Will Bonsall’s Succotash

Will Bonsall has been an inspiration to countless homesteaders and gardeners. His book, Will Bonsall’s Essential Guide to Radical, Self-Reliant Gardening is a bible of sorts to many, myself included. It’s chockfull of tips and wisdom for growing nutritious crops and fostering thriving soils. His keen sense of humour peppers every page.

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Vic’s Asparagus Vinaigrette

Happy summer everyone! I’m so excited to be back with some delicious new farm-to-table recipes for you. This season, I’m going to be taking you into the gardens and kitchens of some incredibly inspiring food producers who have some tasty recipes to share, as well as words of wisdom about what it means to them to grow great food.

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My first video episode of the season features Vic Ladd-deGraff who operates Grindstone Farm, a diversified organic farm in Pulaski, New York, alongside her husband and son. When Vic told me about her beloved recipe for Asparagus Vinaigrette, I knew it needed to be featured in a video. It’s my kind of recipe: simple, easy to make, and oh so flavorful, allowing the main ingredient to shine front and center!

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Camelia’s Lacto-Fermented Pickled Sunchokes

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The first time I ate sunchokes (also known as Jerusalem artichokes), my friend was visiting from Paris for the holidays. We dug the oddly-shaped beige tubers out of my parent’s garden and roasted them in the oven until their flesh turned completely soft, almost melting. We slathered them in butter. They were absolutely exquisite, creamy with a deep nutty flavor reminiscent of sunflowers. We were enchanted! We repeated the process to accompany several of our holiday meals. But over those holidays, we couldn’t help but notice we all felt a little bit… er, how should I say it? Windy. We figured it was all the rich foods we were eating. But once she was back home, my friend happened upon an article about sunchokes and how trendy they were becoming in France. The article also mentioned the unfortunate side effect of this delicious root vegetable. Like beans, they can be a little bit hard to digest, for some people more than others. In other words, they can cause a fair amount of flatulence. Or as the English botanist John Goodyer wrote in 1621: “they stir and cause a filthy loathsome stinking wind within the body”. To which I would say, now now, that’s a wee bit of an exaggeration isn’t it? And anyway, there happens to be a perfectly brilliant solution to this little problem. The answer, it turns out, is to pickle the little guys!

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Walter Riesen’s Okonomiyaki (Japanese Vegetable Pancake)

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Along the fertile flat bed of the Charlotte Valley in the Northern Catskills, Walter Riesen and his farm team grow deeply flavorful heirloom vegetables and heritage grains for their whole-diet, multi-farm CSA customers, as well as for grocers and some of New York’s best farm-to-table restaurants.

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Sandy Oliver’s Dilly Beans

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To get to Sandy Oliver’s homestead and garden, you have to first take a ferry ride because she lives on the small and picturesque island of Isleboro, just off the coast of Maine. Sandy is an acclaimed food historian who has written many books about foodways and traditions of the eastern states. And indeed, her kitchen gives off the warm, cozy aura of stepping back in time. I first came across Sandy’s recipes in one of her more recent books: Maine Home Cooking. I loved how the recipes felt tried and true, and rich with the history of having fed countless families over many generations.

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Karen Washington’s Swiss Chard and White Beans

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Every now and again in life, you meet someone who just cracks open your heart and inspires you from the inside out. Award-winning urban gardener, farmer, community activist, and cook extraordinaire Karen Washington is one of these people. I feel so lucky that I got to spend a morning with her in the Garden of Happiness, the community garden she co-founded 30 years ago in her neighborhood in the Bronx after she happened to move into a house that was sitting directly across the street from an abandoned lot. Over the years, she helped transform that derelict lot from a concrete slab littered with garbage, into a lush, green, vibrant, and welcoming community space, home now to over 20 family garden plots, several fruits trees, and a couple of greenhouses. And yes, you really do feel an instant sense of peace and happiness there. It’s an oasis of calm in the city.

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Alanna’s Seared Romaine with Eggs

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I’m so excited to launch a slightly new incarnation of Kitchen Vignettes on PBS Food today! These recipe videos will have all the same garden-to-table magic as before, but each one will now feature a different farmer or gardener sharing a recipe from their own kitchen.

For this newest episode, I met up with Alanna Rose of Cairncrest Farm. When Alanna proposed making seared romaine lettuce, a little light went off in my head because my own garden is full of different lettuces that I planted this spring but this was something totally new and different to make with my romaines.

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Get in the Christmas Spirit with Spruce Tree Shortbread

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Cooking with spruce is magical. It fills up the house with the fragrance of a sweet-scented forest and makes it feel oh so Christmassy! I liked the idea of borrowing a few snips from my Christmas tree’s branches, whipping up a batch of these tree cookies, and putting them right back on the tree.

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