"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
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 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)
1 cup matzo meal
3tbspschmaltz or from oxtail
1 cuphot broth (from soup)
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, add the matzo meal, schmaltz, hot broth, and seasonings. Mix them together and allow it to cool down slightly before stirring in the eggs and cilantro. Once thoroughly combined, allow it to sit for 30 minutes.
With wet hands, gently form the matzo balls and slip them into a pot of boiling water that was generously salted. Cook for about 10 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’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.
The cherry tomatoes I picked up from Cherry Lane Farm needed to be the star of any dish I put before my family, and this was certainly a winner. The wild rice, which can stand up to any ingredient without becoming soggy, is delicately spiced with baharat and Aleppo pepper. The tomatoes are marinated before adding them to the rice. I imagine you can add any fresh ingredients here, from cucumbers to corn. Serve this warm or even cold, as a salad or side dish or hey, a main.
1pintcherry or grape tomatoesin season only, halved
drizzle of good quality olive oil
salt and Aleppo pepperto taste
fresh herbs chopped, to taste
for the rice
Heat olive oil in a small pot. Add in the baharat and Aleppo pepper, allowing them to infuse the oil for about a minute. Stir in wild rice, stock, and salt. Bring to a boil then, with lid on, simmer for 45 minutes, or until the stock has evaporated. Set aside and cool slightly.
for the tomatoes
In a small bowl, season the halved tomatoes with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, cumin, and Aleppo pepper and allow it to marinate for at least 15 minutes before adding in the rice. Mix in your fresh herbs and serve.
These savory, cheesy muffins are my go-to for picnics, brunch, hikes, getaways, but sometimes I make a batch just for Danny who can’t get enough of ’em. Have them fresh out of the oven or up to 2-3 days later. Slather some of my strawberry-fig jam on ’em and be smacked with savory-sweet bite.
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 and chives is my favorite way to make 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. Cracked pepper adds the spice I always prefer in a savory thing, add as much as 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.
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.
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 Jamaica, 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 family restaurant 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 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.
Grilled Spicy Corn Chowder with Cilantro and Basil
Place 4 ears of corn in a cast iron skillet, or on a grill, and char them a few minutes on each side, turning often. This should take no more than 8-10 minutes. The other 2 ears of corn you will cut into 1-inch pieces and set aside.
Spend about 10 minutes charring the peppers as well, 5 minutes a side.
When cool enough to handle, stand each ear of corn into a bowl and cut kernels off of them. Slice your poblanos, deseeding if you'd like.
Take about half of the kernels and put them into a food processor along with the poblanos. Blend for a few seconds then add your cilantro and basil. Continue to blend til it reaches desired consistency.
In a pot, warm up your coconut oil and sauté your onion, garlic, oregano, and cumin for about a minute. Then add the green mixture along with the rest of the kernels and 1-inch pieces, sauté for another minute. Stir in your coconut milk and hot stock. Simmer for about 8. It doesn’t take long!Enjoy <3 Corn is making their summer appearance now but soon, it’ll be EV-ERY-WHERE.
*I use stock that has been heated up beforehand so that the greens do not over cook. I like the bright, fresh green look of it. We are only waiting for the corn pieces to cook through, which only takes a few minutes. The broth thickens up once you take it off the heat, in case you’re wondering why it seems loose at first!
My favorite Russian pirozhki couldn’t be more simple. I take a whole onion, couple of garlic cloves, a handful of dill, and blend them together til they reach a puréed consistency. I simmer ground beef with a bay leaf, the onion and dill mixture, generously adding salt and pepper. That’s it. That’s the flavor of them I recall from my grandmother’s kitchen. It didn’t take long for me to make the sofrito connection, which has the onion and garlic, but also sweet peppers, cilantro instead of dill, and spices. Grab the recipe for mom’s small batch sofrito and make these fluffy baked buns.
I was thinking about making a full-on pastelillo filling, but decided on the Russian’s less-is-more seasoned beef. But by all means, add some chopped pimiento-stuffed olives, small diced potato, raisins, more tomato paste or sauce, etc! You’ll just need less meat than this recipe calls for.
You may also fry them in batches, which is the only way I enjoyed them at Brighton Beach many moons ago, with the most fantastic oil dripping onto my bathing suit. Pero, nothing wrong with baked, either. Less standing by the pan, less oil-burns, less oil.
Note: this dough can be used for many other fillings, both savory and sweet. It can also be doubled (no need to double the yeast, just everything else). I’ll have dessert options posted soon. And meatless options!
In a deep pan, heat olive oil. Add your beef, breaking it up with a slotted spoon while adding in your spices.
Move some of the browned beef aside so that a little of the oil pools to the corner. Directly into the oil, stir in the tomato paste and allow it to caramelize for a minute or so before mixing it into the beef. This will enhance the flavor.
Stir in sofrito. After a few minutes, pour in the water and let it simmer til most of the liquid evaporates, occasionally giving it a stir.
Add in the cilantro and let the meat cool to room temp before using.
In a small bowl, sift your flour along with the salt and set aside.
In a large bowl, gently whisk together your milk, sugar, dry yeast and let stand for 10-15 minutes, or until very active.
Whisk in the butter and egg yolks, then slowly add in your flour, kneading as you go along for about 10 minutes. The dough is so supple and soft within a couple of minutes but I like to continue kneading for good measure.
Cover the bowl and allow it to double in size, about 2 hours.
Divide the dough into 2 oz pieces, about 8-10. Roll each into a disc and add 2-2 1/2 tbsp of the filling. Pinch the discs closed. On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, place the buns seam-side down next to each other, giving them a tiny bit of room between each other.
Cover them with a clean tea towel and let them prove for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Brush the beaten egg on each and bake for 20-30 minutes, til they've browned.
This soup is a cross between a meaty borscht and my modern-day obsession with caramelized cabbage. Both flanken and cabbage lend a hand in it’s richness, sweetness, and color. Brown food is beautiful.
Some notes: If you choose to make this vegetarian, I would add dried mushrooms to create an umami broth. To make it heartier, add more of the vegetables listed here. Barley would be a nice addition, too. If you can’t find golden beets, any beet would do. I just love the goldeness it creates in the broth.
One thing you should refrain from is cutting time spent on cooking the cabbage. The longer you cook them, the better. I like to go the extra step of patting them down with a paper towel just to take away some excess oil. I also like to spoon some of the fat out of the pot as the flanken simmers. You might find it easier to do that once the soup cools down, though. Up to you!
Caramelized Cabbage Soup with Flanken and Golden Beets
1-1 1/12lbflankencut into pieces between the bones
1head of garlichalved crosswise
fresh herbs of your choosing
2 1/2tspkosher salt
for the soup
2 1/2cupbeetspeeled and diced
2carrotspeeled and sliced
caramelized cabbage and onion
flanken and it's broth
salt and pepper, to taste
dill or cilantroto taste
for the cabbage
Set a deep, large pan over medium-high heat. Add your oil.
When it’s hot you’ll add the cabbage, leeks, salt, and sugar. Immediately turn the heat down to low and slow cook the cabbage, being careful to not interrupt the browning process by moving the cabbage around a lot. You’ll stir it once every 8-10 minutes til they have deeply browned, about 45 minutes or more. If at any point the pan looks too dry, you may gradually add a bit more olive oil. Set aside in a bowl lined with a paper towel as you work on the broth.
for the broth and soup
In a large pot set over high heat, brown the flanken in batches. Return them to the pot when the last batch is done.
Add the vegetables, herbs, salt, and water. Bring it to a boil, cover with a lid, and turn it down to a simmer. For the first 15 minutes, check on it to remove any foamy crud that rises to the top.
After 1.5 hours, discard the vegetables and herbs and add the beets, carrots, caramelized cabbage. Continue to cook for another 30 minutes, or til tender. Add salt and pepper to taste, and fresh herbs if you’d like.
Bite-sized young manchego sitting in a bowl of olive oil and spices has been my go-to for five years now…and I like it even better with a few strips of orange zest, fresh herbs, honey, and lightly smashed cloves of garlic. Those cloves soften up and become addictively sweet, AND 👏 THAT 👏 OIL 👏, totally meant for dipping so don’t forget the bread. I don’t even know which part of this is my favorite. I’ll let you decide.
Adding in some dried wild thyme flowers is not necessary, but I have them and I love how peppery they are. You can totally play with the spices if you’d like! This recipe is flexible. Bring it to your next picnic or give it as a gift!
Break a part your manchego into bite-sized pieces and place them into a jar or bowl that comes with a lid. Set aside.
In a small saucepan set over low heat, gently toast your spices, about 1 minute, til fragrant. Then pour in olive oil, zest, garlic, sprig, and honey. Keep it on low and allow it to barely bubble up for about 5 minutes, then let cool completely before adding it into the jar or bowl full of cheese.
Refrigerate over night or for at least 24 hours before serving.