The Clean Hippie

Seeking the sustainable life in New York City

Farmers Market Cooking – the Right Way August 3, 2010

As you know, I’ve had several forays into farmers market cooking. It is usually sporadic, however, and often involves potatoes. They keep well and need nothing more than olive oil. But lately I’ve been seriously lagging, mostly because all the farmers markets close at five. Five! Unless I make it there on Saturday or Sunday, well, than it’s off to Whole Foods, or – even lazier – my corner grocery store for pesticide laden produce from California.

I’m a bad person. I know!

Anyway, in an attempt to redeem myself I signed up for a cooking class with the owner of Home Cooking NYC, Jennifer Clair. The menu was composed almost entirely of farmers market goodies, save the lemon, sugar, salt, and flour. Hmm, maybe the butter too. But really, it was a very small percentage wasn’t fresh from the stalls.

Jennifer is extremely knowledgeable. In contrast to my last cooking class, which was long on knife technique and short on instruction on high quality ingredients, Jennifer was all about getting the best stuff. She talked about the meaty wonderfullness of heirloom tomatoes, the robust flavor of fresh garlic, the dense nutritional value of farro (an “uber grain” she called it), the merits of salt, and the demerits of processed food, how to store various fresh herbs, and the importance of choosing sustainable fish and humanely raised meat.

In short, she imparted a gold mine of information about how to cook and eat healthfully. She agrees with Michael Pollan on many points, including the fact that Americans devote a too small percentage of their budget to food. “I spend most of my money on food,” she said. As someone who enjoys paying $4 for an heirloom tomato so she can bite into like an apple, she was definitely telling the truth.

So what goodies did she demonstrate? Check out these photos of the fresh ingredients before they were whipped into munch-worthy shape by Jennifer:

Fresh Tomato, Fennel and Corn Relish over tilapia fish. Lightly floured and tossed in a non-stick pan with olive oil, tilapia is an easy cook – it holds together well and is always a good choice for the cook who is conscientious of depleted fish stocks.

Roasted Ratatouille with eggplant, zucchini, onion, garlic, bell peppers, thyme, tomatoes, basil, and – a untraditional addition which really amped up the flavor – kalamata olives, all spooned over farro. A great choice for this time of year, ratatouille brings together a bounty harvest of mid-summer flavors. It may be a “peasant dish” but it tastes like royalty.

Magret duck with a summer fruit compote. Seeing that the Columbia farmers market near me has no chicken, but has duck, I was grateful for this recipe. It combines savory duck, with sweet fruit in a way I didn’t think possible. It wasn’t quite as good as the duck from Bobo in the West Village, but that is a really, really high bar. You can also try the compote over chicken or pork, or mix it up with other fruit, even apples. Tasty!

The empanada and the peach pie met, fell in love, and had a little bastard child called “hand pie.” It’s got it’s momma’s good looks and it’s daddy’s money, and it’s flaky, buttery crust encases a sweet fruit filling that will knock you out. Did I mention it was yummy?

The end result was a family-style lunch that was just the right amount of filling, and good conversation with other aware foodies from NYC and Connecticut.

If you’re wondering why I didn’t reproduce her recipes here, well, a. it doesn’t do them justice, and b. I don’t want to steal her thunder! I highly recommend Jennifer’s classes. Find more here, including private lessons in the home and lessons in her home kitchen in the Hudson Valley.

P.S. It’s National Farmers Market Week!

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Sushi: A Great Cooking Project for Two People August 2, 2010

Filed under: Food,recipes — Alden @ 1:01 am
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I’ve always heard that making sushi is really, really hard. That unless you have tons of practice, your rolls turn out messy and unappetizing and you might as just give up and order some take out. Well, I’m here to report that it is not as bad as all that.

I’ve been adding some random stuff to my Amazon wishlist. Things like heart-shaped ice cube trays, books that look interesting but aren’t must-reads, and a sushi mat. Oops, I accidentally added this little sushi-rolling doodad to my cart, and it showed up at my door along with an organic cookbook a few weeks ago.

Mike loves sushi, and when yesterday morning I casually suggested we could make sushi for dinner, his eyes lit up. I mean, Mike is a super-positive guy, but more in a “I’ll do anything once” sort of way – when I suggest going to a good restaurant, or biking out to Coney Island, he smiles and says, “Sure! Sounds fun!” No, this time, it was different. He pounced on that idea like spaz-attack cat Luca pounces on a laser pointer. (Ever seen that? It’s pretty funny. But I digress.) There was no reneging on this idea.

We stopped at Whole Foods on the way home and picked up the ingredients. I already had sesame seeds, wasabi powder, sugar, soy sauce, and nori, so we chose a tuna steak and salmon, some sushi rice, rice vinegar, some cheap caviar (or roe, as they call it in sushi restaurants, and it was 11 bucks y’all, don’t get excited) a couple avocados, and convinced the lady at the sushi counter to part with a little bit of spicy sauce.

A google search found this stellar all things sushi website with detailed instruction on every step.

We rinsed, soaked, and cooked the rice, mixed in the vinegar, sugar, and salt, sliced up the fish and avocado, spread the rice on the nori, and used the mat to roll it all up in different variations.

The result was delicioso. (Sorry, I don’t know the Japanese word for “awesomeness in my mouth”) Yes, my rolls were a bit fat. “I don’t know if this is going to fit in my mouth,” Mike said as he contemplated my overly rice-y roll. “I’m not going to say it,” I said, but then couldn’t help my self and yelled “That’s what she said!!!!” as he placed it in his mouth. Then I started laughing so hard, because he looked like a chipmunk. Sorry, no pics of that, which is unfortunate, really. Luckily Mike was able to chew  it and swallow it, as hard as I was making it for him.

Also, we had a lot of sushi. FYI, three cups of uncooked rice is excessive for two people, as is a pound of fish. Who knew?

But overall, it was super fun. We took turns spreading the rice, and choosing our own favorite garnishes. One hiccup was that Mike forgot to keep track of which rolls were heavy on the wasabi, which was an unpleasant surprise for me. And no, I did not get sick, thanks for asking! Now if you will excuse me, I need to go eat my leftovers!

 

So you’re having a vegetarian and meat-lover to dinner… April 13, 2010

Filed under: recipes,shoutout — Alden @ 8:49 pm
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What do you cook? Well, a team of experimental chefs is trying to answer that question by putting together a book of flexible recipes, called Flexitarian. But they need your help funding the project! I kicked in $30 through Kickstarter, which guarantees me a copy of the cookbook if the funding goes through. The project is 40% funded, and it will only go through if they reach their goal of $3,500. I want my cookbook, so head over there at give $5 to a good cause. All proceeds from sales of the book, once printed, go to benefit two organizations: Slow Food USA and Yoga Bear. (The former I’m wild about.)

 

Get yo’ sweet fix March 27, 2010

Filed under: Food,recipes — Alden @ 3:10 pm
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You know what I miss sometimes? Flavored frozen coffee. It doesn’t matter from where: Starbucks, Caribou, Dunkin’ Donuts, a corner coffee shop… I miss the sugary, yummy concoctions with whipped cream and a drizzle of caramel. I don’t even like coffee, but these drinks are heaven.

Unfortunately, one 16 oz Frappuccino from Starbucks can pack up to 310 calories, and the ingredient list is a closely guarded secret. After doing some research, I’ve surmised that it involves some sugary syrup, a cream base, a coffee base, and ice. So yeah, who knows what crazy stuff is in there and where it came from?

Well, I’ve found a substitute that I can make right at home, and it’s good for you. That’s right, it benefits the body, instead of dragging it down with sugar. It doesn’t have any coffee in it, but that’s ok. It’s absolutely delicious. And come on, the coffee wasn’t the point.

I lifted this from the Clean Program, and have tweaked it a bit. Behold…

Alden’s Frozen Un-coffee:

8 oz. coconut water

2 tablespoons agave syrup

1 tablespoon almond butter

1 teaspoon cocoa powder

1 ½ cups of ice

Throw it all in a blender until smooth. Don’t stop blending until all those little ice chunks are gone! Pour it in a glass, stick a straw in, and enjoy! (If you really want the experience, buy some heavy cream, vanilla, and sugar, and whip it all together for homemade whipped cream. Yummm.)

 

Rainbow Velvet Cake February 27, 2010

Filed under: experiment,Food,recipes — Alden @ 2:44 am
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Who doesn’t like rainbows? I cooked this cake for a coworker’s birthday and the result was described as “magic” and “the most amazing cake I’ve ever seen.”

I’ve had this idea in my head for a while. I had seen a picture of a rainbow cake, and was just trying to decide what flavor would be the best to make it in. And then it came to me: Red Velvet! My thought was, if you are already dying the bejeezus out of a red velvet cake, why not use other colors?

I’m an old pro at red velvet cake, by they way. Every year for Christmas since I can remember Mom has made it with pink buttercream icing. We light candles and sing Happy Birthday to Jesus. Odd? Yes. Especially since we aren’t even really religious. Delicious? Absolutely.

In my recipe below I make a simple vanilla icing instead of butter cream. I always thought the buttercream was a bit too rich for my taste. Try to get butter that is pale if you can, so it doesn’t affect the creamy whiteness of that icing.

I know it’s a lot of ingredients, but you have to triple the recipe in order to get enough batter for six layers, or else the layers will dry out. Also, make sure to use 8-inch instead of 10-inch pans, for the same reason. And like my mom always says “Make sure to follow the instructions EXACTLY!” (I’m bad about that.)

Recipe for Alden’s Velvet Magic Cake (Waldorf Astoria Red Velvet Remixed)

  • 6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 5 boxes of food coloring (the kind with red, yellow, green and blue .25 oz squeeze bottles. Found in any grocery store)
  • 3 cups buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups shortening (like Crisco)
  • 4 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 7 1/2 cups all purpose flour. (the recipe says sifted, but all flour is pre-sifted these days, so no worries on that.)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar

(Note: this is what the cake looked like when I only doubled the recipe. Yes, the layers were a bit dry. So you’ll want to triple instead.)

For the icing:

  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • good dash salt
  • two teaspoons vanilla
  • 4 tablespoons milk
  • 4 cups powdered (confectioners) sugar (Note for your shopping trip that that’s almost two bags worth of sugar.)
  1. Grease three 8 inch round pans. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. Divide cocoa evenly into 6 medium bowls that are lined up in a row. (Cereal bowls are NOT quite big enough.) In bowl 1, put 3 bottles of the red food coloring. In bowl 2, put 1 bottle of red and 2 bottles of yellow. In bowl 3, put 3 yellow bottles. In bowl 4, put 3 green bottles. In bowl 5, put 3 blue bottles. In bowl 6, put 1 red and blue bottle each. Mix each bowl to make a paste.
  3. Combine the buttermilk, salt and vanilla. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, cream together the shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time.  Divide the mixture evenly into the 6 rainbow colored bowls.
  5. Into each bowl, met out a heaping spoonful of flour and the buttermilk mixture. Mix it up. Repeat until all of flour and buttermilk mixture is mixed into the bowls. (Make sure to do this gradually, not in one big dump!)
  6. Pour batter from the purple, blue, and green bowl into the cake pans. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Flip them out, purple first, onto your serving tray. Put the last three colors into the now empty pans to bake, and then stack them on top. (Notice in the top picture that I mixed up my orange and red layer. Whoops! Gotta be careful!) You want it to be, from bottom up: purple, blue, green, yellow, orange red. The colors will be brighter once you slice into the cake, so don’t worry if the crust looks dull. Allow to cool completely before frosting. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  7. To Make Icing: mix up all ingredients. Generously slather (when the cake layers are completely cool!) between each layer and all on the outside. Don’t let any color peek through.
  8. Don’t tell anyone it’s a rainbow cake until you slice into it and deliver a little piece of magic onto their plates!
 

The Week of Eating in: What’s wrong with my bread making? February 24, 2010

Filed under: experiment,Food,Moments of hilarity,recipes — Alden @ 3:34 am
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So, I wanted to use up those four pounds of flour lurking in my cabinet as part of the Week of Eating In. Ambitious me decided that the best way to use it all up (without getting fat on cake) was to make bread. I mean, how hard could bread be? Its ingredients are fairly simple, after all: flour, salt, sugar, egg, yeast, water, oil.

Well…

I found a recipe (below) and I followed all instructions to a tee (which is a feat for me. Usually I dump everything in a bowl and then find out later that you need to “gradually mix in…”) and when the two loaves came out of the oven, oh, were they gorgeous. I triumphantly cut myself a warm piece. The texture was perfect. The shell cracked open and I was filled with memories of buying a fresh loaf of bread right from a Parisian bakery and laying on a picnic blanket by the Seine with friends to enjoy it. The way the soft inside pulled apart, it could have been in a Pillsbury commercial.

But here’s the thing – I couldn’t actually taste anything. My nose was still stuffed up, so as much as I savored it in my mouth, all I could say for sure was that the texture was really pleasing.

The next morning I cut a piece for Vicki and had her try it. She took a bite, chewing slowly. “Well?” I asked.

“It’s…. a little bit yeasty?” She ventured. A grin spread across her face, which – with Vicki – isn’t always a good sign. Often it means she has something not so great to say and is trying to couch it in humor. She tried to nonchalantly tear off a sheet of paper towel and wander away, but I saw as she turned away from me bent her head.

“Did you just spit it out???” I said.

“No!       Yes.”

“Vicki!”

I’m sorry! I just can’t stand the taste of yeast.”

Now that my nose has cleared up, I have to agree with poor Vicki. It is a bit yeasty. In fact, it’s not delicious at all. Vicki, who makes challah with her kids every week at the Jewish nursery school where she works, suggested I put the yeast in the warm water first to let it rise a bit before adding it to the flour. But what do you think?

Do you bake bread? Can you give me some tips? You can find the recipe here.

Actually, you know what? I’ll just put the recipe, from Learning to Live the Simple Life, right here for you. Thoughts?

The recipe I used is from my Betty Crocker’s cookbook.

Prep: 25 minutes; Proof: 3 Hours; Bake: 30 minutes; Makes 2 loaves, 12 slices each

3 to 3 1/2 cups all purpose or bread flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 package regular or quick active dry yeast

1 cup very warm water (120 – 130 degrees)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Cornmeal

1 large egg white

1 tablespoon cold water

Instructions:

1. Mix 2 cups of the flour, the sugar, salt and yeast in large bowl. Add warm water and oil. Beat with electric mixer on low speed 1 minutes; scraping bowl frequently. Beat on medium speed 1 minute, scarping bowl frequently. Stir in remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, to make dough easy to handle (dough will be soft). Turn dough onto lightly floured surface. Knead dough about 5 minutes or until smooth and elastic.

2. Place dough in greased bowl and turn greased side up. Cover and let rise in warm place 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until double. (Rising time is longer than times for traditional breads, which gives the typical French bread texture). Dough is ready if indentation remains when touched

3. Grease large cookie sheet with shortening; sprinkle with cornmeal

4. Punch dough dough and divide in half. Roll each half into rectangle, 15×8 inches, on lightly floured surface. Roll up tightly, beginning at 15-inch side, to form a loaf. Pinch edge of dough into roll and seal. Roll gently back and forth to taper ends. Place both loaves on cookie sheet.

5. Cut 1/4-inch-deep slashes across loaves at 2-inch intervals with sharp knife. Brush loaves with cold water. Let rise uncovered in warm place about 1 hour or until double.

6. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Mix egg white and 1 tablespoon cold water; brush over loaves. Sprinkle poppy or sesame seed.

7. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped.

Comments welcome! I want to get better at this. After all, I have three more pounds of flour to use…

 

I’m in love! The Farmers Market December 10, 2009

Filed under: Food,Places to go,recipes — Alden @ 2:56 pm
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I know I’ve posted about the farmers market before. But really, that was just puppy love. A passing fling. I went once to the Greenmarket at 66th street this summer, which had about 10 tents of stuff. I didn’t go back. It’s not that I didn’t want to, it’s just that it was such a hassle to go all the way down there, when there is a West Side Market right on my corner.

Well, friends, after reading my quartet of sustainable/local food books, I decided to give the local food thing another try. So last week I went all the way down to Union Square for the year-round Green Market.

LOVE.

I sampled wines and hard cider from New York state. I bought delicious whole grain bread whose chunky and dense texture just screamed “I’m homemade! YUMMY!” to go with my grandmother’s peach preserves. I bought honey goat cheese. I bought skim milk that tastes like whole – creamy and smooth – from a woman named Ruby. She calls the cows “girls” and was happy to explain to me the kind of life her pampered girls lead. I bought all sorts of vegetables, oyster mushrooms, and ground turkey. I bought free range eggs that represented the whole spectrum of brown, beige, and white. I also passed a stand with sirloin steaks, rump roasts, and other fine cuts of meat. I didn’t get any though because I’m not a huge beef eater. (Scott, you’ll be getting some when I come home for Christmas.)

When I got home with my haul, Vicky was there too. So I sauteed all the vegetables up, covered the oyster mushrooms with lemon juice and butter to fry, and made turkey meatballs. (I need some practice for those…or a better pan, they were pretty burnt.) We washed it down with hard apple cider from upstate. The best part? I had everything I needed for a delicious meal right in my home. I didn’t think I would be able to do that with local stuff.

The best part was the main Green Market stand where you can pick up recipes that use only ingredients from the GreenMarket. It makes it easy to plan something on the fly.

I went back Sunday to the one up by Columbia to return my little chocolate milk bottle to Milk Thistle Farm, and pick up some fresh greens for a salad, sweet potatoes, and red potatoes for some meals this week. Yesterday for breakfast I made an omelette with the last of the goat cheese and onions. Then I tried to go back down to Union Square to stock up again, but I forgot my wallet.

I’ll just go back tomorrow. Like I told Vicky, I don’t get mad at myself when I do these things, because then I would be mad all the time!