"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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
There have only been two cookbooks my hands have ever taken turns being attached to: Aromas of Aleppo, and Tasting India. With Ottolenghi’s Simple now being added to the list, (thank you Danny) my hands don’t even know what to do with themselves. I’ve made about 8 of his dishes within 3 weeks, and have picked up certain things from them that I can’t wait to try out in some of my own recipes. For instance,
FRIED CAPERS. Shut the front door.
On the day I came back with the first of the asparagus, purple and green, I knew I wanted to smother them with buttered, toasted almonds, fried capers, and dill. Because that’s what page 82 told me to do. Everyone at the table loved that extra touch of salt on fresh tender stalks.
The next day, I wanted to try the capers out in a cantaloupe salad, because while I crave sweetness, I tend to crave the saltier side of things a tad bit more. I’m still developing the recipe for this one but YES, it worked out pretty nicely: cantaloupe, blood oranges, green olives, sumac caramelized shallots, crispy tarragon, fried capers, feta, sorrel and radish microgreens.
ORANGE PEELS and SEAFOOD and SPICE oh my (a much-needed reminder)
My family’s favorite was this shrimp with orzo and marinated feta. It reminded me of mussels I make with orange peels and canellini beans (which is a recipe I should definitely write up!). I’ve had a similar dish, minus the peels, at MP Taverna about a year ago. It was called a seafood paella and it, too, had feta and orzo and lots of red pepper. In short, Ottolenghi had me at orange peels. And marinated feta. If you look back in the archives, I have at least 10 recipes using orange peels, and one with marinated cheese. I’m a little in love over here.
GRATED FRIGGEN CAULIFLOWER
Now on to this bright one. I adored this salad. While most of the cauliflower gets roasted (including it’s leaves, which is so very elegant and is zero-waste friendly), some of it is grated raw and tossed in with pistachios, pomegranate seeds, parsley. It added a beautiful crunch and freshness to this salad and I can’t wait to grate cauliflower into other dishes, too.
PEAS AND CILANTRO (and how it’s currently peas season so let’s play)
I took some liberties with this one by adding cumin and aleppo pepper to the green sauce, and blistered shishito peppers to the potatoes. I want to put this sauce on everything! I also want to try out other herbs and flavors, so look out for something similar by me in the near future. We are in the thick of sugar snap season!
MARINATING TWO DAYS IN ADVANCE: Chicken Marbella
When I read that this chicken can be left alone, in the fridge, with olives and capers and dates and all the things, I was happy. This meant I could spend my Thursday morning working on my blog instead of being in the kitchen, fussing over chicken, because I did all that fussing two days ago. All I had to do was pop it in the oven and go about my business, and return to a beautifully flavored meal, sticky with pomegranate molasses.
I’m not even close to spending less time with this book. My rose harissa just arrived, the very one that Ottolenghi suggests we use. There’s also tomato after tomato recipe, eggplant recipes…I’m simply waiting for the right time.
In the Garden
We just planted Black Cherry tomatoes to go along with 3 other tomato plants, and scarlet runner beans that hopefully will not find it’s way to our Sicilian eggplants’ mauve flowers. If they do, (or if the new furbaby does) well, there goes that roasted eggplant with curried yogurt my hand keeps returning to. Page 66.
Guess what? I have never had an all-veggie-and-herb kibbeh before. Nor a very flat one. It is the hefty oval-shaped classic stuffed with meat that I’m used to; with it’s outer, crispy shell made of bulgur wheat and even more (but very delicious) meat. In Lori’s kitchen, all that’s needed is a fresh squeeze of lemon over them and each bite is heaven. But it’s spring and I want to do the following: see green, eat green, maybe not spend too much time in the kitchen if there’s a shortcut I can live with. I also really want to eat less meat.
So bring on this quicker version of kibbeh packed with fresh herbs, chickpeas, spring peas, and beautiful spices. Kibbeh-meets-falafel, almost! Use whatever greens you fancy.
While you can use fresh English peas that are already pre-packaged for you, I’ve come across spring’s sugar snap peas plump enough to shell and use for this recipe. No steaming necessary! They are currently in season. They are sweet all over and you can make a simple salad out of their tender shellings.
Add some fresh herbs and toss them in lemon juice and good quality olive oil, and season with salt, pepper, cumin, and sumac. And yes, it goes perfectly with kibbeh!
Spring Greens Kibbeh – makes 12-14 thin patties
– 1/2 cup fine bulgur, rinsed and drained completely in a fine mesh strainer
– 3 spring onions, sliced thin
– 3 garlic cloves, minced or 3 ramps/garlic scapes, chopped, if you have
– 1 cup variety of herbs, tightly packed, chopped (parsley, cilantro, dill)
– 2/3 cup cooked chickpeas, gently smashed
– 1/3 cup + 1 tbs fresh spring peas (frozen is ok)
– 1/2 cup flour
– 1 heaping tsp allspice or baharat
– 1 heaping tsp Aleppo pepper
– 1 tsp fine sea salt
– 1 tsp cumin
– 1/4 tsp coriander
– vegetable oil, for frying
In a big bowl, add all ingredients together, tossing so that everything looks fully incorporated. Then knead til big, slightly sticky clumps form.
Cover and leave in the fridge for about 15 minutes. When ready, knead a palmful of the mixture into a ball and press it down to create a flat disc. Do this til the mixture is gone. No worries if some of the peas run loose. You can always press them gently down onto a patty after you form them.
Heat a cast iron skillet and drizzle vegetable oil onto it. Not too much! We’re just searing each patty on both sides til they’re golden, about 1 1/2-2 minutes a side. For each batch, drizzle more oil onto the pan. Place them on a plate lined with paper towels, sprinkle with salt while they’re still hot. When ready, plate them however you wish, though stacking them is fun.
Serve with lemon wedges and/or pomegranate molasses. And that shelling salad!
If you’re serving more than 3 or 4 people, you can easily double the recipe. This is a great appetizer, lunch, or snack, or side dish.
Last night I served it with this beauty of a red snapper with even more beautiful cauliflower and everyone was so silent at the table, enjoying every moment of molasses dripping onto this and onto that.
If interested in making this super easy one-pan meal, just season the fish with za’atar, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Toss the cauliflower in olive oil, salt, pepper. Roast for about 40 minutes. Heat up the kibbeh for about 6 minutes in the oven if it cooled down. The crunch of these patties completed the meal! Between the 3 of us, there were only a few left. And I enjoyed those few cold the next day.
I left these beauties in the fridge for at least a week before getting down to business.
How dare I, I know. It’s just that I’ve been overly excited about Spring’s arrival, and with that comes some major irresponsibility on my part. I am buying way too many things at the farmers market and I can’t keep up with it all. When I looked in the fridge today, I had bags of three kinds of radishes, thyme, chives, forgotten carrots and onions, cauliflower, purple cabbage, ridiculously expensive cherry tomatoes, 5 kinds of cheeses…the list goes on. But can you BLAME ME?
Anxiety started to build up last night. I stayed up late brainstorming what I wanted to make the next morning. Mind you, everything I thought of had zero things to do with cranberry beans, because I actually forgot I had them. I went to bed with more ideas than a solid plan for 8 AM. When I opened the crisp drawer next morning, there they were, a gloriously pink reminder of their existence.
It was clearly time to sit down, and start shelling. I had no idea what would happen after I revealed what was inside each pod. That’s what makes this recipe special to me. I felt how I used to when writing a poem. The first step is to begin. Begin somewhere, anywhere, and let it transform into something unexpected and beautiful. That’s what happened here. It began with a braise.
And then it became a salad of some of the things I couldn’t bare to neglect any longer.
Braised Cranberry Beans
for boiling them first
-fresh cranberry beans, shelled, about 1 1/2 cup
-1 garlic gloves, smashed
-sprig of thyme or other herbs
for the braise
-1/4 cup good quality olive oil, or enough to cover beans half-way in small pot
-1 tsp toasted cumin seeds or powder
-1 garlic clove, smashed
-orange or lemon peels (optional)
-generous amount of Aleppo pepper (or other red pepper)
-salt, to taste
for the Braised Bean Salad (basically, your market haul) I used:
-braised cranberry beans with oil
-cherry tomatoes, quartered
-3-4 radishes, all the colors
-small bunch of fresh chives
-leaves from 1 thyme sprig
-salt and pepper, to taste
-fresh drizzle of olive oil
-fresh squeeze of lemon
-ricotta salata cheese (or other cheese)
Braised Beans: After the beans have been shelled, put them in a sauce pan with enough water to cover, and let it simmer for 20 minutes with aromatics. Drain. In the same pan, heat the olive oil and begin to saute the garlic, cumin, and red pepper for about a minute. Add the beans and cover, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes under low heat (or until the beans have softened and some have turned a golden color.)You want that braised-crisp look on the outside, but creaminess on the inside.
At this point, you can serve as is. Spoon it over beautiful bread. Maybe add some grated parmesan.
But if you’re lookin’ for something more, continue on and make the salad. Add all the spring things and toss. Season with salt and pepper and dress it with fresh lemon juice. Use what you have on hand but be sure to have something in there that provides a good crunch. I love the addition of radishes in here for that very reason. Maybe uncooked green beans! Parsley would make another nice, green addition.
And here’s a friendly reminder: keep an eye out for the beautiful at your local market. They may come in very tiny bundles. The stuff of poems.
The problem I’m having nowadays with my market haul? I want to serve every sunchoke, beet, radish, asparagus, artichoke, and green alongside my Chicketta. Think about it. Chicken that’s marinated in fresh lemon juice, olive oil, with a fig-orange jam whisked in. Then more fig-orange jam brushed on top as it roasts in the oven as if it were BBQ sauce…chicken that’s stuffed with a layer of roasted garlic, basil, pancetta (or prosciutto!), mozz…then served with all the spring things I CAN’T EVEN.
Here’s a spring thing for you: braised baby artichokes.
Purple baby artichokes. Lavender nearest to their hearts. You asked for the recipe, but sadly, I did not write a single thing down as I made it (I will some day!) but if you ever make a lemon-wine sauce, let’s consider that a seriously good start. Sear them, then braise them in that lemony goodness.
But if you’re not in the mood to get all fancy, even a spring pilaf or a salad will do. Chicketta don’t ask for much.
Porchetta-style chicken is where simple meets elegance, and I would gladly serve it during the holidays coming up. The stuffing variations could be endless. Leave it in the hands of your current season. Mix up the herbs, and the jam. Use fresh or store-bought. A variety of veggies. Maybe smoked mozzarella next time. Or just honey with extra red pepper.
It’s got sweetness from the jam, earthiness from the rosemary, heat from the generous amount of red pepper, and very fresh ingredients layered up inside. Cheese oozes out of it in a classy fashion, and you seriously can’t dislike something that has roasted garlic inside of it…can you?
You cannot. When roasted for over 40 minutes, it becomes nutty and sweet. My hands end up smelling of the stubborn cloves I squeeze out of their tiny homes and, guys, I ain’t mad at it.
*If you can find the chicken breasts with skin-on, even better! I usually ask the butcher for boneless two breasts attached with skin-on, but I know pre-packaged is easier for everyone to get.
1. Place chicken in a ziplock bag or medium bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the lemon juice (or wine), olive oil, rosemary, jam (or honey), salt, and pepper. Pour the marinade into the bag or bowl, moving the marinade around so that the chicken is well coated. Seal/cover and let it marinate for 30 minutes. Any longer and things might get weird.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lay one butterflied chicken on a working surface and pat dry. Rub half of the roasted garlic paste onto the entire length of the chicken, then add a layer of basil leaves, a layer of pancetta, and a layer of cheese. From one long side, roll the chicken nice and snug and secure it tightly with kitchen twine. Repeat for the next butterflied chicken.
3. Sear both sides in a cast iron grill or skillet for about 3 minutes on each side. Brush more jam on top, maybe even add more red pepper. Roast in the oven for about 35-40 minutes. Let it sit for a few before slicing them into semi-thin pieces.
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.
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.
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!
-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?