She’s bloomin’ Eat plants and be merry with April Bloomfield's newest cookbook

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It’s hard to imagine April Bloomfield cooking without meat.

Exhibit A: Her perpetually packed restaurant, The Spotted Pig, heaves with bacon wrapped dates and crispy pig’s ear salad, not to mention a world-famous burger.

Exhibit B: Her first cookbook, A Girl and Her Pig, whose cover featured a pig draped just-so over her shoulders.

But April’s new cookbook, A Girl and Her Greens: Hearty Meals from the Garden ($35) offers a chance to get to know her in a whole new way.

The book serves up over 80 inspired, seasonal recipes from this internationally acclaimed chef who won the 2014 James Beard Foundation award for Best Chef: New York City. It’s also a wonderful reminder that she worked under ingredient-driven cooking pioneer and noted vegetable stickler Alice Waters at Chez Panisse.

The book is decidedly vegetable-centric, but it’s not wholly vegetarian. April declares, “I’m not saying vegetables should aspire to be like meat. I’m just saying that meat eaters will appreciate these qualities, and that vegetables can satisfy you the way meat does.”

“Vegetables make you happy when they’re there, and miss them when they’re gone.”—April Bloomfield

The book is flush with personality, charming illustrations and April-isms like “inner fuss-bucket,” recipe titles like “If-It-Ain’t Broke Eggplant Caponata” and directions that instruct you to “smoosh” ingredients. Flipping through the book gives you the feeling that you are cooking alongside a friend (albeit one who’s an award-winning chef).

April reminds us that, “I like the limits that the seasons impose. I like having something to look forward to. I don’t even mind when nature disappoints me with a bad year for corn or tomatoes. You develop an almanac in your head—like, “Oh, peas were so bad that year.” When great ones return, you get to think, ‘Finally, lovely peas!’ Vegetables make you happy when they’re there, and miss them when they’re gone.”

With those peas rolling into a farmers market near you in mind, we snagged April’s recipe for crushed spring peas with mint. It’s lovely as a dip for raw veg, like radishes, carrots and wedges of fennel.

Crushed Spring Peas with Mint

Makes about 2 cups
2 cups fresh peas (from about 2 pounds pods)
1 ounce aged pecorino, finely grated
1½ teaspoons Maldon or another flaky sea salt
1 small spring garlic clove or
½ small garlic clove, smashed, peeled, and roughly chopped
12 medium mint leaves (preferably black mint)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Scant 2 tablespoons lemon juice, plus more for finishing

Combine the ingredients in a food processor and pulse to a coarse puree, about 45 seconds. Scrape the mixture into a bowl and roughly stir and smoosh a bit so it’s a little creamy and a little chunky. Season to taste with more salt and lemon juice—you want it to taste sweet and bright but not acidic.

From A Girl and Her Greens by April Bloomfield. Copyright 2015 April Bloomfield. Excerpted by permission of Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

Hidden Kitchens Get home schooled (literally) at a League of Kitchens class

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Step onto Sunny’s porch in Bayside, Queens and the first thing you’ll notice is a crock of soy sauce fermenting.

Step inside her kitchen and you’ll learn the secrets to making watercress salad with toasted sesame seeds and pajeon (scallion pancakes) made with organic eggs and just the faintest dusting of flour.

The only way to gain entrance to Sunny’s place? That would be League of Kitchens.

League of Kitchens is an immersive culinary adventure where immigrants teach intimate cooking workshops in their own homes ($95 to $145).

The idea was cooked up by Lisa Gross, the grandchild of a Korean immigrant. Lisa’s grandmother was so intent on making sure that her grandchild studied that she kept her out of the kitchen. As an adult, Lisa had a B.A. from Yale to show for her efforts, but couldn’t replicate the flavors of her grandmother’s cooking. “Nothing I made ever tasted as good as my grandmother’s food,” she says.

League of kitchens is a hands-on cooking class under the guidance of a seasoned home cook.

This experience led her to dream up League of Kitchens, which can connect you with instructors from every pocket of the world, including Trinidad, Afghanistan and Greece. Many of the instructors also grow their own produce—like Sunny, who grows 20 varieties of vegetables and six different fruit trees.

The experience of being in a stranger’s home means this is an intimate cooking experience, best for those adventurous at heart. However, any lingering awkwardness is easy to gloss over when you are welcomed so warmly with green tea and personal tales. The benefit of learning next to a seasoned cook means you’ll get to pick up on those subtle but important techniques and tricks that so often get left out of written recipes.

After cooking alongside the instructor, you will sit down to enjoy your dishes and hear more stories. Best of all: The leftovers go home with you, along with new recipes and a huge helping of inspiration.

Life is a beach Pizza as healthy as they come on the UES

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If pizza grew in fields, it would look something like the pies at Pizza Beach.

There’s a pizza made almost violet with a mess of roasted beets, dots of fresh chèvre and sprigs of micro arugula ($19). The purple kale and butternut squash pie ($19) makes a beloved combination even better, and swoops of Japanese eggplant update classic cherry tomatoes and basil ($18). Gluten-free crusts are available for every pizza as well.

The menu is clearly and helpfully marked with symbols for vegetarian (more than half of the pies offered are vegetarian-friendly) and vegan options like a cannellini bean hummus ($12) served with radish, snap pea and fennel crudités.

This Upper East Side spot by the Martignetti brothers (the same family behind Clean Plates’ picks The East Pole and Brinkley’s) is decked out in whitewashed brick walls, strings of lights, surfboards and copious plants.

Pro tip: order a couple of pies to share so you can indulge in a variety of toppings (plus have leftovers for home)!

The vibe here may be relaxed retro surfside chic, but this pizza joint is stringent when it comes to sourcing: all of the meats and cheeses are free of hormones and antibiotics. That slight bit of sweetness in the dough is courtesy of Hudson Valley Harvest honey. The lamb merguez in the impressive combination of sausage, shishito peppers, fresh cilantro and Oaxaca cheese ($20) is made with grass-fed lamb from the Catskills and contains no nitrates or other preservatives.

The brothers say, “All in all, we like to think our pizzas are as healthy as pizzas can possibly be, without being a carrot!”

With a location that is well situated near The Met and Central Park, this is a place to know about and remember.

See you at the Beach.

Pizza Beach
1426 3rd Ave.
646-666-0819
pizzabeachclub.com

Radically different Radicle Farm will up your salad game

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Has this ever happened to you? You buy greens at the market with the best of intentions ➙ Forget about the greens ➙ Discover the muck formerly known as greens ➙ @#%!* ➙ Experience locally grown greens guilt ➙ Vow to do better next time.

Circumvent this vicious cycle by changing your salad game with Radicle Farm Company. Forgotten greens are what propelled the founders of Radicle Farm to look for an alternative. Eating fewer greens wasn’t the answer, but changing the system was. Radicle’s greens are beyond fresh—they’re still alive. This mixed baby lettuce, Shanghai spinach (tatsoi and komatsuna blend) or California Peppergrass (mix of red and green mizuna, baby kale, tatsoi and romaine) ($4 for 4.5 ounces) comes to your door in recyclable containers from a farm in Newark with roots attached, ready to be cut, rinsed and served.

Managing Director Christopher Washington says, “When we did our research, we saw that some retailers throw out nearly 70 percent of bagged salad before they can sell it. Everyone knows about bagged salad’s horrible food safety record and massive recalls, but we also began to see that the only way to prevent those outbreaks is to bleach the salad before it hits the bag, which is, of course, gross.”

Radicle salads use one-tenth of the water in comparison to traditional agriculture and 50 percent less electricity in comparison to hydroponics.

Not only does their system cut waste at home, but it stops waste at the market and in the growing cycle too: Radicle salad has twice the shelf life of bagged salad products. Growing the lettuce in coconut fiber trays uses one-tenth of the water in comparison to traditional agriculture and 50 percent less electricity in comparison to hydroponics. Instead of spraying harsh pesticides and chemicals, Radicle Farms uses an army of ladybugs and beneficial nematodes and is in the process of becoming certified organic. Chefs around the city are already on board: When you eat salad at Locanda Verde, Little Park, Gramercy Tavern and others, you are eating Radicle salad.

You can find Radicle greens at FreshDirect.com, Whole Foods, Down To Earth Farmers Markets in Park Slope and Harlem, selected Greenmarkets and in Quinciple boxes.

At home, we love leaving the salad out on our counter as a living centerpiece, watering the roots of the plant daily to keep the compost moist and grabbing a leaf or two every time we walk by.

As the bird turns Papa Poule's chicken is as good as it gets

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If you step outside in lower Manhattan today, the glorious smell of chickens being roasted to a golden crisp might just knock you upside your head.

Your nostrils can thank Soho’s new Papa Poule, and your belly will thank Armand Arnal, Benjamin Sormonte and Elisa Marshall.

If those names sound familiar, that’s because we recently raved about this team’s other project, Maman, the South of France-inspired bakery and café that harkens to meals prepared by a doting French mother.

In creating the handsome Papa Poule, the partners wanted to honor their fathers. “We created Maman to celebrate our mothers’ recipes from our childhood, though our dads played a big part in our life as well,” explains partner Benjamin Sormonte. “Collectively, it was a tradition to eat chicken with the whole family on Sundays, prepared and cooked by our dads. Papa Poule celebrates this tradition.”

Papa Poule’s sides: delicious and perfect accompaniments. 

Sormonte and team source organic, free-range, Québécoise birds. Once the birds land in the shop, they are marinated with olive oil and massaged with a heavy dose of garlic, thyme, and rosemary before being put on the rotisserie (a quarter chicken with two sides is $12.50; a half chicken with one side is $15, and a whole chicken is $19).

While Papa Poule is an itty-bitty takeout joint, the team sure packs a bombastic amount of flavor into each chicken. Spring will bring salads loaded with local produce, homemade pitas and chicken and egg breakfast items.

Just follow your nose to the chalkboard sign.

Papa Poule
189 Lafayette St.
212-226-8726
papapoulenyc.com

Burger king Made by Lukas changes the veggie burger game

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Lukas Volger wrote the book on veggie burgers.

Literally: He’s the author of Veggie Burgers Every Which Way.

So there are few people out there as qualified to know just what makes an excellent veggie burger. No wonder Volger’s line of burgers, Made by Lukas are some of the best we’ve ever tasted.

We love that Lukas doesn’t let his product be hemmed in by the “traditional” shape of a burger. Instead of coming in pre-formed frozen pucks, the fresh mixes allow you to make whatever shape you’d like, from a hulking patty to petite bites.

Lukas Volger, aka Mr. veggie burger

Made by Lukas offers three unconventional flavors, all made from easily recognizable whole foods (no mystery ingredients here): Beet, Carrot & Parsnip, and Kale ($9 to $11; see where to buy them here). Says Lukas, “They’re comprised primarily—80 percent—of fresh vegetables, which we source up in the Hudson Valley whenever possible, and are rounded off with quinoa, seeds, millet, and spices. There’s no soy, wheat, dairy, or any weird additives. The primary concept here is that it’s a veggie burger that tastes like delicious vegetables.”

Lukas loves forming little silver-dollar bites from the beet variety and serving them with hummus. In our kitchen, we found the burger mixes to be fun to play around with, easy to form and a snap to cook to a nice caramelized crust in a skillet lightly oiled with olive or coconut oil.

We love them on top of a dark greens salad with a swipe of yogurt and preserved lemon, crumbled into stir frys or flattened into a vegetable pancake topped with a fried egg.

What will you come up with?

Up, up and away Upland is a culinary double-threat

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Feeling frustrated at your lack of ability to cross space and time borders? Head to Upland: it’s like visiting California and Italy at the same time.

This newly opened Flatiron restaurant from Justin Smillie is a beacon of bright citrus, California cool and Italian warmth. Smillie, who previously worked at perennial favorite, Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria, has taken his Italian training and crossed it with his California roots. “I was born in Upland, California, and the region’s straightforward approach to cooking, as well as its produce, continues to inspire me today,” says Smillie.

Interesting vegetable preparations abound. There is the hunk of maitake mushrooms crisped in olive oil and resting on a bed of tangy farmstead cheese ($16), beets with white chocolate ($11) and slow-roasted celery root with black truffle butter ($15).

Upland’s porcelet comes draped with greens, Jimmy Nardello peppers,onions and persimmon slices.

We loved that every main dish we tried highlighted vegetables and none of them were overcooked or hidden under heavy sauces. Take the porcelet ($35): this crackling piece of pork is ringed with slender, sweet heirloom Jimmy Nardello peppers from Norwich Meadows Farm, charred onions and pieces of persimmon.

Upland can’t change the weather outside, but it can give you the warm fuzzies with its food, technique and welcoming atmosphere (no question about food or ingredients is unwelcome here). The word has already gotten out, so make a reservation in advance, show up early to snag a seat at the handsome bar or try your luck at lunch.

Upland
345 Park Avenue S.
www.uplandnyc.com
211-686-1006

Darling Darrow’s Union Square gets the healthful spot it deserves

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What’s in a name? Everything if you are Darrow’s Farm Fresh Takeout.

Although we would also happily call the new Union Square spot “We Want to Eat Lunch Here Every Day.”

Darrow’s takes a cue from its neighbor and sources as much as it can from the Greenmarket. Nutritionist Julie Starr, along with chef David Kupperberg formerly of Pure Food & Wine are the dream team who are making this menu hum.

Start your day with sheep’s milk or coconut yogurt and seasonal fruit ($4.75). Grey mornings that require an infusion of color will benefit from pan-seared peppers with polenta and avocado ($8.75).

At lunch it’s all about the Functional Plates ($13.75), which are a balanced meal with a goal (such as stress relief, energy or immunity) in mind: For instance, The Immunity Plate is a striking mix of black rice with kabocha squash, roasted carrots and broccolini.

The living wall and iPad ordering system makes Darrow’s the hippest place to grab a bite.

Darrow’s is casual enough for a lunch meeting, but sleek enough for a pre-dinner boozy cocktail with cold-pressed juice ($11 to 15) while oohing and ahhing at the living wall upstairs. Keep your eyes out for the cow that sporadically makes an appearance on the screen near the in-house market.

For all its simple, nutritious food, Darrow’s is also super high-tech. Self-service iPads at every table speed up the ordering process. When you settle on what you want (no easy feat), your order is sent directly to the kitchen and you can pay whenever you’d like.

Darrow’s kicks restrictive labels like “vegan,” “raw” and “macrobiotic” to the curb, in favor of clean, unprocessed and local food. Darrow’s shows you don’t have to adhere religiously to any fervent food philosophy to be eating well. We raise our glass of Darrow’s Detox (parsley, kale, green apple, mango, almond milk, lemon and ginger; $10) to that.

Darrow’s Farm Fresh Takeout
115 E. 18th St.
212-321-0997
darrowsnyc.com

Galen’s Almanac A new West Village spot puts seasonal vegetables at the fore

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We’re just going to come out and say it: Almanac is simply wonderful.

And if this weather continues, we’re giving notice to our landlord and putting in a request with chef Galen Zamarra to see if we can move in permanently.

There’s the bar, helmed with large blocks of stone and dotted with votive candles. Overhead circular iron chandeliers lend intimate light and the tables have honest-to-goodness linen tablecloths. The friendly service, lovely place settings and low noise level are all on point. Read: This is a place to make a reservation, commit to a tasting menu, have a real conversation and generally revel in a grown-up night out.

Chef Galen Zamarra (of Mas (farmhouse)) is not just into seasonality, he’s into micro-seasons. Zamarra believes that each part of the season (for instance, early fall, mid-fall and late fall) has its own distinctive bounty, rhythm and growing cycle nuance.

Make a reservation and enjoy a grown-up night out at Almanac.

For example, Zamarra juices his squash at the beginning of its harvest and roasts it at the end, because the squash’s moisture changes throughout the season. Nose-to-tail here doesn’t just refer to eliminating waste and using the whole animal, but also to the fish and vegetables he sources: No part gets left behind.

Experience his hyper-seasonal vision with a three-course menu for $75, five-courses for $95, or eight for $145.

Our recent visit had us raving over roasted Island Creek Oysters mingling with ribbons of buttery leeks and pears and parsnips. Zamarra is having a particular love affair right now with the wintry taste of pine. Find wild steelhead trout smoked with pine and juniper and a dish of celery root carpaccio draped with shaved matsutake mushrooms, pine aioli and a smoked pine vinegar.

Have you made your reservation yet?

Almanac
28 Seventh Ave.
212-255-1795
almanacnyc.com

Nut case Tigernuts are utterly delicious

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We’re going nuts over a nut that isn’t really a nut. Stick with us on this one.

Tigernuts: They’ve got nut in the name, but they are not technically a nut. They are actually tubers (like carrots or parsnips) that grow underground.

High in fiber and proteins, these sweet, slightly nutty tasting tubers put the super in superfood. Tigernuts have as much iron as spinach and as much potassium as coconut water. They are rich in oleic acid—the stuff we love in olive oil—as well as in vitamins C and E. These wrinkly little guys are the also a leading source of resistant starch, a pre-biotic fiber that fuels the good probiotic bacteria in your stomach.

Co-founders George Papanastasatos and Mariam Kinkladze quality checking their tigernuts.

Mariam Kinkladze discovered tigernuts in Niger while doing humanitarian work. Fascinated by how great she felt after eating them, she dove into research and testing and eventually founded Organic Gemini, which specializes in tigernut products.

Now you can head to the Meatpacking District’s Gansevoort Market (near the south entrance to the High Line), where Organic Gemini has set up its flagship booth.

We are huge fans of Kinkladze’s healthy version of horchata ($9); her chai version is sugar free and spiked with Ceylon (Sri Lankan) cinnamon and Himalayan pink salt. Anyone with gluten senstitvies or nut allergies should be psyched to discover tigernut flour ($13); it bakes up beautifully with a rich flavor reminiscent of chestnuts. Tigernut oil ($19) has a golden color, rich taste and can be used like olive oil. Pro tip: If you want to chomp on the tubers themselves ($6), try giving them a soak to soften up.

Organic Gemini
Gansevoort Market
52 Gansevoort St.
212-242-1701