Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Loss of the Old World

Second Avenue Deli is now closed. A glance at any given Wednesday's 'Dining In, Dining Out' section of the New York Times will provide you with a listing of restaurants' comings and goings. That's New York for you. Sometimes it's just that a restaurant doesn't generate enough traffic to pay the overhead. More likely, a restaurant's lease expires and a landlord realizes that they could be making a lot more money thus offering a new lease at thousands of dollars more a month. Second Avenue Deli was the victim of the latter. An increase of $7000 a month while still owing tons in backrent wouldn't be good for any restaurant. But it's sad that an Institution - and that's what the Second Avenue Deli was - is now closed. Yes, they say that they are looking for new space but it's not the same. Especially if it doesn't stay on Second Avenue.

I first went to Second Avenue about a year and a half ago. I had heard about the melt-in-your-mouth pastrami sandwiches years before but heard that it was a "fake Kosher" deli to the likes of Carnegie or Katz's. But when Shai - my orthodox buddy - told me that he knew the family and that everything was truly Kosher, I decided to make a trip downtown to nosh on some tasty Kosher cuisine.

Those who know me know that I'm not such a big fan of "Jewish Cuisine." Yet at that time I was meat deprived, and Dougie's and all the other Glatt Kosher Upper Westside Eateries were just so unattractive. But rather than Menupaging the deli, I assumed that it would be on Second Avenue in the Lower East Side. Why? Because on Essex is where the Pickle Guy's is, on Hester is where Gertel's sets up shop. So Second Ave down there would be the perfect place for a deli, right? After a bit of a hike Jon and I realized that it was instead much closer to St. Mark's Place than anything, and cold and our legs were tired. And then the smell of the pastrami hit me. The seasoning wrapping the cured meat. The warmth reminiscent of my Bubby's apartment. We were seated at a booth with some sour pickles and cole slaw (standard Jewish Deli cuisine) and by the time the waiter came we knew what to order. A chicken soup, a meat knish, two overstuffed pastrami sandwiches and Dr. Brown's Diet Black Cherry soda. Kosher meat is generally tougher than regular meat (or so I've heard) because it has to be soaked and salted. But this pastrami was so tender, so soft, held together in the sandwich yet fell apart in my mouth. We each left over half of our sandwiches because they were THAT big and then used the remainder of the meat the following day for "pastramlettes." A year later we returned, same waiter, same food, same satisfaction. I remarked that it was one of the few reminders of Old World New York (in the sense of Eastern European Jewish cuisine, not the German and Irish influences). And now it's gone.

A week ago Jon and I decided to take advantage of the unseasonably warm weather and walked from Union Square to the East Village to the West Village. While on a quest to find Veneiro's bakery we passed the remains of what once was Second Avenue Deli. It was tragic. To mourn for this institution, it is only appropriate to provide a recipe for a dish that cures everything: that's right, Matzoh Ball Soup... it's Jewish Penicillin, but not, since I'm allergic to Penicillin and not to this soup.

Matzoh Ball Soup

for the soup:
- 8 chicken legs or a chicken cut into 8ths
- an onion, peeled
- 2 carrots, peeled
- 2 stalks of celery
- a sweet potato (my mother swears by this but it's fine without)
- a small bunch of parsley
- a potato
- salt and pepper to taste
**some stores carry a "soup vegetable" package that has a couple of carrots, celery stalks, potato, etc. this is totally fine to use**

for the Matzoh balls:
- Matzoh Ball Mix (Manishewitz, Rokeach, etc... it's basically seasoned Matzoh Meal so get that if you can't get the mix)
- eggs, water and oil according to the package directions

1. In a stock pot, fill water about halfway and put in the chicken. Heat water to a boil. Once the water is boiling turn the heat down to medium-low and add the vegetables. Cook for 2 hours.
2. At the two hour mark begin with the Matzoh Ball mixture. Refrigerate it fifteen minutes while bringing a saucepan of water to boil (don't cook matzoh balls in the Soup because they'll absorb the soup like a sponge and you won't have much liquid left). Once the water is boiling wet your hands and shape the Matzoh meal mixture into balls and place them into the water. After about 15 minutes they'll rise to the top of the pan. Cook according to package instructions (it's just as good as making them from scratch - I promise). When the Matzoh balls are cooked remove them from heat.
3. Season the soup mixture to taste and cook another hour. Then drop in the Matzoh balls and serve.

You can make this to cook all day and your house will have a pleasant aroma. My mother sometimes would have it simmering for six hours. Three's been fine for me though.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Back to the Blog...

Sorry for not posting in so long all of my valued readers (haha). This semester's been crazy busy thus far and I feel bad being a blog slacker. But, alas.

I was at Le Monde on the day before classes started and was sitting at a table next to a group of three students. I honestly have no idea what they were talking about for most of the time but then they said THANKSGIVING SANDWICH. They went on to describe the joy that is the Thanksgiving Sandwich and then discussed the possibilities of becoming food bloggers. Well, I beat them to the chase.

I don't understand the entire concept of the Thanksgiving sandwich - Turkey with mashed potatoes, cranberry, stuffing (if available) and on some bread. My mother orders it from the kosher deli near her every time she goes there... and it's slathered with some garlic mayo to boot. But I loathe Thanksgiving pretty much because of the leftovers, since I'm not a big turkey eater to begin with. However, after making Mac 'n Cheese for 200 and serving at our building's Thanksgiving Dinner I realized that most people love turkey dinner and love Thanksgiving specifically for the leftovers.

The one thing that they mentioned (I'm such an eavesdropper) is that the Thanksgiving Sandwich is crazy expensive. So here is the no-cooking-necessary and allergen-free (since I'm apparently ignorant) Thanksgiving Sandwich for Columbia Students and if eaten for several meals in a row, can be relatively inexpensive. That meaning that you can buy everything here from either Morton Williams or the Farmer's Market and steal what you want from the cafeteria and JJ's place. At MW's deli counter you can just ask for a small amount of turkey & potatoes to cut costs if you don't want to be eating Thanksiving Sandwich Leftovers for the entire night.

The meat: sliced Turkey, your brand of choice
The starch: mashed potatoes, available cheaply at Mortons and D'Ag
The crans: Cranberry Jelly, purchased at the "jelly" table at the farmer's market on Thursdays
The bread: wheat free and vegan and allergen free bread (or if you're not an "allergic child" then normal bread of your choice)

To assemble: Slather the bread with Cranberry jelly. Alternate slices of turkey with spoonfuls of potatoes. Eat.

Simple enough?

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Hot Pots and Haute Cuisine

That's it. That's going to be the title of whatever it is I write this coming term. Now all I have to do is write it. I'm not sure if it will be a "memoir" per se, because my life isn't all that interesting. Reichl's book was a memoir and at first I thought it was about a person that wasn't all that unique but, damn, a lot happened there. My life isn't all that dramatic, although I make things seem that way.

For those who don't cook New York is quite a food-filled paradise. I was in Fairway today and it was like the gates of hell had opened and in entered the three-piece suities of the Upper West Side, the stay at home moms of the Trump Plaza, and everyone else who doesn't order Fresh Direct. The salad bar was uber gourmet (pasta with mozzarella, wild rice salad, grilled portobellos), the bread looked fresher than ever, and the fish had extremely clear eyes. And despite my slightly sour hummus it was worth it. The no-frills Fairway is one of the biggest things that I will miss about New York.

My dear friend Kayla (who I am convinced is reading this blog) is in London right drinking TEA and eating scones. TEA. This is the same girl who will drink a dozen shots of espresso over the course of the day. But coffee is expensive in England despite Italy and France being the purveyors they are of gourmet caf(f)e. In honor of the ex-patriot herself, here is a recipe for some scones:

2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons shortening
3/4 cup cream
1 egg
Handful dried currants or dried cranberries
Heat oven to 375 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Mix well. Cut in butter and shortening. In a separate bowl, combine cream with beaten egg then add to dry ingredients. Stir in fruit. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Roll dough out and cut into biscuit size rounds. Bake for 15 minutes or until brown.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

One Week Left of Break...

Not a long post today because it's 1:52 am.

I finished Ruth Reichl's book today. It is amazing. You should all read "Comfort Me With Apples." I have looked up to Reichl since I was a young teenager and she wrote restaurant reviews for the New York Times. And then edited Gourmet (the best magazine out there). This book made her seem more... human. No spoilers but it will make your mouth water. And she managed to travel to China, Thailand, Barcelona and Paris in one book. Lucky. It's mostly memoir - recounting her time from the mid-1970s when she first became a restaurant critic through about the 1980s - documents divorce, affairs, the death of her father, moving to LA, and all that good stuff with a sprinkling of (seemingly delicious) recipes. I can't wait to read her other two books even though I've read this one out of order.

Here is one recipe from her collection which I've tweaked for all of us kosher folks...if you're a vegetarian I'd assume that either a vegetable broth or a "beef flavored broth" that's vegetarian would be fine. When I cook it I'll probably omit the nutmeg & bay leaf to stay economical but it will lessen the complexity of the dish.:
Mushroom Soup
1/2 pound mushrooms
1/2 stick (1/4) cup unsalted butter (I'll be using some good ol' margarine here)
1 small onion, diced
4 Tbsp. flour
1 c. beef broth
2 c. half-and-half (if you're making it non-dairy or kosher you can do it with soy milk or non-dairy creamer)
salt, pepper
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 bay leaf

Thinly slice the mushrooms. Melt the butter (or margarine) in a heavy saute pan. When the foam subsides add the onion and saute until golden. add the mushrooms and saute until brown. Stir in the flour, then slowly add the broth, stirring constantly. Heat the half-and-half in a saucepan or in the microwave. Add it to the mushrooms, along with salt, pepper, nutmeg and bay leaf. Cook over low heat for 10 minutes - do not boil. Remove bay leaf and serve.

In other news - thank you so much Kayla for the package! I received some wonderful *allergen-free* recipes that were xeroxed from Cybele Pascal's new cookbook "The Whole Foods Allery Cookbook." I don't have any food allergies (though the comments about eczema make me wonder if maybe I have SOMETHING that's keeping my legs all red and scarred) but it's good for some of the kosher stuff because everything is dairy free. There is a little TMI in the cookbook but I'll try out a recipe. In addition, I got a FABULOUS poster (ahem ahem). K - your package is on the way.

I received my first assignment for next semester today: read chapters 1-19 of Robert Caro's "The Power Broker" by Wednesday. Yikes. I read a lot of it sophomore year for History of the City of New York, and anticipated that I'd be assigned this book given that the title of the course is "Robert Moses and the Modern City" but spending my last day off before school starts (work on Thursday and Friday, RA/CPA recharge from Friday night - Sunday night, work on Monday) I would rather sleep in, be lazy, and engage in mindless entertainment. Too bad.

On a completely random note - did anyone else have a craving for Baked Beans during the middle of Brokeback Mountain?

Monday, January 09, 2006

Back in the City that Never Sleeps...

I left the City that Works and returned to New York last night. I haven't updated my blog since basically day 1 of my trip. The rest of the trip was:
- Brokeback Mountain reenactments with Jon, Owen & Hartley
- Actually seeing Brokeback Mountain
- Walking from Front Street and Jarvis to Bathurst and Follis (basically the walk from FDR all the way downtown to Times Square - at least). And getting sick while doing that
- Making offensive Gingerbread Houses
- Bowling a high score of 84

And today I started a new internship. It's with the Books department of AOL and was really exciting today. And I can wear jeans which makes it that much better. Since senior year of high school my jobs have been (I'm in a list-y mood right now):
- cashier @ Target
- tutor for Double Discovery Center
- GED teacher for Community Impact
- office assistant in the Housing Office
- on-and-off babysitter
- office assistant that the hospital in Stony Brook
- intern at the New-York Historical Society
- general assistant at Butler Library
- editor for Essay101.com
- waitress at Turquoise Grill
- bibliographic assistant at the Union Theological Seminary library
- intern at Friends of Hudson River Park
- summer RA
- Community Programming Assistant
- TA for Drugs & Behavior
- intern at New York City Economic Development Corporation
and now AOL and a Psych Computer Lab TAship (as well as the CPA gig for the rest of the year). This list does not mean that I got fired a gajillion times but more like I worked a few jobs at once. Not to brag - these aren't exactly the most cushy desirable jobs around. But this upcoming semester will take the cake - min. 20 hours/week at AOL, min. 12 hours/week at the Psych lab, and then the CPA job is another few hours a week or program planning. So I'll basically be a full time student and full time employee with basically no direction in life (i.e., work or grad school?)

My grad school apps are due soon. I've resorted to 3 schools - UBuffalo, UToronto and QueensU. None are super-duper-competitive, all are relatively affordable, and none require the GREs. But even if I get in I'm not sure if I should go to grad school right away or just wait and work and see if I like that more. Decisions. Decisions. Decisions.

Right now I'm just going to enjoy the new job I have (which I think will remain incredibly fun), enjoy the last week of break before classes start, and knit a bit more.

I'll post a new recipe soon...

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

I Love the T-Dot

I've now been in Toronto (well, Markham) for two days... and it's been fabulous. It's definitely my favorite city, but I had forgotten exactly WHY I want to live here so badly next year. Now I'm here and I remember. It's amazing.

The flight to Toronto was relatively seamless. The flight to Montreal was only slightly delayed (about 1/2 an hour) and customs was done there so instead of waiting at the gate for 3 hours I had to wait only about an hour and a half. And the Toronto flight was on time so I got to Pierson by 4:30pm. At LaGuardia I knit a hat while waiting at the gate, and at the Montreal gate I knit an armwarmer. While waiting at the gate in Montreal I spoke to a lady going to Winnepeg (I asked her if that was in Alberta; I'm dumb, it's in Manitoba). When I said that I was from New York she asked me if I had been to Times Square the night before. Then we talked about how expensive New York is, etcetera. Very friendly.

Very friendly is the best way to describe the bulk of Canadians. Which is why I love Toronto.

On Sunday we didn't do much, since I was really tired. Driving from the airport to Markham (a northern suburb of Toronto) I noticed that all of the campaign posters are back up on account of the recall election that will be happening soon. We watched G-Spot which is the Canadian "Sex in the City." Then I fell asleep.

Yesterday was another lazy day although Jon, his brother & I went to East Side Marios. It's an "American Italian Eatery" and the interior is supposed to look like Little Italy. It's sort of like Olive Garden in the sense that it's a chain; the best is the Liberty spikes on the exterior and the "Mulberry & Canal" intersection street sign by the hostess. Their advertisements for take out go like "You can call our numerical phone number (877)376-5252 or our fun musical number (877)ESM-LALA." Every takeout/delivery place has a jingle. Pizza Hut, Pizza Pizza, Pizza Nova, you get it.

Later last night we also met up with our TCD friend, Schachter, who is absolutely awesome. We had some Second Cup, which is the Starbucks of the North, and we drove around the city listening to the soundracks of Fiddler on the Roof and The Life (which had been my Chanukah present to him, since he saw it when he came to New York at age 12 - it's about Prostitutes). We had a really good time. He also bought a digital camera recently with great night photography so he could take pictures of gaudy Christmas decorations.

Talking about Christmas I got some awesome presents, including a gift certificate to LUSH, Martha Stewart's Baking handbook which I can't wait to use, a silicone baking sheet, a really cool measuring cup contraption, and an Elmo Knows Your Name toy which they programmed to be HILARIOUS.

This week is going to be fantastic!

In honor of our trip to the American Italian Eatery I'm leaving you with my "Sauteed Mozzarella Alla Caprese" Bruschetta recipe.

Sauteed Mozzarella Alla Caprese
I first made this dish in 9th grade to accompany my International Foods paper on Italian Cuisine. It was from Molto Mario, the Food Network show, but I haven't been able to find the recipe since and I've altered it so much that it bears no semblance to the original creation. Nonetheless it is really tasty and will impress.

1 lb. fresh mozzarella
2 eggs, scrambled
1/2 c. - 1 c. flour
1 c. bread crumbs
Olive Oil
3 plum tomatoes (or any tomatoes), cored, pitted and chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
a few sprigs of basil, minced (optional)
Baguette, sliced into thin rounds

Take the slices of Baguette and place them onto a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees until lightly toasted (about 5 minutes). Slice the mozzarella and dredge it into the flour, followed by dipping it into the eggs and then coating it in the breadcrumbs (you can do this assembly line style). Heat a saute pan and add about a tablespoon full of olive oil - just to barely coat the bottom of the pan since you'll need to do this every time you add more cheese. Add a layer of the breaded mozzarella and flip when the bottom is cooked. It will take about 1-2 minutes on each side. When you're done cooking all of the Mozzarella you can assemble them on top of the rounds of baguette. In the same saute pan that you used (which will still have some stray bread crumbs), add the tomatoes, garlic and basil and cook until tender and hot. Spoon on top of the baguette and serve. It's "delish!"

Sunday, January 01, 2006

It's Gonna Be A Happy New Year!

It's after midnight. In the next 24 hours I will enter the borough of Queens, land in Montreal and chill there for 3 hours, land in Toronto, and then drive to Markham, Ontario. And I'm excited for the next week. Since I figured that after waking up at 7am to get ready to leave to Laguardia and then spending the next 9 hours between bus, plane, and car I should post now.

I have never been a big fan of New Year's. I can still remember how I rang in the past several years:
2000 - rang in the New Millennium by laying on the couch, drugged up on painkillers and eating ices with my brother because my parents thought that Winter Break would be the best time for us to get our addenoids out
2001 - i went to the movies with my family.
2002 - at home, on the couch. didn't stay awake until midnight.
2003 - freshman year of college and i think i watched it on tv, if that.
2004 - babysitting a baby that i never saw on the upper west side.
2005 - in my boyfriends' family's living room with him and his grandm
other (who was probably asleep at the time); drinking mike's hard lemonade and watching what was going on in the nathan phillips square.
2006 - with my computer on
my lap. i realized that it was midnight when emeril came on the air.

This is not supposed to be depressing, by any means. I could have gone to Times Square if I wanted. But I don't see what the big deal is with New Year's. I went to the Heights to pick up something to eat for dinner tonight, because everything (including the grocery store) was closed. There were so many more Columbia students out than in the past week and a half, namely because everyone who goes here lives in the tri-state area and where
better to get drunk with friends? The homeless on the streets were taking handouts of vodka and tequila, freshman and seniors alike were hobbling along as drunkards do. And it was 9:30pm. Pregaming anyone? Don't get me wrong - I have no intent to judge. Except that I am now the only person in my entire family to have never gotten drunk. I turned 21 on September 28 and since "becoming legal" I have consumed 1 serving of alcohol (a shot of Svedka on September 30). The amount of drinks that I had prior to that can be counted between my hands and feet and maybe not even all four appendages. How should I fix this? Get drunk, once, before graduation.

2006 seems scary. It will be the year that I take part in my first graduation s
ince kindergarten. It will be the year that the first close group of friends that I have had will become separated. It will mark the year that I must decide between the real world or putting off the real world another 2 years. It will mark my 22nd birthday, which makes me feel old. Because 18 means that you can buy cigs and lotto tickets, 19 is the last year of being a teen, 20 is your first non-teen birthday, and 21 means you're legal. 22 is the first non-special birthday. Scary. But why think about this now? In less than 24 hours I will be in my favorite city in the world (and my favorite suburb of that city).

I uploaded some pictures using the digital camera. The first one is of the West Philly shirt that I got made for my b
oyfriend's brother and that I referenced in my first blog. I went to Neighborhoodies to get it done, you can also order your own custom shirt online at www.neighborhoodies.com (what a shameless plug). The second one is the scarf, armwarmers and hat that I knitted for my friend. She's going to be abroad in London next semester and I will be sending her an AWESOME care package in February with Without You (the memoir) and the DVD of RENT. And these little knitted accessories so she can look so "fetch" in London.

In honor of said friend I am leaving you all off on this wonderful first day of 2006 with one of her favorite desserts. It is vegan blueberry cobbler. It dates back to a really bad "you had to be there moment" type joke that I will not get into at said time. But to end this on a vulgar note - it apparently goes well with a side of... okay, I'm not going to end this... it also goes well with lemon sorbet. Enjoy!

Vegan Blueberry Cobbler
2 c. blueberrie
1 tsp. lemon zest
1/3 c. sugar
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. cornstarch
2/3 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 c. Silk creamer (soy milk creamer)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and spray an 8 inch pie pan with cooking spray (or use some sort of shortening to grease it up).

Toss together the blueberries, lemon zest, cornstarch, sugar and lemon juice. Put in the bottom of the pie pan. Sift together the flour & baking powder (and a pinch of salt) and add the creamer. You can drop the dough into mounds or moisten it a little more and pour it uniformly over the blueberries.

Bake it about 25 minutes until the dough on top is golden brown.