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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grilled escarole, cabbage, and apple salad

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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Miss-You-Summer Galette with Blood Orange Z’hug

Miss-You-Summer Galette with Blood Orange Z’hug

There’s a farmstand by me that has been showing off tomatoes these last couple of months like they were just-dug-up rubies. It was startling to see such glorious red globes in February, and so many of them, too. Tory and I had just been flipping through Ottolenghi’s Simple, professing our love to the summer tomato on the page. We miss ’em bad and I know you do, too.

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But let’s be real. It is simply not tomato season yet. These beauties tasted identical to the beefsteak tomatoes that are sittin’ bland at the grocery store today, and I know they aren’t the sort of farm that grows them indoors. I *just* recently learned about this kind of farm in NJ, and this is what their tomatoes look like on the farmstand today:

I am pretty disappointed in myself for not visiting the Union Square Greenmarket throughout all of 2018. I think I spent that entire year living a very sad lie. I could’ve had beautiful tomatoes in January! February! All year long. But this post isn’t about those tomatoes. It’s about what I’ve been doing all this time with store-bought ones.

The only way I’ve coped with the lack of summer tomatoes is to purchase a sweeter variety and roast them (usually the smaller varieties). This galette got me all teary eye’d. It was the closest thing to summer I’ve had to date.

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Top it with your favorite cheese and greens. I used feta and radish microgreens. Even better: serve it with my Blood Orange Z’hug to turn up the green and the heat. (Seriously, do that!) Have it with yolky eggs in the morning. I know I did. Maybe don’t forget the olives.

Miss-You-Summer Galette

– 1 9″ pie dough (homemade or storebought)
– about 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
– drizzle of good quality olive oil
– sprig of thyme or oregano, leaves only, tender stems are okay
– salt and pepper, to taste
– favorite cheese
blood orange z’hug (<-click for recipe)
– microgreens (optional)
– olives (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a small bowl, gently toss tomatoes in olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme. Center them cut-side up on your pie dough (which should be on a baking sheet) and fold in the edges. Brush edges with milk or eggwash, and if you want, season them with flaky salt and/or other spices. Bake for about 40 minutes, til some tomatoes are browned and the dough looks golden.

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You’ll want to make this even when tomatoes ARE in season. 2 1/2 more months? Or, you know, head on over to your local indoor farm. Or Union Sq Greenmarket if you’re around.

Miss-You-Spring Galette

Miss-You-Spring Galette

Are you over citrus season yet?

Not I.

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But I wanted my next recipe to lean into spring as if it were only 10 days away. (It is. It doesn’t feel like it, but I promise you, it is. My latest trip to the farmers market told me so!)

Some will say I jumped headfirst into our neighboring season with all these glorious yellows, oranges, and greens, but then that buttery, flaky, pie dough keeps things real cozy, just in time for that moment you realize it’s 23 degrees outside and not as sunny as what’s comin’ out the oven.

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I didn’t know what to name this! It’s basically one of my favorite salads nestled into pie dough. Roasted beets and oranges, topped with lots of spicy greens, and feta.

Cara Cara and Golden Beet Salad Galette AKA Miss-You-Spring Galette AKA Fav Salad Galette?

-2 small golden beets, peeled and sliced crosswise
-1/2 tbs blood orange olive oil (or regular olive oil)
-salt and pepper, to taste
-1 Cara Cara, peeled and sliced
-9 inch pie dough (homemade or store-bought)
-milk or eggwash
-pinches of spice blend (or cracked pepper, flaky salt)
-1/2 cup feta, or more!
-1 1/2 cup arugula or microgreens, dressed however you like, I used a citrus balsamic

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

1. In it’s own bowl, toss sliced golden beets in olive oil, salt and pepper.

2. Roll out your dough on a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper and layer it’s center with beets and oranges. You’ll want enough room to fold in the edges. You can even add some crumbled feta at this point, reserving the rest for when it’s out of the oven.

3. Brush any exposed oranges with olive oil.

4. Brush milk or eggwash on the folded edges and sprinkle some seasoning. I added Aleppo pepper, salt, roasted garlic, parsley flakes.

5. Bake at 375 degrees for about 35-40 minutes. Let it cool down a little before piling on your greens and cheese.

I repeat: 10 more days!

Also, just for photographing purposes, I used way less greens and cheese so that you can see the oranges and beets. But please, pile everything on (and some), should you want to. I’ve even placed extra greens and cheese in bowls in case others wanted more. Maybe offer olives, too!

Citrus and Z’hug Marinated Manchego

Citrus and Z’hug Marinated Manchego

When Saratoga Olive Oil Company asked me to write recipes for them using their latest products, I said YES, PLEASE AND THANK YOU, knowing full well that I had a million other things on my plate, including moving in exactly two weeks. Thankfully, I had this recipe in mind for awhile and a plate full of marinated cheese ain’t something to be stressed about.

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I think you might’ve heard me talk about their olive oil before. But here’s a reminder: five years ago during my first picnic, an incident occurred. To keep the story short, my Canon Rebel had Herbes de Provence olive oil seeping out of it’s pores for 3 months straight. Fun times.

I’d love to tell you that I was real chill about being asked to create these recipes and that I didn’t spend an entire day testing out 5 of them at once, but you know I did. And I enjoyed every minute of it!

The menu was inspired by their blood orange olive oil, cara cara vanilla balsamic vinegar, and their z’hug spice blend that I have been putting on literally everything. It has a few of my favorite spices and a few of my new favorites: cardamom, caraway, cumin, coriander, roasted garlic, parsley, tellicherry pepper, Turkish Marash pepper, lemon and Himalayan pink salt. This blend is amazing, especially for being the dry version of something so fresh and so green.

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So, in order to meet a deadline, I stayed true to myself and the first thing on the menu was CHEESE. Marinated cheese. Manchego. The kind of cheese I’d bring to my next party or picnic or next series binge before bed.

This young manchego is marinated in Blood Orange Olive Oil, lightly sweetened with Cara Cara Vanilla Balsamic, and gently spiced with Z’hug. Basically, what cheese lovers should make for other cheese lovers.

*If you don’t have this spice blend on hand, try a combo of cumin, dried herbs, red pepper flakes. Try to use only the white balsamics or honey.*

Citrus and Z’hug Marinated Manchego

-7 oz young Manchego cheese (3 months), broken into small pieces
-1/2 cup Blood Orange Olive Oil (or regular olive oil)
-2 TSP Z’hug seasoning (or your own blend)
-1/2 TSP cumin seeds, toasted
-5 strips of orange zest
-2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
-1 sprig rosemary
-2 TSP SOOC Cara Cara Vanilla Balsamic Vinegar
– drizzle of SOOC Blood Orange Olive Oil (optional)

1. In a small saucepan under medium-low heat, add olive oil, z’hug, cumin, orange peels, and garlic. Sauté for 5 minutes before adding the rosemary, then continue to sauté for another 5 minutes.

2. Set aside and let cool completely. Add Cara Cara Vanilla Balsamic Vinegar and stir.

3. Pour over cheese, gently tossing to make sure everything is coated.

4. Cover and chill for 12 hours, or up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Note: Feel free to add a long, fresh drizzle of Blood Orange Olive Oil. You can also try this recipe using other varieties of semi-firm cheese and spices. Serve with bread.

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Danny told me he thought it looked like marinated cauliflower for a second. I’m not mad.

My 30th Birthday Picnic + Recipes

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 kitchen and found a frustrated me with furrowed brows over the sink, shaking the contents in the cheesecloth, quickly losing a lot of whey. I must’ve looked like this:

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Barely any curds made it. It needed more time, maybe more lemon. We had to go, though. Whatever seemed thick enough I placed into a container and we headed for the picnic.

To be honest, I wanted nothing to do with the ricotta when I started to arrange the cheeseboard. Connie saw this and decided it’d be best if she gave me her gift early. A handmade, round serving platter, dipped halfway in a finishing wax. It is beautiful. I knew exactly what to do with it.

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Directions

Leave your cherry tomatoes attached to the vine. Put them on a sheet pan, drizzle good olive oil and balsamic over them. I used basil-infused olive oil and fig balsamic. Salt and pepper them to your liking. Add fresh herbs. I used thyme sprigs and some of the young basil. Roast at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes, or just til they are about to burst and have reached that nice charr we all know is where the flavor is at.

The tomatoes, along with the edible flowers, spread onto beautiful pieces of bread that Malvina bought, was my favorite picnic experience in the mouth. It was jammy, rich, salty and sweet. Perfection. I also had more on the vine and decided to pair it with the peppery, smoked turkey and herb-crusted soppressata. My tiny charcuterie board for my very few meat-eaters present.

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The cheeseboard itself was a satisfying and very sentimental experience for me as I was putting it all together. You have to keep in mind where everything comes from. What farm? How local is this considered? How seasonal? And from who/where? The fig jam, olive spread, and cheeses (prima donna extra aged gouda, sweet Irish cheddar, and smoked cheddar) were a gift from Danny’s mom to me. I wanted to share this with them as well but knew they had family emergencies to be a part of. Silent prayers and gratitude were on my brain. Every beautiful friend who spent their day with me were on my brain.

The cashew cardamom brittle, topped with lava salt, was made by Jennifer Dean of The Burley Hen, a new friend I’ve made that I’ve yet to meet, but who I already feel a bond with from afar. Not TOO far! She is a fellow local Queens food lover and maker. ❤

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My homemade Onion and Date jam had strong notes of oranges and thyme and paired well with both cheeses and meats. The recipe is inspired by Sarah Owens.

Directions

img_20180425_103434_5137319913938805768703.jpgThe night before, take the seeds out of about 13-15 Medjool dates and dice them. Soak them in a couple of tablespoons of meyer lemon-infused vodka or bourbon. I used meyer lemon vodka! Next day, thinly slice one, large Vidalia onion (makes a little over 4 cups). Set heavy-bottomed pan or dutch oven under medium heat with a little bit of oil, and saute the onions til they only slightly caramelize. Add 2 sprigs of thyme, the dates, 2 cups of water, tbsp of orange blossom honey (or any mild honey), zest from a small orange, a few cracks of pepper, simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring often. It’ll turn a darker, caramelized color. I added more pepper and a dash of more meyer lemon vodka. Fresh squeeze of orange juice.img_20180425_120406_4844056692902780502767.jpg

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There were a few other items on and around the board: fresh figs, a bowl of olives, mandarins with their branches and leaves still attached, long rosemary sprigs, sweetly blushed moscato grapes, multi-grain crackers and bread. Hot honey! Hummus with smoked eggplant from a local farm, served with all sorts of chips and veggies.

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Tory made fresh radish and cucumber sandwiches, a brightly colored carrot, quinoa, and chickpea salad which was beautifully dressed.

Megan made a cake that she should totally be proud of. It involved blood oranges. Almond flour. CHOCOLATE. Insanely moist.

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The gifts that were given to me showed me how KNOWN and loved I am by these beautiful people. Recipe books dedicated to chickpeas and ginger. Bee-themed gifts. Tea blossoms. Artisinal coffees. Floral purse. Every single thing was very much me and very much love.

Let’s not forget the flower arrangement made by a parent from my center! Franz James Floral Boutique knows art the way my chosen family knows me. What everyone brings to the table is the perfect recipe for each picnic thrown. This one felt like autumn reaching for spring.

My Kind of Muffin

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 in a savory thing, add as much as you want! Also feel free to play with whatever variety of cheese 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.


Ham-N-Cheese Muffins

  • Servings: 12 muffins
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

2 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
freshly cracked pepper
1 tbsp fresh herbs, minced
1 egg room temp
1 cup buttermilk room temp
1/4 cup oil
8 oz smoked ham or other smoked meat, finely diced
1 cup grated sharp cheddar
1/4 cup grated smoked cheese

Directions

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. All done!

These muffins turn crisp and golden on the outside and remain soft in the inside. Dan told me they are almost biscuit-like. These were my latest batch, enjoyed with Dan while pet-sitting at mom’s. Let’s just say Peanut, her Cockalier, went mad for the smell of them.

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Glasbern and Always After

Glasbern and Always After

So why return to Glasbern Country Inn?IMG_8281If the deep quiet of farmland and still waters is not enough, then here are my three other reasons: to taste their winter menu (because you know their Spring blew me away like mighty winds against a dandelion), to continue photographing a single place during it’s each season, and the absolute truest reason of them all, I returned for love. To sit across from this man, coffee in hand, almost entirely alone…finally alone.

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It is extremely rare living with two, big families, to ever feel we have a place to ourselves. One family in my small, Queens, semi-basement apartment, the other in Brooklyn. Heading to Pennsylvania where there is nothing but land, water, roaming cows and amazing eats, is nothing short of bliss. I didn’t even get to the part where we sleep in a large barn with a king-sized bed, fireplace, and Jacuzzi, did I?

For this trip, I came prepared. The day before we left I made Jon’s Spicy Lemon Garlic hummus, my Cherry Bourbon Brownies but with walnuts in it this time, and one of Dan’s favorites, Ham and Cheddar buttermilk mini-muffins, adapted from a Lee Bailey recipe that I will share with you at another time.

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We arrived when the sun was setting. We sat on top of a hill basking in deep, orange light, patiently waiting to get our feast on.

As soon as the sun dipped too low to feel it, we practically ran towards fine dining. I do believe we did this both nights. Their Butter Valley Bib Salad, topped with pomegranate seeds, chèvre, candied pumpkin seeds, greens dressed in a maple walnut vinaigrette, was a favorite starter alongside our truest favorite: bread and their roasted garlic paste in olive oil, rosemary lovingly placed on the plate. We then got their charcuterie board that I would need to get again the next day, but this time, with local cheeses.

On the board: duck prosciutto, lonza (cured pork which was AMAZING and salty and perfectly pink), herbed sausage, soppressata, grainy mustard and pickled cabbage. The names of the cheeses next night escape me, but I was mostly tipsy off of local beer and their beautiful Jack Daniels Chocolate Gelato at that point. (I will always order this for as long as they have it on their menu.)

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On our plates: Night 1, I ordered their special. Special because it was a first test recipe for them and also special because these prawns only make their debut two months out of the year. Dan had their freebird chicken breast, solely based on the fact that the last time he had it, he fell in love.

Next night, we ordered a meal that tasted like fall and winter.  His risotto dotted with peas and mushrooms. My center-cut porkchop had an apple cider glaze. But what I cannot stop talking about, or thinking about, is the silkiness of the sweet potato puree that accompanied it. It was so simple and all I had were questions. Did they use a food processor? A heavy or light cream? Definitely farm-fresh butter. Is it whipped? Dan thinks they may’ve put the sweet potato through a strainer–twice. Whatever it was, I’ve every intention of remembering it forever. I’d like to make my own, and think I will once a chill in the air returns to us.

Breakfast at Glasbern feels like my heart is sunning in morning light and he’s right there, across from me. I love getting the day started this way. He makes my coffee just the way I love it. He takes a seat, not without putting all the goods on the table first: fruit (their raspberries are always wonderfully bright and sweet), an assortment of freshly baked pastries. I order a waffle topped with buttery whip and caramelized apples. He, a beautifully plated crème brûlée french toast with berries, bacon and sausage. Next day I try to keep it simple: Irish Oatmeal, smoked ham and bacon.

We then must leave. Something always happens when we return to NYC. A sudden heaviness. For Dan it may be the city filth and MTA. For me, it’s the cramped apartment and more concrete than not. So the second missing Glasbern hit me hardcore, Dan suggested we have ourselves a picnic, which we did get to enjoy alone outside my apartment.

Dan made roasted garlic paste inspired by Glasbern’s, served with tuscan herb olive oil and bread, rosemary becoming the center of this private galaxy.

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I quickly put together Campari tomato salad with mozzarella and basil.

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I made a golden beet and apple salad, zested with orange.

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Our cheeseboard had parmesan, cheddar, cherry tomatoes, olives. Simple.

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Quite honestly, it was a perfect day equally matched to a long weekend away, and it wouldn’t have happened if he didn’t say, “Hey you, let’s take a walk and have ourselves a picnic.” I can very quickly lose myself in negative thoughts and feelings, but much more quickly find myself draped in morning, stunning light.

Join Me for Queens Writes Weekend!

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There’s this feeling you get when people from all over Queens (and other boroughs!) gets together to write all weekend long. It’s sorta like the feeling you get after taking the very last bite of a piece of bread delicately smothered in fig jam, at a picnic your friend or neighbor had thrown for no other reason than to eat with you. It’s the last bite where you think to yourself how necessary to the very core of you this was.

There are a few things I love most about the borough that is my home: it’s people, Newtown Literary Journal which this benefits, AND IT’S FOOD. So it only makes sense that I put together a food writing workshop inspired by good eats at the Queens International Night Market, right?

Join me in eating and writing. I will be waiting for you by the information booth at 6PM. There will be prompts geared towards the experience of eating, cooking, being around such a diverse community. Freewriting is an option. All I ask is that you pay close to attention to the food and the people around you. I am welcoming poets, (non)fiction writers, bloggers, food lovers, people who do not consider themselves any sort of writer–basically, everyone.

Because this is a fundraising event, there is a suggested donation of $5, which goes to printing costs for future issues of Newtown Literary Journal, as well as a kids’ writing contest, writing classes and workshops, and community readings.

If you can’t make it to my event or you’re not feeling inspired to write, don’t worry–you can still participate. There are many other workshops and gatherings happening during this weekend! If you can’t make it to mine, find one near you! There is also a kick-off reading on Friday night, May 19th at the Astoria Bookshop, and a wrap-up reading/open mic at Terazza 7 in Elmhurst at 7pm on Sunday evening, May 21st. Before the wrap-up reading/open mic, there will be a Meet the Editors event where you can meet the editorial staff of Newtown Literary to get advice on writing and publishing.

Here is the calendar of events: https://www.newtownliterary.org/qww17 

Be sure to get your QWW 2017 t-shirt, tote bag, and mugs, too! A portion of every sale goes to fund future Newtown educational programshttps://teespring.com/stores/newtown-literary.

Very much looking forward to eating with you!

Poetry & Coffee Picnic: 8/21/16

Poetry & Coffee Picnic: 8/21/16
…I was gravy in judgment,
which might not mean much
unless you’ve taken a spoon
of it and poured it back over a dumpling
shaped like your heart
                       –Tomás Q. Morín
Once a month in Queens, NY, Valerie G. Keane has us talk poetry. Not our poetry, but poems written by poets we love and don’t love and/or don’t get. Poets whose name just popped up on our search engine once the month’s theme is established, too. I love Poetry & Coffee. If 15 people show up with a poem, I am going home with 15 poems I either never read before, or poems I haven’t had the opportunity to talk about, and that is pretty bad-ass, no? You cannot possibly be a better poet or HUMAN BEING without having read as much as you can read. You just can’t. I can’t. But it’s not just the reading part that triggers growth. It’s most definitely the sharing. I do not want to keep a good poem to myself and so I never do. Going to Poetry & Coffee is my way of doing more than just sharing a poem via Facebook or Instagram or email. I get to discuss these poems with people who genuinely want to be there. I always take home with me a feeling of hunger once the event is over. I want MORE poems. I want to write more. I want to connect.

I also wanted some freakin’ figs on my cheese board and in my mouth so Yes to this latest gathering!

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This month’s theme was food and we threw ourselves a picnic. I immediately saw this as an opportunity to whip out my slab of cherry wood where cheese can only belong. But I also went a little overboard on bringing poems. We are generally supposed to bring just one. I brought 4. One for reading. The others were given as small offerings towards the end.

As for the cheese board? I went simple, which brought me as close to Summer as I needed to be.

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For the board, I made a small thing of Tristar strawberry jam. I had to. During my latest walk through Union Square’s Greenmarket, these tiny, red loves were EVERYWHERE like new blooms.

I paired the jam with a creamy, sharp cheese that was a cross between cheddar and parmesan, and of course my favorite peppery toscano from Trader Joes. There were figs (there NEEDED to be figs!), heirloom and cherry tomatoes from Valerie’s backyard, ciabbatta, grapes. Simple. Valerie made a gigantic sandwich with smoked mozzarella and layers of summer vegetables. Others brought homemade brownies, cookies, a cherry tomato and corn bow tie pasta that I honestly want to make when I get home, and then there were poems. Delicious poems. A poem about the disrobing of artichoke (Robin Robertson, Artichoke.) A poem called From Okra to Greens that Connie felt spoke to my deep connection to cooking (she nailed it.) The one I read aloud was Dorothea Lasky’s poem about–and not about–canning. Some were funny. One, Parkinson’s Disease by Galway Kinnell, made everyone deep-breathe and cry.

There was one other poem that got to me right in the gut. Thankfully P&C offers a safe place for crying, though I don’t think anyone saw that I did. It was Salad Days by TOMÁS Q. MORÍN. (Thanks, Joan!) It made me think of the one thing I’ve been missing for weeks, which is the cooking I’d do with my love who is no longer with me. In fact, I felt him most when I was putting together the cheese board, and I felt him most in this poem, where the drizzling of honey onto turkey bacon comes into play with it’s sweetness, and when there was Light:

It’s all happening now,
you liked to say, and I agreed,
though it was not the news
from the outside I relished,
but the daily Extra! Extra! the light
of the morning brought to my attention
every time we woke in your house
or my house and my heart
— salty, risen — was warm
again in a way it hadn’t been for years.
Organ of passion, organ of righteousness
that has never had a single flavor cross its lips,
how could you know
how much I would miss the honey of those days,
her drizzle of it on the turkey bacon,
my cracking pepper up and down the pan,
the sweet meat of happiness
I would no longer let pass between our teeth.

This brings me to Frank O’Hara’s Having a Coke with You, the poem we did not get to discuss, but one I had given to everyone as a gift. It was certainly a gift to me many years ago, and today. It is where the 4 o’clock light in some of my poems comes from.  It’s the poem that ALMOST made me want to name this blog Eating with You. Because it’s my favorite thing to do, it is.

it is hard to believe when I’m with you that there can be anything as still
as solemn as unpleasantly definitive as statuary when right in front of it
in the warm New York 4 o’clock light we are drifting back and forth
between each other like a tree breathing through its spectacles

Birthday Picnic: cheeseboard, strawberry fig jam + poem(s)

Birthday Picnic: cheeseboard, strawberry fig jam + poem(s)

Red blooming on green
Spring’s mother sends a runner
I run, red-handed

A very young green was my part of the earth (Queens, NY), late-April. I was turning 28 and all I wanted was to be sunning and eating with my loves, surrounded by a landscape dramatically punctuated with big-headed dandelions.

Let’s be real. A bad-ass cheeseboard I wanted, (too).

I am not taking full credit for the success of this board. My boyfriend at the time knew how stressed I was, and so he told me he “got this.” Indeed, he did. He picked out this slab of beautiful cherry wood, as well as purchased 94.6% of what went on it.

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The cheeses: (Alton Brown said 3 is enough for your cheeseboard. We went for 3.5.) We had manchego wrapped with prosciutto, a nutty/sharp, peppery Toscano cheese sold at Trader Joes (one of my faves!), a wedge of Parmesan, and a beautifully sharp and creamy cheddar aged pretty damn long.

The meats: besides the prosciutto? A soppressata made with syrah. Salami.

The Green: Tory brought tabbouleh, beautifully minting up the tongue.

Artfully thrown around the board: cherry tomatoes I got at the farmer’s market, dark chocolate pretzel bark with sea salt, sweet n spiced nuts, olives, grapes. Really good olive oil sold only at La Villa (Brooklyn), which found it’s way into the pores of the very camera  that took all these photos. It took two WEEKS for oil to seep completely out.

Desserts: my loves Valerie and Connie took care of that. Beautiful little pastries and a rustic pear & pistachio tart that Connie said screamed Crystal. It did. It screamed. ❤

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What were my contributions? Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread (I should’ve made two loaves), a jug of Pineapple rum from Puerto Rico that my pops had given me, most of the meats, and my very first, very successful (tiny) batches of Strawberry Fig Jam.

12973522_10154223040359729_5355946865464908475_oGeometry deals with properties of space. Figs
(a “multiple fruit”) are like strawberries

only inside out—its skin is
a receptacle.

–Nick Flynn, from Put the Load on Me

Strawberry Fig Jam

1 pound strawberries, chopped
mission figs, chopped (about 7-8)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 lemon, juiced
zest of orange, to taste
mint (fresh or dried)
Cracked pepper, to taste

Instructions
1. let the flavors of strawberry and fig marry over night (or 2 nights!), along with the sugar in a sealed container. it’ll LOOK like they’ve married when they’re ready, with time.
2. put it all in a skillet over medium-to-high heat, stirring often for about 5 minutes then turn it down to a long simmer. add the lemon juice which will be this jam’s natural pectin/thickener, about 8 minutes in.
3. you can stop here, but this is where I got very free with it. danny calls this my witchery. i added a pinch of dried mint my friend Tory had given me, (definitely feel free to use fresh mint!), a bit of cracked black peppercorn for heat, a little bit of orange zest and some of it’s juice for a refreshing, citrus taste. simmer til satisfied. i simmered for about a few minutes.
4. jar ’em (even a container will do). this was a small batch with the intention of finishing them ASAP so I left a container of it in the fridge. it can stay fresh up to a month this way.
5. put this jam on EVERYTHING!

I’m not even messin’ ’round here. Tory was the brave one to slather this jam on every cheese, meat, bread and chocolate to be found on this board. Once she gave us the GO, we went. (She even took one tiny jar home, which made me all kinds of happy.) Just so you know, this jam paired especially well with the creamy, sharp white cheddar.

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After getting our grub on, some of us went for a walk along the water, and others layed on the grass, talking and not talking. Sunning, definitely. I sat by this board like my life depended on it, while my love handed me a bunch full of dandelions. It was beautiful.

Here’s the aftermath. Sorta. We ate some more and there are people missing from these photos! Like Malvina, who gave us all the water we didn’t know we needed. BTW: 8 is a perfect number for a picnic. (2 more probably would’ve been ok, too). I don’t do well with big groups. I’m the sort who prefers one-on-ones, and having to dedicate my full self to each person can overwhelm me, just because I don’t feel I can really do that with all at once. Nothing about this was overwhelming. I don’t like to use this word, but it was pretty damn perfect. Thank you to my loves.