Monthly Archives: September 2009

Skills Set II: Perfecting The Pie Crust

Photo: ldhny/Flickr

Photo: ldhny/Flickr

I realize it’s not even October but I’ve already got pumpkin pie on the brain.  This year I want to do it right….and make an incredible pie crust that no one will forget.  I’ve been scouting around for the secret to a light, fluffy crust….and I think I may have gathered some excellent clues…

-Lynn of Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures shares her solution…

-Smitten Kitchen gives us the basic 101….

-and just for fun, Elise from Simply Recipes dishes some details on those gorgeous pie lattice tops

Tuesday Tidbits

Sanka and some peers in bygone days (Photo: Pleasant Family Shopping/Flickr)

Sanka and some peers in bygone days (Photo: Pleasant Family Shopping/Flickr)

Sophisticated Sanka?
Starbucks is announcing today the launch of its instant coffee option, Via. Yep, that’s right. Instant coffee will now be available along with your grande mocha latte and chai tea. The price is right (about $1/cup) for these tough economic times, but the taste? I, for one, looooove my morning coffee. The prospect of a cup of instant makes me panic (so does skim milk), but I AM curious about this move by Starbucks from a strategic marketing standpoint. CNN reported the news here.

Coffee Klatch
If Via (above) is not quite your cup of joe, there is a seminar called The Perfect Cup of Coffee being held October 3 at Boston University by Coffee Connection founder George Howell. Among other topics, Howell will discuss coffee cultivation, roasting and brewing. Sounds like you’ll taste some, too.


Douro Valley Wines (Photo: Yvon from Ottawa/Flickr)

Douro Valley Wines (Photo: Yvon from Ottawa/Flickr)

Today: Portuguese Wines
Boston Magazine and Vini Portugal are hosting a Portuguese wine tasting event today in Boston, with doors opening to the interested (and thirsty!) at 4:30.  

Musings About Port
Speaking of port, one of our listeners, The Musing Bouche, has posted her experience from a recent evening tasting and learning more about those tawny and ruby reds.

Looking Back to Apples
…and the Friday post on PRK about apples. Here is a terrific-looking Apple Soup recipe posted by Edible Boston, with several other tempting dishes listed in the sidebar.

Starting A New Chapter: Raising Cattle

Yesterday afternoon, I curled up on my couch and started my weekend ritual: flipping through the Sunday Times.   After reading the magazine and the wedding pages (by far the most decadent of sections), I commenced the inevitable: reading about food.

I was totally captivated by Christine Muhlke’s article on Judith Jones, an accomplished editor at Knopf.   The woman who saved Anne Frank’s diary from the refuse pile is now raising cattle.  That’s right, cattle. Three years ago she bought six pregnant cows for $900 a piece; now the herd numbers at twenty.  Once a simple hobby, this project seems to have turned into something a bit more serious.

Read the article HERE.

Cider Doughnuts, Wine and Pick-Your-Own: Apples on Radio Boston

Robert Pease of Pease Orchards, Templeton, MA (Photo: Tim Skoog, WBUR)

Robert Pease of Pease Orchards, Templeton, MA (Photo: Tim Skoog, WBUR)

The recent run of crisp mornings means that fall is right on schedule, and with it, apple season.  In full swing.  This week Radio Boston will feature stories and discussion about apples in New England, from White Pippins, Macouns and Roxbury Russets to Wixens and Winter Bananas.  Listen today or tomorrow at 1:00pm on 90.9 WBUR, or stream it online at

Producer Adam Ragusea visits Tougas Farms in Northboro for a lesson in pick-your-own, joining thousands of hungry pickers.  LISTEN HERE.

Guests Kathleen Fitzgerald (author of America’s Founding Food: The Story of New England Cooking) and Ben Watson (author of Cider, Hard and Sweet: History, Traditions and Making Your Own) will join host David Boeri to take listener questions and talk about the history—economic, cultural and culinary—of apples in New England.

In the third part of the show, the guests and Boeri will taste different varietals of apple, sample some hard cider and apple wine from Nashoba Valley Winery in Bolton, Ma., and some of Boeri’s own sweet cider. Check out some of those delectable samples on this video:

What do you do with your half-pecks: do you have favorite pies, crumbles, jams or muffins?  Do you use apples in savory dishes or salads?  Have you ever tried making your own cider, hard or sweet, or apple wine? 

Your suggestions are coming in. Here is an apple cider doughnut recipe from Megan at Delicious Dishings. Keep ‘em coming!

Thursday Tidbits: Keeping It Local

Photo: Svadilfari/Flickr

Photo: Svadilfari/Flickr

Fresh Caught, Fresh Picked, Fresh Made
Say the words “New England,” mention “Fall” in the same breath and, if you enjoy a good meal, your mouth could water on the spot.  Add the gold standards of same-day freshness and a low carbon footprint, and the prospect becomes even more appealing. 

Consider, then, the upcoming “Feeding Frenzy” being offered at Craigie on Main in Cambridge. Chef Tony Maws  is serving up all the above in a September 29th tasting menu with choices ranging from lobster and potato salad (pineapple sage, anyone?) to pork belly tortellini, from line-caught tautog to maple sugar ice cream and Concord grapes.  If you can’t attend, perhaps this is one of those things to try at home?

The Tradition Isn’t Local, But the Chef Is
Fried Chicken will be on the menu every Sunday evening starting this Sunday at Clio, with chef Ken Oringer changing up the ingredients each week.

When The Bell Rings…
Today marks the beginning of the First Annual Massachusetts Harvest for Students Week. During this week, schools and colleges around the state were encouraged to purchase, serve, and highlight locally produced foods. Schools will also use this week to physically introduce students to the actual source: farms. FIELD TRIP!

Q & A With Bonnie Shershow Of Bonnie’s Jams

Bonnie Shershow at work.  Photo: Carl Tremblay

Bonnie Shershow at work. Photo: Carl Tremblay

Cambridge-based Bonnie Shershow doesn’t just love jam, she lives for it.  On Sundays, she camps out in Formaggio’s pastry kitchen and creates her signature jams, forever devising new ways to stimulate the palate. Manipulating fruit is no easy task so I asked her to tell PRK about the journey that became Bonnie’s Jams.

Q: Why jam? Why not pie?

A: When you make dinner, you go to market, fix it, and then people eat it and it’s gone.  With jam you can delay eating it in various segments….there is something about that that I really like.  You have this whole mess of beautiful material, you mix them together, and you toss them.  Then you put it all into a neat little package and you can seal it and keep it for the longest time.

Q: When did you begin to appreciate fruit?

A: I was born in Orange County, California. When I was growing up, there were lots of orange trees around since we lived in an orange grove.  I grew up eating the most delicious fruit that had been ripened on the tree.   This experience is different from east coast grocery fruit. 

Q:  How is it working with east coast fruit?

A:  It’s a challenge but we do have great berries during the summer.  I try to use as many local farms as I can.

I make citrus in the winter….Last Christmas, I was lying on a beach in Mexico and thinking about Meyer lemons and wondering what I could mix with them and thought of oranges, Valencia oranges….  My citrus dealer is in Chelsea and I asked him for Valencia oranges. He only had Cara Cara oranges and they turned out to have a lemony taste.  Meyer lemon has a bit of an orange taste and the two make a great continuum.

Q: What accounts for your jam’s intense flavor? Any secrets you are willing to share?

A: Not such a secret—anyone can make jam.  But I will say pectin stretches fruit.  It keeps a lot of water in the fruit and it gels fruit immediately.  It’s a much less expensive way to make the jam; it has less intense flavor.  Supermarket jam can never have that flavor: I use 100% fruit to the jar.

Q:  Do you have a fantasy jam project?

A: Of course! What I’d like to do eventually is take fruit from different parts of the country and use local produce.  I would then make the jam right there, in nearby kitchens.  In California, I could use boysenberries, citrus, mulberries, lingonberries, and chokeberries…fruits that aren’t necessarily available on the commercial market.

I’d love to spend time in the Deep South because growing season in Alabama, for example, is a lot longer than ours.

Q: I always like to ask this question for our readers….do you have any pairings that you recommend?

A:  Oh yes…and sometimes my customers give me new ideas.  Someone told me that they used peach ginger jam as a wedding cake filling.  Another great idea is filling a muffin with black and blue jam and then covering the filling with more dough.  I also love putting a dab of jam on top of mini cheesecakes.

As for savory options, apricot orange can be used as a glaze for chicken.  I also use the cara cara lemon jam for roasting fish.  This idea came from a Sicilian dish that uses oranges, fresh fennel, and olives; I simply replaced the oranges with jam.   See recipe HERE.

Q: Finally, do you have a favorite jam?

A: Whatever jam I am making at the time, I love.  I think of jam as fruit with just a little sugar added to bring out the natural flavor. 

 To learn more about Bonnie and her jams, visit

Real Women Eat Beef….

Ok, not completely true but “Real Women Eat Beef” is the title of a book written by Four Stories guest Tracy McArdle.  Ms. McArdle and three other writers come together October 5th to read essays and short stories about food and more.  Erica Ferencik, Ru Freeman, and Amy Yelin will read selections unified under this month’s theme: “Conspicuous Consumption: Stories of Eating, Shopping, Spending, Taking!”

Four Stories, one of my favorite monthly events in Boston, is an evening where four readings are shared over two hours, complete with drinks and discussion.  Held at The Enormous Room in Cambridge’s Central Square, the evening is packed with exceptional talent and even more exceptional post-reading discussion.

Founded by Tracy Slater, Four Stories’ goal is to bridge Boston’s nightlife and literary scene in one evening.   All events are free and open to the public.

Sure to be some spicy, salty, sweet, and sour rolled into this month’s mix.

Apples, Apples, Apples.

Photo: ljcybergal/Flickr

Photo: ljcybergal/Flickr

Let me introduce myself.  

My name is Jessica Alpert and I am a contributor to PRK.  I truly enjoy infusing the blog with my finds and my questions as well as exploring the stories YOU bring to the table.  During the rest of my week, I produce freelance radio pieces for NPR and other venues while also working as a producer for WBUR’s Radio Boston.  I just LOVE IT when all of these worlds collide.

This week on Radio Boston, we talk about everything apples.  Is it the all-American fruit? What is the history of the apple in New England? What is the state of the apple industry? What do apples mean to you?  It’s actually quite a complex story and RB’s David Boeri will bring his own experience to the tale.

We started working over the weekend with producer Adam Ragusea taking the pulse at a nearby orchard.  If you have a special orchard/apple story OR a fantastic recipe, do share it with us either by commenting below or by sending an email to PRK.

In the meantime…a macoun or honeycrisp for lunch?

Tales/Tails from the Market

Cuttlefish (Photo: Susan McCrory)

Cuttlefish (Photo: Susan McCrory)

A few more anecdotes from PRK’s Susan McCrory
about her recent trip to Rome

There is no shortage of fish to be had at the Testaccio market. Perusing the goods and laughing with the guys selling their wares–no, more like singing their wares–I stopped short at the cuttlefish (seppie) oozing their black ink, called sepia in English, and snapped a photo. One of my most memorable meals was a black ink risotto savored in Venice several years back. (Here’s an aside in the form of a news flash and a warning: the ink stains your teeth. Not what I call date food!) 

SKILLS SET 2:  Cleaning Squid
Curious, I didn’t have much luck finding a specific ‘how to’ on cuttlefish cleaning (!), but here’s a video showcasing grilled calamari with hot red pepper lemon and parsley, the first half of which gives a helpful demonstration on how to clean squid. This skill may not be as, um, frequently put to use as the first in the PRK Skills Set (“The Roasted Chicken,” see Jessica’s post of 9/16), but if you’re cooking squid or its ‘cuz the cuttlefish, you’ll need it.

My husband and I left the Testaccio market in search of a more readily-edible lunch. All of a sudden we stopped short in our tracks on via Marmorata. Two young men were fairly stumbling with the weight of a long styrofoam box piled high with ice. Something gray-black and wet was sticking out the end….was that, gulp, a body in there?  It was!  Tuna!! 

Whole tuna (Photo: Susan McCrory)

Whole tuna (Photo: Susan McCrory)

And boy was this a tuna. All 68 kilograms of it, live and whole, in transport to who knows where. The guys were good enough to pause in their labor, brush off the ice chips and hold the fish up for show. We all oohed and aahed.  


Whole Tuna (Photo: Susan McCrory)

Whole Tuna (Photo: Susan McCrory)

Bidding “addio” to the fish, we landed for lunch at our favorite Testaccio bakery, Passi (this is where the pizza with zucchini flowerettes from yesterday’s post came from). As we left, I couldn’t help but snap a photograph from the open door looking in from the street onto the ovens. The smell of baking bread was to die for!

Passi bakery (Photo: Susan McCrory)

Passi bakery (Photo: Susan McCrory)

Praise the gods that “all roads lead to Rome.” Why did I ever leave??

The Farmers Market, Italian-style

Fiori di zucca (zucchini flowerettes); Photo, Susan McCrory

Fiori di zucca (zucchini flowerettes); Photo, Susan McCrory

For those of you who just love to shop for ingredients, here’s some virtual window-shopping from the Testaccio open-air market in Rome, which I was fortunate enough to visit this past week. My husband and I ate fiori di zucca two different ways over the course of our stay in the Eternal City: once on pizza with anchovies and mozzarella, and a second time in the form I am more used to–fried, but again paired with those salty little buggers and melted cheese. It makes for an implosion of sweetness, salt, smooth and course textures. Yum. Though it lacks the anchovies, I like this link to fried zucchini flowers for the range of recipe options at the bottom of the page–risotto con fiori di zucca, stuffed fiori di zucca, etc.

Tomatoes from Lazio; Photo, Susan McCrory

Tomatoes from Lazio; Photo, Susan McCrory

There was, of course, no shortage of tomatoes (pomodori) to choose from.

Carrotts; Photo, Susan McCrory

Carrotts; Photo, Susan McCrory

The carrotts and greens looked divine.

Chanterelle mushrooms; Photo, Susan McCrory

Chanterelle mushrooms; Photo, Susan McCrory

Fetchingly displayed with sprigs of parsley (prezzemolo), these galletti or chanterelle mushrooms reminded me that mushroom season makes for gorgeous primi piattti, such as a pasta dish made with pancetta, shrimp and the galletti shown above or a risotto.

Fishmonger; Photo, Susan McCrory

Fishmonger; Photo, Susan McCrory

With vongole (clams), fresh swordfish, tuna, an octopus and shrimp in abundance, this fishmonger sprinkled some parsley into the package he was preparing, all for freshness and eye-appeal.

Stay tuned tomorrow:  more fish and “Is that a body in there??”