Marta Teegen, the author of Homegrown: A Growing Guide for Creating a Cook’s Garden (Rodale, 2010), is stopping by my kitchen today. Check out her crisp summer salad recipe and her unusual salt habits!
Marta is a trained master gardener and chef. She worked in politics and in the nonprofit sector before pursuing her lifelong love of gardening and cooking. She owns Homegrown Los Angeles, a garden design business that connects urban residents with the flavors and pleasures of homegrown food. Visit her website at www.homegrownlosangeles.com.
Why is living organic important to you?
For me, living organic is the key to living well: Selecting foods that were produced without the use of harmful chemicals is good for your health, for the environment, and for the workers who produced them. Better still, growing your own organic fruits and vegetables provides you with incredibly delicious ingredients to cook with and allows you to enjoy the fresh flavors of your garden at their best.
What was your favorite food growing up?
Raspberries. Every year on my birthday, my mother would serve raspberries for dessert—which is not an easy feat, as my birthday is in November!
What’s your go-to comfort food now?
Greens and beans, with a glass of wine. I love simple, hearty food served in a single bowl. Cannellini beans with shallots and herbs from the garden, plus whatever greens I have growing, braised with chicken stock and garlic, are incredibly tasty together. Drizzle a little olive oil over the top, serve with a thick slice of toasted bread, and wash it all down with red wine!
From Homegrown by Marta Teegen, Rodale Books, 2010:
Summer Special Salad
4 cups arugula, torn into bite-size pieces
3 or 4 lemon cucumbers, cut into quarters or bite-size cubes
½ Charentais melon, peeled, seeded, and cut into bite-size cubes
6 sprigs mint, leaves torn
1/3 cup crumbled feta
1/3 cup sliced raw almonds, lightly toasted
Extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of ½ lemon
Coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 handful borage blossoms
1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the arugula, cucumbers, melon, mint, feta, and almonds.
2. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice, and toss. Taste. Add more oil if desired.
3. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and toss again.
4. Garnish with borage blossoms.
What’s the one thing in your kitchen you just couldn’t live without?
Maldon sea salt—I use it at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Salt is the most important ingredient in the kitchen; it brings out the essential flavor of foods. Lately, I’ve been enjoying an afternoon snack of chilled watermelon sprinkled with Maldon sea salt and crushed fennel seeds—it’s unbelievably refreshing!
What magazine, website, book, album, or product are you most obsessed with right now?
Saveur’s market issue. I’m opening a green grocery in my neighborhood, so it’s great to see and read about food markets from around the world. As with local markets elsewhere, we aim to make it easier for our neighbors to find delicious, fresh-from-the-field foods on a daily basis. We’ll further seek to foster community through food by offering a variety of events, including classes, readings, and tastings at our green grocery.
We will sell the best fruits and vegetables the season has to offer, along with a variety of wholesome kitchen basics, including organic milk, butter, eggs, bread, and much more. We will purchase our ingredients from local farmers and purveyors whenever possible, in order to support our regional economy and family farms.
What’s the most important news story today that you think we all need to pay more attention to?
The U.S. Farm Bill. The next Farm Bill isn’t scheduled to move through Congress until 2012, but the House Agriculture Committee has already started gathering input. Since the Farm Bill determines the types of food that can be grown, and the price of certain foods at the grocery store, it is a matter of concern for everyone. I am especially hopeful that the next Farm Bill will include more incentives for farmers to grow fruits and vegetables, and not just commodity crops.
Where do you get your news?
The NY Times, plus several food-related blogs, websites, and newsletters, such as The Organic Consumers Association, Roots of Change, and Organic Gardening.