This is part of an ongoing series to celebrate bodegas (and their owners) in New York City—each week, we're highlighting recipes from food writers and chefs made entirely from ingredients purchased in bodegas. Today: Pastry chef Melissa Weller on her local bodega—and the polenta cake she made from it.
I usually go across the street to Ayman's. That's not the actual name of the bodega, but that's what we call it—it's the first name of the owner, who is Palestinian. Ayman's brother, Omar, is my landlord, and Omar used to own the deli in my building and Ayman used to work there. Now the deli downstairs is owned by Yemenis and it's more of a grill. I remember looking out my window during hurricane Sandy and watching the owners pick up debris, despite the gusting wind.
I have been buying ingredients at Ayman's for years. They laugh and then happily oblige when I ask for an itemized receipt, and they ask me what I'm making now. These are the people who make my neighborhood and I have known them for a dozen years; they are the kindest people. They know me, my husband, and our son.
Here is a recipe I made from ingredients (literally everything!) that I purchased at Ayman's. It's an easy polenta cake—and I went back across the street to get dried apricots for the compote.