roasted chicken noodle soup

It has taken me 11 days in quarantine to slow.thefuck.down. How ’bout you? I found myself rushing from room to room, hurrying up the cooking process as I’m used to doing when I actually HAD a job. The key word being had. I’ve lost mine, like so many others, and it didn’t really sink in til today while I was trying, for the 7th time, to file for unemployment. The site keeps crashing. The phones are too busy. The application itself sounds like it’s gearing towards those with a w2 and not a 1099. Do I even qualify? And while I’m tearing my hair out, I hear my mom on the phone losing her job as well. I hear crying. And I can only imagine all the crying being done today around the world at that exact moment. It’s a lot, I know. And so I’m needing to slow.thefuck.down. Making pots and pots of soup every other day while sticking to cookbooks cause I can’t think beyond that.

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This one is easy. A rich stock is created by cooking down roasted veggies and chicken. (And the chicken, in my opinion, tastes better roasted.)

roasted chicken noodle soup

preheat oven to 425 degrees

for the roasting part

-large half of a whole chicken, or 1 small whole chicken, skin on
-2 carrots, unpeeled, broken in half
-2 celery stalks, broken in half
-1 onion, halved, skin on
-few cloves of garlic, smashed
-1 small knob of parsnip, halved, (optional)
-sprigs of thyme or any other sprig-like herb
-drizzle of olive oil
-salt and pepper

Toss all of the above ingredients in a dutch oven or roasting pan and roast for about 45 minutes, uncovered, til the chicken has browned and cooked through.

When it’s cool enough, separate meat from the bones. Keep in a container til ready to serve.

time for the soup part

-roasted bones from chicken plus roasted veggies
-fill the pot with water or veggie/chicken stock of choice
(bouillon cubes allowed. no judgement here)
-2 bay leaves

Bring to a simmer and let the roasted goodness do it’s thang to the broth for about 30 minutes. Then strain everything out. I actually used tongs but use whatcha got. Then add:

-2 carrots, peeled and sliced
-1 celery stalk, sliced
-4 medium-sized potatoes, I used yukon, halved if small enough, or quartered
-your noodles of choice
-your herbs of choice (I used parsley and dill)

Let simmer til carrots and potatoes are tender. Add the noodles and herbs towards the end and that’s it! Enjoy. Slow down. Breathe.

baby carrot salad and a warm hello

baby carrot salad and a warm hello

It appears I’ve taken a blog-writing hiatus without ever having planned on it, but let’s chat. After being diagnosed with trigeminal neuralgia half a year ago, a rare condition that has left me, to this day, not able to use the right side of my mouth without flinching in very strange, fiery pain, I fell into a depression that led me to holding a camera more often than using words and seeing friends. Believe me, I am still obsessed with food. The obsession is quiet, though. (And mostly on Instagram.)

But I am eating. Mostly softer foods, veggies, grains, and poultry. I am slowly cutting out red meat. I am even trying to cut out dairy (say what!?) but that’s a challenge. I’m not chowing down on a wedge of cheese anymore so I do consider that progress, though a friend of mine did tell me the parmesan in my fridge is no danger to me at all in the realm of lactose. And another friend suggested I make her ginger and ghee tea for a special, satisfying indulgence. (THANK YOU, FRIENDS. I fuggin love ghee). I use oat milk now for coffee. And a lot of this is just trying to figure out what my body cannot have anymore. I bloat my way to 4 months pregnant, and my immune system went nuts on me the last time I tried to exercise and change my diet (enter trigeminal neuralgia, sciatica, and a psoriasis flare-up all at once, a week after these sudden changes.) Managing all of this plus having a hard time at work has left me stressed the fuck out. Yes, I am cussin’. This is really just to say, expect some changes on the blog. I feel I ought to be talking more about mental and physical health, and how food is a major part of that conversation. I hope you will join me.

My social life has suffered a great deal during my quiet, and now those with an autoimmune disease are being warned not to have a social life because we are at risk of getting real sick, along with elderly, far worse than those with no preexisting conditions. Which I already knew, but wonderful. Excuse me while I take my frustration out in the kitchen. (I think everyone should practice some caution. Just sayin’)

I’ve cooked so much during this time away so instead of going crazy choosing which to share, I’ll just talk about what I made last.

Baby carrot salad with a Middle Eastern flare

-3 bunches of baby carrots, washed, halved if bigger than others, greens set aside
-6-8 red pearl onions, halved
-drizzle of olive oil, salt n pepper, cumin optional

Add ’em to a hot pan, only moving them around once or twice. You want them to soften slightly and caramelize. Then set aside in a bowl.

Add:
-2 cups wild rice variety with grains that were cooked in vegetable stock
-1/2 cup or more of fresh parsley, dill, and/or cilantro, chopped
-carrot tops, chopped, optional but do use them for something else if not here
-handful of toasted almonds
-feta, optional

Then add a dressing made of
-juice of 1 small lemon
-long drizzle of olive oil
-about a tsp of pomegranate molasses
-salt n pepper, to taste

Always to taste. Serve warm or cold.

If anyone else is struggling today, let’s have a chat, or just know that I’m right there with you. While I’ve suffered from severe lack of confidence since I got sick, I will say I’m just starting to welcome some food opportunities that have come my way. Baby steps. It may sound ridiculous to some that I’ve ignored food photography jobs or cooking class opportunities these last few months, but I have. I’ve literally disliked half the stuff I’ve put out into the world lately, but I think I’m ready to take better care. Be kind, y’all. Be safe. Eat well. All that jazz.

braised whole cauliflower with olives and syrian meatballs

braised whole cauliflower with olives and syrian meatballs

Mom says this might be the most beautiful meal she’s ever seen, and I think she was mostly referring to the whole-roasted cauliflower which was then basted several times before showcasing it’s good looks. It’s a beauty draped in tomato-red and turmeric-yellow. Tender syrian-style meatballs and olives circle around it, completing this meal.

Preheat oven to 425 (or 400 for powerful ovens)

for the cauliflower

-1 medium head cauliflower
-pot of generously salted water
-tsp turmeric
-1/2 tsp cumin
-pinches of salt
-olive oil

Place the cauliflower in boiling, salted water for about 5 minutes. With a pair of tongs, remove the cauliflower and transfer it to a sheet pan. Add a generous amount of olive oil all over, including upside down so that the oil truly gets inside. Season it with turmeric, cumin, and salt. Pop it in the oven while you work on the meatballs and braising sauce.

for the Hashu (spiced ground meat with rice)

-1 pound grass fed ground beef
-1/4 c dill, chopped
-1/4 c parsley, minced
-1/3 c basmati rice, soaked in warm water
-1 spring onion/scallion, sliced then chopped, or 1 sm onion finely chopped
-3 garlic cloves, minced
-1 tsp allspice or baharat
-1/2 tsp aleppo pepper
-1/4 tsp cinnamon
-1 egg (optional)

Make the hashu by gently mixing all ingredients in a bowl. Form medium-sized meatballs and sear them in a lightly oiled pan. Don’t over-cook them as they’ll finish off in the sauce. Transfer them to a plate while you work on the sauce.

for the sauce

-olive oil
-2 big garlic cloves, sliced
-sprig of thyme
-aleppo pepper, as much as you’d like
-1 8 oz can tomato sauce
-2-3 cups water or vegetable stock
-a handful of castelvetrano olives

In a braiser under medium heat, add the olive oil and saute your garlic, thyme, and red pepper for about a minute. Stir in the tomato sauce and stock and bring it to a gentle boil.

At this point you can take the cauliflower out and transfer it to the center of the braiser, spooning some of the sauce on top. Surround the cauliflower with meatballs* and olives and put the pan back into the oven for 20 minutes.

Transfer the meatballs to a bowl and spoon more sauce over the cauliflower. Finish it off in the oven til it reaches desired tenderness and some of the head has caramelized. You can put the meatballs back in during the last 5 minutes to warm them up.

Note: If your braising pan is not big enough to hold both the meatballs and cauliflower to cook together, cook the meatballs first, transfer them to a bowl, and then braise the cauliflower.

When ready, transfer to a large serving bowl, though we ate straight from the pan! It looked just fine there.

allspice chocolate cake with sesame seed crumble

allspice chocolate cake with sesame seed crumble

Pretty excited about this one, loves! The idea of sesame seeds in a buttery, sugary crumb-topping has been sitting with me for WEEKS, and adding allspice to the chocolate batter was literally a last second decision. And guess what? It works so beautifully I could cry.

Entirely inspired by a lot of my favorite middle eastern desserts, both savory and sweet. From savory ka’ak to sweet sesame cookies…to those rich with honey and rosewater and orange blossom…I am crazy about this.

AND THE EDGES ARE BROWNIE-LIKE.

allspice chocolate cake with sesame seed crumble

Preheat oven to 350.

sesame seed crumb topping:

-1 and 1/4 cup flour
-1 cup light brown sugar
-1/4 cup white sesame seeds, 1/2 ground and 1/2 kept whole
-pinch of allspice and salt
-8 tbs room-temp butter, cut into pieces
-1/2 tbs black sesame seed, for sprinkling

Whisk together the flour, sugar, sesame seeds and allspice. Add the butter, tossing the pieces into the dry mixture, and using your hands, start squeezing them together til big crumbs form. Leave it in the fridge as you work on the batter.

chocolate cake batter for 9 X 13 pan:

-1 cup flour
-1 cup granulated sugar
-1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
-1/2 heaping tsp allspice plus a pinch more if you love allspice as much as I
-1/2 tsp kosher salt
-1 tsp baking powder
-1/2 baking soda
-1/3 cup half n half or buttermilk
-1/4 cup vegetable oil
-1 egg, gently whisked
-1/3 cup boiling water

Whisk together the dry ingredients and then add the wet. Do not over mix (or burn yourself).

Pour into the pan making sure it is distributed evenly. Then break the crumbs over the batter. Bake for about 30 minutes.

And enjoy.

roasted garlic and carrot lentil soup with crispy brussels sprouts

roasted garlic and carrot lentil soup with crispy brussels sprouts

When I told Dan this is too simple to put on the blog, let’s just say he might’ve called me crazy. Yes, it’s simple. Ridiculously simple. But when he said “not everyone who roasts a whole head of garlic will think to turn it into a soup,” well, he makes a point.

Roast your garlic and a pound of carrots for 45 minutes to an hour, and you’ll have something so wonderfully flavorful you’ll want to do very little to it.

But maybe you’ll want to add shredded, crispy bits of brussels sprouts…which REALLY elevates this whole dang thing. I’m not even spreading lies. Just don’t buy an entire stalk of em along with other heavy things from a farm that doesn’t offer bags cause, that’s not so simple. (Totally worth it, though).

You will need:

-1 medium head of garlic
-pound of carrots, peeled or not
-1/2 cup red lentils
-6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
-1 tsp ground cumin
-red pepper, as much as you’d like
-salt, to taste
-olive oil, for pan and roasting

-pound of Brussels sprouts, halved and sliced
-more olive oil

Can you believe that’s it?

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Laying the garlic flat on aluminum foil, cut the tops off the head and drizzle olive oil over it. Seal it shut.

Lay your carrots on a sheet pan and toss them in olive oil, salt and pepper.

Put both the garlic and carrots in your oven. The carrots should take about 40-45 minutes to caramelize, and the garlic about an hour.

While that’s in the oven, drizzle olive oil into a preheated pan and add your shredded Brussels sprouts. Stir only occasionally, as you want most of them to be crispy.

When everything is out of the oven, carefully take the cloves out (you can wait about 15 minutes if you have the time) and add them to a blender along with the carrots and enough stock to make a nice puree.

In a pot, gently toast your ground cumin til well-scented. Add a drizzle of oil and your red pepper flakes. You want to infuse that oil with some heat. Then stir in the puree and the rest of the stock. Add the red lentils and simmer til they are cooked.

Pour into bowls and top them with the nutty goodness of Brussels sprouts. Let me know what you think!

citrus cod and olive stew

citrus cod and olive stew

I’m back to my cooking-with-oranges shenanigans, though I doubt I ever took a pause on that, did I? Summer’s recipes included the zest of oranges in both my Syrian Meatball Stew, as well as a citrus caper dressing for heirloom tomatoes. This cod stew has the zest aaaand some, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. The sweetness of orange and vidalias becomes underwhelmed with the addition of olives, herbs, and fish. A beautiful sweet and salty dance.

You will need:

-2 long cod fillets, cut into 4-inch pieces
-olive oil
-1 med vidalia, halved and sliced
-3 garlic cloves, chopped
-red pepper flakes, as much as you’d like
-1/2 tsp cumin seeds
-1 cup cherry tomatoes, chopped
-3 strips orange zest
-1 tbs tomato paste
-1 cup white wine
-8 oz can tomato sauce plus 8 oz water
-1 cup castelvetrano olives, halved or kept whole
-1 slice of orange, halved
-few tbs minced herbs (parsley, cilantro, dill)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

We’re making the sauce first.

In a dutch oven under medium heat, saute your onion and garlic in olive oil for a couple of minutes, along with your red pepper and cumin seeds.

Stir in tomato paste, letting it caramelize in the olive oil for about a minute. Stir in your tomatoes and orange zest. Pour in the wine and allow it time to decrease by half in volume.

Stir in the tomato sauce and water. Nestle cod pieces and orange slices into the sauce. Drizzle olive oil onto the exposed pieces. Salt and pepper them too.

Leave it uncovered and bake for about 20 minutes, then broil for about 5-7.

Stir in herbs and serve with cooked veggies, salad, and/or rice.

Aleppian Stew with Dried Figs and Apricots

Aleppian Stew with Dried Figs and Apricots

When I don’t want to make Syrian stuffed grape leaves but still want the sweet and tangy tamarind flavors that are smothered all over them, this is my go-to. Let me tell you: it is DEC-A-dent. You can serve it with rice and lentils, a generous amount of salad, or even some of my spring greens kibbeh (Autumn coming soon *wigglingeyebrows*).

Aleppian Stew with Dried Figs and Apricots

-2 lbs oxtails or short ribs
-1 heaping tsp tomato paste
-3 garlic cloves, chopped
-2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
-6 pearl onions (optional)
-10 dried mission figs, 8 dried California apricots
-1 bay leaf
-1 1/4 tsp allspice
-1 tsp ground cumin
-1 tsp aleppo pepper
-pinch or 2 of cinnamon
-3-4 tbs tamarind concentrate*
-water, enough to cover a quarter of the way
-medium sweet potato, peeled and diced
-salt and pepper, to taste

Using a dutch oven drizzled with a little oil, you’ll want to brown your meat in batches under med-high heat.

Stir the tomato paste into a pool of oil left in the pot, being sure to caramelize it for about a minute. Add all spices, carrots, garlic, onions if using, and 3 tbs of tamarind. Stir together, then cover with water.

Allow it to lazily simmer for at least 1 hour on the stove-top with lid on before adding the sweet potatoes and dried fruit. While it simmers, preheat oven to 350. Taste it when the hour is up. If it’s not tangy enough for you, add another tbs of tamarind.

Pop it in the oven for another 45 minutes, uncovered. The meat should be very tender, and sticky with all that tangy goodness.