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golden matzo ball soup

Last month, when I was diagnosed with a rare facial nerve condition and couldn’t really chew much, my mind’s eye saw nothing but matzo ball soup. It saw a rich, golden broth with fluffy filling floaters so very tender on the teeth. How you like that alliteration? Anyway, I couldn’t make it. Matzo ball soup needs your head on straight (okay, maybe a little straight) and all the heart you can muster. (Seriously, all).

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Speaking of hearts, Dan got me a quart of it from PJ Bernstein near my place, with a side of mash and mushroom gravy, and for a split moment, the love of it transformed pain into pure happiness. Which didn’t last as long as I liked. Pain hit me that same night, real bad. Meds that were given to me weren’t working, and even though Dan had just traveled to me from Brooklyn, he hopped back on a train to get me stronger pills that were once prescribed to him. And guess what? When he returned, with meds, he also carried a bag full of food. When I asked what it was, he told me he had no clue. His mom handed the goods to him hoping it’ll make me feel better. Aaaaand…

It was matzo ball soup.

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I don’t know how she knew what I needed, but I felt so touched by this and now this soup will forever be my one true medicine. I sipped and gently chewed for a week.

Now let’s get to the recipe. When I bought a pint of this from PJ Bernstein last week, I freaked the hell out when I saw that it was $10. Obviously I needed to make my own, especially since I was diagnosed last night at the hospital with ANOTHER nerve condition. Who needs a hug? This girl. But I’m willing to share some love with you, too.

Why golden? Turmeric. I’m putting it in everything right now because I need all the healing. But the matzo balls GLOW so beautifully, and the ginger, nutmeg, dill adds some serious flavor. No boring floaters here!

for the broth

-3 lb free-range, organic whole chicken
-enough cold water to cover chicken
-1 tbs kosher salt
-1 large onion, skin on, halved if necessary
-3 garlic cloves
-2 celery stalks
-2 carrots
-1 parsnip
-2 bay leaves
-a combination of herbs you might already have, about 6 sprigs total (parsley, dill, cilantro, thyme, oregano)
-1/2 tbs peppercorns
-1 cup flavorful chicken or veggie stock for later*

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Keep at a slow simmer from beginning to end, for about 2 1/2 hours. Skim off the top every chance you get so that the end result is a clearer and cleaner broth. I don’t welcome cloudiness when already feeling blue, ya know?

*The broth will reduce a little with time, so I like to keep a cup of chicken or vegetable stock nearby to add to it. Others just add more water, but I find that this gives it more flavor. Use a chicken or veggie bouillon if you’d like…I won’t tell on you. (I like the Better than Bouillon paste shhhhhhh).

Discard all veggies and herbs, and place the chicken in a separate bowl. Save it for another dish, or shred breasts and add it to your soup later on. You can also pour it through a fine mesh, but it’s okay if you don’t want to get too fancy.

for the matzo balls makes about 8 medium-sized (double recipe for more)

-2 eggs
-2 tbs chicken broth
-2 tbs schmaltz (chicken fat), melted
-1 1/2 tbs fresh ginger, peeled and grated
-a heaping 1/4 tsp ground turmeric
-1/4 tsp salt and some freshly cracked pepper
-pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
-1/2 cup matzo meal, unsalted
-1 1/2 tbs fresh dill, chopped (or cilantro, parsley)

In a medium bowl, whisk eggs along with the ginger. Add everything else and stir til well combined. Pop it in the fridge for at least 1 hour, uncovered.

When ready, gently form balls, being careful as to not packing them tightly. You’ll want to barely touch them so that they remain a bit light and airy.

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Place them into the broth that is gently boiling, along with some fresh carrots and one celery stick, both chopped into 1″ pieces. Cook for about 35-40 minutes.

Serve with more fresh dill. Noodles are also an option. I made less matzo balls because I knew my mom would love noodles as well. OH, and if you’re into beets…the salad I made to go with it was rrreal good.

5 small roasted beets, 1/3 cup of barley, cooked in about 1 1/2 cup simmering water. Lots of fresh dill and parsley, about 1 cup. Lemon and olive oil dressing, salt and pepper, chopped pistachios.

Syrian-inspired roasted figs and grapes

Before we started cooking for my brother’s engagement party, I made this platter to try later on after the dinner was over and everyone had gone home.

It was an idea for a recipe I had for awhile, playing with flavors we use for stuffed grape leaves, with zero intention of making it part of the dinner (especially if it were a fail). I figured why offer it to such a picky crowd, anyway? I already heard my brother from another room ask, “what the hell is this? Who roasts grapes? Such a weird-ass thing to do.” I rolled my eyes, as I forever do when my ownly sibling’s goal in life is to annoy his big sis.

I stepped out of the kitchen after cakes and coffee were served. My introvert butt needed a moment. When I returned, everything but one damn fig on the platter was left.

So, I guess it’s a weird-ass keeper.

Preheat the oven to 400.

You’ll need a sheet pan covered with parchment and:

-8 figs, halved or quartered
-2-3 bunches of grapes (I used tiny Tim’s), on their stems

for the dressing

-1 tbs pomegranate molasses
-1 tbs fresh lemon juice
-1 tbs walnut oil or olive
-1 tsp allspice
-pinch of cinnamon and salt, pepper too

Whisk all together and brush the dressing onto all sides of the figs, and whatever grape is exposed. Pour the rest over everything and pop them into the oven for about 20 minutes, or until surfaces have caramelized a bit. Feel free to broil for a couple of minutes to get it extra browned on top.

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for serving

-toasted almonds or walnuts, eyeballed
-feta, to taste

Feta is not optional. I loooooove the saltiness that comes with sweet and tart fruits, made even sweeter from getting roasted.

aprium and blueberry galangal crumb pie

For one full day, I went around telling people I’ve come across the most beautiful-tasting ginger on earth. True story. Check my instagram.

This is because Maria, the wonderful woman selling them, told me they were ginger. I’m beginning to think she wanted to turn intetesting words down a notch to make a quicker sale. I’m not mad. But I was definitely confused after trying to make ginger tea. It tasted of flowers and a certain tartness I couldn’t put a finger on, with less heat. Then, struck by weird coincidence, it’s twin came up on Chopped. Galangal. Looked root-crazy and had that same almost-turmeric color.

Now that I’ve got answers, I wanted to make pie. I’ve no idea where the urge came from, but I had gorgeous apriums…look at them

and pairing them with blueberries and galangal seemed like the perfect thing for this one.

The combination is BEAUTIFUL. The galangal gives each bite another level of warmth, with a touch of lemony petals. And that crumb? Guys. C’mon.

preheat oven to 350

for the crumb topping

-3/4 cup flour
-1/2 cup light brown sugar
-2 tsp galangal, grated
-8 tbs butter, cubed

In a bowl, add your flour, sugar, and galangal. Massage the galangal into the dried ingredients to give it some extra flavor. Add your butter and cut it into the dried ingredients til large crumbs form. I use my hands, usually squeezing everything together to get really big crumbs. Pop it in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

for the filling

-3 cups fresh blueberries, some mashed
-3 cups chopped apriums
-couple of tbs flour, just enough to coat
-couple of tbs sugar (these fruits were sweet as is)
-1 tbs lemon
-1 tbs galangal or ginger, grated or minced

In a bowl, mix all of the above together and let it sit for about 15 minutes. Stir to see if a thick liquid is present. If not, let it sit for 10 more minutes.

-1 9″ pie crust (optional if you’re going for a cobbler)

Fill your pie crust then top it with all the crumbs. Bake for about 45-50 minutes. Serve with espresso, by the lake, if you have one.

a light rice noodle soup for a summer day

No surprise here! My heart belongs to any farmers market wherever I go, and since Englewood, Fl doesn’t have one this time of year, I had to make the most of it in Venice, Fl on the only Saturday I’d be around. Which, at first, didn’t sound very promising as I was walking from farmstand to farmstand. Very few vendors (which is okay!). I still managed to nab the last of the blueberries, tomatoes, and happily nabbed apriums, pink-hued garlic, and tiny red onions. Which, btw, sat very pretty in my newest one-of-a-kind whitewashed bowl I found later that day.

But then, on our way to the parking lot, I spotted Maria from Fresh Harvest farm, a wonderful woman I met a year ago at Englewood farmers market with a farmstand I fell in love with. I was pretty much jumping for joy. Now I’m heading back with ubes (purple yams), lemongrass, young luffas, green onions that are a mmmaybe a few feet long, water spinach, and the most insanely beautiful ginger (or galangal!?) I’ve ever tasted. They are floral and delicate and I’m pretty sure it’s not ginger but galangal. Ginger’s cousin.

Who would think to enjoy a bowl of soup on a Florida afternoon? This girl. These ingredients were meant to cook slowly, together, with delicate rice noodles. I was going to top it with slices of Dan’s long hot green chili peppers that traveled with me from Brooklyn, but to make this heartier, I used them to spice up some roasted chickpeas, which is now officially how I’ll always top my rice noodle soups. The crunch is fannnntastic!

Let’s make the chickpeas first.

for the chickpeas

preheat your oven to 400

-15 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
-1/2 tsp cumin seeds
-1 small green chili, sliced
-tbs lemon juice
-1/2 tsp grated galangal (optional)
-salt, to taste
-generous drizzle of olive oil

Place everything on a sheet pan, tossing so that the chickpeas or coated. Roast for about 20 minutes, or til the chickpeas have browned and crisped up.

Now for the rice noodle soup

-1 1/2 tbs garlic, 2-3 cloves, minced
-2 tbs galangal (or ginger), peeled and grated, about a couple of inches
-2 green onions, sliced, greens divided from whites
-1 oz dried shitake
-4 cups water
-4 cups veggie or beef stock
-5″ lemongrass, smashed
-about 2 cups trimmed water spinach, or regular spinach (optional)
-bean sprouts, sliced red onion, crispy chickpeas
-4 oz rice noodle, cooked separately, or 1-1 1/2oz per person
-salt and pepper, to taste

In a pot under medium heat, saute garlic, galangal, and the white ends of the green onions for a couple of minutes. You’re reserving the green, sliced tops for serving. Then add your stock, water, shitakes, and lemongrass. Simmer for about 30 minutes, or til mushrooms are fully hydrated. Spoon them out and slice.

Add water spinach as soon as you turn off the heat.

At this point, give it a good taste. Feel free to add other flavors, such as soy sauce, chili pastes, fresh lime juice, etc. I kept mine simple and light. Keep in mind that the chickpeas are when an additional spice comes in.

Serve immediately as the chickpeas lose their crispiness over time when sitting in broth. Which shouldn’t be a problem. A bowl of this in front of anyone and it’s gone in minutes.

Next up…what I did with apriums, blueberries, and more galangal. Can’t wait! Right now, I’m just enjoying another bowl as I write up the recipe for the sweets.

Savoury Indian Dutch Baby

When I had my first savoury dutch baby, it was following Melissa’s recipe from HomespunObsessions. Since then, I’ve made it twice. With eggs, potatoes, roasted tomato and bacon chutney, just like she suggests…and dare I say it? more bacon.

Then one day, my guy asked a simple question: “what if you made an Indian version?” My eyes widened. I can make all the versions. Dutch babies are something you can totally play with, from batter to fix-ins, from savoury to sweet. I have a Syrian idea lined up but first, all I could picture was a turmeric-golden pancake.

Everything else served with it was just the day’s craving. Feel free to mix things up!

For my chutney, a touch of sweet and lots of heat is how I like it.

for the green chutney

-1 1/2 cup cilantro, tightly packed, stems okay
-1/2 cup mint (or just use more cilantro)
-1 tbs ginger, minced
-1 big garlic clove, chopped
-1 small green chile, with or without seeds (up to you)
-2 tsp tamarind or pomegranate molasses* (optional)
-1 1/2 tbs fresh lemon juice
-1 tsp freshly ground cumin
-pinch of salt
-3-4 tbs filtered water (to create desired consistency)

Place everything but the water into a food processor and blend. Add a little water at a time to reach the consistency you desire. Put the chutney in a sealed container and keep in the fridge til ready to use.

Note: one time, I ran out of tamarind and ended up using peach jam. Loved it.

for the chana masala

-10.5 oz cherry tomatoes, divided
-1/2 a medium-sized onion
-1 tsp cumin seeds
-1 tbs ghee
-1-inch knob ginger, minced
-2 big garlic cloves, chopped
-1 heaping tsp garam masala
-1/2 tsp turmeric
-1/4 tsp cinnamon
-1/4 tsp ground red chili
-1 15 oz can chickpeas, drained
-cilantro, for serving

Chop half of the tomatoes and puree the other half with the onion.

In a pot under low heat, gently toast your cumin seeds til fragrant. Raise the heat to medium and add ghee, ginger, garlic, spices, chickpeas, and saute for about a minute. Add your fresh tomato sauce. Simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to taste and add some freshly chopped cilantro.

for the yogurt-marinated chicken

-1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cubed
-about 3 oz full fat yogurt
-1/2 cup tightly packed cilantro
-1 tbs minced ginger
-1 garlic clove chopped
-1 tbs lemon juice
-1 tsp garam masala
-1/2 tsp cumin
-1/2 tsp red pepper
-1/2 tsp turmeric

Place chicken in a bowl or ziplock bag.

In a food processor, blend all ingredients til everything is fully incorporated and chopped. Add to the chicken, mixing with your hands. Let it marinate up to 2 hours.

Preheat your oven to 400. Layer the chicken in a roasting pan and roast for about 20 minutes, til they’ve browned a bit. I like to turn them over once at the 10-minute mark to brown on both sides.

for the dutch baby

-3 large eggs, room temp
-3/4 cup milk, room temp
-1/2 cup flour (white whole wheat I use)
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp ground turmeric
-pinch of red pepper and cumin
-2 tbs ghee

Preheat your 9-inch cast iron skillet in a 425 degree oven.

Make your batter by adding your eggs, milk, flour, and seasonings to a large bowl. Using a hand-mixer/blender/food processor set to medium-high speed, blend til the mixture looks light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Take your preheated cast iron out and add the ghee. Make sure the ghee gets spread around, including the sides. Then quickly add the batter and place it into the oven, leaving it untouched for 18-20 minutes. Try not to take a peak or it might deflate on you.

Serve immediately with all the fix-ins. Think about your next dutch baby project.

heirloom tomatoes with fried caper dressing

If anything can make me feel better after a couple of weeks of emergency after emergency, it would be the sight of tomatoes. That, to me, is summer dressed in it’s finery.

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Being absent from the greenmarket was FELT. A single step outside of Union Square train station and I was already overwhelmed with the beauty of it all. At least 8 farmstands showcased my loves. I saw super tiny yellow ones called currant tomatoes and I almost lost my mind. And all my money.

I came home with yellow and blushing heirlooms and I wanted to have them simply. I would’ve just took a bite out of one if I was not sharing with a few others (that’s how simply I wanted to have them). But I aim to share.

The dressing is an infused olive oil with fresh orange, herbs, garlic, and capers that become so crispy you could snack on them alone.

If you can do without the fresh orange juice, add a bit of white balsamic instead. Be sure to give the capers a good rinse, to dull down the salt, then lay them out on a paper towel to dry before frying them. You might have some infused oil left over, which isn’t a bad thing. Save it for something else. As for the tomatoes, they’ll be gone by the end of the meal (or before).

Heirloom Tomatoes with Fried Caper Dressing – Serves 4

-2 tbs capers, rinsed
-1/4 cup good quality olive oil
-3 long strips of orange zest
-2 leafy sprigs of oregano or thyme (or 4 if small/thin)
-1 garlic clove, smashed
-couple of fresh squeezes of an orange
-3-4 heirloom tomatoes, sliced
-feta, fresh herbs, optional for serving

Heat a small pan and pour in your olive oil. When ready, add your capers, herbs, and garlic. Saute for about a minute before adding your orange zest. Here’s an in-action shot:

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Fry til the capers begin to burst (this happens quickly so keen an eye out). Take off heat. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the capers to a bowl or plate lined with a paper towel. In another bowl, pour in the infused olive oil. When cool, add a couple of squeezes of orange juice or white balsamic. You can dress the tomatoes ahead of time but save the capers for when everyone’s ready to dig in.

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I haven’t had the nerve to slice the heart-shaped tomato yet. I’ve 3 heirlooms left and I might just dress them in the leftover infused oil, or take that selfish bite.

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Syrian Meatball Stew with Baby Zucchini

When a friend goes out into his garden to harvest seeds just for you, the gratitude is unreal. I happily carried a small jar of fresh coriander plucked right before my eyes from their cilantro-flowers, from Corona to the Upper East Side, thinking of all the dishes I’d love to add them to.

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This Syrian stew, for starters. Even though the seeds are not something you have to have to make this stew happen, it’s something I did have and it made beautiful, floral sense to use them alongside orange peels and fresh tomatoes and delicately spiced meatballs.

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Let’s not act surprised to see orange peels in this pot. The combination of spiced tomato broth with citrus and floral undertones will always be my thing. You can omit them if you’d like, but why not give it a try? I’ve seen you over there skipping that part in 90 percent of my recipes (I’m laughing). And as for the zucchini, I usually stuff them with this meat and rice mixture (hashu), but look at how tinyyyy these are.

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Baby zucchini is not only adorable, but they are adorable, less watery, less seedy, less all-the-things I don’t really like about zucchini, and sometimes they come with their blossoms attached. You don’t even have to core them! What? But please, using the full-grown guys is also okay for this recipe if you’re not stumbling upon the babies at your local farmers market. I actually found some packaged at Trader Joe’s the other day, and see them often at organic grocery stores. Now on to the recipe:

for the Hashu (spiced ground meat with rice)

-1 pound grass fed ground beef
-1/4 c dill, chopped
-1/4 c parsley, minced
-1/3 c basmati rice
-1 spring onion/scallion, sliced then chopped, or 1 sm onion finely chopped
-3 garlic cloves, minced
-1 tsp allspice or baharat
-1/2 tsp aleppo pepper
-1/4 tsp cinnamon

for the stew

-1 tsp cumin seeds
-1/2 tsp fresh coriander seeds, crushed (optional)
-olive oil, enough to lightly coat pot
-1 1/2 cup fresh tomatoes, chopped
-3 long strips of zest from an orange
-fresh sprigs of oregano (optional)
-1/2 tsp tomato paste
-8 oz can tomato sauce
-about 2 1/2 cups water or stock*
(this thickens into a stew-like consistency so if you’d like a loose broth, add more water)
-baby zucchini or core larger ones and slice
-1 large potato, peeled and diced

1. Make your spiced meat mixture, being careful not to overmix.

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2. Shape them into small balls, which will give you about 25-28. Set aside while you start up the sauce.

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3. Under low heat, gently toast the cumin seeds for about a minute, then add a long drizzle of olive oil. Turn up the heat to medium and add your chopped tomatoes, orange peels, tomato paste, fresh coriander seeds, oregano, Aleppo pepper, and saute for a couple of minutes before adding your tomato sauce and water/stock. Let simmer for 5 minutes.

4. Add your meatballs, gently stirring occasionally. After about 15 minutes, add your potatoes. 5 minutes later, before you turn off your pot, you’ll add your baby zucchini. The meatballs cook through within 30 minutes, any longer and they’ll be tough.

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The sauce thickens with time and I think a piece of bread to sop it all up would be magic. Add some fresh herbs and enjoy. Let me know if you end up cooking with orange zest so I can hug you from here. It doesn’t take much to make my day. ❤

mexican corn chowder

Sitting at the corner table in Estia’s Little Kitchen with Connie, a spoonful of corn chowder in my mouth, I’m immediately taken back to my previous home in Queens. A burst of heat and plenty of cilantro in the broth is exactly how I enjoyed Momma Lupe’s soups. I called a gentleman over and asked in a single word, “tomatillos?” And in a single word returned,“poblanos.”Again I was back in a little kitchen of my own, in another time and place, where sounds of the blender filled the room as poblanos and cilantro became one, beautiful green.

Gratitude to this garden-to-table restaurant where everyone was friendly and most likely family, for allowing me a taste of memory. Our waiting area was the best wait I’ve ever experienced in my life. They serve iced coffee in a truck out back where they are currently growing many lettuce greens and herbs, cucumbers, squash, tomatoes. Check out that dragonfly chillin’ on a garlic scape. We walked around til our names were called and we made sure we would return before heading back into the city.

Inspired by their chowder (I had never seen a green corn chowder, have you?), I made my own and I am loving every morning, afternoon, and night, with a bowl of this. It’s good hot and room temp, probably even cold. It goes perfectly with an egg, avocado, a sprinkle of cotija, crispy tortillas. To make it a bit light, I use coconut milk instead of cream and I leave out potatoes. I also grilled the ingredients to get that summer flavor I love.

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Mexican Corn Chowder, serves 4-5 (double up for more)

-1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted
-4 ears of sweet corn
-2 big poblanos, deseeded if you like less heat
-1/2 tbs coconut oil
-1 small spanish onion, diced
-3 garlic cloves or scapes, chopped
-1 tsp fresh oregano, chopped
-1 cup cilantro, tightly packed, stems okay
-1/2 cup basil
-13.5 oz can organic coconut milk
-3 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock
-cotija, cilantro, avocado, egg (serving suggestions)

Spend about 12 minutes grilling your poblanos, 6 minutes a side.

Spend about 10 minutes grilling your corn, turning occasionally. I actually grilled 3 out of 4. The un-grilled one I cut into 1-inch pieces and put them directly into the pot. But feel free to grill ’em all!

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Once they’ve cooled down enough to handle, stand each ear of corn into a bowl and cut kernels off of them. Slice your poblanos.

Take about half of the kernels and put them into a food processor along with the poblanos.

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Blend for a few seconds then add your cilantro and basil. Continue to blend til it reaches desired consistency. I prefer mine not pureed.

In a pot, warm up your coconut oil and saute your onion, garlic, oregano, and cumin seeds for about a minute. Then add the green mixture along with the rest of the kernels and 1-inch pieces, saute for another minute. Stir in your coconut milk and stock. Simmer for about 15 minutes. It doesn’t take long!

Enjoy ❤ Corn is making their summer appearance now but soon, it’ll be EV-ERY-WHERE.

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grilled cabbage tabbouleh

Ever wake up one day to discover you’ve exhausted your head of red cabbage? I mean, you open the fridge and find a wedge left, yawning at you from the comfort of it’s crisp drawer, as you return it’s stare and remember how you used it to begin with: garnishes to make your every dish pop. All week long. Actually, TWO weeks long. Ex: lentil and sweet plantain chorizo soup. That’s just straight rude. It’s deep color deserves the spotlight, and if you want an eye-catcher without having to break a sweat, this is it. All my favorite food-colors in one, gorgeous salad. (Is it red? Is it purple? It’s both, says cabbage experts.) I say it’s according to mood.

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I’ve had plenty of tabbouleh in my life, but never this one, and never grilled. It’s got your usual bulgur and finely minced greens. Fresh lemon juice and cumin ties it all together as it always has…but then you have still-crisp charred cabbage, with moments of pomegranate seeds bursting in your mouth. And then the crunch of pistachios! I can’t. It’s a lovely experience and that wedge in your fridge will stop giving you dirty looks–promise!

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Grilled Cabbage Tabbouleh 

-1/2 head of medium red cabbage, sliced thin, about 3.5-4 cups (or from one tiny head!)
-1/2 cup bulgur wheat
-boiling water, 1 cup
-1 cup tightly packed herbs, finely chopped (parsley, dill, mint)*
-1 tsp ground cumin
-1/2 tsp allspice
-juice of one small lemon
-drizzle of good quality olive oil
-1/2 tsp pomegranate molasses (optional)
-salt and pepper, to taste
-1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
-1/4 cup unsalted pistachios, roughly chopped

In a heatproof bowl, add your bulgur and boiling water. Let stand for 1 hour. It will double in size.

Meanwhile, heat a cast iron grill skillet (or any cast iron skillet) to highest temp. When very hot, add cabbage. Grill for two minutes without stirring/turning them over. Then do just that and grill for about a minute more.

Transfer them onto a big plate to cool down (pop it in the fridge if you’d like). Then work on your herbs.

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Note: be sure to thoroughly dry your herbs before chopping them. It’s tedious but worth it! You don’t want soggy greens. After I’ve picked them (also tedious), I lay them on paper towels. Pat dry, remove towels, then chop away. What else is there to do as your bulgur does it’s thang for an hour? ha!

Once the bulgur is ready, transfer them to a mesh colander to make sure all excess water is gone. Then transfer them to a bowl along with everything else but the pistachios. Toss and season to taste. Keep in fridge for at least 30 minutes before serving, preferably. But serving at room temp is fine as well.

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Add pistachiossss last min.

Wow your guests.

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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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