Saturday, March 19, 2011


We are on the edge of Spring and I am bouncing with joy. The longer days mean the growing season can really begin. I had the incredible good fortune to be invited to tour a NYC public school's new rooftop greenhouse, courtesy of Wellness in the Schools (WITS) and New York Sunworks. WITS worked tirelessly to get the (massive) funding for this fantastic project. The pictures tell the whole story. I will only add that we were also invited to taste the crops, picking cherry tomatoes right off the vine and plucking tender baby greens from their hydroponic homes. Heaven!
Isn't this sublime!? This pristine space is used for growing and teaching. What lucky students. The blue tub in the center is a fish pond that houses tilapia. Not for eating! They do something nutritious for the plants with the waste.

Cherry Tomatoes!
 Snap peas!
Hydroponically grown greens and herbs.
Everything was so fresh and green. The air made you woozy from all the Oxygen.
In case you were wondering if worm poop was good for anything.

A nibble on this kale confirmed that it was as tender as any lettuce I have ever eaten. Now this is a kale salad I would be interested in.

As a Wellness in the Schools cook I was invited to work with a few of our other cooks to come up with a harvest tasting menu to present to the entire school next month- eight hundred servings! We naturally thought of salads and are now planning the details for this exciting event. In order to showcase the leafy greens we are preparing a selection of vinaigrettes to dress them with. One way to get some variety into a standard oil and vinegar emulsion is to create some fruit infused vinegars. The fruit will give the vinaigrette a distinctively perfume-y yet subtle fruity flavor.

To pursue this thought and in an experimenting mood I picked up a ripe mango at my corner grocery store. Mangos come into season in May (in the Caribbean, that is) so I am pushing things a bit, but we in NY are the lucky recipients of the imported crop, so mangos in their season are worth seeking out, even here. Strawberries, again I'm pushing it, will be everywhere soon (ish) and citrus fruits are on the way out from the winter season. So stradling all this and common sence be damned, I made a few infusions for my own consumption and I would be happy to share them with you if you would like to come over for a salad.

 Get yourself some tender leafy greens; they will soon be flooding the farmers markets.
Infused vinegars: mango, strawberry and tangerine

Fruit Infused Vinegars
•Use 1/4-1/2 cup of fruit to 1 cup of cider vinegar. 
•For citrus fruits use just the peel and add a tablespoon of the zest.
•Wash and chop the fruit and smash it a bit with the back of a spoon or the side of a knife to bruise it a bit.
•Put the fruit and the vinegar in a clean jar and cover. Leave in a cool dark place or fridge for at least 24 hours.
•Strain the fruit out before using.

The strawberry vinegar is my favorite. The sweet springtime flavor really comes through. The tangerine vinegar has a beautiful bouquet. The mango vinegar had the more subtle flavor. I suggest using the ripest mango possible. Young tender salad greens will be elevated to a fragrant high when you dress them with these vinegars.

I am in awe of all that WITS is accomplishing. Any plans for Mr. Telepan to launch it nationally??!! What an incredible gift he (and his staff) are giving to the children.

These infused vinegars sound wonderful! And simple! You can choose your wine based on the choice of fruit. For example, for a vinaigrette using strawberry, or cherry infused vinegar, pick a bright Rose with lot of ripe fruit flavors. The wines you choose should have good acidity to stand up to the acidity of the vinegar. For citrus infused vinegars, opt for a crisp Sauvignon Blanc with the characteristic citrus flavors. A bright, bubbly will work also, like Prosecco. Rieslings are also know as being highly acidic wines, and work very well with salad too. In fact, this would be a great option for a vinaigrette using mango-infused vinegar.

The main thing you want to do when pairing a salad with wine is to create flavors that are in balance. If your wine does not have enough acidity, and the dressing is to overpowering, it will fall flat. It might be a good idea to use a little more oil when making your vinaigrette - this will soften the acidity thus making it more wine-friendly. The fruit, too, will soften the acidity of the vinegar. Adding a bit of cheese to your salad is also a great idea! Cheese serves as a great neutralizer for vinegar's astringent acidity. These tips should make your wine and salad pairing much easier!

Here's to Spring and all the beautiful, healthful gifts nature has to offer us!

And congrats, Deb, for all the wonderful things you and WITS are achieving together! You are truly making a difference.

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