Category ArchiveFood Matters

Food Matters &Local Farmers &NYC Greenmarkets 03 Sep 2011 07:27 am

Damage to Local Farms from Hurricane Irene and How You Can Help: a Message from the McCarren Park Market Manager

This note comes in from Rob Shepherd, market manager for the McCarren Park and South Williamsburg Greenmarkets. He tells how you can help Greenmarket farmers recover from the damage — in many places severe — done by Irene, by donating, volunteering, and above all, continuing to shop at the Greenmarket.

Dear Greenmarket Community,

We will learn about the full extent of the damage caused by Tropical Storm Irene in the days and weeks to come, as the waters begin to recede from upstate farms. The Black Dirt region is still flooded, Sullivan County and Ulster County have seen significant damage, and there are parts of Greene County that no longer exist. We estimate that 80% of Greenmarket farmers have been impacted, with about 10% reporting severe loss – 80-100% of their products. This couldn’t have happened at a worse time of year – as you know, September is when our farmers make the money they need to sustain their farm businesses. It is too late in the season to re-plant, and in addition to the great summer harvest that typically arrives in September, these farmers have lost their winter storage crops as well – beets, onions and squash – the products that sustain year-round sales.

Markets were open at 5 a.m. the day after the storm, and we are encouraging residents to support regional farmers first and foremost by shopping at Greenmarket. Some of the farmers you have forged strong relationships with over the years may not be back at the markets this season due to the aftermath of the storm, but we will do everything we can to ensure that they return to market in the spring of 2012. In the mean time, we don’t anticipate that our markets will be impacted in terms of the quality or the variety of products you have come to expect.

We have set up a donation page on the GrowNYC website, which you can find at We plan to have a message board up on our website by this weekend, where those seeking assistance (volunteer help, or in-kind donations) and those who are ready to volunteer can be put in touch. If you have any questions, please reach out to our office: 212-788-7476.

Greenmarket farmers are a resilient group of individuals, who have weathered many storms prior to this one. Thanks to an incredible community of shoppers and supporters, we’ll help our regional growers get through to a strong recovery.

Also, tomorrow at Greenpoint/McCarren Park Greenmarket, we will be doing several fun surveys, along with frying up some amazing zucchini blossoms with Brooklyn’s own Carina Molnar, local food lover extraordinaire. Swing by the information tent and check us out! Cooking demo will start at 11am. Union Ave. between Driggs Ave. and N. 12th St. For more information visit:

Food Matters &NYC Greenmarkets 12 Sep 2009 01:46 pm

Greenmarket Shopping for Eggplant-Black Pepper Fettuccine

This post was written for the “Let Us Eat Local” food blogging contest at Not Eating Out in New York.

When shopping for this contest, I’d planned to visit my local, neighborhood greenmarket so that I could buy produce from my very favorite farmers and sing their praises on Not Eating Out in New York.  However, as so often happens, my time was suddenly taken up with unforeseen plans, and so my market time was considerably foreshortened. Instead of a leisurely Saturday morning stroll through my neighborhood market in Brooklyn, I had to resort to a hasty, after work dash through New York’s central greenmarket in Union Square.

So I wasn’t able, as I’d planned, to get New York State artichokes and remark to the NEOINY readers about how surprised I was when I first learned that artichokes can grow here. I wasn’t able to visit the Phillips and Wilklow booths at the Borough Hall market and extol, as I’ve often done before, the high quality of these purveyors’ produce. Instead I ran from booth to booth in Union Square, while many farmers were closing up shop for the day, quickly finding what I needed from vendors I’m not as well acquainted with.

But this too is part of the experience of shopping at the greenmarket. If you’re lucky enough, as I am, to live in a city with an extensive farmers market system, you can have access to farm-fresh produce even when you’re pressed for shopping time. New Yorkers are famously overbooked and strapped for time.  But the farmers markets here are so numerous, that if you know where to look you can almost always have one on the way to wherever it is you’re hurrying to.  Shopping for farm-fresh, seasonal produce should be as convenient as shopping at a supermarket – I won’t say that it’s quite that accessible yet, but sometimes it almost is.

The recipe for my dish – Eggplant and Black Pepper Fettuccine with a sauce of Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes and Roasted Garlic, can be found here.

Food Matters 26 Aug 2007 09:03 pm

What I’m Reading

It’s been too hot and muggy in my kitchen to cook, and too nice at the beach to stay at home and try. I have issues, of course, with missing out on the August bounty of corn and tomatoes (and green beans, and berries, and peaches…), and my planned blog post on freezing goes still unwritten. In the meantime though, while my stovetop is idle, I’m indulging my love for food by reading about it.

United States of ArugulaThe United States of Arugula: The Sun Dried, Cold Pressed, Dark Roasted, Extra Virgin Story of the American Food Revolution
This book came to me in an unexpected way: I knew about it from a favorable review it received in the New York Times, but I hadn’t yet picked up a copy of the newly-released paperback edition. One day while perusing Midtown Lunch, one of my favorite food blogs, I saw it offered as contest prize; the challenge: write up a notable food memory from childhood (or beyond childhood, luckily for me, since as a child I didn’t actually eat food). My dazzling prize-winning entry can be found here — scroll down to find the “comment from dave.” But about the book itself: once you get past the goofy title, it’s quite good: rigorously researched, interesting, and written in a sort of quickly paced, breezily intelligent style. It’s an account of how the dominant food culture of the United States transformed, in a very short time, from a narrow, provincial, xeno- and spice-phobic gastronomy to one that embraces an enormous range of cuisines and flavors. Its focus is on three careers that the author considers to be the vanguard of the American Food Revolution: those of Julia Child, James Beard, and Craig Claiborne.

I’m fascinated by the history of American food culture, which is one reason why I’m enjoying this book so much. To understand the impact of this story you only have to note, as this book’s intro does, that as recently as the eighties, salsa – salsa!! – was to most Americans unknown & exotic. The introductory chapter also recounts a 1939 New York Herald Tribune column that explains to its readers what a pizza (“pronounced ‘peet-za’”) is. For foods that are now so intimately engrained in our daily diets to have been completely unknown so recently really does speak of a huge and rapid transformation: a revolution that surely extends beyond the palate and belly to something you would have to call a national soul.

Slow Food RevolutionSlow Food Revolution: A New Culture for Eating and Living by Carlo Petrini and Gigi Padovani

Speaking of revolution: Slow Food is international, not just American, in scope, but it is a movement that has fiercely caught on in the US, as you can see by the number and range of local chapters on the slow food website. Speaking in terms of “movement” and “revolution,” anachronistic as it may sound, is completely appropriate here: the book shows Slow Food emerging in very much a political spirit, with its roots equally in activism and in a regard for food, wine and conviviality that has to be described as distinctly Italian. It tells of the food at local, traditional Italian festivals, the tribulations and transformations of the Italian wine industry, and the congenial and coalescing force of Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini’s charismatic personality. It’s assembled from interviews with Petrini, and can ramble a bit at times, but it gives great insight into the passions behind what has become an influential presence across the international food world.

That, though, is only the book’s first half; the second half, perhaps the more interesting section, contains “Twenty Stories of Presidia and Food Communities” and “Index of the Presidia” — brief accounts of a huge range of local foods, food customs, food producers, ingredients; the indigenous foods and traditions that Slow Food is sworn to protect, from syrup made from heirloom roses in Liguria to breeders of the Old Gloucester Cow, whose milk was made into cheese since the 13th century.

Spice: Flavors of the Eastern MediterraneanSpice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean
I bought this book with money I made from my foray into catering earlier this summer. I’ve yet to actually cook anything from it, especially during these too-hot-to-cook dog days of August, but I’ve been learning a lot from the breadth of its recipes. This is not the how-to-cook-middle-eastern starter cookbook I’d hoped it would be: its recipes lean toward pretty complex preparations. And the book’s novel organization, by different spice groupings (“a map that you can use as you embark on your own spice journey”), seems a little precious to me. And I’m a little dubious of the authenticity of its ‘middle-eastern cuisine as seen through the lens of me and my popular Cambridge restaurant’ approach. But then again I’m also dubious of ‘authenticity’ as a judge of cuisine, since it should, to some extent, take a back seat to whether the food’s good. And there’s no denying that a recipe like “Chickpea & Potato Terrine Stuffed with Pine Nuts, Spinach, Onion and Tahini” sounds pretty damn delicious.

Gourmet Magazine August 2007September 2007 issue of Gourmet Magazine
The entire issue, cover to cover, is devoted to Mexican and Latin cuisine: unlikely places where you’ll find it in the US; recipes for making it at home; interviews with its leading purveyors; and of course beautiful photos of it, as it’s enjoyed by beautiful people.

I can’t wait to try the Arroz con Pollo (p78) and the Pozole Rojo (p96), and if I had a tortilla press I’d sure try the crazy stuffed-tortilla quesadallas (p101). I’m reading this issue cover-to-cover, and don’t ask me to pass my copy along to you when I’m done, ‘cause I’m keeping it. (Disclaimer: yes, I work for the company that makes this magazine; I’m still not giving you my copy though.)

Food Matters 04 Apr 2007 10:14 pm

New York City Food Czar: NY Times Food Section 04/04/2007

Oh poor blog! Oh sad neglected blog! How I’ve ignored you. And oh my cooking skills how I’ve ignored you too. Despite my vows I’m still living on a diet of take-out (though it must be said some of that take out is pretty good: tonight falafel and babaganoush from Waterfalls, with sides of labney, baked kibbe, and salad. But that, I think, is the subject for another post).

But though my knives sit restless in their knife block, and as my skillets gather dust in the cupboard, there’s still much to blog about in the world of food. The cover article on today’s New York Times food section, for example, is a great hub for curious exploration of the strands winding through the world of food these days. The story tells of the food and health policies of the Bloomberg Administration, and though the author, Kim Severson, is careful to say that Mayor Bloomberg is no crusading health food paladin, she lays out a cast of characters and initiatives at work in the city that seek to promote easier access to healthier food, and are part of a nationwide trend of similar efforts. A quick roster — if only as a reference point for further study:

Benjamin Thomases – the “Food Czar” charged with “coordinating the city’s policies on food”

Linda I. Gibbs – deputy mayor, “tough and experienced bureaucrat” and Mr. Thomases’ boss.

Christine C. Quinn – the City Council Speaker, “a Greenmarket regular who has a strong following among New York health and food advocacy groups and who pressed the mayor for the (food czar) position.”

Toni Liquori – “an educator who has worked on food and public health projects in New York City for more than 20 years.”

Joel Berg – executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger and former member of the (Bill) Clinton administration.

Dr. Thomas R. Frieden – the smoking-ban-in-bars guy, head of the Department of Health and — get this — Mental Hygiene. What exactly, Dr. Frieden, is mental hygiene, and what is your department doing about it?

What I love about an article like this — and what frustrates me about it at the same time — is the number of stories that spin off of it so easily and obviously. To wit:

“In many American cities, agricultural politics are being argued at the bar and alpha moms are organizing to take back school cafeterias. Chefs are making heroes out of cattle ranchers and the obesity crisis has prompted a new look at how and what to feed the poor. In an effort to build a cohesive public policy that brings all those food-related movements together, a handful of cities began forming food policy councils in the late 1990s.”

Those cities, Ms. Severson goes on to write, include Berkeley, San Francisco, and Portland (big surprise there), along with Hartford and Toronto. A state-level food-policy council is apparently in the works for Spitzer-era New York state, as “agricultural officials” recently announced.

So here’s the part I’m frustrated — or enticed, or curious — about. Who are these ‘agricultural officials’? Why do health-and-food advocates love Christine Quinn? What has Toni Liquori done over the past decades that makes her notable? Which chefs are lionizing which cattle ranchers? What else is Benjamin Thomases up to? Why was Ed Koch quoted in this article?

Here’s hoping that my curiosity extends beyond this rambling blog post, and bends itself to research and real knowledge. Google, here I come!