Food Revolution Day in the Nation’s Capital

23 May

After weeks of planning, the first-ever Food Revolution Day arrived last Saturday. Food Revolution Day is a global call to action for people to stand up for real food sponsored by Jamie Oliver. Jamie’s been very active in food reform in America — the show Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution really got the ball rolling for me in scrutinizing the way that we eat in this country. My foodie friend (who I met while volunteering weekly last year with Brainfood–a culinary-skills program aimed at building confidence for DC high schoolers) and I were chosen as the two ambassadors for Food Revolution Day in DC. This meant that we were tasked with galvanizing the entire city and rallying the troops if you will. We had big ideas and even thought we’d meet the First Lady…

We spent time brainstorming ideas to get restaurants that support local sustainable agriculture involved, wrote letters to Michelle and Jill (we are on a first-name basis now), and worked with our friends at FreshFarm Markets, but really just used our planning sessions as an excuse to get together and eat well. Discussing ideas over dinner at Little Serow and Palena is hardly an effort.

In the end, while our grandiose plans ended up being slightly less grand, we had a fabulously successful Food Revolution Day at the H St. NE FreshFarm Market. The weather was perfect, we had delicious samples of a strawberry sauce with yogurt and granola, a super cool veggie scavenger hunt for kids (with an awesome prize — “I ❤ farmers” temporary tattoos), and an insanely talented balloon animal artist. I even made people at the market promise me that they would cook something that evening in support of Food Revolution Day.

Here is a picture of how bustling and crowded the market was on this perfect Saturday morning.

We had some of Jamie Oliver’s easy recipes printed off for people to get ideas for things to cook in support of the revolution.

The farmers seemed to really enjoy the scavenger hunt. We had the kids take around a passport, pictured above on the bottom left, with pictures of seasonal fruits and veggies. When they found one, the farmers crossed off the item. When all items were checked off, we gave them the tat.

Did someone say they couldn’t find strawberries?

The balloon artist captured all kids’ attention — young and old. And by old, I mean 26. I could have watched him make giraffes for hours. And did.

This special birthday girl got to go home with a balloon doll of herself — a pretty pink ballerina.

All in all, it was a great day and I can’t wait until Food Revolution Day 2013. Here’s to meeting Lady O. next year!

the happenstance gourmande


Grass-Fed Glory and a Day in the Country — Clear Spring Creamery Visit

7 May

After getting sunburned at the farmers market on Saturday morning, my friend and I decided to head out to the country that afternoon. On Friday, I saw on my Facebook newsfeed that Clear Spring Creamery was having an open house on Saturday afternoon, and my friend and I were in. I picked up some provisions at the market — a delicious baguette from Atwaters and some awesome cheese from Keswick Creamery and we hit the road. The weather was gorgeous and just perfect for a drive out west. After only an hour and a half, we were out in the rolling hills and mountains of western Maryland near the Pennsylvania border. It was absolutely gorgeous.

After getting a bit lost (and finally finding our way courtesy of my newly gifted car’s navigation), we finally arrived at Clear Spring  Creamery.

There was a group of about 10 people and after sampling some of the delicious raw milk cheeses, Mark and Clare Seibert (farm owners) graciously led us on a tour of the farm.

free-range birds

picking all of the fresh eggs out of the coop

We got to see where the chickens roam freely, pecking at the grass and laying eggs. But most importantly, since Clear Spring is a dairy farm primarily, we saw all of the cows — eating grass of course!

baby calves

cow moos loudly to signal her young to return home

baby nurses from his mom


my favorite cow has a bow-shaped marking on her head!

It was so interesting to learn how the cows are fed particular kinds of grass and how that affects the flavor of the milk, how the cows are led via minimal fencing to graze specific parts of the pasture, and what eggs can look like at the end of a hen’s laying cycle.

Our afternoon at Clear Spring ended with a tour of the milking facility and a peek into where they pasteurize the milk at a minimal temperature (which I really think helps to lock in the great flavor — along with the non-homogenization) and a sample of their chocolate milk. Dairy heaven! If you are ever at the Dupont Circle FRESHFARM Market, you have got to try some of Clear Spring’s awesome products (like my favorite sippable yogurt)!

one last shot of my favorite ribbon cow posing in the pasture

the happenstance gourmande

So Ya Wanna Make Perfect Asparagus? Recipe: Asparagus with Spring Garlic and Sherry Dijon Vinaigrette

3 May

Working at the H St. NE farmers market has taught me one thing (among others): Spring opening days bring an ABUNDANCE of delicious asparagus. When I was younger, asparagus was on my worst-hated foods list (along with canned frosting). I, like so many other people, tried it overcooked once and never wished to relive the horror. Luckily, I stalked down asparagus perfection and now I am here to allay your fears of the stringy, mushy, fibrous myths that surround these blades of glory. (Canned frosting is still hated.)

You’ll want to be sure to get asparagus in season that seems stiff and snappable. If you bent it in half it would snap rather than bend into submission. Toss your limp stalks in the soup or to the dogs…or maybe the compost pile. The supplies you will need are a large pot, a skillet (non-stick or seasoned cast iron), and a large bowl filled with ice water.

First, you’ll need to rinse your asparagus in cold water and cut of the woody ends. If you have ever bitten into a stalk of asparagus only to find that your chewing is getting you nowhere and it is stringy and inedible — chances are that it is either OLD or the woody end was not properly cut.

In this picture, you can see approximately what I cut off to ensure that the woody part is removed. The top is asparagus that are cut and the left bunch still has the woody ends.

Next, I like to cut my asparagus into bite-sized pieces. You can opt to keep your stalks long or cut them smaller but just be sure that they fit comfortably into your pot of water.

Fill a pot with cold water and put in 3 large pinches of salt. I would guess that I use about 2-3 tbsp of kosher salt. Salting the cooking water helps to flavor the asparagus so that it is perfectly seasoned when it’s time to eat. Bring water to a boil and add the cut asparagus and stir frequently for about 4 minutes. I would start testing it at 3 minutes if you have cut smaller pieces and leave it in no more that 5 minutes. The asparagus should be perfectly tender and to the tooth.

Once your asparagus has reached its al dente point, immediately use tongs to place the asparagus into a bowl of ice water. This will shock in the bright green color and also stop it from cooking to preserve the perfect texture. 

Next, cut up the bottoms of four sprigs of spring garlic and a quarter of a large shallot.

spring garlic has a milder garlic flavor combined with green onion flavor

In a large skillet, heat about 2 tbsp of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and garlic.

Drain the asparagus from the cold water in a colander and pour it into the hot pan with shallot and garlic infused olive oil. Sprinkle with a pinch more of salt and turn it in the pan for a minute or until glossy with the oil.


Pour the finished asparagus onto a plate and now it’s time to make the sauce. In a bowl, whisk together a tsp of dijon mustard and 1.5 tbsp. of sherry vinegar. Drizzle in about 3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil and whisk together until emulsified. Pour over the asparagus and enjoy!

As you can see, I served mine with a piece of baked salmon and a kale and red pepper stir fry and some left over Bhutanese red rice that I’d had in the freezer. An easily delicious Wednesday evening.

And for dessert, I made banana “ice cream” with a little bit of cherry jam, chocolate chips, and peanut butter mixed in.

the happenstance gourmande

Sunny Sunday in the City of Brotherly Love

30 Apr

After a freezing cold Saturday (and resulting hibernation following working at the market), I woke up to a beautiful and warm Sunday morning — and a phone call from a friend with a tempting proposition — a day trip to Philly. I hadn’t quite put away all of my laundry, but I had at least finished it. And I had finished grocery shopping on Saturday, courtesy of the H St. farmers’ market (i.e., LOTS  of asparagus), so I decided to be swayed away from domesticity into adventure.

My friend and his boyfriend rented a Volvo Zipcar and we took off up I-95 around noon. After a discussion on eastern religions, reincarnation, and listening to Devil in a White City on tape, we arrived in the City of Brotherly Love a mere two and a half hours later. With no real plans in mind, we drove up the Philly waterfront and decided that we wanted to see the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. We parked the car and got moving. After wandering the streets that felt like a hybrid of Chicago and Boston, we walked around Independence Mall and spotted the Liberty Bell. As we did not feel like waiting in a long line of tourists, we did not see the crack.

After our journey through the historic quarter, we walked around the eclectic and slightly seedy (in the best way possible) South Street and peeked in through little shops. After stopping in at Jim’s Steaks, and deciding against the gastronomical distress that would be a cheesesteak, we took the recommendation of a hipster boutique worker and had an early-bird dinner at Stephen Starr’s wood-fired pizza joint, Pizzeria Stella. We stopped for a water ice on the way back to the car and after a couple of hours of listening to tunes and learning about my friend’s British noble family (and their gorgeous family estate in the English countryside), we were back in good ol’ D.C. by 9 p.m. A perfect day.

I particularly love the architecture of the city. Small streets with tiny rowhouses and brownstones dating back to the 18th century.

We stumbled upon this creepy little graveyard with tombstones dating back to the 1790’s.

Independence Hall.

Independence Mall is a great spot to lay out — I also love the contrasting architecture of the surrounding buildings bringing the modernism of the late 19th century Chicago school style juxtaposed with the 18th century Federalist style.

The Liberty Bell — as spotted through a window with my reflection.

Along South Street, there are these AWESOME mosaics that weave the length of the street for blocks.

Here is the famous Jim’s Steaks…for a weekday vegan, that was FAR too much meat and cheese for me to even think about handling.

And of course I couldn’t leave you without pictures of the great food I had at Stella’s. We shared the rosemary flatbread with sheep’s’ milk ricotta and I had the pancetta pizza  — topped with wood-roasted red onion, pancetta, Tuscan kale, and mozzarella,  which was incredible.

the happenstance gourmande

Lacktard Speaks Out on Dairy & Recipe: Vegan Chocolate Avocado Banana Pudding

27 Apr

As a person who cannot handle her dairy, a “lacktard” if you will, I should be the poster child for veganism. Unfortunately, I love dairy. I love drinking milk, eating gelato, snacking on cheese, etc. Since the cleanse, I’ve really cut back on my dairy intake, which has helped me a lot. I can even feel the difference in my sinuses without dairy. The uncomfortable bloating and overall gastric distress that I experience whenever I consume dairy is almost enough to keep me away for good. Almost.

When you think about it, humans drinking animal milk is really weird…

Yesterday, I started reading an article in this week’s issue of The New Yorker discussing the trend of raw milk and the legal implications on farmers and distributors. I knew that raw milk was frowned upon, but I didn’t realize that it was ILLEGAL! The article discusses California primarily as this hotbed of illegal raw milking. With California’s bans on foie gras and raw milk, I can imagine some foodie speak-easy-type places popping up all over! Last year, I briefly worked for Virginia artisan raw sheeps’ milk cheese producer, Everona Dairy, at the Dupont Circle farmers market, and I have to tell you that the taste of raw dairy would definitely have me seeking out the bathtub gin equivalent of raw manchego.

If pasteurization and homogenization were created to protect us from the dangers of factory-farmed and commercially produced dairy, why exactly is it mandatory for ALL milk (with good bacteria) to be pasteurized — especially if I trust my local dairy farmer?

Anyways, since I have had a little bit of a dairy intense week, and feel a little more congested than I have in recent weeks, I thought I’d share a recipe for vegan chocolate pudding. It is amazing how with just a couple of fruits and some cocoa powder, a creamy pudding emerges!

Vegan Chocolate Banana Avocado Pudding (2 servings)

  • 2 small bananas
  • 1 avocado
  • 3 tbsp. of good cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tbsp. good vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp. raw turbinado sugar
  • pinch of salt

Blend all ingredients together in a food processor and chill for 20 minutes.

creamy and smooth just like a snack pack!

Serve in a champagne flute and top with strawberries, enjoy.

the happenstance gourmande

Bring on the Rain! (Recipe: “Saag-y” Weather Stewed Spinach and Tofu in Bell Pepper Sauce with Bhutanese Red Rice)

23 Apr

I don’t know about you all, but I couldn’t be more thrilled that the East Coast is getting drenched in inches of cool (read: cold) rain. While at the farmer’s market this Saturday, I overheard that my beloved honeycrisp apples were in peril. I can’t tell you how much I look forward to eating honeycrisp apples by the sackful at the end of summer. We tend to look at the weather with little regard for how it affects all the treats we look forward to eating (like strawberries that I heard will be making an appearance this week at markets), and only think about how we are able to break out our spring dresses early and never have had to locate our snow pants (not that we actually own snow pants in the District).

Miserable, rainy days are the perfect ones for trying out hearty and filling recipes. I caught wind of the idea to make a sauce with peppers and tomatoes with spinach from a friend, and after a little bit of planning, came up with a great recipe that is not only rich and warming, but is also 100% vegan. I took the idea of the traditional Indian dish, Saag Paneer (spinach with chunks of paneer cheese), to come up with an Indian/North African scented-dish that might just be one of the best things I’ve ever created. It also made my apartment smell like something from a gorgeous Delacroix — like my favorite Orientalist painting, Death of Sardanapalus. In efforts to try a new grain from the bulk bin at Whole Foods, I picked up some Bhutanese red rice which adds a great nutty depth to the dish. Also, the cashew butter in this recipe gives the stew a rich, full body that makes it taste decadent.


“Saag-y” Weather Stewed Spinach and Tofu in Bell Pepper Sauce with Bhutanese Red Rice

  • 3 bell peppers (1 yellow, 1 red, 1 orange)
  • 2 lbs. tomatoes (approx. 4 medium)
  • 1/2 onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 carrots, peeled
  • 1/4 cup EVOO
  • 3 heaping tbsp. of cashew butter

    Bhutanese red rice ready to be cooked

  • 1 can of tomato paste
  • 1.5 tsp. garam masala
  • 1 tsp. cumin powder
  • 1.5 tbsp. Moroccan spice blend (or equivalent combination of chili powder, turmeric, garlic, cumin, black pepper, chili flakes, oregano, onion, coriander)
  • 1/2 tsp. dried sweet basil
  • 1 sprig of fresh oregano (fresh oregano gives the dish a smokiness that cannot be achieved with dry)
  • 1.5 lbs. frozen chopped spinach
  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 package organic firm tofu, drained and cut into cubes
  • salt to taste
  • 1 cup Bhutanese red rice
  • 2 cups of water

In a blender or food processor, puree the peppers, tomatoes, carrots, onion, and garlic. (I had to do this in 3 batches to fit into my food processor.) Pour the sauce into a stock pot. Heat over medium-high heat and add the EVOO and cashew butter, stirring constantly until cashew butter is mixed into the sauce. Add in spices, tomato paste, and about a tbsp of kosher salt (remember to adjust the salt depending on the size of flakes — table salt is saltier bc the particles are smaller) and continue to stir the sauce as it thickens up. Taste the sauce and add additional salt if needed.

Drain the tofu and slice into cubes. Add the tofu, chickpeas, and spinach to the sauce. Bring to a bubble and turn heat down to a simmer. Make sure to taste the sauce after the spinach cooks since the additional water may require increased salt. Simmer for 20-30 minutes.

In a medium sauce pot, heat a tbsp. of olive oil over medium high heat. Add the rice. Stir around for 2 minutes. Add in water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer on low for 30-45 minutes, or until water evaporates. Let rice sit for 10 minutes. Serve the sauce over rice.

lots of leftovers for the week

I hope that you’ll put your food processors and blenders to good use and give this SUPER EASY recipe a try.

the happenstance gourmande

To market: Opening Day of H Street NE FRESHFARM Market

21 Apr

I am so lucky to now be an official team member of the FRESHFARM markets in D.C. I have volunteered and done chef demonstrations of my recipes in the past couple of years, but today I started as the EBT Coordinator at the H Street NE FRESHFARM Market. One of the most important things to me in the past few years has been not only promoting my own health by eating fresh foods, but also promoting healthy habits for everyone. To be involved with a program that helps to ensure fresh and local food access to underserved populations is incredible. Read more about the program here.

With forecasts of strong storms hitting the eastern seaboard looming, I was a bit dubious of good weather for this morning’s opening. Luckily, it could not have been more perfect. We had sunny and blue skies, mild winds, warm temperatures, and as Flo-Rida/Avicii might say, woah, we had a good feeling.

neighborhood guy rallies for support for his petition

I cannot put into mere words how awesome the H St. NE FRESHFARM market is. It is the epitome of a community market. I would describe the vibe of the neighborhood as “community-all-hands-on-deck.” As we stood outside, the local shopkeepers gathered ’round (please note my use of arcane language because it is rare that in an age of Targets and Starbucks, local shopkeepers can actually gather ’round) to discuss the extension of our market into the street. Even the zone’s Councilmember made an appearance and was on board. They were friendly and chatty and welcoming and made me feel like I had been transported to another time. Or perhaps Canada (where I’ve heard everyone is very nice).

In addition to all of the gorgeous treats sprinkled around the market, Washingtonian Magazine’s rising star Chef Wes Morton of Art and Soul did a chef demonstration. He made a beautiful asparagus, sweet onion, and green garlic salad with a creamy egg Gribiche sauce, which I cannot wait to veganize, and taught me how to season my brand new (thus temporarily worthless) cast iron skillet.

eggs, green garlic, radishes, and asparagus from the market

Not only did I love how thoroughly engaged he was with the audience, especially the kids,

who says kids don't love their veggies? they loved raw radishes!

but he also introduced me to what will surely be my latest EVOO crack habit — Frantoia. This Sicilian olive oil has such a fruitiness that I have never tasted before — and blows my organic Californian right out of the water.

market welcomes shoppers of all breeds

I’d like to give a special thanks to Atwater’s Bakery for giving me an incredible vegan spelt loaf in exchange for watching his booth for 5 minutes (which I have devoured the better quarter of already), Blueberry Hill Farm for awesome veggies for my week, Full Cellar Farm for pretty tulips to brighten my days, and Quaker Valley Orchards for feeding my apple drug-like habit for the week (read: day).

my market bounty!

the happenstance gourmande