PRINT. Visits Ujima Garden

When Slow Food Urban Harvest invited us to their Ujima Garden in East New York to make lunch for their student gardeners, I knew it was an offsite event that was right up our alley. We were also asked to demo the recipes, so I got Sous Chef Danval on board. There is no equipment for actual cooking (burners, etc) and since it was so humid this week, we kept the menu real chill: Classic Yellow Gazpacho, Fregola Roasted Sweet Corn and Halloumi Salad, and Peaches with Lemon Verbena Honey and Watermelon for dessert.

Chef Danval showing students meal preparation.

All of the recipes were a hit! Which is not always the case with 9-11 year olds and plant-based meals.

The garden itself is an impressive lay out on an empty lot, and the head gardner, Jessica Sirbu Balnaves, is growing a diverse array of vegetables from tiny Mexican gerkhins to 5 types of basil. We harvested some of that basil and many of the other herbs and edible flowers and used them in our dishes, which made for incredibly bright flavors and gorgeous presentation.

Thanks Ujima Garden for sharing your space and bounty.  It is inspiring to see all that an empty lot can become.


View of Ujima garden.


Corn and Cous Cous With Grilled Halloumi Cheese



  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1 cup fregola or Israeli couscous
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 ears of corn, husked
  • 2 tablespoons plus ¼ cup olive oil, divided
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces Halloumi cheese or Provolone sliced lengthwise ¾-inch thick
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley
  • ¼ cup basil leaves
  • ¼ cup mint leaves
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons (or more) white wine vinegar


  • Cook fregola in a large pot of boiling salted water according to package directions. Drain (do not rinse) and spread out on a baking sheet to let cool.
  • Prepare a grill for medium-high heat. Rub corn with 1 tbsp. oil; season with salt and pepper. Grill, turning occasionally, until lightly charred and tender, 8–10 minutes. Transfer to a platter and let cool.
  • Meanwhile, brush cheese with 1 tbsp. oil and grill, turning once, until lightly charred in spots, about 5 minutes. Transfer to platter with corn; let cool.
  • Cut kernels from cobs and place in a large bowl. Add scallions, parsley, basil, mint, walnuts, and fregola. Using your hands, tear Halloumi into bite-size pieces; add to bowl and toss to combine. Add lemon juice, vinegar, and remaining ¼ cup oil. Toss to coat; season with salt, pepper, and more vinegar, if desired.


Best Gazpacho


  • About 2 pounds ripe red tomatoes, cored and roughly cut into chunks
  • Italian frying (cubanelle) pepper or another long, light green pepper, such as Anaheim, cored, seeded and roughly cut into chunks
  • cucumber, about 8 inches long, peeled and roughly cut into chunks
  • small mild onion (white or red), peeled and roughly cut into chunks
  • clove garlic
  • teaspoons sherry vinegar, more to taste
  • Salt and ½ cup extra virgin olive oil, more to taste, plus more for drizzling


  1. Combine tomatoes, pepper, cucumber, onion and garlic in a blender or, if using a hand blender, in a deep bowl. (If necessary, work in batches.) Blend at high speed until very smooth, at least 2 minutes, pausing occasionally to scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula.
  2. With the motor running, add the vinegar and 2 teaspoons salt. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil. The mixture will turn bright orange or dark pink and become smooth and emulsified, like a salad dressing. If it still seems watery, drizzle in more olive oil until texture is creamy.
  3. Transfer to a large pitcher (preferably glass) and chill until very cold, at least 6 hours or overnight. Before serving, adjust the seasonings with salt and vinegar. If soup is very thick, stir in a few tablespoons ice water. Serve in glasses, over ice if desired. A few drops of olive oil on top are a nice touch.