While making this dish I had a flashback to dinners with my family, and seeing my mom suck the marrow out of chicken bones at the dinner table. At the time, even before I was a vegetarian, I thought it was pretty gross. As an adult though, I have a different thought. If there’s tasty stuff inside there, why not eat it? I’ve had this idea for a while, so I’m happy to launch what I hope will become a regular feature on this blog: Vegetarian Offal. Offal traditionally refers to internal organs and other undesirable cuts of meat that have really started to become popular in the last few years. And while nose-to-tail eating has become popular among carnivores, many vegetarians also care about using as much of our ingredients as possible.
I can’t remember where I first read about “broccoli marrow” but the idea immediately appealed to me. I’ve been using broccoli stems for years, ever since I saw Jacques Pepin (on tv) mention that all you have to do is peel the stems and you have a lot of good broccoli flesh inside. Anyway, after I heard about making broccoli marrow I googled “broccoli marrow” and found a few recipes online.
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In the interest of continuing my ramen education I met up with Donny at the far edge of Park Slope at ZuZu Ramen for a late night dinner. From my experiences at Naruto and at Chuko I have come to know that there are vast differences in the quality of ramen around Brooklyn, and I was curious as to how ZuZu would stack up. The (vegetarian) garlic soy broth was good, but nowhere near the quality of Chuko’s; ZuZu’s reminded me of the broth from instant ramen flavor packets I remember from when I was a kid. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as I have fond memories of those sodium-laden foil packets, but I was a bit disappointed. The noodles themselves were very good; long and thin but chewy, and fun to eat. I also enjoyed the crunchy bamboo shoots and scallions that garnished the bowl. But as a whole, it doesn’t exist in even the same league as Chuko.
ZuZu Ramen — 173 4th Ave
Last night was the series finale of “Breaking Bad” — and if you haven’t watched it, stop what you’re doing and go watch it. All of it, don’t worry, I’ll wait. It’s worth it. Back? Ok, so it made me think of things ending. And that made me think about the Red Hook Ball Field vendors. This is the fifth year that the vendors have been operating with official DoH permits, and the permits are good for five years. So the vendors have to decide whether it’s worth it for them to keep doing this, and of course the DoH has to approve their permits. So if you’ve never been, this is really your last chance. On their twitter feed they say they plan to be there through the end of October, but that’s only weather permitting. So next weekend, make the trip out to Red Hook. I’ve written about the Red Hook Ball Fields before, and I’ve been going there for the past 6 summers, but even so on my latest visit I got some stuff I never had eaten before. Above is a vegetarian cemita, a Mexican sandwich from the Perez truck, layered with beans, cheese, lettuce and tomatoes, avocado, and what they called “summer cilantro” but I quickly identified as papalo. Papalo is an herb with a distinctive flavor, traditionally eaten with beans to cut down on their… gaseous side effects. I also had a sweeter sandwich — pan dulce con queso from the Vaquero truck, a sweet pastry cut in half, stuffed with queso fresco, and warmed on a griddle. And any visit to the Ball Fields would be incomplete without a tall cold glass of fresh fruit juice, sold by a handful of the trucks. Get out there, Brooklyn, and show your support for these amazing vendors.
Red Hook Ball Field Vendors — Corner of Clinton St & Bay St., Sat & Sun 9am-9pm
Williamsburg seems like just the right place to find not just a vegetarian diner, but a vegan one. Champs Family Bakery has a typically huge diner menu; breakfast all day, dinner specials, and a ton of different sandwiches. I went on a Wednesday around noon, and the place was packed. Packed with exactly the type of people you might think would be eating lunch at a vegan diner in Williamsburg. Although the space is pretty small, it looks exactly like an old-school lunch counter that you’d see in a movie from the ’30s. I took a seat at the bar and ordered a “Hot Cubano” sandwich, with a vanilla milkshake with which to wash it down. The sandwich was excellent — salty vegan “ham” with pickles, pickled jalapenos, mustard, vegan “cheese,” and vegan mayo, on a hero roll, pressed flat to compress all of that stuff into a flat mix. It was filling, spicy, gooey, and delicious. The milkshake was a perfect foil for all of those flavors, and even though you can tell it’s not made with milk it’s still a sweet, cold, and creamy drink. Since I don’t live in the neighborhood I don’t think Champs will make my regular rotation of restaurants, but it’s a fun place to go for lunch once in a while.
Champs — 176 Ainslie St
A few months ago I went to a ramen restaurant in Carroll Gardens (which shall remain nameless) where I tried the mushroom ramen. The broth managed to both look and taste murky; it was unpleasant, to say the least. So I approached my visit to Chuko, in Prospect Heights, with some reservations. But my friend Chitra recommended it, and I decided to trust her judgement.
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Every year the Street Vendor Project, which acts on behalf of the more than 15,000 street food vendors in NYC, has a big fundraiser event known as the Vendys. The event brings together street food vendors from all over the city, serving all kinds of different food, and gives out awards in multiple categories. This past Saturday the Vendys were held in Brooklyn for the first time, in scenic Industry City, and I was there. I had a lot of good food, so here’s the best of what I ate. Above you see the offering from the Cinnamon Snail, a vegan food truck. Unlike most of the other trucks, which gave out small samples of their food, the Cinnamon Snail gave out a huge meal, including two donuts for dessert. I was only able to eat about half of this food, even though it was all delicious, and after I did I needed a nap.
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One of the big holes in my Brooklyn pizza knowledge is Saraghina in Bed-Stuy. I’ve been meaning to go there for years, and for no good reason I kept putting it off. Finally a few weeks ago I decided to go for lunch. I should have done more research before I made the trip — turns out that they don’t serve their pizzas at lunch. Instead I got the Vegetariano sandwich, and it was actually very good. The bread was chewy and crusty, with soft roasted eggplant, roasted tomatoes, and melted mozzarella to balance it all out. Even the side salad was quite good, bathed in an acidic vinaigrette. Although I’d rather have eaten a pizza, the sandwich was a pretty good replacement. It also means I’ll have to plan a return trip for dinner.
Also: I forgot to mention this last week, but I added a page so you can search restaurants on this blog by neighborhood — just click on the tab above!
Saraghina — 435 Halsey St