Learning To Cook, Bay Ridge Style

7 Feb

New York City is a city of neighborhoods. This may come as a surprise to some non-New Yorkers, but yeah, there’s some truth to the way TV shows and movies portray us; we do stop and talk to our neighbors, ask about the grand-kids and pet the puppy next door.

The other thing about New York neighborhoods is that each one has its own distinctive rhythm and flavor that, much like my personality, is as much a product of it’s past as it is of it’s present. To me, the easiest way to spot these pasts and presents is, of course, in the food.

Fish Stew

The Lower East Side was giddy, transient, loud, brash, hopeful. It was the place for new immigrants to stop first, be they Eastern European Jews, Puerto Ricans & Dominicans, a diaspora of Asian cultures or college graduates from Ottumwa, Iowa. There were tons of bars, tons of places to get great Cubanos and haute cuisine, Asian groceries, Jewish delis, yuppie bodegas and nerdy wine shops. I could get nearly anything I wanted at nearly any hour of the day.

And Bay Ridge? Yeah, not so 24-7.

It may be too soon to be drawing grand conclusions about our new home, but I’m a bit of a impetuous ass at times and will do so anyway. Bay Ridge reminds me of my childhood. Stores are closed on Sunday. When they’re open on Saturday, you can’t be sure for how long they’ll remain so, as it really does depend on what the proprietor feels like doing. Thursday is the late-night shopping night. The fish guy stays open later on Friday. This is one traditional little neighborhood. Might it have something to do with it’s Italian, Scandinavian and Irish heritages? Yeah, I’m willing to jump to that conclusion.

I’ve quickly marked five spots as my “go to” locations for quick eats that are really, really Bay Ridge.

There’s a Scandinavian grocery that sells the most wonderful multi-grain rolls, veal and pork sausages, everything lingonberry, and yes, Hamcheese In A Tube.

Hamcheese In A Tube

There’s Polbridge (the only one who’s name I can remember) conveniently located next door to Polonica, that carries, bestill my beating heart, Podravka Liver Pate, the very same stuff we ate the hell out of while in Croatia. That right there was worth all the pain and suffering the move entailed!

There’s the Italian fish market (open late on Friday) which is just down the block from Cangiano’s, the Italian grocery that has everything except vegetables (and fish) and makes so-so fresh mozzarella.

And finally, directly across the intersection from the Italians is a Korean grocery of the most wonderful and classic sort; reasonably priced and full of diverse fruits and vegetable that, since they’re the only game in town as far as produce goes (as far as I can tell) is always really fresh because of their high turnover.

Brasciole and Bitter Greens

See? Quite the little United Nations of food! And I haven’t even begun to try parsing all the different Middle Eastern, Turkish and Egyptian groceries that blanket the hood!

And so what have I been cooking? Mainly Italian. It’s comforting, easy, warm, quick and a cuisine I know like the back of my hand (despite not having a drop of it in me). Our first real meal in the house was a thrown together fish stew. The second, my first experience ever with pre-packed, grocer-prepared “convenience meat,” a take on brasciole.

I can’t wait for this weekend when we actually have the weekend to ourselves. No Time Warner, no movers, no shakers, no noones but us. I’m hoping to do some bread baking, some stewing and maybe some exploring of those Middle Eastern delis!

Oh, and can you tell I’ve found a new blog that I love? Dave, the guy behind Eating In Translation is eating his way through the Five Boroughs and taking us along for the ride. This is really great stuff! Dig in, explore and enjoy!

Head below the jump for recipes for Bay Ridge “Caciucco” and Brasciole With Bitter Greens.

Bay Ridge “Caciucco”

prep time: 15 minutes ~ cooking time: 30 minutes

  • Olive Oil
  • a few cloves Garlic, sliced thin
  • a small handful Salt Cured Capers, well rinsed
  • a handful Lupini Bean, well rinsed
  • Oil Cured, Lightly Smoked Sardines, chopped
  • Vermouth
  • Lemon Juice
  • a jar of Passata
  • 1/2 fillet of Pollock, cut into chunks
  • Chile Flakes
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 2 bunches Arugula, washed and roughly chopped

Add a healthy glug of olive oil to a dutch oven or other lidded pan set over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until just beginning to brown. Add the capers, lupini beans and sardines. Cook until the sardines are beginning to come apart. Add a healthy glug of vermouth and about a teaspoon of lemon juice. Allow to cook for about 5 minutes.

Add the passata. Stir to incorporate. Add the pollock, clap the lid on and cook about 10 minutes or until the fish begins to flake away.

Taste the sauce. This is very important as you’ve already added many salty things. Do not season until you’ve done this!

Adjust the seasoning by adding chile flakes, pepper and, only if necessary, salt.

Add the arugula and allow to wilt into the stew, stir, taste, and then serve in big bowls with a hunk of crusty bread. Enjoy!

Brasciole With Bitter Greens

prep time: 15 mintes ~ cooking time: 1 hour

  • a roll of Brasciole for each person
  • Olive Oil
  • 5 cloves Garlic, smashed
  • a small handful Salt Cured Capers, well rinsed
  • a few sprigs Rosemary
  • about a cup of Passata
  • Vermouth
  • Sherry Vinegar
  • Lemon Juice
  • 1 bunch Arugula, well washed
  • 1 bunch Broccoli Rabe, woody bits trimmed and well rinsed
  • Chile Flakes
  • Salt & Pepper

Preheat your oven to 400°F.

In a large, ovenproof dutch oven add a glug of olive oil, the garlic, capers, rosemary, passata, a glug of vermouth, a dash of sherry and a scant hint of lemon juice. Mix. Nestle the brasciole into the pot and place, covered, into the oven. Allow to cook 20 minutes. Pull the meat out of the oven and turn. Turn the oven down to 350-375. Allow to cook another 40 minutes or so.

Set a pot of water to boil on the stove. When the meat’s done, pull it out and allow to rest. Add the greens to the boiling water and cook until just tender, about 5-7 minutes. Drain the greens.

To serve: Place a brasciole in each person’s bowl, add a heap of greens and top with the tomato sauce. Dig in and enjoy!


16 Responses to “Learning To Cook, Bay Ridge Style”

  1. Lisa (Homesick Texan) February 7, 2007 at 11:21 am #

    What’s the cheese like in the tube of cheese spread with ham? Is it like cream cheese or like Laughing Cow? I’m intrigued! And you make Bay Ridge sound lovely, by the way.

  2. Julie February 7, 2007 at 12:47 pm #

    Looks like you’re eating very well in Brooklyn. Those are both delicious looking pictures. I’m looking forward to vicariously exploring your neighborhood. It sounds fascinating.

  3. thinkingwoman February 7, 2007 at 6:55 pm #

    and don’t forget fresh direct! i know, there’s something unbearably yuppie about it, but i found it almost always had everything i needed, for less than my neighborhood store. i felt guilty using it, but i did love it.

  4. ann February 7, 2007 at 8:58 pm #

    Lisa (HT) — You nailed it with Laughing Cow… it’s like that, but with wee chunks of ham suspended in its midst… while it may sound a bit repulsive, it’s truly quite delicious! And they have other tubes, mainly of different fish roes, which we’re planning on exploring next.

    Julie — We are, thanks for sticking around :-)

    Lisa (it is Lisa, right?) — we’ve been contemplating Fresh Direct, but we just can’t get our heads around what to order… pizza? fresh vege? yogurt? frozen meat? we’re not quite there yet… but we’re contemplating!

  5. sher February 7, 2007 at 9:54 pm #

    The neighborhood sounds great! I want some of that cheese spread! :):) And fish roe! Fabulous. I’m looking forward to you eating your way all over Brooklyn! Loved those pictures!

  6. Glenna February 7, 2007 at 10:16 pm #

    What a great place to live! It sounds really great. So glad you’re enjoying your new neighborhood. (And we get to benefit from your plethora of groceries.!)

  7. thinkingwoman February 8, 2007 at 9:12 am #

    hi ann,

    it’s liz, but close! :)

    i find the produce is really good, even the prepackaged salads, and the pizzas are great. the meat is always good, and they have organic selections (they even have buffalo!). the fish is good but a little pricey. decent cheese selection, even some artisanal varieties. the only drawback is that there are no generics of things you’d probably buy generic, like paper towels. and the $40 minimum, but that was rarely a problem for me!

    for me, it was worth every penny when the weather was bad and the cupboards were bare.

  8. Lydia February 8, 2007 at 10:21 am #

    I love reading about all the wonderful ethnic markets you’re discovering. My favorite thing about NYC is the Korean greengrocers on almost every corner. When we moved to Boston (and then to rural RI), we really missed that. Please keep exploring and reporting!

  9. Anne February 8, 2007 at 4:08 pm #

    Glad to hear you’re settling in. That Cacciucco looks so perfectly wintery and delish. I’m curious about the braciole you bought. What kind was it? Was it good?

  10. ann February 8, 2007 at 7:24 pm #

    Sher — If it didn’t need to be refirgerated, I’d mail you some!

    Glenna — Thanks, I’m glad it’s not benefitting just me

    Liz — I’ve heard about those pizzas! One of my friends and her husband had to ban them from their house b/c they put on like, 5 lbs in a month from eating them when they’d get home drunk at night. I think we’re going to give it a go this weekend, see what happens, thanks for the 411 :-)

    Lydia — I’d miss them a lot if I moved away, they’re so convenient!

    Anne — we bought two pre-made rolls, one beef and one pork. They had cheese and herbs and stuff inside. The pork was the hands down winner! They were made there in the store and they were amazing. Definitely going to have to keep them on hand!

  11. Andrea February 8, 2007 at 10:02 pm #

    I love exploring ethnic foods and am so jealous! I wanna live in Brooklyn too!

  12. lobstersquad February 9, 2007 at 12:27 pm #

    jealousy threatening to eat me up. not that Madrid isn´t very well, but it´s just not the same, having the choice limited to choosing between food from asturias, galicia, andalucía, extremadura or navarra. o well.

  13. Ulla February 10, 2007 at 12:51 pm #

    Congrats on your move! I feel as if I have fallen in love all over again with New York and you captured why in this post, I loved this post!
    I was thinking of you the other day, I have been doing research for fish recipes, and I was reading this amazing cook book entitled “A Mediterranean Feast” by Clifford A, Wright, I think it might be out of print because I picked it up on clearance in Canada. But it is very fascinating there is so much history in the book, and all these varsions of fish stews, from Italian to Crotain to even Pirate’s stews. I thought of you when I was reading it because it really reminded me of your cooking, warm and very Mediterranean, and then I come to see you made a fish stew! What fun! :) Now I want to make a trip out to bayside to see all the food spots!

  14. ann February 11, 2007 at 10:54 am #

    Andrea — There’s plenty of room out here! You can live in Brooklyn too!

    Lobstersquad — Well, I’m jealous of your choices of wine. Spanish wine has become soooo expensive here, I bet it’s much cheaper in its home country, no?

    Ulla — I’ll have to try and find that book, you’re right, it does sound right up my alley. Pirate’s stew sounds awesome!

  15. Luisa February 11, 2007 at 8:51 pm #

    What a lovely post, and I am digging the name of your caciucco – downright lyrical!

  16. Susana June 15, 2007 at 11:34 am #

    To all of you nice people that enjoy etnic food, I will appreciate if you send a comment on Ecuadorian food. pluss some recepies. Thank you… looking forwarded to be in touch to compare notes.
    Love cooking..

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