Archive for ‘food’

September 22, 2011

The Greenhorns Film Premiere – Cambridge, MA – September 28, 2011

If you love food, you love farms.

Growing up in central/upstate New York I had a great appreciation for the local farms scattered just outside my hometown. Fresh just-picked produce is one of mother nature’s greatest gifts. My personal favorite is locally grown corn on the cob, always best in mid to late August. I tend to eat it raw, right off the cob – it’s just so sweet and fresh.

With our modern reliance on quick and convenient food products, the food, and the path it took to get to you, are often lost. Remember, your fruits and vegetables were once connected to the ground, watching the skies, just like you, for signs of rain and the promise of sunshine. And even those processed and packaged foods, although “created” in a factory, often have ingredients that originated on a farm. Farms are incredibly important. Farms are food.

If you are not already familiar, The Greenhorns, a national nonprofit organization composed of, and in support of, young American farmers, is attempting to bring farming back to the center of our foodscape, where it deserves to be. Often perceived as an old-fashioned and outdated profession, farming today is actually the opposite, as their highly anticipated film, “The Greenhorns,” proves.

Our national food system is facing a number of crises, one of them is the oligarchy developing within farming, as more and more small and independent farms lose their battle against giant food corporations and governmental entities. Another is the massive amount of farmland being lost to environmental destruction and development. For example, New York State, my home state as mentioned above, is losing a farm to real estate development every 3.5 days. “The Greenhorns” is an inspirational and uplifting film that reminds us all is not lost. As young and innovative farmers begin to  influence the national farming scene we can only hope it will encourage a return to the farms, and we can get back to eating that delicious and locally farmed food we love.

In support of farms, please plan to attend the screening of “The Greenhorns” on Wednesday, September 28, 2011 at 7 p.m. The premiere will take place at the Brattle Theater and tickets are $5.00. More information is below.
All proceeds from this event will support the projects and outreach programs of the Greenhorns nonprofit organization
.

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July 12, 2011

Allandale Farm

Having access to fresh and local produce is always important, but it is an absolute necessity in the New England summertime. Sunshine and hot days make me run from heavy, hearty dishes, and turn instead towards fresh salads, crisp vegetables and perfectly ripe fruit. Is there a meal more refreshing meal than mixed greens, chopped cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, fresh Vermont goat cheese and delicious vinaigrette dressing? I don’t think so.

A few weeks ago I visited the Allandale Farm in Brookline, Mass, and found an abundance of fresh local and delicious produce. A visit to the farm is a must for anyone in the Boston area this summer, although you can easily rack up quite an expensive tab! The majority of the produce is locally grown at the 30 acre farm in Brookline, or at a satellite farm in Groton, Mass. The farm also partners with other local food crafters to sell coffee, tea, honey, cheese, salad dressings and marinades, bread and ice cream. Everything seemed of the highest quality, and was well worth the extra cost (when compared to the mega grocery stores in Boston). In addition, there are nine greenhouses on the property that grow a wide variety of  herbs, flowers, plants and shrubs for sale.

I even got to hang out with some chickens!

The Allandale Farm is located at 259 Allandale Road in Brookline, MA, and is open 7 days a week.
http://www.allandalefarm.com/

May 23, 2011

Kale and Broccoli Pizza

Yes, kale even makes a wonderful pizza topping!

Boston has seen nothing but rain for what feels like weeks and weeks, so at the end of a particularly dreary and rainy day, homemade pizza was the perfect dinner! Whole wheat pizza dough topped with fresh mozzarella, grated parm, broccoli and crispy oven-roasted kale chips makes for a nutritious meal that still fulfills the cheese quota so needed after a cold and rainy day. The pizza was served with a mixed greens salad with lots of veggies.

To make the pizza:

  • Trader Joe’s whole wheat pizza dough
  • Trader Joe’s pizza sauce (I added chopped fresh basil, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and dried oregano)
  • fresh mozzarella, 8 oz
  • shredded Parmesan cheese, I didn’t measure… about 3/4 cup or so?
  • chopped broccoli
  • minced fresh garlic
  • kale, chopped into small pieces

1) roll out Trader Joe’s whole wheat pizza dough on a cutting board with lots of flour, I made two smallish (about 8 inch) pizzas. With enough time I would have preferred to make the pizza dough from scratch- my dad makes an amazing sourdough pizza dough, but Trader Joe’s had to do on a work night.
2) chop broccoli crowns into small pieces, steam lightly in a vegetable steamer
3) chop kale and toss (lightly) with olive oil, salt and pepper. place on a cooking sheet and cook at 375 for about 10-12 minutes or until crisp. They will turn a darker green… my kale chips ended up getting a little extra crispy (almost burned), but were still delicious, they literally melt in your mouth.
4) add pizza sauce to pizza dough and top with chunks of fresh mozzarella and shredded parm cheese. Then add broccoli and fresh chopped garlic.
5) bake pizza for about 15 minutes, until edges of crust are lightly browned and crispy. Add kale for last 1-2 minutes of baking just to re-heat.

For the salad:

  • romaine lettuce and fresh spinach
  • grape tomatoes
  • cucumbers, chopped
  • shredded fresh Parmesan
  • stale bread for homemade croutons (or fresh if necessary, hamburger buns, rolls, etc. work too)

1) toss lettuce, spinach, grape tomatoes, cucumbers and parm together
2) take bread and cut into bite size pieces. Coat lightly in olive oil, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and any extra spices – I used dried oregano and parsley- bake in oven or toaster oven until crunchy, about 5 minutes.
3) for a salad dressing I recommend a to-taste combination of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, pepper and fresh chives… a simple dressing works for this relatively simple salad, and the end result was fresh and delicious!

May 5, 2011

Asian Salmon with Polenta and Brussels Sprouts

The onset of spring has given me a craving for fresh foods. This meal was just that: fresh, light and a little bit sweet! Three of my favorite ingredients, salmon, polenta and Brussels sprouts came together very well and created a wonderful meal for the new season.  The salmon was prepared in an Asian style with flavors of soy sauce,  garlic, ginger, and sweet Teriyaki, perfectly sweet and spicy! The Brussels sprouts were tossed in a sweet maple glaze and roasted at a high temperature for a delicious crunchy texture. Lastly, I pan-fried polenta to balance out the overzealous flavors and provide a starch foundation for each tasty bite.

Salmon marinade and preparation:
Note: I rarely measure ingredients for marinades, I usually combine the various flavors I’m looking for and then adjust to taste…

  • fresh salmon fillets (about a half pound per person)
  • about 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1.5 tbsp brown sugar (to taste)
  • about 1 tbsp chili garlic sauce (I use the Huy Fong brand, from the Asian foods aisle – careful, its spicy!)
  • a couple cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger root, peeled and minced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • splash of Worshire sauce

1) Put salmon skin side down in a shallow pan
2) Combine all ingredients and mix well, pour on salmon
3) Marinate for 2-3 hours
4) Spray a pan with non-stick cooking spray and heat to medium
5) Place salmon in the pan, skin side up and cook on medium. After about 4 minutes, flip sides and cook for another 4 minutes. I then added some Trader Joes Soyaki Sauce (my favorite because of its thicker consistency) and put the entire pan (make sure it doesn’t have a rubber handle!) in a pre-heated oven to bake at 350 degrees for another 15 minutes or so – varies depending how thick your salmon is.

Maple Roasted Brussels Sprouts:

  • fresh Brussels sprouts
  • about 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2-3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp fresh black pepper
  • 1 splash of balsamic vinegar

1) Pre-heat oven to 375
2) Slice Brussels sprouts in half and wash thoroughly
3) Toss sprouts in maple glaze and spread onto a greased baking pan and bake, stirring often to prevent burning (even when you do this the single layers will burn a little, I don’t mind this, but you can eat around them if you do).
5) Roast until they are caramelized and fork tender, about 30 minutes

Pan-Fried Polenta:

Polenta is made from ground corn meal that is boiled for a long time… it is quite labor intensive to prepare because it requires constant stirring. Polenta makes an excellent base to add additional flavors too, think of it like risotto; it pairs well with cheese, spices and herbs, vegetables, and even meat- I once had an amazing sausage polenta in Spain!

Unfortunately, I do not have the time to stand in my kitchen stirring polenta, so I buy it pre-cooked at the grocery store. I recommend San Gennaro polenta which comes in a sausage-like tube. There are endless ways to prepare and serve it, but I prepared mine like so:

1) Heat a small amount of olive oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat
2) Open polenta and slice into 1/2 inch slices and add to pan, fry on each side until lightly toasted brown – polenta has a lot moisture so it might take a few minutes (it is already cooked, so you are just adding heat and creating texture). I left it unseasoned – besides s&p of course – since I had such flavorful accompaniments on the plate.

San Gennaro also sells flavored polenta, basil garlic, sun-dried tomato etc., but I prefer original and flavoring it myself! If you have not cooked with polenta I suggest you try it – its a wonderful alternative to pasta, rice and potatoes!

nutritionally speaking:
excellent source of omega 3!!
Vitamins  A, B6, B12, C, K, niacin, thiamin, iron,  protein, folate and dietary fiber. 

Lastly, I paired this dish with a delicious wine, Gnarly Head‘s Old Vine Zin, vintage 2009. This medium-bodied wine had zesty flavors of plum, cherry, pepper and a hint of spice. The toasted spicy flavor paired well with the salmon and Brussels sprouts because of their spicy/sweet flavors and BBQ-like taste and texture. Slightly chilled this wine would be perfect with cheese and crackers or at a BBQ  this summer!


April 27, 2011

United States Food Map

When I stumbled upon this food map, created by Lucy Stephens, a graphic artist and book designer, I was amazed. The detail within the map is awesome, and I found myself peering into the corners of each state to find it’s treasured food. California’s  avocados and figs, Washington’s salmon, coffee and apples, Oklahoma’s pecan pie, Georgia’s grits, Maine’s blueberries and lobster, and New York’s pretzels and bagels!

I think this print would look beautiful framed in any kitchen or dining room, and it makes a great gift for a foodie!

You can read an interview with the artist here
Or buy the print (in multiple different colors!) here

April 21, 2011

Sweet Potato Black Bean and Spinach Quesadilla

This is – hands down – the best quesadilla I’ve ever had!

I had grown weary of quesadillas, the vegetarian versions always have too much cheese and limp soggy squishy vegetables all folded into a greasy tortilla.

This version is light, healthy, delicious and a great dinner for one! Sweet potatoes are one of my favorite ingredients – they are considered one of the healthiest vegetables in the world, and are so flavorful!

Ingredients:

  • 1 small sweet potato
  • 1 tortilla – I recommend Mission’s Jalapeno & Cheddar
  • about 1/2 can of black beans
  • 1/3 cup shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
  • spinach, a few handfuls
  • cooking spray

Necessary condiments:

  • medium/hot salsa  (I love trader joe’s fresh hot salsa)
  • sour cream
  • fresh guacamole (it is a good idea to ALWAYS have an avocado laying around)
  • A couple of slices of lime
  • and of course you can always spice it up with fresh jalapeno slices, crushed red pepper, or a spicy tomatillo salsa verde :-)

Directions:

1) Stab sweet potato with a fork, and cook in microwave until soft, let cool
2) Grate cheese – you’ll almost never ever see me using pre-shredded cheese because it doesn’t have enough flavor, and is usually dry and bland.
3) Cook spinach on low heat with a very minimal amount of olive oil, just a drop will do! The spinach will cook down drastically (and quickly!)
4) Mash up sweet potato – you can cut it in half and spoon out the flesh, or mash it with the skin on if you prefer.
5) Spray pan with non-stick cooking spray (or use butter), and place tortilla face down – pan should be at medium heat.
6) Spread sweet potato on one half of tortilla (this is how I prevent over-stuffing of my quesadilla), add spinach and black beans. After about 3 minutes add cheese and close quesadilla. It will cook quickly – about 4-5 minutes on each side, max.
7) Once the tortilla is crispy, remove quesadilla, slice and eat with the above-mentioned delicious accompaniments! Fresh lime juice really helps to bring it all together!
*I mixed all extra sweet potato and black beans together and it made a great snack for the rest of the week  :-)

nutritionally speaking:
excellent source of dietary fiber, vitamins A, B6, C, E, K,  potassium, zinc, thiamin (vitamin b1), folate, calcium, iron, manganese, protein

April 13, 2011

Welcome to Spring!

Spring is finally here! Over the past few weeks we’ve had quite a few sunny days, and I do have to say that there is nothing like a bright blue spring sky to uplift spirits. I’ve started to see leaves on trees and colorful flowers beginning to bloom all over the city. With the onset of warmer weathers things begin to get exciting in food again – I’m (almost) done with squash, root vegetables, and potatoes, and I am ready to move on to lighter fruits and vegetables.

Summer is my favorite food season – grilling, fresh fruit, seafood, and my favorite part – farmer’s markets! Boston is lucky to have an abundance of wonderful farmer’s markets throughout the city neighborhoods, and I plan to visit as many as possible this summer and feature them here.

So, in honor of a new season, this week’s edition of What’s in Season Wednesday is dedicated to spring! A variety of fruits and vegetables are in season in New England throughout spring and into early summer. I have listed a few of my favorite spring produce items below and included their individual harvest seasons:

Arugula – mid May – late September
Asparagus – late April – late June
Beets – mid May – late September
Broccoli – mid June – late October
Cabbage – early June – late October
Chard – mid May – mid September
Collards – mid May – mid November
Fava beans – May – late June
Garlic greens – mid May – late June
Mint – early April – early September
Onions – early June –  September
Parsley – mid May – October
Rhubarb – mid May – late August
Spinach – April – early July
Strawberries – mid May – mid July
Thyme – mid May – September

March 29, 2011

Panko crusted salmon with roasted potatoes and garlic kale

This dinner was AMAZING. It was one of those nights where you don’t plan to cook, but a little window of time opens up  and you get creative and fresh and delicious and are so glad you did!

There isn’t much too much follow for this one – its simple.

For the salmon:

I covered the flesh side of the salmon with a little spicy mustard and added panko bread crumbs – panko is a flakey light bread crumb often found in Japanese cooking, it tends to be more crunchy and crispier than regular bread crumbs because it is baked without crusts. Because its easy to find, I recommend McCormick Crusting Panko Blend, with garlic, lemon and rosemary – especially if its your first time cooking with panko, you can always explore after that. Keep in mind – it also goes very well as a crust on baked chicken.

Then I added the salmon filets, skin side down, in a saute pan that had about 1-2 tablespoons of hot olive oil in it. I let them cook about 4 minutes, then threw the entire pan in the oven at 375 for about 10 more minutes – your kitchen will begin to be filled with the wonderful aroma of rosemary and garlic.

In addition, I chopped red bliss potatoes, added parsley and garlic and olive oil, and baked them for about 25-30 minutes, until the potatoes were done.

And of course the garlic kale you’ve seen before. In case you missed it the first time, simply heat up 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, add chopped garlic and shallots and the kale. Let it cook down for about 10-15 minutes, depending on how much you cook.

Simple, fun and healthy!

nutritionally speaking: excellent source of vitamins A*, C, B6, B12, Niacin
great source of magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, folate

*one serving of kale is 354% of your vitamin A!

March 17, 2011

Guinness cupcakes with Baileys frosting

Although I do not typically go our of my way to celebrate St. Patrick’s day, I do love any excuse to cook or bake with beer….  So this year I made Guinness cupcakes with Baileys frosting to celebrate in my own beer-inspired way.

These cupcakes are amazing, everyone who has tried them has simply raved. They are not overly sweet by any means, the Guinness really mellows out the cocoa and chocolate vibe of the cake, and the frosting is just boozey enough to cut out the typical overly sweet factor of frosting. These just might be the ideal “I don’t like sweets” cupcakes!

Guinness Cupcakes:

  • 1 can Guinness stout (14.9 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1.5 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, I use Hersheys
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2) In a large mixing bowl mix Guinness, milk, vegetable oil and vanilla together. Beat in eggs one at a time, and mix in sour cream last.
3) In another bowl mix cocoa powder, sugar, flour and baking soda.
4) Gradually mix dry ingredients into wet ingredients.. your batter should have a bit more liquid than traditional cupcake or cake batter.
5) Pour into cupcake pans, filling to a little more than 2/3 full. You can fill them a little higher if you want taller, rounder cupcakes. I used both regular size cupcake pans and mini pans for bite size cupcakes (great portion control!).
6) Bake for at least 30 minutes, cupcakes are done when a toothpick is inserted and comes out clean. Mine needed about 35 minutes (less for mini cupcakes). Let cupcakes cook completely before frosting them or you’ll have a gooey frosting disaster on your hands.

Baileys Frosting:

  • 1  cup butter (room temp)
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 pounds confectioners sugar
  • 4-6 tablespoons COLD Baileys Irish Cream (to taste)

Directions:

1) Cream butter and shortening at a low speed until well mixed.
2) Add vanilla, mix well.
3) Slowly incorporate sugar while mixing at a medium-low speed.
4) Add tablespoons of Baileys slowly, one at a time. I keep the Baileys in the freezer to make sure it is extra cold when I add it to the mixture. Add to taste, I typically add about 6 tablespoons but you could add more or less.

Once the cupcakes have cooled completely add the frosting. If you are really into the St. Patrick’s green theme you can dye the frosting green with food color, but that is a bit much for me.

Enjoy!

March 16, 2011

Sierra Nevada Beer Dinner at Garden in the Cellar – Cambridge, MA

Last week I had the privilege of attending a Beer Dinner hosted by the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company at Garden in the Cellar restaurant in Cambridge, MA. The dinner was an absolutely spectacular event, and if you have the opportunity you must visit Garden in the Cellar – the restaurant is small but comfortable, the drink list is great, and the food is prepared skillfully and with passion.

The Beer Dinner was a 5-course adventure with each delicious course paired with an equally delicious Sierra Nevada beer. A few Sierra Nevada Representatives were on hand to explain the history of the brewery, and provide basic background on each beer being served.

The first course featured famous, and locally farmed, Island Creek Oysters. Farmed in Duxbury Bay, these exceptionally fresh oysters were served with frozen horseradish granite, caviar and honey, and the course was paired with Glissade Golden Bock. This first course set the tone for the evening beautifully – the dish was so light and fresh, I swear it tasted like spring. The oysters were chilled, fresh, and wonderfully enhanced by the flavor of horseradish and the sweet and subtle aftertaste of honey. The beer pairing was spot on, as the Glissade Golden Bock was light and crisp with a mellow malty bite, a refreshing beer for a refreshing first course. The flavor profiles were delicate, sweet, and slightly tart, and had us all looking forward towards spring.

The second course built on the flavors of the first course remarkably well. The dish was Razor Clam Ceviche, served with dark rum, fried plantain, bacon powder and cilantro and was paired with Kellerweis. I thought this dish creation and placement within the menu was genius – it featured the same light and fresh flavors from the first course, but added citrus, latin and tropical flavors that really worked well together. The dark rum was drizzled on the plate and was dense and boozey, perfectly complimenting the fresh ceviche that had fresh tastes of pineapple and cilantro. Bacon powder was an interesting addition, I am not a huge fan of molecular gastronomy and I tend to shy away from it, but in this case the bacon powder provided the flavor of bacon to contrast with the fruity tastes on the plate, without having a slab of greasy, heavy bacon to overwhelm the delicate flavors.  The fried plantain provided some texture and crunch to the dish, and a small taste of salt. Out of all of the beer pairings, I found this course to be the best matched. The Kellerweis is a non-traditional Hefeweizen that has delicious flavors of clove and banana, but remains light and crisp. I often find German Hefeweizen’s to have a tongue-coating aftertaste that keeps me from having more than one, but Kellerweis was refreshing and delicious and went wonderfully with the Ceviche. I will definitely be buying this beer again, it will be a perfect accompaniment to a long anticipated summer day! (I also plan to make my own ceviche this summer, so stay tuned for that!)

The third course was my favorite dish of the evening. Torpedo Cheddar Soup served with an apple cigar and topped with popped corn, and paired with Torpedo beer. This soup was one of the most delicious soups I have ever had. The taste was so intense – sharp cheddar and hoppy beer flavors in a creamy broth. Hats off to the chef on this one! The room was literally filled with voices declaring their love for this soup. The soup was cream and vegetable based and made with the Torpedo IPA – a big, hoppy, bold beer that you could taste with each bite. The popcorn garnish added a nice crunch to the soup, and the apple cigar was filo-like pastry wrapped around slices of apple and cinnamon – perfect for dipping into the soup! Of course the beer pairing worked well since the beer was featured in the actual dish itself. I will attempt to make this soup myself because it was so delicious I simply must have it again!

The fourth and main course was Slow Cooked Venison served with yellow foots, butternut squash, and espresso crumble, and paired with Sierra Nevada Porter. This was a creative dish and although I do not typically eat venison, I did enjoy this course. The meat itself was rare which was a bit much for me, but seemed to be appreciated by most of the people I was dining with. The butternut squash was a delicious and sweet accompaniment that paired well with the smooth texture of the venison. The espresso crumble was an awesome addition I never would have thought off  and it really helped compliment the smokey flavors of the dish, while also adding a crisp texture. The yellow foots (a small and very thin type of mushroom) absorbed the flavors of the meat well and provided additional texture variation. The Porter was an excellent beer pairing for this dish being savory, sweet, and rich with hints of caramel and molasses. The dish had an overall winter feeling to it, and the Porter worked well in this concept. In addition, it went beautifully with the espresso crumbs.

The final dish was Bread Pudding, served with burnt sugar ice cream and Stout espuma and paired with Sierra Nevada Stout. Keep in mind, at this point in the night I have had four courses and four beers, and although I am sad to be at the final course, I don’t know if I have it in me to even finish it! That being said, the bread pudding was a wonderful way to end the night, and is always one of my favorite desserts in general. It was cooked perfectly, crispy on top, and light and doughey on the inside. The burnt sugar ice cream was a much needed bit of dairy to help diffuse the dry dessert. The Stout espuma was also a fun addition; espuma is basically a foam that has subtle flavors of an ingredient, in this case the Stout itself. The dessert paired well with the Stout, which was creamy, full-bodied and almost like a dessert on its own.

All and all the night was a tremendous success. The dishes were creative, flavorful, and delicious, and the beers were paired perfectly to both compliment and contrast the various spotlighted ingredients. I thought the menu was incredibly well designed, going from lightest to heaviest and through different seasons of flavor. I look forward to more Beer Dinner events at Garden in the Cellar, and have a new appreciation for Sierra Nevada’s array of beers.