Tag Archives: Food

Taking Stock

Few things bother me more than throwing out food.  What could be more wasteful than letting perfectly good nutrition rot in the refrigerator when people are starving?  Then there’s the money you spent on the food in the first place, gone without benefit.  So we try to be really good about eating up our leftovers.  We even bought a food-saver with last year’s Christmas money, to better extend the freezer life of our excess.  In order to make leftovers more exciting I try to rework them, making hashes and salads instead of simply reheating last night’s dinner.  All of these tricks are pretty good, and while we still have to throw out the occasional moldy tomato, we waste very little.

One of our biggest victories in the war against waste, however, is stock-making.  Stock is a great recycler for a number of reasons.  First, in making the stock you’re able to use bits and pieces of whatever kind it is that you wouldn’t eat under normal circumstances.  For example, if you’re making veggie stock, in addition to the fresh vegetables that form your base you can dump in trimmings from previous meals.  In making chicken stock this week, I threw in some of those trimmings, along with several carcasses and necks that I’d saved in the freezer.  While you still need some fresh meat and vegetables (bones and trimmings alone will taste just like you’d imagine) this is an awesome way to get more mileage from your chicken dinner.  The bones add a bit of collagen that makes your stock nice and thick, and the trimmings add flavor and color – onion skins are key to a beautiful rich yellow stock.  Like so:
So Much Chicken Stock

I like to use thighs for my fresh meat, because they’re cheap and more flavorful, since they’re dark meat. Throw them in the pot with a bay leaf, carrots, onions, and celery, cover the whole mess with water, and you’re good to go.

After the stock is done, it continues to help you recycle! The most obvious use for stock is soup, which in our house is the favored way of dispatching with vegetables that are still good but on the verge. It’s much easier to eat carrots, green beans, corn, onions, peas, and broccoli all in one meal when it’s in the soup pot. In our last creation we even tossed in a little left-over pancetta, which added a pleasant saltiness to the finished soup.

Stock is also the key ingredient in risotto, another canvas for “whatever we’ve got left in the fridge.” Even if I’m not in the mood for the full risotto treatment, throwing stock instead of water into the rice cooker adds a bit of depth to our meal.

Making stock at home is a bit time-consuming, but well worth the minimal effort. We’ve never wasted a drop!

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Local, Seasonal, Vegetarian

There’s a great farmer’s market in Dewey Square on Tuesdays and Thursdays all summer and throughout the fall.  Since Dewey Square is right outside the South Station T stop where I pick up the subway, this makes it supremely easy and convenient to quickly grab some fresh and local produce on the way home, and unless I have somewhere to be after work, I usually try to take advantage.
While this is always fantastic, today I really struck gold:
Maitake Mushrooms

These lovelies are maitake mushrooms, also known as hen of the woods. While they’re popular in Japan for their medicinal properties, these fungi are also really, really delicious. The name hen of the woods is apt because the mushroom has this wonderful meaty flavor and chew. Finding them was super exciting because they’re one of my favorite mushrooms and I don’t see them around that often. They’re rather expensive, but I find a little goes a long way with mushrooms, so I bought enough for a solitary dinner since the man was working late and hurried home with my prize.

I’d already been thinking about making barley tonight, as a change from rice…but what else to serve with the barley and mushrooms? I didn’t want to make a risotto – I wanted the mushrooms to shine on their own. And then I remembered that we had some beets in the fridge! Barley, beets, and maitake – the perfect fall meal!

Cooking the barley was easy enough – into the rice cooker it went, with 2 cups of water. For the beets, I decided to slightly modify the Beet Crisps recipe in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian and slice them a bit thicker – they were not so much crisps as individually roasted beet slices. Into a 400 degree oven they went, coated oil and, once they were flipped, dusted with salt, pepper, and curry powder.
Beets!

Finally, it was time to cook the mushrooms. I decided on simply sauteing them following the general outline of a recipe found online. My big change here, besides quantity (the mushrooms weren’t $29 a pound, but they weren’t so far off that I was going to buy that much of them!) was that I lacked the fresh herbs. I didn’t plant thyme in the garden this year, and my rosemary is somewhat…lacking. So I winged it with dried and hoped Marco would forgive me.

Sauteeing Mushrooms

Maitake smells absolutely outstanding when sauteed. Don’t start dinner when you’re too hungry or you’ll be sorry.

When the mushrooms were drained of their excess oil, I put it all together on the plate. The beets saved the meal from being too drab.

Fall Dinner

The earthiness of the mushrooms played nicely with the sweetness of the beets and their slight curry mustiness. The barley came out beautifully – fully cooked and tender but still chewy. A lovely fall meal – local, seasonal, and totally meat-free!

Fair Food!

This weekend I went to Eastern States Exposition, better known as The Big E. Like The World’s Fairs of the 19th century, The Big E is designed to showcase the agriculture and products of the New England States.  Those products include food.  Lots and lots of food.

For starters, there’s all of the typical food that you can eat at any county or state fair. Like fried dough:
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Wings:
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Or GIANT CORN DOGS:
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These are the greasy delights that we all enjoy before promptly becoming sick on the Ferris Wheel, and I’ve been known to enjoy them myself.   But the Big E has so much more to offer, and that’s what I’d like to focus on in this post.

For example, one of the things that makes this fair unique is that it’s an exposition not just for a county, not just for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, but for all six New England states!  Each state has a house that acts as an embassy (you are legally in that state while in its building) and showcase of its culinary glories.  You can also usually buy scented candles and other such nonsense, but we all know where my priorities are.

We stopped into the Massachusetts building and started the day with some macaroni and cellar-aged cheese local to the nearby town of Granville.  The cheese was pleasantly sharp and there were just hints of tomato in the mix – this was a far cry from boxed mac ‘n cheese.  I’d have liked to purchase some cheese but didn’t think it would survive being dragged around the fair all day.  No one likes weepy cheese.

Next we went to my favorite building:
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This is the Rhode Island building. While I am Massachusetts born and bred, the RI building offers a treat that we cannot compete with:
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That, my friends, is a hot bag of clam fritters.  Also known as clam cakes, these little gems are worth the trip in and of themselves.  Conversation actually heard as we stood eating these outside the Rhode Island building:

Little Girl: But mom, why do you want more fritters?

Mom: Well, Isabelle, because that’s why we come here.

Clearly Mom is raising her children right.  Anonymous mother, I salute you!

Lest you think that these are just little balls of corn dough, let me assure you that there are indeed chunks of clam embedded in them:

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While I did not indulge in it, Rhode Island is also home to coffee milk, which I believe has it all over chocolate or strawberry.  I believe I am in the minority in this opinion outside of Rhode Island, however.  Three cheers for that tiny state to the south with all of the bizarre regional cuisine!

That was the extent of our state building tour this year.  Two of my fair companions did eventually return to the Maine building for the baked potato, but as I am personally unexcited by that treat I didn’t bother to document it.  Forgive me, Maine.

Instead we headed over to the 4H buildings to look at the adorable and slightly pungent animals.  Check out my Flickr if you enjoy pictures of cows and sheep!  Since I’m focused on the foodstuffs, here, I’d like to draw your attention to the joys of the dairy bar:
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This gentleman is a first-time patron of the Dairy Bar, a magical place where you can get a proper New England milkshake made with fresh milk. He’s enjoying the vanilla variety. For those uninterested in clicking my links, the difference between milkshakes in New England and the rest of the world is that here they do not include ice cream. That particular confection is called a frappe. Learn the distinction to avoid disappointment at your local soda parlor or ice cream establishment.

Also next to the Dairy Bar is a work of food art:
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The artistry of this piece is jaw-dropping – look at those little cows! Quite a bit of butter goes into this ephemeral masterwork:
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After enjoying the agricultural delights of the 4H barn we headed to the midway to play some games.  While my companions excel at games like shooting out the star, skeeball, and plate breaking, my only talent is darts.  I can pop balloons with a dart like nobody’s business.  Sadly this talent doesn’t transfer to the plate breaking  – I can very accurately hit a plate with a baseball, but not with enough force to shatter it.  Perhaps I will train for next year.

In any case, all of that throwing worked up an appetite, so we headed to lunch.  I decided to try a couple of fair treats that I’d never had before.  The first was the fried pickles:
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These were great – hot and salty, with a light, crisp breading. The frying seems to draw out some of the vinegar sting from the pickle. Though not, apparently, from the pickle eaters:
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Oh, and they were prepared for me by the fine young men of Dr. Vegetable:
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The Vegetable Therapist approves!

The rest of my lunch was a food I’ve eaten before, but not at the Big E – pierogies. Western MA has a big Polish population, so I’m not sure if these are a common fair food or specific to the region. I do know that the Bolton fair has spectacular galumpkis. (as a half-Pole it’s my duty to know these things.)

The Big E’s pierogies were tasty but a bit greasy. The aforementioned field expedition to the Main Building brought them to me – an assortment of potato, kielbasa, cheese, and cabbage filled.
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I was partial to the cabbage, which had a nice sour flavor to complement the bland dough casing. The kielbasa were pleasantly salty – really just flecks of sausage embedded into potato. Certain table companions were too put off by the grease to truly enjoy them, but I believe that’s the hallmark of good fair food.

We finished off the day with a few more games and the always amazing Circus Museum. Check out the Flickr for lots of pictures of incredibly detailed circus miniatures.

My last food item for the day was a sarsaparilla float. This was some of the best soda I’ve ever had – just enough of that root flavor to be a nice complement for the ice cream – sweet but a little spicy.
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All in all it was a grand day at the fair! Good fun, good people, and of course, good food!

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Adventures

I started this blog to keep track of the fun, food-related stuff I’ve been up to.  In addition to being a big fan of eating new and unusual things, I love a good kitchen project.  Making my own butter, cheese, and bread totally from scratch has been very rewarding, and I’d like to have a record of these and other experiments.  I also have several area restaurants that I’m looking to check out, ranging from super-fancy to hot dog stands.

So in this post I just want to make a list of upcoming or hoped for adventures, most of which I’m hoping to document here!  I’m breaking them down by new food, outing (restaurants or otherwise), or project.  Naturally this isn’t a totally comprehensive list, just what’s on my mind at present.

Foods:

Grasshoppers – this one is actually happening in September!

Dragon Fruit – also soon, I bought one at Super 88

Durian – I’m scared, but fascinated

Sweet breads

Haggis

Huitlacoche – might be able to do with the grasshoppers

Cactus – ditto

Outings:

Sushi, possibly at Fugakyu? – I know, not very exciting, and I’ve eaten it lots of times, but I have a friend who is not a bold eater who wants to go.

Starlight Lounge – excited for this to open!

No. 9 Park – probably won’t happen for a while…

Garden at the Cellar

Eastern Standard

Oleana

Ten Tables – Cambridge or JP, I haven’t been to either!

Kimballs – grew up near here, but want to take some friends who are uninitiated

The Big E – my favorite yearly food adventure!

Speed’s – the best hot dog in Boston, so they say…

Underground Food Party/Supper Club – may have a chance to go to one of these soon…

Projects:

Pasta making – a friend gave me the means ages ago, I need to just DO it.

Sausage making

Curing bacon

Hard cheese – mozzarella, only the first step?

Bagels

Beer – used to do it, want to get back into it

In the comments,  I’d love ideas for other adventures!  And if you know me, let me know if you’d like to join in!

Picky, picky

When I was a kid, I was a tremendously picky eater.  For many years, for example, I would only eat any pasta that was being served to me with butter.  This meant just mac, no cheese; plain spaghetti, no sauce thanks.  Then I got a bit older and liked the sauce, but loathed the noodles.

Vegetables were another victim of my distaste.  I did like a few – carrots were OK, and I never minded broccoli, but I pretty much loathed every other savory plant-product that came my way.  No cabbage, no spinach, and never, ever peas.

I can’t really put my finger on when this began to change, except that I’m pretty sure that it had something to do with reading.    I have always been a big reader, even at my pickiest and brattiest, the sort of kid that you had to work hard to convince to STOP reading.  At some point in my late teens I started reading restaurant reviews, among the other fluffy bits of the newspaper that I enjoyed.  The descriptions of food were captivating. Descriptions not just of taste, but of look and texture.  I started to become curious about food I’d never tried.  Around the same time, I began dating someone who had, at the time, much more sophisticated tastes than I did.  Little by little my resistance to most foods began to fall away.
Fast forward to 2009.   The picky child has grown up to be an omnivore of the most complete proportions.  Vegetables?  Love ’em.  Every single blessed one, even my long-time nemesis, the pea (provided it’s not of the frozen variety.  Gross.)  Offal?  Let me at it.  Heck, I’m even willing to try bugs!  I feel like this openness, the willingness to try new things, has been reflected in the rest of my life as well.  It’s about trying things instead of prejudging them.  It’s about being willing to take risk.  It’s about variety and all the world has to offer, and it tastes pretty sweet.