Quarter-Life Coaching: The Farm Fresh Fledgling
EVENT: Baby’s First Kitchen Flight
VENUE: Wendy’s Apartment, Financial District
PARTY SIZE: 2
TYPE: Market to Table
MENU: Mixed Greens with Baby Radishes and an Asparagus Drizzle; Cavatelli with Radish Leaf Almond Pesto
My friend Wendy has all the ingredients to warrant the title of hostess with the most-ess. She has an expertly decorated apartment, in which she entertained 30 hungry mouths at this year’s holiday party, an innate gift for organization and planning, and an appreciation for all things food-related. So it came as a surprise to me, as I searched aimlessly through her kitchen drawers for a spatula with which to serve Alexis’ holiday chicken, that Wendy not only had no idea what lurked behind her cupboard doors, but had actually never turned on her oven.
Wendy might be one of the most connected people I know, in the least obnoxious way. To use her reach for the greater good, she began organizing a monthly supper club last year—choosing interesting, inexpensive, and often unexpected venues, and spreading the word to the countless (her listserve is secret) twenty-somethings interested in meeting new people over good food.
During the first 15 minutes of every supper club session, after the name game has revealed various connections within the group, everyone inevitably asks the age old question: “how the heck do you know Wendy?” The answer is usually a hodgepodge of coincidences and referrals—the classic New York City tale of friendships found. Mine was certainly no exception. I met Wendy on the street.
The run-in occurred on Bastille Day, as I was licking Nutella off my palm after a successful purchase at the crepe vendor, when Wendy, baguette in hand, tapped the friend I was with on the shoulder. The two launched into their latest life details, which revealed that Wendy is an avid theater goer and knew every loophole and trick to getting cheap seats. I expressed interest, and before I knew it, there was a friend request in my facebook inbox, and we were sitting 10th row center (at half price) watching Daniel Radcliffe in the nude. That is the beauty of Wendy.
Many shared meals (and shows) later, Wendy had yet to try her hand in the kitchen. So after the last Supper Club, she asked me to help her design an easy meal for her first test run, and perhaps give a few pointers on the way. The inspiration came by way of our latest (non-supper club) meal at Blue Hill at Stone Barns (which had already inspired another meal), and the fantastic afternoon we spent together courtesy of Food For Thought, our friend Carolyn’s tour company that teaches about sustainable food through local adventures in green cuisine.
The asparagus salad and pesto pasta incorporated farm fresh produce from the Union Square farmer’s market, and was simple enough that she could execute all prep work before my arrival. More importantly, it didn’t require our fledgling to turn on the oven. We’ll leave that for the next lesson.
From Wendy’s kitchen, where baby steps are key, to yours,
Phoebe, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
Mixed Greens with Baby Radishes and an Asparagus Drizzle
Makes 4 servings
The first course of our tasting at Stone Barns included a delicate salad of mixed baby greens, tiny asparagus, crisp radishes, and but a drizzle of fresh asparagus puree. Save a hint of mint, salt, and lemon, there was nothing masking the freshness of each ingredient, and the aroma of the asparagus drizzle only intensified the flavor of the baby asparagus scattered throughout. Though our asparagus from the market were beautifully in season, the dish did not compete with the refined, melt-in-your-mouth quality of the Stone Barns versions. Still, I’ll eat the imitation by way of Wendy’s execution any day.
5 oz baby greens
1 bunch asparagus
6 radishes, thinly sliced
1/2 shallot, skin removed
10 mint leaves
½ lemon, juiced
¼ cup olive oil
½ tsp salt
Cavatelli with Radish Leaf Almond Pesto
Makes 4 servings
As we learned during our private tour of the property, the restaurant at Stone Barns strives to incorporate every part of each ingredient it includes on its menus. Having always discarded my radishes’ greens, I decided to turn over a new leaf, and use them as the base for our pesto pasta. The radish leaves are a bit peppery, similar to the slightly bitter bite of arugula, so I added a little fresh mint (also in the salad) to cut the flavor.
1 1/2 lb fresh cavatelli
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup almonds
2 cups radish leaves
1/2 cup mint leaves
½ lemon, juiced
¼-1/2 cup olive oil
3/4 cup grated parmesan (reserve ¼ for garnish)
1 tsp salt
What You Will Need:
2 large mixing bowls
1 large pot for the pasta
a mini food processor
Remove the radishes from the stalks. Rinse really well. Trim the top and bottom of the radishes, and slice into very thin rounds. Set aside in a mixing bowl for the salad.
Remove the radish leaves from the stalks. Rinse really well and set aside for the pesto.
Wash the asparagus and remove the bottom of the stalk. To do so, snap the ends of each individual stalk—they will naturally break at the correct point. Set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.
In a food processor, combine the garlic cloves and nuts and pulse until finely chopped. Add the radish leaves, mint, and lemon juice, and pulse to combine. Add half of the olive oil and blend until the greens are finely chopped and the mixture has become light and fluffy. Incorporate more olive oil as needed to obtain your desired consistency. Add the parmesan and salt and blend until just combined. Taste the mixture for seasoning, and add more salt as needed.
Pour the mixture into the bottom of one of the large mixing bowls. Set aside.
Once the water comes to a boil, drop in the asparagus and blanche for a few minutes until they are bright green and just barely tender. Remove with tongs to a colander, and rinse in the sink under cold water to stop the cooking.
Return the water to a boil.
In the meantime, make the dressing. Cut the asparagus stalks into 1-inch pieces. Add the pieces from the top half of the stalk to the salad bowl, and place the remaining bottom pieces of the stalks in a food processor.
In the food processor, pulse together the asparagus, shallot, mint leaves, lemon juice, and salt until the mixture is very well pureed. Add olive oil as needed to thin the mixture. Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary.
When the water returns to a boil, add the pasta and cook according to the package directions until just al dente. For fresh pasta, this should only take three minutes. Be careful not to over cook. Drain pasta in colander in the sink. Add the pasta to the pesto bowl and toss together to combine.
To plate, place a handful of mixed greens on each individual salad plate. Top with a smaller handful of radish slices and asparagus heads, and drizzle a generous spoonful or two of the asparagus vinaigrette over the top. Serve along side the pasta in individual bowls, garnished with a slice or two of radishes and a leaf of fresh mint.