"You just go on your nerve. If someone’s chasing you down the street with a knife you just run, you don’t turn around and shout, “Give it up! I was a track star for Mineola Prep.” That’s for the writing poems part." -Frank O’Hara, Personism: A Manifesto // It’s for the cooking part, too.
Today I wanted a pie with texture. Polenta being the key ingredient here for a crumbly, cookie-like crust. The one other food that comes to mind is when we have use semolina for Syrian muenster-filled sambousaks. There’s that buttery, grainy bite that made me fall in love with them to begin with. In fact, I’m going to try that next for a pie dough, and maybe I’ll even top it with muenster!? Make it like a sambousak galette without the time spent on making individual pastries. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind the work during colder months, but ’tis not the season for someone who is doing it solo in a tiny UES kitchen.
I used the juiciest heirloom tomato ever and thought the crust would not handle this well, but it actually stood up to the juices far better than an all-flour dough has for me. No leaks, splatters, bubbling over. I didn’t let mom in on the addition of polenta, but she was obsessed with it and said “whatever changes I made, I should continue making pies this way.” As you all know, she’s hella picky and praise is music to my ears coming from her.
I topped this galette with Parmesan and a lot of sliced Korean peppers. They were shockingly mild in heat so any pepper will do if you feel like making something similar. I recommend shishitos which seem to be easier to find these days. I was lucky enough to be gifted a lot of garden goods from a new friend, whose parents are growing a variety of Korean vegetables. But don’t want to use tomatoes? Use whatever’s in season! Stone fruit, berries – this pie crust will taste wonderful with any sweet or savory filling.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, polenta, salt and sugar. Gently toss in the cubes of butter til well coated, then quickly break them up into smaller pieces, recoating them with the flour as you go. If you have warm hands, a pastry cutter or food processor might wise.
Create a well in the center for your iced water, and pour it in. Very gently knead ingredients into each other til a dough forms. Do not over do it. If it appears dry, hydrate it about 1 tbsp at a time. Pat dough into a disc and wrap it with plastic wrap. Allow it to chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before using. It can stay there up to 3 days.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Roll out the pie crust on a lightly floured surface and transfer to a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. It does not need to be perfectly round, as this is the joy of making galettes.
Place slices of tomato in the center, drizzle with good quality olive oil, and add salt to taste. Fold in the edges and brush them with egg wash. Bake for about 40-45 minutes. During the last 10, add your cheese and peppers, if using.
Do you love sweet and sour dishes? I didn’t til I sat at my love’s Syrian-Jew-But-Also-Italian table.
Traditionally made with apricots, I noticed how Dan’s mom, Lori, would also add an equal amount of prunes to her Yebra (stuffed grape leaves), which are smothered, gently, with a tamarind sauce. It’s a beautiful, vibrant-tasting dish. When I decided to challenge myself by making these for my love (or making these at all–I didn’t want to ruin a gorgeous recipe!) a light-bulb struck. Why not use another dried fruit that I adore?
Let me tell you. Eating this made me want to buy fresh figs and roast them in this sauce–which actually might be a recipe coming soon–but I digress.
Did I eat more figs than grape leaves? Probably. But mostly because I wanted their to be enough of the leaves themselves for Lori to try. When I told her I was making Yebra, I received a stream of expected texts, “did you rinse them first? Dry them? Did you soak the rice? Make sure you lay them vein-side up.” I didn’t have much time to reply (because..yes..I was doing all those things!) I have made these a few times with her and my confidence in the kitchen that morning sang through the window on the 5th floor of my mom’s tiny UES kitchen. Upon the first bite (I swear it!) my guy teared up. All I heard was “…babe.” And he then came at me for a bear hug and a hundred kisses. Next day, I received a text from Lori that said it tastes just like Aunt Sara’s. Which, BTW, is the ultimate compliment. For as long as I’ve sat at their table, Dan has always said “Please make it taste like Aunt Sara’s.” I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting her, but here’s to you, Sara.
Stuffed Grape Leaves with Figs and Apricot in Tamarind Sauce
1 lb hashu, recipe follows
8 oz jar of grape leaves (about 30-36)
10 dried mission black figs
8 dried California apricots (do not use Turkish here)
juice of large lemon, plus more to taste
5-6 tbs tamarind concentrate
pinch of brown sugar
pinch of salt
4 cups water (plus more)
1. In a bowl, gently mix by hand all the ingredients and spices for hashu and set aside. *Set oven to 350 degrees unless you plan on cooking these babies on the stove from beginning to end.
2. Drain grape leaves, carefully taking them out of the jar. In a large pot, bring water to a boil and add the grape leaves, carefully turning them with tongs, for about a minute. Then quickly get them into a big bowl of ice water. Pour them over a colander and begin to dry each one, while cutting off their stems. Make sure you lay them vein-side up when done.
3. Take a heaping teaspoon of hashu (more or less, depending on the size of the leaf), and place the spoonful at it’s center closest to the stem. Fold in the sides and roll them semi-tightly.
4. In a dutch oven or pot, drizzle a little vegetable oil on the bottom and start arranging your stuffed grape leaves and dried fruit, creating about 2 or 3 layers of them, depending on how many grape leaves you were able to stuff. (Some come torn up in the jar). My pot ended up with only two layers–about 32 grape leaves.
5. On med-high heat, cover the pot and let steam for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, make your sauce. In a medium bowl, add your lemon juice and tamarind. Whisk in about two cups of water and a pinch of brown sugar and salt. Pour over the grape leaves. Add another 2-3 cups of water so that it almost reaches the top layer of grape leaves, about 3 quarters of the way. A lot of the liquid will decrease as it cooks, and you’ll want some later. It’s the good stuff. You don’t want it soup-like, though.
6. Place a heat-friendly plate directly on top of the leaves to keep them from unraveling (or don’t. I didn’t. But if you’re making a lot it might be wise to.) Simmer up to 45 minutes on the stove or in the oven, covered. Spoon sauce over the top leaves occasionally. When some leaves have caramelized, turn them onto a platter and serve with all the things.
Syrian Menu for Two (with leftovers)
Yebra served with homemade Za’atar Flatbread.
And hummus topped with warm chickpeas that simmered in it’s own broth with toasted cumin seeds, then got tossed in an olive oil and lemon dressing, topped with za’atar and Aleppo pepper.
And a very fresh, colorful market haul salad made of very finely chopped parsley, red cabbage, scallions, cherry tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers. I suppose all that’s missing is the bulgar!? (There was bulgar, guys. But since it was so fine (I bought it to make kibbeh), it turned to mush.) Kitchen fails are welcomed here. This salad was beautiful and simply wanted to be without.
On the table, which is actually the gorgeous cheeseboard my guy got me years ago sitting atop a radiator by the windowsil (because good lighting!), is a precious tea towel Tory gave me recently. It has a Syrian recipe of anise bread printed throughout. I love it so!
I sent over a grape leaf question to Kathryn from Cardamom and Tea the other day, and she responded with absolute kindness. I might have an opportunity to learn how to forage for fresh leaves and I do hope to meet this amazing woman whose food speaks to my soul. Lori already said she’s coming with! A day out with new friends and family in spring sounds like just the thing.
During our winter visit in 2017, I remember we quickly drove past a shop in town that had the word CHEESE in it’s name. That’s all I saw. Cheese. We didn’t have time to check it out (every shop closes by 6PM!) but for the next six months, I knew it’d be a priority visit for me if I had a chance to return. Well, a few weeks ago, we walked a couple of miles into town, hangry, and I asked, “Where’s the cheese!? I don’t see the cheese!” Then I remembered all trees were bare the last time we were here. I spotted the only tree-lined block to our right and told Dan it had to be behind them. And there it was, a cheese shop with two entrances, held in what seemed to be a secret block of independent shops.
At first, I thought it would be similar to World of Cheese in Forest Hills, where, simply put, they sell cheese. But since they’re called The Cheese Plate, I am happy to announce that they sell cheese, but with a cheese-mongers excitement, will put together a cheese board for you to enjoy inside, or outside, their shop. This would be our first meal of day 4. I told them Dan and I enjoy firm cheeses, and we settled on an Italian variety called Piave Vecchio, and Jake’s Aged Gouda. A cross between Parmesan and Asiago, Piave Vecchio crumbled onto the wood. Jake’s was firm and nutty, cut into hearty strips. Then quince paste was added to the board along with pistachios and almonds, olives, slices of apple, and soppressata. They gave us a generous amount of cheese for two people. I’m not complaining.
THEY ALSO SERVE ICE CREAM. And after a walk around town, we decided to return to go get some. We got chocolate, coconut, and blackberry. But alas, this isn’t about the wonderful way we started our 4th day, is it? But look how cute that guy is, handing me creamy blackberry amazingness.
Now, there are many places to eat around here, but when you know you only have 5 days in New Paltz, you eat at the one and only locally sourced Indian restaurant that you fell in love with during your first visit. And you don’t eat there once. If you’re anything like Dan and I, you eat there 3 very magical times and wish you ordered Chicken Masala to take back with you to Brooklyn. This is because every vegetable, cream and butter, is farm fresh. You can TASTE the difference. Coconut samosas? Such a wonderfully sweet departure from the savory potato or meat one we’re used to. The naan? Just look at it.
When we overheard that they serve a buffet on Tuesdays, we changed our plans to accommodate this feast. Dan truly stuck to his favorite masala and I can’t say I blame him. Tomato and cream have never tasted so rich. We almost thought it was butter.
It was on Tuesday, day 3, that I fell in love with a soup. A thin, extremely fresh-tasting broth, heavy on the cilantro, mildly spiced, reminded me of a cross between my tomato soup and my carrot masoor dal. I kept eating small spoonfuls just to identify everything I could. I gave in and asked them about it, and was told it’s their vegetable soup, pureed with red lentils, and that if I return on a regular day when it’s made to order, it’ll be even better.
On the 5th day, the day we were set out to leave, I discovered it was their South Indian Mulligatwany. Guys. I’ve had mulligatawny many, many times. But never like this. I am convinced it has to do with the very ingredients they use, and how they use them. When we returned, with our suitcases in tow, needing to catch a train 2 hours from when we sat, I ordered this again. It was thicker. Richer. I think coconut milk was present. I loved it. But is it strange that I love their thinly-brothed version even more? It holds true to what Mulligatawny means: pepper water.
In my version, I use everything I thought I had tasted, and I came so very close to how it actually tasted. And yes, every single veggie and fruit came from the farmers market. I seriously encourage this. Heirloom tomatoes are IN and if I find out you store-bought yours, I already know you will not be able to experience this soup the way I swooningly did.
A variety of carrots and onions are everywhere. Fresh herbs a must. Fresh spices, yes please. Peppers! Oh my goodness the peppers. Use sweet and ones with heat. You won’t regret it. The color of the soup will also depend on the color of the tomatoes and sorts of peppers you used. Mine were a variety of yellows and reds. It’s lighter-looking than what I had in New Paltz, but that’s also because sunshine lit this bowl up.
1 large heirloom tomato, diced (a pound and a half)
2 carrots, chopped
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 serrano pepper, diced
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tbsp garam masala or maharajah curry
1 bay leaf
2-3 cardamom pods, gently cracked open
1/2 cup dried red lentils (masoor dal)
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/4th cup coconut cream
Gently toast cumin seeds in pot, about 30 secs, then semi-coat with olive oil. Add your onion, garlic, and ginger. Saute for a couple of minutes then add tomatoes, carrots, peppers, and spices. Let the spices perfume your kitchen and then stir in your lentils, add your stock, bring to a boil then simmer for about a 1/2 hr, stirring occasionally. Add coconut cream. Puree with an immersion blender or whatever blender you have. Serve with cilantro. For a heartier meal, also serve with basmati.
For a thicker soup, add more of the veggies you love, and/or add another half cup of red lentils. Some recipes call for an apple. Why not? You could also use coconut milk instead of cream, I was just aiming for richness here. I welcome any herb you’re growing here, too. Add a dried pepper for extra heat! I ran out of em. OH, and try grilling your tomatoes for a few minutes before adding it into the pot. I know that’s exactly what I’m going to do the next time I make this!
Okay. We didn’t just eat 5 days straight. We walked in the rain, too. We walked A LOT.
A fallen nest. A single, big-headed dandelion for one adult wish. Plenty of wild onions and flowers. The silhouette of Mohonk Mountain and it’s house. A field of corn, and then a single tree in a field of thousands of corn. These are only some of the things we eyed on a roadside in New Paltz.
We were either walking to the farm a half mile in, into town two miles in, or to a strawberry field we never actually found. Long story short–we walked and we ate. We walked in the rain, sharing a small umbrella. We did this often. We walked under the sun and pointed to all the beautiful roadside things, and sadly, the not so beautiful. We toyed with the idea of someday doing a catering business, using local ingredients only, maybe from a town like this. Maybe I’m not even toying around at this point. But what I do know: walks with my best friend have healed the part of my brain that was loud with awful news, social media, worry. While I can’t get rid of what’s happening, I can do more and be more ready to give my all, for myself, and for others.
Only a half mile away, Wallkill View Farm had everything I needed, stocked full of local preserves, pastas, cheeses, sauces, spices, and allllll the produce. Every fruit and vegetable was minutes-ago-picked. On our first day, I bought generous-looking figs, raspberries which were on the tart side but immediately made me think JAM, plums, peaches, cherry and plum tomatoes, a banquet of basil that looked too beautiful to put into our next few meals. I bought creamers (baby red potatoes) that hold ridiculously true to their name. Applewood smoked bacon that lasted us 5 days, to be served alongside farm fresh eggs. My sweet guy made us breakfast every morning.
We bought prosciutto that ended up on one of our homemade pizzas. A single eggplant that was sweet and fed us for two days. Cinnamon raisin bread and a cinnamon crunch ice cream from Jane’s creamery in Kingston. Perhaps I’ve never been happier. I did not plan this trip whatsoever. This was all Dan with the help of Aunt Donna, whose beautiful home felt most like the grandest escape from city life.
What more did I do with this market haul? Guys. I could cry while telling you how each ingredient made me feel the most comfortable in my own skin. I made pesto out of some of the basil, pistachios I found in the fridge, capers, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. I tossed creamers with a few spoonfuls of this and roasted them. They were crisp on the outside, creamy on the inside. Easily the best roasted potatoes I’ve ever had. I served the rest of the pesto with sliced cherry tomatoes and mozzarella. This was our lunch before we went to A Tovola, where we ordered hand-rolled pasta reminiscent of the pasta-making class we recently saw at Eataly.
One night we made pizza so good that we swore we could open up a restaurant. I made sauce out of the plum and cherry tomatoes. I woke up early to work on the dough so it could rise while we walked into town. We topped one pie with prosciutto. It was thin, sturdy, crisp. It was everything. Dan even made panko-breaded eggplant, which we decided is the only way to bread these babies.
Now let’s talk about the fruit. You gotta know I made jam, right? And you must know it was THEE BEST small batch jam I’ve ever made. While we couldn’t find the destination for picking strawberries, we ended up at the Dressel Farms market itself to buy the small, jewel variety.
Quick recipe for my small batch berry fig jam:
You want about 4 cups total of chopped fresh fruit, which makes about 2 cups of jam. I used:
2 cups strawberries, hulled and chopped
1 cup raspberries
about 5 big figs, diced
1/2 cup sugar (more if your fruit is not sweet enough)
tsp lemon zest
fresh squeeze of lemon
Put all berries and figs in a pan over medium heat. Break them down with a masher and add your sugar and zest. Let simmer for about 15-20 minutes, stirring often. I like to leave my jam a bit chunky but feel free to mash some more or use an immersion blender. Add a fresh squeeze of lemon (or orange!) towards the end to brighten up the flavors.
Sometimes I add other things, like mint, thyme, or freshly cracked black pepper, or even booze. But I wanted this to be all about the fruit and nothing more. BECAUSE:
It was also meant for pop tarts. You heard me. Pop tarts. Dan has been asking me to make these hand pies and I thought this was the perfect time to do so.
For the pastry, all I used was:
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
8 oz cream cheese, room temp
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp salt
In a big bowl, cream your butter and cream cheese together with sugar, salt, and extract til light and fluffy, about 3 minutes in your stand mixer with a paddle attached. Slowly add in your flour, continuing to mix for another minute or two til well incorporated. On a floured work surface, divide this into two equal parts, pat both into rounds and individually wrap them in plastic wrap. Chill for at least 1 hour, or longer.
Dan rolled one out and used a pizza cutter to cut rectangles out of them. Then we filled em up with a big tbsp each of jam. Used a fork to seal the edges. We made a quick glaze of confectioners sugar, squeeze of lemon, dash of vanilla extract, and a tsp of jam. It was delicious!
The morning before our last day, I remembered I had a second dough chilling in the fridge. I also had 2 peaches, 1 plum, and a handful of strawberries. I sliced them up so they could take center stage of a galette. I topped it with a cinnamon, brown sugar and pistachio crumble, and served it with cinnamon ice cream. No regrets.
This post did not even begin to touch all the wonderful stores we walked into, or the restaurants we ate at. One truly needs to be talked about, but I think I’ll save that for the next one. For now, I leave you with desserts and love. Next might contain soup, and more love. And definitely more support of local farms, with recipes to go along with it. I bought this book at Wallkill View Market and am feeling very, very inspired.
Plus, I returned home to find that my purple tomatillo plant grew a foot, and it’s tiny little husked fruits are beginning to grow. Heirloom beets are almost ready to be pulled out. Cherry tomatoes are about to debut their flowers. Dan’s are already blooming! There’s so much beauty to what’s to come.
“We ordered wings and kinda ate them,” was what Dan said to me the other night when we thought about our first date six years ago. Which, BTW, lasted about 8, really beautiful hours, sooo…butterflies-in-the-tummy much!? That night, we picked at our platter of BBQ fried wings at a pub by Rockefeller Center like we were two love-birds who could care less about food. If you saw us now, you might just laugh yourself to tears. Butterflies have cleared the tummy and made a home at our hearts, if only but to make room for all the really amazing meals we share together.
Today, a waiter at La Villa half-jokingly tells us that we need to bring together two tables in order to accommodate our order of arancini (stuffed with cheddar!?), a bowl of delicately fried eggplant sticks, a 1/2 dozen baked clams, baby green salad topped with slow-roasted beets, which then has large parmesan shavings piled on top, and don’t forget the Margherita pizza with pepperoni, please. Did we order pasta, too? I wouldn’t doubt it. We are ridiculous and ridiculously in love with food. We will either sit there, quietly eating. Or with hands flailing discuss every bite and compare notes. Next in conversation is how I can bring this beautiful simplicity into the house so we don’t have to leave so often (or spend that much money).
A beautiful-tasting tomato sauce is at the heart of a lot of our favorite dishes. I’m sharing a recipe with you that is quite helpful for when tomatoes are not in season. I am, quite literally, counting the minutes to when I get to pick from his 4 cherry tomato plants. Then let the freshly roasted tomato sauces and bisques begin!
fresh herbs, such as thyme, rosemary, bay leaf (opt)
3 14-oz canned cherry tomatoes*
3 med-sized parmesan rinds or 4 small**
2-3 full sprigs of basil
1 cup grated parmesan, divided
1 pound pasta of choice
*You can order canned cherry tomatoes online or find them in specialty markets. They are robust in flavor and slightly sweet. I buy La Valle or Mutti, but you can also use any of your favorite canned sauce.
**I buy a container of parmesan rinds from any supermarket that has a major cheese section (Fairway, Whole Foods, Italian markets). Or simply start freezing the rinds to your whole parmesan wedges! You can use them in soups and stews as well, so please don’t throw those babies out.
Heat olive oil in a dutch oven. Gently fry your red pepper then add your onion, stir til translucent. Add your garlic, carrot, fresh herbs if you have any. After about 2 minutes, add your canned sauce. I like to crush some tomatoes with my hands as they go in but you can smash with a wooden spoon as well. Then add your parmesan rinds and basil. Let it do it’s thing for about 40 minutes, stirring once in awhile to make sure the rinds do not stick to the bottom of your pot. Take out the rinds, basil, and carrot. Cook your pasta separately but drain a couple of minutes earlier than the instructions tell you to. Finish cooking it off in the sauce with 1/2 cup grated parmesan stirred in. Serve with more parmesan and fresh basil.
Once I started to add parmesan rinds in my pot, I’ve never stopped. In fact, I refuse to make sauce unless I have at least one around. They are nutty and salty and make the sauce. And a sauce made well actually will let the butterflies do a little swing dance. Everyone’s happy and in love. Promise.
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:
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.
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.
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. <3
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.
The 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.
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.
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.
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.
So here’s the thing about having expectations during a planned trip, or, hey, even a planned blog.
Don’t have them.
For our third Glasbern Inn visit, we were expecting a snow storm that would want us to cozy on up to the fireplace for the totality of our time there. We got spring instead. We got more spring than actual spring right now. Mid-60-degree weather in February. It’s April 12th and I’ve yet to feel such a warmth as that.
We were also expecting our usual breakfast and dinner prepared by the chef we fell in love with a few years ago. Instead, we got ourselves a new chef. With new (affordable!?) prices to match. Hello, Executive Chef Ralph Edmonds! Mornings are still precious. We sit by sunlight and firelight, basking in both. And the food? Still farm fresh and locally sourced so, still pretty amazing.
The unexpected warm weather led to long walks, greeting the new calf, and a spontaneous winery visit where I could sit with my love, celebrating the moment I purchased this blog. HELLO, DOT COM!
We had Vyncrest Winery to ourselves and it easily became one I’d love to return to. After 12 free tastings (what!?) and the purchase of a bottle of their traminette, Dan asked me what I want others to get out of this blog. The truest answer I can come up with is this: to have you not follow my recipes so closely, eventually. They are ideas and contain flavor combinations I’d love for you to toy with in your own way, differently during each season. I want you to get to know an ingredient so intimately that you’ll find ways to use them creatively. If you ever do choose to use them, I’ll always encourage you to do so loosely (unless it’s baked goods, in which case you should follow loosely after following it the first or second time–just in case!).
Many people already view recipes this way. I have a binder full of them and they are mainly there for inspiration. In all honesty, having to write down “exact” amounts of everything is a struggle for me. I don’t cook this way. A part of me wants to tell you I sprinkled this and that into a pot and threw in a few orange peels and hoped for the best. Which would be true. But then I still am asked for exact measurements and I do want to be able to give you those answers. Which I happily will continue to do so! Just a little differently, and in a way that I am comfortable with.
From here on out, recipes I share will contain a variations section. Just quick notes on what other ingredients and spices work well with the main recipe. And each recipe will finally be printable! But this is as far as planning as I’ll go, for now. I’m still trying to redesign. Create a logo and header. Work on bio. Edit past recipes. Create a recipe index. I expected all of this to be done before reintroducing the site, but, having that expectation has honestly prevented me from actually working on this entirely. This is a journey I’m on and I think I’d rather you see the process and the changes as they come, instead of something close to “perfection”, which is an expectation I’d rather not have! There will still be photos, of course. Like of cows.
I’m still experimenting in the kitchen and learning new things about me in relation to food. I’m even spending a lot of time learning about flour and having a silly relationship with my first ever sourdough starter. (More to come on that). I don’t think Cook on Your Nerve will solely be a recipe-sharing home for me. I’m eager to cook more seasonally, be more hands-on in the garden and at farms, and even more eager to explore the politics of food itself. Who knows what this will become. I just know it will become, and currently is, exactly what it is in this very moment–a Home, where many things can happen. And that’s perfectly okay. This trip, and this guy, helped me to see this. And if anyone ever wonders why this our go-to destination, it’s really because it clears the mind and fills the heart. And tummy.
I’ve been on-and-off sick. Everything from cold to major aches. But on the day my throat couldn’t handle most things, I made my favorite, simple, ginger-y soup. And then I made it 4 times more, and again today. Telling Connie I was making this for the blog was really my way of saying, let me feed you. She had two bowls of it and told me there’s lovely balance between contrasting flavors and textures; they meld. That’s exactly what I was going for here. What you see aren’t just pretty garnishes. They are what completes this soup. Crispy chickpeas, crispy slivers of ginger, on top of silky carrot soup that has been simmered with orange peels and cumin seeds and more ginger. Yes, yes, and yes.
Heat olive oil and stir in cumin seeds. After a minute, add onions til translucent. Stir in ginger, garlic, and turmeric if using. Then add your carrots and potatoes. After a few minutes you’ll want to add your stock (enough to cover your veggies plus a little more) cumin powder, orange peels. Simmer for about 20 minutes, or until veggies are tender. Take out peels. Using an immersion blender, blend til it reaches the texture you prefer. I like mine to have some chunky pieces of carrot left. Then add your fresh orange juice. Salt and pepper to taste. Add freshly grated ginger if you want more of it.
I garnished with fresh slices of jalapeño, cilantro, crispy ginger, and crispy chickpeas. You don’t need them to enjoy the carrot soup, but you totally won’t regret doing this. Sometimes I just add the crispy ginger.
Take a knob of ginger, thinly slice into matchsticks, and fry in vegetable oil til golden.
Toss canned chickpeas (after draining) in olive oil, cumin, garam masala, hungarian (hot) paprika, garlic powder. Roast for about 30 minutes at 400 degrees, or just til crispy.
I served this with my favorite roasted cauliflower which has jalapeños and sliced garlic, seasoned with turmeric, plus more of the roasted, crispy chickpeas.
Here’s a soup with a texture you can kiss. Enjoy, loves.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Happy Autumn, everyone! Let’s welcome all the warm spices into our homes, make soups that are the tightest of hugs.
So why return to Glasbern Country Inn?If the deep quiet of farmland and still waters is not enough, then here are my three other reasons: to taste their winter menu (because you know their Spring blew me away like mighty winds against a dandelion), to continue photographing a single place during it’s each season, and the absolute truest reason of them all, I returned for love. To sit across from this man, coffee in hand, almost entirely alone…finally alone.
It is extremely rare living with two, big families, to ever feel we have a place to ourselves. One family in my small, Queens, semi-basement apartment, the other in Brooklyn. Heading to Pennsylvania where there is nothing but land, water, roaming cows and amazing eats, is nothing short of bliss. I didn’t even get to the part where we sleep in a large barn with a king-sized bed, fireplace, and Jacuzzi, did I?
For this trip, I came prepared. The day before we left I made Jon’s Spicy Lemon Garlic hummus, my Cherry Bourbon Brownies but with walnuts in it this time, and one of Dan’s favorites, Ham and Cheddar buttermilk mini-muffins, adapted from a Lee Bailey recipe that I will share with you at another time.
We arrived when the sun was setting. We sat on top of a hill basking in deep, orange light, patiently waiting to get our feast on.
As soon as the sun dipped too low to feel it, we practically ran towards fine dining. I do believe we did this both nights. Their Butter Valley Bib Salad, topped with pomegranate seeds, chèvre, candied pumpkin seeds, greens dressed in a maple walnut vinaigrette, was a favorite starter alongside our truest favorite: bread and their roasted garlic paste in olive oil, rosemary lovingly placed on the plate. We then got their charcuterie board that I would need to get again the next day, but this time, with local cheeses.
On the board: duck prosciutto, lonza (cured pork which was AMAZING and salty and perfectly pink), herbed sausage, soppressata, grainy mustard and pickled cabbage. The names of the cheeses next night escape me, but I was mostly tipsy off of local beer and their beautiful Jack Daniels Chocolate Gelato at that point. (I will always order this for as long as they have it on their menu.)
On our plates: Night 1, I ordered their special. Special because it was a first test recipe for them and also special because these prawns only make their debut two months out of the year. Dan had their freebird chicken breast, solely based on the fact that the last time he had it, he fell in love.
Next night, we ordered a meal that tasted like fall and winter. His risotto dotted with peas and mushrooms. My center-cut porkchop had an apple cider glaze. But what I cannot stop talking about, or thinking about, is the silkiness of the sweet potato puree that accompanied it. It was so simple and all I had were questions. Did they use a food processor? A heavy or light cream? Definitely farm-fresh butter. Is it whipped? Dan thinks they may’ve put the sweet potato through a strainer–twice. Whatever it was, I’ve every intention of remembering it forever. I’d like to make my own, and think I will once a chill in the air returns to us.
Breakfast at Glasbern feels like my heart is sunning in morning light and he’s right there, across from me. I love getting the day started this way. He makes my coffee just the way I love it. He takes a seat, not without putting all the goods on the table first: fruit (their raspberries are always wonderfully bright and sweet), an assortment of freshly baked pastries. I order a waffle topped with buttery whip and caramelized apples. He, a beautifully plated crème brûlée french toast with berries, bacon and sausage. Next day I try to keep it simple: Irish Oatmeal, smoked ham and bacon.
We then must leave. Something always happens when we return to NYC. A sudden heaviness. For Dan it may be the city filth and MTA. For me, it’s the cramped apartment and more concrete than not. So the second missing Glasbern hit me hardcore, Dan suggested we have ourselves a picnic, which we did get to enjoy alone outside my apartment.
Dan made roasted garlic paste inspired by Glasbern’s, served with tuscan herb olive oil and bread, rosemary becoming the center of this private galaxy.
I quickly put together Campari tomato salad with mozzarella and basil.
I made a golden beet and apple salad, zested with orange.
Our cheeseboard had parmesan, cheddar, cherry tomatoes, olives. Simple.
Quite honestly, it was a perfect day equally matched to a long weekend away, and it wouldn’t have happened if he didn’t say, “Hey you, let’s take a walk and have ourselves a picnic.” I can very quickly lose myself in negative thoughts and feelings, but much more quickly find myself draped in morning, stunning light.
OKAY. I am ready to talk about the farm-to-table meal that was so good, I cried. It has only taken me seven months. But before I get there, let me start from the beginning.
After I had my birthday picnic late-April, I wanted a quiet getaway with Danny, with green, with all the flowers. I desperately wanted OUT of a city that I haven’t left in YEARS.
And so we ended up on a farm.
Glasbern Country Inn had everything I needed, and still does. The air so clean; it’s green in Spring punctuated with big-headed dandelions. These were meant for big-time wishes let me tell you. Walking trails, garden, a few ponds, cows that are free to roam around, and what I really wanted: a farm-to-table dining experience. The room? It included a fire place (which Danny and I kept lit the moment we entered the room), Jacuzzi, plush robes, a desk, a beautiful view.
We had about an hour and a half before our 7PM dinner reservation, so we decided to explore the land a bit. We went the Garden Way which is a lovely way. There were sweet bird houses lined up in a row. Happy bees at work. Danny had on the sort of bright, boyish smile he did during our first date, when there was really nothing but us.
Several times I was close to tears. Close to the pond, we stumbled upon hundreds of fallen leaves that the child in me wanted to pick up.
Every fallen leaf turned to skeletons, all completely intact. All unique. This particular spot must’ve been untouched for quite some time and all I wanted to do was collect every single one and build some sort of structure out of ‘em like I was roaming around Glasbern in the spirit of Andy Goldsworthy. It felt so good to be hands-on with earth again. This, right here, was the moment I fell into immense calm. Transitioning from city to THIS was work. I needed to let go of my to do lists, the voices of my boss(es) and co-workers and family, responsibilities—everything. It wasn’t too difficult, though. I was with my love and I knew I was “here.” More here than I’ve ever been. When we moved on, I told myself I’d return to this same spot to collect more leaves tomorrow morning. I thought they would still be here considering they had been for two seasons now. They weren’t. And this was the first lesson/reminder I got out of our time here: while there’s a spark in you–an idea–go with it NOW. Don’t wait for tomorrow. It’s a lot like putting ourselves in a cage, really. Though I’m glad Glasbern leaves theirs always open.
By the pond, Danny was photographing a hissing duck. Yes. Hissing. We couldn’t figure out why the drama, until I started photographing the surrounding area by the pond and found a lady duck seated inside this enormous tree. Hissing in the name of love. I get it.
After this walk, hunger hit us like mad and we rushed our way to the restaurant. We sat close to a fireplace. I think we both viewed the menu skeptically. He wanted a burger and there was none. In fact, there were few things to order, accompanied with big prices. But we don’t get out much so we tried our best not to care too much about what we’re spending.
We began with beer. Mine real dark and his a crisp white called Wicked Hijinx. Our waitress came out with a small white plate in which she drew an S with roasted garlic paste, then filled up the curves with a glorious olive oil that tasted both fruity and herbal. She lit up the plate with the tip of freshly cut rosemary, then sprinkled sea salt over it. This was served with soft, hot bread fresh out of the oven. Danny looked at me and said, this place is really winning me over.
And I was won.
Maybe even one.
Our salads came out first which we immediately devoured–not without discussing what was in them first. A raisin from his accidentally ended up on my heirloom beet salad w/ goat cheese and it was a spectacular moment for me. I wanted to give them a heads-up on this beautiful discovery but decided I’ll simply revise this recipe in my own kitchen and share it with you. Part of the reason it went so well together is that the beets themselves were surprisingly tart but so entirely earthy. The sweetness of the raisin brought out what was missing for me from these (still beautiful!) red and yellow beets. They tasted as if they had just been plucked from deep-bottom, scrubbed clean and cooked minutes before serving, and I appreciated that most. Danny was surprised to see me finish an entire salad for once.
I’m getting to the part were I lose my shit. For the main course, he ordered their free bird chicken breast w/ leg confi over a bed of sauted greens, red pearl onions and fingerlings. I, a grass-fed beef tenderloin with port reduction over whipped potatoes, a side of green and white asparagus, topped with swiss chard micro-greens YES.
FIRST of all, who the hell is the chef of Glasbern because this meal made me want to quit my job, move here, and cook by this being’s side.
Every bite of every thing on our plates was precious. I chewed slowly. That beef was like buttuh. The asparagus was perfectly tender with a crisp bite. And I have to say, as I was eating from my dish I did not think Danny’s chicken would be WOWing. It actually wowed me to tears. In that one bite I felt that free bird was a very happy bird…I felt it was truly taken care of because how the hell could it taste this wonderful. It was tender and juicy and contained a perfect, crisp skin around it. I became hyper-aware of the farm vs. my city. I became hyper-aware of the man sitting across from me who I have always loved eating with. I could think of no other sitting across from me at that moment, sharing this beautiful experience with. It was the first time I felt we were seriously moving towards the right direction, and for the moment, we were both okay asking ourselves if we could imagine our lives in a setting like this. We were excited at the idea that we can plan more trips, discover new places, eat more delicious things together wherever we go. I wish I could’ve lived in that moment.
Next day made me realize we’ll be eating Spring during the rest of our stay here. Breakfast included more fingerlings (I adore these babies.) And after some more exploring of the area, we came back for dinner and cared even less about money.
This time our bread came with smoked sea salt, which was nice, though I totally wish they roasted up some more garlic for us. For starters, we had a cheese plate and a beautiful bowl of pea soup. It tasted so YOUNG. So fresh. Was there mint? I’m trying to remember. Then he ordered scallops which were seared to perfection, and duck, and I, a good ol’ fashioned meat loaf with mash.
We ended that meal with cappuccinos and three scoops of their gelato. One really stood out to me..it was a Jack Daniel Dark Chocolate scoop and I almost died of happiness.
Next day we were in a mood. It was in part because we were leaving Glasbern and about to enter the hell that is Times Square, and, I think, in part because it was back to reality. Back to our jobs we kinda didn’t like. Back to working out our stuff (individually but also together), which I didn’t think needed too much work anymore but, I don’t know. I just know that this trip made me realize that when you take out all the other outside noise that leads to certain, personal anxieties, you can achieve peace with anyone, anywhere, most importantly in yourself. I left Glasbern wanting to remember this, wanting to work on this, wanting to protect my love from NOISE because that’s all it really is, a certain negative buzzing we develop in our brains due to the stress of being a social being who has to figure shit out on the daily… because, really, whatever problems we did have, we didn’t have them in each other’s company. Never when eating together. Never with our first hug and kiss after a week of not seeing each other. Never in bed or in a park or during a walk or while cooking. I am always astonished when an argument arises, because they only do when a part.
Writing this is making me remember another important lesson I got out of our trip, and I’ve a sudden urge to go back just to learn some more. I want to taste what their Autumn is like. What their winter is like. I want the warmth of the fireplace. I want this right here, right now, in NYC which will forever be my home. I want that warmth inside me, always, Lit. That’s THEE home. Sometimes I forget I have such a thing. But I do. It blazes with a love that will never, ever, leave me. It kinda looks like the flower he captured so beautifully. And it probably grows just like that. With water, with care, with time.