Tag Archives: Lent

Dina’s 10 Favorite Things About Winter in NYC

I think each season in New York City has something special to celebrate.  I would say winter is my least favorite season for obvious reasons–it can be very cold, especially when you are walking around.  Many times I’ve worn two pairs of socks and gloves, a scarf, a hat with a scarf and a hat over it.  And no one likes when the puddles at the corner look more like swimming pools and there’s no way to cross the street except to wade through them.  But such is life in a New York winter.  Despite these nuisances, there are many reasons to visit New York in the winter.  Here’s my top ten.

  1. There aren’t as many tourists in January.  Snowstorms can mess up travel plans, so it’s not the best time to travel.  But if there is ever a time in New York where it is not as crowded, it’s this month.
  2. New York City Restaurant Week occurs in January, and it’s a great time to try out a restaurant you’ve been wanting to try.  I would just say to keep in mind that because prices are cheaper, the menus are not as exciting as they normally would be.  I would also say to book early at the popular ones.
  3. Hot drinks.  I love to get hot chocolate from Grom, who makes the thickest, most decadent hot chocolate.  My all-time favorite café to get warm drinks is La Lanterna in the Village.  They have the most extensive menu of spiked coffees you will ever see. 
  4. Valentine’s Day and chocolates.  NYC has a plethora of delectable chocolate.  From Jacques Torres to Royce to Kee’s and Stick With Me, there’s something for everyone’s taste.  And it is fun to taste them all! Check out my Dina’s Guide to NYC Chocolate Shops for more great chocolate in NYC!chocolate bon bons, chocolates, Stick With Me, bon bons
  5. Lenten foods–OK, Lent isn’t for everyone, but even if you are not Catholic, you can still partake in the delicious goodies that can be found this time of year like hot cross buns and the Italian chocolate pudding made with pig’s blood, sanguinaccio. It’s also a time to abstain from meat on Fridays, so I get to make all my favorite Lenten dishes like eggs with sauce.
  6. Chinese New Year parade in Chinatown.  A very fun event that is packed, but it is possible to get a good view.  Follow the parade with soup dumplings at Joe’s Shanghai.  Spend the day in Chinatown shopping and visit the Museum of Chinese in America

    Joe’s Shanghai soup dumplings

  7. Purim–Purim is a Jewish holiday that commemorates Queen Esther outsmarting King Haman who was planning to kill the Jews. Like Halloween, it’s a day for costumes and celebration. I like this holiday for its delicious cookie, hamentaschen, or Haman’s hat. You can find these all around the city, but my favorite are at Moishe’s.
  8. Japan Week–For a week in March, Vanderbilt Hall in Grand Central Terminal becomes an expo of Japanese culture and food. I like to follow this festival with a visit to Minamoto Kitchoan for some Japanese sweets. (This location has moved since I wrote that blog post. It’s now on Madison Ave. between 52nd & 53rd.)

    Kitchoan goodies

  9. St. Patrick’s Day parade–The one day everyone is Irish, including an Italian girl like me!  I love the parade and the after-party at local Irish pubs.  Also corned beef, cabbage, and soda bread. And let’s not forget the elusive Shamrock shake from McDonald’s.

    a festive take on the New York black & white

  10. St. Joseph’s Day–This holiday on March 19 is celebrated by Italians in honor of St. Joseph, the husband of the Blessed Mother. Traditionally, we make zeppole, the fried dough balls you get at street fairs. But we also have zeppole with custard and sfinci/sfingi. You can find these during the season at any of the Italian bakeries in the city, such as Rocco’s, Veniero’s and Ferrara or out in the boroughs.

    Veniero’s zeppole (l) and sfinge


Sardinian Fregola


Fregola is a Sardinian cross between pasta and couscous.  I’ve been seeing it in shops lately and bought some.  There are a few recipes for it and for other Sardinian delights in The Sardinian Cookbook:  The Cooking and Culture of a Mediterranean Island by Viktorija Todorovska.  I enjoyed learning more about Sardinia from this cookbook.  The island has Spanish, French, Italian and Moorish influences.  An interesting bit of history remains there in the more than 7,000 stone towers, or nuraghi, built in the Bronze Age by the Nuraghic people.  Shepherding was and still is a popular way of life on Sardinia, and so are sheep’s milk cheeses like pecorino.  You may have heard of the delicacy bottarga (fish roe that is salted and dried) that is found here.  Sardinia has a unique bread, a thin crisp bread known as pane carasau.  I’ve seen a lot of Sardinian wine as of late, and I think it’s very good.  The national drink of Sardinia is a liqueur called mirto made from myrtle berries.

From the cookbook, I made the baked fregola with pecorino, a perfect dish for Lent or for cold weather.  It’s warm, filling comfort food.  Be sure to have some Italian bread to sop up the sauce.  I followed the recipe in the book but used water instead of vegetable stock.  It calls for young and aged pecorino so I used Toscano pecorino for the young and Locatelli for the old.  This dish will be among my rotation of pasta dishes.


Lenten Lunch: Beecher’s Eggs and Cheese Sandwich

I got a really delicious eggs and cheese sandwich at Beecher’s in Flatiron.  This is also a great breakfast/lunch for Lent!  It’s on really good toasty bread.  It’s more cheesy than eggy, which I would expect from a cheese shop! 

Beecher's eggs and cheese

Lenten Dinner: Pasta Fagioli

Pasta fagioli is a classic pasta dish/soup that most Americans are familiar with.  My grandmas both made this, and my mom makes it–as now I make it.  We always called it bast fazool  in Neapolitan dialect.  (Ps are pronounced like bs and last vowels are left off.  Another familiar example is the word abeetz for pizza.)  My mom said that it’s traditionally eaten with Italian bread, and she said her family never used butter or olive oil and would eat Italian bread plain (or dip it in the sauce).

This was a favorite Friday dinner during Lent.  Of course, it’s good any time, especially on cold nights.  Top it off with some grated cheese.


Pasta fagioli

2 15-ounce cans cannellini beans

3 cups water

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon dried parsley

2 teaspoons salt

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

 8 ounces ditali pasta

grated romano cheese (We use Locatelli.)

Bring a pot of water to a boil with 1 teaspoon salt for the ditali.  Follow directions on the box to cook the pasta al dente.  Meanwhile, in another pot, combine the 2 cans of beans, including the liquid, plus 3 cups of water.  Add olive oil, garlic, parsley, salt and red pepper flakes.  Stir together and bring to a boil over medium heat.  When it begins to boil, reduce the heat to simmer and continue to simmer until the pasta in the other pot is cooked and drained.  Add the pasta to the soup mixture.  It should be soupy, but if it’s not, add some pasta water.  Serve in bowls and sprinkle with grated cheese.

Cool Food Blog

Catholic Cuisine is a very cool food blog with recipes that celebrate the feasts and seasons of the liturgical year, including recipes for many saints’ feast days.  With St. Patrick’s Day coming up, the site has traditional St. Patrick’s Day recipes like soda bread and potato pancakes as well as creative dishes like an Irish flag veggie tray or candied shamrocks.  The site also has many meatless and fish dishes for Lent.  There are recipes for St. Joseph’s Day, coming up on March 19.  And egg bread and lamb cake for Easter.  The site also has a lot of recipes to make with kids.

Lenten Dinner: Eggs and Sauce

eggs and sauce

When I was growing up, my grandmother would make eggs and sauce on a Friday during Lent.  I loved this dish and wanted my mom to recreate it, but she didn’t do well.  I tried it and was pleasantly surprised at that familiar taste.  (I’m sorry for the bad photos, as it doesn’t do my grandma’s dish justice.)  I’m not sure the origin of this dish.  It is not eggs in purgatory.  I thought it tasted more like the Moroccan/Israeli shakshouka.  However, this isn’t baked; it’s cooked on the stove.  And other things that separate my grandma’s eggs in sauce from these dishes are that the eggs are hard-cooked and the sauce is runny/thin.  It may not look like much in this photo, but this is delish!

Eggs and sauce

1 small onion, chopped or sliced

6 eggs

2 (8 oz.) cans tomato sauce (Grandma and I use Del Monte’s) and 1 can of water

salt and pepper to taste

olive oil

In a medium-sized pot, cook onion in olive oil until soft (about 10 minutes).  Add tomato sauce.  Bring to a low boil.  Add eggs one at a time.  Add salt and pepper.  Lower heat to a simmer and let eggs cook until hard-cooked (about 20 minutes).  Serve with bread to sop up the sauce.

You know it's right when the eggs look like this.

You know it’s right when the eggs look like this.

Lenten (or Vegetarian) Lunch: Otarian

If you’re in the Hell’s Kitchen/Lincoln Center area and looking for a vegetarian meal, Otarian is a vegetarian fast-food restaurant.  When I visited, I got the roasted vegetable lasagna.  These are in the refrigerated case in the front and are heated up and served for you in some pretty pottery.  The lasagna is not bad, but it does taste like a frozen dinner.  I also got the spinach and pea soup.  Pea soup sounded warm and comforting, but the spinach is a bit overpowering.  In all, if you are in the area and looking for quick vegetarian food, this is a good bet.