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.

My murgh musallam

Inspired by a recipe I once cooked from in Tasting India by Christine Manfield, the method of cooking murgh musallam really stood out to me. She calls it a roast, but not once does it go in the oven. You are basically steaming a whole chicken in a spiced gravy, basting it quite a few times during it’s time in the pot, and the results are a tender, deeply flavorful “roast,” which, by the way, is stuffed with spiced whole eggs and nuts, sometimes minced meat.

Making this during a pandemic called for simplifying things. For instance, I don’t have saffron or nuts, and many of the other spices used. I added veggies instead and I loved it even more. Mom’s husband said it tasted like tikka masala but with whole pieces of chicken. I didn’t mind the comparison. You will need:

3 pound chicken seasoned with

-generous amount of salt
-a sprinkle of curry blend (optional)
-juice from half a small lemon

Egg Stuffing

-2 hardboiled eggs, shells off
-1/2 tsp cumin seeds
-tbs ghee
-40g (1/4 c) onion, diced
-40g (1/4 c) celery, diced
-40g (1/4 c) red bell pepper, diced
-1/4 tsp grated fresh turmeric or 1/2 tsp dry
-1/2 tsp red chili pepper or more

In a small pan, gently toast your cumin seeds then add everything else. Saute whole eggs til they turn a nice golden color and the veggies have softened slightly. Spoon the whole eggs into the cavity of the chicken with some of the vegetables. You will spoon the rest of the stuffing over the chicken once your gravy is ready.

Gravy time, made in a big enough pot or dutch oven

-3 tbs ghee
-about 3 tbs ginger garlic paste (about 3 cloves plus 1-inch piece of ginger pureed with a little bit of water)
-2 tbs onion paste (about half a small onion pureed with a little water)
-1 heaping tsp garam masala
-1/2 tsp cumin
-1/4 tsp turmeric
-couple of pinches of cinnamon and clove
-as much red chili pepper you’d like
-bay leaf
-1 heaping cup chopped tomatoes
-8 oz can tomato puree
-3/4 cup chicken stock
-few tbs butter (optional) or cream (also optional), for stirring in towards the end

Heat ghee and gently brown the pastes. Add everything else but the cream and butter and simmer about 10 minutes before adding your whole chicken. As soon as you place it in the middle of the pot, spoon the rest of the stuffing over it.

Then put a lid over it and allow it to steam under a low-medium flame. Every once in awhile you’ll baste the chicken with the gravy. It should be ready to serve within the hour.When cooked through, you can put it on a serving platter deep enough to hold the gravy as well, or cut the chicken into pieces and leave it in the same pot. Serve with basmati rice.

roasted chicken noodle soup

It has taken me 11 days in quarantine to slow.thefuck.down. How ’bout you? I found myself rushing from room to room, hurrying up the cooking process as I’m used to doing when I actually HAD a job. The key word being had. I’ve lost mine, like so many others, and it didn’t really sink in til today while I was trying, for the 7th time, to file for unemployment. The site keeps crashing. The phones are too busy. The application itself sounds like it’s gearing towards those with a w2 and not a 1099. Do I even qualify? And while I’m tearing my hair out, I hear my mom on the phone losing her job as well. I hear crying. And I can only imagine all the crying being done today around the world at that exact moment. It’s a lot, I know. And so I’m needing to slow.thefuck.down. Making pots and pots of soup every other day while sticking to cookbooks cause I can’t think beyond that.

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This one is easy. A rich stock is created by cooking down roasted veggies and chicken. (And the chicken, in my opinion, tastes better roasted.)

roasted chicken noodle soup

preheat oven to 425 degrees

for the roasting part

-large half of a whole chicken, or 1 small whole chicken, skin on
-2 carrots, unpeeled, broken in half
-2 celery stalks, broken in half
-1 onion, halved, skin on
-few cloves of garlic, smashed
-1 small knob of parsnip, halved, (optional)
-sprigs of thyme or any other sprig-like herb
-drizzle of olive oil
-salt and pepper

Toss all of the above ingredients in a dutch oven or roasting pan and roast for about 45 minutes, uncovered, til the chicken has browned and cooked through.

When it’s cool enough, separate meat from the bones. Keep in a container til ready to serve.

time for the soup part

-roasted bones from chicken plus roasted veggies
-fill the pot with water or veggie/chicken stock of choice
(bouillon cubes allowed. no judgement here)
-2 bay leaves

Bring to a simmer and let the roasted goodness do it’s thang to the broth for about 30 minutes. Then strain everything out. I actually used tongs but use whatcha got. Then add:

-2 carrots, peeled and sliced
-1 celery stalk, sliced
-4 medium-sized potatoes, I used yukon, halved if small enough, or quartered
-your noodles of choice
-your herbs of choice (I used parsley and dill)

Let simmer til carrots and potatoes are tender. Add the noodles and herbs towards the end and that’s it! Enjoy. Slow down. Breathe.

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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roasted garlic and carrot lentil soup with crispy brussels sprouts

roasted garlic and carrot lentil soup with crispy brussels sprouts

When I told Dan this is too simple to put on the blog, let’s just say he might’ve called me crazy. Yes, it’s simple. Ridiculously simple. But when he said “not everyone who roasts a whole head of garlic will think to turn it into a soup,” well, he makes a point.

Roast your garlic and a pound of carrots for 45 minutes to an hour, and you’ll have something so wonderfully flavorful you’ll want to do very little to it.

But maybe you’ll want to add shredded, crispy bits of brussels sprouts…which REALLY elevates this whole dang thing. I’m not even spreading lies. Just don’t buy an entire stalk of em along with other heavy things from a farm that doesn’t offer bags cause, that’s not so simple. (Totally worth it, though).

You will need:

-1 medium head of garlic
-pound of carrots, peeled or not
-1/2 cup red lentils
-6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
-1 tsp ground cumin
-red pepper, as much as you’d like
-salt, to taste
-olive oil, for pan and roasting

-pound of Brussels sprouts, halved and sliced
-more olive oil

Can you believe that’s it?

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Laying the garlic flat on aluminum foil, cut the tops off the head and drizzle olive oil over it. Seal it shut.

Lay your carrots on a sheet pan and toss them in olive oil, salt and pepper.

Put both the garlic and carrots in your oven. The carrots should take about 40-45 minutes to caramelize, and the garlic about an hour.

While that’s in the oven, drizzle olive oil into a preheated pan and add your shredded Brussels sprouts. Stir only occasionally, as you want most of them to be crispy.

When everything is out of the oven, carefully take the cloves out (you can wait about 15 minutes if you have the time) and add them to a blender along with the carrots and enough stock to make a nice puree.

In a pot, gently toast your ground cumin til well-scented. Add a drizzle of oil and your red pepper flakes. You want to infuse that oil with some heat. Then stir in the puree and the rest of the stock. Add the red lentils and simmer til they are cooked.

Pour into bowls and top them with the nutty goodness of Brussels sprouts. Let me know what you think!

a light rice noodle soup for a summer day (or any day)

a light rice noodle soup for a summer day (or any day)

No surprise here! My heart belongs to any farmers market wherever I go, and since Englewood, Fl doesn’t have one this time of year, I had to make the most of it in Venice, Fl on the only Saturday I’d be around. Which, at first, didn’t sound very promising as I was walking from farmstand to farmstand. Very few vendors (which is okay!). I still managed to nab the last of the blueberries, tomatoes, and happily nabbed apriums, pink-hued garlic, and tiny red onions. Which, btw, sat very pretty in my newest one-of-a-kind whitewashed bowl I found later that day.

But then, on our way to the parking lot, I spotted Maria from Fresh Harvest farm, a wonderful woman I met a year ago at Englewood farmers market with a farmstand I fell in love with. I was pretty much jumping for joy. Now I’m heading back with ubes (purple yams), lemongrass, young luffas, green onions that are a mmmaybe a few feet long, water spinach, and the most insanely beautiful ginger (or galangal!?) I’ve ever tasted. They are floral and delicate and I’m pretty sure it’s not ginger but galangal. Ginger’s cousin.

Who would think to enjoy a bowl of soup on a Florida afternoon? This girl. These ingredients were meant to cook slowly, together, with delicate rice noodles. I was going to top it with slices of Dan’s long hot green chili peppers that traveled with me from Brooklyn, but to make this heartier, I used them to spice up some roasted chickpeas, which is now officially how I’ll always top my rice noodle soups. The crunch is fannnntastic!

Let’s make the chickpeas first.

for the chickpeas
pre heat your oven to 400

-15 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
-1/2 tsp cumin seeds
-1 small green chili, sliced
-tbs lemon juice
-1/2 tsp grated galangal (optional)
-salt, to taste
-generous drizzle of olive oil

Place everything on a sheet pan, tossing so that the chickpeas or coated. Roast for about 20 minutes, or til the chickpeas have browned and crisped up.

Now for the rice noodle soup

-1 1/2 tbs garlic, 2-3 cloves, minced
-2 tbs galangal (or ginger), peeled and grated, about a couple of inches
-2 green onions, sliced, greens divided from whites
-1 oz dried shitake
-4 cups water
-4 cups veggie or beef stock
-5″ lemongrass, smashed
-about 2 cups trimmed water spinach, or regular spinach (optional)
-bean sprouts, sliced red onion, crispy chickpeas
-4 oz rice noodle, cooked separately, or 1-1 1/2oz per person
-salt and pepper, to taste

In a pot under medium heat, saute garlic, galangal, and the white ends of the green onions for a couple of minutes. You’re reserving the green, sliced tops for serving. Then add your stock, water, shitakes, and lemongrass. Simmer for about 30 minutes, or til mushrooms are fully hydrated. Spoon them out and slice.

Add water spinach as soon as you turn off the heat. At this point, give it a good taste. Feel free to add other flavors, such as soy sauce, chili pastes, fresh lime juice, etc. I kept mine simple and light. Keep in mind that the chickpeas are when an additional spice comes in.

Serve immediately as the chickpeas lose their crispiness over time when sitting in broth. Which shouldn’t be a problem. A bowl of this in front of anyone and it’s gone in minutes.

Next up…what I did with apriums, blueberries, and more galangal. Can’t wait! Right now, I’m just enjoying another bowl as I write up the recipe for the sweets.

rose harissa chickpea and eggplant stew

It’s a Thursday, and I can be found shouting ROSE HARISSA from the rooftop of my Manhattan building, where I’m sure I’m not allowed to be. But just like Ottolenghi, I want you to know about it. Know it. And use it! often. A spoonful of it into or onto your favorite weekday dish will elevate the simple ingredients, as it does this stew.

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There’s heat, but the addition of rose petals to this North African chile paste calms it. I use Belazu’s rose harissa, as he recommends, but if you find something else please use less than what I’ve suggested here, before adding more to your desired taste.

This is a super quick stew with very few ingredients. Yet it’s hearty and flavorful, and it’s rich color is so very pleasing to the eye. Double up to feed more mouths! I added sugar snap peas AND snow peas when I first made it, but decided sugar snaps were best. They can be found at your local farmers market today.

– vegetable oil, enough to coat pan
– 3 garlic cloves, chopped
– 2 heirloom carrots, sliced
– 1 med eggplant, diced
– 1 15 oz can chickpeas, drained
– 2 tsp rose harissa (more or less to taste)
– 1 tbs pomegranate molasses
– 1 cup water
– 1 8 oz can tomato sauce
– 1 cup sugar snap peas, trimmed
– salt, to taste
– cilantro or parsley, for serving

Heat oil in a pot and saute garlic with carrots for about a minute. Under medium-high heat, add your diced eggplant, chickpeas, and rose harissa, sauteing a couple of more minutes. Add your molasses, tomato sauce, water, give it a stir, cover, and simmer for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. You’ll then add your sugar snap peas and cook til tender, about 6 minutes. Give it a taste! Add salt, and see if it needs more harissa. Serve with rice if you’d like!

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butternut squash chana dal got me like

butternut squash chana dal got me like

After a couple of days of takeout for lunch and dinner (I was cat-sitting for a friend after work, don’t judge), I got home needing a home-cooked meal like never before. I stopped by the farmers market to get butternut squash, wild-looking leeks, heirloom tomatoes, garlic and ginger. You all have been killing me with your butternut squash Instagram photos so there was no way I was not coming home with one. I didn’t have a plan but knew I’ve been craving dal for weeks now. I checked the cabinets for red lentils but found only split chickpeas. I knew the dal would be heartier and for some reason, I wanted the heartiest thing I could make. Hence throwing in some butternut squash. It was a last minute decision that reminded me why it’s best to cook on your nerve.

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Butternut Squash Chana Dal

coconut oil (or olive oil, or ghee)
1/2 tbsp cumin seeds
1 small onion, chopped
2 sm tomatoes, diced
ginger, thumb-size, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 jalapeno, diced
1/2 tsp turmeric powder or fresh
1/2 tsp garam masala, more or less to taste
1/2 cinnamon stick, or couple of dashes of powder
3 whole cloves, fished out later or ground
1 large bay leaf
1/2 cup dry split chickpeas (chana dal, soaked 1 1/2 HR)
butternut squash, medium, cubed
3 cup chicken or vegetable stock plus water, enough to cover everything
cilantro, to garnish

Heat oil and add cumin seeds. Once the seeds sizzle, add your onion and stir. After a couple of minutes, add tomatoes, ginger, garlic, jalapeno, turmeric and garam masala. Definitely let the spices become aromatic with a little time. Stir in chickpeas and butternut squash. Add stock, water, bay leaf, cloves, cinnamon, some cilantro. Cook on med-low heat, stirring occasionally. It’s done when chickpeas and squash have softened. Salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with more cilantro.

It’s autumn and this screams it. Should you ever be in the mood for something sweet and spicy and savory all at once, let this be it. It comes together quickly. The outcome is the warmest of hugs. Enjoy that hug. I have a feeling a lot of us could use one today.

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Roasted Garlic and Seared Broccoli-Potato Leek Soup

Roasted Garlic and Seared Broccoli-Potato Leek Soup

I woke straight up SICK. Achy throat, fever, sniffles, all the things caused by an already weak immune system plus this sudden change in weather. I would’ve slept real long had it not been for this cutie I rescued a few days ago, who believes 6AM is lemme-play-with-your-toes-time. It probably is.

Is s/he Luna Marina Rivera? Frankie O’Luna?–(see what I did there?)

Besides poet references, the moon has to be in his or her name, as I’m convinced it had everything to do with every little thing that has happened within the last week or so. Things have been wonderfully chaotic and NEW. And freakin’ adorable.

Back to being sick. I woke up needing garlic BAD. Not one or two cloves, but about six or seven. I also didn’t want a chunky, hearty soup but something my throat could handle without me having to chew my way through it. This is when I whip out my immersion blender, which I am so very fond of. ❤

I decided to make a very inexpensive soup out of ingredients I mostly had in the house, and it was SOsososo GOOD. It was simple and healing which is exactly what I needed it to be. In fact, I’m going to keep this post very short. I’m too sick for this writing business.

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Roasted Garlic and Seared Broccoli-Potato Leek Soup

1/2 head of large garlic (or whole of smaller)
2 small heads of broccoli, cut into small florets
1 medium-sized leek with it’s dark greens attached, thinly sliced
7-8 basil leaves, thinly sliced
2-3 potatoes, diced
5 1/2 cups of chicken stock (or vegetable)
parmesan rind
olive oil
red pepper flakes (to taste)
salt (to taste)

Leaving your garlic with skin-on, cut the tips off and drizzle olive oil on top. Wrap it tightly in aluminium foil and roast it for 30 minutes at 375 degrees.

While it’s roasting, sear your broccoli florets in olive oil only on one side, leaving the other half a nice, bright green. Set aside. Add a little more olive oil to your pot, then caramelize your leeks with some red pepper flakes and basil leaves. You should be able to squeeze the garlic cloves out of their skins at this point and gently fry em with the leeks. Add the potatoes and toss, making sure to coat them with that good garlicky paste. Add your stock and bring to a boil. Add the rind and the broccoli, simmer til everything softens up. I used a potato masher to see if it was ready to be pureed first. I pureed it for about 30 seconds, leaving some chunky bits in there. You’re all done and CURED!

For a sharp garlicky taste, feel free to take a raw clove and grate it into your pot as soon as you take it off the heat. The roasted garlic is mostly nutty and sweet.

Grate some parmesan to top it all off. 🙂

I am now taking my butt to bed, as kitty finally decided to take a nap.

Happy Sunday!

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