Chronicles of a Chef and a novice Farmer. A journal to connect people and communities with tips, recipes and lessons gained about the importance of naturally raised food, preservation and reparation founded upon Southern traditions.
That Sunday Sandwich
This is hardly a recipe, but I believe its one of the best ways to enjoy the great flavors of a red, summer tomato. I grew up eating this sandwich every Sunday for lunch after church. A neighbor of ours down the street had quite a large tomato garden that would supply the neighboring houses with both green and red tomatoes for just a quarter each. My mom, dad, and I would take walks down the street everyday to pick up our tomatoes and set them in kitchen window sill to turn them as red as possible. That Sunday sandwich is simply a toasted piece of good bread, a spread of nice mayonnaise and a slice of a juicy red summer tomato. Seasoned with salt and pepper, and you had a great southern treat. It's the best way to enjoy those good home grown summer tomatoes. Enjoy the simplicity!
It's Friday and it's time for Fried Green Tomatoes! I'm going to share with you a very simple recipe for one of my favorite summer time side dishes. I'm sure there are many ways to make these but I'm going to show you the way my grandma Nonnie makes them.
Green tomatoes are usually eaten in the late summer, early fall because they are the last harvest of tomatoes before frost comes and don't have enough time to ripen. Most farmers now will pluck a number of unripened, green tomatoes throughout the season to sell because they are quite popular.
*Tip: If you purchase or receive tomatoes in your CSA that quite are red enough to your liking, simply place them in a sunny window sill to ripen a bit more. They will become much more sweet if they aren't already.
Recipe: 1 tomato makes approx. 8 slices
Slice the tomatoes horizontally in 1/4 inch slices and season with salt and pepper.
Set up a bowl with buttermilk and coat all the slices in the buttermilk.
Next, make a mixture of 1/4 cup AP flour and 3/4 cup cornmeal and 1/2 tablespoon cayenne pepper. (I prefer White Lily AP flour and cornmeal-its more authentically southern)
Take the buttermilk soaked slices and dredge them in the cornmeal mixture.
Get your cast iron skillet ready with about 1/8 inch deep of vegetable oil on high heat for frying.
Test the edge of one of the slices in the oil to see if its hot enough. If it starts to crackle and fry you are ready to go. About 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown and crispy. Flip.
Once all sides are beautifully golden brown, transfer them to a plate layered with paper towels to absorb the excess oil. Salt and pepper once more. They are ready to serve!
I really hope you enjoy these authentic southern Fried Green Tomatoes as much as I do! They really take me back home to Georgia when I eat them and I hope they do the same for you!
Recipe Courtesy of: Nonnie and Mom
The Strength of a Skillet
At the previous Sugar Hill Market in Harlem, I had the pleasure of meeting sweet Ms. Annie Dixon! Typically I will decorate my table with a country table cloth, my pickles of course, and also my skillets as I usually bring cornbread for samples. Ms. Dixon took notice of my skillets and asked if I use them a lot. I replied that I collect them and that it's almost all I use because of their durability and strength. She proceeded to tell me about a skillet that her late husband would use all the time. A very large skillet, complete with a lid, that he had used for over 20 years! I loved listening to her story about her skillet as I am quite passionate about them. She then asked me if I wanted it! I was shocked that she would give away such a great treasure. She explained to me that it was to heavy for her and she just can't use it anymore. I tried to offer her something, but she refused. Of course, I couldn't say no to such an amazing offer. Later that day, we met again and exchanged skillets and phone numbers to keep in touch. I'm thinking about cooking something special for her one day to surprise her with. I was so happy to have Ms. Annie as her gift was the cherry on the top of my day! It just goes to show how skillets are generational and something really to treasure. Thank you Ms. Annie Dixon! I will be making some fried green tomatoes very soon!
Have you ever bought a fresh bunch of herbs from the farmer's market and only use maybe just a few leaves or stems for your recipe and then end up forgetting about them? I accidentally did that myself this week. In my CSA share from Corbin Hill Farm, I received a beautiful bunch of oregano, but I left if out on my counter for a few days and it ended up dehydrating. Even though it may have seemed like a waste, I was able to still use it. I turned what was a mistake into a delicious and healthy cup of afternoon tea. This is a great concoction when you're not feeling your best as oregano is a natural antibiotic! If you start to feel a scratchy throat coming on, simply make some oregano tea or search for oregano oil. Both do an amazing job at fighting off a cold. You can also do this with any other herbs for edible flowers, so get creative with dehydrating. Spend a day foraging in nature or at the farmers market to come up with some great signature teas!
Have you made your pesto cubes yet? So many great herbs are in season right now, especially basil. A great idea to help keep your basil is to freeze it. You can either make a pesto, like I did, in an ice tray or freeze the individual leaves in a freezer save container. The leaves can turn dark or almost black in color, but the flavor will remain the same.
My Mint and Basil Pesto Recipe:
1 cup basil leaves
1 cup mint leaves
1/4 cup cashews
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup olive oil (enough to desired texture)
Simply place all the ingredients in a food processor except for the oil and puree. Slowly drizzle the olive oil into the feed tube until smooth and creamy. Season with salt and pepper. You can make any pesto with your favorite herbs. Play around and make lots of different frozen herb cubes to extend the summer season!
A Backyard Clean Up
A few days ago, my friend who lives in Sunset Park, Brooklyn asked me if I wanted to help clean up his backyard that he hadn't been using in a while. I was so happy that he asked me to do this with him because I love when people take advantage of any outdoor space they have. He simply asked if I could help him clean out the weeds and open up the space to use for relaxing and entertaining and that's just what we did. Throughout the process we uncovered some existing flowers which included two rose bushes and a few bearded iris plants. There is work still to be done, but the space is already looking better and I'm hoping I can nag him to grow a few vegetables. I hope this post and pictures encourage people to take advantage of any outdoor space they have! Whether it is for growing vegetables, or just a space to entertain. Outdoor space is everywhere in the city, you just have to look for it. It could be your backyard, balcony, your friends terrace or simply your windowsill. Take advantage of these spaces to get outside and grow something for your mind and body!
Rhubarb is in season!!
I'm really hoping to do a nice pickle with these for the next Sugar Hill Market at Harlem Garage on June 15th.
Since rhubarb has a natural tart, sour, and slightly sweet taste, it was a challenge to come up with a good pickle flavor. Many recipes with rhubarb are typically sweet and for desserts but I wanted to get pickling a try.
Here's my recipe for one bunch rhubarb:
1 cup white distilled vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
2 sprigs mint
2 cloves of star anise
1 teaspoon salt
A pinch of cinnamon
Take the sugar, vinegar, spices, and salt and bring to a boil and let steep for about 5 minutes then bring back to a boil. Arrange the rhubarb and mint sprigs in your pickling jar. Pour the hot pickling liquid over the rhubarb and cover with lid. Seal with your standard hot water bath method and enjoy in about 3 days.
What do you rhubarb?
One of my favorite books to keep in the kitchen, complete with valuable information on cuts of meat, how it should be raised and recipes, is 'Ginger Pig' by Tim Wilson and Fran Warde. This book tell the audience how farming and animal husbandry should be done like it was in the past. With all the label confusion on many supermarket meats, I wanted to forward a couple different tips on how to select chicken. Naturally raised and traditional free range chickens shouldn't be slaughtered till they reach proper weight by maturing naturally and eating a healthy diet of grass and grains (not corn). A healthy chicken takes about 11 weeks to mature. Most chickens in supermarkets will have only matured 40 days before they are slaughtered due to a diet of antibiotics and foods that speed up their growth giving them a desirable slaughter weight (some which never see the light of day). If you have problems trusting labels, here are some tips to go by in selecting a chicken from a market or even better, your local butcher:
Look a golden-yellow skin-the pigments from a diet of grass will show throw the skin.
There will be a generous layer of fat beneath the skin.
Its feet will be nice and firm and pink from the ability to walk freely.
The bones will be nice and dense that come with a natural maturity.
Try to buy whole, as you will be getting one chicken from the same chicken.
Ask your butcher where the chicken is sourced and if it has been dry plucked. (Wet-plucked chickens are dunked in hot water, tossed in a machine to pluck its feathers while being sprayed with water. The holes in the skin can collect with water and cause bacteria growth. Dry-plucking prevents this and also helps develop flavor in a more hygienic way).
One last tip, buy chickens that come with its giblets. This gives you more opportunity to make great sauces and gravies. (Wilson, Warde73-79)
Introducing Patch Goods! As a way to share my love for cooking, farm fresh produce, and community support, I will be teaming up with Sugar Hill Market in Harlem, NY to sell some of my new products. The new market has been curated by one of my neighbors in Harlem with the goal in mind to help support small local business owners. This Sunday, May 4th, will be the second venue to take place in Harlem Garage Located on 118th street and FDB between 10am-6pm. Along with many other talented small business owners, I will be selling two varieties of pickles, fruit preserves, and flavored butter. From spicy pickled collard greens and brown sugar apple preserves to homemade ramp butter, I will be serving up what all late winter and early spring have to offer all from the Union Square Farmer's Market. Come help support local businesses and the mission of buying local!
Urban Garden Project
With the anticipation of Spring coming over the past few months and its final arrival, I was searching for an outdoor space in or near the city to grow my own flowers and vegetables this season. My previous apartment that I rented from a friend in Williamsburg had an extremely large terrace and became fortunate enough that he was willing to let me plant roots there for this season. I recently saw an interesting rooftop farm that belonged to the Manhattan restaurant Riverpark by Tom Colicchio. The farm used a raised bed/planter system made of milk crates lined with a landscapers fabric to hold the soil in place but allowing water to pass through. I believed that this was a great model to follow, so that is what I decided to do. A few weeks ago I purchased 42 milk crates made from a food safe plastic and lined them with burlap as opposed to the landscapers fabric due to the expensive of the landscaping fabric. I have yet to fill them with soil as I am hoping the sales from my recent venture, Patch Goods, will help support my purchase. I hope to make many entries of its progress, but more importantly I wanted post that when looking for recycled materials to use as planters, make sure that they are food safe as rain and differing temperatures can put off chemicals in the soil! Happy Spring and Happy Planting!
Donate Your Compost
I want to share a way of giving back to the community. Every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, the Lower East Side Ecology Center sets up large garbage cans to collect food waste and yard waste. Things such as egg shells, vegetable scraps, leaves, and grass clippings can all be donated to the LES Ecology Center, where they will turn all the donations into compost and gardening soil that can be purchased. The compost and gardening soil can be bought either at the Union Square stand on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays or online. I will include the link to the website that entails the items that can be donated and are compostable as well as a list of purchasable items. By simply creating a separate garbage can at home to collect compostable materials, you can help give back to the community and turn your waste into a new product to keep gardeners and farmers producing beautiful and naturally raised foods!
Ever baking or cooking a recipe that calls only for egg yolks or egg whites? Don't waste the other half by throwing it away! Eggs are very easy to freeze and thaw to keep them fresh without having to toss extra or the other halves away. With freezing egg whites, simply place them into a freezer safe container and into the freezer for up to a year. With yolks, you will want to add about a teaspoon of salt for every 1/4 cup of yolk to prevent a thickening or gelatinous effect. Or, if you've simply bought too many eggs for your basket and are worried you won't use all of them, crack the whole eggs into a freezer safe container and repeat the same process as the yolks and whites. Remember, these can be kept frozen for up to a whole year! To defrost, I recommend thawing them out over night in the refrigerator. Once thawed, the eggs are ready to be used. If you do plan to whip the egg whites, bring them to room temperature before doing so for the best results. Happy saving!
A $12 Lifetime Investment
For my first post, I would like to start off by talking about an investment. I want my first post to be about an investment because it is something that will be reappearing in many of my posts and is a great importance to my blog because investments typically eliminate waste. One of my first investments into my home and kitchen was a skillet. I find that buying a skillet is a great investment because we all know that they last literally forever, with proper care. I recently purchased my 12" cast iron at my nearest Housing Works store. It had a few rust spots that needed cleaning up, which I simply did with soap, water, and a wash cloth. After I stripped it down, I turned on my oven to about 425 degrees and coated my skillet with bacon fat and popped it in the oven upside down lined with aluminum foil in the bottom to catch drippings. I cooked my skillet for about 45 minutes and brought it out to cool. I repeated this about three times amongst different days in my week to build seasoned layers on the surface. Also, the more you cook with it, the more flavors build. After my very first wash, I never let it touch soap again. This is very traditional in the south, where I am from, but if it feels uncomfortable you can choose to wash with soap and water but do not scrub! The main reason an investment in a skillet is important is that it lasts forever and you can basically cook anything in it. It is the ultimate all in one pan. Whether you are a college student who can't afford many pots and pans to cook with, a skillet is perfect because all you need is one! Also having a skillet or two cuts down on clutter in your kitchen from having a set or collection of many other pots and pans. And finally, the more you cook with your skillet the more the flavor will build on its surface and provide many amazing feels to come for years to come! It's $12 to last a lifetime!