If there’s a specialty shop in New York City, chances are Tracey Ceurvels has been a customer.
“We can buy stuff from all over the world,” said Ceurvels, who documents her experiences cooking with global ingredients on her 7-year-old culinary site, The NYC Kitchen.
“I’m not adventurous in eating different organ meats, but more spices and seeing what kinds of ingredients stores may have, instead of going to the regular supermarket,” she said. “Someone might make baked salmon, but I would add miso pistachio to it. And it’s super easy to make something like that.”
Ceurvels hopes to continue to inspire home cooks to be adventurous in the kitchen with her first cookbook, “The NYC Kitchen Cookbook” (out Aug. 15, $24.99, Skyhorse Publishing). The publication features 150 recipes inspired by the city’s specialty food shops, spice stores and markets.
Living in Carroll Gardens, Ceurvels has several favorites in the area: Sahadi’s for spices, Staubitz Market for meats, Caputo Bakery and Bien Cuit for bread.
She’ll also venture to Greek grocery store Titan Foods in Astoria for phyllo and feta, to Teitel Brothers on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx for sausages and cheese, and to Manhattan for spices at specialty market Kalustyan’s and fresh pasta and meats at Eataly and Di Palo’s Fine Foods.
“When I first moved to New York I lived in Chinatown, and I would go to Hong Kong Supermarket a lot, and I would go to Di Palo’s,” Ceurvels said. “I would make these dishes that had both Asian and Italian ingredients in them. Those are two of my favorite stores to visit.”
She used to score mustard from Maille to use in dressings and marinades, but since the NYC boutiques have recently closed, she gets her French mustard fix at Le District.
Ceurvels keeps her ear to the ground for new specialty stores when walking around the city and reading articles. A new favorite includes The Meadow in the West Village, which sells salts from all over the world, artisanal chocolate bars and homemade bitters.
“The salts are really amazing,” Ceurvels said. “You can go and buy smoked salt, Hawaiian pink salt — all kinds of different salts.”
There are a few items that Ceurvels uses all the time. Among spices, which she’ll get from Sahadi’s or Kalustyan’s, those include Chinese five-spice; cardamom; berbere, a North African spice; and za’atar, which she’ll sprinkle on salmon or asparagus. She also regularly uses buffalo mozzarella from Di Palo’s in salads or pizzas, and Thai basil.
Worth the splurge
There are some ingredients that Ceurvels won’t skimp on. At the top of that list is olive oil.
“The flavor can be so different,” said Ceurvels, who is a fan of Frankie’s 457 Spuntino Olive Oil.
Salt is another item she upgrades. “My favorite salt from The Meadow is smoked salt,” she said. “I put it on pizza and I even put it in scrambled eggs. It’s delicious.”
On her bookshelf
Ceurvels is, naturally, a fan of cookbooks herself; she is also at work on two more — one on weeknight meals, and another on baking.
“I think that people really enjoy holding a cookbook in their hands, and seeing the whole concept of a cookbook, rather than the anonymity of a recipe online,” she said. “Like some anonymous sponge cake that you don’t know anything about.”
Ceurvels said she’s lost some over the years through moving, but her favorites include “The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen” by Grace Young; “The Mom 100 Cookbook” by Katie Workman; “The Little Paris Kitchen” by Rachel Khoo; “A Taste of Morocco” by Robert Carrier; “Larousse Gastronomique” by Prosper Montagne; “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” by Julia Child and Louisette Bertholle; and ones by Nigella Lawson and Claudia Roden.
NYC’s restaurant scene
When Ceurvels isn’t cooking for her family, she likes checking out restaurants she hasn’t tried before.
“I don’t like to go to places with things I could make at home,” said the author, who’s recently checked out Buvette and Kurry Qulture in Astoria.