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.