Let’s Talk About Food, 2011

(I meant to post this yesterday but I didn’t finish it before I went to bed.)

Along the DCR Cambridge Parkway today, the Museum of Science and its sponsors held the “Let’s Talk About Food” festival.

I didn’t go last year. I had never even heard of it until about two weeks ago when I saw an ad banner for it inside a Red Line subway car.

The blurb on the official homepage says this about the festival:

We all eat. Rich or poor. Several times a day –– if we can. Food is the central feature of human society.  Food forms the basis of our cultural traditions, creates community, optimizes or sabotages our health, affects our environment, provides livelihoods, impacts our global economy, and nourishes the next generation.
Food has become a major focus in our society. And what we’ve learned is: People want to talk about it. They want to know. They want to learn. And they like to eat.
Launched in Boston 2010, in dynamic partnership with the Museum of Science, Let’s Talk About Food Initiative hopes to become a national, educational, event driven, organization that creates programs to increase the level of public literacy about all aspects of our food system – from sustainability, to cooking, to obesity and other food-related health issues, to fishing and farming, food access, food justice, food safety, environmental concerns, agriculture and nutrition policy, and at the same time celebrates the richness that good food brings to our world.

I went with my sister and my mom. After some discussion, we decided that we wanted to be there by 10:40a for the main stage demo called “In the Spotlight: Cooking with Honey” which was led by Chef Charles Draghi (Erbaulce) and Christy Hemenway (Gold Star Honeybees). Due to our bus schedule, we ended up at the festival at about 10:15a. Even though it technically opened at 10am, an early morning storm seemed to slow everyone down. We probably should have hit up more vendor booths at that time, most of them were set up, but it was so muddy that we just headed over to the main stage tent. Over there, we spent some time at the Whole Foods tent sampling a biscotti-looking snack made from dates, raisins, and other wholesome goodness. The Whole Foods tent was also giving out organic apples and re-useable Whole Foods backpack (it’s the kind of tote where you pull the cords to close it and then slip your arms through to cords to wear as a backpack).

During “Cooking with Honey,” we were shown a couple of ways to work raw honey into recipes. The first recipe was a Parmesan snack. First, you grate some Parmesan rind and fry it in a pan until it cooks into a wafer (and flip to quickly cook the other side). Then, you top the wafer with fresh apples or fresh pears (feel free to spice up the fruit with nutmeg or anything you’re in the mood for). Finally, spoon some raw honey on top to finish, and serve. Chef Draghi said that this snack would pair well with a nice rosé. The second recipe given (but not demonstrated) was a summer drink: 2T raw honey and 1 tsp lemon juice mixed into 16 oz fizzy water, served with mint leaves muddled/crushed.

I got to sample the Parmesan wafer. It was good but I’m not a huge cheese lover so I found the parm flavor to be a little too strong. Also, noticed that I was allergic to the raw honey since I do not consuming it regularly enough to build up a tolerance to the pollen inside it.

Next to take the stage was Chef Jody Adams of Rialto! She and Governor Deval Patrick showed us a way to serve lobster (which smelled divine even from the audience seats… trust me). They were a lot of fun to watch – friendly interactions and humor.

Here’s a photo of Jody Adams after putting a Rialto chef’s jacket onto Deval Patrick. Sorry it’s a crappy photo. I forgot to grab a camera on my way out so this is picture was taken with a phone.

The lobster dish was in two parts: the lobster and a herb grilled corn salad. Start with grilling the corn. Chef Adams recommended soaking an ear of corn before grilling it. As for the lobster, you can boil it before starting this recipe or you can just work with it fresh.

Cut the lobster in half length-wise. Clean out the bits you don’t eat like the digestive tract. Separate the claws from the main body, and crack them open.

Now, time to assemble the herb vinaigrette. Mix up some orange juice, lemon juice, 1 tsp orange zest, 1 tsp lemon zest, Dijon mustard, freshly chopped tarragon, olive oil, salt and pepper.

In a hot pan, place the lobster shell-side down. Spoon/brush the vinaigrette liberally over the lobster. You don’t really need to add any oil to the pan since the vinaigrette already has some fat in it. Cover the pan, and let cook.

If you don’t have a cover for your pan, you can make one out of parchment paper. Take a sheet of parchment paper, square it off, and fold it in half. Keep folding it by folding down one corner into an isosceles triangle (it’s like making a paper snowflake!) until you have a smallish wedge. Hold the pointed tip of the wedge over the center of the pan, and rip off the excess. The wedge should now be as long as the radius of the pan. Unfold, and behold! You have a makeshift circular cover for your pan.

While the lobster is cooking, finish the corn salad. Cut the corn kernels into a bowl. To it, add sliced scallions, herbs to your liking (coarsely chopped), tomatoes, grated ginger and grated garlic (recommendation – use a Microplane if you can! and go easy on the ginger and garlic if you do because grating them finely makes the flavors stronger), paprika, salt and pepper. Add any combination of herbs to your liking. Jody suggested any combination of tarragon, basil, sorrel, lemon balm, parsley, chervil, fennel, and mint. Spoon in some of the vinaigrette. Toss the salad. [The salad can be made ahead of time… just don’t add the vinaigrette until you’re about to serve it.]

When the lobster is almost done, flip it over so that some nice browning can hit the meat.

To serve, plate some bibb lettuce and sliced avocado. Add the lobster on the side. Top the lobster with some of the corn salad, and add some more corn salad to the side. Feel free to add salt and pepper if needed.

The next segment at the main stage was “Farm to Table.” “Chefs Frank McClelland (L’Espalier), Franco Carubia (Sel de la Terre), and Todd Heberlein (Wilson Farm) along with Farmer Jim Wilson (Wilson Farm) show us how farm fresh ingredients make a spectacular difference in any dish.” Chef Todd showed us how to make an arugula pesto since arugula is currently in season. His arugula pesto was made of garlic, pistachios, romano cheese, salt and pepper, extra virgin olive oil, and baby arugula. You add enough oil to the ingredients and pulse in the food processor until the desired texture is reached. And then he served it in an a biscuit sandwich filled with braised kale, kohlrabi greens, pickled radish, and garlic scape slaw.

Meanwhile Chef Franco showed us how to make a carrot soup. Cook diced carrots in orange juice, and put in a sachet of toasted coriander seeds. Season with salt and pepper. When the carrots are cooked, carefully transfer the soup to a blender. The soup needs to be hot to blend the soup into a silky texture. If the soup cools down, it will not blend as well. Drizzle in some Cabernet Sauvignon vinegar while blending. When you are ready to serve, serve the soup with 1) creme fraiche mixed with toasted curry, salt, and lime juice, and 2) a mash of cilantro, chervil, parsley, and salt. (The salt helps cure the chlorophyll in the herbs, so that they stay green. You can make this ahead of time.) Finish the soup with a drizzle of good quality extra virgin olive oil.

After that, there was a short presentation about fresh herbs featuring Eva Sommaripa of Eva’s Garden and Didi Emmons. Emmons passed out two excerpts from her upcoming book “Wild Flavors” – a recipe for sage mint pesto and one for cabbage sage slaw.  (I can repost if anyone really wants them.)

I don’t have too much to say about the two segments after that: ChopChop Summer Fruits showed us some kid-friendly recipes. They were pineapple salad, a strawberry pasta salad with berry vinaigrette, and a strawberry avocado smoothie. Children in the audience were welcomed to pick up a copy of the ChopChop magazine as well as an OXO strawberry huller.  (Yes, kids only.  Too bad my 7 year old niece could not attend the festival even though I invited her.) Then, Chef Jay Murray (Grill 23) showed us two ways to marinade steak. The first was a BBQ sauce and the second was a thai flavored chimichurri. The BBQ sauce was made from 3/4 cup mustard seed oil (he claims the cheaper the better, but you can substitute with mustard if needed), 1 cup ketchup, 1T honey, and 1 cup soy sauce. I have no idea was in the chimichurri because I wandered off at that point (I had been sitting for too long by that point and needed to stretch my legs).

The last demo we stayed for was “Cooking Unrefined”, a discussion about the Mediterranean diet. Chef Dante de Magistris (dante) demonstrated two recipes featuring legumes. Supposedly, these recipes will be on the Let’s Talk About Food site, but I haven’t seen anything so far. It’s too bad, since I think that these were the two recipes that interested me the most. Unfortunately, due to time restrictions, this demo went a little after than the others so my notes are pretty shoddy. The first recipe was for a jar of cannellini beans. Nine ounces of dried beans were soaked in water overnight and then simmered/softly boiled in a mason jar for 3 hours. In the jar, there was some red pepper flakes, half a bay leaf, sage, garlic, rosemary, and olive oil. The jar should be closed but I’m assuming not closed tightly. I don’t *think* that he had submerged the jar completely when cooking. But maybe he did and this was more like a canning recipe? I don’t know. He really glossed over the method so I am trying very hard to figure this out. The beans will be good for 3 weeks, so you can eat them whenever you like.

The second recipe was for brown lentils. Cook the lentils in water with some salt until done. Drain and toss in seasonings that you’d like. My sister thinks she remembered seeing sun-dried tomatoes, paprika and garlic but it’s all a mystery really because there were 5-7 little ramekins of ingredients that he threw into the lentils.

One thing that Chef Dante mentioned that I really want to try is a serving of yogurt with 1 tsp of cinnamon** mixed in. It’s a good snack to suppress your sugar cravings apparently. I want to eat it because it reminded me of eating cinnamon frozen yogurt at Angora Cafe, which I love! (Alas, Angora Cafe is out of my way so I pretty much never go there.)

I wish I had been able to stay longer and catch Joanne Chang on the main stage. I also wish that I had been able to pursue the vendor tables more. I know that there were samples of Taza chocolate and Stonyfield Greek yogurt going around. Who knows what other goodies might have been there? At least I found some time to eat lunch from one of the food trucks. I chowed down a really delicious smoked pork sandwich from BBQsmith while my sister and my mom shared a noodle bowl from the Bon Me truck.

I hope there will be another festival in 2012!

Reference links:
http://www.mos.org/food
http://www.letstalkaboutfood.com/
http://www.inthehandsofachef.com/ (Jody Adams’ blog… it looks like she hasn’t had time to update it in a long time, but there are some awesome looking recipes in there)

 

** edit – that’s way too much cinnamon for a serving of yogurt.  I think I heard him wrong.  lol!  Start with 1/8th tsp and go up depending on how much you love cinnamon.  I recommend Korintje cinnamon.  I thinks it’s a smoother flavor that’s great for everyday applications.  I prefer to use stronger stuff like Vietnamese cinnamon for baking.

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