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Last Chance Foods from WNYC
5 minutes | Jan 27, 2015
Learning to Farm: Resources
CLASSES & RESOURCES IN NYC GrowNYC’s Farm Beginnings — a comprehensive agricultural training program developed for new farmers by the people who run the Greenmarket. Designed for a people looking to start farm enterprises, including urban farmers looking to scale-up and second career farm entrepreneurs. Brooklyn Grange hosts a whole range of workshops and classes for rooftop farmers. If a full roof installation process is more than you want to take on, their Design and Installation arm will build you your very own backyard or terrace garden, rooftop farm, or green wall. Just Food’s Farm School NYC — urban agriculture training through a certificate program and a wide range of individual courses from social justice to urban farming to grassroots community organizing. Mission: to build self-reliant communities and inspire positive local action around food access and social, economic, and racial justice issues. Green Roofs for Healthy Cities — training towards certification in green roof and wall installation. Eagle Street Farm — Greenpoint. This rooftop farm welcomes visitors from second graders to graduate students to learn about sky-high agriculture. Cornell Cooperative Extension — free gardening and farming support run by NYS with offices in every single county – including Manhattan. Offering everything from soil testing to 20c processing licenses. HUDSON VALLEY INTERNSHIPS AND INCUBATORS Stone Barns’ Growing Farmers Initiative — Westchester. Comprehensive program to help beginning farmers get the training, resources and guidance to create economically and ecologically resilient farm enterprises. Offers apprenticeships, a virtual grange, workshops on everything from beekeeping to seed saving, and an annual Young Farmers Conference which draws hundreds of beginning farmers from across the country and beyond. Glynwood’s Farm Incubator — Cold Spring. Provides the tools and resources aspiring agricultural entrepreneurs need to develop and manage viable farm enterprises in the Hudson Valley. Provides access to land, housing, shared equipment, infrastructure, low-interest capital, business mentoring and training in sustainable farming practices. RESOURCES & NON-PROFITS SUPPORTING NEW FARMERS Cornell’s Beginning Farmers Program — a comprehensive clearing house of resources, internships, job postings and land opportunities. Northeast Organic Farming Association — This seven-state non-profit teaches, certifies and supports organic farms. Their semi-annual conferences offer sessions on everything from raw milk to fermentation to homesteading, complete with contra dancing and camping. The Greenhorns — A unique resource helping young people make the transition into a career of farming. Provides information about everything from where to find an apprenticeship to how to repair a tractor. Complete with mentor matchmaker. National Young Farmers Coalition — represents, mobilizes, and engages young farmers. Supports practices and policies to sustain young, independent and prosperous farmers now and in the future. Co-founded by an ex-Manhattanite who now grows organic vegetables in the Hudson. Richard Wiswall’s The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook — widely-prized bible on the business end of running a farm. Expert advice on how to make your vegetable production more efficient and how to better manage your employees and finances. The USDA’s (great) new website for new farmers — Yes, even the USDA is focusing on new farmers. This site offers in-depth information on how to increase access to land and capital, build new market opportunities, participate in conservation opportunities, select and use risk management tools, and access USDA education and technical-support American Farmland Trust: Transitioning Farmland to a New Generation — This longtime, stalwart non-profit is bringing its forces to bear for new farmers, offering everything from training to land links as well as targeted offerings for women landowners and conservation.
5 minutes | Jan 27, 2015
Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Become a Farmer
New Yorkers' interest in where their food comes from and how it is raised has led to a robust farmers' market system, a growing interest in communty gardens and backyard enterprises like raising chickens and keeping bees, and a surprising number of urbanites who are ditching their pots of basil on their fire escape to become farmers. While there’s not what you’d call a mass exodus from New York City, there is a perceptible upward trend in the number of people wanting to learn more about agriculture. With the number of farmers nationwide in decline, support programs are cropping up to help in that transition: Just Food runs Farm School NYC, the Stone Barns Center in Westchester County runs farmer training programs and hosts an annual sold-out Young Farmers Conference, and a growing number of other non-profits help new farmers find everything they need to take root — from land to capital to customers. Closer to home, Chris Wayne runs FARMroots, the new farmer development program at GrowNYC, the non-profit that manages New York City's Greenmarkets program. In their offices on Chambers Street in Lower Manhattan, they offer a USDA-funded, 10-week training class that Wayne said begins with a reality check: “Can you spend 16 hours in 95 degree heat, working your tail off, for very little money? That's the first question.” The question is intended to knock the stars out of people's eyes and get them to start thinking more realistically about farming. But Wayne said dreaming is still necessary, and is encouraged. "One of the first things we have [students] do," said Wayne, "is look deep into their own values: Why are they interested in starting a farm business, and what's going to be that core, central piece that they can look back on at Hour 15 on their farm, and say 'This is why I'm doing this, this is why this is important to me.'" Once you figure the why, Wayne said it's time to consider the what, the produce or product sector that you want to get into. What are you interested in growing, or raising? Wayne said people often come to the class already inspired by a vegetable or fruit that they had success with in their community or backyard gardens. What skills do you already have that you could utilize? Wayne explained that farming requires "an incredibly wide range of skills," from welding to marketing plans to graphic design work for that perfect label that's going to sell your pickled green beans. "You may not be coming to agriculture with a production skill, but there's probably a lot of other things that you don't realize, other skills and experiences that you already have, that are going to play into a successful farm business." Is there a niche you can fill with your farm product? Wayne said beginning farmers can do their own market research. "What do you see when you walk through a farmer's market? Are there some products there that are lacking? What's one of the things that you can't seem to find?" This Farm Beginnings course takes beginning farmers from mission statement to financial plan to marketing plan. But it’s not all Excel spreadsheets. Wayne said it's also important for aspiring farmers to get out of the classroom and into the field. He said farmers in the Northeast are increasingly accepting interns and apprentices who can earn a small stipend and learn on the job. He said he believes that kind of experience, under the tutelage of an experience farmer, is essential in learning the "true art of agriculture." "I always say, if I decided tomorrow that i wanted to be an electrician, would I walk into a house the next day, after reading a couple books, and try to set up a house with electricity? Of course not. The same is true with agriculture." Wayne said that at the end of the course, if participants decide they want to keep their office day job after all, he considers that as much of a success as helping to launch a Future Farmer. "We really want folks who are devoted to this to get out into farms," he said. Check out our Farm School Resources Page for more farming classes, literature about starting a farm and organizations that connect aspiring farmers with internship opportunities.
5 minutes | Jul 11, 2014
Last Chance Foods: Stay Cool, Drink Real Food
It’s the high season for cool, slushy drinks. Nina Planck, author of several Real Food cookbooks, says her fermented watermelon basil cooler illustrates one of her key principles: when she processes food, she does it in ways that enhance nutrition, flavor, and shelf life. Nina Planck / photo by Katherine Wolkoff Nina's recipe for fermented watermelon basil cooler (Makes two quarts) Ingredients 8–10 lb watermelon 8–10 Meyer lemons small bunch of Genovese basil 1/4 c organic whole cane sugar 1/4 c fresh whey 1 T unrefined sea salt 3 c water Make 3 cups of watermelon juice in a blender or food processor. Don’t strain the pulp. Squeeze 1 cup of lemon juice. Take 1/2 cup of basil leaves and gently bruise them using a mortar and pestle to release the oil. Put all the ingredients in a 2-quart glass jar, cover with water, and close the lid tightly. Stir and leave out at room temperature for 3 days. Allow a little carbonation to escape when necessary and replace the cap firmly. Chill and serve. Keeps up to 2 weeks in the fridge.
5 minutes | Jul 4, 2014
Last Chance Foods: The Ultimate Pickled, Smoked, Smashed, Fried Potato Salad
SMOKED PICKLED POTATOES WITH ANCHOVY AIOLI RECIPEby David Leite, Leite's Culinaria Serves 4 to 6 INGREDIENTSFor the anchovy aioli 3 garlic cloves, minced 1 tablespoon Kosher salt 6 anchovy fillets, minced 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice 2 large egg yolks, room temperature 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, or 1/2 cup olive oil and 1/2 cup grapeseed oil For the smoked pickled potatoes 2 pounds small red new potatoes, 1 to 1 1/2 in diameter, scrubbed and rinsed Sea salt 4 cups malt vinegar Peanut oil, for frying Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste DIRECTIONS1. Dust the garlic with a bit of salt and, using the flat side of your knife’s blade, rub the salt back and forth into the garlic to make a paste. 2. Add the garlic, anchovies, lemon juice, and egg yolks to a medium bowl. Whisk to combine. 3. Slowly drizzle a few drops of the oil into the bowl while whisking vigorously until the mixture is smooth. Add the rest of the oil in a thin stream, all the while whisking until smooth and light yellow. Season with salt. 4. Add the potatoes to a large pot and add enough cold water to cover by 2 inches. Add the salt, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and cook gently until tender, 10 to 12 minutes. 5. Meanwhile, fill a large bowl with ice and water. When the potatoes are cooked, drain them and then add them the the ice water. Let them sit until cooled completely. 6. Drain the potatoes and prick each potato deeply with a toothpick or thin metal skewer numerous times all over. Pour the vinegar into a medium bowl and add in the potatoes. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the potatoes hang out on the counter in their pickling bath overnight or for at least 8 hours. 7. Following manufacturer’s instructions, set up your smoker, smoker box, charcoal grill, or gas grill for cold smoking using sawdust, chips, chunks, or Bradley bisquettes. You make a makeshift smoker by heating a cast iron skillet until very hot, placing it on your turned-off grill, adding wood chips, and closing the cover. 8. Smoke the potatoes, making sure to keep the temperature under 100°F (38°C), for 1 hour. Remove the potatoes from the smoker. You can refrigerate the potatoes for several hours or you can immediately fry them. 9. Pour enough peanut oil into a heavy pot so that it reaches a depth of 2 inches. Heat the oil to 375°F, using a deep-fry or candy thermometer to monitor the temperature. While the oil is heating, place the potatoes on a flat work surface and smash them with the palm of your hand just until they crack and split. 10. Fry the potatoes in batches, making sure the heat never goes below 350°F, until the potatoes are golden brown, 7 to 9 minutes. Transfer the potatoes to paper towels to drain and season with sea salt and pepper. Serve immediately with plenty of the aioli on the side.
5 minutes | Jun 27, 2014
Last Chance Foods: A Compromise for Cilantro Haters?
Cilantro could very well be the world’s most polarizing herb. Those who vehemently hate it may have the aversion coded in their genes, while others happily add it to everything from salsas to soups. But maybe there’s a middle ground to be found in the cilantro wars. Perhaps cilantro’s cousin culantro is the herb diplomat to please both parties. Culantro, with its long, narrow, slightly serrated leaves, is popularly used in Latin and Caribbean cuisine. “Culantro has kind of the base flavor of cilantro but it’s much earthier,” journalist and food writer Von Diaz explained. “It’s much more tame. It almost tastes like a hybrid of cilantro and parsley." She described culantro as the cornerstone herb of Puerto Rican food. “We use it extensively in making what’s called ‘racaito,’ which is a component of sofrito, which I’m sure a lot of people have heard of,” Diaz said. “It’s basically a spice paste blend that’s garlic, onions, culantro, and peppers, which you then turn into a paste. You cook it down and it becomes really the base of whatever dish you’re making.” Von Diaz Culantro, which can be grown in containers, has the added benefit of holding up better than cilantro in longer cooking methods. Diaz recommends adding a few leaves to beans and stewed meats, for instance. “It goes really well with things that you can cook for a while,” she said. Diaz also offered a recipe for culantro pesto, which can be used to season chicken salad. Both recipes are below. Any cilantrophobes out there who can report back on their reaction to culantro? Tell us your take on whether culantro is an acceptable substitute. Culantro Pestoby Von Diaz 1 cup culantro leaves, stems removed (packed) 2 T pine nuts 2 cloves garlic 1/3 cup grated parmesan and/or pecorino romano 2 T olive oil salt and pepper Grind garlic, salt, and pine nuts in a food processor. Add olive oil and culantro, and process until smooth. Add cheese and pulse to incorporate. Chicken Salad with Culantro Pestoby Von Diaz 4 cups poached chicken (2 large breasts) 4-6 cups chicken broth or water 2-4 T mayonnaise Juice from 1 small lime Salt and pepper 6-8 T culantro pesto Put chicken breasts in a saucepan and cover with broth or water. Bring pot to a boil, then remove from the burner. Cover and let sit for 17 minutes. Remove from liquid and let cool, then shred with two forks or by hand. Mix in mayonnaise, lime juice, and culantro pesto. Add salt and pepper to taste.
5 minutes | Jun 20, 2014
Last Chance Foods: A Kid-Friendly Fruit for Healthy Eating
The Bronx has a weight problem, and part of that stems from parents who simply don’t know how to cook. Chef and educator Tania Lopez knows about that situation firsthand. She grew up in the South Bronx and in Puerto Rico, and says that her parents rarely cooked for her as a child. “They were constantly working all the time and they didn’t have time to cook for me,” Lopez explained. “So I didn’t have a chance to really taste food from all over the world. And I always felt like I was left out of something.” She was determined to change that after she had children and moved back to Puerto Rico. Step one: Lopez turned to the community of women around her and started asking questions. “I was very lucky to have moms that love to cook for their children and share their ideas,” she said. Having discovered the passion for home cooking and healthy eating, Lopez started Coqui the Chef, an initiative based in the South Bronx that promotes healthier alternatives to traditional Latino food. A big part of the organization’s mission is to introduce kids to fresh fruits and vegetables. Lopez says that there’s one fruit that is often big hit with the kids she teaches: avocados. (Photo: Tania Lopez/Courtesy of Tania Lopez) “It’s amazing—many of them haven’t tasted avocados,” Lopez said, adding that the fruit grows in abundance in Puerto Rico. “So we decided to add some tomato, cilantro, a little bit of onions, and some whole wheat chips, and they were like ‘Wow, this is amazing.’ They loved it... They love mashing. Who doesn’t doesn’t love mashing?” More to the point: Who doesn’t love guacamole? A crucial part of making delicious guacamole is picking out perfectly ripe avocadoes. Lopez first makes sure the fruit isn’t too bruised and soft. Then she examines the area where the avocado was cut from the tree. “The stem, I flip it off. If I see that it’s... light greenish, then I said this right,” she explained. “But I’m kind of picky with it so I wait for it [to be] light green almost brown. But when it’s very green, I still think it needs half a day.” One way to get the fruit to ripen faster is to put it in a paper bag and store it in a turned-off oven. A day later, she said, the avocado will be ripe. While there are more than 30 different variety of avocados — including the smooth-skinned, light green variety known as “West Indian avocados" — Lopez recommend using the rough-skinned, dark green Hass variety for guacamole. Her kid-friendly recipe is below. Recipe for Kid-Friendly Guacamole Ingredients 2 ripe Hass avocados, peeled and pitted 6 cherry tomatoes, halved juice of ¼ of lime ¼ cup chopped cilantro sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste 1 clove of garlic, peeled and minced (optional) ¼ cup diced red onion (optional) ¼ cup diced jalapeno (optional) Preparation Combine all ingredients in pilon (mortar and pestle) and mash until desired consistency is achieved. Serve immediately or chilled if preferred. Avocado benefits: Avocados are a good source of fiber, potassium, and vitamins C, K, folate, and B6. Half an avocado has 160 calories, 15 grams of heart-healthy unsaturated fat, and only 2 grams saturated fat. One globe contains more than one-third daily value of vitamin C, and more than half the day’s requirements of vitamin K.
5 minutes | Jun 13, 2014
Last Chance Foods: Radishes Are the Real Fast Food
Here’s a fun project for kids and apartment dwellers: Plant a radish seed in a pot, care for it, and then 25 to 30 days later, you should be able to harvest a fully grown vegetable. When it comes to farming, a month’s time is as close to instant gratification as you can get, said Edible Manhattan editor Gabrielle Langholtz. She’s the author of The New Greenmarket Cookbook, which includes recipes from New York chefs and profiles of area farmers. “[Radishes in the spring] are much milder and very quick to grow and prepare,” Langholtz explained. “So that’s one of the reasons they’re… one of the very first things we see.” The bright red Cherry Belle and French breakfast radishes in season right now are an ideal complement to the bounty of leafy greens also available at the farmers market. They are crisp and tend to be milder than their fall counterparts. “The varieties that you will buy at the greenmarket in the fall and going into winter are different varieties that have been bred for centuries for different qualities: long growing, cooler growing, better keeping,” said Langholtz. (Photo: Gabrielle Langholtz, Craig Haney, and their daughter/Anita Briggs) The spring radishes add color and crunch to salads and make for a great quick pickle. Langholtz recommends using them in the recipe below for Sugar Snap Pea and Whipped-Ricotta Tartines. “It’s an open-faced sandwich that’s wonderfully light and fresh and delicious,” she said. “And talk about fast food. I mean, you can make it in a few minutes.” Sugar Snap Pea and Whipped-Ricotta Tartinesby Dana Cowin, Editor in Chief, Food & Wine Spring brings three kinds of peas—shell, snow, and snap. The first, as the name implies, must be shelled, but the other two have sweet, crunchy pods which the French call mange tout, meaning “eat it all.” But “eat it all” can have an even broader pea meaning: The plant’s tender shoots are also perfectly edible, raw or cooked, and carry the true flavor of peas. Here the pods and plants are served together, along with radishes, atop a tartine—or French open-faced sandwich—that’s at once creamy and light, rustic and elegant. 1 cup fresh ricotta cheese ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for brushing Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper Four ½-inch-thick slices of peasant bread 1 peeled garlic clove ½ pound sugar snap peas, ends trimmed and strings discarded 2 ½ tablespoons Champagne vinegar 1 tablespoon minced shallot 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard ½ cup snipped pea shoots 3 large radishes, cut into thin matchsticks About ⅓ cup crushed red pepper, for garnish In a medium bowl, using a whisk, whip the ricotta with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Preheat a grill pan. Brush the bread on both sides with olive oil. Grill over moderate heat, turning once, until toasted but still chewy in the middle, about 2 minutes. Rub the toasts with the garlic clove and season with salt and pepper. Prepare an ice water bath. In a large saucepan of salted boiling water, blanch the snap peas until bright green, about 1 minute. Transfer the snap peas to the ice bath to cool. Drain and pat dry, then thinly slice lengthwise. In a medium bowl, whisk the vinegar with the shallot, mustard, and the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the snap peas, pea shoots, and radishes; season with salt and pepper; and toss to coat. Spread the whipped ricotta on the toasts and top with the snap pea slaw. Garnish with crushed red pepper and serve. MAKES 4 TARTINES From The New Greenmarket Cookbook by Gabrielle Langholtz. Reprinted with permission from Da Capo Lifelong, © 2014
5 minutes | Jun 6, 2014
Last Chance Foods: Behold the Power of the Pea
This week, cookbook authors Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell, known as the reality television duo “The Fabulous Beekman Boys,” charmingly flaunted two long-standing tenants of Last Chance Foods: Don’t sound like "Delicious Dish," and don’t antagonize the farmers. “If people haven’t had a sweet pea before, freshly picked, then they haven’t experienced the true power of the pea,” said Kilmer-Purcell, who admitted after the taping that Last Chance Foods’ listeners could have heard a double entendre in that statement. Ridge quickly followed up with this controversial statement: “A frozen pea is often better than a farmers market pea,” he said. Ridge went on to explain that various studies have report that between 20 percent and 80 percent of the sugar in peas and sweetcorn convert to starch within 24 hours. That’s why blanching them right after being picked and freezing them is the best way to preserve freshness. (It’s necessary to blanch the peas in order to kill an enzyme that would continue to break down the vegetable.) “A pea that’s picked and frozen right away is going to be infinitely better than fresh pea that’s sat around for a day before shelling,” explained Ridge. “Farmers are not going to like me for that, but it’s true.” Of course, the caveat is that a fresh pea picked from a kitchen garden and eaten immediately is best of all. That may not be possible at all this year, said Ridge and Kilmer-Purcell, authors of The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Vegetable Cookbook. They grow vegetables at their farm in Sharon Spring, N.Y., and said that everything has come in late this season, given the cool temperatures. (Photo: Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell/Alec Hemer) “The real danger with peas is that they have such a short growing window,” said Kilmer-Purcell. “Because once the... daytime average temperatures get above 70 degrees, they stop growing. They’re done. They stop producing. So if they don’t start growing soon and start flowering, we may not get any.” Even if their pea plants fail to yield any sweet little green gems this season, the leaves will be edible, and the plants will help enrich the soil. “Peas, like beans, they are nitrogen fixers, so they pull nitrogen from the air,” said Kilmer-Purcell. “They have a beneficial bacteria in their roots that grow nitrogen nodules in them.” That means pea plants serve as good companion plants for nitrogen-needing greens like spinach. “If you ever do grow peas, don’t pull them out at the end of the season,” he added. “Just cut them off and leave the roots in the ground, because that’s where all the nitrogen is.” An important part of the garden, peas weren’t always appreciated in their fresh form. They were traditionally dried and used throughout the winter. “In fact fresh peas were kind of a fad in the time of Louis XIV,” Kilmer-Purcell said. “Nobody had eaten fresh peas before that. There’s a famous French diary where [it was written that] women would go home from these huge feasts, and — at the risk of great indigestion — they would eat peas before bedtime.” Shocking! Below is a recipe for spring pea soup, which is a great way to enjoy fresh peas without risking indigestion. Spring Pea Soup From The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Vegetable Cookbook by Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell (Photo: Sugar snap peas at Beekman 1802/Paulette Tavormina) There's still a little chill in the air when the first peas are ready for picking. This soup is perfect in the spring when young lettuces are around. SERVES 4 2 tablespoons unsalted butter 2 leeks, thinly sliced and well washed 6 cups tender green lettuce leaves, well washed and dried 1/3 cup fresh mint leaves 2 cups shelled fresh green peas (see Tidbit) 3/4 teaspoon coarse (kosher) salt 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth 1/3 cup heavy cream 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, or until tender. Add the lettuce and mint and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the lettuce is very tender. Stir in the peas, salt, and pepper and stir to combine. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 5 minutes, or until the peas are tender and the flavors have blended. Working in 2 batches, transfer the soup to a blender and puree until smooth. Add the cream and lemon juice and blend. Serve hot. TIDBIT: To get 2 cups of shelled peas, you'll need to start with about 2 pounds of peas in the pod, so feel free to use frozen peas here (we'll never tell). Reprinted from “The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Vegetable Cookbook” by Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell. Copyright (c) 2014 by Beekman 1802, LLC. By permission of Rodale Books. Available wherever books are sold.
5 minutes | May 30, 2014
Last Chance Foods: Foraging for One of the World's Healthiest Greens
The cool weather this spring means that farmers markets may be looking surprisingly bare for late May. Parks and forests, however, are already bursting with life — and tasty, nutritious finds for knowledgeable foragers. One commonly foraged favorite is lambsquarters. The leafy green grows in sunny meadows, college campuses, and even between the sidewalk cracks in Brooklyn. Forager Ava Chin might ogle the hearty specimens shooting up along city streets, but she admitted that she stays away from eating plants growing in high-traffic areas. Lambsquarters leaves taste like spinach, and Chin likes to sauté them with garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. In her new memoir Eating Wildly: Foraging for Life, Love and the Perfect Meal, she describes feeling like Popeye upon trying it for the first time. “Lambsquarters has the distinction of being one of the most nutritious plants in the world,” Chin said. “It is a member of the chenopodium family, which means that it’s related to quinoa, spinach, and beets. It’s high in vitamins A and C. It’s also high in things like riboflavin, niacin, potassium, calcium, and manganese.” The leafy, stalky plant is a sustainable choice for foragers since it is highly adaptable to various climates. “It’s actually not native to the United States,” said Chin. “It’s native to the Mediterranean and Asia, where, by the way, it’s a revered vegetable in Greek, Persian, and Bangladeshi cuisine.” (Photo: Ava Chin/Owen Brunette) Another important advantage of lambsquarters is that there are no poisonous look-alikes. The leaves on the tall stalky plant are triangular and give it the common name of “white goosefoot.” It’s also known as “pigweed,” and those in the U.K. might recognize it from the name “fat hen.” “Another characteristic besides the leaves is that it has this white, powdery coating on the new growth, up at the top of the plant, and also at the bottom of the top leaves,” explained Chin. That coating is naturally produced by lambsquarters and has no effect on its edibility. So the next time you see a tall stalk with triangular leaves and a white powdery coating on the new growth, give it a second look, positively identify it, and then give it a try in the kitchen. “One of the great things about foraging and being in touch with nature in the city is you start to realize that there’s a great abundance of natural things that are growing all around us on every block, on every street, in every borough,” says Chin. “Nature really likes to rub its elbows against the city and, for me, that’s the interesting thing about foraging.” Lambsquarters Ricotta PieAdapted from the "Wild Greens Pie" recipe in Eating Wildly: Foraging for Life, Love and the Perfect Meal Ingredients Pie pastry, enough for base and latticework topping Filling 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil 1 clove of garlic, crushed 1 medium onion, diced 3 cups of lambsquarters 1 cup of spinach, Swiss chard, or store-bought dandelions, roughly chopped 1 cup mustard greens, roughly chopped ½ teaspoon salt ½ teaspoon pepper 15-ounce container ricotta cheese ½ cup grated Pecorino Romano (can substitute Parmesan) ½ grated fontina cheese (or any other good melting cheese you prefer) ½ cup grated mozzarella cheese 3 large eggs, beaten 1 egg white, optional 1 teaspoon water, optional 1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Press pastry into a 10-inch diameter springform pan. Build pastry up wall of pan at least 1½ inches tall. 2. In a pan over medium flame, heat 1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil. Add the garlic until lightly browned (3 minutes), and sauté the onions about another 3 minutes. Heat the remaining teaspoon of oil, then mix in the wild and store-bought greens, salt, and pepper. Sauté until all liquid from the greens evaporates, about 3 minutes. 3. Combine the ricotta, romano, fontina, mozzarella, and eggs in a large bowl. Add the wild greens mixture, blending well. 4. Spoon the filling into the pastry-covered pan. Cut the remaining pastry into thin strips and weave into a latticework topping; place over pie, trimming edges. Mix the egg white with water and brush over pastry, if using. Bake until the filling is set in center and browning on top, approximately 40 minutes.
5 minutes | May 16, 2014
Last Chance Foods: Eat a Cricket, Save the Planet
For Rose Wang, it all started with a scorpion street snack in China. She bit into the insect on a dare and was surprised. “[It was] not what I expected,” says Wang, who went on to co-found the insect-based food company Six Foods with her Harvard classmates Laura D’Asaro and Meryl Natow. “It tasted really great and really made me think, ‘Okay, is there another way to eat protein that’s more sustainable?’” In particular, the entrepreneurs see crickets as a more sustainable source of protein. For one thing, the little chirpers are far less energy-intensive to raise. Here’s how the math breaks down: One pound of beef requires 2,000 gallons of water and 25 bags of feed. By comparison, one pound of cricket protein can be produced with 1 gallon of water and 2 bags of feed. “What’s so great about crickets is that it’s an animal protein, so it’s all nine essential amino acids,” Wang adds. “It’s also really high in calcium and a lot of other vitamins and minerals.” She says the taste might even be vaguely familiar. “The way I describe it is [that] it tastes like shrimp without a fishy taste, so it is somewhat similar to a lot of the crustaceans that we’re used to eating,” Wang explained. “There is a difference in flavor profile, but it’s not bad.” (Photo: "Chirp" cricket chips/Courtesy of Rose Wang) While most everyone can agree that insects are the more environmentally friendly version of protein, there’s still the inescapable ick factor. The founders of Six Foods found that crickets presented people with the lowest barrier to entry. “When we presented people with different foods at the very beginning… we had mealworms, wax worms, hornworms, and then crickets… crickets were always the least scary,” Wang says. Daniella Martin, the author of Edible: An Adventure Into the World of Eating Insects and the Last Great Hope to Save the Planet, agrees. “Crickets are familiar, they have a reasonably good public image because of characters like Jiminy Cricket,” she says. “People are a lot less grossed out by something like a cricket versus something like a meal worm.” Six Foods has gone one step further to make crickets into a non-scary, recognizable form: chips. The cricket chips, called “Chirps,” are made from cricket flour. (Photo: Rose Wang and Laura D'Asaro) Cute names and novelty aside, crickets could also be the most viable form of edible insects. “Crickets are also the only insect that’s produced at scale within the U.S.,” says Wang. “To us, if we can ease our supply chain and make sure we know where we’re getting our crickets from and we can go visit those farms and know exactly their process, that makes us feel better about the food that we’re using.” What do you think? Have you ever eaten a bug and liked it? Could crickets and other insects be the protein source to save the planet?
5 minutes | May 9, 2014
Last Chance Foods: An Easy, Egg-centric Meal
The days are getting longer, and that’s welcome news for humans and chickens alike. More daylight means hens have more time to eat bugs. That additional protein makes for richer eggs with deeply orange yolks. Here’s a suggestion on what to do what all that springtime bounty of eggs: Make a frittata. The egg dish is a favorite, fast weeknight meal in Martha Rose Shulman’s household. “[Frittatas] are very forgiving, and they’re a great vehicle for vegetables,” said Shulman, the author of The Simple Art of Vegetarian Cooking and the "Recipes for Health" columnist for The New York Times. She recommends frittatas as a great way to highlight seasonal vegetables or whatever is wilting in your crisper drawer. Even leftover risotto can take a starring role. Shulman does advise blanching greens before adding them into the egg mixture. Otherwise they’ll release water while being cooked and make the dish a watery mess. The template recipe below sketches out the basics and is easily adaptable to whatever ingredients are on hand. Mix together eggs, vegetables, a little milk, and seasoning, and then pour the whole mixture in a hot oiled pan. “You shake it a little bit so that it’s a little bit fluffy,” explained Shulman. “But what you want to be doing is cooking layers — just for the first minute or two. And then you’ve got a couple of layers of egg cooked. And then what I do is I turn the heat down very, very low, and I put a cover over the pan for 10 minutes and just let that cook through.” At that point, she fires up the broiler. Once the frittata is mostly set and there’s still a little runny egg on top, Shulman runs it under the broiler to finish it off. “Usually it doesn’t take more than a minute to set that top layer,” she added. Those who prefer runny eggs can even skip the broiler step. A fully set frittata has the advantage of being portable, though. “Ideally, you will let it sit for at least 10 or 15 minutes before you either slide it out of the pan onto a platter or just cut it into wedges,” explained Shulman, who often slices the frittatas into diamond shapes to serve as appetizers. Frittatas serve as a particularly versatile party food. Not only are they portable and pretty, they’re also best enjoyed at room temperature. “It was a dish that farm workers would take out to the fields and have as their sort of late morning meal in the fields because it’s so portable,” Shulman said. “I do frittatas for entertaining all the time.” Basic Frittataby Martha Rose Shulman from The Simple Art of Vegetarian Cooking MAKES ONE 2- TO 8-EGG FRITTATA This template gives you instructions for making a range of serving sizes, from the 2-egg frittata for one to an 8-egg frittata for six--or for a crowd if you serve it as an appetizer. The technique for a frittata containing more than 4 eggs is a little different for a 2- or 4-egg frittata, because the smaller frittatas cook more quickly and don't require any slow, covered cooking. I finish larger frittatas under the broiler. 2 to 8 eggs Salt and freshly ground pepper 1 to 2 tablespoons milk (2 percent or whole; I use 1 tablespoon for every 4 eggs) The filling of your choice (see variation recipes, pages 73-77) 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil 1. Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Stir in salt and pepper to taste, the milk, and filling. 2. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a heavy 8-inch nonstick skillet. Hold your hand above it; it should feel hot. Drop a bit of egg into the pan and if it sizzles and seizes at once, the pan is ready. Pour in the egg mixture. Swirl the pan to distribute the eggs and filling evenly over the surface. During the first few minutes of cooking, shake the pan gently and tilt it slightly with one hand while lifting up the edges of the frittata with a wooden or heatproof silicone spatula in your other hand, letting the eggs run underneath. 2- OR 4-EGG FRITTATA: Use an 8-inch skillet. A 2-egg frittata will be done quickly, with just the tilting of the pan and letting the eggs run underneath until it is no longer or only slightly moist on the top (the way the French like them). Once it is set, slide it out of the pan onto a plate. If you do want to brown it on the other side you can flip it over, either with a spatula or by pushing the pan away from you, then with a quick jerk of the wrist quickly pulling it toward you and jerking the pan upward at the same time. Cook for only a few seconds on the other side, then reverse out of the pan. You will probably want to flip a 4-egg frittata and cook it on the other side. (Or you can run it under the broiler briefly, see Step 3). To flip it: Use a wide spatula or the jerking motion I just described. Or, slide it onto a dinner plate or a saucepan lid with a handle (this is handy; in Spain they have a special implement that looks like a lid, just for flipping tortillas), then place the pan--upside down--over the plate or lid. Being careful not to touch the pan, hold the plate (or lid) and pan together, flip the pan back to its upright position, and place on the stove. (I can do this with an 8-inch pan, but not with a larger one.) Cook on the top of the stove for another minute or two to set the eggs. Slide out of the pan onto a plate or platter. Continue with Step 4. 6- OR 8-EGG FRITTATA:For larger frittatas, after the bottom has set, you will cover and cook the frittata over low heat before finishing under the broiler. Use a heavy 10-inch nonstick skillet. Begin cooking as directed in Step 2. Once a few layers of egg have cooked during the first couple of minutes on the stove, turn the heat down to low, cover (use a pizza pan if you don't have a lid that will fit your skillet), and cook for 10 minutes, shaking the pan gently every once in a while. From time to time, remove the lid and loosen the bottom of the frittata by sliding your spatula between the bottom of the frittata and the pan, tilting the pan and allowing egg on the top to run underneath, so that the bottom doesn't burn. It will, however, turn golden. The eggs should be just about set, with a thin wet layer on top; cook a few minutes longer if they're not. 3. Meanwhile, heat the broiler. Uncover the pan and place the frittata under the broiler, not too close to the heat, for 1 to 3 minutes, watching very carefully to make sure the top doesn't burn (it can brown in spots and puff under the broiler, but burnt eggs taste bitter). Remove from the heat, shake the pan to make sure the frittata isn't sticking, and allow it to cool for at least 5 minutes or up to 15. Loosen the edges with your spatula and carefully slide from the pan onto a large round platter. 4. Allow to cool completely if desired. Cut into wedges or into smaller bite-size diamonds. Serve hot, warm, at room temperature, or cold. ADVANCE PREPARATION: In Mediterranean countries, frittatas are served at room temperature, which makes them perfect do-ahead dishes. They'll keep in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days. They do not reheat well but they're good cold or at room temperature. 8-Egg Frittata with Asparagus, Fresh Peas, Tarragon, and Chivesby Martha Rose Shulman from The Simple Art of Vegetarian Cooking MAKES ONE 10-INCH FRITTATA, SERVING 4 TO 6 You can get asparagus pretty much year-round in natural foods markets and supermarkets, and in California it's almost always available at farmers' markets. But it's a spring and early summer vegetable in temperate climates, as are peas. Make the Basic Frittata template (above) with the following filling ingredients and specifications: 3/4 pound asparagus, trimmed 3/4 cup shelled fresh peas (1 pound in the pod) 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan (optional) 1. Steam the asparagus until tender, about 5 minutes. Refresh with cold water, drain, and pat dry. Cut into 1/2-inch slices. Steam the peas for 5 minutes, until tender. 2. In Step 1, use 8 eggs, 2 tablespoons milk, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir in the chives, tarragon, asparagus, peas, and Parmesan (if using). 3. Proceed with Step 2, using a 10-inch skillet, then follow the recipe instructions for a 6- to 8-egg frittata. ADVANCE PREPARATION: The asparagus can be prepared a day ahead and kept in the refrigerator. The frittata can be prepared several hours or even a day ahead, covered, and refrigerated until shortly before serving. It does not reheat well but it's good cold or at room temperature.
5 minutes | May 2, 2014
Last Chance Foods: Say Yes to Nopales
Some people like a shot of espresso to get the morning started. How about a quick slug of cactus slime instead? That’s the drink of choice at some juice stands in Mexico. “A lot of people think that the slime is really nutritious,” said Lesley Téllez, a food writer who runs the culinary tourism company Eat Mexico. “I’ve seen some places where… they just sell the slime, you know, on it’s own. You can take it to go, and... have it for a quick morning pick-me-up.” Known as “baba,” or the Spanish word for “drool,” that clear ooze comes from nopales, or prickly pear cactus paddles. That type of cactus is a popular in Mexican cuisine, and tastes slightly acidic, with a raw texture that’s slightly crunchier than green beans. Nopales are available throughout the city in grocery stores and bodegas catering to Mexican communities. Téllez likes to get her nopales and other Mexican staples from Corona’s Farm in Queens. She admits that she prefers to get the ones that have already been cleaned, since getting rid of the cactus spines can be a tricky operation. That’s not to say it can’t be done at home. It just takes a fair degree of caution and patience. First, Téllez wraps her non-dominant hand in dish towels. Then she hangs on to the nopales at the narrow end. “You definitely need to hold onto it, for sure,” Téllez added. “You don’t want to be whacking away at it with a knife while it’s sitting there on the cutting board. That’s a recipe for disaster.” Then with a very sharp knife in her dominant hand, she gingerly begins shaving off the nopales spines. “You want to slice away at the spines as easy as you can without having thorns sort of flying around, so I go very slowly,” Téllez said. Do that until it’s prickle-free — or just buy the nopales that have already been cleaned and save yourself the trouble. (Photo: Lesley Téllez/Courtesy of Lesley Téllez) Once relieved of its spines, there are a number of ways to prepare the cactus. Boil it lightly and put it in taco. “Another really simple way you can cook them is to grill them,” Téllez said. “So you just take a cleaned paddle, and you score it. And you sprinkle it with some salt and pepper and some olive oil, and you grill it in on a really high heat.” If you’re wary of the slimy texture, Téllez has an entertaining, if messy, method of de-oozing the nopales. It involves cutting up the cleaned cactus and rubbing salt into the flesh. “It’s actually really fun to do if you have, like, 10 minutes in your kitchen,” she said. “So you rub the salt into the flesh and what it does is it unleashes all of this slime from the cactus so your hands get really slimy — which is fun, for me.” The result of that salt scrub is a raw vegetable that can be added to salads or as a garnish. “You’re left with this really crunchy, raw, bright green, beautiful vegetable,” Téllez said. For those who enjoy the texture of cooked nopales, check out Téllez’s recipe below for Stuffed Nopales with Black Beans, Cheese, and Roasted Red Pepper. Also, if you’re interested in a drink to serve for Cinco de Mayo on Monday, check out this recipe from Saveur for Prickly Pear Margaritas. Get started now, since you need to find prickly pears (the fruit of the same cactus that produces nopales) and soak them in tequila for two days. Stuffed Nopales with Black Beans, Cheese, and Roasted Red Pepper Recipe By Lesley Téllez, The Mija Chronicles (Photo: Stuffed nopales/Lesley Téllez) Makes: 4 servings Note: When buying cactus, make sure the paddles are bright green and not brown in spots. Many grocery stores sell them already cleaned, but sometimes upon further inspection, they’ve got a few spines. You’ll want to remove those with a sharp knife — the LA Times has a good tutorial on how to clean nopales. It’s best to use the cactus as soon as you can, and don’t store it in a plastic bag in your refrigerator as that will create moisture and make the paddles go bad. The cactus can be boiled a day ahead of time and stored in an airtight container. If you don’t have bean broth, you can use water or chicken/vegetable broth. Ingredients For the cactus: Kosher salt Half a red onion, peeled and cut into large chunks 1 garlic clove, peeled and smashed 8 medium cactus paddles For the beans: 2 cups cooked black beans (or a 14 ounce can), with about ¾ cup bean broth 1 teaspoon ground cumin 1/2 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano 1 teaspoon kosher salt 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper About 1 tablespoon canola, grapeseed, or peanut oil 1/4 red onion, finely chopped 1 garlic clove, minced 2 teaspoons finely chopped canned chipotle pepper in adobo For the toppings: 1 1/4 cups (about 3 ounces) grated mild white cheese, such as Monterey Jack 1 red, yellow, or orange pepper, roasted, peeled and sliced into thin strips Chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish (optional) Instructions For the cactus: Fill a large bowl halfway with ice water and set aside. Fill a large saucepan about halfway with well salted water and add the onion and garlic. Bring water to a boil over high heat, then add the cactus paddles. (The water should just about cover the cactus.) Cook until the paddles turn a khaki-green color and are slightly soft, about 3 minutes. Remove cactus from boiling water and immediately place in the ice water bath to halt the cooking. While the cactus paddles cool, heat the oven to 425°F (or to broil) and arrange a rack at least 6-inches from the heat source. When cactus is cool, remove from ice water, pat dry, and discard water. For the beans: Stir beans together with cumin, Mexican oregano, salt, and ground black pepper. Heat a medium frying pan over medium heat and add the oil. When oil is shimmering, add the onion and cook, stirring a few times, until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and chopped chipotle, stirring until the oil turns a lovely reddish color and you start to smell a chili-garlic aroma. In one quick pour, add the beans and about half of the broth to the pan. Using a bean masher — in Mexico this is called an aplastador (I use a wooden one just like these Rancho Gordo bean mashers) — or the bottom of a cup, mash the beans into a paste. Add more broth if the beans look too dry and take care not to overheat the beans or they’ll dry out too quickly. Once you have your desired consistency, cook the beans for about 5 minutes, stirring often so they don’t stick, until flavors combine. To assemble nopales, line up cactus paddles on a rimmed baking sheet. Add a thin layer of beans to each cactus paddle and sprinkle evenly with cheese. Bake until cheese is golden-brown and bubbly and cactus is knife tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add roasted red peppers in a pretty little mound in the middle to garnish, and top with a sprinkle of chopped cilantro.
5 minutes | Apr 25, 2014
Recipe: Easter Wheat Pie
We're a little late to the game on this, but it still sounds tasty, so we're calling this a "Past Chance Foods" recipe. It comes from copy editor Francine Almash's mother, Victoria. Easter Wheat Pieby Victoria Almash Makes filling for two pies 1 can soaked wheat (one brand is Asti) or use the recipe* below for cooked wheat berries 1.4 cup hot (scalded) milk ¼ tsp. salt ¼ tsp. sugar 1 ½ lbs ricotta 1 cup sugar 6 egg yolks (beaten) 1 tbs. orange water ¼ cup diced citron ¼ cup diced orange peel 4 egg whites (beaten stiff) 1 tsp. vanilla Pie crust enough for two pie shells and lattice work In the scalded milk, mix can of wheat, ¼ tsp salt and ¼ tsp sugar. Remove from heat, add citron and orange peel. Set aside. Meanwhile prepare filling: Beat ricotta and cup of sugar. Then add 6 egg yolks, vanilla and orange water. Blend well. Stir in prepared wheat. Then fold in beaten egg whites. Pour into pie shell. Arrange strips crisscross over filling to the edge. Roll bottom overhand up over the strips at the edge and flute heavily. Bake in preheated oven (350 degrees) for 1 hour or until firm in the center. Let cool with oven door open. Serve sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar. *Cooking with Wheat Berriesby Amber Waves Farm Ingredients 1 cup wheat berries (makes approximately 3 cups) 1 tbs salt Cooking: Add 1 cup wheat berries, 3 cups of water and a tablespoon of salt to a medium saucepan, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and bring to a simmer, then cook for 50 minutes or until wheat berries are soft and chewy. (For faster cook time and softer wheat berries, soak wheat berries in water overnight prior to cooking). Drain any excess water and transfer to a bowl to cool. Toss with a splash of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Storage: If not using immediately, store the cooked wheat berries in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator for up to a week. To reheat, put wheat berries in frying pan with splash of water, stirring over low heat until hot.
5 minutes | Apr 25, 2014
Last Chance Foods: Forget the Midwest, Wheat Finds a Home in Long Island
The image of rolling wheat fields calls to mind sprawling Midwestern farms, but that may be changing. Just look at Amber Waves Farm in Amagansett, Long Island, where farmers Katie Baldwin and Amanda Merrow are growing wheat on 16 acres. They started their farm in 2009, bucking the then-emerging, now-rampant, gluten-free trend. “For every customer that we sell wheat berries or our whole wheat flour to, there is a customer that is really excited that we’re working to close the gap in the foodshed in the Northeast by bringing grains back from the Midwest,” said Baldwin. In addition, Merrow said, there’s a growing interest in the nutritional benefits of whole grains like wheat berries. “Wheat berries are wheat seeds,” she explained. They are what farmers plant in the fall, and the young sprouted seeds quickly grow into wheat grass. Put wheat berries through a mill and the result is flour. In their complete form, they can be cooked for use in numerous applications — as a breakfast food or in salads and soups. Baldwin and Merrow use an electric table-top stone mill that they’ve named “Milton” to grind wheat berries into flour. Their customers have also used Vitamixes and food processors to tackle the job. There’s a notable benefit to locally grown wheat and freshly milled flour. “You can imagine a tomato being a fresh tomato, an heirloom tomato picked from your garden, and the burst of flavor that that has and its freshness,” said Baldwin. “Grains also have a terroir. We’re by the beach, so it picks up traces of flavor in the soil and elements there. And bread should have a lot of flavor characteristics.” She adds that the wheat grown at Amber Waves Farm has a nutty flavor with hints of cinnamon and nutmeg. (Photo: Katie Baldwin and Amanda Merrow/Courtesy of Amber Waves Farm) New York City farmers markets have been key in creating the demand for locally grown wheat. Bakers who sell at the greenmarkets use as much as 65,000 pounds of local flour each month. Turns out that New Yorkers aren’t the only ones appreciating the local wheat. “Really our primary challenge on the East End, in addition to expensive land, is that there are a lot of deer on the East End who also love wheat berries,” said Merrow. “And so that’s really our greatest challenge, is trying to keep the deer away from the wheat.” What the deer don’t realize is that cooking wheat berries make them even more delicious. Below, check out instructions from Amber Waves Farm on how to cook wheat berries. Then you can use those prepared wheat berries in the spring salad recipe below or in this Easter Wheat Pie recipe. Cooking with Wheat Berries Ingredients 1 cup wheat berries (makes approximately 3 cups) 1 tbs salt Cooking: Add 1 cup wheat berries, 3 cups of water and a tablespoon of salt to a medium saucepan, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and bring to a simmer, then cook for 50 minutes or until wheat berries are soft and chewy. (For faster cook time and softer wheat berries, soak wheat berries in water overnight prior to cooking). Drain any excess water and transfer to a bowl to cool. Toss with a splash of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Storage: If not using immediately, store the cooked wheat berries in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator for up to a week. To reheat, put wheat berries in frying pan with splash of water, stirring over low heat until hot. Simple Spring Wheat Berry Saladby Amber Waves Farm 1 cup cooked wheat berries 5 sliced radishes 1 cup chopped arugula or spinach 1 tbs of chopped chives 1/4 cup of chopped parsley 3 tbs extra virgin olive oil 3 tbs lemon juice Salt and pepper to taste Preparation: Add vegetables and herbs to the wheat berries and mix in the olive oil and lemon juice. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve at room temperature.
5 minutes | Apr 17, 2014
Last Chance Foods: Flowers You Can Eat
Ignore the recent chilly blast of weather, spring is here and so are the blooms. Some of those cheerful flowers aren’t just a treat for the eye—they’re tasty, too. Violas are one edible variety. They’re part of the pansy family, and you can find them at farmers markets now. “Fresh flowers are one of the few things that you’ll be hard pressed to find packaged in a store,” says Annie Novak, a rooftop farmer and co-founder of Eagle Street Rooftop Farm. “So really the pleasure of eating a flower garnish is you can almost guarantee it’s coming right out of a garden nearby.” Novak is also the manager of the New York Botanical Garden’s Edible Academy, where she works to teach children about the connection between gardening and healthy eating. She points out that, as a children’s educator, edible flowers like violas are an easy way to get kids interested in food. Even simple tricks like floral ice cubes (directions below) can be an incentive for them to stay hydrated. For the adults, the appeal of eating violas is also simple. “They’re one of the easiest ways to make a very simple dish appear quite fancy,” says Novak. Naturally, not all flowers are edible, so do your research before chomping away. (The New York Botanical Garden has this list for reference.) Novak advises the sensible step of planting only nontoxic flowers if you’re introducing your kids to edible blooms. She recommends avoiding things like angel's trumpet, which reportedly causes hallucinations. Sound advice, that. (Photo: Annie Novak with Julia and Janine Gayenelo at the New York Botanical Garden/Victor Chu) As for the rest of us worried about ingesting unexpected chemicals or pesticides, Novak recommends starting the flowers from seed or asking your plant purveyor if they were treated in any way with chemicals. “And if it was, you can wash it or pick off the flowers before you start to eat them,” Novak adds. “Picking off the flowers will actually encourage more blooms and more growth so it will work out the best.” Violas should be a hit with kids and adults alike, since they’re sweet and have a mild floral taste. “The texture is a really important part of the taste of flowers because the petals themselves are very soft,” adds Novak. “It’s a weird combination but [they have] like a crystalline, velvety, melt-in-your-mouth kind of texture. If you're looking to keep your little ones entertained this weekend, The New York Botanical Garden's Culinary Kids Food Festival has a variety of food and plant focused activities going on through Monday, April 21. Floral Ice Cubes Ice cube tray: larger sizes work better because the ice will melt less quickly Boiled, distilled water: This makes for the clearest-looking ice cubes Edible flowers (such as violas), enough for each ice cube Fill the trays ⅓ of the way with the boiled, distilled water. Place the flowers face down in the water and freeze. Fill ⅔ of the way with more of the water, freeze. Fill to the top and freeze.
5 minutes | Apr 11, 2014
Last Chance Foods: Micro-Farming Sourdough Starter in Your Kitchen
If you’re an apartment-bound urbanite with nary a backyard to plant, here’s a micro-farming solution acceptable for even the smallest spaces: Grow yourself a sourdough starter, also known as a levain. “It’s a little like farming,” said Austin Hall, the head baker at She Wolf Bakery. “You’re trying to grow this organism that is going to help you raise the bread.” So if you’re not cleaning out your kitchen this weekend in preparation for Passover, consider combining some good flour with water, and then letting it sit in a cool spot for a two days. There’s yeast naturally present on the flour, and it just needs nurturing. “What you’re trying to do is cultivate a colony of yeast and bacteria,” Hall said. “It doesn’t sound very appetizing but, trust me [it is].” Since there are only two ingredients that go into making a starter, pay attention to each. First of all, don’t use white flour. Instead, choose a whole wheat or whole rye flour. She Wolf Bakery, which supplies restaurants including Roman’s and Marlow and Sons, gets some of its flour from local purveyors at the Union Square Farmers Market. “All those nutritious things that are good for humans are also good for tiny bacteria,” Hall said. “In about two days, you can get the very beginning of a culture. If you’re starting from nothing, it takes probably a week before… you’ll have a strong enough culture that you can actually bake a loaf of bread from it.” (Photo: Austin Hall/Courtesy of She Wolf Bakery) Ingredient number two for a sourdough starter is water. Hall explained that New York City’s tap water is chlorinated, so it’ll kill microorganisms unless the chlorine is allowed to evaporate. “It’s most important when you’re very first starting out to use either distilled, bottled water,” he explained, “or you can take regular tap water and let it sit on the counter for 8 to 12 hours, and all that chlorine will off gas and you can mix dough with it.” Finally, add a healthy dash of patience. Nothing will happen to the flour and water mixture in the first 24 hours. Even after it begins to double in size, there’s still a few more weeks of tending to do. “Don’t get discouraged in the beginning if it doesn’t taste like sourdough,” Hall said. “It’s far easier to cultivate the yeast colony than it is to cultivate the bacterial colony. It takes probably three weeks of regular of feeding before you’ll get enough of a bacterial colony for it to really taste like sourdough bread.” If all this sounds more like the unnecessary hassle of tending a Tamagotchi pet, rather than watching the fascinating activities of an ant farm, there’s another option. Cozy up to a baker and ask for a piece of starter. Keep it alive by regular feedings, and, boom, you’re ready to go. On the other hand, if you’re ready to get yeast farming, check out Hall’s directions for creating a sourdough starter.
5 minutes | Apr 4, 2014
Last Chance Foods: Rooting for Rutabagas
When it comes to vegetables, it must be hard to be a rutabaga. As a cross between a cabbage and a turnip, the humongous, humble-looking root vegetable can easily be overlooked when compared to the delicate fiddlehead ferns available in the early spring. But here at Last Chance Foods, we like the underdog vegetables. That’s one reason WNYC’s Amy Eddings recently bought a huge rutabaga from Conuco Farm’s Hector Tejada at the Fort Greene farmers market. Despite all her good intentions, the poor rutabaga languished in her refrigerator for three weeks, slowly drying out and becoming slightly squishy. A rescue mission was called. The root vegetable was hauled back to the farmers market for a professional consult with Tejada, whose farm is located in New Paltz, N.Y. He explained that the rutabaga was fine to eat, though perhaps better for a cooked application since it was getting a little soft. “You want it crisp and crunchy when they’re raw,” Tejada said, adding that he usually eats the vegetable raw. Eddings’ rutabaga and those at the market now were harvested last year, around Thanksgiving, he added. They take about 120 days to reach their gargantuan size, and usually experience several frosts before being harvested. The cold weather helps make them sweeter. “They can be sitting in the field and they can be in the morning… completely icy and basically frozen,” Tejada said. “And later when the day gets warmer and the sun shines, they just defrost and the same happens with the greens.” (Photo: Rutabagas from Conuco Farm at the Fort Greene farmers market.) The greens are edible, too, and taste like slightly spicier turnip greens. At this point in the year, though, the greens were cut off months ago. For optimal long-term storage, Tejada keeps the rutabagas, still covered in dirt, in closed rubber bins that have holes punched in them for air circulation. The vegetables are washed before arriving at the market, and Tejada said to keep them in the refrigerator at home. “You don’t want to leave it exposed to the air,” he explained. “You want to keep in either a plastic bag or a sealed container.” Tejada, who hails from the Dominican Republic, explained that rutabagas are easy to prepare. He roasts them with butter, olive oil, salt and pepper. He also said that many of his customers like to steam them and mash them with potatoes. “It was not something that I grew up eating at all,” Tejada admitted. “I love them. I have them even, like, caramelized with maple syrup, like a candy.” For that, he mixes chunks of rutabaga with maple syrup or honey and seasons it before covering the dish with aluminum foil and roasting it in the oven. He then broils it uncovered until the rutabaga is crispy. If you want the details of that, you’ll have to visit Tejada at the farmers market. Eddings ended up slicing her rutabaga into strips and using Food52’s recipe for Rutabaga “Cacio e Pepe.” Rutabaga “Cacio e Pepe”by savorthis Ingredients 1 rather large rutabaga (sliced yielded about 4 cups) 4 tablespoons butter black pepper ¾ cups parmegiano reggiano, grated ¼ cup ricotta salata Get the full recipe at Food52.
5 minutes | Mar 28, 2014
Last Chance Foods: One Connoisseur's Quest for the Freshest Mallomar
Heads up to Mallomars fans out there: The season for the chocolate-covered, marshmallow-and-graham-cracker cookie is nearly over. Yes, this packaged and processed cookie has a season. Mallomars are only made by Nabisco from September through March. The reason for that began when the cookies were invented 100 years ago, at a time that predated refrigeration. The cookies have a thin chocolate shell that would melt during the warmer months. The cool-month schedule continued on track — due to a combination of tradition and, likely, savvy marketing — even after refrigeration came into existence. “I suppose it also creates a cult-like demand for it,” said Wall Street Journal columnist Ralph Gardner Jr., who has an admitted obsession for the confection. Even sticking to the cold-weather delivery does not ensure a perfect cookie every time, apparently. “You’d assume that if it has all these preservatives or whatever that… any box should be pristine or perfect, but that’s not the case,” Gardner said. And that is the key to this oddly seasonal, weirdly delicate cookie. “The difference between a fresh Mallomar and a stale Mallomar is the difference between bliss and despair,” wrote Gardner his “Urban Gardner” column. (Photo: Ralph Gardner Jr.in action/Courtesy of Ralph Gardner Jr.) The chocolate on a “fresh” specimen should snap when being bitten into. On a stale one, it can be chalky or cracked. “If it becomes cracked and air is allowed to enter through the chocolate, then the marshmallow is sort of tough and stale,” he said. The same staleness even permeates the cookie. He explained that, while the boxes emerging from Nabisco are likely uniformly perfect in the way of processed foods, supermarkets may be far less sensitive to the optimal condition under which the cookies need to remain perfectly fresh. In one case, Gardner noticed that a display of the cookies were located under one grocery store’s heat lamp. So, despite digging through boxes to find the one with the most recent sell-by date, the cookies he brought home were less than perfect. So subtle is Gardner’s Mallomar palate, that though the cookies were in the same box, he noted some of them differed from their brethren in freshness. “It sort of introduces connoisseurship to a cookie that really has no right to be open to that,” he admitted. And while NPR reported that some fans hoard Mallomars in their freezers for year-round availability, Gardner is staunchly opposed to doing so. For him, it’s all about enjoying the perfect cookie while its in season. “I just can’t believe that a frozen Mallomar tastes as good as one fresh out of the box,” Gardner said. Gardner’s clearly not the only super-fan out there. Bouchon Bakery has created a $3.95, made-from-scratch version called the “Mallowmore.” By some accounts, it lives up to the original. It’s certain that Gardner is on yet another cookie-related mission to find out.
5 minutes | Mar 21, 2014
Last Chance Foods: Sweet On Onions
Consider the onion: It forms the backbone of so many dishes, but rarely serves as a main ingredient. Is it because we’re worried about the stink of onion breath? Dirt Candy chef Amanda Cohen says to grab some toothpaste and just get over it. “That’s why [toothpaste] was invented, right?” she said. “You can’t be afraid of a vegetable. The vegetable’s way more afraid of you.” There are plenty of ways beyond traditional French onion soup to make the humble allium a star ingredient. At Dirt Candy, Cohen began serving a grilled onion salad with red onions and shallots. The side became so popular that it won a spot on the menu as a main salad. Red onions are particularly good in salad and stir-fries because they’re sweeter than white or yellow onions. They also add a welcome pop of color. Vidalia onions are so sweet that Cohen is incorporating them into a dessert. “We’re just actually caramelizing them and mixing them right now into a... fudge kind of chocolate,” she said. “And it’s almost like a chocolate prune tart. That’s what it tastes like, and it’s sort of blowing all of our minds how delicious it is.” (Photo: Amanda Cohen/Courtesy of Dirt Candy) Chefs at Dirt Candy have also made tiny fried onion blossoms with pearl onions. Cohen explained that she uses Spanish onions and white onions interchangeably. “Spanish onions you can always use for soups stocks, flavoring oils, that kind of thing,” she said. “[Use them] when you really want a cooked onion that’s going to disappear.” Unfortunately, those onions are the most tear-inducing to prep, according to the chef. She knows people who chew on the unburnt end of a used match, or a toothpick, to prevent tearing up. “I’m not sure if that really works,” Cohen said. “I like the idea of sunglasses, goggles. You could do that, too, I suppose if you’re chopping copious amounts.” For her, wearing contacts has been a foolproof solution. Try out Dirt Candy's recipe for grilled onion salad with fermented black bean dressing and scallion oil. That’s below. Grilled Onion Salad This salad is really, really easy on purpose. I wanted to make a rustic salad that let the real flavor of onions shine through. The dressing is the tricky part, but it’s worth the effort because of all the layers of taste it adds. Not enough people use fermented black beans, but they add an amazing, deep, complex flavor to everything. 2 cups sliced red onions 2 tablespoons finely diced red onion 3 bunches of scallions 1 cup picked cilantro leaves 1 cup picked parlsey 1 cup picked thai basil leaves 1/2 cup Fermented Black Bean Dressing (see below) Salt to taste 1. Heat a grill until it’s super-hot, almost smoking. In a bowl, toss the whole scallions with olive oil then lay them flat on the grill. Cook until grill marks form, and they’re nice and soft. Remove from the grill and chop them up. 2. Do the exact same thing for the sliced red onions. Toss with oil, put on grill until char marks form, then pull off. 3. Mix everything together in a bowl, and season to taste. Fermented Black Bean Dressing 3 1/2 tablespoons fermented black beans 7 cloves garlic 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons lime juice 1 cup shoyu 1 cup Scallion Oil (see below) salt to taste 1. Soak the black beans in cold water for about 1 hour. Drain. Reserve 1 1/2 tablespoons of the water. 2.In a blender or a Vitamix, blend everything together until smooth. Add the bean water to keep it moving. Scallion Oil 1 cup chopped scallions 1 cup sliced ginger 1 1/2 cup untoasted sesame oil 1 tablespoon salt 1. Mix everything except the oil together in a heat resistant bowl (metal or glass). 2. Heat oil on the stove until almost smoking. 3. Gently pour the oil over the mixture in the bowl. 4. Wait until cool, at least 1 hour, and blend in a VitaMix or blender until smooth.
5 minutes | Mar 14, 2014
Last Chance Foods: For Lobster Eaters Only
Cooking live lobster at home is not a task for the faint of heart. But here’s one thing seafood eaters don’t have to worry about. “Lobsters don’t have vocal cords, alright? They do not exist in a lobster. They don’t scream,” said Susan Povich, who owns Red Hook Lobster Pound with her husband Ralph Gorham. “What you’re hearing is steam escaping from the carapace — from the hard shell of the body — if you hear anything. You might be hearing your child scream when you put the lobster in the water.” If you’re feeling up for the task, lobster is in season year round. During the winter months, lobster have hard shells and a fuller, more briny, flavor, Povich explained. That’s because adult lobsters generally molt once or twice a year, and molting usually occurs in conjunction with the spring or fall change in water temperatures. “After the lobster molts and the shells form up, I believe, is when you get that sort of sweet, summery, Maine lobster taste that everyone associates with lobster,” she added. So expect that to be in about a month, after the weather starts warming up. At the Red Hook Lobster Pound, she serves two versions of lobster rolls: one with mayonnaise and another with butter. Povich, whose family hails from Bar Harbor, Maine, said that mayonnaise is how it’s traditionally served (with the exception of the famous Red’s Eats in Wiscasett, Maine). She coined the term “Connecticut lobster roll” to describe the butter version after reading about a salesman who requested the variation at a Connecticut restaurant. When choosing a lobster to cook at home, Povich advised looking for one that’s lively. That means it should curve its tail and arch its torso like Superman when picked up. (Photo: Susan Povich/Courtesy of Red Hook Lobster Pound) For those feeling squeamish about cooking the lobster live but determined to press forward, Povich offered this tip. “If you want to kind of put the lobsters to sleep, you can put the lobsters in the freezer in a bag for 20 minutes before you put them in the water,” she said. “They do tend to go a bit dormant.” At home, Povich combines boiling and steaming methods. She starts with a few inches of water in the bottom of the pot — about four fingers of water for four lobsters. She adds a varying combination of fennel, onion, carrots, bay leaf, beer, and peppercorns. “I bring that to a … rolling boil,” Povich said. “I let those ingredients... season the water a little bit and then I put my lobsters in head first and put the lid on.” She said that method is faster than just steaming the lobsters, and recommends leaving hard-shell lobsters in for 15 to 20 minutes after the water returns to a rolling boil. A soft-shell lobster is done in about 12 minutes. Here recipe for that method of cooking lobster is below. Lobster in a Pot by Red Hook Lobster Pound 4 lobsters (1.5 lbs each) 1 cup white wine or beer 1 onion, peeled and quartered 4 stalks celery — cut in thirds ¼ cup sea salt 4 bay leaves fennel tops (if you have some) 1 Tbs. Old Bay seasoning (optional) Place all ingredients (except lobsters) in a tall pot. Fill with water so that water is 4 fingers tall (around 2.5 inches). Cover tightly and bring to a rolling boil. Turn heat down and simmer for 5 minutes. Place each lobster, head down, tail curled under, in the pot. Cover, and bring back to a rolling boil. After 5 minutes, uncover and rotate lobsters (bottom to top, top to bottom). Cover again, raise heat to high and steam/boil an additional 3-4 minutes for soft-shell lobsters or 6-7 minutes for hard-shell lobsters. Remove and let lobsters sit and drain for 5 minutes. (Add 2 minutes additional cooking time per additional lobster, though we don’t recommend cooking more than 4 at a time).
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