mexican corn chowder

mexican corn chowder

Sitting at the corner table in Estia’s Little Kitchen with Connie, a spoonful of corn chowder in my mouth, I’m immediately taken back to my previous home in Queens. A burst of heat and plenty of cilantro in the broth is exactly how I enjoyed Momma Lupe’s soups. I called a gentleman over and asked in a single word, “tomatillos?” And in a single word returned,“poblanos.”Again I was back in a little kitchen of my own, in another time and place, where sounds of the blender filled the room as poblanos and cilantro became one, beautiful green.

Gratitude to this garden-to-table restaurant where everyone was friendly and most likely family, for allowing me a taste of memory. Our waiting area was the best wait I’ve ever experienced in my life. They serve iced coffee in a truck out back where they are currently growing many lettuce greens and herbs, cucumbers, squash, tomatoes. Check out that dragonfly chillin’ on a garlic scape. We walked around til our names were called and we made sure we would return before heading back into the city.

Inspired by their chowder (I had never seen a green corn chowder, have you?), I made my own and I am loving every morning, afternoon, and night, with a bowl of this. It’s good hot and room temp, probably even cold. It goes perfectly with an egg, avocado, a sprinkle of cotija, crispy tortillas. To make it a bit light, I use coconut milk instead of cream and I leave out potatoes. I also grilled the ingredients to get that summer flavor I love.

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Mexican Corn Chowder, serves 4-5 (double up for more)

-1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted
-4 ears of sweet corn
-2 big poblanos, deseeded if you like less heat
-1/2 tbs coconut oil
-1 small spanish onion, diced
-3 garlic cloves or scapes, chopped
-1 tsp fresh oregano, chopped
-1 cup cilantro, tightly packed, stems okay
-1/2 cup basil
-13.5 oz can organic coconut milk
-3 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock
-cotija, cilantro, avocado, egg (serving suggestions)

Spend about 12 minutes grilling your poblanos, 6 minutes a side.

Spend about 10 minutes grilling your corn, turning occasionally. I actually grilled 3 out of 4. The un-grilled one I cut into 1-inch pieces and put them directly into the pot. But feel free to grill ’em all!

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Once they’ve cooled down enough to handle, stand each ear of corn into a bowl and cut kernels off of them. Slice your poblanos.

Take about half of the kernels and put them into a food processor along with the poblanos.

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Blend for a few seconds then add your cilantro and basil. Continue to blend til it reaches desired consistency. I prefer mine not pureed.

In a pot, warm up your coconut oil and saute your onion, garlic, oregano, and cumin seeds for about a minute. Then add the green mixture along with the rest of the kernels and 1-inch pieces, saute for another minute. Stir in your coconut milk and stock. Simmer for about 15 minutes. It doesn’t take long!

Enjoy ❤ Corn is making their summer appearance now but soon, it’ll be EV-ERY-WHERE.

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Citrus Braised Beans, Ramps, Tomatoes, and Olives

Citrus Braised Beans, Ramps, Tomatoes, and Olives

You wouldn’t believe me if I told you someone else ate the whole pot of beans before I could even fully enjoy a bowl of them. Well, they did. The day that I was recipe developing, I took photographs of the wildly Spring contents, then ran out to Brooklyn to spend some time with Danny, thinking there’d be enough for me to try when I return. (It serves 4 people, people!) How wrong was I. I received a text: “they were delicious! I finished them off with a baguette.” Ha! There’s a serving suggestion for you, am I right?

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And so I made it again the next day, each spoonful creating a sigh, hiding in my room with the pot til I was ready to share.

The heirloom beans are called Jacob’s Cattle Beans. And I love them.

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I eyed their small and spotted bodies at a farmstand at Union Square, where I also bought everything else that wound up in this recipe. Ramps. Tomatoes. Olives. Garlic. Dill. As usual, I had no idea they’d be coming together. Every time I make beans, I “beanstorm” (as Dan calls it) the day before, but shrug off everything I stormed on about. So to get things moving along in the morning, I simmer them in a pot til I remember that, yes, I have ramps, tomatoes, olives, garlic, and dill. How would this taste if they all got together? Perhaps a little too good. Perhaps good enough to eat…a whole pot’s worth? With a baguette. Don’t forget the baguette.

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for the beans (simmer for about 15 minutes, drain, discard everything but the beans)
– 1 cup small variety dried beans, soaked over night
– 2 sprigs tarragon (or other herb)
– 1 clove garlic, smashed
– bay leaf
– shallot

And then it’s time to create hands-off magic

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braising time
– olive oil, enough to coat pan
– 1 long strip of lemon zest
– 1 strip of orange zest
– 5 cloves garlic, peels on
– 1 small bunch ramps, halved lengthwise through the bulb
– 1 pint colorful small variety tomatoes
– about 8-10 castelvetrano olives, pitted
– the beans
– parmesan rind
– 1 cup beef/chicken/veggie stock (enough to cover a quarter of the way up)
– 1/2 tsp aleppo pepper or other red dried pepper
– salt and pepper, to taste
– dill, for serving (optional)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

On the stove-top and in a dutch oven, heat the olive oil and saute your lemon and orange peels, and garlic cloves, for a couple of minutes. Then add everything else! Put it in the oven, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, or until the tomatoes have slightly browned and are almost ready to burst. Juices will reduce, but not too much. You’ll want to sop up every drop that’s left.

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As for the garlic? They should be buttery at this point. Squeeze a clove out of it’s peel and spread it, like butter, on a piece of bread. I promise they are in there for a reason (not just to create a beautiful broth).

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Market Haul Lo Mein

Market Haul Lo Mein

True story. The evening before I went away for a week, my beautiful (but food-picky) mom requested I make a big batch of lo mein just for her. None for her hubby. None for you. She wanted to make sure there was enough in the house to last at least 4 days. Mind you, I had just made some less than a week before then but who am I to argue (she’s taking care of my fur-baby, and her love for this one-pot meal is adorable.)

That is to say, I totally get it.

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Gently spiced noodles with a bunch of seasonally fresh veggies and greens just handpicked from the farmers market is quite appealing, and if I can feed my mother  (who would prefer cakes and candies over a solid meal) something more substantial, I’ll make it twice a week if I have to. And I probably could! It comes together quite quickly and each serving is unique. Unique enough to not get real bored real quick.

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Let this be a loose guideline for your next lo mein craving. Or heck, for when you have a little bit of this and a little bit of that in your crisp drawer and don’t want them to go to waste. Every time I’ve made this, I’ve added something different. I tend to prefer a mostly veggie lo mein but feel free to play with the amounts, and the ingredients. Right now I’ve mostly listed some greens that only make an appearance in spring, but when other seasons arrive, let this recipe transform with it.

Market Haul Lo Mein
(the flavoring basics:)

– 2 tbs sesame oil
– 1 inch knob ginger, peeled, finely chopped
– 3-4 garlic gloves, finely chopped
– soy sauce, to taste (I use about 3-4 tbs)
– 1 tbs brown sugar
– chili sauce, to taste (optional)
– 8 oz dry lo mein (makes about 4 cups cooked)

Bring on the Veggies and Greens
(
Choose some or all! I recommend at least 4 cups of greens/veggies)

– 1 big leafy spring onion (or 3 scallions)
– 1 big carrot, peeled, sliced into matchsticks
– 12 garlic scapes or ramps, roughly chopped
– 3-4 small bok choy, chopped
– small head of broccoli w/ stems, steamed and chopped
– 1 pound spring peas or snow peas, trimmed
– bunch of thin asparagus, roughly chopped
– 1 red or green pepper, sliced
– spinach
– chives
– cilantro and/or basil
– any leafy green you want
– 1 hass avocado, diced, for serving*
– broccoli flowers

*Have you ever tossed some fresh avocado into something hot with soy sauce? It’s heaven. Do it. Report back.

Directions:

1. In a wide but deep pan, bring water to a boil and cook lo mein til al dente. Drain and run under cold water. Set aside.

2. In the same pan under medium flame, heat the sesame oil and saute the ginger and garlic for about 30 secs, then turn up the heat and add everything but your leafy greens. Save those for the last couple of minutes. Season with soy sauce and brown sugar, and chili sauce if you’re using. Stir-fry til your tougher veggies are tender but are still crisp, about 5 minutes. Then add your leafy greens and stir-fry a few more minutes.

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3. Add lo mein and taste taste taste. Adjust to your liking by adding more soy sauce, sesame oil and/or chili paste, or just a sprinkle of salt. Serve and top with fresh herbs.

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Make mom happy. Make yourself happy. Your wallet will not feel bad when it knows every beautifully priced item you purchased at the greenmarket went to very good use.

Spring Greens Kibbeh

Spring Greens Kibbeh

Guess what? I have never had an all-veggie-and-herb kibbeh before. Nor a very flat one. It is the hefty oval-shaped classic stuffed with meat that I’m used to; with it’s outer, crispy shell made of bulgur wheat and even more (but very delicious) meat. In Lori’s kitchen, all that’s needed is a fresh squeeze of lemon over them and each bite is heaven. But it’s spring and I want to do the following: see green, eat green, maybe not spend too much time in the kitchen if there’s a shortcut I can live with. I also really want to eat less meat.

So bring on this quicker version of kibbeh packed with fresh herbs, chickpeas, spring peas, and beautiful spices. Kibbeh-meets-falafel, almost! Use whatever greens you fancy.

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While you can use fresh English peas that are already pre-packaged for you, I’ve come across spring’s sugar snap peas plump enough to shell and use for this recipe. No steaming necessary! They are currently in season. They are sweet all over and you can make a simple salad out of their tender shellings.

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Add some fresh herbs and toss them in lemon juice and good quality olive oil, and season with salt, pepper, cumin, and sumac. And yes, it goes perfectly with kibbeh!

Spring Greens Kibbeh – makes 12-14 thin patties

– 1/2 cup fine bulgur, rinsed and drained completely in a fine mesh strainer
– 3 spring onions, sliced thin
– 3 garlic cloves, minced or 3 ramps/garlic scapes, chopped, if you have
– 1 cup variety of herbs, tightly packed, chopped (parsley, cilantro, dill)
– 2/3 cup cooked chickpeas, gently smashed
– 1/3 cup + 1 tbs fresh spring peas (frozen is ok)
– 1/2 cup flour
– 1 heaping tsp allspice or baharat
– 1 heaping tsp Aleppo pepper
– 1 tsp fine sea salt
– 1 tsp cumin
– 1/4 tsp coriander
– vegetable oil, for frying

In a big bowl, add all ingredients together, tossing so that everything looks fully incorporated. Then knead til big, slightly sticky clumps form.

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Cover and leave in the fridge for about 15 minutes. When ready, knead a palmful of the mixture into a ball and press it down to create a flat disc. Do this til the mixture is gone. No worries if some of the peas run loose. You can always press them gently down onto a patty after you form them.

Heat a cast iron skillet and drizzle vegetable oil onto it. Not too much! We’re just searing each patty on both sides til they’re golden, about 1 1/2-2 minutes a side. For each batch, drizzle more oil onto the pan. Place them on a plate lined with paper towels, sprinkle with salt while they’re still hot. When ready, plate them however you wish, though stacking them is fun.

Serve with lemon wedges and/or pomegranate molasses. And that shelling salad!

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If you’re serving more than 3 or 4 people, you can easily double the recipe. This is a great appetizer, lunch, or snack, or side dish.

Last night I served it with this beauty of a red snapper with even more beautiful cauliflower and everyone was so silent at the table, enjoying every moment of molasses dripping onto this and onto that.

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If interested in making this super easy one-pan meal, just season the fish with za’atar, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Toss the cauliflower in olive oil, salt, pepper. Roast for about 40 minutes. Heat up the kibbeh for about 6 minutes in the oven if it cooled down. The crunch of these patties completed the meal! Between the 3 of us, there were only a few left. And I enjoyed those few cold the next day.

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Blood Orange Z’hug

Blood Orange Z’hug

“…What is Z’hug!?” was a popular question I received last week when I shared the recipe to a Citrus and Z’hug Marinated Manchego party-starter (and maybe ender. You decide). While it used a spice blend inspired by z’hug’s main ingredients, this is all fresh and seriously addictive.

It’s a gorgeous green sauce originating from Yemen that is delicately spiced with cardamom, cumin, coriander, and crushed red pepper. It also packs a punch from using fresh, hot chile peppers and garlic. What makes this z’hug (AKA zhoug) a bit less traditional is that I’ve added citrus flavors because, well, it’s still citrus season and I’m still celebrating. You’ll want to drizzle this onto everything, spoon it into anything, swirl it, plop it, drop it (like it’s hot). Okay, I’ll stop.

Need some ideas?

It goes with ANYTHING tomato. Fresh or roasted or even sauce!

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I made a pumpkin cannellini bean stew and swirled green right into it. You can add this to any stew, soup, spread. It’ll also make a nice addition to your next cheeseboard.

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Use it as a quick marinade by adding some more fresh juice to it. I’ve rubbed a fair amount of blood orange z’hug onto a whole chicken, veggies, and even a tenderloin, which roasted so nicely in the oven. It’d be perfect for grilling season.

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It shares a similarity to my other favorite green sauces: chimichurri, sofrito. But it’s my go-to now because it contains the spices I love most. Try to only use freshly ground spices or high quality bottled up ones. This sauce is as much about the spice as it is the green. You can use plain (but very good) olive oil, and any hot pepper you adore. Play with the greens, too. Some recipes use all parsley or all cilantro. Some add mint. Sky’s the limit on which citrus you’d like to use. I hear Sumos hit the markets very recently and everyone’s going crazy for them.

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Blood Orange Z’hug (Yeminite Green Sauce), small batch

– 1 cup fresh cilantro with small stems, tightly packed
– half cup parsley leaves, tightly packed
– 2 garlic cloves
– 1-2 jalapeños, sliced (or other pepper variety)
– 1 tsp freshly ground cumin, toasted
– 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
– 1/2 tsp ground coriander, toasted
– 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper (I use Aleppo), or more to taste
– 1/4 cup plus 1 tbs Blood Orange Olive Oil
– juice from 1 small blood orange, or other orange variety
– small squeeze of fresh lemon
– zest from orange
– salt, to taste

Directions: Add everything to your food processor and blend til thoroughly combined. Feel free to add more olive oil and fresh juice if you’d like a looser consistency. Use z’hug for all the things.

Let me know how you end up using it!

This is what z’hug looks like when you use a blender instead of a food processor BTW:

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Still edible. And pretty.