“So, What Have You Been Up To?”

Having lived in New York City for almost seven years now, every holiday or trip home, I get asked the same question, “So what have you been up to in the Big City?”

And every time,  my eyes get wide and my mind starts to spin, combing through my memories of weekends past trying to come up with that big, interesting, activity that a true New Yorker should be and would be experiencing.  You know, going to a swanky new Lower East Side Lounge, or bumping into Woody Allen on the street or tracing my lineage at Ellis Island…the usual (I really hope you know I’m kidding).  However, I inevitably end up saying “well last weekend we walked around such and such neighborhood”.  Yes, that’s right, my life is not a romantic comedy set in Manhattan.

When I respond in this way, I am being 100% honest.  My favorite New York City activity is indeed walking around, exploring different neighborhoods.  Don’t get me wrong, the “touristy” things like visiting the Statue of Liberty, taking pictures from the top of the Empire State Building and frolicking through Central Park are wonderful ways to spend a Saturday afternoon.  But after about seven years, I’ve done all there is to do under that category of activities and now enjoy taking in each neighborhood’s distinct character and offerings.  During our leisurely jaunts, my husband and I stop here and there along the way to have some lunch or grab a cocktail.  And now after moving to Brooklyn from Manhattan, I have the opportunity to explore a whole new set of neighborhoods, which are even more different and eclectic than before.

A few weekends ago, we decided to wander through the adjacent neighborhood of Carroll Gardens.  It is a historically Italian neighborhood that hosts a mix of old school Italian restaurants, antique shops and newer Brooklyn-esque (read: kinda hipster) bars and cafes.  We found ourselves hungry outside of Frankies 457, a little Italian place with great food and nostalgic atmosphere.  In a menu filled with Italian delights, I was drawn to this simple salad of beets and avocados with Italian salad dressing.


The combination of sweet firm beets and creamy avocado mixed together with the sweet bite of balsamic vinegar was so simple, yet so good, that I had to try and duplicate it at home.  And the fact that it included three of my favorite ingredients (and little else) made it an instant hit in my book.

So now, over the holidays this year when I am asked the usual “what have you been up to?” question, I’ll tell them all about my little Saturday excursion and point to the holiday buffet table to show off my little souvenir from that day.

Beet  & Avocado Salad
Serves 4

3 medium beets, scrubbed and rinsed
1 ½ teaspoons olive oil
Sprinkle of salt and pepper
1 medium Hass avocado
4 tablespoons Mom’s All Purpose Salad Dressing or other vinaigrette

 Preheat oven to 425 F.

 On 3 squares of aluminum foil place whole beets.  Drizzle with olive oil (about ½ teaspoon per beet) and sprinkle with salt & pepper.  Tightly wrap foil around beets and place on a baking sheet.  Place baking sheet on center rack in oven and roast beets for 45 minutes (larger beets may take additional time) or until beets give slightly when squeezed.

 Allow beets to cool then rub the tough outer skin off with your fingers.  Once peeled, cut the beets into bite size chunks and place into medium sized bowl.  Halve the avocado, remove the pit and scoop out the green insides with a large spoon.  Cut into bite size pieces and mix with beets in medium bowl.  Mix with 4 tablespoons of salad dressing.

 While salad can be served with room temperature beets, I think it tastes better after cooling in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or so.  The extra time allows the veggie to marinate in the dressing a bit and for all the components to start jivving together.




It’s only fitting that this salad dressing recipe is the first ever entry on my site since it is literally the first food item I ever made as a kid.  My Mom most likely trusted me with this dinnertime task because I didn’t have to use any sharp utensils or heat from a stove and it required little more than dumping ingredients into a container and shaking it like a maraca until my heart’s content.  Bottle after bottle, I was designated the household salad dressing maker — shaking and sampling until it was just the right balance of oil, vinegar and sugar.

The recipe, while simple, is a product of multi-generational shaking and tweaking.  My Grandmother passed the original on to my Mom who evened out the oil to vinegar ratio, occasionally swapped balsamic vinegar for standard apple cider vinegar and dialed back the sugar to compensate for the sweeter vinegar.

In addition to an everyday staple in our fridge, the dressing has been a mainstay at every holiday dinner with my Mom expected to bring a big salad “and that dressing”.  Even though the faces around the holiday table have changed over the years, the dressing remains our constant.

Today,  in my modest Brooklyn apartment I make a variation of the original with slightly more vinegar, not changing it all too much for the fear that I will throw off one of my most nostalgic tastes.  While Thanksgiving stuffing, my Babci’s (Polish for Grandma) pierogies and cream of mushroom soup may be at the top of my nostalgic food list, this dressing is not far behind.

Mom’s Multi-Purpose Salad Dressing 
1 ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
½ cup olive oil
½ tbspn dried oregano
½ tbspn dried parsley
½ tbspn onion powder
½ tbspn garlic powder
½ tbspn salt
Pepper to taste
1 ½ tbspn granulated white sugar

Whisk together all ingredients.  Allow at least 30 minutes before serving to give sugar and salt time to dissolve and marry with the other ingredients.

Dressing will keep for one month in the refrigerator.  Great as a salad dressing or marinade for chicken, beef or pork.