"You just go on your nerve. If someone’s chasing you down the street with a knife you just run, you don’t turn around and shout, “Give it up! I was a track star for Mineola Prep.” That’s for the writing poems part." -Frank O’Hara, Personism: A Manifesto // It’s for the cooking part, too.
Author: Crystal Rivera
a poet who likes to cook and eat cook and eat cook AND
I’m a teeny bit late, but I’ve some good news to share with you which will totally explain my lack of updating the blog. A few months ago I became a full-time VaynerMedia content creator and my first client (hi Wegmans!) has me workin’ my tuchus off. Which I’m lovin’! but I don’t have much time to work on my own recipe developing at the moment. Whatever recipe I shoot for them I end up feeding the family with (which is a win), and it was only a couple of weeks ago that I started to have a day or two to myself to throw things in a pot and have the pot do all the work while I used that time editing content. This Cholent is one of them.
Reminiscent of our stewed pot of beans which simmers in a tomato broth with flavors of sofrito and sazón, let’s call this the much heartier, Jewish version. Packed with barley, bone-in meat, and vegetables, one bowl of this will probably keep you satisfied for the day–which is the intent. Cholent was created because Jewish law prohibited cooking on Shabbat. But this recipe doesn’t take as long as a traditional cholent which is cooked on low over night for 10-12 hours. If Jake Cohen can cut time short (a little too short in my opinion) on his cholent, so can I. I’m not big on leaving my stove on unattended in an ancient Manhattan building. (But if you don’t soak the beans and add more than this recipe calls for, then yes, cook longer if need be!)
1cupdried navy/cranberry/pinto beanssoaked over night
2lbflanken or other meat of choicebone-in preferred
1.5 tbsporganic sazón
2medyukon or red potatoesquartered
1yucca(or another potato)
3sprigsthyme or oregano
8cupsbeef brothplus water if needed
salt and pepperto taste
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Sear flanken in batches. Return to pot and add tomato paste, sofrito, and sazón. Saute a couple of minutes, until paste has caramelized a bit and the flanken is wonderfully scented.
Add in the beef stock, scraping up the brown bits. Stir in the beans, potatoes, herbs, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, skimming the foam that rises to the top for the first 10 minutes. Cover with a lid and place it in the oven for 5 hours, checking occasionally to see if it needs to be skimmed or if it needs more liquid.
After the 4th hour, add in the barley, yucca, and pumpkin and return to the oven again for another hour or more. Add more liquid for desired consistency.
Sazón is a Latin spice blend that contains cumin, coriander, garlic, oregano, and achiote (which gives it that beautiful orange color). Some blends contain salt while others do not. Take this into consideration when you season this cholent. I prefer to not use Goya, but do you.
Keyword Barley, Beans, Dutch Oven, One Pot Meal, Slow Cooking, Sofrito
For Rosh Hashanah I had collaborated with 90+ Cellars (my favorite wine brand!) to bring you this recipe of Malbec-braised Short Ribs with Dried Figs and Apricots. This dish is rich with a tangy sweetness reminiscent of Syrian stuffed grape leaves, all thanks to the addition of tamarind and fruit. Their Old Vine Malbec takes the flavor (and COLOR!) of this Aleppian stew to another level. Choosing quality wine that is ruby-purple with hints of wood smoke, berries, and spice is my dutch oven’s best friend. When I don’t want to make Syrian stuffed grape leaves but still want the sweet and tangy tamarind flavors that are smothered all over them, this is my go-to. Let me tell you: it is DEC-A-dent. You can serve it with rice and lentils, a generous amount of salad, or even mashed potatoes.
Wine-Braised Short Ribs with Dried Figs and Apricots
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over med-high heat and brown the short ribs in 2 batches, being sure to season them with a little salt on all sides. Set aside.
Add your carrots, garlic, and onion (if using) and stir the tomato paste into a pool of oil left in the pot, being sure to caramelize it for about a minute before stirring ingredients together. Add all spices, herbs, 3 tbs of tamarind, and combine. After about 30 seconds, add your short ribs and it’s accumulated juices back into the pot, then pour your malbec wine over them. Allow it to simmer for 15-20 minutes until wine reduces by half. Add in water or broth 1 cup at a time, until short ribs are covered over by ½ an inch.
Stir in your dried figs and apricots. Cover dutch oven and place it in the oven for 2 hours. Taste the sauce at this time. If it’s not sweet-tangy enough for you, add another tbs of tamarind. Different brands of tamarind are sweeter/tarter than others, so you have to go by taste.
Put it back in the oven until fork-tender, another 30 minutes to an hour. The meat should be sticky with all that sweet and tangy goodness.
I’ve been told rugelach is one of those recipes you shouldn’t toy with, but when did I ever back away from a challenge? Don’t allow the use of polenta here scare you into sticking solely to traditional dough, as it has been a game-changer for me, even when making pies! Remember this polenta tomato galette I made a few weeks ago? Here lies the inspiration for this new recipe. It adds a grainy, crumbly texture without turning a traditional rugelach dough into tiny, devastating bits. And that jam? Oy. Sweet-yet-savory (my favorite!)
While I’ll forever recommend buying in-season tomatoes from your local farmers market, roasting even the blandest store-bought (cherry/grape/Campari) tomato in our colder months will be okay to use for this recipe. But, seriously, a good friend of mine reported that she spotted plenty of tomatoes at Union Square Greenmarket yesterday, and it was the only good news I needed. You probably have at least 2 more weeks to splurge, so get to it.
for small batch roasted tomato jam (makes 2/3 cup)
1 lbin-season cherry tomatoesand/or other variety, halved if big
drizzle of olive oil
couple of pinches of salt
Aleppo pepperto taste
2sprigsthyme and/or rosemary
1/4cupbrown sugarlightly packed
2tbspfresh lemon juice
roasted tomato jam
1eggfor egg wash
1 1/2 tbsppolentafor sprinkling over cookies (optional)
for the dough
In a medium bowl, add your flour and polenta and stir until well combined. Set aside.
Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together your butter, cream cheese, sugar, and salt. This can also be done by hand.
Slowly add in the flour and polenta, and mix until a smooth dough comes together. Divide this dough into 4 equal pieces, wrapping each one with plastic wrap. Place them in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before use, or up to 24 hours. When ready to make your rugelach, you will want them to slightly come to room temp before rolling them out. Give them at least 20 minutes before doing so.
for the tomato jam
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a cast iron skillet, add tomatoes, herbs, spices, and olive oil. Toss until well coated. Roast for about 35 minutes, or until you see that the tomatoes have caramelized a bit.(Not too much, though, as you still want them juicy enough for the extra cooking being done on the stove top.)
Place cast iron on stove top over med-low heat. Discard herbs. Gently smash tomatoes with either a potato masher or the back of a wooden spoon. Add lemon juice and sugar. Stir often, til juices reduce and tomato jam thickens, about 20-25minutes. Allow this to cool completely before use. Can be made 2 days ahead and kept in a small, tightly lidded jar.
for assembling and baking the rugelach
Working with one dough at a time and on a generously floured surface, roll out ball of dough into an 8-inch circle. Doesn’t have to be perfect but if looking for a perfect circle, I like to use a cake or pie pan to cut it out. Spread about 2 tbsp jam (a little goes a long way), leaving ¼-inch of the border untouched by jam. Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough into 12 equal triangles. Starting from the outer edges, roll up each into a cookie.
Place each cookie point side down on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Brush each cookie with egg wash and sprinkle polenta now if using. You may need more than1 sheet pan.
Bake for 16-20minutes, until golden in color. Allow them to cool on an oven rack. Store cookies in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
September is for mourning the end of tomato season (ANY DAY NOW, Y’ALL), begrudgingly welcoming all them fancy (and seemingly endless) gourds, and planning for Rosh Hashanah. I find myself torn between these matzah balls, where sugary brown bits of cabbage get added in, or my festive Puerto Rican recipe for sancocho matzo ball soup. I suppose it depends how many people I’m feeding this year. This one might make my life a bit easier (less costly, too!)
This was originally shared on The Nosher last Passover, with the recipe for my chicken soup included should you need to check that out as well. Now I get to share it here right in time for the holidays and cooler days. Ladle these darlings into any brothy soup you might be making soon.
In a small pan under low heat, melt your schmaltz then add the chopped cabbage. Stir every 8-10 minutes (be careful to not interrupt the browning process by moving the cabbage around a lot) until the mix turns a deep brown, about 45 minutes. While you begin with 3 tbsp schmaltz, it reduces to about 1 ½ tbsp. Set aside.
for the matzah balls
In a medium bowl, beat your egg yolks, grated onion, cabbage with schmaltz, broth, herbs and salt together. Gently fold in the beaten egg whites and matzo meal til fully incorporated. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour.
Bring a large pot of water to boil, stir in 1 teaspoon of salt.
With wet hands, form walnut-sized balls and drop them into the pot. Cover and boil for about 50 minutes.
Today I wanted a pie with texture. Polenta being the key ingredient here for a crumbly, cookie-like crust. The one other food that comes to mind is when we have use semolina for Syrian muenster-filled sambousaks. There’s that buttery, grainy bite that made me fall in love with them to begin with. In fact, I’m going to try that next for a pie dough, and maybe I’ll even top it with muenster!? Make it like a sambousak galette without the time spent on making individual pastries. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind the work during colder months, but ’tis not the season for someone who is doing it solo in a tiny UES kitchen.
I used the juiciest heirloom tomato ever and thought the crust would not handle this well, but it actually stood up to the juices far better than an all-flour dough has for me. No leaks, splatters, bubbling over. I didn’t let mom in on the addition of polenta, but she was obsessed with it and said “whatever changes I made, I should continue making pies this way.” As you all know, she’s hella picky and praise is music to my ears coming from her.
I topped this galette with Parmesan and a lot of sliced Korean peppers. They were shockingly mild in heat so any pepper will do if you feel like making something similar. I recommend shishitos which seem to be easier to find these days. I was lucky enough to be gifted a lot of garden goods from a new friend, whose parents are growing a variety of Korean vegetables. But don’t want to use tomatoes? Use whatever’s in season! Stone fruit, berries – this pie crust will taste wonderful with any sweet or savory filling.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, polenta, salt and sugar. Gently toss in the cubes of butter til well coated, then quickly break them up into smaller pieces, recoating them with the flour as you go. If you have warm hands, a pastry cutter or food processor might wise.
Create a well in the center for your iced water, and pour it in. Very gently knead ingredients into each other til a dough forms. Do not over do it. If it appears dry, hydrate it about 1 tbsp at a time. Pat dough into a disc and wrap it with plastic wrap. Allow it to chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before using. It can stay there up to 3 days.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Roll out the pie crust on a lightly floured surface and transfer to a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. It does not need to be perfectly round, as this is the joy of making galettes.
Place slices of tomato in the center, drizzle with good quality olive oil, and add salt to taste. Fold in the edges and brush them with egg wash. Bake for about 40-45 minutes. During the last 10, add your cheese and peppers, if using.
When Sophia Roe shared her tomato and currant salad the other day, it reminded me how much I love the combination of both on a plate. It is pure magic in looks and taste. It is currently the season for BOTH in NYC so you need to get to your local farmers market and grab ’em! I used a variety of tomatoes here, one large Cherokee heirloom and a pint of cherry tomatoes. Blackberries made this extra special and yes, they are also in season. Please use your best quality olive oil for this beauty! All it really needs is a couple pinches of flaky salt but I did add some ground galangal for floral heat. If you spot any fresh, grate a tiny bit! It’s a beautiful ginger-looking ingredient that I even slip into fruit pies when no one is looking.
I dragged my butt out of the house in this heat for some market therapy, and I recommend you do the same. Look at my tiny haul! Currants are tiny and mighty and I am obsessed with them. A little sweet with a citrusy tart bite.
Most of it went into this salad. And the juices that were created from the salad? Yeahhhh…I turned ’em into a cocktail. Recipe for both below!
Add all ingredients together, gently mix. Allow it to sit for 30-60 minutes before serving, so that the flavor develops! The juices from this salad is perfection. Serve with bread, or use the juices for a cocktail like I did!
Keyword Currants, In Season, Quick, Seasonal, Simple, Summer, Tomatoes
Because I didn’t have any bread to sop up the juices, and the juices were out of this world, I decided to reserve it for a cocktail. I’m going to ask my Instagram audience to help me name this cocktail, but for now, here’s the recipe. It has 3 ounces “leftover salad” juice, 2 ounces vodka, and about 5 ounces of sparkling grapefruit mixer. Ginger ale might do well, too. I used what I had, and it worked!
This is the sort of sourdough I’d gladly gift to a loved one. Easter is right around the corner, y’all. And if you’re the type, like I’m the type, to want to gift something edible for the winter holidays, then this is absolute perfection. A bread that’s studded with melted dark chocolate chunks, golden hazelnuts, and boozy wild blueberries.
Of course you can play around with the ingredients here. Instead of hazelnuts, cashews, pistachios, even walnuts will do just fine. And if you can’t find any dried wild blueberries, figs are perfect here. No alcohol? No problem. Soak in water or juice.
This is a dessert bread that I love to spread salted butter on, along with jams. Enjoy with a cup of coffee, tea, or with something a little stronger.
In a small bowl, combine wild blueberries, liquor, and zest. Allow it to sit, covered, for at least 4 hours. Overnight is best.
for the sourdough
In a medium bowl whisk together both flours and cocoa powder til combined.
In a large bowl filled with tepid water, plop into it your activated starter and whisk til frothy. Fold in the flours til a rough mixture is formed. Cover and allow it to autolyse for 1 hour. The dough will come together during this time.
Next you will be incorporating the salt, hazelnuts, drained wild blueberries, and chocolate between several folds. For the first fold, sprinkle a little bit of everything over the surface of the dough and with wet hands, pat where these ingredients are. You will now stretch and fold the dough in its bowl. Pinch one side of the dough and stretch it upwards without creating any rips or tears, then fold it over itself. Rotate the bowl at a 90 degree angle and continue stretching and folding til you no longer see the first round of add-ins. Cover and allow it to rest for 30 minutes. You will do the above steps 2-3 more times til all add-ins are incorporated fully, allowing for a 30 minute rest in between each.
Line a round proofing basket with parchment paper, allowing room for overhang, and sprinkle it with flour or polenta.
Now you will shape the dough. Flatten it into a rough rectangle on a lightly floured surfaced, and lift the bottom of the dough towards the center. Move your hands a little further up the rectangle and grasp both edges, pulling both sides to the center. Do this a couple of more times, each time going further up the dough. Now roll it and flip it seam-side down into the proofing basket. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in the fridge overnight.
Take the dough out 1-1.5 hours before you're ready to bake it. It must come to room temp. Pluck off any berries you see showing, as they don't taste good burned.
Place your dutch oven in a cold oven and preheat to 500. This should take 20 minutes. Score the bread and pull it out by the hanging parchment sides, and carefully plop it into the very hot dutch oven. Place the lid on and bake for 20 minutes. Then lower the temp to 425 degrees and bake another 20 minutes. Transfer to a rack and allow it to cool completely before slicing.
There are other ways to incorporate the add-ins, but between folds is always how I’ve made my sourdough. If you find another way easier where you do it all at once, go for it!
I am excited to announce that The Nosher and Jewish Telegraphic Agency have recently included my recipes for Caramelized Cabbage Matzah Ball Soup and Keftes in their ebook: 15 Recipes For a Modern Passover. Please do check it out! Other recipes included are absolutely beautiful.
When Janna Gur first shared Hadassah Kavel’s recipe for Matzo Balls in her Jewish Soul Food cookbook, I knew adding caramelized onion to my own recipe was just the thing that was missing. That is, until I became cabbage-obsessed a few years ago. While I know we have entered a new year, I’d like to think cabbage is still trending. I would recommend adding these to any of your favorite broths or soups for your upcoming holiday table, but I have included a basic chicken soup recipe as well.
I crave savory pies more than fruit-filled. There, I said it. And since it’s winter and my landlord doesn’t like to warm up the house the legal way, I find many excuses to turn on our oven. Our salads have even been the roasted sort topped with fresh cucumber – an Ottolenghi recipe that somehow manifested into a pie in my kitchen, using whatever I have.
You’ll want to choose tender-when-cooked vegetables for this one. Here we have eggplant, zucchini, red bell peppers, and cherry tomatoes. While these aren’t in season right now in NY, roasting them this way in colder months brings out better flavor. I order from a farm-to-home delivery service to ensure my veggies are on point, but if you prefer waiting til Summer arrives, save this delicious idea for later!
smashed vegetable pie with cheddar crust and cucumber salad
In a medium bowl, combine flour and salt. Toss the chilled pieces of butter into the flour til well coated. With your fingers, begin to break the butter into smaller pieces til they become pea-sized. Toss the grated cheese into the flour, then incorporate the ice water. Fold the dough into itself a few times til a ball forms. Flatten it into a disc and wrap with plastic wrap. Leave it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, or up to 2 days.
for the vegetables and pie assembly
Preheat oven to 425.
Place all diced vegetables onto a large sheet pan layered with parchment paper. Add a generous amount of olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and toss til combined. Bake for about 35-40 minutes, stirring once mid-way.
Discard the thyme. Gently smash about half of the vegetables with a fork, leaving some of the cherry tomatoes whole. Allow it to cool down before filling your pie crust.
When ready, roll out the dough and place it over a deep pie dish. Fill it with the roasted vegetables. Fold in the edges and crimp the way you prefer. Brush with a little egg wash and bake for 40-45 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the cucumber salad and spoon it over the pie once it has cooled down (or serve on the side while the pie is warm.) Enjoy!
No one would believe mom is Russian if they’ve tasted her pernil with a side of rice and beans. Seriously. And while I don’t eat pernil these days, I’m perfectly fine with having a bowl of these beans all on their own, or with rice! Or bread.
Mom told me she learned to stew them from her best friend’s mother as a teen. Tomato broth, with potatoes and olives, smoked, salty meat, and tons of fresh cilantro is where her recipe begins, but does not have to end. Sometimes you’ll see sliced carrots in there, too. Or maybe even peppers. There’s a nod to Autumn in this recipe by using the honey nut squash for sweetness. It’s hearty and the recipe doesn’t require that it needs to be. I love that most about it. As long as you have a can of beans, organic Sazon, and tomato puree, you can totally improvise based on what you have around your kitchen. No fuss, EVER. Do you always store sofrito in your fridge? Use some of that, too.
My approach to mom’s beans is always based on the season and what’s in season. The addition of orange zest is not something mom would use, but I happen to be obsessed with cooking with oranges. When flavors of citrus, smokiness, and spiciness meet–it surprises you in an eyebrows-up kind of way. While smoked or cured meat is always involved in her recipe, I’ve added smoked tofu instead.
The two ultimate comfort soups from both of my worlds have come together to hug the heck out of me.
Developing this recipe was nothing short of WOW. “Wow” was the only sound I heard on the holiday table during Rosh Hashanah when sazón-seasoned matzo balls were ladled into piping hot bowls of sancocho, a hearty soup (sometimes stew) of meat and veggies from the Caribbean. Following my mom’s recipe but needing to cut down on some of the root vegetables to make space for the matzo balls, I’d say this is close enough to hers, which always has had a combination of oxtails and chicken. You can always play around with the proteins and veggies, but if mom doesn’t see yucca, pumpkin, sweet plantain and corn – then Imma get an earful. She has also added, when available, chayote and white yautia roots.
Feel free to use your favorite matzo ball recipe (and hey, add in some sazón and cilantro while you’re at it).
1.5-2lboxtails (or beef, short ribs) seasoned with salt
1/2of a whole chickenbone-in
1head of garlicthe top cut off to reveal cloves
1/2of a small Spanish onion
2sprigs of thymeoptional
1large bay leaf
12cupwater or beef broth
1cupsquash or pumpkincut into chunks
1ear of corncut into 2-inch pieces
1large yuccacut into chunks
1semi-sweet plantainsliced into 1-inch pieces
1large potato or yamcut into chunks
for the matzo balls (makes about 12 medium)
3/4cup matzo meal
3tbspschmaltz or fat from oxtail
1/4 cupbroth (from soup)
3egg whites (from large eggs)beaten til frothy
3egg yolks (from large eggs)
2tspnsazónOrganic, not Goya
salt and pepperto taste
for the sancocho
Brown the oxtails for a few minutes on both sides. Add in the celery, onion, garlic, bay leaf, sofrito if using. Continue to fry for about a minute then add in chicken, and water/broth. Bring to a light simmer, not to a boil.
Skim often, then reserve 3 TBSP of the chicken and oxtail's oil that sits on top of the broth. Use this for the matzo meal if you do not have chicken schmaltz.
After about an hour and half, discard the onion, celery, garlic, thyme and bay leaf. Set the chicken aside. When cool enough to handle, shred for serving.
Add in the yucca and carrots and cook for 30 minutes before adding in the rest of the vegetables. Simmer for about 15 minutes more.
for the matzo balls
In a medium bowl, beat your egg yolks, schmaltz, broth, herbs and seasonings together. Gently fold in the beaten egg whites and matzo meal til fully incorporated. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour.
With wet hands, gently form walnut-sized matzo balls and slip them into a pot of boiling water that was generously salted. Cover and boil for about 50 minutes. Serve in a bowl of sancocho.
Make sure the oxtails you get have less fat on them than meat. You’ll be spooning fat out of the pot for days! I reserve 3 tbsp of this fat for the matzo balls.
I’d say it’s time to create a category here strictly dedicated to caramelized cabbage because it’s all the rage on this blog. This time around, I’m pairing the sweet caramelized bits with a layer of rich herbed farmer cheese that I got from Lifeway, a cheese my mom and I are loving due to it’s probiotic benefits, which is then held all snug by a nice golden pie crust. I give you full permission to use store-bought pie dough for this or any of my galette recipes. I do offer a recipe for one below, just in case.
caramelized cabbage galette with herbed farmers cheese
In a medium bowl, whisk together your flour and salt.
Using the larger holes of a box grater, grate your stick of frozen butter and gently toss it into the flour until every bit of it is coated in flour.
Add in water and mix with your hands just enough til a dough forms. Wrap it in plastic wrap and leave it in the fridge as you work on the cabbage.
for the farmers cheese and cabbage
In a small bowl, mix the farmers cheese, thyme, and salt together. Return it to the fridge til ready to use.
In a deep sauté pan, heat the vegetable oil on low and add in the cabbage, onion, paprika and salt. Stir occasionally, every 10 minutes or so, for about 50 minutes. You'll want the cabbage and onion to brown up but not too much because it will continue to caramelize in the oven.
Allow it to come to room temp before using. To quicken the process just pop it in the fridge for about 10 minutes.
for the galette
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roll out your pie crust on parchment paper for an easy transfer to a large sheet pan. It doesn't have to be rolled out perfectly, that is the ultimate joy of the galette.
Add a layer of farmers cheese at the center of the crust, leaving an inch of the edges naked.
Add a layer of the caramelized cabbage. Fold in the edges of the crust and brush them with egg wash. Feel free to press thyme onto the crust. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown all over!
For other Lifeway recipes by me, head on over to my Instagram. A couple of weeks ago I turned my grilled spicy corn chowder into a DIP using their organic whole milk kefir and you are going to love it! Corn season is still going strong.