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.
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)
- 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
- 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.
- When the rhubarb starts to soften, about 5minutes, stir in the cardamom, nutmeg and salt.
- Break up any large pieces of rhubarb with a wooden spoon.
- Continue to simmer, covered, until the rhubarb is completely softened, about 4 minutes more.
- Remove from heat and stir in honey and vanilla extract. Let cool. Add the rose water.
- 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.
Manhattanites; the new 'bridge and tunnel' crowd,
- The Heat
Thanks to Louisa and staff at The Brooklyn Kitchen!