Cooking Fresh Food From The Union Square Farmers’ Market

Union Square Farmers' MarketI can’t keep using my tiny NY apartment kitchen as an excuse for not cooking. It’s not ideal, but it’s not the worst I’ve seen in the city either. One great thing about New York is that while most living quarters may be smaller than the rest of the world, just about everything else is bigger, this includes farmers’ markets such as the Union Square Farmers’ Market.

The selection can be overwhelming. I spent Monday meandering through the different stalls wondering what to pick up to cook for dinner. I was lucky enough to come across a stall where they were cooking some of their vegetables for people to taste. In New York you need hustle and showmanship and as a result they won my purchase of garlic, sweet peppers and purslane, an ingredient I was not familiar with.

Purslane

Aside from being exposed to new ingredients and supporting the local community, a key benefit to shopping local and at a farmers’ market is that you can talk to the farmers themselves and also learn about how they grow their crops.

Clean Food

At home I tested out cooking the purslane as I had seen demonstrated through a quick sauté in olive oil, along with garlic, onion and the peppers, a little salt and black pepper. The garlic from the farmers’ market is very different from that which you find in the supermarket. This one in particular was sweeter and had a more delicate flavor.Purslane, Peppers, Garlic

I was pretty happy with the result, a repeated this on Tuesday, cooking the purslane a bit longer to get a softer result.Cooked Purslane, Peppers, Garlic, Onion

Wednesday’s farmers’ market in Union Square allowed me to get a fresh zucchini and some cherry tomatoes.Fresh Zucchini and Cherry Tomatoes

I happily cooked these down in olive oil over low heat with some salt and pepper and garlic.

Fresh Cooking Zucchini and Cherry Tomatoes

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When cooked through I added this to some penne pasta for a late pasta primavera style (it’s summer) meal.

Pasta Primavera, Fresh Zucchini and Cherry Tomatoes

I feel bad that I used boxed pasta and hope that I can make some from scratch next time. I’m lucky to work so close to the farmers’ market and will make it a point to try out new ingredients as much as I can.

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Cupcake Class at Butter Lane, NYC

I find myself in New York City during the week for work. A change in Location offers new opportunities, experiences and places to take classes! After hearing co-workers rave, I decided to sign up for classes at Butter Lane Bakery in the East Village this week. I’m not a cupcake person, never jumped onto the craze and rarely walk to the East Village. That aside, I figured, “what the hell?”, and signed up for the Become a Baker class.

Butter Lane Entrance

Butter Lane Display

The class lasted two hours, and consisted of six students. I almost can’t remember when the last time was that I baked something, and with my tiny apartment kitchen (more on that in future posts), cooking has been a challenge in the city. The class was definitely fun, the perfect size and focused enough to show anyone the proper techniques to achieve success. Our instructor Gabby was knowledgeable and yet patient, ensuring everyone followed along at pace with all of us yielding great results. I was really surprised by how small the work area was compared to classes I’ve taken in the past.

Butter Lane Class Setup

Working in pairs, we created three different batters and accompanying frosting.

Butter Lane Cupcake Recipes

The class flew by. With so few ingredients, the results were definitely better than I expected, then again, the recipes weren’t of the health food kind, with plenty of butter and sugar added to the batters and more sugar with cream cheese for the frosting.

Butter Lane Scooped Batter

Butter Lane Baked Banana Cupcakes

Butter Lane Baked Cupcakes Three Recipes

Butter Lane Baker's Dozen Cupcake

Butter Lane Frosted Cupcakes

Needless to say, I couldn’t eat these all by myself. They were a hit in the office. I’m glad I claimed mine before I set them out in the kitchen. They were gone in a matter of moments.

Butter Lane Boxed Cupcakes From Class

 

 

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Sous Chef by Michael Gibney

Cooking is an exercise in kinetic awareness, economy of movement, master of the senses. You can smell when a sauce is scorched; you can hear when a fish is read to come off the plancha. You must trust these senses to help you through the night. Your whole body must remain active. No matter what recipes you know, no matter how much experience you have, each piece of fish in each pan presents a unique set of circumstances to which you must react, based on the sensory information at hand in the moment. You must take what you have before you and make something lovely out of it. And while it might be the same thing every day, it’s something new every second. (p. 118 Sous Chef: 24 Hours on the Line, Hardcover First Edition)

Michael Gibney, a Sous Chef in an undisclosed restaurant, presumably in the West Village of New York City has put out a superb and captivating debut novel. The book is described as a day in the life of a chef and true to its word encompasses 24 hours of life in the business. The focus is on the Sous Chef written in second-person narrative form.

Invigorated by additional time in my schedule I picked up this book from the library because of its title, not because I had heard about it previously. Books that I am familiar with are usually written about or are from the point of the chef, not the second in command.

With my interest piqued I turned it’s pages and quickly made my way through 24 hours on what could have been any Friday of a Michelin starred restaurant, and yet 24 hours of grinding and grueling work that are likely only topped by that of a doctor or solider. It was intriguing to read about hours of the day that a chef spends their time on beyond what most people thing about, the cooking. An evident lesson from this novel is that preparation and order are they keys to success in the kitchen and the day truly starts hours before the first dish is ordered. As an added bonus, the camaraderie and pecking order in the kitchen are not only clearly explained but diagrammed for the reader to clearly understand.

From the early hours of the morning to the wee hours of the next morning the book takes you through a roller-coaster of excitement, learning and understanding of what it’s like to be a Sous Chef and a member of a high-end kitchen. As I read, the career perspective that the book provides include what it takes to get to Sous Chef and ultimately what it might take to become Chef. The story told is about aspiration, love for the profession and reflections on why people become part of a kitchen, who it attracts and what it takes to survive.

As a glimpse into kitchen life, the book provided a backdrop for what I am not looking for. 18 plus hour days of back-breaking work away from loved ones in the pursuit of making others happy is a story often told in many professions but one that appears to be expected in the kitchen. That aside, the writing is excellent, the passion authentic and should I ever figure out what restaurant this is mostly based off of, I’m sure the food will be amazing.

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A Return To The Kitchen

It’s been almost three years since my last post. It doesn’t seem possible and yet here I am with a blog resembling many others with no updates. After launching my company Media Armor, Inc it became harder to cook, document with pictures and write about my cooking and learning. Media Armor was recently acquired by Nomi Technologies, Inc in January, freeing up a lot of my time. In May I married my amazing wife Elizabeth and as part of the acquisition, commute between New York where Nomi is located and Boston where my wife and I have been living.

Three years may have passed without writing, they have been three years of immense learning and growth in and out of the kitchen. With the stress and time constraints of running a business behind me, times are still busy, but I have plenty of time to read, learn, and most importantly, cook!

I continue to think about what’s next and how I can increase my skill at cooking. As part of that learning process I’m exploring school, working opportunities in the food industry and reading anything I can get my hands on, all of which I’ll share just as I did before.

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