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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

My Food Day Story: Food is a Team Sport by Lyn Huckabee

Happy post-Food Day!

In preparation for yesterday, I finally got around to reading In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. In it he says:

“…I no longer think it’s possible to separate our bodily health from the health of the environment from which we eat or the environment in which we eat or, for that matter, from the health of our general outlook about food (and health).”

Although Food Day 2011 is promoting a number of specific policy steps to improve our food systems, In Defense of Food serves as an easy to understand platform on which everyday people (whether you are a food policy pro or not) can base their eating to promote Food Day principles every day. My Food Day story begins with Pollan’s concept that what we eat should be determined by culture rather than science (or, for that matter, industry). I live alone in an urban condo and part of why I saw a need for a local food swap stemmed from the difficulty urbanites have experiencing community and culture around food. We work late and we eat out often, so eating (and cooking) real food is often a challenge. The Food Swap was designed to be a social destination where busy urbanites can go to exchange food but also to experience the fun and the evolutionary benefits of sharing real food and real food experiences with others. We aim to build that culture of food that is so easily lost in our collective lifestyles.

The seed for the swap was planted last year around Labor Day. A law school friend of mine posted pictures of his very Italian Family’s “Sauce Day.” This is apparently a long standing tradition in his clan where the whole family gathers - aunts, uncles, cousins, grand-relatives, and all – to cook an entire year’s worth of the family’s tomato sauce recipe. They have restaurant scale cooking and canning equipment and they set up hundreds of quart sized mason jars in the back yard. They buy dozens of bushels of tomatoes and other produce and they use herbs from the backyard garden. They even recycle the spent tomato skins in their garden soil! With everyone chipping in their share of the effort, they prepare and preserve their sauce. At the end of the day, everyone takes home their allotted number of jars to get them through the year. His family uses their food culture and tradition to create memorable experiences.

When I think about all of the special occasions spent (by me and other people I observe) at restaurants, I wonder how memorable that special occasion would have been if it was spent at another fast food restaurant or eating another heat and eat dinner from the grocery store’s freezer section. Looking back on my life, I can recall in explicit detail meals that were made with or for people I care about but can only remember the sheer volume of meals where the culture of the food took a back seat to simply consuming it. Until the swap came along, I often thought about those pictures and wondered how I could recreate that food culture experience in my own life even though my family is far away and I barely have enough room for two jars of sauce. When I read the New York Times article about food swapping, a light went off. This was the vehicle by which I and my fellow urbanites could have a “sauce day” experience without the prerequisite space and family.

My Food Day story started in September when I was reminded of the value of food community. During my tomato odyssey, when I made the sauce that I preserved for yesterday’s lasagne, I stood in my kitchen seeding tomatoes by myself for what seemed like the whole day. As the sauce simmered in the evening, I spent some periodic moments at my street’s block party congregating with my neighbors (incidentally, around potluck food!) between stirs. I told my neighbors why I was running back and forth to my house and I eventually got in to a discussion about the tomato seeding and peeling process with one. A disappointed look washed across her face as I told my story because she thought the idea of making her own tomato sauce sounded like so much fun that she wished I had asked her to help! In my busy urban mind, I failed to recognize the community of food. Although seeding tomatoes all day was a memorable experience, it would have been infinitely better if I had bonded with a neighbor at the same time.

So as you celebrate the 365 personal Food Days before the next national event (2012 is a leap year!), turn food in to a team sport. Bring the children in your life in to the kitchen to squish the seeds out of next September’s tomatoes. Get to know people who know livestock, produce, and the environment in which they grow. Prevent waste by sharing (or swapping) meals with friends. Recruit the family to work your way through the Food Day recipe book. Spend some time with those who don’t know where they will find their next meal. And don’t forget to take pictures and post your team’s victories on the Boston Food Day microsite so others can learn how to Eat Real!
Didn't have the time to find dairy direct so I picked up a local Rhode Island mozzarella from my corner store (yes, my corner store is Whole Foods!)

Eggs from Stillman's. They were at the Babson Food Day festivities yesterday.

My CSA was a bit light for this recipe so I needed to supplement from the farmer's market. This is the Siena Farms booth where I got the extra produce I needed (or wanted).

Roasted Autumn Vegetable Lasagne
Adapted from the What Katie Said Blog


  • 1 gal 2% milk
  • 1 q buttermilk
  • 1 lemon, juiced with seeds strained
  • 1.5 c whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 2T water
  • 1 medium eggplant, sliced thin in to rounds
  • 1 small butternut squash, halved and peeled
  • 4 leeks, sliced thin
  • 32 oz. mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 small branch of fresh rosemary leaves, chopped finely (don’t use the stem!)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1q of marinara sauce – I used my jarred sauced from September’s Tomato Odyssey
  • 4 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 package frozen chopped spinach (although October is technically spinach season, I couldn’t find it fresh from any farmer’s market vendor – it’s OK to fill in your recipes with frozen veggies when your farmer’s market doesn’t have them! Even better? When you can find spinach, steam it and freeze it!)
  • Dash of ground cinnamon
  • Dash of ground nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste

For the Ricotta (you can do this ahead of time):

1. Combine milk and buttermilk in a large pot
2. Heat to 180 degrees without stirring
3. Add the lemon juice
4. Wait for curds to separate (this should happen quickly – no more than a few minutes)
5. Drain in to a large colander lined with fine cheese cloth until enough liquid has been drained (this should be quick too – if you wait too long it will become dry)
6. Put drained curds in to a bowl and toss with ½ t of salt
7. Refrigerate until you are ready to make the lasagna

For the pasta:

1. Put flour on a flat work surface (I am a huge fan of silicone mats which work perfectly here)
2. Mix in 1t salt with a fork
3. Create a well in the flour/salt pile
4. Crack two eggs in to the well and add 2T of water
5. Beat the eggs in to the flour with a fork. As it becomes more doughy, start to form a ball with your hands
6. Add more flour to prevent sticking or more water for moisture as needed
7. Once you have a big ball of dough, cut it in to 2 or 3 smaller pieces
8. Cover whatever pieces you aren’t using with a clean towel so they don’t dry out
9. Roll one of the smaller pieces in a pasta maker (I just bought one from Joyce Chen – I LOVE it and don’t want to ever eat store bought pasta again!) at the widest setting
10. Fold the long oblong piece in to a square and run the square through the pasta roller starting with the unfolded edges – this will ensure that your pasta has straight edges!
11. Repeat step 10 for a few times until the dough comes out of roller smooth (it will be easy to tell when it’s done)
12. Run dough rectangles through pasta roller again on progressively narrower settings until it is as thin as possible.
13. Roll once through the lasagne cutting roller
14. Keep finished lasagne strips under a towel until you are finished with the batch
15. Repeat with the other two pieces of dough
16. Boil water in a large pot with a pinch of sea salt and a bit of olive oil
17. Add fresh noodles and cook for about 4 minutes
18. Drain in a colander and toss very lightly with olive oil to prevent sticking
19. Use as soon as the noodles are cool enough to handle because they will stick together after a while

Note: I’ll admit that on paper this sounds like a lot of work. I can assure you though that it went SO quickly (20 minutes if your dough doesn’t get too dry) and tastes so great fresh that it is completely worth it. Also, if you have help, this is the ultimate team food project. As I was rolling out dough, I thought that kids would LOVE this!

For the Lasagne:

1. Preheat oven at 425 deg F
2. Toss eggplant slices with 1t salt and place slices in a colander to draw the liquid out of them. Leave to drain for about 30 minutes. This is a great step to do while you make the pasta.
3. Defrost the frozen spinach and drain in a colander. Press it with paper towels to draw out the liquid.
4. Rinse the eggplant thoroughly (this is really important or your finished dish will be too salty!)
5. Place mushrooms, leeks, eggplant slices, and garlic in a roasting pan lined with parchment. Toss with 2 t of olive oil, ½ t of salt, and chopped rosemary. Brush squash halves with olive oil and put face down on a separate pan. Place both pans on separate racks in the oven. Roast for 45 minutes.
6. While your vegetables are roasting, add the drained spinach, an egg, 1T mozzarella, a bit of parm, cinnamon, and nutmeg to your ricotta and toss.
7. When vegetables are roasted, slice the butternut squash in to thin slices
8. Reduce oven temp to 375 deg F
9. Grease a lasange pan and put a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom.
10. Put pasta strips over the sauce in a single layer
11. Place ½ ricotta mixture on the pasta
12. Place ½ of squash, ½ of eggplant, and ½ of leek/mushroom mixture over the ricotta
13. Repeat steps 8-11 (minus the pan greasing)
14. Finish with a layer of pasta, the remaining sauce, the chopped mozzarella, and the grated parm
15. Cover loosely with foil being sure not to let the foil touch the cheese on top
16. Bake for 50 minutes
17. Take foil off of the top and bake for other 10 minutes until the cheese browns
18. Let rest for 10 minutes
19. Enjoy with the team!

Don't mind the force field around the lasagne, I was trying to keep it warm!

Thanks to everyone who attended the Food Day CSP! We can’t tell you how much we appreciated your attendance.

Update: We want to spread the word about Food Day, so we're adding this to the Patchwork Living Blogging Bee. It's like a digital version of a quilting bee where bloggers share tips on sustainable living, which ties in nicely with our swap philosophy and the Food Day principles.

Monday, October 24, 2011

My Food Day Story: Susan's Apple Crisp

Two more hours until our Community Sourced Potluck, and I'm finally getting a chance to sit and blog about my dish. Since I spent much of today setting up for the event, and I wanted my dish to taste as fresh as possible, I opted for a slow cooker recipe (in my opinion, a slow cooker is the busy girl's BFF!). So, after finding some deliciously tart Granny Smith apples at the Davis Square farmer's market, I settled on slow cooker apple crisp.

While Lyn and I hung lights, arranged tables, and hoped that everything runs smoothly tonight, my slow cooker did its thing in a corner next to Tara's soup. As I write this, Lyn is going bonkers from the aroma of cinnamon and warm apples. Hopefully the apple crisp will taste as good as it smells ...

Friday, October 21, 2011

Boston Food Swap: October Recap

We've been so busy preparing for our big Food Day celebration next week that we've hardly had time to squeeze in a recap of the October food swap. But it was another excellent afternoon of sampling and swapping.

This time we hosted the swap in a more intimate setting: the kitchen at Space with a Soul. Makes sense, since we had a fridge, microwave, and plenty of kitchen implements just steps away from all the swapping action.

cranberry chutneyAs usual, we had a variety of sweet and savory goodies: fresh bread, homemade granola, two types of popcorn, tricolor gnocchi, and roasted red peppers. We also had a few fall favorites like cranberry chutney, apple tarts, and stuffing. Amy from Boston Organics graciously offered two produce deliveries as a raffle item. (When I asked Amy if she'd like to trade my pear tarts for some of her poached pears, she said, "sure, let's pear it up!") Yum!

Thanks to all who attended for another great swap! View more photos from October or sign up for our Community Sourced Potluck in honor of Food Day. The next swap is slated for Sunday, November 20, when we'll have lots of swappable goodies for Thanksgiving.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Food Nerd’s Fantasy

When I woke up this Monday morning, I couldn’t have dreamed that 36 hours later I would be immersed in the ultimate food nerd’s fantasy.  When I commence my weekend ritual preparing swap food (and pretty much every other type of food), I can usually be found listening to one of my cherished NPR weekend shows on my satellite radio.  One of these shows provides constant inspiration for culinary creativity and consistently leaves me wanting to understand more about food.  I actually had to admit in public this week that I often listen to this show 3 or 4 times in a weekend!  So somehow, in that 36 hour span, I managed to score a spot at the book signing for How to Eat Weekends, written by Lynne Rosetto Kasper and Sally Swift, the brain trust behind the Splendid Table, this addictive show by American Public Media.  So after a day of built up anticipation, Tuesday night emerged as one of the more memorable nights of my life!

Because the crew at the Splendid Table and their listeners are generally a real food loving bunch (so much so that they devote months of their lives to Food Day events!), the cocktail hour started with passed heavy hors d'oeuvres by Niman Ranch of California.  The executive chef’s explanation of their philosophy about animal treatment was that happy animals make happy hamburgers.  Although the analogy is a bit disgusting, my logical side tells me that his theory is probably pretty solid.  

During the cocktail and pork product portion of the evening, we bought our copies of the book.  As the name would suggest, the book is a collection of the recipes that take more time, energy, and love than your average work night fare.  However, in true food swapping fashion, many of the recipes have segments called “work night encores” where they teach you how to repurpose your dishes in the plight against waste.  As the authors told us during the talk, they spent a lot of time on the words so they should be treasured.  Short on photos, this book combines the recipes for weekend entertaining with skill building tips like what books you should read to really understand certain types of cuisine and thoughtful quotes about food reminiscent of those used in their weekly radio show.

The discussion portion featured Monica Brady-Myerov asking Lynn and Sally about some of the most memorable moments in Splendid Table history.  They spoke about Julia Child reading the paper throughout their live interview, keeping a straight face as Amy Sedaris relates her craft book to food by talking about yarn sausages, and doing the last interview with an American wine giant before he died.  They also shared some of the most important food lessons they learned over the years, including that you should never seed a Serrano pepper because, as their interviewee said, “It’s not my opinion, it’s a thing!”

Over the course of the night, I got to meet many of the staff at WBUR, including a development team member who marched me around to everyone at the event (including Lynne and Sally themselves!) because she thought they needed to know about the food swapping phenomenon!  

Coming down from my giddy cloud, tonight I got to try my very first recipe from the book!  I won't attempt cookbook criticism - it would be like criticizing Scorsese in your high school film class - but join me in a retelling of the experience that high school student's first Scorsese film!  Because, this is not actually a weekend and because one appreciated food swapper brought her farm’s tomatillos to last week’s food swap, I decided to take a stab at the Tomatillo Salsa on page 52.  Although a quality stash from the weekend and brevity were reason enough to make it, the fact that it required a fresh Mexican cheese didn’t hurt either.  I bought a block of Cotijo (because it is my favorite cheese EVER) and went to work on salsa.  It was a quick and easy recipe which makes me think that it was probably an anomaly for this particular book.  It had 7 ingredients (I think Lynne quoted Julia saying, “5 ingredients?  What fun is that?”) and only required peeling tomatillos and a quick whirl of the food processor.  Before adding a few sautéed scallops and some greens, I took a photo of the recipe as it was described in the book.

I’d like to thank the team at WBUR and Public Radio Kitchen (that happened to write a Food Day article yesterday!) for introducing me to my food muse and for planning such a thoroughly enjoyable evening.  I would also like to that Lynne and Sally from the Splendid Table, not only for entertaining and inspiring me for hours every weekend, but also for creating a book that both made a great dinner tonight and will likely create my fantastic weekends in the future!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Youth Perspective on Food Day

This blog post was written by Keely Curliss, a youth intern at The Food Project (TFP). TFP works with youth to grow fresh food sustainably in greater Boston and on the North Shore, and it's one of the beneficiaries of our Community Sourced Potluck on October 24, 2011.


Image courtesy of cbenjasuwan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Starting to eat healthy food while you’re still young is so important. I’ve been working with The Food Project (TFP) since the summer of 2008, and since then I have slowly become more and more healthy. What I love about the way TFP approaches eating well with all the youth is that they never force anything on you – they simply educate you on what you could do in your personal life to improve your eating habits.

The youth Interns at TFP deliver a set of three workshops for community members. They address the food system, eating well, and the experience of farm workers. These workshops give people information that allows them to make educated decisions about what to eat.

This October 24 marks the first national Food Day – of many more to come! People all over the nation will meet with their legislatures, advocate for food access, and enjoy good food together. Youth Interns at TFP will be meeting up to prepare and enjoy a meal together, a simple, fun, and very doable way to celebrate Food Day.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Food Community Weekend Squared

Unless you’ve been living under a Boston Food Swap-specific rock, you know that our October swap was this weekend.  What you may not know is that your organizers are such eager food community nerds that we took an evening away from our weekend of gnocchi-rolling and popcorn-candying to commune (and break bread) with the Frugal Foodies of Boston.  Rather than cooking at home and sharing your creativity in public, at a Frugal Foodies event, someone else does the planning and you just show up to cook.  Each night is organized around a theme, the group breaks in to smaller teams, and food is made!  Community is built with a shared project rather than individual creativity.  

Last April, Susan and I first experienced Frugal Foodies on molecular gastronomy night.  I won’t go in to how we did it (a girl has to preserve SOME mystery), but our most impressive dish was this caprese salad.  If you look closely, you will notice that the mozzarella is not a bufala style ball.  It is, in fact, a balloon inflated with garlic “air.”  Surrounding the mozzarella balloon, we sprinkled pearls of balsamic vinegar and placed olive oil powder.  Not only was the evening an addictive introduction to the Frugal Foodies concept, it was also a mind opening experience about what a little culinary creativity can do!

This Saturday evening’s theme was a little less esoteric.  Rather than manipulating the physical properties of food, we paid tribute to San Jose, CA, the cradle of Frugal Foodies, by making some of their favorite dishes.  The meals are always vegetarian (how frugal could the meals be with meat?), so our dishes included black beans with chipotle peppers and orange, maple roasted brussel sprouts with roasted hazelnuts, acorn squash with a wild mushroom and cranberry stuffing, Ris-OAT-o, and a fried eggplant dessert lasagna – you heard right – lasagna, chocolate, and friend eggplant!  You can even grab the recipes on the Boston chapter Facebook page!

With immense thanks to Alyssa and Konrad for opening their home and to Ben for putting the event together, I ask the area’s Food Swappers to raise our virtual glasses to those who also show their love of food, community, and fun every month.