local

Eat Local: Urban Beekeeping

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The very idea of ‘eating local’ or the ‘100-mile Diet‘ taken here to a whole new level.

But this rooftop honey will be hyper-local, coming from nectar within three miles of the hotel, which is how far bees fly from their hives. Kelly, who buys most seasonal vegetables and meats from local producers, is interested in digging deep into the origins of the products he serves.

And, “I just thought it would be fun to have our own bees. I love the educational aspect of it, learning about where it comes from. It fits into the food and beverage goals of the hotel, being sustainable, local, and efficient. We’re supplementing our supply of something we use a ton of, on an unused part of the hotel: the roof.”

Big, ossified organizations have to be willing/able to entertain even the possibility of such changes in their ways of doing things. Putting bees on the roof of a corporate hotel does nothing to enhance shareholder value, but that can not be taken to mean there is no good to be realized from doing so.

The only thing that separates us from new efficiencies is garden-variety change aversion. Rooftop gardens, urban chickens, replacing non-native (even invasive) ornamental plants with native food-bearing plants…these are the tiny steps that can and should turn urban deserts into productive landscapes.

Rooftop Beekeeping
(Left to right:) Richard Stewart of Carriage House Farms; Todd Kelly, food and beverage director of the Hilton Netherland Plazal; and Megan Ketover, the hotel's pastry chef, examine bee hives on the sixth-floor roof. Kelly and Ketover plan to use the honey in the hotel's cuisine. / The Enquirer/Polly Campbell
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kosheri

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My first stab at kosheri: an Egyptian adaptation of an Indian dish called kichri. Alternating layers of a tomato-lentil sauce, white rice, and french fried onions make this dish a (fairly) healthy, tasty vegan meal.

Adapted from a recipe found on pp. 200-1 of Angela Shelf Medearis’ excellent examination of African, Southern & Caribbean cooking: The Ethnic Vegetarian.

The cookbook suggests a significant time savings can be realized if one uses commercially-available French’s french fried onions (the ones that usually go on top of the repulsive green bean & cream of ________ soup casserole at holiday time) and leftover white rice.

Our onions, tomatoes, and some spices were local. As usual, our rice is Guyanese. Other ingredients (lentils, other spices) are of unknown provenance.

Here’s the recipe:

Kosheri

  • 1.5 c. uncooked long-grain white rice
  • .5 c vegetable oil (I used olive oil)
  • 1 c. whole wheat or all-purpose flour (I used the latter).
  • 3 t. salt
  • 2 t. black pepper
  • .25 t. cayenne pepper
  • 2 large yellow onions, peeled and cut into rings
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 hot green chile, seeded & chopped (I used local scotch bonnet peppers)
  • 2 cans (2o oz.) peeled whole tomatoes, crushed (I used eight medium-sized tomatoes from Annette, peeled & crushed)
  • 1 can lentils, drained & rinsed (or make your own: bring 1 c. of lentils to boil in 3 c. water, reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes, drain)
  • 1 c. vegetable broth (one salty Maggi cube)
  • .25 c. white wine vinegar
  • .5 t. ground cumin (I used ground roasted geera).

“Prepare the rice according to package directions [or custom].

“Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking.

“Combine the flour, 1 t. of the salt, 1 t. of the black pepper, and 1/8 t. of the cayenne pepper in a shallow bowl. Dredge the onion rings in the seasoned flour. Plae the onions in the hot oil and fry for 3 to 4 minutes. Turn the onions over and fry untilgolden brown on both sides. Remove from the oil to a paper towel-covered plate to drain (do not discard the oil in the pan). Sprinkle the onions with 1t. of the remaining salt. Set aside.

“Place the garlic and the chile pepper in the remaining vegetable oil in the skillet. Saute for 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes (with juice), lentils, vegetable broth, vinegar, cumin, and the remaining 1 t. salt, 1 t. black pepper, and 1/8 t. cayenne pepper to the skillet.Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes.

“Place a thin layer of the sauce on the bottom of a large serving dish. Place the rice on top of the sauce. Top with a layer of onions. Place another payer of the sauce on top of the onions. Continue layering until all the ingredients have been used. Top with any remaining sauce and fried onions.”

bandhgobhi moong tarkari

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Curried sauteed cabbage with mung beans in a honey-lime glaze. Local cabbage, honey & limes.

This is an adaptation of a recipe found on pp. 200-1 of Yamuna Devi’s “Lord Krishna’s Cuisine: The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking.”

arroz con lentojas

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Arroz con lentojas

  • 1c. dried lentils
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 medium-size green bell pepper, seeded, cut in half, and one half finely chopped
  • 7c. water
  • 1/4c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2lb. slab bacon, rind removed, or thickly sliced bacon, cut into 1/4″ dice
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2t. salt, or to taste
  • 1/4t. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2t. dried oregano
  • 1/2t. ground cumin
  • 2c. raw converted white rice

In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine the lentils, bay leaf, the unchopped belle pepper, and water, and bring to a boil, uncovered. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until the lentils are tender, 45-60 minutes. Drain the lentils, reserving the cooking liquid, and discard the bay leaf & boiled green pepper half.

In the same saucepan over low heat, heat the oil until fragrant, add the bacon, and cook, stirring, until crisp, 8-10 minutes. Add the onion, chopped bell pepper, and garlic and cook, stirring, until the onion is tender, 6-8 minutes.

Add the lentils to the hot oil mixture, stir, then add 5c. of the reserved lentil cooking liquid (make up the balance with water if the reserved cooking liquid is insufficient to make up 5c.), raise the heat to high, and cook, uncovered, until all the liquid has been absorbed and small craters form on the surface of the rice, 15-20 minutes. Stir the rice with a fork, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the rice is dry and fluffy, 10-15 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter and serve hot.

Makes 8 servings.

Dull knife

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For the first time ever, my paring knife has gotten dull enough to require a detailed sharpening. All of the great garden-fresh local produce we’ve been cutting up & eating is taking its toll.

Pumpkin Pakoras with Crushed Coriander Seeds

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This recipe was adapted from the original found on p. 454 of Yamuna Devi’s “Lord Krishna’s Cuisine: The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking.” I substituted our island pumpkin from Annette’s stand for the pumpkin called for in the original recipe. I also made a few test pakoras with sliced bananas and ochroes, the former of which were probably the better experiment. If you share my fasctination with battering & frying a variety of foods, this pakora recipe provides a forgiving, delicious batter for use in your test kitchen.

I have had my best luck with this recipe using thinly-sliced butternut squash instead of pumpkin. Also, I opt not to use the baking powder called for in the recipe, preferring a less cakelike texture.

Pumpkin Pakoras with Crushed Coriander Seeds

  • 1 1/3c. sifted chickpea flour (sifted before measuring)
  • 1 1/2-2t. salt
  • 2t. melted ghee or vegetable oil
  • 1/2t. turmeric
  • 1/4t. asafoetida powder
  • 1T. crushed coriander seeds
  • 2T. yogurt
  • 1/2c. cold water, or enough to make a batter of medium consistency
  • 1/4t. baking powder (optional)
  • 25-35 pieces of trimmed, peeled ripe pumpkin, cut into 2 inch squares 1/4 inch thick
    ghee or vegetable oil for frying

Place the flour, salt, melted ghee or vegetable oil, turmeric, asafoetida, crushed coriander seeds and yogurt in a bowl and mix well. Add 1/2 cup of water slowly, beating with an electric beater or wire whisk until the batter is smooth and easily coats a wooden spoon. Alternately, place the batter ingredients in a good processor fitted with the metal blade, or a blender, and process until the coriander seeds are crushed and the texture is smooth, then transfer to a bowl. Cover the batter and set aside for 10-15 minutes.

Again beat the batter with an electric mixer, wire whisk, or your hand for 2-3 minutes to further lighten the batter. (Check the batter consistency: if it is too think, moist foods will spatter as they fry; if it is too thick, they will not cook properly. Add water or flour as necessary). Stir in the baking powder at this time if you prefer a cake-like crust. Set the pumpkin pieces to be friend next to the stove. They should be patted dry and at room temperature.

Heat 2 1/2-3 inches of fresh ghee or vegetable oil in a karai, wok, or deep-frying vessel (Aunt Itsy’s Skillet, for instance) until the temperature reaches 355-degrees. Dip 5-6 pieces of pumpkin in the batter and, one at a time, carefully slip them into the hot oil. The temperature will fall but should then be maintained at between 345-355-degrees throughout the frying. Fry until the pakoras are golden brown, turning to brown evenly, 3-4 minutes per side. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Serve immediately, or keep warm, uncovered, in a preheated 250-degree oven, until all of the pakoras are fried, for up to 1/2 hour.

accras de morue

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Accras De Morue

(Martinique & Guadeloupe)

Adapted from Jessica B. Harris’ excellent study of African food in the new world “Iron Pots & Wooden Spoons” p. 30:

  • 2c. sifted all purpose flour
  • 1c. water
  • 1/3c. saltfish, flaked
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 scallions, minced
  • 2 chives, minced
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme, minced
  • 2 sprigs parsley, minced
  • 1/2 Guinea pepper-type chile, minced
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 teaspoon vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • oil for deep frying

Place the flour in a medium-sized bowl and drizzle in the water, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Mix the flaked codfish, onion, garlic, scallions, chives, thyme, parsley, and chile together and mince them finely in a food processor (thorough prep can avoid this step). Season the codfish mixture and add it to the flour and water along with the egg yolks and vinegar. NOTE: The recipe can be prepared in advance up to this point. When ready to prepare, fold in the baking soda and the egg whites, beaten until stiff. Heat the flying oil to 350 to 375 degrees in a heavy iron pot or deep-far fryer. Dip the accras by the teaspoonful into the oil and brown on both sides. When done, remove with a slotted spoon and drain on absorbent paper. Serve warm.