Thursday, December 14, 2006

Pear&Sweet Potato Soup

Simple and delicious. This soup tastes far more masterful than the talent required to make it! Use the best butter (Ronnybrook) and food/fruit (locally grown!)for the most sophisticated flavor.

In a large pan, heat a generous 2 tablespoons of Ronnybrook butter.
Slice into coins:
1 sweet potato
1 medium onion (yellow is good)
1-2 crisp pears of choice

Cover and let simmer until the sweet potato can be easily pierced with a fork.

Add 2 glasses of water, or until your pan is full. The amount of water depends on how thick you like your soup.
Add salt and pepper, a pinch of nutmeg, and a large pinch (teaspoon+) of cinnamon, to taste. Bring to a boil, then (right away!) bring to a simmer or turn off and let cool a bit.

In even portions of water/veggie&fruit goodness, blend until all is smooth, creamy and delightful.

Garnish with scallion dice. Simply trim them with scissors. This soup is also delicious garnished with sprouts (I tried sunflower), or with tossed salted cashews thrown in. I would also imagine if you're feeling adventuresome, some pineapple on the side would be delicious. It's also great with a small helping of white wine stirred in after it's cooled a bit.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Market Dinner! Leek and Carrot Rice with Soft, Sweet Turnips

It's cold! and you know what that means. The sugar plants burn off in the summer during their "it's hot and we're freaking out!" stage of metabolism is now in the "it's winter and we're just chillin'" stage. A classic example is the carrot, which, thanks to frost, has become worth its weight in sugar-coated-gold. To celebrate, here's dinner:

Prepare rice as you normally would. While it comes to a boil, wash and dice several fresh delish market carrots and healthy lovely market leeks. (The diced leeks pop into beautiful rings like Chinese handcuffs!) When you reduce the rice to a simmer, add these treats.

In a seperate pan, heat olive oil. Add cut turnips. Small, white turnips are best--sold in a bunch at the market, you can dice them and even keep their savory greens. Cook over med-high heat until very lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add 3/4 cup water, some diced leeks, and cover with a lid or (if you're me and have no lid to match your pan) a plate. While the rice cooks, reduce this pan to simmer as well, and let everything cook itself for about 15 minutes. The turnips should be firm on the edge but deliciously soft and sweet, like mashed potatoes.

To serve, add salt and pepper, or even a touch of soy sauce. Yum!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Thanksgiving Recipe published in SATYA magazine!

SATYA, a magazine dedicated to animal rights, environmental activism, good food and good livin', published a recipe of mine last month for their Thanksgiving issue.

Check it out
"Giving Thanks from Field to Fork" at

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Squash-and-Potato-Free Winter Dinner

For us local-eaters, winter is a welcome borage of squashes and 'taters. But why not salad, still? Hydroponic sprouts, grown indoors on trays of water, are a crisp, tasty, extremely healthy and delicious option too. For dinner the other night, I made veggie crepes and a sprout-celebrating salad, as well as a sweet simple dish of roasted apples.

Salad (mostly from Windfall Farms, in Union Square)
Sunflower and pink-stemmed buckwheat sprouts
Fresh diced radish
Fresh diced purple carrots
Baby spinach

"Thai-style" Winter Veggie Toss
In a pan with a tablespoon of olive oil, toss, cover and steam:
Baby bok choi
Purple carrots
Turnips (ask your farmer; some turnips are better to stir-fry than others--I like the small, juicy ones from Hawthorne Valley over the larger, baking version at other stands)
Non-local ingredients: cashews and pineapple, a dash of organic, low-sodium soy sauce and about 1 Tbs. organic peanut butter)

Apple Bake
about 8 apples, diced
Grease a casserole pan with butter. Toss apples in pan with 2 Tbs cinnamon. Bake about 20 minutes or until soft at 350*F. If desired, serve inside of crepes with Hawthorne Valley biodynamic maple-vanilla yogurt.

Building a Bed

The results our in: our soil isn't great. After the test results came back from Cornell Cooperative Extention, raised beds seemed the best option. So, with help from the Family Garden staff at the Botanical Gardens, I got to saw up some scrap wood and drag it home. Months later, today's freezing weather kept me indoors, and I decided to do a little drilling.

Building a raised bed is relatively simple. If you have access to good compost, it's the best option for urban gardeners. A raised bed can be built over any drainable surface (i.e. not on top of concrete!), and allows you to treat your plants to the good quality soil they deserve. It's also a great way to recycle untreated scrap lumber, as I did.

This bed is about 2 1/2x bigger than its outdoor partner. I'm hoping to use it to plant veggies in the springtime, when I return from three months in New Zealand and the South Pacific.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Lights, Camera...

Coming soon, thanks to Lex Powell and the meerkats at a lovely film about birds. It's impossible to be as good as nature when it comes down to making beautiful things, but it's fun to try!

Also, hurrah, in the springtime future, a longer film about our favorite subjects: farms and food! Whet your appetite with this small short (link to follow soon)...

Sunday, November 26, 2006


Oh wow, some days food just arrives like a Zeusian shower of gold onto the waiting Danae of your appetite. This morning, craving oatmeal but without any in the house, I made what I shall herafter refer to as "The Best Day Ever Breakfast Mush".

In a pot with a lid, combine

1 cup lentils, washed and drained
1/2 quart water
4 small lovely locally-grown carrots, diced
1 lovely round locally grown onion
...bring to a boil, then simmer about 35 minutes. Don't be turned off that it gets all mushy. If it doesn't, you did a better job than I did. I'm infamous for bad bean-and-rice making.

Now, the goodies. In a saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons of butter. Then add:
1 teaspoon each of
1/2 teaspoon cayanne and nutmeg.
Toast this delcious spices until the smell is amazing (about 3 minutes). Stir in your eagerly awaiting lentil mush. Eat it warm right away! You can also add salt, pepper and lemon juice, toast some pita slices, and eat it as a dip.

I'm eating it right now, this minute, and I couldn't be happier and more full of yum-yum-yum sounds.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

This morning I got to the Greenmarket around 9am. All the farmstands were packed with beautiful produce--and extra hands to help! Despite the chilling wind, everyone seemed really cheerful. Thanksgiving is a popular Greenmarket holiday--there's nothing like picking up a new vegetable you've never cooked before, and getting the farmer's favorite recipe to try it on your family! I picked up parsnips for the first time, and substituted them in for potatoes in the following recipe. Personally, I think potatoes get way too much attention as it is during Thanksgiving--I wanted to give other root crops a chance to shine.

"Lasagne" of Fall Vegetables
...and Mushroom Broth Topping

1 1/2 pounds butternut squash, thinly sliced
1 1/2 pounds carrots, thinly sliced
1 pound parsnips, thinly sliced
1 pound turnips, thinly sliced
1 cup sliced shallots
1/2 cup sliced garlic
3 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat the oven to 325*F. Double layer butternut squash in greased, salted/peppered 12x9x2" baking pan. Top with 2 tablespoons of

shallots, garlic & thyme mixture. Layer remaining veggies. Season with extra shallot, garlic & thyme mix. Dot with butter. Bake 1 1/2-2 hours, or until tender. Let rest 15 minutes before serving.

Mushroom Broth

3 tablespoons white button mushrooms, thinly sliced and sauted in 1 tablespoon butter and 3 ounces of honey until lightly colored. Combine with 5 cups water. Bring to a boil; let simmer 30 minutes, stirring. Strain into a bowl. Add: 4 ounces sherry vinegar and 3 ounces soy sauce. Melt 3 tablespoons of cold butter into a saucepan and add all broth ingredients. Wisk. Pour over lasagne.

Monday, October 23, 2006

South Bronx "Nardening"

Tonight I crept out into the yard to enjoy the "starlight" of Manhattan glowing on the horizon and check on the garlic and tulip bulbs. Unlike in Westchester, where deer and squirrels love to dig up and nosh on these bulb-treats, ours seem to turn up their little button noses in favor of garbage.

It was time for a little nardening (night gardening). I laid out more dead leaves in the compost to encourage decomposition. Mmm, the stink! Then I readjusted the cat/rat guards in the raised beds. Finally, I thought about our little yard.

For me, Growing Chefs has long meant the nurturing of habits that carry outside the classroom: good eatin' and good livin'. Tonight, in my yard, I watched the tree branches poking out of the abandoned car in the yard next door blow back and forth in the wind before the rainstorm. Even the weeds waved prettily. It's not the best of yards by landscaping standards, but I love it, and I love that it reminds me, when I'm cooking up kale and garlic for dinner, of their roots. Besides herbs and the wee salad of a month ago, my yard hasn't yielded much of a harvest, but living on a block with no trees, it's a great escape to The Great Outdoors--or at least, Great Dirt.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Salad's served!

Aw, how cute! The salad seeds that the squirrels, cats and other critters haven't dug up is coming up in adorable style! Note the lovely purplish hues of the baby mustard. For whatever reason, note the obstinent lack of anthocyanin pigmentation of our one tree. Hmm. If it doesn't change color within the month, I'm going to slip some red slips of tissue into the boughs and call it even.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Farm Weekend! Recipes for Fall Eats

Here's what you gotta cook this fall: crepes! My pal Lex P. met me up at Keith Stewart's farm in Port Jervis, New York, and we made three types. One: (crepes with) apples, shredded carrots, garlic, a touch of scallions, nutmeg, cinnamon and Ronnybrook butter (from the Union Square Greenmarket), two: broccoli, garlic, bell peppers, peanut butter, rice vinegar, and honey; and three: tomatoes, basil, sage, and oregano. You'll be so glad you'll jump (in the mustard) for joy. All of these things are available at Greenmarket right now.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Fight for Your Right (to Have Radishes!)

War! It's Radish & Lettuce Versus Cats! This particular cat is perched on the abandoned car in our neighbor's yard. The leafy "tree" is actually our other nemisis, Japanese Knotweed, which seems to draw its Evil Strength from the car, growing in a very unweedy thicket over our fence. The cat loves to paw our sprouts (curiosity will not kill it!). Solution: abandoned overturned dishrack-style thingeroos. Right back atcha, kitty!

Monday, October 02, 2006


All sorts of things are growing up in the yard: radishes, scarlet creepers I was pretty sure were dead (until look: buds!), and that perpetual party-pooper, Japanese knotweed. JK and I are developing a special relationship: every morning I go out and win a few battles, but the war is so clearly going in favor of this weed, I can almost see its smirk.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Little 2x2.5 Beginnings

Last Saturday after work at the Botanical Gardens, Dave "the Worm Guy" helped me put together a beautiful wooden compost bin, 2x2x2. Totally jacked up from using the electric saw and power drill for the first time, I built two raised bed frames as well. This is the baby, with six rows of crops: radishes, lettuce and peas. What we can't harvest before the frost we can eat as sprouts!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Muscoot Farm Trip

Last night I made a dinner inspired by a trip up Westchester to Muscoot Farm, where I fell in love with some chickens wearing feathered disco pants:

End-of-Summer PepperEgg Delight
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 yellow onion, minced
2 eggs (kisses, chickens!)
1/2 cup cooked rice with mild curry seasoning

Saute peppers and onion in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Clear the center of the pan and fry each egg, scrambling gently. Turn rice and peppers into egg as it scrambles. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Then I made this for desert:
1 very ripe banana
1 ripe peach
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup oats

Cut and mash banana and peach in a bowl. Saute butter and sugar; add fruits. Season with cinnamon. Toss in oats. Stir until hot and oats begin to thicken.

I ate it on top of a small scoop of cinnamon ice cream. Yum!

Monday, September 04, 2006

Home sweet Garden: Before and After

I recently moved to Mott Haven, and with that step, acquired a garden. The bottom photo shows all the weeds that came with it; the top photo is the proud result of eight collective hours of hand-weeding with my young neighbors Ashley and Taysean, aged 12. We've got grand plans: composting, raised bed veggies, herbs galore. And we're keepin' it organic.

Biodynamic! New superhero, or farming fun?

Two weekends ago, as a representative of, uh, myself, Growing Chefs went to a Biodynamic Farming Conference hosted by the wonderful Hawthorne Valley Farm of Ghent, New York. My favorite workshop was "Making Biodiesel Fuel," which, I assure you, is easier to do than you'd think! If you have $3000 to throw down to get the equiptment, it becomes (hurrah!) like cooking shortly after: the right ingredients, the right timing, and poof! you can drive a car with the pleasant aroma of french fries wafting after you in the breeze. Hurrah, hurrah because--One: this is better for the planet, and two: this is cheaper than unleaded.

Any diesel engine can convert to biodiesel, either at 100% or a B-10, B-20, etc. level. If you have an older car, the b-fuel is going to clean it out and make all the old cracks your dirty unleaded has been stopping up wash out. My novice recommendation, therefore, is to try this little project on a well-kept machine. Or start with a percentage of biodiesel before cranking it up to full-on use. Moi, I just own a bicycle. But I think this concept is pretty nifty.

Growing Chefs falls for Fall

It's love at first bite: September's peppers are delicious and fingerpainted with swirling colors. Put aside your stoplight peppers (red/green/yellow) and pick up a purple-streaked green-and-red-and-almost-yellow pepper from your local market. Yum!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Heat Cancels Class, Flower Wilt in Protest!

Today's class (August 2nd) is canceled. I hope everyone finds a good pool or movie theather to chill out in!

Monday, July 31, 2006

Heirloom Season

This morning I got up at 7am, biked all three bridges of lower Manhattan (BKLYN/MANHATTAN/WMSBRG), cruised to the farmers' market, and bought these beautiful locally-grown heirloom tomatoes. I showed them to a customer at the cafe I work at on 74th street, and in defense of their gorgeous tie-dyed skin, she cried, "How beautiful! Please don't juice them!"

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Mint Meal! July 19th

Wow! Ten guys in one class! A large crowd meant we could tackle the five-recipe menu I had planned: zucchini pasta with mint and rocambole garlic, a salsa salad with spearmint, cucumber granita with mint and Kim’s chives, herbed lemonade with mixed mints and lavender blossoms, and a honeydew melon sorbet with lime and chocolate mint.

Mint is a fantastic plant, but highly invasive. There are two ways to fix this in a tidy garden: make mint a home of its own in a solo pot, or plant it in its nursery container.

Buy local!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Seasonal Sushi

Today we discovered some succulent purslane growing wild about the yard, pressing its flat, fingernail-sized leaves in a starfish shape to the earth. Puslane is often given the bad rap as a weed, but it’s quite delicious, with a strong, juicy flavor and good dose of A and C vitamins. I often snack on it while gardening at the Botanical Gardens—a truly organic weeding method!

I’ve always been intimidated by sushi-making. It’s such a beautiful food, I thought it had to be difficult to make! I had picked up some beautiful rainbow carrots: purple and red, rich in antioxidants, and sweet, pale white and yellow Belgian varieties. The carrot root naturally grows in these beautiful colors, although like many other foods, have been commercially cultivated in familiar orange for marketing purposes. We were delighted to discover that the purple carrot, when diced, actually has an orange core, delivering us beautiful, purple-rimed coins with each slice.

In the end, the only ingredients I couldn’t skip and couldn’t find locally were dates, avocadoes and sesame seeds. Avocados are awesome. Native to Mexico, their buttery texture was the lure for large mammals to eat them, carrying the cumbersome pit in their bellies until deposited (the usual way food is, ahem) in fertile pats of manure. The Aztecs called them “ahuacatl” or testicle. Cortez (purposefully or not) heard it as “abogado,” and to this day, the Spanish call them peras de abogado, or lawyer’s pears. You can actually grow avocado plants on the East Coast simply by cleaning the pit of an avocado and sprouting it suspended with three toothpicks over water. Once the leaves are established, it is safe to pot it up in a good soil mix. As a New Yorker, it will take about three to five years to bear fruit, and even then temperamentally. In sushi, they make a filling substitute for rice if you want to stick strictly raw—and their delicious, fatty content is nutritionally far superior.

The rolls turned out beautifully. We packed them with the paste and avocado and thin strips of veggies and topped them with sprouts and amaranth so that the last roll cut had a beautiful bouffant of little leaves. They were sweet from the dates and plums, salty with seaweed and sesame, savory with avocado, and carrot-crunchy.

Eat Flowers!

July 5th Lesson Summary

Making an edible-flower-salad is easy. First, we washed all our greens in a salad spinner. Kevin cut the caps off the strawberries. Madeline’s good design eye put together the lettuce around the bowl, the French crisp’s curly edges scalloping like a beautiful crinoline skirt. Brian and Arthur set the table and got everyone water. Layering the flowers was the best part! The sweet pea blossoms tasted just like peas, the nasturtiums were sweet and lettuce-like until they suddenly released a spicy kick on our tongues, and the pansies, too, were like lettuce until you swallowed the nugget of pollen, and suddenly they tasted like spearmint! Even a smalls sprinkling of the onion flower’s tiny white blossoms was potent, and worlds easier than cutting up a tear-inducing onion! Borage and strawberries completed the colorful salad. Our table was completed with our pesto and brown rice pasta, as well as a beautiful flower arrangement of lavender, garlic scapes and onion flowers.

July is a great month for produce. From Keith’s Organic Farm in Union Square, I picked up garlic scapes and a bundle of pom-pom onion flowers. Keith cuts the flowers off his onions and trims the garlic scapes in order to force the plant to concentrate on producing a rich bulb. I also got a headily fragrant bunch of lavender flowers—delicious in honey infusions, or sprinkled across a salad. From Windfall Farms stand, I got spicy, bright orange and gold nasturtium flowers, a package of female zucchini blossoms (unlike their plain male counterparts, the female flowers had tiny zucchinis already beginning to form!), violet-hued sweet pea blossoms, and purple, star-shaped borage flowers. (*Unlike Keith, who has organic certification, Windfall Farms chose decades ago to forgo the expensive, labyrinth process. They feel the word “organic” is misused to describe processed, preserved food shipped over a great distance. Instead, they rely on pursuing organic practices and transparency with their customers to mean the same as an FDA label. I think it’s a pretty good plan. When I visit the abundant, beautiful Greenmarkets throughout New York City and up in Connecticut, I’m struck by how silly it seems that about 60% of the organically-labeled food in supermarkets is shipped all the way from California.)

Garlic! Pesto! Perfect!

June 28th Lesson Summary
Prepping a garden bed and preparing pesto

Wednesday was a beautiful day, hot and sunny. In the early morning, I biked to the Greenmarket in downtown Manhattan to pick up some fresh spring garlic from Keith Stewart’s organic stand. I worked for Keith all last fall, and this garlic was some of the 800,000 cloves we planted in October right before the frost hit. Rocamole garlic is a hardneck variety (sometimes called topset garlic), with large, non-overlapping cloves radiating from a hard central stem. It’s far more savory than traditional California-grown softneck Gilroy-garlic, but has a shorter shelf-life, making it ideal for the small-scale local farmer.

Most store-bought garlic is just the head, but to make our vegan-four-part-pesto (oil, nuts, basil and garlic), we had to learn to twist the cloves off the hardneck stem, peel the paper, and chose a fat, tasty clove to mince. We cut off the basal plate from the bottom of the clove, and talked about how garlic, a self-cloning plant, will grow genetically identical garlic from each clove, rather than through sexual reproduction with flowers. Garlic’s “flowers,” which have no pollen, grow at the top of the flowering stem, or scape. Because plants focus their energy on one thing at a time—flowering, growing leaves or roots, producing fruit—it’s important in the spring to remove the flowering scape to force the garlic to concentrate on making a hearty bulb. The farmers’ markets are full of flavorful scapes right now, which can be blended into pesto as easily as garlic cloves.

We washed, scored, julienned and diced the local, organic zucchini and summer squash to dip in the pesto, and prepared brown rice pasta. Brian and Jackson teamed up to make a mixed-nut Globe-basil blend that came out with delicious nutty chunks; Natalie used broad-leaved Mediterranean basil to produce a creamy, dark spread, and Madeline took a tasty turn with pine nuts, basil and bright pieces of carrot! I added blanched broccoli and almonds to mine. All told, a delicious and nutritious locally-grown day!