Sunday, September 29, 2013

When Life Gives You Lemon Oil - Lazy Girl's Beet Hummus & Lemony Market Veggie Pasta

Infused Oils and Vinegars to go, Photo: NK
Last weekend's travels brought us out to Long Island. During our brief trip, we made a point of passing though the cute little village of Southampton for a stroll. After a delightful pit stop at St. Ambroeus Gelateria (an Eric Ripert favorite) for some insanely good pistachio gelato, we happened upon another adorable shop - Vines & Branches

The place was a cook's dream - an entire store dedicated to creatively flavored oils and vinegars - all of which you could taste. 

I have notoriously little sales resistance, so in no time, the all too adept saleslady had rung me up to the tune of three infused vinegars and one bottle of lemon flavored olive oil. How did this happen? Every time I picked up a bottle of something seemingly odd (coffee infused balsamic!?) the clerk had a quick anecdote about making some amazing dish with it. "Oh, coffee balsamic, you can make the most delicious marinated steak with that.  You know, it's like a coffee rub. Once you taste it, it'll be game over!" 

Ok.             Sold. 

And so it continued.
I learned that my coconut infused white balsamic vinegar would be bonkers on lime-spiked shrimp, and that clearly, pumpkin spice vinegar would be natural after being reduced and drizzled on a pork chop. 
We shall see. 

It was fun to purchase ready-flavored oils and vinegars. After all, I am all about convenience. Still, I want you to know that it is so easy to make them yourself, and probably much cheaper. Today, we'll start by showing how to make you a super basic Lemon Infused Olive Oil, just like the one I purchased. From there, we'll present you two dishes that go together famously with this brightly flavored oil (although the possibilities are endless so by all means, use your imagination).


Infused Oils and Vinegars from Vines & Branches, Photo: NK
Lemon Infused Olive Oil
From Martha Stewart
1/2 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil 
The peels of of 2 Lemons (just the zest, not the white pith)

To peel lemons, use a very sharp knife to remove just the yellow part, leaving behind the bitter white pith.
Combine lemon peel and olive oil and place them in a pan over low heat. Warm for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. *Can be stored in a tightly sealed jar at room temperature for a month. 

Now that we're done with the oil, let's try the super fast fresh pasta sauce we made with it:

Lemony Market Veggie Pasta
Our favorite farm stand, Photo: NK
Getting inspired by seasonal produce at the farm stand or farmer's or gourmet market is one of my favorite things to do - so much so, in fact, that I always end up with more veggies and fruits than two humans could possibly handle. 

When I have extra vegetables on hand, which is often, I almost always make them into a meatless pasta dish (check out last year's market veggie pasta here). This everything but the kitchen sink pasta is not only one of the easiest dinners you can make, but a great and healthy way to use up produce. 

Just grab whatever vegetables you have on hand and sauté them in a bit of oil after warming some garlic or shallot in the pan - toss the cooked pasta and maybe some pasta water in it, stir and enjoy! The creative process of choosing for yourself is half the fun, so while I hesitate to post a recipe, I want to show you how we used our brand new lemon infused olive oil to wake up this tasty and meatless dish. 

Farm fresh veggies, the best of the season, Photo: NK
Using great right now plum and yellow tomatoes, zucchini, and a little shallot, this quick fresh sauce pasta comes together deliciously. The lemon infused olive oil provides a great zing, and a little jalapeno gives it an ever-so-slight kick. You can omit that part if you are serving this to your little ones. Finally, feel free to adapt this veggie pasta to your taste, but at the very least, today's easy recipe will give you a good idea of the basic process. I was feeling whimsical so I prepared it with kid-friendly wagon wheel pasta (rotelle) which always takes me back to my youth! 

Market Veggie Wagon Wheel Pasta With Lemon Infused Oil
Serves 2-3

1/2 pound Wagon Wheel Pasta (rotelle)
2 Tablespoons Lemon Oil + more for drizzling (see recipe above)
1 Shallot, chopped small
1 large Yellow Tomato
3 very ripe Plum Tomatoes (or your own fave combo of any tomatoes will work too)
1 whole medium Zucchini, sliced lengthwise and then again in 1/2 centimeter thick slices
1/2 a Jalapeno, seeded and diced (optional)
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
Crushed Red Pepper Flakes (optional)
Grated Parmigiana Reggiano Cheese (optional)

1. Bring a pot of well salted water to boil for the pasta. Add pasta to pot when it's ready and cook according to the box instructions (ours was 10 minutes for al dente). 

Mixing it all up, Photo: NK
2. Meanwhile, heat the lemon infused olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium heat. Add the chopped shallots and sauté, stirring occasionally, to 2 minutes. Add the rest of the chopped vegetables and cook, stirring from time to time, for another 5 minutes. 
*I like my zucchini a bit al dente so taste it after you are done and if it's too firm for you, cook a bit longer. When it is to your liking, turn off the heat and stir in the salt and pepper.

3. Your pasta should be close to done by now. When it is finished, drain, reserving some of the pasta water. 

4. Return drained pasta to pot and toss the contents of the vegetable pot into it. Toss for a minute or so, while adding about 2-3 tablespoons of pasta water to the mix. Check for seasoning and plate. 

5. To finish, add a drizzle of lemon infused olive oil to each dish and top with optional crushed red pepper and grated parmigiana cheese. Enjoy!

Market Veggie Wagon Wheel Pasta with Lemon Infused Oil, Photo: NK

Next up, 

Beet Hummus
If there is an easy way to do something, I will find it. My laziness (with regard to certain life and kitchen-related chores) knows no bounds. My husband marvels at my ability to jam pack a dishwasher in ways that defy proven geometric principles...just so I won't have to hand wash that last pot. I learned many of my favorite "shortcuts" from my dad, a guy who liked to cut a few corners when any heavy lifting was involved. He didn't call this being lazy, he called it being efficient. I would have to agree!

Certainly, some kitchen and food preparation work is absolutely worth doing  - if you have the time. But this blog is often about simplifying without sacrificing taste or quality. 

To give you a for instance, I've been meaning to try making beet hummus for the past year, ever since I first ate it last year at a charity reception that featured an all-vegetarian dinner (read about it HERE). What's been holding me back, you ask? Well, the thought of cooking and peeling beets (often a very messy affair) just seemed too daunting. So - since "necessity is the mother of invention", I give you today's easy shortcut for wonderful beet hummus. Canned beets cut the prep time down to minutes and the result is delicious. You can surely make this with fresh beets if you have the time (45 min or so) and inclination, as it's not all that big of a deal. Also, feel free to try some of the ready-prepared fresh beet products out there. Love Beets is one of our favorites.   

The easiest Beet Hummus you'll ever make, Photo: NK

Lazy Girl's Beet Hummus With Lemon Infused Olive Oil
Adapted from a fantastic blog - Dishing Up The Dirt
Serves 8

15 Ounce Can Sliced Beets, drained
15 Ounce Can Garbanzo Beans, rinsed and drained
2 heaping Tablespoons Tahini
2.5 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
2 Tablespoons Lemon Infused Oil* Recipe Above (or plain Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
3 large Cloves Garlic
1 scant Tablespoon Ground Cumin
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Black Pepper

Blend all the ingredients in good blender or food processor until smooth. Taste for seasoning. If you prefer a silkier consistency you can certainly add a bit more tahini or oil. 


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Not So Bitter Greens - Orecchiette & Broccoli Rabe + Fried Capers

Broccoli rabe and pasta are a natural match often spotted together on Italian menus in a popular dish that includes sausage. A'int nothing wrong with that. But today is meatless Monday, and although my husband may complain bitterly, we are having an all-veggie meal.  As an added wrinkle, he thinks he really doesn't like broccoli rabe. He's part Italian, mind you, so such a declaration just will not stand in this house.  

Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Fried Capers, Photo: NK

Also - I like a good challenge!

Plus, whenever fall rolls around, my vegetable cravings turn towards the dark, leafy greens, and broccoli rabe is among my all time favorites - with or without pasta. 

Broccoli Rabe, Photo: NK
Broccoli Rabe gets a bad rap because of its complex and slightly bitter flavor, but in today's recipe, we'll soak it to take a way some of that bitterness. Though this veggie may be an acquired taste, it's hard not to love when tossed with orecchiette pasta, so named because its resemblance to "little ears," and tangy parmigiana reggiano cheese. A simple sauce composed of of garlic, olive oil, and crushed red pepper flakes ties the recipe together, and crispy, piquant fried capers add major appeal while rounding out any bitterness from the greens.

This dish is adapted from a gorgeous cookbook that my sister-in-law gave me last year - Savoring the Hamptons by Silvia Lehrer. For more recipes adapted from this wonderful book (and for the reasons I find Long Island's East End to be an inspiring culinary destination), click HERE

Another reason why I love Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Fried Capers is because it's really a genius recipe; the broccoli rabe cooks right in the pasta water and the timing works perfectly together. 

Also- you can use this fried caper method on any dish you like to add a crunchy, tangy note to your next pasta, vegetable or protein. Happy Cooking! 

Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Fried Capers
Adapted from Savoring the Hamptons by Silvia Lehrer
Serves 4 as an entree, 6 as an appetizer

Ingredients:  1 Lb Orecchiette Pasta
1 Large Bunch Broccoli Rabe
1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 heaping Tablespoons Capers, rinsed, drained and patted very dry
2 Large Cloves of Garlic finely chopped
Crushed Red Pepper
1/4 Cup Coarsely Grated Parmigiana Cheese
Black Pepper

1/2 Cup chopped Italian Parsley (optional)

1. Prepare the broccoli rabe: 
Cut several inches of the woody stems off the broccoli rabe and discard.
Next, pull off the broccoli-like florets and remove them to a small bowl. 
Now, cut the broccoli rabe leaves off their ribs and place the leaves in another small bowl. Tear then if they are on the large side. Cover both bowls with cold water and allow them to sit for 20 minutes before draining away the water. 

Photo: NK
*You can do the above steps in advance if you prefer - just be sure to drain the greens after 20 minutes.  If you don't have time to soak the broccoli rabe, it ill still be good, just give it a good rinse. 

2. When ready to cook your meal, set a large pot of well-salted water to boil.

Photo: NK

3. Meanwhile, warm oil over medium high heat in a small saucepan. Add the capers. The oil may spit so be careful. 
Fry them for 1-2 minutes until capers crack open and start to become golden but not burnt. When the right color is achieved, turn off the heat and remove capers using a slotted spoon to a paper towel for draining. They should be somewhat crispy once dry. Set capers aside for use later but leave the oil behind in the pan.

4. By this time, your pasta water should be close to boiling. When it has started, add the orecchiette and the broccoli rabe Leaves. Boil for 2 minutes. Then add the broccoli rabe florets and cook another 7 minutes for al dente pasta (check the cook time on the box as it could vary). Another 8 minutes for less firm pasta.  (Hint: al dente is always the way to go)

5. While the pasta and greens boil, turn the flame back on medium-low under the caper oil. Once the oil is hot, add the garlic and saute 1-2 minutes until fragrant and slightly golden. Add  a 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper, a few small pinches of salt and a generous pinch of black pepper. Stir and turn off the flame.  
Plating the Pasta, Photo: NK

6. When pasta is finished, drain it along with the greens from the pot using a colander set over a small bowl. Reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta water. Stir pasta water into the oil, garlic and pepper mixture on the stove.

7. To serve:
Place pasta and greens into your serving bowl, drizzle oil and garlic sauce over the pasta and toss. Sprinkle with fried capers and finish with grated parmigiana and optional chopped parsley. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Buon appetito! 

Enjoy - and P.S. the husband gobbled this right up. 

Your family will too! 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Fall: It's a Good Thing - Apple Rutabaga Mash

Mums! A sign of fall. Photo: NK
Here's the thing about me - 

I'm having trouble with the thought of letting go of summer.

In fact, even as I write this, I am enjoying the delicious, summery Bay Breeze my mom made me (click for the recipe). 

Isn't she the best? 

Though I can't bear the thought of the cruel bondage of closed toe shoes, undeniably, the colder months are coming on.

Still, I'm keeping my eye on the prize:

Good hair weather.

Call me shallow, but this is a major cool weather perk. 
Ladies, I know you feel me. 

Though summer is a clear favorite, today, I'm reminding myself of the good things that fall can bring. In fact, I thought I'd make a little list. As you might expect, we'll finish off by sharing a recipe for a healthy and easy autumn side dish - Apple Rutabaga Mash. So without further adieu, here are just a few of the things I love about fall:

Gala and Honeycrisp Apples, Photo: NK

Folks forget that apples have a season. For the most part, they peak from late summer to early fall. Knowing which of the numerous types of apples are best and when is key to maxing out your apple enjoyment. Equally important is discerning which varieties are best for eating or baking.  To get you started, the two varieties pictured above are great right now: Honeycrisp and Gala. So good! Also - check out this handy guide to apple seasonality (with a little bonus apple history too!). 

2. Figs
Truly nature's candy, figs are as elegant and striking as fruit gets. At their best, they're honey-sweet and positively decadent. Just look at these beautiful Mission Figs drizzled in balsamic honey and sprinkled with coarse salt - visual drama and a sweet/savory taste bud explosion in just two steps. Here they are paired with a late summer tomato salad and marinated eggplant, two ways. (left: Easy Marinated Eggplant, right: Herb Marinated Eggplant with White Balsamic) Figs also make a regular appearance at our annual fall dinner party - check out our Foolproof Fall Menu for Six.

Photo: NK

Want to work figs into your dinner plan? Try this tasty Fig Pasta with Pancetta. So good! And pretty, if I do say so myself.

3. Cozy Soups
One of the best things about fall and, dare I say it, winter fare (eek). 
Here's just one of my favorite recipes for Butternut Squash and Apple Soup.

Squash and Apple Soup, Photo: NK

Now for the main event:

Large, bulbous and usually pretty rough in appearance, Rutabaga is not winning any beauty contests. However, this fall and winter veggie (in season October-March) is great when mashed up or even shaved (then sauteed in butter!). In general, rutabagas make for a delicious, hearty vegetarian side dish. It should be noted that the vegetable itself is a real trick to slice up. You'll need a good, heavy and long knife, some elbow grease, and a keen sense of safety. If you've ever hacked into a butternut squash, you'll know what I mean. It's easier to cut the rutabaga into fourths with the skin on and then peel it later, as this way, the cutting is less of a slippery operation. Here's our favorite simple and healthy rutabaga side. We aimed to preserve the rutabaga's natural earthiness while adding a tiny bit of sweetness from an apple and spice from the nutmeg, cinnamon, and cayenne. 

Apple Rutabaga Mash, Photo: NK

Apple Rutabaga Mash
Serves 4

1 medium Rutabaga, peeled with a veggie peeler and cut into small cubes
1 medium Red Apple, with skin (we used a Honeycrisp), cored and sliced into small cubes
1 Tablespoon Salted Butter
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Agave, Honey, or Maple Syrup
A few pinches of Nutmeg
A few pinches of Cinnamon
A few pinches of Chili Powder or Cayenne

Cover the apple and rutabaga cubes with salted water and place on medium high heat, allowing to boil for about 30 minutes until both apples and rutabaga are very tender. 

Drain and return them to the pot and mash with a potato masher. Stir in the butter until melted, then add all the remaining ingredients. Mix. Feel free to adjust to your tastes. Serve hot and enjoy! 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Are You Ready For The Country? Girls' Weekend In The Catskills

Photo: NK
Two words:

Girls. Weekend. 

Sometimes, we chicks just need to head to the country, breathe some fresh air, and renew those unshakeable bonds...

all while eating our weight in cheese and imbibing more wine than is, shall we say, ladylike.

Such a trip will, from time to time, include the occasional spontaneous living room dance party, preferably to the music of our glorious teen years. 

You haven't really lived until you've completely
shuffled off the hustle and bustle of city life for one bucolic getaway with your fellow womenfolk. 

Cheese on arrival, Photo: NK

That's why last weekend, my friends and I headed up to the Catskill Mountains in Upstate New York for the second year running. Again, we rented a nice little house in Monticello overlooking a pond. 

It was a blast. 

I hope you will enjoy today's recap of our Girls' Weekend extravaganza. And don't fret, we'll be sure include the most delicious and easy dessert recipe for you to add to your repertoire:

We arrived to our rental house quite late on a Friday night after several wrong turns and one hair-raising trip down the world's darkest and rockiest road cutting through what may as well have been the forest primeval. Cell service a distant memory, we were mildly shaken upon reaching our remote destination. 

A rustic cheese plate was immediately in order.

Rhianne, who is an amazing baker, had the presence of mind to bring her delicious Southern Cheese Wafers - her grammy's recipe. These crispy little crackers are savory and crunchy, just perfect with pimiento cheese or anything else, really. 
Their clever, secret ingredient: Rice Krispies! 
They were a great addition to our very humble cheese plate. For a close approximation of this secret family recipe, click HERE. 

Delectable Cheese Wafers, Photo: NK

Speaking of Rice Krispies, Rhianne also brought these amazing Brown Butter & Chocolate Salted Rice Krispie Treats - baked using her own light adaptation of Deb Perelman's (of Smitten Kitchen) recipe. It would be cruel of me not to share how to create this absurdly delicious treat. They are an absolute must-make!

Brown Butter & Chocolate Salted Rice Krispie Treats, Photo: NK

Brown Butter & Chocolate Salted Rice Krispie Treats
Recipe from Rhianne L./ Very Lightly adapted from Deb Perelman/Smitten Kitchen
Yield - about 16 2-inch squares 

4 Ounces (1 Stick) Unsalted butter (sliced up) + extra for greasing the pan
1 10 Ounce Bag of Marshmallows
Heaping 1/4 teaspoon Coarse Sea Salt (or more to taste)
6 Cups Rice Krispies - about half the small cereal box
1/2 Cup Hershey's Chocolate Chips

1. Generously grease an 8-inch square cake pan with butter. 

2. In a large pot, make the brown butter by melting it over medium low heat. Swirl it around until it melts, after which point, don't disturb it. The butter will then foam up before turning golden and beginning to smell nutty. Stir frequently now, being sure to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. It's very important to stay with the butter! It can burn in an instant so you must keep your eye on it. 

3. Once the butter takes on a nice medium brown color, turn off the heat and stir in the marshmallows and chocolate bits. They should melt in the still-hot butter but if not, you may turn the heat back on low until marshmallows are totally smooth. 

4. Take the pot off the stove and add both the salt and the Rice Krispies. Stir everything together and rapidly spread the mixture into the prepared pan. Press the mixture well into all corners of the pan. Allow to cool, slice, and enjoy!

Can we say, "yes please?!" 
For more ideas on baking with brown butter, check out Joy The Baker's post HERE.  

The next morning, our friend Felice arrived after making the long drive out to spend the day with us. She came bearing the gift of breakfast which included Blueberry Muffins and a really tasty Spinach Quiche, in, get this, a graham cracker crust. 

Spinach, Egg & Cheese Quiche in a Graham Cracker Crust, Photo: NK

Yup. You heard right. Felice informed us that after preparing her egg and spinach mixture, she realized that she'd purchased a graham cracker crust by accident. Never being one not to take the plunge, she went for it. I have to tell you, the ever-so-slightly sweet graham cracker against the savory egg mixture worked amazingly. This is how great recipes are born.

Now, I'm sure you've gathered that we aren't the type of girls that wait until noon to drink so, clearly, there were plenty of adult beverages at breakfast. Rhianne's Blueberry Wine from Pauley's Island mixed with some bubbly made for a fantastic Blueberry Mimosa on our scenic porch.

Photo: NK

The remainder of the day was spent laughing in between rides on the owner's rickety old rowboat. The pond had the most water lilies I'd ever seen.

Photo: NK 

Israeli Couscous with Pomegranate and Arugula
Photo: NK 

Still, It didn't take very long for us to start thinking about dinner. 

The plan was for a grilled pizza feast to be served on our beautiful deck. 

Also, my friend Natalie got to work on her delicious Couscous with Pomegranate and Arugula, a perennial favorite. 

Luckily, we had a really nice sparkling white to fuel all the prep work: 

Coppola's Blanc de Blancs, Photo: NK

This was our first time grilling pizza and, admittedly, we had some setbacks. Our efforts were further thwarted by the fact that our rental kitchen was missing some basics like flour.

After several comically atrocious pizza-making attempts, this beauty came off the grill:

Grilled Pizza with Green Peppers and Mushrooms, Photo: NK 

And with that, dinner was served

Photo: Rhianne L. 
and it was mighty good.

Photo: NK 

Sunday morning rolled around way too fast and we were all sad to see the weekend go. Some more than others:

Photo: NK

Happily, we are able to extend the magic a bit by taking a little side trip to nearby Bethel, NY, home of Bethel Woods, the site of the famous Woodstock festival. The day was warm and clear but fall was definitely in the air. 

Harvest Festival, Photo: NK 

The Bethel Woods Center for the Arts has a great harvest fest each weekend in September. The home of Peace, Love and Music provided a fitting end to a great weekend. Until next year, ladies!

Bethel Woods, Photo: NK

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Special "Addition" - Israeli Couscous Salad With Crab

One of my favorite things to do in the kitchen is to improvise little twists on tried, true, and faithful recipes. Usually, this means adding one extra special ingredient that elevates the dish. The latest example of this was a recipe I recently created to serve a party of ten dinner guests. It involved our go-to "feeds a crowd" side, Israeli Couscous Salad. While we usually serve this easy to prepare crowd-pleaser mixed with chopped parsley, sliced cherry tomatoes, red onions and a balsamic vinaigrette (the result is totally delicious yet so simple and pretty), I decided that last week's family barbecue called for something a bit more unique. Whenever I am looking to add a little luxury to a meal, I find that there's no better bang for your buck than a can of crabmeat.

Israeli Couscous with Crab, Photo: NK 

Today's Crab Couscous Salad will not require that you splurge on expensive lump crab meat. "Flake," generally the cheapest type of crabmeat, works perfectly here. You could certainly use Backfin -which is more in the middle grade. I prefer Israeli (also known as Pearl) Couscous to the more ubiquitous "regular" couscous although I am sure the latter would also work. 

With a more substantial grain the size of small pearls, Israeli couscous is wonderful if you are looking for a couscous with a much more texture and interest. This little pasta, like its arguably more popular smaller-grained counterpart, is super versatile and easy to handle. Carrots (we happened to find really beautiful ones at the greenmarket) provide color, crunch, and sweetness, while tangy lemon juice and zest give this salad its punch.  Buttery crab ties the whole dish together into one deliciously special and easy side. Be sure to let the prepared salad sit in the fridge a few hours. The flavors will blend and intensify nicely! Bring this to your next potluck or serve at a picnic or as a fancy dinner accompaniment. The only thing easier than making Crab Couscous Salad is eating it. 

Israeli Couscous With Crab 
Serves 10 as a hearty side dish 

Photo: NK 
Two 8.8 Ounce Boxes Israeli Couscous (we use Osem brand usually found in the Kosher food aisle)
3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil plus more
16 Ounce Can Pasteurized Crabmeat (flake) 
Zest of 2 Lemons 
3 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
1/2 Cup very finely chopped Carrot
4 Heaping Tablespoons Italian Parsley,finely minced
1 large Shallot, cut into a fine dice
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt

1. F'irst, toast the couscous: pour the uncooked Israeli Couscous into a large, wide pot over a medium-low flame. Stir frequently for a few minutes until the couscous begins to take on a bit of color. Take care not to burn. Some of the grains should become slightly golden, others will remain white. Turn off the heat. 

Israeli Couscous, Photo: NK
2. Now, cook the Couscous in water according to the package instructions. (*We recommend you add a teaspoon or two of olive oil to the cooking liquid to prevent sticking)

3. When finished, remove the cooked Couscous to a very large bowl. 

4. Add Carrots, Shallots, Parsley, Lemon Zest, Lemon Juice, 3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Salt. Give it a good stir and then carefully fold in the Flake Crabmeat. 

5. Toss couscous and allow it to sit in the fridge, stirring occasionally, for at least one hour or up to three hours. 

6. When ready to serve, taste for seasoning and add extra salt or lemon juice as desired. 

You can serve this chilled or room temperature, according to your preference. Enjoy!!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Ode to the American Worker - Labor Day Barbecue Guide

Labor Day is almost here and man, this summer really flew by! Of course, everyone's excited about the long weekend. Perhaps, like me, you're gathering some ideas for your holiday barbecue. But all that aside, I'd like to take a minute to remember what Labor Day is really about - the admirable contributions of the American worker.

On holidays like this, I often think about my family, specifically my great grandparents who, like so many, came to New York through Ellis Island just after the turn of the century. 

The Brooklyn Bridge - There's really nothing like it. 
My mother's grandfather, Rosario, was a presser. That is, he came into Manhattan from Brooklyn by subway every day (dressed to the nines in a finely tailored suit, no less), only to strip down into his undershirt and iron clothing in blazingly hot room in a storefront. He took enormous pride in his appearance and his work, and was, by all accounts, the best presser around. His daughters, all of whom worked, held a variety of jobs including working in sewing and textiles - a popular trade for the women of the day. I hope that one day, perhaps years from now, my sewing genes will finally kick in... His three sons also went on to great careers in the both the blue and white collar workforce. 

A few decades later, just across NYC's East river, my paternal grandfather hauled cargo off ships as a longshoreman on the Brooklyn docks. Though I never met him, I've heard him described as an ox of a man, his physical strength improbable in a person of his rather average stature. Though I've seen many pictures of my grandpa Salvatore, I envision him in my mind as Marlon Brando from On The Waterfront  - an excellent movie, by the way. 
You know, -  "I coulda been a contender."

Red Hook, Brooklyn Waterfront Photo:NK 

It's because of the sometimes punishing work of my forbearers that I have the luxury of taking the day off to gather with my family around a great meal. I love my day job, which takes place largely behind a desk, and I sincerely doubt that I'd ever have the spine to do what my grandparents did and what many people still do - work until they sweat to make a better life for those who come after them. 


Today, I am inviting you think about the workers, past and present, that you admire in your family. Feel free to share your thoughts with us! Whatever color their collar, we all know folks that make such contributions to their families and communities. Maybe it's yourself you should pat on the back. No matter what you do, please take a moment to relax this Monday, hopefully with some good food, and of course, a beer. Because nothing's more American. 

Also - come check out Neurotic Kitchen on Pinterest, and specifically, take a look at our Labor Day Barbecue Board for some ideas. 

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