Mom’s Small Batch Sofrito

Mom’s Small Batch Sofrito

Since I have several recipes that include heaping tablespoons of sofrito as a base seasoning, I thought it best to direct you to the recipe!

asparagus manicotti

asparagus manicotti

Asparagus Manicotti with whole garlic cloves smothered in a parmesan béchamel. Because why not.

Recipe for Keftes (Tamarind-stewed Meatballs)

Recipe for Keftes (Tamarind-stewed Meatballs)

It’s been a year since I’ve shared this recipe with The Nosher, a place many go to for Jewish recipes, resources, and beyond.

When Lori, my partner’s mother, introduced me to this holiday dish 10 years ago, I noted the similarities of it to their stuffed grape leaves, yebra, which is also draped in this sweet and tart tamarind sauce called ou, pronounced OO-r.) There are a lot of Persian influences in Aleppian-Jewish cuisine when the sweet and savory meet. And I’m not mad at it.

While this gets served at the holiday table, we find any excuse to treat ourselves when I visit the Pizzarellis. “I want to be extravagant today. You down?” And always, they are. Lori prepares the sambousaks (muenster-stuffed pastry dotted with sesame seeds) and I get to working on this dish, solely because I make it the way Aunt Sara used to and they’re not sure how I’ve nailed down the flavors based on description alone, but I’m honored. Truly.

Keftes

Tamarind-stewed meatballs
Course Main Course
Cuisine Jewish, Syrian
Servings 90 walnut-sized meatballs

Ingredients
  

for the meatballs

  • 3 lbs ground beef
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1.5-2 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 3/4 cup unsalted matzo meal plus extra in a bowl for rolling
  • 1 1/2 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tbsp baharat or allspice
  • 1 tbsp Aleppo pepper more or less to taste
  • 1 cup fresh herbs such as parsley, cilantro, dill or mint finely chopped

for the sauce

  • drizzle of olive oil for the pot
  • 1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper or more for extra heat
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp good quality tamarind
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • juice from 1 lemon about 3 tbsp
  • kosher salt to taste
  • sugar to taste (optional)

Instructions
 

for the meatballs

  • Combine all ingredients and with wet hands, loosely and gently form walnut-sized meatballs. I place them on baking sheets.
  • Roll each meatball in matzo meal.
  • Brown them on all sides for a few minutes in a heated pan coated with a little bit of vegetable oil. Brown them in batches as to not overcrowd the pot. Set aside.

for the sauce

  • In a heated pot with a long drizzle of olive oil, add your Aleppo pepper. Once the oil has turned a reddish color, add the allspice and the rest of the ingredients. Give it a stir and let simmer for a few minutes before adding the meatballs.
  • Add the meatballs and simmer for about 30 minutes. Taste the sauce to see if it needs anything more. The meatballs should plump up a little when done, and the sauce shall be thicker.
  • Serve with rice that also consists of orzo or vermicelli, potatoes, and/or salad
Keyword High Holidays, Rosh Hoshanah, Shabbat

I’m spending some time recipe developing and photographing for others these days (and getting paid to do so whattt!?) But I’ve also been super busy trying to feel better all around. The good news is, I am now seeing a neurologist that cares deeply, spends two hours chatting with me, and wants to get to the source of all the nerve pain I’m experiencing. I could practically jump for joy considering my last neuro was, well, incompetent and only wanted 5 minutes of my time. At least now I have some hope that I can *maybe* rid myself of Trigeminal Neuralgia. Which would be great news for all that follow me because I’ll get to taste food from both sides of my mouth! (Did you know food tastes differently from one side to the next?) It’s been a full YEAR since I’ve been able to fully enjoy eating, and I can’t wait!

Much love, and a warm hello to my new followers! So happy you’ve made your way to me.

Thousand Flowers Tart

Thousand Flowers Tart

When Jennifer from The Burley Hen purchased a tiny vial of millefiori a year ago, putting a single drop into her pancake batter, she somehow knew, at first taste, that I should have it instead. And so it made a short trip from Queens to Manhattan, a single drop less, and waiting. Most likely waiting for me to turn on my poet-brain. This entire recipe, from thinking it, being frustrated with it, to tasting it multiple times, brought me back to those days I’d fuss over a single poem.

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While I was super excited to have this flower concentrate in the house, I also had no idea what I wanted to do with it, as there are not too many recipes online. Mostly a lot of Pastiera; an Italian Easter cake. (That’s another thing I miss about writing a poem. The researching that comes with it. I do hope that we all take the time to know and understand the roots of the thing that we are making.)

It wasn’t until receiving sunflower flour from Tory that this idea for a tart came to, well, you know, blossom. Not to sound cheesy. As she handed the bag of flour to me, along with a spankin’ new tart pan (my FIRST in 2019! I have now bought myself some mini tart pans newly pictured here), it was a no-brainer. I wanted everything about what I create to somehow be about flowers, but in subtle ways. The crust, the filling…and what about toppings? I spent an entire day looking for edible flowers the first time I tested out this recipe and found not a single one. Mind you, they were EVERYWHERE at the greenmarkets of NYC during that time. But then it hit me.

FIGS. Inverted flowers. The loves of my life.

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Developing a recipe out of ingredients that were all gifts makes this special to me. The sunflour, which is darker than flour, adds depth to the crust. The crushed graham sweetens it, but also tones down the possibility of a bitter and very dark crust. Look at this color contrast! Fast forward to 2020, and I’ve come across other sunflours that are lighter. But still. This is magic.

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for the crust of a 9″ tart pan or 3 4″ tart pans with removable bottoms

– 1 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
– 1/4 cup sunflower flour (I use Hudson Valley Cold Pressed Oils)
– 1/4 cup brown sugar
– few pinches of salt
– 7 tbs unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 225 degrees. (We’re just gently toasting the crust.)

In a medium bowl, whisk your dry ingredients til well incorporated and, using a fork, stir in the melted butter. In a 9″ tart pan or 4″ tart pans with removable bottoms, press mixture with hands or the bottom of a measuring cup til everything is nice and compact. Bake for about 8 minutes, til fragrant.

Cool down 1 hour before use.

for the filling (if you have some left over, no worries! have yourself a crustlesl tart)

– 2 cups half and half
– 3 long strips of orange zest
– 1/2 cup sugar
– 4 egg yolks, from large organic eggs
– 1/4 cup cornstarch, sifted
– pinch of salt
– 1/4 tsp millefiori (flower concentrate)
– 2 tbs unsalted butter, cut

1. Under medium heat, scald milk with orange zest and pour into a measuring cup. Set aside for 10 minutes so that the orange lightly infuses the milk. Stir in the flower concentrate.

2. In a medium pot, whisk together your eggs and sugar and then add your sifted cornstarch and salt. Whisk whisk whisk for about 5 minutes, or until the mixture becomes light in color.

3. Remove orange zest from the milk and gradually pour into the egg mixture, whisking continuously. At this point you’ll turn on the heat to medium and whisk whisk whisk til the mixture thickens. Remove from heat. Let it cool down a couple of minutes before stirring in the butter.

4. Place in a heat-proof bowl and cover with plastic wrap. The plastic wrap should make direct contact with the top of the pastry cream so that a skin does not form. Let it cool down 15-20 minutes more and then put it in the fridge to chill for at least 4 hours, or up to 2 days.

5. When ready to assemble, smooth out the pastry cream into the cooled-down crust, and decorate!

topping suggestions

– figs
– edible flowers
– any berry in season

After you take your photos, “pour on the fruit” as my mother would say. For 2020, there was no going to union square for the fruit or the flowers. I haven’t been there since the beginning of march and I don’t think I’ll head there any time soon. I waited an entire year to reshoot this tart. When I saw that my local market was not bringing in edible flowers, I ordered them online from FarmOne, and I ordered gooseberies and blueberies from OurHarvest. But really, get what you can right now and I promise you the taste of late spring and deep summer.

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Spring’s busy but easy salad with cauliflower and asparagus

Spring’s busy but easy salad with cauliflower and asparagus

Does this look busy to you? Okay, maybe. BUT it’s so easy to put together and even more easy to put into it whatever the seasons offer. I first got the cauliflower salad idea from Ottolenghi in Simple, where he uses both roasted and freshly grated, then adds a variety of greens, pistachios, and pomegranate. It’s refreshing and absolutely beautiful. His recipe has transformed a bit in this household and I wanted to share it with you in case you needed some fresh ideas for your stay in.

This was the latest version I made. I used:

-1 large head of cauliflower, 1/4 of it set aside in a thick wedge for grating
-olive oil, enough to coat
-1/4 tsp turmeric
-salt and pepper, to taste
-1 cup cooked wild rice, or any leftover rice/grains you have
-1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1″ pieces
-2 large garlic cloves, chopped
-1/2 cup parsley, chopped
-1/2 cup dill, chopped
-pomegranate seeds from 1/2 of medium pomegranate
-juice from 1 lemon
-ground cumin, to taste
-ground allspice,to taste
-almonds or pistachios, optional
-feta, optional

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut the cauliflower into florets and place in a baking sheet. Toss in olive oil, turmeric, salt and pepper. Roast til they just begin to brown, about 20 minutes. You want them still firm, not entirely caramelized and softened to the point of no return. Let cool.

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While the cauliflower is in the oven, saute your asparagus in a heated pan with olive oil,. salt and pepper, and chopped garlic. This should take about 8-10 minutes. Let cool.

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Grate 1/4th of reserved cauliflower and place into a large bowl. Add the chopped greens, seeds, rice/grains, and everything else when they’re cool enough to not soften the fresh herbs.

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Season with lemon, drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper, cumin, and allspice. Toss til everything seems evenly dressed. Pop in the fridge for at least a 1/2 hour before serving. Then add your optional nuts and feta.

My mom allows me 1 serving, while she eats all other servings available.

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casarecce and mini meatballs in roasted cherry tomato sauce

So I *think* this beautiful meal was meant to serve at least six people, but, friends? Three made it disappear. WE NEEDED THE LOVE. I’m thinking you might need some, too. How are you?

I’ve always swooned over a roasted cherry tomato sauce for my pasta…and now having small meatballs coated in that sweet, sweet sauce kinda took me the hell over the edge. Let’s do this.

Preheat oven to 400

for the meatballs

-1 lb ground beef
-3 garlic cloves, minced
-1/4 cup breadcrumbs
-1/4 cup finely grated parmesan
-1/2 tsp oregano (fresh or dried, or any other herb you like)
-1 egg
-salt and pepper

Mix all ingredients together, but be careful not to over mix. With wet hands, form mini meatballs and shallow fry them. You’ll want to brown them but not overcook them. Set aside til sauce is ready.

for the sauce

-glug of olive oil
-2 sprigs of oregano or rosemary or bay leaves
-few garlic cloves, sliced
-14 oz fresh cherry tomatoes, colorful variety if available
-14 oz can cherry tomatoes with juice (mutti) OR just double up on fresh cherry tomatoes
-1/2 pound pasta/8 oz, cooked separately in salted water
-1/2 cup grated parm

In a roasting pan, toss cherry tomatoes, garlic, and sprigs in a generous amount of olive. Season with a little salt and red pepper. Roast til bursting, about 35-40 minutes.

Mash them.

Add your meatballs and stir til well coated with the sauce, then bake in the oven another 15 minutes. Toss in the pasta and add plenty of parmesan.

And by all means, be comforted by 1-4 bowls of this.

za’atar caramelized cabbage and onion buns

za’atar caramelized cabbage and onion buns

Mom really enjoyed the Hungarian caramelized cabbage buns (káposztás pogácsa) that I made from Jewish Soul Food the other day, but as she was eating them, I heard a lot of “but” this and “but” that. You know what buts make me do? Spend a few hours in the kitchen recipe developing for the sake of not hearing that word again. I mean, you gotta do what you gotta do when you’re in quaritine together.

These are inspired by those same, beautiful buns, without mom’s but. (I’m laughing every time I say that). I scaled down the recipe since there’s only 3 of us, and I used more parmesan, and some different spices I tend to use often. Oh! And za’atar. These are freaking addicting. Almost like a biscuit, if you’re into that. I omitted the caraway seeds from the original recipe, only because mom doesn’t like them.

Serves 10, or up to 14 if you use leftover and roll them out again.

You will need:

for the cabbage and onion

-260g (a heaping 1.5 cup) green cabbage, very finely chopped
-tsp salt, to sweat out the cabbage
-100g (2/3 cup) onion, finely chopped
-1 tbs butter
-1 tbs olive oil
-1 tsp sugar
-1/2 tbs sweet paprika
-few pinches of allspice and pepper

for the dough

-375g (3 cups) all purpose flour
-45g finely grated parmesan (1/2 cup)
-1/2 tbs active dry yeast dissolved in 1/4 c warm water plus 1 tsp sugar or other sweetener, wait 5-10 min, til it gets nice and bubbly.
-30 ml milk (about 2 tbs)
-1 egg yolk
-1/3 c yogurt or sour cream, a little over 5 tbs
-1 stick salted butter, 8 tbs, softened (if using unsalted, add salt)
-1 heaping tsp garlic powder
-1 heaping tsp Aleppo pepper or other, add more if you like heat
-egg yolk for the glaze
-za’atar, to sprinkle on top

1. In a mesh colander that is sitting on top of a bowl or cup, add your cabbage and toss them with salt. Let it sit for about 45 minutes. The salt will draw moisture out from the cabbage. Use a paper towel to dry out the rest once 45 minutes are up.

2. Under low heat, slowly cook down the cabbage and onion in butter and olive oil. Add sugar, sweet paprika, and allspice. Saute every 5 minutes. They should caramelize within 30 minutes. Set aside.

3. Using a stand mixer with a dough hook attached, mix together your flour, parmesan, spices in it’s bowl. Then, on slow speed, gradually add the yeast, milk, yolk and knead for about 5 minutes. Add butter and knead for another 5 minutes. Then add in the cabbage, kneading another minute or so. When all seems combined, I like to flour a surface and knead by hand before letting it rest for 2 hours in an oiled bowl. Keep it at room temp, covered.

4. Roll out the dough on a floured surface. It should be 1 inches thick. Use a cup, cookie cutter, or biscuit cutter and arrange rounds on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Brush egg yolk on each. Use a sharp knife or toothpick to make a pattern on the glaze. I did thunderbolts for mine, but the traditional way is a crisscross pattern. Sprinkle za’atar on each and let rise for 30 minutes.

5. Preheat oven to 400. When ready, bake for about 20-25 minutes. Check in on them. They should be golden.

Serve same day, or freeze them.

When I made them the first time, I served them with a tomato and cucumber salad, and braised, spiced chickpeas.

Last night my mom had a few with her spaghetti and meatballs. And today I’m doing brunch with a lox grazing board. Pics to come later this afternoon, if you have Instagram or Facebook! Happy baking.

fig and orange-zested cake

fig and orange-zested cake

How’s everyone this Sunday?

I planned on not doing anything for Easter, but I needed to lift the spirit of the house, and some figs and oh-so-buttery cake sounded like just the thing we needed . Am I right?

Think pound cake, but not measured out the way a pound cake traditionally is made.

-180 grams (1 1/2 cup) AP flour
-150 grams (3/4 cup) sugar
-3/4 tsp baking powder
-pinch of salt
-200 grams butter, unsalted, softened
-3 large eggs, room temp
-3 tbs warm milk
-1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
-zest from one medium orange
-6 figs, sliced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, grease and dust with flour your loaf pan. Mine was 9×13.

1. In a large bowl, whisk together your flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

2. In a separate bowl, use a hand mixer to whisk your butter, eggs, milk, vanilla extract, and zest til light in color, about 4 minutes.

3. Add half your wet ingredients into your dry and gently fold. Add the other half and keep folding til well incorporated and no lumps appear.

4. Transfer half the batter to the loaf pan and layer the top with thin slices of fig. Add the rest and repeat. Bake for about 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Happy Easter everyone!

whatever-you-have minestrone

You know what I have? Canned and frozen goods. Know what I need? Soup. This is what I used:

-a small ziplock filled with saved beef bones from the freezer
-1 leek, sliced after a good cleaning
-3 cloves garlic, chopped
-2 celery stalks, sliced
-1 large carrot, diced
-2 bay leaves
-dried red pepper, I use aleppo pepper
-14.5oz can of diced fire roasted tomatoes plus same amount of water
-parmesan rind, I keep mine in the freezer
-14.5oz canned cannellini beans plus 2×water or stock, more if you want it brothy
-275g potatoes (a little over a cup), I use golden varieties but any will do
-200g zucchini (about 3/4 cup), cored if large and very seedy, diced
-handfuls of frozen peas, or any frozen veggie
-chopped greens such as kale, swiss chard, whatever you have

Literally, whatever. Any kind of bean or green or herb or saved rind. A different allium or canned tomato or root vegetable. I wish I had pumpkin or sweet potatoes, but I didn’t. Frozen peas was a nice touch of sweet that was missing. Frozen or canned corn is nice, too.

I browned the bones first in some olive oil and red pepper, then added leeks, garlic, celery and carrot. Sauted them for a couple of minutes then added the bay leaves, diced tomatoes, water, and rind. Allow that to simmer for 25 minutes before adding beans and more stock. Allow that to boil for 15 minutes then add your potatoes. After about 8 minutes when the potatoes are slightly tender, you’ll add the zucchini and peas. When they are ready, your greens come next. Turn off the stove and add salt and pepper to taste. Ladle away.

I served mine with Jamie Oliver’s baked tiella rice from Jamie Cooks Italy. Layers of cherry tomatoes, potatoes, celery, mussels, parmesan, zuchinni..cooked in prosecco say what!? It was magic. But, please, this soup is quite filling on it’s own.

A soup of leeks, potatoes, sunchokes, roasted garlic

A soup of leeks, potatoes, sunchokes, roasted garlic

Decided to share this super simple recipe with you after a few requests from friends on Instagram. Especially from those who just got their Misfits delivery in and now have lots of potatoes and Jerusalem artichokes (aka sunchokes) to use.

This soup becomes super silky and creamy with no milk added and serves 4-5. All you need is:

-few tbs butter or long drizzle of olive oil
-1 large leek, light green and whites cleaned well and sliced, or 1 small onion, diced
-2 sprigs of fresh thyme or dried herbs
-550g potatoes (a little over 2 cups), diced, I used a golden variety but any will do
-200g Jerusalem artichoke, about 1 large, peeled as much as possible, then diced
-200g carrot, about a cup, peeled and diced
-roasted garlic (optional but totally a game changer)
-good quality stock, veggie or chicken
-salt and pepper to taste

In a pot under low-medium heat, saute your leeks til they break a part, about 10 minutes, stirring often. As Nigel Slater warns several times in his books, do not scorch them, like I tend to do. Add everything else plus enough stock or whatever to cover, and simmer til both potatoes and sunchokes become tender. Discard any sprigs and puree with an immersion blender or any blender. You can serve as is but it does really well with any leftovers you have.

I had a bowl with crepes, celery leaves, and bacon, and the next day I had a bowl with a sprinkling of a corn salad I made the day before for fajitas. Consider the soup a template for many unusual possibilities, for unusual times.

tender are the teeth as we speak

tender are the teeth as we speak

I have held onto Nigel’s narrative for years. ‘Tender’ would be the perfect word to describe Tender, perhaps too tender for me to cook from in previous years, but not today. Tender are the teeth as we speak.

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I decided to self-quarintine March 12th, days before social distancing was practiced around me, and before NYC schools would shut down. Here’s what I learned so far:

  • streets in the Upper East Side, where I live, are still buzzing with people who are not practicing social distancing. They are walking in groups, sitting in parks, treating this like a vacation. We need a mandatory lockdown. Nurses and doctors are risking their lives every day, and these people are part of the problem.
  • many have lost jobs. MANY. and others are forced to go in. several teachers after the shut down went in doing work on the computer that could’ve been done at home. why? my current situation with work is this: coworkers are asking me what is going on, and I have no answers because I haven’t been told what’s in store for the company. are we getting paid leave? will our small nonprofit survive this? do I assume I have no job here on out? I repeat: many have lost their jobs. many have to go in. and many job statuses are up-in-the-air. Personally? not knowing makes me sick. i’m spiraling more often than not.
  • we must BUY LOCAL, SUPPORT LOCAL, like never before. and for someone such as myself who has done 95 percent of my shopping at greenmarkets but is now too afraid to hop on the train or bus, there’s OurHarvest you can turn to. Farm goods delivered to you, from farms and local businesses I’ve seen at the markets. This makes me happy. Forrealz.
  • cooking is saving me right now but I can’t recipe-develop. I want to compile a list of pantry staple recipes for you but can’t seem to. what I CAN do is have others tell me what to do for once. I’ve turned to cookbooks I’ve owned for years but have barely cooked from. Tender, for starters. I owe this to a cookbook club on Instagram, #fearlesscookbookclub.
  • people are saying social media is making things worse, but it’s mostly FB. I’m making connections right now that are keeping me sane on Instagram. my community of recipe developers and food photographers and foodies are on point with the support and real talks without being too pushy. more like a physical hug i need but can’t get.

like one I haven’t received from my sweetheart and I’ve no idea when I will.

These are just some of the things I learned. If I get further into politics, I may pop a vein. Perhaps next post? Now, here’s a couple of the things I’ve made from Tender:

dark chocolate-beet cake with a crème fraîche poppyseed frosting–I don’t know how to describe this, other than it went right with everything I was feeling and needed to feel. It was downright earth-deep. Note: he doesn’t add sugar to the frosting. I did. Not mad at it.

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and what he calls, A winter dish of potatoes, onions, and melted cheese (I added mushrooms, too)

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has anyone else noticed how fond he is of cheese? remember when I said I’d quit it? okay maybe not during quarintine.

I’ve made other things not from books, but from watching Jamie Oliver on Hulu. This salad of edamame (from the freezer!), fire-roasted red peppers (from a jar!), grilled green olives, arugula and parmesan shavings (from the farm!) is going on rotation. Season it with salt, pepper, olive oil, splash of red wine vinegar. He uses fava beans. I didn’t have.

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Please be safe, loves. Please reach out if you feel the need to. Stay home if you can.