Food brings people together. Whether it’s a group of culinary students testing out the perfect pie crust, hungry dinner guests crowding around a buffet table, or market shoppers gathering over bushels of just-ripe heirloom tomatoes, cooking builds community. It’s one of the many reasons I am grateful to be a chef liaison for a number of NGI’s partnerships, including Wellness in the Schools, Union Square Greenmarket, and, most recently, West Side Campaign Against Hunger. Known as WSCAH, this Upper West Side supermarket-style food pantry provides low-income families with locally-grown fresh produce, as well as essentials like whole grains, beans, and canned goods. This innovative model encourages their customers to make empowered decisions on the groceries they bring home to their families. WSCAH also runs a bilingual, 12-week chef training program, taught by Chef Andrea Bergquist. Here aspiring chefs are taught knife skills, professional cooking technique, nutrition, and more. After graduation, they are connected with job opportunities in kitchens all over NYC. This past August and September, WSCAH students joined NGI in our biweekly cooking demonstrations at the Union Square Greenmarket. Recently, I had the absolute pleasure to be guest chef at WSCAH. Both at the farmer’s market and in the classroom, I’ve had such a great experience working with the WSCAH students. They share an honest passion for food, and are excited to learn more about cooking healthy, plant-based recipes. The students were surprised how tender and aromatic Brussels sprouts could be in this deceptively simple recipe we made together: SAUTÉED BRUSSELS SPROUTS AND APPLES WITH CARAMELIZED ONIONS (Serves 4-6) Ingredients: 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 1 onion, thinly sliced lengthwise ¼ cup apple juice 1 pound Brussels sprouts, cut into quarters lengthwise 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves ½ teaspoon sea salt 2 medium apples (Golden Delicious works well), cored, diced 1 tablespoon maple syrup ½ teaspoon apple cider vinegar Pinch of black pepper Procedure: Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion. Cook until golden, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Add apple juice and deglaze pot, stirring until all juice has evaporated and all caramelized bits have been released from the bottom. Add Brussels sprouts, thyme and salt. Sauté until Brussels sprouts are slightly tender and bright green, about 5 minutes. Add apples and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in maple syrup, apple cider vinegar and black pepper. Make it a Meal: Serve with roasted cremini mushrooms and creamy polenta. Click here to support WSCAH and local families in need.