When I last meandered through the Union Square Greenmarket, in New York City, in mid-July, I made two discoveries: First, there were already plums and peaches, and I had hit the brief local apricot season just right. (Bought six, poached them in a little peach liqueur, served ’em with raspberry-lemon pound cake I had made — whoa!) Second, I discovered Hot Bread Kitchen.
Photo courtesy Judith Hausman
I was intrigued by the bakers- and business-women-in-training who worked Hot Bread Kitchen’s demo booth that day. (See recipe below.) Started in 2007 by Jessamyn Waldman Rodriguez, Hot Bread Kitchen “creates professional opportunities for low-income and foreign-born women while preserving baking traditions from around the world.”
The bakers-in-training are paid and receive not only commercial baking training but also help with English, math and job-placement.
A program of small-business “incubation,” with launching support for small food businesses, announced its first class of entrepreneurs this year. If a trainee wants to begin her own business, ongoing supervision, Food Handler certification and business planning are available as well. Hot Bread Kitchen’s offices are in Harlem, N.Y.
And the breads! The handmade tortillas are made with New York State-grown cornmeal that Hot Bread Kitchen grinds itself. Crispy lavash crackers are made with organic, New York State-grown and milled flour, as is the traditional multi-grain loaf. Seasonal focaccia are topped with produce from local farms. A round Sephardic challah is filled with cumin and caraway seeds. The latest bread in its line is buttery m’smen, a Moroccan flatbread, often eaten with honey. Even the simplest whole-wheat roll I sampled had just the right pull and crunch.
Immigrant women are trained and empowered, and their traditions are also valued and honored. The women’s many delicious contributions to the city are celebrated in the wonderful breads at the same time that small businesses and new livelihoods are created. That day at the Greenmarket, finding another visionary organization, which uses food to help people roll up their sleeves and change their lives, made me feel as good as the rosy apricots did.
Recipe: Hot Bread Kitchen Quesadillas
1 package handmade tortillas
4 ounces sharp cheddar, Monterey Jack or other meltable cheese, sliced
1 tablespoon oil
1 medium onion, sliced
Sauté the onion in the oil over low heat until soft but not browned — 15 to 20 minutes. Heat another skillet or griddle and lay one tortilla on it, followed by the cheese slices and a spoonful or two of the onions. Top with a second tortilla and cook about 2 minutes on each side until the cheese has melted. Serve with salsa, sour cream, avocado and chopped cilantro.
As a long-time freelance food writer, Judith Hausman has written about every aspect of food, but local producers and artisanal traditions remain closest to her heart. Eating close to home takes this seasonal eater through a journey of delights and dilemmas, one tiny deck garden, farmers’ market discovery and easy-as-pie recipe at a time. She writes from a still-bucolic but ever-more-suburban town in the New York City ‘burbs.