Some Bellies Grow in Brooklyn

BK BridgeWith so few days of coatless weather ahead, it seemed as good a time as any for a stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge. So we packed our passports and headed over recently. We had a hell of a time with customs because they didn’t think my shades were fly enough… but eventually they approved me for border crossing because my jeans were rolled up over my boots.

Thanks BK.
Ahhh BK

Mags and Britt

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This Crew

TytyEnamel PitcherI love Brooklyn. I’m not entirely sure why we don’t live there. I suspect, assuming life (and work/school) doesn’t drive us off kilter and send us somewhere unpronounceable – it could happen – we will leave our happy studio on the Upper West and move there within the next few years.

But a visit to the Smorgasburg is a stellar way to spend a Saturday or Sunday in the meantime. And if you get to the one in Fort Greene on Saturadys it’s a combined Smorgasburg-Brooklyn Flea, so you can find not only a smorgasbord of deliciousness, but also dreamy old things to bring home with you. (Like perhaps an old-school enamel pitcher.)

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Street food is not known for its veganness, lots of meat on a stick and fried cheese. But places like NYC (and I suspect everywhere in the Northwest) appeal to every foodie type. So we weren’t blown away when we stumbled upon Vietnamese Summer Rolls with portobello mushrooms and roasted asparagus.

But we were blown away when we ate them, because they were stellar.IMG_6873

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Others of us found gooey grilled cheese and milkshakes. Aaaand they did not look too broken up about said decision.

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IMG_6905Saturdays are the best. Full of friends, full of foodies, full of fun.

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The Dimpling of Dumplings

Dumplings

After a brilliant jaunt at the Union Square Farmers Market, Sam and Shosh took us back to their apartment to teach us how to make dumplings! We had all kinds of tasty veggies to work with from the market and we made a ridiculously hefty pile that we were encouraged to freeze for later. And for the sake of not looking like repulsive bingers, I’m going to pretend like we still have some left…

But we don’t.Evan Chop

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IMG_7316IMG_7319Dumpling WrapsFirst, Sam, Shosh and Evan chopped a crazy amount of vegetables. Then they decided on three different dumpling varieties:

  • Edamame, mushroom, and onion
  • Carrot, ginger, onion, and cilantro
  • Tofu, bok choy, scallions, and chives

Sam added whichever concoction to his dumpling presser, squeezed the sides together, and presto: dumplings! Well… kinda. That’s a vast simplification that hides just how long it took. For each flavor, we laid out dumpling wraps across a floured counter, twice. To do three flavors it really adds up, but since the longest part is the prep and set-up, it makes sense to do a huge batch and save leftovers.

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Since the wraps are made to resist sticking together, you need a flour/water paste to use as a glue so they stay closed after pressing. It all becomes a bit of a factory line operation, with one person gluing, one person stuffing, and one person pressing (giving dumplings little dimples). But once the process is going it’s just a matter of sticking it through to the end.

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Sam Dumples 2

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Then we pan-fried them in olive oil while preparing a few dipping sauces:

  • mega-lime, cilantro, and honey
  • peanut sauce
  • mango chutney
  • and hoisin sauce
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And then we ate. A lot.

Bruehl Shosh Loves Dumplings MBT2

Obviously, as evidenced from the giant man on the floor, it was an exhausting procedure. But I can tell you a week later, having just eaten the next and final serving, it was well worth it.And done

These Little Piggies Went to Market

I’ve said so before, but I think it’s worth re-mentioning that the Union Square Farmers Market is the best place in New York City on a Saturday.

We met our fabulous friends Sam and Shosh for a lovely wander through the stalls and to procure some ingredients for dinner (details to come). The full array of fall harvest was out, along with all of the Union Sq standards.

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It’s hard not to find a little something for everybody there: freshly baked breads, cheese straight from the goat, sheep, or cow, cozy colored yarns, treats, and for the vegetable-enamored, everything.

There are comical gourds of all shapes, sizes, colors, and degrees of bumpiness, all hailing autumn.

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And copious amounts of kale, which is the super-vegetable when it comes to cold weather! There should be piles of this stuff for weeks, and we can’t wait to make kale chips, kale juice, cooked kale, massaged kale, and kale-kale.

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IMG_7016And while we’re on the subject of juice: mmm wheatgrass.

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And HONEY. Though I am mostly-vegan, I am not terribly convinced that bees are being exploited. I am, however, fairly uncomfortable with the possibility that agave workers are, and thus, I have not forfeited my right to eat honey. We bought some lusciously spreadable raw wildflower honey at the market, thick and butter-like in its consistency. Raw honey is uncooked, so it preserves its pollen, and is less processed, which is the best excuse to spread it on everything.  (But I do promise to keep an ear out for sad bee complaints.)

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Rooftops gardens WILL CHANGE THE COURSE OF HISTORY! (And you’ll attract more naysayers with honey.)IMG_7081IMG_7085

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We found Jerusalem artichokes! I’ve been too nervous to cook them because I haven’t the slightest idea what to pair them with. My cookbooks are void of Jerusalem artichokes entirely and I’ve found zero support on the internet. It’s the purple kohlrabi incident all over again. But that might be a project for tonight.IMG_7207 IMG_7205IMG_7198

The advertising for the revolutionary juicy pears was just too compelling. So we bought a phenomenal pile of Asian pears.IMG_7084 (1)

I mean Don Draper couldn’t argue with that.

Ooh, and ground cherries. They’re a kind of cherry-tomato hybrid with a really zesty sweet flavor – described in this blurry sign as being pineapple-y.  And they come in their own natural wrappers, making them a perfect mid-stroll snack.

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IMG_7117See? Gourds.

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And they weren’t the only bumpy creatures out and about…IMG_7089 IMG_7088IMG_7099

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We walked away with carrots, bok choy, peppers – including a purple one – eggplant, greens, and more. Afterwards we jumped on the L and headed straight to Brooklyn to start stuffing dumplings for dinner.

Upside-Down Peach Cake

Upside Down Peach Cake (That's Right-Side Up)


One of my favorite recipes out of my mother’s kitchen is her Upside Down Peach Cake. This was one of those incredible desserts she just threw together last minute and pooh-poohed when people cooed over her. It wasn’t until very recently when she handed me the recipe and swore I could make it as well as she could, that I was convinced it’s actually a ridiculously easy – and crowd pleasing – dessert. It’s still not as good as when she makes it, but I’ve given it a whirl a few times and it’s getting there.

The nifty thing about this cake is that the batter is always the same, but you can change up the fruit depending on the season. We had a remarkable peach crop this year, so peach cake became a regular treat for dinner guests come late August. My mum does it with plums sometimes, or frozen fruit when she has unexpected dinner guests, often raspberries she has squirreled in the back of the freezer (which is awesome). I’ll definitely try it with apples over the upcoming weeks, and come December I’d like to try it with cranberries.

Donut Peaches

It is in no way vegan, but not everyone is as nitpicky as I am these days.

Ingredients:

  • 6 peaches
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • cinnamon and sugar
  • lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350º. Cream sugar and butter in a food processor.

Add eggs one at a time and then stir in flour, salt, and baking powder.  Feel free to add a little lemon zest to the batter if you’re looking for a little zing.Peaches!

Baking a Cake

SpringformPut batter in an 8″ round baking pan that has been buttered (a spring form is the best) and tuck a round-cut piece of wax paper in and butter again.

Cover the batter with desired fruit – in this case peaches – and amply sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.

Cut the Parchment

Squeeze some lemon over the top.

Bake for about an hour to an hour and a half, until the cake is firm and a toothpick comes out clean. (It should smell God-sent by this point.)

Place the ParchmentOnce it’s cooled flip the cake upside down – hence its name.

The peaches in this particular cake were so pretty on the top that we didn’t flip it – and you’re welcome not to – but traditionally the fruit sort of sinks in and it looks very clean on top when you turn it over. However you see fit.

And presto, Upside Down Peach (or Insert Fruit Here) Cake! Thanks, Mom!

Presto! Dessert.

Beets For Those Who Hate Beets

Beet, Ginger, and Coconut Soup

Brittany Disdains BeetsContrary to photographic evidence, Brittany doesn’t like beets. In fact when I was thinking of things to do with our CSA beets this week I asked her, “You’re the one who loves beets, right?” To which she retorted – positively horrified – “EW! No.” And then, “Wait, who loves beets?” In the same way someone might say, “Wait, who loved the Spanish Inquisition?”

So we made her beet soup.

It occurred to me to trick her into eating it, tell her it was squash or something and then spring it on her afterwards. But if someone did that to me, I would flip. So I gave her the benefit of the doubt and told her it was indeed beets, and gave her full permission to not touch it, or having tried it to dump it politely down the drain. She later told me I was encouraged to trick her into eating new foods (sans viande) any time – and I’m really considering the possibilities.

But she, as per usual, was a sport.

Harvest abound, we’ve had enormous CSA loads lately. This week we got arugula, beets, bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, kale, peppers, hot peppers,  romaine lettuce, string beans, cherry tomatoes, tomato-tomatoes (and tomatoes and tomatoes), plums, pears, and a hernia from carrying it all home.

I found this lovely vegan soup on Epicurious for Beet, Ginger, and Coconut Milk Soup, and tweaked around with the recipe a bit.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger
  • 3 large red beets
  • 5 cups vegetable stock
  • Epi calls for 1 can (14.5 ounces) of low-fat coconut milk. But it seems pretty obvious to me that low-fat coconut milk is half coconut and half water. So if I really need for something to be lighter, I can use half a can of regular and pour the rest in as water. But I think coconut milk is lovely as is.
  • And Epi calls for 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, but I think it’s fair to say that you can be pa-retty generous with the salting.
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Share Beets!More Share Beets!Our beets from our CSA, as always, were gorgeous. Their colors are just unreal. I’m so infatuated with beet color that I once dyed a few articles of clothing with beet juice, thinking the color would penetrate. It did not, and my T’s vaguely resembled having been dragged through the mud. Fail.

But don’t they look like purple Cindy-Loo-Who’s?

Unlike Epicurious, we roasted our beets first because I really dislike the way boiled beets taste (hey, maybe that’s the objection Britt has!) and we thought the roasty flavor might add a nice quality to the soup.

Zebra BeetsRoasting Zebra BeetsOnce the beets were finished roasting (in a container with aluminum foil over it, at 350° for about an hour or until you can easily pierce them with a fork) we removed the skins by dropping the still-hot beets in an ice bath, then sautéed the onions, garlic, and ginger. We added the beets, stirred ’em around, then the vegetable broth and can of coconut milk and S&P. Then blended with an Immersion Blender.Beets and AromaticsImmersion BlendingWe left it to cook and thicken altogether for a bit, and then put it in the fridge to serve chilled later, although it’s very tasty served warm as well. I swirled some pomegranate molasses on the top (which kind of made the dish) and garnished with a peppery arugula leaf.

IMG_6956For our second course we had a flatbread – dough ala Evan – with tomato sauce (entirely CSA share and window garden tomatoes), share broccoli, share arugula, share peppers, (non-share) shallots and black olives, paired with a share romaine salad with (non-share) avocado, and peanut sauce. Share-iffic. I’d been referring to our flatbread as a vegan pizza, but Evan explained that it cannot be pizza without cheese. And so: flatbread.

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Yummy meal; yummier company.

Evan later said to me: “Why did we make beet soup for Brittany? It seems a little cruel…” I had no acceptable answer for him, except to say that I’d wanted to try it, and she and Tyler were coming for dinner. My sincerest apologies for being an asshole.

But when asked, Brittany said, “I still hate beets… but look at my bowl.” (Empty.) Then she clarified: “It wasn’t beet forward.”

Brittany and Beet Soup.

Tequila-Tofu Taco Night

Taco NightAfter debating the merits of Chipotle earlier this week, all we could think about was Mexican food.  It might not be the most sustainable meal, but one of our favorite vegan dinners when we need a light cooking night is tequila tofu tacos. It’s freakishly easy, and a stellar backup for nights when spending long hours in the kitchen feels foreboding.

We sauté up some firm tofu in olive oil with:

  • lime
  • cumin
  • coriander
  • a splash of tequila
  • garlic
  • and sea salt

Then we chop up whatever came in our share that week – preferably tomatoes (love cherry), sometimes corn, or occasionally cabbage for some crunch. And we cut up some avocado. (Sorry fellow locavores, I simply can’t help eating avocados… like, all the time.) Er, and occasionally the addition of pineapple is just about the best thing ever.

Tofu TacosPan-fry some soft taco shells, stuff them with goodies, add some chile sauce. And enjoy.

Taco DonezoAnd just for good measure: a little tequila on the side never hurts.

Broccoli Rice and Lentils: All Stocked Up.

Our Bulk Cabinet!

There are numerous reasons why to buy bulk and to stock your shed with goodies, and we love having our cabinets stuffed with dry yummies. It’s a dynamite way to reduce packaging waste and have supplies on hand for when your CSA share gets unruly and you’re short on ideas. There’s limited space in our NYC apartment, but we make it work somehow.

Brown Rice, Lentil & Grain MixWe’ve been getting loads of fabulous veggies as of late (go harvest, go!), and aside from nights where we just cook up a bunch of vegetables and happily munch on those, it’s delightful to have a grainy-stockpile to pair them with.

1 Hard Vegetable + 1 Leafy Green + Aromatics + Grain = Dinner Four out of Five Times a Week.

I recently stumbled on this Brown Rice, Lentil & Grain Mix at Whole Foods, which has proven very useful as a foil for all the vegetables we’ve gotten lately. It’s really tasty and aggressively nutritious. You cook it just like you cook rice, but it has all the wholesome benefits of lentils and grain-variation as well. I think it needs quite a bit of salt and pepper, but some of our favorite meals recently have involved it. Track it down!

It doesn’t matter terribly what you match it with, but here’s one dish we made with things that came in our CSA last week:

CSA Share Bounty

Broccoli Rice and Lentils:

  • Cook the rice and lentil mix as you would normal rice – in a rice cooker or in a pot with water.
  • Saute shallots, garlic, and jalapeño peppers in olive oil.
  • I love broccoli greens, and am shocked to find out people discard the leaves from their broc! If you add them to your aromatics until they get soft they make a stellar addition to a grain dish (or just plain cooked in garlic and olive oil). So chop those up and add them.
  • Boil or steam your broccoli until they’re bright green, and add that in.
  • Combine with rice and lentils once they’re cooked.
  • Add salt and pepper generously.

Aromatics and Jalapeño

Broccoli Leaf Greens

Dinner!And a tip before closing: leftover lentil and rice is a great pleasure in salad with sliced avocado for next-day lunch.

Feast happily, friends.

Message in a Scarecrow

There has been a lot of talk in the last week about a new ad campaign from the restaurant chain Chipotle. The ad features a great combination of industrial imagery and Fiona Apple’s haunting, ethereal voice that make for compelling advertising. In the video the Scarecrow breaks out from its factory food overlords to start a small and sustainable burrito stand, quite possibly a metaphor for Chipotle’s escape from McDonald’s investment dollars upon going public a few years back.

The campaign immediately caught the attention of a friend in the ad world who, knowing our interests, passed it along. Right away all of the major (and minor) media outlets picked up on it, and there have been thorough breakdowns of the ad and how closely it reflects how Chipotle acts in reality. Funny-or-Die quickly developed a parody highlighting the discrepancies, which led to further media attention. (See: TNY, NYT, MJ, LAT, WaPo, NPR…)

The debates around whether or not Chipotle is entitled to make the argument for better production methods are intriguing, and absolutely valid. Chipotle uses ambiguous ad-speak, terms like “natural” and phrases like “food with integrity” – unmeasurable claims. But what is exceptional about the reaction to Chipotle’s campaign is that very few of the debates buzzing around are focused on the actual message of the ad; instead, most choose to focus on the messenger.

People demand to know whether Chipotle is worthy of this fight, or if they can really claim the mantle of the sustainable food movement. I, for one, don’t know. But what we can say with certainty is this: the discussion of whether or not we should be improving the food system no longer seems even worthy of debate (!). Instead, the dialogue is centered around the corporation’s hold on the subject. However you come down on the subject of “food with integrity,” it is a noteworthy shift that we are debating less about the importance of sustainable food and more about who’s carrying the banner.