polenta rugelach with roasted tomato jam

I’ve been told rugelach is one of those recipes you shouldn’t toy with, but when did I ever back away from a challenge? Don’t allow the use of polenta here scare you into sticking solely to traditional dough, as it has been a game-changer for me, even when making pies! Remember this polenta tomato galette I made a few weeks ago? Here lies the inspiration for this new recipe. It adds a grainy, crumbly texture without turning a traditional rugelach dough into tiny, devastating bits. And that jam? Oy. Sweet-yet-savory (my favorite!)

While I’ll forever recommend buying in-season tomatoes from your local farmers market, roasting even the blandest store-bought (cherry/grape/Campari) tomato in our colder months will be okay to use for this recipe. But, seriously, a good friend of mine reported that she spotted plenty of tomatoes at Union Square Greenmarket yesterday, and it was the only good news I needed. You probably have at least 2 more weeks to splurge, so get to it.

Polenta Rugelach with Roasted Tomato Jam

a savory-sweet cookie
Course Appetizer, Dessert
Cuisine Jewish
Servings 48 cookies

Ingredients
  

for the dough

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter room temp
  • 8 oz full-fat cream cheese room temp
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup polenta

for small batch roasted tomato jam (makes 2/3 cup)

  • 1 lb in-season cherry tomatoes and/or other variety, halved if big
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • couple of pinches of salt
  • Aleppo pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp allspice optional
  • 2 sprigs thyme and/or rosemary
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar lightly packed
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

for assembling

  • polenta dough
  • roasted tomato jam
  • 1 egg for egg wash
  • 1 1/2 tbsp polenta for sprinkling over cookies (optional)

Instructions
 

for the dough

  • In a medium bowl, add your flour and polenta and stir until well combined. Set aside.
  • Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together your butter, cream cheese, sugar, and salt. This can also be done by hand.
  • Slowly add in the flour and polenta, and mix until a smooth dough comes together. Divide this dough into 4 equal pieces, wrapping each one with plastic wrap. Place them in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before use, or up to 24 hours. When ready to make your rugelach, you will want them to slightly come to room temp before rolling them out. Give them at least 20 minutes before doing so.

for the tomato jam

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a cast iron skillet, add tomatoes, herbs, spices, and olive oil. Toss until well coated. Roast for about 35 minutes, or until you see that the tomatoes have caramelized a bit.(Not too much, though, as you still want them juicy enough for the extra cooking being done on the stove top.)  
  • Place cast iron on stove top over med-low heat. Discard herbs. Gently smash tomatoes with either a potato masher or the back of a wooden spoon. Add lemon juice and sugar. Stir often, til juices reduce and tomato jam thickens, about 20-25minutes. Allow this to cool completely before use. Can be made 2 days ahead and kept in a small, tightly lidded jar.

for assembling and baking the rugelach

  • Working with one dough at a time and on a generously floured surface, roll out ball of dough into an 8-inch circle. Doesn’t have to be perfect but if looking for a perfect circle, I like to use a cake or pie pan to cut it out. Spread about 2 tbsp jam (a little goes a long way), leaving ¼-inch of the border untouched by jam. Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough into 12 equal triangles. Starting from the outer edges, roll up each into a cookie.
  • Place each cookie point side down on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Brush each cookie with egg wash and sprinkle polenta now if using. You may need more than1 sheet pan.
  • Bake for 16-20minutes, until golden in color. Allow them to cool on an oven rack. Store cookies in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Keyword Cookies, Jam, Polenta, Tomatoes

a polenta pie crust for your next galette

a polenta pie crust for your next galette

Today I wanted a pie with texture. Polenta being the key ingredient here for a crumbly, cookie-like crust. The one other food that comes to mind is when we have use semolina for Syrian muenster-filled sambousaks. There’s that buttery, grainy bite that made me fall in love with them to begin with. In fact, I’m going to try that next for a pie dough, and maybe I’ll even top it with muenster!? Make it like a sambousak galette without the time spent on making individual pastries. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind the work during colder months, but ’tis not the season for someone who is doing it solo in a tiny UES kitchen.

I used the juiciest heirloom tomato ever and thought the crust would not handle this well, but it actually stood up to the juices far better than an all-flour dough has for me. No leaks, splatters, bubbling over. I didn’t let mom in on the addition of polenta, but she was obsessed with it and said “whatever changes I made, I should continue making pies this way.” As you all know, she’s hella picky and praise is music to my ears coming from her.

I topped this galette with Parmesan and a lot of sliced Korean peppers. They were shockingly mild in heat so any pepper will do if you feel like making something similar. I recommend shishitos which seem to be easier to find these days. I was lucky enough to be gifted a lot of garden goods from a new friend, whose parents are growing a variety of Korean vegetables. But don’t want to use tomatoes? Use whatever’s in season! Stone fruit, berries – this pie crust will taste wonderful with any sweet or savory filling.

Course Main Course, Side Dish
Servings 1 pie crust

Ingredients
  

for the pie crust

  • 1 cup AP flour or GF AP flour
  • 1/2 cup polenta
  • 1 tsp sugar optional
  • 1/4 tsp salt if not using salted butter
  • 8 tbsp butter chilled, cubed
  • 1/3 cup iced water plus more if needed
  • egg beaten, for egg wash

for the filling

  • 1 large heirloom tomato sliced
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • couple of pinches of flaky sea salt
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan optional
  • peppers sliced, optional

Instructions
 

for the pie crust

  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, polenta, salt and sugar. Gently toss in the cubes of butter til well coated, then quickly break them up into smaller pieces, recoating them with the flour as you go. If you have warm hands, a pastry cutter or food processor might wise.
  • Create a well in the center for your iced water, and pour it in. Very gently knead ingredients into each other til a dough forms. Do not over do it. If it appears dry, hydrate it about 1 tbsp at a time. Pat dough into a disc and wrap it with plastic wrap. Allow it to chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before using. It can stay there up to 3 days.

for baking

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  • Roll out the pie crust on a lightly floured surface and transfer to a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. It does not need to be perfectly round, as this is the joy of making galettes.
  • Place slices of tomato in the center, drizzle with good quality olive oil, and add salt to taste. Fold in the edges and brush them with egg wash. Bake for about 40-45 minutes. During the last 10, add your cheese and peppers, if using.

smashed vegetable pie with cheddar crust and cucumber salad

smashed vegetable pie with cheddar crust and cucumber salad

I crave savory pies more than fruit-filled. There, I said it. And since it’s winter and my landlord doesn’t like to warm up the house the legal way, I find many excuses to turn on our oven. Our salads have even been the roasted sort topped with fresh cucumber – an Ottolenghi recipe that somehow manifested into a pie in my kitchen, using whatever I have.

You’ll want to choose tender-when-cooked vegetables for this one. Here we have eggplant, zucchini, red bell peppers, and cherry tomatoes. While these aren’t in season right now in NY, roasting them this way in colder months brings out better flavor. I order from a farm-to-home delivery service to ensure my veggies are on point, but if you prefer waiting til Summer arrives, save this delicious idea for later!

smashed vegetable pie with cheddar crust and cucumber salad

Course Main Course, Side Dish
Servings 1 pie

Ingredients
  

for the cheddar pie crust

  • 1 1/4 cup AP flour
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 8 tbsp butter chilled and cubed
  • 4 ounces grated cheddar
  • 1/4 cup iced water

for the roasted veggies

  • 2 med eggplant diced
  • 1 lb cherry or grape tomatoes halved if big
  • 2 red bell peppers diced
  • 1 large zucchini diced
  • 6 sprigs of thyme
  • generous amount of olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

for the cucumber salad

  • 2 Kirby cucumbers diced
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • 3 tbsp freshly chopped dill
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions
 

for the pie crust

  • In a medium bowl, combine flour and salt. Toss the chilled pieces of butter into the flour til well coated. With your fingers, begin to break the butter into smaller pieces til they become pea-sized. Toss the grated cheese into the flour, then incorporate the ice water. Fold the dough into itself a few times til a ball forms. Flatten it into a disc and wrap with plastic wrap. Leave it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, or up to 2 days.

for the vegetables and pie assembly

  • Preheat oven to 425.
  • Place all diced vegetables onto a large sheet pan layered with parchment paper. Add a generous amount of olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and toss til combined. Bake for about 35-40 minutes, stirring once mid-way.
  • Discard the thyme. Gently smash about half of the vegetables with a fork, leaving some of the cherry tomatoes whole. Allow it to cool down before filling your pie crust.
  • When ready, roll out the dough and place it over a deep pie dish. Fill it with the roasted vegetables. Fold in the edges and crimp the way you prefer. Brush with a little egg wash and bake for 40-45 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, make the cucumber salad and spoon it over the pie once it has cooled down (or serve on the side while the pie is warm.) Enjoy!
Keyword Cheddar crust, Locally Sourced, Pie, Seasonal, Vegetables

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!

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.

lentil and sweet plantain chorizo soup

This was on the very top of my list of older recipes I needed to revisit. And since every new viewer lately has been turning to it, it was time for a new look.

Using odds and ends from the fridge, I whipped up something I had to jot down and share with you–right after putting the spoon down. It’s seriously GOOD. It’s also a reminder as to how my blog got its name. Cook with what you already have, with a sort of witchery, going with your gut and, how Frank O’Hara would put it, on your nerve.

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This soup is a combination of spicy, savory, and sweet. You probably already have some of these ingredients at home and if not, it’s still pretty easy and inexpensive to get. Pick yellow plantains that are heavily black-spotted if you like them more on the sweet side like I do. Not entirely black, though. That kind of ripeness turns to mush when cooked.

We’re currently growing a lot of oregano, both Greek and Italian, and that’s the perfect herb to use when involving chorizo. I’ve found beautiful bundles of them at the farmers market yesterday so check out your local market, too. Garlic scapes went into this batch which made this even easier to put together. Yay to no peeling garlic cloves! I’m grateful for easy today seeing that I woke up with flu-like symptoms. I’m adding extra hot pepper to this baby in hopes it’ll heal me!

Lentil and Sweet Plantain Chorizo Soup (serves 4)

-7 oz fresh chorizo, 2 links
-1 small onion, diced
-3 garlic cloves or garlic scapes, chopped
-1 large carrot, sliced
-1 corn on the cob, kernels only (optional)
-1/2 cup red lentils
-5 cups chicken broth (more depending on how brothy you like it)
-1 tsp fresh oregano
-1/4 tsp cumin
-1/4 tsp hot paprika or other red pepper
-1 sweet plantain, halved and sliced
-cilantro, handful, for serving
-sliced red cabbage, for serving (optional)
-salt n pepper to taste

Remove chorizo from its casing and crumble onto a skillet that’s under med-high heat. Stir and crumble some more with a wooden spoon. After about 8 minutes, remove crumbled chorizo from pan and place onto a paper towel to absorb some of it’s oil.

Return pan to medium heat and saute onions, garlic, and carrots for a couple of minutes. If there wasn’t enough chorizo oil left in the pan, use a little olive oil to saute them with. Now add your lentils, corn, broth, oregano, cumin and hot paprika. Simmer til lentils are cooked through. Add the sweet plantain and cilantro. Stir in the crumbled chorizo, cook for another 3 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

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Variations
If you don’t have (or don’t like!) chorizo, give hot Italian sausage a try. Want it to be a heartier bowl of soup? Serve it with avocado. And if you happen to have split peas but not red lentils, use that instead! I love how both lose their shape and become very much part of the broth.

Let me know what you think!

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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Miss-You-Summer Galette with Blood Orange Z’hug

Miss-You-Summer Galette with Blood Orange Z’hug

There’s a farmstand by me that has been showing off tomatoes these last couple of months like they were just-dug-up rubies. It was startling to see such glorious red globes in February, and so many of them, too. Tory and I had just been flipping through Ottolenghi’s Simple, professing our love to the summer tomato on the page. We miss ’em bad and I know you do, too.

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But let’s be real. It is simply not tomato season yet. These beauties tasted identical to the beefsteak tomatoes that are sittin’ bland at the grocery store today, and I know they aren’t the sort of farm that grows them indoors. I *just* recently learned about this kind of farm in NJ, and this is what their tomatoes look like on the farmstand today:

I am pretty disappointed in myself for not visiting the Union Square Greenmarket throughout all of 2018. I think I spent that entire year living a very sad lie. I could’ve had beautiful tomatoes in January! February! All year long. But this post isn’t about those tomatoes. It’s about what I’ve been doing all this time with store-bought ones.

The only way I’ve coped with the lack of summer tomatoes is to purchase a sweeter variety and roast them (usually the smaller varieties). This galette got me all teary eye’d. It was the closest thing to summer I’ve had to date.

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Top it with your favorite cheese and greens. I used feta and radish microgreens. Even better: serve it with my Blood Orange Z’hug to turn up the green and the heat. (Seriously, do that!) Have it with yolky eggs in the morning. I know I did. Maybe don’t forget the olives.

Miss-You-Summer Galette

– 1 9″ pie dough (homemade or storebought)
– about 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
– drizzle of good quality olive oil
– sprig of thyme or oregano, leaves only, tender stems are okay
– salt and pepper, to taste
– favorite cheese
blood orange z’hug (<-click for recipe)
– microgreens (optional)
– olives (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a small bowl, gently toss tomatoes in olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme. Center them cut-side up on your pie dough (which should be on a baking sheet) and fold in the edges. Brush edges with milk or eggwash, and if you want, season them with flaky salt and/or other spices. Bake for about 40 minutes, til some tomatoes are browned and the dough looks golden.

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You’ll want to make this even when tomatoes ARE in season. 2 1/2 more months? Or, you know, head on over to your local indoor farm. Or Union Sq Greenmarket if you’re around.

Braised Cranberry Beans (Enjoyed Two Ways)

I’ve a confession to make.

I left these beauties in the fridge for at least a week before getting down to business.

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How dare I, I know. It’s just that I’ve been overly excited about Spring’s arrival, and with that comes some major irresponsibility on my part. I am buying way too many things at the farmers market and I can’t keep up with it all. When I looked in the fridge today, I had bags of three kinds of radishes, thyme, chives, forgotten carrots and onions, cauliflower, purple cabbage, ridiculously expensive cherry tomatoes, 5 kinds of cheeses…the list goes on. But can you BLAME ME?

Anxiety started to build up last night. I stayed up late brainstorming what I wanted to make the next morning. Mind you, everything I thought of had zero things to do with cranberry beans, because I actually forgot I had them. I went to bed with more ideas than a solid plan for 8 AM. When I opened the crisp drawer next morning, there they were, a gloriously pink reminder of their existence.

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It was clearly time to sit down, and start shelling. I had no idea what would happen after I revealed what was inside each pod. That’s what makes this recipe special to me. I felt how I used to when writing a poem. The first step is to begin. Begin somewhere, anywhere, and let it transform into something unexpected and beautiful. That’s what happened here. It began with a braise.

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And then it became a salad of some of the things I couldn’t bare to neglect any longer.

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Braised Cranberry Beans

for boiling them first
-fresh cranberry beans, shelled, about 1 1/2 cup
-1 garlic gloves, smashed
-sprig of thyme or other herbs

for the braise
-1/4 cup good quality olive oil, or enough to cover beans half-way in small pot
-1 tsp toasted cumin seeds or powder
-1 garlic clove, smashed
-orange or lemon peels (optional)
-generous amount of Aleppo pepper (or other red pepper)
-salt, to taste

for the Braised Bean Salad (basically, your market haul) I used:

-braised cranberry beans with oil
-cherry tomatoes, quartered
-3-4 radishes, all the colors
-small bunch of fresh chives
-leaves from 1 thyme sprig
-salt and pepper, to taste
-fresh drizzle of olive oil
-fresh squeeze of lemon
-ricotta salata cheese (or other cheese)

Directions

Braised Beans: After the beans have been shelled, put them in a sauce pan with enough water to cover, and let it simmer for 20 minutes with aromatics. Drain. In the same pan, heat the olive oil and begin to saute the garlic, cumin, and red pepper for about a minute. Add the beans and cover, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes under low heat (or until the beans have softened and some have turned a golden color.)You want that braised-crisp look on the outside, but creaminess on the inside.

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At this point, you can serve as is. Spoon it over beautiful bread. Maybe add some grated parmesan.

But if you’re lookin’ for something more, continue on and make the salad. Add all the spring things and toss. Season with salt and pepper and dress it with fresh lemon juice. Use what you have on hand but be sure to have something in there that provides a good crunch. I love the addition of radishes in here for that very reason. Maybe uncooked green beans! Parsley would make another nice, green addition.

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And here’s a friendly reminder: keep an eye out for the beautiful at your local market. They may come in very tiny bundles. The stuff of poems.

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A Syrian Menu for Two (with leftovers)

A Syrian Menu for Two (with leftovers)

Do you love sweet and sour dishes? I didn’t til I sat at my love’s Syrian-Jew-But-Also-Italian table.

Traditionally made with apricots, I noticed how Dan’s mom, Lori, would also add an equal amount of prunes to her Yebra (stuffed grape leaves), which are smothered, gently, with a tamarind sauce. It’s a beautiful, vibrant-tasting dish. When I decided to challenge myself by making these for my love (or making these at all–I didn’t want to ruin a gorgeous recipe!) a light-bulb struck. Why not use another dried fruit that I adore?

Figs.

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Let me tell you. Eating this made me want to buy fresh figs and roast them in this sauce–which actually might be a recipe coming soon–but I digress.

Did I eat more figs than grape leaves? Probably. But mostly because I wanted their to be enough of the leaves themselves for Lori to try. When I told her I was making Yebra, I received a stream of expected texts, “did you rinse them first? Dry them? Did you soak the rice? Make sure you lay them vein-side up.” I didn’t have much time to reply (because..yes..I was doing all those things!) I have made these a few times with her and my confidence in the kitchen that morning sang through the window on the 5th floor of my mom’s tiny UES kitchen. Upon the first bite (I swear it!) my guy teared up. All I heard was “…babe.” And he then came at me for a bear hug and a hundred kisses. Next day, I received a text from Lori that said it tastes just like Aunt Sara’s. Which, BTW, is the ultimate compliment. For as long as I’ve sat at their table, Dan has always said “Please make it taste like Aunt Sara’s.” I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting her, but here’s to you, Sara.

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Stuffed Grape Leaves with Figs and Apricot in Tamarind Sauce

1 lb hashu, recipe follows
8 oz jar of grape leaves (about 30-36)
10 dried mission black figs
8 dried California apricots (do not use Turkish here)
juice of large lemon, plus more to taste
5-6 tbs tamarind concentrate
pinch of brown sugar
pinch of salt
4 cups water (plus more)

Hashu (Meat and Rice filling)

1 lb beef
1/3 cup basmati, soaked for 15 minutes, drained
1 small onion, finely diced
1 heaping tsp allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cardamom
1 tbs vegetable oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt

1. In a bowl, gently mix by hand all the ingredients and spices for hashu and set aside. *Set oven to 350 degrees unless you plan on cooking these babies on the stove from beginning to end.

2. Drain grape leaves, carefully taking them out of the jar. In a large pot, bring water to a boil and add the grape leaves, carefully turning them with tongs, for about a minute. Then quickly get them into a big bowl of ice water. Pour them over a colander and begin to dry each one, while cutting off their stems. Make sure you lay them vein-side up when done.

3. Take a heaping teaspoon of hashu (more or less, depending on the size of the leaf), and place the spoonful at it’s center closest to the stem. Fold in the sides and roll them semi-tightly.

4. In a dutch oven or pot, drizzle a little vegetable oil on the bottom and start arranging your stuffed grape leaves and dried fruit, creating about 2 or 3 layers of them, depending on how many grape leaves you were able to stuff. (Some come torn up in the jar). My pot ended up with only two layers–about 32 grape leaves.

5. On med-high heat, cover the pot and let steam for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, make your sauce. In a medium bowl, add your lemon juice and tamarind. Whisk in about two cups of water and a pinch of brown sugar and salt. Pour over the grape leaves. Add another 2-3 cups of water so that it almost reaches the top layer of grape leaves, about 3 quarters of the way. A lot of the liquid will decrease as it cooks, and you’ll want some later. It’s the good stuff. You don’t want it soup-like, though.

6. Place a heat-friendly plate directly on top of the leaves to keep them from unraveling (or don’t. I didn’t. But if you’re making a lot it might be wise to.) Simmer up to 45 minutes on the stove or in the oven, covered. Spoon sauce over the top leaves occasionally. When some leaves have caramelized, turn them onto a platter and serve with all the things.

Syrian Menu for Two (with leftovers)

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Yebra served with homemade Za’atar Flatbread.

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And hummus topped with warm chickpeas that simmered in it’s own broth with toasted cumin seeds, then got tossed in an olive oil and lemon dressing, topped with za’atar and Aleppo pepper.

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And a very fresh, colorful market haul salad made of very finely chopped parsley, red cabbage, scallions, cherry tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers. I suppose all that’s missing is the bulgar!? (There was bulgar, guys. But since it was so fine (I bought it to make kibbeh), it turned to mush.) Kitchen fails are welcomed here. This salad was beautiful and simply wanted to be without.

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On the table, which is actually the gorgeous cheeseboard my guy got me years ago sitting atop a radiator by the windowsil (because good lighting!), is a precious tea towel Tory gave me recently. It has a Syrian recipe of anise bread printed throughout. I love it so!

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I sent over a grape leaf question to Kathryn from Cardamom and Tea the other day, and she responded with absolute kindness. I might have an opportunity to learn how to forage for fresh leaves and I do hope to meet this amazing woman whose food speaks to my soul. Lori already said she’s coming with! A day out with new friends and family in spring sounds like just the thing.

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citrus green bean salad & Tuscan-style beans

citrus green bean salad & Tuscan-style beans

If you can find me competing with squirrels for my neighbor’s figs, then you best believe I was found, on vacation, taking the neighborhood’s oranges from trees bustling with these thick-skinned globes.

As if I didn’t have enough of them, I purchased honeybells, meyer lemons, and tasted a variety of oranges at the farmers market. They made a wonderful addition to a refreshing green bean salad that I made not once, but twice.



Inspired by a meal I shared with Victoria Anzalone in Astoria at Milkflower right before heading to Englewood, Florida, I fell in love with it’s simplicity. The green beans were kept crisp, tossed in a vinaigrette, and topped with sharp cheese, orange segments, slivered almonds, and quick-pickled radicchio. That’s it.

Mine was inspired by Florida and everything I fell in love with at Englewood Farmers Market.

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Wild orange roasted nuts, which were handed to Dan and I with the promise that we’d pay this kind man a week later because we ran out of cash. We paid Ashley Gray, suitcases in tow, an hour before hopping on the plane heading to NY. The cheese we used was a creamy asiago aged with raspberry ale from Stamper Cheese Company. The oranges were sorta-kinda stolen, and used for a citrus vinaigrette to toss the beans with.

Citrus Green Bean Salad

Directions:

We’re using a pound of green beans, trimmed, boiled in salted water for 2 minutes, placed in ice water, then drained. The color of your beans should be bright and glorious. Toss them with a citrus vinaigrette (juice from half a small orange, couple of splashes of apple cider vinegar or rice wine vinegar, little bit of olive oil, salt and black or red pepper.) Keep in fridge marinating in this dressing for at least 30 minutes before serving. Plate the beans, top them with orange segments, crushed nuts of your choosing, your favorite sharp cheese.

I love seeing them on the plate. When I returned home, I made this again but with blood oranges, feta, no nuts, and golden raisins. The dressing was a fig balsamic. Use what you got, I always say!

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I served this with brothy, Tuscan-inspired beans with greens. A beautiful lunch made with ingredients I bought from a Korean farmer at Fresh Harvest who is head-over-heels in love with everything she grew. She handed me the perfect cherry tomatoes, long beans, chinese broccoli. The leafy broccoli and colorful tomatoes were perfect for this.

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Ingredients


for the beans
– 1 cup dried baby lima beans, soaked over night
– 1 large garlic clove, smashed gently
– half a small onion
– bay leaf or sprig of rosemary
for the “soup”
– 4 garlic cloves, chopped
– 1 small onion, diced
– 1 large carrot, diced
– cherry tomatoes, chopped
– fresh thyme
– dash of white wine or rose, optional
– parmesan rind
– 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
– 1 cup variety of greens (parsley, chinese broccoli)

Directions

In the morning, drain beans after it’s over night soak, cover with fresh water in a medium saucepan along with 1 garlic clove, half onion, and bay leaf. Let simmer for 2 hours or til tender. Time varies. In a pot, drizzle olive oil and saute garlic, onion, carrot, tomatoes and thyme for a few minutes. Add the cooked beans and everything but the greens. Cook for 30 minutes more and then add your greens. Simmer for 5 more minutes. Serve with garlic crostinis and salad.

New Years celebration involved a cheese platter with everything from the market, including a Pear Habanero Jam and a Strawberry Chocolate jam. I smuggled these onto the plane and have been using them like crazy.

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Dessert was kept simple, thanks to Jamie Oliver’s New Years advice: frozen grapes with chocolate bark. 

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2019 started off beautifully and, I might say this every year, but I think it’s going to be a good one. I’m moving out next month. I’m getting a shout-out in Edible Queens magazine for the Swedish Meatballs I recently shared on my Instagram. My friendships and family remain fiercely solid. I’m going to live about 30 minutes away from my job, which gives me more time in the kitchen and even more time to do personal chef side jobs in the summer. I’m finally listening to Danny: no more maybes, much more doing, a whole lot less self-induced anxieties. I hope your year started off on a good note as well. We need a good one, don’t we? 

 

Chickpeas + Your Market Haul

Chickpeas + Your Market Haul

Let’s be real. Your chickpeas are grateful when spring and summer at the farmers market debuts their color, crunch, earthiness, herbiness, bitterness, spiciness, and sweetness. My new thrift shop platters are pretty grateful, too. Nevermind how work-friendly chickpea salads are, they are FUN, filling, and way too easy to put together.

Sometimes I have a neglected radish in the crisp drawer, or a wedge of red cabbage left (you’ll be amazed by how long and fresh they last!) They make wonderful additions to any salad that contains legumes and/or avocado. I’m a sucker for balancing out textures. Creamy wants crunch. My sweet buds want earthy and spicy. I always want cheese. Perhaps I want it all.

Here’s a recipe that comes with many variations. Everything depends on your market haul. One week string beans were everywhere and so, a green and yellow bean salad with chickpeas and yellow tomatoes had to happen. (Beware: the beautiful purple variety turns green when cooked). Then squash makes an appearance. Soon, every tomato you can imagine. Sometimes you’ll want to use a different lugume. Sometimes, depending on the size of your haul, you won’t need them.

But when I’m going to work, I need to know I’m taking something hearty with me. Something that doesn’t make me want to demolish Levain Bakery’s chocolate brioche. Which I have done and just did thank you very much. It is literally the size of a hero.

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This addictive chickpea and avocado salad was created by my haul from Down to Earth Markets in Jamaica, Queens the very first day they made an appearance. I will make variations of this forever. Also, don’t be lazy. Peel your chickpeas if you’re not in a rush!

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-29 oz canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed (peel em)
-2 shallots, minced
-1 large hass avacado, diced
-2 medium tomatoes, diced or variety of cherry
-3 long radishes, sliced and quartered
-1/2 cup purple cabbage, chopped
-1/2 cup fresh herbs (parsley, basil, dill, whatever you like)
-lemon zest (tiny bit)

Toss with a quick dressing of juice from 1/2 a large lemon, good olive oil, oregano, salt n pepper. Your favorite dressing will do, too.

Add some crumbled feta. I didn’t have any the first time around. Small pastas like orzo make a fine addition, too. Grate a carrot. Chop olives. Sweet and hot peppers. Cucumber! CORN (in season right now!) We’re trying to eat healthy and seasonally here. Can’t you tell?

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