Monthly Archives: February 2012

PRK On The Air: The East Coast Grill Changes Hands

Oh-so-innocent-looking on Hell Night, East Coast Grill (photo: Willy D/Flickr)

He’s leaving. After all these years. But the doors will remain open at the famous, much loved, red-hot, iconic eatery East Coast Grill of Inman Square, Cambridge.

Today at 3pm, Radio Boston will host Chris Schlesinger, former chef/owner of East Coast Grill, in its studios. Call, Tweet or post your way into the conversation! Have any questions for this award-winning, out-going, trend-setting chef?

(Watch PRK’s slideshow featuring Chris HERE.)

TOMORROW: Mark Bittman joins On Point to talk sugar. It’s making us fat, and making us sick. Time to regulate? Again: call, Tweet or post your way into the conversation!

Out Of Africa: A Heritage Of Health


For years now we’ve heard the health benefits of a Mediterranean Diet — its whole-grain, loooong on fresh produce and olive oil regimen, with lots of fish and a bit of red wine and dairy added in. For many of you reading, the Mediterranean way of eating is likely a near-daily routine, maybe even a mind set. The true challenge nowadays is not in accepting the tenets of the Mediterranean diet and incorporating it into your life, but in expanding the repertoire of recipes to keep it exciting at the table.

Not so a diet with African origins. Some of you may know what foods and traditional ways of eating stem from Africa and the African Diaspora, and eat those foods regularly. But for some Americans of African descent, those culinary traditions have been diluted over time through racial assimilation and further hampered by socioeconomic disparities. In other words, not all communities of color have access to fresh, affordable produce as often as they should, or need to, in order to cook the way their ancestors did.

Late last Fall, the Boston-based nonprofit Oldways, which aims to re-educate the public about nutritious, heritage-based ways of eating, launched an initiative aimed at restoring to African-American communities the heritage of health a diet based on African traditions represents. Continue reading

Food Therapy from Journey Kitchen

Photo: color line/Flickr

In just a couple of days it will be March. That’s right — March! Spring! Crocuses and daffodils! The end of daylight savings, and the return of sun!

Though I am currently daydreaming about asparagus and strawberries and green garlic, Boston’s produce is still firmly in its dead-of-winter phase. Luckily, this roasted carrot salad from Journey Kitchen manages to spotlight everyone’s favorite winter vegetable while transporting the reader to warmer climes — truly, there’s nothing like a bit of sumac to bring the desert to you. Maybe turn up the heat in your house to further the effect.

Locavores will note that this salad contains cherry tomatoes, which are certainly not in season but somehow manage to taste decent all-year round (unlike their meatier cousins). As a somewhat goopier substitute, I’m sure drained canned tomatoes would work, too. Let’s face it — this time of year, we could probably all use the lycopene.

Spotlight: From Pot To Plank At Amelia’s Trattoria

Individual planks of polenta at Amelia's Trattoria (photo: Sue McCrory)

A communal dish is not what first comes to mind when you think of Italian food. Sure, food can be served family-style from a large platter. But the act of dipping one’s fork into one shared dish for the duration of a course is not the traditional way Italians eat. Not even pizzas are shared. Polenta is different.

You’ve probably tried it, or heard of it. It’s the most basic of fare: cornmeal stirred into boiling water until it thickens and sets, served with sautéed mushrooms, a Bolognese sauce, even fish. In essence, polenta is a culinary blank canvas. You can put just about anything on it, and you’ve got yourself delicious, nutritious comfort food and hearty winter fare.

A native of Boston’s North End, owner/chef Delio Susi of Amelia’s Trattoria grew up with polenta. He’s now serving it at his Kendall Square restaurant as part of a special “Pot to Plank” dinner menu available only through the end of February. The “pot” part is logical enough: you make polenta by bringing a pot of water just to boiling, then slowly pouring in the cornmeal, in stages, whisking it as you pour. (Chef Delio says the trick is not to pour too fast.) The “plank” part comes in when you eat. Polenta is traditionally served on a large wooden plank (maple or cedar) appropriate to the size of the table and number of diners. Everyone feasts from this communal plank.

At Amelia’s, you can order an individual plank of polenta served with your choice of topping, or order a larger plank for the whole table with as many discrete toppings as you like — from osso bucco and crispy sage to gorgonzola with broccoli rabe. Amelia’s Pot to Plank Menu is hearty, savory and communal fare, and it’s here through the end of next week. Thank goodness it’s Leap Year.

Thursday Tidbits: Red Carpet Ideas

Photo: jamarmstrong/Flickr


Urban Eating
BU’s Department of History is holding a two-day conference beginning Friday, Feb. 24, dedicated to the topic of food and cities. A host of scholars are slated to speak, and their papers offer multi-disciplinary, global perspectives. The Department’s Facebook page for its “Food in the City Conference” provides all the info you need.

Your Own Red Carpet
The Oscars are Sunday. Dress your nattiest (they’re offering gift certificates!) or “come Cambridge” to Upstairs on the Square’s Monday Club Bar, where you can ooh and aah with other voyeurs. The menu is “droll” and features such cinematic offerings as “The Help” and “George Clooney’s Hot Date.” (‘Bet that got you.)

Leap Year Treats
Remember, we all get an extra day of eating next week on account of Leap Day, Feb. 29. Finale thinks this is ‘sweet,’ of course: from Feb. 21 through Feb. 29 they’re offering a dinner/dessert special for two OR an 8″ cake for the magic number of…$29.

Eating Icelandic
From March 1-4, Eastern Standard’s Chef Matthew Audette will team up with guest chef Hákon Már Örvarsson, Bocuse d’Or and World Culinary Cup winner, to create a special four-course Icelandic menu showcasing the best of Nordic cuisine. Cocktails figure in here, too, of course — this being Jackson Cannon’s hood — with Reyka Vodka as the star ingredient. Contact Eastern Standard for more info on their 3rd annual Taste of Iceland event. Continue reading

True Grits

Photo: Mat Honan/Flickr

You don’t need to be a native of the South to enjoy this most classic of southern fare. Kathy Gunst, Resident Chef of Here & Now, explains.

Kathy Gunst
Cookbook author, blogger

For a girl who grew up in suburban New York, I have become awfully fond of grits. For those of you who don’t know much about grits (which generally means you haven’t spent much time in the South, where they command a nearly religious devotion), they are a staple of Southern cooking, a ground cornmeal “mush” or porridge, similar to polenta, but to my mind (and palette) a whole lot more interesting.

Grits (or hominy) is one of the first truly American foods. Introduced by Native Americans who ate softened corn, or maize, grits are so ingrained in Southern culture that, back in 1976, South Carolina declared it the “official state food.” As the State Legislature pointed out “…every community in the State of South Carolina used to be the site of a grist mill, and every local economy in the State used to be dependent on its product.” The Legislature went on: “…[G]rits has been a part of the life of every South Carolinian of whatever race, background, gender and income.” Continue reading

The Pizza At Posto

Pizza Magherita at Posto (all photos: Elizabeth Hathaway/PRK)

Unless you live in Davis Square, pizza at your neighborhood pizza joint does NOT look like this.

Last October is when I first heard of Pizzeria Posto, site of the old Carbury’s. I’ve eaten there three times since. Still, my first encounter with Posto’s artisanal pizzas sticks with me. “I haven’t seen a pizza look like this in ages,” I thought. Since the week I lived and ate in Naples is what I meant. Such an automatic, visceral connection with Naples, I am guessing, would make Posto chef/owner Joe Cassinelli proud.

Though it opened as recently as 2010, Posto is the only restaurant in New England certified as a maker of vera pizza napoletana, true Neapolitan-style pizza. The certification came last year, awarded in 2011 by the California-based organization of the same name: Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (VPN).

Cassinelli, a native of Milford, had already been making well-crafted pizzas when he arrived at VPN’s American headquarters in Marina Del Rey, CA, for the three-day training course. He also had read a lot, taking it upon himself to learn what he could about making Neapolitan-style pizza before he trained with the experts. Cassinelli was confident.

But VPN said ‘no, not yet,’ and Cassinelli felt the same. He waited almost a year after the formal training to approach VPN again. He felt he knew enough, had the right equipment — more on that in a minute — and had imparted enough knowledge to his staff to try for certification. (Indeed, the VPN qualification applies to Posto, not to Cassinelli, personally. His main pizza maker, Juan Perez, is therefore extremely important to the Posto team.)

“A lot of people think this is [a joke],” Cassinelli offered. “You send some guys a check and you’re in.” Continue reading

Food Therapy From My French Kitchen

Photo: cookbookman17/Flickr

Sometimes, a great dish means hours of stewing, or braising in wine, or garnishes of fresh herbs picked fresh from the garden.

And sometimes, a great dish means taking something and wrapping it in bacon.

These cherry and bacon rolls from My French Kitchen have only two ingredients — both of which can probably be found at your nearest 7-Eleven. Still, as unfussy and simple as these are, the idea of these little morsels have already inspired an intense craving in me. I feel like planning a dinner party just for an excuse to make them.

I mean, bacon-wrapped maraschino cherries. Come on. I’m only human.