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!

 

Tips for the Farmers Market May 8, 2010

Filed under: Food,Tips — Alden @ 12:53 pm
Tags: ,

You know I love a good farmers market. Unfortunately I couldn’t go this week because I have barely enough cash to buy a pound of potatoes. (Love them credit cards!)

Still, thought you would find this post on the Top Mistakes by Farmers Market Noobz at EcoSalon. Mistake #5 is forgetting cash. See? It’s a useful starting point for anybody wanting to get all the good spring produce that is just showing up….like strawberries, yum!

 

There’s a society-upending movement afoot April 7, 2010

Does it have a name? I’m not sure. It’s part Urban Agriculture, part Back to the Land, part Slow Food, part sustainability. It’s all of those things wrapped up in a deep need by modern Americans to fix what has gone wrong with our food system. I would call it a Food Revolution, but Jamie Oliver stole that name for his new show.

Yup, Oliver’s new show is part of the movement too. It follows him as he attempts to repair the way people eat in one the fattest towns in America, located in West Virginia. In the first episode last Friday, he attacked the lunch system in the school by banishing sugury milk and teaching the elementary school students how to use forks and knives. He also tries to get a family to eat better. It’s a sad sight to see, as an obese mother weeps with relief when she finds out that her middle schooler isn’t diabetic. Yet.

The night before I attended a fundraiser for BK Farmyards, a new urban garden networks that wants to transform the way people in Brooklyn shop for and eat food. As I sipped spicy magaritas with my friend Anne, who works at Idealist, we watched films that all seemed to drive home one crucial point: “Agribusiness, you stupid motherf***ers, we are coming for you.”

Ok, the f-bomb wasn’t necessary. It was more peace and love, naturally. But what I saw in those movies energizes me. More than ever I want to dig my hands into the soil, and at the end of a season pull out a carrot. My very own carrot that I grew myself, on my own land.

One quote in particular got me, from the movie Garden Cycles:

I have kids who come to Middlebury College from the lap of luxury, and pay $160 thousand in tuition, and all they want to do is farm.

What this says to me is that more and more people are getting real pleasure and happiness from turning down that desk job and digging in the dirt. Another person in the film commented on the American myth that farming is one of the most undesirable jobs out there. Yeah, it’s undesirable if you are being driven out of business by massive industrial farming companies. But it can bring real satisfaction to bring home the bacon in a more than just a metaphorical sense.

Other tidbits picked up from this adorable little event:

  • Farmers Markets are the fastest growing part of the food economy, and are growing even faster than Wal-Mart
  • Almost half of New York City’s waste is food
  • “Master Composter” is an actual, honest-to-god title, with an education to go with it
  • My next volunteer opportunity should totally be with the Familia Verde in the bronx, who run a community garden in one of the driest food deserts in the nation

There is so much more on this subject. For starters, read a Michael Pollan book. Or read the latest, wide-ranging articles on the subject of real food here, here, and here.

 

Conscientous Carnivoring January 15, 2010

Credit: Apartment Therapy

This summer I heard the fact that if you wanted to make the most impact, you would be better off becoming a vegetarian than replacing your Hummer with a Prius.

Well, I immediately began cutting down on my meat consumption. But as with most eco-friendly tips that are thrown about these days, it wasn’t that simple.

You see, cutting down on the amount of meat you consume is a great thing to do. In a world where water and food resources are being strained, it makes sense to eat your calories in corn itself. It takes 16 pounds of grains to produce one pound of beef. Yikes!

Here’s the catch: the factoids above assume you are eating corn fed beef. Mmm, corn-fed beef. Sounds great, doesn’t it? If you go to the fancy steak house, Lewnes, in Annapolis, they tell you a beautiful story about the rich marbling of their corn-fed beef from Texas. But the best meat, the meat that is delicious and – more importantly – safe when it comes to food-born illness, is grass fed beef from your local farmer.

Yep, if you can ask the name of the cow or pig or chicken or turkey that provided your dinner, then you know that farmer took extra special care of that animal. Grass fed beef is more sustainable naturally, because the cows eat grass – not corn – which keeps corn from being taken out of the food chain. If everyone ate grass fed beef instead of corn-fed beef, that would reinsert 80% of the corn grown in the US back into the mouth of Americans.  Grass fed beef also doesn’t require a bunch of pesticides and hormones.

I learned all of this from Michael Pollan, and it changed my view of meat and food.

So that leads me to my new designation: Conscientious Carnivore. It’s a growing movement that is turning vegetarians back into carnivores. This article this morning from The Gothamist turned me onto the phrase, and I love it. It means that you can enjoy sizzling bacon, as long as you know that pig was free of hormones, was raised sustainably, and got to wiggle its little corkscrew tail in happiness, instead of shoved into disgusting pen with a bajillion other pigs.

It means you are still eating sustainably, and showing the meat industry that you have standards when it comes to meat. That you want safe food, delicious food, food that doesn’t take corn out of the mouths of those who need it.*

So be a conscientious carnivore! Head to the farmers market, or almost as good, Whole Foods, and grab yourself some grass fed beef, free-range chicken, or scrumptious bacon. And read this book. I will.

*The corn fed to cows is not edible by humans. But think of what the land used to grow it could be used for instead. Sweet corn! Orchards full of apples! More sustainable grown beef!

 

Hippies heart the farmers market! September 11, 2009

Filed under: Food,Places to go,Tips — Alden @ 8:54 pm
Tags: , , ,

There are several great reasons to buy local food:

1. It tastes so much better.

2. Because it comes from local, small outfits, you are more likely to get nutritious produce instead of washed out, half-ripe crap shipped form California and South America.

3. Because it isn’t shipped far, it’s better for the environment.

4. It promotes creative thinking, as you decide what you can make with what is in season and available.

5. You meet cool people.

Yesterday before work, since I left a little early, I decided to swing by the farmers market on 66th and Columbus. It was my first time, and I’m so glad I went!

Mmmmm apples!

I got fresh raspberries, carrots, apples, red dragon beans, salad greens, and something that I thought was squash, but after I sliced it open, I suspect it’s a tomato/squash hybrid. Hmmm. I also had a long chat with a couple people at the  bakery tent while I peeled open my sugar-free oat-bran muffin. (It sounds tasteless but I was pretty happy with it.)

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So for lunch I put together a salad, and dipped my delicious veggies into hummus. For dinner last night I cooked up couscous and sauteed veggies in olive oil. It was delicious!

If you want to find a New York Farmers Market near you, just click here!