On a sunny, brisk day, farmers were harvesting baby red bok choy and gathering herbs before the impending frost. An autumn scene in the bucolic countryside? Not exactly: This unique farm is located smack-dab in the urban grid of Manhattan. And all the fresh produce is put to use by Sisha Ortuzar, chef and partner—and part-time farmer—at the adjacent Riverpark restaurant and its supplier, Riverpark Farm. The farm, which was once a stalled building site, is now a 15,000-square-foot food machine made up of an ingenious system of double-stacked milk crates that have been repurposed as planters.
Growing in all those milk crates is a variety of seasonal foods that, prepped correctly, can give you a jolt of nutrients you might think are disappearing as quickly as the daylight and warm weather. Seasonal fall produce has some of the highest levels of immune-boosting nutrients like vitamins A and C and minerals such as selenium, which you'll need to ward off colds and flu. Here are Ortuzar's tips for cooking your farmer's market (or garden) finds, and a recipe from his restaurant for a super-food fall salad that you'll want to make all season:
Oblong, striped delicata squash is one of the varieties of winter squash grown at Riverpark Farm. It’s sweet and full of fiber and potassium, as well as an excellent vegetarian source of vitamin A, which comes mostly from meat and fish and is essential for keeping your immune system healthy. "Any squash is always best when roasted," Ortuzar says. "You can serve cubes of roasted delicate squash cold in green or grain salads; they’re also great when stuffed."
Whether still on their stalk at farmer’s markets or bundled into containers, you’ll find fresh brussels sprouts almost everywhere this time of year. If you haven’t developed a taste for them yet, try them prepared a different way. Says Ortuzar, "Everyone grows up thinking they don’t like brussels sprouts, but they quickly become converts once they taste them prepared properly. They have great texture and flavor when shaved in their raw state. As a side salad, toss shaved brussels sprouts with balsamic vinegar, pine nuts, currants, and Parmesan."
Bypass the bottled pomegranate juice and buy some whole pomegranates! You can use the scarlet-hued fruit’s numerous juicy seeds in lots of ways. Pomegranate is a good source of potassium and vitamin C, and has higher antioxidant activity than green tea and red wine. "Not only are they filled with antioxidants, but the color and texture of pomegranate seeds add instant festivity to any dish," Ortuzar says. "They’re great in a sauce, mixed with vegetables, or in a salad.”