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a summer harvest put-together

I am found in the kitchen most mornings, no later than 9AM. Not only because I get home pretty late from work (8:30-9PM!), but it’s truly my favorite way to spend any morning. The house is quiet. I water my lucky cross tomatoes, a bi-colored beauty which grew slowly from seed (in a 20-gallon grow bag, mind you) but sadly only had a chance to produce a single, blushing fruit. There were a few green ones, but end-rot took over. When your babies become calcium deficient, you begin to question your parenting, eh? I consider every season a learning season, and next year I’ll have plenty to share with friends, you just watch.

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When I get to watering my Sicilian eggplants, which are still producing, I stare alarmingly long at their bashful flowers. That is what you do when your favorite color on earth is found, growing happily in a container. Dan told me he’s only growing eggplants and tomatoes next year. A whole lot of them. I can’t say I blame him.

I harvest what’s ready. Usually thyme and basil, as well as arugula, is waiting to be clipped more than anything else. I toss the harvest in a pan. If my garden wasn’t plentiful this summer, Dan’s was (still is!), and he always made sure I went home with the day’s harvest in my tote. Gratitude for every cherry and roma tomato that entered my kitchen, and for every eggplant my cast iron enjoyed. Zucchini, large and small–thank you.


I want to highlight one of my morning put-togethers because it has been the most satisfying to me. One evening, Dan handed me two, long Italian eggplants, two zucchinis, and cherry tomatoes. Next morning, I took out my cast iron and wooden spoon and got to work. This meal was so simple and true, I will make this many times more. Dice eggplants and salt them for about a half hour. On high heat I sauteed the eggplant and zucchini, along with thyme from my garden, in the pan with very good olive oil, salt and red pepper. I added the tomatoes and put dollops of ricotta on top with some of my basil, drizzled a little more olive oil, then popped it in the oven for about 20 minutes til the tomatoes were about to burst. I tossed some with pasta that night, and next day I spread the rest on bread. It was beautiful.


I made this again once I got home from Florida, but this time I added green beans. I also added a little bit of chicken broth and it came out even better. I am obsessed with cooking with thyme and broth these days. Almost as obsessed as I am with Dan’s cherry tomatoes which, kissed by Brooklyn sun, tastes loudly of savory and sweet. This meal was featured on Edible Queens’ Insta BTW! What!?!? That made me super happy because within the next few months, I hope to be submitting some work their way.


One thing I know I’ll be growing again next year is arugula. Mine tastes like GARLIC and pepper. I ended up putting them in everything, from scrambled eggs, to stirfrys. I dressed them with fig balsamic and sicilian lemons for salads to sweeten up their spice. It grows very quickly from seed and thrives most in cooler weather. Next year, I’ll be growing at least 6 herbs, more lettuces, and I need to get my hand on some fairytale eggplant seeds! They are super container-friendly. I’ll leave all the bigger plants to Dan.

I also grew curly kale, no longer with me as bugs took a liking to them. But before bugs, it was strong and plentiful, and the best thing I did with it was put their chopped leaves in a white bean parmesan soup. The broth was delicate and nutty, entirely healing. The one thing that’s gotten me super excited about Autumn is all the soups and stews I plan on making.


Most of September was warm. Cool weather has finally reached us and you know that it has because I came home yesterday with a 1/2 bushel of apples and zero plans for them (send me your favorite apple recipes?) Even Loonz wants to know what I’ve gotten myself into. 


Happy Autumn, everyone! Let’s welcome all the warm spices into our homes, make soups that are the tightest of hugs.

ode to the wooden spoon

I am enamored by the deep quiet of a wooden spoon. It holds like a tongue some keep-it-on-a-hush family recipe. It doesn’t matter where I am. At home. In my love’s home. At mom’s. In Englewood, Florida (where I started writing this, having put his parents’ spoon down which has stirred a pot of my famous beans. It may live on with the stain or scent of cumin and oranges.) Also, this was the first time I ever put orange peels into a pot of my beans and I had a serious OH WOW moment right in their kitchen that I will never forget.

I went orange-crazy here in Florida. I marinated chicken breasts with freshly squeezed oranges, olive oil, garlic, cumin, fresh thyme and basil. The heirloom tomato salad with feta had a light orange-basil dressing. The beans the beans the beans! Dan made his fried shrimp and it completed the small feast. A dinner to show my gratitude for this 10-day vacation with my love and his family, two days which were spent in Orlando celebrating my inner-child (and challenging my fear of heights, y’all.) The view from our balcony was so very beautiful. Everything was magic.


I come from a Russian Puerto Rican household, and wood wasn’t a thing for cooking. Mom loved her rubber and plastic spatulas up until maybe a few years ago when wood entered our lives. When I told Danny this, he said, “I don’t get it. A wooden spoon is everything.” I’ve come to learn that a wooden spoon is story, is history, is amazing love. It is all-around gentle. Kind to your pots and pans as well as to what’s simmering long inside.

I learned a lot from his Italian-Syrian family. For instance, you’re supposed to be woken up not by the smell of coffee (okay, sometimes by the smell of coffee), but by tomato sauce simmering in a pot, stuffed artichokes in the oven, maybe baked meatballs, quite possibly Lori’s famous pecan pie or pinwheel knishes, rose-scented baklava or spinach pies, whole roasted chicken, the sweet and sour of yebre–stuffed grape leaves I plan on making very soon, and usually soups like split pea made with leftover ham, chicken with rice, and my favorite of hers: Italian Wedding. It’s never one of these things. It’s about two and something different, and always of course, seasonal. Right now it’s all about working meals around Danny’s garden. The best eggplant parmesan comes out of their kitchen during this time. Everything I love about summer comes from the garden.

While here in Englewood, Florida, after closely inspecting the wooden spoons I found in a drawer, I grew very comfortable in the kitchen. Knowing that everything in the fridge would have to go before we leave, we wanted to use up everything we had, especially the beautiful produce from Sunfresh!

Many cheese plates were made. All the fruit was cut up. I used their local butter for bread and lemon chicken. I made a watermelon salad with feta, thinking about the very one Tory made me recently, scattered lovingly with mint. Dan requested my guacamole and I requested his garlic bread for summery bruschetta. The peaches were so sweet. The hot capicola was beautiful, and hot. My view from a cheese plate? Even more beautiful, and hot.

I thought I hated beaches. For 28 years I did not care for them. Turns out I’m not into the ones found in NY, as they are cold and mostly dirty. But this beach? I never felt water so warm, waves so gentle, sand so clean. Dan and I watched the sun set together and I never wanted to leave. Thankfully we had this chance, as it rained heavily the next 3 days and the waves grew wicked due to Hurricane Harvey’s wind.

I had ice cream BTW that blew my mind. I think it was the first time I tasted ice cream the way it should be tasted and I easily became obsessed. I liked it so much I told everyone that we’re going back to A Better Scoop Ice Cream Shoppe the next day–my treat. Their Dark Cherry was everything dark cherry should be. Simple. I’ve had this flavor at other places and it always came with chocolate, but it’s not even necessary when it’s this creamy and rich.

One afternoon, while browsing their local supermarket (Publix), they were giving out samples of lemon chicken made on the premises. Everyone loved it, so I decided to make this for our next dinner. It was my first time ever making it and loved it as much as I love chicken marsala. The white wine, chicken broth, lemon, capers, thyme, cream…so so good. Always serve this with any kind of broccoli you love. It’s the perfect green.


It took me awhile to get back to writing this post. Hurricane Irma threatened their home, a home I quickly fell in love with. I became on edge for them, having been around when superstorm Sandy hit them in Brooklyn. I am relieved very minor damage was done by Irma but I feel horrible about the damage being done by all these recent hurricanes and earthquakes. I may no longer have a home to visit in Puerto Rico and many do not have one to live in. The writing stopped when the storms started but I felt like I wanted to say so much. Earth is saying so much. While we were in Florida, we were getting rains and wind from Hurricane Harvey and already witnessed the sort of potential flooding if it had hit us directly. Trees were trees in a foot of water. Most of their seeds on the ground.

I can’t say why I felt the need to write about my love of wooden spoons, only that I feel most comfortable with one in my hand. If you find yourself in a kitchen you’ve never been in, spot the wooden spoon and you’ll immediately know what to do. These ten days brought me so much peace. To wake up and enjoy a cup of coffee with this view, with people I love, is nothing short of amazing.

Mom’s Stewed Beans, Sort Of

We are crazy about a pot of beans in this house. When I moved out, it was the first recipe from mom I took with me. Having been married to a Puerto Rican for many years, no one believes she’s Russian if they’ve tasted her pernil with a side of rice and beans.


She told me she learned to stew them from her best friend’s mother, and it’s truly unlike any other beans I’ve tasted at restaurants or homes, though I’ve been told this is definitely home-style. For instance, rarely do you see them in a tomato broth, with potatoes and olives, smoked, salty meat, and tons of fresh cilantro. Sometimes you’ll see sliced carrot in there, too. Or maybe even peppers. She told me she’s been using pumpkin these days for it’s sweetness, which I’ll give a try in Autumn. It’s hearty and the recipe doesn’t require that it needs to be. I love that most about it. As long as you know what the first 3-4 ingredients are, you can totally improvise based on what you have around your kitchen, and you almost always have beans, tomato sauce, onion and garlic. No fuss, EVER.


Mom can’t cook without her sofrito. A small batch from a blender contains one whole, medium-sized onion, 1-2 cloves of garlic, red and/or green pepper, big handful of cilantro, drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper. You can put sofrito in and on ANYTHING. Breakfast eggs. Stews. Soups. You can marinate meats, veggies, and seafood with it. I rarely make it myself, but when she’s over and she brings her container of this amazing green stuff, I use all of it for everything.

My approach to mom’s beans is a less is more approach, and is always based on the season and what’s in season. Right now, it’s based on my garden. I’ve so much thyme growing and I absolutely adore it in this recipe, paired with flavors of cumin, my go-to for most things. Mom uses a packet of sazon but I tend to omit it. Smoked meat is always involved in mom’s recipe, but you can freely omit. When I do, I add a bit more of veggies. If you’re using meat, you might find it unnecessary to use salt. Always taste as it simmers and develops flavor.


Mom’s Stewed Beans, Sorta
olive oil, to coat pan
cumin seeds plus dash of powder
thyme, few sprigs (or any fresh/dried herb)
1 sm onion, diced
1 large garlic clove, minced or grated
1 jalapeño, diced, if you’re in the mood for spice
1 med potato, peeled and diced (optional)
diced smoked/cured meat (bacon, pancetta, ham, kielbasa, or sachichon) to taste!
1 bay leaf
1 8oz can tomato sauce plus same amount of water, or fresh
15.5 oz cannellini or small red beans, soaked over night or canned
2-3 small orange peels (optional)
1/4 cup beef/chicken broth (optional)
salt n pepper to taste
Toast cumin seeds, til fragrant. Add olive oil enough to coat pan and when hot enough, add onion and thyme. After a minute, add garlic, potato, jalapeño, and meat if using. Mom usually adds spoonfuls of sofrito at this point. Saute for a minute or so. Add your favorite tomato sauce, homemade or canned, along with equal amount of water and orange peels. Add everything else but the cilantro and let simmer for about 30 min to an hour, depending on if you used canned or soaked beans. If you feel it needs more liquid, add water and/or stock. Add fresh cilantro to taste. Discard sprigs of thyme and bay leaf before serving. Serve alongside or over white or yellow rice. My brother tends to eat a bowl of this without anything else. If you want even heartier beans, add more veggies.

One time, Danny and I tossed pieces of rotisserie chicken into a pot of these beans and let it simmer long. The results were mind-blowing and I’ve every intention of testing this out again and sharing it with you. It was pretty much a chicken and bean stew made during a cold, winter night. It was perfection.

Please experiment with the recipe as it certainly demands it. Use what you have and let me know how it goes. ❤



my harlem lunch hour

slabs of seedless watermelon
lush pink and bright yellow next door

i’ve never had the yellow but i want yellow i want
something close to sun

heirloom tomatoes all the way from his garden in Jersey
sit on storefront windowsills sunning til a red he is fond of blooms

to then be chopped along with cucumbers and parsley
a salad sold for simple souls at a shop called 7 Grains

i order my usual no matter how hot of a day it is
split pea unlike any other split pea with it’s
ham-less, Moroccan flare.
he takes out a bottle of all natural soy sauce and
taps it over your legumes tap tap tap 3 times exactly.
“we don’t use salt here.” but they sure use spice.
i taste cumin. cayenne. garlic. paprika. “do you want
a spoonful of brown rice with that?” yes.
and then a final finishing tap of cayenne before
it gets it’s lid and i hand over $4.50.


back at work, i asked my boss’ son what he’s having for lunch.
it’s become a ritual, before sharpening pencils and binding books
and sorting papers and making calls,
i must know what everyone is eating.

“marco polo,” he says.
the name of a sandwich that was
poorly selected for him to choose from on
a menu with 20-something other poorly-named sandwiches.
no, what is in your sandwich?
he doesn’t know he says with a shrug.
i place the lid back on my split pea and push it aside.
i tell him to take a big bite, chew slowly, and name what you can taste.

after a long moment, eyelids fly open and he names
turkey?–no, chicken.
he’s smiling as he stares deeply between two slices of Italian bread and says,

“marco polo, are they serious?”

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.


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.


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.)


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.


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


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


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


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.

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.


“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 omelettes, 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.


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.


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.

Here’s my Indian-Spiced Spring Pilaf.

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

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.

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.

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.


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: 

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 programs

Very much looking forward to eating with you!