Check Vis Out!

Vis Harbor
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Hey Kids,

I have a story to tell you.

Two years ago I went to Vis, Croatia, a sleepy, sun-drenched island about thirty miles off the coast of Split. It’s the furthest of the Dalmatian islands and my only regret in going there was that we didn’t stay longer. We slowly scootered around — reaching a blistering 30 km per hour (I have little need for speed) — taking in many of the prerequisites that make this an Adriatic dream: rolling vineyards and olive groves, quiet whitewashed lanes, netfuls of fresh fish, quiet, oh! the quiet! … and lemon marmalade.

My mom always loved marmalade and as a kid, I could never figure out why. I remember the time I snagged a bite of her toast spread thick with the orange variety and blech! the bitter snagged back. And while I have grown up and acquired a taste for bitter, I prefer my mornings with butter and a dose of sweet instead.

But in that summer of 2011, on that very lovely island of Vis, I purchased a small glass pot of lemon sunshine, rolled it in a pair of socks and brought it back to New York where my breakfasts would never be the same. This marmalade was the perfect morning companion: bright, cheerful, even sweet; it coddled me in my first minutes of the day. But it offered tough love, too. It was acidic, tart and yes, bitter. It woke me up with a punch. I either spread too little of it hoping that small pot would last forever, or too much, making up for the other mornings. And on one sad day, it was gone.

I wrote an email to the store’s proprietor hoping to buy a case of this yellow gold and weeks later, I received a message back in Croatian. Google Translate only confused matters more so I resigned myself to the memory of it and set out to find my next great pot of sunshine. I tried some of NYC’s best food groceries and specialty shops. Every time I traveled, I picked up another darling glass jar, rolled it in my socks and dragged it back to the States with great expectations. But they never compared. The back of my refrigerator is a testament to my persistence. Finally I abandoned the cause.

And then this past September, two years after my visit to Vis, I received an email from a friendly traveler:

Hi,
I am on Vis in Croatia, and they have your email from 2011 posted in their shop. I live in Manhattan, and I thought I could check and see
if you still wanted marmalade and are in NYC. They are open for another hour (til 4pm NY time) if you do. No lemon in stock, but they have lemon orange mix. Let me know, if you get this in time. 🙂

Whaat? It was 3:50pm NY time and my thumbs typed back. Yes! I want marmalade! This lovely traveler instantly became a sensation in my little world and I couldn’t wait to meet her. Two weeks later we sat in a tea shop on University Place exchanging stories of Croatia: of figs, Vis, the long drive down the coast and of course, marmalade.

I waited five days before I opened the jar. I had built up the expectations to such heights I couldn’t bear a letdown. Ridiculous, I know. It was a fruit spread. But I wondered if some of these simple, precious travel memories are best left exalted in our daydreams. After all, I not only had the memory of Vis and that marmelada, but also of the search for its replacement and now, a new friend.

So kids, I never opened the jar.

Nah, I’m just kidding. Of course I opened it! And it was FANTASTIC. Turns out their lemon-orange mix is just as good. Just as punchy and kind. And I practiced no restraint. I polished that puppy off in just three days.

The Kid Stays in the Kitchen: Mohammed’s Egyptian Gullash

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Welcome back to “The Kid Stays in the Kitchen.” Each week throughout the semester, a student is assigned to cook a traditional dish with a friend or family member and document the experience in photos and words. Our school was named the most diverse school in New York City and this seemed like a great way to show for it. This week features Mohammed who prepares a dish from his Egyptian heritage.

“This dish in Arabic is called “Gul-lash” or in English “Meat pie.” This is a dish from the country where my parents were born and lived most of their lives: Egypt. Usually the dish is eaten during big celebrations or parties because it is very simple to make enough to feed a lot of people. The dish layers beef, chicken or pastrami between sheets of phyllo dough with cheese and peas.

This food means a lot to me because it has been passed down through generations in my family. The main reason that I really care for this dish is because I never got to meet my grandmother and this is one food that she taught my mother. When my mother was around six years old she sat and watched my grandmother cook. (There was no internet at the time so everything had to be observed and experienced.) And when my mom was 12 she made the dish alone for the rest of the family for the first time. Now, I feel a sentimental connection to it. It is a great comfort food and I hope you enjoy it!” – Mohammed

Ingredients
● ½ cup of corn oil
● 1 pound ground meat
● 1 stick of butter
● 1 onion
● 1 box of phyllo pastry sheets
● 1 egg
● ¼ cup of milk
● black pepper
● Adobo spice
● crushed coriander seeds

Instructions
1. Add corn oil to pan.
2. Chop the onions into small pieces.
3. Add the onions to the pan with the corn oil.
4. Mix over medium high heat for a minute then add the ground meat.
5. Cook the ground meat until it becomes well done. Then add the black pepper, adobo and coriander seeds.
6. After the ground meat becomes well done add the peas and mix it for a minute. Turn off the heat.
7. Put your butter in a different pan and melt it.
8. With a pastry brush, brush the bottom of a tray with butter and add two sheets of phyllo pastry.
9. Brush butter over the sheets.
10. Continue adding two sheets at a time and brush the butter on top of each layer until you use half of the phyllo pastry sheets.
11. Add the ground meat, peas and spread.
12. Now continue adding two sheets and putting butter between each pair of sheets. After putting the last two sheets add the butter on top.
13. Get a small bowl and crack an egg into it and add the milk, a pinch of crushed black pepper and adobo.
14. Cut the pie into squares each about 4×4 inches.
15. Add the egg and milk mixture on top of everything and in between the small lines in the squares.
16. Leave it in the oven from 30 – 45 minutes on 350 degrees or until it becomes a golden color and take it out.
17. Cut the squares fully and eat!

The Kid Stays in the Kitchen: Maggie’s Burek

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Welcome back to “The Kid Stays in the Kitchen.” Each week throughout the semester, a student is assigned to cook a traditional dish with a friend or family member and document the experience in photos and words. Our school was named the most diverse school in New York City and this seemed like a great way to show for it. This week features Maggie who comes from Albania and she has chosen to make burek with her grandmother.

“The dish I made is one of my favorites from Albania. It’s called burek. Burek is a delicious pastry that is popular in many countries such as Albania, Turkey, Bosnia and Serbia. This is a dish that my grandparents, my parents and I have eaten growing up. I remember watching my grandma roll out the dough when I was little and thinking it was fun. Sometimes, she even let me try rolling it out myself. It actually was fun, having the flour on my little hands felt so soft and the rolling pin looked so big. Who’s to say food can’t be fun?

Having a picky family when it comes to food, this dish is special because it is one that EVERYBODY eats. (This explains why I made my burek with two different fillings.) Since everyone in my family loves burek, we make it often. My grandma changes the filling every time she makes it. This is the reason burek is my favorite! I also love this dish because it is the dish that has opened me up to trying the different kinds of food. This is meaningful to me because when I was little I was only committed to spinach burek and after liking all the different kinds I tried, I slowly opened up to trying new foods. I hope you love it as much as I have come to love it.” -Maggie

Ingredients for dough

3 cups of flour
1 cup of water
1 tablespoon of salt
cornstarch (sprinkle as needed)
oil (for spreading)

Ingredients for leek filling

3 leeks
½ a cup of cottage cheese
½ tablespoon of salt
5 tablespoons of oil

Ingredients for Onion and tomato filling

3 medium sized tomatoes
3 medium sized onions
½ tablespoon of salt
5 tablespoons of oil

Directions:

Leek filling
First, cut the leek leaving only the white bottom. Chop each bottom into small pieces and put them into a pot. Then pour the oil and salt into the pot. Stir them together and cook on a medium flame until soft. Turn off the fire and add the cottage cheese. Mix it all together and let it cool.

Onion and tomato filling
First, chop up all of the onions and tomatoes into small piece and put them into a pot. Then add the oil and salt. Stir them together and cook on a medium flame until soft. Let it cool.

Burek
First, pour three cups of flour in a baking pan. Then, use your hand to make a hole in the middle to pour the water and the salt. Knead the ingredients to form a dough. After kneading the dough, cut 12 equal sized balls of dough. Then let them rise for 15 minutes. Next, using a rolling pin, flatten out each ball of dough into equal circles of about 7 inches in diameter. As you finish flattening out each dough, place them on top of each other into piles of 6. Be sure to spread oil between each circle. Once you finish this, take one of the piles of 6 and roll them together into one big circle. Roll each pile to be the size of your tin. One will be the bottom layer of the Burek and the other will be the top layer. After rolling out the bottom layer, rub your baking pan with oil to ensure the dough will not stick to it. Then, place your bottom layer inside your pan with the edges hanging out. Spread your desired filling over the dough. After that, put your top layer of dough. Pinch the edges of both layers to ensure the filling will not come out. Spread some more oil on the top of the Burek and place it in the oven at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. When both layers are finished baking, spread water on the top and bottom of the Burek. Wrap the pan with aluminum foil and let it sit for 30 minutes. Finally, the Burek should be ready to eat. Cut into slices and enjoy!

The Kids Stays in the Kitchen: Sicheng’s Ban Mian

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Welcome back to “The Kid Stays in the Kitchen.” Each week a student is assigned to cook a traditional dish with a friend or family member and document the experience in photos and words. This week features Sicheng who prepared Ban Mian, a noodle dish from the Fujian Province.

“Since coming to the United States as a young child, I can hardly remember my first food memories I had back in the Fujian Province in China. Despite this, each time I taste a unique dish my family prepare it nonetheless feels familiar.  This feeling is most exemplified when I taste what I think is the ultimate comfort food from my province: Ban Mian.

Ban Mian literally means “mixed noodles.”  The dish is very simple, consisting of a sauce of peanut butter mixed with soy sauce and sesame oil and then combined with wonton noodles. The wonton noodles are essential in maintaining authenticity; no other type can replicate its distinct taste and texture.

Each Sunday my parents prepare a meal of Ban Mian served with Bian Rou (Fujianese wonton soup) and I’m happy to share this recipe with you.”   — Sicheng

Ban MianRecipe by my dad

  • Peanut Butter (3-4 tablespoons)
  • Sesame Oil to taste
  • Scallion
  • Soy Sauce to taste (Or Kung Pao Sauce whichever is preferred)
  • Wonton Noodles

Start by bringing water to a boil and placing two clumps of wonton noodles, spreading the noodles around the pot. In a separate bowl mix the peanut butter with the soy sauce and the sesame oil thoroughly until a good balance of flavors has been obtained. Make sure the sauce is not too stiff. If it gets stiff add more soy sauce. After about 5 or so minutes boiling in the water, place the wonton noodles on a separate plate. Pour the Ban Mian sauce onto the noodles and use chop sticks to mix the sauce with the noodles thoroughly. Garnish with some scallions.

The Kid Stays in the Kitchen: Mateo’s Bandeja Paisa

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Welcome back to “The Kid Stays in the Kitchen.” Each student is assigned to cook a traditional dish with a friend or family member and document the experience in photos and words. This post is contributed by Mateo who comes from Colombia and he decided to make a dish from his region, Paisa.

Bandeja Paisa by Mateo
The bandeja paisa is a culmination of various ingredients, generously served on large plates or platters popular in the Paisa region of Colombia, my home country. Having been born in Colombia, I was blessed with the ability to experience its raw culture and with it, the delicious food. This particular dish contains many ingredients and although slight variations may exist, the one I learned to love consists of beans, rice, chicharrón, steak, plantain, fried egg, and an arepa.

Bandeja paisa covers a great deal of the food pyramid and surely requires an empty stomach to fully devour it. As a child, I would always have to share the dish with my brother, unable to eat it all by myself. Consequently, the bandeja paisa represents stability in the household and gives rise to a feeling of gratitude for all of the things we have.

Luckily for me, bandeja paisa has become a common dinner at my home. But of course, due to its size and preparation time, my mother has made some adjustments to the ingredients (just rice, beans, chicharrón, and an egg). Nonetheless, this blend of different elements just works. From a young age, I can remember devouring the beans with rice and always preserving the last bit of crunchy chicharrón until the end.

More than anything, the bandeja paisa brings my family together, connecting us beyond our original borders, making it the ultimate comfort food.

Recipe for Bandeja Paisa by Mateo’s mom,
Serves 4

Ingredients
• 3 cups red beans
• 1 yellow plantain (maduro)
• 1 green plantain
• 1 tomato
• 2 scallions
• Salt
• Oil
• 1 cup of white rice
• Water
• Steak
• Chicharrón
• Arepa
• 1 egg for each person
• 1 avocado

Directions
Beans
Wash the beans and remove any faulty ones. Place them in a large pot. Add enough water so that the beans are covered. Place pot on high flame until the beans are soft (about 1 hour 30 min). Grab a green plantain, peel and cut into small pieces and add to the pot of beans. Consistently stir for about 25 minutes. Add salt to taste and leave to cook until the plantains are soft. On a separate plate, wash two stalks of scallions and a tomato. Cut the scallions and tomato into little pieces. Add oil onto a frying pan and let the scallion and tomato cook for about 5 minutes under low flame. Then add into the bean pot.

Rice
Get one cup of rice, wash it, and add it into a pot along with 2 cups of water. Add salt to taste and 3 spoons of oil. Cook the rice on medium fire. When the rice begins to absorb the water, place a cover on the pot and lower the flame. The rice is ready when it is fluffy.

Steak
Wash meat, add salt (other meat spices/sauces are up to you). Add oil to pan, and heat up the pan. Place meat on pan after the pan has heated up on medium fire (5 minutes on each side).

Chicharrón
Wash the chicharrón, cut crevices into the meat so it is fully fried. Add salt to taste. Add enough oil into a frying pan to deep fry the chicharrón. Keep the chicharrón on medium fire until it is crunchy (make sure to place a top on the pan!)

Maduro (yellow plantain)
Wash the maduro, peel off the skin, and cut the plantain in half (the long way). Deep fry the plantain until it obtains a brown color (5 minutes).

Egg, Arepa & Avocado
Use one egg and add oil on a pan and fry it. The arepa is placed on a grill pan, on medium flame for about 10 minutes. The avocado is sliced into four pieces and can be shared with 4 dishes.

All of these elements are then placed on a large plate or platter. Enjoy!