Category Archives: Miscellaneous

NPR Article on Depression Era Diet

An interesting NPR article on the Depression era diet and an interview with the authors of “A Square Meal.”


Creamed, Canned And Frozen: How The Great Depression Revamped U.S. Diets


The food that Italian immigrants ate was certainly cheap and delicious and highly nutritious… And they would go out and collect dandelion greens, take them home, and saute them in a little olive oil… You want vitamins, there’s a great source of vitamins! …they had great pasta dishes, which were very good, filled with flavor and filled with nutrients. It’s tragic that we didn’t look to their example for foods to eat during the Great Depression, but that wasn’t “science,” and also that was “un-American.”

The Frying Pan – AS SEEN ON TV

The Frying Pan – AS SEEN ON TV

I don’t usually fall for those late night TV commercials, you know, the ones saying things like,  buy one, get one free, but wait there’s more and, act now for free shipping. I once bought this pair of super special driving sunglasses. I actually bought one and got one free. They were supposed to cut glare, help you see through haze and a few other things. The first time I wore them a lens fell out. Then the ear-piece broke off of the second “free” pair.

But even after that, the Gotham Steel frying pan commercial got to me. There’s this fast talking English chef, cooking all sorts of things with it. Trying to burn and scrape it, but nothing bad ever happens. Burnt food just slides off and nothing seems to damage the coating.  I saw the commercial a few times and I couldn’t resist. I forgot about the lousy sun glasses and went on line and bought one. I felt a little stupid but, what the hell, $19.99 plus shipping and handling, it was worth a try.

About a week later it arrived in the mail.  It looked pretty good – solid and shiny. I started with something simple – hamburgers – and they were perfect. I’ve used it for other things since and it never let me down.


The pan was everything they said. Here’s a screen shot from their site listing its “Features and Benefits” and you can see, it’s even PTFE/FOA/PFOS FREE, whatever that means.

Features and Benefits

Gotham Steel™ Pans _ The newest non-stick cookware made with ceramic and tit_Page_3
Another screen shot from the Gotham Steel site featuring Chef Daniel Green


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Some Simple Kitchen Tips

Some Simple Kitchen Tips

Anchovies – Lots of people don’t like them but when dissolved and used as a spice in a recipe most people can’t tell that they’re eating anchovies. It’s all about umami.anchovies

Basic Salernitano Rules (from Grandma):

  • Red onions are better left raw. Don’t cook them unless you have to.
  • Don’t overdo it with the aromatics, i.e. if you’re using garlic as a base, don’t add onions, especially in red sauce.
  • The same is true for basilico and oregano – try to stick to one or the other. Typically, basilico with red meat and oregano with chicken & fish.
  • If your bread needs butter to be edible maybe you should be buying better bread.
My grandmother with my aunt and uncle at her grocery store on Mott Street
My grandmother, Nicolina, with my aunt and uncle at her grocery store on Mott Street

Bouquet garni – 3 sprigs each, rosemary or parsley and thyme tied around 3 bay leaves.

boquet garni

Breadcrumbs If you don’t make your own (a blender and two day old bread – simple) always buy unseasoned breadcrumbs and use your own seasoning.  To toast – put about a tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy frying pan on medium heat.  Add a cup of the unseasoned bread crumbs and keep them moving until they darken.  Don’t walk away to do something else because they’ll burn.  When they reach the right color remove them from the pan immediately or they’ll keep cooking.  They should smell like toast, not burnt toast.  You can use this on many pastas in place of cheese and there are some sauces where you can only use toasted breadcrumbs – fish sauces like pasta con sarde or baccala.


Browning meat – just put small batches in the pan. If you crowd it, instead of browning, it steams.

browning meat

Eggplant – for almost all eggplant recipes:

“Peel the eggplants but leave some of the skin on to ‘hold them together.’ Slice them into rounds and place the slices into a scolo pasta (colander). Salt the eggplants and place a heavy plate on top and set the colander in the sink for about 1/2 hour.” – Nicki Filipponi


Grated cheese – Use Parmigiana, Loccatelli, Romano or whatever you like but don’t think you can put it on everything because it can conflict with and overpower delicate flavors. If you really want cheese, eat a piece of cheese.


Oil – when a recipe calls for oil, it’s always regular olive oil unless otherwise specified. Only use extra virgin when it’s not going to be cooked because it burns and looses its fresh taste at a very low temperature.images4SG1W92H

Parsley – always flat leaf/Italian. Even French cooks use it because curly/French parsley has no taste.


Pasta –  First, use more water than you’d think you’d need, about four quarts for one pound. Add a lot of salt, at least 2 tablespoons (it can only absorb so much). Pick a pasta shape that compliments the sauce. Cook it until it’s done the way you like it and don’t worry about the Al Dente Police raiding your kitchen.


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Essentials of Sicilian Cooking

Essentials of Sicilian Cooking

Not too long ago my wife Bridget and I, my sister Nicki and our neighbor Susan signed up to take a recreational cooking class at the Institute of Culinary Education.  The course we chose was Essentials of Sicilian Cooking. It was taught by by Giovanna Bellia La Marca, a professional chef and author of the cookbook Sicilian Feasts.

Giovanna making Cassata
Giovanna  showing us how to make the cassata

The first part of the 4 hour class began with Giovanna giving a talk on Sicily and its cuisine. There were 12 of us in the class. We broke up into small teams and divided the menu between us. ice menu

Almost ready to serve

Some of us knew how to cook and some were beginners but we all worked together with help from Giovanna. It took about 2 hours to prepare the meal and when everything was ready we sat down to dinner with wine right on the work tables where we prepared the dishes . Full time I.C.E. students served and cleared. It was a great was to spend an evening. The cooking was fun and we really learned something. The meal at the end of the evening was great and we got copies of the recipes to take home.ice4

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Greek Orthodox Church Festival

bAnnunciation Greek Orthodox Church Festival
Yesterday, Saturday, May 14th, Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church had its annual festival. Good Greek food and music and on West 91st Street and West End Avenue, it’s just one block away from where we live.Doc6Doc4_Page_1

A kitchen was set up on the sidewalk and food served under a tent.Doc5

A whole roasted lamb right on 90th Street – not something you see every day.



Traditional Greek dancing and songs throughout the day.



Breaking News … Sugar on Grits ?

Breaking News… Sugar on Grits ?

“IT’S TIME TO COME TO GRIPS WITH THE SUGAR-ON-GRITS DEBATE,” 4/11/16 (click here for the full story) Mississippi Sun Herald

This is important – SUGAR ON GRITS ???

When I was drafted, at my first breakfast in an Army mess hall I saw what I thought were people eating mashed potatoes with their eggs. I was wrong. I asked what that white stuff was and was told it was grits. I had some and thought they were great. I even wrote my mother to tell her “they serve polenta for breakfast in the Army.” I’m a New Yorker with a warn spot in my heart for grits but as a ‘’northerner” I don’t feel right about weighing in on this sensitive issue. What do you think? Sugar or no sugar. Let me and the Mississippi Sun Herald know how you feel.

Stephanie’s Wedding

Stephanie’s Wedding

I don’t have any recipes for this post but since we eat with our eyes, the pictures should be enough. Stephanie is a friend of ours who recently got married. Her wedding reception was a spectacular feast.



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Lobster and Black Chicken Soup


A mid-meal soup course


Tea and I don’t know but they were delicious


I lost count of how many courses were served.


Greeting the new relatives (Steph in a traditional dress) and cutting the cake.


Utensils – Part II



Small Mandolin mandolinSlices garlic as thinly as Paul Scovino did in Good Fellas and it’s cheap enough to throw away when it gets dull.  Get one in a housewares store for $5 or $10. Watch your fingers, it’s sharp.

Hanging Basket hanging basket

Good for handy storage of root vegetables and perfect for drying peppers.

Mushroom Brush mushroom brush

For getting that ugly brown stuff off mushrooms.

Egg Beater egg beater

 Quicker than a whisk for fluffy omelets and zabaglione.

Fish Gripper & Scaler  fish griper & scaler

This gripper was my father’s and is over 50 years old – Delty’s Fish Gripper, Lancaster PA.

Masher masher

Use it to make a lumpy sauce smooth – squashes tomatoes, onions, etc. as they’re cooking.

Shrimp Deveiner

 shrimp deveiner

A great design by Lamson Sharp.

Pepper Roaster pepper roaster

Really a grater but it doubles as a grill for roasting peppers on a gas burner – about 2 or 3 jalapenos or 1 bell at a time.

Processor processor

This one only holds about 2 ½ cups. I use it for making a trinity or any other fine chopping.

Herb baggie

herb baggie

To keep parsley, rosemary, etc. fresh put them in water in a rocks glass, cover with a baggie and refrigerate.  Works with basil too but don’t refrigerate.  Rather than a bowl or tray, use baggies for marinating meat and fish





Wooden Spatula

wooden spatula

Use it for deglazing.  It’s gentler than a metal one for scraping up the brown bits.

Hachoir or Mezza Luna (?)

mezza luna

I found this chopper at a yard sale.  I’m still not too sure how it’s really supposed to be used but its old and interesting.  It came from a Philadelphia restaurant.

Mellon Baller

RECIPESc  9-1-13u

Perfect for removing choke from artichokes. I suppose you can use it for balling melons too.

Cutlet Pounder

 cutlet pounder

When the butcher doesn’t make them thin enough, here you go.



Good for powdering spices or making Flips & Frulatto.  I got this one in a flea market. It’s nothing fancy with only two speeds, on and off.


RECIPESc  9-1-13n

 For Old Fashioneds, Mint Juleps Caipirinhas, etc.

Garlic Press

 garlic press 

Speaks for itself.

Potato Peeler

 RECIPESc  9-1-13h 

Buy a cheap one and replace it when it gets dull.

coke logoOlive Pitter

 Coke bottle

The curved bottom is the perfect shape for squashing olives so you can remove the pit.

Citrus Juicer

 RECIPESc  9-1-13i

A simple design but does the job.