The farmer’s market is overflowing with seasonal fruits and vegetables right now, and when I go I sometimes get overwhelmed with choice. Most of the time I gravitate to something unusual, or hyper-seasonal, but I realized that I always make sure to grab zucchini and summer squash. It’s not the flashiest vegetable, or the most flavorful, but there’s something undeniably wonderful about it. Maybe it’s the versatility; you can eat it raw (here’s a simple recipe) or cooked, it can be stuffed and baked, it can be stir-fried, it can be turned into a fritter. You can even eat the flowers. So I say let’s embrace the humble zucchini, which is out in force all summer long.
To make the simple zucchini pizza you see above I used store-bought pizza dough. While the oven was heating to it’s highest temperature I used a vegetable peeler to make strips of zucchini, both green and yellow. I put the strips into a colander and salted them, then let them drain for a little bit. This both seasons the zucchini and removes some of the water. After about half an hour I quickly rinsed the zucchini strips and squeezed them to get as much moisture out as possible. I stretched out the dough, topped it with the zucchini strips, a few red chile flakes, and a big handful of pecorino cheese. Then I drizzled olive oil over the top and slid it onto my baking steel. After about twenty minutes I pulled it out, drizzled some more olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, and some more pecorino, then finished it with some fresh torn basil leaves. Sure it’s not ideal to use your oven when it’s so hot, but the zucchini pizza made it all worth while.
So join me in celebrating zucchini season. What’s your go-to zucchini recipe?
It’s been 90 degrees here in NYC for the past few days, and as miserable as that sometimes is it does give me an excuse to eat a lot ice cream. Not that I need an excuse, but you see what I mean. Malai Ice Cream recently opened on Smith Street, serving flavors inspired by India (and beyond). I got two scoops: Turkish coffee, which was pleasantly bitter, and sweet roti with ghee, which was creamy and milky with crumbles of buttery-flaky pastry mixed in. I’ve also seen pints of Malai at specialty food shops around the city – I have all summer to pick out a few more flavors to try.
Malai Ice Cream — 268 Smith St
Several months ago I vowed to spend more time in the Latin American section of Sunset Park. I finally got around to it a few weekends ago, when I was struck by the overwhelming need for a torta. I looked up places to go, and the number one suggestion was Don Pepe Tortas Y Jugos, a juice shop/restaurant not too far from my apartment. Despite having dozens of tortas on the menu there is only one vegetarian option- the chile relleno torta. I can hear you now – surely a giant chile stuffed with cheese and deep-fried in an eggy batter is enough of a meal. It is enough for a meal (and don’t call me Shirley) but why not drop it on a toasted roll with avocado and veggies, beans, mayo, pickled jalapenos, and some more cheese? It’s a good torta, though not great; it was missing some acidity to balance all of the richness, maybe some more pickled jalapenos or some kind of tomato-based sauce. Still, it’s a good sandwich and one worth walking to Sunset Park for.
Don Pepe Tortas Y Jugos — 3908 5th Ave
Smorgasburg came to Prospect Park right around the time I was getting sick of the weekly food event. I don’t think I went at all last year, even though it’s a 10 minute walk from my apartment. Yet it was so nice out this past weekend that I went for a walk in the park, and ended up at Smorgasburg. It was nice to be back, though it’s still crowded and overpriced. But one thing that struck me on this visit was the wide variety of food on offer – Sudanese sambusas, Japanese okonomiyaki, Portuguese pastry, just to name a few. The other thing that struck me is just how good Smorgasburg has gotten for vegans and vegetarians. There’s a vegan Filipino dessert stand, as well as vegan sandwiches from Monk’s Meats. The best thing I ate was the vegan BEC (bacon egg & cheese) from ATM Vegan Deli. ATM makes vegan versions of bodega classics, and the BEC was one of the most exciting things I’ve eaten in a long while. A thin tofu patty has the creamy texture of eggs, it’s topped with mushroom bacon, vegan cheddar, and a magical vegan “yolk” sauce. I have no idea how they make it but that sauce is something special. Maybe it’s for the best that I don’t make regular visits to Smorgasburg — when I only go every few years I’m still capable of enjoying it.
ATM Vegan Deli
Smorgasburg — Prospect Park At Breeze Hill
There was a lot of press about the opening of Japan Village at Industry City a couple of months ago. Funnily enough none of the coverage mentioned that in Park Slope there has been a Japanese market for a couple of years now. Though I have to admit, I had walked by J+B Design a few times but never went in, until this past weekend. It’s the distillation of all of the good parts of Japan Village (the variety of Japanese products) without the bad parts (the crowds, the lack of public transportation, the weird layout, the lack of vegetarian options in the food court, etc.). J+B also has a good amount of vegetarian products, including some ready-made to-go meals with soy nuggets and vegetables. They sell those soy nuggets, as well as a few other vegetarian “meats”, in their small refrigerator/freezer section along with miso and Japanese pickles. There’s also a small cafe, as well as plenty of non-food Japanese products. Forget Industry City, the next time I need some togarashi or some yuzu I’m heading to J+B.
J+B Design — 300 7th St
My favorite thing at Suzy’s Roti Parlour, a Caribbean/Trini restaurant just off of Coney Island Ave, wasn’t the roti. Yes the flaky roti dough, full of tasty vegetables like sweet squash and savory spinach, was quite tasty. The doubles, fried dough filled with chickpea curry, were fine. It definitely needed a boost from the tamarind and pepper sauces. What really stood out though, was the side dish called simply macaroni pie. A square cut from a pan of macaroni and cheese, it was surprisingly light while still being intensely flavored. It’s the perfect anytime snack, and a nice foil for the bold Caribbean flavors of the other dishes.
Suzy’s Roti Parlour — 907 Church Ave
A few years ago I wrote about the abundance of Indian/Pakistani/Bangladeshi restaurants along Coney Island Avenue. In the last few years some restaurants have come and gone, but I haven’t really kept up. Then I got a message on Instagram from Kim, a food blog friend who seems to know about all of the new restaurants around the city, with an article about Jalsa Grill & Gravy. They had a lot of clearly marked vegetarian and vegan options, so I decided to check it out.
Everything at Jalsa is made fresh, to order. That means you may have to wait a little longer than normal for your food. It also means the food is delicious, and doesn’t taste like your usual cookie-cutter Indian restaurant. The star of my meal was the (vegan) gobi mirhci keema — small pieces of cauliflower cooked in a rich, smoky sauce full of garlic and green peppers. I normally don’t care for green peppers, but in this case they actually added both flavor and texture to the dish. Scooped up with torn pieces of fresh roti the dish was like nothing I’ve ever tasted before.
The staff was friendly and attentive — after making sure I wasn’t a vegan they brought out a shot of homemade mango lassi, made with homemade yogurt. It was the perfect capper to a great meal.
Jalsa Grill & Gravy — 964 Coney Island Ave