I bought a car last week.
I know this may not sound like extraordinary news, especially since in, let’s say, 98% of the country most people own at least one car, if not several. But here in the city? Not so much. I sold my last car over 10 years ago when I moved here.
And I’ve been just fine without one. Sure, there have been plenty of times when the freedom a car offers has been a longed for and wished for luxury, but until recently, it just hasn’t been possible or necessary. That said, I’m very excited to have that flexibility back in my life. And of course, I’ve already named him, Oliver, in honor of my favorite episode of the best show on television.
So, you might be asking yourself, “Well gee Ann, what’s going on?” Well, you see, there are some changes afoot chez Granny Cart that necessitate the owning of a car. I don’t feel 100% comfortable sharing those changes with you yet, but I can say a few things. One: we are not leaving the city, never fear! And two, when everything is all set and done with, I probably won’t be able to talk about anything else, so sit tight friends!
The whole buying process was a little fraught. So when the weekend finally rolled around, it was time to take Oliver out for a drive. There are so many interesting places to go when you own a car in New York. We could finally go to Storm King; 500 acres of monumental sculptures and rolling hills. Or, we could head north and take a kayak tour of Bannerman Castle. Or, we could drive to Philadelphia to satisfy that decade-long pretzel craving I’ve been suffering. Or, we could drive to New Haven to finally figure out what all the fuss is about.
But, we decided not to do any of these things, at least, not at first. Instead, we popped over the Verrazano Bridge and went to Staten Island. Poor Staten Island… It’s definitely the most beleaguered borough. To wit, on Monday, one of my co-workers asked me what I’d done on my first weekend as a car owner. I told him where we’d gone, and with a pained look on his face he said, “Ann, don’t you realize, most people buy a car to escape Staten Island?”
Well, that might be true, but we had a blast. We went hiking in the Greenbelt, an amazing 2,500 acre park in the middle of the island. No, that’s not a typo, two thousand five hundred acres of untouched virgin woods and hills and swamps and ponds with 35 miles of trails (pdf) weaving in and out and up and down smack-dab in the middle (okay, slightly on the periphery) of New York City. That’s pretty amazing when you stop to think about it.
I used to have a lot more time in my life to sit around and surf the web looking for cool things to do with my copious free time. And even though those times are long gone, sometimes I’m able to recall a nearly forgotten post, like this one, that I’d filed away in that “maybe, someday” corner of my brain.
We hiked for nearly three hours and never saw another person, and only occasionally was the reality that we were still in New York City forced upon us. If you can’t make it to the Catskills or to the Adirondacks, seriously, this is a next best thing. Beautiful, chockablock with nature, quiet, solitary and simply gorgeous, I can’t recommend the Greenbelt highly enough. What an under appreciated treasure!
But, that wasn’t it. Oh no. Staten Island had much more to offer us than just the woods. After a quick stop to refuel with a slice from a pizza joint in a strip mall that seemed to have not been touched by the passing of time since, oh, they filmed Saturday Night Fever, we went to the beach, because, remember, Staten Island really is an island!
Great Kills is part of the National Park Service’s Gateway Recreation Area, which is made up of coastline in Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens and New Jersey. We only stayed for a few minutes, just long enough for me to pad about in the water and make a cursory pass of beach combing. The sky was threatening rain, and we had to get home with enough time to make dinner and do the laundry. I was sad to leave, but, I have a car now! I can go back anytime I want!
I was craving steak for dinner, but due to a few driving snafus, we didn’t make it home before all the neighborhood butchers had closed. So, I had to make do with what was lying around the house. I had some eight-ball squash, two frozen sausages, eggs and olives. Yeah, I could make dinner with that!
I chopped and scooped and sautéed and stuffed and came up with stuffed squash to serve with the minted white cabbage slaw that had been planned for. It was a wonderful dinner, but as often happens, we found that the squash are even better a few days later, as leftovers, with a chopped tomato salad of heirloom tomatoes, basil, garlic and dressed with good balsamic and olive oil spooned over top. This was my dinner last night, and it made me positively hum with delight.
It was a great end to a great day. We were sore and tanned from our adventures and full and happy from our dinner. I don’t know what all the fuss is about. I found the other (not Manhattan), other (not Long Island) island to be a quite pleasant place.
So, hang in there Staten Island! You’ve got at least one friend on the outside.
Head below the jump for the recipes for In-A-Pinch Stuffed Squash & Minted White Cabbage Slaw.
In-A-Pinch Stuffed Squash
prep time: 30 minutes ~ cooking time: 1 hour
- 3 large Eight-Ball Zucchini, washed
- Olive Oil
- Garlic, to taste, minced
- 2 Sweet Fennel Sausage, casing removed
- Worcestershire Sauce
- 1 Lemon, juiced or Lemon Juice, about 1 tbsp
- 1 large handful mixed Olives, pits removed and chopped
- Chile Flakes
- 2 Eggs
Halve the squash. Set one squash aside. Hollow out the two others, reserving the flesh. Place the four hollowed out squash halves in a baking dish. Chop the reserved squash and squash flesh into bite-sized pieces.
Heat a glug of olive oil in a large sautée pan and add the garlic. Cook until fragrant and add the sausage. Cook until browned. Add the squash. Season with a dash of Worcestershire sauce and the lemon juice. Cook until the squash is tender and most of the cooking liquid is gone. Season aggressively with chile flake and a little salt. Taste and adjust seasoning. Turn the heat off.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Crack the two eggs into a bowl and whisk until scrambled. Add the eggs to the squash mixture in the pan and fold in until creamy. Spoon the mixture into the four squash halves and place the baking dish into the preheated oven. Bake 20-30 minutes until the tops are golden brown. Serve one to each person. Enjoy!
Cook’s Note: This recipe would also be delicious with cheese or cream in it. For ultimate flavor, allow the squash to cool and stash them in the fridge for a day or two. Reheat the squash just before serving in the oven then serve with a tangy fresh tomato salad spooned over the top. Enjoy!
Minted White Cabbage Slaw
prep time: 30 minutes ~ cooking time: none!
- 1 head Savoy Cabbage, washed and finely shredded
- 1/2 tsp Fennel Seeds
- 1/2 tsp Ground Coriander
- 1/2 tbsp Date Syrup or Honey
- 1 tsp ground Mustard of your choice
- 2 cloves Garlic, very finely minced
- Chile Flakes
- 2 Limes
- Lemon Juice
- Sherry Vinegar
- Rice Wine Vinegar
- Olive Oil
- 1 very large bunch of Mint, washed, picked and chopped
Place the cabbage in a very large bowl.
Add the fennel seeds, coriander, sweetener, garlic, mustard, a pinch of salt, a pinch of chile flake and the juice of the 2 limes in a bowl or glass and stir, whisk or froth to combine. Add an additional glug of lemon juice, a healthy glug of rice wine vinegar and a wee glug of sherry vinegar. Add enough olive oil to make a balanced, tasty emulsified dressing. Taste and adjust seasonings to your taste. Pour the dressing over the cabbage at least 30 minutes before you plan to serve the slaw. Turn to coat the cabbage in the dressing and do so every 10 minutes or so. Just before serving add the mint and turn to incorporate. Enjoy!
P.S. This does not keep very well in the fridge so eat it all if you can!
Recipe adapted from Greg & Lucy Malouf’s fabulous cookbook, Artichoke To Za’atar: Modern Middle Eastern Food.