Post 51 – Let’s Talk About Food

Let’s talk about food.

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Let’s talk about the science of cooking hamburgers and why you should drink more wine.

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Let’s talk about sustainability, agriculture, raising chickens in your own backyard, and grinding your own hamburgers.

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Let’s talk about FOOD, but more than just gourmet restaurants and molecular gastronomy. Let’s talk about what makes a food desert, why people are hungry, and why restaurant workers are not paid minimum wage.

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We learned about all of these topics this weekend at the Let’s Talk About Food Festival in Copley Square.

With perfect weather to motivate us to head outdoors, Sam and I went into the city to see the demonstrations, booths, and exhibits on display for the day. Though the turnout was smaller than I expected, the event addressed some wonderful topics. Best of all the information was free and accessible to anyone walking by.

In front of the beautiful old Trinity Church, the organizers set up a main stage where chefs, nutritionists, geeky cooks, and restaurant owners alike displayed their talents and divulged their nutrition tips and cooking secrets. There were demos throughout the day in addition to the informational booths that you could visit at anytime. A few food trucks lined the streets, including my favorite, Bon Me, and a new truck called The Fresh Truck whose motto reads, “Driving food, health, and community.” Like a produce market on wheels, this converted school bus drives to Boston neighborhoods to offer affordable and healthy food options to those who lack such a market nearby.

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Though we weren’t brave enough to engage in conversation at the Endless Table sponsored by the Museum of Science, there was definitely the opportunity to literally talk about food.  I saw strangers gathering round tables, shaking hands, and exchanging words with the hope of making a change.

The Lexicon of Sustainability exhibit gave pictures and meaning to many food terms thrown around that very few of us understand.

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IMG_3604Like Permaculture (which I still can’t explain very well).

And if all your questions weren’t answered you could head over to the Ask a Chef or Ask a Nutritionist booth and have them field your questions.

One of my favorite parts was Kitchen Conversations – a cozy booth to record one’s food memories, stories, and recipes in order to create an oral history. I so wanted to share something, but I didn’t know where to start. When did I first learn to cook? Who taught me to to cook? What was the first recipe I made by myself? Stories I’ll have to save for my memoir…

As the on-stage demos lost our interest, we took advantage of the beautiful weather and wandered over to the Public Gah-den. The blue skies and summer temperatures had attracted several others including two brides and their grooms. We also saw a bride and groom in-the-making as one man got down on his knee to propose to his love, while their friends waited excitedly below the bridge clutching a bundle of balloons.

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All in all it was a beautiful day (despite my crackling voice and stuffed up nose) and I felt energized and excited to be part of the food world in Boston. I saw many people I knew and I even recognized many of Boston’s famous chefs by their faces.

Boston is a great city to talk about food and I love the conversations that have begun in the last few years. Food trucks have popped up to meet the mobile crowds, many farmers’ markets now accept SNAP (food stamps), and people have begun to talk about why food matters to everyone.

It’s a conversation that has only just begun (and that I have only very briefly touched on here) and I look forward to hearing more.

This October 24, 2013 will be Food Day, and with it, I hope,  a chance to celebrate food and educate ourselves on all things food-related. I look forward to sharing more with you in a few weeks.

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Post 50 – More Applesauce & Homemade Breakfast Sausage

It sure feels like fall around here. Cooler temperatures, beautiful fallen leaves, and applesauce.

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Oh, and speaking of applesauce…

I have some bad news. The applesauce is all gone.

In one short week (5 days technically!) Sam demolished that giant bowl of homemade applesauce that I assured you would not make it to the freezer. I think I had a small bowl or two.

The good news: that wonderful guy is in the kitchen (as I type) making another batch, completely without me asking him to!

Here’s proof:

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(Listening to the Beatles radio on Pandora as he cooks)

With this final batch of applesauce no more apples remain from our wonderful apple-picking trip. (I think maybe it’s time to go again?) I had thought that, with 40 pounds of apples, surely I would have a million and one recipes to try in order to use up the delicious fruit gems, but, alas, many of the recipes never made it to the test kitchen.

I did, however, try one recipe that has become a part of my breakfast a few days a week: turkey and apple breakfast sausage. After searching a few recipes online I put the best of them together to make my very own. They turned out moist, flavorful, and very filling. They use very little apple, but the apple adds nice flavor. Though I shredded my apple unpeeled, next time I think I would peel the apple as the skin seems to burn easier when cooking the sausage.

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Turkey and Apple Breakfast Sausages

Makes 6-10 patties depending on the size

1 lb. ground turkey

1/4 cup shredded apple, any kind

1-2 T. chopped fresh sage

a few good grinds of black pepper

1/2-3/4 tsp. of salt

1/2-1 tsp. crushed fennel seeds

1 egg white

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Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl with your hands and gently form into patties. I used a lightly scooped 1/4 cup measuring cup to make mine. You can refrigerate to allow the flavors to come together or you can cook them now (I did the latter). The seasonings are flexible and totally up to you, so feel free to adjust as needed.

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Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat and lightly drizzle with oil. When the pan is hot, add a few patties, being careful not to crowd the pan. Allow to cook for about 5 minutes on one side or until you can see the bottom is browning and beginning to move up the sides slightly.

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Gently flip and allow to cook until a thermometer registers 165 or until no longer pink in the middle. Remove to a cookie sheet or plate to cool and cook the next batch. These can be served immediately or frozen. If frozen, lay them out without touching on a plate or cookie sheet. Put in the freezer for an hour or two until well chilled then move to a Ziploc freezer bag. This will keep the sausages from sticking together. To reheat individually, microwave on a microwave-safe plate for 1 minute (covering with a paper towel to prevent splatters) or reheat in the oven at a low temperature.

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I admit that I miss the warmth of the summer sun, but just the same I’m so glad it’s fall. Bring on the red and orange hues that color the paths, the apples, pumpkins, and squash that warm our palates and tummies, and the-curl-up-under-a-blanket-with-a-good-book fall weather. Believe me, in a few months these temperatures we’re experiencing now will seem tropical. Enjoy it while it lasts.

 

 

Post 48 – Forty Pounds of Apples

Summer has seamlessly given way to fall. We wake up to crisp mornings and the sun warms up the day hour by hour. I can’t believe how fast time flies.

There is a happiness that comes with the beginning of each new season, but I miss the summer already and I dread the cold, hard winter that may come our way.

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In the spirit of autumn, Sam and I went apple picking this weekend with a friend. As we pulled around the curvy bend of the road heading to the same farm where we picked apples last year I couldn’t help but feel like last year was just last night. Really? A whole year ago we were here? Did time go by that fast? Consequences of getting older…

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We had a dandy time picking apples, eating waaaay too many apple cider donuts, and finding bite-size apples to munch on while we picked. We came home with 40 pounds of beautiful apples, five pounds of which our friend took with him.

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What are you going to do with 40 pounds of apples?? People ask us incredulously.

Oh you’d be surprised how well we can handle our apples. This is apple season and we take full advantage. We will be making apple sauce and apple pies and apple cakes and other apple-y things. Believe you me, I have an arsenal of apple recipes and Sam can down a giant bowl of applesauce no problem.

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One of our favorite new traditions has been to make these wonderful meat-stuffed apples. They are sweet, savory, and filling, perfect on a chill autumn night. Don’t question the combination – it’s delicious. As they cook, the meat and apple juices ooze into one saucy sauce in the pan and the soft crunch of baked apples pairs well with the heartier texture of the meat. The recipe is fairly customizable too – change the meat, the spices, leave out the bread and milk, suit it to your taste, but I promise you that you won’t be disappointed.

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Savory Stuffed Apples

Based on Chef Jose Andres’ recipe

3 slices bread, crust removed and torn into small pieces

¾ cup milk

2 lb. ground beef or pork (we used beef)

1 small onion, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

¼ tsp. cinnamon

3 T. chopped fresh sage

1 tsp. salt

good grind of black pepper

9-10 large baking apples

 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.* Soak the bread pieces in milk while preparing other ingredients. Using a melon baller or sharp paring knife, dig out the core in your apples to make a deep well (careful not to go all the way through). Reserve any edible pieces of apple innards for later. To prevent apple explosion, score your apples 3 or 4 times on the outside, by lightly running a small knife down the apple just enough to break the skin. (As you can see before my apples still released some of their juices, but at least none exploded). Chop the onion and garlic and mix it with the meat, spices, and bread and milk mixture. Fill the apples with the meat mixture, carefully stuffed it inside and patting down the top to form a cap. You may need more apples, depending on the size of your apples or you can make mini meat loaves (as I did) with the remaining meat mixture. Bake in an ovenproof dish drizzled or sprayed with oil for 35-45 minutes or until meat registers 165 with a thermometer. Serve warm.

*I would actually try baking them at a lower temperature next time (375) as the tops got a little too brown before the middle was cooked all the way through.

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Notice these guys burst a little. The ones pictured below, however, turned out beautifully!

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With your reserved apple innards make a quick apple crisp for 1 or 2. Apples for dinner and dessert!

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Here’s to the fall (despite farewell to summer) and to many more apple recipes!