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Go Beyond Farm-to-Table With The Nourished Kitchen

Publishers love to send us cookbooks here at Fork in the Road, and often those books come straight from the chefs at some of New York’s best restaurants. So we decided to share the love, and each week, we’ll feature a new book, a recipe, and a few thoughts on cooking from the authors. Check back every Tuesday for a new book.

The Nourished Kitchen: Farm-to-Table Recipes for the Traditional Foods Lifestyle
By Jennifer McGruther, 320 pages, Ten Speed Press, $27.99

Jenny McGruther started her blog, “The Nourished Kitchen,” in 2007 as a chronicle of her personal exploration and interest in traditional food. Last week, she released a collection of the resulting recipes in a beautiful new book, filled with lush photos she shot herself. It’s an impressive and far-reaching collection, with recipes ranging from smoked salmon roe to bohemian rye bread.

A food educator and farmer’s market regular, McGruther was taken by the work of Dr. Weston A. Price, a pioneering M.D. living at the turn of the last century, who trotted the globe studying how primitive cultures sourced, prepared, and ate food.

 

Dr. Price’s studies revealed that isolated, primitive populations subsisted on whole grains, meats, nuts, fruits, and vegetables, sourced from nearby land, and prepared them in simple, straightforward fashion, preserving surplus for later. These people, he contended, had very few health problems, longer lifespans, and better resilience in the face of injury than their counterparts in developed areas, who ate from a more refined, processed pantry. Price believed the difference was largely due to diet.

The traditional foods movement is based in this work, and it’s what the Nourished Kitchen (blog and book) is all about: recapturing this inborn way of sourcing, preparing, and consuming food in a modern kitchen.

The ideas that unprocessed, fresh, organic foods taste better and are more nutritious than super refined things from a box or produce grown steeped in pesticides and genetically modified is not exactly news, but McGruther notes that back when she started the blog, “traditional food wasn’t really being talked about; since then it’s really taken off.”

The author looks at food as a whole experience, linking how it’s produced, prepared, and how well it nourishes both body and community. She says it’s as much a mindset as anything: It’s about “food that’s been grown with intention, prepared with intention, consumed with intention, and then shared with intention for the community, as well.”

Cannellini beans
Cannellini beans

How do these ideas differ from farm-to-table?
Within the traditional foods movement, there’s a lot of focus on farming in general, not just cooking. So I think that there’s quite a bit of compatibility between the two movements, but there are key differences. The traditional foods movement highly prizes animal foods: There’s a focus on the inclusion of meats that have been largely absent from the American diet for the past 75 to 100 years. It’s only very recently that we’ve enjoyed the luxuries of restriction and waste. And what I mean by that is there’s a lot of nose-to-tail eating within the traditional foods movement, and that harkens back to the meats that were prized by native people all over the world: things like liver. That was often considered a sacred thing; in rural Sudan, liver was so sacred, it couldn’t be eaten with human hands. You had to have a special fork to touch it. In the [book], there’s a whole section about offal and eating it, with recipes for bone marrow custard, chicken liver pate, etc.

Also, there’s a lot of emphasis on preparation. So while farm-to-table is certainly a comparable concept, the traditional foods movement focuses on how food is prepared to maximize the benefits that it can convey. So, for example, I recommend soaking your beans, and grains, which can enhance the bio-availability of the minerals. There’s a lot about fermentation. If you look at culinary traditions all over the world, you find that fermentation played a pretty critical role in the culinary heritage of various cultures. Take cabbage: You can find ferments for cabbage in Asia as kimchi, in South America as curtido, and in Europe as sauerkraut. So yes, there’s a lot of emphasis, like in farm-to-table, on knowing where your food comes from, knowing it benefits the farmer, the land, yourself, and your community, but also about preparation…I think that’s the fundamental addition that the traditional foods movement brings to the table.

What is one of the oldest recipes in the book and where did it come from?
There are quite a few. For me, it was a real balance to bring dishes that have a lot of contemporary appeal and balancing those with the very traditional old world recipes. So I have two favorites. The first is Portugal cake, and you’ll find that in the section on nuts. This was incredibly popular in the 17th and 18th centuries, and it started to fall from favor around the middle of the 19th century, and we just don’t hear about it anymore, and it’s this beautiful cake made of blanched almond flour, and it’s dotted with currants and flavored with rosewater and sherry. And it’s dense, and moist, and sweet and it just has this very beautiful delicacy from the rosewater. It’s really quite lovely. I make it for special occasions, and people just love it.

The other is a recipe for buttered spinach. That doesn’t sound terribly exciting, but it was a recipe I found in an old journal a friend had given me, and it was written in the 1840s by a farm wife down south. She wrote paragraphs and poems and recipes, and there was one for this very young, baby spinach, which she would mince and wilt and serve with hard boiled egg, butter, salt, and pepper. It’s so simple but so lovely, too.

What is one spring ingredient you really love and where can we find it in the book?
As far as plants go, radishes. These are just such a wonderful springtime food; they’re one of the first root crops to come available, because they don’t take very long to grow. And they have such a punch of flavor, that sharpness to them. And what I like about radishes is they’re just very versatile. We always think of that poor cherry belle radish, relegated to salads, but one of my favorite ways to prepare radish is blistered, or buttered. There’s a recipe for blistered radish in the first chapter of the book. When radishes are cooked, it brings out their sweetness. And it also, they’re very good pickled or fermented in a basic salt water brine, and that can bring out a wonderful sour flavor. They make a great pickle!

What is an underrated, or under-used ingredient that figures prominently in traditional cooking?
I would say lard. With the low-fat craze over the last couple decades, lard was demonized, perhaps more than any other cooking fat. We have so many negative connotations with the word lard: lard-ass, lardo, you know? So many insults, and it’s all terribly undeserved.

But consider olive oil. We love olive oil; we call it “heart healthy” because of all the monounsaturated fats it contains. We love avocados for that, too. But the dominant fat in lard is monounsaturated fat. About 45 percent of the fat in lard is monounsaturated, that same healthy fat you find in avocados and olive oil. Also, the hogs [you get lard from], when they are out in the sun, they manufacture vitamin D in their skin and their fat. So lard — they did a study a few years ago that said something like 70 percent of American children suffer from deficient levels of vitamin D; we’re just not outside enough, or getting enough from our food sources — but when you consume lard, not only are you eating a traditional fat that’s really rich in monounsaturated fat, it’s also one of the best food sources of vitamin D. And it makes the best pastries.

Is there one lard recipe you can point us to in the book?
Oh, my goodness, let me think. It’s not a pastry recipe, there are actually not a lot of pastries in the book, but there are these slow-baked cannellini beans, with lemon, rosemary, and smoked paprika, and I use lard in that; it really adds a wonderful touch.

And where does one buy lard? From a butcher? Can you get it at the grocery store?
Most of the lard in grocery stores has actually been hydrogenated, or partially hydrogenated, [so] you want to source your lard as you would any other food: directly from a butcher, and you can render it yourself. There are directions in the book for that. Or you can get it directly from a rancher who you know uses humane methods. So that’s where I get my lard; it’s from the same place I get my pigs — there’s a local farm that raises heritage pigs that we use. So you can get it directly from the person raising your meat, or from a good quality butcher, or, if you absolutely can’t find it, there are actually sources you can order it from online. But I imagine in New York, you can get it pretty readily.

If someone is interested in incorporating traditional foods into their daily cooking regimen, where is a good place to start?
If you go to nourishedkitchen.com, there’s actually a page that says “getting started,” so there are resources available there, but I would just recommend that people begin by cooking one truly home-cooked meal at home. It’s really easy. When people begin to read about traditional foods, this whole big world opens up, and it’s really easy to get really excited, because it’s a beautiful way to cook. It’s very satisfying, and the connections it builds between you and your farmers and your community can be very heartening. But it’s also easy to get overwhelmed, especially for someone who’s not accustomed to cooking regularly. So I recommend that people take one small step at a time, in whatever way is manageable for them. You could start with trying lard, or making preserved lemon; that’s very easy, it’s just lemon and salt and thyme. Or one of the greatest things I recommend for people to start off with is roasting a chicken. It’s super easy, not complicated at all. You roast the chicken, remove the meat from the bone, and then start making your bone broth, which is another critical feature to the traditional food pathway, is high quality broths. It’s easy to have success with stocks and broths and roast chickens, and once you have that sense of success, you can branch off into whichever other paths you want to.

Blistered radishes.
Blistered radishes.

Blistered Radishes With Parsley
Serves 4

In the dark days of the year, I buy winter radishes by the case. They store well when kept cool in a root cellar, exterior closet, basement, or garage, covered in dirt, and insulated with an old blanket. I ferment quite a few but save others for cooking: either roasting with salt and pepper or sautéing on the stove until they blister. Watermelon radishes, daikon, purple plum radishes, and the long Violet de Gournay all do well.

Winter radishes have thicker skins than do spring radishes, but do not be tempted to peel them as their color can brighten your plate with its charm.

In spring, when milder and more tender radishes begin to arrive at area farms, I prepare this same dish from little Cherry Belle, Pink Beauty, and elongated French Breakfast radishes.

Ingredients:
16 radishes
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Freshly ground unrefined
sea salt

Preparation:
Chop the radishes into 1/4-inch dice and set them in a bowl while you prepare the remaining ingredients. Melt the butter in a wide skillet over medium-high heat.

When the butter foams, decrease the heat to medium-low and stir in the radishes. Cook the radishes in the butter, stirring frequently, for 8 to 10 minutes, until their skins blister slightly.

Sprinkle them with the parsley and season with salt to suit your preference.

Serve warm.

Recipe and photos used with permission from The Nourished Kitchen, written and photographed by Jennifer McGruther (Ten Speed Press, © 2014).

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A Taste of Brand New Dekalb Restaurant and a Chat With the Owners

Most restaurant-owners don’t break into song midway through an interview, but then, most restaurants don’t have a guitar stashed in the corner. Most restaurants also lack an owner who’s played with most of the Wailers, or whose grandfather schooled the Skatelites in Ska before Ska was a thing. But Dekalb Restaurant (564 Dekalb Avenue, Brooklyn, 347-857-7097, dekalbrestaurant.com) is not most restaurants.

Opened in late January by a rag-tag team of artists, musicians, and long-established New York food people, Dekalb sits on the ground floor of an old linen factory/laundry on its namesake street, just off Bedford Avenue in Bed-Stuy. Co-owners Ras Levi and Stefan Fahrer, among many others, spent the last nine months painstakingly reassembling discarded bits of Gotham into a lush, beautiful space that warms as it welcomes you.

The parquet floors came from a 77th Street mansion; the dining room walls and ceiling, from Pilgrim mental hospital in Long Island; and the seats are upcycled pews from some unnamed church, still numbered with tarnished brass plaques. There are iron bars from nineteenth-century fire escapes and below-bar coat hooks from an old butcher shop.

And though each piece has its own story, it all came from Evan Blum, an old Fahrer family friend, who happens to run Demolition Depot (216 E 125th Street, 212-860-1138, demolitiondepot.com), a reclaimed materials warehouse uptown. When he walked into the space, Fahrer says, “I just thought, I want to do something [here]. I didn’t care — I was just going to take whatever was around me that could make sense and find a way to make it work, and just make it work.”

“That’s that spirit,” Levi says. “That’s like OK…This guy, we can do anything!” Laughter all around.

Stefan Fahrer grew up in the loose Manhattan of the 1980s and 1990s working parties for his dad’s catering company (which employed folks like Anthony Bourdain and catered parties for Danny Meyer and the Village Voice) so food is in his blood, though he dabbled in business administration, real estate, and software development before finding his way back to food service.

Last year, team Dekalb built out a garden in an adjacent empty lot and held farmer’s markets to meet the neighborhood: “We weren’t making money [off last summer’s markets],” says chef Alexander Skarlinski. “It was really about speaking to people and getting used to the farm, and it was a good way for me to know where to go.” This summer, they plan to continue that and add live music (Levi’s in charge of that), workshops and activities, and outdoor dining.

But what about the food, you ask? Read all about it on the next page.

Salt-roasted beets with egg crumble and mushroom-tarragon dressing
Salt-roasted beets with egg crumble and mushroom-tarragon dressing

At first glance, Skarlinski’s menu yields February’s usual snowy suspects: lots of root vegetables, hearty winter greens, and squash. But as you eat it — as I did, before I chatted with the team — dishes are surprising.

For starters, there’s a gorgeous salt-roasted beet salad ($7), crumbled with dry, hard-cooked egg that reads like Latin-American farmer cheese (I had no idea what I was eating; I had to ask and was shocked to learn it was egg), which Skarlinski later told me he thinks of as an omelette. Then, crispy fried brussels sprouts ($5) seem standard enough, but dip them in the toasted mushroom tarragon vin they share a plate with, and they’re not so normal after all.

Other dishes, like nutty parsnip gnocchi ($8), soft dumplings scattered with toasted seeds, taste both rich and healthful at once. This rich/healthy flavor also worked in a dish of parsnip and butternut squash ($5) fried into “tots” (as in tater) atop a pureed pear sauce.

As a fairly new arrival, Skarlinski still learning New York’s Byzantine food-sourcing system, but he wants to use the best ingredients available from as local a radius as possible. “I’m trying to limit my inventory to these basic ingredients so I can focus on getting a better quality of the initial ingredient,” he says. “But really what I’m trying to do is make responsible food. I’m not trying to do this outlandish, over-the-top, nonsense food.”

Skarlinski comes from a fine-dining background, having worked his way through art school at one of Baltimore’s fancier eateries, where he started mopping floors on a dare and had worked his way up to sous chef within four years. “I’ve worked for a lot of chefs in the past who would just let me get away with wrapping things in bacon because it tasted good, or ordering foie gras when we were doing well, or using fine ingredients, and that’s a problem for me. We can make a better dish using humble ingredients, make a better fine dining.”

But Skarlinski’s not trying to preach: “Look,” he says. “We’re not going to change the world, or even New York fine dining, but I think, for myself, I can start to simplify things, and refine things to a point that the food is approachable to a lot of people, but I’m still serving something that’s considerate of what went into it.”

So the lamb on the menu is lamb neck ($20), slow-braised and served over a winter vegetable ragout with just a touch of salsify creme and crispy fried kale leaf. There’s also a brittle strip of green banana, assembled like particleboard; use it like a cracker and scoop up the rest.

Levi is a vegetarian (and a builder by trade, the space is his handiwork, and he met Skarlinski on a job site), so he wanted to keep the menu flexible enough to accommodate herbivores and others with restricted diets. Much of the menu is (or can be made to be) vegan or gluten-free, including the ravioli ($20), stuffed with mushrooms and served over greens and a smoky eggplant butter with skordalia. Until Skarlinski mentioned it, I had no idea the pasta wasn’t semolina.

By the time we finish everything, we’re too stuffed to consider dessert, but parsnip and yogurt, with “caramel glass” ($6) and beer-soaked figs ($5) with walnuts and ice cream seem worth returning for. And we’re looking forward to music in the garden, come summer.

Scroll down for more delicious shots of dishes.

Crispy fried brussels sprouts
Crispy fried brussels sprouts
Parsnip gnocchi with seeds and mustard
Parsnip gnocchi with seeds and mustard
Fried banana polenta with stewed leeks and ham crisp
Fried banana polenta with stewed leeks and ham crisp
Mushroom ravioli with chard, smoky pureed eggplant, and skordalia
Mushroom ravioli with chard, smoky pureed eggplant, and skordalia
Braised lamb in creamy winter vegetable ragout with crisped kale and plantain
Braised lamb in creamy winter vegetable ragout with crisped kale and plantain

 

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FOOD ARCHIVES Media NYC ARCHIVES

Bed-Stuy’s Hattie Carthan Community Farmers’ Market Opens for the Season (PHOTOS)

With summer blooming in full color around us, farmers’ market season is in full swing. And while Union Square’s famous Greenmarket proffers some of the freshest food around, crowd-wary shoppers don’t have to join the swarming masses on 14th Street. Throughout the city, many community gardens host smaller, friendlier markets where you can stock your crisper with hand-picked produce grown right in your neighborhood. These markets are a great chance to get out, get to know your neighbors, and load up on veggies while supporting your community. Best of all, there’s no need to board a subway. In Bedford-Stuyvesant, for instance, Hattie Carthan Community Garden holds weekend markets in two locations

Bed-Stuy isn’t known for its vibrant farming scene, but five years ago, longtime resident, gardener, and community organizer Yonette Fleming brought together 13 fellow farmers from around the neighborhood and started Hattie Carthan Community Farmer’s Market, which opened for the season on Saturday.

Hattie Carthan Community Farmer's Market founder Yonette Fleming
Hattie Carthan Community Farmer’s Market founder Yonette Fleming

The Saturday market runs from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Clifton Place at Marcy Avenue adjacent to its namesake garden. The Sunday market is at 49 Van Buren Street, home of Hattie Carthan Herban Farm, from 1 to 6 p.m. The season lasts through November.

Both markets are shady oases of fresh produce, eggs, homemade snacks, and treats; drumming, dancing, and neighborly conversation transpire as Fleming et al. work to offer fresh food and build community in an area widely recognized as a produce desert.

Is there a market in your neighborhood? If you’re not sure, your local community garden is a good place to ask. Check out this searchable map of NYC’s community gardens to see what’s growing near you. GrowNYC also hosts local Greenmarkets throughout the week.

Flip the page for photos from Hattie Carthan Community Market’s opening on Saturday.

Produce for juicing in a pedal-powered blender
Produce for juicing in a pedal-powered blender
Eight-year-old Tosca Hegel-Cantarella pedals for her juice ...
Eight-year-old Tosca Hegel-Cantarella pedals for her juice …
... and takes a sip
… and takes a sip
Eggs from chickens at Hattie Community Garden, adjacent to the market
Eggs from chickens at Hattie Community Garden, adjacent to the market
Herbs and greens for sale; much of the market produce is grown next door at the community garden or at nearby Herban Farm
Herbs and greens for sale; much of the market produce is grown next door at the community garden or at nearby Herban Farm
More produce at the juice stand
More produce at the juice stand
(From left) Kurt Purrier, Robert Walker and Kwamaine Bility taste a juice
(From left) Kurt Purrier, Robert Walker and Kwamaine Bility taste a juice

“It’s not sour, it’s the FLAVOR! These flavors were never supposed to be put together!” says Robert Walker (center, above) of the juice, a blend of herbs and veggies.

Maybe there were some of THESE in Walker's drink?
Maybe there were some of THESE in Walker’s drink?

In addition to fresh produce, there were coffee cakes, vegan brownies and other prepared foods for sale
In addition to fresh produce, there were coffee cakes, vegan brownies and other prepared foods for sale
Ms. Ha Ha B. Clown painted faces
Ms. Ha Ha B. Clown painted faces

Garlic from Hattie Carthan Community Garden
Garlic from Hattie Carthan Community Garden
Nina Goepfert stands by her greens
Nina Goepfert stands by her greens
Through the fence, gardeners enjoy an afternoon at Hattie Carthan Community Garden
Through the fence, gardeners enjoy an afternoon at Hattie Carthan Community Garden
Bags of produce wait to be picked up by CSA members.
Bags of produce wait to be picked up by CSA members.

Weekly “mixed basket” produce subscriptions are available for locals wanting to partake in a CSA-style option, and can include produce, herbs, and eggs in varying quantities, from $52 per month.

Broccoli grows in the farmer's market
Broccoli grows in the farmer’s market
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Union Square Greenmarket in Winter

Deals are to be had on designer garlic.

Austere are the pleasures of area farmers’ markets in winter, and the mother of them all, the Union Square Greenmarket, is no exception. The number of vendors has shrunk by about half, as have the number of pedestrians making their way through the L-shaped parking lot — making shopping more of a pleasure, especially for those who favor seasonal and local eating .

The stock of summer and fall vegetables has been largely decimated, and supplies of tomatoes, broccoli, and brussels sprouts have given way to root vegetables, alliums, and hardy fruits. Indeed, apples, pears, carrots, onions, garlic, and kohlrabi now share space with vendors hawking dairy products, meats, and wines from Long Island.

Here are some pictures taken in the Union Square Greenmarket right before sunset yesterday.

Don’t go away empty-handed.

Carrots are everywhere…

…and so are sweet-fleshed apples and pears.

Wine tasting is a popular pastime.

Lining up to buy goat meat and goat yogurt

Potatoes and parsnips are the stars of the show.

In the winter Greenmarket, find plenty of elbow room.

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Union Square Greenmarket Reopens Today at Madison Square, Other Locations Follow Suit

Same market, different location.

Under brilliant sunny skies, but near-frigid temps, the Union Square Greenmarket reopened today for the first time since Hurricane Sandy. Not at its usual 14th Street location — which is being used as a Con Ed parking lot — but just off Madison Square at the intersection of Broadway, Fifth Avenue, and 23rd Street. Seventeen other markets came back as well in the boroughs of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island. Perhaps most amazingly, the St. George Greenmarket in Staten Island, near the ferry terminal and not far from some massive hurricane destruction, reopened as well.

Pressed up against the Flatiron Building, Stokes Farm.

For the relief of those devastated by the storm, a “Buy-a-Bag” program was up and running, offering market patrons the chance to purchase a bag of produce to be distributed through city programs to those in need. (Meanwhile, a massive food distribution program was underway from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the corner of Avenue D and East 10th Street, mainly for those stranded for nearly a week in the high-rise city housing projects east of Avenue D, with no electricity, elevator service, heat, gas, or running water.)

The Greenmarket's regular location is a parking lot.
The Greenmarket’s regular location is a parking lot.

I had a conversation with Michael Hurwitz, director of the city’s Greenmarket program, who was presiding at the market tent in the triangle north of 23rd Street. “We’ve got 32 or so farmers here, instead of the usual 75 to 80. We don’t have much protein today [referring to providers of meat and dairy], because of the short notice.” Apparently, the decision to go ahead with the market at the temporary location was a last-minute one, partly motivated by the return of electricity to the neighborhood yesterday.

He went on: “The Montauk fish people are not here, either. Though Long Island was hard hit by the storm, their boats apparently sustained little damage, but the fish processing facility in Long Island City is still not operational.”

Other farmers I talked to reported minimal damage, though Norwich Meadows Farm in Norwich, New York, sustained destruction of its greenhouses. Stokes Farm in Tappan, New Jersey, said storm destruction was limited to lots of downed trees.

Multihued baby potatoes from Mountain Sweet Berry Farm

For a list of the greenmarkets open this weekend, see below.

Other Fork in the Road Hurricane Sandy coverage

Saturday Greenmarkets (11/3/12)

Manhattan
Union Square Greenmarket — Open in new location — 23rd Street and Broadway by Madison Square Park
82nd Street Greenmarket — Open regular hours — No food scrap collection
57th Street Greenmarket — Open regular hours — No food scrap collection
Abingdon Square Greenmarket — Open regular hours — No food scrap or textiles collection
Inwood Greenmarket — Open regular hours — No food scrap or textiles collection
Tribeca Greenmarket — Open regular hours — No food scrap collection and no textiles collection
Tucker Square Greenmarket — Open regular hours — No food scrap collection and no textiles collection

Brooklyn
Bay Ridge Greenmarket — Open regular hours — No food scrap collection
Fort Greene Greenmarket — Open regular hours — No food scrap collection or textiles collection
Brooklyn Borough Hall Greenmarket — Open regular hours — No food scrap collection and no textiles collection
Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket — Open regular hours — No food scrap or textiles collection
Sunset Park Greenmarket — Open regular hours — No food scrap collection
Greenpoint Greenmarket — Open regular hours — No food scrap or textile collection

Queens
Atlas Park Greenmarket — Open regular hours
Sunnyside Greenmarket — Open regular hours
Socrates Sculpture Park Greenmarket — Closed — No food scrap collection

Staten Island
St. George Greenmarket — Open regular hours — No food scrap collection
Staten Island Mall Greenmarket — Open regular hours — No food scrap collection

Sunday Greenmarkets (11/4/12)

Manhattan
92nd Street Greenmarket — Closed for NYC Marathon
79th Street Greenmarket — Open regular hours — No food scrap or textiles collections
Columbia University Greenmarket — Open regular hours — No food scrap collection
Stuyvesant Town Greenmarket — Closed
Tompkins Square Park Greenmarket — Open regular hours — No food scrap or textiles collections

Brooklyn
Bensonhurst Greenmarket — Open regular hours
Carroll Gardens Greenmarket — Open regular hours — No food scrap collection
Cortelyou Greenmarket — Open regular hours — No food scrap collection
Windsor-Terrace Greenmarket — Open regular hours — No food scrap collection

Queens
Forest Hills Greenmarket — Open regular hours
Douglaston Greenmarket — Open regular hours
Jackson Heights Greenmarket — Open regular hours

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What To Look for in the Farmers’ Markets This Week: Shishito Peppers

Every 10th pepper — Watch out!

These are exciting times in the city’s farmers’ markets, as the vegetables and fruits that take the longest to grow (eggplants, melons, dirt tomatoes, and peppers) begin to appear in profusion. The latest variety to be spotted is the Japanese shishito pepper, which may or may not be related to a similar pepper widely grown in Italy called frigarelle.

The peppers are two to three inches in length, and a bright shade of green unlike any you’ve ever seen before, tending toward the black and the yellow. The peppers are generally mild, but every 10th one or so is blisteringly hot. Eating a plate of these peppers is a species of Russian roulette for your glottal organ.

To cook, sautee in lots of olive oil (peanut oil works well, too) until the peppers puff somewhat and blister, then liberally salt with kosher or sea salt. They make a very nice pass-around snack at parties.

They’re so light, that $5 of them is plenty.

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FOOD ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES

First Cantaloupes in Farmers’ Markets

The first and only melons so far to hit the farmers’ markets this year are cantaloupes, very sweet, orange-fleshed, and dripping with juices.

About a month earlier than expected, cantaloupes made an appearance in the farmers’ markets this weekend in limited supply. These are very juicy and weigh as much as three pounds. Regardless of weight, they’re selling for around $6, which is an incredible bargain.

The variety pictured is known as the European cantaloupe or true cantaloupe. The variety seen more frequently in vegetable stands is the North American cataloupe, which has a reticulated skin of raised intersecting veins.

The ridged European variety is a little juicier and ripens faster, which explains why it is the first melon to appear in markets. Most cantaloupes take 80 to 100 days to grow and ripen. When choosing a melon, pick one without any soft spots on the rind, and also one that seems heavier than the appearance would suggest.

Cantaloupe makes an excellent summer dessert, deseeded and topped with ice cream or Greek yogurt and honey.

Happy eating!

Here is a list of Greenmarket locations.

The growers with cantaloupes this weekend and in the coming week are all from south Jersey, where the growing season starts earlier — as much as two months earlier — from upstate New York farms.

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What To Look for in the Farmers’ Markets This Week

The first crops of summer squash from south and mid-Jersey have arrived.

This is one of the most exciting weeks in the farmers’ markets, because the late spring and early summer crops have started to tumble in.

Most markets will have at least one table of summer squash in its myriad varieties–but most of them green, yellow, or a combination of the two. Squashes are versatile, and can be stuffed, baked, shredded, or–my favorite–sauteed till slightly caramelized in olive oil with roughly cut garlic cloves, then lightly stewed with a modest amount of chopped tomatoes.

One easy way to cook summer squash

Other newly arrived produce includes shelling peas, which can be eaten raw right out of the pod in a salad or as a snack (when it comes to fresh shelling peas, raw foodists rule); fava beans, which should be only lightly boiled and dotted with butter or fried pancetta; and raspberries, which generally succeed strawberries in the market by about a month. The raspberries I bought at the Union Square Greenmarket were darker and less sweet than the California varieties, and generated a strong flavor in the scones a friend of mine cooked them in.

Fresh shelling peas–the husks should be discarded.

At $4 the quarter pint, a bit expensive

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Despite Snow Storm, Union Square Greenmarket Carries On

There were eggs to be had aplenty — but you had to fish them out of the snowdrifts.

In spite of the year’s first major snowfall, the Greenmarket went on as planned today at Union Square. The tarmac was paved with slush, and the fervent locavores who make up the market’s customers in weather like this showed up in their rubber boots and vintage fur coats to shop.

An estimated 70 percent of the usual numbers of vendors were present. Many to the west of city must have arisen in the wee hours of the morning and driven through the storm. The winter market offers a constricted roster of cheeses and other dairy products, wintering-over apples, merino wool, seafood from intrepid Montauk fisher families, bad baked goods, and onions and other sturdy vegetables. Increasingly, greenhouse-grown lettuces have become available.

Some views of today’s market:

Rubber boots helped.

Intrepid apple eaters showed up in force.

The dark gray skies seemed to threaten more snow.