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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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Blood Orange & Meyer Lemon Marmalade for BBQ

“If I had to choose one ingredient to dedicate a short book to, what would it be?” After receiving two recipe books from Connie, one with only Chickpea recipes and the other with Ginger, I had to ask. The answer should’ve been obvious, though. I very recently dedicated an entire post to cooking with oranges. Which is more of an intro to what’s to come with my love of these versatile globes, and my love for not wasting an ingredient. I use juice, pulp, and peel in a variety of different dishes and ways, and I look forward to sharing them with you. Today, though, let’s quickly talk about that mind blowing moment I had very recently while making marmalade and seasoning ribs for next day’s dinner.

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I had just jarred my small batch of blood orange and meyer lemon marmalade and put it to the side to cool and thicken a little bit more. I took out a cutting board and decided I might as well start spicing up the ribs for tomorrow so I don’t have to deal with it in the morning. I like to do a quick rub of oregano, garlic powder, cumin, smoked paprika, Hungarian (hot) paprika, salt, and brown sugar. I ran out of brown sugar, though. I love a smoky, spicy, sweetness to my ribs before brushing a thin layer of BBQ sauce all over them. I glanced over at the marmalade and eyes lit up. I rubbed a couple of teaspoons of it over the ribs, covered with plastic wrap and left it in the fridge til next morning.

Guys. I might as well open up a restaurant dedicated to grilling/cooking/baking/roasting with preserves. It WORKS. I must’ve told Dan this story at least 5 times, but for Father’s Day last year, I made grilled Blueberry BBQ chicken and was wowed by the result. This may even be better.

After about 45 minutes in the oven in 300 degree heat, (we don’t have a grill yet!), tightly sealed in aluminum foil, I uncovered the ribs and brushed on some more of the marmalade and raised up the heat to 400 for about 15-20 minutes more. The outcome was pretty amazing, especially the peels themselves as they slightly blackened and crisped up. I could eat preserves like this for daysssssss. Broil them for 5-8 minutes if they haven’t blackened up a bit after 15 minutes!

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I don’t even care that these photos were taken with a phone instead of my canon. I’ll make this again and edit this post, but why wait to share this with you?

Directions

The marmalade is simple. I used two medium-sized Sicilian blood oranges and one meyer lemon. Halve them and thinly slice. Whatever the amount of fruit you get in cups, you’d want to use the same amount of sugar and water. In this instance, I did 2 cups of each. I added a splash of meyer lemon infused vodka. Next time? I’m adding red pepper flakes. Simmer for about 30 minutes, or until peels have softened and liquid thickens. You can test it out by putting a little on a plate that has been in the freezer. If it thickens on the plate, it’s ready. Jar it or put in plastic container. It’s a small batch and will go after a few uses.

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Let me know what you think! I can’t wait to experiment more with BBQ and preserves. Maybe I’ll even try this on chicken. I should also mention that the marmalade in teas and on warm biscuits is a true delight. In fact, I made these specifically for homemade biscuits. Smothered with butter. THE. BEST.

My 30th Birthday Picnic + Recipes

I had it all planned out. Homemade ricotta, not too firm, still warm, spooned onto a white, long platter. Then, I was to gently place beautifully roasted cherry tomatoes on the bed of cheese, it’s vine still attached. As a finishing touch, fresh herbs and edible flowers scattered all around it, and a long drizzle of good olive oil. I handpicked young, lemony basil for the occasion and dandelion yellows from the farmers market. In my mind, it’d make for a beautiful sight.

The fact that I never made cheese before didn’t worry me. It seemed simple enough. Buy THE BEST whole milk dairy you can find. Full fat. Not ultra-pasteurized like the milk or heavy cream we tend to find. Use fine sea salt or kosher salt. Heat til right under a boil and stir in your freshly squeezed lemon, or vinegar. Wait til curds form, about 30 minutes. Then slowly pour into your cheesecloth that is nestled in mesh, over a bowl. Wait another hour. Then voila! Ricotta. Right?

Connie walked into my kitchen and found a frustrated me with furrowed brows over the sink, shaking the contents in the cheesecloth, quickly losing a lot of whey. I must’ve looked like this:

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Barely any curds made it. It needed more time, maybe more lemon. We had to go, though. Whatever seemed thick enough I placed into a container and we headed for the picnic.

To be honest, I wanted nothing to do with the ricotta when I started to arrange the cheeseboard. Connie saw this and decided it’d be best if she gave me her gift early. A handmade, round serving platter, dipped halfway in a finishing wax. It is beautiful. I knew exactly what to do with it.

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Directions

Leave your cherry tomatoes attached to the vine. Put them on a sheet pan, drizzle good olive oil and balsamic over them. I used basil-infused olive oil and fig balsamic. Salt and pepper them to your liking. Add fresh herbs. I used thyme sprigs and some of the young basil. Roast at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes, or just til they are about to burst and have reached that nice charr we all know is where the flavor is at.

The tomatoes, along with the edible flowers, spread onto beautiful pieces of bread that Malvina bought, was my favorite picnic experience in the mouth. It was jammy, rich, salty and sweet. Perfection. I also had more on the vine and decided to pair it with the peppery, smoked turkey and herb-crusted soppressata. My tiny charcuterie board for my very few meat-eaters present.

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The cheeseboard itself was a satisfying and very sentimental experience for me as I was putting it all together. You have to keep in mind where everything comes from. What farm? How local is this considered? How seasonal? And from who/where? The fig jam, olive spread, and cheeses (prima donna extra aged gouda, sweet Irish cheddar, and smoked cheddar) were a gift from Danny’s mom to me. I wanted to share this with them as well but knew they had family emergencies to be a part of. Silent prayers and gratitude were on my brain. Every beautiful friend who spent their day with me were on my brain.

The cashew cardamom brittle, topped with lava salt, was made by Jennifer Dean of The Burley Hen, a new friend I’ve made that I’ve yet to meet, but who I already feel a bond with from afar. Not TOO far! She is a fellow local Queens food lover and maker. ❤

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My homemade Onion and Date jam had strong notes of oranges and thyme and paired well with both cheeses and meats. The recipe is inspired by Sarah Owens.

Directions

img_20180425_103434_5137319913938805768703.jpgThe night before, take the seeds out of about 13-15 Medjool dates and dice them. Soak them in a couple of tablespoons of meyer lemon-infused vodka or bourbon. I used meyer lemon vodka! Next day, thinly slice one, large Vidalia onion (makes a little over 4 cups). Set heavy-bottomed pan or dutch oven under medium heat with a little bit of oil, and saute the onions til they only slightly caramelize. Add 2 sprigs of thyme, the dates, 2 cups of water, tbsp of orange blossom honey (or any mild honey), zest from a small orange, a few cracks of pepper, simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring often. It’ll turn a darker, caramelized color. I added more pepper and a dash of more meyer lemon vodka. Fresh squeeze of orange juice.img_20180425_120406_4844056692902780502767.jpg

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There were a few other items on and around the board: fresh figs, a bowl of olives, mandarins with their branches and leaves still attached, long rosemary sprigs, sweetly blushed moscato grapes, multi-grain crackers and bread. Hot honey! Hummus with smoked eggplant from a local farm, served with all sorts of chips and veggies.

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Tory made fresh radish and cucumber sandwiches, a brightly colored carrot, quinoa, and chickpea salad which was beautifully dressed.

Megan made a cake that she should totally be proud of. It involved blood oranges. Almond flour. CHOCOLATE. Insanely moist.

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The gifts that were given to me showed me how KNOWN and loved I am by these beautiful people. Recipe books dedicated to chickpeas and ginger. Bee-themed gifts. Tea blossoms. Artisinal coffees. Floral purse. Every single thing was very much me and very much love.

Let’s not forget the flower arrangement made by a parent from my center! Franz James Floral Boutique knows art the way my chosen family knows me. What everyone brings to the table is the perfect recipe for each picnic thrown. This one felt like autumn reaching for spring.

cooking with oranges

Why an orange in all the things? Since I was young, one sip of orange juice would upset my stomach. I loved the taste, but I have never been able to enjoy an orange and for years I never bothered going anywhere near one. That is, until I began cooking and baking with them. It turns out, I love oranges better when paired with salty, savory flavors. Hard cheeses. As a marinade for chicken or pork. Marmalade. But marmalade-as-BBQ sauce WHAT!? I’ll get to that later.

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I am definitely in love with oranges when fresh thyme, rosemary, and cumin are present. Any fresh herb, really. I once had mussels in a Harlem restaurant with Connie and I kept asking myself, what is this amazingness I am tasting? Orange zest in a spicy broth. Mind blown.

Let’s just say I went a little orange-crazy for Jen’s birthday dinner. Even one of her gifts from me–a latin seasoning packet–had bitter orange peels in it.

The night before, I sleepily baked an Orange Bundt Cake, using cara cara oranges. I did not follow any of the instructions for the wet ingredients because a part of me did not agree with them. It only called for oil? No butter? I threw 2 sticks of room-temp butter in there, no oil, and hoped for the best. And you know what? It was perfectly orange. Soft and moist. I made an icing out of a couple of squeezes of fresh orange juice and its zest, vanilla extract. Served it with fig and orange jam for breakfast after I gently toasted a slice. I’m calling this a Birthday Bundt for Breakfast. I made it again for Tory, using cake flour and way more zest. I drizzled white and chocolate icing over it. It came out even better, I think.

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In the morning, it was time to stew the beans. Remember the recipe for my stewed beans I shared with you some time ago? I have been throwing a few orange peels into the pot ever since I did so in Florida. For Jen’s birthday feast, I even threw in a half of rotisserie chicken which fell apart in the pot and gave it an extra salty something. I’ve done this once before, about two years ago. Not sure why it’s taken me two years to do it again. I remember Dan and I thinking it was a fantastic idea. Perfect for when you have leftover chicken and not sure what to do with it.

Stewed Beans & Chicken with Orange Peels

  • Servings: about 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • drizzle of olive oil
  • couple of thyme sprigs
  • tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, diced
  • few medium-sized orange peels
  • 2 16 oz cans cannellini beans
  • 1 16 oz tomato sauce
  • 16 oz water
  • half (leftover) chicken, dark meat, bone-in
  • salt n pepper, to taste

Directions

Heat olive oil in dutch oven or pot and add thyme, cumin seeds, onion, and jalapeños. Saute for a few minutes. Add everything else and simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally. Take out chicken (which is probably super tender by now), shred, and put back into the pot. Serve with basmati rice.

Note: I used canned beans for this recipe because I didn’t have dried on hand, but by all means, if you have them, use them instead. Soak over night.

Variations

I’ve made this recipe using small red beans, and pinto beans. They work very well, I just really love cannellini! Want to use other herbs? Cilantro was the only green my mom used for these beans for years. If you have them, definitely use them. Sometimes I find myself adding dried oregano as well. As for an added richness, sub some water for chicken stock.

If you’re looking for meatless stewed beans, which is what I usually make, I add potatoes and carrots, even olives, or nothing at all! Sometimes, I just want BEANS.

Here is the original stewed beans recipe.


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As a fresh side made with my farmers market haul, this salad was served: mixed greens with baby arugula, purple cabbage, roasted beets, cara cara oranges (yes, the peels went into the beans), and rupert cheese from Scarbourough Fare farms.

Expect way more orange-inspired dishes on this blog! I believe blood orange and meyer lemon marmalade is next–but smothered all over spicy ribs and used in replacement of BBQ sauce. NBD.

HELLO, DOT COM!

So here’s the thing about having expectations during a planned trip, or, hey, even a planned blog.

Don’t have them.

For our third Glasbern Inn visit, we were expecting a snow storm that would want us to cozy on up to the fireplace for the totality of our time there. We got spring instead. We got more spring than actual spring right now. Mid-60-degree weather in February. It’s April 12th and I’ve yet to feel such a warmth as that.

We were also expecting our usual breakfast and dinner prepared by the chef we fell in love with a few years ago. Instead, we got ourselves a new chef. With new (affordable!?) prices to match. Hello, Executive Chef Ralph Edmonds! Mornings are still precious. We sit by sunlight and firelight, basking in both. And the food? Still farm fresh and locally sourced so, still pretty amazing.

The unexpected warm weather led to long walks, greeting the new calf, and a spontaneous winery visit where I could sit with my love, celebrating the moment I purchased this blog. HELLO, DOT COM!

We had Vyncrest Winery to ourselves and it easily became one I’d love to return to. After 12 free tastings (what!?) and the purchase of a bottle of their traminette, Dan asked me what I want others to get out of this blog. The truest answer I can come up with is this: to have you not follow my recipes so closely, eventually. They are ideas and contain flavor combinations I’d love for you to toy with in your own way, differently during each season. I want you to get to know an ingredient so intimately that you’ll find ways to use them creatively. If you ever do choose to use them, I’ll always encourage you to do so loosely (unless it’s baked goods, in which case you should follow loosely after following it the first or second time–just in case!).

Many people already view recipes this way. I have a binder full of them and they are mainly there for inspiration. In all honesty, having to write down “exact” amounts of everything is a struggle for me. I don’t cook this way. A part of me wants to tell you I sprinkled this and that into a pot and threw in a few orange peels and hoped for the best. Which would be true. But then I still am asked for exact measurements and I do want to be able to give you those answers. Which I happily will continue to do so! Just a little differently, and in a way that I am comfortable with.

From here on out, recipes I share will contain a variations section. Just quick notes on what other ingredients and spices work well with the main recipe. And each recipe will finally be printable! But this is as far as planning as I’ll go, for now. I’m still trying to redesign. Create a logo and header. Work on bio. Edit past recipes. Create a recipe index. I expected all of this to be done before reintroducing the site, but, having that expectation has honestly prevented me from actually working on this entirely. This is a journey I’m on and I think I’d rather you see the process and the changes as they come, instead of something close to “perfection”, which is an expectation I’d rather not have! There will still be photos, of course. Like of cows.

I’m still experimenting in the kitchen and learning new things about me in relation to food. I’m even spending a lot of time learning about flour and having a silly relationship with my first ever sourdough starter. (More to come on that). I don’t think Cook on Your Nerve will solely be a recipe-sharing home for me. I’m eager to cook more seasonally, be more hands-on in the garden and at farms, and even more eager to explore the politics of food itself. Who knows what this will become. I just know it will become, and currently is, exactly what it is in this very moment–a Home, where many things can happen. And that’s perfectly okay. This trip, and this guy, helped me to see this. And if anyone ever wonders why this our go-to destination, it’s really because it clears the mind and fills the heart. And tummy.

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