Salty Sponge?!?

Tapenade,-Two-ways

My brother-in-law JUMBO says it’s like eating a salty wet sponge. This is highly upsetting to me. He and other olive-haters are missing out on one of the most delicious of Italian pleasures.

The olive tree is native to the Mediterranean region, Asia, and Africa. It was one of the first trees harvested by humans some 7,000 years ago.  Now, it’s grown in warm climates worldwide. There are hundreds of cultivars with distinct, rich, savory flavors. Olives are commonly served in all manners of deliciousness – marinated, cured and stuffed. They’re baked in breads. Olives are also used in giardiniera – a pickled Italian relish of sorts. Most famously, giardiniera is known as the signature ingredient on the NOLA Central Grocery Muffuletta.

Olives are the base component of tapenade. They’re puréed along with capers, and olive oil. Anchovies, lemon juice, garlic, basil and black pepper are common ingredients as well. Because it doesn’t include sugar like many processed condiments and spreads we buy in the store, tapenade is super healthy. It’s also vegan!

For my Birthday last week, my husband took me to one of my favorite Italian restaurants, Vetro (164-49 Cross Bay Blvd, Howard Beach, NY 11414). As soon as we sat down the waiter brought us a basket of warm bread which included one with tapenade baked in. It was so incredibly good. I couldn’t stop thinking about it in the days to follow. I was craving in a major way. It would be weird to go back to Vetro and order wine and a basket of bread so I thought I’d try to make my own tapenade to ease my appetite. I experimented with two different purées.

This past weekend – my birthday weekend – I had some friends over. My pal Dave doesn’t like olives, but he ate my black and green tapenade without knowing it was an olive spread. He enjoyed it so much he asked for the recipe! I encourage all the olive-haters out there to end your olive boycott and try these recipes. Enjoy!

Black and Green Tapenade

  • 1/2 cup canned black olives

  • 1/2 cup spanish green olives

  • 1 tbsp. capers (flat, not heaping)

  • 2 large cloves garlic

  • 1/2 lemon, juiced or more to taste

  • Black pepper to taste

  • 3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

Basil Tapenade

  • 1/2 cup cured black olives, pitted

  • 1/2 cup green olives

  • 1 small red bell pepper

  • 6 large basil leaves

  • 2 large cloves garlic

  • 1 tbsp. capers (flat not heaping)

  • 1/2 lemon, juiced or more to taste

  • 3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

Directions for both (very easy!): Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Set aside for a ½ hour so the flavors infuse. Dribble a little extra oil on top and garnish with an olive or a basil leaf. Note: for the basil tapenade, puree the pepper first and drain the excess liquid before adding the other ingredients.

Serve with warm sliced panella or semolina bread as an hors d’oeuvre.

tagged in olive oil!, recipe, recipes

Run Those Pipes!

Warming-the-ceiling-soffit-with-my-blow-dryer

Previously published in The Wave.

Happy Birthday Matt!! On my husband’s birthday, which also happens to be New Years Day, we get a text from our tenants, “So strange, our water isn’t working.” “What?!!? Turn on all the faucets – hot and cold!” I went into red alert mode, grabbed a blow dryer and extension cord and ran upstairs. I tried to find access to the pipes but there were no major lines exposed. My husband spent the next hour or so trying to figure out where their pipes were in our ceiling and where they ended in the basement.

We had no choice but to open up a few holes in the ceiling. If the pipe burst, it would be far more expensive than patching up sheetrock. A few holes turned into a few large sections of  drywall removed in our bedroom and kitchen. I poured the wine – it was New Year’s day after all. We taped a blow dryer to the ceiling where the pipes ran from the upstair apartment and hoped for the best. A few hours later, the water started running!  Our ceiling wouldn’t come crashing down over our bed while we were sleeping and our understanding tenants could shower before work the next day! Crisis mode over but we needed to fix the issue for good.

Opening-the-sheerock-above-the-bed,-eek!

The frozen pipes were  located near the roof where the first floor extends. Meaning, there was no second floor protection above those pipes. If your water pipes are 6 inches from the exterior and it’s below freezing for a few days, insulation or not, they will freeze. Over the next few days Matt and our handyman friend Chris moved the pipes, added insulation and set up an electric water pipe heat cable for safe measure. This is a mechanism that coils around  water pipes and heats them when plugged in. To use this, we put air vents in the ceiling so we have easy access to the area, if we needed to plug the cable in incase of another issue.

An interesting thing I Iearned through all this is in some cases hot water freezes before cold. I couldn’t understand why our tenants hot water took longer to thaw than the cold. I did some research, this phenomenon is called the Mpemba effect, named after a Tanzanian student  in 1960 who observed in his cooking class that a hot ice cream mix freezes faster than a cold mix! There’s conflicting research in the scientific world about why this happens and the Mpemba affect is still being debated.

I know a few other friends in Rockaway that had their pipes freeze up. Word to the wise, if we get another bomb cyclone, keep all your faucets dribbling, the moving water will prevent freezing pipes!

Chris's-head-in-the-ceiling

grams of the week – jan 8

Here’s a recap of the best instagrams of last week. If you want the day to day follow me here!

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The Bomb Cyclone is the theme of this weeks grams of the week. Here’s Cookie using her new Cat Cave Bed which I got her for Christmas. It’s made from sheep’s wool, so warm!

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My friends Dave and Anna made some good old comfort food the day after the storm, thx u! There’s nothing like homemade pizza (drooooolllll).

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My parents took me to Bungalow Bar  for a prebirthday lunch (thats right!!!!!). Before I walked in, I spotted this frozen bike and had to snap a pic. Despite the cold outside, inside Bungalow Bar is warm and toasty because they have a wood burning stove. The food was great as always. I had the portabella burger with a side salad (I reluctantly subbed for fries). And we ordered the spinach artichoke dip to start which is seriously legit.

Screen Shot 2018-01-08 at 9.36.50 AM

Being stuck inside because its freezing outside means plenty of time to cook. I made this spice cumin dressing which is a spin-off of this recipe. I’ll have to get this on the blog but generally the dressing is: 1 part white vinegar, 1 part red vinegar, 1 juiced lemon. The rest, extra virgin olive oil. I use and love Colavita. Wisk the oil in slowly. 2 garlic cloves loosely chopped. 1 teaspoon cumin. Salt-and-pepper and oregano. 2 tablespoons mustard.

 

tagged in instagram, winter

I met Fran Drescher, twice.

I'm-beside-myself!
I’m beside myself!

Previously published in The Wave.

She’s fabulous from head to toe. She’s hilarious, caring, successful, inspiring and everything in between. And she’s from Queens. I want to be just like her. My father-in-law Jerry gifted me Fran Drescher’s 1996 autobiography Enter Whining. It reminded me of my two extremely fortunate encounters with the flashy girl from Flushing.

My friend Katie Honan and I were out to lunch in the city at [undisclosed location]. We heard whispers that Fran Drescher was scheduled to have lunch there. Wild luck! We were already seated and needed to wait for her arrival but had know idea what time she would appear. We kept ordering course after course. I think it took us 45 minutes to finish our espresso and sambuca. It was getting really awkward with our waiter by this point. Just as we were about to lose hope, she walked in. Fran looked so fine. She was wearing a satin purple and black floral sweetheart dress that fit perfectly. Her hair was straight and to my surprise her makeup was understated. She was glowing and smiling ear to ear. We stood up and approached her. It seemed like a blur. I don’t remember exactly what we said but I remember Katie taking the lead and being smooth, closing with “Can we take a picture together?” Fran responded “Come here girls.” and we took the picture that cemented the moment forever in time! We spent way to much money on lunch but it was worth every cent to meet my idol.

The second meeting with Fran Drescher was very different. It was 2013, only a year  after my first encounter.  My friend Jen Carlson, Editorial Director of the now defunct Gothamist (so messed up!) asked if I wanted to interview Fran Drescher. She knew how much I idolized the Queen of Queens (an incredibly kind jester!). This was a once in a lifetime opportunity!  (Twice in  lifetime?) I had to say yes, but an interview?!? I was beyond nervous.

After beating uterine cancer in 2000 and undergoing a hysterectomy, Fran Drescher founded Cancer Schmancer, a charity that is focused on the preventative aspects of cancer awareness.   Fran was holding a promotional event for the charity at the bar SEN NYC.  My job was to get information on her favorite New York (hopefully Jewish related) restaurants, food joints or bagel shops. I needed very “New York-y” content. I remember that day at work, I didn’t design a thing. I wrote out my questions and researched Fran all day. Then I  rewrote my questions and made several trips to the bathroom so I could pace back and forth and freak out in private.

I had a plus one so I brought my photographer friend Susanne. We had 10 minutes for the interview. I needed a drink at the bar to calm my nerves. Then it came time. I introduced myself and I’m sure she could tell I was starstruck. We continued chatting and I calmed slightly. It was hard to get a word in!  Fran was so passionate about her charity Cancer Schmancer. She began talking about removing carcinogens from our homes. “Be very careful when you brush your teeth girls”, Fran Drescher cautioned us! “Why?” “Because normal toothpaste is full of carcinogens!”  She listed several common items that might be of concern: cosmetics, dry cleaned clothing, household cleaners and your couch! The clock was ticking, I tried to get some answers to my list of questions but in the end it wasn’t enough for a good NYC foodie article. We did get photos with the Queen of Queens! Fran was so adorable. “Let’s take a few and make sure we all look fabulous” she said. It was a dream come true experience to meet Fran Drescher… twice!

Now if I can only meet Dolly Parton, Billy Joel, Lil Bub and Pope Francis (in no particular order),  I can die a happy woman.

tagged in memories