Tuesday, August 30, 2011

burning the crop

When I embarked on my summer of "freedom" in the city--AKA, my summer off from full-time work before beginning two grueling years of graduate school, I planned to construct a full-blown rooftop garden on our humble Brooklyn roof. Nevermind the fact that I know nothing about gardening and have only kept one non-succulent plant alive successfully. I tacked this on to the list of summer goals, along with: do yoga, paint, find furniture and avoid full-time work. Let's say I attacked some of these goals with more ferocity than others.

When I attended the inaugural weekend of Smorgasburg, I found myself at the Brooklyn Grange booth (a full-blown rooftop farm!), buying a tiny, potted pepper plant. I wasn't sure what kind of pepper it was, and sure it might be cheating not to start from seed, but I bought it and planted it on my roof. And it grew, and produced a bounty. Yes, this summer I harvested one sizeable, non descript pepper. To give myself credit, I got going with some chives, tasty basil, tomato and swiss chard. 

 It took me some time to pick the pepper. Was it done growing? What would I do with it? I felt like I had to do the little guy justice. So, I burned him to a crisp. Roasted, rather, and incorporated him into a delicious spicy hummus. 

Try it with your homegrown, or purchased nondescript peppers.

Spicy Roasted Pepper Hummus
  • 2 cups chickpeas, preferably dried and cooked, save 1/4 cup liquid
  • 1/3 cup tahini
  • 2-4 cloves roasted garlic, minced **
  • 1 large jalapeno pepper, or 3 small, roasted and sliced **
  • juice of 2 lemons, or 5 tbsp bottled lemon juice
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Optional: few squirts hot sauce
First, place chickpeas (without extra liquid), peppers and garlic cloves in food processor, grinding and scraping down the sides until smooth paste forms. It's okay if there are some pepper chunks left in there. Next, add lemon juice, salt and about half of the chickpea liquid. Process for about 20-30 seconds, scrape down the sides and then add the tahini, process, then add olive oil. Process. At this point, make a judgement call about the consistency of your hummus. If you prefer a thicker dip, you might be able to call it good. If you prefer a creamier dip, add more chickpea liquid or olive oil and keep going! If interested in upping the spiciness, add in a few squirts of hot sauce (I like Sriracha or Tapatio), which will also change the color of the dip.

**A note on roasting: Go ahead and roast your peppers and garlic cloves at the same time. You don't have to roast the garlic, but I find that it lends a sweeter, less tangy taste. Simply wrap a bulb of garlic in foil and place on a baking sheet in your oven at 400 for about 20 minutes. I just placed the peppers directly onto the baking sheet. They just become nice and charred. Wait for them to cool, unwrap the garlic, peel and mince. Simply slice the pepper. You could also follow these more involved instructions for roasting garlic.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

don't run and photograph

I lose things. Alright, I lose and break things. This isn’t just a casual habit, I could quickly tick off a list of notable items lost or permanently damaged in the past two or three years that would include 3 iPods, a relatively new Macbook, a wallet, backpack, multiple sets of keys, a pair of running shoes….

Rehashing this list is painful, but I’ve yet to learn my lesson. I’ve had friends kindly spout calming philosophies to me, like “things are things.” But I really like some of my things!

Because I’ve lost one too many iPods, kindly leaving them on planes for others to enjoy, I now run with my iPhone in hand for music and GPS mapping. It’s a little heavier than I’d like, but it does the trick until I decide I’m once again responsible enough to invest in a new (final?) iPod.

Carrying the clunky phone on runs does have a benefit: I get to take picture breaks. Touring the city on foot means I run into a lot of interesting graffiti, awesome sunsets, unexpected views and funny scenes. Here are some snapshots. What do you see when you run?

Brooklyn Bridge and South Manhattan skyline

Creepy Brooklyn Navy Yard at night

Running over 110 in downtown Los Angeles

Alien graffiti in Williamsburg

Yarned-bike in DUMBO

Technicality: gifted this bouquet by a construction worker while on a run (no joke!)      

Statues on a wall on the northern tip of Greenpoint

Monday, August 8, 2011

jamming, take 1 + 2

It's definitely summer in New York City. Living sans air conditioning and holding out on buying a fan until late July meant that I've suffered long sweaty, mosquito-filled nights like a martyr. Mostly, I was too lazy and stubborn to head to Home Depot for a window fan. Living in Brooklyn and away from my go-to NYC grocer stores,  I've started buying fruit occasionally from the "fruit cart" guys that sell everyday next to the subway. I have some hang ups about buying their stuff because I imagine that it's covered in exhaust and know that it's not organic and probably not local. I do like supporting them, and can't resist buying pints of bluberries or strawberries when they're $1.50. Ah, summer.

So, homemade jam was made. I perused recipes for simple jam, sometimes called a "conserve" made without difficult canning methods and without using pectin. The first time, I made a plain strawberry version, throwing in some ginger. The second go, I made an even better strawberry/blueberry varation. I've been putting it into morning oats and between bread with almond butter since.

Here's how:
1. 3 cups berries (I tried 2 versions, the second time mixing strawberries and blueberries)
2. 2 cups white sugar, or substitute coconut/beet sugar
3. Juice of one lemon
Optional: throw in cinnamon stick or sliced ginger for flavor, to be picked out later

Start by breaking up fruit. I like to leave larger chunks of fruit in my jam, but it is good to eat least chop strawberries in half so that natural sugars can break down. I placed everything in a big saucepan and then mashed the fruit a bit with the back of a tablespoon. 

Next, throw sugar and optional add-ins into the pot with the fruit and turn on high heat. Bring the mixture to a quick boil and then reduce heat to simmer for about 20-25 minutes. Without the use of pectin the jam will have a looser consistency, it won't "set" like jelly. To test, take out a spoonful after 20 minutes, let it sit until reasonably cool, and if it seems too runny, add a bit more lemon juice. While simmering, foam will appear on the top. I scraped this off. Let the jam cool, then store in a mason jar. Mine tastes good after two weeks.

This makes one small jar. To doubebatch, just keep the same fruit to sugar ratio (3:1 fruit:sugar).


Friday, August 5, 2011

i'm blogging, and eating a lot of fruit

Growing up, I woke up to a table-full of freshly chopped fruit hand cut daily by my father, who thought nothing of plucking an apple from someone else's lawn during a walk in the neighborhood. My mom chastised him, but he insisted that it would go to waste. So, now I'm the girl that  hoards produce, eating overly ripe fruit and cutting off bruises for fear of losing a piece to the trash.

I'm terrible at introductions--in person, too. I have a bad mumbling habit and a weak handshake, so I'll start this little blog appropriately- with awkward confessions about a passed-on affection for questionable produce, which should be about the right foot to start on.

This blog will follow my adventures in vegetarian eating, cooking, running, yoga and exploring New York City running around like a mad woman with too many activities in mind.

One day I might plant something on my roof, and one day I might ramble on about food policy. I'm glad you're here!