Sunday, 17 March 2013

Food Fight. A Rally to Save New York's New Amsterdam Market

I was disheartened to read that the future of New York's New Amsterdam Market was in peril.

I visited the New Amsterdam Market in July and met up with talented vegan blogger and cookbook author, Hannah Kaminski. We both roamed around the rows of stands together, snapping photos and talking about food.  I loved the market and It's unique location under a highway overpass.  

If it were to close, I think we'd all be worse off.

Fans of the market have launched a campaign to save it and their request is a simple one:  restore and preserve the market's two landmark buildings as anchors and by doing so, create a premier destination for New Yorkers and visitors from around the world.

They may want to talk to the managers of the vibrant St Lawrence Market in Toronto who in 1970 saved their market from destruction. The National Geographic Magazine in their book,  Food Journeys of a Lifetime voted the St Lawrence Market one of the top 10 markets in the world. 

If you're a fan of farmers' markets, please spread the word.  Blog about it,  facebook, tweet and talk. 

Here's some recent press about the Market and the fight to save it:

The Brasier

The New Amsterdam Market web site

If you live in or near New York, haul out your placard and go to City Hall  on Tuesday March 19 at 12 Noon.  Fight.


Friday, 15 March 2013

Green Things Soup

Like the name says, this soup is green!

I make this soup all the time and I've shared the recipe so many times with satisfied friends that I've lost count so it must be good.

It's quick and really easy to make with any green vegetables you may have on hand.  It freezes well and best of all, it's healthy.  You can serve it to guests with a pretty garnish or whip it up in no time as part of a casual family meal.

I've split the recipe in two.  The first part is the Soup Base and it's always the same.  The second part is the "Greens" and this is where you can add whatever green vegetables you'd like.  Broccoli, kohlrabi, bok choy, kale, lettuce, spinach - basically, any combination that you'd like.  I often add a mix of whatever green vegetables I happen to have on hand or to do justice to the very best seasonal greens I find in the local markets.  It's also a fabulous way to do justice to fresh spring peas.

It contains some dairy but you can easily make a vegan version by replacing the milk with almonds and it still tastes great.

Go green!

Green Things Soup

Four vegetable broth cubes that I like
Makes 4 servings 

Sieve, fine or coarse

Soup Base
1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
1/2 cup coarsely chopped leeks or green onions or a mixture of the two
1/2 cup coarsely chopped celery
1/2 cup finely chopped raw potato
1/2 cup milk(2% or full fat) OR
1/4 cup raw almonds, coarsely chopped

3 cups vegetable broth OR 2 cups water with 1 vegetable broth cube

The Greens
1/2 cup chopped broccoli or kohlrabi or kale, asparagus or combination
1/2 cup fresh peas*  frozen peas or chopped snow peas or sugar snap peas or a combination
2 cups spinach, Swiss chard or water cress or any combination

1.  Heat the oil or butter in a large saucepan.  Add the leeks or green onions with the celery and sauté on low-medium heat until fragrant and soft.
2.  Add the 1/2 cup of milk,  2 cups of water with the vegetable broth cube or the vegetable stock.  Add the chopped potato.If you're using chopped almonds instead of milk, add them now. 
3.  Turn the heat to low and simmer the mixture for about 10 minutes or until the potato is soft.
4.  Add the broccoli, the last cup of water and bring to a boil.  Add the peas and turn off the heat.  Stir in the spinach, chard or watercress and stir them into the soup until they wilt.
5.  Let the soup cool for about 1/2 hour.
6.  Pour the mixture into a blender and blend on high until the soup becomes a homogeneous green. While you're puréeing the soup, set your sieve over a clean saucepan.  Once the mixture is fully blended, strain the soup through the sieve and push it through using a spatula.
7.  Reheat the soup on low temperature or serve cold, as you wish.

*If you're using fresh spring peas, I recommend  that you blanch the peas for 2 minutes in boiling, salted water and cool them in an ice bath.  You shouldadd them to the blender just before you are about to purée the mixture.  This way you'll preserve the peas' fresh, delicate flavour that would otherwise be lost were you to cook them earlier along with the other vegetables.

1.  When I make this soup for dinner parties, I use a very fine sieve to give the soup an ultra-smooth, silky texture and look.  If you'd like your soup to be more rustic, use a courser sieve.

2.  As a finishing touch, you can sprinkle finely chopped chives on top, a dollop of crème fraiche or pesto.

3.  You can use any combination of greens for this soup.  I make it in the spring when the fresh peas are out and I use leeks instead of onions so the flavour of the peas stands out. 

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Lemon Pudding with Fresh Almond Milk

I love lemons and always have, so it's lucky for me that we live just a short drive away from the pretty sea side town of Menton, France where some of the world's best lemons grow. 

But that's not all.

For the past 80 years, Menton has hosted a charming festival called,  La Fête du Citron.  It's pure heaven for a lemon lover like me.

To showcase the humble lemon, a team of workers create enormous, elaborate sculptures made from sturdy iron frames and chicken wire that they then cover with plump lemons and oranges using millions of thick, wide elastics.  These days, the lemons and oranges come from Spain since they're cheaper and more plentiful than the ones grown in Menton.  In all, they use about 120 metric tons to decorate the sculptures on display in the Jardin Biovès and to coat the parade floats that circle the downtown core a few times a week during the three week festival.

Everyone in Menton gets into the act.  The restaurants serve dishes with Mentonaise lemons, bakeries do a booming business in lemon tarts and the local market is filled with baskets of Menton's famous lemons for sale.

For years I've wondered what the town does with all those lemons and oranges when the festival is over and today I found out.  About 90% of them are still considered edible and are up for grabs for a Euro or two per kilo, about half the price of the fresh ones.  The day they disassemble the sculptures you just need to show up with a basket, a grocery cart or pickup truck and fill 'er up.  The mind boggles!

I know what I'd to do with a ton or two:  make a giant bowl of my Lemon-Almond pudding for everyone in Menton.

 Lemon Pudding with Fresh Almond Milk

I make almond milk all the time and it couldn't be easier.  Its bright white colour and clean, rich taste pairs perfectly with lemon. 

Serves 4-6

Lemon zester or fine grater
Fine sieve or cheesecloth
Medium saucepan

3/4 cup (105g) raw almonds, soaked for a few hours or overnight
3 cups (750ml) water

2/3 cup (135g) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons lemon zest
1/2 cup (85g) fresh lemon juice (2-3 lemons)
1/4 cup (28g) cornstarch
2 1/2 (590g) cups almond milk
3 egg yolks, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons (30g) unsalted butter

1.  Prepare the almond milk.   Suspend a fine sieve* (see Tip #1 below) over a 1 litre bowl.  Rinse the soaked almonds until the water runs clear, place them in a blender with the 3 cups (750 ml) water and blend on high for 3-4 minutes.  Pour the mixture through the sieve and measure 2 1/2 cups.  Set aside.

2.  Add the lemon zest to the sugar and rub the two together with your fingers.  This will release the oils in the zest and give the pudding a lovely flavour.

3  In a medium saucepan, combine all the ingredients. Suspend a fine sieve over a bowl large enough to hold the pudding and keep it by the stove. Stir the mixture on medium heat until it just starts to boil and continue stirring the pudding for a minute more.  Pour the hot pudding through the sieve into the bowl and press it through the sieve.  Press some cling film directly on to the surface of the pudding and refrigerate until serving.

1.  To make a smooth, silky pudding, you need to remove as many of the fine particles of almond that remain after you process them in the blender.  If you don't have a really fine sieve, pour the blended mixture through 3-4 layers of cheesecloth.  Alternatively, you can let the almond milk sit for an hour or so to allow the particles to settle to the bottom.  You can then ladle the milk off the top, leaving the particles at the bottom.

2.  I sometimes garnish these puddings with candied lemon zest that I make by simmering the zest of one lemon in 1 cup of water and 1/4 cup of sugar for about 15 minutes.  You could also sprinkle on some crushed commercial Amaretti biscuits, slivered toasted almonds or just enjoy it unadorned.