Afternoon What Now?

Cucumber ToastWho says cucumber sandwiches have to be an upper class treat? Notorious for their place next to afternoon tea, cuke sandwiches have a nasty reputation for gracing the tables of the elite. But, as cucumbers came in this week’s share, along with this dazzling pile of delicious –

  • a head of lettuce
  • bok choy
  • swiss chard
  • escarole
  • zucchini
  • snap peas
  • cilantro
  • cucumbers
  • blueberries
  • strawberries
  • eggs

– we have decided to prove that afternoon tea comes in many forms. I’ve long since ditched the crustless, white bread, triangle-shaped cucumber sandwiches, and adopted a simple rendition of cucumber slices on buttered toast doused in salt and pepper, which in the painful 99° weather this week, was heavenly. Paired with a glass of water with extra cuke slices in it, we managed to fend off the heat for at least the extent of lunchtime.

Cucumber Water

Tea on another day perhaps. A day significantly cooler.

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Plant a Radish/Get a Radish

RadishesApparently radishes are nature’s easy lay, because every week we manage to get some. I love the bite of radishes and find them delightfully sweeter when they’ve just been plucked (is this innuendo getting old, or what?) than when you just pick them up at the supermarket. But as delicious and aesthetically pleasing as radishes are, especially amongst all the greenery, eating radishes in salad week after week begins to be taxing.

Radishes with ButterSo someone recently suggested sautéing radishes to me, which had never occurred to me, but turned out to be a welcomed relief and really likable!  We were naughty and sautéed them in butter instead of olive oil, but we figured for our first attempt, we’d be dirty about it.

… That was the last one, I promise.

Foot-by-Foot Gardens

Our effort is to increase farming and gardening in the city by planting our own window garden and supporting rooftop gardens, urban farms and farmers markets. But sometimes we can’t help but escape to where the farming and gardening already is. Especially in the summer, the two of us find ourselves sneaking away to help family members with their gardening projects, and spending oodles of time hidden in the country jumping in lakes.

The Lake

It’s likely that we’ll be posting a handful of things that look decidedly un-New York this summer.  But we will continue to bring farms to city folk. For our first un-NY offering is a “foot by foot” garden project that we lent a hand to and think can offer ideas to apartment dwellers on how to grow a reasonable amount of food in a small amount of space – like a window.

My mum started a garden this year where she diligently divided her planter up with rope to section off 12″ by 12″ spaces and plant within each square.

Foot-by-Foot GardenShe’s growing lettuce, swiss chard, beets, peas, broccoli, eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, strawberries, various herbs, and other glorious goodies!

Beets

Despite our teenie-weenie apartments, we all have one foot to designate to greenery.  So grow stuff!
(Keep it up, Mom.)

Progress!

For those of you who aren’t near a garden of your own, here’s a sneak-peak at how the summer crops are progressing in our window.

On May 11th —

On May 19th —

Basil

On May 29th —

On June 7th —

And I’m pleased to say that as of five minutes ago, our window garden looked like this!

Progress!

Still awaiting the arrival of our tomatoes, but they’re surely trying. And as this morning I had chives from our garden in eggs from our CSA for breakfast (!),  I’m thinking I can be patient and await our upcoming treats. Seems to be working thus far.

Season 2. Episode 1.

Farm EggsOur CSA is finally here! And there was a lot of spastic celebratory dancing on West End Avenue this Wednesday evening as a result.

Rather than collect our share bi-weekly or go through the process of pairing with an anonymous CSA member, we decided to rope our friends Tyler and Brittany into splitting a share this year. I think they’ll agree it was a good decision.

In just our first week we accumulated a whoppin’:CSA Share!

  • head of lettuce
  • broccoli raab
  • huge (but not genetically mondofied) radishes
  • arugula
  • mesclun
  • kale
  • rhubarb
  • strawberries!
  • and this year: EGGS!

We uncontrollably nibbled the minute we were inundated with farm food, but managed to control ourself enough to try some concoctions. Like! Wrapping strawberries in the surprisingly peppery arugula for a gnarly Ratatouille-like explosion (think cartoon rat, not tomato and zucchini). Very enjoyable and highly recommended.

Strawberries and Arugula

Below is our complicated exchange of vegetables on the street corner – less highly recommended. Soon to find a better solution.

Meet Tyler and Brittany

**It should be noted that right after this photo was taken a wide-eyed little boy walked by us, gawking at the 6-foot-4 Tyler, while the kid’s mother whispered to him, “Go ahead, honey, say hi!  Say hi to him!”
We all think you’re Superman, Tyty. Each and every one of us.

And so, the season begins!

Growing Growing Gone

Window Garden

Now that our wee buds have gotten a little bigger and stronger, the time has come to transplant them to their permanent home! For us, in our apartment, that means a container. For some, it means the ground. We simply placed all the newspaper rounds into a container full of soil. And now, it’s a garden!

Meanwhile, our spinach is shooting up, as are our onions, and we’re compulsively checking on the tomatoes to see if there’s any change there. None yet. But I’m ready.

I was feeling pretty awesome about our vegetable garden until an overly logical friend came over yesterday, peered out of our window skeptically, and said, “Oh great, you’ll have a meal’s worth of food.” I’ve chosen to ignore him… but it still stings.

Wee Buds

Sprouted SpinachSprouts!  Wee buds have erupted in our window garden and look suspiciously like potential food!

Despite incredible environmental odds, our little buds have made an appearance into our home, and are becoming a minor obsession.

“Have you watered the plants today?”

“Yes, of course!”

“Oops.”

“Why?”

“I might have watered them again.  They looked hungry.”

“Are they getting any sun?”

“Does the TV set count?”

“As what?”

“I don’t know, some form of light?”

“No.”

“Have you spoken to them today?”

“I played them Mozart.”

“Mozart is for babies, not plants.”

“What’s for plants?”

… Excessively.  I’ve pre-booked a psychologist for their future developed zucchini and spinach-selves to deal with the neuroses caused by their smothering parents.

Also, due to the auspicious start of our buds, I have become predictably cocky about the color of my thumbs.  And have therefore jumped the proverbial gun and planted cherry tomatoes, as of this evening.  I am clearly doomed for a smack-down.

Cherry Tomatoes

One Square Foot

When my hubs and I attended the Just Food Conference in February, it was structured to give large talks at the beginning and end of the day with small seminars in the middle (of which there were many to choose from).  We agonized between School Food Solution; Racism in the Food System; Building Your Own Community Supported Kitchen; Hydroponics, Aquaculture, and Aquaponics; Strengthening Urban Agriculture in NYC… and more, ad nauseum.

We chose our workshops pretty well, but by the end wished we’d had another month to fill in the blanks.  (Although by Saturday afernoon we were seeing spots that looked remarkably like kale and apples and were happy to have Sunday to eat junk food — I mean…)  One of the seminars we partook in was One Square Foot: Grow & Own Your Own Food in thBig Apple with Jennifer Berg.  The pitch being that even with merely a window in New York you can grow your own vegetable garden.

“Ha!” you say.  And so do we.

But she gave us a pretty clear step-by-step and we are going to give it the ol’ college cliche.  And she promised that even if all you have is a northern facing window, which we do, seeds will sprout.  I’ll key you in to progress… if there is any.  And beforehand, show you how it’s done.

“All you need,” said Mrs. Berg, our host, “is a bag of soil, some newspaper, a can, and a bag of seeds.”  Bag of soil, check.  Newspaper, check.  Bags of spinach, zucchini, and scallion seeds, check.  And if we have any luck with these, I’m trying cherry tomatoes.

We were shown how to make a planter by rolling a piece of newspaper around a can and scrunching the leftover paper into the bottom.  It doesn’t have to be pretty, it just has to stay together for a couple of weeks.

Fill the paper planter about halfway with soil, put a couple seeds of your choice in, cover them with soil, and finally water.

Once the plants have sprouted to about an inch and a half, you place the entire newspaper planter into a large container full of soil, and the newspaper will eventually disintegrate.  Apparently newspaper ink is made of soy (who knew?!) and will not harm your veggies one bit.

New York is notoriously confined for space.  Like, for example, my husband and I living in a studio apartment with two cats and the occasional guest, or two – sometimes three.  It is always snug in this city.  So finding outdoor spaces to grow vegetables is a coveted experience.  Most of us can’t do it.  But a small project like this can give you the reward of an urban vegetable garden, or at least close to it, and gives a little more control in knowing what you’ll be eating this season as our CSA approaches.

We’re going to give it a try.  We’d love to have our windows full of delicious treats to gnaw on, through the summer of course, but ideally even through the winter months.  And we even have a tiny outdoor ledge just big enough for a few planters, so once the weather evens out a bit we’ll be transporting our planters and our big bowl of mustard greens (from the Natural History Museum farmers market (see above)) and have ourselves a wee garden.

The Elitist’s Mac and Cheese

Mac and Cheese

I have been called many things:  charming, delightful, dazzling. Also: trouble, insufferable, a pain in the ass, and most recently, a food snob.

And at the very least, the last is true. And with food snobbery comes pickiness, a propensity toward judgement, perpetual quiet (or in my case loud) criticism, and a certain “look at my cuisineyness.” I apologize to those who I bombard.

Here is one of my favorite look at my cuisineyness meals. I call it the Elitist’s Mac and Cheese, and I lord it over anyone who proudly prepares Kraft Mac and Cheese. But really it’s easy and delicious and I’m kidding about the pretentiousness (mostly).

Sauté up whatever vegetables are lying around, or came in your CSA share. The above is shallots, garlic, and swiss chard. Cook some pasta, preferably whole wheat. Grate more cheddar cheese then you think you could fathomably enjoy. Combine everything, sprinkle breadcrumbs on top, and put it in the broiler. When it’s crispy and gooey, eat it. And be sure to dress for dinner, use big words, gesture emphatically and enjoy pompous wine while you do so.

The Fall Variety

When seated at the dinner table at seven-years-old, I remarked to my highly literal father (who does not take kindly to hyperbole), “I could eat an artichoke every day.” And so, for the next 365 days an artichoke appeared diligently on my plate, as if this would please and delight me.  Try explaining exaggeration to a parent at eight; I promise you it is ineffective.

This is when I learned that variety indeed is the spice of life. And cinnamon, it turns out, is the spice of butternut squash soup. And from these two lessons comes the great joy of eating seasonally. Months change, and so do our eating habits. Clearly, we’ve been appledated. But additionally, now we’re getting squashed, and pumpked, and yammed.  And most of these autumn ingredients landed in this week’s soup.

We managed to accumulate onion, garlic, butternut squash, a yam, and [more] apples in our CSA this week: clearly soup in the making.  So all of the above got roasted up, then blended, then cooked with vegetable stock, orange juice, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, nutmeg, salt and pepper.

And the fall variety was served. (Artichokes be damned.)