Archive for the ‘check out our instructors’ Category


Author & Life Coach Lorna Sass, her partner Michael, and her donated books

On Friday, May 3, Natural Gourmet honored transformational life coach and renowned cookbook author Lorna Sass (Cooking Under Pressure, Lorna Sass’ Short-Cut Vegan, Whole Grains for Busy People, Whole Grains Every Day, Every Way) for her generous donation of 1000 books from her personal collection to NGI’s newly organized library. The dedication occurred at our weekly Friday Night Dinner.

Our founder Annemarie Colbin, PhD and our own resident author, instructor, and librarian Jay Weinstein personally and warmly thanked Lorna in a special ceremony for her valuable contribution to the school.

Jay Weinstein was duly impressed with the collection:

Lorna has donated just about 1000 books to the library, and you can see the range of books just by looking on our shelves. Everything from Larousse and Escoffier to Louisiana Bayou youth group fundraiser cookbooks. Mostly, I chose international and American regional titles from her enormous collection. Her most recent donated trove represents Eastern Europe, including Russia, Poland, Georgia, Ukraine, and the Balkans. . . . [Lorna] spoke . . . about wanting to place these books in a good home, and how she felt that NGI was the perfect place for them.

Perfect indeed. The books have been and will be put to good use. Our students use the library extensively to research menu plans for classes and design menus for their own Friday Night Dinner projects.

Lorna at the dedication with NGI Founder Annemarie Colbin and Instructor Jay Weinstein

Lorna at the dedication with Annemarie Colbin, PhD and Instructor Jay Weinstein

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On October 15, Natural Gourmet Institute had the privilege to host Dr. Robert Graham, his wife Julie Graham (a certified holistic health coach), and 13 residents from New York’s Lenox Hill Hospital for a special, hands-on evening of healthy vegetarian cooking. The Grahams and NGI created the event to draw attention to the Meatless Mondays campaign and give doctors the knowledge and tools to treat common lifestyle illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity with healthy food choices and cooking techniques.

The evening kicked off with hors d’oeuvres and a meet-and-greet between the doctors and NGI staff. Then it was into the kitchen for the doctors to prepare a healthy, balanced vegetarian meal under the direction of NGI instructor Richard LaMarita, who designed the Italian-inspired menu.

Colin Zhu, a recent graduate of NGI’s Chef’s Training Program and first-year resident at CentraState Health Care System, introduced the evening’s recipes and talked about their health benefits and nutritional highlights. Chef Rich followed with a quick knife skills tutorial, and then the doctors teamed up to make a healthy, seasonal four-course meal.

The class was a resounding success and the first in a series where these internists, each committed to promoting the role food choices make in our health, will learn basic vegetarian cooking techniques they can share with patients.



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the solar dome with its unassuming herb garden

Greetings from the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, specifically a tiny hamlet called Albany. I’m here vacationing for 2 1/2 weeks while Natural Gourmet is closed for summer renovations.

I’m staying at a place known as the “Albany Solar Dome,” a completely isolated, solar-powered house in the hills. As if that weren’t Vermont-y enough, there’s recycling and composting here. But I wanted to commune with nature, albeit in an enhanced environment with WiFi, flat screen TV, a washer and dryer, and a dishwasher.

I arrived yesterday in a panic and bluster typical of any New Yorker. I won’t bore you with the details. So at 4 pm, I suddenly realized I needed to get food in the house before the sun went down. The roads leading up to this place are crazy challenging.

I went first to the “market” in Albany, which turned out to be a convenience store. The healthiest thing I could find was Magic Hat beer (which I promptly purchased). I then drove to the next town, Irasberg, where there was a typical country supermarket. You know the kind: only trucked-in, conventional produce in a state drowning (ironically) in small, local farms. I let purism go; I had to eat, and I was grateful for what I could get.

I woke up this morning, and the day was so beautiful. I was inspired to get some “real” food. I had to go to St. Johnsbury on an errand, so I was hoping to find local produce there. Somehow, on arrival, I got enticed into a store called “Cost Cutters.” Damn. They had a mountain of organic fruits and vegetables. I know I should have eschewed them for a farmers market, but instant gratification got the better of me and I bought everything in sight.

I did do a little better in Hardwick, a little town with a great co-op called the Buffalo Mountain Food Co-op and Cafe. They had beautiful local produce, and I did some more damage.

I came back to the Solar Dome, proudly, with the kind of swag that in Brooklyn would have cost me a fortune. I was pretty chuffed with myself, as I put everything in the fridge.

To celebrate, I went on the deck to watch the sunset while I ate my organic arugula salad with fresh corn, heirloom tomatoes, olive oil and lemon juice. It was then I noticed for the first time the elaborate garden just below me that somehow failed to captivate my attention on my arrival.

In all my city slicker haste (and yes, ignorance), I had only registered that there was some kind of garden with flowers and stuff growing. You would think a natural foods culinary instructor would be more sentient when it comes to food growing before his eyes.

I jumped down from the deck to discover that many of the herbs I purchased were growing right there – in great profusion no less – along with blackberries and raspberries (which I had also purchased). Hell, for all I know, there’s arugula and corn growing out there too. Then the guy renting me the house called and told me to stop at his greenhouse down the hill for all the heirloom tomatoes I could eat.

This experience was humbling, to say the least. I prepare fresh food all the time, I teach its preparation, but I didn’t even see it growing before my eyes.  Check out what I missed:

Thyme is growing EVERYWHERE like gangbusters, but I have to use up the 1 ounce package I bought first.


at least I didn’t buy sage


rosemary (bought it)

oregano, anyone?

I can make tea out of thistle, right?


I’ve eaten my pint of berries from the market. These are on tomorrow’s agenda.


I’m not gonna eat him, even though he was in the garden.


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Heads up, vegans (and food expo habitués). Here comes The Seed Experience. On June 16 and 17 at 82Mercer in Soho, there will be a multi-media vegan event that includes speakers, film screenings, food tastings, demos, workshops, and more.

Speakers will include Dr. Joel Fuhrman, Kathy Freston, Nick Cooney, our friend and blogger JL Fields, and many more. Check out film screenings including Vegucated, Forks Over Knives, Lunch Hour, and Fat, Sick, & Nearly Dead. Tastings will be provided by Cinnamon Snail, Pure Food and Wine, Candle Cafe, Blossom, Cafe Terri, among others.

Most importantly, look for demonstrations by NGI’s Olivia Roszkowski and Fran Costigan. Olivia will prepare Spring Shoots with Asparagus, Miso-Spiced Eggplant, Adzuki Beans, Edamame, & Black Sesame Seeds in a Ginger Dressing at 4:00 on the 16th (Stage B). Fran will prepare Irresistible Chocolate Vegan Desserts for Everyone on the 17th at 2:00 (Stage B).

Follow the event on Twitter @theseedexp. Also, rumor has it there’s a 50% off Groupon waiting for you.

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NGI President Jenny Matthau, Chef Rich LaMarita, and grad Colin Zhu

Our Chef’s Training grad Colin Zhu was kind enough to report to us on NGI’s recent collaboration to teach a nutrition class with NY Coalition for Health School Food at PS 184 in Chinatown . . . 

On Friday, May 25, the Natural Gourmet Institute had the good fortune to do cooking demonstrations at P.S. 184, Shuang Wen Elementary School in Chinatown. The NGI team consisted of Chef Instructor Rich LaMarita, Chef’s Training Graduate Colin Zhu, Chef’s Training student Steven Stewart and NGI President Jenny Matthau.

NGI collaborated with Healthy School Food in teaching nutrition to two 5th grade classes. As each nutrition class ended, Colin and Steven assisted Chef Rich in the set-up of the food demonstration. As enthusiastic as the students were with each nutritional class, they could not help being totally enticed by what the chefs were preparing.

The NGI team made three dishes for the students: sticky brown rice cooked with coconut milk and star anise; black beans with onions, tomatoes, toasted cumin and oregano; and a hearty guacamole made with red onions, chopped Beefsteak tomatoes, cumin and cilantro served with crisp sticks of jicama.

During the presentation, Chef Rich displayed all the ingredients, talked about the unique origins of each food item, showed how to sauté the toppings for the black beans and how to make guacamole.

The students were eager to try each dish. Having just learned about macronutrients the class before, they were excited to have their senses amused by an actual cooking demo right in their own classrooms. The combination of nutrition class and a fantastic cooking demonstration created the perfect recipe for each student’s culinary curiosity.

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Our very own Olivia Roszkowski holding down the fort at the Natural Gourmet table

On Saturday, May 12, Natural Gourmet participated in the Brooklyn Food Conference, hosted by Brooklyn Technical High School in Ft Greene, Brooklyn. The event was sponsored by City Harvest, Edible Brooklyn, Edible Manhattan, Food & Water Watch, Food Bank for New York City, Park Slope Food Coop, and Small Planet Institute.

While the conference’s stated aim was to combat the harm caused by the industrial food system, it also celebrated “food sovereignty” in the form of healthy local food systems focusing on urban gardens, CSAs, animal rights, a healthier environment and growing food without pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, or GMOs.

The festival boasted a bustling expo of organizations and workshops about food policy, food culture, business development, labor and social justice, farming, agriculture, and health and nutrition education.

Among the – literally – hundreds of workshops and speakers, Natural Gourmet provided a day of cooking demonstrations from graduates Bryant Terry (author of The Inspired Vegan), Jacques Gautier (chef/owner of Palo Santo and Fort Reno in Brooklyn),  and Madea Allen (Organic Soul Chef). Natural Gourmet instructors Jay Weinstein and Rich LaMarita also did cooking demos.

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Vegan Pastry Diva Fran Costigan

Always a star in vegan constellations, our instructor and renowned vegan pastry chef extraordinaire Fran Costigan brought the chocolate. Check out her recipes for decadent chocolate pudding and chocolate sauce


Makes generous 2 cups; 4 to 6 servings

Recipe reprinted from More Great Good Dairy Free Desserts Naturally

Unsweetened cocoa powder plus a very small amount of chocolate make a pudding so satisfying no one will ever guess this quick and easy treat as made without dairy, eggs or white sugar, or any of the unwanted ingredients found in boxed pudding mix.

Tips:   Tapioca starch needs to cook at a low boil for 30 seconds, not any longer, while cornstarch needs a full minute.  Do not use arrowroot in this recipe. It will result in a too soft and stringy pudding!


½ cup organic cane sugar, lightly ground in blender

6 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa powder [unsweetened]

¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

1/3 cup very hot water [I use just boiled water]

2 cups nondairy milk, divided (use your favorite)

2 ounces chopped organic fair trade vegan chocolate (or use chocolate chips)

3 tablespoons organic tapioca starch or cornstarch (do not use arrowroot)*See tips

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

  1. Sift the sugar, cocoa and salt into a medium saucepan. Pour the water over the dry ingredients and mix with a silicon spatula until moistened. Bring to to a low boil over medium heat, stirring frequently with a silicon spatula.  Make sure to stir the bottom of the pot, and be careful that the chocolate does not scorch. Reduce the heat to low and simmer 2 minutes.
  1. Stir in 1 2/3 cup of the nondairy milk and simmer 2 minutes. Add the chocolate, and stir with a silicon spatula until the chocolate melts.
  1. In a small bowl, combine the tapioca starch and remaining 1/3 cup of nondairy milk.  Stir with a fork until the tapioca is completely dissolved. Whisking constantly, add to the simmering chocolate. The mixture will thicken and darken immediately. Stir frequently until the pudding bowls. Boil low for 30 seconds, not longer. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Pour into individual cups or one large bowl. If you don’t like “pudding skin”, press parchment paper directly on the hot pudding.
  1. Serve the pudding warm or refrigerate and serve lightly chilled. The pudding can be made 2 days ahead and refrigerated.


© Copyright Fran Costigan All rights reserved



Makes 1 ½ cups

Recipe reprinted from More Great Good Dairy Free Desserts Naturally

Keep a jar of this versatile, delicious, and very low fat chocolate sauce in your refrigerator for homemade chocolate milk, hot cocoa, smoothies, or drizzle over puddings, frozen desserts and cakes too. Eating a spoonful directly is a hard to resist option. This recipe is used to make the Ultimate Chocolate Icing.

Tip: The sauce will thicken in the refrigerator. Add more water if needed to thin.


½ cup boiling water

¾ cup Dutch process cocoa

¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

½ cup pure maple syrup, grade b or dark amber, or use agave

2 tablespoons mild tasting extra virgin olive oil, organic canola or melted coconut oil

1/3 to ½ cup organic sugar (light or whole cane), ground in blender

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

  1. Combine the cocoa, sugar, and salt in a blender or food processor. Add the boiling water and maple syrup and blend 1 minute. Clean off the sides of the blender bowl with a spatula, add the oil and blend 1 minute. Add the smaller amount of sugar and the vanilla and blend 1 minute. Taste and add more sugar to taste.
  1. Pour the sauce covered jar and refrigerate for up to one week, or freeze for up to one month.

© Copyright Fran Costigan All rights reserved

Fran’s links and info: www.francostigan.com, Facebook: Vegan Pastry Chef Fran Costigan, Twitter: @Goodcakesfran

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Chef Celine extols the virtues of colorful whole foods

On Tuesday, March13, Natural Gourmet instructor Celine Beitchman took her message of “What’s Good to Eat” on the road again to PS 10 in Park Slope, Brooklyn. As part of the school’s annual Healthy Steps Fair, Celine spoke to students about how to identify and choose foods that are both to their liking and healthy.

Celine’s thoughtful, interactive presentation gets students thinking about why they need to eat well and intelligent choices they can make to achieve that goal.

“What’s Good to Eat” is part of Natural Gourmet’s ongoing community outreach to spark a conversation among children about the benefits and importance of whole, local, seasonal, and organic food. If you have an interest in bringing this presentation to your child’s school or your organization, contact Lisa Boymann (212-645-5170, extension 104).

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Rich LaMarita was our first demonstrator of Day 1. He’s our resident expert on all things Ayurveda and Indian. His paratha and dhal (curried lentil with sweet potato) were a big hit with the crowd.

Rich working the crowd with his paratha and dhal

Curried Lentils with Sweet Potato and Swiss Chard

serves 15





1 ½ cups red lentils (masoor), washed thoroughly

3 green chilis

½ teaspoon tumeric

4 – 5 cups water

1 ½ teaspoons salt


1 ½ lb. sweet potato, diced and roasted

1 lb. Swiss chard, chiffonade


4 tablespoons coconut oil

1 onion, finely chopped

1 tablespoon ginger, chopped

1 cup tomatoes, finely diced

Finishing Spice Oil

2 tablespoons coconut oil

½ teaspoon each cumin seeds, fennel seeds, black mustard seeds,

fenugreek seeds, black onion seeds

1 bay leaf

9 fresh curry leaves

3 red chili pods


1.         Combine the red lentils, chilis, tumeric, water and salt. Bring to boil and simmer, stirring often, for about 40 minutes. Reduce heat, partially cover and cook an additional 20 minutes until soft.

2.         Tarka: While the lentils are cooking, heat coconut oil in pan and sweat onion and ginger. Add the tomatoes and cook until thickened. Add to the dahl and cook until the flavors are blended.

3.         Vegetables: When dahl is almost done, add the sweet potato and Swiss chard, and cook for 5 minutes.

4.         Finishing Oil: Heat coconut oil in pan, toast the spices and add bay leaf, curry leaves and chili pods. Fry for about 15 – 20 seconds.  Pour the mixture into the dahl and serve.

 Fennel – Scented Paratha

yield: 10 Parathas


2 ½ cups chapati flour, or 1 ½ cups whole wheat & 1 cup unbleached white

1 tablespoon Lucknow fennel seed

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons ghee, melted

2/3 cups warm water

extra flour for dusting

extra ghee for brushing


1.         Mix flour, fennel seed and salt in a bowl. Drizzle in melted ghee and rub   with fingertips until mixture has consistency of coarse breadcrumbs. Add the water, bit by bit, to form a soft dough. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes. Rub ghee over it and let it rest for at least 1 hour.

2.        Divide the dough into 10 even pieces and roll into balls. Cover with towel. Flatten a ball and dip into dusting flour. Roll out to 6” diameter. Brush the top with ghee and fold in half. Brush half-circle with ghee and fold in quarter-circle. Dust it with flour and roll out into a large triangle. Cover with cloth. You can roll all out, but do not let them touch.

3.         Prepare griddle to medium heat and brush with little ghee. Place the paratha on the griddle and drizzle a bit of ghee around the edges and a bit on the top. Cook the paratha for a minute or until the bottom starts to form spots. Turn over, drizzle with ghee and cook until done.

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From instructor Elliott Prag comes this easy quinoa salad that you can creatively improvise upon in so many ways – use different fresh herbs, nuts, or vegetables. Replace the lemon juice with lime or grapefruit juice. The possibilities are endless.

NGI Instructor Elliott Prag makin' up a batch of quinoa salad

Quinoa salad with Toasted Pine Nuts, Sun-Dried Tomatoes,

Currants, Cucumbers and Scallions in Lemon-Mint Dressing

Serves 6


¼ cup pine nuts

1 cup quinoa, rinsed

1 ½ cups water

¼ teaspoon salt

4 sundried tomatoes (1/4 cup), soaked in hot water until soft, then minced

½ cucumber (4 ounces), seeded and diced

2 scallions, green and white portions thinly sliced

¼ cup currants

¼ cup chopped fresh mint

Salt and pepper to taste

Lemon-mint dressing (recipe below)


  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Place pine nuts on baking tray. Toast pine nuts in oven until lightly golden, approximately 5-7 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  1. Bring water to boil in 2-quart pot. Add quinoa and salt. Reduce heat to low, cover pot, and simmer until all water is absorbed, approximately 15-20 minutes.
  1. Remove pot from heat and set aside, covered, to steam for another 10 minutes.
  1. Transfer quinoa to bowl and fluff with fork. When quinoa is cool, add toasted pine nuts, tomatoes, cucumber, scallions, currants, and mint. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss with dressing.


Lemon-Mint dressing

Yield: 1 cup


½ cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons maple syrup

¼ cup loosely packed mint leaves

1 teaspoon sea salt, or more to taste


Combine all ingredients in blender and process until smooth.

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