Monday, May 18, 2009


The Meyer Lemon tree in bloom reminds us that spring is refreshing. It is a season where life starts; at least that is what I tell myself as I try to ignore the dusty blanket of pollen that tortures many of this balmy season. It is a time for new beginnings, thus it's the perfect season for the launch of this blog.

EcoCulinaire is a celebration of the ecology of food and living.

This is a spring of many firsts for us. It is the first spring my life partner, Chef, and I have experienced as parents. It is the first spring of our daughter's life. It is a time of fertility, and this spring we have an organic vegetable garden in full swing. It is tucked behind our restaurant, 29 South, which sits in a historic purple house 2 blocks away from the Amelia River on Amelia Island, Florida. We have 14 beds in which we grow organic fruits and veggies for both work and home, as well as six farming partners that sustainably raise ingredients for our restaurant.

Vegetable gardening is a definite first for us. Last December, I went from being "good with house plants" to the Farm/Garden Coordinator for 29 South. It has been a major life change for the entire family. Rather than reading a novel before bed, I now read about dirt and bugs. Chef flips through seed catalogs over his morning cup of coffee. Water has taken on a whole new meaning for us. Before it was for drinking, bathing, and swimming. Now it is part of a daily ritual of sprinkling, dripping, and hosing. I have social relationships with bumble bees, and worms...which I find strangely fulfilling.

A first time gardener learns quickly that warm weather planting is an entirely different animal than cold weather crops, particularly in the blazing climate of Florida. I am building an arsenal to combat the pests, weeds, and all of Mother Nature's other virulent gifts that inevitably seek to destroy our vegetables. It is going to be a heck of an exercise of trial and error, learning as we grow.

Why are we doing this? Because our family believes that food is essential to humanity both physically and culturally. It is the fuel that keeps our bodies running and a common thread that binds a society through sharing. Plus, to put it simply, we just like good old fashioned ingredients. It is the quality of food our grandparents ate growing up, when tomatoes tasted like tomatoes and beef came from healthy cows that ate grass.

But this blog isn't just about food, it is also about how one family can take small, but consequential steps to living a more sustainable life. This doesn't mean we are going to build a yurt and begin foraging for acorns! No, the economic crisis isn't that bad yet. Sustainable simply means nourishing the balance between your life and the world around you. That balance is the definition of ecology.

We know the farmer that raises the Berkshire pigs for our pork, and the farmer that collects the eggs from our chickens. Our farming partners take great care in their stewardship of their animals, which in turn produces ingredients of extraordinary quality. Chef always says "If you cook with fantastic fresh ingredients, there is very little you have to do to make a great meal."

I think there is one thing in life most humans can agree on, which is that there are few better experiences in life than a great meal. That being said, every Monday I will post a recipe that we have tried and think is fantastic. Some will be shared from cookbooks and chefs we love, and others will come from Chef's own bag of tricks. Take a moment during the week to try it out yourself and tell us what you think, and check back this Wednesday for another taste of EcoCulinaire.

Good Life Recipe #1 : Fried Green Tomatoes / Chef Scott Schwartz

This is a great recipe for late spring because green tomatoes are ripe for the picking!

Serves 6 People

3 Medium Green Tomatoes

9 Ounces of Goat Cheese

3 Ounces of Cream Cheese

1 Tablespoon of Parsley, Finely Chopped

1 Clove of Garlic, Finely Minced

1/2 Cup of All Purpose Flour

4 Eggs Beaten

3 Cups of Panko (Japanese Bread Crumbs you can find at any grocery store)

1 Tablespoon of Salt

1 Teaspoon of Black Pepper

2 Cup of Vegetable Oil

Thinly slice the tomatoes and season with the salt and pepper. Mix the goat cheese, cream cheese, parsley, and garlic in a mixing bowl. Sandwich 1 tablespoon of the cheese mixture in between two slices of tomato. Take the sandwiches and dredge with flour, then dip in the beaten egg, and then coat with bread crumbs. Place in refrigerator for 1 hour.

Heat vegetable oil in a saute pan over medium heat until temperature reaches 350 or until a small piece of breading immediately bubbles when placed in the pan. Fry until golden brown (about 2 min per side). Remove from oil and drain on paper towel.

We like to serve these at 29 South with red pepper jam, and a drizzle of herb coulis and balsamic vinegar reduction. At home just pick your favorite relish, chutney, or condiment. Enjoy!


Tara Meyer-Robson said...

Nan -

What a wonderful homage to spring and to the fresh ideas and new life that you are creating at 29 South and in your life in general. It has been amazing for me to see the growth of your gorgeous organic veggie garden - it is truly magnificent! I love the fact that you truly are an example of how easy it can be to make a real difference in this world...

I can't wait to follow more of your wonderful blogs...and to try to make the fried green tomato recipe, although I am doubtful that I could make it as good as Scotty can!

Congrats on the launch of your wonderful, so-needed, so inspiring new blog! I am so happy for you!

Love, Tara :o)

The Resa said...

I have been waiting for that fried green tomato recipe for so long! I am extremely excited for this blog. Mondays are much more exciting now! And thanks for the tip on the squash blossoms. Totally tasty! Tell Chef that if you just fry them without stuffing them and sprinkle them with confectioners sugar, you end up with something so much more delicious than funnel cake. (Though less delicious than coffee and doughnuts)

Katie Kirschner Haas said...

Nan! I love this site! And I LOVE FRIED GREEN TOMATOES! I sent a link to my whole family reminding them how far our families go back and the fact that my Aunt took your last name as her own years ago. I'm so happy for you and your family and I hope that we can see each other soon. I have family that lives in Orange Park and I plan to be in Sarasota with my newborn for the whole month of July so maybe we can plan something this summer?? Congrats on this blog, the restaurant, that beautiful little angel, and life in general!

Nan said...

Your site brings to mind the words of Matsuo Basho: "All who have achieved real excellence in any art possess one thing in common: a mind to obey nature, to be one with nature, throughout the four seasons of the year."
Thanks for making our lives better! Aunt Nan

Nan said...

Thank you everyone for your positive feedback! Today has been really fantastic and I hope you continue to dig this blog for many posts to come! We are so grateful! Peace, Nan

Candace Fasano said...


Thank you for adding your love and light. I'll be excited to follow your wonderful blog - I love that you are telling your personal story which I know will inspire us all. The recipes will be the icing on the cake! Ciao, Candace

Bob Sam said...

Bravo! And just in time! wea re planning our garden roght now. And City Slickers that we mos def happen to be, we need all the help we can get.

So, Dear Farm/Garden Coordinator, it is with great joy that we find a trustworthy source of Research&Development coming from a Start-From-Scratch POV, informationaly, that is! you won't be filling us up with concepts that we cannot understand without 20 years background info, which is the problem with so may food and gardenening sources.

Plus, we will, surely, get regular updates on our favorite happy baby, Adrielle and her happy dirt and worms and buzzy bees experience.

Count us as,
Tio Roberto y Tia Paula

Betsy said...

Bravo Nan & Scotty! I'll be frying up green tomatoes, sans chevre, in CA and thinking of you. So where's the photograph of the 3 of you? I love the black & white on the blog...should I just use that one?
Love and congratulations, Betsy

Anonymous said...


Congratulations on the spectacular writing in the blogging. Enjoy your wit and humor, as always. Feel you are here sitting on my couch reading it to me. I am ecstatic with being able to try the Fried Green Tomato's recipe. Thank Scotty for it too, as it shall be my essence of the south that I will use to cure my nostalgia. Will be spreading the delicious warmth of it here in the Southern Hemisphere also.

Keep up the good work.

Ian Hays