Melissa Hope Matlins

Summertime at the GreenMarket
July 10, 2008, 4:29 am
Filed under: food, Green, New York City, Sustainability, Urbanism

Summertime at the Union Square GreenMarket is high season for both produce and people watching, as evidenced by my two photos from a prior Saturday. I do have a thing for radishes and there are lovely pink and white french breakfast varieties to be found there. Its also a bit cute to see city-born babies ogle their first fields of green, even if it is a plant shop atop pavement.

I make a really simple salad of chilled and thinly sliced radishes, dressed with salt/pepper/olive oil/balsamic vinegar/lemon.


Eggs Don’t Come From Cows – A Field Trip to Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture
June 20, 2007, 11:21 pm
Filed under: Architecture, food, Green, Sustainability


Many years ago, during a visit to New York City’s Union Square Greenmarket, I observed a handwritten sign at a farmers egg stand that read “Attn New Yorkers, eggs do not come from cows.” Growing up on the prairie, amidst so many farms, I of course found this hilarious, but I don’t think that the sign was an attempt at humor. Though less so today, now that a global green awareness has raised everyone’s consciousness about food, Urbanites in particular are notoriously ignorant of agricultural origins.

This could all be cured by a short trip upstate to the Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture, which I visited earlier this month. Stone Barns is a storybook farm nestled in the heart of Westchester, Pocantico Hills, just about an hour outside of the city. This non-profit organization is housed in a complex of 1930’s era barn structures, designed for the Rockefellers by Grosvernor Atterbury. All of the buildings are clad in rustic Fieldstone, a material that is readily available locally, just like the food.

As much as I would like to wax poetic about the architecture, the food is the real draw here. The center houses an outpost of the famed Blue Hill restaurant in New York, and most ingredients are sourced from the farm. The architectural design of this space, by Asfour Guzy Architects, is both refined and farmhouse spare. I had some lovely fiddlehead ferns that I saw growing in the courtyard gardens earlier in the day, and a margarita made with sorrel juice that I won’t soon forget.

The sorrel, along with much of the produce, is grown in a series of greenhouses, which feature ‘sunroofs’ that open on temperate days. Produce is planted directly in earth beds on the floor and rotated to maintain soil integrity. Vegetables grow year round, different varieties for every season, as the greenhouses are minimally heated.

Stone Barns, despite its status as a showcase farm more than a working agricultural farm, is an ideal place for New Yorkers to learn from the environment. With most upstate farmland being fast consumed by suburban houses vying for the title of world’s largest, the Center is a picture-perfect visual reminder of a better way to live on, and learn from, the land.

Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture website

Fortune Cookie Index
December 28, 2006, 3:40 am
Filed under: food, Uncategorized

I recently came to the conclusion that fortune cookie fortunes are largely aspirational, or paranoid. I decided to track my fortunes and create a ratio rating system based on these principles. Feel free to add your own:

“A new business venture is on the horizon” – 90% aspirational, 10% paranoid

“You never know who you touch” – 100% paranoid

“You will be successful someday” – 82% aspirational, 28% paranoid

Recently I have been getting some nicely optimistic ones:

“There’s no problem that cannot be solved over a green tea ice cream.”

“Cooks know the secrect to delicious, nutritious meals. It takes time.”

Recipe: Ham for the Holidays
December 22, 2006, 3:15 am
Filed under: food

A wonderful article in the New York Times by Matt and Ted Lee from last April contained the holy grail of recipes, preparations for chunky cuts of meat, large and hearty enough to sustain an urban cocktail-swilling crowd. Not since my first copy of Joy of Cooking was I so inspired. The clipped recipes were burning a hole in my apron, and one busy week in December I ordered a 25 pound fresh ham and hoped for a Christmas miracle. Below is the recipe for the ham, and also the recipes for the lamb and brisket from the article:

Time: 4 1/2 hours
1 16-to-18-pound fresh ham
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh thyme (from 14 to 16 stems)
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons dry white wine
1/4 cup half-and-half.
1. Place a rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 425 degrees. Trim skin and excess fat from ham, leaving a layer of fat. Score ham all over in a diamond pattern of 1/2-inch-deep cuts about 1 1/2 inches apart.
2. In a small bowl, combine salt, pepper and thyme, pinching and sifting mixture until thyme becomes fragrant. Pat mixture all over ham and into crevices.
3. Place ham fat-side up on a rack in a large roasting pan and roast uncovered for 1/2 an hour. Turn heat down to 350 degrees, pour 2 cups wine and 1/2 cup water into pan and loosely tent with aluminum foil. Continue to roast, basting every hour. Add water to pan, if necessary, to keep pan juices from scorching; bake until a meat thermometer pressed into thickest part of ham reads 155 degrees, about 3 1/2 hours.
4. Let ham stand 15 to 20 minutes before carving. Pour pan juices and remaining 2 tablespoons wine into a small saucepan and simmer about 2 minutes. Turn off flame, add half-and-half, and serve with ham.
Yield: 12 to 14 servings.

Time: 2 hours, plus 4 hours for marinating
1 9-to-11-pound bone-in leg of lamb, trimmed of fat and membrane
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup fruity-tasting olive oil
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon harissa (Moroccan chili paste), more for serving
1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds, toasted and crushed
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Mint dressing (see recipe).
1. Score meaty side of lamb in a diamond pattern of 1/4-inch-deep cuts about 1 1/2 inches apart. Season with salt and pepper, and place scored-side up in a large roasting pan.
2. In a small bowl, whisk olive oil with lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, harissa, coriander seeds and cumin. Pour marinade over lamb and massage into crevices. Cover pan with aluminum foil and refrigerate 2 1/2 hours or overnight. Remove from refrigerator 1 1/2 hours before cooking to return lamb to room temperature; in last 15 minutes, heat oven to 450 degrees.
3. Remove foil from pan and place pan on middle oven rack; turn heat down to 350 degrees. Roast, basting lamb with pan juices every 1/2 hour, until a meat thermometer inserted into thickest part of meat reads 130 degrees, about 1 3/4 hours total. Remove from oven, tent loosely with foil, and let rest 15 minutes before carving. Serve with harissa and mint dressing.
Yield: 8 to 10 servings.

Time: 4 hours
1/4 cup minced garlic (about 12 cloves)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper, more to taste
1 tablespoon kosher salt, more to taste
2 teaspoons light or dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon smoked or hot paprika
1 8-to-9-pound whole brisket, trimmed (see note)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cups chopped yellow onions (about 2 large onions)
1 35-ounce can plus 1 28-ounce can (about 7 cups) peeled tomatoes and liquid
1 1/4 cups fruity white wine.
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a bowl, combine garlic, rosemary, pepper, salt, brown sugar, red pepper and paprika. Place brisket fat-side up in a large, deep roasting pan (about 13 by 16 inches) and rub all over with mixture.
2. Roast brisket, uncovered, for 20 minutes. While brisket cooks, pour olive oil into a large saucepan over medium heat and add onions. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until onion softens, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and their liquid, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Stir occasionally, breaking tomatoes with a spoon or whisk. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes and season to taste with salt and black pepper. Remove brisket from oven. Reduce oven temperature to 325.
3. Pour 1 cup wine and the tomato sauce over brisket. Cover pan as tightly as possible with foil and roast for 3 1/2 hours, turning once at 2 hours and again at 3 hours, each time carefully replacing foil.
4. Transfer brisket to a platter. Allow sauce to settle for a moment in pan, then, using a slotted spoon, transfer to a blender, allowing fat to strain out. Purée until smooth, adding remaining 1/4 cup wine. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Slice brisket diagonally from thinnest end in 1/4-inch slices. Serve with sauce.
Yield: 8 to 10 servings.
Note: A whole brisket is composed of two flat pieces of meat (typically sold separately as ”first cut” and ”second cut”) sandwiched together with a layer of fat between them and with a thick layer of fat along one side. A 12-pound untrimmed whole brisket weighs about 8 pounds when trimmed. If purchasing the brisket untrimmed, trim the external fat to within 1/3 inch or 1/2 inch of the flesh; also, excavate any large cavities of fat between the two layers.

Mint Dressing
Time: 5 minutes
2 cups tightly packed mint leaves, washed and dried
2 tablespoons chopped shallots
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1/2 cup fruity-tasting olive oil
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste.
In a food processor, combine mint, shallots, vinegar, olive oil, garlic and salt until smooth. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
Yield: 1 cup.