Culinary Weekend in Brooklyn, New York

Recently, The Culinary Guild of New England took a culinary tour of Brooklyn, New York. Here, CGNE member Isabel Chesak recounts all of the delicious eats, fantastic sights and interesting history we took in over our three-day stay there. 

Brooklyn is so alive! Here in Williamsburg, every block seems to offer some interesting restaurant, sight or shop. Everything excites my curiosity!

I have arrived here with friends from The Culinary Guild of New England on a Friday afternoon, and our first destination is Buttermilk Channel in Carroll Gardens for dinner. It is a loud and hopping place with a butcher-block bar and a communal table. Conversation is difficult, but the atmosphere is colorful and inviting. Buttermilk Channel is supposedly named for a channel where dairy farmers used to drive their cattle across at low tide. It is said the waters in those days were so rough that the cows’ milk used to churn to buttermilk. Nobody seems to know the truth of the restaurant’s name, but it is certainly respected for its crisp and crunchy buttermilk fried chicken. I, however, am more interested in the grilled flatbread with its house-made buttermilk ricotta and in the succulent and briny oysters. I follow these with an entree of a parsley-crusted New England hake with fresh shelling beans and rainbow chard in an orange blossom broth with chili oil. It proves to be an excellent choice.

Breakfast the next morning is at Egg. This Southern and soul food establishment is enticing with its tater tots and southern-style biscuits. The veggies come from the restaurant’s own garden, and a popular item on the menu is the crispy duck hash where a seared duck leg, home fries and crispy green onions are smeared into a mash-up crowned with a softly cooked egg.

Heading into our Mast Bros. tour!

Heading into our Mast Bros. tour!

After breakfast we go next door to Mast Brothers Chocolate. As we enter the facility, the smell of melting chocolate is heady. I can almost taste it! We are given a tour of this brightly lit establishment where the chocolates are made using only cacao beans and sugar. After watching the chocolate production, from the bean to the final product, five different chocolates of various tastes and of different origins are offered to us. Each has a different flavor – the flavor is a result of the soil at the origin of the chocolate (there are no additional flavorings added). My favorite was the dark chocolate with sea salt and almonds made with Madagascar cacao.

Checking out the chocolate.

Checking out the chocolate.

Following our tour of Mast Brothers, our Williamsburg guides, Liz Pavese and Neil Piat, proceed to show us the funky boutiques and vintage clothing stores of Williamsburg’s Grand Street. This hip community with its backdrop of old industrial buildings has been home to old Jewish and Italian families for many years.

Enjoying Brooklyn Brewery.

Enjoying Brooklyn Brewery.

After poking around in various eclectic shops, we tour the Brooklyn Brewery where we are refreshed with a welcome stein of Hefeweizen beer and learn some of the traditions of this popular brewery. Williamsburg, a haven for immigrants in the 19th century, had a vigorous tradition for beer brewing due to its extensive German population. The Germans have always had stringent beer codes of using only hops, wheat, barley, yeast and water in their productions, and although this tradition died out in the middle of the 20th century, Brooklyn Brewery has managed to reignite the culture of beer brewing. During the 19th century, it was not unusual to see children making their way home in the early evenings with pails of beer for their overworked parents. These pails were termed “growlers.” The brewery likes to use this term when describing their various mugs of beer.

Later it’s on to Brooklyn Flea and Smorgasburg. The latter is a gigantic market of food carts producing decadent edible treats, a real locavore food festival. There are fiery tacos, fresh sausages, homemade pimento cheeses, bagels and breads, brisket with chili and cornbread, Asian and Indian temptations, and other tasty treats.

That evening we have dinner at Glasserie in Greenpoint. This former glassworks was significant during the 19th century for its celebrated cut glass. The walls of the restaurant are decorated with prints from the glassworks’ 19th century catalogues. Because Glasserie is noted for its large rustic suppers, I order the chicken with snow peas and pistachios. This is delicious, but prior to that we feast on griddled bread served with labneh (yogurt cheese) as well as tahini, hummus and harissa (a picante Middle Eastern condiment).

We end our evening by viewing the film “Chef,” a story of a washed-out father who finally makes his mark by opening up a food truck where he is able to spread his culinary “wings.”

The following day, we tour Bensonhurst with our guide Dom Gervasi of Made in Brooklyn Tours. Our first stop is Villabate Alba where we are treated to shatteringly crisp cannoli filled with fresh ricotta from Palermo – a great beginning to our tour. There are also sfogliatelli and Sicilian pastries creamy with marzipan.

Villabate Alba

Villabate Alba

At Pastosa Ravioli, we enjoy watching the white-clothed workers, pulling and stretching the dough in huge pasta machines. The flavors are endless. There is spinach pasta, lobster pasta, pasta made with squid ink, with tomatoes, pumpkin etc.

Several CGNE members at Lioni's.

Several CGNE members at Lioni’s.

Afterwards, in the shop of Lioni Italian Heroes, we marvel at the assortment of imported Italian olive oils, pastas, specialty meats and other prepared foods. Lioni offers over 150 types of hero sandwiches all named after famous Italians and Italian-Americans. In the shop, we are tempted to buy fresh artisanal prosciutto, roasted peppers, extra virgin olive oil and fresh breads. Before we leave, we are each given a full-size ball of the shop’s creamy mozzarella.

Later we visit Panino Rustico, where platters are overloaded with sumptuous Italian panini. One is of sopressata, tomato and arugula, and another of grilled chicken, fresh mozzarella, roasted peppers and basil pesto.

Our visit concludes with a stop at the New Utrecht Reformed Church, which was organized by Dutch colonists in 1677. Among the settlers who used to worship here were members of the Benson family, buried in the church cemetery for whom this area is named.

Touring this area has really been a trip back in time as the neighborhood is a memory walk through a bubble of the past. It is a reminder of an Italian neighborhood of the 60’s and 70’s not unlike the one where I grew up. I treasure the historical and gastronomic adventures that I have had in Brooklyn. It is a colorful, vibrant, eclectic area that I encourage everybody to visit.

*Photos courtesy of Kris Piatt, CGNE President.

Recipe Recap: Favorite Holiday Sweets

By Lena Hanson, CGNE communications manager

We see so many great recipes come through our feeds, and try to share as many as we can with our friends, but started to think there had to be a better way. Every now and then, we are able capture some of our favorite recipes from our members and other local influences in the New England culinary scene and share them right here.

The holiday season is upon us once again. And in so many kitchens, that means the ovens are on and the cookbooks are out. Some people rely on family recipes that they wish to share with their loved ones, and  others go out of their way to try something new and unexpected. So if you’re looking for some extra holiday spirit in your kitchen, we’re sure one of the recipes below will come in handy.

What holiday treats do you enjoy the most? Please share your favorites with us in the comments below!

Warm Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce

It wasn’t enough for P.K. to tempt us with her delightful Dark Chocolate Biscotti at our Annual Holiday Cookie Swap, but now she comes up with this decadence? Pumpkin, caramel, and bourbon all in the same dish? Pretty sure she has no trouble finding taste-testers.

Recipe: Warm Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce
Photo from: P.K. Newby, The Nutrition Doctor is In the Kitchen

Dark Chocolate Cookies a-la Holiday

Some people don’t really bake for themselves, but instead with the sole intention of bring some joy to others. In those cases, it’s not uncommon for one to turn to a classic recipe source like our friend Janet did — only she added her own special holiday twist to make these cookies just a bit more special.

Recipe: Dark Chocolate a-la Holiday
Photo from: Janet Kalandranis, Food Beautiful

Eggnog Cookies

Eggnog in a cookie form? This may just be nirvana of the holiday sweets variety for some.

Recipe: Eggnog Cookies
Photo from: Karen Covey, Gourmet Recipes for One

Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Bites

Everyone has some sort of treat that may defined their childhood holidays. Michelle dresses hers up just a bit with some extra red and green for a festive flair.

Recipe: Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Bites
Photo from: Michelle Collins, The Economical Eater

Festive Lemon Sugar Cookies with Cinnamon

Featuring healthy spices, whole wheat flour, and a lower fat content, these cookies are proof that not all holiday treats need to feel like they are an overindulgence.

Recipe: Festive Lemon Sugar Cookies with Cinnamon
Photo from: Lipi, Spices for Life MD

Looking for more holiday cookie recipes? Take a peek at all the recipes that were swapped between our members and friends at our Annual Holiday Cookie Swap!

Recipe Recap: Bring on the Green!

By Lena Hanson, CGNE communications manager

We see so many great recipes come through our feeds, and try to share as many as we can with our friends, but started to think there had to be a better way. So starting today, we will capture some of our favorite recipes from our members and other local influences in the New England culinary scene and post them right here.

With winter starting to shrug off in the New England area, there are little bursts of color popping up all over. From the first signs of new grass to the shamrock decorations scattered around, you’d be hard pressed not to spot a fair amount of green as you go about your day. And with these signs of spring, perhaps you’re feeling a bit energized? So if you’re looking for something fresh and new to try in your kitchen, we’re sure one of the recipes below will come in handy.

What are your favorite green-filled dishes? Please share your favorite dishes with us in the comments below!

Baked Stuffed Colcannon

Do you think the only thing green that you should be consuming this season is your beer? This potato recipe may have you thinking otherwise. And it’s a good thing this is written as a dish for one — you may not want to share anyway.

Recipe: Baked Stuffed Colcannon
Photo from: Karen Covey, Gourmet Recipes for One

Clean Green St. Patty’s Day Milkshake

Do you secretly — or not-so-secretly — crave that McDonald’s classic, the Shamrock Shake? This recipe delivers all the taste without compromising your waistline.

Recipe: Clean Green St. Patty’s Day Milkshake
Photo from: Maureen Wheeler, It’s All Connected Natural Health & Living

Strawberry Salad

In case the sudden appearance of all the green isn’t enough, rumors have it that there are some other great colors popping up in local markets. So if you are lucky enough to happen across that perfect box of berries, you’ll be covered with this fresh salad.

Recipe: Strawberry Salad
Photo from: The Oldways Table

Greens and Grain Plate

Have a mix of greens to use up, but not sure what to do with them? This versatile dish can be made with kale, chard, broccoli, and more. No reason for waste here.

Recipe: Fresh Greens and Grain Plate
Photo from: Lena Hanson

Shredded Brussels Sprout Salad

Does that last bit of chill in the air have you shying away from the typical warm weather salads? Then this warm salad of brussels sprouts and bacon could be what you’re looking for — warm, but fresh and satisfying.

Recipe: Shredded Brussels Sprout Salad
Photo from: Michelle, Fun & Fearless in Beantown

Mint Oreo Brownies

Think all of these dishes sound great but don’t quite satisfy that sweet tooth? Then look no further — this recipe incorporates the green of the season with that classic for all seasons, chocolate.

Recipe: Mint Oreo Brownies with Mint Buttercream Frosting
Photo from: Nicole, I Am A Honeybee

Raw Vegetable Salad

Did you perhaps overindulge in a few too many cups of that festive green brew over the weekend? This fresh, vegetable-filled salad will have you back on track in no time.

Recipe: Raw Vegetable Salad
Photo from: Karen Covey, Gourmet Recipes for One

Recipe Recap: Super Bowl Favorites

Welcome to our very first “Recipe Recap”! We see so many great recipes come through our feeds, and try to share as many as we can with our friends, but started to think there had to be a better way. So starting today, we will capture some of our favorite recipes from our members and other local influences in the New England culinary scene and post them right here.

With all of the excitement in the air — particularly in New England — we figured some Super Bowl-ready recipes would be just what everyone could use. Whether you are looking for a new addition to your table, or just some ideas to start, we’re sure at least one of the recipes below will come in handy.

What will you be serving at your Super Bowl party? Please share your favorite dishes with us in the comments below!

Super Bowl Salad

Are you looking to add something a little bit healthier to your table this year? This salad brings together all sorts of great ingredients — kidney beans, barley, peppers, black-eyed peas, and more — with minimal effort required.

Recipe: Super Bowl Salad
Photo from: The Oldways Table

Sweet Potato + Black Bean Chili

What’s a Super Bowl party without some chili, right? But if you feel like your table has enough meat on it already, this new take on chili offers up a great combination of flavors with a healthy dose of protein.

Recipe: Sweet Potato + Black Bean Chili
Photo from: Karen Covey, Gourmet Recipes for One

Chocolate Strawberry Footballs

Why settle for a plain old tray of cookies, when you could put out a tray of these festive treats? All it takes is a little bit of creativity, and you will be sure to satisfy just about every sweet tooth in the room.

Recipe: Chocolate Strawberry Footballs
Found by: m.blog
Photo Credit: Domestic Fits

Chocolate Beer Chili

Not sure if you can get away without serving up a chili made for the carnivores? No problem, this chili recipe will keep them happy. Made with bacon, beer, and chocolate — who will be able to resist?

Recipe: Chocolate Beer Chili
Photo from: Renee, Eat.Live.Blog.

Ginger-Soy Glazed Wings

It has been estimated that Americans would consume 1,250,000,000 chicken wings — or 1.25 billion — during this year’s big game. But you have to wonder how many of those will be as delicious as these Ginger-Soy Glazed Wings. A little bit sweet and a little bit savory, add a batch of these to your table and everyone may forget who they are rooting for in the game and start cheering your name instead.

Recipe: Ginger-Soy Glazed Wings
Photo from: Megan, Delicious Dishings

Kickin’ Kale Salad

After any over-indulgence Sunday, you may want something a little bit lighter on your plate Monday. This substantial, and filling, salad is full of nutritious ingredients but doesn’t include one leaf of lettuce. All in all, it offers a clean start for a new week.

Recipe: Kickin’ Kale Salad
Photo from: Maureen Wheeler, It’s All Connected Natural Health & Living

Pasta Wednesday, Brought to Life

by Janet Kalandranishttp://foodbeautiful.blogspot.com/

I have a friend who eats pasta the same night every week, “pasta Wednesday” as I’ve termed it. I once asked her if it’s simply pasta with jar sauce each week or if there was room for creativity. She assured me that she was currently accepting recommendations.

A bowl of pasta is much more than boiling some water to heat up a quick weeknight dinner. There’s something so comforting about the idea of coming home and easily creating a satisfying dinner to answer a day’s worth of problems. I think back to those late nights when my dad used to reheat some pasta leftovers in a skillet and somehow this created the tastiest dish that I’d remember for weeks.

Over the years my pasta palette has evolved. What started out as an easy childhood meal has grown to a canvas for light, fresh summer meals or bold, warming dinner parties. I love how you can never go wrong with a pasta dish and the feeling of home this kitchen staple delivers.

When figuring out how to shake up pasta Wednesday, the goal was to provide a more luxurious experience; one that tastes gourmet but doesn’t take much more effort than boiling the pasta and warming some jar sauce. Luckily, at this time of year (my favorite!), you can find the sweetest little bundles of flavor in any home grown tomato. It’s funny how during the winter months I forget what a real tomato should taste like and I question whether they really can be that delicious…the answer is yes!

A simple pasta tossed with garlic, tomatoes, and basil topped with feta can showcase summer tomatoes but can also bring winter tomatoes to life. This recipe screams pasta Wednesday – with minimal ingredients (that, like most CGNE members, you likely have on hand at all times) it doesn’t feel out of the workweek rush, but rather slows you down a bit. It’s this middle of the week meal that forces you to sit down, talk, and enjoy the company of others. And the thing that makes it work is the ingredients.

Starting with the tomatoes, if you can pick some from a garden (preferably your own – I don’t want to be responsible for you stealing the neighbors bounty) then that’s the way to go. However if it’s the dead of winter or there are no veggies to pick, simply buy 2 pints of cherry or grape tomatoes. Roasting or sautéing these little guys until they burst concentrates their flavor to remind you exactly why you fell in love with tomatoes.

Olive oil, although a kitchen condiment, deserves more thought than what’s on sale that week. By using extremely flavorful oil you’ll taste a difference in this pasta Wednesday dish. I tend to buy imported olive oil from the Mediterranean, but my advice is to sample and see what you like best. The idea is that this staple should never be bland and never just popped into the cart – this dish will prove that out.

Pasta Wednesday needs to go with the flow, it can’t be stressful and it can’t stop the rest of the week in its tracks. This recipe does just that – if you have other veggies grill them up and toss them in. If you’re looking for a heartier meal, add some grilled steak, ahi tuna, or some chicken from the night before. The idea is to learn the structure of this recipe and then get creative. Maybe add some roasted onions and blue cheese for a rich warm winter dish or swap in some fresh mozzarella or parsley at the first sight of spring. Whatever you choose just remember not to stress…’cause pasta Wednesday is meant to be easy, fun, and a little crazy!

Finished Dish: Pasta with Garlic, Tomatoes, and Feta

What a delicious way to end a busy Wednesday!

Pasta with Garlic Tomatoes & Feta

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound linguine or any other long pasta
  • 2-5 cloves garlic minced (depending on how much you love garlic)
  • 2 pints grape or cherry tomatoes (preferably fresh)*
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 block feta (8 ounces, preferably in brine)
  • 1/3 cup GOOD olive oil (imported from Italy or Greece, or a lighter option from California or Oregon)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Bring a large stock pot of salted water to a rolling boil. This doesn’t mean a pinch of salt but a big handful – you’re looking to mimic the ocean and really flavor the pasta. Let’s be honest plain pasta in plain water can be quite boring
  2. While you wait for the water to come to a boil, place the minced garlic and 1/3 cup of olive oil in a medium skillet (big enough to hold the pasta) over low heat to infuse the oil until you can smell the garlic slightly simmer. You want to be careful not to burn the garlic. As soon as you can smell “garlic” add the cherry or grape tomatoes, a pinch of salt and the same of pepper. At this point you can turn the heat up to medium and stir occasionally. You’re waiting for the tomatoes to burst open – you’ll even hear a noise if you’re paying attention.
  3. Add the pasta to the now boiling water and cook until al dente (follow package directions for time). Drain pasta, reserving some of the starchy cooking water.
  4. Turn off the heat on the skillet and add the pasta to the pan and toss – if the pasta is looking sticky feel free to add some starchy pasta water that you reserved. Pour into a large serving bowl, add crumbled feta and the chopped basil. Continue to toss and add any additional pasta water to loosen the dish.
  5. One quick taste to adjust the seasonings and serve immediately!

*Note: Alternately you can roast the tomatoes in the oven at 400◦F by placing them on a baking sheet with the minced garlic and mixing with 2 Tablespoons olive oil and coating with salt and pepper. Place the baking sheet in the oven for 15-20 minutes until you see the tomatoes deflate and their flavor will be concentrated.

Learning Thai Cuisine at BCAE

by Iris Tomlak, CGNE Youth Member

About three weeks ago on a Tuesday night, around 7pm, I was seriously hungry and seriously craving some Thai food. Filled with motivation and enough resolution that I would not be settling for an 8 oz. package of Annie Chun’s Pad Thai noodles (instant gratification that funny enough, is neither that instant nor gratifying), I decided it was time to handle the heat and get in the kitchen.

Well, maybe not get in just yet. After 8 hours of work and an hour at the gym, my motivation faded faster than you could say “extra peanut sauce on the side”.  In actuality, as soon as I thought about getting into the kitchen, I was already dialing and ordering from Jamjuli, a delicious and local Thai restaurant in Newton (that now delivers, I might add). But, while I eagerly awaited the doorbell to ring, I went over to my computer, pulled up the Boston Center for Adult Education’s website (they co-sponsored CGNE’s Holiday Baking with Joanne Chang in November). and searched their course offerings until I found what I was looking for, an introduction to Thai cooking class. And then I signed up.

All Thai’d Up Fundamentals of Thai Cuisine is taught by BCAE instructor, Mowl. She is just as animated as she is talented in the kitchen and did not fail to keep us laughing and eating the whole way through our three hour session. Needless to say, I would highly recommend this class. Below are two very delicious and easy-to-make recipes she taught us. Enjoy!

(Side note: If you have never attended a cooking class before, bring some Tupperware to your class because you can take home leftovers!)

Tom Yum Gai

This hot and sour soup is surprisingly refreshing on a summer day.

Tom Yum Gai  (Hot & Sour Soup) Serves: 2 – 4

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast or 8 shrimp (peeled with tail on) or both
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon nam pik pow (chili paste in soy bean oil)
  • 1 8-ounce can straw mushrooms, rinsed and halved
  • 6 cherry tomatoes halved
  • 2 tablespoons Galangal (Thai ginger) or regular ginger, sliced thin
  • 1 stalk of fresh lemongrass
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro chopped

Instructions:

  1. If you plan on using the chicken, slice the chicken breast in half vertically. Then take one half and slice it diagonally, making thin slices. Do the same with the other half. Set aside.
  2. Cut the root section of lemongrass stalk, where the root connects to the main stem of the grass. Then cut approximately 2” of the stem from your cutoff point. This should be the yellow-green part of the grass. Crush the bulb slightly like you would a clove of garlic, using a mallet or the side of a large cutting knife.
  3. Put the chicken broth in a deep pot and add all the ingredients, except the chicken and shrimp. Stir the contents until the mixture begins to boil and the chili paste breaks up and dissolves into the liquid. Let the soup simmer for 15 minutes.
  4. Put soup back on high heat, as it boils, turn heat off and then add the chicken. Once the chicken is cooked add the shrimp. After the shrimp is cooked serve with the chopped cilantro as a garnish. (Do not serve the lemongrass or ginger, as they are meant to only add flavor to the broth.)
Pad Pik Bai

Spicy ground chicken and basil is both low-fat and filling.

Pad Pik Bai Grapaou (Spicy Ground Chicken and Basil) Serves: 2 – 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or corn oil
  • 1 tablespoon red curry paste
  • 3 tablespoons chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon chopped Thai or sweet basil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon nam pik pow (chili paste in soy bean oil)
  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • 1 large onion, sliced into large bite-size slivers
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 each of red and green pepper, sliced

 Instructions:

  1. Heat a large frying pan (preferably a wok) on med-high heat and then add the oil and the garlic.
  2. Before the garlic browns, add the red curry paste, chili paste, sugar and fish sauce. Stir, then add the chicken stock and ground chicken. Right before the chicken is cooked through, add the bell peppers and onion.
  3. Continue stirring until the chicken is cooked through and the pepper and onion pieces are covered by the juices. Then add the basil.
  4. Serve alongside white steamed rice. This dish is usually garnished with thin slices of cucumbers.