One Fatir’s Fate

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This past weekend, I conducted an ethnojunket to Brooklyn’s Little Odessa where I purchased a fatir, still warm from the oven. This flaky layered bread often partners with Middle Eastern dips but also figures into qurutob, the bread salad that’s the national dish of Tajikistan.

But upon arriving back home, neither of those ideas resonated for me, so I decided to experiment in the kitchen with my customary reckless abandon. I sliced off a wedge, separated the layers, and contemplated their fate.

I decided to soak the flakes in beaten eggs like French Toast (or Matzo Brei!) and fry them up with some enhancements. I seasoned the eggs with salt, black pepper, and a generous amount of cumin, then sautéed onion, a little garlic, and some greens (I had cilantro and scallions on hand) and finally, when the fatir flakes were thoroughly saturated, I added them to the pan and continued to sauté. I garnished my invention with sour cream, cilantro, nigella seeds, and sesame seeds and served it with sliced tomato.

Closeup of a very successful forkful, if I do say so myself.

Seems like ethnojunkets, in addition to offering lots of tasty international food plus entertaining and educational fun, also are pretty adept at providing delicious inspiration!

So if you have an appetite for delicious inspiration, check out my ethnojunkets page and sign up to join in the fun!

A Chanukah Miracle in Brooklyn

(Originally posted in 2021.)

The Jewish holiday of Chanukah commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem after its destruction in the second century B.C. The ceremony involved the lighting of a menorah, an oil lamp, but there was only enough oil to last for a single day. By a miracle, the menorah glowed for eight which is why Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, is celebrated for as many days. In Jewish households, a nine branched menorah is used; a single candle is lit on the first night and an additional candle is added each consecutive night, with the ninth position reserved for the shamash, a helper candle used to kindle the others.

Since the Chanukah miracle revolves around oil, tradition involves eating oil-centric fried foods. Sufganiot, jelly doughnuts, are the go-to sweet treat in Israel while Eastern Europe brings latkes to the table, potato pancakes customarily served with sour cream and apple sauce; here, we happily indulge in both.

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My homemade latkes: shredded potatoes, minced onion, beaten eggs, baking powder, S&P, plus a binder like flour or matzo meal, shaped and fried in plenty of peanut oil and/or schmaltz (chicken fat) if you’re the decadent type 🙋‍♂️; they’re plated here with the requisite sour cream alongside chunky apple-strawberry sauce topped with sweet crystallized ginger. (You know me: I hadda be different.)

The recipe calls for salting and draining the potatoes; I simply set up a colander in the sink, squeezing out the liquids from time to time. But this year, I noticed something I had never witnessed before: the intricate patterns made by the drained, wet potato starch were as beautiful and mesmerizing as snowflakes! A present day Chanukah miracle!

The photo enlarged.

Now, look very, very closely and you can see a tiny, perfect Chanukah menorah in the pattern. Go ahead, keep searching. Stay focused. Take your time. Don’t pay any attention to me. I’ll just, um, finish off these latkes while you’re trying to find it….
!חַג חֲנוּכָּה שַׂמֵחַ
Happy Chanukah!

When Life Gives You Oranges, Make Marmalade

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Ever heard of a trifoliate orange? Me neither until a few weeks ago when my friends at Prospect Heights Community Farm were generously offering them, and since I never refuse anything even remotely edible, I accepted.

They’re about 1½ inches in diameter, slightly fuzzy, at once both sour and bitter, and contain more seeds than pulp – the very definition of a culinary challenge. I decided to try my hand at improvising marmalade. Since that’s a task I had never attempted, I reasoned that no one could criticize me if the result was less than stellar.

I sliced the peels, added the purported pulp, orange juice and sugar, and repeated the procedure using some sweet Valencia oranges (actual pulp!) to offset the aggressive components, and tossed in a handful of dried cranberries because I had some in the pantry (the reason I incorporate many left-field ingredients into my experiments) then cooked the mixture until it reached a marmalady consistency.

The outcome was surprisingly tasty for a first effort and complemented toasted English muffins and wedges of brie with equal appeal (no pun intended).

BUT: given the frequency of repeated tests involving a touch more of this and a lot more of that, I have quite a bit left over!

So what’s your favorite way to use orange marmalade?

Creamed Bacalhau

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To follow up on my last post, no trip to any Seabra’s is complete without a visit to the bacalhau department. Bacalhau (pronounced ba-kal-Yow) is dried, salted cod that’s used in purportedly thousands of recipes in Brazilian/Portuguese cuisine and I recommend that you try it even if you’re not a fan of fish (an afishionado, as it were). As a rule, the larger the Seabra’s, the bigger the seafood department, hence the wider the assortment of bacalhau varieties, provenance, and sizes from small chunks to whole fish. It goes without saying that it has a seriously long shelf life.

I generally purchase enough to make a few dishes like brandade and the creamed bacalhau shown here. It’s simple to execute, doesn’t require much time in the kitchen (i.e., not including a 2–3 day soak in the fridge to rehydrate and desalinate the fish), and is deliciously rewarding.

Here’s an oversimplification of what I did after soaking, rinsing, and draining the fish: Simmer the cod in water until it’s tender (it will break up). While that’s going, sauté chopped onions, garlic, and bell pepper in butter and set aside. Cook the softened cod a bit in more butter – it doesn’t take long. Add some half and half and continue to cook as the fish absorbs the liquid; you may need a few additions until it’s nearly saturated. The idea is to completely soften the fish and have no liquid remaining.

Add the aromatics back to the cod along with some thawed frozen peas and enough heavy cream to reach the consistency you desire. Add freshly ground black pepper, a bit of salt and any other seasonings you like as the spirit moves you. Cook to heat through.

I garnished it with chopped scallions and petits poivrons and plated it with glazed carrots on the side.

Sometimes I think that I could do an ethnojunket to the Ironbound just for Seabra’s, Nasto’s Ice Cream, and Teixeira’s Bakery (all posted on my website if you’re curious). Just a thought. 😉

Goblin’ Futomaki on Halloween

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Halloween is just around the corner and I wanted to indulge in something that didn’t involve Reese’s Cups, M&M’s, or Kit Kats, so I’ll be goblin’ futomaki that’s decked out in an All Hallows’ Eve costume – I guess that makes it both a trick and a treat. (But, not gonna lie, I’m waiting for the post-holiday sales: just as leftover Thanksgiving dinner tastes better the next day, so does leftover half-price Halloween candy.)

In obeisance to the official black and orange Halloween rubric, the black monstermaki (futomaki means thick or fat roll) is wrapped in nori, its conventional costume, and its orange sidekicks are swathed in soy wrappers that come in five flavors/colors: original soy, sesame, spinach green, turmeric yellow, and paprika orange.

I filled them with kani (krab sticks), avocado, cucumber, strips of sweet kanpyō (dried gourd) and most important, eel because – in keeping with the holiday spirit 👻 – it’s only one letter away from EEK!

And in case you’re wondering – no, I’m not handing out these spookomaki on October 31; the kids are supposed to scare me, not the other way around!


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Qurutob (you might see kurutob) is often said to be the national dish of Tajikistan. Essentially a bread salad (Tajikistan’s answer to Italy’s panzanella, perhaps?), qurutob ascends beyond the level of granting second life to shards from a stale loaf in that it features fresh fatir, a flaky, layered bread that provides the recipe’s foundation.

The distinguishing ingredient is a sauce made from qurut (you might see kurt), balls of dried, salty yogurt about ¾ of an inch in diameter that are crushed and rehydrated in hot water; shreds of bread are torn and soaked in the resulting liquid to form the base of the salad.

The next layer typically consists of tomatoes, cucumbers, onion slices (I sautéed them a bit to soften and sweeten), cilantro and other herbs. Sometimes bits of roasted lamb shank are added, but it’s optional. My garnish of choice was chopped scallion, toasted walnuts, and a few fresh chili peppers.

Mix well and try to get a bit of everything in each bite.

It’s a breeze to make and economical to boot. If you’re curious and you’d like to give it a go, both the bread and qurut are readily available either in Tashkent Market, Brooklyn or in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

(Of course, traveling to Uzbekistan will render the proposition considerably less economical, but you do you. 😉)

Bicol Express

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One of my first posts on this website, “Dem Are Good!”, exposed my fondness for (read: addiction to) Nagaraya Butter Flavor Cracker Nuts. (IYKYK. And if you don’t, take my Ethnic Eats in Elmhurst food tour and I’ll hook you up – they’re called CRACKer Nuts for a reason.) Like all good things, it seems they have become harder to track down as the years have gone by, but my source, Phil-Am Food Mart at 70-02 Roosevelt Ave in Woodside, often has them in stock.

In addition to providing the elusive Cracker Nuts I had been stalking, Phil-Am also offers a considerable selection of top notch locally made prepared food. Since Filipino cuisine is one of my all-time favorites, I can never visit without picking up at least one main dish, in this case a pint of Bicol Express.

Bicol Express is made with pork stewed in spicy coconut milk infused with shrimp paste and laden with green chilies. Named for the Bicol Express, a passenger train that ran from Manila to the Bicol region in the Philippines, I guess you could think of this dish that’s both creamy and spicy as running from one terminus on the flavor route to another.

It should be served with rice, so I made my version of Bagoong Fried Rice. (Oversimplification: Start with onions, garlic and the all-important Ginisang Bagoong sautéed shrimp paste; fry together; add pre-cooked refrigerated white rice; continue to fry; add scallions and sometimes mangoes to finish.)


Greenpoint – Part 2 (Farsz)

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There are a couple of Polish/Eastern European food markets along Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint that probably present as 99-cent stores to an unacquainted customer. You’ll find several aisles showcasing jars of pickled vegetables (expect cabbage, beets, cucumbers and the like), canned fish, jams and preserves, cookies, and beverages plus a refrigerator case containing fish fillets packed in a variety of sauces (yes, please) and an assortment of processed cheeses (no, thank you). You won’t find fresh kielbasi: those are left to a (dwindling) number of specialists in the neighborhood that I’ll cover in an upcoming post.

If you read me, you know I’m drawn to the less familiar, like this jar of Farsz. Google Translate, my best friend, suggested “stuffing” or “forcemeat” as a translation followed by “mushroom” (pieczarkowy) and “for casseroles” (do zapiekanek). The product consists primarily of minced mushrooms and just enough bread to hold it together in addition to a gentle touch of seasoning. The company’s website recommends using it for dumplings (pierogi, obviously) as well as in soups and sauces.

Since I’m so suggestible, I decided to make pierogi; served them up with bits of bacon, fried onion, snipped chives, and sour cream on the side. They turned out pretty well for a first attempt; next time (if there is one because making pierogi from scratch is labor intensive) I’d combine the mushrooms with some mashed potato. Unfortunately there’s a good deal left in the jar and I don’t know if it will freeze well until another rigorous kitchen session seems like a good idea. (Yeah, right.) I bet it would make a yummy pasta sauce with a bit of cream though. (Easy, peasy.) Hmmm…maybe with a toss of peas? (Who, me? Suggestible?)

And just a reminder that I’m doing this series of posts to see if you are interested in my putting together a Greenpoint ethnojunket. When we’ve reached the last one, let me know what you think! Stay tuned….


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Whenever I purge the freezer it seems like I always unearth an inconsequential and hence forgotten bit of meat, in this case a sausage link that had no business being labeled “merguez”. So I decided to throw together something that might help it live up to its name while still not involving much work or any shopping: all ingredients guaranteed to have come from my fridge or pantry.

The veggie component included onions, garlic, long green hot pepper, sweet red bell pepper, carrots, scallions and a little tomato; the pantry provided dried apricots and prunes. The seasoning was primarily ras el hanout, a blend of Moroccan spices that includes cinnamon, cumin, coriander, turmeric, ground ginger, paprika, and about 20 more plus salt and black pepper, and the garnish was cilantro and a sprinkle of sesame seeds.

It’s not authentic, of course, hence the characterization “Marrak-ish”.

Served it over couscous with msemen (Moroccan flatbread) and assorted pickles left over from my last Little Levant Bay Ridge food tour.

Of course, a normal person would have just fried up the sausage and made a sammich out of it with a side of fries.

I definitely have too much time on my hands. <sigh>

When Life DOESN’T Give You Lemons….

🍋 🍋 🍋 🍋 🍋 🍋 🍋 🍋

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Sometimes I get lucky. My friends at Prospect Heights Community Farm in Brooklyn generously gave me some of their delicious freshly harvested fruits: red raspberries, blackberries, gooseberries, pink champagne currants and rhubarb (yes, I know rhubarb isn’t a fruit but it works and plays well with others). Another good friend had recently gifted me some premium whole roasted almonds. Someone else gave me an unwanted bag of rolled oats, and a neighbor was moving out and liquidating her pantry so I scored some light brown sugar. Truly an embarrassment of Rich’s.

So I did what any beneficiary of such coincidental serendipity would do: I made a fruit crumble.

I already had butter – Danish Lurpak, the best of the best IMHO; it’s usually pretty expensive, but it was a bargain at an unlikely location I visit on my Little Odessa ethnojunket – join me and I’ll show you where it is. (Hint.)

I had almost everything else on hand that I needed for the recipe. Except lemon juice.

So I had to actually buy a lemon.