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Composting at Columbia

In Oakland, CA (my hometown), everyone composts. It is not an activity that is restricted to the hippies and the tree huggers; everyone composts. While this may be because everyone in Oakland is in fact a hippie or a tree hugger, it was quite jarring coming to Columbia and finding that compost was extremely limited if not absent in most cases. Partially because I was looking for something to do and partially because I was missing home a little, I set out to find myself a compost bin. And boy, it didn’t disappoint.

Located on Broadway between 116th and 115th, there is an NYC Grow compost booth that is part of the Greenmarket that is held every Thursday and Sunday from 8am to 1pm (3pm on Sundays). I went down to this booth looking for some more information about composting in the city generally and how I, as a student, could start to compost. It turns out that this compost booth is crazy easy to use.

Step 1) collect your food scrapes in some sort of container.

Because I often eat at dining halls, I don’t end up generating that much food waste over the course of a week, so I use a large yogurt container with a lid.

Step 2) freeze or refrigerate your compost.

Luckily, I have a mini fridge in my room, so this worked out great. However, if you don’t have a refrigerator or a freezer, start asking around – maybe a friend has one and would be happy to share. This would also be a great way to get more people involved in composting.

Step 3) bring the scrapes to the compost booth and dump them off in one of the green bins.

This is one of the most enjoyable steps because the man who runs the booth is exceedingly pleasant and the other composters are interesting as well.

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Composting may seem like a big hassle, but this compost booth makes it a feasible (and hassle free) option for Columbia students. If you’re looking for other greenmarkets that have compost booths in the city or what exactly is compostable, check out


Taste of Mendoza: Sweet Nostalgia

The Havanna Alfajor: A Chocolate-Covered Cookie and Dulce de Leche Sandwich

My Spanish teacher Ángel is the most entertaining teacher I have abroad. He always comes to class wearing one of his many Yves Saint Laurent sweaters with appropriately paired slacks and leather loafers. Most of the class time is spent talking about what we did over the weekend or what we have planned for the one coming up, and whenever the opportunity presents itself, he has us sing Shakira. More often than not, he finds himself on a tangent talking about Argentine politics or some amazing food we must absolutely try before going back home, so to tell you the truth, we spend very little time doing actual class work.

The famed Havannets (i.e. Pure Dulce de Leche)

I wouldn’t be able to tell you exactly how many times he’s mentioned it, but we’ve spent a significant portion of class talking about the havannets from the Havanna coffee shop downtown: a rich and sweet cone-shaped dessert covered in chocolate and filled with a shortbread-esque cookie and the ultra popular milk-jam called dulce de leche. When I finally went to try it upon Ángel’s persistent recommendation, I realized that they are actually his elegant excuse to feast on a bunch of dulce de leche. Since they mostly consist of the rich, caramel-tasting filling, dessert doesn’t get much better than this indulgence for someone with a sweet tooth.

I’ve since taken a rather dangerous liking for the more popular and quintessentially Argentine alfajor, which has the same components as the havannets but with a far less scandalous proportion of dulce de leche to cookie: they are basically a chocolate-covered sandwich made with the same cookie and dulce de leche as the havannets. Countless variations are possible by altering the fillings (coffee, walnut, jam, etc.), cookie types, and exterior coating (white or dark chocolate, meringue, etc.). While the Havanna alfajores are sold exclusively in that café, there are many other brands that sell similar versions. So while they might not always be as good as the original, the temptation at kiosks and grocery check out lines is sometimes too much to master…

Alfajores are the most wonderful snack, and just thinking of the fact that my time to enjoy them is limited to the remaining length of my stay in Mendoza makes me nostalgic for the study abroad experience I still haven’t left from. The immigration office better not have a problem accepting them into the States, because I am so packing a half-dozen boxes to extend the wonder of the Havanna alfajor into my life back home (and of course to share them with friends and family, don’t worry).

WordPress Difficulties

Hi Culinary readers!

Unfortunately, the Culinary Blog is experiencing some technical difficulties with photo uploading and will not be adding new posts until the problem is resolved (expected to be fixed by Sunday afternoon, if not earlier).

In the mean time, browse our past posts by categories and subjects to the right or visit our new sister publication at

Thanks for your patience!

-Culinary Society


Photo courtesy of

Popovers have always been a Sunday morning staple at my house. They were one of the first things I ever learned to cook; I’ve had the recipe memorized for as long as I can remember. They are extremely easy and quick to make but also are very versatile—they are delicious plain, with some fruit preserves, eggs, or even vegetables and hummus.
My mom and I are self-proclaimed popover connoisseurs. We’ve spent years perfecting our recipe, going to endless amounts of cooking supply stores in search of the perfect popover pan, and taste-testing every jam, jelly, chutney, and sauce we could get our hands on in an attempt to find the ultimate popover topper.
It was not until high school that I found my favorite topping. That Sunday was the same as any other. My mother and I chatted in the kitchen as we moved seamlessly around each other, measuring, pouring, and mixing in turns. The batter took less than ten minutes to make. I was scraping the last drops into the pan with a rubber spatula before I’d even had time to finish telling my mom about my Great Gatsby essay.
As usual, I sat in front of the oven while they baked. I turned the oven light on so that I could sit there and watch the dough rise, balloon out, and turn from creamy white to golden, toasty brown. My mom loaded the dishwasher and then went to the fridge, opened the door, and examined the contents thoughtfully before pulling out four jars, placing them carefully on the counter, and putting small serving spoons next to them. This morning it was maple butter, apple butter, strawberry jam, and an unopened jar of fig preserves.
“Are those new?” I asked, pointing at the jar of fig preserves.
“Mhmm,” my mom smiled dreamily. “I saw them at the store and I just knew I had to get some. You’ve never had any before, have you?” I shook my head.
“Oh, you’ll love them,” she continued, “They’re nice and sweet, just like you, Pickle.” The fact that I didn’t scowl then was truly a mark of how much I was enjoying myself.
After twenty minutes that seemed to take hours, the timer went off. I jumped up and pulled the popovers out of the oven. I grabbed a plate and threw a popover onto it, nearly burning my hand in the process. But I didn’t care; I wanted to eat it too badly. I ripped the top off and spooned some of the fig preserves into the hollow center. I took my first bite. The popover was perfect, crunchy on the outside and doughy on the inside. I had always thought that my mom’s popovers were a little reminiscent of waffles, but saltier, buttery, better.
I got some of the figs on my second bite. They were sweet—but there was also something mild and fresh about them. They contrasted with the slight saltiness of the popover in a way nothing ever had for me. I took another bite and grinned at my mom.
“That’s it,” she chuckled.
“Oh yeah,” I said, “That’s the one.”

Recipe for: Popovers
Serves: 12
1. 2 eggs
2. 1 cup milk
3. 1 Tablespoon butter, melted
4. 1 cup flour
5. 2 pinches salt (~1/2 tsp)
1. Pre-heat popover pan (cast-iron popover pan gives best results but a regular popover pan or muffin tray will work) in oven at 450
2. Beat eggs and milk in large bowl
3. Add flour and salt and continue to whisk until batter is uniform
4. Add and mix in butter (This will prevent sticking to pan. If not using a cast iron pan, you may want to additionally grease pan with more butter or vegetable oil.)
5. Pour batter into pan so that each section is roughly ½ full
6. Bake in oven on convection setting at 450 for 20 minutes or until crisp
7. Serve warm with your favorite topping

Your Body is Awesome: Vitamin A Edition

Halloween may be over, but the seasonal fun is just beginning.  Despite the sudden saturation of holiday-themed coffee cups and the lovely snowstorm with which November greeted us, we still have just a bit of autumn left.  As a California girl whose only pre-college encounter with what most people call fall involved jumping in a large pile of dead leaves at the age of ten, I cannot get enough of the beautiful rainbow trees, the cool breezes, and most of all, the food.  With Thanksgiving fast approaching, I find myself dreaming in pumpkin pie, turkey, and sweet potatoes.  Good thing that many of everyone’s favorite fall foods are also rich in Vitamin A!  Now you have one more thing to be thankful for: many of those classic autumn dishes are healthier than you thought!  Dig in.

What is it?

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble (storable) vitamin with antioxidant properties.

Why do I need it?

There are two primary types of vitamin A—retinol and beta-carotene.  We most often hear that vitamin A improves vision, a factor of the retinol.  It is especially helpful for better vision in low light settings (aka your desk when your roommate is asleep).  Beta-carotene is a dark-colored pigment and an antioxidant.  Let’s back up for a second.  Free radicals are atoms or groups of atoms in the body with unpaired electrons.  They are therefore highly reactive, and can start chain reactions that harm important cell components such as DNA or the cell wall.  Antioxidants can safely interact with free radicals, thereby protecting cells from damage.  Vitamin A is just one type of antioxidant substance.

How much do I need? Continue reading Your Body is Awesome: Vitamin A Edition

Turnip the Heat: Spicy Winter Root Vegetable Hummus

The air is getting a little crisper,  New Yorkers are reaching for warmer jackets, Columbia’s trees are adorned with lights, we’ve had our first snow. Winter is creeping in, slowly and surely. And along with it – delicious and nutritious root vegetables of every shape and color.
These beauties arrived in last week's farm share.

West Side Watch: Bee Raw

West Side Watch returns to feature the latest at West Side: Honey Varietals!

Photo courtesy Amanda Tien

Upon hearing the word “varietals,” most people would think of wine or alcoholic drinks in general. But honey? In truth, “varietals” is simply a word referring to the fact that a food comes in several different flavor profiles. Honey has several different varieties depending on the flower from which the nectar was gathered. The shape of the bottle has nothing to do with it–in other words, a honey packaged in a bear container versus one in a beehive-shaped jar does not a varietal make. Varietals of honey differ in more ways than taste profile. Oftentimes, viscosity, color, and creaminess will also change.

One of the best companies for honey varietals is Bee Raw. Specializing in honey, this brand was only offered at Whole Foods and Dean and Deluca. Until last week. I was walking down the baking aisle with Rachelle, looking for ingredients for the blind tasting, and I saw the familiar little jar. I stopped in my tracks–“Rachelle! Look they have my honey!” I held the jar triumphantly. Rachelle rolled her eyes (as per usual), clearly writing off my overreaction.

The Bee Raw offers 10 different varietals of honey in 10.5 oz. jars: basswood, blueberry, buckwheat, cranberry, orange blossom, sage, sourwood, star thistle, sweet yellow clover, and wild raspberry. These all differ in price from $12-14. Each varietal has a different taste and color. My favorite is the star thistle which is thick and creamy with a off-yellow opalescent hue. The taste has notes of cinnamon and spice, lingering on the palate. It’s the perfect pair for an afternoon snack of goat cheese, bread, and honey.

Unfortunately, West Side Market does not offer all of the varietals. They have three types: Star Thistle, Orange Blossom, and Buckwheat. I suppose that’s enough varieties to get started before heading back to Dean and Deluca. To learn more about Bee Raw, visit their website at

The Cheese Fiend: Drunken Goat Cheese

The Cheese Fiend, ashamed of not being consistent with her series after the last two months, hurriedly scampers by the cheese section at Westside Market.  She looks at the cheeses and smiles upon their glory.  Then, with a start, she realizes that her beloved cheese has been without recognition and appreciation…because of her.  The guilt is monumental.  So, she begins again…

Pardon my dramatic entrance, but I felt like I needed to start the post off somehow.  Without further ado, I give you…Drunken Goat Cheese.  Not only does this cheese have a great name, but it tastes great, too.  I received my first sampling of this delectable goat cheese at the Blind Taste Test and was eager to share this delicious find with the rest of you.  I was so happy while eating the cheese that I started humming a little and dancing (Matt made fun of me, but with love).  You’ll recognize this cheese immediately for its soft, violet rind.  You might have a few questions at this point already – why is the rind violet?  Who is the wondrous creator? What would I eat it with?  Can goats really get drunk?  Answers will all come in time, young grasshopper.

Continue reading The Cheese Fiend: Drunken Goat Cheese

Event: Pumpkin Carving!

...our pumpkins won't be this big.
Well we’re almost in the clear from midterms. Personally, I have 1 left–thank goodness!

To get your mind off of midterms, come to the Culinary Society meeting tomorrow (10/26) at 9 pm in the Lerner Ramp Lounge East! We’re hosting a good, ol’ fashioned pumpkin carving! We’re providing the pumpkins and the tools (even stencils for those who are less artistic like me!), and all you have to bring is your artistic self. Plus, we’re going to teach everyone how to make pepitas (roasted pumpkin seeds). Send us a last-minute RSVP if you would like to come. (Claire and I are going shopping tonight–about 3 hours from now.)

Meanwhile, start thinking up some ghoulish ideas for your pumpkins–werewolves, vampires, spiders, or just a traditional jack-o-lantern… it doesn’t matter! Can’t wait to see all of the pumpkins tomorrow!