Pasta alla Norma

Pasta alla Norma
This is a Sicilian recipe that my Aunt Lena, who married a Sicilian, used to make. She called it simply “rigatoni with eggplant.” I didn’t learn that it was formally known as “Pasta alla Norma” until I was an adult. It was named for the heroine in Bellini’s Norma.

* Ricotta salata comes in 2 types – fresh for eating and dry for grating. If you can’t get it, use parmigiana.

Slice the eggplant into about 1/2-inch rounds (don’t peel it). Salt and drain it. Cook it over medium-high heat in a pot, in olive oil adding more oil as needed. Do it in batches so it doesn’t crowd. Cook it until it’s browned and soft. Don’t worry about a few burnt edges – that adds flavor. Move it to a plate and don’t drain it or put it on paper towels.

Meanwhile, put up a pot of salted water to boil for the pasta.
Using the same pot the eggplant was cooked in, add some oil and on medium heat fry garlic with salt, black pepper and red pepper. After a few minutes when the garlic begins to color, add the tomatoes. Cook for about 20-25 minutes on medium. Taste for seasoning.
Cook the pasta until almost done. Cut the eggplant into approximately 1-inch pieces (they’ll be irregularly shaped and that’s OK) and add to the tomato sauce.

Gently stir it in. Drain the almost cooked pasta (saving a cup of pasta water in case the sauce is too dry) and toss it with the sauce. Again, gently, so the eggplant doesn’t break up too much. Serve with freshly grated  ricotta salada.


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Lac du Saint Sacrement

Lac du Saint Sacrement

You can go for just the boat ride or include a buffet lunch on the Lac du Saint Sacrement.  We had the lunch. The trip started at the southern end of Lake George and took about 3 hours.

Lac du Saint Sacrement

The food was simple and good with friendly and professional servers. They had a full bar too.Lac du Saint Sacrement

Lac du Saint Sacrement

After we lunch we went to the upper decks to enjoy the Adirondack scenery.

Lac du Saint Sacrement

Lac du Saint Sacrement

Lac du Saint Sacrement

Lac du Saint Sacrement


If you’re in the Lake George area in Upstate New York and want to spend a pleasant afternoon on the Lac du Saint Sacrement check out Lake George Steamboat.

Lac du Saint Sacrement


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Michele’s Shrimp & Rice

The Fisherman’s Wharf – corner of Houston and Mott Street in New York’s Little Italy
Michele’s Shrimp & Rice
Michele was the chef at the Fisherman’s Wharf, our family restaurant when we were kids (the drawing above was done by my sister Nicki).  Shrimp & Rice was one of his specialties. I don’t have his recipe so I had to make a few guesstimates. What I came up with was pretty close.

Sauté onion and celery in oil with 1 anchovy (or a squeeze of anchovy paste) and  Cajun spice When veggies are soft (not brown), add 3 cups of stock and ½ tbsp Worcestershire sauce and stir. Check for seasoning. Sometimes stock can be salty and there are other salty ingredients so you may not need any additional salt. Bring it to a boil, add the rice and cook covered on low for 15 minutes.

Add the shrimp and the 4th and last cup of stock and complete cooking – 10 minutes on low heat covered.

If necessary, add some hot water to maintain a soupy consistency.

Fish stock involves fish heads, bones and shells. Make it if you like, but I prefer “Better Than Bouillon Fish Base.” One teaspoon mixed with one cup of hot water is all you need to do.


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S and J Deli

S & J Deli

A few years back, on the way to a weekend in Upstate New York, we pulled off the Taconic Parkway to stop for lunch. We went to a strip mall in Hopewell Junction hoping for a diner. No luck, but there was a deli – the S and J Deli. We thought we’d get some sandwiches and eat in the car.

Homemade mozzarella and fresh sausage

When we walked in we were glad to see that they had a few tables. We were ever more glad to see what kind of deli it was. There shelves were stocked with imported pasta, olive oil and other Italian delicacies. The guy behind the counter saw that we were overwhelmed with the choices when he asked us what we wanted and suggested fresh mozzarella and capicola topped with sautéed broccoli rabe on Italian bread. What a great combination. They even had Manhattan Special, an espresso soda usually only available in NYC Italian neighbourhoods.

Italian imports and delicacies

It was a much better lunch that we ever expected. I saved their address and this became a standard lunch stop for all our trips to the Adirondacks. We were there again just a few days ago and had a fresh mozzarella, fried eggplant and roasted pepper sandwich with a sprinkle of balsamic – perfect. No website but they have some great reviews on Yelp, Trip Advisor and others.


S and J Deli – Menu

– just off the Taconic –


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New York Times Eggplant Favorites

 New York Times Eggplant Favorites

There’s a good article in the NYT Food Section by David Tanis. He gives a brief history of eggplant and it’s use in Sicilian cuisine. And what he says about eggplant in Sicily applies to lots of Southern Italian areas – it’s a staple and used in many different ways and the recipes have many variations.


Article –  Eggplant Favorites, Rooted in Sicily

– Recipes –

Pasta alla Norma

Caponata

Baked Eggplant


 

Kitchen 21

Kitchen 21

Kitchen 21 is a new addition to Coney Island. Not typically what you’d expect but I think it will be a good fit. It’s in a landmarked Spanish Revival building on the Boardwalk that opened as a Childs Restaurant in the 1923. In contrast to the exterior, the interior is done in a modern industrial style.

It has a Café for take-out, the Parachute Bar with a great selection of beers on tap, the Community Clam Bar for seafood, the Test Kitchen with food by guest chefs and a rooftop bar. When we were there the crowd was made up of tourists, hipsters and enough Coney Island regulars to keep it real.

The service was attentive and friendly. We had fried calamari served on a bed of arugula with a sprinkling of balsamic, then lobster rolls done just right.

After lunch we went to the roof for a drink – bright and breezy with a view of the Boardwalk, beach and the old Parachute Jump.

I grew up going to Coney Island and Kitchen 21 is not something that I would have ever expected. I hope they do well because I intend to go back.


Kitchen 21 in on the Coney Island Boardwalk at the foot of W. 21st Street.

You can check out their menu here.

For another great and more traditional Coney Island bar- restaurant click here – Ruby’s Bar & Grill


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ACT LIKE A NEW YORKER

Act Like a New Yorker
I want to point out a few simple things that could make a big difference on your next trip to New York City.

Tourism is a big industry in New York. We appreciate your business and, trust me on this, most New Yorkers would actually like tourists if only you tried to be part of our City and not just stand back and watch us as though you were at a zoo.


In winter, don’t dress like you’re going to a ski resort or in summer, a beach resort. This is a city so dress for the city and not a national park. How can you expect a good table in a white table cloth restaurant when you show up wearing sneakers, shorts and a baseball cap?


Manhattan isn’t just Times Square, so be adventurous and go see the neighborhoods. And New York City isn’t just Manhattan. Since you can have authentic Italian espresso in a café in Bensonhurst, Greek coffee in Astoria and café con leche in the South Bronx, why look for a Starbucks where their coffee will be no different than in the Starbucks at home in your local mall? And don’t forget Staten Island.


Skip the Olive Gardens, Burger Kings and other chains you’re used to and go local. With over 40,000 restaurants in New York, you can easily find one that suits your taste. It isn’t necessarily going to be more expensive and might even save you some money.


Explore the City the way natives do, by foot and public transit. It’s easy with a map and some common sense, keeping in mind you shouldn’t stop to look at your map at the top of a flight of subway stairs during rush hour.


New Yorkers move fast and walking too slowly or three abreast is almost as bad as reckless driving on a highway. Navigating the sidewalks of New York is a lot like your driving back home: keep up with the pace of traffic, don’t randomly change lanes and make no unexpected stops. You can cause accidents, traffic jams or at the very least, bad feelings.


When you come to an intersection, it’s fine if you don’t want to jay-walk but don’t block our way when we appear to be willing to risk our lives to get to an appointment on time. To New Yorkers, a “don’t walk” sign is just a suggestion. Assume we know what we’re doing after years of practice.


Please don’t  think I’m just another nasty New Yorker, because honest, I’m not. I’d really like you to avoid tourist traps and see the real New York. I want you to feel like you belong here and experience the city the way we do and all you have to do is act like a New Yorker.


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Grandma’s Chicken Soup

Grandma’s Chicken Soup
This is a minestra that Grandma used to make in Salerno. I do it the same way although sometimes I cheat a little and use store bought stock. It’s a fairly simple recipe, even if you make your own stock.

 


Remove the bones and cut thigh meat into small bite-sized pieces. Season with salt and black pepper and brown in the oil and remove.

Sauté  celery and onion over low heat until soft – don’t brown. If there’s too much fat left from browning the chicken, drain the excess. Add oregano, stock, bring to a boil and deglaze pot. Simmer 10 minutes.


Return chicken and simmer for another 10 minutes covered.

Check for seasoning, bring to a boil and add pasta. As the pasta cooks and absorbs the stock, add hot water to keep a soupy consistency. Serve with grated parmigiana.


 


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Grillades

Grillades
Grillades are a New Orleans speciality. Recipes vary a bit and this one is my favorite. Some people use veal or beef cutlets but I prefer pork. You can buy pork cutlets or cut your own from a loin. This time I used pork chops with the bones trimmed away.

*Cajun spice typically contains paprika, salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, dried thyme and cayenne. You can make your own or buy it. I use La Flor or Zatarain.

Pound cutlets thin, salt them and sprinkle them with Cajun spice. Dredge in flour with 2 tablespoons of Cajun spice mixed in with it. Lightly brown them in oil and remove them.

Add the trinity to the pot and sauté. Add garlic and some more oil if necessary and simmer until soft.

Roux, Cutlets and Trinity waiting to get together.

Prepare the roux in a separate pot. Stir the flour and oil over low heat until it’s the color of peanut butter. Add this to the sautéing trinity. Add the tomato, wine, Worcestershire and about ½ of the stock.

Deglaze the pan and simmer for a few minutes. Return the cutlets and simmer for 20 – 30 minutes, adding stock as necessary. You can serve this with grits or white rice.


New Orleans street band video – Smoking Time Jazz Club


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