Monday, March 16, 2009

Grocery Porn: Net Cost Market in Brighton Beach

Bow down before the sausage!

Wall o' Meat 

My first look at the Russian food mecca named Net Cost. It was a bit overwhelming. They had a huge selection of everything edible from land, sea and air. Luckily I came with two friends that helped me navigate the aisles, translate the labels, and whom also introduced me to the Wall of Meat and baby bologna.

Get a hold of this after the jump!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Pollo for the December Soul

Winter is here. I wake up in the dark. I watch the sky turn pink and gold behind the bridges and smoke stacks of the Harlem River as I ride the Metro North train in the morning. At night, crows blacker than the sky gather in the trees by the White Plains platform. By the time I get home, I want a warm and heavy meal to comfort me through the long night.

Unfortunately, by the time I get home, I’m also a little too tired and a lot too hungry to make the kind of slow-cooked winter food I’m craving: coq au vin or maybe a lamb tagine. Pollo Verde to the rescue!


Pollo Verde — Green Chicken — is essentially an Arroz con Pollo with lots of green stuff. As in Arroz con Pollo, the chicken, vegetables, and rice all cook together in a big pan, making rich flavors and easy cooking. The Verde comes from tomatillos and lots of cilantro. The doodle above is on the recipe I copied from my mother, but lately I’ve adjusted that recipe, trading the onions for plenty of garlic, adding hot pepper to brighten the flavor and tomatoes just to mix it up. Luckily, Mama’s recipe book says there are as many recipes for Pollo Verde as there are cooks in Mexico, so that’s all allowed.



6-8 tomatillos
1-2 cups cilantro
1-2 hot peppers (I like thai peppers or scotch bonnets)
6-8 cloves garlic
Optional: 1 tomato, in thin wedges (or a handful of halved grape tomatoes)
3-6 Chicken pieces
1 1/2 cups rice
Salt and Pepper
Olive oil

What To Do With ‘Em:

1. Heat a dry cast iron skillet on highest heat. When it’s hot, place tomatillos in the pan and burn them a little on several sides. You’re not trying to cook them all the way, just get some nice fiery flavor. (A tip of the tongs to Mamacita, who taught me this trick with her miraculous salsa recipe, which she should really post here.)


2. In a food processor (or with better knife skills than I have), mince the garlic and hot peppers. Add tomatillos, blend to liquid, and then add the cilantro and blitz.

3. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a deep pan with a lid. (If you have a dutch oven, you can use the same pan for the tomatillos.) When the oil is hot, add chicken pieces and brown on both sides. Remove chicken from pan. (This recipe makes a LOT of rice. If you want to serve rice with a full piece of chicken for each plate, use 6 pieces of chicken. I usually make just 3, serve rice with chicken for dinner, and eat just the yummy rice as a side dish for another meal.)

4. Add dry rice to hot oil and fry for a minute or two, stirring so it doesn’t burn. Add black pepper and salt to taste.

5. Return chicken to pan. Pour blended vegetables over chicken and rice. Arrange tomato pieces on top. Cover, and turn heat down low.


6. Cook on low for 30-40 minutes, until the rice is soft. Check occasionally and add water if necessary.


Saturday, October 18, 2008

Brooklyn and Beyond Bites

The latest food news from the gals at BFB:

Mamacita has become a weekly correspondent for the completely edible Midtown Lunch. She is now covering Happy Hour deals in Manhattan. The latest can be found here and here

Both SweetTea and Mamacita are now regular correspondents for Gowanus Lounge. We will be covering everything Brooklyn (even things outside of the edible). Food worthy stories include:
Please send us any tips on stories at brooklyn.mamacita at gmail
Thanks everyone!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Think Fast! Panamanian Day Eats

What are you doing RIGHT NOW? Stop it. Go to Eastern Parkway and Classon, and get yourself some tasty Panamanian eats. For your sakes, I'm losing the tamal-sharing battle with Roving Eye.


There are empanadas and roast meats, pig feet souse (not the rather yucky meat pudding I knew in the South but a mix of meat, spices, and cucumbers that smells delicious and is apparently a great accompaniment to drink), beans and rice, lemonade, fish cake, and doubtless other temptations.

R.E. and I recommend the tamal from this stand at the end of the block.


We also enjoyed their fish bacalar.


Friday, October 3, 2008

Pesto É Besto

Ah, Fall: season of mists, mellow fruitfulness and, this year, economic apocalypse. October invites us to slow our pace, savor the waning sunlight, and pluck the last fruit from the vine before spiraling into the Great Depression. What better time to make pesto?

Stalking The Wild Parm

Pesto is an ideal recession special: it’s shockingly cheap to make and it’s full of comforting carbohydrates. It’s fast to make and tough to mess up, and it freezes well. Now, while fresh basil is still in gardens and farmer’s markets, is the time to stock up for winter.

A Few Notes:

Yes, you absolutely have to use fresh basil. If you only have dried, make something else. You can use other fresh herbs in place of or in combination with the basil if you’re feeling frisky. In these pictures, you can see that I threw in some Thai basil along with the Italian, ‘cuz I’m all multicultural like that.

If yours is the kind of household that keeps multiple kinds of olive oil in stock, now is the time to use the good stuff. The charming and talented Fran Guinan (Steppenwolf Theatre Ensemble Member, late of August: Osage County) insisted the first time I met him that I had to try Trader Joe’s Unfiltered olive oil. He was right. That stuff is the bomb. And the TJ’s on Atlantic and Court is now open, so I don’t have to brave Union Square to restock.

TJ's Unfiltered Olive Oil...Mmmmm....

I’m not the biggest pine nut fan in the world (unless we’re talking about the town in Best Of Show), so I substitute pecans and/or almonds. Almost any nut you like the flavor of will work here, though peanuts sound gross to me. Depending on how oily your nut of choice is, you may need to adjust that last pour of oil.

I loooooove garlic. If you don’t, use less. Heretic.

Pesto is the kind of recipe Cuisinarts were born to make. A blender will do in a pinch. If you don’t have either, take comfort: neither did the folks who thought this stuff up. Use a fine grater for the garlic and cheese, a stout knife for the nuts. Feel authentic and virtuous.


3 Tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/4 cup nuts (half pecans, half almonds is my usual)
1 1/3 cups washed basil leaves (no stems)
1/4 parmesan cheese (not the green can kind, okay?)
1/2 lb pasta, cooked

The Players

What To Do With ‘Em:

1. If your cheese isn’t already grated, use the grater disk on the food processor, then a quick pulse with the regular blade. Set aside.

2. Combine in food processor garlic and 1 Tablespoon oil. Pulse about 5 seconds. Add salt, pepper, and nuts. Pulse again, about 20 seconds.

3. Add basil leaves and pulse until just mixed. Don’t overdo it. If the basil is over mixed, it gets bruised and black and unappealing.

4. Add 2 Tablespoons oil and cheese, pulse until just mixed.

5. Toss over pasta or freeze in small amounts. If you freeze it: pour a layer of oil on top to prevent freezer burn. Defrost at room temperature — don’t microwave it (cooked pesto = not so awesome).


Saturday, September 13, 2008

West Indian Parade Tamale

Riding on Sweet Tea's coat tails I'll post just a few pics and one of a lovely, delicious find from the West Indian Parade. Let me introduce you to my new greasy friend, the Caribbean Tamale.

Hell yeah, it looks good huh?! The maza tasted like there was some potato in it and there was definitely a lot of pork fat involved and that did not deter me one bit! Once I dug in I was a little disappointed at the ratio of fat to tender pork in the chunks of meat, but the green olives and heavily spiced sauce made it a unique find at the parade. So where did I get this? Well, where do you usually get tamales? From a older lady selling them on the corner from a cooler. Yeah, in L.A. you get them from a shopping cart, but nevertheless they were homemade and great! Wait, let me read that again, am I saying I'd rather have them from a shopping cart? Well, you can take the girl out of the barrio but you can't take...... well you know the saying.

I also had the crab and cabbage, but it was dry, overcooked and utterly unremarkable, which was a shame because I'm a sucker for crabs.

Crabby goodness

Lastly, a lovely drug store shop with an old and beautiful sign. Bye bye kiddos. 

Great sign

Friday, September 12, 2008

There Was More To Eat, But I Couldn't Eat It: Sweet Tea Hits The West Indian Day Parade

Where I grew up, school started in mid-August, so I never understood the big deal about Labor Day. Now that I teach in New York (where school begins on the traditional Tuesday) and live in Crown Heights, Labor Day marks not only the great funeral feast of summer but also the culmination of a week of parties and concerts and merry uproar celebrating the Island roots of many of my neighbors. No one in the neighborhood gets much sleep that week, but we have a good old time before the winds grow cold.

There’s better music at J’ouvert, but for

gossamer costumes,
Watching the Mas Bands


Skully Man

Jewelry Store on A Granny Cart

Thunder BOLT

Trinis for Obama!

freelance pray-ers,
Need Prayer?

Laughing Ladies

Patriotic Pants

as flags,
Bajan Baby

and food,
On the Sidelines


Antiguan Eats

…you can’t beat the Labor Day Carnival parade, Brooklyn’s Mardi Gras.

Flags for Three Kings

and feathers

are out in force, and just as Fat Tuesday Catholics prepare for Lent with a proper gorging, we lucky parade-goers stuff ourselves silly in expectation of the next 364 days of relative depravation. Mamacita and I both hit the parade this year, though we never did find each other among the 3 million or so revelers. She’ll give her report separately; here’s mine:

I hit the parade on Island time, which is to say that I told friends I’d be there at noon but in fact shouldered my new boulevardierre bag at about 1:30. Roving Eye and I arrived at Bedford and Eastern Parkway hungry for doubles, a magical Trini chickpea sandwich and my favorite Carnival food.

When it became clear that finding doubles would take some doing, we agreed it wouldn’t be prudent to undertake the search on an empty stomach.

First stop: Roti.

Let’s face it: unless you’re tied by blood loyalty to another of the islands, it’s hard to argue that anyone’s food at the parade is better than the Trinis’. Trini food combines the Native American, European, and African elements common to much Caribbean food with Indian, Lebanese, and Chinese flavors and techniques. The result is sublime. I like a good Bahamian conch salad or Bajan fried flying fish as much as anyone, but if you have to choose only one flag to eat beneath, make it this one:

Flag and Oaks

Although this stand
Trini Food Stand

was out of doubles, they had chicken and goat curry roti, as well as plenty of fresh nuts and fruit.

Watermelon Woman

The young woman who served us said she ordinarily works a shishkabab stand but wanted to learn roti. She may have been new at this, but whoever was doing the cooking knew their way about all right. Roving Eye and I found a spare patch of curb to sit on, having not mastered the art of eating roti while walking.
Roti is essentially a stew burrito, a savory meat curry wrapped — bones and all — in a chewy flatbread. Before the first bite, it looked like this:

Chicken Curry Roti

…And after the first bite, it looked like a hot mess. Oh, but it was delicious! The bread is soft and chewy but not so absorbent as to become soggy in the curry. The chicken was tender and spicy, and the curry itself studded with perfect, slightly flakey potatoes. Neither of us could get the way of taking a bite and then extracting the bones neatly from our mouths, though I’m keen to practice more.

Our vigor renewed, we set off on our doubles mission once more, but I couldn’t resist stopping at this fruit stand, which was selling sugar cane.

Sugar Cane

We kids used to buy slender, 8-inch lengths of cane from the molasses-making exhibit at the state fair. We’d carry them around all day, chewing the stalks for the sake of their juice, spitting out hunks of masticated fiber. These folks were selling whole canes, thicker than those of my childhood recollection, but they agreed to sell me just a foot’s worth for $2, and they chopped off the shiny exterior. Ah, sweet nostalgia!

One of the magical things about the parade is that the vendors aren’t limited to established restaurants and catering businesses. Seems like everyone with an idea and a kitchen gets in on the act, using whatever is at hand. Roving Eye bought delicious pink lemonade from a man with a huge tupperware-esque file box balanced on a grocery cart. His other customer looks pretty unimpressed with me:

Obama for Pink Lemonade

We walked a few more blocks, but found no doubles. But we did find a woman selling Bajan fish cake!

The Fish Cake Lady

Fish cake is little fried nuggets of salt fish and flour and spice. The insides are fluffy and surprisingly dry, rather like hushpuppies:

Fish Cake!

I wasn’t sure how much more I could eat, but I rallied when we found, at long last, DOUBLES!, sold by J&K Halal Food for $2. I was distracted by delight, so some of these pictures are by Roving Eye:

Don’t let the piles of fried chicken and french fries fool you — I’m sure they taste fine, but there are better things here to fill your stomach.

Doubles from J&K Halal
By R.E.

Doubles is (yes, is — “doubles” is the singular and plural, as in “I’d like a doubles”) the perfect street food. First, take two pieces of yeast dough, seasoned and yellowed with tumeric, and fry them in 4-inch circles. These are the “double” part.

Frying Doubles Bread

Then, make a sandwich using the fried dough, with channa for the filling. Channa is a spicy mix of chickpeas — tastes very Indian. The chutneys that accompany the channa vary by the cook. Sometimes they are very spicy, sometimes cooling mint plays off peppers. In this case, the chutney was sweet with whole tamarinds. You can see a tamarind in the middle of this picture:
Doubles from J&K Halal

The result is a perfect balance of protein and fried satisfaction. This doubles is a bit more oblong than the standard and bigger, which may account for its being served in a dish rather than wrapped in foil for eating on the go. Just as well, since spitting out the tamarind seeds made it less than easy eating. But oh, so tasty.

Doubles from J&K Halal
By R.E.

Someday maybe I’ll try this recipe.

I regret to admit that by then I was too full for shark & bake or pholourie or anything else besides the snow cone I bought off a stoop on Bedford. But there’s always next year -- I have faith that summer will come again.