The New York City Bodega

The New York City Bodega
In Spanish, bodega can mean food warehouse, wine cellar or grocery store. In New York City, a bodega is a Latino run grocery/convenience store/neighborhood meeting place. (Maybe not exclusively Latino run anymore, sometimes Middle-Eastern now.) Even Taylor Swift weighed in on them – see below.
Beyond those red on yellow signs, besides groceries, you can get cigarettes, coffee, beer, sandwiches, local news, productos tropicales, and sometimes, nutcracker and a loose joint.
Lately, The New York City Bodega has become news. Some West Coast techies think they have a better idea. There  was a recent NY Daily News article by the president of the Bodega Assn, of the United States dealing with them:

New York City Bodega

New York City Bodega

New York City Bodega


As New York’s Welcome Ambassador (?), Taylor Swift told the world about our bodegas.


Here’s another article on the same topic:

New York YIMBY – Why Bodegas Are Crucial To The Continued Success of New York City Real EstateNew York City Bodega

Eggplant and Squash

Eggplant and Squash – Lots of people say they don’t like eggplant and squash after only having tasted them in their school cafeteria.  If they tried it made with care and the right ingredients they might change their mind.
Eggplant with Mint
Eggplant and SquashThis same recipe works for both eggplant and squash (use zucchini). It’s good on sandwiches or in antipasto. If you leave out the mint and vinegar and do everything else the same you can also serve it on pasta with tomato sauce. This isn’t something you’d see in a restaurant but it’s not uncommon in Napolitano home cooking.
The ingredients are approximate. So don’t worry if you have to add some or have any left over. (if you have left over mint make a mint julep)

– only fresh mint works with this recipe –

Eggplant and Squash

Cut into 1/2  inch rounds. Lightly brown in oil, don’t drain it, and then layer in a container.Eggplant and Squash

Start with some salt, a few pieces of garlic, some mint and a sprinkle of vinegar in a Tupperware container. Then the first layer of eggplant. Between layers of eggplant add a sprinkle of salt, a dash of vinegar, some  mint and a little garlic. When it cools, cover and shake the container so it settles. It should be ready after a couple of days in the fridge. The mint leaves will darken but it will keep refrigerated for a few weeks.


Delicata Squash

Wash, cut off both ends, cut squash lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Use a spoon or melon-baller.

Cut into half round slices – about 3/4 inch. Toss with oil, salt, black pepper, chopped parsley and minced garlic. Make sure it’s coated completely with oil.

Put in a baking pan and cook for 30-35 min. in a 375 degree oven. Turn them after 15 minutes. The skin is edible.


Click here for updated GALLERY II

Robert Iulo –Writing Site  and  Yelp

Spaghetti with Lemon and Mushrooms

Spaghetti with Lemon and Mushrooms
This is quick, easy, inexpensive and nutritious, vegan too if you don’t use cheese. Put a pot of water on the stove and by the time the pasta is done, you’ll be ready to eat.Spaghetti with Lemon and Mushrooms

Spaghetti with Lemon and Mushrooms

Slice the mushrooms as thinly as possible. Use a mandolin if you have one. Put them in a large serving bowl. Grate the zest of the lemon (no pith) and squeeze the juice into the bowl. Either use a press or very finely chop the garlic and add it to the mushrooms. Mix thoroughly and be sure all of the mushrooms are coated with lemon juice.  Add the parsley, salt, black and red pepper and oil and mix again. Let the mushroom mixture sit while you make the pasta or for at least 15 minutes.Spaghetti with Lemon and Mushrooms
You got it, the mushrooms will not be cooked. The salt and acid in the lemon juice are all they’ll need, sort of like ceviche.
When the spaghetti is done to your taste, drain it and add it to the serving bowl with the mushroom mixture, retaining some of the cooking water. Mix well and if it’s to dry add some of the reserved cooking water. Serve with the parmigiana.Spaghetti with Lemon and Mushrooms

Click here for updated GALLERY II

Robert Iulo –Writing Site  and  Yelp

Bagels

  Bagels

There’s the basic Plain Bagel, then Poppy, Sesame, Onion and even Pumpernickel – Bialys too. After that it starts to get a little crazy – blueberry? cinnamon walnut? jalapeno? Well, I guess there’s something for everybody.
As a New Yorker, it goes without saying that I like bagels. All New Yorkers do. We grew up with them. It’s a standard New York practice for mothers to give their babies a smooth plain bagel for teething.
With butter or a schmear* and coffee for breakfast or with Nova** for lunch, it’s perfect. Go to a New York event – a seminar, corporate meeting, workshop – if it’s in the morning and it’s catered there will be bagels. And if it’s just muffins, there will be complaints.
When I was in the army and stationed in the South in the late 1960s, I tried to order a bagel in Augusta, Georgia. The response was “What’s a bagel?” I was offered a honeybun instead, which wasn’t bad. But now, at least they know what bagels are, even if honeybuns are still more popular.
Without getting into too much history, I can say this – the bagel originated in Eastern Europe, it’s Jewish and the name is Yiddish. New York City bagels are supposed to be the best in the country because of our water. Maybe that’s true and maybe it isn’t but when friends visit, having a New York bagel is on their list of things to do because, they say, they can’t get a good one back home.

* a schmear is Yiddish for a thin layer of cream cheese

** Nova – Nova Scotia is like lox but a little less salty

 

Chicken Marengo

(The Battle of Marengo by Louis-François Lejeune)

Chicken Marengo

(another chicken recipe for my friend Herb)

The story goes that after he won the Battle of Marengo in northern Italy, Napoleon was hungry. His chef sent out troops to scavenge what they could and they came back with chicken, tomatoes, mushrooms, onions and herbs. The original recipe also included fried eggs and craw fish but I left that out.

Chicken Marengo

Chicken Marengo

Season the room temperature chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Brown it in the butter and oil in a Dutch oven or heavy pan large enough so it fits in one layer. Remove the chicken and pour off the fat from the pan. Return the chicken to the pan and add the mushrooms, onion, garlic, bay leaf and thyme. Stir and cook about five minutes. Add the wine and deglaze the pan. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, chicken broth and parsley. Bring to a boil, lower heat and cover and cook 10 minutes. Serve with rice, bread or small pasta.Chicken Marengo

 Click here for updated GALLERY II

Robert Iulo –Writing Site  and  Yelp

Calabrese Pork Ragu

Calabrese Pork Ragu
Here’s another one Grandma made for my Calabrese grandfather – Calabrese Pork Ragu. It doesn’t take too long to prepare but there’s three hours of simmering so plan ahead. It’s so thick and meaty you can almost eat it as a stew without the pasta.

Calabrese Pork Ragu

Heat the oil in a pot over medium heat and add the sausage. Break it up and brown it. Add the pork, mix and brown it.

While the meat is browning, finely chop onion, carrot, celery, garlic and ¼ cup of the parsley.

When the meat is done remove it, leaving the liquid in the pot.

Add the vegetable mixture to the pot with the oregano and red pepper flakes and cook for a few minutes until most of the liquid evaporates.

Calabrese Pork Ragu

Add the tomato paste and wine. Cook, deglazing the pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until liquid has almost evaporated, 6-8 minutes.

Add the browned meat, crushed tomatoes, and 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 3 hours, adding more water as needed to keep meat covered with the sauce. Check for seasoning.

Calabrese Pork Ragu
After 3 hours of simmering.

Cook pasta reserving 2 cups pasta cooking liquid.

Add pasta and 1/2 cup pasta cooking liquid to sauce; stir to coat. Stir in the remaining 1/4 cup parsley. Stir, adding more pasta cooking liquid as needed. Serve with grated cheese.

Calabrese Pork Ragu

Calabrese Pork Ragu


 Click here for updated GALLERY II

Robert Iulo – Writing Site  and  Yelp

Wordsmithing

Wordsmithing

According to the Global Language Monitor, the English language has over a million words. The million mark was hit in June 2009. With so many words and so many choices, why do some people use the same ones over and over and incorrectly at that?


I was waiting my turn at a coffee shop and heard the customer ahead of me place his order.  The exchange of words was fine up to a point. It ended with the man behind the counter saying to the customer, “You can pick up your coffee at the cashier.”

The customer’s response: “Awesome.”

No, the Grand Canyon is awesome. Notre Dame and the pyramids at Giza are awesome but not coffee. Awesome is breathtaking, astonishing, even fearsome, and as much as I love coffee, getting a container of it isn’t any of those things.


Out of those million English words, I always thought there were enough verbs, but I must have been wrong because people are creating new ones. Since we’ve been speaking Middle English, the word for ‘to transfer possession of’ has been give but lately the noun gift is being used in its place. Give, giving and gave has become gift, gifting and gifted. It seems to work but doesn’t that make a ‘gifted child’ someone’s son or daughter they no longer want and pass on to a friend at Christmas?


There’s another verb that although also around for a long time, has taken on a different and contemporary definition.  It’s rocking, and is being used in place of wearing, as in ‘wearing clothing.’ But you have to be careful about which types of clothing you apply it to.  It goes perfectly with Air Jordan Super Flys and skinny brim hipster hats, but no one will ever rock Birkenstocks and babushkas.


Here’s a verb that’s changed by, I’d say, about ninety-percent. Decimate is currently being used to mean ‘to destroy a large part’ but it originally meant ‘to reduce by ten percent,’ and only ten percent. Its root is the Latin decem or ten. When a Roman legion’s mutiny was put down, they were decimated. The soldiers were lined up, and every tenth one was beaten to death by nine others, a very precise and deadly way of reducing by ten-percent.


A sector that’s often guilty of not so much misusing words, but using them pretentiously, is the corporate world. Limits become parameters, detailed becomes nuanced and accountability is now transparency. There’s also a belief in that culture that the more syllables a word has, the more important the speaker must be.  Functionality is three syllables better than function, and they’ll never use use when they can use utilize. An exception to that corporate multi-syllable rule is shop. Calling a corporate center or office a shop gives it something it doesn’t have. A shop implies physical creativity as might be found in an atelier or studio. Edison had a shop at Menlo Park. Spreadsheets and Gantt charts just don’t come up to that level.


There are some other words that are fine when used alone but not when combined with certain other words. One is hone. Its misuse is so common that it’s almost become accepted. Hone is defined as ‘to sharpen or make perfect,’ like when someone ‘hones their skills.’ Lately, it’s being used incorrectly in place of the verb home, as in, ‘to move toward a goal’ or ‘to guide to a target’ like a homing device on a missile or even a homing pigeon. You can hone something but you can’t ‘hone in.’ There’s only a one letter variation between ‘home in’ and’ hone in’ but what a difference that makes to anyone who knows the difference. Another common but incorrect combination is ‘most unique.’ Unique already says it all, and it can’t be topped and made more superlative. Saying ‘most unique’ is as pointless as saying ‘most best’ or ‘most favorite.’ The adjective is just not necessary.


I’ll finish with a commonly used pronoun that signifies ‘no matter what’ but has recently taken on a very powerful new meaning. The word is whatever. If you want to end a discussion by implying that the discussion is beneath you and the person you’re speaking with is inconsequential and thereby dismissed, simply say, “Whatever!” and walk away.  It’ll do it every time.


Robert Iulo – Writing Site and  Yelp

Poached Shrimp Scampi

Poached Shrimp Scampi
I have some problems with Shrimp Scampi. First, there’s the name. Is scampi a method of preparation or the name of what you’re eating? Is a scampi a shrimp or is it a langoustine, crayfish, a prawn or maybe even a Norwegian lobster? If it is a shrimp then when you say the name of the dish, Shrimp Scampi, you’re really saying “Shrimp Shrimp.”
I’ll let that go and deal with my real problem with this dish. It’s too garlicky and oily and not shrimpy and saucy enough. I’ve adapted this recipe from America’s Test Kitchen and with less oil, the addition of stock, poaching instead of frying and sliced instead of chopped garlic, it’s a lot better.

Poached Shrimp Scampi

Poached Shrimp Scampi

Start by heating 2 tbsps. olive oil in a pan. Add the shells and stir until they begin to color – about 5 minutes. Add the wine and simmer for another 5 minutes. Strain out the shells and save the stock.Poached Shrimp Scampi
Wipe out the pan and add the remaining olive oil. Add the garlic, black and red pepper. Simmer the garlic slowly and on a low flame for a few minutes, then add the reserved stock. Add the shrimp, cover and simmer for 5 minutes on medium heat.Poached Shrimp Scampi
While it’s simmering, mix the lemon juice with the corn starch. Remove the shrimp from the pan. Add the lemon-corn starch mix and 4 tbsps. butter. Whisk until it’s smooth. If it’s too thick add a little water and continue to whisk.
Check for seasoning. Return the shrimp to the pan, add the parsley, stir and simmer for 5 minutes and serve.Poached Shrimp Scampi

Click here for updated GALLERY II

Robert Iulo – Writing Site and  Yelp