Author Archives: admin

New Project: NOAAM

We are currently fundraising to start a historic culinary program & garden at New Orleans African American Museum. Please contact Mark Haskell for more information.

On Mardi Gras,  the New Orleans African American Museum was featured in USA Today, the Feb 21, 2012 edition.

Duck & Andouille Gumbo

4 Tablespoons Oil or Duck Fat

4 TBL flour

1 onion diced

1 stalk of celery diced

1/2 green pepper diced

2 andouille sausages (chicken) sliced

4-5 crushed garlic cloves

1 cup crushed or diced tomatoes

2 tablespoons creole seasoning (red & black pepper, mixed dried herbs, paprika)

1 quart duck or chicken stock (warm)

1-2 cups diced duck meat or confit duck

3/4 cup of okra

Garnish with file powder, green onions, parsley & hot sauce

  1. make a roux with hot oil/fat and stir in flour, stir constantly with whisk until dark brown color. 10 minutes
  2. add onions & carmelize, 7-10 minutes
  3. Add celery & green pepper, 5 minutes
  4. add sausage, garlic, tomatoes, seasoning, 5 minutes
  5. add in warm stock, not all at once, little by little until it comes back to a simmer.
  6. add meat & okra until flavors come together and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, hot sauce, a little honey, etc. balance flavors
  7. serve with white rice & garnishes

D.C. GreenSchools! Gardens Thrive with Help from Former Chef’s Green Thumb

By Kathy Westra

It all started with a chance meeting between former chef and community nutrition advocate Mark Haskell and PLT GreenSchools! program manager James McGirt, who encouraged Haskell to get involved with gardens at four Washington, D.C., GreenSchools. Two years and thousands of seedlings later, gardens are thriving at the schools and, if Haskell has his way, a network of school-based greenhouses could eventually supply hundreds of school gardens in the nation’s capital with  vegetable, herb and flower seedlings.

Haskell, a certified Master Gardener, has perfected a school garden recipe that has as its main ingredients the PLT GreenSchools! investigations, his own green thumb and passion for home-grown food, and the excitement of city-raised students who for the first time are learning the connections between gardening and the food they eat.

“You can use a garden to teach all sorts of things,” says Haskell. “Before we started these projects, a lot of these kids didn’t know where the food that they see on their plates came from.”  He recalls the first time he helped students at Stokes Elementary, another D.C. GreenSchool, dig sweet potatoes they had planted earlier in the year. “The African teachers had been eating the sweet potato greens all summer, but when I told the kids to dig up the plants and see what was in the ground, it was like finding buried treasure. The kids didn’t know there was more there than the top of the plant.”

He was immediately peppered by questions like “How did you get them there?” and “How long were they down there?”  He relates: “We were doing this in the most horrible weather imaginable, but the kids were jumping up and down with excitement, oblivious to the rain and mud. When they figured out that everything went together, it was just magic for me.

At McKinley Science and Technology High School, another PLT GreenSchool in northeast Washington, Haskell has been working with educator Joe Isaac, who teaches plant biotechnology and whose lab and classroom adjoin the school’s state-of-the-art greenhouse. The greenhouse went unused until Haskell, Isaac, and McKinley’s Green Team got inspired to put it to use in 2010.

In 2011, McKinley students planted, grew and distributed 12,000 seedlings to school  gardens all around D.C.  “This is important, because the right plants aren’t available from commercial growers at the right time of year for school gardens,” Haskell notes.  He has his eye on unused greenhouses at several other D.C. schools, and hopes what he and McKinley’s Green Team have accomplished will inspire a network of school greenhouses that can supply plants to more than 100 outdoor gardens at D.C. school sites.

In addition to being a powerful learning tool for students, Haskell hopes the gardens he is helping to create will eventually play a role in changing the face of nutrition in the schools of the nation’s capital, introducing fresh, locally grown foods into school cafeterias, one school at a time.

Provencal Food

Provencal Food

There is no one single Provencal food tradition. Ala provencal on menus usually alludes to the use of garlic, olive oil, tomatoes and a certain mix of herbs, the ones usually found in herbes de Provence, or it might mean fresh basil in summertime.

But the different ingredients found in the southern Alps, Camargue Delta, Cote d’Azur or Plan de Dieu in the Rhone Valley, all are part of Provence, can vary radically. In the old days, the inland country people, more than 20 miles from the coast and not near a railhead, rarely ate fresh fish other than trout from local streams and salt cod. Potatoes and tomatoes weren’t a part of the regional menu until the 1800’s. After they came from the new world on explorer’s boats, they spread slowly from Spain to the aristocrats in France and Italy.

Even the large scale cultivation of lavender, actually more commonly a hybrid called lavandou, didn’t occur until the later 1800’s when American laundry detergent makers wanted its scent. Now the blooming lavender fields, row upon row of purple iridescence are the hallmark of the tourism industry – plus the source for great honey!

Wheat wasn’t native to Europe either, a concept unimaginable in France today. Wheat & bread as an omnipresent symbol of sustenance is a vision re-enforced by golden paintings of Provencal wheat harvesters from Vincent Van Gogh. Wheat was native to Syria and when the Romans conquered them they took the new ingredient(s) and spread it throughout their European and north African empire.

Previously, epoitre/faro/spelt was the grain for Roman Legions stomachs to march on before the more prolific and easy to use wheat appeared. And while epoitre is making a big comeback in food circles, the acceptance and wide spread cultivation of wheat, like the tomato and the potato shows the capability of the Provencal to accept and  grow almost anything and turn it to their own.

Because of Provence’s fabulous growing climate, the culture’s southern irreverent nature and tradition of absorbing new ingredients, the regional food will continue to evolve, please and put it’s own spin on the palate – perhaps it’s all that sun and sky.

In the last decade, French chefs have had their collective crowns as kings of food knocked a little crocked by more experimental chefs led by the Catalans & Basques, French gone overseas to spread their wings and even, God forbid, the English. Many restaurant chefs in Marseille now look as much to their brethren in Barcelona, Africa and Asia for inspiration as they do to Paris.

In France today there is alas, aside from the very expensive range, a great deal of very mediocre restaurant food, franchise fast food and supermarket frozen junk surprise available. But in the country and at home the French have mostly held the line and maintained their traditions and interest of culinary quality. They do care more about what they put on their tables and are willing to pay more than say most Americans.

I would be willing to bet the next revival of French food will come out of the south, as much of the last wave of nuevelle cuisine did. New influences and stolid old traditions can more happily collide and co-exist in the sunny labrotory of the south, Marseille can lead the way (Nice is too rich and conservative for such). Undoubtably, olive oil, native herbs and wine will be involved somehow, in Provence , yes of course. But in what form will the new direction take and with what other ingredients, and for what purpose (as in a movement, a celebration, a protest, experiment, an accident…) that remains to be seen and will be worth waiting to find out.

People have always escaped to the south to get away from the rigid confines of weather, social convention, government and debts of all kinds – emotional and otherwise. Escape and liberation provide new perspectives that lead to creativity. Plus one has the feeling of being able to slip across the border to Spain or Italy more easily if things get a little too controversial. Ratatouille will remain, but the addition of cous-cous, tajines and Vietnamese nem has only leavened the mélange of Provencal cuisine.



Woodsy the Owl at DC School Garden, Earth Day

L’Ecole courtyard, Buisson, France

Vinaigrette Recipe

Basic Vinagrette Ingredients:

1/2 Tbsp finely minced shallot or crushed garlic
1/2 Tbsp Dijon-type mustard
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 Tbsp wine vinegar
1/3 to 1/2 cup excellent olive oil, or other fine, fresh oil
Freshly ground pepper

Instructions: Mix them individually as follows. Stir the shallots or scallions together with the mustard and salt. Whisk in the lemon juice and vinegar, and when well blended start whisking in the oil by droplets to form a smooth emulsion. Beat in freshly ground pepper. Taste (dip a piece of the salad greens into the sauce) and correct seasoning with salt, pepper, and/or drops of lemon juice. Yield: For about 2/3 cup.

Asian Vinegrette Version

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice or rice wine vinager, 1 Tablespoon sugar, 2 Tablespoons of nam pla or fish sauce or soy sauce, 1 Tablespoon sesame oil and sliced fresh cilantro, Thai basil, chopped chile peppers (optional).

  • Asian Slaw Salad: shredded carrots, cabbage, sweet peppers, scallions and (options) green papaya, jicama, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes
  • Potato & Pickled Onion Salad: poached potato slices, quick pickled red onion, fresh herbs, pickles/capers and vinegrette.
  • Warm Green Lentil Salad: green lentils (le Puy), diced carrots, turnips, leeks, peppers. Heated with vinegrette

Christmas Lima Beans, Cottage City Garden, MD

DC School Garden, Halloween

DC Garden on Halloween

Travel Pictures from Provence: Ecole Buissionnier & various others


L'Ecole Buissionniere courtyard, garden, fountain, aviary


Our inn, L'Ecole Buissionniere with spring irises


Fireplace, L'Ecole Buissonniere


Abbey near Le Barroux


Fortress at La Jalle


Village of Brantes under Mt. Ventoux


Place Horologe, Avignon

L'Ecole Buissionniere courtyard, garden, fountain, aviaryOur inn, L'Ecole Buissionniere with spring irisesFireplace, L'Ecole BuissonniereAbbey near Le BarrouxFortress at La JalleVillage of Brantes under Mt. VentouxPlace Horologe, Avignon