Market Watch: Cheese of the World

Post by:  Aleda

Word(s) of warning & apology:  I’m super-duper pregnant, and it’s making my brain slightly more dysfunctional than usual, which in turn has made my posting both slightly less frequent and slightly more nutty than normal.  Between all the errands and shopping and all my grad school readings on ANOVA analysis and the transportation crisis in India, my brain spends a lot of time screaming “give me a cake and get out of my face!!!” internally. So yeah.  There’s that.

Now, back to food, which is why we’re all here.  If there were only 5 foods I could eat for the rest of my life, it would be cheese, bread, olives, cured meats, and fresh fruit.  I’m going to count olive oil as a condiment here and assume I can have it on the side (don’t argue with me I’ve got crazy hormonal rage!) along with jam.  That would be my lifetime of eating.  New York has a ton of great cheese shops, especially downtown and in downtown Brooklyn.  That’s great, unless you waddle instead of walk and live in Queens and want some quality cheese with a quickness.  Luckily for me, I live pretty close to Cheese of the World, one of the few mom-and-pop shops left on Austin Street in Forest Hills.  So as my two-year old would say, na-na-na-na-na to all you cool kids living it up in the LES and Prospect Park.  We’ve got cool stuff here too.  (Mature, I know).

Back to cheese.  I love cheese.  I don’t know as much about it as I’d like too, but I do know that I love to eat it.  I like it strong in taste and stinky in smell.  And I can get that right here in Queens at Cheese of the World, along with baguettes, olives, and freshly sliced cured meats.  The shop is pretty small and therefore lacks some of the selection you might find elsewhere, but what they do have is of good quality and is also pretty fairly priced.

The one complaint that I’ve heard about the shop is that the attendants aren’t really cheese-mongers.  Now, I’m no cheese-monger myself, so to be fair I don’t completely know the difference. Whenever I have questions on cheese or punk music I turn to my best friend Jeff, who is a connoisseur of both (making him the perfect friend for me).  I will say that I had two requests the last time I went in the shop, and I was totally satisfied with what I walked out with: 1. I need a pasteurized cheese safe for a pregnant lady and 2. I need it to not be bland.  I walked out with a goat Gouda that was so good I could cry and a Manchego that I was also really pleased with.  I got a quarter pound of each and spent about $8.

So if you’re in Queens, and you want some cheese, check this place out.  It’s also conveniently located near a jillion other stores for your shopping pleasures, and is located right off of the Forest Hills LIRR and the E,F,M & R to 71st and Continental.

And if you love cheese AND punk, you can shop here knowing that you’re in the old neighborhood of the Ramones, and right across the street from one of Joey’s old haunts, the 5 Burro cafe, serving up mean Mexican food and killer margaritas.

Enjoy.

Cheese of the World, 71-48 Austin Street, Forest Hills, Queens

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Market Watch: Mario’s Meats & Colombo’s Fruits – Two Middle Village Italian Specialties

Post by Aleda

These two stores are both so great that I really struggled with combining them into one post, but realized that for some of our readers the fact that the two are almost next door to each other may make them each all the more enticing.  Mario’s Meats & Gourmet Deli and Colombo’s Fruits are located on the same block of Metropolitan Avenue in Middle Village, Queens.   Middle Village is a family neighborhood that is also the midway point between Williamsburg, Brooklyn and Jamaica, Queens; hence the neighborhood’s name.  To quote the New York Times:

It’s a neighborhood where the mothers pushing strollers through the various parks are actually strolling. No texting. No ramping up cardio. Nary an iPod in sight. The lack of a Whole Foods or Citarella is made up for by a scattershot assortment of specialty stores: bakers, butchers and grocers run less by district managers and more by local shopkeepers who know your name and your children’s names.

Middle Village is a quiet little neighborhood whose specialty stores make it worth a nice trip in the afternoon, two of which are described below.  There isn’t a plethora of public transportation there but you can catch the Q54 bus from Queens & Brooklyn that runs Metropolitan Ave, or take the M train to the Metropolitan Ave stop, the first or final stop of the line depending on your starting point.  There is also plenty of street parking.  And for those with a morbid or mob curiosity (or both) you can find the graves of the infamous John Gotti and Lucky Luciano in the nearby St. John’s Cemetery.

Mario’s Meats & Gourmet Deli

Mario’s is an Italian deli, butcher & specialty food store and the self-proclaimed “King of homemade sausage.”  I can attest to the fact that their fennel sausage is heavenly. Mario’s was founded by Mario himself, who grew up outside of Palermo, Italy and moved to the States with his family and worked in butcher shops in Brooklyn.  The store boasts all natural meats including organic chicken and nothing less than Grade A Prime & Angus cuts of meat at incredibly reasonable prices for the quality.  Never again will I pay exorbitant prices at a name store for organic meats when I can get it straight from the butcher here. They also have specialty pastas & sauces as well as imported cheeses and a decent selection of fresh breads.  I really couldn’t have been happier with my market experience here, and my husband is now obsessed too.  All in all I spent about $24 for 1.5 lbs of homemade fennel sausage, 1.5 lbs of fresh-cut organic chicken legs, 1 lb of grade A chuck steak, 1 lb of kalamata olives, a bag of penne, and a fresh semolina roll.  That’s a great deal if you ask me, and every single morsel of food I made at home was AMAZING.

Photos of Mario’s below followed by Colombo’s Fruit (a must see):

Colombo’s Fruit

Colombo’s is listed on the About.com Middle Village page as the best Fruit & Vegetable market in the area.  It’s a neighbor to Mario’s, it’s small and it has a fading sign.  There’s something about the storefront that seems like it’s directly from another time and gives it a sense of romantic nostalgia.  Adding to that nostalgic romanticism is the fact that the store is filled with old Italian shoppers including an adorable old couple seemingly bickering about which of the beans to purchase in Italian.

The selection isn’t huge, but what they have is of good quality. The broccoli rabe is fresh, and they have a selection of specialty dried nuts and beans, as well as homemade baccala (which I am most definitely going back for).  They also carry Italian specialties and pasta, have an olive bar, and a small but decent selection of imported cheeses.  The fruit that I bought at Colombo’s was ripe and fresh, and most importantly didn’t turn in a day which means we actually got to eat it all.  The golden delicious apples were also the best I’ve gotten anywhere in the city this year, although I have no idea where they get them from. The prices weren’t the best nor the worst, but I will say that you can often get more mileage out of moderately priced produce than the cheapest (which goes bad about 7 hours after it hits your fridge) which makes more sense wallet wise.  I definitely recommend this produce store and plan on making return trips myself.

Mario’s Meats & Gourmet Deli: 75-53 Metropolitan Avenue, Middle Village, Queens

Colombo’s Fruits: 75-49 Metropolitan Avenue, Middle Village, Queens

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An Open Letter and Three Satisfying Salads for Late Winter

Post by: Kim

Dear New York City,

What are you doing? Your normally demure winters are now the stuff of my Midwestern childhood. You refused to plow our streets and now it seems you really don’t want to clean them either. Your mayor is hell-bent on laying off our teachers and I’m worried that you’re letting the MTA run a little too wild. After all, petulant children are known to throw fits when they lose their trust funds.

Is this burst of unseasonably warm weather an attempt at consoling your aggravated citizens? An acknowledgement of your poor behavior? Perhaps a mere gesture of thanks for putting up with you? Since the canine excrement, plastic bags, and shopping carts once hidden in the snow are now competing for sidewalk space, I’ll be retreating back to my kitchen for a while and making due with whatever my pantry and freezer will yield until greenmarket spring produce and a street sweeper lure me back outside. Please don’t take it personally. We all make mistakes.

All my love,
Kim

Bulgur Salad with Herbs
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine

If you aren’t able to find bulgur, couscous or even quinoa would be good substitutions here. I buy mine in bulk from Fairway Market.

1 cup bulgur wheat
One bunch finely chopped scallions
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/8 cup olive oil
Fresh lemon juice from one large or two small lemons
½ teaspoon salt

In a small sauce pan, bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add the bulgur and gently simmer, stirring occasionally. When the liquid is almost fully absorbed, turn off the heat, cover the pot, and allow the bulgur to steam and absorb the rest of the liquid, about 10 minutes. Uncover the pot and fluff the bulgur with a fork.

Meanwhile, combine your herbs, scallions, and almonds in a large bowl. If you’d like you can also toast your almonds in a dry pan over medium heat for a few minutes until they are golden brown. This adds a great textural contrast to the salad and a nuttier flavor but is not necessary. Stir in the bulgur wheat and combine well. Add your lemon juice and olive oil, plus salt to taste. Add more oil if the bulgur seems dry.

Three Bean Salad
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine

Another pantry salad. Frozen edamame is widely available and easily stored.

1 cup frozen shelled edamame
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15-ounce) can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1 cup diced celery
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 small clove garlic, grated
Fresh lime juice from two small limes
1/8 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Run the frozen edamame under hot water in a colander until defrosted, or heat in the microwave. Combine the edamame, drained and rinsed beans, onion, celery, garlic, and parsley in a large bowl. Add the olive oil, salt and pepper then gradually stir in the lime juice, to taste. Combine well.

Red Cabbage Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine 

After making this salad many times, I’ve found that green cabbage tends to be bitter so, unless you’ve got a particularly good cabbage, stick to red.

One medium red cabbage, outer leaves removed
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 1/2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Cut the cabbage into four wedges and remove the white core from each wedge. Shred the cabbage as finely as possible by cutting each wedge into thin strips widthwise. In a small bowl whisk together the mustard, vinegar, salt, and olive oil. Toss the cabbage with the vinaigrette and parsley and let the salad sit for about an hour before eating.

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Market Watch: World Fruit Farm

Post by: Aleda

I realized today that we’re now officially in the month of February and I have yet to uphold my New Year’s resolution of braving the completely terrible and frigid NYC weather to do some much-needed market watching for the blog.  So I pulled up my boots, dressed my toddler(s) to the nines, and made my way to the World Fruit Farm, aka the Rego Park Fruit Farm while my eldest was at school.  I’m going to give myself credit for eat least doing it before the Chinese New Year.

The World Fruit Farm is in the heart of Rego Park, Queens, on the corner of 63rd Drive & Austin Street. You can find metered street parking in front, and it’s only a few blocks way from Queens Blvd. and the 63rd Drive subway station. I sometimes envy residents of this neighborhood because they have the World Fruit Farm, and the competing other one (I forget the name but will blog post it later) on 63rd and Booth.  Two huge competing fresh produce stores.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got it pretty good in my neighborhood, and overall maybe better when it comes to a full grocery selection, but still. Two massive competing fruit stands.  Drool.

I liked the World Fruit Farm, there was a decent variety of your standard fruits and veggies with a few Asian specialties and the prices were fair.  Like with any produce stand you have to be wary of the deals; they had 3 for $1 cucumbers, and I’m glad I only got one because it was really ripe.  Delicious no doubt, but I don’t think I would have made it through all 3.  Grape tomatoes were 2 for $1, yellow delicious apples were $0.59 a pound.  They also have these ginormous bags of spring mix and baby spinach for under $5.  These bags have to be 5 lbs each.  Best salad eating deal I’ve seen, although I’m going to have to wait to purchase that until I know I can give my partner-in-blogging Kim half to take home, because as much as I love salad there’s no way I could knock that bag out before it went bad.

The main downside of the World Fruit Farms was that it was freezing.  Honestly, because of the refrigerators, it was more cold inside than out, and that combined with the moisture of today’s NYC “wintry mix” (rain/ice/snow) weather, some of the leafy greens inside weren’t fairing too well.  I was not too impressed with the head of red leaf lettuce I brought home, although I’m sure this would be different if I hadn’t been shopping in such awful, brutal, humid and freezing weather.

Below are my pics of the excursion, including a final picture of what I came home with for a total of $10.45:

World Fruit Farm

9401 63rd Drive (corner of 63rd Dr & Austin Street), Queens

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Simple Baked French Toast

Post by: Kim

I dropped the ball.  It’s been a while since my last post, yes, but with 2011 in full swing and Christmas trees discarded curbside, I regret not having shared this one sooner.  Although this dish won’t make it on to your holiday brunch table or as a festive New Year breakfast, there will be plenty of long weekends and leisurely Sunday breakfasts in the year ahead to take advantage of a simply recipe for custardy baked French toast. 

The beauty of this French toast is that it does not rely on the quality of bread.  In fact, the recipe actually calls for “soft-crust supermarket Italian bread,” a surprisingly low-brow ingredient for the pages of Gourmet and a common ingredient easily purchased at my neighborhood corner market.  But it works.  Giving the bread plenty of time to absorb a simple egg and milk custard overnight transforms mediocre bread into a fluffy and gently sweet pudding-like dish that only needs a touch of maple syrup or a little fruit for finish. 

Baked French Toast

 Adapted from Gourmet Magazine

I doubled the recipe for a crowd on Christmas morning and used two 13” loaves.  This would be delicious with the addition or cinnamon but I prefer adding nutmeg to the custard. 

 (2) 13” loaves “soft-crust supermarket Italian bread”

4 large eggs

3 1/3 cups milk (not skim)

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

3-4 Tablespoons sugar

Butter for greasing your dish

 
Generously butter a 9″x13″ glass baking dish.  Slice your bread into 3/4″ slices, discarding the ends then arrange the slices into two rows so they are overlapping slightly in your dish.  Beat your eggs, then whisk together the milk, salt, and nutmeg until the mixture is completely smooth.  Pour the entire egg and milk mixture over the bread and cover.  It will look like a lot of liquid but the bread will soak it up; let the bread sit in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours. 
 
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.  When you are ready to bake, uncover your dish and sprinkle about 3-4 tablespoons of sugar over the top of the bread.  This dish took quite a bit longer to bake than the 20-25 minutes instructed by the original recipe.  After about 25-30 minutes, you will notice that the custard will begin to puff up; the French toast is done when the bread is a dark carmel color, crispy at the edges, and the entire dish is puffy.  Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before serving. 
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Meal Recipe: Tilapia, Shallot Potato Medley & Sautéed Collard Greens

Post by: Aleda

I know I promised via my NYE resolutions to get better at the market hunting, but let’s face it, it’s brutally cold.  I’m going to scope a green market in Jackson Heights next weekend, I promise.   It’s Friday night and after a long first trimester nausea driven hiatus from real cooking, I am finally ready to start cooking good meals again.  Tonight I threw on my great-grandmother’s apron for the first time in months and delved into my (super teensy tiny) kitchen.  Tonight’s meal: baked tilapia, sautéed collard greens and a shallot & butter potato medley.  And let me tell you, it was good.

Before I start getting into the ingredients & instructions, here’s the order in which I prepped/started cooking everything to have it finish at the same time, which for those of us using tiny kitchens in city apartments with 1 square foot of counter space is crucial: potato medley, collard greens, tilapia.  One more great thing about this meal is that all three dishes share the same common ingredients: butter, garlic, salt & pepper.  How easy is that?

First up to bat: potato medley.  I never looked up a recipe for this, it’s just my own favorite starchy side.  Be prepared, I don’t know measurements on this.  It’s by sight and smell. It’s really easy, I swear.

Shallot Potato Medley:

Ingredients:

Butter (about 2 Tbsp)

Shallots (either one large or 2 small/medium)

Garlic (2 cloves, chopped finely)

Potato Medley (I get mine at TraderJoe’s, just a bag of small, multi-colored potatoes)

How to Cook:

Get a large pan that has a cover and melt butter, about 2 tbsp and add garlic and chopped shallot(s).  Sauté until garlic and shallots begin to brown and smell heavenly. Chop potatoes in half and add to pan & cover.  The cover is crucial, it seals in the moisture to get your potatoes nice and soft without watering down any flavor of the butter, shallots or garlic. These will cook for about half an hour or so.  Salt & Pepper to taste.

As soon as you get the lid on the potato medley, put a pot of water to boil for your collard greens so you can clean/prep/chop them while it heats up.  Remember to stir your potatoes ever few minutes.

Sautéed Collard Greens (recipe via Epicurious)

Ingredients:

1 – 2 lb. collard greens

2 garlic cloves

1 Tbsp. butter

1 Tbsp. olive oil

Salt & Pepper to taste

Fresh squeezed lemon to taste

How to Cook:

Remove and discard stems and center ribs of collard greens and cut leaves into 1-inch pieces. In a kettle of boiling water cook collards 15 minutes and drain in a colander, pressing out excess liquid with back of a wooden spoon.

Mince or finely chop garlic. In a 12-inch heavy skillet (or in a pan for those of us who can’t afford a nice heavy skillet) heat butter and oil over moderately high heat until foam subsides and stir in garlic, collards, and salt and pepper to taste. Sauté collard mixture, stirring, until heated through, about 5 minutes.  Drizzle collards with lemon juice and toss well.

While your greens are boiling, start prepping your tilapia, mainly the butter sauce described below.  You can get that set in the oven and then saute the collard greens while it’s baking.

Collard Greens Saute

Baked Tilapia (via Southernfood):

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp. butter

2 cloves garlic, finely minced/chopped

Dash salt

Dash pepper

Pinch dried parsley

Dash paprika

3-4 Tilapia filets

How to Cook:

In saucepan, combine butter, garlic, pepper, salt, parsley, and paprika. Heat over low heat until butter is melted and starts simmering. Remove from heat. Brush a little of the butter mixture in the bottom of a shallow baking dish (line baking dish with foil, if desired) then place tilapia fillets on the buttered area. Brush top of each tilapia fillet with the seasoned butter mixture. Bake at 350° for 12 to 15 minutes, until tilapia flakes easily with a fork.

While you’re baking the tilapia the collard greens should be sauteing and by this point you should be able to easily stick a fork through your potatoes, meaning all three dishes will be finished at the same time.  I even had time to wash pots/pans while food was cooking to make more space, a definite plus for a type A kitchen lady like myself.

All in all I spent about 45 minutes total prepping/cooking this meal, and that included toddler distractions such as couch diving, arguments, and fruit snacks.  It was enjoyable both in preparation and in eating.  Even the husband was a big fan of the meal, and he is quite possibly the pickiest eater in the house.

Here is the finished product:

Enjoy!

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Vegetarian Potato Leek Soup

Post By: Aleda

My lovely partner-in-blogging Kim and her husband recently got me a Cuisinart SmartStick Hand Blender for my birthday.  When they came over for New Year’s Eve I thought I should put it to good use and so set my sights on a lovely potato leek soup.  I love this soup.  It’s easy.  It’s filling.  The ingredients are few, simple and cheap. Who could ask for more in a soup?  Not me.

There are definitely variations to the recipe, which is always one of the great things about making soup, but I chose this super simple version from The Veggie Table:

Ingredients:

  • 2 T butter
  • ¾ pound leeks, washed and sliced (white and light green parts)
  • 1½ pounds potatoes, sliced or diced (peeling optional)
  • 2 c vegetable stock (can just use a 15oz can of ready made stock)
  • 2 c milk
  • 1 t salt
  • black pepper
  • ½ T parsley, chopped
  • Optional: my little add-on to the recipe was some shredded cheddar cheese, to taste.

How to cook it:

  • Sauté the leeks in butter over medium heat until limp, 8-10 minutes.
  • Add the potatoes and stock, bring to a boil, lower heat, partially cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are completely soft, about 30 minutes. If there isn’t enough liquid, add more stock, water, or milk,* ½ c at a time.
  • Stir in 2 c milk, salt, and pepper and simmer for 10 minutes.
  • You can serve the soup like this or put some or all of the soup in a blender or food processor for a smoother, heavier soup.
  • Garnish with additional pepper and parsley and serve.
  • May need salt & pepper to taste.

Aleda’s Note:  I added the fresh shredded cheddar immediately after blending the soup because I am a cheese glutton.  It was a good add, so good in fact that I added some more to my own bowl for garnish.   Also, if you can get a hand-held blender, I highly recommend it.  It makes cooking these types of soups among other things incredibly easy, and they aren’t overly expensive.  A definite great addition to any kitchen. Thanks Kim & Jon!

This meal was so good and so easy, and also reheated over the stove really well the next day for leftovers.  Enjoy!

 

 

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