A Time to Sow…


We’ve been planting a lot of seeds this year. It’s been a time of a lot of changes and one of my favorite places to take it all in has been in my garden. I’m a novice gardener who has a small urban yard in a borough of NYC. Urban gardening has always amazed me. Amidst the bustle of city life, I now have this small oasis where I can plant the smallest seeds and watch them burst into full bloom before my eyes. 

I’ve focussed on perennials that are low upkeep. The past two years at my apartment have been an experiment of what takes and what rebels against the combination of love and neglect I offer. Starting with a plot of earth and an inheritance of some gorgeous rose bushes, I’ve added pathways and a bird feeder to make this small patch feel like home. We have a stump that’s slowly decomposing that brings an annual wave of beetles that arrive so fattened that they fly as if drunk. These are the birds’ favorite snack so throughout early summer we hear contented chirping as robins and white throated sparrows cheerfully gobble them up. Our roses bloom mid spring and if the rain is consistent will continue to blossom throughout the summer. Bouquets of yellow, crimson and sweet pink dabble my garden and each week I can venture out to grab a new arrangement. 

rose copy

This year, I’ve added more herbs as well as hearty tomato and kale plants. The tomatoes have been my true prizes. It’s been a phenomenal year for tomatoes and peaches once more. The last two years I was saddened beyond measure with the blights affecting crops and keeping my favorite summer dishes well out of my reach. This year, I’ve celebrated with homemade bruschetta, peach crisps, decadent BLTs and quiches that make use of my favorite summer crops.

lettuce copy

garden yield


TIP for tomato plants:

Plant them in the sunniest part of your yard and water them DAILY.

Last year, I let nature do my watering and was surprised to find the desiccated remains on returning from a trip. My mother told me my plants needed more water when she visited and I thought she was crazy- I had sprinkled them that very day. She looked at me and took control of the hose, soaking the plants roots for a solid 10 seconds (which I would have thought was flooding my precious little potted beauties). The next day, the leaves were greener, more resilient and it appeared as if the very plants themselves had perked up. Okay mom, you were right. I also had tried to move these pots from their preferred spot in the sun last year and put them in a more aesthetically pleasing section of my yard with 1/2 the daily sun. That didn’t work…at all. It’s a hard lessen for me to not simply put things where I want them to be but actually take into account their needs. But when I do these simple things the results are breathtaking.


Cook&Go Blogger Night

Cooking with wine is always fun, now tell me I don’t have to do dishes and I’m yours!

Well, I was fortunate enough to attend Blogger Night at Cook&Go in NYC.  They not only kept my glass full but they also took care of all the cleanup putting them up there on my list of dream kitchens.

The menu was fast paced and fun and I was really impressed that unlike a lot of other cooking classes I’ve attended, each participant was able to complete the full menu instead of a single recipe.  The instructor gave just the amount of help but also kept the class moving.

Hands down it was a really fun experience. Dinner out with a bunch of friends where I could leave with all the food and none of the fuss. Dinner perfected!


First in 10 (seven layer dip plus 3!)

It’s Super Bowl and though I’m blue through and through I decided to go for flavor over flair in my game day apps.  I love a good 7 layer dip.  Anything that transports tortilla chips to my mouth is good by me.  Now take that classic dip and add 3 MORE LAYERS and you’ve got a game day classic.  All in!

First in 10 Layer Dip
Serves 10-15

2 (15.5 ounce) cans black beans
1 package taco seasoning
4 ounces queso fresco, crumbled
1 (15.5 ounce) jar salsa (I like a thick and chunky with some heat)
1 recipe guacamole
3/4 cup sour cream
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded iceberg lettuce
1 cup sliced black olives
1/2 cup sliced pickled jalapenos
1 cup prepared pico de gallo

Pico de Gallo
1/2 cup chopped fresh tomato
1 tablespoon minced red onion
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons sliced scallions
1 teaspoon lime juice
1 teaspoon olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper

In a food processor combine black beans (including liquid in can) with taco seasoning.  Puree until smooth and then spread to fill the bottom of a clear baking dish by 1/4 inch. Next, add queso fresco and then salsa and spread evenly over beans.  Top with guacamole, spreading evenly.  Next add sour cream, cheddar cheese,  iceberg lettuce, then olives, then jalapenos.  In a small bowl, mix ingredients for pico de gallo.  Season to taste and strain extra liquid.  Finish 10 layer dip by topping with pico de gallo and sprinkling with a touch more salt.  Serve with corn chips and enjoy the game!


Coconut Curry Chicken and Vegetables

Here’s a delightfully easy and tasty chicken dish that will spice up your normal dinner roster.  The coconut milk makes the chicken incredibly succulent and the Thai curry packs in the flavor.  Not bad for a Monday night meal.

Coconut Curry Chicken and Vegetables
Serves 2-3

1 (13.5 ounce) can light coconut milk
3 teaspoons Thai red curry paste
2 chicken breasts, cut into thin strips
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 cups diced red potatoes (about 4 small potatoes)
1 small yellow onion, sliced thinly (yield 1 cup)
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 red pepper, diced (about 1.5 cups yield)
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup baby corn (admittedly I would have used the whole can, had I not eaten half by now)
1 teaspoon arrow root
1 lime, juiced
brown rice

In a medium sauce pan, combine coconut milk, 1/2 cup water, and curry paste.  Mix and then bring to a simmer.  Add chicken and cook for about 6-8 minutes until just done.  Remove chicken with a slotted spoon and set aside.  Bring coconut mixture to a boil.  Boil about 10 minutes to reduce.

Meanwhile, in a saute pan add sesame oil and bring to medium-high heat.  Add red potato and season with salt and pepper.  Cook about 10 minutes stirring from time to time and then add in onion and cook an additional 2 minutes.  Cover pan and allow to steam for 3-4 minutes then add in red pepper.  Cover and cook another 3-4 minutes.  Then add in garlic and baby corn and toss ingredients together.  Cover with coconut- curry sauce.

In a small bowl, mix arrow root powder with equal parts water and stir to create a slurry.  Stir into saute pan of coconut vegetables and lower heat as sauce thickens.  Add in chicken and mix all ingredients together, heating for an additional 2 minutes.  Finish with lime juice.  Serve warm over brown rice.  Enjoy!

Couscous with Dill, Golden Raisins, and Pumpkin Seeds

I made this as a big batch and I was certainly glad I did.  It is an AMAZING snack throughout the day filled with fresh ingredients and hitting on so many cravings at once– while still being incredibly healthy.  It is another one of my go-to lunch options that I make on Sunday and eat throughout the week.

Couscous with Dill, Golden Raisins, and Pumpkin Seeds
Serves 10-12

2 cups couscous (cooked according to package instructions)
1 yellow pepper, finely diced
1 bunch scallions, sliced thin
1 cup mixed pitted olives, roughly chopped
1 cup pepperoncini, thinly sliced
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup roasted and pumpkin seeds
1 cup chopped dill

In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients.  Stir.  Yes, it is that simple! And couscous is one of my favorite grains because it cooks so fast.  If you chop fast, this is literally a 10 minute recipe.  Enjoy warm or as a chilled couscous salad.

Turkey, Kale, and Black Eyed Pea Soup

I had some wonderful leftover turkey from my father and was feeling like kicking off 2012 to a healthful and hearty start.  This soup is a great way to utilize those pieces of turkey that are too small for layering into sandwiches and works with either light or dark meat.  So here’s to a fresh start on the year.  Eat up!

(okay, yes, my recipe had lentils in it–a mistake purchase at the grocery store–still good but better with only black eyed peas)

Turkey, Kale, and Black Eyed Pea Soup
Serves 6-8

2 tablespoons butter
1 large red onion, diced (about 2 cups)
salt and white pepper
5 cups chopped fresh kale, spines removed
4 cups diced leftover turkey meat (skin removed)
6 cups chicken broth
6 garlic cloves, pressed
2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons fresh oregano leaves
2 (15.5 ounce) cans black eyed peas

In a large soup pot over medium-high heat, add butter and onions and saute until translucent (3-4 minutes) stirring once or twice as you cook.  Season with salt and a light dusting of white pepper.  Then add in the kale and saute till reduced in size by half (2-3 minutes).  Add turkey, stir and then season once more with a pinch of salt and shake of white pepper.  Cover with chicken stock and bring to a boil.  Add in rosemary and oregano. Reduce to a simmer and cook 15 minutes.  Add in black eyed peas and cook an additional 10 minutes.  Season to taste and serve warm.  Enjoy!


Chimichurri Sauce

I fell in love with this sauce the first time I had it.  It is incredibly bright, well spiced, vibrant, and pairs fantastically with grilled red meat.  I wanted to serve patatas bravas with my brunch this morning and thought- why not serve it with an Argentinian rendition of the classic steak and eggs. Thus was concocted the decadent Spanish feast perfect for a snowy weekend in OCTOBER!

Chimichurri Sauce
4 cloves garlic
1 poblano pepper (seeds included)
1/4 cup Italian parsley
1/2 cup cilantro
1/2 cup mint
1/2 cup basil
5 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 large jalapenos (seeds included)
1 lime, juiced
Dash cumin
Dash garlic powder
Salt to taste)

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.  Season to taste with salt.  Serve room temperature, drizzled on steak.  Enjoy!

Patatas Bravas

One of my favorite tapas is patatas bravas.  They are like spicy, delicious Spanish french fries.  They serve as a perfect late night bite, side dish, or even as a breakfast.  And they combine so many things I love all in one dish: spice,  fried potatoes, and scallions–not to mention the mayo.  How can you resist?

Patatas Bravas
Serves 3-4

6 medium Idaho potatoes
canola oil for frying
1/4 cup Tapatio
1/3 cup tomato sauce
1 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1 Italian pepper, minced with seeds included
3 scallions

Fill a medium sized stock pot 3/4 full with salted cold water.  Next, peel and dice your potatoes.  Immediately throwing them into the salted water.  Once all potatoes are cut, turn the heat to high and cook the potatoes for about 20 minutes until the pot is just starting to boil.  Strain immediately and allow to steam dry.

Next, fill a frying pan 1 inch high with canola oil and bring to high heat so that as potatoes are added they will instantly start frying.  (I like to test with one potato slice first–if the oil starts to bubble around it as you throw it into the pan you have reached the correct temperature– but make sure the pan doesn’t start to smoke).

Fry the potatoes in batches, to avoid overcrowding.  Cook each batch about 8-10 minutes- turning from time to time until an medium-brown crust has formed.  Once potatoes are fully fried, remove them to a paper towel-lined plate and season with salt.

As you finish frying, start making the sauce.  In a large bowl, combine Tapatio, tomato sauce, paprika, garlic, and minced pepper.  Mix thoroughly with a fork.  Once all potatoes are cooked and seasoned, toss them in the bowl with the sauce and immediately plate.  Drizzle with mayonnaise (I used a pastry bag to create a latticed look) and top with scallions.  Serve immediately.  Enjoy!


Horseradish Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes are very simple but their are several tricks to make them super creamy and just a little special.  One- I always love to flavor the potatoes with a strong ingredient: wasabi mashed, cheddar mashed, garlic mashed, or horseradish mashed (which pairs very well with beef).  The next trick is to get a little decadent– butter and cream I’m talking.  You don’t want to do diet mashed when the cold weather hits. You want to make it a little more hearty and a whole lot tastier.

Horseradish Mashed Potatoes
Serves 2-3 side dish

3 cups peeled, diced Idaho potatoes
5 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup half and half
3 tablespoons horseradish
salt and freshly ground pepper

Fill a medium stock pot 1/4 full with cold water.  Salt the water heavily and as you are peeling potatoes, immediately add them to the water (step 1: keeping your mashed spuds perfectly white).  Once all your potatoes are added, fill with additional water until potatoes are completely covered. Bring stock pot to high heat and cook for 15-18 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small stock pot add butter, milk, and half and half.  Bring to medium heat but simmer before mixture has a chance to boil. (warming your milk makes it a lot easier to incorporate it quickly into your potatoes and also keeps it at the perfect serving temp.)

Test potatoes with a fork. Once they are tender and mash easily, drain them and allow them to steam dry for 2 minutes.   (remove all water so that the potatoes absorb the cream and butter in its place) After they have steamed, return them to the medium stockpot and work over with a potato masher until potatoes begin to cream.  Add in butter/milk and whip with an electric blender.  Add in horseradish and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve warm.  Enjoy- and oh, you will.

Matzo Ball Soup

A good friend of mine, Rachel, taught me the trick to matzo ball soup– extra onion and dill.  A rich, heartwarming soup was amplified immensely.  Now I have my killer chicken stock, delicious matzo balls, and bright accented aromatics.

Matzo Ball Soup
(Serves 3-4)

1 (3 pound) whole chicken
3 bay leaves
2 cups diced onion
1 cup diced carrot
1 cup diced celery
1 head garlic, excess skin and top sliced off
1/2 cup packed fresh parsley (stems included)
1 package Streit’s Matzo Ball Mix
1 (32 ounce) carton chicken broth
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons minced dill
1/4 cup minced onion plus 3 tablespoons minced onion
1/2 cup peeled, sliced carrot (each slice about 1/4 inch thick)

In a large stock pot, add chicken and cover with water till water rises 2 inches above top of chicken.  Add in bay leaves, onion, carrots, celery, garlic, and parsley. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and cook for 1 hour.  Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix Streit’s matzo ball mix as directed and allow to rest for 15 minutes.

Strain stock into another large stock pot.  Discard onion, carrot, bay leaves, celery, garlic, and chicken carcass.  (save chicken meat for chicken salad sandwiches).  Then add extra chicken broth to homemade stock and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Once matzo ball mix has rested, add in 3 tablespoons dill and 3 tablespoons minced onion.  Mix well then divide into 8 portions and roll into balls.  Bring another stock pot of water to a boil.  Add in matzo balls and reduce to a simmer.  Cover and cook for 30 minutes (thanks Streit’s that was the perfect time).

To finish: bring chicken stock to a boil and add in remaining carrots and onion.  Cook till carrots are al dente then reduce to a simmer and add in remaining dill. (To test carrots, use a fork– just remember they will continue to cook so you want them just under where you like them).  Take a slotted spoon and add in matzo balls to chicken broth.  Serve warm with challah.  Enjoy!