, leaning more towards Syrian cuisine by using familiar spices, swapping out the basil for parsley, and then topping each tomato with sesame and nigella seeds before they get popped into the oven and, 20 minutes later, right into my mouth.

Guys, I should triple this recipe. I mean, look at that pre-bake and imagine cheese melted, tomatoes fragrant with spices and tasting sweeter, even bolder, than ever. The aroma of toasted seeds fills your kitchen. Or don’t imagine and just peep that after shot.

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You will need:

– 2 lb campari tomatoes, or other similar-sized variety, about 18-22
– drizzle of olive oil
– 1/2 tsp allspice
– 1/4 tsp cumin
– 1/4 tsp Aleppo pepper
– 1/4 tsp salt
– couple of pinches of cardamom
– 7 oz muenster cheese, small diced
– 2 tbs parsley, finely chopped
– 1 tbs sesame seeds
– 1/2 tbs nigella seeds

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Core each tomato and take a sliver off the bottom of each one so that they sit up nicely when ready to roast. While you’re working on everything else, have them lined up on paper towels, upside down, so that any excess liquid is drained.

Meanwhile, put all spices in a small bowl and whisk them together. In another small bowl, add both seeds and whisk together.

In another bowl, toss your diced muenster cheese with parsley and a 1/2 tsp of the spices, reserving the rest for later use.

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In a large bowl, drizzle a little olive oil onto the cored tomatoes and sprinkle the spices inside and outside of each one, gently tossing them to make sure they are each seasoned equally.

Stuff each tomato with the seasoned muenster cheese and place them in a cast iron skillet. You’ll want to see cheese peeking out of the tomatoes. When they melt, they get real snug into each one.

Top each tomato with a generous amount of seeds.

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Roast for about 20 minutes. Serve immediately. Enjoy your Sunday.

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Citrus Braised Beans, Ramps, Tomatoes, and Olives

You wouldn’t believe me if I told you someone else ate the whole pot of beans before I could even fully enjoy a bowl of them. Well, they did. The day that I was recipe developing, I took photographs of the wildly Spring contents, then ran out to Brooklyn to spend some time with Danny, thinking there’d be enough for me to try when I return. (It serves 4 people, people!) How wrong was I. I received a text: “they were delicious! I finished them off with a baguette.” Ha! There’s a serving suggestion for you, am I right?

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And so I made it again the next day, each spoonful creating a sigh, hiding in my room with the pot til I was ready to share.

The heirloom beans are called Jacob’s Cattle Beans. And I love them.

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I eyed their small and spotted bodies at a farmstand at Union Square, where I also bought everything else that wound up in this recipe. Ramps. Tomatoes. Olives. Garlic. Dill. As usual, I had no idea they’d be coming together. Every time I make beans, I “beanstorm” (as Dan calls it) the day before, but shrug off everything I stormed on about. So to get things moving along in the morning, I simmer them in a pot til I remember that, yes, I have ramps, tomatoes, olives, garlic, and dill. How would this taste if they all got together? Perhaps a little too good. Perhaps good enough to eat…a whole pot’s worth? With a baguette. Don’t forget the baguette.

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for the beans (simmer for about 15 minutes, drain, discard everything but the beans)
– 1 cup small variety dried beans, soaked over night
– 2 sprigs tarragon (or other herb)
– 1 clove garlic, smashed
– bay leaf
– shallot

And then it’s time to create hands-off magic

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braising time
– olive oil, enough to coat pan
– 1 long strip of lemon zest
– 1 strip of orange zest
– 5 cloves garlic, peels on
– 1 small bunch ramps, halved lengthwise through the bulb
– 1 pint colorful small variety tomatoes
– about 8-10 castelvetrano olives, pitted
– the beans
– parmesan rind
– 1 cup beef/chicken/veggie stock (enough to cover a quarter of the way up)
– 1/2 tsp aleppo pepper or other red dried pepper
– salt and pepper, to taste
– dill, for serving (optional)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

On the stove-top and in a dutch oven, heat the olive oil and saute your lemon and orange peels, and garlic cloves, for a couple of minutes. Then add everything else! Put it in the oven, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, or until the tomatoes have slightly browned and are almost ready to burst. Juices will reduce, but not too much. You’ll want to sop up every drop that’s left.

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As for the garlic? They should be buttery at this point. Squeeze a clove out of it’s peel and spread it, like butter, on a piece of bread. I promise they are in there for a reason (not just to create a beautiful broth).

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Market Haul Lo Mein

True story. The evening before I went away for a week, my beautiful (but food-picky) mom requested I make a big batch of lo mein just for her. None for her hubby. None for you. She wanted to make sure there was enough in the house to last at least 4 days. Mind you, I had just made some less than a week before then but who am I to argue (she’s taking care of my fur-baby, and her love for this one-pot meal is adorable.)

That is to say, I totally get it.

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Gently spiced noodles with a bunch of seasonally fresh veggies and greens just handpicked from the farmers market is quite appealing, and if I can feed my mother  (who would prefer cakes and candies over a solid meal) something more substantial, I’ll make it twice a week if I have to. And I probably could! It comes together quite quickly and each serving is unique. Unique enough to not get real bored real quick.

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Let this be a loose guideline for your next lo mein craving. Or heck, for when you have a little bit of this and a little bit of that in your crisp drawer and don’t want them to go to waste. Every time I’ve made this, I’ve added something different. I tend to prefer a mostly veggie lo mein but feel free to play with the amounts, and the ingredients. Right now I’ve mostly listed some greens that only make an appearance in spring, but when other seasons arrive, let this recipe transform with it.

Market Haul Lo Mein
(the flavoring basics:)

– 2 tbs sesame oil
– 1 inch knob ginger, peeled, finely chopped
– 3-4 garlic gloves, finely chopped
– soy sauce, to taste (I use about 3-4 tbs)
– 1 tbs brown sugar
– chili sauce, to taste (optional)
– 8 oz dry lo mein (makes about 4 cups cooked)

Bring on the Veggies and Greens
(
Choose some or all! I recommend at least 4 cups of greens/veggies)

– 1 big leafy spring onion (or 3 scallions)
– 1 big carrot, peeled, sliced into matchsticks
– 12 garlic scapes or ramps, roughly chopped
– 3-4 small bok choy, chopped
– small head of broccoli w/ stems, steamed and chopped
– 1 pound spring peas or snow peas, trimmed
– bunch of thin asparagus, roughly chopped
– 1 red or green pepper, sliced
– spinach
– chives
– cilantro and/or basil
– any leafy green you want
– 1 hass avocado, diced, for serving*
– broccoli flowers

*Have you ever tossed some fresh avocado into something hot with soy sauce? It’s heaven. Do it. Report back.

Directions:

1. In a wide but deep pan, bring water to a boil and cook lo mein til al dente. Drain and run under cold water. Set aside.

2. In the same pan under medium flame, heat the sesame oil and saute the ginger and garlic for about 30 secs, then turn up the heat and add everything but your leafy greens. Save those for the last couple of minutes. Season with soy sauce and brown sugar, and chili sauce if you’re using. Stir-fry til your tougher veggies are tender but are still crisp, about 5 minutes. Then add your leafy greens and stir-fry a few more minutes.

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3. Add lo mein and taste taste taste. Adjust to your liking by adding more soy sauce, sesame oil and/or chili paste, or just a sprinkle of salt. Serve and top with fresh herbs.

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Make mom happy. Make yourself happy. Your wallet will not feel bad when it knows every beautifully priced item you purchased at the greenmarket went to very good use.

Spring Greens Kibbeh

Guess what? I have never had an all-veggie-and-herb kibbeh before. Nor a very flat one. It is the hefty oval-shaped classic stuffed with meat that I’m used to; with it’s outer, crispy shell made of bulgur wheat and even more (but very delicious) meat. In Lori’s kitchen, all that’s needed is a fresh squeeze of lemon over them and each bite is heaven. But it’s spring and I want to do the following: see green, eat green, maybe not spend too much time in the kitchen if there’s a shortcut I can live with. I also really want to eat less meat.

So bring on this quicker version of kibbeh packed with fresh herbs, chickpeas, spring peas, and beautiful spices. Kibbeh-meets-falafel, almost! Use whatever greens you fancy.

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While you can use fresh English peas that are already pre-packaged for you, I’ve come across spring’s sugar snap peas plump enough to shell and use for this recipe. No steaming necessary! They are currently in season. They are sweet all over and you can make a simple salad out of their tender shellings.

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Add some fresh herbs and toss them in lemon juice and good quality olive oil, and season with salt, pepper, cumin, and sumac. And yes, it goes perfectly with kibbeh!

Spring Greens Kibbeh – makes 12-14 thin patties

– 1/2 cup fine bulgur, rinsed and drained completely in a fine mesh strainer
– 3 spring onions, sliced thin
– 3 garlic cloves, minced or 3 ramps/garlic scapes, chopped, if you have
– 1 cup variety of herbs, tightly packed, chopped (parsley, cilantro, dill)
– 2/3 cup cooked chickpeas, gently smashed
– 1/3 cup + 1 tbs fresh spring peas (frozen is ok)
– 1/2 cup flour
– 1 heaping tsp allspice or baharat
– 1 heaping tsp Aleppo pepper
– 1 tsp fine sea salt
– 1 tsp cumin
– 1/4 tsp coriander
– vegetable oil, for frying

In a big bowl, add all ingredients together, tossing so that everything looks fully incorporated. Then knead til big, slightly sticky clumps form.

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Cover and leave in the fridge for about 15 minutes. When ready, knead a palmful of the mixture into a ball and press it down to create a flat disc. Do this til the mixture is gone. No worries if some of the peas run loose. You can always press them gently down onto a patty after you form them.

Heat a cast iron skillet and drizzle vegetable oil onto it. Not too much! We’re just searing each patty on both sides til they’re golden, about 1 1/2-2 minutes a side. For each batch, drizzle more oil onto the pan. Place them on a plate lined with paper towels, sprinkle with salt while they’re still hot. When ready, plate them however you wish, though stacking them is fun.

Serve with lemon wedges and/or pomegranate molasses. And that shelling salad!

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If you’re serving more than 3 or 4 people, you can easily double the recipe. This is a great appetizer, lunch, or snack, or side dish.

Last night I served it with this beauty of a red snapper with even more beautiful cauliflower and everyone was so silent at the table, enjoying every moment of molasses dripping onto this and onto that.

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If interested in making this super easy one-pan meal, just season the fish with za’atar, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Toss the cauliflower in olive oil, salt, pepper. Roast for about 40 minutes. Heat up the kibbeh for about 6 minutes in the oven if it cooled down. The crunch of these patties completed the meal! Between the 3 of us, there were only a few left. And I enjoyed those few cold the next day.

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Miss-You-Summer Galette with Blood Orange Z’hug

There’s a farmstand by me that has been showing off tomatoes these last couple of months like they were just-dug-up rubies. It was startling to see such glorious red globes in February, and so many of them, too. Tory and I had just been flipping through Ottolenghi’s Simple, professing our love to the summer tomato on the page. We miss ’em bad and I know you do, too.

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But let’s be real. It is simply not tomato season yet. These beauties tasted identical to the beefsteak tomatoes that are sittin’ bland at the grocery store today, and I know they aren’t the sort of farm that grows them indoors. I *just* recently learned about this kind of farm in NJ, and this is what their tomatoes look like on the farmstand today:

I am pretty disappointed in myself for not visiting the Union Square Greenmarket throughout all of 2018. I think I spent that entire year living a very sad lie. I could’ve had beautiful tomatoes in January! February! All year long. But this post isn’t about those tomatoes. It’s about what I’ve been doing all this time with store-bought ones.

The only way I’ve coped with the lack of summer tomatoes is to purchase a sweeter variety and roast them (usually the smaller varieties). This galette got me all teary eye’d. It was the closest thing to summer I’ve had to date.

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Top it with your favorite cheese and greens. I used feta and radish microgreens. Even better: serve it with my Blood Orange Z’hug to turn up the green and the heat. (Seriously, do that!) Have it with yolky eggs in the morning. I know I did. Maybe don’t forget the olives.

Miss-You-Summer Galette

– 1 9″ pie dough (homemade or storebought)
– about 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
– drizzle of good quality olive oil
– sprig of thyme or oregano, leaves only, tender stems are okay
– salt and pepper, to taste
– favorite cheese
blood orange z’hug (<-click for recipe)
– microgreens (optional)
– olives (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a small bowl, gently toss tomatoes in olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme. Center them cut-side up on your pie dough (which should be on a baking sheet) and fold in the edges. Brush edges with milk or eggwash, and if you want, season them with flaky salt and/or other spices. Bake for about 40 minutes, til some tomatoes are browned and the dough looks golden.

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You’ll want to make this even when tomatoes ARE in season. 2 1/2 more months? Or, you know, head on over to your local indoor farm. Or Union Sq Greenmarket if you’re around.

Braised Cranberry Beans (Enjoyed Two Ways)

I’ve a confession to make.

I left these beauties in the fridge for at least a week before getting down to business.

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How dare I, I know. It’s just that I’ve been overly excited about Spring’s arrival, and with that comes some major irresponsibility on my part. I am buying way too many things at the farmers market and I can’t keep up with it all. When I looked in the fridge today, I had bags of three kinds of radishes, thyme, chives, forgotten carrots and onions, cauliflower, purple cabbage, ridiculously expensive cherry tomatoes, 5 kinds of cheeses…the list goes on. But can you BLAME ME?

Anxiety started to build up last night. I stayed up late brainstorming what I wanted to make the next morning. Mind you, everything I thought of had zero things to do with cranberry beans, because I actually forgot I had them. I went to bed with more ideas than a solid plan for 8 AM. When I opened the crisp drawer next morning, there they were, a gloriously pink reminder of their existence.

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It was clearly time to sit down, and start shelling. I had no idea what would happen after I revealed what was inside each pod. That’s what makes this recipe special to me. I felt how I used to when writing a poem. The first step is to begin. Begin somewhere, anywhere, and let it transform into something unexpected and beautiful. That’s what happened here. It began with a braise.

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And then it became a salad of some of the things I couldn’t bare to neglect any longer.

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Braised Cranberry Beans

-fresh cranberry beans, shelled, about 1 1/2 cup
-1/4 cup good quality olive oil, or enough to cover beans half-way in small pot
-2 garlic gloves, crushed
-sprig of thyme
-1 tsp toasted cumin seeds or powder
-generous amount of Aleppo pepper (or other red pepper)
-salt, to taste

for the Braised Bean Salad (basically, your market haul) I used:

-braised cranberry beans with oil
-cherry tomatoes, quartered
-3-4 radishes, all the colors
-small bunch of fresh chives
-leaves from 1 thyme sprig
-salt and pepper, to taste
-fresh drizzle of olive oil
-fresh squeeze of lemon
-ricotta salata cheese (or other cheese)

Directions

Braised Beans: After the beans have been shelled, put them in a sauce pan with enough water to cover, and let it simmer for 20 minutes. Drain. In the same pan, heat the olive oil and begin to saute the garlic, thyme, cumin, and red pepper for about a minute. Add the beans and cover, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes under low heat (or until the beans have softened and some have turned a golden color.)You want that braised-crisp look on the outside, but creaminess on the inside.

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At this point, you can serve as is. Spoon it over beautiful bread. Maybe add some grated parmesan.

But if you’re lookin’ for something more, continue on and make the salad. Add all the spring things and toss. Season with salt and pepper and dress it with fresh lemon juice. Use what you have on hand but be sure to have something in there that provides a good crunch. I love the addition of radishes in here for that very reason. Maybe uncooked green beans! Parsley would make another nice, green addition.

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And here’s a friendly reminder: keep an eye out for the beautiful at your local market. They may come in very tiny bundles. The stuff of poems.

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Fig and Orange Chicketta

The problem I’m having nowadays with my market haul? I want to serve every sunchoke, beet, radish, asparagus, artichoke, and green alongside my Chicketta. Think about it. Chicken that’s marinated in fresh lemon juice, olive oil, with a fig-orange jam whisked in. Then more fig-orange jam brushed on top as it roasts in the oven as if it were BBQ sauce…chicken that’s stuffed with a layer of roasted garlic, basil, pancetta (or prosciutto!), mozz…then served with all the spring things I CAN’T EVEN.

Here’s a spring thing for you: braised baby artichokes.

Purple baby artichokes. Lavender nearest to their hearts. You asked for the recipe, but sadly, I did not write a single thing down as I made it (I will some day!) but if you ever make a lemon-wine sauce, let’s consider that a seriously good start. Sear them, then braise them in that lemony goodness.

But if you’re not in the mood to get all fancy, even a spring pilaf or a salad will do. Chicketta don’t ask for much.

Porchetta-style chicken is where simple meets elegance, and I would gladly serve it during the holidays coming up. The stuffing variations could be endless. Leave it in the hands of your current season. Mix up the herbs, and the jam. Use fresh or store-bought. A variety of veggies. Maybe smoked mozzarella next time. Or just honey with extra red pepper.

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It’s got sweetness from the jam, earthiness from the rosemary, heat from the generous amount of red pepper, and very fresh ingredients layered up inside. Cheese oozes out of it in a classy fashion, and you seriously can’t dislike something that has roasted garlic inside of it…can you?

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You cannot. When roasted for over 40 minutes, it becomes nutty and sweet. My hands end up smelling of the stubborn cloves I squeeze out of their tiny homes and, guys, I ain’t mad at it.

CHICKETTA (PORCHETTA-STYLE CHICKEN)

  • large head of garlic, roasted
  • 2 boneless chicken breasts*, butterflied, pounded semi-thin
  • 1 sprig rosemary, leaves only, minced
  • juice of 1 large lemon or 1/2 cup white wine
  • few TBS good quality olive oil
  • 1 heaping TBS fig-orange jam or honey
  • salt and generous amount of red pepper
  • about 10 fresh basil leaves
  • 6-8 thin slices of prosciutto or pancetta
  • thin slices of fresh mozzarella, about 4 oz
  • kitchen twine, for tying
  • more jam to brush on top

*If you can find the chicken breasts with skin-on, even better! I usually ask the butcher for boneless two breasts attached with skin-on, but I know pre-packaged is easier for everyone to get.

1. Place chicken in a ziplock bag or medium bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the lemon juice (or wine), olive oil, rosemary, jam (or honey), salt, and pepper. Pour the marinade into the bag or bowl, moving the marinade around so that the chicken is well coated. Seal/cover and let it marinate for 30 minutes. Any longer and things might get weird.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lay one butterflied chicken on a working surface and pat dry. Rub half of the roasted garlic paste onto the entire length of the chicken, then add a layer of basil leaves, a layer of pancetta, and a layer of cheese. From one long side, roll the chicken nice and snug and secure it tightly with kitchen twine. Repeat for the next butterflied chicken.

3. Sear both sides in a cast iron grill or skillet for about 3 minutes on each side. Brush more jam on top, maybe even add more red pepper. Roast in the oven for about 35-40 minutes. Let it sit for a few before slicing them into semi-thin pieces.

Serve with all the spring goods.

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