Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | May 18, 2015

At 9th Avenue International Food Festival/New York City


By

Ernest Barteldes

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The annual 9th Avenue International Food Festival has become our unofficial kick-off to summer events, and it is something I look forward to every year – larger and more diverse than most street fairs that occur throughout New York City, it features various local restaurants serving food and beverages outdoors for quite affordable prices – for instance, one Thai location was selling Singha beer for just $ 3, while Brazilian eatery Rice and Beans had finger food for as little as $ 2.

Renata and I started from the beginning on W 42nd street (we passed by B.B. King’s Club and saw the wreath and flowers set up there as a memorial to the late blues legend, who had passed on earlier that week), and started out at Thai food stand, where we bought vegetarian spring rolls and chicken satay, and then we made our way to another Thai location where we got a drink to wash down the food.

Crawfish at Delta Grill

Crawfish at Delta Grill

Along the way there are several other vendors selling everything from insulting T-shirts, pashminas, makeup and other accessories.  Well-known venues like Ruby’s have specials throughout the day, and another has a whole pig being roasted for sandwiches.  We didn’t stop there, and made our way up the avenue where we met with David and his wife Martha (loyal readers will remember them from my blog about our visit to Jamaica in 2014).

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When at the Festival, I make a point of stopping at Delta Grill to get some alligator sausage, a delicacy that is shipped directly from Louisiana especially for this event (the restaurant serves them at the bar, but the presentation is quite different) –  the meat is deliciously spicy and is served with brown mustard on the side.  David and Martha debated getting some crawfish, but in the end they changed their mind. I thought Renata would get some Polish food, but she didn’t seem interested in it this time around.

Rice and Beans Restaurant

Rice and Beans Restaurant

Our next stop was at Rice and Beans, where we got some pastel (fried dumplings) and pao de queijo (cheese bread) and a couple of red sangrias. They had tables there, so we sat for a while as we enjoyed our food and rest our feet a bit.  I also went across the street for a couple of vegetable samosas from Indian vendors as Renata and Martha checked out the makeup stand.  We walked a bit more towards the end of the festival at W 57th Street, where they had some rides for kids.

As usual it was a very nice experience – the weather was almost perfect (unlike two years ago when we were soaked by spring showers) so it was a nice way to spend a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon.  At around 4:30 PM we headed back to 8th Avenue and took the train back downtown

Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | May 11, 2015

The African Burial Ground National Monument , Lower Manhattan


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by Ernest Barteldes

http://www.nps.gov/afbg/index.htm

Over a decade ago I was walking up Whitehall Street when I saw a group of African-American men in top hats getting ready to take some carriages over to the African Burial Ground on Broadway for a re-burial ceremony. I had heard about the discovery of a forgotten cemetery that was rediscovered during preparations for a new federal building, but the events following 9-11 had obscured that memory. Luckily I had a (film) camera with me and I took a few snapshots of the preparations and made a mental note to visit the monument – but somehow I completely forgot about it and even though I had walked or ridden my bike next to the location countless times, I had never actually made a stop there.

As I walked into the visitor center at 290 Broadway, I had to go through airport-like security (including the removal of shoes and belt) and began my visit with a 20-minute video presentation that gave viewers a general background of the site and the efforts to preserve the site for future generations and the compromise to carry on with the construction of a new federal building with a section to remember the dead buried there with the respect they deserve.

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The rest of the exhibit showed a brief history of slavery in America, including its roots in the African continent, where North Africans would kidnap and capture citizens of other regions and sell them to Europeans, the history of the beginning and end of the practice in New York and of course a re-creation of a funeral for a man and a child felled by disease. Around the exhibit it is mentioned (with 3-D effect)  that most of the funerals were done under strict regulations imposed by slave-owners – services were conducted at twilight but before dusk and no more than 12 Africans could be present because whites feared Africans congregating in large numbers.

There were also video presentations about the history of the location and a place where visitors could record their own impressions for posterity. I sat and recorded a brief message of my own apologizing for not having been there before.

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On the outside around the corner stands the actual granite monument, where a water fountain flows around the markings of some of the graves describing the bodies discovered there. The inscription reads “For all those who were lost, For all those who were stolen, For all those who were left behind,  For all those who are not forgotten.”  A staircase inside the monument representing the “door to no return” that Western Africans were forced through into their path to slavery  leads to four large grass-covered mounds where the reinterred remains were laid to rest after being removed for study upon discovery.

It is hard to describe my feelings about being there. Inside the visitors’ center I chatted with several folks who had come from far away to see it with their own eyes. I spoke with an African-American woman from Upstate New York who told me it was an awesome experience to see this, because she is aware that her roots come from somewhere around that very site. I was glad to be there but also felt grieved that so many buried on that site (plus countless bodies lost under landfill and construction) ended their lives with so much pain and suffering – the thought was just unbearable.

Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | April 27, 2015

Burning Love: At The New York Hot Sauce Expo

Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | April 13, 2015

Sandwich Saturday plus Sheryl’s Tuna Salad



By Ernest Barteldes

Even though both Renata and I are off on Saturdays, that day tends to be a bit hectic in our household – after all, we both have a bit of a tight schedule that includes going to the gym and food shopping, writing assignments I was unable to wrap during the week and of course there is always some kind of outing – something increasingly true when warmer climates set in and the number of concerts we are interested in going to become more plentiful.

Long ago we reserved Sundays for more elaborate dishes – the other evening I spent hours laboring over the pots to make Polish golapki (stuffed cabbage), a process that includes boiling and peeling leaves from cabbage, preparing the stuffing and finally steaming the stuff in broth for over an hour – something I am completely unable to do unless I have tons of time on my hands.
For reasons I cannot recall Saturday lunch became “sandwich day” for us. It wasn’t something we actually planned out from the start, but it became something we began doing simply because it was convenient, fast and not really messy. But just because we are putting something between two slices of bread (or in some cases, a large flour tortilla) does it mean we are getting lazy. There are many ways to create varieties of tasteful and often healthy options.

When I make simple hot dogs, I take a page from Brazilian culture and add homemade vinaigrette that includes chopped onions, bell peppers and tomatoes instead of just using ketchup and mustard. When it’s not too hot, I will make a zapiekanka – a meat-free option that includes mushrooms, cheese and a copious amount of ketchup. And of course I do a lot of research for new recipes and ideas to make lazy “Sandwich Saturday” a special day every time.

A recent discovery was a twist on the classic tuna salad sandwich that I found on Sheryl Crow’s “If It Makes You Healthy” cookbook – an easy and nutritious option that had us licking our fingers at the end of the meal.

Sheryl’s Tuna Salad
Source: If It Makes You Healthy cookbook (Kindle Edition)

Ingredients
o 2 (3 3/4 ounce) cans organic wild albacore tuna, dolphin-safe
o 1/3 cup finely diced tart apple, such as Granny Smith
o 1/4 cup finely diced celery
o 2 tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise
o 1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped flat leaf parsley
o 1/3 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
o salt & freshly ground black pepper

Directions
1.In a glass or plastic bowl, mix with a fork the tuna, apple, celery, mayo, parsley and lemon juice. Avoid over stirring, you don’t want it mushy. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

2.Serve right away – with salad greens and other veggies, if desired-or cover and refrigerate for up to 48 hours.


Ernest Barteldes:

It’s Good Friday, so here’s my offering on the topic from 2013

Originally posted on In the Kitchen and Around The World:

Being both countries of immigrants,  The United States and Brazil have various Easter traditions that were blended together by the different nations that built the country over the years – for instance, Brazilians usually have codfish on Good Friday because Catholic tradition mandates that followers abstain from meats that bleed on that day.

Here in America, for example, many celebrate Easter Sunday by serving ham or roast lamb – the latter having come directly from the Jews’ Passover meal (lamb with bitter herbs and unleavened bread) that somehow crossed over and adapted to Christian tables.  Brazilians absorbed many Western European customs that came with the immigrants – from Italy they got the “Colomba Pascal,” a pigeon-shaped citrus fruit cake that is enjoyed around the country (but mostly in Sao Paulo) and stewed lamb, which symbolizes the slaughter of the sacrificial lamb.

In the northeastern city of Fortaleza there is the…

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Ernest Barteldes:

Since good Friday is coming up again… Let’s look back

Originally posted on In the Kitchen and Around The World:

By Ernest Barteldes

Until decades ago, Roman Catholics abstained from meat on Fridays as form of penance in honor of the death of Jesus Christ on the cross, but after Vatican II the requirement was dropped and the decision to continue the tradition or not was left up to each nation’s churches. Most dropped the rule (though some heavily Catholic nations still keep doing so), and today most just abstain from meat on Fridays during the period of Lent – and especially on Good Friday.

Many people are unaware that the Catholic Church still recommends abstaining from meat on Fridays, but Renata and I do keep Fridays meat-free year round and opt instead for vegetarian of fish-based dishes. Of course this is not a problem because we do not eat red meat at home as a rule. In fact, since we are both big seafood and vegetable fans, sometimes we…

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Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | March 21, 2015

The joys of baking plus Fish in Polish Sauce


By Ernest Barteldes

The only thing I actually enjoy about the colder months of the year is that I can freely use my oven to bake and roast – something that is simply impossible during the summer, when the intense heat combined with the humidity basically force me to concentrate in making dishes that don’t expose me to excessive heat – so grilling is basically what I do on the hottest days of the year.

Strangely enough, this didn’t affect me as much when I was living in Fortaleza, where temperatures are often close to 30 C (about 88F). I guess the humidity is not as bad there, and there is always a bit of a breeze – at least when it comes to Fortaleza. Either that or I had grown so accustomed to the heat that the oven did not affect me.

Baking and roasting makes not only for healthier dishes, but it also gives the amateur cook a chance to make more unusual ingredient combinations that would never work with a frying pan, a toaster oven or even a microwave. I have never heard of stove-top lasagna, for instance (I am sure someone has figured out a way to do it, but I digress). Also, once the dish is in the oven, I don’t really have to worry much about stirring, checking on water, oil or anything like that – it is quite a low-maintenance effort in most cases, and of course baked and stewed dishes taste after they’ve been refrigerated overnight.

Among my personal favorites are Hawaiian chicken, which is basically chicken breast roasted in a thick sweet and sour sauce made from pineapple juice, soy sauce, ketchup and brown sugar. I also love baking lasagnas and of course eggplant parmesan, which is meatless and utterly delicious if made right. Lately, however, I have been discovering new ways to cook fish, and via Latin American websites I have found many interesting ideas using seafood – something I usually either stew (like in the case of my personal favorite, fish moqueca) or grill.

One personal favorite is fish in “Polish” sauce – a simple recipe that is not really part of the traditional canon of Renata’s native land – you simply broil the fish and later add a simple sauce made with butter, boiled eggs and dill. It is quite delicious, and goes great with a side of potatoes. I am not sure why the recipe has that name – I guess it is because of the dill – a common ingredient in that country’s cuisine.

Fish in “Polish” sauce

Ingredients:

1 Lb. flounder or other firm fish

2-3 tablespoons of melted butter

2-3 large eggs, boiled and chopped

Fresh dill, chopped (to taste)

Salt and black pepper to taste

1 tbsp lemon juice

Preparation

Line an oven proof dish with aluminum foil. Add the fish and brush with a little of the butter and season with salt and pepper. Turn on broiler and broil the fish until done (no more than 10 minutes). In the meantime, mix remaining butter,  lemon, dill and chopped eggs.  Remove the fish from broiler and transfer to serving dish and pour sauce over it. Serve with boiled baby carrots and mashed potatoes.

Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | March 16, 2015

Sunday Breakfast: Not the time to rush plus “Cuban” Burritos


Years ago Renata and I decided that buying a bagel with cream cheese on the way to work was not the best of options – first because it is an unnecessary expense, and second that it is not the healthiest thing to have in the first place.

Every morning as I begin brewing our morning coffee as Renata is still snoozing, I fire up our toaster oven and make us two cheese and cold cut sandwiches. Sometimes I have a bowl of cereal, but found that it was more effective to take a shower while the oven did its job. Once I am out of the shower, I pour a cup of coffee, get dressed and prepare my backpack for the day ahead. I end the routine by leaving Renata’s breakfast and packed lunch by her bead along with a cup of coffee and go out my door. The routine is complete as I eat my sandwich on the Staten Island Ferry accompanied by a book or a magazine (I stopped reading daily newspapers a long time ago).

On weekends it is a completely different story, and that is especially true on Sunday, when I have more time on my hands to make something a bit more special.  On Saturdays it’s not that different from the rest of the week, since I still get up early to go to the gym, but the sandwich is a bit more elaborate. But on Sundays I treat breakfast in a very special way, and try to do something different every time, and vary from baked frittatas to vegetable omelets and even breakfast pizza, a recipe I discovered when Renata and I had brunch at this place in downtown Manhattan (don’t ask, I cannot remember exactly where it was)

One thing I have become fond of making is breakfast burritos – there are many varieties, going from Santa Fe (made with potatoes, chorizo, salsa cheese and eggs) to what is called “Cuban style,”  which is an easy scramble with eggs, ham, cheese and red bell peppers wrapped into a tortilla –  a filling way to start the day.

“Cuban” Burritos

(Source: Univision Delicioso)

Ingredients

3 large eggs

¾ cups of chopped ham

1 bell pepper, chopped

½ cup shredded cheese (I use cheddar or Monterey Jack)

Salt and pepper to taste

½ tbsp. butter

2 burrito-size flour tortilla

Instructions:

Melt the butter and sauté the red pepper until softened. Add the ham and stir or another minute and add the eggs. Scrambling until cooked. Add salt and pepper and divide mixture in two, placing each half in heated tortilla. Wrap and serve accompanied by tropical fruit.

Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | February 27, 2015

Mahi-Mahi – the Path

Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | February 2, 2015

Cooking Quickly with Some Planning


By Ernest Barteldes

I would never endorse Martha Stewart’s idea that food needs to be prepared in 15 minutes or less or else it’s a waste of time – after all, there are many great dishes that require more attention than TV advertisers might prefer but I admit to cutting a few corners when time is of the essence – I usually prepare our bag lunches a day early and since I routinely get home after 9 PM, there is little time to slice and dice – so I resort to a number of shortcuts to make things easier but still appetizing.

This means that I often store frozen vegetables, individually packed fish fillets, canned beans and the like so I can get things going more quickly. I might not always clock things at 15 minutes or less, but the overall result is usually positive – Renata hasn’t complained that a dish has bad taste as of yet.

One of the key things about being able to get the results I need is basically planning. When the week begins, I look at my pantry and to see what I have in store (there’s always that can of tuna or frozen mixed vegetables you forgot about) and start thinking what I can do with them. After that, I plan the menu for the entire week and go to a supermarket to get the remaining ingredients I need. After that, it’s just making the dishes in the simplest way possible. One staple here at home is cornmeal-encrusted fried fish fillets served over rice and beans – something simple, quick and satisfying that only takes a few minutes to prepare.

CORNMEAL-CRUSTED FRIED FISH WITH RICE AND BEANS

(Serves 2)

Ingredients

1 ½ cups cornmeal

Salt, cayenne pepper, garlic powder and dried basil to taste

2-3 tilapia fillets (or other firm fish)

1 cup uncooked Spanish (seasoned) rice

1 14 oz. can black eye peas, drained and washed

Oil for frying and 1 tsp. olive oil, separated.

½ cup coconut milk

Instructions

Bring 2 ½ cups of water to a boil and add 1 tsp. olive oil. Add the rice (do not use salt since Spanish rice is already seasoned) and beans.  Cook in low heat until rice is soft. Add the coconut milk, remove from heat and cover for 5-6 minutes before serving.  In the meantime, mix the cornmeal and the seasonings and coat the fish. Fry the fish, adding some remaining cornmeal to fish if needed after turning it around, about 3-4 minutes on each side.  Serve fish over rice and beans mixture. Garnish with a quarter lime to squeeze over fish.

Recommended wine: sauvignon Blanc

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