Thousand Flowers Tart

Thousand Flowers Tart

When Jennifer from The Burley Hen purchased a tiny vial of millefiori, 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.)

It wasn’t until receiving sunflower flour from Tory that this idea for a tart came to, well, you know, blossom. As she handed the bag of flour to me, along with a spankin’ new tart pan (my FIRST!), 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 the weekend before. 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!

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for the crust

– 1 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
– 1/4 cup sunflower flour (from 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 with removable bottom, 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

– 2 cups half and half
– 3 long strips of orange zest
– 1/2 cup sugar
– 4 egg yolks, from large organic eggs
– 3 tbs 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. I made this tart right before strawberries arrived at the farmers market. They’d make a beautiful addition to the floral flavors here.

Happy June, my loves!

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My 30th Birthday Picnic + Recipes

My 30th Birthday Picnic + Recipes

I had it all planned out. Homemade ricotta, not too firm, still warm, spooned onto a white, long platter. Then, I was to gently place beautifully roasted cherry tomatoes on the bed of cheese, it’s vine still attached. As a finishing touch, fresh herbs and edible flowers scattered all around it, and a long drizzle of good olive oil. I handpicked young, lemony basil for the occasion and dandelion yellows from the farmers market. In my mind, it’d make for a beautiful sight.

The fact that I never made cheese before didn’t worry me. It seemed simple enough. Buy THE BEST whole milk dairy you can find. Full fat. Not ultra-pasteurized like the milk or heavy cream we tend to find. Use fine sea salt or kosher salt. Heat til right under a boil and stir in your freshly squeezed lemon, or vinegar. Wait til curds form, about 30 minutes. Then slowly pour into your cheesecloth that is nestled in mesh, over a bowl. Wait another hour. Then voila! Ricotta. Right?

Connie walked into my kitchen and found a frustrated me with furrowed brows over the sink, shaking the contents in the cheesecloth, quickly losing a lot of whey. I must’ve looked like this:

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Barely any curds made it. It needed more time, maybe more lemon. We had to go, though. Whatever seemed thick enough I placed into a container and we headed for the picnic.

To be honest, I wanted nothing to do with the ricotta when I started to arrange the cheeseboard. Connie saw this and decided it’d be best if she gave me her gift early. A handmade, round serving platter, dipped halfway in a finishing wax. It is beautiful. I knew exactly what to do with it.

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Directions

Leave your cherry tomatoes attached to the vine. Put them on a sheet pan, drizzle good olive oil and balsamic over them. I used basil-infused olive oil and fig balsamic. Salt and pepper them to your liking. Add fresh herbs. I used thyme sprigs and some of the young basil. Roast at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes, or just til they are about to burst and have reached that nice charr we all know is where the flavor is at.

The tomatoes, along with the edible flowers, spread onto beautiful pieces of bread that Malvina bought, was my favorite picnic experience in the mouth. It was jammy, rich, salty and sweet. Perfection. I also had more on the vine and decided to pair it with the peppery, smoked turkey and herb-crusted soppressata. My tiny charcuterie board for my very few meat-eaters present.

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The cheeseboard itself was a satisfying and very sentimental experience for me as I was putting it all together. You have to keep in mind where everything comes from. What farm? How local is this considered? How seasonal? And from who/where? The fig jam, olive spread, and cheeses (prima donna extra aged gouda, sweet Irish cheddar, and smoked cheddar) were a gift from Danny’s mom to me. I wanted to share this with them as well but knew they had family emergencies to be a part of. Silent prayers and gratitude were on my brain. Every beautiful friend who spent their day with me were on my brain.

The cashew cardamom brittle, topped with lava salt, was made by Jennifer Dean of The Burley Hen, a new friend I’ve made that I’ve yet to meet, but who I already feel a bond with from afar. Not TOO far! She is a fellow local Queens food lover and maker. ❤

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My homemade Onion and Date jam had strong notes of oranges and thyme and paired well with both cheeses and meats. The recipe is inspired by Sarah Owens.

Directions

img_20180425_103434_5137319913938805768703.jpgThe night before, take the seeds out of about 13-15 Medjool dates and dice them. Soak them in a couple of tablespoons of meyer lemon-infused vodka or bourbon. I used meyer lemon vodka! Next day, thinly slice one, large Vidalia onion (makes a little over 4 cups). Set heavy-bottomed pan or dutch oven under medium heat with a little bit of oil, and saute the onions til they only slightly caramelize. Add 2 sprigs of thyme, the dates, 2 cups of water, tbsp of orange blossom honey (or any mild honey), zest from a small orange, a few cracks of pepper, simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring often. It’ll turn a darker, caramelized color. I added more pepper and a dash of more meyer lemon vodka. Fresh squeeze of orange juice.img_20180425_120406_4844056692902780502767.jpg

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There were a few other items on and around the board: fresh figs, a bowl of olives, mandarins with their branches and leaves still attached, long rosemary sprigs, sweetly blushed moscato grapes, multi-grain crackers and bread. Hot honey! Hummus with smoked eggplant from a local farm, served with all sorts of chips and veggies.

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Tory made fresh radish and cucumber sandwiches, a brightly colored carrot, quinoa, and chickpea salad which was beautifully dressed.

Megan made a cake that she should totally be proud of. It involved blood oranges. Almond flour. CHOCOLATE. Insanely moist.

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The gifts that were given to me showed me how KNOWN and loved I am by these beautiful people. Recipe books dedicated to chickpeas and ginger. Bee-themed gifts. Tea blossoms. Artisinal coffees. Floral purse. Every single thing was very much me and very much love.

Let’s not forget the flower arrangement made by a parent from my center! Franz James Floral Boutique knows art the way my chosen family knows me. What everyone brings to the table is the perfect recipe for each picnic thrown. This one felt like autumn reaching for spring.

When Friends Ask You to Pick Up Their CSA Share (Part 2)

When Friends Ask You to Pick Up Their CSA Share (Part 2)

You wonder if there is a poem out there that celebrates this moment. Between friends and between yourself and all the veggies, is there a poem? If not, perhaps you could write one, in the same breath as Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, about every saturated-in-color vegetable and fruit that comes home with you on the first Saturday of September–this year and last.

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But if there is a chance you’ve been feeling less like a poet these days, meaning, you haven’t broken a line in a long while for the sake of sound, silence, and meaning, then you become–you are–a poet in your kitchen, roasting tomatoes with whole cloves of garlic. The woody scent of thyme and rosemary from your garden when met with high heat can make you long for the long, deliberate drizzle of rosemary-infused olive oil, and flaky salt, which you know your tomatoes love. You’ve a mind and heart towards Tory and Jon, who shared their share with you as they made their big move into Corona. Think of all the dinner parties and PICNICS, and sneak peaks into their first garden out back.

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Your first thought, after all this gratitude and daydreaming, was roasted tomato sauce, which you learned to make in Valerie’s kitchen a couple of summers ago. This is the way you will make sauce forever. The flavor is tomato multiplied by tomato, on the savory-sweet side. But as you peel each one, you begin to crave soup.

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You never made tomato bisque. I don’t think you ever had tomato bisque so you’re not entirely sure where to begin, but to begin. It started as your favorite sauce, with the addition of chicken stock, cream, carrot and celery, pureed til silky. Doesn’t the same happen in writing a poem? You never know how a poem will end til it begins to unfold itself, line by line, and if it ends on bisque with warm slices of bread instead of tomato sauce, then you take slices of your warm, roasted garlic ciabatta and you dip dip dip it into the creamy broth.

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It almost looks like your favorite carrot soup, which you’ll write about another day. The local farm feta, and micro-cilantro which was part of the share, didn’t just provide this bisque with good looks. It went amazingly well together. Having had Brooklyn Grange’s micro-greens quite a few times, you think you’ll just start picking your cilantro from the garden earlier than usual, because after a week, you honestly want to give up with their eagerness to bolt.

Then there is the tenderness of toy choi, which you just discover and are fond of.

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But with something so tender, you need to put it to use almost immediately. By 9PM the first day, they were wilting. So the next morning, without getting all fancy and having a panic, you whip up a fine breakfast in which you sauteed their small, cabbage leaves, along with their flowers, with smoked kielbasa and red onion. Served it with egg, heirloom tomato salad with local feta, and a blueberry muffin your mom made.

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Everything else will come together, slowly, as the week goes by. You’ll think Jen was making use of the fairytale eggplants because the bowl was getting emptier and emptier as days went by. You’ll soon find one in almost every corner of the house, courtesy your cat, Loonz.

You’ll take what’s left of their most adorable selves (you make a note that you’ll grow them next year, seriously this time), and you roast them with warm spices (garam masala) and garlic.

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You’ll want to stuff the beautiful, red peppers but never find the time to, so you add them in salads and stews. You do the same with the two onions.

You’ll blister shishito peppers, finishing them with smoked salt.

You’ll share arugula with mom, because everything about this is about sharing.

You’ll eventually find the time to write it all down. You’ll feel exactly as you feel when a poem has ended. Which is the same feeling you’ll get when every tomato, herb, oil and cream came together in your pot one afternoon, and again when the last bit of bisque is gone.

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when your friend asks you to pick up her CSA share

when your friend asks you to pick up her CSA share

1. you say Yes.

2. at first, you think you’ve been asked this because Tory is going to be away that Saturday and she just needs someone to keep her veggie loves nice and safe. still, you say Yes. and you are already delighted because any reason to go back to the Brooklyn Grange will always be a really damn good reason. (VEGGIES AND CHICKENS AND BEES, OH MY.) but most importantly, your friend asked you to do something for her; you say Yes.

3. through FB messenger, you ask her when you guys can meet so you can give her all her veggie goods. she takes a moment to respond. maybe she’s laughing. maybe she called her husband, Jon, over, to tell him what Crystal just asked. and then after a minute or two, she says, “no no I meant for you to keep it!” and your jaw drops.

this is really about love. Tory could’ve chosen anyone, but really, she chose you. this may seem insignificant to some. it’s just veggies, right? but no. it’s just love. you know what it’s like to be someone’s last thought. lately, you’ve been feeling the weight of it. but this has never, and will never, be the case with the friends you have in your life. so, pay close attention to the messages you get from this visit.

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4. before heading to Brooklyn Grange, she forwards you an email which states what she and Jon are to pick up for the day. it’s a very impressive list.
– Cherry tomatoes (the LAST of them)
– Chard (you’ve never messed around with this before)
– Curly kale (same as chard!)
– Candy onions (oh, these are beautiful. and live up to their name.)
– Carrots (orange, with their long roots and green heads still attached)
– Beets (so TINY! and red.)
– Mint (the best you’ve had)
– Shishitos (you LOVE shishitos, thanks to Tory)
– Jalapeños (you’re currently growing these but you want some NOW.)
– Maya Habanero peppers (sounds dangerous)
– Sweet Carmen peppers (YES.)

5. you arrive with your friend at 11AM because that is the time you are used to meeting Tory and Jon. it just feels right. you show Jess around. walk up and down the aisles of peppers and onions, tall looming sunflowers with heads gracefully bowed towards the smaller flowers of the earth, and you gotta show her the spotted chicken! and the white chicken with the fuzzy fro and perhaps, this time, you will visit the beehive. you never do make it to the beehive. instead, you find the gourds waiting to be full and round for Autumn and you are now full, ready for September to work it’s inevitable change on your life.

6. this appears to be the month of peppers and eggplants for this magical rooftop farm. when your eyes catch sight of bashful, mauve flowers, your mind wanders to Nigel Slater, who made you fall deepest in love with earth’s purple schlong (he called it that in Tender! and who made you catch butterflies again when an eggplant was recently given to you to work with:

“The thick stems, with their light, fine hairs, the mauve flowers drooping as if in shame, the first hint of ivory or purple fruits, and the soft, jade-green leaves make this one of the most covetable plants to own. And if it gives us only two or three ripe fruits at the end of an infrequent hot summer, we should just be thankful. Rarely is the cook given anything quite so beautiful to work with.” -Nigel Slater, from Tender

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7. you’re at the farm stand and you want it all. you’re packing up Tory’s share, and all kinds of recipes are driving back and forth, up and down your brain. Jess is coming home with you and you are going to feed the wonderful lady. a fellow CSA-er says she does not like mint, and hands you hers. now you have two. this is clearly a special day. you’re about to leave with the share but then you spot lavender-veined, fairy tale eggplants and a bag of arugula with nasturtiums laying beautifully on top of my favorite peppery greens. you snatched these beauties up, shouting, MINE!

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8. you go downstairs to order a coffee because you need the time to figure out what you’re going to make when you get home. you lay veggies out on COFFEED’s wooden tables. you start googling recipes. your heart begins to race. DON’T PANIC. you don’t have to use them all in one day and to hell with these recipes.

9. you’re home and the first thing you do is put the tiny beets in a pot and let ’em boil. then you make a refreshing cocktail of cucumber, mint and lime. you get into a conversation about figs with Jess and use it as a 15 minute writing prompt. they are FASCINATING. do you all know about the Wasp and Fig relationship? the two couldn’t exist without the other in most cases.

10. Jess gives you a helping hand in the kitchen. Even a photographic hand:

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you decide to serve Beer Battered Fairy Tale Eggplant, Blistered Shishitos tossed with sesame oil and soy sauce, a Carrot Soup with Orange and Ginger (recipe in my next blog post!), and a beautiful Arugula salad w/ Green Apple, Beets and a creamy Cheddar/Parmesan blend that surprisingly crumbled like feta. you and Jess are happy and it all looks beautiful. next time, though, you are going to treat fairy tale eggplants more simply. they are too elegant, too beautiful, to be deep fried. but the shishitos and salad? perfection.

11. over the next few days, you think about the rest of the veggies you have. you ask Tory what she likes to do with kale, and she says a white bean soup. you know you’re going to be visiting Connie soon so why not? you make a minestrone of sorts and love how the kale brightens everything up the way green ought to.

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12. a few days later, you almost forget you have peppers. almost. you just got back from the farmer’s market with beautiful heirloom tomatoes, and once you make a roasted tomato basil sauce, you’re suddenly craving italian hot sausage with onions and peppers. this dish was SO so comforting.

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13. it is now mid-September and the changes are in full swing. it really is the month of New. i gave my two weeks notice at a job i’ve had for over two years. yesterday, i let the kiddo know that i’ll be leaving by the end of next week. (i was his caregiver.) i wanted to squeeze him. tomorrow, i go apple picking with Valerie, another mid-September thing where the orchards are letting go and i’m creating out of their offerings. i will bake kiddo a pie. i will NOT panic during this transitional month. i recently learned i have some urgent health problems to take care of. instead of freaking the hell out, i’m going to treat this as a sign from above that it is truly time to take care of ME. i am filled with so much gratitude knowing that i am not alone in this. let’s not forget what this post is really about: loveLoveLOVE. with a side of veggies.

14. what do you do when your friend asks you to pick up her CSA share?

you thank her. you thank her and you send her all the love.

and you EAT. ❤