I usually go across the street to Ayman's. That's not the actual name of the bodega, but that's what we call the bodega. 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 is more of a grill. I remember looking out my window during hurricane Sandy and watching the owners pick up debris (while the hurricane was actually happening).
I have been buying 'ingredients' at Ayman's for years. They laugh and then happily oblige when I ask for an itemized receipt and ask me what I'm making now. These are the people that 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 that I purchased at Ayman's (literally everything). It's an easy polenta cake and I went back across the street to get dried apricots to make the compote. —Melissa Weller
one 9-inch cake
For the cake:
1 1/4 cups
all-purpose flour (150 grams)
polenta (115 grams)
baking powder (10 grams)
fine sea salt (6 grams)
stick unsalted butter, cubed and softened (113 grams)
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Spray a 9-inch cake pan with non-stick spray and set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, polenta, baking powder and salt and set aside. Place the butter, sugar and lemon zest in a mixing bowl and mix on medium speed with a paddle attachment until light and fluffy, about two to three minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down between additions, and mix until each is incorporated. Then add the vanilla extract and mix in. Add the flour mixture in three additions to the cake batter. Mix on low speed adding the milk in two additions in between the flour additions. Mix until just incorporated. Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan, using an offset spatula to level the top.
Bake for 30 minutes.
While the cake is baking, make the compote: Slice the apricots about 1/8- to 3/16-inch thick and then place in a small bowl. Cover the apricots with 2 cups of hot water and let soak for 10 minutes. Meanwhile juice the oranges. You should have about 2/3 cup juice (160 grams). At the end of 10 minutes, place the apricots and the soaking liquid along with the orange juice, honey and pinch of salt in a small saucepan. Place the saucepan over high heat and bring the liquid to a boil, then turn the heat down and maintain a simmer. Simmer until very little liquid remains, about 45 minutes. Remove and let cool.
Remove and let cool for 10 minutes and then unmold the cake onto a cooling rack.