Thousand Flowers Tart

Thousand Flowers Tart

When Jennifer from The Burley Hen purchased a tiny vial of millefiori a year ago, putting a single drop into her pancake batter, she somehow knew, at first taste, that I should have it instead. And so it made a short trip from Queens to Manhattan, a single drop less, and waiting. Most likely waiting for me to turn on my poet-brain. This entire recipe, from thinking it, being frustrated with it, to tasting it multiple times, brought me back to those days I’d fuss over a single poem.

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While I was super excited to have this flower concentrate in the house, I also had no idea what I wanted to do with it, as there are not too many recipes online. Mostly a lot of Pastiera; an Italian Easter cake. (That’s another thing I miss about writing a poem. The researching that comes with it. I do hope that we all take the time to know and understand the roots of the thing that we are making.)

It wasn’t until receiving sunflower flour from Tory that this idea for a tart came to, well, you know, blossom. Not to sound cheesy. As she handed the bag of flour to me, along with a spankin’ new tart pan (my FIRST in 2019! I have now bought myself some mini tart pans newly pictured here), it was a no-brainer. I wanted everything about what I create to somehow be about flowers, but in subtle ways. The crust, the filling…and what about toppings? I spent an entire day looking for edible flowers the first time I tested out this recipe and found not a single one. Mind you, they were EVERYWHERE at the greenmarkets of NYC during that time. But then it hit me.

FIGS. Inverted flowers. The loves of my life.

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Developing a recipe out of ingredients that were all gifts makes this special to me. The sunflour, which is darker than flour, adds depth to the crust. The crushed graham sweetens it, but also tones down the possibility of a bitter and very dark crust. Look at this color contrast! Fast forward to 2020, and I’ve come across other sunflours that are lighter. But still. This is magic.

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for the crust of a 9″ tart pan or 3 4″ tart pans with removable bottoms

– 1 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
– 1/4 cup sunflower flour (I use Hudson Valley Cold Pressed Oils)
– 1/4 cup brown sugar
– few pinches of salt
– 7 tbs unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 225 degrees. (We’re just gently toasting the crust.)

In a medium bowl, whisk your dry ingredients til well incorporated and, using a fork, stir in the melted butter. In a 9″ tart pan or 4″ tart pans with removable bottoms, press mixture with hands or the bottom of a measuring cup til everything is nice and compact. Bake for about 8 minutes, til fragrant.

Cool down 1 hour before use.

for the filling (if you have some left over, no worries! have yourself a crustlesl tart)

– 2 cups half and half
– 3 long strips of orange zest
– 1/2 cup sugar
– 4 egg yolks, from large organic eggs
– 1/4 cup cornstarch, sifted
– pinch of salt
– 1/4 tsp millefiori (flower concentrate)
– 2 tbs unsalted butter, cut

1. Under medium heat, scald milk with orange zest and pour into a measuring cup. Set aside for 10 minutes so that the orange lightly infuses the milk. Stir in the flower concentrate.

2. In a medium pot, whisk together your eggs and sugar and then add your sifted cornstarch and salt. Whisk whisk whisk for about 5 minutes, or until the mixture becomes light in color.

3. Remove orange zest from the milk and gradually pour into the egg mixture, whisking continuously. At this point you’ll turn on the heat to medium and whisk whisk whisk til the mixture thickens. Remove from heat. Let it cool down a couple of minutes before stirring in the butter.

4. Place in a heat-proof bowl and cover with plastic wrap. The plastic wrap should make direct contact with the top of the pastry cream so that a skin does not form. Let it cool down 15-20 minutes more and then put it in the fridge to chill for at least 4 hours, or up to 2 days.

5. When ready to assemble, smooth out the pastry cream into the cooled-down crust, and decorate!

topping suggestions

– figs
– edible flowers
– any berry in season

After you take your photos, “pour on the fruit” as my mother would say. For 2020, there was no going to union square for the fruit or the flowers. I haven’t been there since the beginning of march and I don’t think I’ll head there any time soon. I waited an entire year to reshoot this tart. When I saw that my local market was not bringing in edible flowers, I ordered them online from FarmOne, and I ordered gooseberies and blueberies from OurHarvest. But really, get what you can right now and I promise you the taste of late spring and deep summer.

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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.

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.

tender are the teeth as we speak

tender are the teeth as we speak

I have held onto Nigel’s narrative for years. ‘Tender’ would be the perfect word to describe Tender, perhaps too tender for me to cook from in previous years, but not today. Tender are the teeth as we speak.

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I decided to self-quarintine March 12th, days before social distancing was practiced around me, and before NYC schools would shut down. Here’s what I learned so far:

  • streets in the Upper East Side, where I live, are still buzzing with people who are not practicing social distancing. They are walking in groups, sitting in parks, treating this like a vacation. We need a mandatory lockdown. Nurses and doctors are risking their lives every day, and these people are part of the problem.
  • many have lost jobs. MANY. and others are forced to go in. several teachers after the shut down went in doing work on the computer that could’ve been done at home. why? my current situation with work is this: coworkers are asking me what is going on, and I have no answers because I haven’t been told what’s in store for the company. are we getting paid leave? will our small nonprofit survive this? do I assume I have no job here on out? I repeat: many have lost their jobs. many have to go in. and many job statuses are up-in-the-air. Personally? not knowing makes me sick. i’m spiraling more often than not.
  • we must BUY LOCAL, SUPPORT LOCAL, like never before. and for someone such as myself who has done 95 percent of my shopping at greenmarkets but is now too afraid to hop on the train or bus, there’s OurHarvest you can turn to. Farm goods delivered to you, from farms and local businesses I’ve seen at the markets. This makes me happy. Forrealz.
  • cooking is saving me right now but I can’t recipe-develop. I want to compile a list of pantry staple recipes for you but can’t seem to. what I CAN do is have others tell me what to do for once. I’ve turned to cookbooks I’ve owned for years but have barely cooked from. Tender, for starters. I owe this to a cookbook club on Instagram, #fearlesscookbookclub.
  • people are saying social media is making things worse, but it’s mostly FB. I’m making connections right now that are keeping me sane on Instagram. my community of recipe developers and food photographers and foodies are on point with the support and real talks without being too pushy. more like a physical hug i need but can’t get.

like one I haven’t received from my sweetheart and I’ve no idea when I will.

These are just some of the things I learned. If I get further into politics, I may pop a vein. Perhaps next post? Now, here’s a couple of the things I’ve made from Tender:

dark chocolate-beet cake with a crème fraîche poppyseed frosting–I don’t know how to describe this, other than it went right with everything I was feeling and needed to feel. It was downright earth-deep. Note: he doesn’t add sugar to the frosting. I did. Not mad at it.

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and what he calls, A winter dish of potatoes, onions, and melted cheese (I added mushrooms, too)

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has anyone else noticed how fond he is of cheese? remember when I said I’d quit it? okay maybe not during quarintine.

I’ve made other things not from books, but from watching Jamie Oliver on Hulu. This salad of edamame (from the freezer!), fire-roasted red peppers (from a jar!), grilled green olives, arugula and parmesan shavings (from the farm!) is going on rotation. Season it with salt, pepper, olive oil, splash of red wine vinegar. He uses fava beans. I didn’t have.

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Please be safe, loves. Please reach out if you feel the need to. Stay home if you can.

baby carrot salad and a warm hello

baby carrot salad and a warm hello

It appears I’ve taken a blog-writing hiatus without ever having planned on it, but let’s chat. After being diagnosed with trigeminal neuralgia half a year ago, a rare condition that has left me, to this day, not able to use the right side of my mouth without flinching in very strange, fiery pain, I fell into a depression that led me to holding a camera more often than using words and seeing friends. Believe me, I am still obsessed with food. The obsession is quiet, though. (And mostly on Instagram.)

But I am eating. Mostly softer foods, veggies, grains, and poultry. I am slowly cutting out red meat. I am even trying to cut out dairy (say what!?) but that’s a challenge. I’m not chowing down on a wedge of cheese anymore so I do consider that progress, though a friend of mine did tell me the parmesan in my fridge is no danger to me at all in the realm of lactose. And another friend suggested I make her ginger and ghee tea for a special, satisfying indulgence. (THANK YOU, FRIENDS. I fuggin love ghee). I use oat milk now for coffee. And a lot of this is just trying to figure out what my body cannot have anymore. I bloat my way to 4 months pregnant, and my immune system went nuts on me the last time I tried to exercise and change my diet (enter trigeminal neuralgia, sciatica, and a psoriasis flare-up all at once, a week after these sudden changes.) Managing all of this plus having a hard time at work has left me stressed the fuck out. Yes, I am cussin’. This is really just to say, expect some changes on the blog. I feel I ought to be talking more about mental and physical health, and how food is a major part of that conversation. I hope you will join me.

My social life has suffered a great deal during my quiet, and now those with an autoimmune disease are being warned not to have a social life because we are at risk of getting real sick, along with elderly, far worse than those with no preexisting conditions. Which I already knew, but wonderful. Excuse me while I take my frustration out in the kitchen. (I think everyone should practice some caution. Just sayin’)

I’ve cooked so much during this time away so instead of going crazy choosing which to share, I’ll just talk about what I made last.

Baby carrot salad with a Middle Eastern flare

-3 bunches of baby carrots, washed, halved if bigger than others, greens set aside
-6-8 red pearl onions, halved
-drizzle of olive oil, salt n pepper, cumin optional

Add ’em to a hot pan, only moving them around once or twice. You want them to soften slightly and caramelize. Then set aside in a bowl.

Add:
-2 cups wild rice variety with grains that were cooked in vegetable stock
-1/2 cup or more of fresh parsley, dill, and/or cilantro, chopped
-carrot tops, chopped, optional but do use them for something else if not here
-handful of toasted almonds
-feta, optional

Then add a dressing made of
-juice of 1 small lemon
-long drizzle of olive oil
-about a tsp of pomegranate molasses
-salt n pepper, to taste

Always to taste. Serve warm or cold.

If anyone else is struggling today, let’s have a chat, or just know that I’m right there with you. While I’ve suffered from severe lack of confidence since I got sick, I will say I’m just starting to welcome some food opportunities that have come my way. Baby steps. It may sound ridiculous to some that I’ve ignored food photography jobs or cooking class opportunities these last few months, but I have. I’ve literally disliked half the stuff I’ve put out into the world lately, but I think I’m ready to take better care. Be kind, y’all. Be safe. Eat well. All that jazz.

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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allspice chocolate cake with sesame seed crumble

allspice chocolate cake with sesame seed crumble

Pretty excited about this one, loves! The idea of sesame seeds in a buttery, sugary crumb-topping has been sitting with me for WEEKS, and adding allspice to the chocolate batter was literally a last second decision. And guess what? It works so beautifully I could cry.

Entirely inspired by a lot of my favorite middle eastern desserts, both savory and sweet. From savory ka’ak to sweet sesame cookies…to those rich with honey and rosewater and orange blossom…I am crazy about this.

AND THE EDGES ARE BROWNIE-LIKE.

allspice chocolate cake with sesame seed crumble

Preheat oven to 350.

sesame seed crumb topping:

-1 and 1/4 cup flour
-1 cup light brown sugar
-1/4 cup white sesame seeds, 1/2 ground and 1/2 kept whole
-pinch of allspice and salt
-8 tbs room-temp butter, cut into pieces
-1/2 tbs black sesame seed, for sprinkling

Whisk together the flour, sugar, sesame seeds and allspice. Add the butter, tossing the pieces into the dry mixture, and using your hands, start squeezing them together til big crumbs form. Leave it in the fridge as you work on the batter.

chocolate cake batter for 9 X 13 pan:

-1 cup flour
-1 cup granulated sugar
-1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
-1/2 heaping tsp allspice plus a pinch more if you love allspice as much as I
-1/2 tsp kosher salt
-1 tsp baking powder
-1/2 baking soda
-1/3 cup half n half or buttermilk
-1/4 cup vegetable oil
-1 egg, gently whisked
-1/3 cup boiling water

Whisk together the dry ingredients and then add the wet. Do not over mix (or burn yourself).

Pour into the pan making sure it is distributed evenly. Then break the crumbs over the batter. Bake for about 30 minutes.

And enjoy.

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 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!

citrus cod and olive stew

citrus cod and olive stew

I’m back to my cooking-with-oranges shenanigans, though I doubt I ever took a pause on that, did I? Summer’s recipes included the zest of oranges in both my Syrian Meatball Stew, as well as a citrus caper dressing for heirloom tomatoes. This cod stew has the zest aaaand some, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. The sweetness of orange and vidalias becomes underwhelmed with the addition of olives, herbs, and fish. A beautiful sweet and salty dance.

You will need:

-2 long cod fillets, cut into 4-inch pieces
-olive oil
-1 med vidalia, halved and sliced
-3 garlic cloves, chopped
-red pepper flakes, as much as you’d like
-1/2 tsp cumin seeds
-1 cup cherry tomatoes, chopped
-3 strips orange zest
-1 tbs tomato paste
-1 cup white wine
-8 oz can tomato sauce plus 8 oz water
-1 cup castelvetrano olives, halved or kept whole
-1 slice of orange, halved
-few tbs minced herbs (parsley, cilantro, dill)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

We’re making the sauce first.

In a dutch oven under medium heat, saute your onion and garlic in olive oil for a couple of minutes, along with your red pepper and cumin seeds.

Stir in tomato paste, letting it caramelize in the olive oil for about a minute. Stir in your tomatoes and orange zest. Pour in the wine and allow it time to decrease by half in volume.

Stir in the tomato sauce and water. Nestle cod pieces and orange slices into the sauce. Drizzle olive oil onto the exposed pieces. Salt and pepper them too.

Leave it uncovered and bake for about 20 minutes, then broil for about 5-7.

Stir in herbs and serve with cooked veggies, salad, and/or rice.

Aleppian Stew with Dried Figs and Apricots

Aleppian Stew with Dried Figs and Apricots

When I don’t want to make Syrian stuffed grape leaves but still want the sweet and tangy tamarind flavors that are smothered all over them, this is my go-to. Let me tell you: it is DEC-A-dent. You can serve it with rice and lentils, a generous amount of salad, or even some of my spring greens kibbeh (Autumn coming soon *wigglingeyebrows*).

Aleppian Stew with Dried Figs and Apricots

-2 lbs oxtails or short ribs
-1 heaping tsp tomato paste
-3 garlic cloves, chopped
-2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
-6 pearl onions (optional)
-10 dried mission figs, 8 dried California apricots
-1 bay leaf
-1 1/4 tsp allspice
-1 tsp ground cumin
-1 tsp aleppo pepper
-pinch or 2 of cinnamon
-3-4 tbs tamarind concentrate*
-water, enough to cover a quarter of the way
-medium sweet potato, peeled and diced
-salt and pepper, to taste

Using a dutch oven drizzled with a little oil, you’ll want to brown your meat in batches under med-high heat.

Stir the tomato paste into a pool of oil left in the pot, being sure to caramelize it for about a minute. Add all spices, carrots, garlic, onions if using, and 3 tbs of tamarind. Stir together, then cover with water.

Allow it to lazily simmer for at least 1 hour on the stove-top with lid on before adding the sweet potatoes and dried fruit. While it simmers, preheat oven to 350. Taste it when the hour is up. If it’s not tangy enough for you, add another tbs of tamarind.

Pop it in the oven for another 45 minutes, uncovered. The meat should be very tender, and sticky with all that tangy goodness.

golden matzo ball soup

golden matzo ball soup

Last month, when I was diagnosed with a rare facial nerve condition and couldn’t really chew much, my mind’s eye saw nothing but matzo ball soup. It saw a rich, golden broth with fluffy filling floaters so very tender on the teeth. How you like that alliteration? Anyway, I couldn’t make it. Matzo ball soup needs your head on straight (okay, maybe a little straight) and all the heart you can muster. (Seriously, all).

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Speaking of hearts, Dan got me a quart of it from PJ Bernstein near my place, with a side of mash and mushroom gravy, and for a split moment, the love of it transformed pain into pure happiness. Which didn’t last as long as I liked. Pain hit me that same night, real bad. Meds that were given to me weren’t working, and even though Dan had just traveled to me from Brooklyn, he hopped back on a train to get me stronger pills that were once prescribed to him. And guess what? When he returned, with meds, he also carried a bag full of food. When I asked what it was, he told me he had no clue. His mom handed the goods to him hoping it’ll make me feel better. Aaaaand…

It was matzo ball soup.

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I don’t know how she knew what I needed, but I felt so touched by this and now this soup will forever be my one true medicine. I sipped and gently chewed for a week.

Now let’s get to the recipe. When I bought a pint of this from PJ Bernstein last week, I freaked the hell out when I saw that it was $10. Obviously I needed to make my own, especially since I was diagnosed last night at the hospital with ANOTHER nerve condition. Who needs a hug? This girl. But I’m willing to share some love with you, too.

Why golden? Turmeric. I’m putting it in everything right now because I need all the healing. But the matzo balls GLOW so beautifully, and the ginger, nutmeg, dill adds some serious flavor. No boring floaters here!

for the broth

-3 lb free-range, organic whole chicken
-enough cold water to cover chicken
-1 tbs kosher salt
-1 large onion, skin on, halved if necessary
-3 garlic cloves
-2 celery stalks
-2 carrots
-1 parsnip
-2 bay leaves
-a combination of herbs you might already have, about 6 sprigs total (parsley, dill, cilantro, thyme, oregano)
-1/2 tbs peppercorns
-1 cup flavorful chicken or veggie stock for later*

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Keep at a slow simmer from beginning to end, for about 2 1/2 hours. Skim off the top every chance you get so that the end result is a clearer and cleaner broth. I don’t welcome cloudiness when already feeling blue, ya know?

*The broth will reduce a little with time, so I like to keep a cup of chicken or vegetable stock nearby to add to it. Others just add more water, but I find that this gives it more flavor. Use a chicken or veggie bouillon if you’d like…I won’t tell on you. (I like the Better than Bouillon paste shhhhhhh).

Discard all veggies and herbs, and place the chicken in a separate bowl. Save it for another dish, or shred breasts and add it to your soup later on. You can also pour it through a fine mesh, but it’s okay if you don’t want to get too fancy.

for the matzo balls makes about 8 medium-sized (double recipe for more)

-2 eggs
-2 tbs chicken broth
-2 tbs schmaltz (chicken fat), melted
-1 1/2 tbs fresh ginger, peeled and grated
-a heaping 1/4 tsp ground turmeric
-1/4 tsp salt and some freshly cracked pepper
-pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
-1/2 cup matzo meal, unsalted
-1 1/2 tbs fresh dill, chopped (or cilantro, parsley)

In a medium bowl, whisk eggs along with the ginger. Add everything else and stir til well combined. Pop it in the fridge for at least 1 hour, uncovered.

When ready, gently form balls, being careful as to not packing them tightly. You’ll want to barely touch them so that they remain a bit light and airy.

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Place them into the broth that is gently boiling, along with some fresh carrots and one celery stick, both chopped into 1″ pieces. Cook for about 35-40 minutes.

Serve with more fresh dill. Noodles are also an option. I made less matzo balls because I knew my mom would love noodles as well. OH, and if you’re into beets…the salad I made to go with it was rrreal good.

5 small roasted beets, 1/3 cup of barley, cooked in about 1 1/2 cup simmering water. Lots of fresh dill and parsley, about 1 cup. Lemon and olive oil dressing, salt and pepper, chopped pistachios.

Syrian-inspired roasted figs and grapes

Syrian-inspired roasted figs and grapes

Before we started cooking for my brother’s engagement party, I made this platter to try later on after the dinner was over and everyone had gone home.

It was an idea for a recipe I had for awhile, playing with flavors we use for stuffed grape leaves, with zero intention of making it part of the dinner (especially if it were a fail). I figured why offer it to such a picky crowd, anyway? I already heard my brother from another room ask, “what the hell is this? Who roasts grapes? Such a weird-ass thing to do.” I rolled my eyes, as I forever do when my ownly sibling’s goal in life is to annoy his big sis.

I stepped out of the kitchen after cakes and coffee were served. My introvert butt needed a moment. When I returned, everything but one damn fig on the platter was left.

So, I guess it’s a weird-ass keeper.

Preheat the oven to 400.

You’ll need a sheet pan covered with parchment and:

-8 figs, halved or quartered
-2-3 bunches of grapes (I used tiny Tim’s), on their stems

for the dressing

-1 tbs pomegranate molasses
-1 tbs fresh lemon juice
-1 tbs walnut oil or olive
-1 tsp allspice
-pinch of cinnamon and salt, pepper too

Whisk all together and brush the dressing onto all sides of the figs, and whatever grape is exposed. Pour the rest over everything and pop them into the oven for about 20 minutes, or until surfaces have caramelized a bit. Feel free to broil for a couple of minutes to get it extra browned on top.

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for serving

-toasted almonds or walnuts, eyeballed
-feta, to taste

Feta is not optional. I loooooove the saltiness that comes with sweet and tart fruits, made even sweeter from getting roasted.