The Hottest Food Trend for 2009: Part I

6 01 2009

We’re eating more Organic food, we’re starting to shop and eat locally, we’re thinking more about trans-fats and processed foods, and in the past decade our food knowledge and food availability has been greatly expanded.

The trend in 2009 isn’t a local one.  It’sInternetional.  We can say goodbye to the old ingredient trends such as truffles, asiago cheese, portobella mushrooms, and duck which all of a sudden appear on every menu in every form.  Truffle shavings, with truffle oil, sitting on a carpaccio of truffle, and topped with a frozen truffle foam.  Online, is where the latest food trend is to be found.  There are webgroups, blogs, Meetup groups, networks, food websites and a great assortment of restaurant-review websites.  It is something we all have some degree of access to and that caters to every level of chef, cook, foodie, and person who eats.

In our home, we have had the computer in the kitchen for several years now, because I useepicurious.com and foodnetwork.com for many of my recipes.  I love my cookbooks and those that I’ve pilfered from my mother’s bookshelves and kitchen cupboards and I won’t replace them with the websites.  However, if I’m looking to do a full menu or I have an ingredient in the fridge, from my CSA or in my Boston Organics box that I want to use, then the easiest way to have a huge selection of ingredient-specific recipes at my fingertips is online.

Here is Part I of the hottest food trend for 2009.

Old Friends and a Newbie

epicurious.com
Their tagline is “for people who love to eat”.  I use the site primarily for food recipes, but also for drink recipes and occasionally for full menu ideas.  In addition to the recipes, there are articles and guides, and there is a community section for forums and discussions.  Most of the recipes on this site are from Gourmet magazine and Bon Appetit.  There is also a virtual recipe box where you can store the recipes you like to use.  If I can’t find what I’m looking for on epicurious I’ll often go to foodnetwork.com and vice versa.

foodnetwork.com
My relationship with the Food Network began when my daughter was about six months old perhaps even younger.  She would start her day at 5:00 a.m. at the latest, something I found a little hard to live with having not slept more than 3 hours straight for more than a few months.  So we found this little routine that worked.  Since we didn’t have Tivo and my daughter was not one to entertain herself, I would lie on the couch with her and put on the Food Network because I knew there wouldn’t be any violence from news or advertisements nor would there be any shows all of a sudden that were’nt PG- 6 months (I know, I know no television before 3 years – these are my own guidelines out of desparation).  So Isabelle and I now often talk about Ina andMartha and occasionally Giada and Nigella.  We still sometimes unwind together in the afternoon now with 2 year old Henry as well and watch a cooking show.

For foodnetwork.com, I tend to go to my favourite television chefs (also chefs in their own right outside the box or flat screen).  I also go there if I’m looking for a more “homestyle”, local, “old school”, down to earth recipe than one might find on epicurious.com.

foodbuzz.com
Their tagline is “find flavor, share taste”.  This is a foodblogger community.  When I started my blog Farm Fresh, I was just writing to have some small memories of times on the farm with the children, and to keep the momentum up for a project that I was starting with a friend (now on the back burner).  I had no idea there was a whole blog world, perhaps galaxy out there. My blog was like my own little memory box.   However, the land of blogging is more like a Pandora’s box.  Throughout my online travels I have come across some amazing blogs, food photographs, recipes, anecdotes.  The world of food and the world of blogging can emulsify quite nicely.

I go to foodbuzz to wander and browse.  I’m fairly new to the foodbuzz scene so I have to admit that I’m still getting my bearing, but I love that it is global and personal.  For example, my list of foodbuzz friends include:  chez what eat this and Culinary Types (from NY), Shizouka Gourmet (from France living in Japan), seasaltwithfood (from Vancouver), I Cook Stuff (from Boston), Joie de Vivre (from Richland) and  Tri to Cook (from Boston via Philadelphia).

Coming up next are some more exceptional, intriguing, educational, and entertaining food and foodie websites and online tools.

Bon appetit. ttyl your BFF (Boston Family Foodie)

For more info: epicurious.com,foodnetwork.comfoodbuzz.com

Advertisements




Recipe: Braised Monkfish with Bacon and Tomatoes (modified)

5 01 2009

I made this recipe from my Williams Sonoma Fish cookbook, but changed it a bit.

Before you head to the recipe,  here are my modifications.

I used a handful of cherry tomatoes per person.  I used pancetta instead of bacon because that is what I had in the fridge.  You could also try to use proscuitto and crips it in the oil, just allow less time.  Oh and I didn’t have any basil so I just left it out.

Once the dish was done, I left a little of the sauce in the pan after plating our dinner and added





Shop Like a Chef: Fish

4 01 2009

When I shop for fish I have a couple things in mind when I head to the fish counter.  My requirements are:

  1. Must be fresh
  2. Must be local (we live on the coast for goodness sake)
  3. Must be under two digits a pound.
  4. Must be fish I like

Must be fresh

I am not a fan of frozen foods except peas and ice cream.  I really dislike fish that has been frozen.  I know some of it is practically frozen on the boat, my husband watchesDeadliest Catch,  but really deep-freeze frozen or previously frozen fish just doesn’t taste good or feel good on the palate.  Be sure to read the signs carefully, and if you have questions ask!  The fish mongers are usually more than happy to answer.  You can ask to see the piece of fish and go ahead smell it if you like.  Fish that is fresh has a clean scent not a “fishy” smell.

Must be local

When it comes to fish, it’s quite easy for us to be locavores.  We live near the ocean.  Of course, you can decide how far your locavore zone goes.  There was a great story by Mark Bittman about Monkfish in The New York Times last October tracking it’s ridiculous journey from Monkfish to Lotte.  We’re having local monkfish, purchased at Whole Foods Market tonight as well as mussels from Maine.

Must be under two digits a pound

There is a little refrain in our household that states, “We have to start buying cheaper fish.”  This goes back to a time when my husband and I had just started new jobs and the dot com market was dying a rapid death.  My husband wasn’t sure where his company stood.  I had always firmly believed in buying organic food and I refused to buy farmed fish having had several roommates from British Colombia who knew the fish farms quite well.  My husband wasn’t quite on board.  So one day he came home, glanced at the grocery bill and said, “We have to start buying cheaper fish.”  I refused to back down, if you know my family you understand, and pointed out that perhaps the many bicycles he owned and maintained and the cable bill are better things to cut back on than things we put in our body.  In any case, we kept our jobs, we kept the bikes and we do buy cheaper fish, we just don’t buy salmon that often, and we don’t buy farmed fish.

Mussels and baguette with salted butter make up one of my favourite cheap feasts.  You can get mussels from 3.69/ bag.  A baguette is a couple of dollars, and if you’re lucky you have a stick of local butter in the door of your refrigerator.

The monkfish just made it at $9.99 a pound.  I bought a little less than a pound for the two of us because it’s quite a hearty fish.

Must be a fish I like

I like a lot of seafood.  I really don’t like swordfish and I’m not a fan of fish that seem to have more bones than flesh.  I love flounder and any other delicate white fish.  I love trout and other lake fish, but those are hard to find at the store.  My dad used to take my brother and I fishing every summer in the Muskokas.  We would catch and eat Pike and I think rainbow trout as well.  To this day, it is the best fish I have eaten.  I really like salmon but I can live with just having it a couple times a year.  I love scallops and steamers.  I make clams every once in a while with pasta because my husband loves clam sauce.  As you can see, I’m not too picky when it comes to fish.  I even recently bought a whole fish (I think it was flounder) and had the fish monger fillet it for me.  I’m not ready to handle the entire thing alone even though, as I learned at dinner with one of my dad’s students, the cheeks are one of the best parts of the fish.

So if you want to shop for fish like a chef then be sure to have some things on hand at home:  leeks, onions, lemons, and perhaps some tomatoes or peppers, bacon or pancetta is good too.  Head to the store and see which fish looks fresh with the right price.  Ask a few questions if it’s new to you:  What does it taste like? How do I prepare it?  Then bring it home and look through your cookbooks while the kids do their homework or play or look it up online to find an easy preparation.  I’ll post my monkfish recipe soon.

Bon appetit. ttyl your BFF (Boston Family Foodie)

For more info: Luxury for locavores (Boston Globe), 
Do We Really Need a Few Billion Locavores? (New York Times)





Celebrating Not Just Surviving New Year’s Eve With Young Children

26 12 2008

Staying up for midnight on New Year’s Eve was never a problem for me.  We celebrated at parties with friends.  We went out to First Night in Boston, and Stamford, CT.  We stayed in for a fabulous home cooked dinner with friends in Maine.  We had large celebrations and small parties.

Then, I married an early bird.  Okay, so night owl and early bird doesn’t always work, but we would just have parties that ended very close to midnight or duck out early and watch the ball drop in NYC on television in our jammies.  Then came children…

Now by the time we’ve done all our Chanukah, Christmas, and Boxing Day celebrations, I’ve had a good many nights of exceptionally bad sleep.  The children sleep poorly at home and much worse away from home.  I unpack our bags, get the wonderful new toys put away and donate the toys the children no longer use, open the rest of the Christmas cards, read through the holiday newsletters, sit down ready to collapse, turn on the Food Network and see chefs whipping up delicious appetizers and meals for New Year’s Eve.

I look at the calendar and see that we have two days before New Year’s Eve.  I have no plans.  I’m not exactly a party girl, but I love to throw a good party and have participated in a good many as well.  Most of my friends with young children have vague plans if any.  So what do we baggy-eyed parents with children still unwinding from the sleepless, sugar-full state of the holidays do?  We celebrate New Year’s Eve in Paris.

Last year, we celebrated New Year’s Eve in Paris, with many of our French friends who are living in the US.  We don’t celebrate New Year’s Eve in Paris because we have many French friends.  I would celebrate it if we had no connection to France at all.  However, we celebrate New Year’s Eve in Paris because it is midnight six hours earlier there.

New Year’s in Paris is a perfect solution for families with young children.  If you happen to be a francophile, even better.  You can play French music.  We had some great French wine, Champagne and cheeses.  I’m not for overdoing a theme, but you really can’t go wrong by having French food for a New Year’s Eve party.

So, if you have no plans this year, send out an evite.  Have a New Year’s in Paris celebration and ring in the New Year at 6 p.m. Eastern Standard time.   Have a selection of good French wines and real Champagne.  You can head over to Formaggio Kitchen for some great French cheeses and some French-style baguette from the wide range of bakeries in the Boston/Cambridge area (see the information box).  Everyone will be home just in time for dinner.  If you’re lucky you might even be able to find some good gourmandises, such as les papillottes, from Cardullo’s for a special treat.  Keep the menu simple, olives, cheese bread, perhaps some warm appetizers.  My daughter and I love to make crepes and they can be filled with savory or sweet filling.  A frozen sheet of puff pastry, some good gruyere and mustard can also go a long way.  I made this savory palmier recipe for a Solstice party and it was a huge hit.  They are also very simple to prepare.

Bonne année et bon appetit.  ttyl your BFF (Boston Family Foodie)

For more info: Hi Rise BakeryIggy’s Bread of the World,Clear Flour BreadSel de la TerreB & R Bread





2008 Year in Review: A Year of Seasonal Produce in New England

23 12 2008

It’s no secret that our growing season in the northeast is a short one.  New England has its last frost some time around the end of April by the coast and early June in the mountains and first frost can be any time from early September to the end of October.  This year many crops were hurt by some early ice storms.  Other crops did very well with the many days of rain early on in the season.

Here is a look at what a year’s worth of New England climate can give us for seasonal produce.  You will eat better and more “budget-friendly” if you eat seasonally.  Don’t let that stop you from an occasional indulgence in strawberries mid-winter.  We have a couple jars of freezer jam in the fridge from our fabulous crop of strawberries that grew early this summer.

I have linked some of the produce below to recipes for your enjoyment.

Spring

Vegetables: asparagus , beets , broccoli , cabbage , cauliflower , fiddleheads , garlic greens , greens , arugula , beet , bok choy , chard , collard , cress , dandelion , kale , mizuna , mustard greens , sorrel (the French make a great sorrel soup), tat soi , turnip , lettuce , mushrooms , parsnips , peas – snap and snow (the other favourite spring treat especially English peas) , radishes , rhubarb (one of my favourite spring treats) , spinach ,  sprouts

Fruit: apples , strawberries

Herbs: chives , cilantro , dill , marjoram , mint, oregano , parsley , sage , thyme

Summer

Vegetables: beets (Patricia Wells has a fabulous raw beet salad), broccoli , cabbage , carrots , cauliflower , celery , cucumbers , eggplant endive , fennel , garlic , green beans , kohlrabi (early in the season), lettuce , mushrooms , okra, onions – red and yellow , peppers – hot and sweet , potatoes – new , radicchio , scallions, sprouts , summer squash , sweet corn , tomatoes,tomatillos

Fruit: apricots (delish on puff pastry for a tart) ,blackberries , blueberries , cherries , currants , elderberries , gooseberries (great for jam), melons , nectarines , peaches , plums (also great for a puff pastry tart), raspberries

Herbs: basil , cilantro (also known as coriander), dill , marjoram , mint , parsley , rosemary , savory , tarragon

Fall

Vegetables: beets , broccoli , brussels sprouts , burdock (gobo) , cabbage , carrots* , cauliflower , celeriac , daikon*, fennel , garlic*, greens : arugula , bok choy , chard , collard , kale , mustard greens , mizuna, tat soi , and turnip , horseradish*, kohlrabi , leeks , lettuce , mushrooms , onions – red and yellow*, parsley , parsnips , potatoes*, pumpkins , radishes , rutabaga , scallions ., shallots*, sprouts , sweet potatoes ,  turnips , winter squash*

*This is the peak season for vegetables and fruit marked with a *, however they can be stored fairly long term in the proper conditions to be eaten throughout the seasons.

Fruit: apples* , apple cider*, Asian pears , cranberries , grapes , pears*, quince , raspberries

Seasonings: Hopefully you dried herbs from the spring and summer harvest to use for winter and fall.  You can also keep some herbs growing in a sunny window inside for a good part of the fall and winter.

Winter

Vegetables: beets, burdock (gobo), cabbage, carrots, celeriac, daikon1, garlic, horseradish, Jerusalem artichoke,, Early in the season:  kale, kohlrabi, and leeks, mushrooms, onions – red and yellow, parsnips, parsnips, potatoes, rutabagas, shallots, sprouts, sweet potatoes, turnips, winter squash

Fruit: apples*, apple cider*

Seasonings: Hopefully you dried herbs from the spring and summer harvest to use for winter and fall.  You can also keep some herbs growing in a sunny window inside for a good part of the fall and winter.

Recipes:  grilled seasonal vegetable pizzaoven roasted ratatouillealmond apricot tart,strawberry freezer jamrhubarb crisppotato gratin

For more info: The Northeast Regional Food Guide,Eating Seasonally





The Winter Pantry: Surviving a New England Winter

21 12 2008

I am not a weather junkie like my husband so I don’t usually plan for a snow storm or bad weather.  I try to check the weather periodically so my children are dressed properly for school/daycare, but even then I am not so consistent.  So what do I do to avoid dirty looks from my children’s teachers and my hungry family?  I keep well stocked cubbies, backpacks and pantries.

At school, my daughter has extra everything, clothes, hats, gloves, shoes and a pair of slippers.  That pretty much covers her.  I did learn this past week, however, that clothing has to be replenished since her mittens were wet and she had put them in a pocket of a different coat so one day her teachers had the great idea to put socks on her hands for recess (desparate times call for desparate measure).  I do the same for my son when he goes to family daycare.  I try to keep his backpack stocked with all the right gear for the worst possible weather rain, sun, sleet and snow.

To avoid dirty looks at home when the hibernating bears and cubs have rumbling tummies, I have a well-stocked pantry.  Given that this is our first snow storm and I didn’t check the weather, I have a relatively well-stocked pantry but it needs a bit more winterized.  The next time I go shopping I will be fully stocking my Winter pantry.  In my pantry, I have some of my  basic items that can get you through several meals in a pinch.  For me all the necessities are:

Starches & Grains
couscous
rice
dried pasta of all shapes and sizes (usually chosen by the kids)
quinoa
barley (or whatever grains you like to eat)
matzoh ball mix

Tomato Goods
tomato paste
crushed or diced tomatoes
pizza sauce
pasta sauce
sundried tomatoes
salsa

Vegetables
I am not a fan of canned vegetables but there are three that I like to have on hand.
artichoke hearts
hearts of palm
green chiles
In jars, I will also usually have:
marinated artichoke hearts
roasted red peppers
capers

Beans
black beans
garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
kidney beans
cannellini beans
chili beans

(Any kind of beans are good, but definitely start with the top three beans and then add whatever other beans you like or would like to try.)

From the Sea
canned tuna
smoked oysters
canned salmon

Stocks
(I know one should make one’s own broth, but I never have and I prefer to fake my own broth.  I buy the good tetra-pack broths preferably low in sodium and I saute some carrots and onions and add some herbs and pour the broth over it.  When I don’t have enough I refill the box with water and add it to my faux home-made stock)
free range chicken broth
no-chicken stock
vegetable stock

Seasonings & Mixes
onion soup mix
taco seasoning
falafel mix
salad dressing mixes (for marinades)
dried herbs & spices

The Snack Shelf
tortilla chips
water crackers (such as Carr’s)
family favourite crackers (Stoned Wheat Thins)
granola bars
fruit leather (such as fruitabü)
graham crackers

In the Fridge Long-Term
Vietnamese fish sauce
hoisin sauce
oils: canola, olive, peanut, sesame
mustard
ketchup
jam
soy sauce
worcestshire sauce
yeast

In the Fridge Less Long-Term
cheese (many cheeses if wrapped correctly will last a long while in the fridge)
yoghurt
sour cream (full fat or low fat)
corn tortillas
olives
citrus: lemon, limes, grapefruit
milk (if you are a bit milk drinking family or you cook a lot with milk, you can buy UHT milk that has a pretty good shelf life in the pantry.  For your fridge though non-UHT milk is much better and tastier.)

In the Freezer
fresh ginger root
organic frozen vegetables: spinach, peas, green beans, corn
frozen garlic in mini ice cube trays
frozen leeks that I sauteed this summer from the farm
frozen puff pastry
frozen ground meat (beef, buffalo, chicken, turkey)

In the Root Cellar
(No, I don’t have one…but I wish I did.  I have a small basket with a lid that I bought at Pottery Barn that works fairly well as a mini root cellar.  Air can flow in and out while the roots are in the dark.)
onions
garlic
potatoes

In the Baking Cupboard
rolled oats
flour (whole wheat, unbleached white, gluten free)
baking soda
baking powder
kosher salt
chocolate chips
baking chocolate
polenta
cornmeal for baking
honey
mollases
sugar: white, brown, dark brown

Ok, so now you have your pantry stocked.  What do you do with all of this?  I will try to write a weekly recipe that you can make straight from your pantry.  I usually work the other way from a recipe, to my grocery list, to my kitchen.  I find that if I have some ingredients in my pantry that I need to use because I can’t get out to go shopping or I don’t want to go out and buy groceries, then I just do a search onepicurious.com or foodnetwork.com For example if I have frozen corn, some beans, and a can of chopped tomatoes then I will find this recipe:  Taco soup.  If you don’t have ground beef in the freezer just skip it.  If you’re stuck inside with the kids you can bake a loaf of bread or some cookies.  So for dinner you have soup, crackers or fresh-baked bread, some cheese from the fridge, cookies from the oven or the pantry for dessert.  If you are a fairly carnivorous family be sure to have frozen ground beef, buffalo or chicken in the freezer to round out the meal.

Bon courage.  ttyl your BFF (Boston Family Foodie)

For more info: Teri’s PantryThe Well-Stocked Pantry(Mother Earth News),Tips for buying and keeping food in bulk (Martha Stewart), Martha Stewart’s Winter Pantry(includes recipes), Fresh Start for a New Year?  Let’s Begin in the Kitchen (Mark Bittman – NY Times)





Holiday Survival Series: Breakfast For Dinner

12 12 2008

Okay parents.  It is that time of year.  We’re festive, we’re fun, we’re decorating, we’re shopping a little, we’re planning, we’re travelling, and we’re starting to get tired and cranky already.

Take a deep breath.  I decided that I would re-evaluate everything I am doing right now.  First I think: Is it necessary?  Yes, I suppose the kids do need to eat dinner.  Will they care or notice?  No, I don’t think the neighbour will care if I don’t drop off a jar of home-made cookie mix.  Will it make me stressed?  Yes, I don’t want to plan it right now, but If we have time, we’ll makes mixes as an afternoon activity before bed.

Okay, so dinner has to be made.  No groceries.  No problem.

“Kids!” I say and I know it’s not so novel to us but to them it’s a big deal to switch things up.  “We’re having breakfast for dinner!  Isn’t that funny?!”   Of course my daughter is a bit concerned that this isn’t quiteKosher to have breakfast for dinner, but she gets over it once I tell her she can have some dinner foods and some breakfast foods.  I make some french toast and feel good that my son is eating eggs that way.  I slice up some ham (or whatever cold cuts you have left in the fridge).  I found grapes, but apple slices are good too or bananas.  Et voila!  Dinner for breakfast.  We’re cleaned up and in bed by 7:00.  Phew!

Bon appetit.  ttyl your BFF (Boston Family Foodie)

For more info: Breakfast for Dinner (Wondertime)