10.18.2017

Hole Foods


My Matthew has developed a marvelously charming custom. Whenever we eat a particular type of ethnic food - typically one of which he is especially fond - he immediately begins ranking his favorite foods by country. To date, he has four coveted spots that change by great impression. Mexican is consistently first. Always. For those interested and living in the Queen City, we are partial to Azteca on Woodlawn. Nothing fancy but the queso is on point, and the beers are ice cold. I am partial to the homemade corn tortillas. And the waiter who remembers my adult braces not too long ago. He had them too and we were suddenly connected. Do try to ignore the attached motel, and the associated hangers-on. He also raves about a taco truck parked in a Citgo gas station along the bowels of lower South Boulevard. If traveling south, it is on your right hand side, just past Marsh road.

Second, these days - and let the record show ranking can change on a whim and usually do following a spectacular meal - is cuisine from the southeastern Asian region. When the both of us have an urge, we head to Lang Van Vietnamese Restaurant on Shamrock Drive. Just as betwitching, but not as easy to reach is Ben Thanh in Matthews. They used to be on Central Avenue in Plaza Midwood and we two little piggies ate there with remarkable frequency. Their masaman curry and shrimp pancakes were beyond reproach. Italian is third. Every one in a while he gets a craving for lasagna. He prefers equal amounts meat and cheese. Beggars can't be choosers I tell him. If the balance is off, forget about it. Touch wood, he is usually able to satisfy his hankering with my creations. Did you know that I took cooking classes as an elective when I studied abroad in Italy back in 2001?

While in Nashville over Memorial Day weekend, a very dear family friend who lives in London learned via Facebook as to our whereabouts. In turn, she immediately texted me urging us to eat at the Indian restaurant owned by the daughter of dear friends. Matthew's first transcendent experience with Indian cuisine was this past March at Tayabbs in London. Located in the neighborhood of Whitechapel - made famous by the globally notorious serial killer Jack the Ripper - the cash only, BYOB haunt was extraordinary. The incredible curries, buttery naan bread, loud music, and buzzy scene were spellbinding. So when we returned to Charlotte, we had to find a spot by which he could scratch his newly formed comestible itch. Our favorite is Jaipur on 5909 South Boulevard. They serve big bottles of ice cold Kingfisher beer and their lamb vindaloo is earth shattering.

And so, when in Nashville, we secured Sunday night reservations at Chauhan Ale & Masala House. It was mean to be as Matt had this spot on his list too. Over multiple courses, we gorged and gorged and gorged some more. We happily left uncomfortably satiated, so much so in fact we couldn't follow our new tradition of post-dinner libations. My parents stayed on a handful of days after us. They too were so impressed by the food that they returned two nights later. My father says it's the best Indian food he has ever had. Having traveled to Mumbai more times than one can count, having dined in the best of the best in London and having enjoyed his very own Indian shop down the street from their apartment in Wiesbaden - where he and my mother dined regularly for the better part of 15 years - I will call him an authority. So after this singular meal, Indian moved into the third place tied spot. But just for the moment. Once again, Vietnamese reigns right now.

While in New York City the weekend before last, we were delighted to enjoy quality family time. We were tickled to meet our newest nephew, Teddy, and run around parks of downtown with his big brother, Trey, who is still enamored of Matthew's beard. Our mornings followed our usual routine of waking early to cruise the West Village in search of coffee, donuts, tree lined streets, beautifully adorned stoops, colorful doors and more. With regards to the breakfast of choice, we have two favorites: Dough in the Flatiron district and The Donut Project on Morton Street just off Bleecker, which offers the very best glazed donuts you'll ever sample. And I mean better than Krispy Kreme with the red light on. Their secret is a Tahitian vanilla, and they serve the donuts warm. We usually split just one but last Monday morning, the couple next was enjoying an entire box. They had lasciviously grins plastered across their faces. Next time. 

On this very same trip, a new contender found a ranking: Korean. In celebration of my birthday (this year's number leaves me quite non-plussed frankly), we went to a new hot spot, Cote on 22nd street between 6th and 7th avenues. The city's first Michelin star Korean steakhouse. I must admit, I have been to grill-it-yourself Korean haunts in the past (after all, Korea Town is a mere 10 blocks from the Breyer's lair) but this place was very special. After some encouraging guidance from our server, we collectively decided to go all in. Each of us selected the Butcher's Feast, which comprised four cuts of the chef's favorite cuts from the destination's dry aging room. As our server greased the grill in the center of our table with a piece of beef fat, he generously seasoned our meat with salt, and got to work. While our meat began to gently sizzle, out came multiple dishes including ban chan, scallion salad, red leaf lettuce with ssam-jang, savory egg souffle, spicy kimchi stew, savory dwen-jang stew, pickled Korean pears and four neat bowls of perfectly steamed rice. 

After a quick counsel with the evening's sommelier, our culinary experience was just ramping up. This splendiferous smorgasbord arrived with a plate of beautifully washed lettuce for wrapping. The combinations were endless, and our gastronomic experience was an outstanding one. The novelty, flavors and food - and of course exceptional service - were sublime. At the end of the evening, they brought out soft serve in little cups with homemade caramel. Mine had a candle in it. Matthew proclaimed he had a new favorite second. Vietnamese was officially bumped! And with that, we raised our glasses. Happy Birthday, Elizabeth.

Following our typical gastronomic onslaught that defines our brilliant New York City gallivants, it was back on the straight and narrow. In temporarily departing from the usual, no carb fanfare, we are pursuing a different route: vegetarian. I must admit, three days in, and so far so good. Save for one bout of dizziness that I will chalk up to not enough protein, we are vectoring. The below was marvelously warm, comfortably filling our bowls and bellies as we beckoned Fall through our open windows. Delighted to say cheerio to the AC for the season. Happy cooking, friends!

Acorn Squash Stew

You Need

2 TBS EVOO
3 small yellow onions - chopped
2 inch knob of ginger - peeled and chopped
1 small green chili - chopped
4 cloves of garlic - chopped
4 cups of kale - dandelion greens, collars or spinach will also do
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cinnamon
4 cups of low sodium vegetable brother
1 14 oz can of tomato puree
1/2 cut of peanut butter
2 TBS brown sugar
1 small acorn squash - seeded and quartered
2 cans of low sodium black eyed peas
For the garnish, roasted peanuts - Planters reigns!

*Optional: If you find the vegetarian route a tad too boring, this would do nicely with the addition of ground turkey, ground beef, or you can even throw in a breast of chicken or two when you add the broth. Once finished, pull it out, shred and add back to the loot.

How Do You Do

Throw your onions, ginger, chili and garlic into a food processor and roughly chop. Heat your oil in a Le Creuset dish or other like vessel over medium heat. Now please add your chopped goodies. Cook for around 10 minutes or until fragrant.

Next, add the broth, tomato puree, peanut butter, brown sugar and your acorn squash. Bring to a furious boil, and lower the heat - lid on - to simmer for around 30 minutes. Next, add your black eyed peas and greens. Give everything a generous stir, and lid back on for around 5-10 minutes.

Ladle up and serve over brown rice - if you please - we didn't as I am still TRYING to be mindful of carbs, and sprinkle some peanuts on top. Bon appetit.




















10.01.2017

Hace Calor


Where does the time go? To me, it always seems there is never enough of it. During the work day. On the weekends. Especially, when on holiday. A girlfriend sent a text message this morning alerting me to a new month. Impossible I responded but she was correct. Like clockwork, nanoseconds later an alert came through on social media that Christmas is only 85 days a way. Geepers cats, life, I command you, please slow down. 

Time falling like sand between my fingers aside, I love Octobers. My birthday. The anniversary of our engagement. Changing seasons, the need for a cardigan in the evenings, brilliant sunsets and a stunning array of foliage. Since leaving Germany, I have made a tradition of visiting New York City in October. Once upon a time, during my single days (well, years really) I always celebrated my birthday in the Big Apple. From 28 through 30, at least. My 30th was epic, but that's another story for another day. Beginning with 31 years of age, Matthew came along to partake in #howtobreyer. Folks have returned home from summer weekends in the Hamptons, the days close earlier inviting the sparkling lights and the city is deliciously alive. And so, the established custom continues; we depart on Thursday. On this first day of October, let the record show, I am typing this with all the windows open, and it is most glorious indeed. 

Nevermind the introduction of a new season, our summer simply flew by and it was certainly not without a solid dose of action. Nearing towards the end of May, we decided - after much thought, deliberation and a fair dose of heartache - to put our beloved house on the market. I told Matthew packing up, moving and onto greener pastures would be a romantic exercise. A very first for us as a married couple. How very misguided I was. The journey to market entailed a fiery, furiously fast handful of weeks comprising creating lists, organizing, bubble wrapping, selling, ripping out bushes, planting new ones, pruning, hedging, sanding, pressure washing, watering, painting, shouting, making boxes, taping boxes, wrapping endless pieces of crystal, purging, muttering under breaths, sweating, cursing, a bit of crying, smiling, laughing, reminiscing, remembering, embracing, hand holding, popping bottles (yes, a move of this size and at this speed required multiple bottles) and then some. 

We hosted a yard sale one Saturday morning. Circa 6.00 a.m., a gentlemen pulled up as we were clearing out the house and neatly organizing our piles across the driveway. The sale didn't begin for another three hours. I politely told him we were not yet ready for business. He inquired if I had any clothes to sell. I informed him the day before I had dropped four bags off of Good Will. A shame, he said, and went on to outline that he buys women's clothes for top dollar. I asked him to demonstrate how he calibrates his numbers and he pulled up an app. I saw a scarf identical to the one ripe for the pile, ran into the house and emerged with three, and two very tired albeit "gave me many years of happiness" handbags. He paid top dollar for all five. Not even 7.00 a.m. and the sale was off to an outstanding start. Over the course of the day, we cautiously welcomed an excited motley crew of sorts. Come 2.00 p.m., we ordered a pizza not to be shared on the front porch and at the strike of 4.00, we were utterly spent. Great success, but a first and a last. In short, never again.

Two days after we decided to list the house, we befriended a local gardener who promised to transform the front and back of Reynolds Ranch. He uprooted bushes that made friends with the earth below some 50 some odd years before. This exercise required a pair of attempts - including a borrowed industrial tool from a friend - to unearth the stubborn vines. Once removed, the house looked entirely different. In their places, he planted a Breyer favorite, boxwoods. I love walking with my father who always stops to smell boxwoods and speak to his fondness for them. With new bushes in place, it was recommended that some major pruning be next on the docket. And so, he used foreign tools to remodel all our landscaping in the front. Did we like it? 

Absolutely we responded. Did we want a splash of color? But of course, we said. Let's just get this show on the road we thought. How about red, he asked? Yes, and so he planted 80 impatiens. Upon seeing the back, he spoke to it being a destination of it's own, but did we mind were he to do as he saw fit. You're the guru we sang in unison. We returned home to our once emerald jungle, which was now an expertly manicured paradise. Our roses had shape, we could see the outlines of trees. A true marvel. We were so enchanted that for the first time - we moved chairs out to the backyard, and asked each other, are we doing the right thing in selling, and more importantly - I suppose a question many who are readying their house for sale ask - why in the world didn't we do this sooner?

Next up was the back deck. Another sanctuary in need of some serious TLC. We found a seasoned fellow who arrived in an old, rusted maroon truck and between Marlboro reds as well as sordid tales of his past lives, brought our back deck back from the near dead. He replaced wood, brought out the sander, followed by the pressure washer, hammered in new nails, glossed paint and the likes. Again we asked marveling at the beauty of it, are we doing the right thing? We were. 

The little ranch style home sold quickly. And so, on the eve before closing, we returned to Reynolds Ranch, and took a seat on the new wooden stairs. The back porch, where our relationship took shape over many Friday afternoons post-work. A place where Matthew, after three weeks of dating, invited his friends over for a cookout to meet me. A place where we hosted a 'stay until 3.00 a.m. and eat late night cake' engagement party for my sister, Michelle, and her husband, Mike, and some three years later held our nephew Trey for the first time. A place where we hosted our South African family to a cookout on the eve of our wedding weekend. A place that served as host to countless summer gatherings, birthday parties, holiday soirees with the roaring fire pit, comprising our very best friends. And that very back deck, which saw many a cookouts, al fresco dinners and spaces for naps, conversations, big decisions, celebrations and the likes for just the two of us. In short, our favorite place in our home.

These long planks of wood were host to the first of manys for my Matthew and me. And so, circa 8.00 p.m., we opened a bottle of champagne saved from our wedding, poured two glasses, toasted a very happy home of more than 9 years, thanked it for the memories, and before we could grow too weepy, turned off the porch lights, locked the front door for the very last time, and walked away with the most wonderful of memories behind us. It is our hope that this very happy little home, the place where so many halcyon memories were made, gives its next owner as much love, enjoyment, delight and special memories as it did for the two of us.

Now that a new season is upon us, many of us are comforted by food that nourishes the soul and warms us from within. And so, nothing fits the bill better than soups, chilis and stews. The below is a favorite of my husband, Matthew. Quick to pull together, and with the chilies, most warming indeed. This is also a lovely meal for an easy, mid-week dinner party. Serve with corn bread, tortilla chips, guacamole, pinto beans and set up a garnish bar. Happy October, and happy cooking.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

You Need

The soup:

2 organic chicken breasts
Extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder 
1 tsp ancho chili powder
1 tsp garlic powder
Kosher salt
1 white onion - chopped
4 cloves of garlic - chopped
1 green bell pepper - chopped
1 red bell pepper - chopped
2 cups kale - chopped
2 cups butternut squash - cubed
1/2 cup of frozen corn 
Bunch of cilantro - chopped
10 oz can rotel tomatoes / green chilies
2 quarts organic low sodium chicken stock
3 TBS tomato paste
*Optional - 1 can of black beans

To garnish:

Chopped avocado
Chopped cilantro
Sour cream or my favorite substitute, full fat Greek yoghurt
Diced red onions
Quartered limes
Grated cheese 
Tortilla chips

Let's Boogy

Mix your spices in a small bowl and sprinkle half on your chicken. Bake for 30 minutes. Once cooled, shred the chicken.

Heat some olive oil in a large vessel on medium high heat (I use my big birtha Le Creuset). Add your onions, garlic, bell peppers. Cook for around 5 minutes or until the goodies soften. Now, add the remainder of your spices from the small bowl, along with your shredded chicken. Mix nicely. Now is the time to add some generous pinches of kosher salt.

Pour in the can of tomatoes, squeeze in your tomato paste, empty both containers of stock, add the kale, squash and cilantro. Mix until uniform. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. I let this ride for around an hour. Taste, add more salt if necessary, and voila. Ladle up, add your toppings and go to town. 


4.26.2017

I Came to Bury Caesar


This past week, I had the great privilege and absolute pleasure of being included in a birthday extravaganza for an incredibly special woman. Our paths first collided when I moved to Charlotte back in 2009. We were both on the steering committee for a grand gala that was to take place at the Bechtler Museum featuring Eli Wiesel. Back in high school, I was one of the students selected to ask Eli Wiesel a question when he visited my school, so it only seemed fitting that I get involved in the spectacular event inviting him back to the Queen City.

I heard my friend speak and quite simply, she captivated me. At the close of the meeting, the then shy Elizabeth walked up to her slowly pulling the confidence to say, "I think you are luminous, and I would like to be your friend." Soon after, she asked if I was single. At the time, I said yes and she enthusiastically clapped her hands together and said triumphantly "a project". And in that morning, something more than a great friendship was born. 

Fast forward eight years later and this woman holds the rank of my second mother. I regale her of my triumphs, my foibles, when things are grand, and when they aren't. I complain to her, gripe to her, and laugh with her. I ask her questions, value her opinions and cherish every single word she lends my ears. We share recipes, she always gives her expertise, guidance and wise vantage point. Patience and mindfulness are two virtues about which we speak with frequency. Next to my very own parents, she is my go-to for pretty much everything in life. And after my parents (on occasion before) she is the next call I make. She is one of those magnificent people you hope to be like one day. I have inherited my love of big necklaces from her. She helped select my wedding ring. And as my second mom, I wouldn't have it any other way. 

Over a lovely lunch, peers spoke to her kindness, her tremendous loyalty, her ability to connect and quickly gather people. Her closest friends spoke of her commitment to family, her husband, her children, the community and those she serves. As each woman rose to speak, my friend listened intently. When it was her turn to raise a glass, she toasted her loved ones thanking them for being beautiful women who have had a profound impact on her life. She also wished that every individual in the room could know everyone just like she does. Tears to my eyes. What a celebration. 70 years young. Mazel tov to my very dear and most luminous friend.

The "Real Deal" Caesar Salad Dressing

You Need

1 garlic clove
2 anchovies (I buy them in a jar in oil and keep them in the fridge)
1 egg yolk
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 2 lemons
1/3 cup olive oil
Pinch of kosher salt
Fresh cracked pepper

So Easy

In your blender or Cuisinart, pulse 1 garlic clove with 2 anchovies until a sort of paste forms. Stuff will be all over the sides of your vessel but you get the picture. Add 1 egg yolk, the zest of 1 lemon and the juice of 2 lemons. Blitz again. Drizzle in 1/3 cup of olive oil. Blitz again. Now comes the generous pinching of salt and fresh cracked pepper.

I recommend serving this over freshly washed, crisp Romaine lettuce. A seven minute egg on top if you like. Fresh grate of Parmesan. You can even make croutons by seasoning and putting garbanzo beans in the oven. Tastes best the day of so I would not recommend letting this chill in the fridge. Kryptonite.

4.19.2017

Egg On Your Face


Each month, I eagerly await the arrival of my beloved Bon Appetit magazine. It is one of the few publications that I still make the time to devour cover to cover. Once upon a time it was The New York Times, but those were my single days and frankly, I just can no longer do it. I remember being a young lady, and elated when the Newsweek publication arrived. Please don't mutter "nerd" quite so quickly. My wonderful mother would leave the publication outside of my bedroom. A gift! And after school, sports or whatever, I would sit at our dining room table as my mother cooked, and pour over the pages that captivated me.

Fast forward to now. I admire that young lady because I no longer have the attention span let alone the time to attack a dense publication covering world affairs in this day and age of news. I even find myself getting antsy reading a magazine at a salon. Like most, I rely on my iPhone, and quick, easy news platforms because who has time to read a full article anymore. Lots do but it's shameful how truncated my attention span has become. For certain things. Digital is king and in this day and age, I am not entirely sure who still reads magazines. I go to Barnes and Noble (what's that some may ask) and see folks enjoying said publications with their coffees. Unsure if anyone is actually buying. My father still reads them. He is a bona fide beach lover, and part of his daily artillery includes a stack of magazines that he has been collecting for who knows how long. I will say however, that his trend is slowly shifting as he relies more and more on his iPad. I feel so badly for not making slash having more time to read them. I digress. 

This month's edition of Bon Appetit lent a very necessary and most inspiring overview of what to do with eggs. Poach them, boil them, fry them or scramble them. We always have eggs in the house but we have taken to picking up an extra dozen and incorporating them accordingly. Whether enjoying this protein dense item for breakfast, lunch or dinner (get thee a Lodge brand cast iron skillet - the 10 inch is more than suffice - and learn the art of the frittata), the sky is the limit. I have learned the art of the 6.5 minute egg (liquid gold interior) or the gummy egg similar to that of which rests atop your ramen dish. We love to fry them in olive oil, spooning the hot oil onto the whites to encourage them to set without disrupting the sunny yolks. Fresh herbs, farm butter and voila, scrambled. Best eaten on toast, alongside a serving of gravalax with dill or on their own. Basically prepare your egg whichever way wets your whistle. Now comes the magic: a squeeze of citrus, drizzle of good quality olive oil, pinch of salt, some pepper, maybe red pepper flakes, sriracha - you get the picture. You're now in business.

My Matthew has asked that I please prepare more vegetarian focused meals. So while eggs aren't exactly vegetarian, some consider them to be. And so, a few nights ago, we ate this atop of roasted asparagus. It also matches beautifully with boiled potatoes (a new type of salad), grilled fish, roasted chicken, beef or even on its own with a dollop of yoghurt. It was so smashing that I served it at Easter Sunday lunch and what was left of the gribiche, I spooned over cold steak (that I had seared the night before in some garlic and butter on the pan.) So what are you waiting for? Get thee a dozen, or more, and start with breakfast, throw caution to the wind and skip to dinner, or something like that.

Gribiche Dressing
Adapted from Bon Appetit

Ingredients

6 cornichons, chopped (you can also use mini gherkins or small dill pickles – very Bridget Jones!)
Handful of chopped herbs (I opted for flat leaf parsley, taragon and thyme)
⅓ cup olive oil
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
4 tablespoons chopped drained capers
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
3 hard boiled eggs - coarsely chopped

To Do

Add everything to a mason jar, pop the lid and shake aggressively.

1.07.2017

Great Balls A Fire


This past holiday season was one for the books. Actually, I think whenever one has an extended period of time to fill as they please, it is by definition, destined to be nothing short of spectacular. My first holiday night eve, I sat down with pen and paper to prepare my plan of attack. What resulted was a two page, near psychotic, to-do list that would have my chariot navigating the city from spot to place. I am elated to report that save for exchanging one holiday gift (that of my husband's), my mission was exaggeratedly successful. Never mind that I was utterly exhausted upon completion, I greatly languished in the thrill of furiously checking items off my list. How good does making a list and checking it twice feel?
Following quality time with family, Christmas Day we hopped a plane headed for our second home, the Big Apple. In Jewish tradition, we planned for a Chinese dinner in where other than China Town. We had a list of five spots from which to choose in the event that numbers were an issue, and they were. Before the spread, we stopped at the Ace Hotel for a beverage at the delightful Jon Dory Oyster Bar followed by a romantic, quiet walk through Madison Square Park. It is on this leg of our evening that I dropped my purse, whose absence we alarmingly discovered some six blocks later and touch wood Matthew retraced our steps and reclaimed my prized possession, untouched. Thank my stars, someone was looking out for us both Christmas Day. Had I lost the keys to my family's apartment somewhere in Manhattan, my father - rightfully so - would have gone asymptotic. Insert big sigh of relief here. Matthew found the small purse near to a bench that he identified as the one where he thought he might propose the August before last. Alas, this bench was intended for other things. Instead, he made me sweat a bit longer and waited for the most perfect moment the evening of Monday, October 5, 2015. Anyway, the bench and he met again. Small world for sure.
In which stratosphere we were revolving, I haven't a clue, but we thought a visit to Rockefeller would be a delightedly quintessential Christmas experience. Very far removed, it was not. And let me underscore this: we will never travel north of 29th street on Christmas night ever again. Somewhere around thirty-eighth street, the throngs of people grew denser and before we came to our senses, a diplomatic retreat was impossible. We contemplated dividing and conquering but quickly realized that this would result in losing one another entirely. In turn, we grabbed arms, stuffed my purse into a zipped pocket and forged shoulders first ahead. The streets were lined with merchants selling knock-off or perhaps repurposed versions of the coveted quilted Chanel bags and other such labels. Swarms of people were stopping to ogle unannounced. We arrived at the tree, had to duck in between parents shouting at children to stand still and the clinging metal of the dreaded and ever-awful selfie sticks. If you have one, don't even give it away, destroy it. Within all of three minutes, we concluded that our exercise screamed, "came, saw, conquered!" and together, we hightailed it slowly out of there. Our one redeeming reprieve was an excited "Kevin" moment at the Plaza Hotel. Immediately thereafter, we ventured to an off-the-beaten-path subway stop and hopped a train due south.
The two of us attacked an American Chinese feast at Big Wong on Mott Street. Afterwards, we enjoyed a surprisingly quiet and leisurely walk home. We stopped at Cherche Midi for a midnight beer, and sometime around 1.00 a.m., crawled into bed eagerly looking forward to the week ahead. The following five days were a glorious mishmash of the usual 12 miles by foot interrupted by a handful of subway trips, a visit to the Museum of Modern Art for a dose of culture, multiple glorious meals including but not limited to Salvation Burger, Cookshop, Houseman, Atoboy, Leuca, Frankie's 570 Sputtino, Vic's and a random hole in the wall for burritos, a day trip to Williamsburg to peruse a myriad of haunts, some visits to watering holes such as The Modern at MOMA, Markt for Belgian meads, Fraunces Tavern, Dead Rabbit, Genuine Liquorette, Tijuana Picnic, Skinny Dennis, La Superior, Whitehorse Tavern, Corner Bistro, Momoya, and most importantly, we enjoyed priceless, valuable time with our adorably delicious and equally darling nephew Trey (who can now walk), my sister Michelle and brother-in-law Mike.
Matthew and I arrived in NYC refreshed and departed utterly exhausted, which according to my father, is the telltale sign of an outstanding holiday. Namely, when one requires a vacation from their vacation. We inched towards the end of December with a nasty cold (Matthew) and a newly created laundry list (Elizabeth). We toasted the New Year over a dinner with dear friends, an amazing Avett Brothers concert and a skip to a local pub for nachos and another round of cold Belgian beers. When the clock struck midnight, sometime around Mariah Carey's debacle, my husband asked me for a dance and together we excitedly welcome 2017, an exciting new chapter for Mr. Johnson and me. Happy New Year friends!

The below recipe comes from a cookbook with which I am absolutely besotted. Every recipe lends three to five variations. Perfect for when you have this at hand but don't have that. Not to mention, the book itself is a real bang for your buck. We have begun incorporating many of Julia Turshen's delectable wonders into our weekly repertoire and without sounding cheesy, our appetites are thanking us. Do yourself a favor and add this to your collection. I promise it will soon move to the front of the line. 

The below recipe is simple to prepare and yields enough meatballs for two helpings per person and leftovers for both parties lunch the day following. It would also be perfect for a cozy dinner party at home. Serve alongside a crunchy salad, a pot of noodles, a loaf or two from your local bakery and lots of red wine! Remember to wet your hands when forming the balls. We served ours atop zucchini noodles. We are back on the bandwagon doing the whole no carb thing during the week. It's party time at the weekend; this one included. Oy vey.

Turkey + Ricotta Meatballs
Adapted from Julia Turshen's Small Victories

The Goods

Two 28 oz cans of San Marzano tomatoes (check out your local Food Lion, best prices)
Extra virgin olive oil
8 garlic cloves - minced
Kosher salt
1 TBS fennel seeds
1 TBS sugar
1 small packet of basil (the basil in our garden perished when the weather turned cold) - chopped
1 cup of flat parsley leaves - chopped
1.5 cups of fresh full fat whole milk ricotta cheese (did you know you can add sugar and vanilla for a lovely pudding)
1/2 cup of finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 lb ground turkey meat

To Do

1. In a large bowl, add the canned tomatoes and crush with your hands. I recommend putting an apron on before this exercise! With a quarter of a cup of water, rinse both cans and add to the bowl.

2. In a large pot, heat 3 TBS olive oil over medium high heat. Add the garlic and cook for approximately one minute. Now add the tomatoes, a generous pinch of kosher salt, the sugar and fennel seeds and bring to a boil. Once bubbling, lower the heat and let the sauce simmer for approximately 45 minutes. No need for a lid on top. Voila, you have tomato sauce. Easy peasy!

3. Pre-heat your oven to 425, and line whatever you are going to bake your meatballs on with aluminum foil.

4. In another large bowl, add the remaining minced garlic, basil, parsley, ricotta, Parmesan, turkey and 1 TBS salt. Combine everything with your hands (this will get sticky) until well mixed. Now, prepare golf ball sized meatballs. I recommend doing this next to the sink. Wetting your hands will greatly simplify this process.

5. Bake the meatballs for 25 minutes. Once finished, add them to your simmering pot of tomato sauce. Once they're all in, put the lid on and let them ride for approximately 30 minutes. You can serve over pasta, zucchini noodles or on their own with a crusty loaf of bread for sopping up that delicious sauce. And, don't forget to dust them with more Parmesan. Why? Because cheese makes everything better. Bon appetit!