Author: Crystal Rivera

While Waiting for His Cherry Tomatoes to Grow

“We ordered wings and kinda ate them,” was what Dan said to me the other night when we thought about our first date six years ago. Which, BTW, lasted about 8, really beautiful hours, sooo…butterflies-in-the-tummy much!? That night, we picked at our platter of BBQ fried wings at a pub by Rockefeller Center like we were two love-birds who could care less about food. If you saw us now, you might just laugh yourself to tears. Butterflies have cleared the tummy and made a home at our hearts, if only but to make room for all the really amazing meals we share together. Today, a waiter at La Villa half-jokingly tells us that we need to bring together two tables in order to accommodate our order of arancini (stuffed with cheddar!?), a bowl of delicately fried eggplant sticks, a 1/2 dozen baked clams, baby green salad topped with slow-roasted beets, which then has large parmesan shavings piled on top, and don’t forget the Margherita pizza with pepperoni, please. Did we order pasta, too? I wouldn’t …

A Recipe for (Almost) Forgotten Beets and Radishes

If you’re anything like me, then you, too, got overly excited to see many of your favorite greenmarkets return, selling many of your springtime favorites. This means you purchased everything (beets, radishes, asparagus, ramps, chives, thyme, rhubarb, tomatoes, lemons, the list goes on) for ONE MEAL. I did this for Mother’s Day. Mom deserves it all, amiright? Even fava beans! Which I walked to 4 stores to find them and took 20 minutes to shell them (worth it), just to make the Spring Pilaf she requested. The prep work itself was a meditation. I missed it. But let’s just say not everything made it to the table. Yes, I slow roasted cherry tomatoes again, to accompany Branzino. Yes, the Spring Pilaf was a thousand times Spring in taste AND color. (Always add shredded carrot, maybe shredded purple cabbage, and ALL the greens you can stand). Yes, I threw baby potatoes, chunks of purple cabbage, ramps, asparagus, slices of lemon, chives into a cast iron and roasted it all with two, lightly seasoned branzinos right on …

Thai-inspired Chicken Noodle Soup

Originally posted on cook on your nerve.:
A Healing Soup for Jen All soups are meant to heal, but this one’s for my sister-in-law who has saved me one tiny bowl each time I’ve made big pots of it. I’d receive a text from her while at work that’d say, “Sorry. Don’t hate me.” She had a sore throat all week long and this was the only thing that was soothing to her. How could I be mad? When I was not feeling myself for a good week, she was the one who made us dinner each night. I sent her a text giving her all my thanks and told her I’d get right back in the kitchen very soon. Jen and I are spice maniacs. She introduced me to Valentina hot sauce and I now put that on (almost) everything. That is, when I’m not using sriracha, which this soup has plenty of. There’s heat, acidity from limes (which may be her favorite thing about this soup) and a silky broth of chicken stock and…

Blood Orange & Meyer Lemon Marmalade for BBQ

“If I had to choose one ingredient to dedicate a short book to, what would it be?” After receiving two recipe books from Connie, one with only Chickpea recipes and the other with Ginger, I had to ask. The answer should’ve been obvious, though. I very recently dedicated an entire post to cooking with oranges. Which is more of an intro to what’s to come with my love of these versatile globes, and my love for not wasting an ingredient. I use juice, pulp, and peel in a variety of different dishes and ways, and I look forward to sharing them with you. Today, though, let’s quickly talk about that mind blowing moment I had very recently while making marmalade and seasoning ribs for next day’s dinner. I had just jarred my small batch of blood orange and meyer lemon marmalade and put it to the side to cool and thicken a little bit more. I took out a cutting board and decided I might as well start spicing up the ribs for tomorrow so …

My 30th Birthday Picnic + Recipes

I had it all planned out. Homemade ricotta, not too firm, still warm, spooned onto a white, long platter. Then, I was to gently place beautifully roasted cherry tomatoes on the bed of cheese, it’s vine still attached. As a finishing touch, fresh herbs and edible flowers scattered all around it, and a long drizzle of good olive oil. I handpicked young, lemony basil for the occasion and dandelion yellows from the farmers market. In my mind, it’d make for a beautiful sight. The fact that I never made cheese before didn’t worry me. It seemed simple enough. Buy THE BEST whole milk dairy you can find. Full fat. Not ultra-pasteurized like the milk or heavy cream we tend to find. Use fine sea salt or kosher salt. Heat til right under a boil and stir in your freshly squeezed lemon, or vinegar. Wait til curds form, about 30 minutes. Then slowly pour into your cheesecloth that is nestled in mesh, over a bowl. Wait another hour. Then voila! Ricotta. Right? Connie walked into my …

cooking with oranges

Why an orange in all the things? Since I was young, one sip of orange juice would upset my stomach. I loved the taste, but I have never been able to enjoy an orange and for years I never bothered going anywhere near one. That is, until I began cooking and baking with them. It turns out, I love oranges better when paired with salty, savory flavors. Hard cheeses. As a marinade for chicken or pork. Marmalade. But marmalade-as-BBQ sauce WHAT!? I’ll get to that later. I am definitely in love with oranges when fresh thyme, rosemary, and cumin are present. Any fresh herb, really. I once had mussels in a Harlem restaurant with Connie and I kept asking myself, what is this amazingness I am tasting? Orange zest in a spicy broth. Mind blown. Let’s just say I went a little orange-crazy for Jen’s birthday dinner. Even one of her gifts from me–a latin seasoning packet–had bitter orange peels in it. The night before, I sleepily baked an Orange Bundt Cake, using cara cara oranges. …

HELLO, DOT COM!

So here’s the thing about having expectations during a planned trip, or, hey, even a planned blog. Don’t have them. For our third Glasbern Inn visit, we were expecting a snow storm that would want us to cozy on up to the fireplace for the totality of our time there. We got spring instead. We got more spring than actual spring right now. Mid-60-degree weather in February. It’s April 12th and I’ve yet to feel such a warmth as that. We were also expecting our usual breakfast and dinner prepared by the chef we fell in love with a few years ago. Instead, we got ourselves a new chef. With new (affordable!?) prices to match. Hello, Executive Chef Ralph Edmonds! Mornings are still precious. We sit by sunlight and firelight, basking in both. And the food? Still farm fresh and locally sourced so, still pretty amazing. The unexpected warm weather led to long walks, greeting the new calf, and a spontaneous winery visit where I could sit with my love, celebrating the moment I purchased …

Back to Basics

When the new year arrived, I didn’t do the things I’d normally do, or the things I intended on doing. No lists. No thought-out resolution. In fact, while Danny and I were with his family waiting patiently for the countdown to reach midnight, like we always do! someone glanced at their phone and noticed it was thirty seconds past. We were watching a recording of the countdown happen. We all laughed, calling it a typical Frank Pizzarelli moment, but I do think it meant something. We spent a lot of our time in New Paltz at his aunt’s beautiful home, nearby this castle. The day we were supposed to leave ended up being a snow day, one of my favorite days out of our vacation. After walking to the castle and working up an appetite, Dan and I made reservations at A Tavola Trattoria, an Italian farm-to-table that reminded me there’s a reason why Glasbern Inn’s farm food made me cry with pure joy: there is nothing better than a locally sourced meal. Nothing. There …

Lentil and Sweet Plantain Chorizo Soup

It’s my day off and I’m thinkin’ soup. I’m also on a tight budget so I’m thinkin’ cheap. It’s just Jen and I today, so I wanted to make a smaller pot that would be enough for maybe leftovers tomorrow. Using odds and ends from the fridge, I whipped up something I had to jot down and share with you–right after putting the spoon down. It’s seriously GOOD. It’s also a reminder as to how my blog got its name. Cook with what ya got, with a sort of witchery, going with your gut and, how Frank O’Hara would put it, on your nerve. This soup is a combination of spicy, savory and sweet. You probably already have some of these items at home and if not, it’s still pretty easy and inexpensive to get.

Indian-Spiced Roast Chicken

When winter comes, I crave the warm, heart-reaching spices. Garam masala is made with my mortar and pestle. The bright reds of cayenne, chili, and paprikas are used more often to paint every dish. Pinches of cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and nutmeg in almost everything, from home-cooked meals to all baked goods. This isn’t to say I don’t welcome them during the warmer months; I do. This is to say I celebrate the hell out of them when trees loosen up and we find ourselves bundled up, head-to-toe. When we spent our first cold and snow-filled week at New Paltz, we ate plenty. But when we ordered take-out from their one-and-only Indian restaurant, Dan and I ate, like, well, animals, according to his father. It was a feast of chicken tikka masala, masoor dal, chana dal, chicken and vegetable biryani, meat and potato samosas, naan, sauces–one a very bright green which reminded me of pandan, something Tory and I discovered while eating Kaya Toast. This feast was everything we NEEDED, and some. It was the best …

Not Your Average Carrot Soup

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

My Kind of Muffin

These savory, cheesy muffins are my go-to for picnics, brunch, getaways, but sometimes I make a batch just for Danny who can’t get enough of ’em. (Don’t tell him I said that.) Have them fresh out of the oven or much later. Slather some of my strawberry-fig jam on ’em and be smacked with savory-sweet goodness. This Ham and Cheese Muffin recipe is adapted from Lee Bailey’s Portable Food book. I’ve toyed with it a bit and encourage you to do the same once you’ve nailed down the basics. While he uses only cheddar, I love a bit of the smokier cheeses as well. I’ve always made a batch with smoked gouda but tried smoked gruyère the other day and it was just as lovely. Adding fresh herbs is my favorite way to consume them, though it is optional. I was growing lots of thyme and rosemary during the summer and decided to toss them into the flour. Best. Decision. Ever. Though I think Dan can go without. Cracked pepper adds the spice I always prefer …