Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | April 25, 2017

At the 5th Annual NYC Hot Sauce Expo


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By Ernest Barteldes

The annual New York Hot Sauce Expo has become a bit of a tradition for us – I first went during the 2015 edition on my own but have convinced Renata to come along with me for the last two editions. This time we got there on the very last day of the event. Like in previous years, it was quite crowded with a mix of curious locals and intense hot pepper enthusiast. On stage some kind of competition was going on – there are several contests going on for the duration of the event, going from pizza and chicken wing eating tournaments and some involving pro bartenders.

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We got there in the early afternoon on Sunday and went on to taste some the samples made available there.  We started with Long Island’s  Murph’s Bloody Mary Mix – a delicious recipe that comes both in mild and spicy. The “hot” version does not burn that much, and it is quite flavorful. I was disappointed not to see Ed Currie, the creator of the Carolina Reaper there – I had the pleasure to get my mouth severely burned by his pepper – awarded by the Guiness Book of Records as the hottest chili pepper in the world.

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This year, however, I was looking for flavor, and we got what we came for – among our purchases was “Dia de Sol,”  a delicious Portuguese-style sauce from Nebraska’s Volcanic peppers – a mild concoction made with peri peri peppers, red peppers and garlic (among other things) that serves as a great topping for omelets or meats. From them we also got Jamaican Holiday, a sauce made from yellow scotch bonnet peppers – quite hot.

Other highlights included Upstate New York’s   Baron’s Caribbean Hot Sauce, a blend based on habanero peppers and little else – flavorful but with one heck of a kick later on, and Torchbearer’s Pshycho Curry – a mild to hot curry sauce that I plan to use very, very soon.

The only sour note was the fact that Florida-based Tahiti Joe’s  – a producer I used to admire – decided to politicize his brand by creating  “Hillary Not For President” and a”Trumped-Up for President” sauces. I questioned him about it, and he gave me the usual Trump supporter schpiel about the emails and Benghazi and how Trump is the second coming of Jesus.  His choice to bring those “options” to Brooklyn had consequences – his table was pretty much empty when I stopped by – it is clear that hot sauce and politics don’t mix (I was surprised not to have seen any “Feel The Bern” sauces anywhere – missed opportunity?.

Apart from this two-minute incident, I must say it was once again an enjoyable afternoon. We stocked up with quite a few bottles, which should last us until next year’s edition.

Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | April 9, 2017

Easter Traditions: Poland and Brazil

Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | March 29, 2017

Eating in St. George, Staten Island


 

By Ernest Barteldes

When I moved to St. George in the early 2000s, there were few dining options worth writing home about.  There was the Polish Place on Corson Avenue, a so-so Mexican restaurant, a dreary Irish pub, Cargo Café and Ruddy & Dean, a steakhouse on Richmond Terrace  and little else – though it is one of the most diverse neighborhoods on Staten Island,  that did not reflect its eateries at the time – although there have always been plenty of shops that cater to the different ethnicities that live in the area.

That has changed quite a bit over the years. Though some closed – The Polish Place went out of business in 2012 and Cargo Café changed ownership (but not much of its menu), being renamed 120 Bay Café around that time. However, many other places have popped up over the years offering many different options not only for locals but for visitors who happen to wonder off the Staten Island Ferry from time to time.

Here is a partial sampling:

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View from The Outdoor Tables at River Dock Cafe

The St. George Ferry Terminal itself has now many options  – ranging from a simple pizza place to New York City’s only Dairy Queen, but for a better meal check out River Dock Café, a full service restaurant with a varied American-style menu.  They also have a nice full bar and a range of appetizers, my personal favorite being the fried Calamari rings, which are served with a crispy breading.  During the warm months they have outside seating with a view of the harbor.

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Outside Jimmy Steiny’s 

Walk up Hyatt Street towards The St. George Theater, where Jimmy Steiny’s pub offers a limited menu and a nice atmosphere for drinks. Years ago the space housed a horrible dive bar, but the regulars include lawyers and civil servants from the nearby courthouses.  Further up the street is Enoteca Maria, a well-regarded Italan restaurant with a daily menu that changes depending on who the chef for the evening is – so depending on when you go the flavors can vary dramatically.

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Outside Enoteca Maria

Also nearby on Stuyvesant Place is Chang Noi Thai, a newer restaurant already discussed on this blog, and across the street is our go-to pizzeria, A&S Pizzeria.  Although I can easily order from them using the Slice App (more on that someday), I actually enjoy walking over, ordering a pie and waiting while enjoying a bottle of Polish beer – which they keep in stock  since many Polish immigrants stop there for a drink on a regular basis. Also notable is Beso, located between Stuyvesant and Richmond Terrace, where they serve impressive Spanish meals – it’s the kind of place you can go on a very good date or to impress your mom when she visits.

A recent addition  is Sabor de La Isla, a Puerto Rican restaurant located  where our favorite now-defunct Mexican restaurant used to be.  We haven’t checked it out yet (we plan to do so very soon) but from what I hear they are doing quite well, and the reviews have been quite positive. And I cannot end this post without mentioning Flagship Brewery, Staten Island’s own microbrew – which is walking distance from any of the eateries mentioned here.

In conclusion, St. George is slowly becoming a foodie-friendly area. Sure, it has not come to the level of other areas of the island, where you can find some of the best European-themed places in town – but we are definitely getting there.

Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | March 13, 2017

Restaurant Review: Thai on Staten Island

Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | March 5, 2017

Learning Polish Cooking A Dish at a Time: Salmon Kulebiak


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The Polish Food Truck in New York

By Ernest Barteldes

It is interesting how you can stumble into things at times. I was doing some research on Lenten customs around the world after someone asked me about how Lent- the forty-day period of fasting and prayer observed to a higher or lesser degree by Roman Catholics around the world, and as I went through different pages I came across a recipe for Kulebiak, a Polish pie made with rice, eggs, onion, dill, salmon and puff pastry that was described as commonly served not only during this period but also during the Christmas Vigil, when Poles abstain from red meat until after midnight on Christmas Day.

Investigating further I discovered many other recipes – including a meat-free version that included mushrooms and cabbage instead of fish. I asked Renata about it but she was unfamiliar with it, so I am assuming (correct me if I am wrong, please) it is a more regional delicacy – there are several dishes made in different regions that don’t exist in other regions. For instance, I have never seen oscypek – a unique kind of smoked sheep milk cheese – outside the country’s southernmost region.

The curiosity about Kulebiak got the best of me and I decided to try it out for our Friday dinner – those who follow this blog are aware of the fact that whenever Renata and I stay in Fridays I make a fish-based meal, which stems from the old Catholic tradition of not eating red meat on that day of the week. The ingredients were quite easy to find (I mostly shop at Trader Joe’s, where you can usually find things other supermarkets don’t usually stock) and quickly assembled it – which wasn’t hard at all – a myth that goes around a lot is how labor-intensive Polish cooking can be (more about that in some other post).

When Renata got home, she immediately commented on how the smell of the food was all over the apartment – and we set out to try it with a simple green salad on the side. I paired the Kulebiak with sauvignon blanc (which I purchased with the intent of pairing with the dish).

The result was surprising: the blend of the ingredients worked just right, and the puff pastry complemented by locking in the flavors and also giving its own unique feel. This will certainly be in our rotation, and I cannot wait to try out the other varieties.

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Salmon Pie – Kulebiak z Lososiem

Source: In Ania’s Kitchen

Ingredients:

  • 400 g salmon
  • 3 hard boiled eggs
  • 2 tbs chopped fresh baby dill
  • 2 tbs lemon
  • 200 g cooked rice
  • half of a large onion
  • 450 g puff pastry
  • salt and pepper
  • egg for egg wash

 

Instructions:

  1. Chop the onion finely and fry on couple of tbs of oil until tender.
  2. Add cooked rice, baby dill and lemon juice. Give it a good stir and take off the heat.
  3. Chop the eggs finely and set aside.
  4. Cut the salmon in bite size pieces.
  5. On the lightly floured surface roll out half of your puff pastry a bit, you want it around 2 mm thick. Line your pie dish with the puff pastry and transfer the rice.
  6. Even it out, season with salt and pepper and then arrange the salmon. Season with salt and pepper and lastly put the egg layer and season as well.
  7. Brush the edges with egg wash to seal the pie.
  8. Roll out the second half of the pasty and cover the pie, cut some holes or prick with a fork before baking.
  9. Brush the top with an egg wash and bake in preheated oven to 200 degrees Celsius (400F) for 45 minutes. Cover with aluminum foil if browning too much.
  10. Let it cool down a bit and serve.
Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | February 20, 2017

Going Veggie on Weekends – without sacrifice

Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | February 3, 2017

Pizza For Breakfast? Yes please


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By Ernest Barteldes

Before you start reading this and get all judgmental, let me tell you: I am not talking about reheating that pizza you ordered and were unable to finish with the coincidence of not having anything to eat in the fridge the next day. This is an actual recipe of pizza you can have for breakfast, even though it’s hard to believe.

I understand how you might be ready to stop reading right now and think that this writer has finally gone mad after posting so many articles on social media about the benefits of drinking vodka and tequila (though I hardly ever have any of those) but be patient – when I first heard about this I thought it was pretty insane too.

A few years ago I downloaded a culinary app called Univision Delicioso, which was the mobile version of a cooking show they used to air on the aforementioned Spanish-language channel. It was very useful since it included a bilingual ingredient dictionary, a selection of recipes categorized by ingredients and events and other curiosities. For whatever reason, the network discontinued the app and now they have a more generic kind that navigates you through different shows without any specific direction.

When I selected the breakfast option, I came across a “breakfast pizza” recipe, which I thought was a bit insane – I mean, who had ever thought of cracking eggs over a pizza pie with veggies. I was slightly curious anyway and saved it, but the idea was out of my mind for a while until Renata and I went to brunch at a Chelsea-area restaurant that — yes, included breakfast pizza on the menu.

I simply couldn’t resist and immediately ordered it – and it was surprisingly good. The crust was thin, the eggs were just right and everything else just blended in perfectly, so I decided to make it someday.

I have included the recipe on our Sunday rotation and even Renata – who is not a big fan of pizza – says she enjoys it a lot. The trick is finding the right pizza crust if you are not the kind of person who will do it from scratch. It is a nice variation on eggs and toast without really going against the grain.

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Breakfast Pizza

Breakfast Pizza (Pizza de desayuno)

Serves 4

Source: Univision Delicioso

Ingredients

1 pizza crust

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

¼ cup Parmesan, grated.

4 eggs

4 slices prosciutto

½ cup fresh spinach, cut coarsely

salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 425F Place crust on baking sheet covered with waxed paper. Using a brush, spread olive oil over crust, and add mozzarella and Parmesan. Bake for 6-8 minutes until cheese is melted. Remove from oven and using a spoon, make four spaces for the eggs, and crack one egg into each space. Cover the pie with prosciutto and spinach and season with salt and pepper. Return to oven and bake for another 5-7 minutes until eggs are set. Cut and serve immediately.

Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | January 27, 2017

Meat-Free Days: It’s Not So Hard if You Try


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By Ernest Barteldes

A few years ago Renata and I joined some friends for barbecue,  and when  I pulled out  Andouille chicken sausages and some vegetables to add to the grill, one person asked me how come I didn’t bring any beef.

My response was simple: we never buy or consume any beef at home. Instead, we go for seafood, poultry of meat-free dishes.  My reply was met with shock from one of our meat-loving companions: “How do you live?” she asked, completely surprised that we never ate beef save for very exceptional situations – an example being, say a trip to Poland where Gołabki (stuffed cabbage) is inevitably made with beef.

My personal reason is that years in Brazil – where beef is king – got me tired of the stuff – living in the northeastern part of the country where the weather is mild year-round, every party was a barbecue, and it was beef all the time. When I started dating a girl that didn’t like beef, I realized that yes, there were other foods beyond the usual. Since I am the cook of the house, I guess Renata got used to it and has never complained about it.

Back when we first started living together, Renata and I attempted a vegetarian diet, but ultimately that didn’t work since we are both very fond of seafood – I recall that when we took our first trip to Brazil together in 2007, we couldn’t have enough of the boiled crabs they routinely serve at the beach restaurants at Praia do Futuro,  Fortaleza’s main beach area –  and the many other  typical fish-based dishes prepared in local restaurants.

But we do  keep meat-free days at least once or twice a week, and this is something that we both find effortless to do, since we don’t have that silly sensation of having “a hole in the plate” whenever meats are not present. Also, there are many dishes that are naturally meat-free, such as gnocci, spinach tortellini, falafel sandwiches and many, many more.

And it’s not like any kind of struggle is necessary – there are countless ways to substitute meats, since most supermarkets often carry vegetarian versions of hamburgers, sausages and other products. For instance, Trader Joe’s carries many varieties of veggie burgers – one we often buy is their vegetable  masala burger, which is made with potatoes, carrots, green beans, bell peppers, onions, corn and green peppers with Indian  spices such as coriander, cumin, red chili powder and turmeric. The flavor is not too intense, and they have been a breakfast on Fridays, since Renata was raised abstaining from meat while growing up in Poland.

One favorite option at home are vegetarian koftas, which are made with shredded cabbage, cauliflower and chickpea flour (besan) plus whatever spices you want to add. I make them either with curry sauce and white rice or with spaghetti and tomato sauce – which taste almost like their meatball counterpart. I learned the recipe from Higher Taste, a book published by the Hare Krishna movement – all recipes vegetarian, of course.

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Koftas with Spaghetti in Tomato Sauce

Source: www.harekrishna.com

Ingredients:

1 lb pasta

1 28 oz can marinara sauce

For koftas:

2 cups chopped cauliflower

2 cups chopped cabbage

1 ½ chickpea flour (besan)

½ teaspoon hing

1 teaspoon garam masala

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon coriander powder

½ teaspoon ground tumeric

pinch of cayenne

ghee or oil for fying.

Instructions: Cook 1 lb. pasta according to package instructions until al dente and drain, reserving 1 cup cooking water. Heat ghee or oil in a deep frying pan or 2-quart saucepan. Combine all of kofta ingredients in a bowl. Roll in 24 balls, 1 inch in diameter. Place as many balls in the ghee as possible, leaving enough room for them to float comfortably. Fry over medium heat for 10 minutes, until the kofta is a rich golden brown. Drain in colander. Place the kofta in the tomato sauce 5 minutes before serving. If after sitting the kofta soaks up most of the sauce, add a little water to produce more liquid. Cook spaghetti as directed on box. Serve kofta and sauce over spaghetti.

Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | January 20, 2017

Conservation Incentives are a Good Thing – even if it costs you

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