Gettin' My Greens On with Chef Louisa Shafia


easily understood; completely intelligible or comprehensible:a lucid explanation.
characterized by clear perception or understanding; rational or sane: a lucid moment in his madness.
shining or bright.
clear; pellucid; transparent.

This week I worked with fellow Penn Alum Louisa Shafia at a class called "Get Your Greens On", which was held at The Brooklyn Kitchen and Meat Hook in Williamsburg. It was a vegetarian class (except for a wee bit of chicken stock used in desperation) that focused on locally grown springtime vegetables and unusual greens. 

I first heard of Louisa Shafia via an alumni news letter. After two careers in unrelated industries, she decided to enroll in the Natural Gourmet Institute here in NYC. With a few years experience working in a handful of health conscious restaurants, both here in NYC and San Francisco, Louisa decided to start her own company called Lucid Food. Starting off as a blog and catering company, Louisa has grown her company to include cooking classes, consulting gigs and most recently, her first cookbook. 

Her recipes are veg-heavy and eco-conscious, but not in a restrictive way. Quite the contrary actually. She's more about adding - greens, legumes, weird little herbs that she found on a bike ride in Prospect Park (true story). And that's the reason I can get jiggy with Louisa's cooking style: she's not here to criticize - more to promote better choices...and I for one can afford to make some more of those.

In Lucid Food, I try to show you how to make earth-friendly food choices by sourcing animal products ethically and responsibly, supporting local food, and reducing your carbon footprint through urban gardening, preserving, composting, and more.

I reached out to Louisa to see if she needed any help with her catering, classes, book signings...and voila!, I found myself donning a chef's coat in an industrial kitchen wielding a multitude of insanely sharp knives. To say I was nervous is a serious understatement. I didn't even know the proper way to put on my apron (and yes, apparently there is a proper way to put on an apron). My first task was to peel and slice potatoes in preparation for our Lamb's Quarters and Pea Shoots Soup (wait, I thought you said it was vegetarian?!) Well, it turns out Lamb's Quarters are a leafy green - news to me as well. Also new to my plate were radish greens (spicy, just like their roots), shepherd's purse (used frequently in Asian recipes), and maitake mushrooms (a grill-able meat substitute). The potatoes went well, no cuts, no missing body parts. And then came the sugar snap peas for our Almond Tofu with Snap Peas and Soba Noodles. I had to delicately slice off the barely visible center string with a machete and NOT cut my finger off. "Red tinge? Oh, that's uh, tomato paste. Last minute addition." Cucumbers and garlic, ginger, mushrooms, radishes - chop, slice, mince! I had sweat on my brow and a rumble in my tummy. I tried not to sneak a snack mid class and risk getting yelled at by a particular over-caffinated hipster in our class. 

Four hours and many a slop bucket later, the class was gone, kitchen cleaned and two lonely jars leftover of Louisa's soon-to-be-famous Rhubarb and Pistachios over Thick Yogurt just waiting for my spoon. I'll enjoy this simple, rustic dessert for breakfast, in lieu of my regular yogurt/berries/granola routine. The rhubarb is slightly sweet with a hint of cardamom, the yogurt tart and the pistachios add the perfect hit of crunch:

Rhubarb and Pistachios over Thick Yogurt (from Lucid Foods)
Serves 4

  • 4 stalks rhubarb, ends and leaves trimmed
  • 1/2t. cardamom
  • 1/4t. ground nutmeg
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup light-colored honey
  • 1t. vanilla extract
  • 1t. rose water
  • 2cups Greek-style yogurt
  • 1/2 cup shelled pistachios, coarsely chopped

  1. Cut the rhubarb into 1-inch pices and put in a small saucepan with 1/4 cup of water. Cover and bring to a boil, then decrease the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally.
  2. When the rhubarb starts to soften, about 5minutes, stir in the cardamom, nutmeg and salt.
  3. Break up any large pieces of rhubarb with a wooden spoon.
  4. Continue to simmer, covered, until the rhubarb is completely softened, about 4 minutes more.
  5. Remove from heat and stir in honey and vanilla extract. Let cool. Add the rose water.
  6. To serve, put 1/2 cup yogurt in each bowl, top with a few tablespoons of rhubarb. Scatter with a few tablespoons of pistachios over the top.
Besides the dessert, I also scored some sick swag thanks to The Meat Hook - which will be donned next time I visit my brother in the Heights to avoid getting yelled at to 'get back on my island!' 

Manhattanites; the new 'bridge and tunnel' crowd,
- The Heat

Thanks to Louisa and staff at The Brooklyn Kitchen!


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