Sunday, January 20, 2013

Winter at Restoration Farm

The winter countenance of Restoration Farm is a silvery apparition of the buoyant, green landscape of spring and summer.     It is ethereal, yet still familiar.  While the farm appears dormant, there is a sense of quiet energy – a sense of life simmering beneath the camouflage of mud, wood chips and rainwater.  
Flocks of small birds huddle in the bare trees, and even a robin redbreast darts across the fields, suggesting that spring may be closer than it feels.
While the past growing season is long concluded, one notes evidence of indefatigable kale and kohlrobi.
A cold frame protects rosemary from the chilling temperatures.   
The old red barn stands stately in any season, a storage house for garlic and root vegetables. 
Donna Sinetar's hens keep a watchful eye.      
The sheep, kept by the historic village, huddle in their wooly winter coats.  
Tractor marks suggest evidence of human intervention.
Indeed, even in January, the farm crew is hard at work, making repairs and building a new frame for the blueberry bushes to replace the one damaged during Hurricane Sandy.  
At Apple Trace, the heirloom saplings have shed their leaves, but the naked branches are dotted with buds of optimism.  
Far from desolate, winter at Restoration Farm is a season of anticipation.  
“Sometimes our fate resembles a fruit tree in winter.  Who would think that those branches would turn green again and blossom, but we hope it, we know it.”

Johann Wolfgang won Goethe
©2013 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Comfort and Joy – Skillet Macaroni and Cheese

Well, I said I needed shortcuts this holiday season.   Who would have guessed that a pretty ingenious culinary hat trick would arrive at my doorstep in the form of an early Christmas present?  

My favorite high school English teacher, Mrs. Kast and I always exchange Christmas gifts, and this year her present to me was “The Cook’s Country Cookbook,” a collection of classic and heirloom recipes.  

Imagine the technical precision of America’s Test Kitchen, combined with the sheer joy of classic comfort food.   I was hooked with the table of contents. A recipe for Skillet Macaroni and Cheese instantly intrigued me.   (A version of the recipe can be found here.) Forget about pre-boiling macaroni, simmering a white sauce, or lengthy baking time.   The chefs at Cook’s Country figured out how to make a gooey, cheesy, comforting macaroni dish all in a single skillet in about 10 minutes.  
Dried macaroni shells are simmered in seasoned evaporated milk.   Once the shells cook and the sauce thickens, it’s enriched with handfuls of Monterey Jack and Cheddar cheese.  I used high fiber macaroni and threw in sautéed garlic and broccoli florets for an extra health boost. 

It’s a brilliant one skillet dish, with enough macaroni and stringy cheese to sooth any holiday bruises.    
Forget fancy shmancy.   I’ll take a serving of Skillet Macaroni and Cheese any day of the week.  With recipes like this, I have more time to focus on trying to keep my New Year's Resolutions! 

©2012 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Nick Trastelis of Kalypso Greek Yogurt – Tradition Made New

Nick Trastelis - Founder of Kalypso Greek Yogurt

I’m wandering the stalls at the Northport, Long Island Indoor Winter Farmer’s Market on a bright, chilly Saturday afternoon and can’t help but take note of the palm-sized, rustic terracotta pots stacked high at a nearby booth.    I’m instantly curious what they contain. 
So, I strike up a conversation with Nick Trastelis, the founder of Kalypso Greek Yogurt.   Nick has a warm and sunny demeanor that conjures up thoughts of his Mediterranean heritage.   I quickly learn that terracotta pots are the traditional way of serving Greek yogurt. Nick is a fourth generation Greek yogurt craftsman, and the terracotta pots contain his family recipe – an impossibly thick and delicious artisanal strained Greek yogurt.   I sample the Mango Kalypso Greek Yogurt and I’m hooked.  The company’s tag line, “seductively delicious” is no exaggeration.  

“We’ve been making yogurt for over 100 years in my family,” Nick explains. “Everything is crafted in-house at our facility in Jackson Heights – the fruits, the yogurt, everything.    The fruit bases are my grandmother’s.  Some of the newer flavors like the Mango are mine.”

Nick’s family was producing Greek yogurt professionally “before it was even in the lexicon in North America.”  Most of the business was devoted to servicing restaurants, food service, and catering and private label.  But, inside these charming terracotta pots is not only a venerable family recipe but also the story of Nick’s personal food odyssey that occurred on the Greek island of Mykonos.   

Nick had been living in Greece and noticed a little yogurt bar near a bus stop that attracted flocks of tourists in Mykonos.   “They made the most amazing yogurt,” he explains.  “So, I got talking to them and picking their brains and it all just made sense.” 

He returned to the United States with a new vision.  “I came back to New York and said we’re changing everything we’ve been doing for the last 27 years.  I said, enough of the private label, we’re going to start rolling out our own individual cups.”

Kalypso Greek Yogurt comes in a variety of flavors, including Plain, Honey, Black Cherry, Blueberry, Vanilla, Fig, and Mango and is non-fat.   Nick uses 100 percent all natural ingredients and each 6-ounce cup of Kalypso contains 150 to 200 mg of calcium.  
Nick has infused the company and the product not only with tradition, but modern environmental sensibilities as well.  “I’m actually trying to change the consciousness of food packaging and eating healthier,” Nick explains.  “So that’s why we stick with tradition, serving the Greek yogurt in our terra cotta cups.  That’s how we did it back home, so why deviate from that?” 

“Landfills are filled with plastic containers which take about 15 to 20 years to actually break down,” he explains.  “This terra cotta cup goes back into the system in less than a couple of weeks.  It’s a sustainable packaging.”

In the end, what seems to inspire Nick most is the goodness and healthfulness of his family’s recipe.  
“It’s like wanting to share this gift of nature,” he says.  “It’s such a simple product.   It’s fermented milk.    It’s so basic, and so good for you.”

Contact Nick at 

©2013 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved