The journey of Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge from New York City executives to country farmers has been well-chronicled — on the reality TV show The Fabulous Beekman Boys and in their best-selling cookbook The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook (both named after their historic home in upstate New York, Beekman 1802). Combining their business savvy with their love of the land and what it can produce, the duo have become well-known for turning a struggling goat farm into a thriving enterprise, producing goat’s milk soap, artisanal cheese and a cornucopia of vegetables.
Their latest book, The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Vegetable Cookbook: 100 Delicious Heritage Recipes from the Farm and Garden, is year-round celebration of what they grow, and delicious ways in which home cooks can share in the bounty.
What’s a good way to expand your vegetable palate beyond the basics?
When in doubt, roast. Nearly any vegetable can be tossed in olive oil and salt — and red pepper flakes if you like them — and roasted in a 375 to 400 degree oven until browned and softened. It works with everything from the hardest winter squashes to delicate hearts of romaine lettuce. If there’s anything you’re curious about, buy it, roast it, and chances are, you’ll love it.
What would you say to someone who claims not to like vegetables?
We’d say they’re exaggerating! Vegetables are as varied in flavor as meat. Or fruits. And more versatile than either. Many people have unpleasant memories of vegetables from their youth. There aren’t many vegetables that taste best when boiled to death, yet that’s the only way many of us grew up eating them. There are many delicious ways to prepare vegetables, and folks simply need to become familiar with them.
What’s your best secret for making vegetables delicious?
Dressings! We have half a dozen jars of homemade salad dressing in the refrigerator at all times, and they’re not used just on salad. We roast or steam whatever vegetables are fresh in our garden that day, then simply toss them with the salad dressing.
Your book jacket says you welcome vegetarians and omnivores alike to the table. How so?
People often think of their diet as some sort of religion — and that you’re either 100-percent vegetarian or only eat steaks and hot dogs. We’ve found that eggs and cheese are the great peacemakers between meat eaters and vegetarians. Use them liberally with your vegetables and we’ll all get along just fine.
How does growing produce change how you think of it?
If you have fun growing something, you’ll have fun eating it. When you put in the effort to grow vegetables, or chat with the farmers who grow them, you’ll appreciate your meal more. Dinner tables have always been a place to tell stories, so the more stories you can bring to the table, the better the meal will be.
Summer’s coming up. Any tricks for shucking corn without making a giant mess?
We’ve found that the best way is to unfold a few sheets of newspaper in your sink, husk away, then just crumple up the whole thing and toss it — no more strands of silk all over the kitchen.
Spring Pea Soup
There’s still a little chill in the air when the first peas are ready for picking. This soup is perfect in the spring when young lettuces are around.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 leeks, thinly sliced and well washed
6 cups tender green lettuce leaves, well washed and dried
1/3 cup fresh mint leaves
2 cups shelled fresh green peas (see Tidbit)
¾ teaspoon coarse (kosher) salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, or until tender.
Add the lettuce and mint and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the lettuce is very tender.
Stir in the peas, salt, and pepper and stir to combine. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 5 minutes, or until the peas are tender and the flavors have blended.
Working in 2 batches, transfer the soup to a blender and puree until smooth. Add the cream and lemon juice and blend. Serve hot.
TIDBIT: To get 2 cups of shelled peas, you’ll need to start with about 2 pounds of peas in the pod, so feel free to use frozen peas here (we’ll never tell).
Sally Wadyka is a Boulder, Colorado-based journalist who writes about nutrition, health and wellness.
Photos by Paulette Tavormina