Sour Cherry Rosewater Crisp

I first moved to Sterling Place in January of 1997. Come spring, I was delighted to discover that the trees on my block did, in fact, have leaves. Even better, they exploded into flowers just when you needed it most.

There is a tree I am particularly fond of in front of the church at the end of my block. When we first met, this particular tree was an awkward adolescent–its gangliness heightened by what I take to be a grafting error. One branch of the tree flowers pink while the rest flowers white.

I pass this tree at least twice nearly every day. Shorter than the other trees on my block, it demands a certain attention that I suspect is somewhat irritating to those taller than me. As I passed under its branches on Thursday morning, It suddenly occurred to me that those red things dangling down looked an awful lot like cherries. (The fact that it took me 19 years to have this thought likely has something to do with the coffee shop being on the next block.) And so, like the compulsive foodie that I am, I snapped a shot and posted it online in order to crowdsource edibility.

Sour Cherry Tree

The verdict? Yep, you can eat it!

I had thought I might wait until dark to do the deed, but was overcome by the urge on my walk home from the train. I was a bit worried that someone would come out of the church and chastise me, but people mainly seemed amused. A few brave souls even joined me in a nibble. The lower branches were easy work, but the upper branches proved more challenging. I did manage to get a few more by balancing on the tree pit guard (probably not what the block beautification committee had in mind), but eventually had to accept that the rest would be left to the birds and those standing taller than 5’4″.

After whipping up a quick salad with this week’s gorgeous red leaf from Sang Lee Farms, I set to work prepping my cherries. Oona offered to help, but her lack of opposable thumbs proved a challenge.

Sour Cherries and Oona

Turns out it doesn’t take as long as you might think to stem and pit 529 (not counting the ones that went straight into my mouth) sour cherries. Within half an hour, I was preheating the oven and assembling my crisp.

Pitted Sour Cherries

Sour Cherry Rosewater Crisp

  • 529 sour cherries (about four cups)
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons corn starch
  • 3 tablespoons rosewater
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 stick butter
  1. Rinse the cherries, place them in a large bowl, and find something to watch on TV. Stem each cherry, transferring it back to another bowl as you do so. Grab stemmed cherries one by one, squeezing with your dominant hand and popping the pit into your other hand. (Under no circumstances should you be wearing white while performing this task.) Drop the pitted cherries back into your first bowl. 
  2. Preheat the oven to 375. Stir 3/4 cups of sugar, the corn starch, the rosewater and the lemon juice and zest into the cherries and let sit while you make the topping.
  3. In another bowl, combine the remaining cup of sugar along with the flour, rolled oats, salt and baking powder. Cut all but one tablespoon of butter into small pieces and drop into flour mixture. Using your hands and pinching the butter with your fingers, combine until it forms a nice crumbly texture.
  4. Pour the cherries into a small baking dish. (If you happen to have a heart-shaped pie tin that you bought years ago at a stoop sale, now would be the time to deploy it.) Layer the flour mixture on top and then dot with small pieces of the remaining tablespoon of butter.
  5. Bake for 45 minutes or so until the fruit is bubbling around the edges (you’ll know because it will be oozing onto you oven floor unless you had the foresight to lay some foil on the lower rack) and the top is golden brown.

BEFORECrisp Pre-Bake

AFTERCrisp Post-Bake

THE NEXT DAY AT THE OFFICE (because, while you are perfectly capable, you probably don’t need  to eat a whole crisp)Sour Cherry Rosewater Crisp


(Last Night’s) Bluefish Cakes

One of my coworkers spent Wednesday with his dad and brother on a boat off the coast of Sandy Hook, New Jersey. It turned out to be a great day for fishing. Jorge returned with more bluefish than any one or two or ten people can reasonably consume. And so he spread the wealth.

Bluefish Filets

I left work last night with two very large bluefish filets tucked into my tote bag. As luck would have it, Rachel was available on short notice. We caught up over a few bottles of wine, the rest of my Newfangled Vichysoisse, and bluefish baked in foil packets with sugar snap peas, asparagus, chives, butter, lemon and a splash of wine.

Baked Bluefish

Despite our best efforts, I was left with quite a bit of bluefish. Not a problem.

(Last Night’s) Bluefish Cakes

  • 1 filet (about the size of a piece of Texas toast) cooked bluefish (or whatever other leftover fish you happen to have)
  • 1/2 jalapeño, seeded and minced
  • 1 small bunch chives (or scallions or plain old onion), minced
  • 1 small bunch minced fresh herbs (parsley, cilantro, etc.)
  • 2 big spoonfuls mayonnaise
  • 1 spoon dijon mustard
  • a few shakes of panko or other breadcrumbs or crushed up crackers if that’s what you got
  • salt, pepper, cayenne, paprika and/or whatever else you heart desires
  • enough oil to coat your cast iron skillet

Bring the oil up to medium heat in a large cast iron skillet. Flake the fish into a small bowl. If a little bit of that delicious butter, wine and lemon sauce slips in, so much the better. Stir in the rest of the ingredients, taste and adjust seasoning to your preference. You want a somewhat gummy texture so that the cakes will hold together. (An egg would probably help with this, but I opted to serve my lone egg fried on top of the cakes.) Use a serving spoon to drop large patties into the pan. Cook swirling occasionally to make sure the oil is distributed evenly and the cakes aren’t sticking. When a nice brown crust is formed on the bottom, flip and repeat.

Bluefish Cakes

Newfangled Vichysoisse

Like my musical appetite, my tastes in food are quite varied. I do my best to at least try everything once–quite an accomplishment given my vegetarian roots. Most things I like enough to try again. But there are a few dishes that just do not work for me.

I have an aversion to the knish, which is tragic given that I lived around the corner from Yonah Schimmel for a good chunk of my 20s. It is the rare gnocchi that turns my crank. The joy of a tamale has also proven elusive, though I did have one last year that made me rethink this stance. (It hailed from East Williamsburg and was stuffed with a generous portion of spicy cheese.)

I am not a big fan of starchy things, it seems. And if you must be starchy, you best not be bland.

CSA season is off to a slow start–no surprise given the miserable winter we had. The Sunday before last, in anticipation of my first pickup, I giddily cleared out my crisper by whipping up a massive batch of potato salad. Two days later, I collected lettuce, asparagus, leeks, beets, carrots, scallions and…more potatoes. Tonight’s share felt more springlike, with cucumber, cilantro, baby bok choy and sugar snap peas joining the asparagus, lettuce and leeks.

As I loaded my vegetables into the crisper, I was ashamed to realize that I hadn’t made a dent in last week’s storage crops. Compounding matters, I now had four giant leeks taking up the space normally reserved for beer.

Potatoes and leeks. The obvious choice is vichysoisse. But, being starchy and not particularly flavorful, this cold potato and leek soup doesn’t hold much allure for me. To quote Kanye: “We can make it better.”

Newfangled Vichysoisse

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 4 large leeks, white and light green portions chopped and thoroughly rinsed
  • 2 garlic scapes, sliced
  • 4 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 8 cubes frozen concentrated chicken stock or 1 quart chicken stock of your choice
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 pinch nutmeg
  • 3 tablespoons absinthe 
  • 1 cup good quality whole milk yogurt
  • salt
  • black and white pepper
  • chives for garnish
  1. Bring a large pot up to medium-low heat. Add the butter. When the foaming subsides, add the leeks and cook stirring regularly until limp and translucent (about 10 minutes), taking care not to let them brown. Add the scapes and cook for a few more minutes. Add the potatoes and continue to cook for a few more minutes. 
  2. Add the chicken stock, bay leaf and enough water to just cover the potatoes. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, pop a lid on and allow to simmer for 30 minutes or so until the vegetables are quite tender. 
  3. Fish out the bay leaf. Add the absinthe, nutmeg, a generous pinch of salt, and plenty of black and white pepper. Pop the lid back on and simmer for another 5-10 minutes. 
  4. Remove from heat and add several ice cubes to cool your soup down and thin it out a bit. When cool enough that you are unlikely to cause injury, add the yogurt and purée using an immersion blender or in batches in a standard blender. Taste and adjust seasoning with additional salt and pepper.

If lunch is a distant memory, you can eat your Newfangled Vichysoisse lukewarm or even hot, but this soup really shines when served cold. (Just remember that, as with most cold foods, it may need more salt.) Either way, be sure to garnish with a generous sprinkle of snipped chives. I bet some rye croutons would be awesome too.

Newfangled Vichysoisse

Beluga Lentils with Lamb’s Quarters, Caramelized Red Onion & Feta

This weekend was full of good friends, glorious sun, and decadent meals. Highlights included a wonderful belated birthday dinner for Louis at Monument Lane (get the smoked potatoes!); a glorious birthday brunch for Sari at Maison Premiere (oysters, custom cocktails, and a delightfully flirtatious server); and Oriana’s amazing book launch party (featuring aerialists and a rousing performance by Hungry March Band–all in a very cool warehouse space/arts community mere feet from the Gowanus Canal). I ended the weekend with a lovely indoor cookout (alas, the sun did not hold) at Sean and Christie’s. I offered up potato salad in a bid to clear the crisper in preparation for the kickoff of CSA season tomorrow. 

The fun came to a screeching halt on this cold, and dark, and dreary Monday morning. I managed to get through the workday with the help of my lovely coworkers. But I did not manage to warm up. By the time I arrived home, I was craving something hot and nourishing. Good thing I stopped off at the farmers’ market Saturday morning.

Beluga Lentils with Lamb’s Quarters, Caramelized Red Onion & Feta

  • 1 cup beluga lentils
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 small pinch red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch lamb’s quarters, large stems removed and roughly chopped (baby spinach would also work)
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1/2 lemon, juice and zest
  • 2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • salt and pepper
  1. Add lentils, two cups of water, the bay leaf, the red pepper flakes and a healthy pinch of salt to a small pot. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.
  2. Bring the olive oil up to medium-low heat in a small skillet. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until caramelized.
  3. When the lentils are tender (about 25 minutes), turn off the heat and remove the bay leaf. Add the lamb’s quarters in batches, allowing the heat to wilt the greens. Stir in the caramelized onions, vinegar and lemon zest and juice and season to taste with pepper and additional salt. Sprinkle with feta before serving.

Beluga Lentils, Lamb's Quarters, Caramlized Red Onion and Feta

This plus a glass of Red Hook Winery‘s lusty 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon and I was finally, mercifully warm.