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Spiced Peach Butter 0

Posted on July 03, 2013 by Sahar

Another post in my informal series on bottling Summer, I’ve moved on to peaches.

There are few fruits that say “Summer is here!” more than peaches.  Their smell, fuzzy skin, and their taste are some of the things that make summer in Texas almost bearable.

Peaches originated in China where they were cultivated since the early days of Chinese culture where they were considered a favorite fruit of the emperors. They were mentioned in Chinese literature as early as 2000 BCE.  Peaches likely reached the Middle East, then the Mediterranean, by way of the Silk Road, a 2,500-mile trade route that stretched from East Asia to ancient Persia (present-day Iran). Peaches were introduced to Europe by Alexander the Great (an example of a rare good thing coming from conquest). Later, the Romans called peaches “Persian apples” (Prunus persica).

Some historians believe peaches came to North America in 1562 with French explorers who established settlements in the area of present-day Mobile, Ala. However, it’s certain peaches also arrived in 1565 with the Spanish colonists who settled in St. Augustine, Fla. These ancient peach cultivars, described as hardier and more productive than today’s peaches, quickly naturalized into groves so widespread that later colonists believed the peach was a native American fruit.

Spanish explorers are credited with bringing the peach to South America and then eventually to England and France where it became quite a popular, but rare, treat. During Queen Victoria’s reign, it is written that no meal was complete without a fresh peach presented in a fancy cotton napkin.

Finally in the early 17th century George Minifie, a horticulturist from England, brought the first peaches to the New World colonies, planting them at his estate in Virginia. It was the early Native American tribes who actually spread the peach tree across the country, taking seeds with them and planting them as they traveled.

But it wasn’t until the 19th century that commercial peach production began in Maryland, Delaware, Georgia and Virginia. Today, peaches are grown commercially in California, Washington state, South Carolina, Georgia, Colorado, Texas, and Missouri. As well as numerous backyards all over the country.

(information from homecooking.about.com and baderpeaches.com)

 

Now, on to the recipe.

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A few notes:

1.  You can use fresh or frozen peaches in this recipe.  I will admit I used frozen for this post.  Because of weather conditions not only here in central Texas, but through most peach-growing regions, fresh peaches haven’t been as good as they could be.  Also, with a smaller supply, they’ve become rather expensive.  Frozen peaches do well in a pinch and are easier on the wallet.

However, if you can and want to use fresh peaches, do so.

2. You can use either clingstone or freestone peaches.  Clingstone peaches tend to be juicier and sweeter while freestones are less juicy.  (There are many online resources to find out which peach varieties are which.)

3.  As for the spices, use as many or as few as you prefer.  Or none.

4.  This is a soft-set butter. Meaning, that it hasn’t set up as solidly (for lack of a better word) as jelly or jam.

5.  For a complete hows and whys of making sweet preserves, please see my August 10, 2012 post, Classic Strawberry Jam (http://tinyurl.com/l67ymj4).

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

5-1/2 lbs. fresh peaches, peeled, pitted, and cut into wedges

-or-

5 lbs. frozen peaches, thawed, juices saved

1-1/2 c. peach nectar

3-1/2 c. sugar

Up to 4 tsp. sweet spices (cinnamon, ground or grated nutmeg, ground ginger, ground cloves, ground allspice)

 

Peaches. Lovely peaches.

Peaches. Lovely peaches.

Spices I used (clockwise from top): ground ginger, ground allspice, ground cinnamon, fresh grated nutmeg, ground cloves)

Spices I used (clockwise from top): ground ginger, ground allspice, ground cinnamon, fresh grated nutmeg, ground cloves)

 

1.  In a large saucepan, mix all the ingredients together.

The ingredients in the pot.

The ingredients in the pot.

Begin cooking over medium heat, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves.

Sugar dissolved and we're ready to go.

Sugar dissolved and we’re ready to go.

2.  Cover the saucepan and bring the peach mixture to a boil, stirring frequently.  Uncover and boil for 30 minutes.

Beginning to boil the peaches.

Beginning to boil the peaches.

The peaches after boiling for 30 minutes. The darker color is due to the spices.

The peaches after boiling for 30 minutes. The darker color is due to the spices.

3.  Remove the saucepan from the heat and let cool for about 10 – 20 minutes.

4.  Depending on how smooth you want the butter, you can either use a potato masher or a stick blender to crush or puree the peaches.

Pureeing the peaches with a stick blender.  Unlike my apple butter, I like a smooth peach butter.

Pureeing the peaches with a stick blender. Unlike my apple butter, I like a smooth peach butter.

The pureed peaches. Lovely amber color.

The pureed peaches. Lovely amber color.

5.  Place the saucepan back over medium heat, cover, and bring to a boil, stirring frequently.  Uncover, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook for about 1 hour or until the mixture is thick.  Again, stir frequently.

Boiling the peach butter. At 15 minutes.

Just starting to boil the peach butter.

After boiling for 30 minutes. The butter begins to thicken, becomes shinier and darker.

After boiling for 30 minutes. The butter begins to thicken.

The butter after 1 hour of cooking. It should be thick and shiny.

The butter after 1 hour of cooking. It should be thick, shiny, and a beautiful amber color.

One way to check for proper thickness is to run a spatula through the butter, lift the spatula up and watch how the butter flows off of it.  If it comes down in sheets, the butter is thickening properly.

One way to check for proper thickness is to run a spatula through the butter, lift the spatula up and watch how the butter flows off of it. If it comes down in sheets, the butter is thickening properly.

6.  Pour the butter into hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace.  Clean the jar rims, seal, and process for 5 minutes. (Begin timing after the water comes back to a boil.)

The finished peach butter. Yummy.

The finished peach butter. Yummy.

Makes 6 – 7 half-pint jars.

 

Enjoy!

 

Kibbeh – Arabic Comfort Food 1

Posted on August 24, 2012 by Sahar

For my next blog post, I decided to make a dish that is near and dear to my heart; one of my ultimate comfort foods – Kibbeh.  My sisters and I grew up eating this dish.  Rather ravenously, I might add.   It’s part of our heritage.  Putting it together was a collaborative effort for our parents.  Mom always made the filling, Dad put it together – whether as little footalls for the fryer or in the baking dish for the oven.  It was always a much appreciated treat.

Kibbeh (كبة‎) is a popular and much-loved dish throughout the Middle East.   It is generally made with cracked wheat (burghul), spices, minced onion and ground  meat, gnerally beef, lamb, or goat, or a combination.

It can be shaped into stuffed croquetes (basically little footballs) and deep fried for mezze or made into layers and baked for a main dish. Some folks also eat raw kibbeh. Like Arabic Steak Tartare, minus the quail’s egg and capers.

In Israel, Kubbeh matfuniya and kubbeh hamusta are staples of Iraqi-Jewish cooking. Kubbeh soup, served in many oriental grill restaurants in Israel, is described as a “rich broth with meat-stuffed dumplings and vegetables”.

A Syrian soup known as kibbeh kishk consists of  stuffed kibbeh in a yogurt and butter broth with stewed cabbage leaves.

Fried, torpedo-shaped kibbehs have become popular in Haiti, Dominican Republic and South America – where they are known as quipe or quibbe – after they were introduced by Lebanese, Syrian, and Palestinian immigrants in the early 20th Century.

(some historical information from www.wikipedia.org)

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Now, on to the recipe.

I make this with a combination of beef and lamb.  You can use all of one or the other if you like.  Goat is also very popular (in the Middle East, anyway) in Kibbeh as well.

As I stated in my Hummous post (3/19/12), I’m pretty much a traditionalist when it comes to my Middle Eastern food.  The one thing I have in the traditional recipe I’ve changed is the amount of onion I use.  Most recipes can call for up to 4 onions.  I use 1 medium-sized one.  Otherwise, it’s pretty authentic.

 

The ingredients

Spices (clockwise from right): Black Pepper; Kosher Salt; ground Allspice; ground Cinnamon

Pine Nuts. These are not inexpensive. They can go for upwards of $20 per pound depending on where you shop. If you decide you don’t want to go to the expense, slivered almonds are a good substitute.

 

Kibbeh Filling

2 tbsp. clarified butter

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 medium onion, minced

1 1/2 lbs. ground lamb or beef (use 90/10 ground)

1/2 c. pine nuts or slivered almonds

1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste

1/2 tsp. black pepper, or to taste

1/2 tsp. ground allspice, or to taste

1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon, or to taste

 

Raw Kibbeh (the top and bottom layers)

2 lbs. ground lamb or beef (use 90/10 ground beef)

2 cups cracked wheat (burghul)

1 tsp. salt, or to taste

1 tsp. ground black pepper, or to taste

1/2 tsp. ground allspice, or to taste

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon, or to taste

 

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In this recipe, I call for clarified butter.  I don’t use much, but it’s a necessary traditional flavor component.

A note on clarified butter:  I always like to have it on hand.  It has a much higher smoke point than regular butter (450F vs 350F) so it doesn’t burn as quickly.  Plus, it’s delicious. There are some chefs who deep-fry in clarified butter.  You can buy it off the shelf in Indian and Middle Eastern Groceries (Ghee and Samneh, respectively).  When buying, make sure the container indicates that the clarified butter was made with milk.  If it says “vegetable” anywhere on the container, it’s essentially margarine.

However, clarified butter is very easy to make at home.  It keeps for several months and tastes a whole lot better.

Here’s a lovely essay on clairfied butter from the New York Times (5/6/08): http://tinyurl.com/bobsuje 

Basically, clarified butter is butter where the milk solids have been removed.  It can be made with either salted or unsalted butter. (I prefer to use unsalted. I can control the amount of salt in my recipes.)  It’s always best to use European style butter.  It has a lower water content and a higher butterfat content.  Not only will it taste better, you’ll end up with a higher yield.

To make clarified butter, slowly melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. (I usually do 2 pounds at a time. I recommend doing at least 1 pound.)

Melting the butter.

 

Once the butter has melted, take it off the heat and, with a large spoon,  carefully begin skimming the milk fat off the surface.

Milk solids on the surface of the melted butter.

Skimming off the milk solids.

I generally discard the milk solids, but some people do use them for other things.  Like spreading on toast or pancakes.  It’s certainly up to you.

After skimming off the milk solids.

Carefully pour the butter into a storage container or into a measuring cup.  Leave any residual milk solids and water in the saucepan.

About 3 cups clarified butter is my yield from 2 pounds of butter.

What’s left in the saucepan is mostly water and any residual milk solids.  Go ahead and discard.

The water and residual milk solids left over.

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Now, time for the Kibbeh.

1.  Make the Kibbeh Filling:  In a large skillet,  heat the butter and olive oil.  Add the onion and saute until it begins to soften, about 3 – 5 minutes.  Add the meat (in this illustration I used lamb) and cook until it is no longer pink.  Add the pine nuts or almonds and cook another 2 – 3 minutes.  Add the spices and mix thoroughly.  Cook another 3 – 5 minutes.  Taste for seasoning. Remove the skillet from the heat and allow the filling to begin cooling. (There may be some extra fat in the skillet. If there is, go ahead and drain it off.)

The completed Kibbeh filling. Yummy. I have a hard time not standing there with a spoon over the skillet eating.

 

2.  Make the Raw Kibbeh: Put the bulghur in a fine-meshed strainer and rinse it off under cold running water.  Do this until the water runs clear.  Let it drain.

Close-up of bulghur wheat. I like to use a medium sized grain. Too fine a grain will give the kibbeh too soft a texture.

Rinsing off the bulghur.

Put the bulghur in a medium bowl and cover with water.  Let the bulghur soak until it begins to soften; about 20 – 30 minutes.  Drain in a fine sieve, pressing out as much of the water as possible, and set aside.

Soaking the burghul.

 

3.  Take the meat and put into a large bowl. (In this illustration, I used beef for the Raw Kibbeh.).  Add the bulghur.

The meat and burghul. Getting ready to mix together.

 

Now, time to use your hands.  Dig in and mix the ingredients together.  You want them to be thoroughly mixed.  Add the salt, pepper, cinnamon, and allspice.  Mix until the spices are well incorporated.

The meat, burghul, and spices all mixed together.

 

Now, you need to taste for seasoning.  For me, the best way to taste for seasoning is to take a small amount of the mixture and give it a quick fry on the stove.  That way, I’ll get a better idea of how the finished dish will taste once it’s been completely cooked. Plus,  I won’t be eating raw ground beef.

Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat.  Add a little of the clarified butter.  Take a small amount of the mixture and form it into a roughly quarter-sized patty.  Once the butter is hot, add the patty to the skillet and cook.  It should take about 2 – 3 minutes.  Take the patty out of the skillet, allow it to cool for a minute, then taste.

Adjust the seasonings as needed.

 

Cooking the mixture to taste it for seasoning.

Or, you could be like my mom or my Arab aunties and just know by smell when the seasoning is right.  I’ve not ever been able to master that skill.

4.  Once you’re happy with the raw kibbeh, prepare a baking dish.  (In this illustration, I used a 12″ x 18″ dish, and it was a little large.  Use something closer to an 11″ x 15″.) Give it a quick spritz with non-stick spray or grease it with butter or olive oil.

Take half of the raw kibbeh and spread it over the bottom as evenly as you can.  It’ll take some doing, but you’ll get there.  If you wet or grease your hands, it’ll help make the process a little easier.

Begin preheating the oven to 375F.

The raw kibbeh spread in the bottom of the baking dish.

5.  Take the Kibbeh filling and spread it evenly over the bottom layer of the Raw Kibbeh.

Kibbeh filling added to the baking dish.

6.  Time to put the top layer on.  Because of the filling, you won’t be able to spread the top layer the same way as the bottom.  So, a different method is needed.

Take small amounts of the raw Kibbeh and flatten them out into thin pieces and lay each piece on top of the Kibbeh filling.

Putting on the top layer.

Be sure to fill in any little gaps as needed.  I know that it will seem like you’ll not have enough for the top layer; but, if you persevere, you will.

7.  Once you have finished completing the top layer, cut through the layers in diamond or square shapes approximately 2 inches each.  This will help with even baking and make cutting the finished Kibbeh easier.

Cutting the Kibbeh.

 

If you like, take some extra pine nuts or almonds and press one into the center of each diamond or square.  Drizzle a little clarified butter or olive oil over the top.

Kibbeh ready for the oven.

8.  Put the Kibbeh in the oven and bake for 35 – 40 minutes, or until it is well-browned.  If you like, turn on the broiler for about 3 – 5 minutes after the initial cooking time to make the Kibbeh golden brown.

The Finished Kibbeh. De-licious.

 

Let the Kibbeh sit for about 10 minutes before serving.

 

9.  It’s a good idea to serve this dish with a bit of yogurt on the side.  It will help cut the richness of the dish.

However, I prefer to make a quick salad with the yogurt.  I’ve based this on a recipe very similar that Mom always made.

The salad ingredients.

1 cucumber (If you can go with Hothouse [English] or Persian. If you use standard cucumbers, peel and remove the seeds)

1/4 c. fresh mint, chopped

3/4 c. plain yogurt (I like to use full fat Greek yogurt)

Salt & black pepper to taste

 

Cut the cucumber into whatever size pieces you like. Mix all the ingredients together in a medium bowl.  Adjust the seasonings if you like.

The finished salad.

 

10.  Serve.

Dinner is ready. It tastes much better than it looks in this photo. I promise.

 

Enjoy! Sahtein!

 

p.s.  If you like this, I’m teaching even more classic Eastern Mediterranean dishes on Sunday, September 16, at Central Market, 4001 N. Lamar Boulevard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Koshari: The National Dish of Egypt 1

Posted on June 30, 2012 by Sahar

When you mention the word “Koshari” ( كشرى) to an Egyptian, you will likely see someone with a blissful look in their eyes and a smile on their face.  It is regarded by nearly every Egyptian, as well as food historians and enthusiasts, as the National Dish of Egypt.  It’s a wonderful starch-fest of pasta, rice, lentils, and, sometimes, chick peas.  The addition of caramelized onions and a spicy, tangy tomato sauce complete the ensemble.

However, Koshari isn’t Egyptian in origin.  It is said to have come form the Indian dish “Kitchiri” (meaning a dish with rice & lentils) brought to Egypt by British Occupation troops in the late 19th – early 20th Century.  The British troops found the dish filling, delicious, and, most importantly, safe to eat.  The local inhabitants took a liking to this new dish and it became immensly popular.

Additonally, rice isn’t native to Egypt.  So, the Indian origin of the Koshari makes sense.  The Indians got rice from the Persians who most likely learned about it from the Chinese.  Rice wasn’t introduced into Egypt until approximately 1000 BCE. (It seems like a long time ago. But, in this part of the world, it’s a blip in time.) Also, the tomato sauce served with the dish is another Western addition.  Tomatoes & chiles are native to the Americas.  So, Koshari is a great example of what happens when cultures clash – in a good way.

Because it is a vegetarian/vegan dish, it is popular with Coptic Christians during Lent and other religious fast days.

This is a colorful description of how Koshari is served on the street and in the restaurants of Egypt:

“As the Koshary man scoops, he knocks his metal spoon against the sides of the bowls, making the Koshary symphony that you won’t hear elsewhere. When the Koshary man prepares an order of more than four the restaurant fills with sound as if it was a rehearsal for a concert. “The restaurants of Koshary are very noisy. One sits to eat while the Koshary man practices his drums in your ears.”

Abou Tarek, by the way, is the place to go.

(Some information from abissadacooks.blogspot.com; theegyptiancorner.blogspot.com; and, wikipedia.org)

Egypt!

 

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Now, on to the recipe.

 

I generally make this recipe with brown rice and whole wheat pasta.  The more traditional recipes are with white rice and regular flour pasta.  Use whatever you like.  Also, chick peas are completely optional.  I like to use them.

 

The ingredients

 

 

1 c. brown lentils, picked over and rinsed

1/2 c. pasta, like elbow, gemelli, penne, etc. (I like to use whole wheat)

1 c. rice (I like brown rice)

1 can garbanzos (chick peas), drained

3 lbs. onion, peeled and sliced thin (about 1/4″ thick)

1/2 c. olive oil

1 tsp. ground cumin

Sat & Pepper to taste

 

Stewed Tomato Sauce

2 tbsp. olive oil

1/2 c. onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 15-oz can crushed tomatoes (I like Muir Glen Fire Roasted)

2 tsp. white vinegar

1/2 tsp. ground cumin

1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

Salt & pepper to taste

 

1.  Cook the rice.  Bring 2 cups lightly salted water to a boil and add the rice.  Turn the heat down to low, cover the saucepan, and cook until the rice is done, about 40-50 minutes.  Remove the rice from the heat and set aside.

2.  Meanwhile, cook the lentils.  Bring 4 cups water to a boil and add the lentils.  Cook until the lentils are soft, about 25 – 30 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

3.  Cook the pasta.  Bring 4 c. salted water to a boil.  Add the pasta and stir until the water comes to boil again.  Cook the pasta according to the package directions.  Drain and set aside.

4.  Cook the onions.  This is actually is the longest part of the whole process, but for me anyway, is the best part.  The trick is to be patient when cooking the onions.  I cook them over medium-low to medium heat.  You can cook the onions as little or as much as you like, but the traditional way is to caramelize them.

Heat the olive oil over high heat.  Add the onions.  (I also like to add a teaspoon of salt.  It helps to release moisture from the onions and breaks them down a little faster.)  Turn the heat down to medium-low and cover with a piece of foil. (I find steaming the onions also helps with breaking them down.)  For the first 30 minutes, stir the onions occasionally, making sure you keep them covered.

Onions. The beginning. It's amazing how much they'll have cooked down at the end.

Onions. The beginning. It’s amazing how much they’ll have cooked down at the end.

 

Keeping the onions covered. I like to cover them for the first 30 minutes of cooking. I find the steaming helps the onions to release their liquid and keeps them from overcooking too quickly. However, it’s up to you.

 

After 15 minutes. The onions are beginning to wilt.

 

After 30 minutes. They’re beginning to wilt and quite a bit of liquid has been released.

 

After 45 minutes. The onions are beginning to brown.

 

After 1 hour. The liquid is beginning to evaporate and the onions are soft and continuing to brown.

 

5.  Meanwhile, make the sauce.  Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and garlic and saute until the onions are soft.

 

Sauteing the onions and garlic.

 

6.  Add the tomatoes and lower the heat to low.  Cover and simmer the sauce for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

After adding the tomatoes.

 

7.  After 20 minutes, add in the cumin, cayenne, vinegar, and salt & pepper to taste.  Set aside until the Khoshari is done.

 

The finished sauce. It can be served warm or at room temperature.

 

8.  While the sauce is cooking, the onions will continue to caramelize.  At this point, you will need to begin keeping a closer eye on the onions and stirring them more frequently.

The onions after 1 hour 15 minutes. The browning will be accellerting quickly at this point. Keep a very close eye on the onions at this point.

 

Onions at 1 hour 30 minues. You can stop at this point if you like. However, I go a little further.

 

 

Onions at 1 hour 45 minutes. Perfect.

9.  Once the onions are done, remove them from the heat, take them out of the oil, drain, and spread out on paper towels.  Keep the oil.

 

Draining the onions. Amazing how much they shrink during cooking.

 

10.  In the reserved oil, heat the rice, pasta, lentils, and garbanzos over medium-high heat.  Add the cumin, salt and pepper to taste.

Reheating the rice, pasta, lentils, and garbanzos.

 

11.  Add in the onions and mix thoroughly.  Taste for seaoning and heat through.

Yumminess.

 

12.  Serve the Khoshari with the sauce on the side.  Or, on top if you like.

Dinner. A dinner that will fill you up.  And, despite the high oil content, it’s olive oil. Monounsaturated fat.

 

Enjoy! Sahtein!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Real Ragú Doesn’t Come from a Jar 0

Posted on June 14, 2012 by Sahar

Ragú.  The word has been part of the American food lexicon since 1969. (The brand was started by a cheese importer Giovanni Cantisano and his wife Assunta in 1937 in New York. They sold the brand to Chesebrough-Ponds in 1969 for $43.8M.)  Most people know it as the original sauce in a jar (other than Chef Boyardee).  It has, admittedly, been the lifesaver of many a harried mom trying to put a hot meal on the table, college students looking for a cheap meal, and a quick substitute for pizza sauce.

However, I’m here to tell you, that isn’t real ragú.  A real ragú, as any prideful Italian will tell you, is a meat sauce that originated in the Emilia-Romanga region of Italy.  It’s not a brand name.

There are literally thousands of written recipes now for ragú.  In fact, since the original recipe was never written down, no one can say for sure that they know what the original recipe even was. It comes in many variations that are specific to the region where the recipe is developed (a very common thing still in Italy).  Recipes can be with or without tomatoes, include all different types of meats or poultry, contain offal, and be made with or without wine and/or milk.

According to culinary historians, Ragù alla Bolognese follows the origin of ragús in Italian cuisine. The first known reference to ragù as a pasta sauce dates to the  late 18th century, and originated in Imola, near to the city of Bologna.  The first recipe for a meat sauce characterized as being Bolognese came from Pellegrino Artusi and was included in his cookbook published in 1891. Artusi’s recipe, Maccheroni alla bolognese, is believed to have originated from the middle 19th century when he spent considerable time in Bologna.

Artusi’s sauce called for predominantly lean veal filet along with pancetta, butter, onion, and carrot. The meats and vegetables were to be finely minced, cooked with butter until the meats browned, then covered and cooked with broth. Artusi added the sauce could be enhanced by adding dried mushrooms, truffle slices, or finely chopped chicken liver. He further added that when the sauce was completely done you could add as a final touch half a glass of cream to make an even more delicate dish.

In the century-plus since Artusi wrote and published his recipe for Maccheroni alla Bolognese (maccheroni being a catch-all word for pasta in Artusi’s time), what is now ragù alla bolognese has evolved with the cuisine of the Emilia-Romagna region. Most notable is the preferred choice of pasta, which today is widely accepted as fresh tagliatelle (a wide, flat pasta). Another reflection of the evolution of the cuisine over the past 150 years is the addition of tomato, either as a puree or as a concentrated paste, or both, to the original mix of ingredients. Similarly, both wine and milk appear today in the list of ingredients in many of the contemporary recipes, and beef has mostly replaced veal as the preferred protein.

While the number of recipe and ingredient variations are significant, there are characteristic commonalities. Garlic is absent from all of the recipes. So are herbs other than the limited use of Bay leaves in some recipes. Seasoning is limited to salt, pepper and the occasional addition of nutmeg. In all of the recipes meat is the principal ingredient, and while tomatoes are included they are only used as an enhancement to the meat.

(Some historical information from www.wikipedia.org; and The Food Chronology, James Trager, Owl Books, 1995)

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Now, to the recipe.

 

The Ingredients

 

Ragú is actually quite easy to make.  It is a sauce that requires patience, however.  From start to finish, this sauce takes about 3 – 3 1/2 hours to prepare.  So, it’s not something you can start when you get home from work.  Nor would I recommend it for the crock pot.  However, you can make extra over the weekend or your days off.  It freezes beautifully.

This particular ragú recipe that I’m using is an adaptation of a recipe I love from Fine Cooking Magazine’s Real Italian Collection (Taunton Press, 2010).

 

3 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/2 lb. Prosciutto, thick cut, diced (keep the fat cap on.  It adds a lot of flavor to the final dish)

1 sm. onion, diced

1 carrot, diced

1 rib celery, diced

1 lb. ground pork

2 tbsp. tomato paste

1/2 c. dry white wine

1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (or to taste)

28 oz can crushed tomatoes (I like Muir Glen Fire Roasted)

1 c. beef or chicken broth

Salt & Pepper to taste

1/2 c. whole milk or half & half

1 lb. Pappardelle, Tagliatelle, or other flat, wide pasta

 

1.  Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large saucepan or Dutch oven.  Add the prosciutto and cook, stirring frequently, to crisp the prosciutto slightly and to help render the fat.

The prosciutto. Keep the fat cap. It adds a lot of flavor to the final dish.

 

Cooking the prosciutto & rendering the fat. Yummy.

 

2.  Add the onion, carrot, and celery.

The classic mirepoix. Or, in Italian, soffritto.

 

Saute the vegetables with the prosciutto until they are soft and slightly browned.  About 8 – 10 minutes.  Stir frequently.

Sauteing the vegetables.

 

Just before adding the ground pork. Note how the vegetables have softened and slightly browned.

 

3.  Add the ground pork.  Cook until the pork is no longer pink.  it doesn’t need to be browned.  Just have the pink cooked out.

After the pork has been added and cooked.

 

4.  Add in the tomato paste, white wine, and pepper flakes.  Cook until the paste has been mixed in and the most of the wine has evaporated, about 5 minutes.

After the wine, tomato paste, and pepper flakes have been added.

 

5.  Add the crushed tomatoes, beef or chicken broth, and some salt & pepper.

**Take care not to add too much salt.  The prosciutto and the broth (if you’re using commercially made) will already have salt.  If you want to omit it until later in the cooking process, go ahead.  You can always add more in later, but you can’t take it out.

Right after adding the tomatoes, broth, and salt & pepper.

 

Cover the saucepan or Dutch oven and bring the sauce to a boil.  Then, uncover, turn the heat to low, and simmer the sauce for 2 hours.  Stirring occasionally.  The flavors will mellow and mesh together as the sauce cooks.

After 30 minutes.

 

After 1 hour. This is usually the earliest point where I start tasting for seasoning.

 

After 90 minutes. Begin stirring more frequently. Again, check the seasoning.

 

At 2 hours. Notice how the sauce has thickened up and become darker in color.

 

6.  Add the milk or half & half.  Mix in and continue cooking the sauce for a further 30 minutes.  Stir frequently.

The ragú right after adding the milk.

 

7.  Meanwhile, cook the pasta.  Use a pot large enough to cook the pasta properly (i.e. keep it from sticking together in the pot) and use salted water.  Cook the pasta according to the package directions to al dente (“to the teeth”).  Drain and set aside.

(I generally don’t rinse my pasta.  I think the starch is important to helping the sauce stick to the pasta. Plus, rinsing pasta loses some of the flavor.  If you want to rinse your pasta, please don’t tell me about it.)

8.  After the final 30 minutes of cooking, remove the ragú from the heat and taste for seasoning one more time.  Serve with the pasta.  If you want to have some Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano as well, go ahead.  I generally don’t.

 

Buon Appetito!

 

 

Points East: A Chronicle 2

Posted on April 24, 2012 by Sahar

Well, my goal of  posting each day while I was on the East Coast didn’t materialize.  Surprisingly, for one of the most wired cities on the planet, my internet access was spotty.  Then, when I finally arrived home, I realized the monumental task of editing and labeling the photos I took. So, yeah. I went a little shutterbug crazy.  But the results, I’d like to think, are worth the wait.

Admittedly, I did get a little artsy with some of the photography.  These iPhone camera apps are great.

Not all my photos will be of food.  I’ll be adding a little scenery, too.  Why the hell not.

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On our first full day, Sister Haneen took Husband Steve & I up to the Hudson Valley to the FDR Library & Museum.  We’d never been that far upstate so we were looking forward to it.  It didn’t disappoint.  It was a lovely, warm day.

Husdon River Valley behind Springwood, FDR's home.

 

Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take any pictures inside Springwood.  Too bad, really.  It’s quite lovely inside. It’s pretty much just stuck in the 1940’s.

But, as was typical of large homes built in the 19th century, the kitchen was separate from the rest of the house.  We couldn’t go inside, but I could at least get a picture:

Kitchen at Springwood.

 

For those of you who are history buffs, like me, here’s FDR’s globe:

FDR's globe.

 

It was neat looking at a globe with countries that no longer exist.

 

After we were finished there, we got directions to the Eveready Diner. Apparently Guy Fieri filmed his show there once. I tried not to hold that against them.

Eveready Diner. Hyde Park, NY

 

I had the French Dip. It wasn’t the best I’d ever had.  But, the food was good enough and the atmosphere was fairly quiet (but then, it was almost 3 in the afternoon). They’re apparently known for their pastries and desserts that they make in-house.

 

On our first foray into Manhattan, Husband & I enjoyed a lovely lunch at Eataly in the Flatiron District.

The Flatiron Building

 

Union Square Park. Across from Eataly. Flatiron District.

 

Admittedly, we indulged.  Our appetizer (or, antipasti) was a ball of fresh mozzarella with fleur de sel, very fruity olive oil, and fresh basil.

Our appetizer at Eataly

 

 

Husband Steve had a lovely sea scallop with the coral broiled with orange-fennel butter.

Husband Steve's Lunch.

 

My lunch was fresh sea urchin with a lemon vinaigrette.

The Author's Lunch

 

We finished with the insalada tricolore.  It was wonderful.

End Of Lunch Salad

Eataly is a sensory delight.  Even if Italian food isn’t your favorite.  The fresh food counters, the packaged foods, the hundreds of different dried pastas, and all the restaurants make a trip to the grocery a pleasant experience again.  That is, of you go before or between the lunch and dinner rushes.

Fresh meat counter at Eataly

 

Seafood counter at Eataly

 

Fresh Greens. Eataly

 

The next day, we took a trip to the Seventh Level of Hell. Otherwise known as Times Square.

Times Square.

 

Andy Warhol Statue near Times Square. Enjoying its 15 minutes of fame.

 

 

We headed to the Edison Cafe for lunch. It’s in the Edison Hotel right off of Times Square near the Theater District.

Arches inside Edison Cafe. Old school.

 

Husband Steve had the Reuben:

Reuben at Edison Cafe

 

I had my usual whenever I go to a deli,  a Corned Beef on Rye. Their corned beef was dry, but the flavor was good.

Corned beef on rye.

 

Now to share a little culture.  Husband Steve & I took a long afternoon and went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met). I was excited because the museum just re-opened it’s Islamic Art wing as well as re-designed and refurbished its American Art wing.  Can’t go wrong there.

Folio page from a Qu'ran. 14th Century Iraq.

 

Mihrab. Iran. 14th Century. (Marks the direction of Mecca in the mosque)

 

Still Life: Balsam Apples with Vegetables. Charles Peale, 1820-1830

 

Madame X. John Singer Sargent (one of my favorite American artists). There's a book about this painting. Get it. It's great.

 

Can't get much more American than this. Washington Crossing the Delaware. Emanuel Leutze. 1851

 

On our way to Penn Station to catch the train back to New Jersey, we came across Cupcakes by Melissa

Itty bitty Cupcakes by Melissa

 

These were delicious little literally bite-sized cupcakes that come in 11 regular flavors and one “special flavor of the month”.  We picked up a dozen to take back to share with Sister Haneen & Brother-in-Law Mark.

Closer view of Melissa's cupcakes

 

If you’re like me, you’ll be able to eat these in one bite. If you’re dainty like my Mom, two bites.

 

The next day, strolling through Chinatown, as always, I found some fun and interesting foods

Lovely little dried veggies and seafood. Chinatown.

 

Almost bought these for the hell of it.

 

Dried salted squid.

 

The next day, a little more culture. MoMA

Still Life with Apples. Paul Cezanne

 

Starry Night. Vincent Van Gogh.

 

Waterlilies. Detail. Claude Monet

After MoMA, Steve & I went with our friend Rorie (who graciously came down from Boston for the day) to a place I’ve been wanting to try for years: Sake Bar Hagi.

Sake Bar Hagi

 

They’re a late night place. Open at 5:30 pm until 3 am.  You go down a stairwell to essentially an underground lair. We discovered the day before (during a bar crawl with Haneen & Mark) that if you don’t get there essentially when they open, count on at least a 45-minute wait. Minimum.  So, we were there promptly at 5:30 and were the first table seated for the night. The place was packed within 20 minutes of our arrival.

Tako Yaki with Bonito. Essentially fried balls of dough with octopus. Yum.

 

Wasabi Dumplings. Horseradishy.

 

Yakatori. Wagu Beef; Chicken Skin; Pork Belly. Always delicious.

 

Softshell Crab Tempura. We ordered this twice.

 

Grilled Rice Cakes. One was filled with shad roe (an acquired taste) and the other was salmon.

 

Front: Deep fried Pork Belly (can't go wrong there); Back: Shrimp Tempura. By this point, we were hurting

 

When we left, about 90 minutes later, the line was up the stairs and out the door.

If you get an opportunity to go to Hagi, do it.  The food’s great, the beer’s cold, and the service is, if not always attentive, it’s at least efficient.

Our next big food experience happened on a trip into Newark.  Haneen said there was a restaurant in the Portuguese section of the city that she really liked.  She made a great decision:

Sister's restaurant choice in Newark. Good Choice.

 

Fresh Clams on the Half Shell. A revelation for me.

 

We each ordered our own entree.  However, we had no idea how huge the plates were.  The food was served on plates that were essentially meant to be passed around family style.  There was enough food on each plate for two people.  We each ate our fair share, though.

My lunch. Grilled Octopus. The boiled vegetables were excellent, too. They actually had flavor.

 

Steve's choice. Grilled Salmon with Compound Butter. His favorite.

 

Haneen's Choice. Essentially "Cod Face". It tasted better than it looked. She ordered it because there were chick peas on the side.

 

On Steve’s last evening in the City, we went to Central Park West & the Upper West Side.  We were meeting a lady of whom I’m a huge fan, comedienne Maysoon Zayid.  We were early, so we wandered around Central Park for a bit.

Central Park West

 

Springtime in Central Park

 

No trip to Central Park West is complete without a visit to Strawberry Fields.

 

We went to Josie’s on Amsterdam & West 74th.  I was told when it first opened in 1994, it was supposedly The Place To Go Restaurant for fresh ingredient foods.  It was good, but nothing was a revelation for me.  In fact, Maysoon had to send back her shrimp because it was bad.  She did like the beet salad they substituted for her.  And she also liked my pasta with pomodoro.

I was so engaged in conversation that I forgot to take pictures of the food.

A photo of us.  The lighting doesn’t do Maysoon justice.  She’s a beautiful woman.

At Josie's with the lovely, beautiful & very funny Maysoon Zayid.

 

 

For Steve’s final meal in New York City, we met up with my dear friend, the wonderful Kelly Ann (with whom I’d be bunking for the next week), and headed to Katz’s Deli for lunch. It’s very close to her place in the East Village, so it was a logical choice.

It’s touristy and pricey, but if you enjoy excellent corned beef & pastrami, it’s still the place to go.

Reuben and Egg Cream. Katz's Deli. Steve's choice. Of course.

 

And, yes. I ordered the Corned Beef. The best I’ve ever tasted.  And a Chocolate Egg Cream? A must-have.

Quite possibly the greatest corned beef sandwich ever. Corned Beef on Rye with Mustard. Katz's Deli.

 

After Steve handed me off to Kelly and took the train back to NJ to fly back home, Kelly & I decided to begin our food adventures.  I suggested a place that I’d heard about on Anthony Bourdain’s show.

Big Gay Ice Cream. You just can't go wrong here.

 

The guys who opened the shop started out in a truck.  They became so popular, they were able to open a brick-and-mortar.

I wish I had gotten a photo of what we had: The Salty Pimp.  A cone with vanilla soft serve, laced with Dulche de Leche, sprinkled with Fleur de Sel, and dipped in chocolate.  We ate it too fast for me to take a picture.

They have custom cones (like the Bea Arthur: vanilla soft serve, Nilla Wafers, Dulch de Leche, and Fleur de Sel), ice cream sandwiches, and a make-your own selection.

I saw two gentlemen standing outside near us eating the sandwiches.  I asked how they were.  They said great and offered Kelly & I a bite.  After some initial hesitation, I took him up on his offer.  It was red velvet cookies with the soft serve.  Wow.

After a lovely conversation about ice cream, food, and the South, we parted company.  Amazing how ice cream brings people together.

Needless to say, Kelly & I went back to BGIC 2 more times.  Hey, it’s in her neighborhood. And it’s always good to shop at local businesses.

 

The next day, Thursday, was a long day.  Kelly & I started at 8am and didn’t finish our day until 1am Friday.  Because it was IACP Tour & Event Day.

Kelly assigned me to help out with the walking tours for the West Village, East Village, and to escort a group to Chef Hiroko Shimbo’s home for a Kaiseki (formal Japanese) Dinner.  Kelly helped me out with the first part of the West Village tour, then she had to leave to take care of her own tours (so, we didn’t meet up again until late in the evening at the end of Hiroko’s dinner).

I was left in the very competent hands of the amazing Liz Young.  She does bus & walking tours in the City (www.lizyoungtors.com).  If you get the opportunity to take a tour with her, do it.  Liz is just wonderful.  And she knows the places to go.  You won’t be disappointed.

The wonderful & amazing Liz Young

 

We started in the West Village & Greenwich.  Our first stop was Pasticceria Rocco.

Rocco's. On Bleecker St. in the West Village

 

They’ve been open since 1974 and are apparently world-famous for their cannoli. We were given a small custard pastry and coffee for samples.  While I’m sure they have plenty of wonderful pastries, I wasn’t impressed by what we were given.

But, the counters were pretty.

Rocco's front window.

 

Lovely little pastries at Rocco's

 

Rocco's pastry counter #2

 

Our next stop was Florence Meat Market on Jones Street.  One of the last of the old-school butchers in NYC:

Florence's front window. I just thought it was cool looking.

 

Old style butcher. A dying breed.

 

Next was Fiacco Pork Store on Bleecker.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get pictures of the samples – parmesan rice balls.  They were delicious:

Faicco's

By this point in the day, I was already full.

 

Next was Murray’s Cheese Shop, also on Bleeker. It was gorgeous.

Cheese straws at Murray's. Mmm...

 

Murray's charcuterie counter

 

Cheese counter at Murray's

 

Next came Raffetto’s.  It’s been around since 1906.  Once you try their fresh pasta, you’ll know why.  It was so good, it literally brought tears to my eyes.

The wonderful Andrew and his great mom Ramona. And Liz.

 

The amazing Ramona with fresh cut pasta. The machine behind her is 90 years old.

 

Raffetto's grocery shelves

 

Ramona & Liz.

 

West Village. Sullivan Street.

 

Beautiful church across from Joe's Dairy.

 

After a little hike, we ended up at Joe’s Dairy on Sullivan Street.  The great Vincent came out and acted as guru of mozzarella.

The great Vincent. NYC's Mozzarella Guru.

This mozzarella was literally 5 minutes old.

 

Brother Michael making the mozzarella. Joe's Dairy.

 

The final stop on the West Village Tour was Amorino Gelato by NYU.  I didn’t have any because I was already full from everything else.  But it sure looked good.  The people on the tour enjoyed it.

Amorino's flavors.

 

Very handsome and very Italian store manager. I forgot his name. Shame.

 

5th Ave. near NYU.

 

 

Next, after a 30-minute rest, Liz & I headed out for the East Village walking tour.

East Village.

 

East Village. Looking down Second Ave.

 

We started at Veselka, an Eastern European restaurant on Second Street.  It was opened in 1954 by Ukrainian immigrant Wolodymyr Darmochwal.  His daughter and son-in-law still run the restaurant.

 

Veselka.

 

Perogies. The house specialty. Potato and Cabbage & Pork. This was a sample plate. Even after working off the previous tour's food, these filled me up.

 

Our next stop was Pomme Frites on 2nd Ave.  It’s one of my friend Kelly Ann’s favorite places to go.  One of these days I’ll have to try their poutine.

Pomme Frites on 2nd. Ave. East Village

 

Pomme Frites up close. Decadent.

 

Off we then wandered to the underground wonderland that’s Jimmy’s No. 43.  You literally go down a flight of stairs on E. 7th into a cozy spot where you can get some wonderful craft beers, locally made sausages with fabulous mustards, and your amiable host, Jimmy Carbone.

Jimmy Carbone. Hugs all the men and kisses all the ladies.

 

The entrance to Jimmy's lair.

 

Mmm... Beer

 

Can't go wrong with sausage and mustard with beer.

 

 

One street over on St. Marks (essentially 8th Street), on the edge of Alphabet City, was Dumpling Man. Hand made dumplings.

Dumpling Man!

 

We got a live demonstration from their head dumpling master.  He was amazing to watch.  Flying fingers, this guy had:

Makin' the dumplings.

 

Dumplings frying. Pork, Shrimp, Veggie.

 

Veggie Soup Dumplings

 

Their own creation, Pumpkin Spice Dumplings. They smelled great and the crowd loved 'em.

 

The dumplings there were so good, Kelly Ann & I ordered them for dinner three nights later.  Great dipping sauces, too, by the way.

 

A little impromptu public art.

 

At this point, I left the tour.  I had to go back to Kelly’s apartment to get ready for the event I’d been looking forward to all day. A Kaiseki Dinner at Hiroko Shimbo’s.

I had to escort a group of 13 to the dinner at Hiroko’s in the West Village.  In the end, 3 went ahead of time and 4 took a cab, so I escorted the other 6 on the F Train to 16th Street.  We arrived to a beautiful table, Hiroko playing hostess, and some awesome smells coming from the kitchen.

Table at Hiroko's.

 

Ikebana. I think these were plum blossoms.

 

Individual place setting. Hiroko's.

 

A place setting menu. Normally, a Kaiseki dinner can be up to 15 - 20 courses. Hiroko played it sane and kept it to 7 courses.

 

Hiroko was short an assistant that night.  I was recruited to help.  So, for me anyway, I got the best of both worlds.  I still got to sit and enjoy a wonderful dinner as well as help Hiroko and her lovely assistant, Anna, in the kitchen.

 

Anna (r) and Hiroko in the kitchen prepping the Sushi and Sashimi

 

Hiroko in her kitchen. I want her kitchen.

 

Now, for the food.  It was amazing.  And, for me anyway, it was a revelation to have a Japanese dinner without tempura, yakatori, minimal sushi, and no beer.

 

This was an extra appetizer not on the menu. It was eggplant with a miso sauce.

 

Asparagus Kuzu Tofu. Very distinct asparagus flavor and very creamy. Almost like a custard. And, yes. That's real gold on top.

 

Clear Soup Broth. Duck Meatball Soup. The greens were almost like a Chinese Spinach. There was also a little crispy duck skin in the broth as an extra flavoring component.

 

Slapjack Tuna sushi/sashimi

 

My favorite. Braised Short Ribs. Although I think this was actually brisket. The sauce had a slightly sweet mirin/5-spicy flavor.

 

Final Course. Rice & Miso Soup. The pickled radish was a last minute addition.

 

Dessert. Fruit, Shiratama with Creme Anglaise (she made it with green tea).

 

The sake served: Kamoshibito Kuheiji and Oze no Yukidoke

 

It was a great reward for a very long day.

Kelly & I went back to the apartment and slept until almost noon the next day.  We deserved it.

 

A few days later, on a very cold, drizzly day, Kelly & I took a trip to Chinatown. No trip to New York is complete until a walk through there.  Plus, the food markets are a constant source of fascination for me.

We went to a restaurant I had on a list that I sent Kelly before my trip.  (I always send a suggested list ahead of time.  Kelly always has a list.  They get merged into a list that’s always overambitious.)

The restaurant? Excellent Pork Chop. Other than the meal we got for free my last day, this was the least expensive meal of the trip.

They actually made us move to a different table because, as usual, we ordered way too much food.

My favorite thing about the restaurant? The shrine in the corner:

Shrine at Excellent Pork Chop.

 

And, now, for the meal:

 

Shrimp Fried Rice.

 

Stir Fried Pork with Rice Cakes.

 

Kelly's lunch. Won Ton Soup. Bet you'd never seen it look like this.

 

Won Tons in Garlic-Chili Sauce.

 

Their Excellent Pork Chop. It was a broiled chop rubbed with 5-spice.

 

My lunch. Clear Seafood Broth with Fish Balls. A funny name for something really delicious.

 

A little Chinatown culture:

Ducks in the window.

 

A classic storefront in Chinatown.

 

Again, the markets are endlessly fascinating for me.  The little dried vegetables, seafood, and meats; the preserved eggs, and the freshness of many of the ingredients are always a learning experience.

 

Live shrimp at Deluxe Food Market in Chinatown.

 

Live crab. Deluxe Food Market.

 

Lovely Chinese Bacon. I almost bought some.

 

Loaves of cooked pork blood.

 

Whole dry salted duck.

 

Pig uterus. I'm actually curious as to how this is cooked. Braised, I'm guessing.

 

If you’ve been to NYC, then you know that Little Italy is not only next to Chinatown, but is essentially being swallowed up by it.  There’s about 8 blocks of classic Little Italy left in Lower Manhattan.  And I may be overestimating the size of the neighborhood.

But, even though the restaurants are almost all touristy – meaning sub-par and overpriced – there are at least still some shops that are clinging to the old ways.

Thank goodness.

Beautiful dried sausages. Alleva Dairy. Little Italy, NYC

 

Fresh mozzarella. Alleva Dairy.

 

Proscuitto! Alleva Dairy.

 

And, of course, the shop windows are rather enticing.  They make you want to eat again even though you’re full of Chinese Lunch.

Can't remember the store. But, their windows were beautiful.

 

Lovely. Just Lovely.

 

The next day, Sunday, was our big goal day.  Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge.  Kelly & I have done this before, but, at least for me, it’s still an exciting expedition.

But first, we were meeting  our friends Cathy and Ray at Bottega Falai.  A cute little pastry & sandwich shop in SoHo on Lafayette.

Yummy bomboloni. My breakfast that day was the chocolate filled.

 

Crepe Cakes at Bottega Falai.

 

On a wall in SoHo next to a parking lot. The photo doesn't do this art justice.

 

Walking through Soho

 

Off the subway and near the Brooklyn Bridge.  Our ultimate goal? Grimaldi’s Pizza.

Touristy? Yeah.  Delicious? Most definitely.

The Gehry Building. The tallest residential building in the world. Or so I'm told.

 

Off the subway, near City Hall and across from the Bridge.

 

Not sure of the name of this building, but I love the old-school architecture. Downtown NYC

 

First arches. Brooklyn Bridge.

 

Looking into Manhattan from the Bridge

 

Looking back into Lower Manhattan at the WTC construction.

 

Manhattan and the East River from the Bridge

 

Sweet, sweet Brooklyn.

 

Our first stop in Brooklyn was at a restored carousel Kelly wanted to see.

Jane’s Carousel is a completely restored historic Carousel made in 1922.  It’s a beautiful 3-row carousel near the East River between the Brooklyn & Manhattan Bridges (janescarousel.com)

Jane's Carousel. Brooklyn

 

Jane's Carousel. Brooklyn

 

I just thought he was beautiful. Jane's Carousel.

 

Now, for a little public art:

This artist, every day for 2 years, would use a color to express his mood. Now it's hanging up in Brooklyn across the street from Jacque Torres' Shop. Delicious hot chocolate, by the way.

 

After a bit more walking around, we finally ended up at our ultimate goal. Grimaldis.

The queue at Grimaldi's.

 

The story of the queue. Yes, the line was long. It was also cold and damp.  But, when you know you’re going to eat some damn good pizza, you’re willing to put up with a bit of discomfort.

After about 20 minutes in line, a manager from the restaurant started coming out and announcing numbers. Mostly 2.  When Kelly & I were finally the first party of 2 in the queue, we got to go in ahead of most of the rest of the people.  I couldn’t help but feel a little smug.  And, we were grateful to get into a warm room.

We sat at a cozy little 4-top next to a lovely couple from Maryland.

After waiting for our waiter to stop flirting with two blondes at the bar, we finally got to put in our order.

Pizza #1: The Classic Margarhita. We ate half of it before I remembered to take the picture.

 

Pizza #2: May Favorite. Pepperoni, Sausage, and Mushroom.

 

By the way, we were really hungry.  We had 4 pieces left.  We took them back to Kelly’s.  Of course.

 

The next day, Long Island City & Astoria in Queens.  Because, why the hell not?

The Burger Garage in Long Island City, Queens. Delicious. Their shakes are great. I ate too fast to get a food photo.

 

We went to a place under the El called 5 Pointz.  It’s a group of buildings that have been set aside for graffiti artists.  Some of their art is amazing.  It’s a wonder what can be done with spray paint and some talent.

An interesting take on Alice in Wonderland. 5 Pointz, Queens

 

I really liked this one in particular. It was very different from all the other art.

 

One of the few where I could actually read what had been written. 5 Pointz.

 

More art. 5 Pointz.

 

From Long Island City to Astoria:

For you 30 Rock Fans. Where they do most of their principal filming. On the way to Astoria.

 

Looking from Queens towards Roosevelt Island and Manhattan

 

An Egyptian restaurant in Astoria, Queens, Kelly & I wanted to try. Unfortunately, it's closed on Mondays. But, the facade is great.

 

Back in the East Village later that night, we went to what is considered to be one of the best Thai restaurants in the City, Zabb Elee, on 2nd Avenue.  It was perfect after a very chilly day.

 

Spicy Noodle Soup with Meatballs, Fishballs, and Noodles. Perfect after a long wet walk around Queens.

 

Shrimp & Basil Salad. Kelly said it was quite spicy. And delicious.

 

As our final outing for the evening, we went to Veniero’s on East 11th.  One of the oldest Italian pastry shops in NYC.  Open since 1894.

Veniero's front window.

 

The pastry counter. Veniero.

 

Mini Cream Tarts. These were great. I had mine for breakfast.

 

My final day in New York consisted of an excursion to Chelsea and the Meat Packing Districts.  We went to Chelsea Market since I’ve never been before.  It wasn’t what I expected.

It looked to me like offshoots of the restaurants in the area with a few gift shops thrown in for good measure.   I wasn’t impressed.  So, I didn’t feel the need to take any photos.

Kelly & I went to Pastis for a quick bite.  A French Bistro that opened in the Meat Packing District in 1999.  It’s a fairly large space that they claimed was half reserved for the evening and they weren’t setting anyone in that space.  So, they were crowding everyone into the area around the bar.  Then, of course, I saw them seating people in the roped off section.  Either evening came early or we weren’t pretty enough to sit there.

Snark aside, when we finally did get our food (our waiter forgot to turn in our order), it was quite good.  But then, it’s hard to mess up a ham & cheese croissant.  And, Kelly missed out on her poached eggs.  They ran out.

The artifically antiqued mirror at Pastis.

 

But, we did get our brunch for free.  I’d like to give them another shot on another trip. Maybe lunch.

 

We then went, for my last excursion, to the Highline.  It’s an old elevated railway that was converted into an elevated walkway and park.  A wonderful example of urban renewal.

On the Highline.

 

Public Art at the Highline.

 

Spring colors on the Highline.

 

Looking into Chelsea from the Highline.

 

The Highline.

 

The Empire State Building peeking over Chelsea.

 

Bird feeders at the Highline.

 

Final NYC photo. The East River.

 

After a rather convoluted trip home that consisted of getting stuck in traffic and missing my flight from JFK, getting rerouted, having to spend the night at my parents, and getting home 14 hours later than I originally planned, I made it home to Austin.

First meal home in Austin. Arandas #3. Chicken Flautas and Beef Enchiladas.

 

As much as I enjoyed my trip, I was very happy to be home.  But, if someone offered me a ticket to go back tomorrow, I’d take it.

 

I’ll have more pictures posted soon on my photo page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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