Author: Crystal Rivera

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). 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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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. 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 …

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. 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. 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 …

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 …

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. 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 …

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. 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 …

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. -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 …

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. 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 …