Beets, new and old school

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Beets, new and old school

Sexy and here to stay…

Beets, historically an old school winter storage vegetable, are more popular than ever. Today farmers are selling dozens of varieties of all different shapes, sizes and colors to hip foodies and chefs who have elevated the vegetable to a sexy new status with trendy new recipes. The vegetable’s appeal has transcended seasons, finding a permanent place on spring and summer menus at “fresh local” bistros throughout New York City and the Hudson Valley. No one seems to remember that not long ago beets were considered “a food that only grandma liked”. Today even pickled beets have found high brow appreciation with boutique producers who have included their twist on the classic among the other pickles, chutneys and relishes in their product lines.

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Whole grain salad with root vegetables

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Grains and roots

Whole grain salad with root vegetables

If you love local greens but don’t like the inflated price tag that comes with them in the winter months, try mixing things up with sprouts, grains, kale and shredded winter roots. These nutrient-dense alternatives, with their deep earthy flavors and textures, can be used to make hearty and delicious salads. Not only are they quick and easy to make, but whole grain and root vegetable salads are a tasty way to keep eating healthy even when cold weather limits the availability of fresh veggies.

Cooking whole grains

Some grains, like barley or wheat, rye and spelt berries, can be simply cooked in boiling water for 45 minutes to an hour. This approach is easy in that you do not necessarily need to measure the grain or water. Other grains, like quinoa, bulgur, millet and brown rice, require specific amounts of water when being cooked. Most water to grain ratios are very similar to that of rice. Cook one cup of quinoa, bulgur, millet or brown rice with two cups of water. If you plan to cook more than one grain, cook each of the grains separately in their own pot.

Winter roots

Winter roots, like celeriac, black radishes, turnips, kohlrabi, beets, carrots and cabbage, are sold by the following farms, markets and co-ops throughout the winter months:

Migliorelli Farm
Schoharie Valley Farms
The Berry Farm
The Chatham Co-op
The Honest Weight Co-op

Sweet potato tips and recipe

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Sweet potato tips and recipe

Sweet potatoes, the sweet-tasting tubers found on so many holiday menus, are fast becoming a New York staple as growers experiment with different varieties and growing techniques. While the root is the most commonly eaten part of the vegetable, the leaves and shoots also make for delicious cooking greens. One might expect that sweet potatoes and potatoes are closely related, but they are, in fact, only distant cousins – sweet potatoes are not classified as part of the nightshade family as potatoes are. While one will encounter the standard orange variety in grocery stores, when shopping at farmers markets, there are several varieties and colors to choose from. Whether they are white, orange or yellow, the common orange-fleshed varieties are still prized above all others for their supreme sweetness.

Cooking tips

Recipes for sweet potatoes often pop up around the holidays, usually as baked casserole renditions with tons of brown sugar or honey, butter, nuts, rum, and, of course, tiny marshmallows. Sweet potatoes also make excellent pie – cooked and mashed, they can be substituted for the pumpkin in any pumpkin pie recipe. Although no holiday feast would be complete without them, sweet potatoes have applications and versatility that go past the month of December. From fries to pancakes to croquettes and beyond, there are hundreds of ways to prepare sweet potatoes. Here are a few of our favorites:

Chips

Sweet potatoes make great chips. Shave sweet potatoes paper thin on a mandolin, toss with a little salt and pepper plus a dash of olive oil, and bake overnight in a 200 degree oven until they are crispy and delicious.

Mashed with potatoes and sage

Boil peeled russet potatoes and sweet potatoes together until they are tender. Drain, and whip them with cream and butter. Add salt, pepper and ground sage.

Vichyssoise (potato leek soup)

Hot or cold, there’s nothing more delicious than a bowl of creamy potato leek soup. Try substituting sweet potatoes for part, or all, of the potatoes in any Vichyssoise soup recipe.

Gold and sweet potato gratin

Layer equal parts peeled, thinly sliced gold potatoes and sweet potatoes one inch deep in a casserole dish. Add enough heavy cream to come just below the top of the potatoes. Sprinkle a layer of salt, pepper, and gruyere cheese over the top. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove foil and bake an additional 30-45 minutes, until the potatoes are golden brown and the cream is bubbly.

Kale fried rice recipe and kale 101

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Kale fried rice recipe

Kale 101

Now is one of the best times to enjoy kale from the garden as its flavor will intensify and actually become sweeter after periodic exposure to frost. As other similarly hearty vegetables, like broccoli and chard, will succumb to the harsh winter elements, kale will be the “last of the Mohicans” to be standing in a snow covered garden, and regularly comes back in the spring. Kale is so hearty that farmer Frederick Wellington of Wellington Herbs and Spices says:

“Until we get 10 or so straight days of cold temperatures below zero, kale and collards can survive and still be harvested. Once the extreme cold weather sets in, the leaves will actually shatter like glass.  In the spring they are one of the few vegetables to re-leaf.  Eventually they go to seed but until so, the leaves can be harvested and are pretty tasty.”

Tips on growing Kale

Kale is a fairly low maintenance vegetable that will grow well in any soil and is largely unaffected by pests and diseases like club root, cabbage root fly and slugs that trouble its cabbage cousins. Extremely nutritious, kale is packed with fiber, antioxidants, beta carotene, calcium and vitamins – like K and C. Some “Super Food” proponents even believe that levels of sulforaphane that are present in kale and its fellow crucifers posses cancer fighting properties.  There are many ways to prepare kale, from oven dried chips to salads, to quiche and pie variations and stir fried as it is in the kale fried rice recipe below.

Some farms that still have kale:

Migliorelli Farm
Roxbury Farm
Schoharie Valley Farms
Hawthorne Valley Farm 
Hudson Valley Bounty producers who are growing kale

Winter Tastings, Honest Weight Food Co-op

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Winter Tastings, Honest Weight Food Co-op

In December 2013, as part of the ongoing in-store demonstration series known as Winter Tastings, Chefs’ Consortium prepared recipes inspired by local winter produce at the Honest Weight Food Co-op.  After gathering inspiration and rounding up ingredients in the aisles and produce section of the co-op, Chef Michael Lapi prepared potato leek soup with leeks and potatoes from Schoharie Valley Farms, as chef Josh Coletto made winter root vegetable latkes with an apple watercress salad.  Brazilian chef Ellie Markovitch baked up “Pão de Queijo”, a family cheese puff recipe, and grated beets for her famous raw beet and orange salad.  Local film maker Jill Malouf was on hand to video tape highlights from each of the chefs’ cooking demonstrations.

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Winter Tastings on YouTube

Visit the Honest Weight Food Co-op in their new location.

Ellie Markovitch’s “Pão de Queijo” – Cheese Bread

Thanks to my mother Celeste for creating this recipe that adds a little bit of Brazil to our daily lives – miss you!

  • 1 cup of sour cream or Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup of finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp of tapioca starch (Yucca flour)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the ingredients in a bowl.  Make small balls by rolling one heaping tablespoon of the dough in the palms of your hands. Use extra yucca flour to prevent the dough from sticking. Place the dough balls on a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake in the middle of the oven for 25-30 minutes (Remember no peeking!). Remove from oven and serve immediately piping hot.

Photographs by Ellie Markovitch