Tuesday, May 9, 2017

COOKING FOR MOM ON HER DAY



Mothers Day connotes gifts, one of which is spoiler her by making dinner.  The problem is that you are used to mom being the cook.  One great idea is to buy food with the preparations already taken care of so all you have to do is cook.  Take, for instance Cross Bay Seashell Fish Market, located in Howard Beach where you can opt for whole or fileted fish or get some with the proper seasonings to minus the recipe. 

Vincent Marinello is the co-owner of Cross Bay Seashell Fish Market, located at 161-14 Cross bay Blvd. in Howard Beach.  “My family comes from a small fishing village in Sicily called Sciacca,” said Vinny. “As a teen my dad (Luigi) would work on a fishing boat along with his brothers. He would be out at sea for days and at times for weeks.”

Upon arriving in New York along with my mother, my dad started working for a gentleman by the name of Ray Hart, who owned Crossbay Seashell at the time. This was in 1974. My dad worked for Ray Hart until 1982. Then in 1982 Mr. Hart sold Crossbay Seashell to my dad and to my uncle (Salvatore Catanzaro).  My uncle retired around 10 years ago, and he sold his share of the business to Pat Marotta, who is currently my partner.

My dad retired 4 years ago, and I took over his ownership. As for me I never envisioned myself owning the business. I went to college, got my degree, and worked in the Import/Export field as a sales associate for around 6 years. When my uncle retired I went back to give my dad a hand, and haven¹t left since.”

On the top of the list of “preparations” is a Maine lobster, already steamed or stuffed with shrimp and scallops (and bread crumbs) to bake it on your own.   It is so worth ripping apart and getting every little morsel.  Keep in mind that if you purchase lobster tails (anywhere) they are frozen and cooked   There is nothing like having fresh lobster.   As for the “gift” portion, how about your taking it apart and less work for her.  It doesn’t just mean the two claws and tail.  Meat is hidden in the tiny claws and inside the body.   I found that the lobster did not require added butter.  I don’t know where that tradition began since the lobster itself should be juicy and sweet.   Save the calories for some dessert, instead. 

Stuffed flounder is a good choice for non-shell fish as well as being “mild” in taste.  Vinny or Pat will stuff it with lump crabmeat, shrimp, cream of mushroom soup and bread crumbs.  Now, that sounds delicious.  How did it taste?  As if it were served at a fine dining restaurant (I followed the baking instructions that Pat gave me).  

You can get two types of crab cakes.  Vinny tells me that some people actually prefer them with the imitation crab meat and are much less expensive.   I prefer the real Maryland style that they stuff with lots of lump crab meat, some bread crumbs and those Maryland spices.   Fish cakes are another option using cod instead of crab.  Easy tartar sauce combines mayonnaise and relish.  For a spicier one use one with mustard or just add a bit of mustard to the other two ingredients.  

Baked clams oreganata uses the fresh clams with olive oil and seasoned breadcrumbs as is an excellent appetizer.  It’s not as if mom will be eating all of this!  

A Shrimp Cocktail presentation will wow mom.  Pat tells me that the shrimp are wild and come from South America.  Buy them raw and steam in beer…that’s right.  It gives a bit of sweetness and removes a bit of the fishy flavor.   You can get cocktail sauce or make your own.  It’s now difficult.   A combination of ketchup and horse radish does the trick and gives mom the option of adding more horse radish if it further tempts the palate.   Line a martini glass and place the cocktail sauce in the middle.   If you really don’t want to cook it, Vinny or Pat will steam it for you.  Important to note that the shrimp has been frozen and thawed out.  You cannot refreeze but you can cook it up and freeze.  

If you don’t want to make your own cocktail or tartar sauce, you can purchase that at the market.  However, if you want lemons or limes you have to go next door to the grocer. While you’re there, I highly suggest that you pick up a can of crabmeat.  Get the one that comes from the claw. It has both excellent quality and taste (I tried it and loved it!).  Use some of it with the shrimp cocktail, add it to a salad with avocado and lime juice, concoct a crab quiche, add it to macaroni and cheese or grilled cheese sandwich.  Keep in mind that the can of crabmeat is fresh and requires refrigeration. When you open the can, it stays fresh for 3-4 days.   Best thing is to take out portions of the meat, place in containers and freeze. 

I suggest that you call ahead of time…like maybe a day or two before to make sure that all of the items are available when you get there.  Phone: (718) 835-2987.  Small parking lot on the premises. 




Sunday, April 30, 2017

PASSOVER ALL OVER THE WORLD

A ritual marathon feast known as a Seder is celebrated on Passover to mark the Jews’ liberation from slavery in Ancient Egypt. This year it takes place April 10.

There are some differences between the ritual Seder plate and the various cuisines served for the holiday, but the combination creates some savory meals.

In their migration over the centuries, Jews have traversed the globe in order to practice their religion freely. Thus, the influences on the foods eaten during Passover have been diverse.
In Judaism there are two basic groups Ashkenazi from Germany and Eastern Europe, and Sephardic from Spain, Italy and the Middle East. With adoptions and intermarriage American Jews also have Latino, Asian and African ancestry.

As a second-generation Jewish-American family, we celebrated with the more common rituals and food. I researched the Internet and found myself particularly enlightened by one source, a website entitled HappyPassover.net.

According to the site, for instance, the customs and traditions followed by Indian Jews are similar to Hindus in both makeup and language. Here it says that the delicacies are a blend of “Indo-Jewish” flavors. Whereas we tend to have chopped liver, brisket of beef, matzo ball soup and potato pancakes, “Indian Jews prepare items such as molagachi, a mahogany chicken with black pepper; ellegal, a spice-rubbed fish in a cool herb salsa; appam, coconut crepes in a date sauce; and masalachi, mutton that is braised with coriander and garlic.”
“Following strict sabbath laws, men don a Malabari sarong, called a mondoo, while the women wear flowing silk saris and jewelry that sparkles. Songs of exodus are softly hummed to Indian melodies.”
Six ritual foods are on the Seder plate, some different from the traditional Jewish American.
“Lamb bone shank, roasted egg and matzo, are surrounded by romaine lettuce, date jam with walnuts, celery, and lime juice,” the site says. Although rice and legumes used to be forbidden, they have become traditional in Sephardic cultures.

While Jews were once ousted from Italy, there now exists a large Jewish population, especially in Rome.
“A traditional Passover menu begins with a paste-like mixture of ground dates, raisins, figs and oranges called Haroset all’italiana. Carciofi all romana, Roman-style artichokes, are prepared with bresaola, an air-cured beef with lemon and arugula. Cubes of fried white fish are marinated in an herb vinaigrette with caramelized onions for a dish called carpione.”
Those are just the side dishes, as the main course of an Italian Seder includes tortino di azzine, a matzo lasagna using vegetables and lamb together and insalata alla Sefardita, a salad of romaine, green onions and dill in a red wine vinaigrette. Desserts are generally comprised of a rich almond-paste cookie rolled up in powdered sugar known as ricciarelli de Siena.
“Here a ritual Seder plate is brought to the table covered with a pretty scarf. Prior to placing it on the table, the plate is placed atop a child’s head and rotated allowing everyone to view.”
Later, the tradition of having the youngest son recite the “four questions” relates to this. Although we typically take three pieces of matzo and simply place it under a napkin, the Italian ritual has the matzos tied to the napkin to form a little sack. It is then passed around the table from shoulder to shoulder.

Another Sephardic tradition, new to me, is to take a green onion, with long stems, and place it beside each member at the Seder table. Each member picks it up, holding it like a whip while singing the song, Dayenu. When the chorus kicks in, the participant holding the bulb lightly whips each person with a flick of the wrist. This particular ritual is used by Jews in Afghanistan and Iran. One explanation is that it represents the whips used when the Jewish slaves were beaten by the Pharaoh’s slave drivers.

Regarding food, the site says that Jews of Allepo, Syria, were known for their liberal use of spices, such as allspice, cinnamon, saffron and cardamom.
“There are an abundant amount of bitter cherries in this area featured in many of their dishes. One recipe involves a stew of meatballs with allspice and pine nuts that are smothered in a cherry sauce with tamarind and onions. Here, the use of rice is common to the Seder meal.”

If you are not interested in preparing a Seder meal, don’t expect a kosher restaurant to be open for Passover as it involves disposing of any items that are not “kosher for Passover” as well as changing the dishes and other traditions that involve a great deal of work.

One option for at least one Seder night is at Thai Rock, located in Rockaway Beach. There, a “kosher style” traditional Seder dinner comes complete with matzo ball soup, chopped liver and a brisket of beef. Bring your family to avoid the hard work and cleanup. I am told that there is usually a rabbi in attendance, as well as music and gefilte fish that is not out of jar.
Posted 4:17 pm, April 6, 2017

Saturday, April 8, 2017

MEAT ME AT MARIO’S AND SAY, “MANGIA”



Rumor has it that lovers of Italian sausage are trekking to Mario’s Meat Market and Gourmet Deli for their supplies.  Hey, Joe, what’s the story?  Picture it.  1971 when Mario DiGangi and his family come to America from a town in Italy called Polizzi Generosa where Mario gets a job working in a meat store while living in Brooklyn.  A move to Ridgewood, Queens he works at another meat store for 9 years.  Enough already! It’s 1982 and time to get his own store!  That is when he opened Mario’s Meat Market and Deli located at 75-55 Metropolitan Avenue in Middle Village, Queens. 

 MARIO
 MARIO ON THE LEFT, HIS SON JOE ON THE RIGHT 

An Italian meat market; what’s the big deal?  These high quality one family places are few and far between.  I walked in one day to see Mario’s son Joe preparing the dry sausage.  Joe took over since Mario had passed in 2011.  He tells me that it’s all about the quality and cut of meat being used.  I see a variety of both thin and thick sausages through the glass shelf of which is made fresh every day…the sausage, not the shelf.  Joe said that a lesser amount of fat is used for the dry sausage and yes, it’s been quite demanded.  They are air dried for 4 weeks and ready to slice up, like a thin salami.  



The store is quite large and divided well.  One area has the Grade A prime or Black Angus cuts of meat and only organic chickens are sold here.  You could drool just looking at what you and your family can cook up.  Wait until you see their Tomahawk Steak; prime rib and feeds at least three.










JOE,ARTIE SPINELLI, AND UNCLE TONY DIGANGI


There are many prepared items so you don’t have to think.  Take for instance, Chicken Breast ala Mario is lightly coated with spices and stuffed with proscutti, mozzarella, and sausage.  Large enough for two people especially when you add a pasta dish with one of Mario’s sauces. Buy the chopped meat or delve into a smokehouse burger made with prime chuck and brisket blend, Applewood smoked bacon, Vermont cheddar, salt and pepper.  Want one made from turkey? How about a burger with organic turkey breast, spinach, imported feta, salt and pepper?  All tasted savory and satisfying to the taste buds.  







I love osso bucco but want to make sure it’s cooked properly.  Joe can give you the recipe.  How does he know?  He didn’t start there by cutting meat.  It’s an art.  Joe spent his younger years in the kitchen helping his mother and grandmother.  Who else would you get the best recipes from?  Now he cooks up a variety of delicious food that you can simply heat and eat worthy of a great Italian restaurant.  That is where we move on toward the deli area. 

Chose imported cheeses such as provolone, ricotta salata, parmigiana reggiano, burrata, caciocavello, and scamorza.   Try one of the tastiest store made ravioli made with sweet red bell peppers and smoked mozzarella.  Top it with their ala vodka, tomato or pesto sauce.  




Easter brings requests for baby lamb, especially known for the delicacy of eating the roasted head…in Southern Italy.  You can purchase a whole baby lamb and Joe will gladly cut it up for roasting. These lambs are milk fed and tender.  Northern Italy tends to go for baby goat…no kid-ding.  Preference is a darker meat and liver vs. the head.  

Pizza Rustica, the famous Easter Italian Pie is like quiche with various meats and cheeses.  Sweeten the meal as you will find a diversity of locally made and imported pastries not to mention the Italian imported gift wrapped chocolate eggs.    

My take on this market?   I got the thin sausage; one with cheese and parsley, one with fennel.  Fried it up and put some of their tomato sauce atop.  I did my own osso bucco creation by dipping in flour and frying as usually done.  I did not have wine.  Instead, I substituted with water and raisins.  After letting it cook on a sort of high simmer, I added tomato sauce and lastly, a small dollop of their pesto sauce on the marrow. 


Mario’s has their own brand of ravioli, one of which is a sweet red pepper with ricotta cheese and smoke mozzarella.  Not being a vegetarian, I opted to top it with their Bolognese sauce, loaded with chopped beef.  

A portion of the deli department is dedicated to salads and pre-cooked items.  I decided on their vegetable lasagna to conclude that I didn’t require any meat to satiate my taste.   They cure their olives and sampled a mixture.  Octopus salad was quite tender and very little was added. 






One surprise was in requesting marrow bones.   Before it was trendy, they were thrown in with your order if you wanted.  Joe said that if you are there to buy other meat items, he’ll toss a few bones.  Otherwise, they are $2.99 per pound.  The surprise was that they were not the usual beef bones but from veal.  It’s kind of like having osso bucco without the meat.  



While you are shopping, take advantage of their $12 panini deal.  Choose one from their list or create your own.  For instance, I had one with grilled chicken, grilled veggies and a cheddar horseradish cheese.   Uncle Tony is their main panini maker who adds a cup of soup and a bottle of water (and some extra spices on the panini).  Extremely tummy filling.  Check it all out at www.mariosmeatsanddeli.com 








Friday, April 7, 2017

BOSTON BOLTS TO MARIO’S MEAT MARKET



Rumor has it that lovers of Italian sausage are trekking to Mario’s Meat Market and Gourmet Deli for their supplies.  Hey, Joe, what’s the story?  Picture it.  1971 when Mario DiGangi and his family come to America from a town in Italy called Polizzi Generosa where Mario gets a job working in a meat store while living in Brooklyn.  A move to Ridgewood, Queens he works at another meat store for 9 years.  Enough already! It’s 1982 and time to get his own store!  That is when he opened Mario’s Meat Market and Deli located at 75-55 Metropolitan Avenue in Middle Village, Queens. 
 
An Italian meat market; what’s the big deal?  These high quality one family places are few and far between.  I walked in one day to see Mario’s son Joe preparing the dry sausage.  Joe took over since Mario had passed in 2011.  He tells me that it’s all about the quality and cut of meat being used.  I see a variety of both thin and thick sausages through the glass shelf of which is made fresh every day…the sausage, not the shelf.  Joe said that a lesser amount of fat is used for the dry sausage and yes, it’s been quite demanded.  They are air dried for 4 weeks and ready to slice up, like a thin salami. 
  
The store is quite large and divided well.  One area has the Grade A prime or Black Angus cuts of meat and only organic chickens are sold here.  You could drool just looking at what you and your family can cook up.  Wait until you see their Tomahawk Steak; prime rib and feeds at least three.

There are many prepared items so you don’t have to think.  Take for instance, Chicken Breast ala Mario is lightly coated with spices and stuffed with proscutti, mozzarella, and sausage.  Large enough for two people especially when you add a pasta dish with one of Mario’s sauces. Buy the chopped meat or delve into a smokehouse burger made with prime chuck and brisket blend, Applewood smoked bacon, Vermont cheddar, salt and pepper.  Want one made from turkey? How about a burger with organic turkey breast, spinach, imported feta, salt and pepper?

I love osso bucco but want to make sure it’s cooked properly.  Joe can give you the recipe.  How does he know?  He didn’t start there by cutting meat.  It’s an art.  Joe spent his younger years in the kitchen helping his mother and grandmother.  Who else would you get the best recipes from?  Now he cooks up a variety of delicious food that you can simply heat and eat worthy of a great Italian restaurant.  That is where we move on toward the deli area.
Chose imported cheeses such as provolone, ricotta salata, parmigiana reggiano, burrata, caciocavello, and scamorza.   Try one of the tastiest store made ravioli made with sweet red bell peppers and smoked mozzarella.  Top it with their ala vodka, tomato or pesto sauce.  

Easter brings requests for baby lamb, especially known for the delicacy of eating the roasted head…in Southern Italy.  You can purchase a whole baby lamb and Joe will gladly cut it up for roasting. These lambs are milk fed and tender.  Northern Italy tends to go for baby goat…no kid-ding.  Preference is a darker meat and liver vs. the head.  

Pizza Rustica, the famous Easter Italian Pie is like quiche with various meats and cheeses.  Sweeten the meal as you will find a diversity of locally made and imported pastries not to mention the Italian imported gift wrapped chocolate eggs. 
    
While you are shopping, take advantage of their $12 panini deal.  Choose one from their list or create your own.  For instance, I had one with grilled chicken, grilled veggies and a cheddar horseradish cheese.   Uncle Tony is their main panini maker who adds a cup of soup and a bottle of water (and some extra spices on the panini).  Extremely tummy filling.  Check it all out at www.mariosmeatsanddeli.com