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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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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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