"You just go on your nerve. If someone’s chasing you down the street with a knife you just run, you don’t turn around and shout, “Give it up! I was a track star for Mineola Prep.” That’s for the writing poems part." -Frank O’Hara, Personism: A Manifesto // It’s for the cooking part, too.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, if you have) circle around it, completing this meal. I’ve added garlic scapes this time around. It is, after all, summer.
Preheat oven to 425 (or 400 for powerful ovens)
for the cauliflower
-1 medium head cauliflower
-pot of generously salted water
-1/2 tsp cumin
-pinches of salt
-tsp of harissa (optional)
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. Rub harissa over it if using. 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
-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 (optional)
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 few 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.
There have only been two cookbooks my hands have ever taken turns being attached to: Aromas of Aleppo, and Tasting India. With Ottolenghi’s Simple now being added to the list, (thank you Danny) my hands don’t even know what to do with themselves. I’ve made about 8 of his dishes within 3 weeks, and have picked up certain things from them that I can’t wait to try out in some of my own recipes. For instance,
FRIED CAPERS. Shut the front door.
On the day I came back with the first of the asparagus, purple and green, I knew I wanted to smother them with buttered, toasted almonds, fried capers, and dill. Because that’s what page 82 told me to do. Everyone at the table loved that extra touch of salt on fresh tender stalks.
The next day, I wanted to try the capers out in a cantaloupe salad, because while I crave sweetness, I tend to crave the saltier side of things a tad bit more. I’m still developing the recipe for this one but YES, it worked out pretty nicely: cantaloupe, blood oranges, green olives, sumac caramelized shallots, crispy tarragon, fried capers, feta, sorrel and radish microgreens.
ORANGE PEELS and SEAFOOD and SPICE oh my (a much-needed reminder)
My family’s favorite was this shrimp with orzo and marinated feta. It reminded me of mussels I make with orange peels and canellini beans (which is a recipe I should definitely write up!). I’ve had a similar dish, minus the peels, at MP Taverna about a year ago. It was called a seafood paella and it, too, had feta and orzo and lots of red pepper. In short, Ottolenghi had me at orange peels. And marinated feta. If you look back in the archives, I have at least 10 recipes using orange peels, and one with marinated cheese. I’m a little in love over here.
GRATED FRIGGEN CAULIFLOWER
Now on to this bright one. I adored this salad. While most of the cauliflower gets roasted (including it’s leaves, which is so very elegant and is zero-waste friendly), some of it is grated raw and tossed in with pistachios, pomegranate seeds, parsley. It added a beautiful crunch and freshness to this salad and I can’t wait to grate cauliflower into other dishes, too.
PEAS AND CILANTRO (and how it’s currently peas season so let’s play)
I took some liberties with this one by adding cumin and aleppo pepper to the green sauce, and blistered shishito peppers to the potatoes. I want to put this sauce on everything! I also want to try out other herbs and flavors, so look out for something similar by me in the near future. We are in the thick of sugar snap season!
MARINATING TWO DAYS IN ADVANCE: Chicken Marbella
When I read that this chicken can be left alone, in the fridge, with olives and capers and dates and all the things, I was happy. This meant I could spend my Thursday morning working on my blog instead of being in the kitchen, fussing over chicken, because I did all that fussing two days ago. All I had to do was pop it in the oven and go about my business, and return to a beautifully flavored meal, sticky with pomegranate molasses.
I’m not even close to spending less time with this book. My rose harissa just arrived, the very one that Ottolenghi suggests we use. There’s also tomato after tomato recipe, eggplant recipes…I’m simply waiting for the right time.
In the Garden
We just planted Black Cherry tomatoes to go along with 3 other tomato plants, and scarlet runner beans that hopefully will not find it’s way to our Sicilian eggplants’ mauve flowers. If they do, (or if the new furbaby does) well, there goes that roasted eggplant with curried yogurt my hand keeps returning to. Page 66.
I’ve been on-and-off sick. Everything from cold to major aches. But on the day my throat couldn’t handle most things, I made my favorite, simple, ginger-y soup. And then I made it 4 times more, and again today. Telling Connie I was making this for the blog was really my way of saying, let me feed you. She had two bowls of it and told me there’s lovely balance between contrasting flavors and textures; they meld. That’s exactly what I was going for here. What you see aren’t just pretty garnishes. They are what completes this soup. Crispy chickpeas, crispy slivers of ginger, on top of silky carrot soup that has been simmered with orange peels and cumin seeds and more ginger. Yes, yes, and yes.
Heat olive oil and stir in cumin seeds. After a minute, add onions til translucent. Stir in ginger, garlic, and turmeric if using. Then add your carrots and potatoes. After a few minutes you’ll want to add your stock (enough to cover your veggies plus a little more) cumin powder, orange peels. Simmer for about 20 minutes, or until veggies are tender. Take out peels. Using an immersion blender, blend til it reaches the texture you prefer. I like mine to have some chunky pieces of carrot left. Then add your fresh orange juice. Salt and pepper to taste. Add freshly grated ginger if you want more of it.
I garnished with fresh slices of jalapeño, cilantro, crispy ginger, and crispy chickpeas. You don’t need them to enjoy the carrot soup, but you totally won’t regret doing this. Sometimes I just add the crispy ginger.
Take a knob of ginger, thinly slice into matchsticks, and fry in vegetable oil til golden.
Toss canned chickpeas (after draining) in olive oil, cumin, garam masala, hungarian (hot) paprika, garlic powder. Roast for about 30 minutes at 400 degrees, or just til crispy.
I served this with my favorite roasted cauliflower which has jalapeños and sliced garlic, seasoned with turmeric, plus more of the roasted, crispy chickpeas.
Here’s a soup with a texture you can kiss. Enjoy, loves.
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.
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.
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—
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
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
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
and her smile smiled me right into
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
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.
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.
1 1/2 cup red lentils
5 cups chicken (or vegetable) stock
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