braised whole cauliflower and syrian meatballs

braised whole cauliflower 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, if you have) circle around it, completing this meal. I’ve added garlic scapes this time around. It is, after all, summer.

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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
-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

-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 (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.

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mexican corn chowder

mexican corn chowder

Sitting at the corner table in Estia’s Little Kitchen with Connie, a spoonful of corn chowder in my mouth, I’m immediately taken back to my previous home in Queens. A burst of heat and plenty of cilantro in the broth is exactly how I enjoyed Momma Lupe’s soups. I called a gentleman over and asked in a single word, “tomatillos?” And in a single word returned,“poblanos.”Again I was back in a little kitchen of my own, in another time and place, where sounds of the blender filled the room as poblanos and cilantro became one, beautiful green.

Gratitude to this garden-to-table restaurant where everyone was friendly and most likely family, for allowing me a taste of memory. Our waiting area was the best wait I’ve ever experienced in my life. They serve iced coffee in a truck out back where they are currently growing many lettuce greens and herbs, cucumbers, squash, tomatoes. Check out that dragonfly chillin’ on a garlic scape. We walked around til our names were called and we made sure we would return before heading back into the city.

Inspired by their chowder (I had never seen a green corn chowder, have you?), I made my own and I am loving every morning, afternoon, and night, with a bowl of this. It’s good hot and room temp, probably even cold. It goes perfectly with an egg, avocado, a sprinkle of cotija, crispy tortillas. To make it a bit light, I use coconut milk instead of cream and I leave out potatoes. I also grilled the ingredients to get that summer flavor I love.

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Mexican Corn Chowder, serves 4-5 (double up for more)

-1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted
-4 ears of sweet corn
-2 big poblanos, deseeded if you like less heat
-1/2 tbs coconut oil
-1 small spanish onion, diced
-3 garlic cloves or scapes, chopped
-1 tsp fresh oregano, chopped
-1 cup cilantro, tightly packed, stems okay
-1/2 cup basil
-13.5 oz can organic coconut milk
-3 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock
-cotija, cilantro, avocado, egg (serving suggestions)

Spend about 12 minutes grilling your poblanos, 6 minutes a side.

Spend about 10 minutes grilling your corn, turning occasionally. I actually grilled 3 out of 4. The un-grilled one I cut into 1-inch pieces and put them directly into the pot. But feel free to grill ’em all!

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Once they’ve cooled down enough to handle, stand each ear of corn into a bowl and cut kernels off of them. Slice your poblanos.

Take about half of the kernels and put them into a food processor along with the poblanos.

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Blend for a few seconds then add your cilantro and basil. Continue to blend til it reaches desired consistency. I prefer mine not pureed.

In a pot, warm up your coconut oil and saute your onion, garlic, oregano, and cumin seeds for about a minute. Then add the green mixture along with the rest of the kernels and 1-inch pieces, saute for another minute. Stir in your coconut milk and stock. Simmer for about 15 minutes. It doesn’t take long!

Enjoy ❤ Corn is making their summer appearance now but soon, it’ll be EV-ERY-WHERE.

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Spring Greens Kibbeh

Spring Greens Kibbeh

Guess what? I have never had an all-veggie-and-herb kibbeh before. Nor a very flat one. It is the hefty oval-shaped classic stuffed with meat that I’m used to; with it’s outer, crispy shell made of bulgur wheat and even more (but very delicious) meat. In Lori’s kitchen, all that’s needed is a fresh squeeze of lemon over them and each bite is heaven. But it’s spring and I want to do the following: see green, eat green, maybe not spend too much time in the kitchen if there’s a shortcut I can live with. I also really want to eat less meat.

So bring on this quicker version of kibbeh packed with fresh herbs, chickpeas, spring peas, and beautiful spices. Kibbeh-meets-falafel, almost! Use whatever greens you fancy.

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While you can use fresh English peas that are already pre-packaged for you, I’ve come across spring’s sugar snap peas plump enough to shell and use for this recipe. No steaming necessary! They are currently in season. They are sweet all over and you can make a simple salad out of their tender shellings.

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Add some fresh herbs and toss them in lemon juice and good quality olive oil, and season with salt, pepper, cumin, and sumac. And yes, it goes perfectly with kibbeh!

Spring Greens Kibbeh – makes 12-14 thin patties

– 1/2 cup fine bulgur, rinsed and drained completely in a fine mesh strainer
– 3 spring onions, sliced thin
– 3 garlic cloves, minced or 3 ramps/garlic scapes, chopped, if you have
– 1 cup variety of herbs, tightly packed, chopped (parsley, cilantro, dill)
– 2/3 cup cooked chickpeas, gently smashed
– 1/3 cup + 1 tbs fresh spring peas (frozen is ok)
– 1/2 cup flour
– 1 heaping tsp allspice or baharat
– 1 heaping tsp Aleppo pepper
– 1 tsp fine sea salt
– 1 tsp cumin
– 1/4 tsp coriander
– vegetable oil, for frying

In a big bowl, add all ingredients together, tossing so that everything looks fully incorporated. Then knead til big, slightly sticky clumps form.

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Cover and leave in the fridge for about 15 minutes. When ready, knead a palmful of the mixture into a ball and press it down to create a flat disc. Do this til the mixture is gone. No worries if some of the peas run loose. You can always press them gently down onto a patty after you form them.

Heat a cast iron skillet and drizzle vegetable oil onto it. Not too much! We’re just searing each patty on both sides til they’re golden, about 1 1/2-2 minutes a side. For each batch, drizzle more oil onto the pan. Place them on a plate lined with paper towels, sprinkle with salt while they’re still hot. When ready, plate them however you wish, though stacking them is fun.

Serve with lemon wedges and/or pomegranate molasses. And that shelling salad!

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If you’re serving more than 3 or 4 people, you can easily double the recipe. This is a great appetizer, lunch, or snack, or side dish.

Last night I served it with this beauty of a red snapper with even more beautiful cauliflower and everyone was so silent at the table, enjoying every moment of molasses dripping onto this and onto that.

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If interested in making this super easy one-pan meal, just season the fish with za’atar, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Toss the cauliflower in olive oil, salt, pepper. Roast for about 40 minutes. Heat up the kibbeh for about 6 minutes in the oven if it cooled down. The crunch of these patties completed the meal! Between the 3 of us, there were only a few left. And I enjoyed those few cold the next day.

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Blood Orange Z’hug

Blood Orange Z’hug

“…What is Z’hug!?” was a popular question I received last week when I shared the recipe to a Citrus and Z’hug Marinated Manchego party-starter (and maybe ender. You decide). While it used a spice blend inspired by z’hug’s main ingredients, this is all fresh and seriously addictive.

It’s a gorgeous green sauce originating from Yemen that is delicately spiced with cardamom, cumin, coriander, and crushed red pepper. It also packs a punch from using fresh, hot chile peppers and garlic. What makes this z’hug (AKA zhoug) a bit less traditional is that I’ve added citrus flavors because, well, it’s still citrus season and I’m still celebrating. You’ll want to drizzle this onto everything, spoon it into anything, swirl it, plop it, drop it (like it’s hot). Okay, I’ll stop.

Need some ideas?

It goes with ANYTHING tomato. Fresh or roasted or even sauce!

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I made a pumpkin cannellini bean stew and swirled green right into it. You can add this to any stew, soup, spread. It’ll also make a nice addition to your next cheeseboard.

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Use it as a quick marinade by adding some more fresh juice to it. I’ve rubbed a fair amount of blood orange z’hug onto a whole chicken, veggies, and even a tenderloin, which roasted so nicely in the oven. It’d be perfect for grilling season.

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It shares a similarity to my other favorite green sauces: chimichurri, sofrito. But it’s my go-to now because it contains the spices I love most. Try to only use freshly ground spices or high quality bottled up ones. This sauce is as much about the spice as it is the green. You can use plain (but very good) olive oil, and any hot pepper you adore. Play with the greens, too. Some recipes use all parsley or all cilantro. Some add mint. Sky’s the limit on which citrus you’d like to use. I hear Sumos hit the markets very recently and everyone’s going crazy for them.

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Blood Orange Z’hug (Yeminite Green Sauce), small batch

– 1 cup fresh cilantro with small stems, tightly packed
– half cup parsley leaves, tightly packed
– 2 garlic cloves
– 1-2 jalapeños, sliced (or other pepper variety)
– 1 tsp freshly ground cumin, toasted
– 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
– 1/2 tsp ground coriander, toasted
– 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper (I use Aleppo), or more to taste
– 1/4 cup plus 1 tbs Blood Orange Olive Oil
– juice from 1 small blood orange, or other orange variety
– small squeeze of fresh lemon
– zest from orange
– salt, to taste

Directions: Add everything to your food processor and blend til thoroughly combined. Feel free to add more olive oil and fresh juice if you’d like a looser consistency. Use z’hug for all the things.

Let me know how you end up using it!

This is what z’hug looks like when you use a blender instead of a food processor BTW:

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Still edible. And pretty.

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.