Search results for "Laura Silverman"


The Kitchen Artist’s Whey

A second life for a by-product



If, as editor and essayist Clifton Fadiman once mused, cheese is “milk’s leap toward immortality,” what then of the watery yellow substance left behind? Aside from recalling that Miss Muffet ate it along with her curds, most people have only the vaguest notion of whey, beyond its protein powder form which is routinely added to health shakes.

Whey is the liquid resulting from milk that has been curdled to make cheese or yogurt; it serves as an abundant by-product with which dairy purveyors must contend, so abundant that there has been talk in the past of processing whey into a biofuel. In a world currently embracing sustainable practices and nose-to-tail eating, it’s only fitting that whey should take a turn in the limelight.

The whey from hard cheese and yogurt production is sweet, but the kind produced from making soft cheese like ricotta is more acidic and can cause an overgrowth of algae that is potentially detrimental to aquatic ecosystems if it is dumped into our waterways. So lots of whey is sold, or sometimes given, to animal farmers. The pigs at Raven & Boar in East Chatham are fed grains soaked in whey from local cheese producers, including Twin Maple Farm in Ghent. There is also a growing movement to educate consumers about the taste and nutritional benefits of whey. At last year’s Bitten food conference in New York City, Homa Dashtaki extolled its virtues—rich in probiotics, enzymes, protein and calcium—and vented her frustration that it still has not really caught on with the general public. Her company, White Moustache, makes delicious strained yogurt and now sells its whey, in ginger and honeylime flavors and also as a plain brine in 3.5-gallon buckets for poultry (it’s a marvelous tenderizer).

My Whey

If you make yogurt or soft cheese at home, you won’t need to buy whey. Obsessed with paneer, that soft white cheese used in Indian cooking, and deprived of Indian restaurants where I live in Sullivan County, I had to whip up my own. The process is similar to many recipes for ricotta, though true ricotta is made by curdling whey from milk that has previously been curdled (“ricotta” means “cooked twice” in Italian). When you curdle whole milk with lemon juice or vinegar, you are actually making a kind of fresh cheese that the Indians call “chhenna”: masses of cloud-like white curds that split from the whey.

The curds can be whipped by hand or in a food processor to make a smooth and creamy cheese, or they can be drained until firm—in a strainer lined with cheesecloth or in a hanging bag made from a linen kitchen towel—and you have paneer. More importantly, for the purposes of this piece, you are left with plenty of whey.

Other cultures (Persian, Eastern European) have long appreciated whey as a refreshing and healthy drink. Try it chilled, flavored with fresh lemon and lightly sweetened. Or, as it’s served at El Rey Luncheonette in Manhattan, infused with fennel and tarragon simple syrup in a non-alcoholic riff on pastis, an anise-flavored aperitif. Whey is faintly milky with a wonderfully velvety mouthfeel that translates very well to cocktails, where it imparts the body and structure of egg white but with a silkier texture. This makes it a key ingredient in milk punch, a 17th-century sailors’ recipe that combines pineapple, spices, rum and other spirits into a smooth, potent and amazingly clear cocktail. Whey is also divine shaken with gin, simple syrup, lemon juice, a few drops of orange blossom water and lots of ice in a drink I call the Gin Blossom.


Whey is faintly milky with a
wonderfully velvety mouthfeel
that translates very well to cocktails.


Every Which Whey

Whey keeps in the refrigerator for weeks and has endless applications in the kitchen. An essential component in lacto-fermentation, the naturally occurring bacteria in whey help produce delicious pickles and sauerkraut. A couple of tablespoons added to the water for soaking beans breaks down the enzyme inhibitors and complex sugars that can inhibit digestion. Whey can be used in place of milk or other liquids in baked goods to enhance tenderness, and it’s ideal as a base for smoothies and soups of all kinds.

At Blue Hill at Stone Barns, where chef Dan Barber routinely makes magic with neglected ingredients, thinly sliced onions are slowly braised in whey until they collapse into a soft, sweet heap that’s excellent alongside roast chicken or piled onto a thick slice of grilled bread. Virtually anything braised in whey is enhanced with a smooth texture and savory undertone, including grains, meats and vegetables. Try simmering small potatoes in whey, then tossing them in butter and roasting until crisp. They crackle then melt in your mouth.

On the sweet side, whey can be combined with sugar and cooked down into a caramel sauce or combined with honey and frozen for a hauntingly delicious sorbet. Once you welcome whey into your life, you’ll be crying tears of joy over spilt milk.





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A love story

Writer Laura Silverman scratching the surface of the forest floor


Foraging always came naturally to me. During my Northern California childhood, I would climb over our back fence into an empty lot, pick great misshapen lemons off a tree that grew there and eat them sprinkled with sugar. Walking home from school, my chums and I snacked on wild blackberries, chewed juicy “sour grass” (a type of wood sorrel) and sucked drops of sweet nectar from the purple flowers of a creeping vine that covered our path. I don’t recall how we learned to do this—maybe it was innate—but I do know that I made a deep connection to nature at an early age that lay dormant during the decades I lived in New York City. It wasn’t until I started exploring the Catskills in 2003 that I began to forage again.

Though it’s gaining momentum now, at a time when slow living, “authentic” experiences and environmental awareness have captured the imagination of information-saturated millennials, foraging is not new. Once upon a time, humans survived in the world by roaming widely in search of food and provisions. This ancient practice taps into something deeply primal in all of us, and when we reconnect with nature, that lizard brain stirs. But head out into the wilderness armed with nothing more than a desire to find something edible and you will be at a loss. Depending on the season, the choicest tidbits might be in plain sight or nearly impossible to discern. Unless you know the difference, the delicious can easily be confused with the deadly.

Black trumpets

Digging Texts

Foraging responsibly requires a strong connection to the landscape, including how it’s affected by the weather, and knowledge of botany. A reliable reference book is essential. The first one I picked up was Euell Gibbons’s Stalking the Wild Asparagus, published in 1962 and widely considered the first word in foraging texts. The foreword, written by John McPhee, whose New Yorker profile of Gibbons from 1968 is well worth tracking down, tells the story of how Gibbons headed into the New Mexico hills to forage for food to keep his family alive when his father couldn’t find work during the Great Depression. They managed to survive for more than a month on puffball mushrooms, piñon nuts and prickly pear fruits. Gibbons went on to live off the land wherever he could and developed a rather sophisticated wild cuisine (former New York Times restaurant critic Craig Claiborne called him “an excellent cook and a naturalist who lives by the pen”) that still holds up. With Gibbons’s book as my guide, I ventured into the mountains and forests but also into the “abandoned farmsteads, old fields, fence rows, burned-off areas, roadsides, woodlots, farm ponds, swampy areas and even vacant lots” that were designated in the text as some of the best foraging sites.

While books are a great place to pique your foraging curiosity, eventually you have to get outside. My initial forays proved both fruitful and confusing. I thought I recognized certain plants or mushrooms, but at the moment of truth I often balked at actually putting something in my mouth. This is where a flesh-and-blood mentor proves invaluable. As Gibbons himself said in a fascinating 1972 interview with Hal Smith in Playboy, “It would be extremely difficult—in a book—to teach someone to distinguish between a head of cabbage and a head of lettuce. Yet anyone who’s raised a garden or has become acquainted with supermarket produce recognizes the difference quite easily.”

Unless you know the difference,
the delicious can easily be
confused with the deadly.

Wild grapes

The first guided plant walk I went on was led by Richard Mandelbaum, a practicing herbalist since 1997, who is based in Forestburgh, New York, and Brooklyn, where he is the co-founder of ArborVitae, a school of traditional herbalism. It was pouring rain that afternoon and most of our small group was kitted-out in high-performance gear. Almost at once we came upon a beautifully ruffled, bright-orange mushroom: a chicken of the woods! It’s hard to describe the thrill of that eureka moment but, for you urbanites, it’s something akin to finding money on the sidewalk or a Prada jacket in your size at half off. I have felt faint when stumbling upon a vast patch of ramps (wild leeks) and fallen to my knees in ecstasy before a flush of black trumpet mushrooms, a funnel-like mushroom that grows in clusters.

Mandelbaum’s winning combination of encyclopedic knowledge and childlike wonder was just as inspiring then as it is now, and I still regularly look to him for herbal remedies as well as plant lore. But what I remember most from that day was another member of our group, a man who, despite the torrential downpour, was roaming the forest in simple sandals and a wool sweater, rain dripping from his long beard and even longer hair. Occasionally, he would dart silently into the trees and reappear with a mushroom as though it had been calling to him. He seemed to be one with nature. This was Nathaniel Whitmore, a local herbalist and wildcrafter, and the founder and president of the Delaware Highlands Mushroom Society.

Growing up on his great-grandfather’s 100-acre farm in Damascus, Pennsylvania, Whitmore loved to wander alone through the fields and forests. He remembers his grandfather taking two mustard-smeared pieces of bread into the field in early spring to make a sandwich with young dandelion greens. As a teen, he befriended Taterbug Tyler, a local mountain man and moonshiner who introduced him to wild edibles and taught him to make tinctures, syrups and decoctions. Whitmore went on to study botany, mycology and ethnobotany, as well as Native American medicine, traditional Chinese medicine, American folk medicine and Ayurveda and now regularly offers walks and classes about botany, mushrooms and herbs.

A plant-focused omnivore, most of what Whitmore eats comes from the wild, including nuts, seeds, buds, flowers, leaves, stalks, shoots, roots, tubers, berries, fiddleheads and pollen. He attributes his good health to a diet rich in variety and from an essential connection to the earth that simply makes him feel good.

“Eating natural foods taps into something ancient, something universal, an experience that’s part of everyone’s archetypal psyche,” he explains. “Our bodies are following a trajectory set in place by our ancestors and it just feels right.” He sees the growing interest in foraging as inevitable and, without irony, gives credit to the Internet for facilitating conversation around this topic and for making plant identification more accessible.

As a full-time resident of Sullivan County, I live according to the seasons, marking the passage of time by what’s growing at local farms, in my garden and out in the wild. By the close of winter, I am checking daily for the first sign of stinging nettles, hotly anticipating the fortifying soup I will make. Summer means fermented elderflower cordial and milkweed buds in miso butter. Fall brings mushrooms— to eat and to preserve for their highly medicinal properties. I’m after that soul-satisfying connection to the earth and what Euell Gibbons called “that wild taste.” It’s in my blood.


Wild Mushroom Soup



Fledgling foragers are advised to carry a reliable field guide, consult an experienced mentor and heed the trusted aphorism, “When in doubt, throw it out.” It’s best to eat only a small bite of wild food that is new to you as everyone responds differently and allergy or indigestion are both possibilities.… Read More

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Put a Bird On It


When the average person grows weary of her desk job, she usually stands up, stretches and goes for a walk. But when Amy Miller left her New York City-based graphic design business, she headed in a completely different direction. “I was tired of sitting at a desk all the time,” she remembers, “and I had always loved to cook.” Amy had also been running a little bed-and-breakfast in Sullivan County, where she bought a weekend home in 2001. Feeding her guests from the bounty of local farms inspired her to enroll in the chef-training program at the Natural Gourmet Institute. It was a bold move and one that had a big impact on Amy as well as the many who have enjoyed the many pleasures of Early Bird Cookery in Callicoon.

What started as a private chef business in the city turned into a meal delivery service based upstate when Amy moved to her weekend place full-time in 2010. “Early Bird Cookery is all about the amazing farms in this area,” says Miller. “My clients—in the city and everywhere— really want locally grown food and I’m proud to highlight it.” In Miller’s creative hands, locally sourced ingredients are transformed into delicious dishes that emphasize fresh vegetables and sustainably raised meats. Offerings like radish tempura, crostini topped with nettle pesto and leg of lamb with a thyme-salt crust subtly allude to the ethos and sensibility of Blue Hill at Stone Barns, where Miller had previously interned.

Busy city folk can sign up for weekly deliveries of prepared meals on Early Bird’s commerce-friendly website. Hudson Valley denizens can pick up her wonderful ice creams, sweetened only with local honey, at the Callicoon farmers’ market. Flavors range from elderflower to tomato-watermelon to goat cheese with maple walnut. Early Bird is known for putting on quite a spread, and Miller has her hands full catering upstate weddings from May through October. Several years ago, she also began hosting seasonal four-course dinners at venues such as Basin & Main in Honesdale, Pennsylvania. “We don’t have a proper storefront or a place where people can come find us,” explains Miller, “so these supper clubs are a chance for us to get exposure, connect with the public and dream up some fun menus.”

Last fall, Early Bird hosted nearly 100 outrageously costumed diners at a festive Day of the Dead-themed supper club that featured a local band and ornate spun-sugar skull favors. Despite this high-octane ambience, the food more than held its own. Standouts from the Mexican-themed menu included a flavorful nut-crusted guinea hen with tomatillo mole and a decadent dark chocolate tart with caramel corn ice cream. As with everything from Early Bird Cookery, it was accompanied by a full portion of local charm. —Laura Silverman

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Wild Mushroom Soup


(Serves 4)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons curry powder
2 parsnips, peeled and diced
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried
2 cups bite-size chunks of fresh wild mushrooms
6 cups wild mushroom stock
½ cup wild rice
½ cup buttermilk
¼ cup heavy cream, optional
Sea salt and pepper

Combine olive oil and butter in a heavy stockpot over mediumhigh heat, then add onion, celery and garlic and cook until softened. Stir in curry powder and a pinch of salt and cook for a couple of minutes.

Add parsnips, thyme, mushrooms and stock and bring to a boil, then lower heat and gently simmer, partially covered, for about 30 minutes. Add wild rice and simmer, partially covered, for another 30 minutes.

Stir in buttermilk and cream, adding a little water if it needs thinning. Add salt and pepper to taste. Heat thoroughly and serve.… Read More

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Celebrate the tastes of the
Hudson Valley and Catskills.

Many community farmers’ markets host on-site special events and activities in addition to offering a weekly array of outstanding food. Here’s a sampling of events to mark on your calendar. Check individual market websites for more activities all summer long. Saturday, June 25, Puppet Performances: 10am, 11am, noon


Puppets + Bees. Storytelling comes alive with Carapace Farm Puppetry’s handcrafted felt puppets. Catch a performance, and learn about felting. Enjoy music and lunch. Puppets and accessories on sale so kids can create stories at home. Art comes alive at The School- Jack Shainman Gallery (down the street from the market) where you’ll marvel at live bees sculpting art. Weekly market held Sat, 8:30am-12:30pm, at Kinderhook Village Square at Rt. 9 (Broad St.) and Hudson Street., Saturdays, June 25, July 16, July 30, August 20, 11-11:30am


Farmers Market Cooking Demos Presented by Laura Silverman, Glutton for Life, and Danielle Gaebel, Natural Contents Kitchen, these cooking demos are educational, delicious and more! Plus open air market featuring local products from 18 farmers, food producers and artisans. Weekly market held Sat 10am-1pm, at 3385 Route 97 behind River Market. Fridays, July 1 – August 12, 11:30am-12:15pm


Welcome Back the Food Ambassadors. Come meet our Food Ambassadors, fondly known as “The Rockstars,” a group of 8 year-olds enjoying summer fun at Beth El Day Camp. Through the farmers market collaboration, they also learn about local food and prepare a recipe with market ingredients. Free cards printed with the recipe of the week. Weekly market held Fri, 8:30am-2:30pm, at Huguenot Park on North Avenue, in front of New Rochelle High School. Friday, July 1, 3-7pm


Sip and Sample II. Come and sample from local wine makers, distillers and craft brewers; enjoy recipes and ideas for summer cocktails. There will also be raffles and prizes. Check out weekly offerings on Facebook. Weekly market held Fri, 3-7pm, at Town Hall, 20 Wilcox Circle. Saturday, July 2, 8:30am-1pm


Fresh & Local – Everything You Need for the Fourth! Be sure to shop the Larchmont Farmers Market for everything you need to create a memorable Fourth of July Feast. You’ll find a wide variety of sausage, grass-fed beef, pasture-raised chicken, salad fixin’s, artisan breads and so much more. Weekly market held Sat, 8:30am-1pm, in the Metro North parking lot off of Chatsworth Ave. Sunday, July 3, 11am-2pm


The Rhinebeck Farmer’s Market will be offering a special summer cocktail, featuring The Hudson Standard’s Strawberry Rhubarb Shrub, Harvest Spirits Distillery’s Core Vodka, and local strawberries. Come out and celebrate the Hudson Valley’s abundance with a farm-fresh beverage. Weekly market held Sun, 10am-2pm, at 61 East Market Street. Saturday, July 9, Noon-1pm


Recess Rocks! Get your kids excited about fitness with ‘Recess Rocks!’, a movement program that helps reverse childhood obesity and enhance learning. Great fun and Free for all! Weekly market held Sat, 8:30am-1pm, at the corner of Spring and Main Streets. Sunday, July 10, 10am-12pm


Meet the Seasonal Chef. Renowned chef Maria Reina will cook up something creative, easy, and delicious from the market’s bounty. Building from her 30+ years of culinary experience, she’s sure to inspire with a new fresh take on each of the season’s best. Once a month from May-October taste, learn, pick-up a FREE recipe and try it at home! Weekly market held Sun, 8:30am-2pm, in the parking lot on Theodore Fremd Ave, behind the Purchase Street stores. Sunday, July 24, 10am-12pm


Cornell Cooperative Master Gardener. Did you know gardening enhances quality of life in numerous ways: providing fresh food, exercise and health benefits, opportunities for multigenerational and life-long learning, creating pleasing landscapes and improved environment, and bringing people together. Our on-site Master Gardener will answer your gardening and composting questions every other week throughout the season. Weekly market held Sun, 9am-2pm, in parking lot A off Croton Point Avenue by the Croton Harmon Train Stations. Saturday, July 30, 9am-2pm


Wellness Day. Join us to explore healthy cooking demos, screenings, and holistic health services available in Kingston. Family friendly and accessible to everyone. Weekly market held Sat, 9am–2pm, at Old Dutch Church, 272 Wall St. Saturday, August 13, 9am-1pm


The Two by Two Petting Zoo returns to the Pawling Farmers Market, where they have entertained the crowd with their wonderful collection of exotic and familiar animals. Potbellied pigs, kangaroos, tortoises and even a bearded dragon amuse children of all ages, while offering a lesson on conservation and compassion for our four legged and winged friends. Weekly market held Sat, 9am-1pm, at Charles Colman Boulevard. Saturday, August 20, 10am-2pm


Summer Fun. Bring your kids to an event to beat the heat that includes the Ivy Vine Players puppets, hula hoops, big bubbles, face painting, live music, kids art, and a chef demo. Enjoy lunch at the café under market umbrellas. Buy fresh seasonal food directly from the farmers, fishermen, bakers, and prepared food makers. (Sponsor: Town of Saugerties). Weekly market held Sat, 10am-2pm, except Oct 1 (Garlic Festival), at 115 Main Street. Saturday, August 20, 10am-2pm


David Neilsen on the Green. Hudson Valley’s “coolest” storyteller, Neilsen reads Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories. Every week: 30+ vendors, live music, kids activities, food stamps doubled! Weekly market held Sat, 8:30am-2pm, at Patriots Park, Route 9, Tarrytown-Sleepy Hollow border. Sundays, August 28 – September 25


Join us in celebrating the 18th season of The Harvest Festival at Bethel Woods. This popular, FREE community event features a farmer’s market, craft village, children’s activities, live music, and special programming in a family-friendly atmosphere celebrating local products and green initiatives. Weekly market held Sun, 11am-4pm, at 200 Hurd Road. Wednesday, August 31, 3:30- dusk


Tomato Day! Woodstock Farm Festival celebrates tomato season with a wide variety of Tomato-centric activities, including a homegrown tomato contest, tomato canning demonstration, a cooking demo and more! “If it’s Wednesday…” join the fun at this festive gathering of the area’s finest farmers and food purveyors. Weekly market held Wed, 3:30-dusk, at 6 Maple Lane. Sunday, September 25, 9:30am-2:30pm


Do you make the best apple pie? The 4th annual Piermont Apple Pie Contest is open for all home bakers. Judges panel has included chef Peter Kelly, Mark Tasker of Balthazar and local pie aficionado Sylvia Welch. They take their task very seriously! Entry forms and details will be on Piermont Chamber of Commerce website in late summer. Weekly market held Sun, 9:30am-3pm, in the M&T Bank parking lot at the corner of Piermont Avenue and Ash Street.

And visit the websites of these other wonderful farmers’ markets for information and updates about events and activities happening in conjunction with their weekly farmers’ markets:


Discover the bounty at Sullivan County’s largest year-round farmers’ market. While in town, enjoy all this Delaware River town has to offer. Weekly market held Sun, 11am- 2pm, rain or shine, at Dorrer Drive, Callicoon Creek Park.


Our vendors strive to bring only the very best to our market. Knowing where your food comes from is important and you will enjoy what our vendors have to offer.… Read More

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Garden Tea


recipe by Laura Silverman

Makes 3 cups

½ cup dried mint
½ cup dried chamomile
½ cup dried nettle
½ cup dried anise hyssop
½ cup dried lemon balm
½ dried lemon verbena

Combine the dried herbs in a large bowl, gently crushing and mixing them together. Seal in an airtight container.

These herbs will brew a relaxing, tonifying and restorative beverage that can be enjoyed hot or cold any time of day.… Read More

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Crisis Eating

Finding a meal to satisfy both conscience and desire



By now, most people have read at least something about the ill effects of factory farming on the quality of our meat. And it’s starting to sink in that the health of our planet, also in jeopardy, is inextricably linked to what’s on our plates. Like cows chewing their cud, many thoughtful eaters have ruminated over which diet is the best one, only to discover that there is no definitive answer.

On top of all the scientific information available to us, we must each consider a host of deeply personal issues—religious, cultural, medical and epicurean. Though the question of what to eat should almost certainly be decided on a case-by case basis, there are some overarching truths that cannot be disputed. There is a notable quote from Brian Awehali, founder and editor of the now-defunct LiP: Informed Revolt, an award-winning alternative magazine: “Everything in this world eats something else to survive, and that something else, whether running on blood or chlorophyll, would always rather continue to live rather than become sustenance for another.

No animal wants to be penned up and milked or caged and harvested, and you’ve never seen plants growing in regimented lines of their own accord.” Eating meat obviously involves killing, but what about eating vegetables? Scientists at the Institute for Applied Physics at the University of Bonn in Germany have documented that cucumbers cry out when they are sick and lettuces moan when their leaves are cut. In determining where to dine on the spectrum from vegan to omnivore, we’d do well to avoid an intractable moral high ground that is becoming increasingly hard to defend.

In determining where
to dine on the spectrum
from vegan to omnivore,
we’d do well to avoid an
intractable moral
high ground that is
becoming increasingly
hard to defend.

My own dietary equation takes into account not only Michael Pollan’s now-famous edict—“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”—but also Dan Barber’s recent book about the intersection of good farming and good food. In The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food, Barber explores our transition away from the “first plate,” at the center of which is a hunk of corn-fed meat, to a “second plate” containing a more thoughtful but still-problematic farm-to-table presentation of a smaller, grass-fed steak surrounded by a modest helping of vegetables “that are often ecologically demanding and expensive to grow.” His proposed solution is the “third plate,” one on which the steak is distinctly secondary, overshadowed by sustainable vegetables and grains like rye, barley, buckwheat and millet that promote ecological balance.

This last paradigm brings to mind the foods of peasants and indigenous cultures, where meat is most often a supporting player. From collards cooked with a meaty ham hock to tamales stuffed with morsels of spicy beef to pasta tossed with anchovies, there is a world of delicious inspiration out there that modestly utilizes animal protein.

An economic imperative helped shape these cuisines, but an environmental one can be equally motivating. And learning to eat this way brings about a much more profound lifestyle change than a well-intentioned but superficial measure like Meatless Mondays. There is a real shift that happens when you start cooking with meat as a seasoning and soon realize there is no sense of deprivation.

Some of my favorite winter meals are incredibly hearty stews and casseroles based on beans, grains and vegetables with just an accent of meat. Many of the recipes in the wonderful Japanese Hot Pots: Comforting One-Pot Meals by Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat (Ten Speed Press, 2009) are deeply satisfying, though seafood and meat take a back seat to greens, roots, noodles and mushrooms. I love to make pozole, the Mexican hominy stew, with a broth of pork bones and a garnish of crispy chicken skin. On cold mornings, nothing is better than a steaming bowl of congee, long-simmered rice topped with shredded chicken or a soft-boiled egg. And a dinner party favorite is a giant pumpkin stuffed with a ragout of vegetables, cheese and slivers of ham and roasted whole in the oven. In all these dishes, just a small quantity of meat adds a richly savory dimension. This way of eating is a revelation.



Stuffed & Roasted Winter Squash

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When people who are privy to my age excitedly, and sometimes gleefully, inform me that I am “middle-aged,” I don’t take offense.

Instead I tell them their assessment of me in my mid-40s is optimistic, at best. Despite my reasonable exercise routine and my steady diet of local and nutrient-rich foods, I can’t really see such good behavior overriding faulty genetics, mounting environmental toxicity and my penchant for burning myself at the stove guiding me well through my 90s or even 80s. I accept such existential inevitabilities and try not to kid myself otherwise, and I welcome the fact that there exists a group of younger, often phenomenally inspired, individuals who are making the scene (namely the food scene) in the Hudson Valley and beyond.

Yes, I am talking about “millennials” if you want to call them such. That often-maligned and feared age group born between 1980 and 2000 who are unfortunately better known for hashtagging everything and photographing their ramen than they are for affecting real change in the world. Like the Gen-Xers before them (my generation), the media loves to make wide and sweeping generalizations about the millennials and their wealth of entitlement, their fixation on branding and their lack of attention span.

But these are just generalizations that serve a narrative, and they don’t reflect what I often see occurring in our valley. What I see are groups of individuals, some from the area and others who moved to the Hudson Valley, who are showing a level of commitment to their craft, food and agriculture that rivals anything I could have predicted 10 years ago. Locally, more and more young farmers are getting into the game and doing so with a spirit of collaboration that is nurturing and redefining what was once a disparate community.

The same goes for young restaurant owners, chefs, bakers and small business owners in the food realm. Not everyone will succeed and not everyone will stick around, but I am encouraged by the many I see (name checking not necessary) who are fostering a certain Hudson Valley cohesion that is long overdue. No disrespect to the previous generations, but hanging onto cynicism about millennials won’t help anyone realize how good we have it in our little valley.

In this issue we don’t harp on youth, nor elder wisdom, instead we stay appropriately focused on the food. Writer Laura Silverman searches for the gleaners in the Hudson Valley and how an age-old movement is establishing roots in the area (Gleaning, page 40). Black currant activist Greg Quinn tells the story of his fight to legalize the maligned black currant and bring it back to New Yorkers (Fear of a Black Currant, page 26). And we take a deep dive into the revival of grain growing in New York State and how a vital grain production feeds all (Against the Grain, page 32).

Fall is upon us, so stretch the harvest. Stockpile all the deliciousness that the season has to offer and honor the young, and old, as we all have a finite amount of revolutions around the sun. Might as well have the years be filled with good company and delicious food.

Eric Steinman, Editor… Read More

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Finding Bánh Mì in Our Valley


Photographs: Laura Silverman

Alack of authentic ethnic food is an all too common complaint from urbanites now living the country life. A decent taco or souvlaki suddenly becomes the holy grail worth traveling great distances. So it’s no surprise that Nhi Mundy has attracted such an enthusiastic clientele at Bà & M , a growing modest chain of Vietnamese restaurants that includes a takeout location in Callicoon, New York, and a newly opened café just across the border in Honesdale, Pennsylvania.

Mundy, who refers to herself as a “Jill-of-all-trades,” attended New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology and went on to work as an art director for a wide range of fashion and beauty clients. As co-founder with her husband, photographer Michael Mundy, of An Afternoon With, an acclaimed online portrait series, she continues to inhabit a world with an elevated aesthetic, though home is now Jeffersonville, New York. Mundy’s stylish sensibility and design background remain apparent in the charming decor of her restaurants, with their creative allusions to Vietnam, including its French cultural legacy.

Born in Nha Trang, Vietnam, Mundy moved to the U.S. with her family as a young child. She grew up in the Midwest, helping out after school at her parents’ Vietnamese restaurant, which ultimately burned down in a grease fire. “Opening Bà & M has been a bit like resurrecting a part of my heritage,” says Mundy. The business name is an allusion to both the classic bánh mì sandwich and to her family—“bà” in Vietnamese means grandmother and “m ” means mother.

Both Bà & M restaurants serve a tightly focused menu featuring simple Vietnamese dishes such as summer rolls filled with vegetables and herbs; a signature bánh mì–style hot dog with pickled carrots; and a variety of pork, chicken, beef and mushroom preparations available on fresh baguettes or over jasmine rice or vermicelli rice noodles. In lieu of dessert, sweet and strong Vietnamese coffee does the trick. The food is skillfully prepared and made from very fresh, high-quality ingredients sourced whenever possible from local farms and purveyors. The casual place settings and takeout packaging are all made from compostable, biodegradable or recyclable materials.

Extending this careful attention to detail to every part of the business has been a factor in Bà & M ’s success. Though there has been occasional grumbling from hungry patrons about the long waits at the restaurant in Callicoon—essentially just a takeout window, a 50-square-foot kitchen and a few picnic tables—the lines of customers all last summer were a testament to the delicious food and fueled the decision to expand the enterprise to a new location. “I needed something with a roof—customers were getting rained on!” laughs Mundy. Though not significantly larger, the café in Honesdale does offer indoor seating out of the rain. It’s a little gem, tucked away inside Maude Alley, a shopping destination that houses a number of other businesses, including a winery and a cheese shop.

In addition to running her restaurants, Mundy is also raising three children with her husband, an “amazing partner” she credits with making it all possible. Somehow, in the midst of all this, she has also managed to launch a new biannual magazine, DV8, to promote the upstate scene and business community in the Upper Delaware Valley. In and out of the kitchen, Nhi Mundy is a creative and culinary force of nature and her Bà & M seems destined to keep on growing and feeding those hungry for a taste of Vietnam in our rural valley. —Laura Silverman

Bà & M Café
1023 Main Street, Honesdale, PA

Bà & M Take-out
26 Upper Main Street, Callicoon, NY

CSA 2.0


Photograph: Brianna Stachowski

Donna Williams has worn many hats in her lifetime: economist, investment banker, professor, consultant. But it wasn’t until four years ago that she found her true calling.

In June 2010, when Williams was consulting for Greene County on their agricultural incubator, she realized that the right questions weren’t being asked. It wasn’t how or where small farms would grow but how they would get their products to the masses. In essence, the issue of distribution needed to be addressed. So, in September of that year, Field Goods was born as an answer to this conundrum. “Field Goods attempts to suburbanize the CSA [community-supported agriculture],” says Williams. This gives Hudson Valley farmers the opportunity to reach a part of the population that they haven’t before by opening up a distribution channel that delivers farm-grown produce directly to workplace and community locations.

“Donna has revolutionized the scale of our production and changed the lives of a lot of farmers in upstate New York,” says Adam Hainer of Juniper Hill Farm in Wadhams. In the winter months, Field Goods partners with farms like Rexcroft Farm in Athens to grow hydroponic lettuce and Little Seed Gardens in Chatham to grow greenhouse pea shoots to help keep up with the growing demands of Field Goods’ customer base, which extends from Saratoga to Yonkers. “Our relationship is symbiotic,” Williams emphasizes, “offering farmers sustainability in their low season (winter) and helping raise numbers at summer farmers’ markets and in CSA memberships.” As Field Goods grows, farms grow.

By offering small-farm operations in the Hudson Valley and elsewhere upstate more year-round distribution channels, Field Goods is able to provide consumers year-round access to local produce and products. All too often consumers find themselves picking up the same things from the grocery store, including produce that is out of season locally and has to be shipped thousands of miles to reach customers in our region. This does nothing to support the local economy and adds needless carbon costs. Field Goods offers subscribers a change in their diets by delivering only what’s available locally.

Field Goods has also begun to infiltrate the corporate world by working with local businesses to subsidize a subscription. “Companies currently subsidize gym memberships for employees, so why not a food membership?” asks Williams. Beech-Nut, the organic baby food company out of Amsterdam, New York, and Field Goods created Beet- Camp, which is a subsidized Field Goods subscription that delivers weekly produce directly to the office of Beech-Nut employees.

“I always say everything is Kumbaya,” Williams jokes. She admits she didn’t start Field Goods with idealistic notions of how to change the world (or even her community), rather that it’s just worked out that way because it made good business sense. If Williams and her team continue to double their subscriptions every year as they have been over their four years of operation, she will be able to employ many more residents of Greene County, which has recently weathered an economic downturn.

Even if Donna Williams’s intentions weren’t ones of grandeur, Field Goods’ stars have aligned, and alongside a hearty handful of regional farmers, communities with healthy intentions, and a driven workforce, Williams and Field Goods are changing their piece of the world, one veggie at a time. —Brianna Stachowski

Field Goods


Photograph: Liam Goodman

In the center of Kinderhook, a town known as the birthplace of eighth American president Martin Van Buren, a circa 1850 house most recently home to a bookseller has been reinvented in The Flammerie, a Franco-German wood-fire bistro with a simple but cozy bar and 26-seat dining room.… Read More

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Rabbits: The other white meat


Photographed by Laura Silverman

Let me just dismiss out of hand the notion that eating rabbits is objectionable simply because they are so damn cute. This line of thinking seems wholly unfair to all the other adorable, fluffy animals we so readily consume. With the same logic, should other animals be eaten, not because they are delicious, but because they fall far short of our conventional notions of cuteness (opossums)? Isn’t it high time we stopped letting images of Thumper and the Easter Bunny stand in the way of enjoying a delicious lapin à la moutarde? There is a growing movement that says yes.

Rabbit on the table was once quite commonplace in this country, where it’s long been associated with somewhat marginalized populations, including immigrants and the rural poor. During World War II, when beef was dedicated to feeding our overseas troops, the government encouraged people to raise rabbits for meat, and backyard hutches became as ubiquitous as victory gardens. The U.S. Department of Agriculture even produced leaflets with rabbit recipes, while Americans were assured that “the meat of the domestic rabbit is pearly white, fine-grained, nutritious, palatable and may be served throughout the year.” Later, when the French food revolution of the 1960s transformed American dining, thanks in part to Julia Child, that classic rabbit in mustard sauce was very much in vogue. And yet rabbit never really established a firm foothold in the supermarket, since cuniculture (the agricultural practice of breeding and raising rabbits) is more suited to a homestead or small-scale farm endeavor.

“Rabbits are more of an attention-grabber
at the moment,”
says Rick Franciosa
of Quails R-US Plus,
who acknowledges
that customers open to eating
barely outnumber the more squeamish.


In large part this can be attributed to the difficulties of producing rabbits on a commercial scale. With fragile immune systems and a propensity to eat their young under stressful conditions, rabbits require a kinder, gentler environment than what is possible in a conventional industrial operation, say for chickens. This makes raising them an ideal venture for artisan producers like R’Eisen Shine Farm in Schaghticoke, New York, where owners Ejay and Kim Carter also raise pigs and sheep. “We believe we’re good at growing meat because we were vegetarians for so long,” says Ejay. “So we’re willing to do all kinds of crazy stuff, like taking ice packs out to the rabbits in the summer to keep them cool and comfortable.”

Their current production of 120 rabbits a year will soon triple with the completion of a new “rabbitat,” a pasture-based system with family- style groupings on grass designed to mimic the animals’ natural habitat. This increase in production, and a new on-site processing space where they can oversee their own slaughtering, will enable R’Eisen Shine Farm to go from selling only to its CSA customers to making rabbits available at wholesale and through local farmers markets.

Like other animals raised on pasture, rabbit is very sustainable. When it’s too cold to be grazing outside, they are fed alfalfa pellets and hay rather than energy-intensive soy or fish meal which is often given to poultry. A single doe (female rabbit) can have multiple litters every year—though the Carters respectfully limit their breeding to twice annually—and those litters of 8 to 10 kits (rabbit babies) will reach breeding age within months. This means that a rabbit can produce up to six pounds of meat on the same amount of feed and water it takes a cow to produce just one pound. The meat is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, high in protein and low in calories. Plus, the manure rabbits produce makes wonderful compost, returning important nutrients back to the soil.

Kim and Ejay Carter of R’Eisen Shine Farms like to pamper their rabbits.


One thing that rabbit is not, however, is cheap. As with many boutique meats, the fairly hefty price tag is a reflection of the care and infrastructure needed to raise a quality product. R’Eisen Shine Farm charges their CSA “co-owners” a flat fee of $30 for a rabbit that weighs around 3.5 pounds, which is about twice the price of a whole pasture-raised chicken. Compare this rabbit to a similar specimen (though of unspecified origin) that was recently priced nearly double that at Eataly in New York City, and it makes sense, if you are going to forgo the chicken option, to consider raising rabbits at home.

The two most popular meat breeds are New Zealand and Californian, but many rabbit farmers end up creating their own unique mixes. The animal’s rapid and renowned reproductive cycle makes breeding goals attainable in a relatively short period of time. The Carters have been refining their crossbreed—“a mix of Californian, Satin, Rex and a few Giant-Chinchilla-crossed-with-Satin”—for the last four years, selecting for size, temperament, overall hardiness and an ability to convert pasture to meat.

In Honesdale, Pennsylvania, just across the New York State line, Rick and Linda Franciosa of Quails R-US Plus crossbreed their Californians and New Zealands with Silver Foxes, a rare breed recognized by Slow Food USA’s Ark of Taste, which is a living catalog of delicious and distinctive foods facing extinction. Though 200 breeding does will be needed for them to meet their ultimate goal of producing 100 rabbits a week, they are currently selling just a fraction of that at local farmers markets. “Rabbits are more of an attention-grabber at the moment,” says Rick, who acknowledges that customers open to eating rabbit barely outnumber the more squeamish. But he remains optimistic about evolving perceptions, in part because of the steady request for rabbit from several restaurants in Sullivan County, including Matthew’s on Main in Callicoon and The Heron in Narrowsburg.

Rabbit has historically been something of a
“crisis meat” in America—
eaten in response
to adverse circumstances of one sort or
another—and the current state
of our
meat production certainly qualifies as dire


Rabbit has parts that cook differently, much like chicken, whose mild flavor and smooth texture it shares. This makes braising a good option for the whole animal. At R’Eisen Shine Farm, a favorite dish is rabbit gently braised in wine with vegetables. Once falling-apart-tender, the meat is pulled from the fine, delicate bones and shredded over soft polenta. Brining or a good soak in buttermilk is the ideal prelude to a fried preparation. At Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria in New York City, rabbit is left overnight in a bath of crème fraîche, lemon zest and herbs before being dredged in semolina flour and fried to a crisp. The lean meat remains juicy and aromatic, without a trace of the gaminess sometimes encountered in wild rabbit.

At The Heron, chef Paul Nanni finds plenty of takers for his shepherd’s pie made with rabbit. “A lot of people upstate have grown up raising and eating rabbit,” he says, “and they love it.” He also wraps the loins with the saddle and poaches them for a roulade that is sliced and served with harissa, chopped hazelnuts and mustard oil. If all this is giving you a hankering for rabbit—or at least piquing your curiosity— consider booking a table at the Flammerie in Kinderhook.… Read More

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