Archive | June, 2008

To Market…

26 Jun

Grocery stores have become a big controversy in my neighborhood.

Marathoners & Pharmacy

Rents in the city are high and seem to inevitably climb higher. This makes it hard to run small businesses and shops, especially when landlords get greedy. Essential services like grocers, cobblers, bakers and florists are, not so slowly, being replaced by banks and pharmacies.

Bay Ridge Summer Night

The chain of events goes like this: You realize you need your shoe fixed. You start looking around and out of nowhere you realize that, every day for the past five years, you’ve walked past a cobbler on your way to the subway. You bring your shoes to the cobbler and fall in love with the delightful, ancient, Russian man who’s hands are dyed by his trade and move on their own while he sits and gossips and tells tales. He fixes your shoes and you leave, vowing to return as soon as possible. And then you forget.

And then, by the next time you need a pair of shoes fixed, he’s gone; replaced by another CVS or Walgreen’s or Chase or Capital One.

Koi

This is happening endlessly all over the city, not just in Manhattan but also in the outer boroughs. The necessities of life are being replaced by things that no one needs or wants in their neighborhoods, to the detriment of people’s health.

This situation is currently burning through Bay Ridge slowly and deliberately. There’s been huge controversy because one of the last, larger grocery stores is being closed, to be replaced by, yep, another pharmacy. My neighbors are, to say the least, up in arms about this. But, I do not agree with them.

Verrazano Bridge

One of the reasons I wanted to move to Bay Ridge is because it is such a great food neighborhood; and one of the things that makes it so great is its amazing proliferation of small, independent, family-owned ethnic grocery stores. I can think of at least three dozen places to shop for wonderful, fresh, delicious food within a 20 block radius of my apartment.

But this doesn’t seem to be the mindset of my neighbors. “Oh no! Where will we shop now?” None of them seem to be stopping and asking why the grocery stores are fleeing. I mean, there has to be a reason, right? Chain groceries don’t just up and leave for no good reason, do they? No, they do not. And I think I know why.

Stop

Bay Ridge is a car neighborhood. People drive here as if they’re living in suburban Denver or Los Angeles. If you’ve got a car, why on earth would you shop at the cramped, expensive Key Food in Bay Ridge when you can hop in your SUV and drive to Costco or Fairway or the enormous Price Chopper out in Sheepshead Bay?

Cars are also to blame for Bay Ridge not having a greenmarket. The city tried to give us one, but no. “We” told the city “no thanks” because it would take away parking. At a church. On Saturday. Because, so many Catholics go to church on Saturdays, right?

rainy

But one gentleman in the neighborhood has a plan. He has proposed a co-op. Where everyone pools their money and shopping lists and… Drives to big grocery stores and buys Triscuits and beer. Here’s the perfect chance to do something exciting for the neighborhood. We could start a CSA! Or go back to the city and say, “Hey, you know what? We really do want that greenmarket!” But no.

God Sky

It seems shocking to me that between gas at $4.45, the neighborhood’s eye-popping obesity problem and our brush with global warming (tornado in Brooklyn anyone?) my neighbors are sill so reluctant to embrace steps that can improve their health and the health of the neighborhood; like using public transport, walking and supporting small, local, independent grocers.

I’ve never lived in another neighborhood that has two quality fishmongers, two amazing butchers (one of whom is also a sausage maker!) and purveyors of decent, reasonably priced fresh fruits and vegetables every couple of blocks.

Bay Ridge Cabbages

And, as if that’s not enough, the city’s marquee greenmarket sits at the other end of the subway line that runs right through our neighborhood. Four days a week, the region’s very best produce, cheese and meats are available for everyone.

14th Street, Union Square

And then, there’s the yards. So many people have both front and backyards in this neighborhood, but what do they use them for? Parking, of course. What could they use them for? Even though I think this guy went a little overboard, there’s lots to learn from him. With a little knowledge, a little exertion and a little patience, it is possible to grow your own fresh, safe, healthy and delicious greens, beans and tomatoes in your own backyard.

Fire Escape Tomato, 100% Safe

But, I fear I have run overlong on a topic that I find endlessly interesting, but which has, at this point, possibly bored you to tears! So, in return for listening to my rant, I offer you a delicious recipe for a seasonal, healthy, tasty pasta dinner.

Pasta with Beet Greens & Peas

All the ingredients can be purchased at the greenmarket, or, if you’re lucky, pulled from your own backyard.

Head below the jump for the recipe for Pasta with Beet Greens & Peas.

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Spring Cleaning

19 Jun

Isaac and I have been spending a lot of time Upstate recently.

Red, Green, Bike

First there was Mother’s Day and my step-sister’s new baby. Then there was Father’s Day. And there’s been a few other trips as well. It’s wonderful to spend time in the country, but it can also make the weekend feel even more compressed and shorter by adding six hours of traveling.

Feather, Birdbath, Reflection

On Sunday, we arrived at my mom’s house bearing gorgeous dry-aged steaks from Piazza Mercato for my dear old step-dad. He happily grilled them to perfection while I whipped up a batch of grilled radicchio, but that’s the most cooking I’ve done in a week.

Lilys, Ferns, Rhythm

We had planned to make a big picnic sandwich and a kale salad and pull up a spot on the hill in the park on Saturday to watch the sunset, but alas, the weather had other ideas. It rained and rained and rained and rained, so, even if it had paused just long enough for us to run down to the park, the earth would have been far too soggy for lounging. So we scuttled those plans and went out for curry instead. Flexibility! It’s what’s for dinner!

Purple, Flouncy, Transparent

So rather than a recipe this week, I figure I will indulge in a little spring cleaning. Plus, it’s an excuse to finally post all these pretty Upstate pictures I’ve been saving for just such an occasion!

Lacy, Sparklers, Celebrate

First, I’d like to send a huge virtual hug and a very real, very warm thank you to Ximena, of the always beautiful and entertaining Lobstersquad, for the wonderful drawing she sent me. It was the most wonderful surprise and I can’t wait to give it pride of place in my kitchen!

Leaf, Water, Trough?

One of the things I never expected when I started writing this blog was how fun it would be to trade “things” with people that I “meet” on the Web. First there was a beans for pickles exchange with Christina. Then there was a Helprin for M.F.K. Fisher exchange with Lily. Now, mushrooms for… what? I’ll need to think this one through.

Fronds, Fractals, Unfolding

Next, it seems like everyone is making pizza these days. Okay, maybe just three people–Luisa and Deb and me–but three’s a trend, no? I’ve discovered the joys of substituting pizza for bread in a meal. I’ve been making The Bread Bible‘s dough a day in advance, allowing it to proof and develop flavor by rising overnight in the fridge, then topping it with herbs and salt and olive oil, almost like a focaccia, as an accompaniment to, well, just about anything.

Stripes, Curves, Motion

It’s quick, easy, requires no stand mixer, is light, fluffy and incredibly tasty. Of course, it wouldn’t hurt anyone if you chose to throw some fresh mozzarella on there. Or perhaps some tomatoes. Or maybe a little sausage and peppers. Or a few mushrooms. Or maybe a little pesto. Or… Or… Or… The possibilites are endless. But one thing is for certain, the pizza dough in the book is perfection. If you have the book, try it. You can thank me later.

Hot, Soft, Perfume

Finally, I don’t know if anyone cared or ever even looked at it, but I’ve 86-ed one of the auxiliary sites that I started over the winter, the Granny Cart. I just didn’t have time to keep up with it, as I’m sure you four friends of My New York have noticed. I’ve been a bad blog mommy! But, it’s on my list of things to do, right after going for a run every morning, not staying at work too late and drinking more good wine. So, you see, I’ll get to it soon!

Twists, Turns, Peas!

So I hope you’ve enjoyed the pictures and I hope you’ll try the pizza and I hope you’ll forgive me my lack of attention to the other site. I also hope that any of my readers along the Mississippi and in other flood-affected places are okay.

Round, Straight, Art

Have a lovely week everyone!

Salad Days

12 Jun

Do you hear that? That rushing noise?

My View, Under the Tree

That’s the sound of people up and down the East Coast, especially me here in New York City, breathing a sigh of relief that the heat wave is over.

I don’t know what it’s been like where you are, but here? It’s been hot. So hot. In fact, it’s been so hot that yesterday morning when I got up and the radio told me that it was going to be only 86°F and only 56% humidity, I sighed with happiness. So hot that I was happy and excited to go to work on Monday because my office is air conditioned. So hot that all I ate for four days was salad.

The Dog Days

Yes, we’ve got an air conditioner, but neither of us like using it. This may be crazy, but it sure does help with the electric bill. Instead, we like to get creative with our ways to keep cool.

One great way too cool off is to befriend someone with a backyard. For two wonderful summers I would hang out in a friend’s, beer in hand, feet in a kiddie pool full of ice water. It was blissful, and fun. Keeping a bag of frozen peas in the freezer is also handy. One very hot, very unemployed summer, I would sit in front of my fan with a wet towel over my head, frozen peas on the back of my neck, and my feet in a bowl of ice water. Apparently my feet get very hot.

Leaves

But, my all time favorite way to keep cool is to visit the Museum of Natural History. Most of the halls are bathed in a soothing, dusky half-light, and intense air conditioning. Of special note is the Hall of Ocean Life, which, with all the watery (and might I add beautiful) dioramas, can’t help but cool you down. I’m especially fond of the otters, but if you’re in desperate danger of melting, might I suggest you spend some time contemplating the walrus.

The soothing, watery hall is great, but there’s another room at the museum that I feel is the best place, possibly in all of New York city, for halting a core meltdown. Can you guess? Okay, I’ll tell you. As unlikely as it may seem, it’s the Hall of Minerals and Gems.

So Hot

It’s a funny room, like your best friend in 6th grade’s parent’s den. You know, the one with a sunken fire pit and shag carpet on the walls… But you know what? It’s incredibly dark, almost painfully cold and, with all the carpeted levels, it’s even possible to pull up a dark corner and take a nap. I’ve never done it (Who? Me? Napping in a museum? Never!), but I’ve seen others doing it.

But that’s not what we did this weekend. Instead, we pulled up a tree on a bluff overlooking New York Harbor in Owl’s Head Park. There was a very strong sea breeze wafting off the harbor. Under our chosen tree it was at least 20 degrees cooler. It was lovely.

New York Harbor

The park is perfect for watching ships and boats come and go in the harbor. If you’re a fan of tug boats (and really, who isn’t?), this is the park for you. There’s dozens of them pulling and prodding, herding and cajoling the scores of enormous tankers making their way to the Port of New York. I think next time I’ll bring my binoculars, and a picnic.

Owl's Head Park

Sadly, we hadn’t planned that far ahead this time. Seriously, it was too hot to think ahead like that. So after a few hours we headed home for dinner. We whipped up our third, delicious bodega veggie salad of the weekend. On Saturday we made a dilly cucumber number and a zippy, Moroccan-esque carrot ditty (kind of like these pickles, but in a bowl) and on Sunday, a kitchen sink chopped salad.

Zippy Moroccan-esque Carrot Salad

This heat wave came too early. It was too hot to cook, but there were no fresh, seasonal veggies to help make is seem worth it. I don’t mind a stretch of days in the 90s in late July or mid-August, at least then there’s produce in the markets. You really can live on tomatoes alone during those dog days. But early June? No thanks Mother Nature! The peas aren’t even out yet!

Dilly Kirby Ditty Salad

But, we survived, with the help of some salads. I’m sure there are more hot days, and thus, delicious salads to come, but just in case it’s really, really hot out, and you can’t find me in the kitchen, you’ll know where to look.

I’ll be the happy lump under the mica display.

Head below the jump for the recipes for Zippy Moroccan-esque Carrot Salad and Dilly Kirby Ditty Salad.

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Arroz con Cranky

5 Jun

I fear I’m not always 100% truthful with you, especially on one very salient fact.

West Village Puddle

New York City and I do not always get along. From the timbre of many of my posts, you’d think I walk around in some sort of Disney princess bubble enveloped in a halo of chirping birds and hopping bunnies, magically making my way untouched through the seething throngs of grumpy commuters, clueless tourists and the hopelessly deranged. But this is not true.

Japanese Maple, Raindrops

Sometimes, for no conceivable reason, the city just pisses me off. The anger is not acute. No, it’s not usually one specific thing that sends me round the bend, it’s more of a crescendo of annoyance.

The mockingbird imitating a car alarm for hours. Our upstairs neighbor playing GTA IV at 5am. The ingrate that forces me to miss my train into work. The destruction of yet another piece of my city’s gritty heritage. Almost being hit by a bike messenger (again) careening the wrong way down a one way street. Yet another endless line full of tourists with no sense of urgency at my favorite coffee place.

May Showers, May Flowers

Yes, they’re little things, and probably make me sound a little petty, but man, sometimes, a girl just can’t take it anymore. We New Yorkers live so close together, so cheek by jowl with one another, so constantly in each other’s faces that it can really begin to wear on a being.

Nap Time at the Dog Spa

I try pretty hard to stay positive. I say excuse me when I run into someone, I smile at the checkout girl that’s just had to help the umpteenth pensioner from Spain figure out how to pay for his coffee, I grumble under my breath as the train-I-needed-to-be-on-so-I’d-be on-time-for-my-meeting pulls away without me, and I take photos in an attempt to help remember those old spots that won’t be there for the next generation.

But sometimes, a girl just needs to snap.

Won't Be Needing These For Awhile

Take this past weekend for example. I should have been buoyant and joyful; the weather was beautiful, my work was done, all I had to do was sit back and enjoy 48 blissful hours of sun, fun and food but no, I was cranky. The trains were all kerfuffled, the sky opened up and let fly like it was Armageddon and the farmer I wanted to buy baby kale from wussed out and left the West Village greenmarket early.

Statues & Man

So there we were, Isaac and I, skirting the edge of Washington Square Park, heading for the Union Square greenmarket, when I just snapped. I stopped like a stubborn donkey and began stomping my feet like a two year old mid-tantrum. I wanted to go home. The city, its chaos and closeness, its clamor and commotion had done me in. I was beaten.

TK TK TK

We got back to the apartment and I ran for the solace of my kitchen. I began chopping: spring onions, green garlic, jalapeños. Some went into a pot of Steve‘s magic beans, some went into a pot of rice, some went into a red salsa and the rest went into a green salsa. After a few hours of stirring and prodding and chopping and tasting, I finally felt better.

Vaquero Beans

And who wouldn’t if they were sitting down to a meal like this? Spicy rice, tender, fragrant, achiote-marinated shrimp, zippy pico de gallo, sublime salsa verde and, of course, those perfect, wonderful, fragrant, intoxicating beans. It was a perfect meal.

And yet, I woke up with the crankies again the next day, and the next, and the next.

But then, on Tuesday morning as I was harumphing and grumbling my way through my commute, I pulled my nose out of my Economist and noticed the gentleman sitting across the subway car from me.

Camarones y Arroz con Cranky

He was amazing.

In his 80s, he was impeccably dressed. A perfect summer-weight pinstripe suit, beautiful tan leather shoes, a flawlessly tied tie with matching pocket square, a straw fedora that was a work of art, waxed handlebar mustaches, Col. Sanders beard, and to top it all off, a yellow rose in his button hole.

Suddenly my outfit, which I had been so proud of earlier in the morning, felt completely disheveled. And yet, I was happy. This man, this one single man, who seemed pulled from another time; a kinder, gentler, more caring era, sitting next to a rockabilly-tattooed hipster chick, plastered a smile on my face that still won’t go away.

Vaquero Beans

Perhaps I’m a little hard on myself. Perhaps I really am just a giddy, wide-eyed, New York City optimist. Or, perhaps, I’m just a real person in love with a difficult city. Disagreements are bound to happen, but we’ll always make up.

Head below the jump for the recipes for Arroz y Camarones con Cranky.

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