Friday, October 15, 2010

Stuffed Pattypan Squash

I visited Farms View the other day after a brief hiatius from cooking (or eating) anything at all to find an amazing array of locally grown produce. My short break from the usual routine was unwelcome at first, but slowing down during this change of season has given me some time to think about what I'm cooking, why I'm cooking it, who I am cooking for, and what that says about me. More on that later.

Now is the season to visit your local farm. With only two more weeks left for my CSA share, I'm already becoming nostalgic for produce I won't see again until next season. I was happy to see that they are still picking Pattypan squash, a cute and stuffable summer squash that transitions nicely to the autumn table. Get them while you can. This recipe will freeze well, and is especially good when served with a sauce of mushrooms and white wine.

Eat the foods that make you healthy and happy. Enjoy the bounty of late summer and early fall vegetables. Can and freeze. Cook. Share. Consider your food choices, for they determine our future, and eat what you have created with joy and gratitude.

Stuffed Pattypan Squash

Little pattypan squash are stuffed with an herb-kissed savory bread crumb and vegetable mixture and baked in the oven for a gorgeous vegetarian entrée. Serve with a big, fresh salad, good bread, and something fruity for dessert.

8 small pattypan squash
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups day-old wheat bread, chopped into rough crumbs
12 pitted kalamata olives, finely chopped
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
Extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup loosely packed Italian parsley leaves
6 fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon each fresh marjoram and thyme
½ teaspoon fresh rosemary
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
½ cup dry white wine

Preheat oven to 400°. Cut tops off of squash, then use a melon-baller or metal spoon to scoop out the insides, leaving a ¼” shell. Place shells in a baking pan that will accommodate them snugly, and season with salt, pepper and about a teaspoon of olive oil. Finely chop the flesh that you have removed from the inside of the squash, and set aside.

Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add about two tablespoons of olive oil, and then the chopped onion. Season with a pinch of kosher salt, and sauté, stirring frequently, until onion is a light golden color. Add garlic and reserved, chopped squash, and continue to stir frequently until all are soft and fragrant, about three more minutes. Add bread crumbs, pine nuts and fresh herbs, and stir to combine, tossing over the heat for another minute. Remove from heat and add a little more olive oil to moisten if necessary (or vegetable stock, if you’re watching your fat intake).

Lightly spoon filling into squash shells, making sure not to pack it too tightly. Pour wine into bottom of baking dish, then cover tightly with foil. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and turn the oven to broil to brown the top of the filling (about 2 minutes under the broiler).

This dish can be served hot, warm or at room temperature.

Serves four as an entrée, or eight as an appetizer.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Peaches at The Edible Garden

Tomorrow, August 14th, I will help the New York Botanical Garden celebrate the peach harvest with cooking demonstrations at 1:00 and 3:00pm. This summer and fall, The Edible Garden brings you locally grown, seasonal food with cooking demonstrations every day. Featuring four spectacular kitchen gardens, The Edible Garden will teach you how to grow the best food at home. All proceeds of The Edible Garden benefit the Children’s Gardening program.

It's going to be a beautiful day, so join me in the Conservatory Kitchen and see what's cooking!

For more information and tickets please visit

Monday, July 12, 2010

Inspiration on a budget at the Edible Garden

This past Wednesday, I had the pleasure of visiting the New York Botanical Garden to shop the Greenmarket, give an educational cooking demonstration, and write a blog post about the experience for Plant Talk (check Plant Talk this Thursday to read more about my visit and find a recipe for Roasted Gold Ball Squash with Panzanella). Greenmarket, the popular
farmers’ market program of GrowNYC, provides affordable, locally grown produce and fresh, nutritious baked goods from New York’s Hudson Valley region and beyond. Greenmarket
is a highlight of The Edible Garden, The New York Botanical Garden’s celebration of growing and preparing good food, which runs from June 19 through October 17.

I took with me a pantry of items that would be easily found in a home kitchen – salt and pepper, olive oil, hot sauce, and vinegar. Armed with a budget of $25, my friend and co-worker Adriana Pecunia and I wandered through the market, discussing options, smelling and tasting, and generally wanting to buy everything in sight. My $25 was quickly converted into a big bag of produce, and we headed over to the Conservatory Kitchen, where I showed an afternoon crowd of Garden visitors how to prepare quick, easy, healthy meals on a budget.

This light and healthy soup features the best of summer’s vegetables, is quick and simple to make, and yields a nice, big, budget-friendly batch.

I’ll be back at The Edible Garden this Saturday, July 17th, for demonstrations and tastings in the Conservatory Kitchen at 1 and 3pm, as I help the Garden celebrate locally grown, seasonal food with a focus on summer squash. All proceeds from the Edible Garden benefit the Children’s Gardening programs.

Summer Vegetable Soup

2 medium red onions, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
3 ribs celery, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, stemmed and chopped
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 pound small white potatoes, well-scrubbed, ¼” dice
8 cups water or vegetable stock
½ pound flat romano green beans, sliced
2 medium zucchini, seeded, ¼” dice
6 ears corn, shucked
1 cup purslane leaves
¼ cup each loosely packed parsley and cilantro, chopped
Vinegar or lemon juice

Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and a pinch of salt, and sauté for about five minutes, until the onions are softened (do not brown). Add carrots and celery, and sauté for another minute or two. Add potatoes and vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, and simmer for 10-15minutes, or until potatoes are tender.

Add green beans and zucchini, and cook for another five minutes. Meanwhile, hold each ear of corn over a large board or a shallow bowl. Use a sharp knife to remove the corn kernels, then run the flat side of the knife down each cob to remove the creamy part of the kernel that’s left behind. (If you have plenty of time, do this in advance, and then simmer the corn cobs in your vegetable stock for maximum fresh corn flavor.)

Add the corn and purslane to the soup, and simmer for two or three more minutes. Remove from the heat, add parsley and cilantro, and season to taste with salt, freshly ground pepper, a dash of vinegar or lemon juice, and a dash of hot sauce.

Allow the soup to rest for 10 minutes. While it’s resting, make some croutons: cube half of a small baguette, and toss with a tablespoon or two of olive oil. Spread on a baking sheet and cook in a 400° oven until browned and toasty. Toss with finely chopped fresh herbs – thyme, parsley, cilantro and dill are all good choices.

Serve hot, garnished with warm croutons.

Serves four, with leftovers for lunch.

Pictured: Shopping the stalls during last year's Greenmarket trip. Photo by Michelle Longo.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Edible Garden

Join me this summer center stage at the Conservatory Kitchen for The Edible Garden on July 17th and August 14th at The New York Botanical Garden. I will be helping the Garden celebrate locally grown, seasonal food in a delightful cooking demonstration. On July 17th, I'll be presenting recipes featuring summer squash, and on August 14th, we'll explore different ways to use peaches.

Set against the backdrop of the landmark Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, the Conservatory Kitchen features celebrity chefs sharing their expertise and inspiring visitors to get cooking! While at the Garden, visitors can enjoy plenty of samples at the Tasting Terrace, booksignings, home gardening demonstrations, guided tours, family activities in the Ruth Rea Howell Family Garden and the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden, and Café Scientifique, featuring talks with some of the Garden’s scientists.

Demonstrations are free with your admission to the Garden. Last year, we made a day of it, taking an amazing tram tour around the Garden (our driver made it informative and fun, and the breeze made it divine after a day at the stove), and stopping at the Family Garden so that the Muffin could run around and have a bit of fun. We capped the day with a trip to Arthur Avenue, the Bronx's "Little Italy", for shopping in the Italian markets, followed by a huge and delicious dinner. I can't wait to return this summer!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Shirley Temple Black

Faced with a glut of strawberries from a local farm last weekend (I lost control of my senses and purchased four quarts for the two of us), and in dire need of a cocktail, I popped out into the garden for some mint and came up with this delicious drink. My husband commented that it tasted like an adult version of a mutual childhood favorite, the Shirley Temple.

I searched for a recipe for the "Shirley Temple Black", and discovered two recipes, neither of them very natural or yummy sounding, so I'm co-opting the name. Here's the drink. It's pink and bubbly, without being too sugary-sweet. I think Shirley the grown-up would approve.

Makes one cocktail:

1 oz. gin
2 teaspoons simple syrup
4 ripe, delicious strawberries
3 or 4 mint leaves
club soda and ice

Muddle gin, strawberries, mint and simple syrup in a highball glass. Fill glass with ice, top with club soda, and stir. Sit in the garden and enjoy!

Friday, May 28, 2010

It's finally spring!

I could not have been more excited to walk into Farms View last week, ready to buy the very first produce of the season - strawberries, arugula and scallions. With produce that's truly fresh from the field, you really don't need to do much to it, so I made this simple risotto that uses farro, an ancient European grain, instead of rice. Farro is rich in fiber, vitamin B and protein, and is a perfect addition to any diet. Combined with legumes, it provides complete protein for the vegetarian diet, so consider serving a lentil salad along with this dish for perfect nutrition. It's also utterly delicious and much more forgiving than rice when making a risotto. Served with strawberries sprinkled with a little sugar for dessert, it was a plate of spring, and just what was needed!

1 cup farro, well rinsed
water to generously cover
1 tsp. kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large bunch scallions, sliced, white and light green parts separated from dark green parts
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 cups well-flavored vegetable stock, kept at a simmer
1 large bunch arugula, thinly sliced
Freshly ground pepper and more olive oil to garnish

Bring water, farro and 1 tsp. salt to a boil, and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain well and set aside.

Heat a large sauce pan over medium-high heat, and add white and light green parts of scallions (reserve dark green slices for later!). Saute for 2 or 3 minutes with a pinch of salt, then add farro and white wine. Cook, stirring constantly, until wine has evaporated. Working 1/2 cup at a time, add the hot stock. stirring frequently. With the last 1/2 cup of stock, add the scallion greens and the sliced arugula. When most of the stock is absorbed, remove from heat, and season to taste with salt, freshly ground pepper and a little more good olive oil.

This dish is lovely as it is, and makes a perfect light lunch or first course. Those who eat dairy could, of course, stir in a little butter and grated parmigiano at the end, but this risotto is so light and fresh, you may find you don't need it.