Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | March 17, 2019

Weekend Cooking: New Discoveries


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Ernest Barteldes 

I don’t usually buy any of the daily newspapers in the morning, but one thing I miss is the Friday Cooking page that used to be a feature of New York’s Daily News – until a few years back they always featured a recipe by celebrity chef Rachel Ray and also a “sandwich of the week” that detailed how local restaurants made the mundane task of putting meats inside two pieces of bread a masterpiece.  

I saved many of those pages and have used many of them not only for our Sunday dinners but also for our Saturday afternoon lunches, when we get out of the ordinary everyday stuff I make whenever we stay in on the weekend – something that we often do during the colder days of winter when getting out of the house means freezing your butt until we get where we need to go.  

Whenever I try one of the recipes on those yellowing pages, I don’t follow them to the letter because not all the ingredients are either too hard to find or just too obnoxious since the paper used to include brand names that I am not interested in. The recipes, however, are very interesting and I adapt them to fit our needs.  

One I recently tried that I had never done before was originally meant to be made with pumpernickel bread, which is something I cannot usually find at the local Greenmarket or any of the grocery stores in the neighborhood or in the shops I usually go to near my job in midtown Manhattan, so I adapt the recipes the best I can while achieving what I believe to be similar results.  

Instead of pumpernickel I used baguette from Francesca’s Bakery here on Staten Island (which brings fresh products to the St. George Greenmarket) and I replaced their advertised Boursin cheese with regular cream cheese – and I’m sure it made zero difference 

Below is the adapted recipe 

Smoked Salmon Sandwich (serves 2)

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Ingredients 

Horseradish dressing 

1 tablespoon chopped rosemary   

1 tbsp. Chopped chives 

Juice of one lemon 

1 tbsp. Horseradish 

½ cup mayonnaise 

Salt and black pepper to taste 

Other ingredients 

2 cups mixed greens 

honeycrisp apple, thinly sliced 

1 bosc pear, thinly sliced 

¼ cup sliced red onion 

1 teaspoon olive oil  

½ teaspoon lemon juice  

½ package cream cheese 

8 oz. Smoked salmon 

¾ baghette bread, halved.  

 

Preparation 

 

 Combine all dressing ingredients and process until smooth. Set aside. Mix the vegetables and combine with the dressing, olive oil and lemon juice.  

Assemble the sandwich: Toast the bread and spread cream cheese on one half. Add smoked salmon and vegetables and top with the other half of bread. Serve with potato chips.  

Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | March 10, 2019

Adventures in Mexican Cooking


mexican food illustrationby Ernest Barteldes 

 

Our Staten Island neighborhood, unlike other parts of the borough, is quite diverse –taking a short stroll around the area one can encounter a variety of ethnicities, going from Polish, Mexican, African, Jamaican and many more in addition to locals from various backgrounds.  

One group that stands out are Mexicans – just down the block from us there is one of Taqueria El Gallo Azteca, one the best taco places I have ever known (and yes, I’ve been to Mexico), and just across the street there are two flower shops and a grocery store that cater to the Mexican population in the area and also others who enjoy their foods, and further up the same street – Victory Boulevard –  there are even more bakeries, restaurants and other stores.   

Every Saturday outside the St. George Greenmarket a lady sells freshly made tamales – a steamed delicacy made with corn flour and stuffing that varies accordingly to the cook’s desires. In her case, she always has her tamales filled with chicken and mole (chocolate), chicken with verde (green) sauce or rajas, which is cheese and poblano pepper – the spiciest of the three and my personal favorite. 

I am a big fan of Mexican food. Their culinary reminds me a bit of Mediterranean cooking, since dishes are colorful and filled with spices without stealing from the main flavor if the dish. I used to watch a cooking show on Univision called Delicioso (which as far as I know no longer airs) that had some great recipes (including this great app) that had some great recipes that I gladly saved over the years and which I use all the time for lunch, breakfast and dinner.  

Among the favorites are enchiladas – stuffed corn tortillas baked with whichever sauce you like. One variation is what is called “Swiss” enchiladas, which are stuffed with chicken and then covered with green sauce and shredded Swiss cheese (thus the name). They are super easy to make and the results are incredible.  

Swiss Enchiladas (Enchiladas Suizas)

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Ingredients: 

Source: Univision Cocina (my translation) 

1 lb. Boneless skinless chicken breasts 

3 garlic cloves 

3 cups water 

1 teaspoon adobo seasoning 

¾ lb. Tomatillos (green tomatoes) 

1 yellow onion, sliced 

2 jalapenos seeded and sliced 

¼ cup cilantro 

½ cup sour cream 

tablespoons  + ½ cup grated parmesan cheese, divided 

8 corn tortillas 

1 cup shredded swiss (or mozzarella) cheese 

Preparation 

In a medium saucepan, combine the chicken, cilantro, two garlic cloves, adobo and water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook for approximately 15 minutes until chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken and shred it, reserving the broth.  

In a blender, combine the tomatillos, jalapenos, cilantro, 1 garlic clove and ¼ cup reserved broth. Blend well and run through a sieve, pouring the liquid into a small saucepan and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add sour cream and 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese.  

Wrap tortillas in moist paper towels and microwave for 30 seconds (if using conventional oven, wrap in aluminum foil and heat for approximately 5 minutes.  

Spray baking dish with cooking spray. Fill the tortillas with a little of the green salsa, fill with 2 tablespoons shredded chicken and roll them up, placing them side by side in baking dish. Cover tortillas with remaining green salsa and top with shredded cheese and parmesan. Bake for about 30 minutes until heated through. Serve with white rice and beans.  

Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | February 10, 2019

Polish Cooking Adventures… continued


By Ernest Barteldes 

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I am not a vegetarian, but I don’t eat any red meat and I also do my best to keep at least one meat-free day a week. To me that is not that “Meat Free Monday” advocated by many activists who even got a catchy ditty by none other than Sir Paul McCartney. Renata and I do Fridays instead, following a long-standing Polish tradition of not eating meat on that day as mandated by the Roman Catholic Church until Vatican II in 1966.  

We don’t keep Friday meat-free for religious reasons, though. The simple reason is that it is good to stay away from animal protein once in a while – it benefits the environment and also our health and after all there are dozens of very enjoyable vegetarian dishes out there, ranging from eggplant Parmesan to stir-fried vegetables with rice and many others that don’t come to mind right now.  

But one thinks of Polish food meat-free dishes do not immediately come to mind. After all, this is the land of kielbasa,  bigos and stuffed cabbage in the American mind but one would be surprised at how many vegetarian dishes there are in their cuisine – especially when it comes to pierogi and fried  pancakes, which have become a staple at our home on Fridays when we stay in – which is pretty common on cold wintry nights. 

The dinner pancakes might be a bit laborious, but the result is quite satisfying, since you can always refrigerate them and eat them later. Actually, they are not that different from the salted pancakes i grew up with in Brazil, which were usually stuffed with cheese, chicken or meat – except that over there folks gratin them with tomato sauce instead of frying them. Maybe the Brazilian pancakes were influenced by Polish cuisine in the first place, but who knows exactly where the tradition came from… which brings to mind the fact I haven’t done the Brazilian ones in ages.  

On the late Hanna Szymanderska’s Traditional and Modern Polish Cooking there are several offerings of pancake batters and stuffing, but here I reproduce the ones we use most often in our household -pancakes made in a beer batter and a simple sauerkraut and mushroom stuffing.  

 Beer batter pancakes in mushroom and sauerkraut stuffing

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Pancake batter

1 ½ cups flour 

2 ½ cups lukewarm lager beer 

2 eggs 

1 tbsp. Olive oil 

1 tbsp brandy 

1 tsp Italian seasoning 

  

Little Poland Stuffing: 

 

1 lb. Sauerkraut 

2 oz dried mushrooms 

2 oz grated cheese 

Sant and pepper to taste 

For frying: 

Olive oil to taste 

Two eggs, beaten 

Breadcrumbs 

 

Preparation 

Rinse the dried mushrooms and soak them in water, then cook them and drain. Chop the cabbage, and put it in a pan and put in the mushroom stock. Simmer for 30 minutes, Chop the mushrooms and add them to the pan. Add the cheese and let the mixture cool and set aside.  

Beat the eggs with the beer. As you whisk, add the other ingredients until there is a homogenous mix. Add more beer if pancakes are too thick and fry pancakes on both sides until firm. Stuff pancakes with mushroom mix and roll them enchilada-style.  Run them through beaten eggs and breadcrumbs and then fry in butter. Serve with a green salad and sour cream.  

Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | March 30, 2018

Bringing Together Easter Traditions


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By Ernest Barteldes 

 

Whenever Easter comes around, Renata and I bring together our different traditions for the Holiday: although both Brazil and Poland are big Catholic countries (Poland far more than Brazil, since many in the latter are pretty lapsed even if they say otherwise), the manner in which they celebrate is very different. 

Though neither of us are particularly religious, we do enjoy observing some of the traditions that come with the time  – it makes the time special instead of being just another weekend, and also makes us get into more of a celebratory mode.  

The Chocolate Easter Egg 

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Brazilian Easter eggs at Supermarket

Soon after Ash Wednesday goes by, supermarkets in Brazil are filled with decorated chocolate eggs that are far different from the ones you find in US stores; they came in a variety of sizes ranging from 200 grams (about 8 oz.) to as much as two pounds. Also, they are filled with chocolates inside. Like sizes, flavors vary a lot, ranging from pure milk chocolate to blends with nougat, crispy puffed rice or coconut, to name a few.  

Although they are available on online sites like Amazon.com, I prefer to head over to Astoria’s Rio Supermarket to take my pick. The trip also allows me to stock up on Brazilian products that are not too easy to find, such as cassava flour (to make farofa) and my preferred brands of coffee. 

The Good Friday Codfish 

Though Brazilians are incredibly fond of their meats, it is unlikely you will find anyone eating beef on Good Friday. The tradition there is for the family to come together after 3 PM (when the death of Christ is commemorated in Church) – most workers are off that day – and eat a dish made from salted codfish. Recipes may vary around the country (I have an Italian-inspired Sao Paulo recipe below) , it is something that most people do, so supermarkets stock up in preparation for that day.  

The Polish Easter Basket & Blessing (Święconka) 

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Blessing in Poland

Catholics in Poland have a unique custom of bringing a basket to church on the day before Easter Sunday for a blessing. This is something Renata explained me early in our relationship and that we have followed since. In the basket, you put a sample of the foods you are going to eat on Easter morning, which includes kielbasa (sausage), hard-boiled eggs, bread, babka (a kind of cake) and other items, all which symbolize part of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and also the abundance that comes with the resurrection. Here on Staten Island, the ceremony is done every hour on Saturday, and large groups of Poles and their families lay their baskets on a large table. The priest conducts a prayer for each item in the basket and then asperses them in holy water. The ceremony lasts about 20 minutes, and then families pick up their baskets and leave. According to the tradition, all the blessed foods must be consumed during Easter breakfast.  

Easter Sunday, Polish style 

As most of this blog’s followers know, I am no longer a member of the Brazilian Catholic Community in Greenwich Village, and have also ceased participating at mass altogether at St. Peter’s Church on Staten Island. I am not going to elaborate much on it because those were private decisions.  

But we still do our own Polish-style Easter celebration at home, beginning with a short prayer and the sharing of the blessed foods during breakfast. It is a nice time together, and then we go on with the rest of the day and look forward to the week ahead.  

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Good Friday Codfish recipe

Ingredients

1 lb salted codfish

1/2 pint heavy cream

1 lb spaghetti

2 onions, thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 carrot, sliced

1 green bell pepper, sliced

1 red bell pepper, sliced

2 tbsp. olive oil

4 tbsp parsley

salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

Soak the codfish overnight, changing the water often. Cook the codfish in boiling water for 10-15 minutes and shred. Cook the pasta according to package instructions and reserve. Heat the olive oil and add the sliced onions and chopped garlic. When they soften, add the sliced peppers and carrots and let soften. Add the fish, stir and add the cooked pasta and half the parsley. Add the heavy cream and heat through. Serve with the rest of the parsley as a garnish.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | March 22, 2018

Staying In: The Friday Dinner

Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | March 8, 2018

Celebrating My Birthday At Home


 

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By Ernest Barteldes

 

Unlike most New Yorkers I know, I don’t like to celebrate my birthday in bars or restaurants for various reasons – one is the fact that whenever a group agrees to split the check, it often never happens in an egalitarian manner, so someone ends up paying more than he or she actually spent. Another is that there have been more than a few embarrassments over the years when I got people together when some situations got a bit out of hand.

After a few bad experiences I just decided that I would follow a late friend’s lead and host my own birthdays at our Staten Island apartment – which I have done repeatedly with the exception of 2017 when Renata and I were in the midst of relocating to our new home in St. George, not far from our previous place at the famed Ambassador building.

I try to keep things simple at these house parties – I don’t cook any difficult foods, and instead opt for simple finger food and dips. There was a time when I cooked an entrée of some kind, but I realized that most of it went untouched, and then we found ourselves with an overstuffed fridge – something that no one wants to have especially when you have limited storage space.

So this year it was no different: I made bacon-wrapped pineapple chunks (a Hawaiian recipe that is simpler than it sounds), a SPAM-based pate and guacamole. In addition, I stopped by Trader Joe’s on Union Square and bought some of their own options in addition to the chips I’d bought there in the first place. My choices were spinach spanakopita and finger-size mini pizzas, which complemented the homemade stuff in addition to the tiramisu cake I bought at the local bakery that is a short walk from our apartment – one of the many reasons I love our neighborhood so much: everything you need is within a few blocks, going from a clothing repair shop to a great pizza place and a deli specializing in more than 100 beer brands, including some hard-to-find brews from Eastern Europe.

I also bought a few more bottles of wine than I usually do just in case, since most of the people who joined us (save for the random teetotaler – we don’t know many of these) contributed a bottle or two, and with good selection of music from our laptop (connected to our sound system), everyone seemed to have a good time.

There are a couple of friends who pooh-pooh about having to come all the way to Staten Island from the other boroughs and suggest having the party at some Manhattan bar. My response, however, is simple: It might be selfish from my part but I guess they can sacrifice once a year and schlep to our place via bridge or ferry.  After all, we do the same thing for them whenever they come up with their own crazy ideas – including an ill-fated fishing trip I would rather forget in which most of the group got seasick and ended up having a miserable time as a result, or the time we ended up in a now-defunct Brooklyn café while coaxing the birthday boy to get out of the house. That’s, after all, what having friends is all about

SPAM Pate

(Source: Iberia.net)

1 stick of room temperature unsalted butter

1 medium shallot finely chopped

1 garlic clove finely chopped

1 teaspoon dried crushed thyme

1 12-ounce can SPAM cut into cubes

3 tablespoons Jack Daniels

4 tablespoons heavy cream

Instructions:

Melt 2 tablespoons unsalted butter in skillet on low heat. Add shallots and garlic. Sauté until translucent. Add thyme and cubed SPAM and continue to sauté on medium/low heat for about 3 minutes, being sure not to allow any browning of ingredients. Remove skillet from heat and add 3 tablespoons of Jack Daniels. Be very careful when bringing skillet back to heat to Flambé ingredients. Tilt skillet just by your flame and ingredients will ignite. Allow flames to go out on their own. Once flame is out, turn off heat. Transfer ingredients to food processor being sure to scrape out all the yummy bits in skillet.

Bacon-Wrapped Pineapple

(Source: Hawaiian Recipes App from Amazon)

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Ingredients

12 bacon slices, cut in half

24 pineapple chunks, drained – reserve juice

Two tbsp. brown sugar

Two tbsp. ketchup

1 tbsp. soy sauce

1 tbsp. corn starch

Instructions

Preheat oven to 400-degrees F. Line baking sheet with baking parchment or aluminum foil. In a saucepan, mix the liquid ingredients, reserved pineapple juice and corn starch. Simmer and stir until thickened. Wrap each pineapple with piece of bacon, secure with toothpick and place on lined baking sheet. Pour sauce over bites and bake until bacon is crispy, about 20-25 minutes.

 

 

 

 

Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | January 25, 2018

The Sunday Breakfast plus pasta frittatta

Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | January 12, 2018

Cooking Through “Traditional and Modern Polish Cooking,” Part 2

Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | January 5, 2018

Cooking at Home for The Holidays


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By Ernest Barteldes 

 

For some time now, Renata and I have been spending the Holidays at home. At first it was just Christmas after a couple of get-togethers often went south in a very bad way (although we do have a pre-Holiday meeting with a longtime friend every year), but lately we have also been staying in for New Year’s Eve as well. 

The reason for that is simpler: in earlier years we had a large crowd of friends and acquaintances who were willing to go to New Year’s Eve celebration towards the city. I recall enjoying events at places like Terrace on The Park in Queens, Arirang Hibachi Restaurant and Numberger Bierhaus on Staten Island.  In recent years, however, many of these friends have either paired up with people who have different tastes than we do or simply have moved out of town altogether, so it has become much more difficult for us to get a crowd together to some kind of party – what’s the fun of being at a crowded bar with a bunch of drunk strangers without your own crowd? If you are going to be just a couple in a crowd, it’s much easier to have your own ‘private party’ at home and sending out an open invitation to friends who would like to join us.  

Sure, some might say that we are being insular and all that, but why would anyone in their right mind pay at least $100 per person to go to a place where you’d spend considerably less on a regular day if you don’t have a crowd to enjoy it with you? It’s much better to cook something special, get some wine and champagne and stay in the comfort of your home with zero concerns – and still catch the countdown on TV as the midnight hour approaches.  

I always try to cook something out of the ordinary for the Holidays, and this year was no different. For Christmas, we started with a seafood medley  made with shrimp, calamari, bell peppers and other ingredients – something I found in a book called Seriously Simple Holidays (by Diane Rossen Worthington, Chronicle Books, 2007) that I happened to come across at a local bookstore a few years back. For the main course, I made glazed whiting fish with red pepper alioli (way simpler than it sounds) that I served with a side of baked potato wedges and wilted spinach. Renata contributed her layered dish of herring, potatoes, carrots, eggs, onions and mayo – the only time she ever ventures into the kitchen during the year. 

For New Year’s Eve I made a large batch of Bigos (Polish Hunter’s Stew),a simple dish I have mastered over the years, with a side of mashed potatoes and a rice salad. It is quite fun to make it because I prepare it a day early and let the flavors develop until the next day. It keeps nicely in the refrigerator, and you can reheat it for at least another three or four days.  

Whenever I cook for the Holidays, I always make a lot of food so we have plenty of leftovers for the next few days so we can enjoy our time together without having to cook much during the rest of the time. 

Glazed Whitefish with Red Pepper Aioli 

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Ingredients: 

6 to 10 whitefish fillets 

1 cup roasted red pepper alioli 

1 tablespoon fresh chives (garnish) 

 

Instructions: 

Preheat the oven to 450F. Spray the broiler pan with oil. Place the fillets on the pan and evenly spread the aioli to coat the fillets with a thin glaze. Roast for about 10 minutes until the fish is opaque. Preheat the broiler if necessary. Broil for about 2 minutes until browned. Serve with remaining aioli, braised spinach with crispy shallots and roasted potato wedges with leeks and thyme.    

Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | October 23, 2017

The St. George Greenmarket, Staten Island

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