Sustainable

Food Gifts by Mail - Five Great Choices

A friend asked me about favorite products to send to foodies on your gift list. I tossed off this quick list of five and thought I may as well share it here for those of you not following my every twitch on social media. I buy mail order for some things and these are terrific companies that are well worth supporting. I use these myself and have been enriched by support from some of them as sponsors at one time or another. Readers know that I only have sponsors that I shop from, that I support.


1. Katz Farm Table - so good you can drink them. Perfect for mignonettes, salads, try the honey Viognier on roasted veg.

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2. Koda Farms - A California Farming Legacy Since 1928 - foodies will know they were called best brown rice by NYT Mark Bittman, their barley is the best you will try and look at this gorgeous heirloom varietal white rice. This is the rice I dream of and I most often use. Much lower than industry standard for broken grains.

rice


3. Pasolivo Olive Oil - heirloom varietal olive oils, and some pressed with various citrus grown right next to their olives. I've baked their Bergamot Olive oil into these fantastic brownies, and their Lime Oil into this Margarita Bundt cake. lime__oil
4. ILoveBLueSea.com - low flat rate shipping of pristine seafood from small family operations and sustainable fisheries. Great oyster selection, too! Take a look at these Dungeness Crabs I got from them.

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5. Askinosie Chocolate - terrific single origins the ex lawyer founder is mission driven and partners with the growers to go way beyond fair trade. Ab fab. Here are the brownies mentioned above - I think I used Soconusco chocolate and the Pasolivo Bergamot oil.

bergamot_askinosie_brownies

Saving Oysters to Save Ourselves - Tonight at Les Zygomates

LIttle Island Oysters  

 

From the pristine waters of Little Island in the Bagaduce River of Maine and the Scarborough River also in Maine, come two fine oysters you'll be invited to sample tonight.

 

Les Zygomates is hosting our Oyster Century Club© event which will feature a screening of Shellshocked: Saving Oysters to Save Ourselves - this 40 minute award-winning documentary covers the history of oysters rise and fall and the restoration work being done today.

We're also honored to have two local experts joining us to talk about the science of biomimicry and how it's being used to restore oyster beds and coastal areas. Our second guest will share what local Boston area oyster recovery projects are underway.

 

Powerful film, great guests, terrific oysters.

 

Please join us!

 

 

On Connecting Through Food and Connecting To Food - Itadakimasu

  Kinfolk Magazine sponsored a series of dinners in various cities in June. They called it the Butcher Block Workshop on Fish Cleaning; Charcuterie; and Butchery.

I was thrilled to be invited to the one here in Boston at Beacon Hill Hotel & Bistro. I find Chef Josh Lewin to be one of the most thoughtful chefs around (much like his predecessor at BHHB, Jason Bond). These guys are what I most admire, first and foremost delicious food, the rest is secondary isn't it? Secondary, but not unimportant.

Beyond delicious food, these chefs are quite studied. And, they are teachers,  able to share, through their menus, and events like this, their knowledge. I always learn something new and taste something that is a revelation when I dine with Josh.

So it was on this hot day in June.

Itadakimasu

Through this event, we got learn about lamb, try our hand at certain cuts. We sampled a little simple piece of skirt, a butcher's cut on this size animal.

It's hard to look at a whole animal, without its life, without its skin and to think of it as food. But it is food and we choose lamb that has been given a good life and hopefully met a good death. It is through the art of butchery that a life becomes food. I have great respect for this ancient art.

The reverence for the life we're consuming is expressed at the Japanese table by the saying "Itadakimasu" - uttered before tucking into a meal.

Often mistranslated as "Bon Appetit!" but it doesn't mean the same thing - at all. The Japanese custom is to give reverence for the thing that gave its life for your meal.

I find butchering a quiet and peaceful act. I've not witnessed a killing beyond a lobster or an oyster, not sure I could. But I sure as hell respect it and wish more people did. Some find looking at this repugnant or difficult. It should not be easy. I find people who wrinkle their noses at food which reminds them it was once alive, more difficult than looking at the whole, skinned lamb.

Lamb butchery

 

The Menu

Nasturtium & Grape Leaf Dolma - pistachio rillettes, challah, Jordanian hummus

Ab Gosht - potato, dried lime, saffron tomato sauce

Shushan Snow - Cilantro lime confiture, rye

Gelato - shared chocolate

 

Baynatha Khubz wa Milah - a Jordanian phrase, if memory serves, roughly translates to "now that we have shared a meal, we are connected."

A beautiful meal, a reverent experience of butchery, and a connection to food, to people I will not soon forget.

Thanks to Kinfolk and to the Beacon Hill Hotel and Bistro for never ceasing to reveal something new in the every day experience of feeding ourselves and others.

 

Peonies and menu

From Ennui to Joy - Delicious Oysters and Life Lessons from Nonesuch Oyster Farmer Abigail Carroll

Meet Abigail Carroll through this lovely TEDxYouth presentation. Life lessons for all of us. Get your hands dirty! Can you imagine leaving Paris, money, a Count for a boyfriend and trading it all for hip waders, algae, and Biddeford, Maine?

She did it and we're thrilled she did. In this TEDxYouth talk Abigail tells her story and shares the lessons she learned along the way.

Reminds me of the oft-quoted Hemingway remark about how oysters instill us with the sense of possibility, and how they immediately lift our spirits.

Oysters as Homecoming

Just as Abigail experienced a homecoming through the acquisition of her oyster farm, so do we have a homecoming of sorts each time we bring an oyster to our lips. We are kissed by our mother, the sea.

I am excited to announce that Nonesuch Oysters will be one of our sponsors at the Oyster Century Club's screening of Shellshocked: Saving Oysters to Save Ourselves. Having just tasted her oysters I can attest to their lovely flavor. Abigail will be bringing oysters to share with us.

 

Nonesuch Oysters is a young, eco-friendly oyster farm located within a nature conservancy at Nonesuch Point in Scarborough, just south of Portland. Our Scarborough River is one of few in Maine to boasts outstanding natural resource waters. Home to these great-tasting, healthy oysters!

Already among Maine's favorites, Nonesuch Oysters are gaining fame nationwide for their bright, fresh, salty-sweet flavor with a delicate grassy undertone. In 2012, Nonesuch Oysters received the "Outstanding Micro Business of the Year" award from Scarborough Economic Development Corp.

Nonesuch Oysters have been showcased on the menu at New York’s celebrated James Beard House and the Grand Central Oyster Bar. We also received a lovely write-up in Rowan Jacobsen's, A Geography of Oysters website.

Our Oysters and Movie Night

We will be screening the award-winning documentary, Shellshocked which looks back at oysters' hey day in NYC which was then the oyster capital of the world, then look forward with the help of some very special guests at what is being done locally to restore oysters to their important place in our ecosystem.

Guests will include:

Dr. Anamarija Frankic, of UMass Boston:

Dr. Frankic, Associate Director of the School for the Environment at UMass, Boston, will discuss the exciting new field of biomimicry and how it can be used to restore our coastal environment.  She will describe the Green Harbors Project she created with UMass students to explore through "LivingLabs" what nature would do to improve conditions in the harbor.  Professor Frankic is also an adjunct professor at the Institute of Fisheries and Oceanography in Croatia and has been awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to establish a biomimicry course and the LivingLabs program in Croatia.

Andrew Jay, President of Massachusetts Oyster Project

Andrew Jay is the President of the Massachusetts Oyster Project.  The organization is dedicated to restoring oysters to the Commonwealth's estuaries. Mass Oyster has four primary activities- oyster shell recycling, education, direct oyster restoration, supporting other restoration programs. You can learn more at www.massoyster.org.
Many thanks to Les Zygomates for hosting this event. Please register via EventBrite, here The Oyster Century Club Presents...as seats are limited by space.
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Cracklin' Confetti Cornbread

When I first took this picture I immediately thought of Pacman. WakaWaka. Cornbread Pacman

Cracklins? Yup. The crispy bits leftover from rendering leaf lard.

Confetti? I had a bit of fresh corn, a bit of hot chile pepper, some onion.

I come from people who live by the "waste not, want not" credo. Japanese call it "mottainai". My people would not waste a bit of this or that (corn or onion) nor would they throw away the cracklins after rendering lard, had they done that. So I tried to keep these traditions in mind when putting this together.

Cracklin' Cornbread

This cornbread was one I was sure I'd find in one of my Southern cookbooks. Surprisingly I did not. The combination was both hard to find in an existing recipe, and also a winner. You have true cornbread taste, an occasional burst of sweet corn kernel, the subtle heat from the chiles, the savory bits of onion, perfume of the cracklins, truly a keeper.

Cornbread

It all comes together quite easily and you could easily leave out the cracklins and make this pork-free. You could probably even make it vegan if you subbed flax seed meal and water for the egg, though I've never tried that. Some recipes want you to use mostly flour, some add sour cream, yogurt or even crème fraîche. Not traditional. I wanted a cornbread that was moist but leaned more toward rustic and traditional, not sweet and cake-y.

Ingredients: 

  • 1 1/2 C cornmeal (I like Bob's Red Mill)
  • 1 C AP flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 TBSP sugar
  • 1 1/4 C buttermilk (or substitute see note)
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 6 TBSP fat - half lard, half butter, melted then cooled
  • 1/2 C cracklins
  • 1/4 - 1/3 C corn kernels
  • 2 TBSP chile peppers, minced
  • 2 TBSP minced onion

 

Directions:

Tip: If you do not have buttermilk on hand, any milk or milk stand in will do. I use soy milk and add 2 TBSP cider vinegar per cup. To make your own buttermilk, place vinegar in measuring cup first, fill to 1 1/4 C with soy milk. That way, your total liquid volume still corms to 1 1/4 C. In just a couple minutes it will thicken, don't worry if it looks a bit curdled.

  1. Preheat oven to 400°.
  2.  Grease a large cast iron skillet (I used the cheesecloth for straining the rendered leaf lard).
  3.  In a medium size bowl, mix dry ingredients (cornmeal, flour, baking powder, soda, salt, sugar).
  4.  In another medium bowl, mix buttermilk, softened butter/lard, egg. Add chiles, onion, corn.
  5. Add to dry ingredients, fold in cracklins breaking up any large pieces.
  6.  Add to prepared pan, bake 25 minutes, or until pick comes out clean and top is light golden.

 

Skillet Cornbread

 

 

 

 

Go Here, Eat This - Washington D.C. Edition - MintwoodPlace, Ripple

Some relationships are difficult from the get-go. You get started on the wrong foot and you're never confident you're on solid ground. Sometimes you take a long break, then a brief encounter seduces you into thinking, "this could work." It rarely does. But not all relationships are created equal. Do they all need to be "the one"? Can't they be an occasional dalliance and can't we celebrate that? Be in the moment when we're in it and not expect more?

I'm speaking, of course, of my relationship with our Capitol city. I'm speaking of Washington, D.C.

First, I have to acknowledge that my initial introduction to this complex city was as a young teen, living in a suburb, chafing at the last hold of my parents' authority. I spent probably a good 50% of my entire time there calculating my escape in one way or another. I was like a prisoner with a life sentence and an elaborate escape plan. I tried once or twice at age 14. I needed bigger spoons. And an accomplice.

At 17 I made my final escape. The accomplice, like so many inmates, was predictably untrustworthy, but we got me out. I escaped to college in New York and I never looked back.

As an adult, I've gone back to visit family once or twice a year. Usually, I'm struck by the suffocating humidity and I return North to Boston, assured that I will never move South again.

Then, once in a great while, something magical happens. You're surrounded by art and history, a fluttering shower of Cherry Blossoms and you're enchanted.

A recent visit had the odds stacked in D.C.'s favor, like catching someone right after they've walked out of the hair salon, a massage, or a really good session of therapy, or sex. D.C. was at her best even with unseasonably warm springtime weather. But D.C. had Catherine in her favor. She benefitted from the reflected glow of this force of nature en route from Dhaka to Kyiv and I was smitten all over again. As we talked and walked and drank and ate - trying to make up for too few such stretches of uninterrupted solo time, we noticed how green D.C. is. Trees everywhere. We noticed that the cross walk lights give you a civilized 30-something seconds to cross the street. (Boston starts blinking stop 10 seconds after it gives you the walk sign, drivers are revving their engines by the time you're mid-crosswalk.)

People are nice in D.C. They say "please" and "thank you" and they smile. They chat and they don't look at you like you're an escapee from the local looney bin when you initiate a conversation. There's a Southern gentility about the way people interact.

There's poverty, yes. But there's also a ton of money. Which means a ton of good dining options for those of us lucky enough. I guess it's partially due to all those lobbyists with expense accounts.

Well, we enjoyed the best of city that weekend. We popped in to see our friend Hope (the diamond, yes THAT one), took in some fabulous Asian art, and enjoyed some very good meals. Lots of laughs. Gratitude. Book stores, shoe stores, jewelry, parks. Did I mention drinks? And Food?

MINTWOOD Place

I called on Twitter pals in D.C. for reco's on where to eat. This was one of my friend Shulie's choices and what a great time it was. Discretion does not allow me to show off some jewels that bedazzled, but let's just say "over the top" might come to mind. (As all good Asians know, markets can be volatile, jewelry is an asset you can hold on to.) We started with craft cocktails; a Marilyn Monroe (Hibiscus Infused High West Vodka, Royal Combier, Lime, Cranberry & Orange bitters) for La Cecil and a Woodrow Wilson (Boomsma Jonge Genever, Hum Liquor, Elderflower, Cava) for me.

Mintwood Place Food and Drink

As MINTWOOD Place emphasizes local, farm-to-table seasonal foods, I could not help myself. We ordered from every part of the menu, even when only one of us was interested in a dish (calf's heart for me, eye-catching dessert for her. Saved again by the dairy allergy.) L to R: Woodrow Wilson cocktail; Blistered Shishito Peppers and Maple Pork Cracklins; Whole Boneless Royal Dorade with braised fennel and Picholine olives; Wood-grilled confit calf's heart salad over baby collards. Every bite was fantastic.

I highly recommend MINTWOOD place and I'll go back any chance I get.

tel 202.234.6732 email hello@mintwoodplace.com 1813 Columbia Rd. NW, WDC 20009 Mondays CLOSED Tuesday - Thursday 5:30pm - 10:30pm Friday & Saturday 5:30pm - 11:30pm Saturday & Sunday Brunch 10:30am - 2:30pm Sunday 5:30pm - 9:30pm

 

Ripple

I'm tickled by Ripple. It's possible they intend a clever play on the association with cheap wine. It's also possible I'm the only one that thinks that it's just a reminder of  the ripples on the water . Dip a toe in, I promise you they've got a fantastic wine list. But then, why take my word for it when Wine Enthusiast picks it as among the Top 100. More on the wine in a moment. The ripples spread out first course, entrees, cheeses, desserts...

Don't you love these tiles?

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Decor is usually not the first thing I talk about, and readers know I'd eat in a hole-in-the-wall with good food. However, it's a good sign when the first thing you do walking into a place is to begin imagining how this or that would look great in your own place. It's plush, elegant, like your very cool, better paid, imaginary older sister's place. You think "those cushions for my sofa" "those tiles for my kitchen backsplash...Oh wait!~"

That is the moment you spy the cheese cart. And a fromagier who is happy to tell you precisely which of the cheeses is peaking - just today.

This is going to be a good meal.

Ripple DC

And it was good, much better than good.

Local, sustainable, all that I love can sometimes be wonderfully rustic. Here, it is decidedly elegant. Sophisticated - did I say that already? - there's a skilled and thoughtful chef at work here.

And a young female sommelier who knew exactly what we would enjoy when we described what we were leaning towards.

I'd had this once before and forgotten about it. A winemaker who took over her family's winery, Elisabetta Foradori produces the most elegant wines, beautiful mineral backbone, courtesy of the Dolomites, biodynamic since 2009.

The fruit and earth are beautifully balanced with Syrah-like tannins opening over mid-palate. It worked well with our food and I'd love to be drinking a glass right now.

wine

Somehow I missed the pig on the way in, but snapped a pic on the way out.

I'd return here any time and highly recommend it.

RippleDC

Open Daily at 5pm Sunday Brunch 11:00am-2:30pm 202.244.7995 3417 Connecticut Ave NW, DC

 

ABC’s of Saving Summer Produce

We are gorging on summer produce now, dribbling peach juice down our chins and arms, munching fresh green beans (well, everyone except Carlos), zipping through ears and ears of corn, serving fat slices of delicious heirloom tomatoes with everything we can think of and sometimes just eating them all by themselves in their ripe, naked glory. I saw the first tiny red and gold Maple leaf today and it reminded me not to wait too long to get this post done. Here are a few tips to keep our affair with summer produce if not hot, at least simmering vigorously into the cooler months to come. How long is up to you and will depend on both will power and freezer/shelf space.

Extending seasonal eats is as easy as A, B, C, F.

A - Acquire

B - Blanch

C - Can

(D Devour, E Enjoy...what, you didn't think I could spell?)

F - Freeze

A few simple steps will go a long way toward some stellar meals in the midst of winter.

Basil like this will soon be a distant memory - but there are ways to extend the seasonal eats.

Basil

Acquire

For most of your recipes, you should choose the produce free of blemishes and bruises. Skins should tight, weight should feel good in your hand. Corn silks should be damp - older silks mean older corn. Basil should be pre-blossom stage as the flowering basil will be a bit more bitter than those still in its prime. With heirloom tomatoes you may have to ask the farmer which varieties are at peak. Some of the large ruffly tomatoes (like pleated Zapotecs) are good for stuffing and won’t feel heavy. Green Zebras are more firm than Carbons.

For fruit that may have a blemish here or there, you could muddle them into shrubs or make simple syrups for cocktails and homemade sodas.

Tip: Chat with your farmer about what’s best that day. Ask for a sample.

Blanch

Blanching is a technique that will keep your vegetables bright and crisp. You’re simply dropping them into boiling water, then quickly moving them to a large bowl of ice water to arrest the cooking. Your corn will stay more sweet, beans more green.

  • Tip: Even basil stays bright green as will your pesto. Thanks to Vivian Bauquet Farre for this tip!
  • Tip: Blanch corn on the cob then cut off the cob and freeze for future use. If you’re using it right away, no blanching is necessary. To easily cut off the cob, stand an ear on its stem end in the middle of a large wide bowl. Cut down with a knife and the kernels will fall into the bowl.
  • Tip: Save fresh naked cobs to make a stock for future corn dishes, to make crackers, as a base for chowder. Cover with cold water, add a bay leaf and a few peppercorns. Simmer gently until the cobs have become pale. Strained stock can be frozen in cubes or in zip bags flat on a cookie sheet to be easily filed away or stacked in the freezer for that next chowder.

Corn

Can

Sometimes a surfeit of summer goodness is simply not sufficient. What to do to keep this sensual sustainable love affair going strong in the colder months to come? You can preserve food in jars without tons of specialized equipment, though a few items help to do it safely and efficiently. Even if you’re not using a hot water bath and ball jars, you can put food by in freezer containers. So I’m including freezing here. Canning Across America is an excellent site to help you get started (you can even read my Confessions of a Canning Virgin.)

  • Tip: freeze plum tomatoes whole on a half sheet pan then place them in zip top bags. You can then have the individually frozen peak-of-season plum tomatoes to use in colder months. The skins will slip off as they thaw, easy to remove or buzz up.

 

Resources:

Put ‘em Up - a great guide to all sorts of food preservation from freezing, to canning, pickling and more. My friend Sherri Brooks Vinton is on her second (or third?) book now and my copy is stained and stickered where I've marked pages with ball jar labels as I've made them.

Food and Style - is a recipe club and website by Viviane Bauquet Farré. It's gorgeous and chock full of sexy, delicious recipes and wine pairings. You'll be surprised to note several pages in that it's also vegetarian. I got this blanching basil tip from her just recently. Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks?

 

Now, share YOUR favorite tip for saving summer produce...do you can? Freeze? Site or book you go to again and again?

 

 

 

 

Pasta Frittata - Frugal Gets a Facelift

It was either Calvin Trillin or Woody Allen who is attributed with saying his mother served the family leftovers for 30 years, the original meal could never be recalled. In my house growing up, Mom almost always ate the odd bits of "food" in foil balls in the back of the fridge, while serving the rest of us a fresh meal. I'm not talking about those "meals". When we're talking about good leftovers, we set aside the ones bordering on science experiments.

I like leftovers and often think of meals that we can enjoy together for dinner which will also provide breakfast for Doc and lunch for me the next day. Cook once eat twice. Reducing food waste is also a laudable goal. Do you know we waste nearly 30% of the food we purchase? Food waste also accounts for a significant portion of greenhouse gas emissions.

A meal that can make us feel frugal and virtuous but in a classy way? What's not to love?

Pasta Frittata

This is one of my favorite types of leftover dishes: last night's pasta gussied up and turned into something as good or better than the original meal.

Frittatas are omelets that are finished in the oven, they puff up and become gently browned, making them seem sort of soufflé-like. They also fall very quickly since you're not whipping air into egg whites, but this takes nothing away from the Frittata's appeal.

This time of year we love shopping at the Farmers' Market. I saw Dan at the Kimball Fruit Farm the other day, picked up some beautiful asparagus. Also those Persian Cucumbers I love, they're about as close as I get to the Chinese or Japanese style cukes. No bitterness, tiny seeds, sweet skins. Perfect for so many things including cocktails! Radishes bright and fat and happy....but my asparagus was destined for a pasta dinner. Then I noticed the fish vendor is finally selling scallops in half pound portions (one pound is too much for two people!) and a pasta plan began to come together.

I sautéed about 2 tablespoons of peppered bacon in a little olive oil, removed to a dish. Handful of shiitake caps sliced, some diced onion got lightly browned in the oil/fat.Removed them, then I seared a half pound of scallops from Red's Best. Removed the scallops, then sautéed chopped dandelion greens, blanched asparagus, frozen peas. Deglazed with Vya Vermouth (you could use white wine or water) added some shrimp stock (again, water would be fine) nestled the scallops back in the greens and added all the veg and lardons back to the pan. I added some preserved lemon rind, julienned and some fresh ground black pepper. I had cooked cappelini (only six minutes!), and because it's so fine, rather than finish it in the pan, I simply added fresh grated lemon zest, parsley and a little olive oil to the hot pasta in the bowl, dumped my sauce on top. A little more lemon zest and pepper to top. Dinner of a bit of this and that, elevated with fresh spring vegetables, and Bob's your uncle as they say.

We gobbled up the scallops and most of the pasta (yes, nearly a pound of pasta between two of us. I know.) Today I have leftovers of about a cup and a half of the pasta and veggies. I could simply heat it up but I'm always looking for another way, a better way, and a reason to eat an egg or two. Most days I'd just add a sunny side up egg on top and be happy. With these leftovers, I went instead with pasta frittata.

Plucked some thyme, tarragon, and chives from the rainy fire escape pots,  added more asparagus and then brought the pasta to room temp, mixed up four eggs and make a pasta frittata.

I imagine dishes like this were made the world over with all manner of starchy leftovers; who could afford to waste good food? Potatoes become Tortilla Española, bread becomes French toast or bread puddings, probably grains or rice would work as well. I think I was taught this pasta version of the dish by someone Sicilian in college.

pasta frittata

  • What is your favorite leftovers transformed dish? 
  • Do you have a tip or secret for dressing them up?

The Straight Poop on New Year's Resolutions to Eat Better

I'm often asked what foods one should avoid, whether carbs are evil, and people sometimes assume I eat gluten free (who knows where that came from?!) The simple truth is no true food is really evil and much of the "healthy" advice out there is pure poop. As many of us are thinking about resolutions, it's a good time to separate wheat from chaff. And poop. Speaking of poop, I have decided to make poop the theme of this year's "resolve to eat better" post. More on that in a minute. First, let's review what makes a resolution or any goal succeed or fail. Here's a mnemonic device to help you remember: SMART. How to make your goals and resolutions SMART:

  • S - Specific. Instead of "eat better" try a specific goal: "One meal a week will be whole grain based." It's not so hard. Make whole grain waffles one Sunday (you can freeze and toast for breakfasts later), a pumpkin brown rice risotto for dinner. Bake whole grain muffins on a weekend for grab and go breakfasts.
  • M - Measurable. "Eating better" isn't going to be something you can measure accurately. Make it something you can measure. For example, "eat one meatless meal per week." Easy, especially with the slew of good vegetarian cookbooks out.
  • A - Achievable. This is about setting yourself up to succeed. I could set a goal to exercise 6 days a week. If I were my husband, I might succeed. I am not. I would be more likely to achieve my goal if I said "I will walk three days per week." I could aim for 4-5 but set my lower limit of sloth at three.
  • R - Reasonable. If you grew up like most of us with meat-centric meals, it would be unreasonable to quit carnivorous ways cold turkey, so to speak. How about resolving to buy only pastured, grass-fed beef? Or cage free eggs? Sustainable seafood?
  • T - Time-bound. Goals that are time-bound are more likely to be met. Let's say you have a goal to "exercise more" - sounds nice, right? But isn't it more likely to be achieved if you say "I will walk at least 20 minutes each walk." Or "we will try one new veggie recipe each week."

The Straight Poop

First the bad news. Much of the advice flying around the internet is poop. "Avoid gluten and lose weight" a favorite canard. When people have gluten sensitivity or are Celiacs, of course they must avoid gluten. The rest of us really are better off with whole grains in our diets, and yes, that includes gluten. Those who have experienced weight loss eating gluten-free most likely have done so because they've largely eliminated processed crap from their diet. Do that and you're ahead of the game either way. In fact, most people find that eating whole grains help them maintain more steady blood sugar, a feeling of fullness and an enjoyment in the eating itself from added flavors and textures. All these benefits will help in anyone hoping to lose weight. This is why I don't like the "low carb" craze. It works for some (more for men than women) but I've seen precious few who can maintain it and if you're eliminating foods that could be helpful, which you could enjoy in healthy ways, you're depriving yourself of healthy and sensual dining experiences. Why?

Another pet peeve is the "juicing to remove toxins" craze. Now, fresh pressed juices from organic fruit and vegetables is good, don't get me wrong. Is it a cure for a season of overindulgence? No. Is it a replacement for well-balanced food? No. Read this excellent article  Why Juice 'Cleanses' Don't Deliver - Eat + Run (usnews.com) debunking the juice cleanse. Movement. Another word for poop, of course, but also a concept to strive for. Incorporate movement into your SMART goals. Move to music, walk through the city (see my friend Marc Hurwitz' AMC urban hikes, for some group walks).

Some of us have suffered losses in 2012 or setbacks in our work, stumbled in relationships. "Move through it, learn from it, get over it" is my motto. Obviously, grief takes time and is never a straight line. All of life's losses have something to teach us and movement can help us avoid getting stuck in a bad place. "Get over it", is not to be flip, but to remind myself to laugh. Spend time with a toddler or a baby and have some belly laughs. Watch how they laugh from the top of their heads to the tips of their toes. Go see a funny comedian or watch a favorite funny movie. So get up and MOVE your body.

  • Try standing instead of sitting at the computer. Try doing it one or two days a week to start. Sitting for long stretches, more than six hours a day, can make someone at least 18% more likely to die from diabetes, heart disease and obesity than those sitting less than three hours a day. (read more.)
  • Even getting up every 20 minutes or so can be beneficial. Make scheduled breaks for a walk to get a glass of water versus a break for social networking - seated, online - will be an improvement.

Moving toxins through our system. 

We'd like to eat bad food, drink like fish, and then do something simple like drink a smoothie and believe that will undo the harms. Me too! But it just isn't so. I'm not advocating a monastic lifestyle. Not the girl with the pound of foie in the fridge. Eating all sorts of things and drinking in moderation is okay in my book. Okay, as long as it doesn't become our norm and as long as we keep to the routine of moving, moving. I've over-indulged this holiday season but am trying to walk as often as I can. (doesn't sound like a specific, measurable goal does it? hm...) One of the best ways to move toxins -- or to be more accurate, waste -- through our system is to eat sufficient fiber. Fiber is what "grabs" waste and forms poop which we eliminate. Much good fiber comes from vegetables and grains. More of these are not only more satisfying to cook to eat, to chew, to enjoy; they are also far better at helping your process of elimination.

swirl
swirl
Wall_o_kimchi
Wall_o_kimchi

Another thing which can help is adding probiotic foods or supplements to your diet. Since much of our diet is further in time or geography from its source, we lose some nutrition even if we eat as locally as possible. Especially during the winter months in the Northeast. We also tend to eat less fermented foods here than in other countries. Fermented foods are a rich source of probiotics which are the good bacteria that support gut health. I've been adding Kombucha to my diet, thanks to my sister-in-law's recommendation. I love it and definitely feel it's helping keep the gut happy.  

gut health
gut health

And by "gut" I mean the poop shoot. This is a good scholarly paper on the emerging medical wisdom of the need to address gut health.

← Poop shoot!

Our intestines are where many things - good things -  happen. Absorption of nutrition we take in, regulation of immune function, etc. At the very least, it seems safe to say that eating a highly processed, low fiber diet, leading a sedentary lifestyle both contribute to less than healthy outcomes.

In the end

Here are a few SMART things you can do to improve your eating, your wellness, your enjoyment of life in 2013. These will also improve your "process of elimination" better than any products you might buy, and support all those good things that happen in your poop shoot. 1. Incorporate a whole grain based meal one day per week.

  • Culinate has a great grains guide. Their list includes TWENTY. Pick one for each month and find a recipe that intrigues you, try it out!
  • Maria Speck's Ancient Grains for Modern Meals (link takes you to Mussels with Farro post and includes links to book, site) is inspirational. A beautiful cookbook bringing the sexy to whole grains.
  • Grain Mains is another great book for "grainiacs" - including this new staple of my pantry: Whole Grain Waffles. (favorite whole grain sourcing info included in that post.)

2. Make a movement goal. 

  • Try yoga in the privacy of your own home with a DVD like Rodney Yee's Yoga for Beginners. Just 20 minutes in the morning or afternoon or evening is all it takes.
  • Walk more. Try a goal of parking further from the grocery store. Taking two flights of stairs instead of an elevator you normally take for four. In just a week or so you will see improvement. Who can't do two flights of stairs? Okay, start with one.

3. Make it a goal to improve the quality and decrease the quantity of meats you consume.

  • Even if you cannot do it with every meat purchase, make a goal to do it some percentage of the time. Or choose some items that you'll buy organic and give yourself wiggle room on others. For example, these items carry the highest pesticide load: The Dirty Dozen.
  • Grass-fed meats have a lower carbon foot print and better nutritional profile. Choose pastured meats from local farms instead of "cheap" meats that contain antibiotics you don't need. Cows are ruminants and their stomachs are not designed to eat grains. Prophylactic antibiotics are used to keep them from getting sick on the unnatural, rapid-fattening diets they are fed. Don't get me started on horrible feed ingredients that sometimes include downer cows, and more.
  • Eat one meatless meal per week. Meatlovers' Meatless Celebrations is a great book for eating well, even at holiday and special meals. Recipes will satisfy carnivores and vegetarians alike. This is not about "giving up" it's about "adding to" your culinary repertoire.

[Shameless self-promotion warning]

4. Take a class with me to gain more kitchen confidence. Learn to shop, cook, eat, better with a trusted friend by your side in the comfort of your own kitchen.

  • Learn how to avoid marketing influences that lead you away from whole foods, true foods and toward processed. Take me shopping with you and we'll explore how to read labels and choose foods wisely. Which foods are more or less sustainable? Which veggies are loaded with pesticides?
  • Explore adding joy and chew and flavor to your diet through whole grains. We'll cook delicious whole grains you will be excited to incorporate into your regular rotation.
  • Tailor a class or a series to you and yours: cooking with kids; exploring flavors of North Africa; Japanese food you can make at home.
  • To learn more about the kinds of things I can teach you, click on over here.

If you'd like to customize a session, please call! Thanks for sharing this info with your foodie friends.

Curried Kuri Bisque - Comfort in a Bowl

Delicious and oh-so-healthy, this is my new favorite fall soup. I developed this for a private cooking client who wants to eat healthier, practice knife skills and learn techniques to develop flavors without meat. It can be a meal in itself or a nice starter (Thanksgiving perhaps?) served in small bowls or coffee cups. Kuri squash, dal

Curried Kuri Bisque

While “bisque” is traditionally seafood stock and cream-based, this warming, comforting soup is vegetarian (no meat) and vegan (replacing milk with soy, no animal products). But let's not talk about what it doesn't have - let's talk about what it DOES have. Taking advantage of early fall vegetables, this bisque is loaded with vitamins and minerals (Vitamin E, Alpha Tocopherol, Thiamin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Iron, Magnesium and Phosphorus).

  • With the addition of sweet potato, carrot and dal, it’s also a great source of dietary fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Riboflavin, Potassium, Copper and Manganese.
  • By adding masoor dal, a salmon colored lentil that breaks down in cooking, you increase fiber and iron as well as boosting the protein of the soup, while adding no saturated fat.
  • With the deep roasted flavors and the spices, it also has lots of flavor.

 Ingredients:

  • 1 small kuri squash/pumpkin (can substitute butternut squash)
  • 3/4 C canned pumpkin (not pie filling)
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 medium sweet potato
  • 1/2 C masoor dal
  • 1 TBSP minced fresh young ginger
  • 1/2 c minced onion
  • oil (neutral such as canola)
  • Chinese Five Spice powder (optional)
  • soy butter (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp tomato paste
  • Veggie stock or water
  • 1/2 apple, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 C soy milk

 Directions:

Preheat oven to 375.

  1. Cut kuri squash in half, scoop out seeds (reserve for roasting)
  2. Scrub carrots, chop in 1/2 chunks
  3. Peel sweet potato, cube
  4. Drizzle scant oil on carrots, sweet potato. Rub a tiny bit of Earth Balance soy butter (or oil) in squash. Sprinkle with Chinese Five Spice.
  5. Roast veggies in 375 oven. Roasting helps develop an additional flavor in this vegan soup. Veggies could also be steamed or microwaved, but roasting helps deepen flavors.
  6. Sweat onion in a drizzle of neutral oil till just starting to brown, add ginger, pinch of salt, then add 1/2 tsp tomato paste, pumpkin puree.
  7. Deglaze with 3 C veggie stock (veg stock and water) add dal, diced apple.
  8. When roasted veg are mostly done, (piercing the larger chunks of carrot w/ knife meets little resistance) add to soup.
  9. Blend spices and soy milk with a fork then add to soup.
  10. Simmer on low heat, stirring frequently to ensure it doesn't burn. Add water as necessary to reach desired consistency. When vegetables and dal are all tender, use stick blender to purée soup.

 

Spices that love pumpkin:

If curry and cumin are not your cup of tea, you could omit them, adding only cardamom, coriander and cinnamon. I might add more onion and ginger to give the soup some kick in that case.

  • 3/4 tsp cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp curry
  • 1/4 tsp cumin- coriander blend
  • 1/4 tsp cumin - optional, to taste
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 C soy milk

Option garnish: while the oven is still hot, toss the seeds of the squash with salt and Five Spice, toast them till just golden and crisp. If you can resist nibbling them, you should have enough to garnish a few bowls.

Curried Kuri Bisque

 

If you love soups like I do, you'll enjoy my Taking Stock series which covers all sorts of soups and stews, like Taking Stock: Vegan Minestrone with Umami to Spare.

Go Here, Eat This: Russell House Tavern (and a send off for Jen!)

When people think of Russell House Tavern, they often think of charcuterie, meat, sausages, and pork. All these are rendered beautifully but don't overlook the expert kitchen offerings in other areas: Russell House Tavern

One of the things Chef Michael Scelfo and staff do so well is to source locally raised and grown foods, whether it's Brambly Farms pigs, or local herbs and fruit, you will have a sense of the place and the season on your plate at Russell House Tavern. The fish (above) was amazing, striper if memory serves. The salads were so artfully composed it called to mind the phrase "we eat first with our eyes" and we really did enjoy feasting on these beautiful dishes.

Russell House Tavern Tartare

Steak tartare can be like Russian Roulette if you talk to food safety experts, they'd probably advise against it. Here is an example of the benefits of local, sustainable meats. I would never eat steak tartar if it were food service beef. No accountability or traceability to safe, humane, clean slaughterhouses, no true food safety. In the hands of a thoughtful chef, I'm secure in the knowledge that my risk is well within limits I'm comfortable with.

As our friend Jen leaves us for the wilds of Milwaukee, becoming the publisher of Edible Milwaukee as she turns a tender 29 (is this a record?) - we will celebrate her incredible accomplishment and devotion to local sustainable foods and chefs like Michael Scelfo with a farewell dinner tonight. I don't relish the thought of saying good bye to her, but I'm glad to be celebrating her in such a perfect spot, and happy for the food-minded folks in Milwaukee.

Abundance of many things to look forward to tonight, and gratitude.

 

Go Here, Eat This: Pai Men Miyake

Most of my "Go Here, Eat This" posts focus on places in Boston. Today I'm going to encourage you to take a little trip. If you wanted to find genuine ramen, farm-fresh ingredients, locally raised, organic meats; if you wanted to discover the joy of true yakitori seared over binchotan coal; if you craved a new local oyster you're not going to find at your local Boston raw bar; you could take a trip to Japan.

Or, you could take a short road-trip North of Boston to Portland, Maine.

It is so worth the drive...Here's why...Pai Men Miyake.

Pai Men Miyake

It's a terrific local spot that features farm fresh produce and meats. As in THEIR farm. Really, how can you improve on that for sourcing?

See that fire on the stove on the right there? That's intentional. It's Binchotan coal. We'll get to that in a moment. First, we had to try the pork buns because the meat comes from pigs they raise. Besides, who doesn't want to start with pork buns?

I was delighted to find that two oysters were offered and one of them I'd not only never had, I'd never heard of. John's River Oysters are from the local river. Pemaquids we do see from time to time here. Housemade cocktails and mocktails were excellent as well. I also tried a local microbrew that was fine to accompany the yakitori.

Pai Men Miyake Pork Buns

Binchotan is a very special compressed "white" Japanese charcoal that burns extremely hot and evenly. It is precisely the type of coal one needs to produce proper Yakitori. Mad proper, yo. Too often some insipid chicken on a skewer slathered in teriyaki sauce passes for Yaktori. 'Tis an abomination, I tell you! Yakitori is perhaps the Japanese version of Nose-to-Tail whole beast cookery, taking many bits of different animals often the ones discarded and turning them into enticing little bites on skewers. I could make a meal of them.

  • Kawa - Crispy chicken skin - what's not to love.
  • Bonjiri - Chicken tail - the fat and crispy skin bonus bite.
  • Butabara - Pork belly - easy to love.
  • Motsu - Pork intestine - amazing, the slightest earthiness gives a hint of its origins but really appealing and yes, delicious.
  • Gyu tan - Beef tongue - tender in a way that the tongue in a deli sandwich hopes to be.

Pai Men Miyake - Yakitori

And finally, the noodles. This is the thing we came for. I had been whining about the lack of proper ramen in Boston. I'm excited we may finally be getting a ramen-ya in Porter Square (I know there's the food court inside the Porter Exchange, but I cannot queue up for an hour for ramen. Constitutionally incapable.)

The middle bowl is kake soba. Konbu and shiitake broth. The dark green is wakame, a sea vegetable and scallion. The broth was so umami-rich, I nearly asked to switch.

I ordered the house ramen pai tan ramen is a pork and chicken broth. That's a slice of their home grown pork belly, a soy-marinated egg that hovered in creamy deliciousness between poached and hard boiled. Crispy sheaf of nori. This dish took me straight back to Tokyo. Actually, for the second time. The yakitori had me recalling my trip to Japan maybe 15 years ago now. I ventured out one night on my own and ended up in an Izakaya style restaurant that specialized in yakitori. The only thing that would have made that night any better would have been to share it with someone.

Well, at least we now have each other, Doc. And, thanks to your sleuthiness, we have Pai Men Miyake. Can't wait to go back!

 

 

Pai men Miyake

188 State St, Portland, Maine Tel: 207-541-9204

Hours:

Monday-Saturday 12pm-12am Sunday 12pm-10pm

 

Paul Barron Explores Restaurants, Social Media with me and Tom O'Keefe. We have an Ice Cream Date!

I was delighted to be invited to appear as a guest on Coco TV, the brainchild of Paul Barron (The Chipotle Effect) who seeks to "help restaurants change the planet." Peruse Paul's site, DigitalCoco to see more about what they're doing to help companies harness analytics. Tom (AKA Boston Tweet) and I were chosen to share our thoughts on how "local" and "social" intersect here in Boston. (Funny our first "Tom and Jackie" show was on pizza and this one ends with ice cream. How is it I got this damn dairy allergy again?) Barron is taking his show on the virtual road, filming a series across ten US cities investigating what influencers are seeing in local markets. How are restaurants using social media to enhance, broaden and deepen their relationships with consumers? What trends are emerging?

I caught up with Paul for some follow up questions while he was en route to present at a conference in Miami. It was a fascinating conversation reaching into future and reflecting on the changes he's seen in the fast casual restaurant segment since his early days at Microsoft.

Back to the Future

In the early days of technology's presence in restaurants, the industry resisted the use of POS touch screens that are today, ubiquitous. "It was like we were bringing them something from Mars. They were still using registers and paper tickets. A restaurant that might've been doing $700 could increase sales to 1.2 million with the right technology." Will tablets replace the touch screens? Perhaps.

Barron sees a parallel with social media in that many in the industry are almost being dragged into the world of social media. "Now when we can show them that consumers, armed with smart phones, can be your best evangelists or your worst enemies. When we analyze the data from venue check-ins, Instagram, etc. we see overlap. In the sandwich segment, we're tracking the top 50 brands. The top 5 in social media stats, were also in the top ten in venue mentions. We went one layer one more and found that these top five also had higher - 70% higher - referral scores in Trip Advisor and Yelp. That's pretty significant ROI, it shows social and local work to increase positive reviews and referrals."

The technology available to consumers today, the use of apps and the drive toward social media connections is as revolutionary, maybe the first real overhaul in the industry since the invention of the automobile.

Beyond an Accumulation of Likes

I asked Paul what companies are doing besides accumulating "Likes" on Facebook. "Most companies are not analyzing the data they get from Facebook, etc. There is gold in that data. If they can starts to identify patterns including  what we call “circular patterns”, they will reap huge rewards."

"For example, if you "Like" J.P. Licks on Facebook, and you're connected to me. And even if I had never heard of J.P. Licks, don't even live in Boston, but we are connected and share an interest in culinary, I can become a fan because of your influence. I travel to Boston frequently, I can become a customer and a fan. Imagine all the people in your circles that live in Boston..."

"Companies have this gold mine of the connections, the audience, your "likes" connect your people and your brands. It's huge."

Beyond that? "Cross-competitive data set, THAT analysis, will be the next frontier, we have just begun to scrape the surface, seeing some trends in more advanced brands like Starbucks are starting down the path. Who in your circle is eating elsewhere that might be eating instead at my restaurant?"

Predictions and Ice Cream

Paul shared an intriguing prediction. In the future, Facebook and Twitter will go the way of MySpace. These closed networks will flourish for a few more years, and more open networks will emerge. Leading brands that embrace technology will create their own open network. "Starbucks has 30 million facebook fans - that could swing the election - imagine that influence if Starbucks picked a side and influenced 30 million fans..."

Facebook and Twitter don't know it yet, but their days may be numbered if Barron is correct.

"Social poaching, it's starting already. Brands are starting to take their own audience to their own networks. Look at what Red Bull is doing on YouTube. It's not just selling energy drinks. With its YouTube content creation, it will become the ESPN of YouTube. If brands are smart, they'll realize they are not selling a product as much as they are selling a lifestyle. They're connecting consumers to their brand. This could completely shift the way the landscape looks today."

"Starbucks is sort of doing it on their digital network, imagine what is possible, it could reformat media, journalism." said Barron.

I hope to be on the side of those doing that reformatting, along with Paul and other forward-thinkers. For my part, I think of the social media as the kitchen in the virtual house party. We gravitate there and the fun starts when come together over a meal.

Nothing is more exciting than thinking about the ways the food on our plate can not only bring us together but also make the world a better place. Thanks Paul, for sharing your thoughts on this exciting time and the changes you're seeing.

And next time you're in Boston, J.P. Licks is on me!

 

 

  • What are your observations about how Boston restaurants use Social Media?
  • Who's getting it right? Who could do better and how?

Refrigerator Fail - Recipe Success: Wheat berry-blueberry salad

I wish I could say "no fridge, no problem!" but I'm not that girl. I try to be positive, and generally I succeed, but sometimes it is just not possible. Case in point, the trauma du jour: our refrigerator pickle. Now, I'm not talking about lovely quick pickles one could make if you had an actual, functioning refrigerator.

I'm talking about being "in a pickle" or a tough spot, because we have no refrigerator. Well, that's not precisely correct. We have one, but as Doc pointed it out, it's a giant paperweight. That's about it. You see we have been dealing with a failing compressor SINCE MAY. Take a minute to let that sink in. One bad compressor. TWO successive defective replacements and me the maniac (now maniacal) home cook and food writer.

We are learning to live as if we have money to eat out all the time (we don't).

Or as if we lived in a developing nation with no electricity (we don't).

Or as if we lived with a stay-at-home spouse who could shop and cook each day (we don't). As if we lived in a European fantasy, one un-harried, well-appointed housewife, shopping daily, for just that day's perfectly fresh meal. That one meal, shopped and prepared EACH DAY, using only food that is to be consumed THAT day.

Damn it's rough when the fantasy (wouldn't that be a lovely way to live?) slams right into the reality (hard as hell, especially given that we don't have a partner who just does that.)

Okay, enough of the fantasy. Here's the reality: I needed to bring something to the annual garden fête in Ipswich welcoming back our dear Catherine who pulls us all together like a powerful magnet sweeping through so many metal shavings. We're all giddy about the party because Paul & Tom our hosts throw delicious parties amongst gorgeous Asian antiques. There are large and lime-y gin and tonics. There are fabulous shoes. There are false eyelashes. And there are lots of laughs, stories, scandalous snippets from one life or another.

The food is always wonderful and one does feel the need to Contribute.

A nice tart perhaps, oh no, sorry no fridge in which to chill dough. Ditto for pie.

Nothing with meat. A terrific coconut-ginger granita? Oops freezer is kaput.

Grains to the Rescue

When faced with a culinary challenge it's often helpful to look at the familiar for guidance. I tell my Chinatown tour participants to look at a new Chinese vegetable, decide what familiar thing it reminds them of, and try to prepare it that way. Okinawan potatoes can be roasted in the oven with olive oil and salt. Amaranth or other greens can be sauteed with garlic and oil like chard or spinach.

Recently with Maria Speck's Ancient Grains for Modern Meals and Mark Scarbrough and Bruce Weinstein's Grain Mains, I've been enjoying exploring many different grains. In fact, I've coined the term "Grainiacs" because we're just crazy for them. The queen and kings of the grainiac nation have many happy subjects. I am but one.

In this refrigeration-free state, I tried to think of countries where refrigeration was not a key part of food prep. Since one of my new favorite combinations is grain salads with seasonal fruit, I hit on the solution: Triticale (wheat) berry, blueberry salad with shallot vinaigrette and baby spinach. Advantages included using seasonal berries, dark leafy greens, introducing friends to the fantastic local grains from Four Star Farms. I added a bunch of Spelt flakes for interest and to increase the volume (feeding a crowd after all).

Here's what the berries look like pre-cooking:

wheat berries

 

The "recipe" goes like this.

  • Pour boiling water over grains to soak.
  • Simmer in stock or water (I used homemade clarified chicken stock with a pinch of salt and two allspice berries added.) Watch the water level and top off as needed. Simmer about an hour.
  • When the grains were nearly done, I added some Spelt Flakes. You could substitute other grains, or omit. Fish out the allspice berries.
  • While grains are simmering, make vinaigrette.
  • Chopped a good size shallot, added Dijon mustard, lemon zest, red wine vinegar, good olive oil.
  • Toss warm grains into dressing, add blueberries (strawberries also go really well in this type of combo, you could also sub dried cranberries).
  • Add rinsed and spun-dried baby spinach (you could also use arugula or other hearty grains including curly kale if you massage first). I also added fresh Italian parsley.
  • Toss gently to incorporate dressing throughout and distribute greens and berries. Salt and fresh ground pepper.

The finished salad looks like this:

wheatberry blueberry salad

 

And to Top it all off - Nuts

Five Spice nuts cooling

Remember my recipe for Chinese 5 Spice nuts? These make a great topping, bringing some crunch to the party. Add them at the last minute before serving, breaking them up with your fingers as you sprinkle them on top. Leave the rest of the batch as a hostess gift.

The Peach Sangria was a hit, too. Probably had something to do with the beautiful Majolica pitcher and possibly helped by the copious boozey components.

 

For more info on grains see the Chefs Collaborative Ancient Grains report.

 

Peaches and Herb (& Sexy Garlic, Cilantro Pesto)

  It will surprise no one that I can and regularly do geek out over the great food at our Dewey Square market. No one even laughs at me when I tell them "Hey did you know I shot like 50 photos of your sexy garlic the other day?" Or Dan at Kimball Fruit Farms will just laugh when I tell him about yet another pie. I think Peach is up next.

Kimball Fruit Farms Peaches Who could resist? Remind me in the dead of winter, how green this mint is, how fuzzy juicy peaches are today, how pungent the mint and other herbs are.

I've become such a fan of the organic garlic (aka sexy garlic) from Linabella Farm. A radical departure from the supermarket variety. Not bruised, not dry, full of fresh garlic flavor.

Linabella Sexy Garlic Look Ma, no sprouts!

 

And the herbs at Flats Mentor Farm are regularly rocking our world. Fresh rolls, pestos, cocktails...

Mentor Flats Farm Mint

 

 

Cilantro Pesto Ingredients

 

Cilantro Pesto or Pistou

So I got it in my head that I wanted to create a cilantro pesto. I actually wound up making a cilantro pistou (similar to pesto sans fromage). I'll share my adventures in vegan parmesan another day. Here's a general guideline for my cilantro pesto/pistou and a couple links for others' recipes.

Ingredients:

  • Cilantro
  • Garlic
  • Lime
  • Thai bird chiles
  • Pepitas
  • Olive oil
  • Red onion (optional)

As you can see above, key is good fresh cilantro (1 bunch, rinsed, dried thoroughly), organic garlic (about one small head or two cloves), organic lime (juice of one whole, some zest), and one or two small green chiles like the Thai bird chiles above.

Method:

Now to blend with those, I added pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds, about 1/3 - 1/2 cup) you could also use pecans or almonds or pine nuts. When I think of cilantro I think pepitas as being in the same general culinary tradition. Since I had pepitas on hand I chose them. Pine nuts these days, at least organic ones, are through the roof price-wise. I had a few left so added them. They are sweeter than pepitas so I think you'd have a nice pesto with either.

Add some best quality olive oil. In simple fresh recipes we really have to pay attention to the quality of each of the ingredients. No time to skimp. I used maybe 2-3 Tablespoons. Basically drizzle in pound or buzz, drizzle.

Salt a little more than you would think you should.

Buzz it up or pound in a molcajete or mortar and pestle. I added (not pictured) some red onion (about a quarter of a small one) because I had it to use and also because I wanted a little touch of sweetness. Taste, adjust.

This was delicious with fish, with fajitas, and I mixed some with homemade mayo and slathered over corn on the cob. Brilliant!  I want do that again. Soon. Think about mixing into a corn and black bean salad. Yes.

 

Here are Kim O'Donnel's recipe and Elise Bauer's.

 

Cilantro Pesto Spoon

Go Here, Eat This: North Shore Edition - Enzo Restaurant

I may be the worst (or best?) procrastinator on the face of the planet. I can use the excuse that I am intermittently reinforced for this habit and thus feel powerless in the face of it. I'm mostly joking and do get an awful lot done, but never quite as much, as quickly as I would prefer. This North Shore edition of "Go Here, Eat This" (my series of occasional restaurant reviews) focuses on the Enzo Restaurant in the town of Newburyport. Chef Mary Reilly and husband Dave invite you to relax and enjoy fresh Italian cuisine, interpreted through hyper-local ingredients. If you love knowing that your fish was swimming that morning, your pork was humanely and sustainably raised, your chef is supporting local farmers, fishermen and distillers; well, Enzo is for you.

Last summer I was delighted to be introduced to one of our local distillers and equally happy to discover that Enzo carries these distilleries' fine products on their bar. Of course! After my first meal at Enzo, I floated away on a cloud of sated happiness and promised to tell everyone. Mary was kind enough to share the recipe for one of their house cocktails, and I tested it out with my fresh-late summer produce. I muddled, mixed, sipped, and shot.

Farmers' Market Martini, Enzo

Then life happened. A lot of it. Good and bad  -- and just took over -- as it does -- and here we are in AUGUST already. Luckily it's a great time to try this cocktail (again.)

Farmers' Market Martini

This cocktail takes advantage of the smoothness of Beauport vodka and the fresh flavor of summer vegetables.

  • 4-6 cherry tomatoes, or 1/4 of a medium tomato
  • 2-3 slices cucumber
  • a few sprigs of herbs: parsley, basil, chives, summer savory (whatever you have on hand)
  • pinch salt
  • 3 oz. Beauport vodka
  • cucumber wheel or cherry tomato for garnish

In a mixing glass, muddle the tomato, cucumber and herbs well with the salt.  Really make sure you mash all the vegetables up so as to extract as much juice as possible.  Add the vodka and ice and put the top on your shaker.  Shake well to make sure the you get everything super cold and well combined.  Double strain* into a cocktail glass and garnish with a cucumber wheel or cherry tomato.

* Double straining is a technique used when you make a drink with a lot of "bits" in it. In addition to a standard Hawthorne or julep strainer (or the strainer built into your cocktail shaker), strain through a fine-mesh strainer into your glass. A simple way to do it: hold the shaker/strainer combo in your right hand and hold the fine mesh strainer over your cocktail glass. Pour directly into the fine-mesh strainer - all the small bits will get caught, leaving you with a clearer drink.  If you don't have a fine-mesh strainer, no worries, the double strain isn't essential; your cocktail will just be a wee bit chunkier!

Getting Back to Enzo

The good news is that Enzo Restaurant has passed their first year anniversary, they're gaining steady clientele and gathering a slew of good reviews along the way. You really must go and experience it for yourself. It's comfortable yet sophisticated. As North Shore folks are wont to do, there are plenty of customers in well-worn shorts and deck shoes in evidence. The freshly coifed and the couples celebrating having found sitters on the same night (so it seemed to me) were also out in equal numbers. I was pleased to see a fair number of guests who knew the staff and to learn our server likes the place so much she'd brought her partner back on her day off! Not many restaurants can make that claim. Everyone should know this is a warm and welcoming place.

This recent meal was full of delicious surprises (left to right):

The olive oil and foccacia were delicious and a statement in pink and green.

Nonna Rose - Enzo's first barrel-aged cocktail with Milagro blanco tequila, Aperol liqueur and vermouth spend a month in an oak barrel to produce this smoky, slightly spicy cocktail. Served on the rocks with a flamed orange peel.

Pat Woodbury's Clams (wanted a bathtub sized bowl of these babies, clean, ocean-y).

Rhubarbarita, Fried Polenta, Fried olives stuffed with cheese (one of the few olive dishes Doc loves).

 

Nonna Rose, Fried Olives

 

Since the Striper was caught that morning, I couldn't resist. The fish was perfectly cooked, sat on a bed of three local beans and potato dice.

Doc had the free form lasagna, housemade cheese, local sausage.

Dessert - sorbetto so rich and chocolatey you might think you were given gelato instead. Correto.

 

EnzoResto Striper, Lasagna

So, Mary & Dave - we will not wait another year to come back! I'm hungry again looking at all the delicious food. Wonderful evening beginning sips to last. Mille Grazie!

Enzo Restaurant

50 Water St., #304 Newburyport, MA (978) 462-1801

Opens at 6:00 Tuesday through Thursday and 5:00 Friday through Sunday

Closed Mondays

Highlights: Local, seasonal, handmade food.

For diners with allergies: Enzo is one of the best at accommodating allergies and offers options for nearly everyone.

Phone ahead for reservations and let them know of any allergies then.

 

Where to Go? What to Order?

Looking for a place to eat in Boston? The “must-try” spot for Chinese food? Dumplings? Dim Sum? My favorite burger? Pizza? A Gluten-free joint? Who does the best dollar oysters? Roast pig? People often ask me where they should eat in Boston and what they should order when they get there.

“Go Here, Eat This” 

Quick posts sharing notes of good spots to eat, highlighting what’s unique about the place,  favorite dishes, house specialities, indicative of the cuisine, or just ones that I really enjoy. I’ll also try to note things like whether the place is friendly to those with allergies, or disabilities, etc. Just stuff you ought to know.

SEO is dead. Long live SEO. What's for Lunch, Farmers' Markets, and being Content with Content

There is considerable buzz right now about whether Internet marketers should anticipate the death of SEO (search engine optimization). Will good content replace it the primacy of SEO? These debates will swirl around while people continue to try to monetize the giant genie that is now out of the bottle.

Wrestling with Spiders

If you write, market, sell or even dabble in the Internet, host a site, engineer sites, or "just" blog about what you're cooking; you have wrestled with and tried to master SEO at one time or another. Many will recognize that my extra long title, is not designed for clever algorithms, but for humans who think differently, process information in other ways.

Plenty of us have ignored SEO at our peril. The title, above, is an intentional example. More of us have tried to learn proper use, avoiding the appearance of “gaming the system”, while attempting to write in creative ways that don't sound leaden. I still chafe at writing for spiders. (Writing in a style that algorithms will reward, to raise the search engine profile of a given piece can be referred to as writing for spiders. Spiders are the bits of code used by search engines that crawl the “Interwebz” looking for the clues as to authentic content that deserves a higher ranking in Google.)

SEO often feels like the tail wagging the dog to those of us who have been bristling at the advice to write for search engines, preferring people to spiders. I’m not casting aspersions on spiders, I actually kinda like the little buggers. I might be compared to Miss Muffet when it comes to SEO though...

Is SEO is dead? Of course the provocative statement deftly described in this recent Forbes article by Ken Krogue will get people talking. And many of those will be part of the whole industry that has evolved to help us understand how to master SEO. They write books for us to buy, consult on how to do SEO and marketing on the web. That is how THEY monetize the web.

Of course, the article is about SEO and is running in Forbes. So, it will gain a much higher ranking than my little site, but it doesn’t mean I don’t have an opinion that will resonate. Maybe not in the halls of industry (or the cube farms, as it were) but at least some of my readers will get it.

How SEO is like Big Ag

All this talk about the death of SEO and whether good solid content & “social” will replace laser focus on SEO alone is akin to the debate between local food passionistas and big AG. How? Allow me...

We used to have a food system that was more local until it became industrialized. There were advantages for many in the industrialization process, advantages many people would rather ignore. Jobs for one, but this is not the main point here.

There’s an increasingly large and alarming body of evidence that the risks of industrialized agriculture may outweigh the benefits.

  • we are not “feeding the world” with our increased productivity, though this is often offered as a justification
  • we are polluting the earth, and draining the water table
  • we are depleting the soil and creating a second Dust Bowl, (only our grandparents remember that tragedy?)
  • we are creating chemically-dependent crops
  • we are creating smarter bugs that are now resistant to antibiotics and which have the power to kill humans (80% of antibiotics produced in the US go to livestock NOT to humans)

At the same time, we have rediscovered the joys of local, sustainable food.

  • we love our farmers’ markets even if they are often inefficient at distribution
  • we have renewed our passion for seasonal food, a tomato that actually tastes like a tomato, pork that tastes like pork
  • we have begun to realize that supporting our local economies has many, direct benefits

There are those that seek to demonize big AG and deify farmers’ markets. Simplicity loves a villain. We must find ways to support local farms, local economies and also to farm and distribute on a large scale in ways that don't create generations of disasters both economic and agricultural.

I believe the rising interest in “content” ("CONtent" which I keep reading as conTENT, as in happy...ironic, don’t you think?) echoes another key cultural shift. Whether or not we all begin eating only local food (not likely) or stop the massive recalls of tainted food, stop the Second Dust Bowl, begin farming more sustainably, find scales of production that actually work, stem the tide of farm foreclosures...one thing we all crave is more authenticity. More community. Finding "our" people and our place in the world seems more important than ever.

THIS is why affinity groups are so passionate about their topics, “their” bloggers, their recipes. This is why big corporate marketing departments are seeking out the blogging community support (witness the rise of the “yoga pants mom" demographic.) Social media has taken off partly because it is an efficient way for us to find others who share our passions, whether they live in Oslo or Oswego. I was a Twitter skeptic and now a huge fan. Ultimately, we'll look for hybrid systems - in agriculture, in online communities,

As is so often the case, the thought-leaders and self-proclaimed “gurus” will mine this new debate for their own purposes. People still need to figure out how to make money on the web, but they will need to refine it from simple SEO algorithms and gaming they system/manipulating it, until the next new thing that comes round. The debate needs to evolve into a more nuanced conversation about authentic communications, true communities. The recognition that "social" matters seems to me a very late epiphany for the "gurus" in the field. Many of us who have been ridiculed as unsophisticated are shrugging and collectively saying "duh."

Writing about what Matters

Some of us will go on writing about what matters to us, not necessarily to or for spiders. We’ll feel good when we strike a chord on a topic that never comes up in keyword search tools - but get tons of comments from readers. We’ll know we made an authentic connection with our audience. We revel in the emails from readers who never comment but share howe our stories moved them. These communities of conversation are going to exist whether marketers learn how to profit from them or not.

Depending on your goals, you may pay more or less attention to these prognostications about SEO, about CONtent, or you may be conTENT to write what you are passionate about, even if it doesn’t fit into a nice formula. I take pride in the fact that in the early days of a very well known aggregator, I tried mightily to encourage them to have a food & cooking category. They (being young male geeks who clearly knew more than I) insisted that their membership "didn’t care about food" and would consider my contributions "spam" (not the food product type).

Hey, even geeks have to eat. And yes, they do now have a food category.

This SEO debate reflects evolution in the industry. Some will get that, others will wring their hands and proclaim the sky is falling while they scramble to figure out what their next gig will be. And some will keep doing what we do. Writing what we care about for people who recognize that even geeks have to eat. Hey gurus do, too. We'll continue to try to find ways to monetize what we do and we'll rely on things like SEO or spiders to help readers who would otherwise never stumble upon us, to find us and join our online communities.

In the span of a week, we’ve had a death in the family, a serious hospitalization of a friend, crisis in the life of another loved one. We’ve shared gifts of food with new friends and anticipate the arrival of a new little one next door. No matter what happens with SEO - people matter, families matter. Family farms going under matters. Our country suffering another Dust Bowl, matters. The joy of having enough food to eat, of sharing a good meal together matters.

I’ll take that over page rank any day.

 

What do you think?

Do you write for people or to spiders?

How much attention do you pay to Meta tags, Social Media and SEO?

 

 

 

 

Ever Curious, Always Hungry Scavenger Hunt Answers & Winner

Here are the results of the Scavenger Hunt. How many did you know?

  • What club are Taylor Shellfish and ILoveBlueSea sponsoring? The Oyster Century Club©

  • Who said “If you are looking for support to organize an event, I strongly encourage you to consider Jacqueline.”  Yes, I do event planning. Read what one client, Friends of Marviva Foundation had to say.
  • Who are The Shrinking Violet and The Brine Hound and where can they be found? These are two of the Oyster Lover profiles described by Rowan Jacobsen, author of The Geography of Oysters. An autographed copy goes to each of the first ten OCC© members to join.
  • There are ten photos on my Photography page. Which photo by your always hungry friend has been published? The hint here was "always hungry" and of the photos on my photography page, the first one was published in the iWine Report on Navarra Rosé.
  • I’m the “go-to-gal for questions about sustainability, seafood and social media” for what conference-planning, app-developing powerhouse? Clues here were social media, conference: I spoke at Babette Pepaj's TechMunch conference.
  • What is the ironic connection between two of my favorite writing clips? Amongst my clips are a piece for Culture: the Word on Cheese and the Washington Post (on dining out with food allergies). I'm now allergic to dairy which means no more of my beloved cheese.
  • Name one chef that I introduce on a video. Gabe Bremer - Salts; and Peter Davis of Henrietta's Table are two chefs that I introduce and talk to on the Media Clips, here.
  • Name the workshop that Christopher Myers & Joanne Chang said this about? “...we were energized to learn more and to help realize a better future for not only the diners of tomorrow but their children, as well.” The workshops I give to restaurants/chefs on sourcing and using sustainable seafood are called "Teach a Chef to Fish" and I've been doing these trainings for a couple years. They are an outgrowth of the Teach a Man to Fish sustainable seafood  event I do here, in a virtual potluck/teach-in format.
  • What’s my favorite hashtag right now? #Oyster100 follow that hashtag on Twitter to see what fellow members are Tweeting, what oysters they're eating and where they're enjoying them.
  • Name one new thing you learned about me from this site/contest. I hope this little contest helped you learn more about my new site and something about me and my work as well.  

Please feel free to share this post and help me spread the word.  I love and appreciate your referrals!

AND THE WINNER IS: Congratulations to Jenni Fields for getting 8 out of 10 answers right. Let me know which sponsor you choose and I'll send a $25 gift certificate your way.

JacquelineChurch