The Clean Hippie

Seeking the sustainable life in New York City

For a Green Apartment in NYC – Check out Green Depot August 4, 2010

After my lovely farmers market cooking class on Sunday, I had the afternoon to waste and it occurred to me it was a perfect opportunity to check out the Green Depot.

And…. there goes my budget for the month. How could I get so excited about a place that sells paint, cleaning supplies, building supplies, and baby stuff? I don’t know, but I did.

I needed to figure out why I keep killing my herbs, so I bought a guide called Organic Crops in Pots. I wanted to learn more about running our itty-bitty household in a green way, so I bought make your place, an adorable, bite-size, hand-written treasure trove of recipes for face-wash, cleaners, salves, and even natural pain relief. I wanted to find a better way to mark my herbs (once I succeed in raising them) than plastic spoons, so I bought adorable up-cycled markers made from vintage silverware. I wanted to be able to keep the outlet in my room off as much as possible, save energy, and get off the coal-powered grid just a little bit, so I bought a solar-powered battery pack that will charge up during the day, and charge up my phone at night as I sleep. I wanted to figure out what to do about my brand new organic white sheets, which are rapidly becoming a casualty of hot NYC nights. (Read: I sweat a lot. TMI? Whatever.) so I bought Oxy-boost for my laundry, in lieu of bleach. I wanted to tackle our pre-war bathroom without using that caustic stuff, Comet, so I had a long discussion with Patricia and she recommended Green Depot’s own bathroom cleaner, whose bottle I can refill over and over because they have it “on tap.” Finally, I wanted to figure out what to do about all the food scraps we toss in the garbage every week. So I picked up a guide to composting in NYC, and will be carefully considering my options in the next month. (Compost in the apartment? Drop it off at a garden? Give up?) In case I decide to go forward with it, they have the most classic and un-hippie-like compost pales in silver and white.

I walked away with a $147 bill, I’m not kidding. The most expensive item by far was the solar-powered charger, at $55. Was it worth it? Ehhhh, maybe. If I turn off my electricity except when I’m running the air conditioning or my hair dryer, I could probably make up the difference within a few months. Also, it’s just cool.

When I left, I walked west from Green Depot’s spot on Bowery, and found myself smack dab in the middle of the Soho shopping district, where every store front is filled with dresses, purses, and shoes. “Don’t look don’t look don’t look don’t look,” I told myself. “Just make it through without stepping in a store.”

I made it through ok. But what does it say about my priorities that I will pay $150 for herb-growing supplies, solar powered chargers, and green cleaning supplies, but not a cute dress? (Which, by the way, I have far too many of.) I think it says my priorities are firmly in the right place.

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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!