Monthly Archives: November 2011

Roasted Brussels Sprouts From 80 Thoreau

Chef Carolyn Johnson of 80 Thoreau (Photo: Susanna Bolle)

Every child has at least one food that is beyond the pale. My childhood culinary bête noire was Brussels sprouts.

I was a confirmed sprout-phobe. And, truth be told, I continued to approach them with more than a little trepidation. However, with this recipe from Chef Carolyn Johnson of 80 Thoreau in Concord, I have finally conquered my most deep-seeded vegetable fear and learned to love these little cruciferous beauties.

“I’ve created a lot of Brussels sprout converts with this dish,” Johnson says, “Many of my family and friends say, ‘Oh, I hate Brussels Sprouts!’ and I tell them, ‘Just try this.'”

The dish is simple, both in terms of ingredients and technique, but it transforms the humble Brussels sprout into a sweet, nutty, delectable treat. The sprouts are caramelized in a hot pan with butter and oil, and then roasted with pine nuts and lots of garlic. The result is pure heaven, a perfect Thanksgiving side dish that’s delicious and healthy to boot.

Here’s the recipe. Continue reading

Celebrating An Heirloom Thanksgiving

Photo: StarMama/Flickr

Airing this weekend and into next week on PBS is a Thanksgiving-themed documentary that will captivate viewers from all walks of life. All you need in order to appreciate the ‘stuff’ of Carole Murko’s Heirloom Meals’ Thanksgiving is the capacity to equate food with love and self-identity. Chances are, if you’re reading this blog already, you fit into that category.

Carole Murko is a food blogger and host of the weekly radio program Heirloom Meals, which broadcasts out of a teeny-tiny NPR affiliate in Sharon, CT, called RobinHood Radio. Contradicting its modest quarters, however, is the show’s underlying premise: food is ‘the great connector’ binding past to present, threading across and through diverse culinary traditions.

Murko conceived the Heirloom Meals’ Thanksgiving documentary with support from Gerry LaFlamme of Pete and Gerry’s Organics LLC , whose multi-generational family farm in New Hampshire produces organic eggs and coordinates a successful, growing network of similar-minded, family-owned farms. Murko and her small production crew turned around the project unbelievably fast, shooting the film in six days — quickly enough for PBS to pick it up in time for the holiday.

This is not a cooking show, mind you. It’s the chronicling and on-the-set demo of numerous Thanksgiving-Day recipes in the context of who originally made them, and why the handful of people Murko chose to interview — ordinary folks like us, not professional chefs — keep on making them each year at this time. Continue reading

Food Therapy From A Thought For Food

Photo: courtesy of Brian Samuels' Photography/ A Thought for Food

No doubt many of you are sitting down to finalize your Thanksgiving menu this weekend, flipping through magazines and cookbooks, scrolling blogs for inspiration. And no doubt  there are many of you, in equal measure, who will not be doing that this weekend; your family has always eaten the same traditional dishes and will always do so for generations to come.

I am deeply jealous of those of you who welcome innovation and variation. I am also deeply jealous of those whose families only stick to one menu; you have perfected the components of a delicious, mouth-watering feast.

Although my family consists of more than one good cook, for some reason our traditional Thanksgiving means reverting back to the same, over-used, slightly bland, slightly watery side dishes of my great-great grandfather’s childhood. There is only one person in my entire extended family who even likes simple turnips and carrots, but if it’s not on the table, the entire family revolts. (My mother’s very displeased trip to the nearly closed grocery store one recent Thanksgiving morning is proof of how serious I am).

But seeing the beautiful presentation and yummy preparation of these peas on Brian Samuels’ A Thought for Food blog gave me an idea. Would anyone in the family say anything if we did a slight variation on the side dishes? Wouldn’t everyone be secretly relieved? Will I actually be able to enjoy the feast  in its original form this year, and not immediately make it into a leftover sandwich?

This year, Thanksgiving is at my parent’s house, and my mother and I are already collaborating. We may not be able to sneak turnips and carrots off the table, but we will definitely be sneaking in these Peas with Orange and Mint from A Thought for Food, and other clever side dishes from our local Boston bloggers.

And for that, this Thanksgiving, I would like to say a huge THANKS to the Boston food blogger community!

Thursday Tidbits: Simple Gifts

Photo: Flickr / sfophoto


A Small Slice
Share the bounty and lighten your own Thanksgiving load by taking advantage of Community Servings’ “Pie in the Sky” fundraising event going on throughout November.  150 restaurants, caterers and bakeries have all donated pies selling for $25 each — the amount needed to feed for an entire week someone in the Boston area too ill to feed themselves or their family. Order your pie today.

It’s That Time of Year
Celebrate this year’s arrival of Le Beaujolais Nouveau with Artists for Humanity, who will be throwing a huge fest tonight, Nov. 17.  Play in their photo booth, sway to the live DJ, eat abundant street food from a variety of Boston restaurants and, of course, imbibe wine. All the info can be found here.

Timely Tastings
Get into full swing by sampling delicious Thanksgiving-themed wines as The Wine ConneXtion celebrates the arrival of Le Beaujolais Nouveau with a wine tasting, Saturday, Nov. 19.  Taste a variety of wines paired with extraordinary holiday-themed dishes prepared by Sardino’s Catering. Wine ConneXtion has everything you need to know for this festive event.

Stock Up
If you find yourself near Dover, MA, swing into Powisset Farm’s Winter Farmers Market happening Nov. 19 & Dec. 10, 11-4pm. The farm, run by Meryl LaTronica — she of boundless energy — will be selling a variety of fresh vegetables, as well as Powisset Farm pork, to get your cabinets stocked for the holiday season. Trustees of Reservations has all the information.

Continue reading

Food Therapy From Generation Y Foodie

Photo: courtesy of Generation Y Foodie

I love Brussels sprouts. This seems improbable because my mom NEVER served them when we were growing up and I was well over 30 before I even bought them, let alone tried one.

It’s been a Brussels sprouts kind of week, however, which makes me happy. Plus, the timing couldn’t be better. It’s nearly Thanksgiving, after all! Need an idea for a great side dish? Read on.

Chef Carolyn Johnson of 80 Thoreau in Concord recently whipped up a gorgeous batch of roasted Brussels sprouts (simply dressed with pine nuts, garlic, butter, olive oil, S&P; we’ll be featuring it soon). Susanna Bolle and I, on hand for a recording, grabbed forks and dug in. What flavors!

Next, Louisa Kasdon raised the bar by specifically promoting Brussels sprouts for Thanksgiving dinner (see Tip#6 in her Letter to Thanksgiving Cooks Everywhere, posted yesterday on PRK). She likes a gold-green aesthetic on this day. Hear, hear.

Add to this Generation Y Foodie. This 20-something Boston food blogger, Dara Reppucci, started writing to prove that her generation could do more than order take-out. She writes, photographs and, by all accounts, seems to eat really well. GenYFoodie’s Brussels Sprouts Caesar Salad won me over, in particular, because I rarely see recipes that combine this robust veg with salad greens. Dara’s salad is simple, nutritious, colorful, and could well become the green that balances those beloved gold hues on your Thanksgiving table.

Don’t be like me. Try Brussels sprouts early. Eat them often.

PRK On The Air: Last Suppers

Hotel Casa Santo Domingo Photo: Flickr/Edgar de Leon

At first glance, the topic of last suppers may seem morose. But not on Radio Boston.

Wednesday at 3pm, the show welcomes Melanie Dunea, the author and photographer behind “My Last Supper: The Second Course.” This is Dunea’s second book on Last Suppers,a series where she interviews and photographs famous chefs about their final meals. The list of world-renowned chefs includes two Boston-area gems: Lydia Shire (Scampo, Towne Stove and Spirits) and Barbara Lynch (Menton, Sportello, No. 9 Park, amongst others). All three will join us in studio.

Radio Boston will also ask for your calls and stories. But why not start now?

What would you eat? Who would be there? Where would they be?

Here’s mine:

Meal —  French fries and a black bean veggie burger + champagne
Company — My close friends and family (maybe a group of 10)
Location — Antigua, Guatemala. Nighttime at the Hotel Casa Santo Domingo.

Comment below or tweet @radioboston, @pubradiokitchen


A Letter to Thanksgiving Cooks Everywhere

Photo: net_efekt/Flickr

Cambridge-based food writer and events organizer Louisa Kasdon recently wrote her daughters. Embedded in her letter, below, are universal Thanksgiving truths worth sharing.

So, for daughters (and cooks) everywhere…

Louisa Kasdon
Founder, Let’s Talk About Food

A letter to my far-flung daughters on Thanksgiving

Dear Kids:

This is again a year when neither of you will be home for Thanksgiving. There will be lots of family around, plenty of cousins and nephews. Even a few strays that need a Thanksgiving hook-up in Boston. But you two, my own gems, are nine hours apart from each other, and each of you is six hours from me.

I share with you important tips for Thanksgiving.

1) Make sure that you take both bags of stuff out of the turkey. The first year I made Thanksgiving by myself, (when you, my oldest, my now mother-to-be, was a newborn), I thought there was only one thing to remove. The finished product looked beautiful but had a distinct liver and petroleum aftertaste.

2) Get a meat thermometer for the turkey. The color of the skin is only a cosmetic indicator.

3) Make more stuffing than you need. The recipe really doesn’t matter though my favorite has both raisins and cornbread. Turkeys don’t hold as much stuffing as people want to eat. Bake the rest in a pan and keep it moist with turkey or chicken stock.

4) Don’t be tempted by all the exotic recipes in magazines. Thanksgiving is about food that people remember, not food that is memorable. Stick with the basics. And use fresh thyme. Continue reading

Food Therapy from Confessions of a Chocoholic

Photo: courtesy of Confessions of a Chocoholic

A chocolate lover dreams of having chocolate with every meal. A chocolate fanatic actually has chocolate with every meal, usually with a side course of  guilt.

But a true chocoholic knows how to add chocolate to every meal while still getting away with calling it healthy.

With Confessions of a Chocoholic’s Pumpkin Quinoa Yogurt Parfait, you won’t have to fool yourself into thinking adding chocolate to your breakfast is healthy. It actually is. With other stars like healthy quinoa, seasonal pumpkin, and weight gain-fighting yogurt, dark chocolate peanut butter isn’t even in the dish title. Harmless.

And, che bella! Half the draw of a parfait is its aesthetics, and Confessions of a Chocoholic’s use of mason jars is a nice touch, making the end result that much more visually appealing and rustic in feel. Inside the jar is a late fall palate of colors, with layers consisting of quinoa mixed with pumpkin and vanilla soymilk, greek yogurt mixed with dark chocolate peanut butter, bananas and candied pecans (this recipe uses Mexican chocolate ones — no surprise there).

So, chocolate lovers and fanatics: take note. This recipe is just one of many tricks to a chocoholic’s trade.


Food Therapy from The Healthy Hipster

Mimosas: still mandatory. Photo: slettvet/Flickr

If you live in a major American city, it’s only a slight exaggeration to call brunch a way of life on the weekends. For most people, however, it’s never a homemade affair — it’s an excuse to have a party with a bunch of friends without, say, needing to clean the house or get up early.

I totally understand this — hell, I live it — but the result of constantly dining out is that a restaurant meal stops feeling special and starts feeling ordinary. To really celebrate, why not break the pattern and make brunch at home?

You may groan or delight in The Healthy Hipster’s blog name, but there’s no denying her tutorial for a quick-but-elegant brunch looks fantastic — easy, fresh, and as yummy as anything at the neighborhood spot. Plus: no lines!


America’s Test Kitchen Embraces Boston Bloggers

In America's Test Kitchen (Photo: Elizabeth Hathaway)

I kept waiting for the call, “Camera, Rolling, Action!”

A mix of Boston bloggers and myself were in America’s Test Kitchen, the set where all the magic happens for the most watched cooking show on public television, and where all the recipes for Cook’s Illustrated magazine are painstakingly tested. Right there was Christopher Kimball, editor and founder of the whole Brookline-based cooking conglomerate, who had before this been a mere black in white head-shot in my collection of Cook’s Illustrated issues.

Based on the number of tweets issuing from this tech-savvy crowd, the other bloggers at this Brookline mixer on Wednesday night were similarly enthralled. (The Broiled Shrimp Cocktail with Coriander and Lemon wasn’t a bad touch, either.)

The purpose of this organized mixer was two-pronged: first, to reach out to the Boston blogger community in an acknowledgment of their influence over the habits and tastes of Boston-area foodies; and, to promote the new Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook, a comprehensive edition of 20 years’ worth of Cook’s Illustrated magazine-tested recipes.

Inviting the online community to the test kitchens was a first for Christopher Kimball. Like many corporations who already have a good thing going, the changing social media landscape presents a major challenge to ATK. As Kimball admitted, up until last year they hadn’t done anything by way of social media. “I grew up with direct marketing, and I think that still works,” Kimball told me. “But I think now the world is becoming more and more about indirect marketing.” Continue reading