Some of Astoria's most delicious meals, cocktails and desserts can now be made at home.
A group of Astoria residents, chefs and restaurateurs huddled together to make a cookbook with 32 recipes, which they released last week to benefit the Astoria Mutual Aid Network.
Already, it's raised about $7,300.
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The Astoria At Home Cookbook includes small plates, mains, cocktails and desserts that most Astorians know and love but have never been able to recreate at home until now, like The Last Word's "The Last Word" drink, spanakopita from Taverna Kyclades, Mom's pancake burrito and Vesta Trattoria's "Baby Jesus cake."
Other restaurants included are Oliver's Astoria, Sweet Afton, Diamond Dogs, sek'end sun, Duzan, Ovelia, Anassa Taverna, Queens Room, Astoria Bier & Cheese, Comfort Land, Via Vai, Nneji, Snowdonia, Bench Flour Bakers, The Thirsty Koala and more. There's even a recipe (the Donated Plum Galette) from Astoria Food Pantry.
(The full recipe for Queens Comfort's Sugar Hill Burger is below.)
The cookbook is digital only right now so that production costs are kept as low as possible allowing more money to go toward the Astoria Mutual Aid Network. So when you purchase the book for $25, it's a PDF you can download onto your phone or computer.
That means you can start creating your favorite dishes immediately instead of waiting for a book to come in the mail.
"We are so spoiled to have access to not just really good food of just one cuisine, but every possible cuisine you could imagine and the love and care that gets put into them," said Katie Riley, who is part of the eight person team of residents who put the cookbook together. "This is a way to celebrate the food scene in Astoria. I don't know if there's anything else in New York City or anywhere in the world that compares."
Of course, New York City is full of cuisines from all over the world, but in the northwestern Queens enclave, you can find a slew of Greek and Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Asian, African, British, Latin, Eastern European, and many others, all contained within four square miles.
The cookbook started as a way to help support the neighborhood by picking up on the trend of neighborhood cookbooks that had somewhat of a comeback during the quarantine, Riley told us. The group—Cassie Lundgren, Brianne Riviello, Danielle Vogl, Nikki Kleitzel, Lauren Horn, and RV Dougherty—started adding more helpers and it quickly snowballed into a big project.
In the end, the volunteers reached out to over 130 restaurants and ended up interviewing 32 chef and restaurant owners about their respective recipes and stories about the neighborhood.
One of those volunteers was visual artist and food entrepreneur Elizabeth Alvarez, who did some major lifting to get restaurants to participate. She mainly helped with the reach out, which took a lot of time and effort, because she has had experience working as a line cook at some NYC restaurants and knows the culture.
"I have to say that as a person who has been on the line and as a person who lives in the community, I think it's amazing that people found the time to contribute," she said. Alvarez called out one particular restaurant owner, Hasan Diab of Duzan, for sharing a particularly heartwarming story within the cookbook's pages about how he recreated memories by cooking the food he grew up on.
"He said that conflict creates delicious food," she said. "I walked out of there like, mind blown. To be able to see how other people connect themselves to their heritage and who they are shows how transformative food can really be."
And that's a major selling point for the cookbook: You're not just getting amazing recipes, you're getting to hear from their creators about why they work and what makes the neighborhood so special to them. And the fact that proceeds of the book are going to the mutual aid network connects it all together.
According to Maryam Shariat Mudrick, an organizer for Astoria Mutual Aid Network, the cookbook does "an incredible job representing a variety of cuisines and the scale of its restaurants and shows how beautiful and special a place Astoria is."
"I thought the idea was so incredible and so consistent with who we are in Astoria, which is a big food town," she continued.
The mutual aid network is about 1,100 volunteers strong (and always looking for more) and helps with all kinds of problems residents have from grabbing groceries and taking care of COVID patients' dogs to unemployment application and transportation help.
"Astoria Mutual Aid Network is doing such important work—they're addressing food insecurity and helping people who are unable to leave the house...they stepped up so quickly," Riley said. "You should be donating to them anyway, this is just a way to do that—and we'll give you a free cookbook."
Below, is one of the cookbook's recipes:
Queens Comfort’s Sugar Hill Burger Created by Donnie D’Alessio
Pecan-crusted bacon (8 strips)
1 pound raw pecans
5 large eggs, whisked
2 cups our
1.5 pounds 80/20 ground beef
8 ounces (2 cups) crumbled bleu cheese
4 slices white cheddar cheese
4 large brioche hamburger buns
Honey for drizzling
Duke’s or preferred brand mayonnaise
Powdered sugar to taste Frying oil or fat
(prepare at least 6 hours in advance)
- Crush pecans in a blender to the size of bread crumbs.
- Place pecans, whisked eggs, and our in 3 separate bowls.
- Cook bacon strips to your liking (in the oven or on the stovetop) and allow them to fully cool.
- Dip each strip into the bowl with our, then into the bowl of whisked eggs, and nally into the bowl of pecans. Firmly press bacon into the pecans to cover both sides completely.
- Transfer coated bacon to a baking dish and freeze for a minimum of 6 hours.
- Heat frying oil or fat to 350° F in a deep pot on the stove.
- Fry the pecan bacon until golden brown, approximately 3-5 minutes per piece.
- Form the ground beef into 4 equal- sized patties and season both sides with salt and pepper. Cook to your liking on a at top grill or stove over medium heat. Once the beef starts to sweat through the top, ip the patty over.
- After flipping, spread 2 ounces of bleu cheese onto the top/cooked “5 Transfer coated bacon to a baking dish side of each patty. Layer cheddar over the bleu cheese and allow the burger to continue cooking as the cheese melts. Once the cheese has melted and the meat is cooked to your liking, remove the burgers from heat and let them rest.
- Toast the buns and coat the inside of each with mayonnaise. Place each burger on a bun and top with fried bacon. Drizzle with honey and place the top bun to close.
- Sift powdered sugar over the bun and any bacon that is sticking out and serve.
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