Nuevo Americana Recipes: Compiling Your Heirloom Recipe


Nuevo Americana Recipes is a project compiling stories, recipes and photo essays of the immigrant experience expressed through their cuisine.

This journal is a blog and a printed suppliments to Council on the Arts & Humanities for Staten Island's newsletter. I’ll seek and compile recipes from a panoply of various authors and contributors and investigate what they consider their special comfort food and heirloom recipes—those passed down from generation to generation. Contributors might be immigrants or descendants of immigrants who brought these recipes with them from their homeland. The journal will include stories of the immigrant journey to America, family histories, photographs of the contributors and their ancestors and families, illustrations of cooking techniques, and introductions to some of the exotic ingredients in these recipes that might not be familiar to North American readers.

preparation time: Now
1 cup of recipe
1 pinch of background stories
A sprinkle of pictures

This project was made possible, in part, by a JPMorgan Chase Regrant in partnership with the Council on the Arts & Humanities for Staten Island.

Related article: For Dinner (and Fast), the Taste of Home




"Cooking is the most ancient of the arts,
for Adam was born hungry."

- Anthelme Brillat-Savarin 1755-1826
French jurist and gourmet


Tattfoo's Malaysian* Herbal Soup (Bak Kut Teh)

This is a favorite Chinese Malaysian dish, originally it was make with pork bone. The flavor of the bone marrow is still the key to the success of this soup. Since Malaysia is an islamic country, the ingredients was altered using chicken instead of pork, so everyone can enjoy this flavorful soup.

6 chicken thighs with bones
1 packaged herbal soup base
8 cups of water
3 tablespoons of oyster sauce
3 tablespoons of thick soy sauce
3 tablespoons of light soy sauce
1 tablespoon of sesame oil
1 pack oyster mushroom
1 pack shiitake mushroom
1 pack enoki mushroom
6 cubes of fried bean curd
half a pe-tasi (chinese romaine lettuce)
2 sticks of fried chinese twist crullers

Preparation: Brown chicken thighs in a casserole. Once brown add water, soy sauce, sesame oil, oyster sauce and the herbal soup base. Bring to a boil. Add the rest of the ingredients and continue to cook for 2 mins. Serve over steamed jasmine rice. Garnish with fried chinese twist crullers.

Special ingredients: Bak Kut Teh herbal soup base is available at Asia Market Corp, 71 ½ Mulberry St., New York, NY 10013 Phone: 212-962-2020

*What are Malaysians eating? They eat mostly street food, from hawkers and vendors on the curb or at a  food center. This is a blog that documents the gastronomie of Kuala Lumpur.


Anil's Steamed Fish With Shorshe Bata (ground mustard)

This is a simple recipe for Mustard Fish, a simple delicacy from Bengal, India, where I grew up.

1/2 lb fish (white fish like sole or halibut)
3 teaspoons mustard seeds
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
3 tablespoons mustard oil
1-2 green chilies (small)
Salt to taste
3 pieces of banana leaf or parchment paper

Preparation: Grind the mustard seeds with a little water to form a granular paste. Grind green chilies to a paste and mix with the mustard seed paste. Smear turmeric powder, salt and the paste on the fish. Put on banana leaf and pour the mustard oil on top. Wrap the leaf carefully, and put inside a steamer; steam 10-15 minutes till meat is tender. Remove and serve hot.

Special ingredients: Indian ingredients are available at Kalustyan's, 123 Lexington Avenue, between 28th and 29th Street, New York, NY 10016 Phone: 212-685-3451




Helen and Judith's Cromer Crab Cake

Helen, In the summertime during the late 40's and early 50's your grandmother and I would catch a bus and travel to Cromer with a few other women and kids. We would walk down the beach to the edge of the water, and wait for the shrimp boats. As the boats came over the horizon, they would scatter and haul up in different places along the Cromer coast, and ours would come straight for us and haul up on the shingled beach. The women then bought shrimp by the pint pot, and sometimes Mum would buy a crab or two, and we'd take them home still alive. This is the recipe she used to make. It's a good Norfolk recipe, ages old, as Cromer has always been an important fishing area. The shrimps were small but very sweet, and the crabs not too large and tasty. The lettuce we had was a Cos lettuce, quite a strong leaf but a nice, sweet taste, and the English tomatoes were very firm and juicy. For dessert with this we sometimes had creamy rice pudding sprinkled with nutmeg.

mumma xox

Serves 2

1 large dressed crab*
100g smoked salmon (chopped)
1 large tomato concasse*
200g creamed potato*
1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill
1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
Oil for pan
Lemon beurre blanc: 500 ml double cream, 6 knobs of butter and zest of half a lemon

fresh breadcrumbs
1 egg beaten with 250ml milk
dusting of flour.

Preparation: Take a large bowl and add all the ingredients for the crab cakes. Blend together with a fork, shape into four equal cakes and chill in fridge for 10 minutes. Dust crab cakes with flour, drop into the egg wash and roll in the breadcrumbs. To cook, heat oil and butter in a frying pan. Carefully place crab cakes in pan and cook for two minutes each side. Pop into a warm oven for another 3-4 minutes to make sure they are fully heated.

Sauce: Lemon Beurre Blanc

Yields 1 cup

1 cup white wine
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon shallots
4 tablespoon heavy whipping cream
¼ lb butter – unsalted, chilled, cut into cubes
2 tablespoon lemon pulp – chopped (see note)
1 teaspoon lemon zest, minced
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, combine wine, vinegar and shallots. Reduce until almost a syrup consistency. Add cream and continue to cook, reducing by half. Turn the heat to low and add butter cubes two at a time while stirring, until all the butter is added and sauce is a creamy consistency. Season with salt and pepper.

Note: If the butter is not chilled, it will not incorporate into the sauce. Also if the wine mixture is not reduced far enough the sauce will be runny. To make the lemon pulp, cut off the rind including the white part. Cut between the sections removing just the pulp. At the same time remove any seeds. Place the pulp and any juice in a cup. It is also a good idea to zest the lemon first.

To assemble: Put crab cakes on a bed of salad leaves tossed in lemon vinaigrette and pour over the lemon beurre blanc. Finish with diced tomato and fresh dill.

* definition of dressed crab:
* definition of creamed potato: mashed potato with butter and milk
* definition of tomato concasse (pronounced "kon-kah-SAY"): is simply fresh ripe tomatoes that have been peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped.


Blanka's Enchiladas Verdes

Chile serrano
Cebolla (onion)
Lecnuga (lettuce)
Sour cream
Ajo (garlic)
Tortillas de maiz
Queso fresco
Sal (salt)
Aceite (olive oil)

Preparation: Boil tomatillos and chile serrano. Chop cilantro, onion and garlic and blend together all the above ingredients. Fry tortillas gently and then dip them in the tomatillo sauce. Cut queso in strips and wrap with tortillas. Garnish with onion, sour cream, cilantro and lettuce.



Ginger and Charlotte's Cannibal Sandwich

This recipe comes from my grandmother, Charlotte Van Landerer, who was German but immigrated from Austria between WWI and WWII. She moved to northern Wisconsin with a lot of other Germans, and apparently this is still a big local favorite in northern Wisconsin and Michigan.

Raw ground sirloin
Raw onions, sliced

Preparation: Serve raw on open faced rye bread with mustard.



Christoph's Pancakes with White Asparagus

Pancakes with White Asparagus (Spargel mit Flädle) is a recipe from my grandmother from the Black Forest in Germany. What I remember fondly, aside from the fact that it's delicious, is the fact that you only enjoy this meal seasonally, during the most beautiful time of the year. White asparagus is only available from May till early June. Another reason that I like this could be the memory of my grandfather slicing the ham. While my grandmother was cooking, he would sit down in the most earnest manner, sharpening the old kitchen knife until its edge resembled a razor blade, and then cut the ham so thin that you could almost see through it.


1. Pancakes
It is important that the pancakes be extremely thin. Pancakes in German are "Pfannkuchen." But Pfannkuchen are usually too thick. The Black Forest (or Swabian) version is called "Flädle," the diminutive form of "Fladen," meaning a flat piece of dough. It's rather like the French crèpe. Its thinness is achieved by using not too many eggs, no baking powder and replacing parts of the milk with sparkling water.

2. Black forest ham (Schwarzwälder Schinken)
Black Forest ham has a strong smoked flavor, so it should be very thinly sliced, to go with the rather mild asparagus. The ham of the same name that is available locally is very different from the original. I use prosciutto as a substitution.

3. Chives

4. Butter
Butter (I prefer the butter from the Polish store in St. George, on Staten Island. It's more savory than the regular supermarket brands.)

5. White asparagus
I've never found white asparagus here. So I use the green one, which isn't a bad replacement.

The asparagus should be cooked with as little water as possible. Add a little salt and a piece of butter while boiling. When cooked, you serve the asparagus in its own boiling water on a longish, deep plate, so that the asparagus spears stay unbroken. Brown a lump of butter and pour it over the asparagus. (Pre-warm the plates or keep the dish on a tea warmer. The asparagus cools down very fast.)

Put one, or a few, asparagus spears onto a pancake on your plate. Now take a slice of the ham (which isn't heated or anything), sprinkle finely chopped chives and add a few tablespoons of the asparagus broth (which is just the boiling water and the browned butter). Now you roll the whole pancake with the layer of ham around the asparagus so that you simply have a long roll on your plate, which you cut into bite-sized pieces and enjoy. 



Dimitrios's Greek Meatball Soup

This is an easy everyday dish, the kind that all mothers make, takes me back to my childhood in Athens every time...

Yiouvarlakia me Avgolemono: Greek Meatball Soup with Rice and Egg-Lemon Sauce In Greek the soup is pronounced yoo-var-LAHK-yah meh ahv-ghoh-LEH-moh-no.

This is a classic Greek main dish soup, made with avgolemono, a mixture of eggs and lemon juice. It's easy to make and delicious.

2 1/4 pounds of ground beef
1 medium onion, diced
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh parsley
2 eggs
1/3 cup of uncooked rice
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
8 cups of chicken broth
1/2 cup of olive oil
1/3 cup of uncooked rice

For the egg-lemon sauce (avgolemeno):
2 eggs
juice of 3 lemons

In a large bowl, combine ground beef, onion, parsley, eggs, 1/3 cup of uncooked rice, salt, and pepper. Knead with hands to combine well. Form the meat into 30-32 small (1 1/2 inch) meatballs. Bring 8 cups of chicken broth and the olive oil to a boil. Add meatballs. When it returns to a full boil, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

Sauce: In a mixing bowl, beat 2 eggs until frothy. Slowly add lemon juice while beating continuously until blended. Using a ladle, add 8 large spoonfuls of liquid from the soup to the egg-lemon mixture and whisk to combine. Pour the mixture into the soup and stir well. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if needed. Remove from heat, cover with a clean towel, and let sit for 20 minutes before serving.


Gabri's Suriname Curry Catfish

This dish is inspired by Surinamese' Javanese cooking. My dad is from Suriname as were his parents. I am from the Dutch Caribbean. In Suriname, formerly called Dutch Guyana, there are a lot of Javanese. They came there after the abolishment of slavery as contract workers (along with  low cast Indians). In Curaçao there are Indonesian folks and restaurants. My neighbor growing up was from Indonesia and an excellent cook. In the Netherlands you can get your french fries with satay sauce. Ah, the great parts of colonialism. I make a great vegetarian peanut soup too, by the way (in Suriname they make it with chicken).

4 pieces of catfish fillet
4 garlic cloves
1 small onion
soy sauce (to own taste)
Jamaican curry or indian or javanese curry (or make own curry)*
coconut paste
tumeric (teaspoon)
hot pepper if desired
Water to liquefy paste

Olive oil

Saute onion and garlic in some olive oil. Add the spice mix (2 tablespoons curry); add catfish and soy sauce. Bake till fish is cooked; then add some water to liquefy coconut paste. Add honey and/or hot sauce or red pepper if desired.

Serve with Basmati rice (the sauce is delicious over rice) and green veggies (broccoli or stringbeans)

*Extract from my research online: Jamaican curry powder usually contains Allspice, Indian does not. Indian curry powder tends to use both black and green cardamom, Jamaican curry powder does not use either. Indian curry powders may contain star anise and mace, Jamaican curry powder generally doesn’t use these spices. Jamaican curries tend to be spicy and sweet, Indian curries are usually spicy with a slightly sour or tangy taste. The majority of Jamaican curries use coconut milk; of the Indian curries only the South Indian ones use coconut milk. Indians do not make beef curries, Jamaicans do. Jamaican curries use Scotch Bonnet chilies, Indians use small green chilis and dried red chilies in their curries.


Mike's Chicken Feet and Peanuts Soup

This chicken  feet soup recipe is quite a common delicacy in Hong Kong, and my mom used to make it for us. When I'm here in New York, I tried to make it myself and remember the good old days of having my mother take care of all my dining needs. I did call my mom to ask for some advice to make it similar like her style, and of course which is also my favorite taste.

8-10 pieces of chicken feet
6 oz. lean pork meat
6-8 oz. peanuts
2-3 oz. black-eyed peas
4 pieces of dried shiitake mushroom
2 slices of ginger

Put the chicken feet in  boiling water, cook for a few minutes, take them out and rinse with tap water. Set aside, for later use. Then soak the peanuts, black-eyed peas and dried mushroom in water for 15-30 minutes, until they all turn soft. Boil 2000cc of water, put all the chicken feet, the lean pork meat, peanuts, black-eyed peas and the mushroom in the boiling water, use low to medium heat to cook for 1 1/2 hours. Then put the ginger in, cook for another half hour. Add salt to taste. It is ready to serve.


Sanchie's Grandma (Choluptches) aka Stuffed Cabbage

My grandmother, Rose Kaufman was born in a shtetl (small Jewish village) in Austria in 1913. Due to the pogroms that occurred across Eastern Europe in the early 20th century, my grandmother's family was forced to leave their village and immigrated to the United States. They made their home in Brooklyn, New York. After marrying Samuel Kudysch, Rose had two daughters, Honorah and Marcia. Marcia was my mother. Sadly, my grandfather Sam passed away at the early age of 26 and my grandmother Rose was forced to raise her daughters on her own. At the same time, Rose began to lose her vision and was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative disease of the retina. She eventually became legally blind. It has been told to us grandkids that our "Nanny" Rose raised Marcia and Honey during World War II with the wages she earned as a short order cook for the Army.

When Rose was in the last days of her life in a hospital ICU unit, my cousins Linda and Yvonne and I interrogated her to get the recipe for our very favorite dish of hers. Of course, she never wrote these things down, since she couldn't see to read. So we wrote it down before she died. Here it is...

Grandma's "Shit" Cabbage (Choluptches) aka Stuffed Cabbage. I don't know why she called it that. I guess the cooked ground meat mixed with rice reminded her of something. There were some steps missing, so I referred to my mother's recipe and this has turned out to be somewhat of a combination of both their recipes. Of course, Mom got hers from Nanny.

1 large onion diced
1 head green cabbage (white cabbage)
3 lb. ground beef (or turkey if that's what you prefer)
2 cups rice, uncooked (this sounds questionable to me, but that's what Grandma said in her hospital bed delirium. Mom's recipe says to use 2 cups cooked rice)
2 eggs (from Mom's recipe, to hold the meat together. Maybe Grandma just forgot to mention this)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, or to taste
1teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon sour salt (citric acid)
Sugar (to taste)
5 eight ounce cans tomato sauce, DelMonte or Hunts
1 can tomato puree
2 cans tomato soup
1 can cranberry sauce (Aha! The secret ingredient!)

Place the cut-up onion in the bottom of your very large pot. Put in all the tomato sauce, a can of puree, the 2 cans of tomato soup, the cranberry sauce, sour salt, salt and sugar to taste. Bring to a boil and simmer together in the pot. Keep stirring to prevent burning.

Boil the whole head of cabbage only until the leaves separate, partly cooked. Cut around the core and remove it. Cut off the back. Remove the leaves whole as they soften. Let them cool. Cut stems off cabbage leaves.

Mix the ground beef or turkey with the eggs, rice, garlic and salt (Mom threw in one soup ladle full of the tomato sauce mix). Roll the meat mixture into steamed and separated cabbage leaves. Make sure the leaves are tucked in really well so they don't fall apart in the pot. Place the stuffed leaves on a plate and put into the pot all together. Chop up the leftover cabbage and put in the pot. Cook one hour over a low flame. 


Mary's ten-cent cake

My maternal grandmother's parents, Giovanni Carullo and Maria Casagrande, came from Malpensa, which is now the site of the Milan airport. They married there early in 1894. They settled in Quincy, Massachusetts and had six children. My grandmother, Rose Laura, the fourth child and also the fourth girl, was born in 1901. In 1929, she married Joseph Patrick Hughes, the descendant of Irish immigrants and a local police officer. They also had six children, of whom five survived infancy. Their third child and second daughter, Helen Louise, grew up to marry Lucian G. Brown and to become my mother.

Nana, as we called my maternal grandmother, did cook Italian dishes. However, she also picked up some New England recipes, and the one copied below my mother makes frequently enough to call it comfort food, although our family doesn't use that phrase. My mother says that it got the name "ten-cent cake" because it cost only ten cents to make during the Great Depression, and was thus a good recipe for her mother to have on hand. The method of incorporating the baking soda suggests that the recipe is at least that old. It may be older; it may have been developed during World War I, when people conserved  butter and eggs, among other staples, to keep the troops well-supplied with food. The use of molasses, white sugar and raisins makes it seem like an even older New England recipe. Colonial New England was a trade hub, and so ingredients such as molasses, sugar, raisins and spices were available early on there, and have made their way into other New England recipes, such as hermits.

The recipe also suits more modern needs. I make this recipe when I have to bring something to work, as I work with two vegetarians who don't use dairy products or eggs.

1 cup raisins
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons molasses
1 1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda

Start the raisins on their way to a boil, reduce the heat, simmer 15 minutes, and drain, reserving 1 cup of the hot water. While the raisins are simmering, sift the flour, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg and set aside. Cream the shortening and sugar. Add the molasses and the raisins. Stir in the flour. Dissolve the baking soda in the hot water; this is easiest if the soda is put in a large cup and water poured onto it. Add the soda water to the batter. Pour the batter into a 9" square pan. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for an hour. Serve plain, dusted with confectioner's sugar, or frosted with vanilla or chocolate frosting.



Melanie's Potato Candy

This is a recipe my Mom used to make. We think it comes from her grandfather's family--the family was originally from Ireland although they came over a long time ago.  My great-great grandfather Clifton Atha was born in Kentucky in 1836, and I haven't traced that part of the family line back further than that. The recipe might have also been adapted from one made by German immigrants the family came in contact with in the 1800s. My heritage is a mixed bag--Irish, current day Germany, current day Switzerland, current day France, English, Native American Indiana--I'm a true mutt.

You take a potato and you boil it until soft. You take the skin off and mash it with a fork until there are no big chunks. You want it really flakey. Add powdered sugar (you can also add a little vanilla extract if you like) until you have a dough you can roll out with a rolling pin. Roll out the dough pretty thin, maybe between 1/8" and 3/16" thick. Cover top of dough with a layer of peanut butter. I like smooth peanut butter for potato candy, not crunchy. Then roll up the dough into a roll and slice, so that you see the nice spiral of peanut butter. Let the candy dry out and harden up a little, like overnight. Then store in an airtight container.


Trac and Trinh's Crab Cha Gio

My mother and her family made these spring rolls for all the visitors they would have (hence the large portions in the recipe) for Vietnamese New Year (Tet). They made them a day in advance because you’re not supposed to cook on New Year’s Day. Now when we make them, my mother makes the mix and prepares the rice paper and my father does the rolling. They make a good team/assembly line.

1 lb raw shrimp, shelled, veined and ground or finely chopped
1 lb country style sausage or ground pork
2 lb cooked crab meat
1 bundle green beans, chopped
½ oz dried and shredded black ear mushroom, soaked in warm water until soft, then coarsely chopped
1 lb bean sprouts
1 cup coarsely chopped onion
1 cup shredded carrot
4 tablespoons coarsely chopped garlic
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 eggs

Combine and mix l all ingredients well.

3 to 4 12 oz packs of rice paper, size 8.5 inches

4 1/2 cups of vegetable oil for deep frying

Dipping sauce:
2 cups of sugar
2 cups of water
1 cup of fish sauce

2/3 cup of lime juice.

Dip a piece of rice paper in warm water to soften it. Place 3-4 tablespoons of the filling near the end of each piece. Then fold in the sides and roll up tightly. Put oil in a wok for deep-frying. When the oil is hot, gently drop in the rolls. Fry until golden brown. Adjust heat as necessary. Remove with a slotted spoon. Drain and serve with fish sauce for dipping.



With Food in Mind looks at artists' use of food as subject matter or medium in book arts, print,
and digital media. The exhibition is inspired by the current food climate (i.e. how food is cultivated,
distributed, consumed, and discussed today) and includes over 40 works that span the last twenty years.

Featuring work by Nava Atlas, Carissa Carman, Atom Cianfarani, Conflict Kitchen (Jon Rubin and Dawn Weleski,
with Brett Yasko), The Counter Kitchen (Stefani Bardin and Brooke Singer), Critical Art Ensemble, Mindell Dubansky
(with Miriam Schaer and Toby Dubansky), EIDIA (Paul Lamarre and Melissa P. Wolf), Joy Garnett,
Martí Guixé, Heather Hart, Barbara Henry (with John DePol), Gretchen Hooker, Marisa Jahn (with Noa Treister;
and with Steve Shada), Susan Johanknecht, K Yoland, Robin Kahn, Isabelle Lumpkin, Emily Martin,
Katharine Meynell, Scott McCarney, Aleksandra Mir, Elaine Tin Nyo, Hugh Pocock, Susan Roma, Leah Rosenberg,
John Ross (with Sam Joffee), Mara Scrupe, Maya Suess, Tattfoo Tan, Robert The, and Rirkrit Tiravanija.


Nuevo Americana Recipe as an insertion in

Council on the Arts & Humanities for Staten Island