Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Two great events in one- Easter and Red Sox Opening Day together!!

This weekend we celebrate two "rites of passage" to spring- Easter and the Red Sox home opener (facing the hated Yankees) all on one day. Now these glorious events that have always signaled the start of warmer weather, care free days and everything else that goes along with the upcoming months don't often combine into a single day, and so I wanted to commemorate this event with a special menu.

I wanted to combine the ideas of a big Easter dinner that I've always been accustomed to-into perfect game watching food as the Sox kick off their season. I also wanted to try making some things that I haven't made before to continue my 101 in 1001 challenge.

The first "course" of this menu is a "Green Monster" soup- of fresh sweet peas, and light spring flavors. I began my soup by combining chopped shallot in small sauce pan with melted butter, lots of fresh thyme, salt, pepper, a few small wedges of lemon, and, after those flavors had melded together, a cup or so of a crisp white wine. In a separate pot I quickly blanched the fresh peas in salted, boiling water, and shocked them in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking and preserve the beautiful green color. Once the wine mixture had finished cooking, I added the peas to my food processor, and gently added the liquid while pureeing. My first go ended up with a bit too much bitter lemon, so I evened it out with just a little honey which added a gorgeous round sweetness to the end, and a 1/2 a cup or so of fat free ricotta cheese to add a little creaminess. This did the trick. The flavor was light and a little sweet, with perfect notes of thyme and shallot, without overpowering the actual pea flavor. The only down fall here was that it was a bit thick (pictured) but easily thinned with a little wine/chicken stock reduction. I also made some fried shallot rings (simple process of thin cut, a quick toss in flour, and then a dip in hot oil) to signify World Series Rings....and to give texture-of course :-).

Now, when I'm at a game, if I'm not indulging in a beer or two, I'm looking for something refreshing to beat the heat on a hot day. Lemonade is often perfect for this. So I decided to emulate this sensation by creating a Gremolata to compliment the other portions of the meal, as well as tribute that great summertime past time. I started by making a light simple syrup of a half cup sugar to a cup of water, and added in the stem and delicate top of a stick of fresh rosemary. As those were heating, and the sugar dissolving, I squeezed the juice of two lemons into a bowl, added chopped rosemary, and just a pinch of salt. Once the syrup was done I pulled out the stem, removed the top piece and added the syrup to the juice until the right mix of sweet and lemony bitter was reached. I then poured this mix into a pie plate and put in the freezer. The thing to remember about a Gremolata is to stir it frequently while it sets so you end up with ice crystals, and not ice cubes.

First course complete, I turned my attention to my next tribute to the events-"Loaded Bases Polenta". Lamb is often served as an Easter entree, and I cannot think of a protein more suited to the spring. I was hoping to find a good cut of lamb loin at my local butcher, but sadly had to setting for chops instead. Normally I love these little guys, but with the application I was hoping for an easier carve. However, I pressed on, and began my first ever batch of Polenta. As it was my first time making it, and I had my work cut out for me the rest of the day- I elected to use instant Polenta- ready in three minutes. I am fully aware that I cheated, and for that I apologize. I will accept detention if necessary. Moving on. The directions on the side of the package, which I combined with some wisdom from Giada D'Laurentis, called for 2 cups of Polenta to 8 cups of water. Hmm seemed like a lot of Polenta, but....who am I mess with directions? I started the task. Boiling water, add Polenta, stir-IMMEDIATELY- for three minutes. Check...sort of. I don't think I'm a very proficient stir er as I got lumps....not TOO many-but enough to annoy me. Fine. so I did what I could to press them out as I continued to stir. Then from Giada's instruction, I added a little cream, salt and pepper. Fantastic. I then poured the mixture out into my greased cookie sheet, and let it set. I would later cut little "bases" from this mold.

As the Polenta set into a nice, firm base, I began marinating my lamb chops. I roughly chopped Rosemary, Parsley, red onion, garlic, salt, pepper, and lemon zest. Combined with a little olive oil, and rubbed into the meat of the chops. I covered them and put them in the fridge to marinate. Then I got to work on an Arugula Pesto by combining two cloves of garlic, walnuts, lemon zest and a little juice, Arugula, salt and pepper, and Olive Oil in my food processor and blending till smooth, bright green, and well...delicious. The pesto had a full, rich flavor of pepper, and lemon with a creamy backdrop from the oil and the walnuts.

With this complete, I grilled my now marinated lamb chops, and then sliced them as thin as I could. I assembled my "Loaded Bases Polenta" as the Polenta with a spread of Arugula Pesto, topped with slices of lamb. Flavor wise, the Arugula and the Lamb shined. The pesto had a little spiciness to it, and the lamb had such great Mediterranean flavors with the herbs, and yet they didn't over power the flavor of the meat itself. The polenta, however, surprised me. I had anticipated it to be a little crumblier, but it formed a really dense base which was just an un anticipated texture. Additionally, I did not season it well enough so it was rather bland. Lesson learned with Polenta- STIR and season properly. Otherwise though this was a really fun dish, and one that I could definitely imagine on an Easter table...if my family at all enjoyed lamb :-)

Finally I turned my attention to my final tribute to Easter- Red Sox style- with mock hot dogs. My family has a long tradition of ham on both Christmas and Easter, so I wanted to be sure to add in a tribute to that, as well- well what WOULD Fenway be without Fenway Franks?? Since there was no way I was going to make an entire ham, I selected a ham steak at the grocery store, as well as a wheel of brie, and mini sub rolls. I created a quick cooking sauce of maple syrup, the juice of half an orange, rosemary, thyme, salt, pepper, and a teaspoon (if that) of dijon mustard. The flavors combined into a great mix of sweet and savory, full of great fresh herbs, with just the background hint of orange. Since the ham was already smoked, I knew that any length of time marinading wouldn't impart too much flavor, so I popped the ham, with the sauce into a 350 degree oven, and cooked it til it was heated through. Once it was hot, I placed the wheel of brie into the oven, and heated for about 10 minutes, or until it was soft in the middle. I split one of the sub rolls, toasted for just a minute or two, and then spread the inside with the brie, layered slices of the ham, and then topped it with just a sprinkling of fresh chopped parsley. These little sandwiches were sooooo delicious!!! The ham had such awesome flavor from the sauce, fresh, sweet, without being overly so, the flavor of the herbs pleasantly present. The brie was the perfect compliment- briney and creamy, it was really lovely with the ham flavors. The best part about this one- is that for those of you planning to have ham for Easter- this is a perfect leftover idea :-)


Finally, I spooned out some of the Gremolata and was really in love with it. Lemony and light, with just a hint of rosemary. It was incredibly refreshing while still entertaining the palate.

Easter and Opening Day only come once a year, and together on one day- even rarer. Why not celebrate the start of the new seasons the right way? Paying tribute to the Red Sox without losing the formal nature of the Easter holiday?


Enjoy- and GO SOX!


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Announcement- Food Drive at the Boston Symphony Orchestra

As spring is finally revealing itself....well under all the rain.... Boston is being given multiple opportunities to usher it in under an umbrella of helping others. Really what else makes you see sunshine despite stormy weather then lending a helping hand? A couple of weeks ago I shared some information concerning Taste of the Nation, an event that donates all proceeds to ensuring that children are properly fed. I want to let you know about another initiative as well- known as Orchestra's Feeding America.

Throughout the month of March, Orchestras all over the US are collecting canned foods to be distributed to needy families. Last year, this project raised over 200,000 pounds of food...pretty impressive!!!

The Boston Symphony Orchestra would like your help in assisting this initiative surpass last years mark. On April 1, 2, and 3 the BSO will be collecting canned goods during their performances of Mendelssohn's Elija. For those of you not aware of the story behind this beautiful piece is the one of Elijah, who brought rain to a desperately parched nation through his prayers.

The food drive itself will take place between 7 and 8 each evening, canned goods only, unfortunately baby food and formula, or any glass containers cannot be accepted. Additionally, though this food drive is of course attached to an amazing musical piece, all are encouraged to give, orchestra attendees or not. Food items may be dropped off either at the Mass Ave or Cohen Wing entrances.

Hunger affects so many in this country, and this food drive is just a small way that we can all assist in alleviating this terrible plight.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Regal Beagle, Coolidge Corner, Brookline

Ever since it opened last fall, The Regal Beagle, located in the Coolidge Corner area in Brookline, has caught my attention. Every review I've read has been great, and each time I look at their menu on line -it looks delicious. The other day we happened to be in the area, so my mother and I decided check it out for dinner.
When we got inside, we were told that there was about a 45 minute wait for a table, but that they could take my phone number and call when a table was available- I always love when restaurants do that, and since there are some cute stores around Coolidge Corner- we decided to wait it out. 50 minutes to an hour later, still with no call- we headed back to The Regal Beagle to investigate. At that time we were informed that they had called (though no missed call registered on my phone) and they had had to give our table away. However, the hostess did say that she would get us seated as quickly as possible. Now, this always worries me- because of course other people are waiting as well, and sometimes this system just doesn't work out so well. I was pleasantly surprised-not two minutes after we had sat in the waiting area, the hostess informed us that she had a table for us already, and apologized profusely for the error. We were completely satisfied with this turn of events, and thought no more about it.

After perusing the menu, and listening to the specials, we decided to start with an appetizer of roasted garlic hummus, accented with chopped cucumbers, red onion, and feta cheese, served with grilled pita. I love hummus- I eat far too much of it of varying varieties. This was some delicious hummus. The texture was beautifully creamy, and that was offset perfectly with the diced crunchy vegetables, and the salty cheese. The pita was soft and warm, with great flavor. We both remarked that the wonderful part about this dish was that there was a healthy portion of hummus for the price. We had both been anticipating a smaller size to be served, but when a very generous ramekin full was presented- it was a nice touch.

For her entree my mother selected the special of Fish and Chips, served with a jalapeno and honey coleslaw, and I chose their pan roasted Salmon. I really enjoyed my dish. The Salmon was well flavored, and had beautiful texture to it with a nice crust. It was served with vegetable couscous- that was buttery without being heavy, beautifully cooked with great texture and had just the perfect amount of diced vegetables in it. The plate was accented with a red pepper harissa and fried chick peas. Harissa, as I had to look it up, is a hot chili sauce, first created in North Africa. The Regal Beagle's lacked any real heat, but added a nice flavor component with the sweet red pepper. The final piece were the fried chick peas, which were just so fun. A slight crunch gave way to that characteristic mealiness of a chick pea-and the contrast was really great.

The fish and chips were fantastic as well. The bite I stole of the fish was incredibly crunchy, without at all having the heaviness of oil and batter that can so often ruin a fried dish. The cole slaw was tasty, with beautiful notes of honey throughout, though again, it lacked the heat I would have hoped for- but perhaps I've become far too accustomed to heat at this point? And the fries, or chips, that were served were delicious- light, crispy and with great potato flavor. A really wonderful entree all the way around.

Finally, our server persuaded us (it didn't take much) to try their special dessert of the evening- a white chocolate bread pudding, accented with dried cherries, pistachios, vanilla ice cream and a toffee sauce. Firs the bad- I think our plate was somehow missed when the toffee sauce was served. We were lacking. It was sad- but easy to get over with the next few bites of delicious-ness. The bread pudding was really lovely- great flavor, and texture where some pieces of bread dried out a bit more than others. The ice cream was fantastic- clean and creamy- feeling more fresh than others which made me wonder if it had been made locally or in house even? I should have asked- but I did not. If anyone knows- clue me in :-)

All in all-The Regal Beagle far surpassed my expectations of a great meal. I anticipated middle of the road execution, with acceptable staff. The food was fantastic, and the staff was wonderful. Our server, Brian, was efficient, helpful, and personable, and the hostess really set us off on the right foot with correcting an error early on that could have made for an upsetting evening.

Regal Beagle-I will be back- often!!!!


Regal Beagle on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 26, 2010

Food and Memory: Biography, Autobiography, and Film: A Panel Discussion with Jacques Pepin, Judith Jones, Alex prud'homme and Corby Kummer

A few months ago, John and I, John who isn't fazed by much, ended up in the same room as Bill Belicheck- virtual god of Patriots fans. For the first time I've seen, John was speechless. It is an incredible thing to be standing within inches of someone who you admire, someone who has had a real impact on any piece of your life whether it be a sport you love, or a part of who you are. I have experienced this feeling a couple of times as well, once a few years back when I was introduced to Barbara Lynch- famed chef of the No. 9 Park conglomerate. The other was last night. Last evening I was lucky enough to attend a panel discussion at Boston University entitled Food and Memory: Biography, Autobiography, and Film, which featured Alex prudhomme, Judith Jones and the ever incredible Jacques Pepin.
As I have mentioned in the past, I grew up with Julia Child as a presence in the kitchen with my mother and I, mainly, I'm sure because her sayings were so catchy, that they easily bonded mother and child as we sang out about "Placing the eggies in the fridgie....". What I haven't mentioned is that many of the shows that we watched with her also included her long time friend Jacques Pepin. Chef Pepin, an incredible chef in his own right, plays no second fiddle to Julia, aside, possibly from his quote ability. Together, as a team, they taught America how to cook French Cuisine in an amazingly approachable and friendly way. Their rapport with each other was charming and witty, and ached to see what their next accomplishment would be. Listening to Jacques Pepin last night, sitting in the same room as he- well it was awe inspiring.
As much as I can go on and on about Chef Pepin, I want to be sure to give credit to Mrs. Judith Jones-the editor who finally published Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Julia Child's collaborative first cook book. Mrs. Jones resume has grown and grown since that time, having edited many well known cook books, and now authoring some of her own.
And of course,
Alex prudhomme who spent hours with Julia Child writing My Life in France, which provided much of the story featured in Julie and Julia, the movie released in 2009.
The panel was guided by
Corby Kummer, a prominent food writer, holding columns both in Atlantic Magazine and Boston Magazine.
Much of the conversation that ensued throughout the evening revolved around the movie itself, but these great minds also shared some amazing facts about Julia Child, her life, her personality and her mission. Julia Child wanted to teach people how to cook. She wanted to make it easy, make it approachable, and she wanted to give American cooks the courage to cook French food, an idea that had seemed daunting previously. I think a great example of this is that she kept her phone number listed. She had it right there in the phone book so that if anyone had a question for her they could call, and she would answer. I think that that is just the most fantastic thing. In today's society we so often hear of celebrity phone numbers being sold for huge sums of money, but Julia just listed hers. What a testament to her philosophy that she was there to teach and to help. Even more so though, she stated that she was "an eternal pupil" and never lost her own lust for learning. Her listed phone number worked two ways-she could teach, and she could listen and learn.
During the Q&A section of the evening, it was asked what Julia Child's chief goal was when cooking- if it was nutrition, or regional, or presentation-what was the most important aspect to her. Judith Jones fielded the question and told a wonderful story about Julia Child teaching someone how to cook green beans. I wont try to relate the story here, but it became obvious that Julia's goal was taste. If there was true taste, then nothing else mattered.
As they did spend a fair amount of time discussing the movie itself, I think its fair to relate that they resolved some confusion that I had concerning a scene in Julie and Julia where Julie Powell learns that Julia Child was not a fan of the blog she had tribut ed to her. Julie Powell, in the movie, went so far as to say that Julia Child "hated her". I could not understand- in the numerous times I have seen the movie- why this would be. It was clarified last night by the panel. Julia Child did not hate Julie Powell, or her blog. However she did not put a lot of stock in it as the blog was less about cooking, and loving the act of cooking, but it was more about the project itself. It was a concept that hadn't occurred to me before. While Julie Powell enjoyed cooking, it wasn't her passion- writing was. Dedicating the hours, and resources, and sweat to the Julie and Julia project wasn't about cooking- it was about writing and finding her voice. It was an incredibly interesting point for me both as someone who loves to cook, as well as a blogger.
Unfortunately the panel discussion portion of the evening ended rather quickly as the evening also included a viewing of the movie as well. I scooted out before the movie began however as I had indulged in watching it earlier in the week.
I left BU last night feeling challenged, and inspired. Listening to the panel share their stories of Julia, and relating her passion, as well as their own, towards cooking was an incredible experience-at least for someone who is rather obsessed herself.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Non Classic Waldorf Salad with Hint of Raspberry Chicken

I am not quite sure why, but whenever I envision Waldorf Salad I picture a terribly gloppy, over dressed, creamy salad full of flavor and texture-but also full of fat and calories. For this reason, I never want to eat it, as it appears to be the anti-salad. By way of background- the Waldorf Salad was first created somewhere in the late 1890's at the Waldorf Hotel in New York city. Interesting to note, apparently it was not created by the chef at the Waldorf, but instead the Maitre d'hotel. Classically it consisted of simply apples, celery and mayonnaise laid over lettuce greens (walnuts, now a staple, were not added til later). I believe that this is why I have had so much distaste for it over time-too much mayonnaise. However, last night I was craving a refreshing salad, different from my usual artillery of dinner salads that I make for myself and decided to try to lighten it up a bit while making it a bit heartier for dinner.
I started off by dousing a few thin cut chicken breasts in raspberry vinegar, a little salt and pepper, and then a quick drizzle of canola oil. I heated my grill pan, and placed them in in a single layer once it was hot. The great thing about any flavored vinegar is that the flavor it imparts can be so light. A quick marinade will give the chicken this very light flavor which holds really nicely in the background. I've been semi obsessed lately with making salad dressing combining the vinegar and lime infused olive oil- delicious.
I digress. While the chicken was pan grilling, I started chopping my fruits and veggies- combining 3/4 of a granny smith apple, a handful or two of sliced green grapes, two stalks of thinly sliced celery, a few very thin slices of red onion (I add it to everything!), and then I crumbled in just a couple of handfuls of walnuts.
One thing I love about thin cut chicken breasts is how quickly they cook. A few minutes on each side-and lovely chicken is ready! Once the chicken was done grilling, I pulled it off, and laid it to the side to rest while I made the dressing. Again-I was trying to lighten this dish a bit, but I didn't want to lose the creamy factor all together. So in a small bowl I combined light mayonnaise, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, and white balsamic vinegar. The finished product had a really nice flavor to it combining cream with tang and just a little bit of heat.
After cutting the chicken into bite size chunks, I added a few handfuls of salad greens, poured the dressing over the top and shook my salad so the dressing was evenly distributed-always the fun part of salad making. A quick plating, a pour of a crisp, cool glass of white wine, and dinner was served.

So I know that it isn't, in anyway way, classic Waldorf Salad- however it was a darn good take on it! Light and crisp with amazing texture combinations and great flavors-I loved it. The apples and the grapes added that great fruit sweetness without overshadowing the more savory components, which seemed to really ground the dish. What I really enjoyed was that the chicken seemed to tie the two together with providing the savory backbone, but the hint of fruit sweetness. Delicious. This is now definitely on my repertoire of salads-especially as spring and summer are fast approaching and simple, crisp and refreshing salad will be in high demand!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sugar Heaven, Back Bay, Boston

Ahhh to be a kid again-the time when your biggest complaint was too much homework, where the world had amazing possibility, and imagination was king. Childhood- a far cry from today's world of deadlines, taxes, and health care concerns. Wouldn't you love to go back-even just for a short time and leave your cares behind? I'm going to assume you are shaking your head yes-and tell you about the PERFECT place to return to childhood, or at least pretend to!


Sugar Heaven is opening their 5th and newest store on Boylston Street in Boston in just a few days I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek last night. Oh my goodness! A candy store of a child's dreams- with floor to ceiling containers with just the most fantastic goodies, beautifully laid out. To be honest- I don't think I can do the store as much justice with words- so perhaps a photographic journey?
Candy- as far as the eye can see!

Pretty isn't it?
I loved their displays



ICE CREAM!
WITH the old fashioned feel? Love it!

What an amazing store! Everything was beautifully displayed, with bright colors, fun puns, and great attention to detail really making all of the different brands and types attractive.

What I really loved was the huge assortment- it seemed as though every candy type, and brand was represented, even down to meal supplement bars. Can't beat that for diversity!! They have even coined this idea with their motto "If we don't have what you're craving, we'll be happy to find it for you." Now that is a candy/indulgence store!

I am really excited for this new location to open, but when you visit-don't be surprised if you find your self looking for an Ooompa Loompa or Willy Wonka...it definitely had that feel!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Announcement- Taste of the Nation- Boston: April 8, 2010, Hynes Convention Center

Two Promotions Below!

It should come as no surprise to any of us that the past year and a half has presented pretty incredible economic challenges across this country. People everywhere have had to make cuts and sacrifices within their budgets to make ends meet. The media has increased awareness making it seem to be a time where it is chic to be thrifty. While this attention can only serve to help us all, it is important to remember the organizations that have been working hard to help those in need long before the rest of us. One of those great organizations is Share Our Strength who has been facilitating a movement to ensure that no child goes hungry for almost two decades.

Share Our Strength was founded in 1984 as an effort to absolve the Ethiopian Famine. Founders Bill and Debbie Shore knew from the beginning that they would need help to accomplish their goals and so they recruited their chef friends knowing that their love of food would easily translate into a passion for feeding the hungry children of the world. In 2004 they broke through and addressed the growing need for attention to child hunger here in the US. Share Our Strength has raised $265 million since its inception. Each year they host a number of events ranging from cooking classes to bake sales to their series titled Taste of the Nation, begun in 1988.

Taste of the Nation started as restaurants in 25 cities hosting food and wine pairings on a single day, sponsored by American Express. That year alone they raised $250,000 through this one day event. Today, still sponsored by American Express, Taste of the Nation is held in 55 cities, and has raised over $70 million. The greatest part about these events though is that they are completely volunteer based, meaning that all of what is raised that evening goes where it should- to helping those who really need it.

Here in Boston we are lucky enough to be a part of this great movement in hosting our own Taste of the Nation. Taste of the Nation Boston is scheduled to be held on April 8, 2010 at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston from 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm. Now we all know that we have some rock stars of chefs who live among us here, and those wonderful folks are donating their time to this cause. Over 70 restaurants, including local favorites such as L'Espalier, Mare, Lucca, and Franklin Cafe are taking part alongside over 40 wineries. In addition, local celebrity chefs such as Gordon Hamersley, Jason Santos, Jody Adams and Andy Husbands will all be in attendance. For years this has been known as THE food event of the year- a not miss for anyone who loves food, wine, and helping others. Come on-who DOESN'T love those things?

I have TWO promotions to let you know about- first if you would like to attend- and seriously- do it- I'd like to let you know about a discount on tickets:
Taste of the Nation is offering 15% off of VIP tickets from now until 3/31/10. Please enter "tweettaste15" at check out here.

Second- WHEN you attend, please tweet about your experience while at the event for an opportunity to win a $200 restaurant gift certificate.

Of course- it all works best if you follow Taste of the Nation Boston on Twitter- because, as I'm realizing-Twitter is completely phenomenal. Please follow them here

I hope to see you all there supporting this amazing cause because, as they say- "No child should go hungry".

More information, prices etc can be found at http://strength.org/boston/

Monday, March 15, 2010

International Boston Seafood Show

Wow is really all I can say.
Yesterday I attended the International Boston Seafood Show, held at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. Now I have been to this facility before, for several different reasons. Parties that I have attended have been held here (it has an incredible view of Boston), and I've visited a friend working at a trade show here, but never before have I entered this massive space and smelled such wonderful smells as I did when I walked into it yesterday. Now, as I'm sure we all know- yesterday (and today for that matter) dawned rainy and cold. Rainy might be an understatement- monsoon might be a better term. So I won't lie to you and say that I bounded out of bed excited to head to South Boston for the day, nor was I brimming with excitement as I began the walking portion of my journey through pelting rain, and wind gusts that made it difficult to make any progress. When I finally got to the convention center I was soaked, windblown, frozen and cursing everything around me...until, that is, I got inside. The aroma that greeted me immediately upon entering the massive facility was of summertime, seafood, and clam shacks. The cold wasn't so cold anymore, and I breathed in deep ready to "dive" into what lay before me at the International Boston Seafood Show.
Once I picked up my badge (thanks to iPura-more on them in just a minute), I headed into the main marketplace to check out all of the vendors and purveyors who had come to "talk fish"-and hand out samples of their goods. I am not sure what exactly I anticipated when entering the building, but the sheer magnitude of this event was overwhelming. Not only did the anticipated fish purveyors arrive, but all
of the "behind the scenes" vendors were there too. Before yesterday, I had never given any thought to if crushed ice, or flake ice machines are best for preserving fresh fish. The folks at A-1 Refrigeration Co have- they think its flake ice. I learned about the merits of Mexican based shellfish, how they are packaged and shipped abroad. I sampled lots of tasty delights- popcorn oysters, soft shell crab, and all sort of other assorted treats.

Finally I found my way to the iPura booth. I started following iPura on Twitter, and in general, last fall after the Sustainability dinner at Turner Fisheries. It was at that point that I really began to think about where food comes from, possible damage that we could be doing to our earth by our practices, and the importance that we must place on ensuring that for every resource we use, we put back the same amount. iPura is a company founded on the principles of clean, safe food. Their mission is to ensure that the food that bears their seal is the "Highest Standard in Food Safety". Their concept is simple, yet incredibly important. They have established a system processes that keep foods safe and clean, in their organic state, prior to packaging.
It can really be broken down to -iPura is keeping us healthy and safe, and the earth. Can't really beat that now can you?
I'll conclude my lecture there- but I leave you with two thoughts- one-please visit the iPura website for education- the work they are doing affects us all, and two- if you can-venture on over to the International Boston Seafood Show- if for nothing else- to taste summer and to see the 45 year old lobster who is hanging out there. I want one of his claws ;-).

IBSS website for show dates and hours.
iPura website

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Sugar Donut Muffins

I remember learning several things very clearly from when I was little- the Golden Rule of course sticks out, "look with your eyes not with your hands" was another good one, and then of course "actions speak louder than words" was huge. Today, I often find that when I want to express gratitude, sympathy, excitement, or apologetic feelings, I often do so with a gesture rather than just words. More often then not, this includes food-I'm sure there is no surprise there.

Over the past few weeks my mother has been assisting me with a rather large project, and I wanted to express my gratitude beyond the simple "Thank yous" I was saying. Now my mother enjoys a good donut now and then. We always stopped for them on our way to my college as the perfect morning road trip food, and it has been a lovely tradition ever since. Throughout last week I kept thinking how nice it would be to cook up a batch of donuts as a surprise for her, however the idea of frying them just made me stop in my tracks. So, of course, I reached out to the folks at Chowhound.com for some assistance. Though I caused a bit of a debate with my quandary for non fried donuts, I was also sent the link to these little bites of heaven known as Sugar Donut Muffins- recipe found here courtesy of Baking Bites.

These "muffins" are baked, but incredibly dense and with the flavor and internal texture of a "real" cake donut. Of course they don't have those lovely fried slightly crispy edges, but is that why we eat donuts? I think not. They are enjoyed for their lovely consistency, their heavenly flavor....and perhaps even the sugary sweetness of their dip in sugar.

The recipe itself was amazingly easy. Simple instructions to combine sugar and egg, and blend until light in color:

Then the instructions lead you through whisking together the dry ingredients and adding them to the sugar and egg combination. Once those are fully blended its a simple addition of the wet ingredients-vegetable oil, milk and vanilla extract. The batter that is created is incredibly thick, and I noted as I began to spoon the mix into the muffin pans- it has a consistency almost of glue. It was quite a batter.

They went into the oven for about 18 minutes, or until the tester tooth pick came out clean. This took the full 18 minutes for me. In the mean time though, I melted some butter, and placed sugar in a bowl for rolling purposes once they were done baking.

Now the recipe did not say to allow the muffins to cool prior to painting them with butter, and rolling them in simple granulated sugar- so I did not. They were a bit hot to touch, but I worked quickly and got all 10 of the muffins painted with butter, rolled in sugar and set out on wax paper relatively quickly. A few minutes later-and these were ready for eating.

What a treat! These had that wonderful thicker than cake like consistency, the wonderful nutty flavor of nutmeg that is so wonderful and delicious, the crunch of the granulated sugar, and just a pillowy softness. These were 100% delicious, and declared by my mother as a complete success- a great substitute for the fried cake donuts.

These were so simple to make, I will definitely be making them again, and may even add some jam surprise to the middle for an extra special treat!

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