Category Archives: Heritage

My Italian Grandmother

My mother always tells me, “You had the only Italian grandmother who couldn’t cook.” Grandma Mel may have made more imitation-crab salads than meaty lasagnas, but she made one dish that I will never forget. And in this CONSTANT heat and humidity, my craving for it hit me like a Mack truck.

On the menu:
Rosa Marina Pasta Salad

1 lb of Rosa Marina or Orzo (I had to use Orzo because my local grocer doesn’t carry Rosa Marina)
1 small bag of shredded coconut
1 9 oz container of Cool Whip
2 eggs, beaten
2 large cans of crushed pineapple packed in 100% pineapple juice (no syrup!)
2 Tbsp flour
1 cup cherries, chopped (this recipe typically calls for maraschino cherries, but I had just bought fresh so I used them)
1 large can of mandarin oranges*
3/4 cup of sugar*

*I’m not sure if once again this was my local grocery or a trend in canned fruit, but I could only find mandarin oranges packed in light syrup instead of real fruit juice, which I HATE. Because I could only find the sugared oranges, I only added 1/2 cup of sugar. You really don’t need all that extra anyway.

Cook noodles according to package. Drain pineapple and oranges, but save juice.  In juice, cook eggs, sugar and flour until the mixture comes to a boil.  Let cool for 5 minutes and then pour over noodles. Cover and refrigerate over night. Next day, loosen mixture with spatula. Fold in chopped cherries, pineapple, oranges, coconut and Cool Whip. Mix well and chill. Eat in front of a fan with a glass of lemon water with a little Buona Fortuna by The Four Sicilians playing in the background…

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Let the Games Begin, Ja!

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that the World Cup kicked off this past weekend. While I cheered for the USA because, well… I am an American, I don’t feel a strict allegiance to any team. I find myself pulling for the underdog in every match, despite my heritage, and therefore could NOT root for Germany on Sunday when they played Australia. They’re so mean! And the Aussie team is nicknamed The Socceroos. Can you stand the adorableness?

Despite my disdain for the German team, I am 25% German and therefore showed a tiny bit of support by spending 25% of my Saturday eating German food and drinking a ridiculous amount of Spaten Oktoberfest. Don’t worry, it was ALMOST noon.

The colors got weirdly wonky in this picture, but many, many thanks to Ben for capturing them at all, since I am a terrible blogger and forgot my camera

Heidelberg Restaurant 1648 Second Avenue, between 85th St and 86th St, New York, NY. This place has been around since 1964, in a neighborhood called Yorkville that used to be predominantly German. The food is traditional German fare, and the beer is served in pints, half liters, liters, or 2 liter boots. That’s right. Two. Liter. Boots. And you thought the boot was a mythical figment of Beer Fest‘s imagination. The decor is pure kitsch (the waitstaff wears lederhosen and dirndl…) but so enjoyable.

On the menu:
Potato pancakes
Bratwurst with sauerkraut and potato salad
Sauerbraten with red cabbage (not pictured)

Potato Pancakes

Verdict: Jawhol! As a small aside, I dubbed this the year I will learn to love the foods I have typically shunned. On that list: sausage. I ordered a bratwurst because I felt like ordering potato pancakes was too safe, and I wanted to try a differently prepared type of sausage. Holy, holy mackerel, am I glad I did. This brat was lightly fried and spectacular; like a deep fried hot dog, with tangy sauerkraut and cool potato salad to smooth it all out. I did taste a dining partner’s potato pancake and it was SUBLIME. Crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, and the size of my face. Did I mention I like pancakes? The sauerbraten was perfectly cooked and unbelievably tender, and I can not wait to go back to Heidelberg and order it for myself.

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I’ll meet you anytime you want, in our Italian restaurant

I’m just going to come right out and say it: if you don’t have a great sense of smell, then I feel really sorry for you. Your life is like a bowl of rice krispies that’s got the snap crackle but is missing the pop. Because when a batch of garlicky, pancetta-laden scallops are bubbling away in a hot oven and that glorious, buttery smell is wafting through the air… there is literally nothing else like it. Nothing.

On the menu:
Scallop Gratin (adapted from Ina Garten’s bay scallop gratin)
Serves 2

3 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium shallot, minced
2 oz thinly sliced Pancetta, minced
3 Tbsp minced fresh parsley, plus 2 extra sprigs for garnish
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 Tbsp dry white wine, separated into 1 Tbsp (for topping) and 3 Tbsp (for the bottom of the baking dish)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1 lb fresh sea scallops

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

To make the topping, place the butter in a bowl. With an electric mixer on the lowest speed, add the garlic, shallot, pancetta, chopped parsley, lemon juice, 1 Tbsp of white wine, salt, and pepper and mix until combined. With the mixer still on low, add the 3 Tbsp of olive oil slowly, until combined. Fold in the panko with a rubber spatula and set aside.

Rinse scallops and pat dry with paper towels. In a non-stick skillet, heat remaining 1 Tbsp of olive oil over medium/high heat. Place scallops in skillet, with 1 inch between each. Sear on one side for 2 minutes, flip over and sear on the other side for 2 minutes.

Place 3 Tbsp of the wine in the bottom of a small baking dish and place seared scallops in the dish [NOTE: for best results, your scallops should be touching in the dish with little to no room between them].  Spoon the garlic butter evenly over the top of the scallops. Bake for 10 to 11 minutes, until the topping is golden and sizzling. Turn on your broiler and let the dish broil for 2 minutes, until browned. Garnish with parsley. Serve with crusty slices of French baguette.

*note: these photos were taken with Becca's incredible new camera with a food setting... apologies for the crap pictures from my own camera that will follow this post

Also note that this dish yields AMAZING dipping sauce so you’ll need plenty of bread to sop up all that goodness.

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Italian 101

A lot of times, all I want for dinner is something simple, something that will take me 20 minutes and minimal ingredients, and something that will fill me up and leave me happy. So here is a simple tomato sauce recipe that takes almost zero effort and can be used in everything from lasagna to chicken parm. And if you’re cooking for one, you can make the full batch and freeze what you don’t use for the next time you want something quick and easy. Way better than takeout and way more satisfying than a jar of Prego.

On the menu:
Parmesan chicken with tomato sauce over pasta

Sauce:
Makes 3 cups
1 Tbsp olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup yellow onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh basil, 1/4 chopped and 1/4 chiffonade for garnish
1 tsp red pepper flakes
28 oz crushed tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste

Add olive oil, minced garlic, chopped onion, and chopped basil to a cold pot. Turn the heat to medium and stir until the ingredients in the pot are fragrant, about 10 minutes. Once the aromatics are fragrant, add the tomatoes and turn the heat down to low. Cook the sauce for around 5 minutes, taste, and add salt to taste. Let sauce simmer for another 15 minutes.

Chicken:
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 egg
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup flour
2 Tbsp olive oil

Pound chicken breasts so that they are each around 1 inch thick. Mix together panko bread crumbs and grated parmesan. Dredge chicken in flour, shake off excess. Dredge in egg, and then in parmesan/panko mixture. Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add chicken and cook on each side over medium heat, for around 8 minutes on each side or until cooked through.

Make pasta according to directions on the box. Plate pasta and chicken and pour sauce over the top. Grate more parmesan over the top and add chiffonade basil.

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Q: How do you keep a Polak in suspense? A:

I have an undeniable sweet tooth. Even most of my savory dishes feature sweet onions or carrots or other vegetables and roots with natural sugars. I never knew why I was so fixated on sugar. And then I read this article. And it all makes sense.

We won’t deny that the Poles are fond of the odd tipple (although beer has easily superseded vodka in popularity since 1989). But any foreigner who has been around in this country for more than a few days will spot another national trait – Poles love cakes.” Oh. Duh.

Apparently yesterday was Fat Thursday, a day in which Polish people gorge themselves on sweets and fatty, fried food in anticipation of abstaining during Lent. I’ll just use that as my excuse for the pain au chocolat at breakfast.

A little history lesson for you, kids. If you didn’t celebrate yesterday, you have a free pass for today.

photo of Polish paczki c/o Wikipedia.org

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