Leave Our Friend, the Steak, Alone

The NYT is giving beef the shaft again, with an article entitled The Price of Eating Red Meat.

It covers a large study that suggests eating red meat AND processed meat (the categories are lumped together) is associated with greater risk of early death, especially caused by heart disease and cancer.

What kills me about this article (and others like it) is not just the quick lumping of processed meats under "Red Meat" (as if Spam and filet mignon are nutritionally equal), but the following, quietly hidden in the middle of the article, rendering the rest of the article moot:

"The subjects in the study who ate the most red meat had other less-than-healthful habits. They were more likely to smoke, weigh more for their height, and consume more calories and more total fat and saturated fat. They also ate less fruits, vegetables and fiber; took fewer vitamin supplements; and were less physically active."

If Jane Brody, and presumably the Health section editor, understands that "Other factors associated with meat-eating are the real culprits in raising death rates, " why the misleading headline?

I am going to defrost a sirloin for veg-heavy stir fry in protest.

picture by H.D. Connelly


Pig Revenge?

Does torturing our food supply result in human disease?

We know it does in cows. For example, outbreaks of mad cow disease, a disease only known in the last few decades, rose when cows were forced to eat cow. This practice was largely stopped once the connection was made – although cow blood remains part of most cattle diets. Cow leftovers are now fed to other herbivores that are then ground up and fed to cows. This may not be safer as prions, the devils of the disease, are likely tough enough to survive this protein somersault. Why are cows – adept vegetarians – being force-fed meat in the first place? Answer: To fatten, quickly.

The way industrial animals continue to be treated, crowded, fed and pumped full of antibiotics in conventional Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) not only makes them very ill, it has the potential to make us ill as well. CAFOs acidify the pH balance of a cow’s digestion system. Normally it is rather alkaline, opposite that of humans, and thus kills the bugs our bodies can’t. Without that protection we are susceptible to more illnesses, such as deadly strains of E. Coli.

So how ‘bout swine flu? Well, unlike mad cow and E. Coli, you can’t get swine flu from eating pork. But it does come from sick pigs (and humans who know a sick pig and the humans that know that human, and so on). Some are theorizing, especially among the press in Mexico, that the current outbreak began with sick pigs at one of the world’s largest pig plumper and packager, located in Vera Cruz. (Hat tip to Grist’s Tom Philpott for helping bringing this theory to US attention.) The hog production area is reported to be overcrowded and disgusting – a swamp of pig feces, swarming with flies. Similar to the descriptions of CAFOs in this country.

Forget Montezuma.

These outbreaks are the Revenge of the Even-Toed Ungulates.

picture by Katherine Welles


Green Decapitation

At the Carroll Gardens Sunday greenmarket, I stumbled upon an intimidating head of lettuce. It came with a neck! And, if you count the pot, shoulders!

It was $5 for two, so with my wily bills, I captured a three-headed lettuce monster, slung him over my back and brought him home. After showing off my spoils, I decapitated one bobbing crown to make the below salad. It was gobbled up within minutes of slaughter. Can you get fresher then that?!

(The remaining two heads have been tamed with fear; they will be kept as pets, their outer ears nuzzled off according to Appetite's demands.)

4/30/09 Update:
The decapitated neck has already sprouted a new face...

Butter lettuce in Cream Dressing
Serves two

2 cups butter lettuce
1 cup mesclun mix

½ cup heavy cream (Ronnybrook worked)
¼ cup rice vinegar (or other white vinegar)
½ teaspoon dried minced garlic
1 teaspoon lemon zest
salt and pepper to taste

Combine lettuces. Mix the other ingredients together in a small bowl to form dressing. (Dressing can be made several hours in advance and stored in fridge.) Toss with lettuce, shortly before ready to eat.


Urban Oven BBQ

In honor of the record highs for this time of year, we had an Urban BBQ yesterday. (You know, when you pretend you have outdoor space inside a city apartment.) Just after one p.m., a heavily marbled brisket ($7 a pound from Grazin’ Angus) began bathing in the following:

Marinade and BBQ sauce
Process the first two ingredients and then mix with the rest.

3 large garlic cloves
1 teaspoon green peppercorns

22 oz hard apple cider (Doc’s Draft is made in NY state from NY apples)
4 Tbs molasses
3 Tbs RedJacket Orchards (Seneca Lake, NY) Spiced Apple Glaze (if Red Jacket doesn’t come to a market near you, sub an additional 2 Tbs of molasses and 1 teaspoon ground black pepper.)
1 Tbs soy sauce
½ Tbs kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

After its long bath (about 2hrs) in a room temp Dutch Oven, the 3lb brisquet (and, on a whim, one very bruised apple, cored and quartered) went into an oven set at 225. (Low temp is key to an urban BBQ; it keeps the apartment from overheating!)

It braised for 3-4 hours and then was removed from the pot ‘to rest’.

The marinade was then sent boiling, uncovered, for about 20 minutes until it became a syrupy bbq sauce – some of which was mixed with some beans to make a quick side dish.

I browned the meat in a bit of peanut oil right before slicing and serving. (I know, I know; this is not the conventional way to do it. But it works for brisket.)


Cooking, the Way to Man’s… Brain?

The theory that primordial Iron Chefs led to the evolution of humanity proved itself in a pan on my stove earlier this week. The theory, the metabolic basis of which is covered here (by me), is getting increased traction from a different angle, due to a new book by primatologist Richard Wrangham, Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human.

The book, covered by the NYT on Tuesday, will be released in May. (Who wants to keep me company on the waiting list?) It claims that our big brains got big when we started processing more of our food outside our bodies – freeing up calories (and likely releasing other nutrients) to feed the brain.

In other words, apes have to chew a handful of weeds for over an hour. They spend practically the whole day masticating. We just get out a pan.

A couple days ago, my pan was piping hot and held the usual array of caramelized onions, garlic, etc. On the counter was the biggest bowl in the apartment – the bottom portion of the salad spinner – filled to the brim with fresh spinach. Enough spinach to make salad for eight to ten people. I combined the spinach and the pan trimmings. Suddenly I had a tiny pile of leaves.

By applying a wee bit of heat, I now had the capacity to eat 8 to 10 salads, in one sitting!

I applauded my nutritional wizardry. And then remembered cooking has been around for at least 150,000 years. (Wrangham puts it at 1.8 million years, albeit controversially.)

So in a meaningless attempt to do my ancestry one better, I turned the leaves into the below for dinner; it would be nice for brunch, too. It is a riff on an ‘ouefs piperade’ recipe from James Briscione.

Oeufs Spinach

Serves 3-4

Olive oil
3 very thinly sliced pieces of pancetta, chopped
1 yellow onion, sliced
2 large garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 Tbs (yes Tablespoon) minced rosemary
salt, black pepper and cayenne to taste

½ pound (2 cups) fresh baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1 Tbs sherry or balsamic vinegar
8-10 cups fresh spinach, lower stems removed, roughly chopped

8-10 eggs
3-4 ounces feta cheese

Preheat over to 425 degrees.

Coat, or spray, large non-stick skillet with oil. Heat over medium-low heat. Add pancetta. Allow fat to render but avoid browning the meat. Add onion and garlic. Sauté until onions are soft and beginning to caramelize. (It helps to cover intermittently.) Mix in spices. Then the mushrooms. Cover and let mushrooms release their liquid, stirring occasionally. When mushrooms have softened, turn off heat. Mix in vinegar and fold in fresh spinach. The spinach should wilt but not become mushy. Briefly turn heat back on if necessary.

Crack eggs over mixture, leaving yolks whole. Sprinkle with feta and black pepper. Place in oven for 15 minutes or until yolks are desired firmness. Slice and sprinkle with additional feta, if desired. Serve with a fresh baguette or home fries.

picture © Stilings


Princes in Need of Peas

Anthropologists use the ways people obtain food to understand features of personality, writes Meredith Small, herself an anthropologist. (Full disclosure: Small also writes for LiveScience but we haven’t met.) She continues,

  • “The stretch from food to personality might seem like a long one, but if people are in any sense molded by their culture, then there should be links from how we go about surviving at the most fundamental level to who we are at the most esoteric level. To be a hunter and gatherer, for example, requires initiative and persistence, and so it might be expected that in such a system parents would foster self-reliance. And in a society of pastoralists, where obtaining and holding on to cattle is the measure of success, parents might be inclined to push for responsibility rather than creativity.”

I long to ask Small, how ‘bout when food comes from shelves? Presented just like magazines, toys and TVs? What personality traits do those cultures cultivate? A love of gloss and sheen? Nutrition label obsession? Deal-finding skills?

Placed on shelves, often in identical boxes and cans, food becomes easy to confuse with other items on a shopping list. Food, however, is not an idle commodity. It is the other side of a relationship, within which we are helplessly entwined.

Eating is a dynamic and necessary conversation between our bodies and the earth. (Not even Twinkies are from outerspace.)

Commodization of food, I think, is the start of the current culture’s larger confusion about what and how to eat. Surely, this was once a simple matter. But now, fad diets ripple through our population like epidemics, the ‘diet industry’ is obese and hospitalizations for eating disorders are on the rise. (Such hospitalizations rose 18 percent between 1999 and 2006; 119, yes 119, percent for children under 12.)

When do we learn how to relate to food?

A criminal defense lawyer once told me, when poor people get a bit of money, the first thing they buy is clothes. Next, a car. After that: some bling. All the while, going home to families cramped in miserably uncomfortable apartments. I get the logic; we are taught that image is the key to success. But it cannot be a healthy, or intimate, way to live.

We spend time, money and energy on our hair, cell phones and cars and yet neglect our most intimate and vital relationship.

In United States of Arugula, David Kamp wrote, referencing the culinary genius James Beard, “He knew we [Americans] could have it so much better if we just cared. For a long time, though, we resisted caring too much; it was as if there was something wussy, too soft, even un-American about investing one’s pleasure and emotion in what’s for dinner.”

He then adds, “But the tide is turning.”

picture copyrights in respective order
Eugene Bochkarev


Organic vs. Local

Student researchers in a hoop house at Genesis Growers. This rural farm is among the mix of farms participating in the study.*

What's better for the earth: eating locally or eating organically? A professor from the University of Chicago, Pamela Martin, is leading a year-long course study to find out. (She previously conducted a study comparing food choices to car choices on environmental impact; they tied.)

It is a complicated question, with a range of factors to include, such as farm size, crop diversity and farm 'inputs' (fuel, seeds, fertilizer, pesticide...) But preliminary findings suggest local wins out.

*Jessica Graves photo


Underground Dining: The Brooklyn Edible Social Club

While grabbing cheese from Cato Corner (try the Vivace, it has notes of wood-smoked bacon), to fill out a lovely picnic in Prospect Park, I also picked up a tip about an underground dining club.

This, from the website:

Hosted by an acclaimed, artisan chef formed in the kitchens of The French Laundry
and Meadowood (California), these dinners will take place in roving
locations throughout Brooklyn.

How fun! And of course, “each feast features seasonal ingredients from local, sustainable farms” – many of which have been reviewed by NewYorkFoodVine.

The club’s blog is lovely, if perhaps just starting out. It offers background information on the upcoming meal’s featured ingredients and farms, as well as information on how to get invited.

Here’s a sneak peak at the April 22nd dinner.

$65, BYOB

Amuse bouche

First Course
Field Greens Salad (Evolutionary Organics, NY)
Free-range fried egg (Tello's Green Farm, NY)
Smoked bacon-thyme citronette (Flying Pigs Farm, NY)

Second Course
Foraged Mushrooms Ragou (Honey Hollow Farm, NY )
Womanchego cheese grits (Cato Corner Farm, CT)
Herb salad

Third Course
Steamed Clams (Blue Moon Fishmonger, NY)
Saffron, chorizo
Sourdough peasant bread (Bread Alone Bakery, NY)

Fourth Course
Braised Grass-fed Beef Short Ribs (Wilklow Orchards, NY)
Roasted sunchokes, grilled scallions, gremolata sauce

Fifth Course
Upside-down Apple Gallette (Red Jacket Orchards, NY)
Caramel "milkshake"

Mignardises, Coffee, Tea

picture of Brooklyn brownstone, by anonymous contributor to Dreamstime.


Five Market Weekend

It’s time! Markets are sprouting up all over the city. Who cares if the schedule says they will open in June. Produce doesn’t follow the calendar to the letter, so why should the farmers.

Borough Hall, strangely, randomly, had two stands set up on Sunday and Carroll Gardens (at Carroll Park, between Smith and Court) had their first day of the season today as well. Milk Thistle, Grazin’ Angus, and a cheese maker I have yet to try, accompanied an amazing produce stand offering lettuce plants so beautiful I could swap them for a bouquet. Madura Farm, with their wonderful mushrooms, packed up by 3pm. DiPaolo’s had fresh meat. I engaged the turkey farmer about his birds and now I need to make some corrections to my previous post. It's true, his birds are the conventional Nicholas breed, but only in part. The line has been bred with a black Heritage bird, restoring their reproductive ability, but retaining the light flesh color we are accustomed to. (Apparently, the feathers of the black bird leave a mark on the skin, while the white Nicholas does not.) I bought three large turkey legs, $1.89 a pound, which I plan to braise in coconut milk this evening.

Three other markets, Columbia University’s (114th and Broadway), American Museum of Natural History (77th and Columbus) and Grand Army Plaza (Union St. and Prospect Park) which are open year round, had new buds this weekend. On Saturday, Grand Army’s Market branched into the park proper and had many new meat providers. On Sunday, 77th had a new goat cheese seller, Ardith Mae (Susquihanna County, PA), who provided me with feta ($8); Ardith Mae had a seller at Columbia's Sunday market as well. Columbia is also hosting Milk Thistle, a wide selection of organic frozen meats, a fish stand, lots of apples, potatoes (including blue ones!), other root vegetables and a motley of fresh potted herbs. The magazine and candy stand jutting between the tents seemed quite out of place.

serves 2-3 people

1/3 fresh habanero pepper
1 large garlic clove
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves
2 inch thumb, fresh ginger

1 can coconut milk
1 cup broth or water
1 ½ Tbs sugar
1 vanilla bean pod (optional)

1 Tbs olive oil
3 turkey legs
6-8 small blue potatoes, quartered
2 large carrots, cut into large bite-sized pieces
1 red onion, sliced thin

1/2 cup cashews (optional)

Set oven to 300 degrees.

Combine first four ingredients in a food processor. Process. Add mixture to coconut milk and dilute with broth or water.

Dig out your Dutch oven or other heavy, oven-friendly pot. Heat oil while you salt and pepper turkey legs. Put turkey legs in broth. Sear briefly on at least two sides and remove.

Pour coconut milk mixture into pot. Add vegetables and turkey. Bring to a simmer. Remove from the stove and put into the oven for 1-2 hours. (1, they’ll be done; 2, they’ll be more tender.)

Remove turkey and veggies from broth with a slotted spoon and set aside. Put pot on burner and heat, stirring quickly. Allow liquids to reduce down until to a thick sauce. Mix with meat and veggies. Dish on top plates and top with cashews, if using. Serve.


Borough Hall’s Tuesday Market

A few stands sprouted at Borough Hall’s Tuesday market today. (Supposedly, it’s open all year, just like the Thursday and Saturday ones, but finding any during the cold months was like searching for urban morels.)

More precisely, there was three sprouts: Wilklow Farm (Highland NY) with cider, baked goods and some of the last apples of the season (hopefully the last, they are getting mealy) and Baker’s Bounty (Linden, NJ) with their usual array of breads, muffins, pastries, knishes and stromboli. The final stand was decked out with spring flowers, both potted and cut. Hiding behind the blossoms were basic veggies: onions, leeks, a motley of potatoes, butternut squash, carrots and other root vegetables. (Tip: The freshest spinach is under the table, hiding from the sun.) For $14, I snagged enough veggies to get us through the next week. Borough Hall, no matter the day of the week, operates sans protein and dairy providers, but I am hopeful that the pretzel man, the mushroom gurus and other veggie jugglers will rejoin the weekday markets soon.

For a dinner side dish, I made a puree with my turnips. The below recipe would work just as well with parsnip or celery root, too. It is good with roast… anything. Or for a major contrast, try it with the vegetarian beet entrée below.

Porcini-Turnip Puree

Serves two as a side dish

2 medium turnips, peeled and cut into rough ¾ inch piece
~ 0.3 oz dried porcini
3 cloves of garlic, cut into thirds
broth to cover; about 2 cups (I used a mix of chicken and the portabella I made here.)

4 Tbs heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
top with chopped parsley (optional)

Boil vegetables in broth until very tender, allowing the majority of the liquid to reduce. Blend or puree. Stir in cream and seasonings. Allow to simmer out liquid, stirring frequently, until reaches desired consistency.

Alternatively, for a soul-satisfying soup, add a cup broth or water. Either way, serve hot.

Beet, It’s What for Dinner

Serves two

2 large red beets

2 Tbs olive oil
1 medium onion, cut in long strips
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
2/3 cups shelled broken walnuts
1 Tbs white wine vinegar
1/2 cup fresh marjoram leaves*

Set oven at 350 degrees.

Boil whole beets for about 35 minutes, until easily sliceable with a knife. Remove from water and cool at room temperature. Peel, quarter and slice ¼ inch wide. Set aside.

Spread walnuts on sprayed pan. Place in oven, for ten minutes or until browned. Set aside.

Sauté onions in oil. When slightly softened, add garlic. Sauté thirty seconds. Add beets. Cook until beets reach desired softness, stirring often. ( I prefer slightly chewier then al dente, about 20 minutes.) Add walnuts. Heat through. Turn off heat. Toss with vinegar and marjoram. Serve with a salty puree.

*It was Deborah Madison who turned me on to the beet/marjoram combo. Boy, was she right!


On Being a Cultivore

This blog is not about choosing organic. Or eating locally. Or even about eating healthy. (Have you tried your local bacon?!?!?!) Although I am not numb to those side benefits.

Rather, I visit farmers’ markets because I am a cultivore.

I am curious about what I consume. I savor the learning process, just as much as the meal. Because I feel it is impolite to eat strangers.

For every ingredient, I need to know what is its ancestry? Where and how did it grow up? Was it stressed or indulged? (Each has its pluses.) How was it butchered, processed, stored? How do people prepare it, now and in times past? What nutrients does it offer?

And how does this unique history and biology affect its Taste?

With all this curiosity, food from a box, a stubbornly quiet and uniform box, can be quite a let down. It is as if the original food has been orphaned, separated from its own biology, dehydrated and mashed out of recognition. (Did you know Cheerios don’t grow on trees?) I am not against processing. I love to cook, after all. (Processing food may even be what makes us human.) It’s just, well…

It seems impolite to eat strangers.

I am open, friendly and flirtatious with food. I expect reciprocity if the two of us are to commit the ultimate intimate act.

Unfortunately, much of the food industry likes keeping secrets. They want me to believe, all those cans of tomato soup are not only identical, they have nothing to do with dirt. (They sprout on grocery shelves.) Or maybe copywriters just can’t explain ‘thiamine mononitrate’ in the space allotted on a label…


Big ol’ Head of Cabbage

I love ingredients from the market that last for weeks and weeks. Part of it is, they are so fresh on market day. Even baby greens will last ten days. Of course, they skip the lame cross-county truck ride. Coolly, these veggies simply shake off their soil and hitch the short ride to the big city.

Potatoes, onions and other root vegetables are obvious examples of pantry staples. But a big head of lettuce can also last weeks and star in a number of meals. Here’s what I am making as a side dish tonight:

Creole Cole Slaw
Serves 4 or a very hungry 2

- based VERY loosely on a recipe in the current Bon Appetit (May 2009). Their recipe calls for green cabbage and prepared Creole mustard. I had white cabbage from Phillips Farm in NJ available. White cabbage tends to be tougher than green, so I added a boiling step. And I made my own mustard spread, to save a trip to a, gasp, store.

5 cups heavy white cabbage, cored and sliced thin

Fill a large deep sauce pan with water, salt and bring to a boil (as if you were making pasta). Add cabbage. Boil about twenty minutes until tender but not mushy. (again, as if you were making pasta). Drain in a colander and pour cold water over immediately to stop the cooking process. Refrigerate and make dressing.

1 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs ground mustard powder
1 Tbs cider vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon old bay
juice of half a lemon (about 1 Tbs)
¼ cup mayo

Add 1 Tbs mustard to oil in a small boil. Wisk with a fork until smooth. Add the final Tbs of mustard. Wisk again. Add vinegar and wisk. Add seasonings and lemon juice. Wisk. Fold in mayo.

If you would like, mix cooled cabbage with

1 minced red onion (optional) and
½ cup grated carrot (optional).

Dress thoroughly. Chill until ready to serve.


Turkey Sausage

I mentioned Di Paolo’s turkey sausage before, but I haven’t yet really put him to work. It comes with the casing either on or off. Since the energy needed to tear a casing off and mush up the shape is minimal compared to that required to fill the casing in the first place, I usually ask for the casing on. Ridiculously, it makes me feel like I am getting more for my money. (And, if you count the casing, I am.) Still, when you slice the uncooked meat, the filmy casing will start to unravel. I just pull it off at this point; the shape holds just fine on its own. Of course, if you know in advance what you are making (rarely my position) and it's, say, lasagna, a ragu or turkey sausage burgers, don't bother with the casing.

The sausage has a versatile flavor (garlic, salt, light fennel), which would work with a range of dishes. It could be used with many Mexican, Middle Eastern and European flavor profiles. It would even be good with brunch; try sautéing it with a sliced apple and serving it with a rosemary omelet.

For dinner, here’s one of my recent experiments:

Nicholas Sausage Medley

Serves Two

1 Tbs olive oil
1/3 link turkey sausage, sliced and dusted with nutmeg and paprika
1 yellow onion - sliced thin
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup dry white wine
½ teaspoon ground paprika
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne
1-2 cups diced bell peppers

Wild rice

Heat pan and add oil. When oil resembles water, add sausage. Brown and remove. Saute onion and garlic in same pan. Add wine and scrape up any brown sausage bits. (There won’t be many if using Di Paola’s meat; it is extraordinarily lean.) Add seasonings and peppers. Cook until peppers release their water and reduce down. Add back sausage. Stir and serve with rice.


Jousting with the Dollar: Organic vs. Conventional Farms

“Can organic cropping systems be as profitable as conventional systems?”

So asked a study recently published in the Agronomy Journal. Researchers followed a range of crop systems in southern Wisconsin for 13 years and concluded that “diversified* systems were more profitable than monocropping**,” said lead researcher Joshua Posner of the University of Wisconsin.

Even when risk premiums were included, diversified farms were more profitable.

The press release closes with the following:

“This study indicates that governmental policy that supports mono-culture systems is outdated and support should be shifted to programs that promote crop rotations and organic farming practices.”

The best part: the research wasn’t funded by Seed Savers or Slow Food but by the US Department of Agriculture.

You can download a copy of the paper for free here until May 6th.

*Diversified: think, smaller plots of land, each with a different crop, and each with a new crop each season; common on most organic farms as it cuts down on the need for artificial fertilizers, etc.

**Monocropping: think, endless rows of, say, corn, season after season; The fuel of big Agri-business.

Photo of a Wisconsin barn by anonymous Dreamstime contributor


Ronnybrook Follow-up

It’s the ice cream. A little gritty and on the very-sweet side. But the vanilla flavor, at least of the Butter Pecan, comes through strong and clean. It’s the thing to turn to when summer heat has beaten you down, and you need a spoonful of hope. But somehow, I don’t think the carton in our freezer is going to last until August…

photo by Patrick Rolands



Ronnybrook Farm Dairy in Ancramdale, NY. They have been around for more than sixty years. In fact, the mom-and-pop basic goods store on Clinton Street, which has been closed for what looks like a decade, bears their logo. And theirs is one of the busiest stands at Prospect Park (they leave early) and Fort Greene.

Why? The NYT called them the Dom Perignon of Milk, but that was more than fifteen years ago. (It was chocolate milk that was taste-tested in the article; an adult preferred Ronnybrook's, while kids preferred Quik.)

Ronnybrook lost NewYorkFoodVine’s first Milk Off. The non-fat yogurt is watery and clumpy. Way too much whey. The whole milk yogurt is much better, but is extra sour and has a chalky after taste.

If you want the Dom Perignon of Yogurt, try that produced by Hawthorne Valley Farm in Ghent, NY. Even the plain is subtly sweet and it is much less sour than most yogurts. Alas, Hawthorne Valley won’t be selling in Brooklyn again until late spring (Sundays, Carroll Gardens) but rumor has it they are still at Union Square on Wednesdays and Saturdays and Inwood Park on Saturdays (Isham Street between Cooper & Seaman Avenues.)

But back to Ronnybrook. Their butter is ok. It tastes too close to cheese for my taste (I prefer cultured butter) but wasn’t much different than mass-produced butter in flavor. It is most likely better health-wise (mine and the planets), but if taste is my only concern I’ll keep Danish butter as my one guilty pleasure. (Okay, one of many).

To be fair to Ronnybrook, they sell one popular product that I have yet to try. Ice Cream. It must be the ice cream…

photo by Marlena Zagajewska


Hippie or just Hungry?

I don’t really consider myself crunchy. I don’t own Birkenstock’s. I bathe daily and use artificial deodorant. I don’t smoke weed, I snuggle into slabs of meat (the bloodier the better) and I adore high heels.

But I make my own granola.

Every week.

For a long time, I thought cereal came into the world fully formed inside a Kellogg’s box. That’s where Cheerios grow up, right? I never thought it could be made without the industrial-scale help of factory. Apparently, it’s easy. (Once you’ve got yourself some flattened grains, of course.) It seemed like magic the first time I tried: Cereal! From our kitchen oven!

Now I can’t stop.

The best part is the endless combination of possible flavors: vanilla, hazelnut, coconut, molasses, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, any dried fruit, any nut, any juice… And it can be sweetened to taste. It’s just important to keep the ratio of liquid to dry goods about the same (although even that can be forgiving.)

Here’s a recent batch. The cider and dried apples came from Williams Farm in Ulster Park, NY. If you like things on the sweeter side, add 2-3 tablespoons of sugar to the cider or juice.

Farmer Market-infused Granola

4 cups quick cooking oatmeal
¼ cup chopped walnuts
¼ tsp salt
1 - 2 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp allspice
1 cup apple cider
1 Tbs peanut oil (canola would work too)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sliced dried apples
1 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Combine the first five ingredients in a large bowl. Pour the cider, oil, vanilla and sugar (if using) into a small pot. Bring to boil. Pour over oat mix, in portions, mixing aggressively until entire mix is thoroughly coated. (I like to use my hands once it has cooled a bit.) Oat mix should be just barely moist.

Crumble onto lightly-sprayed jellyroll pans or baking sheets. Bake for about one hour, stirring every 15 minutes, until golden brown. Mix with dried fruit.

It will store in an airtight container for about 2 ½ weeks, although ours never sticks around that long.

dreamstime stock photo by Petar Neyche


First Milk Off Winner

I promised, months ago, to have a Milk Off – that is, a back-to-back tasting of several milks sold at the greenmarket. I followed through on said promise the next week, carefully noting the flavor profile and texture of Milk Thistle, Ronnybrook and Hudson Valley Fresh – and then I left for Iraq. My notes were brought in tow, as I was fully intending to web-ify the tasting en route but, well, Iraq can be… how to put this… “distracting” and now, drats, I can’t find those notes.

Perhaps I'll use the loss as an excuse to hold another tasting. Especially as my palate is going to need much more education before I can tell the different effects of milk terroir and milk craftsmanship… (Rumor of the day: the foamiest cappuccinos start with cows who eat hay.)

But I can at least announce the results of the NewYorkFoodVine’s first ever Milk Off:

Milk Thistle, the newcomer of the three, was the clear winner.

The dairy cooperative, Hudson Valley Fresh, came in second.

And Ronnybrook, well, it beat the grey supermarket brand.

But don’t just take my word for it. According to TimeOut, discriminating 4 and 5 year-olds liked Milk Thistle best too.

photo copyright