a summer harvest put-together

a summer harvest put-together

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Join Me for Queens Writes Weekend!

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There’s this feeling you get when people from all over Queens (and other boroughs!) gets together to write all weekend long. It’s sorta like the feeling you get after taking the very last bite of a piece of bread delicately smothered in fig jam, at a picnic your friend or neighbor had thrown for no other reason than to eat with you. It’s the last bite where you think to yourself how necessary to the very core of you this was.

There are a few things I love most about the borough that is my home: it’s people, Newtown Literary Journal which this benefits, AND IT’S FOOD. So it only makes sense that I put together a food writing workshop inspired by good eats at the Queens International Night Market, right?

Join me in eating and writing. I will be waiting for you by the information booth at 6PM. There will be prompts geared towards the experience of eating, cooking, being around such a diverse community. Freewriting is an option. All I ask is that you pay close to attention to the food and the people around you. I am welcoming poets, (non)fiction writers, bloggers, food lovers, people who do not consider themselves any sort of writer–basically, everyone.

Because this is a fundraising event, there is a suggested donation of $5, which goes to printing costs for future issues of Newtown Literary Journal, as well as a kids’ writing contest, writing classes and workshops, and community readings.

If you can’t make it to my event or you’re not feeling inspired to write, don’t worry–you can still participate. There are many other workshops and gatherings happening during this weekend! If you can’t make it to mine, find one near you! There is also a kick-off reading on Friday night, May 19th at the Astoria Bookshop, and a wrap-up reading/open mic at Terazza 7 in Elmhurst at 7pm on Sunday evening, May 21st. Before the wrap-up reading/open mic, there will be a Meet the Editors event where you can meet the editorial staff of Newtown Literary to get advice on writing and publishing.

Here is the calendar of events: https://www.newtownliterary.org/qww17 

Be sure to get your QWW 2017 t-shirt, tote bag, and mugs, too! A portion of every sale goes to fund future Newtown educational programshttps://teespring.com/stores/newtown-literary.

Very much looking forward to eating with you!

Dal Recipe & Poem

Dal Recipe & Poem

In July, I was asked to read poems inspired by my neighborhood: Jamaica, Queens. I was even part of a panel, guys. WHAT!? I saw this as an opportunity for me to write about my favorite vegetarian Indian eatery (Annam Brahma), as well as my new love for cooking Indian cuisine right in the heart of home–my kitchen. The first kitchen I’ve felt the most comfortable in.

I only started to mess around with these beautiful spices once I moved here, as they are sold in my nearest market and I can smell their warmth coming from the windows of various neighbors on my block.

Love is another reason. Once I found out that Butter Chicken was Danny’s favorite, I wanted him to come home to the rich broth set to simmer on my stove. In the oven would always be a head of cauliflower that was doused in 1/2 a cup of olive oil, seasoned with turmeric, garlic powder, paprika, a generous amount of salt, roasted with slivers of jalapeño and garlic. It’s my favorite, adapted from a recipe I saw in Saveur magazine.

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He made naan, of course. Not because I couldn’t. But because I’ve always loved watching him work dough. I started serving both cauliflower and naan along with my dal, with a tiny bowl of basmati rice. But sometimes I still need to head to Annam Brahma just for a bowl of their own dal, and to be surrounded by all the loving people there. Just sitting at one of their tables (I prefer the corner) feels like a much-needed hug.

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I have used the spices that were a gift to Annam Brahma customers on their anniversary for ALL these dishes, and it’s mostly the spices and all the bright blue houses in Jamaica that inspired this poem. I’m not sure what to call it yet. Turmeric-light?

The names of cafés alone open you wide with hunger.
The Smile of the Beyond,
Panorama of My Silence-Heart,
Annam Brahma meaning “Food is God” meaning
not commodity meaning—
what I understand food to mean—

heart.

And if the names alone do not turn your feet into curious movement,
let’s talk about color.
Each storefront is more like
homefront and they are all painted blue, not just blue
but bright baby but
2pm sky on Parsons with sun-Up-blue.

And on 164th,
right there, between bodega and Greek Orthodox Church

the blue beyond smile.

Walk in and sit
anywhere / but always by flowers and packets of brown
sugar that say things like
“A moment’s peace
can
and shall
save the world.”
Pick up a totem to be kept in your wallet,
which Chinmoy may—or may not say— “I must love
the unloved ones—I must.”

You must order their Dal.

If food is God these lentils are well-seasoned turmeric-Light
where Oneness is
what’s what from the pulse?
Perhaps chopped onion, minced garlic, ginger, sautéed
with the seeds with the seeds with oh glorious round
mustard seeds and coriander rounding off the taste of
cumin and chili,
maybe a single wooden clove
in a simple vegetable broth

is that cilantro? Tomato? Jalapeno together simmered long til

wholeness takes the shape of bowl
and naan takes the shape of spoon
and mind takes the shape
of silence.

It is where I go in my shut-the-fuck-up moods.
Where I went when I learned
my landlady IS trying to kill my cilantro,
I mean, why else do they bolt?

And how am I different, bolting towards blue, craving
beets so hard I
SWOONED when the day’s special was
Cream of Beet soup.

Acknowledging my excitement,
she came over,
spooned leftover juiced beet into my bowl
like honey
and her smile smiled me right into

silence-heart.

And you and I,
we sat there for three hours,
interrupted only when she stopped to say
“It is beautiful
how you are helping each other.”

We watched Sri Chinmoy paint in the background as we sipped chai,
we spoke but we were also not speaking.
We breathed in spices that lingered in the air and
came out with hair smelling of raw Indian sugar,
curry and cumin
curry and turmeric
turmeric and coriander and wait a minute!
On an anniversary,
we were each handed a packet of such spices Thank you.

Suddenly, walking past homes marked with similar shades of blue,
you are home making Dal. Roasting
a head of cauliflower with sliced jalapeno and garlic tossed
in olive oil

their white heads draped with a glossy turmeric-light.
Your neighbor is making butter chicken.
Your landlady, a dish out of the bok choy that hung
upside down on laundry lines
air drying this morning,

And your cilantro
wilted, but waiting
to seed.

After Transmutations came to a close, my loves and I went to Annam Brahma (to order their dal.) Connie told me that my poem was very Ross Gay-esque (Catalog of Unabashed Gratitudes) and I broke out into smiles ❤

Next day, I made dal. I made it exactly the way I made dal for the very first time. Danny said it was even better than Annam Brahmas’s, but that could’ve been because of my rich chicken broth (or because he loved me). I did, after all, use the very spices they had given me as a gift during their 42nd Anniversary. To this day I want to know where I can order the turmeric they use, as well as cumin and coriander seeds.

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Do not be intimidated by all the ingredients and spices I list here. This is really a simple recipe, you just gotta have these spices around. Everything comes together in less than 10 minutes! I love love LOVE the simplicity of it. The warmth of it. It’s also very inexpensive to make.

I should add that I mostly use whole seeds and pound them to dust in my mortar and pestle. If you get them already grounded, do not purchase them from your regular supermarket. Nuh-uh. They are dull cooped up on those shelves. You can find them online if you’re having trouble locating the good stuff.

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Masoor Dal

1 1/2 cup red lentils
5 cups chicken (or vegetable) stock
Olive Oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
Ginger, 1 tspn or more, chopped
1 jalapeño, diced
1 tspn Cumin Seeds
1 tspn Mustard Seeds
1/2 cup onion, diced
1 tomato, diced
1 clove (fish out) or ground
1 tspn ground coriander
1/2 tspn (or more) turmeric
Pinch of cinnamon
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a pot with a little olive oil and under high heat, add mustard and cumin seeds. When the mustard seeds pop (they always pop! be careful) add your ginger, garlic, and jalapeño. After about a minute, add your onion and lightly caramelize ’em.
Now you just have to add the tomato, stock, lentils, and ALL the spices. Let it simmer, covered, for 20-30 minutes. It’ll thicken. You may add more water if it’s too thick. You can play with the spices, too. Top it with freshly chopped cilantro.

Sometimes I add chickpeas when chickpeas are around because why not.

With the temps going down soon, I’ll certainly be welcoming more spice in the kitchen, in food and in drinks. Ohhhh, Autumn! ❤