Monday, May 30, 2011

Laurie's Homemade Toasted Granola

All images © Valery Rizzo

Today I spent the day with Laurie Pierre, a vegetarian, singer, songwriter and community manager for a social media communications agency, who lives in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. She is soon to be married next month, to her fiancé Todd beneath the Brooklyn Bridge and the food at the wedding will be from all the local places they love in Brooklyn. I had heard so much about Laurie’s fabulous homemade granola and she was nice enough to share her recipe with me so I could then share it with all of you. 

One day while at a birthday party Laurie overheard a woman talking about granola and was immediately inspired to make her own. The first thing I love about her recipe is that the oats, nuts and seeds used to make the granola are toasted on the stovetop instead of being baked. This gives it a natural and healthy flavor instead of the harder version made with more sugar, which is usually baked in the oven. The second thing that I think makes her recipe, is her plentiful use of cinnamon and nutmeg spices. The end result is a mixture of oats, two kinds of nuts (here she used almonds and walnuts), pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, dried cranberries, dried apricots, spices, maple syrup and canola oil. We paired the granola with some organic hemp milk topped with some fresh blueberries. It was very nutty, crunchy and sweet, but not too sweet and the fruit and spices add a nice tropical taste to it, perfect for summer.

3 cups oats

1 cup sunflower seeds

½ cup pumpkin seeds

½ cup almonds

½ cup walnuts

½ cup dried apricots

½ cup dried cranberries or raisins

 1 tablespoon nutmeg

1 tablespoon cinnamon

½ cup organic maple syrup

2 tablespoons canola oil (which acts as a preservative)

Using a medium bowl mix your oats with your sunflower seeds. Quarter the apricots into pieces. Put your nuts into a bag, you can even use the plastic or biodegradable fabric eco bag you purchased them in and using the flat side of a meat tenderizer or a large spoon break the nuts into large rustic pieces.

Now we want to toast all of our oats, nuts and seeds on the stovetop, using one medium-sized stainless steel pan to toast the oat and sunflower mixture and two small to medium nonstick pans, one for the pumpkin seeds and one for the nuts.  Pour just enough of each in the pans so as to coat the bottom and so that they toast evenly. Cook ingredients in batches over medium heat turning continuously so it does not burn and until everything is golden brown and toasted. After each batch has been toasted place into a large bowl and sprinkle with ¼ tablespoon of cinnamon and ¼ tablespoon of nutmeg while it is still warm and toss together. Repeat this same step after each batch is toasted and placed into the bowl. When you have finished you should have all of your oats and sunflower seed mixture, pumpkin seeds, and nuts all toasted and in the large bowl together.  Sprinkle any remainder of your cinnamon and nutmeg on top of the mixture while still warm and toss. Then add your dried cranberries, apricots pieces, maple syrup and canola oil then mix well together.

Spread mixture onto a large baking sheet and let cool for about 30 minutes to 1 hour before storing or eating. Can be enjoyed with some organic hemp, soy, rice milk or any milk of your choice and topped with fresh berries. You can even add the granola to your favorite plain yogurt. Kept in an airtight container it will last up to two weeks.

Makes about 6 to 12 servings

All ingredients were purchased at the Park Slope Food Coop.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Food Vendors at The Brooklyn Flea

Photograph © Valery Rizzo

This month I shot another photo story for Nona Brooklyn, this time about the food vendors at The Brooklyn Flea. Nona Brooklyn is a resource for Brooklynites looking to discover local, artisanal, and sustainably-produced food in Brooklyn. To see the full feature on Nona Brooklyn click here

If your not familiar with the flea it's one of Brooklyn's best markets happening every weekend of the year, featuring hundreds of top vendors of antique and repurposed furniture, vintage clothing, collectibles and antiques, as well as a tightly curated selection of jewelry, art, and crafts by local artisans and designers, plus delicious fresh food. Right now the Flea is open every weekend on Saturdays in Fort Greene and on Sundays in Williamsburg, from 10am to 5pm, rain or shine. Both markets feature a similar mix of 125+ vendors on an acre lot: click here for a map and directions to the locations.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Finds at The Food Coop

All images © Valery Rizzo

So I have been pretty crazy over the baby greens at the food coop lately. Baby kale, baby beet greens, baby swiss chard, baby bok choy, baby arugula, baby mustard greens and so many other green babies. People stand over them surprisingly questioning what to do with them and I just say simply make a salad! 

This week what struck me in particular was the watercress, the bunches of radishes and I always have to buy some baby kale every time I see it there, you could say I am in love with it. I created a salad made with green leaf lettuce, watercress, baby kale, cherry tomatoes and slices of radish topped with hemp seed, which gives it a nutty flavor and crunch, a bit of balsamic vinegar, extra-virgin olive oil, cracked black pepper and salt. This together with some sprouted bread is a perfect lunch.

I always lovingly think of my Latina mother-in-law when I make a salad now and how one day she said to me "Valery, you are for salads!" repeating that over and over again as she devoured the healthy salad I had made her for lunch while going back for seconds. 

Friday, May 13, 2011

Whole Wheat Calzones with Fire Roasted Peppers, Spinach, Onions, Olives and Two Cheeses

All images © Valery Rizzo

Last summer on our last night in Italy my family took us to a restaurant for pizza. Instead of ordering individual pies a few of my cousins ordered calzones. I remember thinking how odd, a calzone for dinner? But I quickly had feelings of regret when their calzones arrived and I instead had ordered a boring pizza. We won’t even get into the pie that one of my nieces ordered which was served covered in French fries. The calzones were not anything like the greasy, goopy, doughy things you get here. Instead they were these very long beautiful bread filled creations loaded with steaming fresh vegetables and cheese.

When I returned I decided to make my own even healthier version using whole wheat and unbleached flour. The peppers I roasted myself the way my uncle Amerigo taught me but you can also buy peppers already prepared and the same goes for the pizza dough that is if you can find whole wheat dough. I enjoyed the baked calzone with a beautiful bottle of Tanzen Dame a natural dry white table wine from Bloomer Creek in the Finger Lakes, which I found at The Natural Wine Company in Williamsburg Brooklyn where they feature organic and biodynamic natural wines.

4 organic orange and red peppers

4 brown lunch paper bags

 extra-virgin olive oil

 cracked black pepper


You can roast your peppers directly on your stovetop. Place each pepper separately on it’s own burner with the fire on high. The idea is to burn the skin of each pepper until it is black.  With a pair of tongs or a large kitchen fork continually rotate each pepper until all sides are burnt and black.

Then take each pepper and place in its own separate brown paper bag and let cool for about 10 to 15 min. Preparing one at a time shake the pepper while inside the bag, allowing for the skin to loosen from the flesh. Tear each bag and use as a base to peel the black skin off the pepper. First remove the top stem area including all of the seeds and in sink under cold running water rinse the remaining black areas of the pepper until clean. Tear lengthwise into 2 to 3 inch strips and place on a plate. Do the same for other three peppers. Dressed with a bit of olive oil, cracked pepper and salt. Set aside. You can also prepare this the night before.

1 package dry active yeast

1 ¼ cup lukewarm water

1 ½ cups organic whole wheat bread flour

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon Turbinado sugar

½  teaspoon of salt

1 cup semolina flour for dusting (you can use all-purpose flour as well)

Proof the yeast. You do this to make sure the yeast is still alive and active. Dissolve or mix sugar in water then add yeast, allow to sit in until yeast foams slightly, about 5 min.
In a separate bowl combine Whole-wheat bread flour and unbleached all-purpose flour. Mix together.

Using an electric mixer take 3 cups of the flour mixture and add the salt.  Adding the olive oil and proofed yeast pulse together. Start adding remaining ½ flour mixture until the dough is not sticky anymore and forms a ball on the hook attachment of the mixer. Removed, form into a ball and put into a bowl that has been coated with olive oil. Cover with a kitchen cloth and let rise in a warm place for 45 min. to 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in size.

Transfer to a board you have dusted with semolina flour and start to knead a bit. Roll into a ball then wrap the dough with Saran wrap and place in refrigerator for at least two hours or overnight if you wish to prepared dough the night before.  Bring dough to room temperature before using.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Brooklyn Photo of the Week

Photo © Valery Rizzo

SCRATCHbread a food vendor at the Brooklyn Flea serving Mozztoast, which is fresh pulled mozzarella handmade by Scratchbread and prepared on parmaloaf, a parmesan crusted bread with sea salt, cracked pepper and fennel all topped with a bit of extra-virgin olive oil. To die for!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Urban Vegetable Garden

I live in an old, eight apartment, building in Brooklyn, owned by an elderly woman from Southern Italy. Each year since I have lived here she has always grown tomatoes outside in the backyard. The yard was never a communal area but instead just two plots of land on each side where she grew her vegetables with a walkway in between. Over the years the two plots of tomatoes had become one plot, so last year we asked if we could plant some grass and add a couple chairs and a table on the side that was not being used which is below a big fig tree and grapevines. To our happy surprise she said yes and we finally had an outside area to enjoy. My landlady has also been developing arthritis in her knees so last year after she planted her tomatoes, zucchini and string beans she found it hard to return again, so when her tomato plants started falling over and the beans started growing sideways into each other I would call and ask if I could help in any way by staking the tomatoes or installing poles for the beans. I felt an obligation to help and keep the garden looking and growing beautifully since I have the pleasure of the backyard being directly outside my studio window, along with all the birds, Wisteria, cherry blossoms and a Magnolia tree.

This year when I asked if she would be planting her tomatoes again and if not perhaps we could start a vegetable garden, she told us to go for it! So here we are the three of us, Team Urbanites, our upstairs neighbor Jill, from Rhode Island, my husband Ivan from the Bronx and myself born and raised in Brooklyn starting our own vegetable garden, an experiment for sure! Will we be able to grow vegetables and actually eat them? What about the squirrels and raccoons?

All images © Valery Rizzo

Last weekend we prepared the garden by cleaning, breaking up and turning over the existing soil. Then we dumped 10 large bags of organic fertilized soil on top of that and turned and mixed the existing soil with the new soil. This week we will be planting tomatoes, string beans, zucchini, cucumbers, eggplant, broccoli and an herb garden. I would also like to add some plants that attract good insects, which also serve as a natural pesticide. Cosmos, chives, marigolds and maybe a butterfly bush.

We shall see what happens. None of us are very experienced but whether we fail or succeed it is still fun to learn how food grows and it also keeps you tranquil and connected to the Earth. If all goes well, it is my hope that I will be able to use some of the vegetables that we’ve grown for some recipes here on Eating Brooklyn and maybe next year we could even add a compost bin. Wish us luck and stay tuned...any comments or advice are very welcomed and appreciated, we are just learning and having fun .