Saturday, December 24, 2011

Lunch Box Chronicles: Day One Hundred Forty Eight (On Table and Chairs and Good Things to Eat)

We forget sometimes that the simplest of things like a table, chairs and good things to eat can transform our sense of feeling at a loss to feeling completely at home. Transitions can be hard, but also invigorating. Sometimes, though, they just unsettle us, especially when we are used to certain routines, like sitting at the dining room table (in chairs) eating mom’s homemade dinners, and knowing where the tape is stored. The delivery of the table and chairs that fit our new tight space transformed our apartment from a living space to home. For this, we are thankful to our friends.

We just went through a huge transition – a good one, but a bit unsettling nonetheless. We (the parents) decided that it was time to make a move. We were aiming to be close to NYC to help me with Spelt Right, but the real key to our relocation was dependent upon where my life partner, love, and confidant landed a job. Somehow, the stars aligned and transported us to the heart of the City where we loved, left, and longed to return.

Once again, after a twenty-two year hiatus we are back in the Big Apple. This time, though, with a little more life experience, a few more educational degrees, too many possessions, and three offspring in tow.

This move from Maine to NYC is an unlikely transition for a family who was under no constraints to move. Yet, we decided it was time to shed some of our worldly possessions, test living in close quarters, and gain access to one of the greatest cities in the world. As Spencer said, “who needs t.v. when you have NYC unfolding in front of your eyes.” (We did keep one of our three t.v.'s)

We are thankful for the supports we have in this sweet apple: our family, business partners, colleagues, and friends – old and new. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Happy Kwanzaa, and Good Wishes for Any Holiday, or Any Day….

And, for our first meal, on our new table in our little apartment – a recipe from a great Italian chef – modified to be made gluten free. - Gluten Free Baked Ziti


One organic onion (finely chopped)

4-5 cloves of garlic (finely chopped or minced with salt)

1/4 – 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil

Pomi – crushed tomatoes – all natural, no citric acid – in a carton (no BPA in packaging)

One Pound Grass Fed Ground Beef

1-2 Teaspoons of Sea Salt

Ground pepper to taste

6-10 leaves of Fresh Basil (chopped finely)

One package of gluten free (rice) ziti

One small container of whole milk ricotta

One half to one pound of mozzarella shredded


Place chopped onion and garlic in olive oil in large stainless steel pan. Saute until onions are brown. Add ground beef. Saute until browned. Add Pomi tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste. Add one teaspoon of organic sugar if desired. Stir all ingredients. Cook on medium low for 20-25 minutes. Stirring occasionally. Add chopped basil.

In the meantime, boil and drain pasta according to instructions on panel. Rinse, and then toss with extra virgin olive oil to keep from sticking.

Preheat oven to 375F.

In a 9 inch glass baking dish, spread a little of the sauce on the bottom to keep the pasta from sticking. In the sauce pan, toss the pasta sauce and pasta. When thoroughly tossed, place the pasta in the baking dish. Spread ricotta on top. Then sprinkle with mozzarella. Bake until bubbling on top. Guaranteed to be hit with the kids. It was so good and easy, we ended up making this two nights in row, one with night with meat, the other meatless.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Lunch Box Chronicles: Day One-Hundred Forty-Seven (Santa Sal - Tradition)

Sal has the names of each of his children tattooed with pride on his arm. Maria, his ex-wife, is tattooed there too. Not only is she still present on his arm, but also in the front end of Sal’s Pastry Shoppe. Maria greets each customer with love and pride, as if each one is as precious as her offspring who are laboring in the back with their father. “Cannoli, tiramasu, struffoli? What would you like, honey? They are all delizioso; Sal and my sons make them.”
Sal, direct from Italy, has been baking for 40 of his 52 years. “Not no one knows how to make the bread or the pastries like Sal does.” This is not arrogance, it’s pride; it’s true; don’t mess with the maestro. Just as the famous Italian violinist Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713) became one with his violin, Sal, of the same romantic origin, becomes one with his bread. “You must understand the dough; observe it; listen to it; feel it.” The message is clear. A recipe is meaningless without engaging all of yourself, all of your senses, and the sixth sense of intuition into the dough.
The back of the bakery is the training ground for Sal and Maria’s sons, Salvatore, Jr. and Dominic. Sal, Jr., the eldest, has taken on his father’s love of baking. In fact, Sal's Pastry Shoppe is owned by Sal, Jr. An impressive endeavor for a 20-something.
Better than any cake boss, he is the “Prince of Specialty Cakes”. The first time I met him, he honored me with a picture album of the works of art he creates for all occasions: playgrounds, sports fields, crosses, dradles, baby carriages, wedding cakes, all edible, all individual, all made with the precision of a mathematician. Uncle Frank beams, “the kid is a math whiz, you know.” Sal, Jr.’s math acumen is evident by the symmetry and artistry of his creations.
As we continue to knead the test batch of spelt bread, Dominic, the youngest says to me “Maine? That’s where you are from? I love Stephen King.” “Stephen King?” I inquire, “You must love to read, and love horror too?” “Yes, I am a writer.” Dominic’s revelation brings a smile to my face; it explains the drawing of caricatures in the office. Sal, Jr. drew a likeness of Dominic with the phrase “I AM A WRITER”. Dominic drew a picture of Sal, Jr. “I AM A BAKER.”
Dominic has written a few screenplays; some horror in the tradition of Stephen King; some comedy in the tradition of life. He studied at the New York Film Academy. “It’s hard to be recognized in that business.” Dominic said. “Yes, Dominic,” I replied, “It’s hard to be recognized in any business.” But, Dominic, Sal Jr., Uncle Frank and I all have something to learn from Sal, Sr., we just need to keep working at it – using all of our senses – becoming one with what we do.
Sal’s Pastry Shoppe, a beautifully complex tiny world, spins with family, love, passion, tradition, and hard work. Whether creating tiramasu, spelt bread, 12 layer cakes, or screenplays, a few things remain true, we must persevere, hold on to our dreams, hope for a little luck, and being thankful for those who spin into our tiny worlds to help us keep our passions alive.