sancocho matzo ball soup

sancocho matzo ball soup

The two ultimate comfort soups from both my worlds have come together to hug the heck out of me.

Developing this recipe was nothing short of WOW. “Wow” was the only sound I heard on the holiday table during Rosh Hashanah when sazón-seasoned matzo balls were ladled into piping hot bowls of sancocho, a hearty soup (sometimes stew) of meat and veggies from the Caribbean. Following my mom’s recipe but needing to cut down on some of the root vegetables to make space for the matzo balls, I’d say this is close enough to hers, which always has had a combination of oxtails and chicken. You can always play around with the proteins and veggies, but if mom doesn’t see yucca, pumpkin, sweet plantain and corn – then Imma get an earful. She has also added, when available, chayote and white yautia roots.

Feel free to use your favorite matzo ball recipe (and hey, add in some sazón and cilantro while you’re at it).

If using sofrito, I have a recipe for it here: mom’s small batch sofrito.

Sancocho Matzo Ball Soup

Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 2 hrs
Course Main Course, Soup
Cuisine Caribbean, Fusion, Jewish, Puerto Rican
Servings 8 or 10 people

Ingredients
  

for the soup

  • 1.5-2 lb oxtails (or beef, short ribs) seasoned with salt
  • 3 tbsp sofrito optional
  • 1/2 of a whole chicken bone-in
  • 1 head of garlic the top cut off to reveal cloves
  • 1/2 of a small Spanish onion
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 2 sprigs of thyme optional
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 12 cup water or beef broth
  • 2 carrots sliced
  • 1 cup squash or pumpkin cut into chunks
  • 1 ear of corn cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 large yucca cut into chunks
  • 1 semi-sweet plantain sliced into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 large potato or yam cut into chunks

for the matzo balls (makes about 12 medium)

  • 1 cup matzo meal
  • 3 tbsp schmaltz or from oxtail
  • 1 cup hot broth (from soup)
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • 2 tspn sazón Organic, not Goya
  • 1/4 cup cilantro finely chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions
 

for the sancocho

  • Brown the oxtails for a few minutes on both sides. Add in the celery, onion, garlic, bay leaf, sofrito if using. Continue to fry for about a minute then add in chicken, and water/broth. Bring to a light simmer, not to a boil.
  • Skim often, then reserve 3 TBSP of the chicken and oxtail's oil that sits on top of the broth. Use this for the matzo meal if you do not have chicken schmaltz.
  • After about an hour and half, discard the onion, celery, garlic, thyme and bay leaf. Set the chicken aside. When cool enough to handle, shred for serving.
  • Add in the yucca and carrots and cook for 30 minutes before adding in the rest of the vegetables. Simmer for about 15 minutes more.

for the matzo balls

  • In a medium bowl, add the matzo meal, schmaltz, hot broth, and seasonings. Mix them together and allow it to cool down slightly before stirring in the eggs and cilantro. Once thoroughly combined, allow it to sit for 30 minutes.
  • With wet hands, gently form the matzo balls and slip them into a pot of boiling water that was generously salted. Cook for about 10 minutes. Serve in a bowl of sancocho.

Notes

Make sure the oxtails you get have less fat on them than meat. You’ll be spooning fat out of the pot for days!
 
Keyword Comfort Food, Hearty Soup, Matzo Balls, Sazon, Sofrito
Sancocho Matzo Ball Soup by @cookonyournerve

Spiced Wild Rice and Summer Tomatoes

Spiced Wild Rice and Summer Tomatoes

The cherry tomatoes I picked up from Cherry Lane Farm needed to be the star of any dish I put before my family, and this was certainly a winner. The wild rice, which can stand up to any ingredient without becoming soggy, is delicately spiced with baharat and Aleppo pepper. The tomatoes are marinated before adding them to the rice. I imagine you can add any fresh ingredients here, from cucumbers to corn. Serve this warm or even cold, as a salad or side dish or hey, a main.

Spiced Wild Rice and Summer Tomatoes

Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Course Main Course, Salad, Side Dish
Servings 4 people

Ingredients
  

for the rice

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tspn baharat
  • 1/2 tspn Aleppo pepper
  • 1 cup wild rice
  • 1 3/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock
  • salt to taste

for the tomatoes

  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes in season only, halved
  • drizzle of good quality olive oil
  • 1/2 tspn ground cumin
  • salt and Aleppo pepper to taste
  • fresh herbs chopped, to taste

Instructions
 

for the rice

  • Heat olive oil in a small pot. Add in the baharat and Aleppo pepper, allowing them to infuse the oil for about a minute. Stir in wild rice, stock, and salt. Bring to a boil then, with lid on, simmer for 45 minutes, or until the stock has evaporated. Set aside and cool slightly.

for the tomatoes

  • In a small bowl, season the halved tomatoes with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, cumin, and Aleppo pepper and allow it to marinate for at least 15 minutes before adding in the rice. Mix in your fresh herbs and serve.
Keyword Farmers Market, Fresh, Garden, Quick, Simple, Summer

By the way, how cute are my chili pepper shakers? Couldn’t resist using them here for the gram. Ha!

Grilled Spicy Corn Chowder with Cilantro and Basil

Grilled Spicy Corn Chowder with Cilantro and Basil

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 Jamaica, 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 family restaurant 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 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.

Grilled Spicy Corn Chowder with Cilantro and Basil

A corn chowder that gets it heat from poblanos
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Course Main Course, Side Dish, Soup
Cuisine American, Mexican
Servings 6 servings

Ingredients
  

  • 6 ears of sweet corn
  • 3 poblano peppers deseeded if you prefer less heat
  • 1/2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 small spanish onion diced
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1.5 tsp dried oregano or few sprigs of fresh oregano
  • 2 c cilantro chopped, stems ok
  • 1 c basil
  • 5 c chicken or vegetable stock hot*
  • 13.5 oz organic coconut milk full fat
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions
 

  • Place 4 ears of corn in a cast iron skillet, or on a grill, and char them a few minutes on each side, turning often. This should take no more than 8-10 minutes. The other 2 ears of corn you will cut into 1-inch pieces and set aside.
  • Spend about 10 minutes charring the peppers as well, 5 minutes a side.
  • When cool enough to handle, stand each ear of corn into a bowl and cut kernels off of them. Slice your poblanos, deseeding if you'd like.
  • Take about half of the kernels and put them into a food processor along with the poblanos. Blend for a few seconds then add your cilantro and basil. Continue to blend til it reaches desired consistency.
  • In a pot, warm up your coconut oil and sauté your onion, garlic, oregano, and cumin for about a minute. Then add the green mixture along with the rest of the kernels and 1-inch pieces, sauté for another minute. Stir in your coconut milk and hot stock. Simmer for about 8. It doesn’t take long!
    Enjoy <3 Corn is making their summer appearance now but soon, it’ll be EV-ERY-WHERE.

Notes

*I use stock that has been heated up beforehand so that the greens do not over cook. I like the bright, fresh green look of it. We are only waiting for the corn pieces to cook through, which only takes a few minutes. 
The broth thickens up once you take it off the heat, in case you’re wondering why it seems loose at first!
Keyword Fresh, Green, Grilled, Light, Quick, Simple

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!

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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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.