If anyone knows how to make lemonade out of lemons, so to speak, it’s Marie Rama. Big Italian family in Yorktown who ran Briccetti’s Bedford Market in Bedford Hills from 1929 to the 1980s? Check. Stint at The Window Shop in Harvard Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts, making French and Viennese pastries after graduating from Allegheny College? Check. A career as a food stylist and recipe designer for a PR firm whose clients included Sunkist? Check. Authorship of three “Cooking for Dummies” books, plus “Grilling for Dummies” and “Bacon Nation”? Check, check, check and check.
So when husband Mark Reiter developed a heart condition that required invasive surgery four years ago and decided to drop 18 pounds and go vegan, Rama found herself in need of a reset.
“I’m a cookbook author. I’ve been in food all my life,” says the Yonkers resident. “I thought we were eating healthy, but he was not eating well.”
Though Reiter was going vegan, Rama was doing the cooking. She came up with an Organic Meatless Bolognese, containing caramelized cauliflower, carrots, mushrooms, onions, garlic and three kinds of tomatoes, plus walnuts for that meaty texture.
“I thought, if I could get it into a jar,” she says. Easier said than done. Rama’s quest led her to the Cornell Food Venture Center, part of Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), to learn how to jar food safely and give it a stable shelf life. It was the beginning of a journey that would teach her about production, labeling and distribution.
“It’s very challenging,” she says of her venture into jarring her sauce. “There’s nothing artificial, no preservatives other than citric acid. It doesn’t have any sugar or water.”
Still, Rama persisted, establishing a company, Hudson Green, two and a half years ago with son William Reiter, a former finance attorney and a Bronxville resident. Besides her dairy- and gluten-free Organic Meatless Bolognese, Rama created a Velvet Vodka sauce in the kitchen of her Park Hill home that is dairy-free but not gluten-free, as the vodka has some grain. (It’s made with unsweetened coconut milk and a blend of seasonings, making it appropriate for curries as well as pasta.) Her sauces are now in 100 markets in the Northeast and Virginia — including Wegmans in Harrison, Bronxville Natural, Green Organic Market in Hartsdale and Bedford Gourmet — and will also be available in DeCicco & Sons and Whole Foods.
Rama’s business model is intelligible: Start small with two sauces and see how they do. But she knows there are so many other combinations of spices, nuts and vegetables to explore. Chickpeas and turmeric, anyone?
“Sauce,” she says, “can be a delicious symphony of great nutrients.”
- 1 1/4 pounds eggplant (about 1 large), ends trimmed and cut into ½-inch pieces
- 1 medium red or orange pepper, seeded and sliced into bite-size pieces
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
- 1 medium shallot chopped (a heaping 1/3 cup)
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- ½ teaspoon oregano
- Pinch red pepper flakes
- 1 heaping cup Hudson Green Organic Meatless Bolognese
- 2 to 3 tablespoons water
- 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
- Fresh, chopped basil or parsley for garnishing
- 1 large baguette, cut into ½-inch thick slices, tops brushed with olive oil, and toasted or lightly toasted pita slices
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Add the eggplant and peppers to a large, rimmed baking or roasting pan. Drizzle with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper and toss well to combine.
- Roast 20 to 25 minutes or until vegetables are lightly browned and tender, tossing 3 times.
- Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet. Add the shallots and cook about 3 to 4 minutes over low heat until translucent. Add the garlic, the oregano, the red pepper flakes, and cook, stirring about 30 seconds more or until fragrant. (Don’t let the shallots or garlic burn.)
- Add the roasted eggplant and peppers, the Hudson Green Organic Meatless Bolognese, 2 tablespoons water and the red wine vinegar. Cover the skillet and cook over low heat 3 to 5 minutes or until the mixture is warmed through. If the mixture looks a little dry, add another tablespoon of water to moisten.
- Taste and season with additional salt and pepper, if desired. Spoon onto toasted baguette slices, brushed with oil, and sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley or basil. Or place in a serving bowl, sprinkle parsley or basil and serve with toasted pita.
Makes about 2 and 1/2 cups or 10 to 12 appetizer servings.
For more, visit hudson-green.com.