Thanksgiving: The Art of Cooking!

I love Thanksgiving – that is, almost as much as I love cooking!

Today, I’ll be making one of my favorite dishes – un potaje de frijoles blancas con chorizo y morcilla (that is, white bean, chorizo, and morcilla stew).

Here’s my recipe; try it out sometime! I’ve added pictures for extra deliciousness. =]

Alright – let’s go!

Elena’s Potaje Recipe:


– 1 green bell pepper

– Olive oil

– 1 onion

– 3 cloves of garlic, mashed with olive oil and a dash of paprika

– Azafran (preferably in leaf form)

– Red sweet peppers

– Sazon Goya (without coloring)

– Adobo Goya (with pimiento)

– Chorizo (chopped up and de-skinned)

– Morcilla (chopped up)

– 1 bag of dry white beans

– 3-4 Bay leaves

– Oregano

– Black pepper

– Red wine (preferably dry)

– 1 can of tomato sauce

– Salt and pepper, to taste

– 1 potato (cut)

– 1 chile pepper (optional)

Note: you need to soak the beans overnight, preferably in a large pot!

Alright – let’s get started!

1) First, add olive oil to a large sautee pan. Then, drop in your garlic/paprika mix. Let it simmer briefly.

2) Now, add green peppers, onions, red sweet pepper, black pepper, oregano, bay leaf, Adobo Goya, Sazon Goya, chorizo, and a few spoons of tomato sauce. If you’d like, add some paprika and/or a single chile pepper for extra spice. This will be your sofrito (seasoning).

Sofrito. This is your key ingredient! Make sure to taste frequently and add spices as you go along. Cooking is an art, not a chore! =]

Sofrito. This is your key ingredient! Make sure to taste frequently and add spices as you go along. Remember: cooking is an art, not a chore! =]

 Note: make sure to leave a bit of sofrito in the pan! We will use this again!

3) Stir. Let everything simmer for a few minutes.

4) Now, add the sofrito to your pot of beans. Stir well, and bring your stew to a light boil.

Sofrito and stew. Stir well!

Sofrito and stew. Stir well! Also, don’t let the stew boil excessively; we want the beans to be tender, not limp!

5) Do some tasting. Add spices and salt to your liking.

6) Add a few teaspoons of flour to the remaining sofrito and mix it all up. This will thicken the sofrito.

7) Add the flour and sofrito mix to the pot. The flour will give the stew a lovely consistency.

After you've added the flour and sofrito mix, your stew should begin to thicken. Make sure to stir very well - you don't want the flour to form lumps!

After you’ve added the flour and sofrito mix, your stew should begin to thicken. Make sure to stir very well – you don’t want the flour to form lumps!

8) Add a cup or so of chicken stock. Stir.

9) Add a dash of red wine and sherry vinegar. Add azafran to color the stew. Keep stirring!

10) Now, using the same sautee pan, fry up some morcilla with a bit of garlic and olive oil. The morcilla will cook relatively quickly. You can add some extra spices here if you’d like.

12) Add the morcilla to your stew. Cover the pot, and lower the heat.

13) Let the stew sit for at least an hour. Check it regularly – you don’t want it to overheat.

14) After an hour or so, add the chopped potatoes. Taste, and add spices accordingly.

The potatoes will soak up water, and give your stew a nice, thick consistency. We're almost there!

The potatoes will soak up water and give your stew a nice, thick consistency. Don’t worry – we’re almost there!

15) Your stew should be done in 2-3 hours. Just before you finish, bring your stew to a final boil.

All done!

All done!

Enjoy! Have a happy Thanksgiving, everyone!



5 Pointz Is Gone – Is Queens Next?

5 Pointz is gone.

5 Pointz, today. Image from

5 Pointz, today. Image from

White paint, dead art. Gentrification at its finest.

5 Pointz was desecrated as we slept; the words, the colors, and the faces, defiant, were wiped away as we curled into our dreams. We are left with a dry, bleached shell of a museum; we are left with a sanitized emptiness.

The destruction. Image from

The destruction. Image from

But soon, even this will be taken from us; eventually, the shell will be torn down, and a luxury condominium will take its place. A bruise on top of a bruise.

I’ve lived in Queens my whole life; I’ve watched it grow, change, and ripen.

Now, I am witnessing a sort of disintegration – that is, a wiping away, a banishing of art, of unruliness, and, most importantly, of working class neighborhoods, institutions, and landmarks.

To whom does this borough belong?

I am no longer certain.

* * *

For more information about 5 Pointz, click here.

For more information about the demolition, click here.

Stay tuned: I will be following this story closely over the coming weeks.

Angry? Sad? Unaffected? Have any ideas for action? Let me know!

Exhibition: The Librarians at the Queens College Art Center

Friday is my library day. I wake up; I come over, I look for a quiet, comfortable spot; I settle down, and I read for hours. Plots unfold, and characters grow; before I know it, I’ve reached the final pages, and it’s already dark outside. Time flies when you’re at the library.

What is a library? For me, it is a place of imagination – a place of books, of discovery, and of endless time. Of course, everyone has their own definition; everyone has their own library experience.

Few, however, have much experience with librarians; they, indeed, are a mystery to many. What does a librarian do? What is it like to work in that bustling point of imagination?

The Librarians does not try to answer my questions; rather, it complicates them, destabilizes them. Indeed – this dizzying conglomerate of objects, paintings, and assorted installation pieces challenges our understanding of libraries, and of their keepers.

I was struck, for example, by a number of rough, colorful paintings of faces; they are bruise-like, deep scars on an otherwise smooth surface. Are they smiling? Sneering? Are they librarians? Or are they patrons? Students? I am unsure; I begin to question my own place within the library. Am I merely a patron? Or am I also part of the library? Am I, by virtue of my gaze, my reading, a librarian? Are we all librarians?

I was also intrigued by an installation of thin, multi-colored papers, all of which bore names and titles; as they progressed, slowly, from left to right, their colors began to fade, to run, as though the printer had run out of ink.

Is knowledge, then, fading? Are books a relic? Are they, and libraries, doomed to obsolescence, to blankness? Or will that printer be restocked? Will the vibrant pages return? Again, I am unsure.

Sprinkled throughout the exhibition are the tools, the trappings of the librarian; diagrams litter the glass windows, and an entire apparatus – a desk, computer, stack of books – sits, idly, by the exit. I wonder why they are here; I wonder if they are an anchor, a point of reference, or if they destabilize my experience further.

Ultimately, I am left puzzled – and wanting to speak to a librarian. Indeed, I want to know more – I want to know how that apparatus works, and, more broadly, what a librarian actually does.

This exhibit is a treasure; it has drawn me in to a world I had always overlooked. Definitely go see it – and go talk to a librarian!

* * *

To learn more about this exhibit, click here.

The Queens College Art Center is located on the 6th floor of Rosenthal Library. Go visit!

Reflection: The New Salon at Queens College – Carl Phillips Reading

I love writing. Words, for me, are energy; words are oxygen, light, music, touch. Thus, I write obsessively, read obsessively, and edit obsessively; I pour over every syllable, every metaphor, and every clash of letters. Sometimes, I will even read in my dreams.

Ultimately, I am totally addicted; I am always and already writing. This, for me, is a poet’s life – this is what it means to be dedicated to the word.

However, I am terrified – mortified – of reading my work aloud. This, I believe, is largely due to my infamous shyness; I hate crowds, and I am a poor public speaker. And what, indeed, could be more frightening than sharing your work – your soul! – with a group of strangers? What could possibly be worse? How, indeed, do poets manage?

Readings are an integral part of a poet’s life; eventually, I will have to read. But how will I manage? What will I do? And why should I have to speak, anyway? What is so special about reading a poem aloud? Does anything really happen?

The crowd at Monday night’s Carl Phillips reading was large and energetic – and rightfully so, as Phillips showed us the how, and, more importantly, the why of reading. He taught us the power, the art of the spoken word; he showed us what a reading can be, should be, must be.

Indeed, when Carl Phillips reads his poetry, something absolutely happens; the flesh-tones of the voice mix with the ink, the curves of the written words, and the air of the room thickens; new meanings emerge, and sounds bloom; suddenly, the poem has blood, eyes, a body. This, indeed, is the magic of reading; this is what I had failed to understand.

Phillips has changed my perspective entirely; now, I am fascinated by the prospect of reading. I am even beginning to practice – that is, to mutter poems, to test them on my tongue. I am still nervous, of course; Phillips did not provide me with answers, but rather the sort of questions which are fruitful, which grow and thrive. How can I better myself as a speaker? How can I best perform my work?

At the end of his reading, Phillips began taking questions from the audience; one in particular has stayed with me. The student asked Phillips how he wrestles with the necessity of production – that is, how he manages to keep writing, keep innovating. Phillips answered, in short, that he does not see it as a wrestling or a battle; rather, he sees it as an engagement, a working-together, a project.

This, indeed, is how I will approach reading – as an engagement, as something to be worked with, learned from, and built upon. Now, I will engage with sound – I will add a new, exciting dimension to my work.

* * *

For more information on Carl Phillips, click here.

Phillips’ new book of poems, Silverchest, is out now!

For more information on readings at Queens College, click here! 

Stay Tuned…

Hello all! This coming week, I will be covering two events: the Carl Phillips reading at Campbell Dome, and the opening of The Librarians, a new exhibition at the Queens College Art Center.

Carl Phillips is a brilliant poet; I strongly encourage all of you to go see him! The reading will begin at 6:30 PM. Click here for more information. 

The Librarians will be opening tomorrow as well. Remember: the Queens College Art Center is right in our library, on the 6th floor. Go check it out during a study break!

This week is going to be amazing – I can’t wait to share it with you!