When Friends Ask You to Pick Up Their CSA Share (Part 2)

When Friends Ask You to Pick Up Their CSA Share (Part 2)

You wonder if there is a poem out there that celebrates this moment. Between friends and between yourself and all the veggies, is there a poem? If not, perhaps you could write one, in the same breath as Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, about every saturated-in-color vegetable and fruit that comes home with you on the first Saturday of September–this year and last.

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But if there is a chance you’ve been feeling less like a poet these days, meaning, you haven’t broken a line in a long while for the sake of sound, silence, and meaning, then you become–you are–a poet in your kitchen, roasting tomatoes with whole cloves of garlic. The woody scent of thyme and rosemary from your garden when met with high heat can make you long for the long, deliberate drizzle of rosemary-infused olive oil, and flaky salt, which you know your tomatoes love. You’ve a mind and heart towards Tory and Jon, who shared their share with you as they made their big move into Corona. Think of all the dinner parties and PICNICS, and sneak peaks into their first garden out back.

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Your first thought, after all this gratitude and daydreaming, was roasted tomato sauce, which you learned to make in Valerie’s kitchen a couple of summers ago. This is the way you will make sauce forever. The flavor is tomato multiplied by tomato, on the savory-sweet side. But as you peel each one, you begin to crave soup.

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You never made tomato bisque. I don’t think you ever had tomato bisque so you’re not entirely sure where to begin, but to begin. It started as your favorite sauce, with the addition of chicken stock, cream, carrot and celery, pureed til silky. Doesn’t the same happen in writing a poem? You never know how a poem will end til it begins to unfold itself, line by line, and if it ends on bisque with warm slices of bread instead of tomato sauce, then you take slices of your warm, roasted garlic ciabatta and you dip dip dip it into the creamy broth.

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It almost looks like your favorite carrot soup, which you’ll write about another day. The local farm feta, and micro-cilantro which was part of the share, didn’t just provide this bisque with good looks. It went amazingly well together. Having had Brooklyn Grange’s micro-greens quite a few times, you think you’ll just start picking your cilantro from the garden earlier than usual, because after a week, you honestly want to give up with their eagerness to bolt.

Then there is the tenderness of toy choi, which you just discover and are fond of.

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But with something so tender, you need to put it to use almost immediately. By 9PM the first day, they were wilting. So the next morning, without getting all fancy and having a panic, you whip up a fine breakfast in which you sauteed their small, cabbage leaves, along with their flowers, with smoked kielbasa and red onion. Served it with egg, heirloom tomato salad with local feta, and a blueberry muffin your mom made.

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Everything else will come together, slowly, as the week goes by. You’ll think Jen was making use of the fairytale eggplants because the bowl was getting emptier and emptier as days went by. You’ll soon find one in almost every corner of the house, courtesy your cat, Loonz.

You’ll take what’s left of their most adorable selves (you make a note that you’ll grow them next year, seriously this time), and you roast them with warm spices (garam masala) and garlic.

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You’ll want to stuff the beautiful, red peppers but never find the time to, so you add them in salads and stews. You do the same with the two onions.

You’ll blister shishito peppers, finishing them with smoked salt.

You’ll share arugula with mom, because everything about this is about sharing.

You’ll eventually find the time to write it all down. You’ll feel exactly as you feel when a poem has ended. Which is the same feeling you’ll get when every tomato, herb, oil and cream came together in your pot one afternoon, and again when the last bit of bisque is gone.

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One of Many Ways to Eat Spring

One of Many Ways to Eat Spring

When Spring returned to us in all its young green finery,
I wanted to eat it. To squeeze a little lime on it
in broad daylight and find my way, past
the beefsteak tomatoes,
standing strong on the sides of heirlooms,

the tall, bruised green of the earth.

The day before Easter, I grabbed the first asparagus of the season at my mom’s local farmers market and decided I was going to create a spring feast, highlighting these thick spears along with other bright and deep greens, such as peas, spring onions, cilantro, thyme, arugula. I wanted fava beans but I couldn’t find any. I stopped by my favorite kielbasa vendor and he handed me the cutest, smokiest ham I’ve ever held, and tasted. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it then, but knew I had to leave with it.

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“You can use it as decoration for your Easter table,” he told me. I politely shook my head no. I can–and will–use it in everything throughout the week, beginning tomorrow. After tomorrow, then they’re going in omelets, slow-cooked beans, etc. But it was tomorrow I wasn’t exactly sure about.

Before bed, I cracked open my notebook and brainstormed dinner, which I’m doing more often these days before dinner parties. It relieves stress knowing that I’ve some idea as to what I want to accomplish the next day. I’m very used to just winging it. Once dinner is over, I return to the journal and jot down what I actually ended up doing, which helps me to better understand my kitchen-mind. Here’s how it stormed that night! I actually made everything on this, with some minor changes.

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I’ve such a fondness for this time of year. Easter morning I ran some errands, grabbing the last of the ingredients that I needed to complete our dinner. It felt like the first, true warm day of the season and I was at peace. Outside the supermarket, an older woman asked me if I could walk her a few blocks to the bus. While I held her hand, we talked about family dinners. She’d cook for a family of 10. She’d make 3 different salads, 2 different cakes, she’d roast a fish and a chicken and sometimes, on special occasions, would make brisket. She had zero help because she never asked, and she thought it was beautiful I was going to spend the day in the kitchen with my mother making a meal for a family of 7. There was so much we agreed on in those three blocks: we love the farmers market, springtime awakens a hunger for healthier things, and food is love.

When I returned to mom’s kitchen, I moved around with such light feet. What I ended up doing with the greens I have since done often.

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I am calling this a Spring Pilaf and rice will never be boring to me again. You can add anything you want to it. It can be made fresh, or made with leftovers. This one is smoky due to the ham I purchased from the market, and the shredded carrots truly makes this a festive-looking dish. I used jasmine but now only use basmati.

After I made this one, I started toying with the recipe and included seasonings I love most.
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Here’s my Indian-Spiced Spring Pilaf.

1/2 cup Basmati, cooked with a pinch of turmeric and salt, butter.

I like more veggies than rice so eyeball amounts according to your preference. I used green beans and asparagus, corn, sliced mushrooms, a small red onion, 3 garlic cloves, grated carrot (towards the end), quickly stir fried in cumin seeds & powder, garam masala, 4 cardamom pods (cracked open a bit), fresh herbs such as cilantro and thyme, pepper and salt to taste. Use whatever herbs you love!

I made this again for Valerie’s Poetry & Coffee BBQ yesterday, just because I want to feed people as much of spring as they can get. And then they’ll have to deal with my summer pilaf shenanigans.
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A few days ago I went with my love to the Queens County Farm and saw rows of asparagus shooting from the earth. It was a beautiful sight, how they stood, perfectly, like soldiers we hold in our hearts today, every day.

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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!

where you are planted / bloom

I was a little
tipsy on the dance
of the velvety heart rolling
in my mouth

I was dumb-tipsy on the day.

Connie and I didn’t know it yet, but walking first into Wave Hill’s Sunroom before lounging in all of it’s unabashed green was a high-five moment.

We actually high-fived each other.

I am writing about a summer day, nearing Winter, because of the chicken pot pie I had during this visit (I’ll get there soon).

Anyway, if you know anything about my love of playing Skyrim (in which I live through my character who hand picks her flowers and shrooms for alchemical, kick-ass purposes), then you may begin to understand my excitement when I found this station of roots and flowers:

That’s Connie, not hiding HER excitement whatsoever. What is there not to love about a hands-on, minds-off exhibition?

There were bowls full of chrysanthemums, damiana leaves, angelica root, hops, lavender, rose buds, hibiscus and mugwort root. We were to take a mortar and pestle, fill it with whatever we chose from the bowls, grind them all together and then place them into a pouch. We were to walk around the space with this pouch full o’ flower and roots and then leave them on a shelf where other visitors have put theirs to rest.

I’d like to note that Connie chose more flower than root, and I, the opposite. There was an urgency about it. I’ve noticed a bright blooming about Connie. Me? My recent break-up made me want to root myself somewhere, anywhere, inside and out. There was a journal in Wave Hill’s gift shop that says to bloom where you are planted. I couldn’t agree more.

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LIKE THIS:

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Wave Hill was quiet on this day. While Connie meditated on waterlilies and fish, I spotted me a dad who was playing hide-n-seek with his two daughters. It wasn’t a quick play either. They must’ve been playing for at least 45 minutes and my heart filled up with joy and a sudden sadness I couldn’t grasp til recently.

We found ourselves a bench and she cracked open Ross Gay and read me the first poem in the book, To the Fig Tree on 9th and Christian. It reads like a happy run-on. Twice, lines from this poem rang true as I stumbled upon trees and plants I wanted to show everyone around me (or just Connie, who had to deal with my enthusiastic “LOOK!” every so often.)

and soon there were
eight or nine
people gathered beneath
the tree looking into
it like a constellation pointing
do you see it

Do you?

And then after all that fig talk and all our long walks, we grew hungry. It was a very hot day but I couldn’t resist a rustic, chicken and root veggie pot pie. There were cute fingerling potatoes in it, skin-on, that made me think of Glasbern. It sounded so comforting to me and today was all about healing. Connie ordered a beet burger with a side of beet chips. That’s ma girl. Go beet or go home. I would’ve ordered that, too, had I not seen this as an option. What stood out to me about the pot pie was that a puff pastry was used, and the broth itself was packed with so many different herbs. I already knew I’d be making my own version of this later on during the week.

We spent the rest of the day lounging on the grass, reading and journaling and talking up a storm. You could smell lavender in the air. We stayed til it was literally time for the place to close down. Wave Hill has made it onto my list of green places I’d like to visit during each season, to photograph it’s changes and growth; even when not-so-green.

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Next week I wanted to make my version of the rustic chicken pot pie, but with beef. I baked a puff pastry and topped it with butter and fresh rosemary that I grew. I made sure the broth was rich with fresh herbs. The star of it for me were the English peas I used that I had just gotten from the farmer’s market. So sweet. Sometimes it makes me sad to cook just for one person, I always want to share, but I loved having leftovers of this. It’s the perfect time of year to make this once again, and I promise to write up the recipe when I do. You pretty much just throw everything in a pot and simmer.

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Needless to say, I am ready for 2016 to come to a close, but not without getting what I can out of the lessons I learned throughout the year. Especially remembering this day that kept reminding me of the importance to grow and bloom right where you are, even when, at times, you think the soil is not right or the days are too ugly for personal growth. But that’s right when we do grow, yes? Even Ross Gay entered our day with that message, which I will leave right here for you today:

c’mere baby,
he says and blows a kiss
to the tree which everyone knows
cannot grow this far north
being Mediterranean
and favoring the rocky, sun-baked soils
of Jordan and Sicily
but no one told the fig tree
or the immigrants
there is a way
the fig tree grows
in groves it wants,
it seems, to hold us

some of what the earth says

some of what the earth says

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Have you ever felt like rows of cut rainbow swiss chard and heads-down sunflowers, with skies of gray threatening an any-minute-down-pour? Yeah. That was me the moment October hit. I feel similarly now, and decided to carry William Stafford with me in hopes for a better mood. But, like my good friend Valerie says, “He’s so comforting and yet disturbs or awakens (awakens is a better word) at the same time.” Which is what I need.

The earth says where you live wear the kind
of color that your life is (gray shirt for me)
and by listening with the same bowed head that sings
draw all into one song, join
the sparrow on the lawn, and row that easy
way, the rage without met by the wings
within that guide you anywhere the wind blows.

Listening, I think that’s what the earth says.

The earth was saying a ton when October hit. It was saying it in rain and darkened clouds. In the passing of my favorite neighborhood flowers, the cosmos. In the threatening of all outdoor plans. The last of my tomatoes. I felt Earth’s words held deep in my bones, which hurt, mind you, especially when it rains. Let go, it says. Or this is all necessary, it saysOr don’t let ME get in your way.

I was to spend Saturday the 1st throwing a picnic with my loves at a winery in Long Island. And Sunday, I was to go apple picking. Neither of these things happened. Both sky and health kinda put a damper on plans, but I did my BEST not to let it ruin every single thing about that weekend. Earth, I was listening.

What I wanted to bring to the picnic I STILL had to make; a gallete of roasted beets and apple, feta, orange zest and herbs. I had already bought half the ingredients. It’s a recipe I toyed with in my mind that I really wanted to test out. I enjoy the cold salad version very much but wondered how everything would taste in the oven. I mentioned this to Tory and told her if there is a moment where it is not thunder-storming it’s butt off, I will hop on the F and R train to her home and we’ll bake up this idea I had. Plus, we were both incredibly sad about our winery plans falling through, so we clearly needed to hug it out.

And hug it out, we did.

I dropped off my FIRST homemade pie dough (GRATE FROZEN BUTTER INTO THE FLOUR Y’ALL), which I carried on the train like it was a newborn, and we then set out to the Brooklyn Grange to pick up her CSA. I asked her not to let me buy more than one thing and she said she’ll stop me at three. I love her. I purchased a container of spicy radish and arugula sprouts, solely because I wanted to sprinkle this on my gallete. I regret not buying the last of the tomatoes. I thought I saw sauce in my future but at least there was definitely sauce in Tory and Jon’s.

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First thing I did when we returned was drop the beets in a pot of water. During this time, we drank pumpkin beer while Tory made us appetizers of cream cheese stuffed blossoms and fried baby green tomatoes. It made for a wonderful mouth experience.

When the beets were half-way done I took them out and sliced them. Same for the green apple which I peeled first. I tossed both in olive oil, salt and pepper, fresh thyme, roasted them for about 15 minutes. When done, I tossed ’em in a little freshly squeezed orange and a bit of it’s zest. More pepper. I rolled out the dough in STYLE. This thing is made of marble, errbody. And then to Tory’s surprise, I carefully arranged beet and apple at it’s center, instead of throwing it on top like she thought I would. The finishing touches are the spicy sprouts and feta. Tory rolled honey on the crust <3

While the galette was in the oven, Tory worked on her spicy carrots and garlicky yogurt, which were so delicious and beautiful to look at. Lots of mustard seeds in that pan. Lots of love for this girl, elegantly crushing her garlic.

The earth says always eat with love and laughter surrounding you. A rush of color reddens your cheeks and that’s the color to wear, always, like the stain of a beet. On this day, I ate with Tory and Jon and it was a beautiful, soul-satisfying meal. It always is when we come together. When, what we make comes together. I love how it always works out. I’m already brainstorming all sorts of galettes I could possibly make. It’s FUN, guys. And I would tweak this recipe a bit. Try a different cheese, a different herb, more honey and citrus and heat. But I have zero negative things to say about my first. It was beautiful.

Dal Recipe & Poem

Dal Recipe & Poem

In July, I was asked to read poems inspired by my neighborhood: Jamaica, Queens. I was even part of a panel, guys. WHAT!? I saw this as an opportunity for me to write about my favorite vegetarian Indian eatery (Annam Brahma), as well as my new love for cooking Indian cuisine right in the heart of home–my kitchen. The first kitchen I’ve felt the most comfortable in.

I only started to mess around with these beautiful spices once I moved here, as they are sold in my nearest market and I can smell their warmth coming from the windows of various neighbors on my block.

Love is another reason. Once I found out that Butter Chicken was Danny’s favorite, I wanted him to come home to the rich broth set to simmer on my stove. In the oven would always be a head of cauliflower that was doused in 1/2 a cup of olive oil, seasoned with turmeric, garlic powder, paprika, a generous amount of salt, roasted with slivers of jalapeño and garlic. It’s my favorite, adapted from a recipe I saw in Saveur magazine.

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He made naan, of course. Not because I couldn’t. But because I’ve always loved watching him work dough. I started serving both cauliflower and naan along with my dal, with a tiny bowl of basmati rice. But sometimes I still need to head to Annam Brahma just for a bowl of their own dal, and to be surrounded by all the loving people there. Just sitting at one of their tables (I prefer the corner) feels like a much-needed hug.

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I have used the spices that were a gift to Annam Brahma customers on their anniversary for ALL these dishes, and it’s mostly the spices and all the bright blue houses in Jamaica that inspired this poem. I’m not sure what to call it yet. Turmeric-light?

The names of cafés alone open you wide with hunger.
The Smile of the Beyond,
Panorama of My Silence-Heart,
Annam Brahma meaning “Food is God” meaning
not commodity meaning—
what I understand food to mean—

heart.

And if the names alone do not turn your feet into curious movement,
let’s talk about color.
Each storefront is more like
homefront and they are all painted blue, not just blue
but bright baby but
2pm sky on Parsons with sun-Up-blue.

And on 164th,
right there, between bodega and Greek Orthodox Church

the blue beyond smile.

Walk in and sit
anywhere / but always by flowers and packets of brown
sugar that say things like
“A moment’s peace
can
and shall
save the world.”
Pick up a totem to be kept in your wallet,
which Chinmoy may—or may not say— “I must love
the unloved ones—I must.”

You must order their Dal.

If food is God these lentils are well-seasoned turmeric-Light
where Oneness is
what’s what from the pulse?
Perhaps chopped onion, minced garlic, ginger, sautéed
with the seeds with the seeds with oh glorious round
mustard seeds and coriander rounding off the taste of
cumin and chili,
maybe a single wooden clove
in a simple vegetable broth

is that cilantro? Tomato? Jalapeno together simmered long til

wholeness takes the shape of bowl
and naan takes the shape of spoon
and mind takes the shape
of silence.

It is where I go in my shut-the-fuck-up moods.
Where I went when I learned
my landlady IS trying to kill my cilantro,
I mean, why else do they bolt?

And how am I different, bolting towards blue, craving
beets so hard I
SWOONED when the day’s special was
Cream of Beet soup.

Acknowledging my excitement,
she came over,
spooned leftover juiced beet into my bowl
like honey
and her smile smiled me right into

silence-heart.

And you and I,
we sat there for three hours,
interrupted only when she stopped to say
“It is beautiful
how you are helping each other.”

We watched Sri Chinmoy paint in the background as we sipped chai,
we spoke but we were also not speaking.
We breathed in spices that lingered in the air and
came out with hair smelling of raw Indian sugar,
curry and cumin
curry and turmeric
turmeric and coriander and wait a minute!
On an anniversary,
we were each handed a packet of such spices Thank you.

Suddenly, walking past homes marked with similar shades of blue,
you are home making Dal. Roasting
a head of cauliflower with sliced jalapeno and garlic tossed
in olive oil

their white heads draped with a glossy turmeric-light.
Your neighbor is making butter chicken.
Your landlady, a dish out of the bok choy that hung
upside down on laundry lines
air drying this morning,

And your cilantro
wilted, but waiting
to seed.

After Transmutations came to a close, my loves and I went to Annam Brahma (to order their dal.) Connie told me that my poem was very Ross Gay-esque (Catalog of Unabashed Gratitudes) and I broke out into smiles <3

Next day, I made dal. I made it exactly the way I made dal for the very first time. Danny said it was even better than Annam Brahmas’s, but that could’ve been because of my rich chicken broth (or because he loved me). I did, after all, use the very spices they had given me as a gift during their 42nd Anniversary. To this day I want to know where I can order the turmeric they use, as well as cumin and coriander seeds.

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Do not be intimidated by all the ingredients and spices I list here. This is really a simple recipe, you just gotta have these spices around. Everything comes together in less than 10 minutes! I love love LOVE the simplicity of it. The warmth of it. It’s also very inexpensive to make.

I should add that I mostly use whole seeds and pound them to dust in my mortar and pestle. If you get them already grounded, do not purchase them from your regular supermarket. Nuh-uh. They are dull cooped up on those shelves. You can find them online if you’re having trouble locating the good stuff.

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Masoor Dal

1 1/2 cup red lentils
5 cups chicken (or vegetable) stock
Olive Oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
Ginger, 1 tspn or more, chopped
1 jalapeño, diced
1 tspn Cumin Seeds
1 tspn Mustard Seeds
1/2 cup onion, diced
1 tomato, diced
1 clove (fish out) or ground
1 tspn ground coriander
1/2 tspn (or more) turmeric
Pinch of cinnamon
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a pot with a little olive oil and under high heat, add mustard and cumin seeds. When the mustard seeds pop (they always pop! be careful) add your ginger, garlic, and jalapeño. After about a minute, add your onion and lightly caramelize ’em.
Now you just have to add the tomato, stock, lentils, and ALL the spices. Let it simmer, covered, for 20-30 minutes. It’ll thicken. You may add more water if it’s too thick. You can play with the spices, too. Top it with freshly chopped cilantro.

Sometimes I add chickpeas when chickpeas are around because why not.

With the temps going down soon, I’ll certainly be welcoming more spice in the kitchen, in food and in drinks. Ohhhh, Autumn! <3

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

cherry bourbon brownies and unabashed gratitude

cherry bourbon brownies and unabashed gratitude

This is how you enter July after a hellish June. You say Yes to whatever opportunity comes your way. You talk poetry with a stranger, with a friend, with new friends. On your way home, you think: brownies. But you don’t stop at thought. You run off the Q25 the second you see a grocery store and you BUY the stuff that’ll turn thought into chewy goodness and then you BAKE IT.

In between that will be the sort of rain an umbrella can’t do anything about, and you won’t care. Storm your way into July 2nd, into tomorrow, into next hour. Except, your husky cherry tomatoes and various herbs need protection, so you run out to move the containers, then run back in, feeling all heroic and shit.

Look at the way the storm leaves a sign that it has passed. They all do. They pass. It’s best you remember that the next time it pours.

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While brainstorming writing prompts for a Newtown Literary event at the Latimer House with Steph, I asked the caretaker, Joel, about split-ear, the beloved squirrel that I met last time I visited this historical home. She’s been missing and it’s a shame. She was as sweet as the watering can he holds to uplift the green that lives here. Look at this limb of a willow still working hard at life. I’m keeping this tree in mind, hoping mind alone will rid of the rot and carpenter ants that are getting to it.

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After talking squirrels and poetry, I said fuck it, Yes, when asked to be a featured poet at a Jamaica, Queens event Steph is working on. More info soon! Say yes when it feels right, and only then. While I aim to go on my nerve, I also know that pace is the trick.

I’m glad the storm came through on this day. It was windy and slightly cool, the very thing I needed to assure myself that it’s perfectly okay to turn on this damn oven.

Let’s talk ’bout these brownies. Let me note that the cherry bourbon was a wonderful accident. I ran out of vanilla extract and was like, WHAT AM I GOING TO DO WITHOUT VANILLA EXTRACT? Cherry bourbon is what imma do, and did, and will continue to do now that I know how beautiful it tastes.

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Cherry Bourbon Brownies

8 tbsp (1 stick) salted butter
2 oz unsweetened chocolate
1 tbsp cherry bourbon
1 cup sugar
2 eggs lightly beaten
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 all purpose flour
Pinch of kosher salt (I kinda wanna play with smoked salt next time)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly butter and flour your pan.

Melt butter along with the unsweetened chocolate til combined, remove from heat. Add the sugar and stir well.

Here comes the cherry bourbon. I know I said to use a tbsp, but I honestly eye-balled it. You can start off with a tspn and keep tasting it and add according to tongue. Stir in eggs til smooth, then add the chocolate chips, flour and salt. Mix well but try not to over-mix.

Bake for about 40 minutes. I like mine underdone. It stays wonderfully chewy, which is the most important part. (Besides the bourbon.)

I am filled with an insane amount of gratitude, and that feeling alone made me think of this poem by Ross Gay: Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude. You’ll be seeing this poem again, especially when I start talking Honey. BTW: on this very day, while feeling all the things, a fellow poet sent me a recording of him reading this poem. And then I read it back to him. Here it is: Crystal reading Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude

Thank you thank you THANK you, every day. 

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Kohlrabi Zested Cilantro Salad + poem(s)

I woke up angry the other day. A lot like how I appeared in this poem the moment I wrote it:

i drove plate movement the other day. it was subtle.
radio telescopes received signals from distant galaxies
and this, alone, measured my move.

a part of earth’s face changed the other day. i was angry.
it was subtle.

during the quick shake from underneath,
a dandelion lost her head.

Slow Show, published in Newtown Literary, Issue 5

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I had an unexpected Thursday off from work and I just happened to be very newly single, a combination that could’ve easily meant not getting up from bed. But unlike previous angers felt, this was the sort that made me want to kick all sorts of ass out of the day, and I couldn’t do that in my unlit, basement apartment. I went for a long walk and hoped I’d magically stumble upon a farmer’s market. Or a Mage whose restoration staff I could steal (ok, borrow.) I didn’t. My mom told me there’s a green market at the Jamaica Hospital nearby (there isn’t), so I walked some more, an additional 22 minutes to Kissena Farms where I knew I could find me some beautiful vegetables. I so did.

I didn’t go into this knowing what I’d be making today. I went into this with the simple desire to pick things out that spoke to me. Like green kohlrabi I was secretly wishing was purple, kumquats I never had before, chioggia beets, and a bunch of rainbow carrots (wtf is it with the ONE purple carrot in each bunch? same thing for cherry tomatoes.) I wanted color and sweetness. I wanted refreshing.

On my way home, a flower flew into me, forcing me into smiles.

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When I got home, I went on my pinterest and started viewing kohlrabi recipes, just to get an idea of what direction I may take. It came down to 2: kohlrabi chips or salad. Salad, I went. I needed inner soul cleansing, and I already had lime, orange, tons of cilantro at hand.

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Kohlrabi Zested Cilantro Salad

kohlrabi (green or purple, about 3 big bulbs)
cilantro, eyeballed
1 lime (for juice and zest)
1 orange (for juice and zest)

Dressing

olive oil
tspn honey (i used raw)
juice of 1/2 orange
juice of 1/2 lime
salt n pepper to taste

Peel these hard core kohlrabi and match stick ’em. Roughly chop cilantro according to how much green you like. I also threw in some chives my neighbor gifted me. I eyeballed my zest according to color, too. I wanted more orange than green (I friggen love orange on anything). Then for the dressing, whisk all together and taste. Make any changes you see fit. If you want less sweet, cut the sweetness with more lime and/or salt. I tossed everything together. Refrigerate for about a half hour before serving. You’d want that dressing to settle. Tastes even better the next day!

Suggestion made by Jen, who I live with: dash of hot sauce, “it’s how we Mexicans would go about this.”

I caught Angie, my baby niece, happily chewing on one stick of kohlrabi. She’s my toughest critic, rejecting anything and everything she truly does not like, so, if my day wasn’t already made, this done did it for me.

I’m pretty proud of myself. I kicked some serious ass, and will continue to kick if that’s what it takes to turn almost-sinking days around.

Hard Core

BY TOMAŽ ŠALAMUN
TRANSLATED BY BRIAN HENRY

Yeah. It’s only a matter
of environment if
I’m a genius.

A genius is
kohlrabi in a turnip in
kale in

cellophane
in the freezer.
In

files they descend on
the white skin and
converge in the corner’s

follicles.
The ants are illuminated.
Basta.

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. <3

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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.