August 26th, 2015

End of a Cycle, with end-of-summer recipes

36 Gramercy Park East

I recently spent a week in New York City helping my girlfriend Pat pack up her apartment, a studio on the tenth floor of a grand old building overlooking Gramercy Park.

Rare and remarkable are two words for Gramercy Park, secluded within the heart of this electric city. Four short blocks of mid-rise brownstones surround the gated haven full of shade trees and flowering plants. No major streets, no rumbling traffic, no Lexington or Madison avenues barreling through. It’s a neighborhood that still feels like old New York.

Pat’s building, constructed in 1909, is unique to the square; the facade of the 12 story landmark is white terra cotta, Gothic in design, with ornate detailing. At the entry stands a smiling doorman in dapper uniform to greet you; inside is a gilt vestibule with a reception and two narrow elevators. Step inside those gleaming brass doors for a lift up to 10T.

Pat’s apartment measures right at 330 square feet. Yes, it’s small. Basically a room and a bath. Tall ceilings, wide windows, minimal furnishings, and a couple of strategic angles that trick the eye into thinking there is something more around the corner all combine to give it a more spacious feel.

I dubbed it her “Gramercy Palace.”

When you are out in the frenetic thrum that is Manhattan, a nest such as hers is the ideal respite–all you need, really. Over the years, I have enjoyed staying in its cozy quarters.

Change happens. And one begets another. Last fall, Pat’s husband died. She quit her high-powered job of many years. Then, she got an unsolicited—and generous—offer for her apartment. The end of a cycle. The closing of a life chapter.

When I learned that Pat was selling this special place, I wanted to be there to help close things out, say good-bye. It wouldn’t take the whole week to pack. We wanted to relish the final days at The Palace, and soak up as much of the city, from the perspective of being a resident rather than a visitor.

As someone who was born in New York (Queens) there is always a part of me that yearns for time there. Partly to reconnect with the place, and its magnificent and gritty sense of place. The city is potent with memory—each visit serves to recall visits gone by while creating new experiences. Making memories.

This time, I got a good dose.

We saw the Broadway play, Hamilton. (Hard to imagine, but this Hip-Hop musical about the life of founding father Alexander Hamilton is one of the best things I have ever seen.)

We went to museums: MOMA and the new Whitney. We strolled the Highline. We met friends for drinks in different neighborhoods. We ate at some wonderful restaurants.

I also did some cooking.

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Union Square, with its open air Green Market (open 4 days a week!) is an easy walk from the apartment. From an array of vendors, I purchased heirloom tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, corn, basil and melon.

Walk a bit further south, and you’re in Little Italy. Pat’s sister Lynn and I jaunted over to Alleva Dairy, the oldest Italian cheese store in the city—and the United States. Lynn bought sausages and I got pasta and a ball of luscious burrata.

It was fun to cook in the tiny kitchen and dine on a fresh summer feast. Bittersweet. A last supper, to be sure. Are other New York adventures still to come? No telling when, but I feel certain they will.

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ZUCCHINI-LINGUINE TANGLE WITH SWEET RED BELL PEPPER-TOMATO SAUCE
3 small zucchini (small size is more tender)
olive oil
1/2 pound linguine
salt and black pepper to taste
Sweet red bell pepper-tomato sauce (recipe below)
to garnish:
pecorino-romano
toasted pine nuts

Place a large pot of salted water on medium high heat and bring to a boil.

Trim the zucchini ends and slice it lengthwise into thin slabs. Take each slab and slice it into long thin julienne strips.

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Cook the linguine according to package directions.(about 10 minutes) Drain and set aside.
Return the pot to the stovetop. Set the heat on medium and add olive oil–about 3 tablespoons.
Add the zucchini. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper and saute for 2 minutes—so that the zucchini becomes pliable. Stir in the linguine. Toss until the two are entangled.

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Ladle the red sauce into each bowl. Top with the pasta. Garnish with grated pecorino-romano and toasted pine nuts.

Serves 4

Sweet Red Bell Pepper-Tomato Sauce
3-4 red bell peppers, cut in half, stemmed and seeded
2 large tomatoes, cored and cut in half
1 large onion, cut into eighths
4 cloves garlic
4 sprigs fresh thyme
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper

Place red bell pepper and tomato halves onto a baking sheet. Tuck onion pieces and garlic cloves underneath the peppers. Brush the tops with olive oil.

Sprinkle tomatoes and red bell peppers with salt and black pepper.

Roast in a preheated 425 degree oven for 25 minutes until the skins of the peppers and tomatoes are blackened and blistered.

Remove from oven and allow to cool. Peel the blistered skins and discard.
Place roasted vegetables and juices into a bowl. Using an immersion blender, process the ingredients into a brilliant red-orange sauce. Taste for seasonings and adjust as needed.

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WATERMELON-PEACH SALAD WITH BURRATA
4 cups large dice watermelon
2-3 peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced
1/2 jalapeno, cut into very thin rings
1 bunch of basil (or mint) finely sliced
juice of 2 limes
1/4 cup good olive oil
1 round of burrata
salt and black pepper

Place cut watermelon, peaches, jalapeno and basil into a large bowl. Pour lime juice and olive oil over the salad. Gently toss.

Place the round of burrata in the center of the salad. Drizzle a little more oil over it. Season with salt and black pepper.

When serving, break into the burrata so that shreds and the creamy inside become mixed with the fruits.

Serves 8

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Posted in Fruit, Recipes, Salads, Vegetables, Vegetarian Dishes

23 Responses to “End of a Cycle, with end-of-summer recipes”
  1. ernestine Says:

    Oh my
    how I loved this post.
    New York, my children and grandchildren
    all love this city and I have never made a visit.
    Love the grand old building
    and this one that lives by the woods could
    visualize herself living in this building
    and going to local market.
    The recipes look so good.
    Thank you for making my early morning…

  2. goodfoodmatters Says:

    My pleasure, Ernestine. It’s surely a different lifestyle but one that we both would enjoy—at least for awhile.

  3. Teresa Blackburn Says:

    Wonderful adventure with Pat I am sure and what good eats you provided while packing. New York, whether you were born there or not, is one magical city and has so many special nooks and crannies to explore. Welcome back!

  4. Barbara Says:

    My daughter lives there…I remember her first apartment in 1980…I was appalled at how small it was! But have great memories and love NYC. How fortunate your friend owned that apt, my daughter rents, cannot afford to buy. She lives in TriBeCa and there’s a tad more space than that first tiny apt.
    Such an amazing city and what they went through 9/11!
    Life changes, we must change with it. Gets more difficult as you age, unfortunately. Hope your friend finds a wonderful niche in life.

  5. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Hi Terese–it was quite the adventure! it was also the most time we’ve gotten to spend with each other in more years than I can remember!

    HI Barbara—Pat was lucky to buy in at a low in the market, just as her building was changing from rental to condo. There’s no way she could afford that now. Real estate in NYC is practically untouchable, unless you are a billionaire. TriBeCa is a terrific neighborhood as well.

    And truest words ever: Life changes. Thanks for your kind wishes for Pat.

  6. heather Says:

    Wow, great photos and beautiful food! Love the idea of the watermelon, peach and burratta cheese salad, very nice.

  7. goodfoodmatters Says:

    HI Heather—That watermelon-peach-burrata salad is a marvel–the slivers of jalapeno give it the right zing.

  8. treena Says:

    What a place, what a neighborhood
    What a good friend you are to help her move!

  9. Wendy Zerface Says:

    Beautiful au revoir dinner!! Good Luck, Pat–

  10. Denise Says:

    This sauce is just my style, and I live the jalapeño with the fruit. Yum!

  11. Denise Says:

    Make that “love”, not “live”. ;)

  12. Barbara Greene Says:

    It all looks so yummy. What is burrito? A type of cheese you stated but what kind? Is it something you only find in places like NYC? I am so glad you got to visit with Pat up there…sounds like you girls took in a lot while you were there…wonderful!

  13. Barbara Greene Says:

    I meant to say burrata but my IPad changed it.

  14. mark Says:

    Dang auto-correct!

    Burrata is a homemade ball of mozzarella filled with cream. over-the-top! I’ve found it locally at The Bloomy Rind and even at Krogers.

  15. Kathleen Moskal Says:

    It was really lovely meeting you at brunch with Pat & Lynn. Judging by the recipes and photos I can see why Pat raved about your cooking talents. Thanks for sharing…Kathy

  16. goodfoodmatters Says:

    I really enjoyed meeting you too, Kathy. I have long admired your talents and look forward to seeing the launch of your new brand. It was so nice of you to come into the city and have brunch with us.

  17. Michele | Cooking At Home Says:

    Nancy,

    It is so great that you got to spend such quality time with your friend in a city that you both love. Sometimes change is hard,and sometimes it brings us to a great adventure. Best of luck to your friend, Pat.

  18. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Michele, that is so nice of you to say. I’ll give Pat your best wishes.

  19. Beth Says:

    What a wonderful, bittersweet weekend. Sounds like you had a great time together.

  20. Jim Says:

    What a wonderful story…and oh, looks so delish. Better than…like the “old” (The) New Yorker…it’s all here..do I hear the rumble of the 3rd Ave El ?
    Thanks for sharing Pat !

  21. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Hi Beth, It was truly a great time together–despite the oppressive summer heat.

    Hi Jim—thanks for reading and the comment. you understand that old New York sense of place.

  22. Gerlinde @ sunnycovechef Says:

    Hi Nancy, what a beautiful post. I read it a while ago and forgot to comment. It must have been bittersweet to give up the apartment. Your delicious food and friendship helped.

  23. Juliana Says:

    Oh Nancy, this recipes are great…I love your pasta with the zucchini and the salad with lots of fruits and burrata cheese just look so inviting…
    You are such a nice and sweet friend…helping your friend Pat pack and move on with her life…she is very lucky to have you in her life.



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