Puerto Rican-inspired Cholent

Puerto Rican-inspired Cholent

I’m a teeny bit late, but I’ve some good news to share with you which will totally explain my lack of updating the blog. A few months ago I became a full-time VaynerMedia content creator and my first client (hi Wegmans!) has me workin’ my tuchus off. Which I’m lovin’! but I don’t have much time to work on my own recipe developing at the moment. Whatever recipe I shoot for them I end up feeding the family with (which is a win), and it was only a couple of weeks ago that I started to have a day or two to myself to throw things in a pot and have the pot do all the work while I used that time editing content. This Cholent is one of them.

Reminiscent of our stewed pot of beans which simmers in a tomato broth with flavors of sofrito and sazón, let’s call this the much heartier, Jewish version. Packed with barley, bone-in meat, and vegetables, one bowl of this will probably keep you satisfied for the day–which is the intent. Cholent was created because Jewish law prohibited cooking on Shabbat. But this recipe doesn’t take as long as a traditional cholent which is cooked on low over night for 10-12 hours. If Jake Cohen can cut time short (a little too short in my opinion) on his cholent, so can I. I’m not big on leaving my stove on unattended in an ancient Manhattan building. (But if you don’t soak the beans and add more than this recipe calls for, then yes, cook longer if need be!)

Puerto Rican Cholent

Cook Time 5 hours
Course Main Course
Cuisine Caribbean, Fusion, Jewish
Servings 6 to 8 people


  • 1 cup dried navy/cranberry/pinto beans soaked over night
  • 2 lb flanken or other meat of choice bone-in preferred
  • 4 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 heaping tbsp sofrito
  • 1.5 tbsp organic sazón
  • 2 bell peppers chopped
  • 2 med yukon or red potatoes quartered
  • 1 yucca (or another potato)
  • 1.5 cup pumpkin/squash/sweet potato
  • 2-3 whole eggs optional
  • 3 sprigs thyme or oregano
  • 8 cups beef broth plus water if needed
  • 1 cup barley
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • cilantro to taste


  • Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Sear flanken in batches. Return to pot and add tomato paste, sofrito, and sazón. Saute a couple of minutes, until paste has caramelized a bit and the flanken is wonderfully scented.
  • Add in the beef stock, scraping up the brown bits. Stir in the beans, potatoes, herbs, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, skimming the foam that rises to the top for the first 10 minutes. Cover with a lid and place it in the oven for 5 hours, checking occasionally to see if it needs to be skimmed or if it needs more liquid.
  • After the 4th hour, add in the barley, yucca, and pumpkin and return to the oven again for another hour or more. Add more liquid for desired consistency.


Sazón is a Latin spice blend that contains cumin, coriander, garlic, oregano, and achiote (which gives it that beautiful orange color). Some blends contain salt while others do not. Take this into consideration when you season this cholent. I prefer to not use Goya, but do you.
Keyword Barley, Beans, Dutch Oven, One Pot Meal, Slow Cooking, Sofrito

polenta rugelach with roasted tomato jam

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

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

Polenta Rugelach with Roasted Tomato Jam

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


for the dough

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

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

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

for assembling

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


for the dough

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

for the tomato jam

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

for assembling and baking the rugelach

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

Caramelized Cabbage Matzah Balls & Keftes: Passover Ebook

Caramelized Cabbage Matzah Balls & Keftes: Passover Ebook

I am excited to announce that The Nosher and Jewish Telegraphic Agency have recently included my recipes for Caramelized Cabbage Matzah Ball Soup and Keftes in their ebook: 15 Recipes For a Modern Passover. Please do check it out! Other recipes included are absolutely beautiful.

When Janna Gur first shared Hadassah Kavel’s recipe for Matzo Balls in her Jewish Soul Food cookbook, I knew adding caramelized onion to my own recipe was just the thing that was missing. That is, until I became cabbage-obsessed a few years ago. While I know we have entered a new year, I’d like to think cabbage is still trending. I would recommend adding these to any of your favorite broths or soups for your upcoming holiday table, but I have included a basic chicken soup recipe as well.

Recipe for chicken soup with caramelized cabbage matzah balls on The Nosher.

sancocho matzo ball soup

sancocho matzo ball soup

The two ultimate comfort soups from both of my worlds have come together to hug the heck out of me.

Developing this recipe was nothing short of WOW. “Wow” was the only sound I heard on the holiday table during Rosh Hashanah when sazón-seasoned matzo balls were ladled into piping hot bowls of sancocho, a hearty soup (sometimes stew) of meat and veggies from the Caribbean. Following my mom’s recipe but needing to cut down on some of the root vegetables to make space for the matzo balls, I’d say this is close enough to hers, which always has had a combination of oxtails and chicken. You can always play around with the proteins and veggies, but if mom doesn’t see yucca, pumpkin, sweet plantain and corn – then Imma get an earful. She has also added, when available, chayote and white yautia roots.

Feel free to use your favorite matzo ball recipe (and hey, add in some sazón and cilantro while you’re at it).

If using sofrito, I have a recipe for it here: mom’s small batch sofrito.

Sancocho Matzo Ball Soup

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Course Main Course, Soup
Cuisine Caribbean, Fusion, Jewish, Puerto Rican
Servings 8 or 10 people


for the soup

  • 1.5-2 lb oxtails (or beef, short ribs) seasoned with salt
  • 3 tbsp sofrito optional
  • 1/2 of a whole chicken bone-in
  • 1 head of garlic the top cut off to reveal cloves
  • 1/2 of a small Spanish onion
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 2 sprigs of thyme optional
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 12 cup water or beef broth
  • 2 carrots sliced
  • 1 cup squash or pumpkin cut into chunks
  • 1 ear of corn cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 large yucca cut into chunks
  • 1 semi-sweet plantain sliced into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 large potato or yam cut into chunks

for the matzo balls (makes about 12 medium)

  • 3/4 cup matzo meal
  • 3 tbsp schmaltz or fat from oxtail
  • 1/4 cup broth (from soup)
  • 3 egg whites (from large eggs) beaten til frothy
  • 3 egg yolks (from large eggs)
  • 2 tspn sazón Organic, not Goya
  • 1/4 cup cilantro finely chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste


for the sancocho

  • Brown the oxtails for a few minutes on both sides. Add in the celery, onion, garlic, bay leaf, sofrito if using. Continue to fry for about a minute then add in chicken, and water/broth. Bring to a light simmer, not to a boil.
  • Skim often, then reserve 3 TBSP of the chicken and oxtail's oil that sits on top of the broth. Use this for the matzo meal if you do not have chicken schmaltz.
  • After about an hour and half, discard the onion, celery, garlic, thyme and bay leaf. Set the chicken aside. When cool enough to handle, shred for serving.
  • Add in the yucca and carrots and cook for 30 minutes before adding in the rest of the vegetables. Simmer for about 15 minutes more.

for the matzo balls

  • In a medium bowl, beat your egg yolks, schmaltz, broth, herbs and seasonings together. Gently fold in the beaten egg whites and matzo meal til fully incorporated. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour.
  • With wet hands, gently form walnut-sized matzo balls and slip them into a pot of boiling water that was generously salted. Cover and boil for about 50 minutes. Serve in a bowl of sancocho.


Make sure the oxtails you get have less fat on them than meat. You’ll be spooning fat out of the pot for days! I reserve 3 tbsp of this fat for the matzo balls.
Keyword Comfort Food, Hearty Soup, Matzo Balls, Sazon, Sofrito
Sancocho Matzo Ball Soup by @cookonyournerve

Recipe for Keftes (Tamarind-stewed Meatballs)

Recipe for Keftes (Tamarind-stewed Meatballs)

It’s been a year since I’ve shared this recipe with The Nosher, a place many go to for Jewish recipes, resources, and beyond.

When Lori, my partner’s mother, introduced me to this holiday dish 10 years ago, I noted the similarities of it to their stuffed grape leaves, yebra, which is also draped in this sweet and tart tamarind sauce called ou, pronounced OO-r.) There are a lot of Persian influences in Aleppian-Jewish cuisine when the sweet and savory meet. And I’m not mad at it.

While this gets served at the holiday table, we find any excuse to treat ourselves when I visit the Pizzarellis. “I want to be extravagant today. You down?” And always, they are. Lori prepares the sambousaks (muenster-stuffed pastry dotted with sesame seeds) and I get to working on this dish, solely because I make it the way Aunt Sara used to and they’re not sure how I’ve nailed down the flavors based on description alone, but I’m honored. Truly.


Tamarind-stewed meatballs
Course Main Course
Cuisine Jewish, Syrian
Servings 90 walnut-sized meatballs


for the meatballs

  • 3 lbs ground beef
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1.5-2 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 3/4 cup unsalted matzo meal plus extra in a bowl for rolling
  • 1 1/2 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tbsp baharat or allspice
  • 1 tbsp Aleppo pepper more or less to taste
  • 1 cup fresh herbs such as parsley, cilantro, dill or mint finely chopped

for the sauce

  • drizzle of olive oil for the pot
  • 1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper or more for extra heat
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp good quality tamarind
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • juice from 1 lemon about 3 tbsp
  • kosher salt to taste
  • sugar to taste (optional)


for the meatballs

  • Combine all ingredients and with wet hands, loosely and gently form walnut-sized meatballs. I place them on baking sheets.
  • Roll each meatball in matzo meal.
  • Brown them on all sides for a few minutes in a heated pan coated with a little bit of vegetable oil. Brown them in batches as to not overcrowd the pot. Set aside.

for the sauce

  • In a heated pot with a long drizzle of olive oil, add your Aleppo pepper. Once the oil has turned a reddish color, add the allspice and the rest of the ingredients. Give it a stir and let simmer for a few minutes before adding the meatballs.
  • Add the meatballs and simmer for about 30 minutes. Taste the sauce to see if it needs anything more. The meatballs should plump up a little when done, and the sauce shall be thicker.
  • Serve with rice that also consists of orzo or vermicelli, potatoes, and/or salad
Keyword High Holidays, Rosh Hoshanah, Shabbat

I’m spending some time recipe developing and photographing for others these days (and getting paid to do so whattt!?) But I’ve also been super busy trying to feel better all around. The good news is, I am now seeing a neurologist that cares deeply, spends two hours chatting with me, and wants to get to the source of all the nerve pain I’m experiencing. I could practically jump for joy considering my last neuro was, well, incompetent and only wanted 5 minutes of my time. At least now I have some hope that I can *maybe* rid myself of Trigeminal Neuralgia. Which would be great news for all that follow me because I’ll get to taste food from both sides of my mouth! (Did you know food tastes differently from one side to the next?) It’s been a full YEAR since I’ve been able to fully enjoy eating, and I can’t wait!

Much love, and a warm hello to my new followers! So happy you’ve made your way to me.

za’atar caramelized cabbage and onion buns

za’atar caramelized cabbage and onion buns

Mom really enjoyed the Hungarian caramelized cabbage buns (káposztás pogácsa) that I made from Jewish Soul Food the other day, but as she was eating them, I heard a lot of “but” this and “but” that. You know what buts make me do? Spend a few hours in the kitchen recipe developing for the sake of not hearing that word again. I mean, you gotta do what you gotta do when you’re in quaritine together.

These are inspired by those same, beautiful buns, without mom’s but. (I’m laughing every time I say that). I scaled down the recipe since there’s only 3 of us, and I used more parmesan, and some different spices I tend to use often. Oh! And za’atar. These are freaking addicting. Almost like a biscuit, if you’re into that. I omitted the caraway seeds from the original recipe, only because mom doesn’t like them.

Serves 10, or up to 14 if you use leftover and roll them out again.

You will need:

for the cabbage and onion

-260g (a heaping 1.5 cup) green cabbage, very finely chopped
-tsp salt, to sweat out the cabbage
-100g (2/3 cup) onion, finely chopped
-1 tbs butter
-1 tbs olive oil
-1 tsp sugar
-1/2 tbs sweet paprika
-few pinches of allspice and pepper

for the dough

-375g (3 cups) all purpose flour
-45g finely grated parmesan (1/2 cup)
-1/2 tbs active dry yeast dissolved in 1/4 c warm water plus 1 tsp sugar or other sweetener, wait 5-10 min, til it gets nice and bubbly.
-30 ml milk (about 2 tbs)
-1 egg yolk
-1/3 c yogurt or sour cream, a little over 5 tbs
-1 stick salted butter, 8 tbs, softened (if using unsalted, add salt)
-1 heaping tsp garlic powder
-1 heaping tsp Aleppo pepper or other, add more if you like heat
-egg yolk for the glaze
-za’atar, to sprinkle on top

1. In a mesh colander that is sitting on top of a bowl or cup, add your cabbage and toss them with salt. Let it sit for about 45 minutes. The salt will draw moisture out from the cabbage. Use a paper towel to dry out the rest once 45 minutes are up.

2. Under low heat, slowly cook down the cabbage and onion in butter and olive oil. Add sugar, sweet paprika, and allspice. Saute every 5 minutes. They should caramelize within 30 minutes. Set aside.

3. Using a stand mixer with a dough hook attached, mix together your flour, parmesan, spices in it’s bowl. Then, on slow speed, gradually add the yeast, milk, yolk and knead for about 5 minutes. Add butter and knead for another 5 minutes. Then add in the cabbage, kneading another minute or so. When all seems combined, I like to flour a surface and knead by hand before letting it rest for 2 hours in an oiled bowl. Keep it at room temp, covered.

4. Roll out the dough on a floured surface. It should be 1 inches thick. Use a cup, cookie cutter, or biscuit cutter and arrange rounds on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Brush egg yolk on each. Use a sharp knife or toothpick to make a pattern on the glaze. I did thunderbolts for mine, but the traditional way is a crisscross pattern. Sprinkle za’atar on each and let rise for 30 minutes.

5. Preheat oven to 400. When ready, bake for about 20-25 minutes. Check in on them. They should be golden.

Serve same day, or freeze them.

When I made them the first time, I served them with a tomato and cucumber salad, and braised, spiced chickpeas.

Last night my mom had a few with her spaghetti and meatballs. And today I’m doing brunch with a lox grazing board. Pics to come later this afternoon, if you have Instagram or Facebook! Happy baking.

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.


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.