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

Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | January 13, 2017

Tips for NY Tourists: The Staten Island Ferry


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By Ernest Barteldes

A couple of years ago I saw a report about how the NYPD had arrested scammers who were taking hundreds of dollars from tourists visiting New York by selling “tickets” to the Staten Island Ferry – the cheap traveler’s alternative to the Circle Line. Since then, the Department of Transportation has posted signs everywhere stating that yes, the ferry is operated free of charge to anyone at any time.

But since many visitors who do not do their homework (more about that in another post) are still a bit clueless about the ferry. Since the puppet site Glove and Boots will not do one of their “tips” videos about the ferry (they do have to redeem themselves for spreading the outdated rumor about the garbage still coming to the island), I will give my own tips about the transportation I have been taking every single day for over a decade.

There is no “last” ferry.

The Staten Island Ferry runs 24 hours, 7 days a week. Weekend boats used to be dicey, but in recent years they have been running every 30 minutes except for rush hours, when they run on a 15/20 minute schedule. The HBO TV show Sex and The City had an episode in which Carrie missed the last boat and somehow people drank the cool-aid, but the fact is that there is always a next boat, even on weekends.

You cannot sit on the ferry and just wait for it to go back to Manhattan

That used to be true – you could ride the ferry all night if you wanted to, unless the boat was going out of service. But since 9/11 security got tighter and everyone has to leave the boat and re-board, even if you are taking the exact same boat. So please get up and move on. Your sitting there wondering what to do just delays the next ride, and after a few times that can mean 15-20 minute delays. So please get up, there are New Yorkers trying to get home or to work here.

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The Cafe on the Ferry

Yes, you can drink alcohol on the ferry

There are several venues that sell wine, beer and spirits at both Whitehall and St. George Terminals, but I often see folks asking to ‘brown bag’ their brews prior to boarding the boat. I am not sure why there is a loophole about that, but the fact is that the concession stands inside the boat sell beer (at a premium) and no cops will give you a citation for enjoying a drink there – unless you become disorderly.

You don’t need to lock your bike while on the boat

What, someone is going to steal your bike and swim away? Relax, your bike is safe.

Cars are not coming back to the Staten Island Ferry anytime soon

After 9/11 cars have been banned from the ferry. Even if the newer Molinari-class boats were designed to carry cars, there has been no way to find a compromise between the DOT and the NYPD to allow cars back, even if other cities have found effective ways to scan vehicles before they board. It is a pity, because it was a fast way for North Shore residents to get to Lower Manhattan. Basically another reason for me not to get a car.

There is a lot to do on Staten Island

Sure, we are no Manhattan. But Staten Island has museums, parks, restaurants (the best pizza in the city – I can vouch for that), hiking trails, beaches and many other attractions. We are not a barren desert filled with Trump supporters (sure, plenty of those here, but no news since it’s the one Republican borough in the city – but they are all bark and not bite), so there a lot to do. Please get off the ferry and explore. No need to rush back to Manhattan.

Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | December 27, 2016

In Defense of New York’s “Plastic Bag Tax” Law

Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | December 21, 2016

Christmas the Polish-Brazilian-American Way At Home


By Ernest Barteldes

After spending almost two decades in New York following a very long spell in Brazil, I can say that I the ultimate multi-cultural person – while I do embrace everything that is American about me, I also refuse to turn my back on my Brazilian side. And more recently, since I met and married my wife Renata (who hails from Chełm, in Southeastern Poland ) I have also learned to love Polish culture and especially their Holiday traditions.

The reason I got interested in her traditions was the fact that growing up I never had any U.S. Holiday customs passed on by anyone in my father’s side of the family – the impression I have is that he simply wasn’t interested – and as for my mother’s side , most of the Holiday dishes were either inherited from colonizers in Portugal or other immigrant cultures – for instance, Brazilians enjoy eating panettone (an Italian fruit cake) during Christmas festivities. Other dishes either have Portuguese, Lebanese or Afro-Brazilian roots. The same goes during Easter festivities, when most (at least on a national level) customs hail from abroad.

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Panettone

The reverse is true about Poland, where cultural and culinary traditions – especially during major holidays – abound. During Easter there is the ritual of preparing all the food on Saturday before Easter Sunday and taking it to Church to get it blessed. Though that isn’t done during Christmas, there is the rule of abstaining from meats that bleed during Vigilia (Christmas Eve), and there are several meat-free dishes enjoyed during that time – many involving seafood.

Like in most American cities with heavy immigrant populations, it isn’t hard to find places to find Ethnic products around New York. There are countless supermarkets and grocery stores where – if you look hard enough – you can find pretty much anything you need. Though Greenpoint, Brooklyn would be the go-to area for Polish products , there are several other locations in the other boroughs.

Though it is true that Amazon.com carries many ethnic products, their prices are considerably marked up comparing to local stores in the different areas of the city.

In Manhattan, I either go to Baczynsky’s East Village Meat Market or Polish G.I. Delicatessen, both located in the East Village (within blocks of each other) and close enough to my path home from my teaching job.

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Oscypek

On Staten Island there are a few others – there used to be a Polish store in our North Shore area but its owner retired a few years ago and closed the shop a few years back to the dismay of its faithful clientele. Others remain – a small local mini-chain unfortunately named S&M Polish Deli has several stores around the island, and one is located in the area of Old Town, about 15 minutes by public transit from home. They have a nice selection that includes some hard-to-find items such as Zwiec porter beer and oscypek (smoked sheep’s milk cheese), a delicacy usually found in the southern part of Poland.

As for Brazilian products it’s not that easy – there is a single supermarket in Astoria, Queens and little else – except maybe if one is willing to schlep to Newark, NJ’s Ironbound District, where both Brazilian and Portuguese products are readily available. However, since the food from Brazil is very similar to its Latin American counterparts, it is easy to find similar ingredients in stores that cater to Latino tastes.

Christmas one of the few times that Renata ventures into the kitchen – she likes to prepare a layered cold fish salad involving mayonnaise, marinated herring, shredded potatoes, carrots and pickled cucumbers. There are other traditional dishes we include that day, including a hot borscht broth with uzka (kind of a small pierogi stuffed with mushrooms).

Our dinner usually consists of some international dish – one year, for instance, I found a Portuguese recipe called “Silent Night Codfish” in which you layer the fish with onions, hard boiled eggs and olives and then bake with a nice serving of olive oil. It is quite delicious, and it reheats well for the next day.

Silent Night” Codfish

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(Bacalhau Noite Feliz)

Ingredients

2 lb. salted codfish (soaked in fresh water overnight)

4 lb potatoes, peeled and sliced about 1 inch thick

4 medium sweet onions, sliced

½ dozen hard boiled eggs, sliced

8 oz. Olive oil

After soaking the fish overnight, cut the fish and boil with sliced potatoes until potatoes are tender. Divide the potatoes, mash half and reserve. Layer fish, potatoes, eggs and olives in an oven-proof dish and once done, add olive oil and cover mix with mashed potatoes. Bake at 350 degrees until heated through. (Serves 10)

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Herring Salad

Directions: Drain jar of marinated herring and discard onions and spices. Dice herring and place in salad bowl. Add 2 c. cold, cooked diced potatoes, 2 peeled, diced apples, 2 chopped onions, 2 chopped dill pickles and/or 10 gherkins and 1 t. chopped fresh parsley. Toss gently and fold in sauce: fork-blend 1-1/2 c. mayonnaise with 1/2 c. sour cream and 1- 2 T. brown prepared mustard. Chill at least 2 hrs before serving.

Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | December 14, 2016

Everyday Cooking: The Packed Lunch


paked-lunch

 

By Ernest Barteldes

 

Though Sundays in our household mean attempting elaborate dishes that take time to prepare and later enjoy while watching a movie, weekdays are a completely different story, because basically it’s all about packing lunch for Renata and me –  something I’ve done ever since we’ve been together for two reasons: having a home-cooked meal every day is way healthier than buying food at some salad bar or fast-food restaurant (which are by the way plentiful in the neighborhood where I work) and second the cost factor can be pretty damning:  I can cook for the two of us for considerably less than it would cost to buy lunch every day from any of the nearby places I know.

The everyday meals I cook are very simple:  while I avoid shortcuts while making our Sunday meals, the opposite is true during the week – which means using pre-prepared sauces or moderately processed foods such as Polish sausage, sardines or tuna, for instance. But what I don’t economize is on flavor – I always try to enrich the flavor of each dish with the all the different spices and seasonings that fill my three-tier spice cabinet.

While I try to vary the dishes whenever possible, there are some usual staples. Such as  a simple Dominican rice-based dish called “Locrio de Pica-Pica,”  pasta with kielbasa and tomato sauce and Brazilian rice and beans topped with either chicken or sausage – all quick to make, easy to pack in containers and heat at work.

None of these dishes take more than 15-20 minutes to prepare – some days of the week I work long hours and have no time or disposition to spend too much time in the kitchen, so simplicity is the order of the day – until the weekend comes around.

My version of Pica-Pica is a bit different from the way they make it in DR – I include sardines in tomato sauce for a richer flavor, and I also add vegetables to make it healthier.

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Locrio de pica-pica (serves 2)

Ingredients

1 can spicy sardines

1 can sardines in tomato sauce

1 small box frozen mixed vegetable

1 cup rice

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 dash dry oregano (optional)

2 cups of water

Instructions

Sauté the garlic until fragrant and add the spicy sardines and stir.  Add rice and keep stirring.  Add water and keep let boil, covered, stirring occasionally so the rice doesn’t stick to bottom of pan. When rice is close to being done, add the sardines in tomato sauce and oregano and stir gently to avoid sardines from breaking up too much. After rice is cooked let stand for five minutes before serving.

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