11.27.2009

Serve it Forth



I’ve long admired the silver collection of one of my dearest girlfriends, Frances, a mix of family heirlooms and flea market finds from her travels as a style editor. I love the way she displays them upright in glasses in her boudoir, and how willingly she creates excuses to pull them out and serve forth a dose of her fine southern hospitality. I credit Frances’ civilized upbringing, one that I esteem with admiration and she with good humor, for her entertaining aplomb, and I’ve come to regard her fine collection of silver as synonymous with being a lady.
I began my own collection in earnest when I lived in St. Tropez several years ago, where I spent summers as a private chef. There, I discovered a flea market 20 minutes outside of town, and planned my days off around its arrival. From my elegant employer, I learned how to tell real silver from silver plate, how many francs I should expect to pay, and how to set a fine table with the curious pieces I was slowly acquiring.
I brought my petit collection home to New York, but the fine table, or space for one in a city apartment, would have to wait.
Just before my wedding last year, my mother brought out my grandmother’s worn wooden silver chest and placed it in front of me, her gift to me. Together we pulled out a collection of mismatched pieces, tucked carefully inside hand-stitched silver cloth, and went through them one by one. Each piece was more elegant than the last. Mom told me what she knew about each one, the pieces that had survived a tornado on her grandmother’s farm in Iowa, those that had come over from Germany, the ones that must have come from my grandfather’s side, marked with a P. In them I found history, a connection to a great-grandmother I never met and to a voyage across a sea to a new land in pursuit of hopes and dreams that far predate my own. Finally, I had the silver collection {and the inherent lady-likeness} I’d been pining for.
Over the last year, I’ve plated dinner for four and served brunch to friends with silver spoons in the tiny studio I share with András, but there is no space for formal feasts, much less on a table set with our finest. So on Thanksgiving, when our friend and hostess Kirsten asked if I had any serving spoons and forks I could bring along, I was thrilled to wrap up my collection and tote them over with our cranberry relish, walnut breads and pumpkin pies.
Yesterday at Thanksgiving, my silver collection made their big debut at someone else’s table, and as I listened to the comforting clinks of forks and spoons, I couldn’t have been more proud that they were part of a meal designed to celebrate gratitude to what he have, and even what we don’t have {in my case, that sprawling apartment with a dining room table}. It was a meal to be remembered for many years to come.

11.26.2009

Here Let Us Feast











harlem, new york

To give thanks for the blessing of a year, it is not necessary to have a large house, a large family, or even a large budget, only a large heart. Such are the hearts of our friends Kirsten and Dario, whose table became the family table of fourteen New Yorkers who are related by love alone.

We fourteen prepared a consummate feast of our favorite foods and traditions, traditions that included a prayer in the languages of all present at the table {French, Hungarian, English and Spanish}, crowns of construction paper, candlelight, word games, and seven styles of pie.

There is only one rule for this kind of entertaining. Make Room. Make room at your table for all who will come {borrow a set of silver from a friend or a few extra chairs from your super}, make room for every tradition {from hymn singing to football tossing}, and make room for the time and the talents of every guest {ask the artist to make name cards, the rock star to rock the play list, the chef to carve, and the socialite to toast}. Make room for new friends and old ones, for spills and imperfections, for surprise guests and early arrivals. Make room for the folks who stay late, for dishes that don’t get done, and for the souls that will be fed by your good cheer. Make room for fun.

11.25.2009

{Relish}



l.i.c, new york
I have always wanted to do a Friendsgiving {a grown up gathering of friends on Thanksgiving, a la Ross, Rachael, Monica and gang}, but going home has too many pleasures to resist. Mom makes an incredible meal; we all pile on the couch and watch movies and dress up in our old prom dresses {seriously}; and Dad keeps the piano playing, the jokes going, and has us all feeling like we’re twelve again.
Staying in town for Thanksgiving, on the other hand, seems like the last right of passage in a long line of grown-up things I’ve been resisting for years. The first year András and I stayed here for Thanksgiving, I cried. Last year, barely a newlyweds, we hosted our own cozy Thanksgiving. This year, we decided to go for it, and gather a hodgepodge of people we love in one place, potluck- style.
It all feels very grown up, and I’m positively excited, particularly since our dear friend Kirsten, who is kind and crazy enough to host the 14 orphans who couldn’t make it home this year, told us that at this Friendsgiving, there will be paper crowns for all guests. Excellent! I feel quite at home amongst royalty.
But, I have to admit, when I talked to my baby brother last night, I got a little sad, particularly when he mentioned the cranberry relish. At home, thanksgiving starts with the relish. Actually it starts with Turkey, but we were never up early enough to see Mom pull out its parts, stuff it silly and put it in the oven. By the time we were up, the house already smelled of pie and melted butter, and Dad had the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade cranked up loudly on the Tele. Occasionally there’d be breakfast, and sometimes, during a chubby phase {usually mine}, Dad would take us kids on a bike ride or to the YMCA to play basketball and “burn some energy.”
One thing was always the same. Baby brother, whom on all other days was completely uninterested in the happenings of the kitchen, would put on his little blue apron, monogrammed with “Timmy,” and pull up a stool to the counter along side Grandma Pollock and her meat grinder. There he’d help her push raw cranberries, chopped apples and oranges with their skin on through the machine into a mess of ruby goodness in a bowl on the other side. They’d stir in some sugar to soften the bite, and watch as the colors melted together. The relish then took its proud place in Mom’s finest crystal bowl in the center of our holiday table.
In many families, cranberry relish, though very much present at the Thanksgiving meal, is mostly relegated to the periphery. For them, it is, to use my friend Klara’s phrase, the unremarkable extra in an otherwise exciting show. Perhaps their relish came from a can, and slid out in a solid mass with a thunk to be cut into ribbed rings. Or maybe their relish was cooked to a sticky sweet goo, bereft of its bracing vigor.
At our house, the relish is raw, and the relish is king. And rightly so. Let’s consider its meaning. First, there is the noun.

1rel·ish 1: characteristic flavor; especially : pleasing or zestful flavor
 4 a : something adding a zestful flavor; especially : a condiment (as of pickles or green tomatoes) eaten with other food to add flavor.

And then, the verb.

1 TO rel·ish. 
3: to eat or drink with pleasure
4: to appreciate with taste and discernment

A raw cranberry relish is befitting of every definition, and a perfect compliment to the buttery madness of the rest of the meal. It is its raw state, and the act of grinding it, releasing the apple, cranberry and orange juices all at once, that makes it so perfect a condiment. But having lived apart from my grandmother’s meat grinder for several years now {except the year my mother mailed it to me to, bless her heart}, I’ve learned to make Grandma’s relish the cheater’s way, chopped up in a food processor, which has turned relish making into a simple and almost weekly habit from the day organic cranberries first arrive in our CSA until well after the New Year.
Should you have the taste and discernment for raw relish, you may find yourself loving it just as much with a fine cheese, served over rich Greek yogurt, or spread on sandwiches as you do at the center of your table. And, should you ever be just a touch lonely for the flavors and family it is meant to be shared with, you may, like me, find yourself grinding up a batch a day early and dipping in directly with a spoon, which is sure to return your spirits to their zestful state.




footnote: Timmy and András would like you all to know that they do not partake in the dress-up portion of this holiday.

11.23.2009

Let's Talk Turkey

I'm not exactly sure when my baby brother's culinary prowess surpassed my own, but moments ago on the phone with him, it became clear that it might have happened. He, the analyst bachelor, has his turkey day game plan firmly in place {Wednesday night, grind cranberries for relish; brine turkey. Thursday, up at dawn to stuff turkey and roast..} while I, the family food guru, haven't decided what we're having for breakfast tomorrow, much less for a meal that's still two days away.

Thanksgiving, by most serious cook's standards, has already begun. There are pies crusts to roll, breads to bake, birds to brine. And believe me, I love these things, I just can't seem get my feather's ruffled about a meal that I've already had twice this year. I've heard it called practice thanksgiving, {an intriguing concept, where friends gather to "practice" what they are making for thanksgiving on each other--what fun!}. So you could say that my friends at the Food Network Magazine and I were practicing Thanksgiving the entire month of July, carefully crafting our recipes for our Turkey Spreads {mine is the Turkey for Small Gatherings, on p. 151}, making 50 versions of mashed potatoes, and perfecting our centerpiece dessert. I practiced again on camera a couple of weeks ago on Good Morning America Health, and later devoured our mini feast in true turkey day fashion.

Still, ten minutes on Facebook tonight told me too many people have not been practicing enough, and may need just a little help. Luckily, those recipes we mastered months ago are right at my finger tips, and right at yours too, should you still be in the market for ideas. Here's the gameplan {click through for recipes}:

The Turkey:

The Sides:
The Mashed Potatoes {50 versions!}; The cranberry relish

The Sweets:

The Leftovers:
Sweet Potato Day After Dip





11.22.2009

New Amsterdam {Pedaling, part ii}






Find the shortest, simplest way between the earth, hand and the mouth.
~Lanza del Vasto


South Street Seaport, Manhattan
If you have a bike, and a buddy, one of the best ways to spend a Sunday is pedaling around town bound for your local market, particularly if you local market happens to be the much-lauded New Amsterdam Market in New York’s historic South Street Seaport. Inspired by Paris' Les Halles, and London's Borough Market, the New Amsterdam Market is a collection of savvy, sustainable producers that inspire, educate and sell some of the most thoughtful food products in New England.
Of the dozens of producers at the market, there are as many stories worth telling, and something noteworthy about each and every purveyor at the market, hand chosen for their integrity, their stewardship of the land and waters, and their appreciation for the local commerce and communities their products nourish. I couldn’t possibly name every delight or detail, but in the spirit of awards ceremonies {and high school yearbooks}, here are a few of my favorites.
Best in Show: Those who know New York food know that Queens has the best bakers, and Brooklyn has the best brewers. In my opinion, the top baker’s toque in town is Pain D’Avignon. Their Cranberry Walnut Bread {baked down the street from us in Long Island City}, like all their breads, is an instant portal to yeasted utopia.
Best Educator: Nova Kim, of Wild Gourmet Food, lover of all wild edibles, won my heart when I told her I’ve been foraging all summer, to which she said, “Repeat after me. I do not forage. I wild craft, I collect, I gather.” Foraging implies scavenging. Gathering edibles in the wild requires knowledge and a skill set, along with the respect that one should leave the area in better shape than one found it. Got it. Go forth, and gather. Or let Nova and partner Les Hook gather for you, and join their Wild Foods CSA {Community Supported Agriculture}.
Best Cult Following: Tie between Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea and Mother In Law's Kimchi.
First to Sell Out: Nordic BreadsFinnish Ruis Bread, also baked in Long Island City, was gone well before we arrived. So, I’m guessing it was good. What did I tell ya’ about those Queens bakeries?
Most Popular Guy: Luke’s Lobster rolls, perhaps the city’s most talked about lobster roll {and that’s saying something}, had folks in a titillated state. I don’t do lines, but I dig their motto: It's the only roll that's traceable from the sea floor to your plate.
Best Dressed: Imagine you have a brother, and both of you have fine taste in clothing and chocolate. So you stir up a little handcrafted chocolate business in Brooklyn, wrap your bars in handsome vintage paper and sell, sell, sell. Because people love them {not just for the paper, the chocolate is really, really good.} That’s Mast Brothers Chocolate.
Best Innovation: Brooklyn Oenology owner Alie Shaper blends wines in Long Island, christens them with clever names like Motley Cru, then commissions local artist to design their labels. None of those details would be worth mentioning if her wine wasn’t also wonderful. Even more impressive? Those labels peel right off, for us nostalgics. Finally.
Best Nickname: The Piggery, from Trumansburg, NY. But actually, that’s not a nickname. That’s their real name. Local, old-world style charcuterie. Enough said.
Most Incestuous Local-Love-Fest: Liddabit Sweets, caramels, candy bars, lollies and jellies made from the best little bits from a handful of local, artisanal producers like Brooklyn Brewery, Martin’s Pretzels, and Salvatore Bklyn. But you don’t have to be local to try a liddabit. Get some here.
Best Historical use of Space: W&T Seafood, and Stella, like New Amsterdam’s original market vendors, shuck oysters as fast as folks can swallow them, making mountains out of oyster shells, which, for the record, is far, far more delicious than making mountains out of mole hills.
Best Free Sample: Wild-caught crab claws from Port Clyde Fresh Catch, who used them to lure me in to their Community Supported Fishery club {think, Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, for fish}. I’m in.
Biggest Head Turner: Louisa Shafia’s new book, Lucid Food, had me at hello. The seductive cover photography {of rhubarb, a personal fave}, its tagline, “Cooking for an Eco-Conscious Life,” and Louisa’s 80 alluring recipes speak my language. And if her pumpkin bread {or the success of her catering company} is any indication, the gal can cook. The book hits stores this week.
Best Find: Hudson Valley Seed Library, a collection of local, heirloom seeds cultivated in the Hudson Valley, is sold in packets featuring commissioned artwork worth holding on to after the seeds hit the soil.
Best Service: Valet bike check, by Bowery Lane Bikes. Covetable bikes too, with a rear rack and wooden crate big enough to tote home all your loot.
Best Story: When I asked James Andela of Krugerrand Farms how many goats he had, after I tasted his mildly sweet 90-day-aged raw-milk goat cheese, he told me a story. “This is a 4-H project that got out of hand,” he said. “When my girls went to college, they told me I could sell their goats. They pictured the goats grazing on a dairy farm, I pictured them becoming a one-night stand at a bad Indian restaurant, so I kept them.” Good move. 10 years later he and his wife run a sustainable farm and produce four memorable artisan cheeses.
That is exactly why I shop at local markets. I want the 4-H story. I want to know the names of the goats who give milk for my cheese, or the brothers that handcraft my chocolate. I want food with heart, with history. Food that for the miles it has not traveled, and the care with which it was crafted, tastes so much better than everything else.

11.20.2009

In Good Taste



Ah, good taste! What a dreadful thing! Taste is the enemy of creativeness. ~Pablo Picasso
everywhere, new york
If every week of life had a theme, this would be Food & Design week. It all started when I popped my head into the new The Future Perfect pop-up store in the Chelsea Market. The store, based in Brooklyn, is a design junkie mecca, and since their holiday pop up store focuses on Food & Design {read, vintage plates hand painted with bold colored silhouette, hand-blown glass and not-so-perfect teapots}, it was the perfect aesthetic start to my week. My favorite thing on their shelves is the new book CrEATe: Eating Design and Future Food{where the fish picture above comes from}, an understated visual history of food packaging, branding and design that will make you rethink everything in your grocer's aisles.
Mid-week, I attended a Social called East Meats West, in honor of two free-thinking independent food magazines from either coast, The Diner Journal, from Brooklyn, and Meatpaper magazine, a journal of meat culture based out of San Fran. The Social amounted to a meeting of the minds {creative ones, that include the folks behind Marlow & Sons, Bar Tartine and Chez Panisse among others} over artisan mortadella and porky propoganda. There, I met one of Meatpaper's talented illustrators, Katherine Streeter, who turns the art of stuffing sausage into fine art. Brilliant.
The week crescendos today, when culinary and aesthetic masters Frank Bruni of the New York Times, Victoria Granof {famous for her provocative work with Irving Penn}, and Mitch Feinberg join forces in a lecture about The Design of Food Presentation at Parsons The New School of Design in Manhattan. As they say, be there, or be square. Then again, in design, square can be quite a good thing.

11.17.2009

Cooking with Love & Paprika

l.i.c., new york

A few months ago, at the Dog Ear Book Barn in Vermont, I picked up a warn copy of Cooking with Love & Paprika. The title jumped off the shelf at me, and made me think of all of the paprika I'd brought home from trips to Hungary and hardly ever used. When asked what makes András feel most loved by me, I once heard him say "When she cooks me Hun {Hungarian} food," by which he means when I cook him anything with Paprika.

Paprika, and love, were the inspiration behind the Thanksgiving turkey I developed for the Food Network Magazine's Thanksgiving issue, which is about to go off new stands to make room for December (cookies!). I should have told you earlier about my elegant little bird, the paprika butter I stuffed under the skin and the glazed parsnips and chestnuts I served it with, because it may have had a better chance of making it onto your thanksgiving menu. But, if you haven't planned your menu yet, you can still get the recipe here. And, in case you missed it, I spent a morning on Good Morning America Health recently showing them healthy thanksgiving sides that deserve a place on even the most decadent holiday table. My favorite is the cranberry relish, hold the paprika, heavy on the love.

Alors, Frisée aux champignon!




l.i.c., new york

I almost never lament the fact that András doesn’t eat meat. But the other night, I got a hankering for the French classic salad, frisée aux lardons, and cooked up a batch of bacon for the first time in our almost meatless home. When it was finished crisping in the fry pan, I crumbled it up, deglazed the bacon bits from the pan with a spot of cider vinegar and whizzed it together in the blender with a teaspoon of Dijon and several spoonfuls of our best olive oil. I poured this warm over a platter of frisée topped with a poached egg and pumpkin fried in olive oil. It was a splendid supper.

András got a meatless version of this salad, but I couldn’t help but think he was missing out, just a touch. But, ces’t la vie, right?

Until that Friday, when we settled on a cozy date night at home, which usually means simple, impromptu dinner, glass of wine, movie. We still had half the head of frisee left in the fridge, and I had gotten my hands on a pound of my favorite wild mushrooms—Maitake and Beech. As I cooked them in olive oil over high heat, their woodsy aroma filled the house with a smoky satisfaction that recalled the bacon from the night before. So when the mushrooms were crisp, I deglazed the pan in the same cider vinegar, which released all the crispy mushroom bits and their earthy flavor along with it, and made a hot mushroom vinaigrette even more memorable than the classic aux lardons from the night before. Poured over the frisse, with thick wedges of roasted butternut squash and meaty mushrooms, it made a nearly perfect dinner, and a divine discovery. Frisée aux champignon!

Here's my recipe:


11.14.2009

Dress Up {humble vegetables}

brooklyn, new york

I love my humble vegetables. We munch on them gratefully most week nights in our almost meatless home, though they are hardly the hero of my culinary world. But despite their demure demeanor, sometimes even they want to dress up and go to a party, dare to be the center of attention at Saturday supper among friends, such as this one we shared with our friend's Katie and Parker in their home in Brooklyn. We'd gathered to toast to their engagement, an occasion worthy of the finest feast. And, when I pulled these beauties from the earth just hours before, I got to thinking there's no finer feast than one you grew yourself. Dressed up on Katie and Parker's pretty plates on the table they now share, with a dollop of that sorrel pesto I told you about, I dare say these lowly vegetables are pretty enough to paint. If I had to choose, I think Juan Sánchez Cotán would have done it best, but being a Spaniard, he may not have approved of the pizza that followed.

11.13.2009

The Age of Innocence




l.i.c., new york
Down in Maryland, where I was last Sunday, there were still tomatoes on the vine. Here in New York, the tomatoes are long gone, and with them the golden days that colored them red and warm like the sun. There are a few, here and there, enough to slice over a sandwich, but the last real final harvest happened several weeks ago.
It was a quiet September night, before the clock turned, before our neighbors Hameeda and Fahmeda went back to school and before they moved to the apartment upstairs, where we can no longer count on seeing them waiting for us on the sidewalk when we arrive at home.
Earlier that week, András and I were taking the kayak down the block to Two Coves beach for the last spin of the summer. The 8-foot bright-orange boat must have drawn some attention, because just as we passed their house, Hameeda and both of her brothers flew to the front door. Hearing the commotion, their father came out, followed by Fahmeda who seemed to glide toward us, her pretty head covered with a veil.
The girls ran to me, and I gathered them in my arms.
“What’s this?” I asked, touching the cloth framing Fahmeda's face. “Does this mean you’ve had a birthday?”
Fahmeda is Bengali, and Muslim, and what little I do know about the Muslim faith told me this new cloth marked a coming of age.
“It’s Wednesday,” Fahmeada said.
We three walked together toward the water, Hameeda’s little hand in mine, trailing András, the kyack, the boys and their father down to the water.
The kids and I lapped in the current and waded to our kneecaps while András practiced eskimo rolls. I held Hameeda out of the water when it came too high, and we all soaked in what was sure to be the last sunset of summer.
“So how old will you be?” I asked Fahmeda, picking the conversation back up.
“Eleven.” She said.
“Eleven, that’s a great age!” I said. “Will you have a party?”
“We’ll have a dinner. Upstairs, in the new house.” She said.
Secretly, I hoped to be invited to that birthday dinner. I imagined myself sitting at the table with the children and András, our arms swinging up in down in a prayer before we devoured a table lined with dishes, flavors and spices from Bangledesh. I wondered, if in Bengali custom, it would be impolite to invite myself to dinner.
That night when we came back home, I asked their mother if she thought Fahmeda would like a cake.
“No, no, you don’t need to make something,” her mother said.
“We should cook together,” I said, changing the subject. Fahmeda’s mother is my age, and I fancied us becoming friends, rolling Parothha bread and seasoning vegetable stews with cumin, fennel, fenugreek, and black mustard. “I would like to learn from you. We can go to the garden. We can harvest and bring back vegetables and cook together.”
She laughed, warmly, but as if to change the subject. She has five mouths to feed and likely no time to give lessons.
That Wednesday night, I came home from work to find Fahmeda sticking her head out of the second floor window.
“Happy Birthday!” I called up. “Come down, I have something for you!”
“You remembered!” She tucked her head back in, ran down the stairs to greet me. Hameeda followed.

“Come, let’s go to the garden,” I said, handing her a bushy lemon verbena plant. “I brought you this to plant in honor of your birthday.”
“What is it?” She asked.
“Lemon Verbena. Smell.”
She enhaled. Hameeda imitated her.
“It’s a very lovely herb, for a very lovely girl.”
In the garden, we talked about every vegetable, and snacked on green beans and lettuces. Fahmeda and I dug a deep hole, planted the lemon verbena and patted the soil around it. Then she watered, patiently, suddenly looking more like a woman than a girl, the bright colors of the fabrics surrounding her popping off the graying sky. The sun went down far too fast that night.
Hameeda danced around the garden, touching every plant. She picked all the tomatoes and lined them up in neat rows along the path, then tromped all over them as she watered, making the best of her four-year-old motor skills and splaying water on anything in her path. Fahmeada and I smiled at each other, grown-up girls, enjoying Hameeda’s playful spirit among us.
After dark, I walked the girls to meet their family at the Mosque, despite Fahmeda’s insistence that they’d be okay on their own. I wasn’t ready for her to be that grown up, so she humored me as I guided them the two blocks, then headed home with the crushed tomatoes to make mashed buschetta with aged gouda for András. We drank rose, and toasted to our favorite neighbors, wondering how even when our little shoe box studio gets a little tight, we could ever move away from them.

11.08.2009

Honorarium



miller farm, maryland

P.S. Often when you do good, there are rewards, like the freshly made donuts at the Miller Farm stand, where we gathered among Marylanders in their Sunday best after we finished in the fields. If you find yourself on a gleaning expedition, consider these an edible endowment for your good will.

Much Has Been Given






prince george's county, maryland

I have a farmer’s tan, a bonafide farmer’s tan. A tan earned by a hard day of harvest in the afternoon sun on Miller’s Farm in Prince George’s County, Maryland. It all started in a corner of a collard field where Sir Thomas R. Chandler stood before us with a megaphone and a message.

“Do not reap all the way to the edges of your field, so as to leave some for the poor and the needy,” he said.



With the passion and purpose of a preacher, Sir Thomas introduced us to the ancient gleaner’s law, recorded in the Bible and the artwork of masters like Jean-Francois Millet.

It makes perfect sense. In the same country where 1/2 of the produce we grow is thrown away, there are 12.6 million children at risk for hunger every day. In that same country, our country, crops that are edible but not marketable would rot in the field if not for the volunteers who glean and gather to feed the hungry mouths of their neighbors.

It is upon this principle that Thomas Chandler founded the Mid-Atlantic Gleaning Network that mobilized volunteers to do exactly that. I call him Sir Thomas because he wears the mark of a knight, upholding the values of faith {in the good of man}, loyalty {to his hungry countrymen}, courage {to ask for help} and honor {to uphold civic duty} by feeding the needy with resources that would otherwise go to waste.

Under his leadership, we, an army of gleaners 100-deep from Share Our Strength’s Conference of Leaders, descended upon the field armed with mesh bags to collect a second growth of collards that stood in 30 neat rows. The collards, vibrant green and bursting with life, bore the occasional mark of a moth, tiny holes that effect neither flavor nor nutrient content, but prevent them from going to market. In one hour, we gathered over 60 bags of greens that Sir Thomas estimated would weigh in at about 3,000 pounds.

After our first gleaning, we gathered for a family meal in the fields like true farmers, celebrating our harvest over sandwiches and stories, before heading further out to tackle another patch of green.

It was there, in the second field, that I met Pastor Daniel Hall, co-founder of the Gleaning Network, when I came to confess to Sir Thomas that I’d gleaned a few stray mustard greens right into my mouth. Pastor Hall’s gentle laugh at my confession welcomed me into a deeper conversation. Born on a farm in Maryland where his daddy was a sharecropper, Pastor Hall went on to get his doctorate, teach as a professor at Howard University, serve on numerous boards of directors, and lead churches and revivals before connecting with Sir Thomas, somehow maintaining the humility of farm boy all along.

He shared with me the story of the ancient city of Sodom, a city whose eventual demise rested upon the arrogance and abundance that caused their indifference to the poor and the needy.

“We have been blessed, to become a blessing,” Pastor Hall said of the good fortune most of us share.
With that in mind, I headed back to the field to work a little harder. By day’s end, we filled a refrigerator truck plum full of greens that would make the journey back to DC to feed the kids at Roosevelt High School. Meanwhile, we made a journey of consciousness, awareness that hunger and need are all around us, and that our afternoon effort, which fulfilled many an agrarian dream, is just one piece in the puzzle to end hunger in America. There is education, inspiration, and imagination required.

It is the kind of imagination that can turn a bunch of greens into a luscious frittata that can also turn an empty parking lot into a Common Good City Farm, changing the face of hunger on one city block; the enterprising spirit that uses one ingredient as a building block to a more satisfying story. Cheese, eggs, olive oil, salt. Access, awareness, information, education. We are building a better meal, a better food system, a better nation.
It’s so simple; it could start in a collard field with a megaphone and a message.

No Kid Hungry.

11.05.2009

Lil' Gabagool





I bet you’re asking yourself, what’s a gabagool? That’s what I said when I saw these words printed across a tiny onesie last weekend at the Young Artist Market in Soho.

Gabagool is slang for the Italian cured salume capicola or coppa, which I learned from David Ciaburro, creator of this little onesie and his company, Wooster Street Meats. I suppose if I watched the Sopranos, I’d already have known that, but I certainly know what a Lil’ Proscuitto is, which is what first caught my eye on the front of a little blue t-shirt. When it did, I thought immediately of Hudson Finn. If you haven’t heard of him yet, you probably will some day. At the tender age of 21 months, he’s equal parts cool and kitsch, exactly the kind of kid who can pull of a shirt like this. Hudson’s Daddy, Shaun Finn, is a coppa-loving Irish-Italian from The Hill in St. Louis, and he and Hudson’s Mommy, Carissa, are two of my dearest pals from College. The two of them have more personality than Tony Soprano on his best day, so you can imagine...

About two months ago, Hudson became a big brother, and Lil’ Gabagool is exactly the kind of thing I’d imagine him calling his baby sister Sheane, that is if he could talk. For now, Hudson and Sheane's baby faces speak volumes with out words, so we’ll let their new t-shirts do the talking.




David wraps his Wooster Street salume {t's and onesises} cleverly in butcher paper and ties it with twine, and you can get them for the lil’gabagool in your life here. And, if you’re looking for the kind of salume you can eat, try Salumeria Rosi on New York City’s Upper West Side, which also sells their exceptional prosciuitto, porchetta and mortadella {my favorite} here. Mangia!

11.02.2009

Applesauce, in the Spirit of Discipline


lic, ny


Yesterday was marathon Sunday in New York, a day when over 40,000 people gather from around the world to run their hearts out along the 26.2 mile route that weaves through New York’s five boroughs...while the rest of us gather to show our support, most commonly over brunch.
The easiest thing in the world is to stand on the sidelines of a marathon with a full belly, hoping to absorb some of the tenacity and perseverence it takes each runner to pound the pavement for three to four {and sometimes five and six} hours on end. Having never attempted such a feat, I’m struck with emotion over the effort of hundreds of people running side by side for country or cause, pushing through the pain at the 14-mile marker where András and I stood with our bikes around the corner from home. There is both hope and heartache in the sight of people being pushed on by the sound of their name called out by strangers, read from jerseys to inspire them to keep going just a few miles more. Go Dave! Go Karen! You can do it Juan! Keep going Susan!
András leads the voices. He knows the rules of a marathon intimately, having run dozens of them, six of them in New York, once finishing 176th out of over 38,000 runners. He narrates the scene—the mile markers, the time charts, the water stations, the volunteers standing by with Vaseline to rub on chapped skin. I’m mesmerized by his knowledge of the scene, his stories of crossing the Queensboro Bridge separated from the nearest runner by a minute split.
I ask him his best Marathon time.
I try to think of something amazing I’ve done with two hours and forty-one minutes, and suddenly I think of the 30 pounds of apples sitting in our kitchen that we lugged home from the farmer’s market on Wednesday morning.
“I bet I could make a winter’s worth of applesauce in two hours and forty one minutes,” I say.
We roll home on our bikes and set to work, side by side, washing and coring Mutsu, Macoun, Pippen and Cameo apples, cutting them in chunks and toss them in our biggest pots with a touch of sugar, cider and Saigon cinnamon from my last trip to The Spice House in Chicago. While the house smells of simmering sauce, we set to work on the bookshelf, reorganizing and arranging piles of books that we ransacked during a busy summer.
When the sauce is finished and cooled, I transfer it into jars, make list of friends we’d be sharing it with and create lovely labels with names like Saigon Sweet {for the cinnamon}, Gala Royale and Empire State Sauce.
“It’s not worth putting on those labels for just one or two days,” András says. Left in his reach,the 12 jars we made will most likely be gone within the week, a feat requiring the kind of dedication András has mastered through years of training. So, in the spirit of discipline, we each curl up with a jar of sauce, a spoon and a favorite book, rest our weary legs and celebrate our winnings.
I’d like to think that a marathon applesauce making requires sacrifice, tenacity, perseverance but the truth is, it is about the simplest thing, requiring no discipline at all. Here’s how:





Squashing Pumpkins {Sorrel Pesto Recipe}



People seem to give up on pumpkins after Halloween. Not me. While pumpkins don’t always get carved in our home, they do often get baked, split open and seeds removed, drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted at 375 until they are soft and squishy {about 1 1/2 hours, depending on the size}.

It’s the grounding nature of pumpkin, its subtly sweet flavor and long lasting energy that has me hooked. But it could also be a subconscious appreciation for the high doses of potassium {known to control blood pressure} and beta-carotene {a cancer-fighting antioxidant} it delivers that seem to reward with a satisfying sensation that few vegetables give all on their own.

But, in truth, it is probably the fact that it comes together as a beautifully healthful dinner in no time when I pair it with homemade sorrel pesto and serve it on a platter along side a glass of good wine.

Pesto, like pumpkin, could be fairly forgettable in the wrong hands. But not in your hands, my friend. Think of pesto as the little black dress of your culinary wardrobe -- Simple, classic, reliable. Give it a few garnishes and you’ve got a stunner on your hands. That’s what’s sorrel does to pesto.

Sorrel is the little engine that could of our garden, growing upward and onward despite weekly clippings, near frosts, and weeks of gloom and gray. It’s somewhere between a green and an herb, too acidic to become a salad, too leafy to waste simply on the occasional chiffonade but brilliant when blended with pine nuts, parmesan, garlic and olive oil, à la pesto.

Sorrel pesto {or any pesto} can be made on the spot, but it’s the perfect thing to make in advance and tuck into the fridge or freezer for a rainy day. And you’ll be glad you did since this modern pesto makes a quick and elegant accoutrement to almost anything from crudités to skirt steak to roasted veggies. Which brings me back to the pumpkin you were roasting while we were talking here. Put it on a lovely platter, drizzle on your fresh pesto, and presto, it’s dinner.



{click recipe to enlarge}

This simple supper came together so effortlessly last Monday night that I forgot to take a picture, inspiring a repeat performance later in the week with acorn squash, a certifiably successful substitute that earned three stars from my most trusted taster.

By the way, you can use the same method to roast pumpkins {or squash} for fresh puree, which is not only the basis for delicious pumpkin breads and pies, but makes a divine little dinner for your lil’ pumpkin too. After roasting, allow pumpkin to cool enough to handle, scrape the flesh from the skin with a fork and put it through a food mill or food processor.
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New York City, United States
Sarah Copeland is a food and lifestyle expert, and the author of Feast: Generous Vegetarian Meals for Any Eater and Every Appetite, and The Newlywed Cookbook. She is the Food Director at Real Simple magazine, and has appeared in numerous national publications including Saveur, Health, Fitness, Shape, Martha Stewart Living and Food & Wine magazines. As a passionate gardener, Sarah's Edible Living philosophy aims to inspire good living through growing, cooking and enjoying delicious, irresistible whole foods. She thrives on homegrown veggies, stinky cheese and chocolate cake. Sarah lives in New York with her husband and their young daughter.