For her business, Pockets Full of Dough, Mirijana Ujkic draws on both the Old World (she was born in Montenegro and frequently returned to visit her grandparents, who made their own cheese, cured meats, honey, and grappa) and the New sources as much produce as possible from the east end of Long Island where she grew up and enjoys experimenting with unconventional flavors in her baked goods and handmade pastas.
"It's important to me to do everything by hand," Ujkic says, "including making most of the components." Those components range from the pasta and pastry doughs themselves to ravioli fillings and her own vanilla extract.
Making everything herself gives her an unparalleled degree of control over the products. She explains, "I started making my own cheese for my crustless Italian cheesecake because commercial ricotta never worked very well—it has a really high water content. I tried making it and it yielded such great results, I just went from there."
A number of her pastas incorporate seafood from Long Island; her partner, Keith Knott, is a former commercial fisherman who has maintained relationships with local suppliers. "Long Island is capable of supplying fresh seafood 12 months out of the year," Ujkic says, which gives her and Knott access to "great, fresh seafood" as well as a way to support local harvesters, something that is very important to both of them.
It also was important Ujkic that she find a way for their business to benefit special needs children. To that end, she and Knott work together teaching pasta-making classes to children and young adults on the autism spectrum at University Settlement on the Lower East Side. "There aren't many activities targeted to that population," she explains, "and pasta making is great for the sensory integration disorders" that many of the kids have. "They touch the dough and play with it, then take it home and eat it." Knott is also a therapist who specializes in working with autistic kids, so there's also a clinical aspect to the classes: "sequencing, parallel play, appropriate social time with their peers." She adds, "The parents really get into it too."
Pockets Full of Dough will be at the Fulton Stall Market beginning August 4.