This week in Haven’s Kitchen Summer School, Sonjia Hyon follows our culinary manager, Zoe Maya Jones, on a trip to the Union Square Greenmarket to learn about how seasonality is important in building confidence in the kitchen.
Summer is an inspirational and aspirational time to be in the kitchen. At the greenmarket, we’re wooed by pert greens and jewel-toned tomatoes. Each week’s visit offers a new vegetable or fruit to discover—no wonder the season seems to move so fast—everything including your crushes only last for a week or two before you find something even more beautiful and desirable.
Our haul from the Union Square Greenmarket.
This week we expand upon our chapter on vegetables from The Haven’s Kitchen Cooking School. Vegetables are an exploration in seasonality, meaning we should patiently wait to eat tomatoes in late summer instead of the dead of winter. Or, that blueberries and strawberries are at their best after May. You might be eating tomatoes in the dead of winter, but more often than not, they are mealy and wan. There are other important reasons to eat seasonally, like it’s environmental impact, but for now, we’re talking about how it makes our food taste better. Thus, appreciating our food more.
So cute, you just want to eat them.
This is why we encourage our students to seize summer! It’s so pleasurable to walk through the greenmarket and feel the juicy heft of a peach or admire the wonder of a kohlrabi. From a cooking perspective, summer produce does a lot of the work in terms of flavor and aesthetic. You don’t need to spend a lot of time hovering over a recipe and a stove. In fact, this is the best time to flex your creativity in the kitchen and unshackle yourself from a recipe. Go rogue!
Before you find yourself overwhelmed by the possibilities at the greenmarket, here are some tips to organize yourself from our culinary manager Zoe Maya Jones:
Before going to the market:
• Check out what you have in you fridge and pantry and dream up a few possibilities.
• Bring reuseable bags along with plastic bags you might already have at home.
• It’s always good to bring cash. Some vendors take credit cards, but I’m sure they appreciate cash payments because it means more money goes directly to farmers rather than credit card processors and banks.
At the market:
• Do an initial walkthrough of the market to see what’s there.
• Compare prices.
• Write notes on a piece of paper or on your phone of things you found exciting.
Lastly, Zoe Maya says she always shops with two rules in mind: find an ingredient that you really love and one ingredient that you haven’t cooked before or that is going challenge you. Zoe Maya loves dollhouse-sized vegetables and fruit. This week on her greenmarket trip, to her delight she found itsy-bitsy tomatoes as the ingredient she loves, and sanditas, which look like miniature watermelons and taste like cucumbers, for the latter.
Remembering that we had leftover fresh cavatelli in our kitchen walk-in, she decided that she would use the tomatoes for a pasta dish. Walking through the market, she was enthralled by how the baby zucchini still had their blossoms attached and the hue of purple scallions. The zucchinis and scallions would be sautéed in butter for the pasta and the blossoms would garnish it for dramatic presentation.
An avid pickler, Zoe Maya had never used sanditas for a pickle, and wanted this to be her challenge. Summer is the time for preserving all those summer vegetables to be enjoyed year round. Pickling is also another avenue to find creativity. Use different vinegars along with spices and herbs to season your pickles, like rice wine vinegar and Thai chili, or Champagne vinegar and fennel seeds.
As your final takeaway for this week’s session, more so than anything, seasonality is a prompt for flexibility and intuition.
Zoe Maya’s Favorite Vendors at the Union Square Greenmarket
Madura Farms // They have the best mushrooms and really good corn.
Mountain Sweet Berry // They have best tomatoes, strawberries, and potatoes.
Keith’s // Famous for garlic, got garlic scapes, beautiful greens and herbs
Lani’s // All types of amazing salad greens and always cooking delicious samples and how to make things at the market. One of the best things they sell is fresh edamame on the stalk.
Greenmarket “Recipe” Grid
Pasta, Parmigiano Reggiano,
Corn, Baby Tomatoes,
Cavatelli with Summer Vegetables
Pickles, three ways
Oats, Flour, Sugar,
Summer Fruit Crisp
This “recipe” uses ratios, and is pretty easy to remember. The pickles are good for up to one month in the refrigerator. If you’re interested in canning, read this primer on Food52. With pickles, the sugar balances the acidity of vinegar. You don’t need to use the entire proportion of sugar, or you can omit it entirely, but it will affect the balance of acidity.
Pickles, left to right: Rice Vinegar, Thai Chilis, Coriander Seeds, Fresh Ginger, Kohlrabi; Champagne Vinegar, Fennel Seed, Black Peppercorn, Garlic Scapes; White Vinegar, Bay Leaf Allspice, Sanditas
3 parts vinegar
2 parts water
1 part sugar, we usually use organic cane sugar, but you can omit the sweetener.
Spices and herbs, to your taste and creativity
Wash and prepare your vegetables. Cut to your desired shape and size or leave whole.
Combine vinegar, water, sugar, and spices in an appropriate sized saucepan. You want to make enough liquid to be able to fully submerge your vegetables. Bring to a simmer, and stir to dissolve sugar. Turn off the heat.
Bring the liquid to cool if you’re concerned about preserving the color of the vegetables like the bright green of a jalapeno, but eventually the acid will change the color anyway. Make sure the vegetables are in a heat-safe container, and pour the pickling liquid over them so that they are fully submerged.
If you haven’t already cooled your pickling liquid, make sure that your pickles have cooled before refrigerating.
Pasta with Summer Vegetables
This is a roadmap rather than a recipe.
1. Cook a pot of pasta. When it’s cooked to al dente, reserve a cup of water and drain it. Don’t rinse with cold water, instead toss with olive oil in the colander so it doesn’t stick together.
2. Heat a large pan over medium-high, pour enough olive oil to cover the bottom. When it feels pretty hot, add the tomatoes and thyme. Cook until the tomatoes are blistered.
3. Add the thinly sliced summer squash, cook until it’s softened, about 2 to 3 minutes.
Stir in the corn kernels with a couple tablespoons of butter. Stir until the butter has melted.
4. Add a couple dashes of pasta cooking water so it makes a nice sauce, let it evaporate and thicken into a glistening sauce.
5. Stir in sliced scallion bulbs with the cooked pasta to preserve the purple color.
6. Garnish with basil, squash blossom, and lots of Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Follow along as we cook our way this summer through our cookbook, The Haven’s Kitchen Cooking School. Find our stories on our blog, Instagram, Facebook or through our hashtags: #havenskitchencookbook, #hknycookbook and #cookwithconfidence.
Photos: Kathryn Tam