Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Pony Down the Block in Middle Village

When I was a kid growing up in Queens, there was another girl on the block named Jennifer and I called her "Jen down the block." Not coincidentally she called me "Jen down the block, too."
More interesting, all the way down the block on Furmanville Ave there was an old farm house with a pretty big lawn and a pony grazed on the lawn.
This might not sound amazing, but a pony in a neighborhood in NYC was a rare thing. When I was a kid and my dad took me on walks to see the pony, I would get really excited, but it was normal to me that the pony lived there and I got to visit the pony every day. Looking back, I can't believe we had a pony down the block. Sometimes I wonder if I'm making the whole thing up.
After some time the pony "went to the farm," and the old people who lived in the old farm house died. Some guido contractors bought the old farm house and in guido fashion were preparing to knock it down and build a marble guido mansion, but people from the historical society stepped in and put a stamp on the old farm house.
A landmark designation is different from a historical designation. As I understand it, with a landmark, you can't touch it, but with historical, you can go as far as completely taking the structure down, as long as you store each piece in such a way that if one day someone comes along and wants to rebuild it, it is possible.
Instead of tearing the white wooden frame house down, the guido contractors stuccoed over it, adding outrageous marble columns where the wooden porch supports were.
And on the lawn where the pony once grazed they built another multi-family brick house.
Today if two kids named Tom grow up on 79th St, after they are all grown up, they might say, "When I was a kid there was another Tom and I called him 'Tom down the block' and he called me' Tom down the block.'"
But that is where the story will end, because who cares about the multi-family brick house all the way down the block? Those are a dime a dozen.
If I am ever wealthy enough I will buy that old farm house, remove the flesh colored stucco, tear down the multi-family brick house, grow a lawn from seed, then buy a pony.
We need more ponies. We need less multi-family brick houses.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Vegan BBQ How To: We Make The Sides; You Bring The Meat Plus Jon's Baja Style Oyster Mushroom Tacos!

"I want to be a vegan so bad," a friend told us, "but when BBQ season rolls around, I can't resist grilled meats." We hear you! At our first BBQ at our new place in Ridgewood (yes I moved BACK to Queens!) we were in a bind because it happened: Jon and I became vegans. 
As much as we can be. Cheese is a big part of our lives. I knew Jon was "the one," when I realized I love him more than I love cheese. That is life changing. And now that we have given up cheese, we only have vegetables and each other. That is scary!
Let's say we are vegan-ish, because while we are animal lovers and aware that if the entire world gave up animal products we would actually have a chance at reversing global warming, we don't want to impose our new lifestyle-ish on everyone. 
And we are not perfect, especially when it comes to going out to eat or visiting friends. A little parmesan cheese on our pasta or butter on our toast won't make us throw the entire meal in the trash. And a little sausage grease on our vegetable skewers only makes them that much more delicious.
When our friends asked what to bring to our house on Memorial Day, "we don't eat meat so bring whatever you want to grill," was my answer. 
Jon niftily transformed the rusty abandoned gas grill into a perfectly good charcoal grill then we headed to the store for veggies. Walking up Fresh Pond Rd, I suggested we try out Valentino's Vegetable Store, where Nonna used to make me drive her for artichokes. 
The place was a total cluster fuck of old people ramming into the backs of our heels with their shopping carts and cantaloupes being hurled over our heads. 
Little old Sicilian ladies were stocking up on roma tomatoes to make gallons of red sauce, while their obedient old man husbands figured out where the hell the basil was. 
I could tell Jon was a split second away from having a full blown seizure from all the chaos closing in on him, so I told him to wait on the "line," while I ran outside to get limes. Lemons are inside and limes outside, for some reason. 
When I returned, I said, "Are you in line?" This was a trick question.
"I'm in a clump of people. I think it's a line."
 "This is what it is like to be in Sicily," I told him, "where these is no concept of lines."
He looked mildly comforted but still a bit twitchy.
Even so, things somehow get done. We got to the cashier, who I had noticed was talking to the old man who was in line before us in Sicilian and to the other Spanish cashier in this strange Sicilian Spanish hybrid, that interestingly enough, both Jon and I understood. 
We got a shit ton of vegetables. Artichokes, tomatoes, basil, cilantro, zucchini,  mushrooms, onions, lemons, limes, red peppers, eggplant... The total $30.
"I'm coming back here from now on!" Jon said.
I managed to lure him to the dark side with cheap fresh vegetables. 
Our vegan BBQ was a success. Before, filled with food anxiety, we would have stock up on hot dogs and hamburgers, too many, which would later be shoved in the back of our freezer and then chucked into the trash from freezer burn. 
Instead we prepared a bunch of old and new favorite veggies: Erik's Broccoli Salad, Roasted Eggplant Dip, Zucchini & Mushroom Skewers, Grilled Baby Artichokes and Jon's new invention Baja Style Oyster Mushroom Tacos (pictured) with Corn Salsa and Chipolte Vegan Mayo. Our carnivorous friends brought meat. Everyone was happy. 

Broccoli Salad
Raw brocolli, veganaise, apple cider vinegar, red onions, red peppers, chopped pecans, sunflower seeds, and the secret ingredient, some good old sugar. 

Roasted Eggplant Dip
1 egg plant cubed
2 shallots chopped2 cloves fresh garlic wholetomato pasteground cuminpaprikahoneybalsamic vinegarcayenne peppersalt and pepperolive oil
    In a 400 degree oven roast the eggplant with the shallots, coated in olive oil and salt and pepper until soft. About 5 minutes before they are done, add the garlic cloves. In a food processor blend the roasted eggplant with the rest of the ingredients to taste so that its a sweet and sour balance between the vinegar and the honey. Enjoy with bread.

Baja Style Oyster Mushroom Tacos
• Make a beer batter with some flour and beer, salt and pepper. The batter should be the consistency of thick pancake batter and not too watery. Coat oyster mushrooms in the batter and deep fry in vegetable oil. Season with salt and pepper.
• Top with chipotle mayo, which can be easily made by mixing some mayonaise or veganaise with canned chipotle peppers or chipotle sauce in adobo.
• Top with corn salsa, made with chopped red onions, red peppers, corn, tomato, cilantro and lime.
• Top with fresh shredded red cabbage.
• Serve on your choice of corn or flour tortilla.

Corn Salsa
Fresh Shucked Corn, Red Onion, Red Pepper, Tomatoes, Cilantro, Lime, Olive Oil, Salt, Pepper

Vegan Chipolte Mayo
Mix can of chipotle sauce with veganaise