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Fresh Food

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if you’re one of those people who’s still buying the bulk of your produce at your local grocery store, you are missing out. you need to hit up your local farmer’s market, STAT. remember my yearning for a garden? how jealous i was of that guy’s incredible rooftop planters? well, it should come as no surprise to you that i’m really into the farmer’s market. to me, there’s really no better saturday than one spent perusing the stands of the union square greenmarket, a basket full of fresh fruits and veggies and herbs. preferably, this day also includes some really great homefries (recipe coming up!) and a bloody mary or two, the latter of which contributes to my slight swaying as i walk through the square and stop to smell the flowers. no, i really do that. i’m really bad with the whole drunk shopping thing. note to self: do not drink three bloody marys at brunch and then go to tj maxx “just to look.” you will not just look. you will buy – tons of things you do not need.

shopping at the farmer’s market after brunch, however, is no biggie d. because the worst thing that can happen is that you’ll come home with a big bag of maple sugar candy or some root veggies that you’ve never tried before – and neither of those things are really that terrible. everyone loves maple sugar candy, and root veggies are great – just throw ’em in a pan with some fresh rosemary, olive oil, salt and pepper and cook at 425 for a hot second (20 mins).

it’s really quite funny that i’ve come to be so enamored with farmer’s markets, mostly because as a child, i DESPISED gardening. in fact, i despised any and all chores that involved being outdoors and getting dirty. i was the kid who said things like, “can’t you give me an indoor job?!” “I can clean!” “does the dishwasher need emptying?” it’s not even that i’m a priss, really, it’s more that i’m OCD clean and can’t stand getting dirt all over my clothes and body. i hate having grime under my nails, and i’m not that into sweating. but you know what? somehow, moving to new york has made me really appreciate nature. now, it’s not like i want to go all earthy crunchy on you and go hiking and camping and eating trail mix. no thanks, not for me. but i savor the thought of green space, of grass that flattens softly when you step on it, of the smell of freshly dug up dirt, of carrots sprouting their little green heads and of those fresh from the garden snap peas that offer the perfect sweet crunch when you pop one into your mouth. i want a garden, you guys! i want to pluck fresh thyme for my risotto and fresh basil for my pasta dishes. i want to step outside and pop teeny juicy cherry tomatoes into my mouth like candy. and since i can’t do any of those things without a garden, i seek solace in the farmer’s market.

of course, there’s plenty to be said about supporting local farmers and organic produce and all that jazz – but that’s a schpiel you’ve probably heard before. but seriously – get thee to the farmer’s market near you. it’s better for you. it’s better for the world. and it’s nice to support the underdog. justin bieber says so, and he’s god – so you should obey.

anywho, last weekend, i was walking through the farmer’s market that my lovely “suburbia in NYC” apartment complex offers on sunday afternoons, and my friends and i came across a woman who was selling gluten-free rye bread. it looked sort of like a rock – a really, really flat rock – but surprise, when she piled some butter and cheddar and sliced cucumbers on it, it turned into a really delicious rock! okay, so it wasn’t a rock. it was bread. it just looked a little rock-like, what with its flat and brownish gray nature. no offense, gluten-free rye, but i’ll take some yeast any day. while the bread wasn’t anything remarkable, the sandwich acoutrements got me thinking: what a classy lil’ sandwich! wouldn’t this guy be perfect for lunch?

so i went out and i bought some cheddar and some cucumbers (and i usually am not a huge fan of cukes – hate all those seeds!) and paired them with sliced peppercorn turkey breast and some avocado to give the sandwich a bit more heft and protein power. i put mine on whole wheat sourdough, and it was DELISH. and so pretty and fancy pants looking, hence the title. man, open-faced sandwiches make you look like a CLASSY gal.

there’s no real recipe for this baby. just choose your bread, thinly slice some avocado, cheddar and cukes, and assemble. put a layer of avocado on first (you could also mash it up and spread it like buttah if you wanted to), then top with turkey, cheese and finally, cucumbers. now eat, and enjoy your twenty minutes of looking like the coolest, classiest, most creative office lunch-eater around.

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over memorial day weekend, i attended a party on a rooftop that blew me away. and not just because it had a spiral staircase leading up to it, or because the apartment underneath it had massive skylights. nope, it was because there was a garden. built into a bench. that the guy had made with his own two hands. i mean, color me happy, there’s a sofa in here for two! (if you don’t get that reference, see here). and actually, there was seating for two – and then some – because the garden was planted on top of an L-shaped bench, which the guy had also built with his own two hands. swoon city. 

so, tell me, oh rooftop man, how does your garden grow? the guy had butter lettuce. he had multiple herbs (basil, thyme, rosemary and more). he had large tomatoes. he had cherry tomatoes. he even had those adorable green striped tomatoes, which is what sparked this meal. as i sat up on that roof, sweating my ass off and praying that god would send rain, or a cold front, or even just a little bit of a breeze, i thought about tomatoes. heirlooom tomatoes, to be exact. those colorful little babies that are ultra adorable and make any boring pasta dish look fun and colorful and a little bit martha-esque. 

anywho, this dish was a result of the above; i picked up a quart of baby heirloom tomatoes (with a few green striped ones in there!) and sautéed them with lemon zest, spring greens, a bit of olive oil and some salt and pepper, then tossed them with cubed fresh mozzarella. voila! a summer meal done right. 

of course, the ultimate situation would have involved my picking the tomatoes with my own two hands from my very own rooftop garden, but we can’t have it all, now can we? i mean, it would be great if i made my own cheese and shaped my own motz balls, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. 

that being said – i really do want my own garden, and i’ve been trying to research rentable/purchasable garden plots here in the city, but whenever i google, all i can find are hugely long wait lists, or gardens that only have flowers, not veggies. would love suggestions on community gardens in NYC if anyone has them!

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so, wanna make this ish yourself? you do, it’s yummy. and super fast.

The Recipe

1 lemon, zested and juiced

2 cloves garlic, diced

1 box of fusili (or penne would do here as well)

1 quart baby heirloom tomatoes  (i got mine at trader joe’s)

approximately two handfuls of greens – you could get yours at the farmer’s market, i got mine at TJ’s

2 tsp olive oil

about 8-10 oz of mozzarella (mine was a big ball, but you could buy shredded, or mini balls – whatever strikes your fancy).

to make, put a pot of salted water on to boil for your fusili. meanwhile, warm up a skillet with olive oil and throw in your diced garlic. cook a minute or two, until softened and slightly golden. now, throw in your tomatoes and saute for a few minutes, until slightly softened. put pasta into your boiling water and cook according to package directions. 

once your tomatoes are softened, remove from heat and throw in the lemon zest and greens. stir.

drain your pasta and reserve a tiny bit of pasta water. toss tomatoes with pasta and douse in lemon juice. add your motz, toss again, until all ingredients are evenly distributed. if you need more cheese, add a bit of shredded parm or romano. you could also toss some fresh basil on there too if you wanted. i didn’t have any on hand, so i skipped that part.

 

when i was younger, i hated breakfast. as in, there was nothing i wanted to eat in the breakfast food category. not bagels, not cereal, not eggo waffles or even pancakes. i just flat out did not like breakfast. it was my least favorite meal of the day, to the point where i’d only eat in the morning if i was eating a meal that technically fit in a different category (like “dinner”). case in point: i’d happily eat a can of beefaroni (my fave – big shout out to chef boyardee!) for breakfast, but you’d be hard pressed to find me enjoying a bowl of cheerios before school.

now that i’m mature and an adult and all that jazz (yeah right), i’ve come to appreciate breakfast. actually, scratch that. i’m still not a huge fan of breakfast in general – but my love for brunch, that beloved middle meal where you can eat whatever you want, has taught me the beauty of early morning eating and all that comes with it. for starters, if you eat in the morning, you feel better all day long. it’s just a fact. you’re also less likely to overeat at lunch, and hence, less likely to overeat at dinner. you start the day off feeling groovy, and there’s really nothing bad about that.

but that all being said, it’s not like i wake up in the morning and crave eggs (except when i’m hungover. then i want eggs to the face, preferably smothered in hollandaise and served with a whopping side of homefries). i’ve come to really love bagels, and i appreciate a good stack of pancakes now and then. and i LOVE homefries. man, i have to got to put a homefries recipe on this blog. note to self. homefries, in my opinion, are god’s gift to starch-lovers. they’re a godsend when you’ve got the kind of hangover where you think you might barf into your bloody mary and your head feels like someone shoved a brick inside it – a brick that’s repeatedly hitting your skull, hard.

my favorite homefries can be found in a few places:

Beverly’s, Saratoga Springs, NY – my college town homefry joint. best homefries i’ve ever had, i think. a quick google search for the beverly’s website confirms that the resto CLOSED and is hunting for a new location. heart=broken. are you there, god? it’s me, sarah. i need you to find beverly’s a new lease in a new location. maybe they can relocate to NYC?

Jake’s, Northampton, MA – my hometown homefry joint.  they make a dish called “deluxe homefries” that are regular homefries covered in CHEESE. i mean, what could be better? jake’s closed a few years back but reopened with a new lease on life thanks to a skidmore grad (!!!) and northampton native. they’ve since brought back the “late night” menu – opening from 11pm to 3am – which is a genius move. hello, stoners of western massachusetts. this one’s for you.

B&H Vegetarian, New York, NY – an east village standby where breakfast costs you less than $5 and you get some great convo with the israeli cook to boot. the homefries here are somewhat unnaturally orange (but you know they’re actually all natural – just spices!) and are mixed with parsley. they’re served at the counter with a bottomless cup of coffee and a big ice water and some greasy made-right-before-your-eyes eggs. want an omelette? you got it. want a milkshake? no problem. a smoothie? that too. this place is the opposite of pretentious, which is why i love it. i spent many a morning here during my first year in new york, hungover and filled with a thirst for city life that even my exhaustion couldn’t curb.

so, anyway, where were we? oh, eggs. the incredible edible eggs. i’m not a fan of yolks, but i do love the healthy protein that eggs provide – and i love a good “throw everything in the pan and scramble” meal, which is where this recipe came from. on a recent day off, i found myself scrounging around in my fridge for whatever i could find, and as it turned out, whatever i could find was the leftovers from the tacos i’d made a few nights before. so i figured, mexican eggs could be pretty good, right?

let’s get down to business.


The Recipe

2 to 3 eggs (your choice – how hungry are you?)

3 tbsp chopped red onions

1/4 cup chopped mushrooms

1/4 chopped tomato of your choice

1/4 cup shredded mexican cheese

1/2 of an avocado, chopped

sour cream and salsa, to taste (optional)

3 tbsp chopped cilantro

to make, saute the tomato, mushrooms and onion in a pan with a little bit of olive oil. season with salt and pepper and cook until the onion has softened, about 3 minutes. meanwhile, scramble your eggs in a small bowl and add a dash of milk. mix the cheese into the bowl as well.

pour the egg mixture into the pan and stir so that the tomato, mushrooms and onion are evenly distributed. turn the heat down to low. scrambled eggs, according to my grandfather and now my mother, are best cooked “low and slow.” don’t turn up the heat, and don’t rush it. just let them do their thing, stirring occasionally. you might want to add a bit more salt and pepper here, and you could also throw in a little hot sauce if that’s your sort of thing. as the eggs start to harden, throw in half of your cilantro and the avocado, then stir again. now, let them be.

your eggs are done when they’re no longer runny, and have a tiny bit of golden crust at the edges. remove your scramble from the pan and top with the rest of your cilantro. if you feel so inclined, add a dollop of sour cream and some salsa. i served mine with salad and some fresh pineapple (fusing flavors, i suppose), but these eggs would be DELISH with some tiny corn tortillas and some black beans.

now, go forth and make eggs. and eat homefries.

here’s the thing. i used to think smoothies were reserved for two kinds of people: health freaks and celebrities. though i guess celebrities pretty much always fall into the health freaks category, don’t they? i’m thinking of gwyneth paltrow, whose long, lithe frame is the envy of every big hipped woman in america. gywnnie is a BIG fan of smoothies, and often sends out recipes for them in her GOOP newsletter. in true skinny girl form, paltrow drinks smoothies not in addition to meals, not as an extra boost of fruit or veggies, but IN LIEU OF MEALS. i’m sorry, but i thought slimfast was a fad that departed around the same time justin timberlake ditched the canadian tuxedos and cornrows.

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anywho, obviously, i’m not in the camp of “drink in lieu of eating” – i’d almost always rather chew my food that simply swallow it. drinking is all well and good, and i love me some ice cold water (and some ice cold wine), but let’s face it, i’d always rather eat my calories than drink them. give me a brownie over a milkshake any day. this all being said, i’ve been really into smoothies lately, to the point where i did this CRAZY thing and went into Vitamin World and looked at protein powders (who am i? i don’t recognize myself). speaking of which, apparently, protein powders have a whole lot of CALORIES and SUGAR in them. and since my smoothies consist of really healthy things like fruit and apple cider, i don’t see the need to go upping my caloric intake on behalf of some weird-tasting powder. like i said, i like to eat my calories, not drink them. so scratch the protein powder, but give me the frozen fruit, stat.

lately, i’ve been mixing frozen fruit with fresh apple cider and a little bit of froyo for a whole lot of delicious that i call the “wake up call.”

The Recipe

1/4 cup frozen yogurt (or just use vanilla yogurt if you don’t have froyo)

1 banana, sliced

1/2 cup frozen raspberries

1/2 cup frozen mangos

apple cider or fruity tea, to cover

to make, dump the fruit and the froyo into your blender. pour in enough apple cider to cover the ingredients, and pulse into smooth. if you don’t have apple cider on hand, substitute a fruity tea. i’ve had a lot of success with tazo’s passion tea. it adds a slightly different flavor (a bit less tart than the cider) but it’s still fruity and delicious.

note: the frozen fruit eliminates the need for any ice. i buy mine in bags at trader joe’s, but you could also get fresh fruit and freeze it yourself. if you do so, make sure you spread the fruit out before you freeze it – otherwise, you’ll end up with a huge, unbreakable mass of fruit. to freeze at home, chop fruit into bite size pieces and spread out on a baking tray. stick the baking tray in the freezer (alternatively, freeze small pieces of fruit in ice trays) and let sit until the fruit is frozen. then stick it in a freezer safe ziploc and put it back in the freezer until you’re ready to use it. once you’ve got your frozen fruit, you could also pre-make “smoothie bags” by divvying up your ingredients and baking them ahead of time, ie, making sandwich sized bags filled with chopped bananas, some berries, some mangoes, etc. when it comes time to blend, all you have to do is dump the bag in.

so, what are you waiting for? gwyneth called and told me your blender could use some love. get crackin’!