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)

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

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


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


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)


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


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.


(Serves 2)


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


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

Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | January 19, 2015

The Joy of Indoor Grilling

By Ernest Barteldes

Among the many cooking methods I use, grilling is by far my favorite. It is easy and also very healthy, since you use very little oil and whatever fat in the food pretty much goes away. Living in an apartment does not allow for much of it in the outdoors, but I do have an electric indoor grill that Renata gave me a few Christmases ago. It’s not one of the George Foreman models but a more common one with a small hole on one side to drain fats away from the food.

Because the griddle uses a lot of electricity (when I turn it on, the lights in the kitchen dim a little), I don’t use as often as I’d like, but when I do it is bliss. I’ve been to hibachi restaurants a few times, and I carefully observed how the chefs there work, and that is pretty much my approach – heat up a little oil and begin with the veggies. Once they are done, I put them in a hot plate in the oven (very low heat, just to keep everything warm), and then conclude with the meats. I try to keep things simple and not to go too crazy – after all, that is all what grilling is about. I also enjoy using cooking wine in the process, gently sprinkling the wine on the vegetables or meat as they cook – a trick to keep everything moist and juicy that I learned observing the cooks at a local Hibachi place.

I recall one time when a couple came over while I was grilling some chicken. They brought some salmon and shrimp, and we came up with the idea of cooking the seafood on skewers with a touch of unfiltered palm oil. I recall it was quite the feast – we ended up talking and listening to music until the small hours – and we all had to go to work the next day.

Grilling fish can be tricky – you should always choose a fish that does not flake easily, such as tilapia, salmon or ahi tuna. I did try codfish and flounder, but unfortunately the results were not as good, since they broke up during the process (it was very edible, but the presentation was definitely not the best.

I recently pulled out the grill to make my favorite grilled tilapia – a very easy dish that includes bell peppers, onions and mushrooms that goes great with either a side of rice or sautéed potatoes.


(Makes four servings)


4 tilapia fillets

8 oz. white mushrooms, sliced.

1 bell pepper, sliced and seeded

1 large white onion, sliced

1 tbsp. olive oil, divided

Salt and pepper to taste (or seasoning salt)

About ½ cup white cooking wine

Heat up the griddle to about 300 F.  Spread half the olive oil until heated. Add the onions and peppers.  Sautee until they are beginning to soften, and add the mushrooms. Sprinkle with a little cooking wine and sauté until the mushrooms are done and the liquid has mostly evaporated. Remove from heat and transfer to a hot plate or put into the oven in an ovenproof plate in very low heat.  Add the remaining olive oil and put the fish on the grill. Season with salt and pepper (or seasoning salt). Sprinkle with the remaining cooking wine and turn once when one side is done. Serve with the vegetables and white rice or sautéed potatoes.

Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | December 31, 2014

Music and Memories

It is interesting how music affects people in completely different ways. For instance, listening to The Beatles evokes memories of my late childhood and early teenage years. I recall that I was just discovering the music of the Fab Four when I heard about John Lennon’s murder. I remember I was watching some late-night movie and then the film got interrupted for the newsflash. I was 12 back then, but was already a fan, and was looking forward to getting Double Fantasy (“Just Like Starting Over” was playing on the radio a lot back then) for Christmas. Today when I hear any song from that album it takes me back to that fateful night it kind of breaks my heart, even if I love the Lennon half (no, I do not fawn over “Kiss Kiss Kiss”).  Just the other day Renata and I were watching a DVD of John Lennon videos and when “Woman” came on it just brought tears to my eyes.

Renata is not really a Beatles fan, so she couldn’t really relate to the music she was hearing (she did say “Jealous Guy” was a lovely tune).  In all honesty, I only discovered most of John’s solo songs after his passing, since while I was growing up no one had any of the solo-era albums. And that is also true about the solo work of the other former Beatles except maybe Paul McCartney, whose songs got lots of airplay. I recall once hearing “It Don’t Come Easy” and enjoying it a lot it in spite of being completely unaware that it was a Ringo Starr song.

A song that reminds me of my childhood is Rita Lee’s “Coisas Da Vida,” which was actually a minor hit from one of her least-appreciated albums (it has since been rediscovered). I remember when the song came out and it was playing a lot on the radio. I begged all my relatives for a copy of the album – today I have the remastered CD, which is among one of my cherished possessions.

Some albums and songs have a special meaning for me, even if these songs might seem completely off topic. An example of this is Ayo’s 2006 debut Joyful. Whenever I listen to the songs on that disc, I am immediately transported to Krakow, Poland. The singer, however, has zero connection to that country – in fact, she is (according to Wikipedia)  Nigerian-German. So why does she evoke memories of Krakow? Well, it just happened that Renata and I were having a meal at an Italian restaurant called Makaronarnia ( and the music was playing as we ate. I heard the songs but could not place where I had heard it before, and asked the waitress about it. She brought me the cover and then it hit me – it just happened to be part of my personal collection.

Then there are these songs that remind you of relationships past and present and also the breakups that happen in between. For whatever reason, The Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood” and Queen’s “Save Me” have always had to do with the end of relationships I had in the past.  The latter is quite obvious given Brian May’s poignant words “years of care and loyalty were nothing but a sham it seems,” but John’s lyrics about having an affair using words so that his then wife would not figure out would be out of place. But that is how it worked for me I guess.

Then of course are songs that make you think of present love. As far as I am concerned, Elton John’s “Your Song” evokes the feelings I have for Renata just other tunes have done about past love affairs. Sure, I have written her a song (which I have played live with Bossa D’ Novo – soon to come back as Bossa +), but whenever I hear it I just can’t help to think how she has “the prettiest eyes I have ever seen.”

So let me know – which are the songs that make you think of a specific time in your life?

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