healthy eating

Mediterraneanista Goes Cycling

In a perfect alignment of the stars (at least for our household), May is both Mediterranean Month  and Bike Month. New York City’s outer boroughs are home to so many great Med ingredients and meals, from Greek Astoria to little Italy on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx—and I often get to them by bike. So a celebratory month of riding and eating it will be! 
 
Recently, I cycled out to Totonno’s Pizzeria Napolitano in Coney Island, where the coal-oven pizza was definitely “worth a special journey,” as the Michelin guide would have put it. We got a bit grumpy waiting for our pie (we were cycling, we were hungry!) but when the pizza came, all was forgiven—the freshest of fresh tomato sauces and mozzarella, and a crust that would be delicious just on its own. Hard to believe I’ve been in NYC all these years without trying it.
 
Totonno’s opened on Neptune Avenue in 1924—the little one-storey restaurant looks like the closed-in space between two real buildings—then a fire closed it in March 2009. Lamentations all around, but luckily, it’s back and looking just the same as it must have in the old days—painted tin ceiling, black and white tile floor, a few painted wooden booths, with owner Louise Ciminieri keeping everyone organized (wait outside! sit here!) 
 
Next up, time for another visit to Sahadis on Atlantic Avenue for hummus and olives. Then maybe I’ll follow the example of Anthos chef Michael Psilakis and head to Titan Foods in Queens to get me some real Greek feta (and more olives). Tanoreen, a Lebanese Mediterranean resto in Bay Ridge, is on my list, too. I’ll keep you posted. Maybe we’ll have to extend this into June…
 
Getting there (sans bicycle): D, F, N, Q train to Coney Island-Stillwell Av 
 
Totonno’s Pizzeria Napolitano
1524 Neptune Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
718-372-8606 

Eating Weeds, Yum, Yum (Really)

The farro salad I’m making also calls for purslane, although arugula is an acceptable substitute if you can’t find purslane. Purslane, I learn, is a succulent ground-crawling plant that I recognize as a weed I used to be constantly pulling up when I had a garden in Sullivan County, NY. It was a tough little sucker, always growing back where I least wanted it. Little did I know that we could have been eating it all along. 

Purslane has a slightly lemony taste and is the best plant source of omega-3 (fish oil is the best known source of this essential fatty acid), as well as vitamins A and C. It’s widely eaten in soups and salads in the Mediterranean. I ask a few farmers at Union Square Greenmarket if they have any and find out it will be available when the weather gets warmer. That’s because it only germinates when the ground reaches at least 60°F—and then it’s pretty much unstoppable.

This edible weed seems to be becoming more available commercially. Last summer, I asked about it at my neighborhood 97th Street Greenmarket. Sure, the manager told me, farmers have purslane all over their fields, but they don’t bring it to market. A couple of weeks later, though, I spotted a tangled mass in a bucket at the Amantai Farm stand and sure enough, it was purslane. I took home what really looked like the pile left over after weeding and wondered which parts, exactly, I should be putting into my salad. I decided to clip off the smaller branchlets of leaves and left the really thick stems. I probably left some of the vitamin C behind but the salad was delicious. Later on, I harvested purslane from the stone patio at my friends’ house in Dutchess County. We’ll see what this summer brings. 

Mediterraneanista Explains Herself

I live in New York City and eat (mostly) a Mediterranean diet. I’m an amateur, as in “lover of,” the Mediterranean way, not a foodie or a chef. (I wish!) A Mediterraneanista sharing, via this blog, my explorations and discoveries as I shop, cook, learn about and eat Mediterranean in the five boroughs.
 
I wish I could tell you that the inspiration for this way of eating came from deep family roots and traditions or from a childhood spent moving from diplomatic post to diplomatic post around the Mediterranean. But no, it had more plain beginnings in my work as an editor. About a year ago, a study on the effect of the Mediterranean diet on cognitive health caught my attention for the brain health column I edited. One thing led to another and before I knew it, I’d launched a 13-article series on the Mediterranean diet, complete with food pyramid charts and recipe contributions from famous chefs and cookbook authors. And I was hooked on this new (for me) way of eating. Long after the articles had moved to the archives, I was still cooking and eating this food with family and friends—and exploring my city to find the right ingredients. So I thought I’d share what I discover—when there’s time left over for blogging after exploring, cooking and eating, that is. 
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