Spring’s busy but easy salad with cauliflower and asparagus

Spring’s busy but easy salad with cauliflower and asparagus

Does this look busy to you? Okay, maybe. BUT it’s so easy to put together and even more easy to put into it whatever the seasons offer. I first got the cauliflower salad idea from Ottolenghi in Simple, where he uses both roasted and freshly grated, then adds a variety of greens, pistachios, and pomegranate. It’s refreshing and absolutely beautiful. His recipe has transformed a bit in this household and I wanted to share it with you in case you needed some fresh ideas for your stay in.

This was the latest version I made. I used:

-1 large head of cauliflower, 1/4 of it set aside in a thick wedge for grating
-olive oil, enough to coat
-1/4 tsp turmeric
-salt and pepper, to taste
-1 cup cooked wild rice, or any leftover rice/grains you have
-1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1″ pieces
-2 large garlic cloves, chopped
-1/2 cup parsley, chopped
-1/2 cup dill, chopped
-pomegranate seeds from 1/2 of medium pomegranate
-juice from 1 lemon
-ground cumin, to taste
-ground allspice,to taste
-almonds or pistachios, optional
-feta, optional

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut the cauliflower into florets and place in a baking sheet. Toss in olive oil, turmeric, salt and pepper. Roast til they just begin to brown, about 20 minutes. You want them still firm, not entirely caramelized and softened to the point of no return. Let cool.

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While the cauliflower is in the oven, saute your asparagus in a heated pan with olive oil,. salt and pepper, and chopped garlic. This should take about 8-10 minutes. Let cool.

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Grate 1/4th of reserved cauliflower and place into a large bowl. Add the chopped greens, seeds, rice/grains, and everything else when they’re cool enough to not soften the fresh herbs.

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Season with lemon, drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper, cumin, and allspice. Toss til everything seems evenly dressed. Pop in the fridge for at least a 1/2 hour before serving. Then add your optional nuts and feta.

My mom allows me 1 serving, while she eats all other servings available.

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A soup of leeks, potatoes, sunchokes, roasted garlic

A soup of leeks, potatoes, sunchokes, roasted garlic

Decided to share this super simple recipe with you after a few requests from friends on Instagram. Especially from those who just got their Misfits delivery in and now have lots of potatoes and Jerusalem artichokes (aka sunchokes) to use.

This soup becomes super silky and creamy with no milk added and serves 4-5. All you need is:

-few tbs butter or long drizzle of olive oil
-1 large leek, light green and whites cleaned well and sliced, or 1 small onion, diced
-2 sprigs of fresh thyme or dried herbs
-550g potatoes (a little over 2 cups), diced, I used a golden variety but any will do
-200g Jerusalem artichoke, about 1 large, peeled as much as possible, then diced
-200g carrot, about a cup, peeled and diced
-roasted garlic (optional but totally a game changer)
-good quality stock, veggie or chicken
-salt and pepper to taste

In a pot under low-medium heat, saute your leeks til they break a part, about 10 minutes, stirring often. As Nigel Slater warns several times in his books, do not scorch them, like I tend to do. Add everything else plus enough stock or whatever to cover, and simmer til both potatoes and sunchokes become tender. Discard any sprigs and puree with an immersion blender or any blender. You can serve as is but it does really well with any leftovers you have.

I had a bowl with crepes, celery leaves, and bacon, and the next day I had a bowl with a sprinkling of a corn salad I made the day before for fajitas. Consider the soup a template for many unusual possibilities, for unusual times.

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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Syrian Meatball Stew with Baby Zucchini

When a friend goes out into his garden to harvest seeds just for you, the gratitude is unreal. I happily carried a small jar of fresh coriander plucked right before my eyes from their cilantro-flowers, from Corona to the Upper East Side, thinking of all the dishes I’d love to add them to.

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This Syrian stew, for starters. Even though the seeds are not something you have to have to make this stew happen, it’s something I did have and it made beautiful, floral sense to use them alongside orange peels and fresh tomatoes and delicately spiced meatballs.

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Let’s not act surprised to see orange peels in this pot. The combination of spiced tomato broth with citrus and floral undertones will always be my thing. You can omit them if you’d like, but why not give it a try? I’ve seen you over there skipping that part in 90 percent of my recipes (I’m laughing). And as for the zucchini, I usually stuff them with this meat and rice mixture (hashu), but look at how tinyyyy these are.

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Baby zucchini is not only adorable, but they are adorable, less watery, less seedy, less all-the-things I don’t really like about zucchini, and sometimes they come with their blossoms attached. You don’t even have to core them! What? But please, using the full-grown guys is also okay for this recipe if you’re not stumbling upon the babies at your local farmers market. I actually found some packaged at Trader Joe’s the other day, and see them often at organic grocery stores. Now on to the recipe:

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
-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

for the stew

-1 tsp cumin seeds
-1/2 tsp fresh coriander seeds, crushed (optional)
-olive oil, enough to lightly coat pot
-1 1/2 cup fresh tomatoes, chopped
-3 long strips of zest from an orange
-fresh sprigs of oregano (optional)
-1/2 tsp tomato paste
-8 oz can tomato sauce
-about 2 1/2 cups water or stock*
(this thickens into a stew-like consistency so if you’d like a loose broth, add more water)
-baby zucchini or core larger ones and slice
-1 large potato, peeled and diced

1. Make your spiced meat mixture, being careful not to overmix.

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2. Shape them into small balls, which will give you about 25-28. Set aside while you start up the sauce.

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3. Under low heat, gently toast the cumin seeds for about a minute, then add a long drizzle of olive oil. Turn up the heat to medium and add your chopped tomatoes, orange peels, tomato paste, fresh coriander seeds, oregano, Aleppo pepper, and saute for a couple of minutes before adding your tomato sauce and water/stock. Let simmer for 5 minutes.

4. Add your meatballs, gently stirring occasionally. After about 15 minutes, add your potatoes. 5 minutes later, before you turn off your pot, you’ll add your baby zucchini. The meatballs cook through within 30 minutes, any longer and they’ll be tough.

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The sauce thickens with time and I think a piece of bread to sop it all up would be magic. Add some fresh herbs and enjoy. Let me know if you end up cooking with orange zest so I can hug you from here. It doesn’t take much to make my day. ❤

grilled cabbage tabbouleh

Ever wake up one day to discover you’ve exhausted your head of red cabbage? I mean, you open the fridge and find a wedge left, yawning at you from the comfort of it’s crisp drawer, as you return it’s stare and remember how you used it to begin with: garnishes to make your every dish pop. All week long. Actually, TWO weeks long. Ex: lentil and sweet plantain chorizo soup. That’s just straight rude. It’s deep color deserves the spotlight, and if you want an eye-catcher without having to break a sweat, this is it. All my favorite food-colors in one, gorgeous salad. (Is it red? Is it purple? It’s both, says cabbage experts.) I say it’s according to mood.

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I’ve had plenty of tabbouleh in my life, but never this one, and never grilled. It’s got your usual bulgur and finely minced greens. Fresh lemon juice and cumin ties it all together as it always has…but then you have still-crisp charred cabbage, with moments of pomegranate seeds bursting in your mouth. And then the crunch of pistachios! I can’t. It’s a lovely experience and that wedge in your fridge will stop giving you dirty looks–promise!

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Grilled Cabbage Tabbouleh 

-1/2 head of medium red cabbage, sliced thin, about 3.5-4 cups (or from one tiny head!)
-1/2 cup bulgur wheat
-boiling water, 1 cup
-1 cup tightly packed herbs, finely chopped (parsley, dill, mint)*
-1 tsp ground cumin
-1/2 tsp allspice
-juice of one small lemon
-drizzle of good quality olive oil
-1/2 tsp pomegranate molasses (optional)
-salt and pepper, to taste
-1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
-1/4 cup unsalted pistachios, roughly chopped

In a heatproof bowl, add your bulgur and boiling water. Let stand for 1 hour. It will double in size.

Meanwhile, heat a cast iron grill skillet (or any cast iron skillet) to highest temp. When very hot, add cabbage. Grill for two minutes without stirring/turning them over. Then do just that and grill for about a minute more.

Transfer them onto a big plate to cool down (pop it in the fridge if you’d like). Then work on your herbs.

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Note: be sure to thoroughly dry your herbs before chopping them. It’s tedious but worth it! You don’t want soggy greens. After I’ve picked them (also tedious), I lay them on paper towels. Pat dry, remove towels, then chop away. What else is there to do as your bulgur does it’s thang for an hour? ha!

Once the bulgur is ready, transfer them to a mesh colander to make sure all excess water is gone. Then transfer them to a bowl along with everything else but the pistachios. Toss and season to taste. Keep in fridge for at least 30 minutes before serving, preferably. But serving at room temp is fine as well.

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Add pistachiossss last min.

Wow your guests.

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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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My Kind of Muffin

My Kind of Muffin

These savory, cheesy muffins are my go-to for picnics, brunch, getaways, but sometimes I make a batch just for Danny who can’t get enough of ’em. (Don’t tell him I said that.) Have them fresh out of the oven or much later. Slather some of my strawberry-fig jam on ’em and be smacked with savory-sweet goodness.

This Ham and Cheese Muffin recipe is adapted from Lee Bailey’s Portable Food book. I’ve toyed with it a bit and encourage you to do the same once you’ve nailed down the basics. While he uses only cheddar, I love a bit of the smokier cheeses as well. I’ve always made a batch with smoked gouda but tried smoked gruyère the other day and it was just as lovely. Adding fresh herbs is my favorite way to consume them, though it is optional. I was growing lots of thyme and rosemary during the summer and decided to toss them into the flour. Best. Decision. Ever. Though I think Dan can go without. Cracked pepper adds the spice I always prefer in a savory thing, add as much as you want! Also feel free to play with whatever variety of cheese you want. I haven’t omitted the ham in this recipe, but if you do, let me know how it comes out. Add a bit more cheese and I’m sure they’ll be perfect.


Ham-N-Cheese Muffins

  • Servings: 12 muffins
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

2 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
freshly cracked pepper
1 tbsp fresh herbs, minced
1 egg room temp
1 cup buttermilk room temp
1/4 cup oil
8 oz smoked ham or other smoked meat, finely diced
1 cup grated sharp cheddar
1/4 cup grated smoked cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, stir flour, salt, pepper, and herbs til combined. Add grated cheese and toss into the flour til evenly distributed. In a smaller bowl, whisk in the egg, buttermilk, and oil. Stir in ham. Stir egg mixture into dry ingredients and try not to over mix. Spoon fully into greased muffin pan. Bake for about 20 minutes, til they’ve reached their golden-ness. All done!

These muffins turn crisp and golden on the outside and remain soft in the inside. Dan told me they are almost biscuit-like. These were my latest batch, enjoyed with Dan while pet-sitting at mom’s. Let’s just say Peanut, her Cockalier, went mad for the smell of them.

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a summer harvest put-together

a summer harvest put-together

I am found in the kitchen most mornings, no later than 9AM. Not only because I get home pretty late from work (8:30-9PM!), but it’s truly my favorite way to spend any morning. The house is quiet. I water my lucky cross tomatoes, a bi-colored beauty which grew slowly from seed (in a 20-gallon grow bag, mind you) but sadly only had a chance to produce a single, blushing fruit. There were a few green ones, but end-rot took over. When your babies become calcium deficient, you begin to question your parenting, eh? I consider every season a learning season, and next year I’ll have plenty to share with friends, you just watch.

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When I get to watering my Sicilian eggplants, which are still producing, I stare alarmingly long at their bashful flowers. That is what you do when your favorite color on earth is found, growing happily in a container. Dan told me he’s only growing eggplants and tomatoes next year. A whole lot of them. I can’t say I blame him.

I harvest what’s ready. Usually thyme and basil, as well as arugula, is waiting to be clipped more than anything else. I toss the harvest in a pan. If my garden wasn’t plentiful this summer, Dan’s was (still is!), and he always made sure I went home with the day’s harvest in my tote. Gratitude for every cherry and roma tomato that entered my kitchen, and for every eggplant my cast iron enjoyed. Zucchini, large and small–thank you.

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I want to highlight one of my morning put-togethers because it has been the most satisfying to me. One evening, Dan handed me two, long Italian eggplants, two zucchinis, and cherry tomatoes. Next morning, I took out my cast iron and wooden spoon and got to work. This meal was so simple and true, I will make this many times more. Dice eggplants and salt them for about a half hour. On high heat I sauteed the eggplant and zucchini, along with thyme from my garden, in the pan with very good olive oil, salt and red pepper. I added the tomatoes and put dollops of ricotta on top with some of my basil, drizzled a little more olive oil, then popped it in the oven for about 20 minutes til the tomatoes were about to burst. I tossed some with pasta that night, and next day I spread the rest on bread. It was beautiful.

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I made this again once I got home from Florida, but this time I added green beans. I also added a little bit of chicken broth and it came out even better. I am obsessed with cooking with thyme and broth these days. Almost as obsessed as I am with Dan’s cherry tomatoes which, kissed by Brooklyn sun, tastes loudly of savory and sweet. This meal was featured on Edible Queens’ Insta BTW! What!?!? That made me super happy because within the next few months, I hope to be submitting some work their way.

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One thing I know I’ll be growing again next year is arugula. Mine tastes like GARLIC and pepper. I ended up putting them in everything, from scrambled eggs, to stirfrys. I dressed them with fig balsamic and sicilian lemons for salads to sweeten up their spice. It grows very quickly from seed and thrives most in cooler weather. Next year, I’ll be growing at least 6 herbs, more lettuces, and I need to get my hand on some fairytale eggplant seeds! They are super container-friendly. I’ll leave all the bigger plants to Dan.

I also grew curly kale, no longer with me as bugs took a liking to them. But before bugs, it was strong and plentiful, and the best thing I did with it was put their chopped leaves in a white bean parmesan soup. The broth was delicate and nutty, entirely healing. The one thing that’s gotten me super excited about Autumn is all the soups and stews I plan on making.

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Most of September was warm. Cool weather has finally reached us and you know that it has because I came home yesterday with a 1/2 bushel of apples and zero plans for them (send me your favorite apple recipes?) Even Loonz wants to know what I’ve gotten myself into. 

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Happy Autumn, everyone! Let’s welcome all the warm spices into our homes, make soups that are the tightest of hugs.