Profile

Robbo

Born and bred in Brooklyn NY; moved to the banks of the Hudson up in the Catskills after college, for my first teaching job. Now retired after a 34-year teaching career at that school, I can enjoy the beauty of the Catskill Mountains even more.

  • Location: upstate New York
  • Favorite foods: Any Italian (preferably homemade, including pizza); most sushi and sashimi, but especially eel (yum!!); dumplings, dim sum, sesame dishes; DUCK!!; LAMB!! (especially Greek-styled lamb dishes); chicken; pork; and fresh-picked fruits and veggies.
  • Last bite on earth: Lamb, definitely.

Ebingers bakery question

@CatBoy - Thanks - I never even thought of the Brooklyn Historical Society, and I should have! I will ask them!

The mini-burger: off limits?

Well, if they're selling I certainly agree that it'd just be silly to drop them. If I were in your predicament, I would certainly keep them on the menu, but hype yours as well: Instead of worrying about equating the BK ones w/ yours, go for the gusto and point out the obvious differences instead. Something on the order of, "If you think our minis are like those other ones, try ordering theirs with gouda, dijon aioli, pickled jalapenos, and remoulade!"

Best of luck, and please keep us updated!

Cookbooks: Then and now

@fatitalianbroad - I'm fascinated! What was the book's rationale @ the need to boil macaroni for so long? (And - btw - did they term it "pasta" or "macaroni" ?)

What's on Your Easter Menu: Ham or Lamb?

Thursday I picked up an absolutely gorgeous semi-boneless leg of lamb. It's even free-range!!

Unfortunately, I had to stuff it into the freezer because our primary Easter dish will be a spiral ham. (On which I will nibble - enough so as to not draw attention to myself - while I concentrate on the many delicious side dishes instead. So while the rest of the family happily eats and enjoys the ham, I will be enjoying an assortment of cheeses, asparagus w/ Hollandaise sauce, steamed carrots, scalloped potatoes, and homemade applesauce.)

PS: @erikkaa - are you able to share, or is your "amazing... and... insanely delicious" lamb recipe a deep dark family secret?

Tropicana, Pepsi Overhaul Packaging

Just ran across this thread in early April - When Tropicana first changed its packaging, I wrote to them complaining @ the change. Not even the caps were different colors in the new design, plus the "version ID" was in done really small type. They sent me a coupon ($4.50 on Tropicana - not bad), and thanked me for being a loyal Tropicana customer - which I am, actually, because they have a low-acid variety which works best @ my stomach.. Then, at the end of March, I received ANOTHER coupon, along w/ a letter that said that they had received such grief from their loyal customers, that they were reverting to the old designs and colors. So kudos to them: they apparently DO listen to their customers!

Uncommon food allergies that nobody believes?

@Amandarama - Since it's a different med, betcha it was a liquid filler or the coloring agent in it. (You might want to have an allergy test since, as I found, the problem appears to be inheritable.)

The "Elusive" New York "Christmas Pizza"

@gala_silverstar - finally, finally, recipes for this "elusive pie." Thanks to all!!

And now I know why I could find NO hits @ Google, etc: I turned on the closed-caption viewer and used the spelling that came up @ it. Nuh-uh.

Teach me tofu

At some point I realized that if I bought the Extra Firm Tofu - and after pressing it to remove as much water as possible - I could cut it into chunks about 1" square, dredge it in flour, and wok it over high but controlled heat (though I never thought of using sesame oil for that step - thanks for the idea, Ribster!), and use the finished pieces to replace the shrimp (or chicken, or whatever) when I'm in the mood for some sesame shrimp (or chicken, etc.). All other ingredients remain constant, except I don't add the tofu chunks back into the dish until everything else is cooked and ready.

Bothered by being served "as it comes up" in restaurants?

@whatseatingme - If you don't know Jeffrey Steingarten, you don't watch Iron Chef (Food Network). He frequently acts as a member of a 3-judge panel @ the show. Some viewers find his critiques well-founded, but he's also been known to disagree disagreeably w/ other panel judges during the show. (His background includes being a lawyer as well as a food critic and book writer.)

Regarding the problem you cite, why not tell the waiter that you'd appreciate having all of the orders timed to be served together?

Have you noticed any restaurants closing lately?

I live near Albany in upstate NY. While there are new restaurants just opening (PF Chang and Cheesecake Factory - someone please tell me what cheesecake has to do w/ ancient Egypt, Art Deco and Provencal design? That combo is how this place is outfitted. Great food, but just an odd... interior...), there are at least 5 restaurants that have folded recently along Wolf Road (one of the major shopping areas outside the city itself), and I think 2 or 3 more suddenly folded a few months ago in Crossgates, a largish self-contained shopping mall also just outside of Albany proper. Even a couple of Albany-area diners have shut their doors recently!

Eggplant Suggestions?

@soozm32 - I think the aka for your eggplant rolls is Eggplant Rollatini. When I was youing, my grandfather was in charge of "pressing the eggplant." This was considered an essential step @ preparing eggplant dishes, to drive out the evil that resided within. No joke. In the basement, next to the furnace, he kept a giant rectangular stone - probably 12"x12"x6" thick. (And it was a HEAVY sucker - I could never pick it up as a youngster!)

He would begin by carefully peeling the eggplant, and then slicing the thing lengthwise. He'd try to make each of the slices about 1/4" thick. That done, he'd stack them inside a towel and flip the ends up, effectively wrapping the top, bottom and sides (ends stayed open). He folded a second towel. That went onto a giant plate he kept for this purpose. The eggplant package was placed onto the folded towel, and the plate went onto the counter. Finally the giant stone was placed squarely atop the towel wrapping. And there it sat, for at least a few hours.

Did I mention that this entire process would take place in the basement? Only after the eggplant had been "drained" of the evil, would the sliced veggie be brought upstairs into the kitchen, for my mother to prepare.

I don't do anything so elaborate. When I'm going to use sliced eggplant, I do begin by removing the skin (hate the taste), and slicing it lengthwise. I like cooking w/ the 1/4" thickness, so I do that. Then I drop the slices into cold water into which I've sprinkled both salt, and a bit of lemon juice. The slices float, so I try to mix them up with each succeeding slice. I leave them in there for only a few minutes after I've finished all of the slicing. Then I pat them dry and lay them on paper towels.

If I'm frying them, I drop them in an egg bath before putting them into the frying pan. If I'm not frying them, I line a cookie sheet w/ parchment paper, and then brush each slice (both sides) w/ olive oil and sprinkle lightly w/ salt. Then they go into a 375F oven for 15 minutes or so. then I flip 'em, and put them back for another 10 to 15 minutes.

After that step - frying or baking - they're ready for whatever recipe I'm planning. (Personal favorite: eggplant lasagna!)

What is your favorite cooking tip or recipe from Grandma?

From my Nana, my grandfather, my mother and father, and all of my many, many aunts and uncles alike (and trust me, the list of my aunts and uncles is not insignificant in length!!): cooking food for loved ones is a magnificent expression @ your love for them.

What's the easiest way to make Skillet Potatoes?

Well, I use a pan in the oven as my "skillet." After scrubbing the skins clean, I nuke them for 4 to 8 minutes, depending @ the # and size of the spuds. Then I let them cool a bit while I work @ other dishes. When I cut them up, I try for semi-triangle shapes. Then I dump them into a large plastic bag w/ a couple of tbsp of olive oil. Next I dump them into a pan large enough so all of the pieces are @ a single layer. I like using a Corningware pan, because I can crank up the heat w/out much worry @ burning them. I sprinkle a bit of salt, onion powder and garlic powder (one of the few uses I have for such powders), and finally shower a bit of oregano flakes. THen it's into the oven for 15-30 minutes @ 400F. I use a metal spatula to flip them after the time runs out, and gauge how much more time they'll need to finish cooking. (And once they've reached this point, I can set them aside while other dishes finish cooking.) When they're done, tHey come out w/ a nice crisp crust that "pops" when you bite 'em. Yummy.

The "Elusive" New York "Christmas Pizza"

I'm the one who had asked the original question, and I agree that it appears to be a mouth-watering delight! Saw the rerun last night @ Food Network as well. Missed trying it over the holidays - I was hoping to get down to NYC and have some there, but holiday time is never easy to find! I do still plan to attempt it @ home @ some point, though.

Anchovies: Way or No Way?

*WAY!* And I've found that if you mash the little critters to a paste, they make an incredible "butter" for a nice, juicy steak!!

Uncommon food allergies that nobody believes?

Mine's not a food, but medication. And not just medication, but apparently any medication - pills, liquid, it doesn't matter - made by a particular pharmaceutical company. Which I will not name lest I get sued, despite the fact that these reactions have been verified by our family physicians.

When I was a teenager I got mono. Though it wasn't a bacteria, they put me on a regimen of penicillin to prevent complications. After about two days I had a spectacular, bumpy rashlike reaction. They stopped the meds and the rash went away. At the time they assumed I was allergic to the penicillin, but a few years later I had a heart valve infection that required penicillin, and so the doctor ran multiple needle-prick allergy tests. No reaction to the penicillin itself, but when they tried a sample from the same company that had made the penicillin I'd used a few years earlier, bingo! Same reaction (though much more localized, of course). He told me that I should always list that brand name as an allergy.

Fast-forward ten years. My son was 3 or 4 years old, and he had an ear infection. The dr gave us a prescription for a regimen of penicillin - a cherry-flavored liquid. When I brought the scrip to a local pharmacy, I told the druggist to avoid filling the scrip w/ penicillin made by Brand X, and I explained my allergic reactions years before. He wrote down the info, and later I picked up the bottle.

You know where this is heading, right? After 3 doses, my son broke out in the same bumpy rash.thing. So I brought my son when I brought the bottle back, and told the guy that he'd better refill the scrip w/ penicillin from a different vendor. He looked stunned. What an ass he was. (But he did it right the second time, though I had to get the dr to call him and tell him not to use Brand X for the scrip. And needless to say, we stopped going to that pharmacy after that scrip.

(I have since found out that it's either one of the filler ingredients that Brand X uses, or a coloring agent they use, that's the culprit.) Anyone else ever hear of an allergy of this sort?

Octopus: Way or No Way?

*WAY* @ octopus, squid, and now scungilli [conch]. I have to admit that I had never had scungilli until I visited my mother last month. She ordered it one night when we went out for dinner, and offered me some. Though it's apparently very easy to cook these things to a rubbery consistency, I found these - which had been added to a tomato sauce, which was then served over linguini - quite delicate and tasty. (Very slow and gentle reheating works well too - like a microwave power level 2 - but anything fast tends to rubberize them as well.)

Seltzer/Club Soda: Way or No Way?

@lemons and @NYCEater. Thankfully, we can also get Fox's U-Bet locally. But as for every-day use, well, I usually give in every weekend. Truly, truly, ambrosia! ;-]

How old were you when you first started cooking?

I couldn't have been older than 2 or 3, when my mother began letting me help her @ the kitchen. This was during the early '50s, and we didn't have a television yet. (GASP!!) I was only tasked w/ very simple things -stirring, sifting and the like - but it kept me occupied where she could keep an eye on me. Whenever we went to my grandmother's apartment for Sunday dinner, my cousin's family would go as well - they lived in the apartment next to hers. So we'd all be there, myself and two cousins, all of us rugrats. Well, it would be a typical Italian meal, w/ three million courses. Every time, Nana would whip up a large batch of homemade macaroni or ravioli. Either way, the three of us would be involved, forming the pieces of macaroni - individually by hand, of course - or sealing the ravioli.

Now, for making ravioli, my mother had really neat a wood thingie that let you seal an entire side at once. It was about 6" long, and maybe 2" wide. One side - the back - was smooth, but the other side had a series of grooves that ran along the entire length. After sprinkling the "working" side w/ a bit of flour, you pressed the thing into the completed piece of ravioli to create the seal.

But Nana didn't have one of those handy little things. So my cousins Angela and Lynne and I got stuck using the "alternate" method: pressing the tines of a fork into the completed ravioli to make the seal. But we had to be careful, because it was very easy to puncture the ravioli pouch. It was also very easy to push down too hard, and create a ribboned edge @ a piece of ravioli.

Now, so far I've talked @ Nana and my mother. But I would be remiss if I did not mention my father. My father left most of the cooking to my mother, but in the evening if he got a yen for something from his childhood, he'd be @ the stove. It was very interesting to watch him, because his cooking style was so different from either my mother's style, or Nana's style. (Nana was his mother, btw.) And he could create unique spins @ different recipes, seemingly effortlessly. What his style had in common w/ Nana's was the fact that he "knew" the recipes so he didn't have them written down, and the fact that he didn't really "measure" things much. Instead, he eyed amounts as he added them to the mix, or he'd put a small amount in the palm of his hand before adding it. (Those were usually salt, pepper and other spices.)

By the time I was 6 or 7, I was allowed to make pudding @ my own - hey, no "instant" stuff back @ the '50s, I had to cook the stuff! By 10 or 11, I could prepare an entire dinner. (And it tasted good, too!) I've been cooking ever since.

I also have to mention that when my children were small, it always drove them nuts watching me cook, because my wife uses recipes and measures things precisely, while I sort of feel my way to knowing when to add what, and how much of it. So I guess I synthesized Nana's and my mother's knowledge w/ my father's use-the-force way of doing things.

Seltzer/Club Soda: Way or No Way?

*WAY* for me @ seltzer!

I mostly drink the plain, which averages between 33 and 50 cents per liter, but I also enjoy vanilla-flavored seltzer.

When I stopped drinking soda (and then diet soda), because of the additives they contain, I switched over to the seltzer. We buy an average of a dozen 1-liter bottles per week for me; my wife can go through 5 or 6 bottles of citrus-flavored seltzer @ the same timeframe.

But NOW my background - I grew up @ Brooklyn - forces me to ask all of you SE'ers who have posted the 24 comments @ this thread... How can it be that none of you has mentioned the absolutely QUINTESSENTIAL use for plain seltzer? People, I'm talkin' that amazing make-your-mouth-happy drink, the eggcream!!!

I am truly flabbergasted. And chagrined.

My Shocking Food Confession: What's Yours?

@gumbolicious - You're absolutely right, Weaver battered chicken WAS all @ the batter, not the chicken! It was sooooo tasty! How to describe it adequately @cowprintrabbit? By today's standards, the batter was rather plain - most of today's battered chicken is incredibly overspiced, IMHO - but the weaver batter was... light golden in color. And it *looked* like a batter coating, mostly smooth, the exterior sloping and rounded. While thick on the chicken, it seemed to allow you to pull it off the chicken in very large pieces. And yes, gumbolicious, it definitely gave your mouth a sweetish aftertaste.

Revisiting this thread made me remember something else. It's not my confession, actually, it's something our friend Vince would relate @ graduation parties and the like. It seems that when he was @ college, to keep himself awake in giant lecture hall-type classes, he'd bring a large jar of instant coffee granules, and snack on them - dry and crunchy - throughout the lecture. (He was also working full-time @ the night shift @ a GM plant.) At one of the lectures, the girl sitting next to him put out her hand. Now, obviously, Vince would tell us, she had no clue as to what he was eating out of the jar, but he seemed to be enjoying himself. So, despite misgivings, and not wanting to appear selfish, he offered her the jar. She stuck her hand in, pulled out a fistful of granules, and popped them into her mouth. A few seconds later, choking, she spit them out, gave Vince an "I'll-kill-you-later" look, and ran out of the hall.

Are CSAs Cost Effective for Your Family?

We joined a CSA a few years ago, and while the produce was good it turned into a leafy-greens extravaganza: only a few potatoes, tomatoes, etc - mostly 3 zillion kinds of lettuce, etc. We wound up giving most to my sister-in-law, who's gone vegan. The price wasn't bad - I think it was less than $400 for the season - but we didn't renew for the following year. We're back to going Farmers Markets locally instead.

Got a Craving?

Every night I crave some sushi, but I sigh and eat a [large] bowl of twigs-and-bark-10g-of-fiber cereal instead. (And sometimes I make some sushi for lunch the next day...)

My Shocking Food Confession: What's Yours?

Okay, I've already ranted about my seething hatred of parsley ("What Would You Like to See More of on Menus?"), but my shocking food confession would have to be that when I was in college, I survived on multitudes of donuts during the day, and Weaver battered chicken when I got home at night (usually near midnight - I had a 2+/hour ride @ the Long Island RR, each way). And I loved those little cans of deviled chicken and deviled ham.

GOD, what I wouldn't give for some good old Weaver battered chicken today! Unfortunately, the company discontinued the battered chicken lines years ago.

Yes, I did call the company back then, and I did email them just last year. (And yet... maybe, JUST MAYBE, if we all do like Peter Pan asked everyone to do to revive Tinkerbell, if everyone @ SE emailed the Weaver chicken company and asked for a revival...)

What I Found on an Old Thread: SE User Bios!

Are you looking for info that repeats the bio data, or something else? Maybe someone could come up w/ a bunch of questions to be answered?

Ebingers bakery question

Although I now live in upstate NY, I was born and bred in Brooklyn and I remember Ebingers Bakery, famous for their amazing Blackout Cake, Lady Fingers... you name it, and if it was AMAZING pastry of some type, they made it, and made it better than anyone else.

Okay, I'm rambling. Here's the problem. We're having a family reunion - 75 aunts, uncles, and cousins of various lineage - and my sister has tasked me with finding a photograph of The Box. The Ebingers Box. It was white with delicate green diamond cross-striping, and after they filled it with whatever goodies you bought, they secured it with a white-and-green string.

I have searched my photo albums, slides, boxes stuffed with uncategorized photos, and everything else I have. Many pix include Ebingers cakes - God, we DID eat them a lot!! - but none of them show The Box!!

Do any of you Serious Eaters know where I might find a photo of an Ebingers Box?

Thank you all!!

They weren't "Cakesters"

Okay, I got into a conversation with my cousins recently, about growing up [in the 1950s, in Brooklyn]. We all remember one particular Nabisco creation from childhood. They were sandwich type cookies, and they looked like Cakesters - sort of. They were smaller than Cakesters, and the cookies surrounding the marshmallowy center were soft (rather than hard or crispy) and dry. (The Cakester monstrosities are so sticky/tacky that they stick to your fingers when you hold them. The earlier things that we remember, also had a bit of what I recall as an apricot-tasting blob holding the marshmallowy thing, to the two side-cookies.

Anyone out there have a clue @ the name of these things? Cousins and I are slowly going nuts trying to remember!

Thanks, All!

Pressure Cookery

Just bought our first pressure cooker! While I'm excited, I *do* have a gripe - and then two questions.

First, the gripe: The bulk of the recipes listed, require the use of a metal rack - but the thing doesn't come w/ a metal rack! I called the company - Mirro - thinking the rack hadn't been placed in the box but nope, you have to buy one separately! So I asked - where to get one? And the answer came - and I swear, this is verbatim - "Try Aubuchon, or Ace Hardware." Can you believe that? (BTW, neither my local WalMart, nor my local Lowe's, carries anything suitable.) The helpful person on the phone also suggested, "You could also try a metal trivet." So... we're cooking foods here using pressurized steam, and I should go out willy-nilly and just get a round rack or a metal trivet?

All of this leads to Question #1: Anyone know where I can find a *food-grade* rack that's about 7" in diameter? Or do I need to buy a smallish rectangular rack and then cut it to the size I need - keeping the center spine intact, of course?

And then we come to Question #2: Searching the SE Recipes area, I found only four pressure-cooker recipes. Anyone out there in SE Land have any tasty recipes for pressure cookers?

Much thanks to all!

Homemade Proscuitto?

Years ago we attended a picnic where one of the attendees brought slices of homemade proscuitto. It was wonderful - much more flavorful than store-bought. Since then, I have (on and off) tried to search for a recipe to make a proscuitto @ home. Unfortunately, any recipes I've found, have always been for using proscuitto, rather than making your own. (I've also tried using the term "country ham," which is related.) I know that making this involves at least a month, and includes salt-curing and smoking, but I have no details beyond those. I don't want to "experiment" with different ideas, since doing that could create a very unsafe/unhealthy/unstable product.

I do have a safe, secure "cold place" to store it while it's in-process. Any Serious Eats folks have any tried-and-true recipes? They'd certainly be appreciated!!

Has anyone ever heard of an Italian "Christmas" pizza?

Over Labor Day weekend 2008, I caught part of a Food Network show on types of pizza. One place they went, showed how to make a "traditional" pizza they claim is normally baked only @ Christmastime. It's a rectangle-pan pizza (pan is oiled first), and the dough - a very simple yeast/flour/water dough - is made to rise twice rather than once before it's pressed into the pan. Then a heavy tomato sauce is ladled on, then mozzarella, and then a 2nd pan is placed atop the pie. In the pizzeria, it's baked for only a few minutes. Then it's removed, additional toppings are added, and it's put back in, but now without its lid. My grandmother made many kinds of pizza, but neither I nor any of my cousins have ever heard of this one. It may be called a "sphignone" or "sfignone" or something like that. (I read through your List of Regional Pizza Styles, but nothing looked like it. Googling brings no results; Googling "Christmas pizza" brings up dessert pizza. This is *definitely not* a dessert pizza!!

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