Deep Freeze Hudson Valley Harvest makes primo frozen produce

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Chefs, they’re just like us.

Some of New Yorks best culinary minds—including those behind Clean Plates-favorites Pizza Beach, Il Buco and The Fat Radish—are reaching for bags of frozen produce.

The crucial difference: These top-flight chefs aren’t reaching for a brick of frozen peas that looks like it has traveled to the Antarctic and back. Instead, they rely on Hudson Valley Harvest for locally grown, locally frozen goods.

Frozen organic plum tomatoes are great for making sauces and soups.

Now you don’t need to be racked with guilt that you didn’t spend your summer freezing and canning local produce: You can just pick up a bag of Hudson Valley Harvest’s frozen sweet corn or plum tomato puree (all packages $5 for 10 ounces) at any Whole Foods or Gourmet Garage (click here to find a store near you).

Paul Alward, Hudson Valley Harvest’s co-owner and farmer, is immensely proud of his company’s transparency. There’s nothing to hide here—literally, the bags are transparent, and each is marked with the name of the farm (many certified organic) and how far the vegetables traveled to be processed. Produce harvested at its peak goes from field to frozen in fewer than 24 hours. The flash freezing preserves nutrients and flavor and it shows in the quality and color of the final product, like the gorgeously orange butternut puree. This is convenience food at its very best.

For a fun dinner party trick, cook up a pan of the Lacinato kale with garlic, red pepper flakes and coconut oil, or a steaming bowl of heirloom tomato soup, and see if your guests can spot the difference between fresh and frozen.

Our tests at home made for some very shocked eaters.

Hudson Valley Harvest
hv-harvest.com

Lunar Landing Yunnan BBQ does Chinese food right

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If your New Year didn’t get off with the healthy bang that you so desired, Yunnan BBQ is here to give you a second chance.

Snag a place at one of the Lower East Side restaurant’s tables during Chinese New Year, celebrated this year starting on February 7. In addition to the ever-bright flavors of the regular menu, a special $48 prix fixe will be offered February 10-12.

If you’ve never tried food from the Yunnan province of China, you’re in for a treat. Owner Erika Chou, who re-launched the former Yunnan Kitchen as Yunnan BBQ in late 2015, told us to, “think of the area as the California of China.”

Yunnan BBQ has a warm, casual vibe.

On a recent visit, it was easy to see what she meant. The cuisine fetes farm fresh vegetables and relies on sprightly herbs like lemongrass, kaffir lime, mint and ginger. Chou works with local farmers like Cascun Farms, In Line Farms, Radicle Farms and Brooklyn Grange to source ingredients, like mushrooms from New Jersey and whole fish from Long Island, for the menu. Clean eaters will delight in inventive touches like a chia seed vinaigrette here and a flowering shitake there.

The New Year’s menu will include traditional lucky foods for the holiday, including a whole market fish. Other dishes include Yu Sheung Salad with carrot, daikon, cucumber, jicama, crispy taro and tuna sashimi tangling with a body-balancing ume plum dressing (ume has been called “The King of Alkaline Foods”). And antioxidant-packed Goji berries will be just one of the delights found in the Eight Treasure Fried Rice.

Traditionally for the Chinese New Year, the home is cleaned in order to sweep away ill fortune and to make way for incoming luck. We like to think that a meal like this can clear the way for bright new flavors and reaffirm a commitment to clean eating.

With a nod to tradition, the restaurant will be giving out red envelopes, and one will have a very special gift certificate inside.

Isn’t it time you got lucky?

Bowled Over By Inday This Nomad fast-casual Indian eatery is our new lunch go-to

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Instead of calling Inday the “Chipotle of Indian food,” we’re going to call it like we see it, which is: The way we eat now.

At this good looking Indian restaurant which opened in August near Madison Square Park, dishes from the 100 percent gluten- and nut-free kitchen start at a reasonable $8 and the options can be mixed-and-matched in various combinations.

Get in line and the congenial staff will whisk you through the process of choosing a base, protein and toppings. Cauliflower continues its reign as the new kale in the genius “not rice” warm base option, while quinoa and red lentils team up in one of the cool bases. Proteins, including steak in a red spice blend, turkey with onion confit and FreeBird grilled chicken are hormone- and antibiotic-free. Whatever choose-your-own-adventure bowl you go with, you can finish things off with zippy coconut chutney and hot sauce.

Fast casual never looked so good.

Haute cuisine touches (like aromatic spices that are toasted and ground in house) are abundant, because doesn’t your Wednesday 1 p.m. grain bowl deserve to taste as good as your fancy Friday night date meal?

First-time restaurateur, the 28-year-old Basu Ratnam, told us that he got the idea for Inday from his health-conscious mother, who is from Calcutta. “I fell in love with Indian food through her cooking,” he says. “Her dishes were always very light, healthfully spiced with Indian flavors and full of fresh ingredients.”

Unlike so many fast casual spots, Inday is straight up pretty with its lush palm fronds, M.C. Escher-esque tiling and hip seating arrangements that will make you want to sit-and-stay awhile. Inday is open until 9 p.m. every day,so you can come back for dinner too.

Inday’s motto is, “Good Karma Served Daily” and on our visits there, we felt it.

Inday
1133 Broadway, New York
917-521-5012
indaynyc.com

Holding Court Our clean picks at The Pennsy

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Anyone who’s tried to find a delicious and healthy meal around Penn Station knows that the area is pretty much a clean-eating wasteland. Make that was a wasteland, until last week when The Pennsy, an upscale food court, opened at Pennsylvania Plaza in the space that previously housed a Borders Books.

The airy 8,000-square-foot complex (with outdoor seating coming in warmer months) includes stalls from notable chefs like Mario Batali, Marc Forgione and Franklin Becker, among others. It’s already getting plenty of buzz in foodie circles, and the lunchtime crowds prove it (hint: arrive before noon to guarantee a seat at one of the communal tables or couches). After making multiple visits, we’re excited to report that not only are the food court’s eats tasty, but there’s also plenty that’s Clean Plates approved. Here are our recommendations:

The Little Beet: The Midtown outpost of chef Franklin Becker’s fast-casual The Little Beet is one of our faves for healthy, gluten-free New American fare with a focus on seasonal, local and responsibly sourced ingredients, and while the menu at this stand is smaller, the dishes are just as pleasing. You can’t go wrong with any of the veggie-focused bowls and oversized fish- or chicken-filled sushi rolls that handle like a burrito. But we were partial to the Beet Box ($13), which comes with a fragrantly spiced vegetarian patty—made with a protein-packed blend of lentils, chickpeas and quinoa—served with minty raita, beet-quinoa salad and soba salad.

 

Marc Forgione, just before stepping into his kitchen at The Pennsy.

Lobster Press: The chili lobster at chef Marc Forgione’s namesake TriBeCa restaurant was so popular that he built a whole stall around it at The Pennsy. You can get the lobster, which Lobster Press partner Homarus catches fresh daily in Maine, pressed in a panini ($17) or—our favorite—served in a salad ($17) with gluten-free sorghum, arugula and seasonal vegetables like crispy Brussels sprouts and sweet butternut squash cubes. Either way, the side of warm, spicy-creamy sauce spiked with ginger, garlic and chilies was so good that we were tempted to just drink it straight.

Cinnamon Snail: The first stationary location of this popular vegan, organic food truck offers over-the-top sandwiches and bowls with an exuberant mashup of flavors from Korea, Thailand, Vietnam and beyond. While the seitan-based Beastmode Burger ($10.95) is a popular pick, we gravitated to the Thai BBQ tempeh sandwich ($9.95) with pickled red onions, Thai basil, arugula and smoked chili-roasted peanuts on grilled spelt bread. Bonus: Any item can be served on gluten-free millet-flax bread or, for a few bucks extra, over greens and red quinoa pilaf. The Snail’s popular doughnuts and other vegan desserts are also available at the stand.

Pat LaFrieda: Carnivores will want to head over to the debut eatery from locally legendary butcher Pat LaFrieda (he’s famous for supplying many of the best restaurants in New York with custom burger blends and other meats). You’ll find all manner of sandwiches made with hormone- and antibiotic-free meats. Robust, juicy choices include the classic tomato-sauced meatball sub ($12), the Black Angus steak sandwich ($15) and the house-roasted turkey sandwich ($12). For the bread adverse, there are seasonal plates such as the super-tender braised boneless short ribs served with a slightly sweet celery root slaw ($15). Packaged meats and burger blends are also for sale to take home.

Mario by Mary: For another super meatball sub, try the panini ($12.50) from this Italian collaboration between Mario Batali and caterer Mary Guliani. The meatballs are made with a blend of pork and beef from—who else?—Pat LaFrieda, and they’re topped with escarole, pecorino and mozzarella for a sandwich that’s rich and gooey without being greasy. In addition to hot and cold sandwiches, there are hearty seasonal soups ($5.50 for 12 ounces; $7 for 16 ounces), including white bean and rosemary and a chicken and kale stracciatella that’s going to be our go-to cold-fighter this winter.

The Pennsy
2 Pennsylvania Plaza (7th Avenue and 33rd Street), New York
thepennsy.nyc

Urban Decay How to compost like a pro

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If you take a stroll around the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens or Park Slope, you may notice the area’s hottest new accessory: a brown plastic bin.

These receptacles are part of the city’s ever-expanding Curbside Organics Collection Pilot Program. The simple translation for the municipal jargon: you put your kitchen’s organic matter (see a full list of acceptable items here) into the bin and the city collects and turns it into nutrient-rich compost that can be used as soil.

But if your neighborhood isn’t yet part of the city-sponsored pilot program (find out here), you can still find a way to get in on the compost fun. The NYC Compost Project hosts drop-off sites in all five boroughs (see a map of the sites here and learn what you can drop off).

Forgo the food waste.

Roughly 40 percent of food produced in America never makes it to the table, equaling more than 20 pounds of food per person per month. Think of compost as a serious slim down for all of your kitchen waste. By committing to composting in your kitchen this year, you will significantly reduce your contribution to landfills (and the resulting harmful greenhouse gas methane) and as a bonus; you’ll get to take the trash out less.

Our preferred method is to put our compost on ice: We keep a small box in the freezer where we chuck our egg shells, tea bags and other kitchen scraps on a daily basis. When it’s time to put everything in the bin or walk it over to the Greenmarket, there is no muss, no fuss and, most importantly, no smell.

Even the city’s top chefs are getting in on composting. Roxanne Spruance, the chef and owner at the new East Village hotspot Kinglsey, told us, “I am very proud to say we are producing only one black bag of trash a night that sees a landfill! Almost everything is recycled and composted.”

Is your kitchen going on a compost diet this year?

Wrap ‘N’ Roll Uma Temakaria is shaking up sushi

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Californians have been having all the fun with sushi burritos: These extra-large, tubular takes on the traditional cone shaped hand rolls known as temaki have been creating buzz up and down the Pacific coast. Now, New Yorkers can get in on the deliciousness at Uma Temakeria.

Head to either of Uma Temakeria’s locations—the original in Chelsea, or the just-opened spot in food conglomerate powerhouse, Gotham West Market—for the chance to wrap your hand around one.

If you catch acclaimed chef Chris Jaeckle at work at his restaurant All’onda he might be twirling rigatoni together with an aged duck ragu, but at Uma Temakeria, his latest venture, he is all about the wrap and roll of sustainably sourced seafood and seasonal vegetables.

Everything is made to order at Uma Temakeria.

The ordering process at both outposts of Uma Temakeria is simple, efficient and totally customizable. First, choose a format for your meal: options include the temaki ($6), the sushi burritos ($10) and chirashi bowls ($12). Then choose one of the preset combos or DIY it with your mixture of fillings and condiments. We loved being able to pick shredded kale as a base for our Atlantic salmon (a Green “Best Choice” on the Monterey Bay Aquarium Watch Program), avocado slices and sesames seeds one day, and brown rice as the anchor for zesty tofu, seasonal pickles and scallions the next.

A side of spicy miso soup ($3.50) and a glass of rejuvenating ginger green tea ($3) are just the things to take the edge off on a chilly day.

At Uma Temakeria, the staff is exceptionally friendly and they make each hand-roll to order—meaning you should be prepared for a wait that’s a smidge longer than grabbing a plastic box of premade sushi—but it is all for the greater tasty good. The Gotham West Market sports a sushi bar where you can witness the rolling action, while the Union-Square-area original offers a dedicated storefront.

The burritos are delicious, but the focus on sustainably sourced seafood like line-caught tuna and New England flounder makes Uma Temakeria notable. “Our global outlook prioritizes sustainability and respect for our ecosystem,”Jaeckle told us in an interview. “By using fish from ocean-friendly fisheries, Uma hopes to create a greater consumer demand for responsibly sourced cuisine.”

If the line of customers at Uma Temakeria’s counter is any indicator, the demand is high and the results divine.

Uma Temakeria
64 7th Ave, NY 10011
646 360 3260
umatemakeria.com

Loafin’ Around Two new books for the bread lover in all of us

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Fear and avoidance of bread is rampant these days, even among those without a gluten allergy. And that makes sense if you’re looking at a typical grocery store loaf, which is generally constructed from bleached white flour made from industrialized wheat—a formula that makes for bread that’s not that tasty or good for you.

But a small yet growing group of bakers is showing that bread can be wholesome and delicious, if—like with so many things—we go back to the way it used to be made. That means better, fresher flour, slower fermentation techniques and traditional recipes.

Two new books from locals exemplify this movement. Read on to learn why it’s time for bread to rejoin your table (and to get a great recipe).

Lavash Crackers from the Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook (recipe below).

Bien Cuit: The Art of Bread by Zachary Golper and Peter Kaminsky ($50): Baker Zachary Golper is driving the artisanal revival in North American baking from his Brooklyn kitchen. At first glance this tome may seem intimidating, but sit with it a bit, add a bowl, an oven, and patience and you’ll be well on your way to bread with soul—no PhD in breadology needed. Golper breaks down his cold, slow fermentation technique, which results in complex tangy flavors and a dark mahogany crust. Need more incentive to get baking now? Recipes for Late-Harvest Carrot Rolls and Whole Wheat Bread with Pumpkin Seeds are just begging to join a holiday feast.

The Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook: Artisanal Baking from Around the World by Jessamyn Waldman Rodriguez and Julia Turshen ($35): Behind Hot Bread Kitchen’s chewy Indian naan and grindstone rye with wheat berries and oats, a powerful mission prevails. The East Harlem bakery employs and empowers immigrant women, providing them with the skills to succeed in the culinary industry with traditional recipes from their homelands. Hot Bread Kitchen’s CEO and founder, Jessamyn Waldman Rodriguez, shared the recipe for versatile Whole Wheat Lavash Crackers with Sesame Seeds, a crisp variation on Armenian flatbread. Waldman Rodriguez notes in the recipe heading, “You can easily substitute other toppings for the sesame seeds, including poppy seeds, nigella seeds, or za’atar—or simply sprinkle them with kosher salt.”

Whole Wheat Lavash Crackers
with Sesame Seeds

Makes 18 (6-inch/15 cm) square crackers
1¼ cups/295 g lukewarm water
2½ cups/315 g bread flour, plus more for shaping
1½ cups/195 g whole wheat flour
¼ cup/55 g extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
2¾ teaspoons kosher salt vegetable oil
3 teaspoons sesame seeds

1. Combine the water, bread flour, whole wheat flour, olive oil, honey, and 2 teaspoons of the salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix on medium-low until a firm, supple dough forms and the sides of the bowl are clean, about 6 minutes. Do the window test (see below) to check to see if the gluten is fully formed.

2. Transfer the dough to a floured surface and divide it into 3 equal pieces (about 10½ ounces/300 g each). Cover the pieces loosely with plastic wrap or put them in a large plastic bag and let them rest at room temperature for 15 minutes.

3. Preheat the oven to 325°F/165°C.

4. Use a brush or your fingers to coat the underside of a 13 × 18-inch/ 33 × 46 cm rimmed baking sheet with vegetable oil. On a floured surface, roll out a piece of dough into a rectangle slightly larger than the surface of the baking sheet. If the dough springs back when you’re rolling it, let it rest for a few minutes. Drape the rectangle over the underside of the baking sheet so it hangs over the edges a little.

5. Put the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 5 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and spray the surface of the lavash lightly with water from a spray bottle. Sprinkle the top with ¼ teaspoon of the salt and 1 teaspoon of the sesame seeds. Use a pizza wheel to cut the lavash into 6 squares, about 6 inches/15 cm. For flat crackers, cut along the edge of the pan (see photo).

6. Lower the temperature to 280°F/140°C. Cover the pan of lavash with a sheet of parchment paper and put a second baking sheet, inverted, on top, sandwiching the lavash between the pans. Bake the crackers until they’re browned and crisp, about 35 minutes.

7. Repeat the process with the remaining pieces of dough.

8. Let the crackers cool completely before eating (they will continue to crisp as they cool). Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.

Window Test:
Whether you mix your dough in a mixer or by hand, the final check to make sure the gluten in your dough is properly developed is called the windowpane test. Tear off a small piece of dough about the size of a golf ball. If it is sticky, dredge it through a little extra flour to make it easy to handle. Use your hands to gently stretch the dough from all sides until it forms a thin, nearly transparent layer that you can see the light through if you hold it up to an actual window or light. If you can stretch the dough to that state, it means the gluten is developed and your bread is ready to rise. Simply press the small dough ball back into the large one and proceed. If, on the other hand, your dough tears before you can stretch it thin enough to see the light through it, keep kneading it until it passes the test.

Wine Time Get cozy and go natural at this wine bar

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There are plenty of folks who are going gaga about the person fronting the wine bar and restaurant The Four Horsemen in Williamsburg: LCD Soundsystem singer-songwriter James Murphy.

But to us the real celebrity at the joint is the 200-bottle-strong natural wine list, making the Four Horsemen, which opened earlier this year, a mecca for anyone concerned about what is going into their wine besides grapes.

“Natural wines, real wines, or whatever the term of the moment is, is wine made with native yeast and little or no technological intervention during the winemaking process,” Randy Moon, another partner in The Four Horsemen, told Clean Plates. “That means no added chemicals, enzymes and minimal sulfur at bottling.”

Photo credit: Justin Chung

Even if you know nothing about wine, you will be in good hands here. The little space shines from the street with its white-and-natural-wood interiors and the globe-spanning wines—many of which are organic or biodynamic—go beautifully with a menu of inventive, seasonal small plates like roasted sunchokes with salsa verde and capers ($14) and beets with shishito peppers and smoked pecans ($14).

Moon shared three choices for cold-weather friendly Italian bottles. Stop in to the Four Horseman to raise a glass (the every-rotating by-the-glass selection tops out at $15 a glass), or pick up a bottle at your neighborhood wine seller.

Toscana ‘Chiesino’ Trebbiano, Vermentino Podere Di Rosa 2013 ($48): This organic Tuscan wine is actually categorized as “orange,” a white wine made like a red.

Terre Siciliane ‘Grillo’ Nino Barraco 2012 ($79): Hailing from the western side of Sicily, this fresh golden yellow wine is made with native yeast.

Gabrio Bini Zibbibo Secco Serragghia 2011 ($90): Totally unfiltered, this wine is made from handpicked grapes that are left to ferment slowly in clay amphorae without the use of sulfur.

The Four Horsemen
295 Grand Street, Brooklyn, 11211
718-599-4900
fourhorsemenbk.com

Yes, Virginia Greenmarket ingredients go chic at this new East Villager

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At Virginia’s in the East Village, kale finally breaks free of its salad shackles. Instead of massaged into a raw salad, you’ll find it slowly braised and paired with seared cuttlefish and Moroccan olives on the small plates section of the menu ($15).

Like the kale and cuttlefish dish, just about everything on the ever changing American menu features the expected seasonal farmers market ingredients, but with creative twists. For instance, the grilled white shrimp with matzutake mushrooms (also a small plate) comes with transparent slivers of shaved Buddha’s hand and a flurry of the Japanese chili mix togarashi ($15). A plate of caramelized romanesco is dressed up with smoked pine nuts, Vermont clothbound cheddar and a speck vinaigrette ($14). We knew fall had really arrived when we spooned into the rightfully rich butternut squash risotto with porcinis, crunchy pecans and–oddly, but deliciously–tarragon ($20).

We loved the cushy banquettes at Virginia’s.

Chefs Reed Adelson (a veteran of Locanda Verde) and Christian Ramos (formerly of Per Se) have a number of things in common: In addition to the fact that they both happen to have a mother named Virginia, they share an obsession with sourcing the very best ingredients. Trips to the Union Square Greenmarket four days a week are a given. Ramos is also particularly proud of his relationship with Pennsylvania’s Irwin Mushrooms, who he has been working with for over six years–their mushrooms justly get star billing on the menu. His beef source hits even closer to home: He gets his from his father who imports grass-fed beef from Uruguay.

On a recent night when we stopped in, the place was empty at 7 p.m. but filled and sporting a full waitlist by 8 p.m. With plenty of candlelight and a warm ambiance supported by a welcoming staff and the chefs’ cheerful willingness to accommodate all dietary restrictions, Virginia’s has been kicked to the top of our date night list.

Even with fine-dining touches dabbled through the menu, the vibe manages to remain friendly and casual enough to just pop by and slide into a cushy banquette and settle down at a burnished oak table.

We imagine the chefs’ namesake mamas would approve.

Virginia’s
647 E 11th St.
212-658-0152
virginiasnyc.com

Zen Luxury Wild seafood and seasonal veggies get the royal treatment

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The interior of the new Brooklyn outpost of East Village stalwart Wasan—which opened on Bergen near the Barclays Center in August—may be sparse as a monk’s cell, but the food is downright luxurious. That dichotomy makes perfect sense for kaiseki, a style of Japanese cooking born from the happy marriage of vegetarian Zen monastery cuisine with labor-intensive royal formality. Where else can you eat wild horse mackerel, dramatically arched on the plate like a pirate ship’s sail ($16)?

Wasan’s seaweed salad is punched up with chia seeds.

The luxury comes by way of the Waldorf Astoria’s Inagiku, where Wasan chefs Ryota Kitagawa and Kakusaburo Sakurai both worked. But the majority of the ingredients have a more rustic pedigree, with a greenmarket-driven menu featuring seasonal ingredients from Norwich Meadows Farms and specialty produce from Windfall Farms. On one visit, an eggplant amuse-bouche, carved like a hasselback potato, arrived before the pumpkin crab cakes ($9) and seaweed salad with chia seeds ($8).

At Wasan, expect quality ingredients prepared carefully. Don’t skip the lively array of house-pickled vegetables, such as sweet vinegar watermelon radishes ($7.50) and Brussels sprouts with curry vinegar. The wild Long Island fluke carpaccio is smattered with microgreens as tender as clover ($15), while the organic fried chicken is hit with citrus, scallions and soy sauce ($9.50).

The menu includes healthy ingredients, like quinoa and chia seeds, explained sommelier Toshiyuki Koizumi, speaking on behalf of the restaurant. “Because whatever you put in your mouth, it becomes part of your body.”

Wasan
440 Bergen Street
Brooklyn Address
(347) 725-3550