Friday Finds: 8.30.13

The latest and greatest from around the web. 

Take five minutes out of your day for the latest installment of Vanity Fair’s ‘The Snob’s Dictionary’ and find out what the bearded neo-urbanists already know: Heirloom Tomatoes 101

“I read most of the morning” and other things to envy from the days and meals of Junot Diaz ℅ Grub Street: Brief Wondrous Interview

I’ve been living in the dark. Garlic confit is a thing! Education yourself here.

Ending on a more solemn note with a heartfelt blog detailing the tragedy that befell Stone Brewing earlier this week. This one’s for  the people behind the pints.

No Words Wednesday

No Words Wednesday

Union Square Donuts

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A hike from most T stops, Somerville’s Union Square may not be centrally located, but it certainly boasts enough new culinary talent to be considered a burgeoning hub of Boston’s culinary scene. I’ve been known to hike the 30 minutes it takes to get from my place to Union Square for the likes of Backbar, but a recent discovery might have me making the trip before 5pm more often: tucked into a long and slightly narrow space on Bow Street, Union Square Donuts has got the goods to get any would-be late rise out of bed.

The menu is small but extremely well thought out. A quick visit to their website for a look at the menu is all it takes to prove that everyone else in the donut game is slacking. Flavors that range from Maple Bacon to Cherry Hibiscus are enough to make you wish the line would move slower, if only to give you more time to choose. Alas, the service is speedy.

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Unable to choose just one, I cajoled my companion into sharing. With our powers combined, we were each able to enjoy a Honey Almond and Chocolate Chipotle combo meal. Both flavors were very different, but each was very, very good. Fresh, small batch, and obviously made with care, these are donuts to love.

Just be sure to get a move on. With donuts this good, they don’t have any issues moving product.

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Friday Finds: 8.16.13

The latest and greatest from around the web. 

Feel that chill in the air? You’ll want it to feel even more like Fall once you review Thrillist’s list of exciting eateries set to open this autumn. Check it out here.

Flashback to 2003! Huff Post goes Gilmore, offering up a handy infographic proving there ain’t no way Luke’s diner food would’ve done their girlish figures any favors IRL. Burgers, pancakes, and fries, oh my!

Lovely local site Somerville Beat makes the farmer’s market less frightening by offering up a recipe c/o the food geniuses over at Cuisine en Locale. Try something new and make this now!

One great thing plus another great thing, makes for…wait for it…even more great things! Provisions , the new marketplace offered up by the folks over at Food52, is featuring a Citron pressé set put together by Eat Boutique! Say “Bonjour!” before it sells out.

Thirsty Thursday leave you a wee bit embarrassed? Get thee to Gothamist for your daily dose of perspective. Two twenty something women were caught digging for Cronuts outside of Dominique Ansel Bakery and there’s photographic proof. Look at their lives. Look at their choices.

Stay classy, people. 

No Words Wednesday

No Words Wednesday

Pastries and Parties

As I may have mentioned before, I am very fortunate to spend my days managing the Food & Wine program at the BCAE. This means I get to work with chefs  –some hobbyists, some professional, all extremely talented— to produce classes for the culinarily curious of Greater Boston. 

The BCAE was recently recognized by Boston Magazine and the Improper Bostonian for offering the city’s Best Arts Education and Best Classes, respectively. Each year, we serve about 12,000 students, and from this group comes a subset of incredibly devoted chefs in training that make up the BCAE Epicurean Society. These folks take between 5 and 20 Food & Wine classes with us each year, which is big -huge! 

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(The BCAE Epicurean Society Logo, designed by Becky from Pop & Circumstance!)

A few weeks back, we decided throw a party to show our thanks. Like everything that happens at the Center, the celebration would not have been possible without a team of incredibly talented instructors and extremely generous donors. Three beloved BCAE vets stepped up to the stove (er, plate) to provide our party with heavy apps and decadent desserts. 90+ wines, Polar Beverages, and Deep Eddy Vodka were on hand to help us wash it all down. 

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(One of the awesome door prizes, generously donated by Eat Boutique!)

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(The 90+ bar, and the headless form of my coworker. Sorry, Andrew!) 

A small and fairly exclusive affair, the students mixed and mingled and were all too happy to oblige when I asked them questions about what they liked and didn’t like about the program. I read students’ course evaluations daily, but it was amazing to get real time feedback. By the time I left I had gained great deal of insight about what happens when my shift ends and the night classes begin, as well as a wealth of new ideas for classes to program and chefs to feature.

I’m thankful for the BCAE’s students and forever grateful to our team of amazing instructors who happily share their talents, time and again.

In the spirit of sharing, I asked instructor extraordinaire Dustin Rennells to share his recipe for Chocolate Eclairs, one of the many treats he prepared for the party. Enjoy! 

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(The array of tasty treats provided by Dustin. Check out more of what he does at Bad Boy Bake Shop!) 

Chef Dustin’s Chocolate Eclairs (Pate a Choux)

 

Pate a Choux

2 t Sugar

1.5 sticks Butter

2 c Flour

¼ t Salt

1.5 c Walter

8 Whole Eggs

 

Crème Patissiere

2 cups whole milk

1/2 cup sugar, divided

1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped

Pinch of salt

4 large egg yolks

1/4 cup cornstarch

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

In a medium saucepan, combine milk, 1/4 cup sugar, vanilla bean and seeds, and salt. Cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a simmer. In a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks, cornstarch, and remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Whisking constantly, slowly pour about 1/2 cup of the hot-milk mixture into the egg-yolk mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, until it has been incorporated. Pour mixture back into saucepan, and cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until it thickens and registers 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 2 minutes. Remove and discard vanilla bean. Transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the butter, and beat on medium speed until the butter melts and the mixture cools, about 5 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours or up to 2 days. Just before using, beat on low speed until smooth (you can also whisk by hand).

Preheat Oven to 450 degrees. Boil butter and water in 2qt pan, once boiling dump in flour all at once. Stir, return to high heat until forms a ball (1 min). Place in stand mixer, whip 1 min, add in eggs one at a time until thick and ribbony. Pour into a pastry bag. Pip 1.5 inch circles onto parchment. Bake 10-15 min at 450 until puffed, Reduce to 350, bake 10 more mins or no moisture on crevices. Turn off heat, dry out for 10 mins.  Fill immediately with pastry cream once fully cooled.

Ganache

1 cup heavy cream

8 oz chocolate, finely chopped

Microwave cream until very warm to touch. Pour over chocolate pieces. Let sit 2 mins, stir until combined.

 Glaze chocolate over éclair puff.

Mason Jar Madness

I’m late to this party, but canning jars are pretty wonderful.

Years ago, a few fellow Somervillians turned canning jars into travel mugs with the invention of CUPPOW, and, most recently, they’ve got the lunch scene on lock with BNTO, the genius little device that turns a jar into a lunch box and “separates wet stuff from dry stuff.”

Lacking the inventiveness of those that share my zip code, I’m only now seeing the canning jar’s potential beyond preserves. Unlike traditional Tupperware, a canning jar’s lid screws on and closes tightly, making it the perfect vessel for transporting soups and other liquidy things that may well ruin your purse. Personally, though, I think it’s perfect fit is salads. Even without a BNTO, the ability to put your dressing in first and layer a few less wilty ingredients (read: everything but lettuce) on top of it means a snappier salad once lunchtime rolls around. Oh, and it’s pretty. Really, really pretty.

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And now, how to make your coworkers, classmates, whatever, jealous in 2 easy steps:

1) Pick your dressing. In the salad featured, I used an olive oil, lemon juice, salt + pepper combo. Simple. Delicious.

2) Layer it up with veggie goodness! The salad above includes roasted beets, carrots, cucumbers, sweet potatoes and spinach, but I encourage you to be as creative as you’d like!

What are your favorite uses for canning jars?

At one with nature

At one with nature

It’s beautiful today in Boston. Get out there and drink on a deck!

In Review: Duckfat

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Maine: worth a visit, worth a lifetime. Or so the highway signs say. It’s merits lie in mountains and coastline, lush green forests and, of course, L.L. Bean, but if there’s one thing that makes me seriously consider spending a lifetime in the Pine Tree State, it’s Duckfat.

has been serving up sandwiches, milkshakes, and what owners Nancy Pugh and Rob Evans claim to be the “best fries this side of the pond” since it opened its doors in 2005. Located in a small space a short walk from the harbor, Duckfat features family style bench and bar seating. Take out’s an option, but I wouldn’t take them up on it. Despite having to wait for a table in the slightly cramped setting (it’s a half click above “cozy” on the small scale) the dining at Duckfat is a delight. The room is warm, features exposed brick walls adorned with prints from local artists, and a plethora of magnetic poetry for patrons to make use of while they wait for their food. Yes, I know, the picturesque Portland waterfront it right down the street. I would argue the interior of Duckfat is better. Look at the boats after you eat.

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Duckfat’s Belgian fries are the result of Maine potatoes and, naturally, duck fat. To test the theory that these fries are indeed better than those in Europe, the boyfriend and I treated ourselves to a large order accompanied by a curry dipping sauce.

Admittedly, I’m a poor judge. The last time I had chips across the pond they came from a salt and vinegar soaked paper bag purchased in Galway at 2:00AM. From what I can recall, Duckfat’s fries were indeed better.

For my main course, I went for the duck confit panini. I figured if I was going to a place called Duckfat, eating fries that had been cooked in duck fat, I may as well get the sandwich and leave the place having enjoyed as much duck fat as possible. The end result probably should have been shame and horror, but I don’t think I’ve ever been more pleased with myself. Topped with spicy mayo, Napa cabbage slaw and cilantro, this thing more than makes up for a childhood of turkey, cheese, and mayo on Canadian White.

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I want to tell you that we washed the whole thing down with a delicious local beer and went on our way, but that would be a lie. It’s the route Jesse took, but I didn’t really go there. Sure, I had a beer, but I also had a milkshake. A dulce de leche, sea salt and goats milk spiked milkshake.

Again, I should have been feeling guilty, but when the pangs hit, I took another sip, and that was the end of that.

Spring Spaghetti Squash

Ah, Spring. It’s that beautiful season when you leave work bragging about how you’ll be spending the evening on your porch with a book and a glass of wine. Except by the time the MBTA delivers you back to Someville, it’s a little too chilly to make good on your plan, so you opt to roast some spaghetti squash and blog about it. Yep, it’s a wonderful time of year.

For those that might not be familiar, spaghetti squash is a winter squash that ranges from pale to bright yellow in color and is about the size of a football. When cooked, its flesh pulls away from the skin in strand that look like spaghetti.

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The spaghetti squash, roasted and ready to go!

The look of the strands is where the similarity to actual pasta ends. People use it as a low carb replacement for spaghetti, but I think it’s better to use it in dishes where you could use pasta but actually would prefer a light, bright, vegetable.

This is squash we’re talking about. Don’t screw with tradition and try to cover it in marina sauce and meatballs. That’s just an insult to pasta.

For this dish, I opted to complement the sweetness of the roasted squash with some roasted red peppers, and balance it with banana peppers, spinach, and artichoke hearts.

If you wanted a completely plant based option, you could stop right here, or add in some olives and maybe almonds. I went for feta. Delicious feta in brine. You buy feta in brine, right? I don’t care that it’s a few dollars more than the crumbled kind. It’s packing at least ten dollars more in flavor.

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Oh, and obviously I had to grab a glass of white wine. Wouldn’t want to have completely lied to the colleagues.

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Love wine. Love it more if it’s under $15.

Ingredients:

1 Spaghetti Squash

Olive Oil

Salt

Grains of Paradise (or plain black pepper. Full disclosure, I’m only using the G of P because I ran out of plain black pepper.)

3 cups spinach

Roasted red peppers

Artichoke hearts

Banana peppers

Feta cheese

Make it happen:

Preheat the oven to 375

Bust out a sharp knife and bust open that spaghetti squash

Coat cut side with olive oil, salt, and grains of paradise

Place cut side down on a baking sheet, and roast for 1 hour. Flip and roast for 15 more minutes

Remove from oven and cool

While squash is cooling, crack open the aforementioned white wine and prep your other ingredients:

Slice artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, red onion, and banana peppers into bite sized pieces. Set aside in a large bowl.

Add spinach to the bowl with the other vegetables. Mix to incorporate.

Take a fork to the spaghetti squash and remove seeds. Then, use fork to “rake” the squash from the peel. Place strands in bowl over spinach. The strands should still be hot enough to wilt spinach slightly.

Crumble up your feta, and add to the other ingredients.

Voila! An early spring meal that’s actually better with squash than it would have been with pasta.

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What are your favorite uses for spaghetti squash? Do you love it for what it is or do you let it stand in for actual spaghetti?

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