People living in Greece or Italy are suspected of living with more fresh fruits and vegetables, along with an abundance of extra virgin olive oil. This, along with siestas and lots of good red wine seem to contribute to their longevity — and admirable lifestyles.
More than fifty years ago my Italian family lived this fabulous diet without even knowing how smart they were. The genius behind the food eaten at my mother’s table was her father, my grandfather Pietro Uddo. He came to America as a young man in his twenties from Pianno de Grecco in Sicily with his 16-year-old wife, Francesca Elisabeta. Starting in the tenements of the Lower East Side, they brought eleven children into the world (only nine survived.) They worked their way up from tenement-dweller to home owner. The high point of my grandfather`s life was when he bought his house on a corner lot in Brooklyn. It was here he planted his fig tree; it was here we shared many meals on that long table. It was in that house in Brooklyn, that the food my family ate would be the subject of a culinary feast.
Each morning, my grandfather started his day with a raw egg that he sucked out after pricking a small hole on one end. He would wash that down with his homemade wine in a large glass filled with fruit, like apples or peaches. My grandfather`s vines covered the backyard, connected to many plants. They tasted bitter to me when I would pick them, but he would bring them to the basement and crush them with his feet in a large tub. Bottles would line the shelves as he would refill them year after year.
My grandparents had a sumptuous feast at Christmas and other occasions, but the everyday meals were simple. Pasta was often the center — pasta with peas, pasta with red kidney beans, pasta with white beans, pasta with broccoli, pasta with broccoli rabe and, if nothing else was available, pasta with grated cheese and butter. There were tons of vegetables at these basic dinners, too. Cauliflower was boiled and then breaded and baked with olive oil. Asparagus spears were breaded and baked in the oven to perfect crispness.
We scavenged for good food, too. It was either spring or fall when my grandfather would wander the streets of Brooklyn, looking for empty lots with overgrown weeds. I found out later these weren’t weeds – hey were called “gardunia”. He would also pick the dandelion flowers when they were new and cook those as well.
Meals everyday were healthy with lots of other vegetables that were grown in the small garden. Every spring, however, was the high point of strange foods. My grandmother would prepare a “lamb`s head” (capazella) in the oven. She would put breadcrumbs and seasonings all over it and serve it to my grandfather on a platter. This caused all of the grandchildren to scatter out of the room. But curiosity would often get the better of me and I would sneak back to just peek at this meal that seemed to satisfy my grandfather so much. Once, I can recall his poking out the eyes and devouring them. I remember running from the room when he went to eat the brain.
And if one of the grandchildren got a cut, my grandfather would take a leave from the grape vine or fig tree and cover the injury and wrap it up in a handkerchief. While we often felt foolish wearing leaf on our legs for a day or so, I have to say the healing was miraculous, with no scab.
My grandfather never saw a doctor in all of his 82 years. He never took any medicine, not even an aspirin. His medicine was his diet. In the middle of a night in May, 1959 he woke up with what he thought was indigestion. He was looking for one of his home remedies, perhaps a mint leaf from the garden when a massive attack felled him and he died. My grandmother lived to be 82 as well. They never talked about dieting, or took anything extreme. They cooked what they liked, with an eye on what was right for their bodies.
So maybe there was something to their diet after all.
We attended the first Ridgewood Market last month and it was pretty neat. Held at our favorite bar Gottscheer Hall, the market showcased vendors ranging from jewelry designers, to soap makers to food vendors. New to the bill this month is O live Brooklyn and Sabbas Spicery. These are of particular interest to us and will be our first visits – the more food vendors the better!
What sets this market apart from the others? You can drink while shopping. We know, this is awesome (!!!) but it gets better. Catch brunch with your friends in the tap room first. Try the Gottscheer omelette with krainerwurst and swiss, hash browns and a roll – it’s good. Don’t forget to tip Trina and the gang before you head into the ballroom!
Having so much fun last month, we decided to get our own table for this Sunday’s Flea Market (May 19th). We’ll be selling our spider plants homegrown on the RD. So stop by, say hello and pick up a cheap, adorable plant to decorate your kitchen with.
“Want to take a look?” Patrick asked, offering an unexpected invitation which we immediately accepted. Susanne and I were thrilled to get a first peak inside the much-anticipated, first-ever wine bar in Rockaway.
My reaction when walking in was… this place is really special. After talking with Patrick it all made sense. He’s an artist with a concentration in sculpture and welding. From the handmade bar stools to the reclaimed pallets that line the walls floor to ceiling, you can see the care, time and dedication that went into creating the space. Patrick explained it was hard to find labor with contractors stretched thin from Hurricane Sandy so he just kept working on it, building the bar practically all on his own.
After admiring the interior, we headed outside to the backyard where picnic tables and planters filled a large lot. There’s a movie screen ready to show some flicks and one of Patrick’s sculptures for viewing. The natural, simple feel really works.
How did this all come about? Patrick met Rashida Jackson bartending in Fort Greene. Jackson, a Rockaway native, had the vision and the business plan for years but funding was difficult. With committed interest from Patrick and funding from a recent art commission, they took a chance and signed the lease for Sayra’s… two months before Sandy hit.
Patrick and Rashida were by no means reluctant to clean up and start construction after Hurricane Sandy took its toll on their new rental. In fact, they were even more motivated to start building the wine bar – they wanted the community to have something to look forward to and enjoy.
And enjoy we will, when we’re sipping wine at Sarya’s Memorial Day weekend - a litte beach, a little bar, can’t wait! And we’ll bet you a glass of red that this will be Rockaways new summer hot spot, for locals and visiting beach-goers alike. Look forward to some surfer inspired wine selections, beers on tap, sake cocktails, and a tapas menu. A laid-back vibe is encouraged – flip flops welcome!
We recently caught up with Scott Edwards and Tim Keenan, owners of Surfside Bagels in Rockaway Beach. We chatted about Hurricane Sandy, their grand re-opening, and of course, bagels.
The guys were stretched thin the weeks after the storm. As host to his displaced family and working at his firehouse, Tim was running in circles. Scott and his firehouse, Engine 234 were sent to Sandy-ravaged neighborhoods including the Rockaways and Brooklyn neighborhoods like Brighton Beach, leaving little time to focus on the bagel shop.
But thanks to the overwhelming generosity of FrontStreet Facility Solutions, Scott and Tim were able to rebuild their business after the floodwaters and devastation of Sandy completely destroyed their business. The initiative to help was spearheaded by FrontStreet’s Chief Development Officer Joseph Scaretta, who gave financial assistance and labor to the co-owners.
“I received an email from FrontStreet and ignored it at first - we thought it was a scam,” Scott tells us.
“We still would have been waiting for our FEMA loan, if FrontStreet didn’t step in,” Tim adds. “Our doors most likely would still be closed.”
MSNBC’s “Your Business” got wind of the kind acts of FrontStreet Facility and wanted to pitch in as well. The “Your Business” makeover team put full gears in motion – Scott and Tim learned how to streamline their business by managing inventory, implementing brand re-fresh initiatives and gained perspective on the importance of customer loyalty.
The two NYC firefighters were back in business on February 11, with a beautiful new interior renovation, menu changes and a grateful appreciation for all who had a hand in the reconstruction of their dream – Surfside Bagels.
“Business is good,” Tim tells us. “All things considered, we are not fully up to our pre-Sandy sales, but we’re getting close.”
After our bagel breakfast, Tim and Scott were kind enough to give us a complete bagel-making demonstration. These guys are passionate about their craft, adhering to the old-fashioned hand rolling technique, making the bagels from scratch on a daily basis. Here’s the play by play:
First, the dough is mixed and the shops roller starts hand rolling the bagels. These are then placed in a large walk-in refrigerator in order to stop the fermentation process that occurs when the yeast is added to the dough. After being cooled, the bagels are then taken out and dropped in a vat of boiling water.
The boiling of the bagels is what gives them their classic shiny finish. The bagels are then scooped out of the water and placed onto wet burlap bagel boards. Scott explains…
The bagels are seeded and ready for the 500+ degree oven.
Midway, they’re flipped…
Voila! A few minutes later you have hot, fresh bagels.
Can you tell the difference? “Oh heck yeah,” Paula declares as she takes a bite. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a bagel this fresh before — I can’t even!” Paula rates Surfside Bagels – 5 tomatoes.
Scott and Tim go out of their way to sacrifice convenience for the special touches of handmade quality.
We fully enjoyed our morning with two of New York’s bravest, and in our opinion, two of New York’s best bagel makers.
Scott and Tim are planning some new menu items and are ready for the summer. Tim tells us “I think this will be a big summer for Rockaway. There’s a lot of interest in the community, so we hope to see lots of visitors at the shop.”
The Q53 stops right outside of Surfside Bagels (95-11 Rockaway Beach Boulevard), so make sure you pick up their famous cheese bagel, a classic SPF95 chicken sandwich or whatever you want to eat before you head down to the beach!
Co-Owner Scott Edwards gives Paula a huge bag of bagels to take home – so generous!
Co-Owner Tim Keenan and Paula hanging out in the kitchen!
Never before released, this is Granny Martha’s meatball recipe. There’s something about Grandma’s just knowing how to make a delicious Meatball, am I right? I guess it’s the years of practice and finesse that lead to the perfect combination of ingredients.
Granny Martha’s Meatballs Makes about 64
Ingredients – Meatballs: 4 – 4 1/2 lbs chuck chopped 80% lean ground beef
1 medium loaf of soft white bread-, discard heels
1 large onion finely chopped
5 cloves garlic finely choppped or minced
1/4 c. salt
1 tablespoon of black pepper
Large bowl of warm water
2 jars of granny’s sauces (see below)
For the sauce: 1 can tomato paste
1/2 lard (it comes in a package like butter)
1 large onion-chopped finely
4 cloves garlic-chopped or minced finely
2-3 cans tomato puree
1 heaping tablespoon Vegeta (or oregano and basil)
Directions: Melt lard in a 12 quart pot. Add bones and brown on all sided. Remove from pot. Add onions and garlic with the tomato paste. Mix well. Add the puree and vegeta (or basil and oregano) and put bones back in. Cook for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally.
Directions – Meatballs:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Soak the bread in a bowl of warm water for a couple of minutes until saturated and mushy.
3. In a very large bowl, take the meat and break it up with bare hands, add the onion and garlic. Mix together.
4. Squeeze out the water from the bread, break into small pieces and add to the mix.
5. Add salt and pepper.
6. Thoroughly work the mix with your bare heads, making sure everything is completely blended.
7.Taste the mix and add more salt and pepper if necessary
8.Take a heaping tablespoon of the mix and roll into a ball with your hands. It’s a good idea to keep a bowl of warm water next to you to wet your hands since this makes rolling the meatballs easier. Place the meatballs side by side on a greased baking sheet.
9. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until done. You know they’re done when you lift a meatball and it feels light. Keep the pan drippings to add to the sauce.
10. Place one row of meatballs in a pan and add the sauce. Use homemade sauce and add the pan drippings for flavor. Bake in the over until the sauce is hot.
This recipe is great for a party – you can make this a day or two in advance and just pop the pan on the sternoes to heat up. The meatballs can also be frozen without the sauce.
by Fran Chiodo Honan onApril 18, 2013 9:40 pminFood / Recipes
I love to watch the cooking shows with chefs who refuse to divulge the “secret” to their recipes. It seems kind of snobby. Most people can usually tell the “mystery” ingredients just by tasting, although the amount can be way off. And what’s so sacred about a secret? We all know what’s in the secret sauce on Big Macs — and billions of people still eat there.
I have been baking brownies for years. I will make trays of them for birthdays, parties,house-warmings, school events or just a dinner. With incredible modesty, I will say here that the brownies are greeted with oohs and aahs and there are never any left over. People will marvel and ask how I did it. Sometimes I would just smile humbly and other times I pretend to blush. But lately, I have been telling anyone who asks just how I create the moist, chewy, delicious brownies that will make you very, very happy. So even if you haven`t asked, here is how it is done and the “secret” is now for all to know.
FRAN`S SECRET BROWNIE RECIPE
Go to the grocery store and purchase several boxes of brownie mixes. You do not have to show loyalty to one brand, but use name brands, (not store brands-they are inferior.)
The SECRET is variety, (see photo) By using the different varieties of brownie mixes, you will create the BEST taste and texture.
- Follow the directions on the back of each box exactly as stated.
- Combine all of the stated additives first in A VERY large bowl,( eggs, water and oil).
- When the eggs and liquids are thoroughly whisked, you may add the powdered brownie mix, ONE AT A TIME.
- Put the whisk away now and rely on a long wooden spoon.
- Add each package and mix until you do not see the crumbly dry powder. DO NOT OVER MIX
- Use jelly roll pans 20″ by 12″ will hold 3 boxes of brownie mixed. Grease them with the spray shortening .
- Carefully pour the mixed brownies onto the pan and spread out with a spatula very carefully.
- Cautionary people tell us not to lick the spatula or the bowl, but it is hard to resist. Many years of brownie baking has not killed me yet nor anyone else who happens by the kitchen.
- The next part of the SECRET is to slightly undercook the brownies. After about 25 minutes or so, check on the JIGGLY middle of the mixture. If there is a lot of jiggle in the middle, cook for a few minutes
more, about 8-10. This technique takes practice and there were a lot of mistakes along the way.
- The more you bake, the better you will get at this.
- The edges should be firm all around and there should be a gloss to the top of the brownies and some cracks as well. BUT NO JIGGLING.
- Let the brownies cool completely before cutting. Keep the tray away from pets. Our Stella, our beagle/
foxhound mix, once ate a medium sized tray of brownies and lived another day, but now that she is diabetic, we are more careful
- Cut them into squares and put on trays. Wrap completely with clear plastic. Serve to family, friends and anyone else who drops by. They will disappear quickly.
So here is the secret to the BEST BROWNIES ever. Use it wisely and very often. Use a variety. Make your own instructions! But remember: Bake them and they will come.
5-6 chicken thighs with skin
bacon fat (you can use olive oil but I recommend the bacon fat)
2 large onions
Chop up the onions and toss into the pan mixing with the fat until they’re limp and translucent. Sprinkle with at least (if not more) two tablespoons of paprika. In other words, a lot of paprika. The onions should be well coated and look orange. Keeping mixing until the color is burnt orange.
By using a pan with high sides, you’ll limit the splattering and clean up of your stove top. Place the chicken thighs skin side down into the pan and add salt. Cook uncovered for 5 minutes or until the skin is brown and crispy. You may have an odor of the onions burning. To a point that’s okay and in fact enhances the flavor. But don’t let it become too much of a good thing – otherwise the fire engines will be outside your front door!
Note: If you like carrots, put a bunch of baby carrots in the pan before you include the chicken. This addition will add a sweet dimension and you’ll cover all the major food groups.
Turn the chicken over and add salt again – cook for 5 more minutes. After this, turn the chicken to the skin side down, cover the pan, turn the heat to low and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes. Keep turning the chicken every five minutes or so until done.
Once cooked, you’ll have a sauce which is terrific with cooked egg noodles or brown rice.
For some reason, making this recipe on the stove top in large quantities doesn’t taste as good. If you’re planing for a large dinner party, consider this alternate method which allows you to prepare in advance and cook more at once (keeping the great flavor). Brown the chicken in the paprika onion mixture and instead of fully cooking it on the stove top, pop it in the oven for 20-30 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove from the oven and let it sit for 5-10 minutes so the juices settle.
This Sunday will be hoppin! Two super fun, food centric events happening in Ridgewood:
1. The first ever Ridgewood Market is happening at Gottscheer Hall – starts at 11am. I love the idea of strolling around with a cocktail and shopping – two of my favorite things! From the looks of it, some neat stuff will be for sale, including food items.
And last but not least, Amelia will debut Sweet Treats!
It gets better – Gottscheer Hall will serve for the first time, Brunch! I’m looking forward to trying it out and I’m hoping the menu has a German twist.
Sunday Funday Event 2. Myrtle Avenue Business Improvement District is hosting their first Street Fair of the season (lots of firsts happening!). It runs from Forest Ave to Wykoff Ave (12-6pm). Gosh, it’s going to be a big eating day. I can’t go to a fair without getting sausage and peppers, not to mention the temptation of zeppoles.
Here are some pictures to get you in the mood. I took these at the Myrtle fair in 2008. Hope to see you floating around Ridgewood this Sunday!
The familiar is slowly returning to Rockaway. The dark cold days and nights seem in the distant past. Shoots of flowers are piercing the sand covered soil with the hope of spring. While we watched this happen, there were flickers of optimism in our hearts. But the true sign of normalcy and familiarity came last weekend with the sounds of Mister Softee. An ice-cream truck singing down the street may seem like an ordinary thing, yet it is a constant in all of our lives.
Having spent my entire life in New York City, I can’t recall a spring that was not welcomed by the comforting jingle from the truck. As a child, the sound were the bells rung by the Good Humor cart, with the bike attached that the man in white pedaled down the street. Later there was the truck, but my earliest memory is of the cart. I can also recollect my very first ice-cream pop. My mother would buy us the special treats occasionally when I was very young and I always got the cardboard cup, half chocolate and half vanilla to be eaten with a flat wooden stick. My sister, one year older, got the delectable looking dark chocolate ice-cream on a wooden stick. I was only 4 years old, but I remember asking for what she had. My mother said I was too young, which was disappointing.
Then, one day, I got my chance. My parents had to go somewhere and my aunt and uncle were watching my sister and I. They did not have any kids, so even at four, this was the golden opportunity on that afternoon when I heard the familiar sound of the ice-cream cart. I asked for a pop just like my big sister. Maria, my sister, said I was too young. She sounded a lot like my mother, but my aunt fell for me and my sad brown eyes and got the pop. There I was, 4 years old and I felt like a grown-up eating the delicious chocolate off of the pop. Of course, a 4 year old is easily distracted by the sun, or a noise or anything, so I barely noticed the chocolate melting down my hand and onto my dress. To this day, I can still hear my sister saying, “mommy said you are too young”. I fully understood what that meant now. But a few tears and lots of clean up later all was well. It was however,, a few years down the road until i felt ready to tackle that pop again.
I thought of this story last week as my husband and I purchased our first Mister Softee of the season. It was a delicious vanilla soft serve cone, that tasted fresh and extremely familiar and finally normal. Summer isn’t so far away.