Improv and Co-Creation

Some may have seen our video ode to the St. Vincent pepper (if not, check out our Instagram @urbanpharmshrub). St. Vincent is a real eye-catcher. Squat, bright deep red, with gorgeous well-defined furrows. Some might say sassy. Possibly capable, a friend mused, of breaking out into “a wee jig.” While it did not actually jump out of the pile of peppers and dance its way into my bag, it did catch my attention. Here’s the thing, though, I went in listening and looking and not for anything in particular. As cute as St. Vincent is, I could have blown right by on a quest for beets or arugula or something else I was looking for.

Tina Fey’s Rules of Improvisation are brilliant, as is she. Rule one is to agree or say yes, which Fey translates as not just being open to, but respecting whatever it is your scene partner has offered into the mix. Rule two is to tack an “and'' onto that “yes,” and add something to the scene that keeps it growing. Play along. Understand yourself as a co-creator.

I approached the St. Vincent pepper as a partner in an improv scene; it spoke the first line, and I was open to riffing on it; a big resounding YES to you, St. Vincent, AND here’s some tomato and leftover red onion and, and, and….Easy for me to do in the context of food, completely terrifying and deeply, deeply uncomfortable for me in many other contexts. I had a piano teacher once casually suggest that I “just play around with some chords and put something together”; it felt like jumping off a cliff. 

Urban Pharm invites improvisation and trusts you as a co-creator. That’s, in part, why we started out with something that can be used in all sorts of ways. We also know that some structure can be super helpful—someone’s got to start the scene, right?

Shrub Roasted Tomato Jam

🍅 5 large tomatoes, assorted colors, cut into wedges

🍅 ¼ cup tasty olive oil

🍅 2 tablespoons honey (if you like spice, mix in 1 teaspoon Aleppo chili powder)

🍅 2 tablespoons Urban Pharm Shrub (we like either Apple or Watermelon in this context for their color, given the red/yellow/orange tomato situation)

🍅 Salt (we like flaky sea salt) and pepper (we like coarse ground) to taste

-Preheat oven to 325

-Cut up tomatoes and spread them out in a single layer on a lined baking sheet

-Put olive oil, honey, and shrub into a ball jar and shake until well mixed

-Pour olive oil mixture over tomatoes and toss gently with your hands

-Roast until tomatoes start to lose their shape some and as if they might be heading toward a more jammy consistency–probably about 30-45 mins

-Take out of the oven and let cool before mixing, chopping, or pureeing tomatoes to the consistency you like

We love this spread on toasted bread with goat cheese, over pasta with fresh tomatoes and herbs, mixed into ratatouille, and frankly by the spoonful. 

We’d love to hear your recipe riffs and ways to use them!

❤️ Jill

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