New Eats 13: Meatless Pasta & Meatballs

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Nearly every Sunday, I grew up eating my mom’s homemade meatballs, pasta & sauce. Since then I’ve made turkey meatballs instead of ones based on high fat content chop meat. I figured I’d try to have a bigger impact on the health content by making it meatless while keeping it tasty.

Recently, I saw a post on social media of a similar meatless zucchini “meatballs,” but they didn’t provide the best instructions and had a lot of cheese. So I took the general idea of a zucchini meatball and ran with it. This is my version. On a scale of easy, medium or difficult, I’d say this recipe is medium because it’s so much easier with a food processor and not everyone has one. It’s possible with a box grater. It’ll just take longer, much more time and work.

Ingredients:
1 1/4 1bs. zucchini
1/2 C breadcrumbs
1/4 C Pecorino Romano (or similar, remember Parmesan generally has more salt)
1 egg
3 cloves of garlic, minced
Parsley and basil to taste (fresh or dried)
Salt and pepper to taste (more pepper, less salt, remember the cheese has salt)
Olive oil spray of your choice

Steps:
1. Wash and grate or shred the zucchini with the skin on. This is much easier if you have a food processor; however, it’s possible with a box grater.

2. The next few steps are all an attempt to remove the excess water that seems to primarily make up zucchini.

Before cooking it, press some water out. Next, put it in a frying pan (no oil needed) on medium heat stirring constantly (or with great consistency) for about 10 minutes.  The quantity will reduce and much of the water will be removed.

Believe it or not, your zucchini can still have a lot of water in it. For this reason, transfer it to a colander or strainer (preferably a metal one with fine holes) and press more water out of the cooked zucchini.

Press the zucchini mixture between paper towels, clean cotton cloths or through a cheese cloth until nearly all excess water is gone and the zucchini is room temperature. You do not want to add an egg to this if it’s still warm.

3. If you’ve made meatballs in the past then this is where the general meatball ingredients come into play. In a medium bowl, add zucchini, one egg, breadcrumbs, grated cheese, garlic, herbs, salt and pepper.  Mix thoroughly.

4. Spray an oven pan with the oil of your choice. I use a Misto® so I can add my own olive oil rather than using the store bought sprayers that have chemicals to propel the oil out. Pre-heat oven to 375º.

5. Roll into balls about 1 inch thick and place onto tray.  Spray a thin layer of oil on top of the balls. (Technically you could roll them around in the oil of your choice before baking them, but if we’re going for the healthier option here then let’s spray them to avoid using too much oil than is really necessary.)

A photo posted by @carmelinaspeaks on

6. Bake in a 375º oven for approximately 25 minutes. Since all ovens are different, check them around minute 18. If they stick to the pan, foil, or liner let them cool a bit and then remove them. At that point, they should come off with ease.

7. Serve over pasta or spaghetti squash with your favorite sauce and a sprinkling of cheese. Enjoy!

Cheers!

Status

Carmelina Speaks Recipes Update

A photo posted by @carmelinaspeaks on


Folks,

To date, I’ve posted recipes under “Homemade Grub” and “New Eats.” In the latter, I committed to creating one New Eats recipe a month where I had to use ingredients I’ve never used before or never in that way.

After a break from sharing recipes here and primarily sharing food photos on Instagram, I’ve decided to blend my New Eats and Homemade Grub  recipes for 2016 and the foreseeable future (hopefully years to come). I’ll use a numbering system like comic books have issue numbers. Going forward I’ll name them using this system. For example, my next New Eats post will be New Eats 13 since I posted 12 previously.

This blended system will allow me to bring you a mix of newly created recipes and classics with ease. In addition, the recipes here will have a healthier focus than traditional homemade recipes that we’re all used to.  I say health-i-er rather than healthy. The idea is to provide options that are tasty and move us closer & closer to healthier choices that include more fruits & veggies and less of the high fat, sugar, and/or empty calories. Enjoy and let me know how the recipes work for you.

Cheers!

New Eats December 2015: Roasted Butternut Squash Crostini

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Well folks 2015 is wrapping up and I successfully posted monthly New Eats posts for the year. Initially I thought making twelve new recipes was a doable concept (as opposed to say twice a month). About eight or nine months later I wondered if I’d finish and I became a believer. It was just as much about making the time to write as it was about thinking of something I hadn’t made yet. Thanks for coming along for the ride. I’m going to change it up a bit in 2016. More on that later.

This recipe is inspired by a photo in a recipe I saw online and later wasn’t able to locate on Twitter, Facebook or Goggle. I promise you it existed though. I couldn’t find it in a like, post or retweet, which I swore I had done to be able to go back to it. Google searches revealed nothing like the photo I saw.

Once you cut and roast the butternut squash, which you can do a day or two ahead of time this is a quick and easy appetizer to put together. Annnnnd it’s delish!

Ingredients:
1 large butternut squash, diced and roasted
Loaf of Italian bread or baguette, sliced and lightly toasted
1 8oz Ricotta cheese, seasoned as described below
Preserved Lemon (zest of the lemon rind)
1-2 Tbsp Honey
Olive oil
1-3 sage leaves or other herb like fresh basil, parsley or mint. Any fresh herb will go well with this recipe. Be sure to pick one and go with it.
Salt and pepper

Steps:
1. Wash, peel, dice and roast butternut squash in a single layer turning once for 30-40 minutes.
2. Season ricotta cheese with pepper and finely diced herbs and set aside.
3. Slice Italian bread or baguette. Lay out in a single layer on a baking sheet. Lightly drizzle with olive oil. Bake at 375 until lightly browned. This should only take a few minutes.
4. Place bread on a serving dish. Spread with seasoned ricotta.
5. Drizzle with honey.
6. Gently spread roasted butternut squash on top.
7. Sprinkle with a little diced herb, preserved lemon and salt and pepper to taste.
8. Serve warm.
9. Enjoy

Note: If roasting the butternut squash a day or two in advance, warm throughout first so that the squash is warm when placed on top of the cheese.


Folks, I’ve been having some difficulties with my site and almost didn’t get this posted in December 2015. For this reason I also couldn’t add more photos to this posting. I’ll edit this post when I’m able. Thanks for reading and cooking with me throughout the year. Here’s to more of that in 2016.

Cheers!

PS The site’s back up. Additional photos included.

La Luna: Day 3 of Reverb 2015

A photo posted by @carmelinaspeaks on


Kat McNally offers a twenty-one day writing prompt series, Reverb, as an opportunity to reflect on the year. She offers other writing prompts too like August Moon throughout the year. Check it out. Day 3 asks us to consider La Bella Luna and how she speaks to us. I could look up at the moon for hours. I love camping because it gets me out of the city where I can see stars and the moon.

I look up nearly each night on my way home to catch a glimpse of the moon. I like a small crescent just as much as a full robust moon. Sometimes when I look up I’m literally in awe of her beauty and power.

On November 25/26 in New England the moon was just gorgeous. It appeared huge…almost as if you could reach out and touch it. I want a fancy camera with a dope lens for nighttime photography particularly awesome shots of the moon. I probably would only use it for that and it wouldn’t be worth the cost of the camera. When I see a phenomenal moon I usually don’t bother to take a photo since it doesn’t capture the true essence you are seeing with your own eyes. I googled images from that night of the moon and came up with nada worthy of including here – see it wasn’t worth trying to take a photo of its full, low essence. My memory of it shining its light on me is great though.

When the moon is full and low and stops me in my tracks…
When I have to stop and take her in…
I feel at peace.

I feel supported knowing there’s more than my little own circle of loved ones and activity in this world. There’s something bigger than me. The moon has phases. She waxes and wanes. She pulls the tides close and let’s them out.

We too have cycles. We’re not always moving 100% full force forward. When we slide back, we don’t slip so far back we can’t see where we once were. The ebbs and flows of life are always there like the waves splashing forward and receding back…forward and back…forward and back…but omnipresent and always there.

New Eats November 2015: Fun at the Farmer’s Market

I love being able to get fresh produce. And I’m grateful to be able to stop at my local Farmer’s Market weekly and pick up the freshest produce available. The market I go to is open from May to November. I’m going to miss the fresh produce, but perhaps more than that I’m going to miss the garlic. One farmer sells the best garlic I’ve been able to buy. It’s grown in the ground rather than the hydroponic garlic that’s generally available at your local supermarket. The dirt he grows it in must be pretty fabulous since the flavor is a delight and the fragrance when cooking sweet. This garlic costs more, is smaller, and worth it. Another day I’ll post a photo of garlic from the grocery store and the garlic I get from the Farmer’s Market.
As an appetizer I quartered up some fresh yellow tomatoes placed them on a plate with a splash of balsamic vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkled coarse salt and freshly ground pepper. They were sweet and salty. A burst of flavor in your mouth.

I rounded out this meatless meal with a pasta dish. I sauteed the yellow tomatoes in a pan with olive oil and sliced garlic until the tomatoes were soft and the garlic just getting brown. I washed, cut and steamed the broccoli and boiled two kinds of pasta from boxes that were near empty. When mixing pasta types be sure to mix two varieties that take about the same amount of cooking time or one will be overcooked and the other under cooked.

Before draining the pasta I reserved about 1/2 cup of the pasta water. After the broccoli was tender, but firm I put in a quick bath of cold water to stop the cooking and to reserve some of the green color. I quickly drained broccoli to avoid it from getting soggy or adding too much water to the dish. With the pasta in the strainer, while the pot was still hot (but not on), I added a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of olive oil. Then I added back the pasta, coated it, and added the broccoli, tomato and garlic mix. As I mixed it I added about 1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese, about 1/4 cup of the pasta water and freshly crushed black pepper.

Some of the best meals are the simplest. Meals don’t have to have 32 ingredients to make them stand out. Selecting the best produce and meat you can afford is really key. Salt, pepper and garlic are some of the most basic seasonings, but they really make the broccoli and tomatoes shine.

I’m grateful for my access to fresh, healthy, diverse food. I’m grateful to have the funds to purchase healthy produce. I’m grateful to the New York State farmers who give me access to such great food. I’m grateful for my skills in the kitchen. I’m grateful when folks enjoy my food. I’m grateful that I’m able to dedicate time to writing this piece. What are you grateful for?

Cheers.

New Eats October 2015: Pasta, Broccoli Rabe and Chick Peas

20151030_165404The inspiration for this recipe comes from a unusual source. I was recently in my doctor’s office waiting to be seen not really listening to the TV overhead advertise medicines you can take for your aliments when I heard them start to discuss a recipe with broccoli rabe. The recipe got my attention and I looked up to see what they were doing with it.

Now I’ve had broccoli rabe with beans and I’ve had pasta with beans, but I haven’t mixed the three and that’s exactly what they suggested.  I didn’t see who sponsored the recipe and there was no website mentioned so I can’t give credit to the original source of my inspiration. Here’s my riff on what I saw them make in the less than 90 seconds it aired. It’s slightly different as I’m using Gemelli pasta and they used Penne. I’ve added a little cheese and crushed red pepper, which they didn’t have. Having made it once I might substitute the bacon for Italian sausage (sweet or hot) and add a little white wine and butter at the end. It being the doctor’s office I guess they wanted to avoid the vino and butter.

If you follow the New Eats series on my blog you’ll know that broccoli rabe made an appearance in July and you might be thinking: “Again? Already?” Well, yes. I don’t eat it year-round as it doesn’t seem to be available year-round. I’m sick so why not eat a super food?  And, the whole point of this series was to cook and experience foods in new ways or try new foods so it’s aligned with the purpose of the series.

Ingredients
1/2 bunch of broccoli rabe
5 oz. of pasta (Gemelli, Penne, or Rigatoni)
1 can (15 oz) of chickpeas (rinsed)
3 slices of bacon
2 gloves of garlic thinly sliced to taste
Reserve 1 cup of pasta water (i.e. the water the pasta is boiled in). You may use only 1/4-1/2 cup but once it’s down the drain you can’t get it back.
1 oz of Grana Padano finely shredded (or similar hard Italian cheese such as Parmigiano Reggiano aka Parmesan)
Pinch of rushed red pepper and salt

Makes 4 servings.

Steps:
1) Steam your broccoli rabe. If you don’t have a steamer, boil it. (Both methods explained below). Cut large stems off before you boil it to reduce some of the bitterness.

Steamer Method: Set 2 cups of water to boil, insert your metal steamer into the pot, roughly chop broccoli rabe, add it to the pot, and steam until wilted (about 5 minutes).

Boiling Method: Set 4 quarts of salted water to boil. Y’all know I never measure my water. I just make sure the pot is big enough for my pasta and there’s room for it to cook without it over crowding. Add chopped broccoli rabe, let boil for about 2 minutes. If using this method, rather than draining and removing the liquid use a slotted spoon to remove the broccoli rabe and use this water to boil the pasta after you’ve removed the veggies.

2) If steaming your broccoli rabe, be sure to set another pot to boil 4 quarts of salted water and cook pasta to al dente.

20151030_1632113) While pasta is cooking, in a frying pan, add bacon. Cook until crisp. Remove bacon and reserve bacon fat in the pan. I like center cut bacon because it has less fat. If using regular bacon and it makes more than 1 tablespoon of bacon grease remove the excess. Set bacon aside and let cool. Once cooled break or chop it up into small pieces.

I cooked extra bacon so I ended up with way more oil than I wanted in the dish. So what I did here was strain the bacon fat through a paper towel and wash the pan. Then I measured out 1 tablespoon. I wouldn’t have done that if there wasn’t such a large amount of oil (aka bacon grease) left, but I’m glad I did. I might use this method as my standard go-to going forward to reduce the amount of fat in a dish.

20151030_1640054) Add rinsed and drained chickpeas and thinly sliced garlic to the bacon grease and lightly “fry.” Let cook for 4 minutes, stirring periodically. Lightly brown garlic. Add in the cooked broccoli rabe and crushed red pepper, mix well. Cook for an additional 3 minutes. Add in the drained cooked pasta, 1/4 cup of the pasta water, the chopped bacon and continue to cook for 1-2 minutes. If the dish seems “dry” add a bit more pasta water and cook another minute.

20151030_1643405) Grate Grana Padano cheese finely.

6) Plate a serving into a bowl and lightly dust with Grana Padano cheese.

20151030_164933Taste your food after you’ve added the cheese, if you think it still needs salt, taste again. If you’re sure go ahead and add a bit, but don’t say I didn’t warn you that the cheese should supply enough salt on it’s own.

Gemelli and Brocolli Rabe ForkA note on the cheese selected here, Grana Padano: I’m lucky enough to live next to a grocery store with a huge cheese selection. Next to the imported expensive Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese is the less salty, lower cost, Grana Padano from Northern Italy’s Po River Valley. Cook’s Info  suggests an oz of Parmigiano-Reggiano has 650 mg of sodium to Grana Padano’s 1.6 mg of sodium. Yes, you read that correctly. If you’re looking for a flavorful cheese that is low in salt this is a great option. Many cheeses are high in saturated fat (the kind that you should avoid). Know Food and others discuss the high unsaturated fat content and unique calcium and protein content in this cheese. Try it if you can get your hands on it. Don’t believe me, google it or check out for yourself. I didn’t know half of this stuff before I decided to write this blog. I just knew it was less salty, tasty, and cheaper than Parmesan.

Cheers!

New Eats September 2015: Smoke, Spices & Herbs

20150912_133344Recently I went on a strategic planning retreat that required our group to rent a huge house, which slept twelve comfortably. In the images available online I saw a large deck and a huge grill. I immediately asked if we’d have access to both and I was ecstatic to hear back that we would. I knew I was going to cook on that grill. Ya see, I love summer, grilling, porches, decks, back yards, the beach…except I live in NYC without easy access to most of that. I make good use of the public parks where grilling is available, but it’s nothing like your own back yard and grilling at a drop of a hat.

Some folks who were planning to drive offered to bring their propane tank from their home grill to reduce our expenses. When we inquired if that would be necessary we were told that it was connected to the natural gas line in the home. I had never heard of that before. Couldn’t say I had ever seen one either and I was more hype than ever. In our planning meetings leading up to the weekend I made sure folks knew not to schedule a dinner out for one night because I would be grilling!

I wasn’t checking a bag and I didn’t want the TSA rummaging through my clothes for my hand dried basil so I knew I’d likely have to make a run to the store. When I got to the house the first place I went was the kitchen….the pans were less than desirable and there weren’t spices or seasonings…not even salt. I can’t say I was too surprised about the spices, but really…not even salt? I even considered buying pans and leaving them for the next visitors or checking my bag back if need be, but I was convinced that I could make do with what was provided (and I didn’t rent a car so I couldn’t just go by myself).  We rent a large house annually around the country and they generally come pretty well stocked (in regards to linens), but the kitchens in general over the years have been hit or miss.

A trip to the store was in order.

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My seasoning haul (along with limes, garlic and onions) at Publix. How cute is that 4oz container of olive oil?

I wasn’t sure I’d find small enough containers of herb blends, spices or salt to season my veggies and meat without wasting spices or breaking the bank. I was pleasantly surprised by what was available at the local Publix, a supermarket chain not currently located in the tri-state/New England area as far as I know. Their meat was fresh and they had a great spice & herb aisle. This trip reminded me of the importance of spices, herbs and seasonings including smoke in creating flavorful dishes to serve for yourself or those you love. The simple things have the biggest impact. On this trip, I realized I take my spice selection for granted. I also realized not everyone uses herbs or spices and their food must be a tad bland so I decided to write this post about two meals I prepared this month where the seasoning and ingredients were really the key rather than technique.

1) Grilled chicken thighs. Bone-in and skin-on thighs are great on a grill. A grill tip: Heat your grill for at least 15 minutes before you cook on it and take your meat out of the frig about 30 minutes before you grill it. It shouldn’t be cold when it goes on the grill.

Clean the chicken with lime. Use the juice of about 3-4 limes to massage the chicken and then remove the juice. Season with paprika (mostly for color), salt, pepper and the herbs of your choice. I had the “Italian Seasoning” blend that includes rosemary, black pepper and red pepper, garlic, onion, salt, tomato and parsley, which is pictured above. Add about 1 tablespoon (up to 2 tablespoons) of good olive oil. Mix well. Set aside for about 3 hours. Drop on a hot grill and cook for about 25 minutes. Leaving it on the first side you drop it for about 8 minutes.

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2) Grilled Pork Chops. Clean with lime as stated above. Be sure to dispose of the liquid that remains. Add fresh garlic and onion and Badia Complete Seasoning (or similar). Complete Seasoning is mostly salt, and dried garlic, onion and herbs/veggies. I have to say I prefer the Badia brand over other Sazón options out there. I find it to be less salty, fresher and it doesn’t clump over time. Apologies for the lack of prep photos. I was in the zone. 20150912_103350
3) Grilled Veggies.
You can add all of this flavor and never eat meat. It’s true. I promise. Go wild on meatless Monday. Add spices to a bowl of larger chopped veggies and 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil and grill. Don’t have a grill? Lay them out on a baking sheet and roast for about 40 minutes on 375. Toss or flip them once during cooking. Ovens vary, don’t wait until you smell a burning odor from the kitchen. If you’re oven runs hot, start with 10 minutes on each side. When nearly done, if you wnat them a bit more charred put them in the broiler (or on broil depending on your oven) for less than 5 minutes. Carrots are a lovely veggie to roast and mix well with a host of others.
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3) Pan seared shrimp. Clean with lime as stated above. (Seeing a pattern here?) This works for poultry, pork and seafood. It cleans the meat and adds flavor at the same time. I’ve pan-seared shrimp plenty of times, but I haven’t been able to get that restaurant seared taste on it. In addition, I recently read about the benefits of extra-virgin olive oil and the Mediterranean diet (again). So I added garlic salt, crushed red pepper, Italian herbs and a healthy serving of two tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil. When you think about how much seasoning to add you have to take into account how much meat or veggies you’re cooking. I used about two teaspoons for about 3/4lbs. of shrimp. This version came out phenomenally well and I’m thanking the olive oil. The other trick is to turn the shrimp (if they’re small like these) only once in the pan. Put about 1/2 a tablespoon of butter in the pan. When well melted add shrimp and cook for about 3-4 minutes on each side to avoid them becoming over cooked rubbery.

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In closing I encourage you to make your own blends of spices, herbs and pre-made spice blends. You don’t need to stick to one brand and store brands make great options too. Mix and match them to make great blends all your own. Try out different mixes to see what you like best. When and where possible use either whole spices that you can grind like whole peppercorn rather than that black pulverized pepper in a tin or these blends in grinders already. Promise your food will have more flavor.

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And when you can, don’t forget to add the smoke.

Adios summer. I’ll miss you. Not ready for you to go, but fall will bring unique ingredients and bring back baking. More to look forward to with only three New Eats posts left for the year.

Cheers!

P.S. For the record and in case you’re wondering, no I was not compensated by any spice makers mentioned or in photos here. And for those of you who are thinking? What, she never grilled chicken before? Not in a dope house with a grill connected to the natural gas line of the house. I have to say it created a very even flame, which I appreciated.

New Eats August 2015: Harlem Restaurants

20150430_192402It’s summer. I’m loving the beaches, parks and outdoors. If it’s 90 degrees, my non-air conditioned kitchen has to top 120 on some days. And we’ve had at least 45 consecutive 90 degree days in NYC. The fan doesn’t do it justice. So I’ve eaten out a bit this month. I participated in restaurant week and ate at three restaurants I’ve never eaten at before, but that’s for another post. I work in Harlem and it’s gentrifying faster than my Bronx neighborhood…so much so that there’s an authentic delicious sushi place in the mix as well as a wood burning oven pizza joint. The two will be covered here and we’ll start with the sushi spot.

I heard about Yuzu a few weeks before it opened by passing by the loud construction in front of the building. The rumors were that a sushi place would take the helm of the previous store front. I was a bit befuddled. Was this really going to happen? Would I actually be able to get sushi for lunch? Would it be an all you can eat cheap spot or a high-quality locale? Turns out the latter was true. If you’re someone who loves the artistry of sushi as much as the freshest fish, and you want to eat uptown…this is the place for you.They even got together to make some art for the restaurant. Check out the block wood art. One of the pieces says the following and who can’t live by that?

YUZU
Savor while you eat
Taste life each and everyday
Adding joy and peace
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The sushi masters in front of you as well as the staff are friendly and knowledgeable. I thought about writing after I first ate there a few months ago, but I waited until I ate there at least three times to share it with all of you. I wanted to be sure this wasn’t a fluke. The head chef and co-owner Tomoyuki Hayashi is running a phenomenal establishment in central Harlem. They serve some of the freshest fish I’ve eaten that’s beautifully plated in slightly reduced prices from mid-town Manhattan. Other than the freshness and flavor of the sushi, which is paramount to me, the way they treat the staff has impressed me.

They close from 3-4 so the staff can eat food that is prepared by the kitchen. Who does that in NYC? Who does that in Harlem? Yuzu does! My guess is the staff is all the happier for it and that works for me. You don’t want an upset hostess, server or chef serving your meal. My mom always taught me never to cook when you’re angry, upset or really frustrated because it will come out in your food. The story goes that people can even get sick from this food. Maybe it’s mental. Maybe it’s the lack of attention you pay when cooking when your mind is elsewhere, but when I’m upset my food tastes horrible so I don’t cook when I’m upset.

If you go, order what you wish. Or better yet, order something you’ve never had. Eating alone like me…sit at the sushi bar and watch the masters work. It fascinates me and it’s such a great break from the office. If you’re looking for it, the view from across the street is something like the photo below. Trust me, if you like sushi you won’t be disappointed. I’ve been so busy enjoying my meals I haven’t taken a ton of photos. Enjoy!
Now to Babbalucci, the Italian spot that serves fried artichokes, one of my faves. I can eat artichokes boiled, roasted, broiled, fried, or cold and in vinegar and oil in a salad. I love them. They make great creamy dipping sauces and are a joy to eat stuffed with a few pieces of pancetta or any way you like them. If you’ve never had them one of the best places you can try them is at a restaurant. And, if you’re in Harlem you should stop at Babbalucci, which means snails in Sicilian. There’s a special place in my heart for the food of Italy. My maternal great grandparents are from the Almafi coast and nearly every Sunday during my formative years it was macaroni and sauce. I’ve yet to travel to Italy, but I have distant cousins who still live in the town where my great grandparents were married so I hope to visit.

These restaurants are about a block from each other and if you’re looking for it, you’ll know when you see the signage below. 20150430_194853
I couldn’t decide between pizza and appetizers and I was craving artichokes so the apps won out. And, I wasn’t disappointed. They were divine and served with some greens and olive oil. Some say artichokes are an acquired taste. That may be true for those who didn’t grow up eating them. If you’ve tried them or not, I encourage you to check them out here. They’re soooooo good. 20150828_144633
I also had the fried calamari just because I was in the mood for it and they were tasty. I can’t wait to try their pizzas. The menu had a large variety that I couldn’t choose from in the short time that I had for lunch. I’ll be back and I hope you’ll check them out too.

These are just 2 of 6 new restaurants I tried in NYC in the month of August. In general I cook at home much more often than I have been. When you don’t have the time to cook, when you’re looking for something new to try that you don’t know how to prepare, when it’s restaurant week and you can get a deal, when a new restaurant opens – check them out. You might be surprised at the flavors bursting in your mouth.

Cheers!

August Moon 2015 – Day 5


I’m participating in August Moon 2015 and I encourage you to check out the fabulous, powerful, meaningful, deep and lovely pieces that people are linking to the Wolf and Word website. Alana is generating the writing prompts this August for Kat McNally who is focused on writing a book and the originator of this phenomena. I’ve posted shorter responses on my Instagram. And a good friend of mine is posting her writings on her blog thebsideandotherramblings. There’s posts all over the internet for you to read.

There are a number of things I can write about here, but what keeps coming back is being a first-generation college student i.e. the first person in my family to go to college. This was the way I was going to make it out of poverty (or that’s what I was told again and again and again). I studied hard in high school. I not only joined clubs, but I created one in high school. I was a leader – not to get into a good college, but because I cared about my community. I got into the college of my choice. Once I got there…although I could see a light in the distance, I wasn’t sure if I could make it that far.

Even though I was ranked 4th in my graduating high school class, after one semester I was on academic probation. It’s true that one of my professors lost my final and once found I earned an A in the class, yet even with the A I was still on academic probation. I didn’t know what dropping a class meant to your college career so I didn’t drop the one class I really should have. My friends had cars, went shopping at the mall, ate out regularly and had money to party. I didn’t. Office hours made me nervous and I wasn’t fully sure how to take advantage of them. I wasn’t sure how to talk to my professors and I didn’t dare tell a soul any of this. They understood how to navigate college life. I had no clue. I told myself, I didn’t belong here. I didn’t fit it.

I struggled, but I did my best not to show it. I was able to find some stellar mentors and supporters along the way. There were a handful of folks who supported me through the most difficult times and helped me bounce back quickly enough to survive those four years and earn a 4.0 during my last semester in college. Some were my dearest friends and continue to be to this day. Others were college staff or professors. After that horribly difficult first semester I found a support network in one of my college’s deans who I talk to a few times a year. A few semesters later I was lucky enough to take a phenomenal history class with a world-renowned scholar in his academic field of study. We continue to connect and I’ve been out of college for 16 years (and I’m no where near in the same field as he is). I’m grateful for these supporters and the lessons they taught me out of the classroom.

My experiences with these folks sustained me and helped me realize I had everything I needed to see the light and more importantly to reach it deep into the distance because I had not only myself, but their support as well.

By the way August Moon 2015 is up to day 10 and I’m posting about day 5. Just FYI. I might even post after August Moon is officially over for this year.