Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Culinary Conquest...

Growing up as a Pescatore has helped me realize what is really important in life -- sharing food and enjoying and appreciating every flavor. Each family member, whether it be my mother, grandmother, brother or uncle, has instilled in me a certain culinary craft that I will take with me forever. From my grandmother's gravy (or tomato sauce for those on the "outside"!) to my brother's ridiculous appetite - which I have adopted, to our traditional 7-fish Italian Christmas Eve dinner (my favorite meal of the year), these memories are implanted in my mind and keep me hungry for more.

I feel inclined to introduce you to one of the most special people in my life that has had an amazing influence on my culinary vision. My uncle, Sabri Ghoneim, epitomizes someone whose main focus and love in life is food. His culinary conquest is an extraordinarily unique story and each time I think about his passion through it all, it drives me to seek out such experiences for myself.

An Egypt native, Uncle Sabri had a lust for life; he was hungry for traveling and exploring the world. When he was 22, he left his country and went to Greece where he worked construction. Only staying for a short time, he returned back to Egypt to his family. Two years later, at age 24, he went out to sea working on a Greek cruise ship as a chef. He traveled all over Europe exploring the different nations -- their culture and cuisine. A free spirit, out at sea, he took in all he could while resting in each country. After some time, he landed in Italy where he gained much experience working in restaurants as a chef.

Uncle Sabri in Florence, Italy

It was there, in Firenze, where he met my Aunt Gloria which eventually brought him to the United States. They settled in Monmouth County, NJ where Uncle Sabri opened a pizzeria. Throughout my childhood and still to this day I watch him make pizzas for his customers, while always having a delicious healthy side project cooking up in the back. Some days it is fresh caught striped bass from the Jersey Shore which he has acquired through a barter system -- pizza for fish. I feel lucky and privileged to be his niece.

Uncle Sabri has a love for food that is absolutely remarkable. Watching him enjoy a meal, is an experience in itself. He appreciates each and every ingredient so much, and I think we could all learn something from this... I know I sure have. Good food is his main concern in life, and he truly believes that it should be this way for everyone.

Uncle Sabri and me in his NJ pizzeria

I hope you enjoyed this story. It motivates me to follow my dreams because anything is possible. Just as Uncle Sabri appreciates the art of food, I too feel the same way.


PS. Coming soon! Uncle Sabri will be opening a Trattoria in NYC's West Village. More information to come!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Simplicity is Key.

For my first post, I see fit that I post the simplest of my staples: arugula salad with sauteed mushrooms and zucchini. I eat this salad every week without fail. Living in New York City and working 10 hour days in the office, does not allow for much time to cook epic dinners for yourself every night. Not to worry! The ingredients in this salad are minimal and can be picked up at any local market -- 3 minutes, in and out!

This salad is extremely light; it actually makes me feel healthier.
After indulging, you aren't left feeling tired and full, you will be delighted and satisfied. Lemons are the key ingredient for the fresh taste and they make for a great salad dressing. The acidity brings out the flavors in the vegetables and gives it a pure taste. This light dressing of olive oil and lemon juice is an extremely healthy alternative to the bottled salad dressing, filled with sugar and lots of chemicals.


Serves 2 (I have an incredible appetite)

4 Handfuls Baby Arugula
1 Zucchini, sliced about 1/4" thick and cut into half moons
10 Baby Portabella Mushrooms, sliced
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce
Sesame Seeds (optional)

4 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Juice of Half a Lemon, a whole if you are obsessed with citrus like myself
A couple shakes of Garlic Powder
Salt & Pepper to taste
**Please note: there is no pepper like fresh ground pepper.

In a saucepan, heat oil. Add zucchini and season with little salt and pepper. Saute for a few minutes, until becoming slightly opaque. Add mushrooms. Cook with zucchini for 5 minutes until both are slightly soft. Turn off burner and mix in soy sauce. Let sit.

In a large salad bowl, place arugula. Add all ingredients for dressing. Toss well. Place mushrooms and zucchini atop arugula and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Eat and enjoy.

Can be served with your favorite loaf of bread.