July 10, 2014

A Tomato Grows in Brooklyn

This summer I have the most delightful weirdo garden growing on my roof in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. It's been a really fun project with a healthy dose of trial and error (tomato plants blowing over in the wind, rainbow chard flu) not to mention the combined effort of many (thanks PS and HD!) to simply get the planting supplies to the apartment! It's funny how difficult starting a garden can be, especially here in our car-less, stair-filled, brownstone universe. I'm happy to report that many of the plants are doing well despite my amateur status and that we recently enjoyed the first tiny strawberries (pictured above). They were sweet and bright, delightfully unlike the store bought varieties. 

A few of the herbs were planted from seed, but many of the plants are from my favorite neighborhood store, Natty Garden on Dean Street. Check them out! Lots of organic soils, bat guano, and the funkiest succulents in town. A few of the tomato plants are from the Park Slope Food Coop, starters from Hepworth Farms upstate.

In this corner we've got two tomatoes chasing the bright sun (out of the frame!), lemon verbena, chives, basil, dill, alyssum, and dusty miller. Along the other side of the porch are poblano peppers, bell peppers, more tomatoes, rainbow chard, collard greens, strawberries, mint, sage, and coxcomb. I've been shuffling things around throughout the month as the sun moves, and painting the pots with affirmations (plants need a little positive encouragement too, right?).

Please pass along any advice you have for container gardening! I'm just learning as I go and would love to hear your tips on watering throughout the day and resupplying nutrients after the plants drain the soil. Remember when Ron Finley told us that growing your own food is like printing your own money? Well, it is. I'd love to see more guerrilla gardens in New York and am thankful for organizations like 596 Acres who are making them happen in abandoned lots!

Breaking in the dog days with whatever chill can be harnessed,

July 8, 2014

Lemon Coconut Cake

This is my favorite summer cake recipe from the beloved Veganomicon by Isa Chandra and Terry Hope, dressed up in a thin drizzle of icing, rosemary sprigs, and curls of sour lemon. To make the lemon glaze, simply whisk freshly-squeezed lemon juice into confectioners sugar until it reaches the desired consistency. Pour over the cooled cake and top with some fancy shredded coconut or birthday candles, depending on the occasion!

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cups canola oil
1 (14-oz) can coconut milk
1/4 cup soy milk
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 Tbs finely grated lemon zest
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease a bundt or circular springform cake pan. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the sugar, oil, milks, lemon juice, zest, and vanilla until combined. Add in dry ingredients, folding the coconut in after all ingredients are combined. Pour into pan and bake for one hour (or until a toothpick or knife inserted comes out clean). Remove from oven and let cool for 15 minutes or so before flipping over to release. Once cooled, top with icing or simply dust with a bit of powdered sugar. 


June 30, 2014

Notes on Vegan Camping

“Thomas Merton wrote, “there is always a temptation to diddle around in the contemplative life, making itsy-bitsy statues.” There is always an enormous temptation in all of life to diddle around making itsy-bitsy friends and meals and journeys for itsy-bitsy years on end. It is so self-conscious, so apparently moral, simply to step aside from the gaps where the creeks and winds pour down, saying, I never merited this grace, quite rightly, and then to sulk along the rest of your days on the edge of rage. 

I won’t have it. The world is wilder than that in all directions, more dangerous and bitter, more extravagant and bright. We are making hay when we should be making whoopee; we are raising tomatoes when we should be raising Cain, or Lazarus.

Go up into the gaps. If you can find them; they shift and vanish too. Stalk the gaps. Squeak into a gap in the soil, turn, and unlock-more than a maple- a universe. This is how you spend this afternoon, and tomorrow morning, and tomorrow afternoon. Spend the afternoon. You can’t take it with you.” 

-Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

The summer has been racing along at an unmatched speed! I've been spending my days and nights outside, zooming through the Berkshires on two wheels, climbing cautiously on cool granite, gazing across western horizons, showering in waterfalls, and sleeping under star canopies. Oh, how I love the summer! One of the nicest ways to ravish the sweet summer weekend hours is to go camping with friends. Here are a few ideas for meals I've made recently using this little setup (pictured below) and cooking over a fire.

Camp stoves can be difficult to light, especially if they are built to be small and light for backpacking or bike touring, and temperatures are hard to monitor. For that reason, your best meals are ones you can re-hydrate easily in boiling water. On a trip to Yosemite last year, LB taught me to dehydrate homemade chili, curries, even hummus! We whipped up a version of Texas Thai Lentil Curry  using red lentils and adding broccoli. We spread a thin layer of the prepared curry onto the dehydrator sheets and voila! Hours later we had funky chunks of lentil curry, ready for the trail. 

Oatmeal is perfect for breakfasts- choose quick oats or soak steel-cut overnight. Bring lots of fun toppings like coconut, raisins, cranberries, cherries, cinnamon, and almonds to pack protein and flavor that will stick with you all day! Don't forget to pack ground coffee! You can use a simple cone drip for a pour-over style or (if you're uber fancy) spend the big bucks on something like this.

If you're camping at a site that has one of these nifty grates, you're in luck! Tap into your gourmet side with these easy foil pockets. Just be sure you don't have to bike too many miles with the groceries on your back! We used small red potatoes, zucchini, summer squash, mushrooms, onion, garlic, red pepper, vegan sausage, and parsley. Arrange on foil and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Wrap completely and place on grate. Cook time varies hugely considering the grate's proximity to the fire and the heat of your blaze. Use two sticks to carefully flip the packet over.

Alright campers, are you airing your tents out yet? I'll leave you with this shameless gesture, the goofiest picture of me ever taken by sweet KM during a summer camping weekend in Mass, geeking out about sausages! I cannot recommend enough the deliciousness of Field Roast Sausages when slung over a campfire. FR, if you can hear me, please pay me for this endorsement in a lifetime supply! 

If you're looking for me, I'm the one wearing Chacos in midtown.
Yours under a blue sky,

PS- Also, must I remind you of ramen? RAMEN RAMEN RAMEN is delicious. Buy a vegan kind at the health food store and throw in a bunch of hot sauce, some tempeh, and veggies like bok choy, scallions, carrots, and mushrooms!