Monday, August 31, 2009

Rethymno Farmer's Market

     My taste buds were not ready for my trip to Greece. They are under stimulated by US produce. The flavors of the produce in Crete were so intense that it was information overload for my mouth every time I took a bite of anything. The watermelon, the tomatoes, the cheese, the cucumbers, everything truly defines was eating local means. 
     Most taverna's grow their own vegetables and herbs behind the restaurant and if you want to see locals, the Farmer's Market is the place to be. My idea of photographable locals are really old, leathery people and the Farmer's Market was chock full of them.
     And what's my favorite thing after old wrinkly people? Food. Fresh local food. I was on a mission to get some fresh green figs. To describe the sensation of eating a milky fresh fig on a Mediterranean island in the summer is impossible. The moment the sweet flesh hits my tongue I close my eyes and know I am in heaven. I believe that if there is one forbidden fruit, it is the fig. 
 Let's talk about olives. The Greeks know their olives and that was next on my must have list and I was not let down. They were probably the best olives I've had in a very very long time. So fresh and perfectly salty. 
The next logical step after olives is olive oil and the olive oil lady gives shots out knowing that once you try it you must have it. I ended up smuggling a few liters home. 
    And the herbs, the entire place smells like fresh oregano, and its not the same stuff as you can get here. Greek oregano is in a class of its own. Its so pungent and even has a mild sweetness you would never associate with oregano. 
    I bought some Raki, thats Greek moonshine, and the man threw in a giant bushel of grapes. The grapes you get in the supermarkets here taste like water, the Greek grapes are so sweet and bursting with delicious grapeyness.
  Union Square is a great Farmer's Market, but you will not find live snails for sale, or live rabbits ready for slaughter. I felt so bad for those rabbits, but I was obsessed with the rabbit man. He's great and you know he has never felt bad once for strangling a bunny. I can respect that. This is easily my favorite photo from the trip. 
   Right next to the vegetable stalls is a flea market and this girl is like, "what, I'm wearing a neon yellow shredded backless shirt and my trunk junk is hanging out of my puma poom poom short, and?" She's my Greek idol! 

Saturday, August 29, 2009


I moved. My old place was awesome, but it was time to go and now I am sleeping on my parents couch. Great. But before I left the old apartment I had an impromptu slumber party!!! Carrie and Erik came over to take a look at this itty bitty kitten I found, who thankfully has been adopted, and we figured what the heck, we just ate dinner, why not take a nap and wake up and have breakfast together. Cousin Sally also joined us for an al fresco meal. I am really going to miss that backyard.
For dinner I made Erik's favorite, farro salad. This time I made it with lots of yummy garden herbs, fresh parsley, basil and even some tarragon. This was my first tarragon application and I am seriously hooked. I also added some sauteed fresh leeks and garlic, raisins, tomatoes and raw pine nuts.
I also made a corn salad, with fresh boiled corn, cucumbers, fresh tomatoes, italian frying peppers, parsley, lime juice, a little rice wine vinegar and olive oil. This I served with some grilled shrimp, (no photo). which was marinated in salt, pepper, olive oil, lime, paprika, fresh garlic, cumin and cayenne pepper.
As a side I roasted beets and tossed them warm with tarragon, olive oil, salt and pepper. Beets and tarragon, thats a powerfully delicious flavor combination that I am happy I discovered.
Erik and Carrie rode all the way to Queens from Harlem on the train with a uncooked Apple Pie. Carrie was upset because she spilled the pie juice all over herself and some other unlucky passengers. If they licked that juice up and they would feel lucky though. This pie is Aunt Sue's secret award winning apple pie recipe. I will somehow get a hold of that recipe if I have to fly to Salt Lake, find Aunt Sue and take her hostage. Watch out Aunt Sue, this apple pie is too good for your own good. The crust was perfect, flakey and almost savory. The apples were spiced perfectly and it was just the perfect amount of juice (after Carrie dumped it!). We ate the entire pie like a bunch of gluttons! And it was one of those gigantic pie plates. Extra Large.
The next morning my wonderful guests whipped us up a batch of pumpkin pancakes. They were so good. They even added some chocolate chips to a few which tasted more like dessert to me than breakfast and they were like, "what's the problem with that?" Erik and Carrie add chocolate chips to everything, apparently. What a great slumber party it was. Pigging out and sleeping; thats a flavor combination.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Salsa Picante

This is not salsa for your tortilla chips. Its fresh tomato sauce with hot spicy peppers. I sauteed some garlic with fresh tomatoes, hot red pepper flakes and some cubanelle peppers making sure to remove the seeds. I tossed it with some penne and topped it with some fresh parsley for a really hot and fast pasta dish. The cubanelle peppers are that nice heat that doesn't stay with you too long but leaves a good pepper flavor in your mouth.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Morning Sex

Sex like food is a very satisfying part of life. These days I have been getting up early and ... going running. Don't get excited. Its during these wee hours when Queens' wildlife is busy or rather getting busy. I stumbled upon these two cicadas gettin' it on in the middle of the sidewalk. This couple is like "concrete and what?" Sexy.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Greek Villa Party

    Most of the craziness of the Greece trip revolves around my driving. I learned how to drive stick in Greece so from now on I am referring to myself as a Greek driver and am getting a small Greek flag to hang from my rearview, next to my guido Italian horn of course!
   After the best man suffered through me doing loops in a parking lot in Rethymno, a town where I bought what I am referring to as my "magic super-hero Greek driving sandals," I was on the right track, getting into first gear smoothly. 
   These sandals were not only super-comfortable but the shoe guy customized them for me and they were, wait for it...20 euro. What?!?! He also warned us to wear helmets and life jackets at the Greek wedding. We later found out its customary to fire machine guns at Greek weddings but the life jackets? Maybe they drown people who can't Greek dance? More on that later...
    Later that evening we were at a pre-wedding party at a villa in the mountains surrounded by ancient olive trees with a ridiculous view of the surrounding mountains and the Mediterranean Sea. 
     The villa was so luxurious and there was a bed in the kitchen. Yes a sexy bed in the sexy kitchen and if I ever customize my house my kitchen is where all the magic will take place. As you can imagine having a destination wedding in a no rules country like Greece can be rather stressful, but above, my best friend Elina is taking my advice very seriously: "Look hot and feel good." 
     I needed to get changed into my evening dress for the luxurious villa party, but Cody, the groom was so crazed running around that he forgot me on the top of the mountain. Thats okay, because I can stick drive, so a lovely accomplice who knew the way down the mountain escorted me back to the hotel. At the hotel we encountered the most extravagant Greek buffet.
     Iannis, the hilarious Albanian bartender, was there waiting for us. The previous night he had made me some fabulous mojitos, which the morning after I needed this Greek hangover cure of aspirin and orange juice to recover from. (Something about Vitamin C.)  Iannis would not let us back to my room before we did two shots of Raki and after I tried a few snails!
    "I can't drink Raki. I have to drive up the mountain!"
    "Thats okay," my Canadian friend told me, "You're driving Greek!" (I think "Canadian" and "Greek" are interchangeable in this sentence.)
    If I hadn't drank the Raki, which is Greek moonshine made from grape stems and leaves, I don't think I would have had the courage to eat the snails. The Raki basically burnt a hole in my chest and probably destroyed half of my taste buds. Most Greeks joke its like drinking rubbing alcohol. I smuggled some home and was advised to drink it mixed with warm honey. 
    As for the snails, I was pleased. Iannis even pried them out of their shells for me. I held the snail and said, "This is a snail." Then I popped it in my mouth and said, "This snail is in my mouth." And after a bite, "This snail tastes good in my mouth." They weren't at all slimy, but like nice grilled calamari, and well seasoned.     After I put on my party dress, drank some moonshine and ate some snails I drove back up the mountain with Raki ony my brain to the villa party where there was plenty of drunk man dancing, plate breaking and lots of food. The dishes were all similar to what I had at the taverna the previous day, with the addition of a few pasta salads, one with tuna and peas, which I loved.
There was a ridiculous amount of liquor plus this drunken watermelon which was dangerously yummy.
     Can we discuss dessert? The above dessert was this phyllo dough number filled with an unbelievably creamy custard that Thea Roula made called Galaktoboureko, or as everyone liked to say instead, Galactic Booty Call. I was so busy eating dessert I didn't get the info on the below tray which I am calling Spicey Greek Brownies. They were light chocolatey and rum or moonshine soaked.
Here's Elina's Uncle; this man knows how to get down.

I'm back...

    I am back from Greece. What a country! The scene above was less than twenty feet from my hotel room. I never slept so well in my entire life. Two keys things: a firm mattress and the sound of the sea. But I wasn't there to sleep, I was there to eat. (Oh right, and to attend my friend Elina's Greek Wedding.)
   To be honest there wasn't as much overeating as I was looking forward to but there was an abundance of food at the wedding and I did my best to record and digest as much of it as possible. Stay tuned.
   Many dishes made reappearances during this trip. The first night we went out to a taverna, a traditional Greek family-run restaurant and the food just kept on coming.
There we ate the traditional Greek salad, cucumbers, tomatoes, feta and olives.
Thanks Fried Cheese. You cannot go wrong there.
Tsatziki, which is yogurt, cucumbers lemon garlic and vinegar.
This is a bread salad called Dako, which is stale bread soaked in water and vinegar then topped with fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and lots of cheese.
A nice plate of grilled meats. The sausages were divine. Crete is known for these uniquely spiced pork links. There was also perfectly grilled chicken and pork chops.
This cat has a ridiculous mustache. Cat in Greek is Cody, the groom's favorite word, and he kept repeating it the entire trip. Phonetically, it goes something like: sip-seen-a.
The are the gracious owners of the taverna.


This is a strange memory that surfaced while discussing vegetarianitis, that disease that some people develop when they forget that they have canine teeth and want to lose their memory. Kidding! And for all intensive purposes, if I never ate animal flesh again I would not miss it. As a descendent of Sicilian country folk, meat was not something that was enjoyed daily and much of the protein in the Sicilian diet is derived from plant protein and legumes like those delicious fava beans we so enjoy.
As a kid my parents rarely prepared meat, but when they did it was the driest chewiest steak ever. For the record we never had chicken because Rocco hates chicken, the reason: he thinks chickens are descendants of dinosaurs. I hated that steak so much, but the parentals insisted I eat it. If you don't know, I am verging on crazy-cat-lady-itis. Growing up we had lots of felines in the house, and they were more than happy to accept my steak handouts. My brothers also didn't like the steak so between the three of us, the cats filled up very quickly. What to do with those extra meat pieces sitting on my plate? We had this strange octagonal shaped table and under the table was a shelf, so the logical thing to do was the shove the meat onto the shelf and the rest is history. Until one day my parents upgraded to a new table and I remember the horror on my face when they turned that octagonal table on its side and all the rotten meat fell out onto the floor. I quickly scooped it all up and hid it somewhere else in the house and to this day that rotten meat still hasn't turned up! Hopefully Rusty the cat took care of it.

Friday, August 21, 2009

they have internet in greece...

Apparently the internet disease has spread to Crete, so I thought while I am online trying to get my bank info, since for some reason they are deciding not to dispense me money, I would drop a line so you don't forget about me.
I went to a local Farmer's Market today and I am so jealous. The fruits and vegetables are meant for the God's. I had 2 goals upon arrival: olives and figs and I got them both this morning and was in heavan. Aside from all the celebratory drinking that has been going on I sampled a shot of olive oil today! So weird, but so delicious. Rocco will kill me when I say I have never tasted more flavorful olive oil than this Cretan Olive Oil. I was sold and am going to stow some in my luggage.
Onto stick driving. I learned to drive manual, after a crash course this weekend with a friend, then rolled up my sleeves and survived the drive from the airport from to the hotel. I think God was steering. There are basically no driving rules here and its common to pass people on blind curves so I feel okay with breaking the rule that you actually need to know how to drive a car in order to drive it. I am getting so good. I did loops in a parking lot today and I have mastered first gear. My motto is: "don't fear first gear" and great advice from a friend, "when you can't find it, grind it."
I would say good bye in Greece but I still don't know how to say hello. So Ciao!
By the way, these pervy eight years olds in this internet cafe are totally looking at porn.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


I have been making a lot of pesto. There are so many ways: chopper, mortar and pestle, hand chop. I followed this 101 Cook Books recipe and it was fantastic. It tasted like how I remember eating my Zia Grazia's pesto. She was born in Sicily but her husband was a sailor and they lived together in Genoa where you may know the best pesto in the world is made.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


    Get a bunch of crazy Sicilians in a room and what do you get? A crazy Sicilian feast, lots of people who are talking in their "non-quiet" voices because thats just not in the DNA of Sicilians and even get a food fight!
    Lets get down to business. The menu. As you all know a Sicilian party is not just about food, its about lots and lots of food. So much food you walk around full and confused because dishes keep coming out and you are wondering, can I really fit another piece of sausage in me. And the answer is always, "uh yes."
    Aunt Mary made her famous Baked Ziti, which was as usual outstanding. I arrived a little late and missed the photo op. That also goes for the Eggplant Parmesan. And  I made caponata that disappeared moments after I opened the lid.

    You can't visit Uncle Sal Asaro without having lots of seafood options. He made a delicious Tilapia that he proudly caught somewhere off Long Island. How local is that? We also had stuffed clams and raw clams. Both were outstanding. 
    What's a Sicilian Festa without spiral sausage! I just love grilled sausage. Cousin James, who was manning the grill also made really good barbecued chicken that went nicely with the cilantro chutney that I brought.
Cousin Pino made his infamous sangria which he always drinks the majority then is eve more entertaining than usual. For dessert I brought the Plumside Down Cake and there was a slew of Sicilian pastries and cookies.
   On to more entertaining things. Uncle Sal is borderline insane about his vegetable garden. He sets the pitchfork fork-side in hopes that the hungry deer who jump over his fence to eat his corn impale themselves on it. How lovely. 
    Nonna and her sister Aunt Mary were making sure they got first dibs on all of his crops. The vegetable of choice: cucuzza of course. If you don't know what a cucuzza is, its a gigantic green squash that grows as long as a baseball bat. Nonna claimed hers immediately and when Francesca politely asked if she could help Nonna out of the garden, afterall the old woman had a cane in one hand and fifty pounds of vegetables in the other hand, Nonna said, "Ta matso (spelling? Rocco?)" This means literally, "I will kill you." Now you know where I get my passion for food. My 90 year old Sicilian grandmother is ready to murder over some cucuzza. It is delicious I must say. 
Nonna does not play. Here she is emphatically explaining to me how to prepare my squash.
This is Francesca rubbing it in everyone's face that she got the longest cucuzza.    
    I was noticing a trend as to who got vegetables from Uncle Sal. Like a respectable man, he made sure the old ladies got their share. Maybe he was just scared they would kill him. But then I realized Uncle Sal was doling out phalic vegetables, all type of squashes, to all the beautiful young ladies who were not related to him by blood. When I asked for some cucuzza, he practically laughed in my face. I had to literally beg for some beets and a measly cucumber. 
    The insanity doesn't end there. Poor Carrie innocently set her vegetables down while we went and enjoyed the sunset on the dock. Much to her surprise, when we returned, her vegetables had been lifted. Someone stole her vegetables! She really should have known better than to leave her vegetables in plain sight at a crazy Sicilian party, though. 
    I set up a sweepstakes to keep things interesting. The prize: a Rocco middle finger mug. My puritan mother was aghast. How rude it would be to ask relatives for money, even if I would be donating it all to an animal shelter. 
     I saw my two little cousins shaking everyone down for cash, selling a tootsie pop for a dollar, and I am sure they were pocketing it. I would have my sweepstakes. I made $12 which will be donated to Bobbi and the Strays and cousin James was the lucky winner.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Off to Crete...

Friends, I am off to Greece to attend a Greek Wedding. I cannot even say "hello" in Greek but my mouth will be working for eating and I will bring back tales of food and adventure and some photos to boot! Take care of the USA while I am away!


The Woodside CSA crew drove out to Andover, NJ to visit our farm and meet our farmer Sergio. It was a nice drive but we were a bit confused as we rolled up to the farm that was on a cul de sac of a new condo development. Sergio was fantastic and took the time to explain almost every crop he had growing there. After the tour we had a potluck farm picnic and took some time to get to know our fellow CSA members. It was a great day.

Monday, August 17, 2009


      I went to my astrological twin Jeremy's house on a particularly chaotic Saturday and as always was embraced by his warm and relaxing vibes. (above: Jeremy and Maura)
      Since I split my vegetable share with the paternals, I was overwhelmed with food, so I packed it up and when I got there I dumped it on Jeremy's table for him to figure out. I was mentally spent and thats what a good friend does, picks up the pieces, even if its your brain and transforms it into something delightful. 
     Jeremy, such an amazing chef, made a grilled slaw of cabbage, corn, watermelon and rinds, green peppers and peaches. Grilled cabbage is so delicious. The combination of flavors in the slaw was unique and refreshing.
He served grilled tilapia over the slaw. It was so perfect.
     For dessert Jeremy whipped up the most fantastic peanut butter cookie ice cream sandwiches. They were so sweet our teeth were chattering.