The Big Apple

Start spreading the news. Frank Sinatra intro here. I've wanted to put that in print since launching this space. Insert the optional eye roll here. After leaving Germany, I lived in the Big Apple just shy of 14 months before I was offered an outstanding opportunity that brought me back to the South. I refer to my halcyon times in Gotham City as my New York minute. Our father is from Brooklyn. New York born, bred and educated. Upon marrying my mother, they moved from Cape Town, South Africa to this corner of the Earth. I therefore suppose it was only a matter of time before the second generation followed suit. My sister was the first to arrive and we remaining two closely tailed her half a decade later. Upon arrival in the city, I found a fantastic apartment in the Chelsea neighborhood that was procured thanks to some serious hand holding from my sister, the Manhattan aficionado. The closet was huge and she said it would set a benchmark. A view of the Empire State Building to boot. A small albeit practical space, I had visions of storing cardigans in my closet as Carrie did in Sex and the City. My sister was in my neck of the woods but approximately ten streets south, in the heart of the West Village. We Breyer's are West Side. That year in my new home was spectacular. I was at a time in my life where I needed to be in a dynamic, aggressive, slap you in the face at times city. Never a dull moment. If I was ever feeling lonely, antsy, daring or just in need of some fresh air, I simply lace up my kicks and a new adventure awaited me on each and every corner. It was truly remarkable. I am a grab the bull by the horns type gal and NYC fit the bill.

The exhaustive sounds somehow became comforting and in no time I was sleeping with my windows open, fully capable of drowning out the honking horns, garbage trucks and late night banter. The intense pace does indeed make for a city that never sleeps.  Upon signing my lease, the apartment would not be ready for some six weeks. My beyond generous best friend invited me to live with her on the Upper East Side. A green gal in a new city needed a bit of hand holding and guidance. She may not realize it but those first six weeks were exactly what the doctor ordered in terms of preparing me for writing the next chapter of my life. Merci beaucoup Gryffindor. When I did finally move in, I had a superb vantage point of the apartments directly across 21st street.  The person who inhabited the flat on my level had the most incredible art collection. Judging by the company, he entertained a great deal. I saw him in a restaurant once and had to restrain myself from greeting him like an old friend. After many months of being aware of my neighbor, we were somehow just warm bodies who knew nothing about one another outside of the appearance of apartments. About six months into my living in NYC, my brother relocated from Beijing to the Big Apple. I actually was visiting my folks in Germany, met him in Frankfurt and together we traveled to New York. He stayed with me on the first night before heading south half a mile to become my sister's roommate. I cannot tell you how wonderful it was being in the same city as my siblings. The laughter, bickering and everything in between made for marvelous times. Every Sunday the kids came over and I cooked. Those were the days.

Thanks to Facebook, I became reacquainted with a group of gals with whom I went to school in Dallas. Reconnecting some 16 years later. Who knew? When in a French bistro one evening, I ran into a gal with whom I had studied abroad in Florence, Italy. Turns out she had moved two streets away from my sister. We are still closely in touch to this day. A pair of months in, one of my best friends from childhood moved three streets north of me. We gallivanted much better. I would tell her about the best Israeli falafel in the Village or touted ramen. She introduced me to ordering Starbucks extra hot so it would keep its temperature during the cold winter commutes. A true partner in crime. Never mind having been an outsider in a foreign country for five years, it is in NYC that I found my independence. I learned the true value of seriously stretching the dollar and a finesse that comes with street smarts. I had a Fodor's tour guide of the city and it was my objective to make it to nearly every street corner, deli and museum listed in its pages. Mission accomplished. How I did it, I don't know but when in the City, the world was truly my oyster. Like most young people in NYC, I was very cognizant of money. I did frequent the city's restaurants, watering holes and the likes on occasion but I also cooked a great deal. I look back and do not envy myself for schlepping groceries from Trader Joe's in Union Square back to my apartment. One of my favorite recipes that I first made in my cozy little Chelsea kitchen is that of red lentil soup. I had a heck of a time procuring red lentils in the city. Not because they are difficult to find but simply because I did not know where to start. The below recipe is elegant, delicious and very economical to pull together. I made this last week and Matthew raved. He enjoyed it for dinner, a work lunch and a late afternoon snack. Whenever I make this, the combination of red lentils, carrots and fresh lemon juice takes me back to a very special time in life. My New York minute. It is my hope that you make your own happy memory with this gem.

Red Lentil Soup
Adapted from The New York Times

Want, Want

2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
1 large white or yellow onion
3 garlic cloves - chopped
2 TBS tomato paste
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 TBS cumin
1 tsp Hungarian paprika
4 cups of chicken broth
1 cup of red lentils
4 large carrots - chopped
2 lemons
Bunch of fresh cilantro
2 cups of water
Kosher salt
*Optional - sour cream or Greek yoghurt and hard cheese for grating such as Parmesan, Romano or Pecorino

Easier Than Sliced Bread

1. Heat your oil in a large vessel until on high heat and add the onion and garlic. Cook until translucent, around four to five minutes. 

2. Add the tomato paste, red pepper flakes, cumin, Hungarian paprika, a pinch of salt and some fresh pepper. Give everything a big store.

3. Pour in the broth, lentils and carrots. Bring to a boil and then simmer, lower the heat to medium low and cook partially covered for approximately 30 minutes. Season to taste.

4. In a blender, puree half of the soup and return it to the pot. 

5. To serve, stir in a big squeeze of lemon juice, some chopped cilantro, a drizzle of olive oil and if you enjoy dairy, a dollop of Greek yoghurt or some grated hard cheese.

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