Posts tagged organic


Maybe not quite a bounty, but exciting nonetheless. Harvesting tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, beets, ground cherries, bok coy, kale, and swiss chard. The first few cucumbers and eggplants were quite bitter, but the latest round was great. I suspect a squash beetle or something similar killed the zucchini plant. This weekend, I planted more greens as well Brussels sprouts, more beets, and garbanzo beans.

One of the pepper plants (lower right on the left photo) is lagging behind. Charentais melon (right) is fruiting.

Heirloom tomatoes and cucumber line the railing.

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Farmers’ Market Tips

It’s been a blast teaching Shop Like a Pro at a Farmers’ Market this year. I’m hosting a class this weekend, and then will take a break until autumn. If you can’t attend, I’d love your help in spreading the word on Facebook or Twitter. Use this link:

At my class, I walk through the basics of local food including what’s in season, how to choose the best products (and keep them fresh when you get home), and simple recipes that anyone can prepare.

Here are some basic tips for your next trip to the market:

First thing to do is take a lap around the market to scope out the scene. Notice what’s popular, which stand has the best goods, and compare prices.

Enjoy yourself. Farmers markets are like little state fairs, so take your time if you can.

Bring your own reusable bags. Stuffing glorious fresh produce into plastic bags just feels wrong.

Try something new. Your average grocery store carries a soul-crushingly meager variety of produce. Try a purple heirloom tomato, or a pint of ground cherries. A daikon radish, or a duck breast.

Ask questions and seek advice. “How are these two eggplants different?” “How long will this last in my refrigerator?” “What do you feed the cows?” I’ve only met one produce stand worker who was standoffish. I gave him another chance the next week, and now I simply shop at a different stand.

Unless you are buying in bulk, don’t be a jerk about the price of the produce, which can sometimes be slightly higher than at your supermarket. These farmers are working harder than you can even imagine. Consider yourself lucky to have a direct pipeline to real food that supports the local economy.

If you buy only one thing, make it a dozen farm fresh eggs with those fiery-orange yolks. Trust me on this one.

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A Garden Grows in Manhattan

The summer solstice brings blinding sun and sizzling temperatures to the city garden. Days like today require a watering in the morning and again in the evening. The scarlet runner beans were attacked by some invisible enemy, but they may recover. Cabbage worms and aphids are jerks, but a little garlic and pepper spray seems to keep them at bay. Nearly all the spring greens have been harvested, as have the first beets, fennel, peas, and some garbanzo beans. Every morning, we bring in a handful or two of ground cherries.

Heirloom tomatoes: green zebra and Omar’s Lebanese

Tall telephone peas and the first blossoms of eggplant

The melon feels a bit behind schedule. Since we’re on the seventh floor, the cucumbers require hand pollination. (It’s not as dirty as it sounds.)

View through the garbanzo beans, and view toward the young willow tree.

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Garlic Scape Pesto

Garlic scapes, like spring itself, are fleeting. Scapes are intense, bold, and peculiar, and I like the look of them on the kitchen counter. One or two snaky strands are enough for one week of meals. If you have more on hand, try this pesto recipe.

Garlic Scape Pesto
Makes about 2 cups and costs $4

5-8 strands of scape, chopped
1/3 cup of pumpkin, pistachio or sunflower seeds
1/3 cup of basil leaves
Juice from one lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup of olive oil
Parmesan cheese (hold this if you are freezing the pesto)

Add everything except for olive oil to a food processor. Pulse until ingredients are roughly mixed. Slowly add olive oil while food processor runs and process to your desired consistency.

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Butternut Squash Lasagna Rolls

The gritty streets and ragged roofs of Manhattan received a thick painting of snow this weekend. I love a good snow in the city. Everything seems clean, crisp…possible. I love the cold smell that lingers for a moment when someone walks in from outside. I love how buildings seem to stand taller and lights shine brighter. Mostly, I love lazy Sundays in sweaters and blankets with endless cups of coffee and cozy food, like these butternut squash lasagna rolls.

Butternut Squash Lasagna Rolls
Adapted just a bit from the Beekman Heirloom Cookbook
Makes 10 rolls and costs about $10

1 butternut squash
10 lasagna noodles
1 1/2-2 cups of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg
1/8 cup finely ground almonds
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 teaspoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon sage
1/2 teaspoon oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Halve the squash lengthwise, scoop out seeds and place on a rimmed baking sheet, cut side down. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Cool slightly and scoop out flesh for mashing. Measure just under 2 cups.

Meanwhile, prepare lasagna noodles as directed. Drain and rinse under cool water.

Stir together squash, half of the Parmesan, eggs, ground almonds, panko, mustard, brown sugar, and seasonings.

Place lasagna noodles on work surface and scoop 1-2 spoonfuls of mash onto the length of the noodle. Gentle roll noodle and place, seam side down, in greased 9x13 baking dish.

Pour cream over noodles and sprinkle remaining cheese over top. Bake for 25 minutes.

Cut the butternut squash in half lengthwise, and again across the middle if the two ends vary significantly in size.

Scoop out the seeds of the squash before roasting.

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Potato and Leek Soup

Hello December. Hello cold, dark nights. To be fair, we’ve had a pretty great autumn In New York. (Well, except for that freak nor’easter a few weeks back.) We’ve eclipsed the late season and have headed into the so-called extended season, which is all about prolonging the harvest. Much of the local food in winter was harvested at other times of the year. Canned goods like tomatoes and jams, frozen food like pesto, and dehyrdated snacks like apple rings are complemented by storage crops from farms like squashes, funky-looking root vegetables, and the versatile potato. This potato soup conjures a memory of sloshing into the house after a long day of building snow forts.

Local Me - Potato and Leek Soup
This picture was taken right before I dropped my camera/phone into the bowl. A word of caution to food bloggers everywhere…

Potato and Leek Soup

3-4 potatoes of your choosing
3-4 leeks or onions
4 cups of stock
2 cups of water
Seasonings to taste
1/2 cup of cream or milk

Wash and chop leeks (using some of the greens) and add to soup kettle with a tablespoon of olive oil. Saute a few minutes. Peel and chop potatoes.

Local Me - Potatoes

Add potatoes, seasonings, stock, and water to kettle. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 35-40 minutes.

Coarsely mash potatoes in kettle. Pour in cream or milk to taste. I recommend adding a shake of red pepper flakes and extra salt. Enjoy!

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Sweet Potato Pizza

I returned from a week in San Francisco and noticed the leaves have departed Manhattan’s bony trees. A lazy walk through Fort Tryon Park confirmed that the seasons have officially clicked. The late autumn air is rich and vivid and the colors remind me of sweet potatoes. Bring on the carbohydrates!

Sweet Potato Pizza
Serves 4 and costs about $10

1 pizza dough, defrosted
1 sweet potato, scrubbed but not peeled
1-2 cups of pesto (my recipe below)
1 1/2 cups of Parmesan cheese, grated
1 bunch of beet greens
Olive oil, salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Roll out dough and place on pizza pan, drizzle with a little olive oil and bake for 5 minutes. Slice the sweet potato into thin rounds, place in a bowl, and mix with a tablespoon of olive oil and a few dashes of salt.

Remove pizza from oven and smooth pesto over crust. Sprinkle half of the Parmesan cheese over pesto, and then layer the sweet potato. Add salt and pepper to taste and top with remaining cheese. Return to oven and cook for 10-12 minutes more.

Meanwhile, wash and chop beet greens, discarding the thick stems. Add to a pot of boiling water and cook for a few minutes. Drain and towel dry, and add to pizza. Return pan to oven and cook for five minutes, until beet greens start to crisp.
Third attempt at spreading the dough.

Choose a sweet potato that is long and lean.

Fort Tryon Park in Manhattan.

Earthy Pesto
Makes about 4 cups and costs about $4

1/2 cup of pine nuts or walnuts
6 cloves of garlic
6 cups of fresh basil, parsley, and/or kale (try mixing them as well)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2-2 cups of olive oil

Place pine nuts and garlic in food processor and pulse until well mixed. Add basil (or parsley, etc.) and seasonings to taste. With blade running, slowly add olive oil until you’ve reached the desired consistency. Refrigerate or freeze.

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Butternut Squash Risotto

On a recent frigid New York night, our friend Kent invited us over to prepare a dinner for Zach, our friend visiting from Chicago. On the menu: local cheeses, quince spread, butternut squash risotto, fiery broccoli, and lots of wine.

Butternut Squash Risotto
Serves 4-6 and costs about $5

1 butternut squash
3 leeks
Seasonings to taste
1 cup arborio rice
6 cups or so of stock
1 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Peel and chop butternut squash and saute for 5-10 minutes until beginning to soften. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Peel, chop, and saute leeks in pan until softened. Add rice and seasonings and stir until well-coated. Add 1 cup of stock and simmer until absorbed, stirring frequently. Continue to add stock in small portions and repeat until risotto reaches desired consistency.

Add squash back to pan and continue to stir until heated through, about 10 minutes.

Stir in Parmesan and season to taste. Served with a side of fiery broccoli (quick sautee with olive oil and red pepper flakes).

Lessons learned: risotto requires an absurd amount of attention.

Zach, Kent, and Ryan

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Halloween Blizzard Apple Pancake

As you may have heard, the Northeast endured a freak Nor’easter last Saturday. The view from my apartment window briskly convinced me to cancel all plans for the afternoon.

View out apartment window
Instead, I brewed a pot of coffee, fired up the iPod, and spent the late morning in the kitchen. The best dish for an autumn brunch is an Apple Pancake. I’ve tried a few variations of this in the past, but this time (inspired by The Kitchn) takes the…pancake.

Apple Pancake
Serves four and costs about $8

3 large or 4 medium apples of your choice
4 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup of brown sugar
1/2 cup of butter
1 cup of milk
5 medium eggs
Just under 3/4 cup of flour
1/4 salt
Dash of nutmeg
About a teaspoon of cinnamon
Dash of vanilla

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Core and chop apples, leaving skin on. Melt butter in an oven-safe skillet, add brown sugar and apples, and gently stir. Sprinkle with three tablespoons of sugar and the cinnamon. Place the skillet in the oven:
Step one of Apple Pancake
Whisk flour, one tablespoon of sugar, nutmeg, and salt. Slowly add milk and vanilla. When combined, add eggs to batter:
Step two of Apple Pancake
Remove skillet from oven and take in a deep smell of goodness. Pour batter over the apple mixture and return to oven. Bake for about 25 minutes or until golden.
Step three of Apple Pancake
After the swirling scents of nutmeg and sugar dissipate, here’s a quick and simple option for a light lunch:  roasted butternut squash soup with a side of roasted cauliflower.

Peel and chop one butternut squash and place in a 8x12 baking dish. Peel away greens, wash and chop one head of cauliflower and add to the baking dish. Top with 1/2 chopped onion and drizzle with a few tablespoons of oil and seasonings to taste (be sure to include cayenne pepper). Roast at 425 degrees for about 25 minutes. Remove butternut squash from dish and transfer to a food processor. Add a few chunks of Parmesan cheese to the cauliflower and return to oven. Pour about 1/2 cup of milk to the butternut squash and carefully puree. Pour the butternut puree into a saucepan and heat through. Remove cauliflower from oven and serve.

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Getting Canned

No local food journey would be complete without preserving the harvest. Freezing, drying, pickling, and…canning. I grew up with dusty glass jars shelved like aged books below the basement steps, each lid personally labeled by my mom or an aunt.

I recently ordered canning equipment through and set aside time on a Saturday to can crushed tomatoes, pasta sauce, and apple butter.

Tomatoes back from the market
First step: Pick up 25 pounds of tomatoes from the Union Square Greenmarket.

Scoring tomatoes
Second step: Score, peel, and cook tomatoes for a really, really long time.

Tomatoes in canning bath
Third step: Sterilize jars, fill with sauce, seal, immerse in canning bath, and boil until processed.

Canned tomatoes
Final step: Cool jars and store for up to a year.

The process was somewhat tedious and surprisingly enjoyable. I mean, what New Yorker spends a weekend afternoon canning tomatoes? My small supply would never fill the shelves below the basement steps, but I do grin whenever I open my Manhattan kitchen cupboard and see a handful of jars filled with tomato goodness.

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