Latest Posts

Back to Basics

When the new year arrived, I didn’t do the things I’d normally do, or the things I intended on doing. No lists. No thought-out resolution. In fact, while Danny and I were with his family waiting patiently for the countdown to reach midnight, like we always do! someone glanced at their phone and noticed it was thirty seconds past. We were watching a recording of the countdown happen. We all laughed, calling it a typical Frank Pizzarelli moment, but I do think it meant something.

We spent a lot of our time in New Paltz at his aunt’s beautiful home, nearby this castle. The day we were supposed to leave ended up being a snow day, one of my favorite days out of our vacation. After walking to the castle and working up an appetite, Dan and I made reservations at A Tavola Trattoria, an Italian farm-to-table that reminded me there’s a reason why Glasbern Inn’s farm food made me cry with pure joy: there is nothing better than a locally sourced meal. Nothing. There is nothing more passionate than how it is sourced, prepped, cooked, and delivered to the table. It’s all done lovingly; full of an awareness you can only get from such a place. And to share that with my best friend is beyond words. BTW: citrus-marinated olives, pickled watermelon rind arugula salad, charred brussels sprouts, and this crostini with house-made ricotta, rosemary salt, and truffle orange honey was a beautiful way to start this meal.

We weren’t charged for our cocktails (courtesy Aunt Donna and Uncle Richie, who called in from Florida to let them know two kids in love with food would be there), and they tasted of summer, garden days. Hints of cucumber, mint, house-made pineapple jam to be spooned into gin. Dan and I toasted to the year we were about to leave, and being hopeful about the one we were about to enter.

Donna recommended their Chicken Under a Brick and I can see why. Served with fingerling potatoes that were clearly roasted with the chicken, and charred escarole, we were in heaven. The lemon flavors popped. I was obsessed with the charred greens soaked in all that lemony goodness from the beautifully cooked chicken.

20171230_191408

The town itself seemed as if it was tailored to my dream lifestyle and dream kitchen. There’s a Handmade shop that has beautiful wooden spoons, cheeseboards, handpainted pottery BRIE BOWLS, Y’ALL. I could cry just thinking about all the things I could’ve gotten, but didn’t, simply because I don’t have my own space to fill in such a way that is Me. But I will get there, of course. This year, I’m carving out the path that will get me closer to home.

IMG_20180102_190026_785

In the meantime, we are hoping to return between our birthdays, just in time for strawberry season and spring blooms and spring menus. I’d love to visit the local farms, and spend the warmer months hiking. All we can think about is eating in New Paltz again. At this farm-to-table and their one-and-only Indian restaurant I wrote about in a previous recipe post.

Much gratitude to this beautiful family who I love making cheese platters for BTW. As soon as we arrived, Frank said, “you doing a cheese thing with some meat and maybe a tomatuh?”

IMG_20171229_121721_154

One thing I know for sure for 2018–there will be plenty of cheese, bread, and jam. Strawberry jam from what we pick with our own hands in New Paltz. Fig jam for Aunt Donna, as a thank you for the warm stay but also an apology for devouring the fig jam she left in her fridge. There will also be way more bread and other baked goods.

IMG_20180102_140024_788

I started reading from this recipe book I purchased from our trip when we got back, and that’s when I decided that I must begin the new year by strengthening my relationship to flour and the preservation of every season, with the intent of eating better and feeling better. I also need to drink way more water. Basically, I need to go back to basics. Take a tiny step back in order to move forward more fluidly.

The first thing I baked this month were these Orange Cardamom Crumb Muffins, inspired by a recipe in Toast & Jam.

I paired them with a fig and orange jam Lori bought me from New Paltz. It’s the most delicious thing EVER. The next day I toasted them, buttered them, added more jam and ate them with chunks of cheese. They are wholesome. My favorite thing about these muffins was watching my young niece work a bite of one in her mouth. She looked unsure. But then she said, more, after a brave gulp and I knew I made a worthy muffin.

Lentil and Chorizo Soup

It’s my day off and I’m thinkin’ soup. I’m also on a tight budget so I’m thinkin’ cheap. It’s just Jen and I today, so I wanted to make a smaller pot that would be enough for maybe leftovers tomorrow. 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 ya got, with a sort of witchery, going with your gut and, how Frank O’Hara would put it, on your nerve.

20180115_135818

This soup is a combination of spicy, savory and sweet. You probably already have some of these items at home and if not, it’s still pretty easy and inexpensive to get.

Lentil and Chorizo Soup

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

7 oz fresh chorizo, about 2 links (or hot Italian sausage)
1 med onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 large carrot, sliced
1 corn on the cob, kernels only
2 med potatoes, halved and sliced (opt)
1/2 cup red lentils
5 cups chicken broth
1 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp hot paprika
1 sweet plantain, halved and sliced
cilantro, handful
salt n pepper to taste

Directions

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 med heat and saute onions, garlic, and carrots for a couple of minutes. If there wasn’t enough chorizo oil left in the plan, use a little olive oil to saute them with. Now add your lentils, corn, potatoes, broth, oregano and hot paprika. When the potatoes are slightly tender (about 10 min), add the sweet plantain and cilantro. Stir in the crumbled chorizo, cook for another 3 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

20180115_135627

Indian-Spiced Roast Chicken

When winter comes, I crave the warm, heart-reaching spices. Garam masala is made with my mortar and pestle. The bright reds of cayenne, chili, and paprikas are used more often to paint every dish. Pinches of cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and nutmeg in almost everything, from home-cooked meals to all baked goods. This isn’t to say I don’t welcome them during the warmer months; I do. This is to say I celebrate the hell out of them when trees loosen up and we find ourselves bundled up, head-to-toe.

IMG_20180104_122328_093

When we spent our first cold and snow-filled week at New Paltz, we ate plenty. But when we ordered take-out from their one-and-only Indian restaurant, Dan and I ate, like, well, animals, according to his father. It was a feast of chicken tikka masala, masoor dal, chana dal, chicken and vegetable biryani, meat and potato samosas, naan, sauces–one a very bright green which reminded me of pandan, something Tory and I discovered while eating Kaya Toast. This feast was everything we NEEDED, and some. It was the best we’ve ever tasted, too.

When we returned to the city, I have not stopped using the spices that filled us that night. I’ve made masoor dal (as usual), Orange Cardamom Crumb muffins, chana dal, and this Indian-spiced roasted chicken. Once in my dutch oven on a bed of scalloped potatoes, and again in an aluminum roasting pan.

IMG_9266

In truth, I was never a fan of the colder months til I fell in love with these spices, especially what they can do when they find themselves together as a rub, marinade, or in soups, stews, pilafs, and baked goods. For this roast chicken, I, unsurprisingly, made a marinade using the juice of an orange and it’s zest. My brother said to me yesterday, “whenever you use an orange in your cooking, it’s damn good.” I use an orange in almost all my cooking these days, so that’s a major compliment coming from someone who has given me a total of 3 within the last 20-something years. Thanks, Bruh.

img_8981.jpg

Marinade for 3.5-4 pound chicken:

1 sm orange, juice & zest
1 tbsp olive oil
2-3 garlic cloves, paste or grated
1 inch ginger, paste or grated
2 tsp garam masala, preferably homemade
1 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/4 tsp red chili powder, or cayenne/Hungarian paprika
cinnamon, couple of pinches
salt, to taste

Combine all in a small bowl, whisk marinade thoroughly. Clean chicken, pat dry. Generously salt your chicken inside and out. Rub marinade under skin, in cavity, as well as all over. Refrigerate in a sealed container overnight or up to 24 hours. Day of roasting, oil your dutch oven or roasting pan. Heat oven to 375. Depending on your seasoning/heat tolerance, I sprinkle some more chili powder and garam masala before putting it in. Cover tightly and leave covered for 1 hour. Uncover for next 20-30 minutes, til crisp.

Everyone’s got their favorite way to roast a chicken. Sometimes I like to begin with it roasting breast-side down, then flip it over after about 30 minutes. Sometimes I leave it uncovered at all times. But I am currently in love with my dutch oven. It kept mine very tender, and soaked the potatoes in its spicy goodness.

IMG_9278

Next roast, I’ll use similar spices but create the marinade out of yogurt, which is more traditional to Indian cooking, and usually how I go about making Butter Chicken. On the top of my list of recipes to test out is Chicken Biryani. I have a feeling it’s going to be a favorite of ours.

 

Not Your Average Carrot Soup

I’ve been on-and-off sick. Everything from cold to major aches. But on the day my throat couldn’t handle most things, I made my favorite, simple, ginger-y soup. And then I made it 4 times more, and again today. Telling Connie I was making this for the blog was really my way of saying, let me feed you. She had two bowls of it and told me there’s lovely balance between contrasting flavors and textures; they meld. That’s exactly what I was going for here. What you see aren’t just pretty garnishes. They are what completes this soup. Crispy chickpeas, crispy slivers of ginger, on top of silky carrot soup that has been simmered with orange peels and cumin seeds and more ginger. Yes, yes, and yes.

IMG_9050

Carrot Soup w/ Orange and Ginger

olive oil, enough to coat pot
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 medium onion, chopped (or 1 leek, sliced)
1 1/2 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
inch of fresh turmeric, grated (optional)
4 cups carrots, diced (about 3 large)
1 medium potato, diced
1/4 tsp cumin powder
5-6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
orange peels, few strips
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
salt and white pepper, to taste

Heat olive oil and stir in cumin seeds. After a minute, add onions til translucent. Stir in ginger, garlic, and turmeric if using. Then add your carrots and potatoes. After a few minutes you’ll want to add your stock (enough to cover your veggies plus a little more) cumin powder, orange peels. Simmer for about 20 minutes, or until veggies are tender. Take out peels. Using an immersion blender, blend til it reaches the texture you prefer. I like mine to have some chunky pieces of carrot left. Then add your fresh orange juice. Salt and pepper to taste. Add freshly grated ginger if you want more of it.

I garnished with fresh slices of jalapeño, cilantro, crispy ginger, and crispy chickpeas. You don’t need them to enjoy the carrot soup, but you totally won’t regret doing this. Sometimes I just add the crispy ginger.

Take a knob of ginger, thinly slice into matchsticks, and fry in vegetable oil til golden.

Toss canned chickpeas (after draining) in olive oil, cumin, garam masala, hungarian (hot) paprika, garlic powder. Roast for about 30 minutes at 400 degrees, or just til crispy.

I served this with my favorite roasted cauliflower which has jalapeños and sliced garlic, seasoned with turmeric, plus more of the roasted, crispy chickpeas.

Here’s a soup with a texture you can kiss. Enjoy, loves.

IMG_9055

IMG_9011

My Kind of Muffin

These savory, cheesy muffins are my go-to for picnics, brunch, getaways, but sometimes I make a batch just for Danny who can’t get enough of ’em. (Don’t tell him I said that.) Have them fresh out of the oven or much later. Slather some of my strawberry-fig jam on ’em and be smacked with savory-sweet goodness.

This Ham and Cheese Muffin recipe is adapted from Lee Bailey’s Portable Food book. I’ve toyed with it a bit and encourage you to do the same once you’ve nailed down the basics. While he uses only cheddar, I love a bit of the smokier cheeses as well. I’ve always made a batch with smoked gouda but tried smoked gruyère the other day and it was just as lovely. Adding fresh herbs is my favorite way to consume them, though it is optional. I was growing lots of thyme and rosemary during the summer and decided to toss them into the flour. Best. Decision. Ever. Though I think Dan can go without. Cracked pepper adds the spice I always prefer in a savory thing, add as much as you want! Also feel free to play with whatever variety of cheese you want. I haven’t omitted the ham in this recipe, but if you do, let me know how it comes out. Add a bit more cheese and I’m sure they’ll be perfect.

IMG_9585

Ham-n-Cheese Muffins

Makes 12 mini-muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
freshly cracked pepper
1 tbsp (or more!) fresh herbs and/or chives, minced
1 egg room temp
1 cup buttermilk room temp
1/4 cup oil
8 oz ham steak/smoked ham, finely diced
1 cup sharp cheddar, grated, tightly packed
1/4 cup smoked cheese (gouda, gruyère), grated, tightly packed

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, stir flour, salt, pepper, and herbs til combined. Add grated cheese and toss into the flour til evenly distributed. In a smaller bowl, whisk in the egg, buttermilk, and oil. Stir in ham. Stir egg mixture into dry ingredients and try not to over mix. Spoon fully into greased muffin pan. Bake for about 20 minutes, til they’ve reached their golden-ness. All done!

IMG_20171205_121025_798

These muffins turn crisp and golden on the outside and remain soft in the inside. Dan told me they are almost biscuit-like. These were my latest batch, enjoyed with Dan while pet-sitting at mom’s. Let’s just say Peanut, her Cockalier, went mad for the smell of them.

butternut squash chana dal got me like

After a couple of days of takeout for lunch and dinner (I was cat-sitting for a friend after work, don’t judge), I got home needing a home-cooked meal like never before. I stopped by the farmers market to get butternut squash, wild-looking leeks, heirloom tomatoes, garlic and ginger. You all have been killing me with your butternut squash Instagram photos so there was no way I was not coming home with one. I didn’t have a plan but knew I’ve been craving dal for weeks now. I checked the cabinets for red lentils but found only split chickpeas. I knew the dal would be heartier and for some reason, I wanted the heartiest thing I could make. Hence throwing in some butternut squash. It was a last minute decision that reminded me why it’s best to cook on your nerve.

IMG_9961

Butternut Squash Chana Dal

coconut oil (or olive oil, or ghee)
1/2 tbsp cumin seeds
1 small onion, chopped
2 sm tomatoes, diced
ginger, thumb-size, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 jalapeno, diced
1/2 tsp turmeric powder or fresh
1/2 tsp garam masala, more or less to taste
1/2 cinnamon stick, or couple of dashes of powder
3 whole cloves, fished out later or ground
1 large bay leaf
1/2 cup dry split chickpeas (chana dal, soaked 1 1/2 HR)
butternut squash, medium, cubed
3 cup chicken or vegetable stock plus water, enough to cover everything
cilantro, to garnish

Heat oil and add cumin seeds. Once the seeds sizzle, add your onion and stir. After a couple of minutes, add tomatoes, ginger, garlic, jalapeno, turmeric and garam masala. Definitely let the spices become aromatic with a little time. Stir in chickpeas and butternut squash. Add stock, water, bay leaf, cloves, cinnamon, some cilantro. Cook on med-low heat, stirring occasionally. It’s done when chickpeas and squash have softened. Salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with more cilantro.

It’s autumn and this screams it. Should you ever be in the mood for something sweet and spicy and savory all at once, let this be it. It comes together quickly. The outcome is the warmest of hugs. Enjoy that hug. I have a feeling a lot of us could use one today.

IMG_9969

When Friends Ask You to Pick Up Their CSA Share (Part 2)

You wonder if there is a poem out there that celebrates this moment. Between friends and between yourself and all the veggies, is there a poem? If not, perhaps you could write one, in the same breath as Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, about every saturated-in-color vegetable and fruit that comes home with you on the first Saturday of September–this year and last.

IMG_20170903_150122_886

But if there is a chance you’ve been feeling less like a poet these days, meaning, you haven’t broken a line in a long while for the sake of sound, silence, and meaning, then you become–you are–a poet in your kitchen, roasting tomatoes with whole cloves of garlic. The woody scent of thyme and rosemary from your garden when met with high heat can make you long for the long, deliberate drizzle of rosemary-infused olive oil, and flaky salt, which you know your tomatoes love. You’ve a mind and heart towards Tory and Jon, who shared their share with you as they made their big move into Corona. Think of all the dinner parties and PICNICS, and sneak peaks into their first garden out back.

IMG_20170904_120449_053

Your first thought, after all this gratitude and daydreaming, was roasted tomato sauce, which you learned to make in Valerie’s kitchen a couple of summers ago. This is the way you will make sauce forever. The flavor is tomato multiplied by tomato, on the savory-sweet side. But as you peel each one, you begin to crave soup.

IMG_20170904_131356_746

You never made tomato bisque. I don’t think you ever had tomato bisque so you’re not entirely sure where to begin, but to begin. It started as your favorite sauce, with the addition of chicken stock, cream, carrot and celery, pureed til silky. Doesn’t the same happen in writing a poem? You never know how a poem will end til it begins to unfold itself, line by line, and if it ends on bisque with warm slices of bread instead of tomato sauce, then you take slices of your warm, roasted garlic ciabatta and you dip dip dip it into the creamy broth.

IMG_9743

It almost looks like your favorite carrot soup, which you’ll write about another day. The local farm feta, and micro-cilantro which was part of the share, didn’t just provide this bisque with good looks. It went amazingly well together. Having had Brooklyn Grange’s micro-greens quite a few times, you think you’ll just start picking your cilantro from the garden earlier than usual, because after a week, you honestly want to give up with their eagerness to bolt.

Then there is the tenderness of toy choi, which you just discover and are fond of.

IMG_20170904_102320_201

But with something so tender, you need to put it to use almost immediately. By 9PM the first day, they were wilting. So the next morning, without getting all fancy and having a panic, you whip up a fine breakfast in which you sauteed their small, cabbage leaves, along with their flowers, with smoked kielbasa and red onion. Served it with egg, heirloom tomato salad with local feta, and a blueberry muffin your mom made.

IMG_20170903_124343_825

Everything else will come together, slowly, as the week goes by. You’ll think Jen was making use of the fairytale eggplants because the bowl was getting emptier and emptier as days went by. You’ll soon find one in almost every corner of the house, courtesy your cat, Loonz.

You’ll take what’s left of their most adorable selves (you make a note that you’ll grow them next year, seriously this time), and you roast them with warm spices (garam masala) and garlic.

IMG_20170910_202459_785

You’ll want to stuff the beautiful, red peppers but never find the time to, so you add them in salads and stews. You do the same with the two onions.

You’ll blister shishito peppers, finishing them with smoked salt.

You’ll share arugula with mom, because everything about this is about sharing.

You’ll eventually find the time to write it all down. You’ll feel exactly as you feel when a poem has ended. Which is the same feeling you’ll get when every tomato, herb, oil and cream came together in your pot one afternoon, and again when the last bit of bisque is gone.

IMG_20170904_161941_525