Monthly Archives: January 2010

Slow, Savor, Spread the Word

Photo: Orin Zebest/Flickr

Susan McCrory

Public Radio Kitchen is pleased to feature below an original post from the folks at Slow Food Boston. Though we occasionally link to local Slow Food events and info, we felt PRK followers might want to learn ‘from scratch’ what Slow Food Boston is, what it’s currently doing and whom it’s made up of. Enter Anastacia Marx de Salcedo, an active member of the Slow Food Boston chapter and writer extraordinaire. After today you will hear directly from Anastacia each month. We hope her posts will whet your appetite and encourage you to spread the word however you will, and take part however you can and wish to, in the savoring of seasonal, local foods and the myriad traditional ways of bringing them to the table.
Anastacia Marx de Salcedo, Guest Contributor
Slow Food Boston

Being part of the Slow Food movement has its challenges—such as choosing which delicious way to support the cause. Sunday brunch with johnnycakes, maple syrup, sausage and cider? A bike ‘n’ brew tour of Boston? Just-picked sweet corn, garden tomatoes and grilled bluefish, accompanied by a Massachusetts pinot noir (24 wineries and counting!)? Or maybe a three-course dinner at a restaurant featuring spring bounty from New England’s family farms?

The Slow Food idea is radically simply. A homecooked meal from locally and sustainably raised ingredients preserves culinary traditions, supports small-scale farmers and conserves the environment. In part founded as a response to the opening of a McDonald’s near Rome’s Spanish Steps in the 1980s, the movement has exploded in the past two decades—there are now over 100,000 members in 132 countries.

Programs include the Ark of Taste, a catalog of “endangered” produce, livestock and condiments; Terra Madre, an international conference attended by farmers, producers, activists, chefs and academics; and Slow Food in Schools, which introduces the next generation of eaters to the pleasures of real food. Slow Food has recently become more politically active, advocating at the local and national levels for food that is “good, clean and fair.”

Except for the talented staff of the international and national offices, located in Bra, Italy, and Brooklyn, NY, Slow Food is an all-volunteer organization, composed of over 800 chapters worldwide. Stateside, Slow Food Boston is one of the largest and most active, with an email list of over 2,000 and multiple happenings every month. There are also three local campus convivia. (Shout-outs to BU, Tufts and Harvard!)

Where do I sign up, you say? Funny you should ask. Join our free email list to get the lowdown on nose-to-tail tastings, farm tours, food preservation classes, indie food films, author talks and ethnic cuisine explorations. And if you’d like to do more—for example, become involved in our advocacy campaigns or organize the above-mentioned bike ‘n’ brew tour (hint! hint!) or another event, drop us a line!

Anastacia Marx de Salcedo

Thursday Tidbits

Photo: perpetualplum/Flickr

Susan McCrory

Start Your Chicken…
Tonight at 7pm in Cambridge, Le Cordon Bleu is holding a cooking contest. Boston chefs, local personalities and students will compete for the “Le Cordon Bleu Ribbon” title, in honor of the national re-naming of the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Cambridge. What’s on the menu in this competition? Poulet Sauté aux Fines Herbes (Sautéed Chicken with Herbs). According to Jeff Mushin, lead chef instructor at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts and executive chef at Technique, the College’s teaching restaurant, “the gloves will be coming off.” Three separate teams comprised of alumni chef and students will put a distinct creative twist on that classic chicken dish (tonight’s bird is organic, Rhode Island-raised). Scott Kearnan of STUFF Boston and Ilene Bezahler of Edible Boston will also be cooking/competing. So, who tastes and who judges? The audience. Attendees of tonight’s event will get to taste each team’s version of poulet sauté and choose the winner. Read more about the Le Cordon Bleu Ribbon Chef Challenge and buy tickets. All proceeds benefit the Boston chapter of Ronald McDonald House. Start those chickens!

Fallen Stars
Speaking of chicken, did anyone read the feature article on chicken breasts from yesterday’s Dining section of the New York Times? (A Fallen Star of French Cuisine, Restored to Its Silver Platter) I empathized with Scarpetta chef Scott Conant’s description of “stringy” meat, though I was unaware that ‘the star’ had fallen oh so far. Who of you listeners has a delicious, fool-proof way to prepare a chicken breast? We’re all ears.

January is Super Hunger Month
Next week The Greater Boston Food Bank kicks off three exciting-looking fundraising events as part of its efforts to raise awareness and combat the problem of hunger in our communities. You can take part in any one of their three Super Hunger Events: the online silent auction, the chef challenge at The Four Seasons Boston, or brunch. 

Tuscan Stew
Ribollita is Italian comfort food at its best. Have a look at the gorgeous results of Heidi Swanson’s forage through her freezer at 101 Cookbooks. And save those Parmesan rinds!

The ‘Keep Local Farms’ Initiative

Photo: iLoveButter/Flickr

Susan McCrory

MDAR Commissioner Scott Soares is again logging miles on his car odometer. Earlier today, at the Hannaford’s supermarket in North Quincy, Soares spoke at an event attended by Massachusetts Dairy Farmer Lucinda Williams to promote a new initiative aimed at increasing public awareness of the formidable economic challenges facing the New England (and national) dairy industry while also providing a direct line of support. Before you read more about the Keep Local Farms program–and we hope you will–consider this: a gallon of milk costs the average dairy farmer about $1.80 to produce, but s/he gets paid about half that amount per gallon. What’s more, New England produces $12.2 billion in milk and purportedly generates more than $5 billion in economic activity.

Vermont is strong in dairy but, according to Commissioner Soares, Massachusetts dairy farmers make up an important part of that ‘same diary shed.’ The Keep Farms Local initiative is the newest mechanism through which Mass. consumers can demonstrate their support for local farmers, and it’s the newest arrow in the state’s quiver, following in the wake of the Dairy Revitalization Task Force and the Dairy Farm Preservation Act.

Want to act? Support the initiative by making a donation online, or at the cash register if you’re shopping at a Hannaford’s. The official press release states, and Soares confirmed, that those donated monies should eventually allow local farmers to brand their cartons with the “Keep Local Farms” logo, thereby allowing you to support such farms using your purchasing power. Meaning, buy their milk. Even if it’s 10 or 20 cents more per gallon.

Season to taste?

Photo: "Table Salt" by awrose; Flickr

Tom Urell, PRK Guest Contributor

After taking on trans fats and requiring calorie counts in restaurants, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg is setting his sights on salt. This time, though, it’s not through regulation but with a campaign to encourage food companies and restaurants to reduce the sodium content of their products. And according to today’s Wall Street Journal, some companies have already started.

Because so many food companies operate nationally, Bloomberg is hoping to have other cities and states participate in the sodium reduction campaign, making this a larger-scale effort than any of his previous food or diet initiatives.  The argument goes like this: higher salt consumption leads to higher blood pressure and increases risk of stroke, and a reduction in salt in the most common forms–packaged foods and restaurant meals–will save lives.

But is he right?

Unlike posting calorie counts, which was an education and awareness campaign, and unlike the trans fat ban, which was based on solid science, the jury still seems to be out on the severity of salt-related health issues, partly because we already eat so much!

Marion Nestle, the prominent NYU nutritionist, explains that it is really difficult to tell what role salt plays in our health:

“It is one of the great oddities of nutrition that public health guidelines invariably recommend salt reduction but the science is so hard to do that the value of doing so can’t be proven unequivocally.  Hypertension specialists insist that salt reduction is essential for controlling high blood pressure, and many people with high blood pressure can demonstrate that this is true.

So why can’t the science show it?  I’d say because even the lowest salt intakes are higher than recommended.  Because everyone consumes higher-than-recommended amounts, it’s impossible to divide people into meaningful groups of salt eaters and see whether low-salt diets work.”
Check out more of Nestle’s writing about salt here on her blog, including her take on the NYC salt initiative.

Nestle’s take on the campaign is that it is ultimately a good thing, because we don’t have any choice in the amount of salt in the products we buy. Packaged foods and restaurant meals are already so far over the FDA’s recommended daily sodium allowance that the reduction can only benefit public health. The target, a 25% reduction over five years on only the most popular products, seems to be a small step to tackle a serious problem.

This all makes sense as a first step, but opens the door to another question about a much larger issue: How much can and should the government interfere in the production of food? Aside from major safety concerns, like contaminants in the food supply, should the government, at the local, state or national level, be involved in telling private companies what they can and cannot put into their products?

I’ll leave the latter, thorny issue for another day. For now, what is your take on the latest Bloomberg food crusade? How would you feel if the city of Boston or the state decided to regulate salt (or any other ingredient) in the foods you eat?

From You, Our Listeners

Susan McCrory

“Have you expanded your palate lately…?” The Passionate Foodie ends this morning’s post with just that question. He has! With a Hungarian Bikaver Reserve going for under $20 at the Lower Falls Wine Co. Great review and historical context of the wine and vineyard.

Seeds and String is taking a trip down memory lane and having fun with popcorn, the spicy, sweet variety.

I had just skinned the eggplant from my frig when I came across Mama Cooks’s Wednesday post on Roasted Eggplant alla Frank McClelland of  L’Espalier and Sel de la Terre. I sprinkled a bit more olive oil on the baking sheet to get around that detail, and kept going. What results! This was a delicious, fast, ‘keeper’ meal (and a great alternative to my stand-by pasta with eggplant dish; I love it, but basta!)

Delicious Dishings is ignoring the ice and cold outside. Inside, it’s a different story.

If you want to read more on the Cape Ann Fresh Catch CSF from yesterday’s post, and on CSFs, in general, have a look at Clare Leschin-Hoar’s article published in the Wall Street Journal in June, “Taking Stock in Fish.”

Thursday Tidbits

Photo: jurvetson; Flickr

Susan McCrory

Mare, a “‘coastal Italian eatery” in the North End is partnering with The CleanFish Alliance to host a sustainable seafood dinner on Tuesday, January 19. Mare Executive Chef Greg Jordan chose the menu, which will include blue abalone from Bream Bay, New Zealand, and Laughing Bird shrimp from Belize (not sure about the carbon footprint issue here, but I hope to find out). Organic and sustainable wine pairings, all of them Italian, will be offered and commented on by a rep from The Wine Bottega. The Bottega, also in the ‘hood on Hanover Street, was a Best of Boston winner last year.

A propos, if you haven’t already read it, head to Clare Leschin-Hoar’s article “The Dish on Fish” in the Winter 2010 issue of Edible Boston. Clare writes about local efforts to bring sustainable seafood to the plates of Boston area consumers, the complexity of choosing responsibly the fish that we eat, and the first official community-supported fishery (CSF) in Boston, the Cape Ann Fresh Catch CSF. Her article concludes with a “Best of the Best” list of fish choices.

In early February there will be a showing of End of the Line, self-proclaimed as “the first major feature documentary film revealing the impact of overfishing on our oceans,” at Tufts University. Read more about the event at the Slow Food Boston site.

The 19th Annual Boston Wine Expo is coming up on January 23-24. Want some tips on how to navigate the scene? Check out  Drinks Are On Me.

And safe travels to PRK’s Jessica Alpert, who’s off to Brazil for the week! She said she’d have a capirinha for me on the sands of Ipanema (yeh, thanks Jessica), but can’t we all one-up her by making a capirinha and quaffing it right here in frosty New England?


Dorchester-Milton Restaurant Week

So maybe your wallet is still hurting from the holidays.  Yeah…join the club.   While our financial situations may be precarious, our stomachs still yearn for warm, delicious, inventive local cuisine.  RESTAURANT WEEK to the rescue!!

A group of Dorchester and Milton restaurants have come together to bring you their delights in THREE COURSES….all for $30.10.  Great places like 224, 88 Wharf, Abby Park, Ashmont Grill, Blarney Stone, dbar, Ledge, and Tavolo will offer show-off dinner menus (excluding Friday and Saturdays) in addition to their regular menu items.

This is all taking place from January 17th through January 31st, but make sure you call each restaurant for specific details (we don’t want your motivation for exploration to be diluted in any way). 

So put on those snow boots, whip out your Charlie Card (or your GPS), and support some local restauranteurs.  Your palate will thank you.

Tic Toc Tic Toc…

Boston's Custom House Clock Tower; Tony the misfit (Flickr)

Susan McCrory

That’s not just the sound of the New Year’s clock ticking the minutes into 2010. It’s also the sound of the CSA sign-up clock. If you haven’t already confirmed your current CSA share or sent in a new application, get moving! Those shares go fast.

At the last PRK Meet-Up/Eat-Up, we talked about providing a CSA calendar and map, and we’re making good on that offer. Here is the most up-to-date listing we could find of CSAs in the area, provided by Boston Localvores. (In contrast, this NOFA/Mass CSA listing reaches further afield, but it’s from last year.) In addition to spreading the word vis a vis these lists, PRK is delighted to say we’ve got in the pipeline our own user-friendly map for local CSA farms and their respective drop-off points. WBUR web wizard Jesse is working out the details, and there are lots of them. Please don’t rush him!  We’ll keep you posted on our progress and get that map published as soon as we can.

Speaking of CSAs, this just in from JJ Gonson of Cuisine En Locale: the next Meat Meet will be this Friday, January 8th at 6pm in Central Square. You can make a special request, or just buy off the cart. Either way, the provider of the meat and poultry (all of it conscientiously raised, grass-fed and pastured and hormone-free) is Stillman’s Farms in Hardwick, MA. If you’re interested in Stillman’s Meat CSA, January is a sign-up month.

Finally, some motivated folks in Somerville are banding together to create some CSA magic: a FARM SHARE FAIR! The event is slated to take place this coming Monday, January 11th at 6pm in the Somerville Public Library. Learn more here.

Tic toc.

What Do Farmers Do….?

Photo: Courtesy of Powisset Farm

Meryl LaTronica, Guest Contributor
Powisset Farm

Winter on the farm!

This is the time of year when I get the question, “what do farmers do in the winter?” My usual response is, “we sleep, at last.” And, I’m only partially joking! For me, December, January and February are the months of the year when I get to catch up on life outside the farm, drink lots of coffee, eat lots of food, cozy up next to the wood stove and flip through seed catalogues. For most of the year we are going full steam, bouncing from crop to crop, trying to keep up with the weeds and harvests. The winter offers me the time to slow down and reflect on the season in all of its successes and challenges. Continue reading