Danish Cuisine Comes to Union Square Greenmarket

René Rezepi, interviewed by Dana Cowin of Food & Wine

Denmark may be known for its cold weather climate, but Danish cuisine could not be hotter. At the forefront of “New Nordic Cuisine” is Chef René Redzepi, whose restaurant Noma was named the 2011 Best Restaurant in the World by Restaurant Magazine. Fortunately for New Yorkers, Redzepi visited the “New Nordic Cookout” at the Union Square Greenmarket last Saturday to speak about his cooking philosophy.

In the past, Danish cuisine focused on exploring other cultures, and substituting Danish ingredients into French recipes. Yet in the last decade, there has been a shift to exploring Denmark’s own culinary history and natural resources.

In addition to sourcing local produce, Redzepi advocates something called “trash cooking”–using what we might normally throw away. Fish eyes can be salted and added to broth for umami flavor, Christmas tree spruce can be used as a spice. When asked what New Yorkers might be overlooking in their cooking vocabulary, Redzepi responded, “Why don’t you eat the grey squirrels?” It’s a fair question.

Yet his philosophy is about more than pushing culinary boundaries—it is about a more sustainable and healthier way of eating. More vegetables, less meat, less waste—this is a way of eating we will need to embrace in the future. Redzepi explains that we shouldn’t only try to cook expensive ingredients perfectly. We should do the same with humble vegetables, taking the time to bring out their flavor and using them as more than just garnishes.

Out of everything he saw at the Greenmarket last Saturday, Redzepi said that what he most wished he had in Denmark was the market itself. He reminded New Yorkers how lucky they are to be able to buy fresh produce and be in direct contact with the people who grow the food they eat.

At GrowNYC’s New Nordic Cookout, Danish cuisine and this local New York produce came together. Thousands of New Yorkers lined up at the pavilion for samples such as savory ebelskivers with vinegar powder and pork terrine with hazelnuts, aquavite, green kale and apples. The Danish Prince and Crown Princess also attended the celebration, wandering the market and stopping by for samples.

For those still hungry for Nordic cuisine, New York’s first Danish restaurant, Aamanns, will open in Tribeca in December.

It remains to be seen if New York squirrel will be on the menu.