Beautiful Beets and Bright Purple Hands

On a beautiful almost fall day like today in Boston my goal was to complete my wine project before leaving town.  This meant walking the cobble streets in search of wine store with knowledgeable employees who would want to spout off their stores connection with French wines. Much to my dismay I walked into one too many “wine” stores devoted to all kinds of spirits with employees who didn’t know much more then myself about the wine they carried or the customers who came into their store and who were not very willing to answer the questions I needed to ask for my research. This left me totally exhausted and with little useful information that I could use.

Walking into a whole in the wall wine shop in the North End was like a fresh breathe of air. Not only was the store devoted completely to wine, but the basement floor was even decorated and felt like all the damp wine cellars I have been to in the wine country in California. On top of that, the cute guy working behind the counter could not stop rambling about French wine and was one of the most friendly wine conniosseurs I have encountered in awhile. It was exactly what I needed: finally some information to put in my paper!!! And not only was it a really cute wine shop, but totally up my alley: all of the wine they bring in is natural and made from biodynamic processes. Many of the wine growers and producers are also from small farms in France and use the process of carbonic maceration, a more hands off approach to wine making.  The mission of this store was to connect people with small organic farmers instead of the big chateaus of well-known regions and conglomerates whose production has moved further away from quality in order to try and please an international market (while keeping their prices still through the roof). This place was made for Gastronomes like me interested in wine and food policy, sustainability, and the little guys.

But besides from the wine shop itself, walking into the North End was a relief in itself. This is one region of the city I do not regularly go to. To be honest I have probably only made it over there a couple of times in the year that I have lived here. Maybe this is because with a nickname like “Little Italy” it comes with a connotation that it is a tourist destination for the many foreigns that frequent Boston. But that was far from the vibe I got today; I felt as if I had been taken back to the streets of Rome. Yes Boston may have less ancient architecture and less old buildings but we still have brick streets and beautiful churches that give way to the same feel. Many of the side streets too also looked as if they could have been replicas of some of the streets in Italy, with the small balconies overlooking the street and the small apartments and stores lining the block. Many of the restaurants also have the big open windows and tables that are set up just like the small cafes in Italy. Additionally, the murals on the walls, the gelato, and small coffee shops all brought to the streets the feeling and smells I associate with my time traveling throughout Italy. I have decided I need to frequent this area more often and indulge in the authentic Italian food hubs that fill the area.

Leaving the area, I stumbled upon a small six stand farmers market next to the T at Government Center. Deciding that I was a little hungry from the walking through the city and an early morning yoga class, buying some in season produce from the local farmers market stands would be a perfect way to finish my day. Me connecting with food and my kitchen equals solitude and bliss. I came across the most beautiful round beets I had seen in a long time, which left me craving a roasted beets salad. So without further adieu it was decided that beets were what’s for dinner. Now I only wish I had splurged for a nice bottle of organic French wine to accompany my meal.

The best part about beets to me is the intoxicating color they have and the sweet yet rustic earthy smell they give off while being cooked; the worst part about beets though is that they will dye your hands that beautiful color, as well as most of your kitchen (will make for an interesting conversation on my date tonight). At least the finished taste and product is so worth it.  This recipe i created catered perfectly to the sweet tooth inside me that needed some love without having to eat an unhealthy meal.

4 medium fresh beets

1 medium figi apple

A handful of sliced almonds

Olive oil

Cinnamon

Pepper

Add almonds first to toast the outsides, and then add the apples and saute to your own perfection. Then add cinnamon and some pepper to your liking. The sweetness in the apple slices and the beets will create a perfect opposition to the toasty flavor of the almonds and the strong flavor of the cinnamon. The olive oil is used in a small amount only to keep the food from burning and sticking to the pan, as well as to soften the beets. Don’t be afraid when it all comes out purplish pink…thats the beauty of the beets. With all of these flavors combined it is a perfect fall salad or accompaniment to any dish. Enjoy!

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A little bit of therapy

When your world is upside down and it seems incapable to endure the rift, a little bit of therapy is in order. For me this eating, cooking, and enjoying good food and a nice long run with the rhythmic sound of my sneakers hitting the pavement. No my life is not unmanageable, just a little in shambles with school starting again (with a heavier class load the usual) the extra shifts at work, and lots of other little daily fun things that life throws my way.

I woke up this morning thanking God it was sunday…I think thats the first time I have ever looked forward to the weekend ending.  Weird as it is I look forward to the craziness and hecticness of a busy regimented week, especially this week which will be filled with several dance classes (my greatest passion) and busyness is usually how I judge a great week. (Its the other emotions and trivial yet unnecessary things that entered this past busy week that I wish to leave behind). And the nerd in me also looks forward to class and the hours of intoxicating readings my teachers assign because I love the empowerment of knowledge. Since sunday is alway my day of rest (no classes or work) I had to enjoy it the best way that I could and incorporate in a little therapy for my soul: A little food for the soul.

To begin this off right…me and some friends headed to the SOWA open market in the South End, the haven of food trucks….the best indulgence. With so many trucks lining the market it was hard to choose where to begin or what to consume. Food ranging from cupcakes to vegan BBQ seitan wraps were among the options.  It was easier to eliminate the healthy vegan options (my normal go to) because I cook all my meals that way all week long and with the funk I was in this weekend nothing would be better then some fattening comfort food that reminded me of one of my favorite foods growing up….grilled cheese (even if it was a gourmet version…typical kitsch like cooking of fast food trucks)

Baby swiss, arugula, and wild mushrooms…yum!

 {The grilled cheese truck}

My friends got the short rib one and even though I do not eat meat I will say it did look mighty tasty.

We followed this with soft serve ice cream dipped in chocolate…another fond indulgence of my childhood. Reminds me of the big ice cream cone shop in our small town in florida that, as I remember, had the best chocolate dipped ice cream I have ever had. Best thing about food is the nostalgia and memory it produces. Within minutes this food today produced in me a free spirited, innocent, unselfconscious childish happiness I had not felt in awhile.  This combined with the surroundings of beautiful people, crafts, and sunshine made this hour adventure pure ecstasy.

{Just some of the amazing produce at the local farmers market side of the SOWA.}

{New fondness for late summer/fall vegetables and the colors that emanate from them.}

To top of a great day and several hours of walking throughout the city from Brookline to the South End to Cambridge and back, one last hardy comforting meal was needed to seal the deal and give a perfect therapeutic ending to my day. I don’t know if it because food and eating engages all of one’s senses, allowing the whole body to be present within one moment, that affects its ability to totally transform you and and your mood; to heal you. I spent an hour meticulously cooking tonight to make the perfect meal because somehow the rhythmic motions of cutting vegetables and even stirring a pot know how to calm my nerves. The sounds of oil popping and the smell of basil and tomatoes on the pan bring a smile to my face. Cooking, dancing, creating art, and yoga are the things that keep me balanced (also the only times my overactive brain ever stops thinking) and running and eating make me happy. The idea of being in a pure animalistic raw state I think connects these different things (something I love and crave); or the idea of creating and consuming that is needed for all of these as well…both needed for longevity and endurance in this world. I don’t treat any of these as mundane and essential activities for survival but instead my time to connect with my inner self, passion, creativity, potential, and vulnerability. Yes the kitchen is definitely one of my happy places.

But back to the dish I made….whole wheat pasta filled with all kinds of my favorite goodies.

Ingredients: green beans, sundried tomatoes, grilled artichoke hearts, red heirloom tomatoes, spinach, oyster mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, baby bella mushrooms, red onion, oregano, basil, red pepper, garlic, olive oil, parmesan cheese, clams, squid/calamari rings, and cuttlefish.

And plump ripe black figs on the side for my sweet tooth.

Now rested, healthy, and healed from sweating out all of last weeks frustrations and eating many great delights…I can say it was a great day of personal therapy and I can’t wait to hit the pillow and the start the amazing week that is coming ahead….Just a little case of the Sunday blues in preparation for the Monday smiles!!! Bring it on world


To the Californian in me

Stepping off the plane was like coming home. The music, the people, the atmosphere even in the airport reminded me that this is where I belong. Spending a week at home in beautiful Santa Barbara will be like discovering the parts of me I left behind or nicely filed away for safe keeping.

Freshness: one of the first things I encountered. The feeling that everything around me breathes and lives on year round sunshine and clean air. Its the feeling when your lungs can take in all of the air around you and fill up to their capacity without the exhausting feeling of pollution. Its the idea that you can keep running because your muscles are powered by something pure. Its the view that everything around you is lush and green and the vegetables are large, beautiful, and purely natural. Its the crazy concept that knowing all that you consume really might have been grown just around the corner by the local farmer whose son sat next to you all throughout high school; whose love and compassion went into everything produced.

Cities are not all grey and depressing, but the reality of the foodscape in these areas to me is. The first few days of my trip home have been spent focusing on health and nutrition and what this means to me. California Bootcamp 101….lots of exercising and fresh green foods. Runs through the mountains and on the beach, dance classes (one of my biggest passions), sweating in the kickboxing gym, and bike rides through the horse trails tops off this toxic freeing experience.

Laying in the sun and taking in the vitamin D I lack in Boston, I have explored the concept of a foodie through my assigned readings for my fall classes. Yet I still ask, what is a foodie? And do I fit this bill? Yes I love food and everything about it. From the rich colors and flavors to the feelings I associate with them (the nostalgia and memories) and the feeling of transcending boundaries and borders through the consumption of something new and different. But do I approach food as exotic? Do I consider food politics like food miles, starvation, labor conditions, organics, localism, and etc…everything I purchase food or eat out? Yes I do. I can’t say that I am perfect but I can say that I am politically charged. But still am I foodie? I say no. I love food and all it has to offer but my choices and lifestyle involving food is academic/research driven and solely based on my love for food and my environment. I am an informed consumer not a gourmet who strives for power and off of adrenaline from consuming the “exotic” foods and meals associated with poor communities that people praise as “different” and newly worthy. I am a Gastronomer: I strive to learn and indulge through knowledge of food.

But besides my rambling, living back at home with the family for the week brings responsibility and to me this is cooking: the thing I truly enjoy most. (paired with many beautiful bottles of california wine…Bridlewood to be exact and local brews). From kale jalepano cilantro chips to tofu green curry chard ala me, I have been exploring the gardens of my parents and friends and the herbs and spices of my mother’s kitchen to create master pieces that envelope things I would not have access to back in my own kitchen and surroundings in Boston. With all this being said, instead of recipes this time I share pictures: the brief virtual experience of the Californian in me.


Ode to all that is green

With a crazy summer filled with classes, festivals, friends, work, beach days and so much HEAT I have started cooking less and less. I have resorted to easy salads, lentil dishes, and lots of fresh fruit…basically staying away from all that is hot. Or simple things I don’t feel i could write a whole page about like tempeh wraps and cold pasta dishes.  Not cooking all the time is very unlike me but when it comes to time you have to resort to what options you have. Then again maybe its that these dishes are worthy about writing about but my brain lacks the ability to comprehend words on them since it has been stuck in my textbooks all summer long. But now with summer finally upon me, my last class ending last wednesday, I can sit down and write my ode to something green.

No I did not cook this food I am about to share….I owe its culinary appeal to the magnificent chefs over at Whole Foods in Cambridge but I felt compelled to share. Sometimes you have to praise others to truly understand your own worth…allows you to compare you ability to others; makes you strive harder or appreciate more the skills you already have. Yes they might just be chefs at the local organic grocery store, but this doesn’t mean that what they create is any less significant. So heres my ode to them!

While finishing up my nutrition class I learned to eat less, eat green…mostly plant food. After weeks of drinking with friends and enjoying the interesting array of food Boston has to offer, I craved a meal from back home. I craved something that reminded me of all the hole in the wall health food stores, vendors, and restaurants that line the cities in California I have lived, especially Santa Cruz. In other words: I longed for my hippie past slowly left behind as I entered my new life in Boston. Not to say that these types of places don’t exist in Boston but they are spread out, far apart, in the suburbs and surrounding neighborhoods that make up the bustling city of Boston. It becomes more a lifestyle you have to search out just for one visit instead of one you just live and breath.

This meal served that great purpose: filling the void of the things I missed; acting as the closest replication. As always with the things I consume and write about…its a simple meal but perfectly nourishing:

Some vegan seaweed salad, a plum, and a olive, feta, sundried tomato salad on top of a brown rice seaweed cracker. This was also followed by some green super food supplement powder drink made of barley, wheat grass, acai, and etc… extracts; one of my favorite green things.  Since of all the connotations these foods represented and the longing for my Californian ways and childhood that I miss so much, this meal couldn’t have been more PERFECT and was very successful at fulfilling my hunger as well as my psychological draw to the foods of my past.

I live sustainable and green, I eat vegetarian and green, and I enjoy all the natural wonders of the world that come in the beautiful shades of green.  With that said….i name this the Ode to Something Green.

My green juice


Loving the sunshine….must be summer time

After a long week and then a relaxing sunday afternoon at the beach, a nice summer meal was exactly what I was craving today. I just wanted to get out my readings for class monday, kick up my heels, and eat something yummy, light, and refreshing. No patience for a strenuous cooking adventure today. So after a quick visit to Trader Joe’s in Cambridge (which by the way was my first time…so much better then the one in Brookline and bigger!) I ended up with the perfect ingredients for a scrumptious salad.

Nothing reminds me more of summer time then vegetables and fruit, so this salad was going to do just that. A perfect combination of bright colors for a bright and happy day.

Very short list of ingredients but a WHOLE lot of flavor:

Strawberries, 1/2 of a gala apple, spinach, feta, and a dressing of your choice.

I branched out tonight from my usual vinegar and olive oil and used a pre-made champagne pear gorgonzola vinaigrette. A little on the sweet side but very complimentary (and not as bad for you as most other store bought dressing, which is a plus!)

Once I was done making this I felt like experimenting a little with some left over lentils I had in my fridge that I was afraid would go bad if I didn’t use them soon. So I decided to create lentil, kale, collard green, and spinach cakes.  To hold these together I use a little bit of olive oil and flour and formed them into small flat circles. (The smaller the are the better they hold together…I learned the hard way). I flavored these with a little garlic and red pepper, nothing too complex but just enough for some flavor to go a long with the fresh ingredients. Flash cook them, 1-2 minutes on each side so they are crisp on the outside but not a fried food (since very little olive oil is used more to mix with the flour to create a paste that will keep the veggies together). Also, as always with cooking, make sure to spray the pan beforehand or the lentils will tough to get off of the pan.

They turned out better then I had imagined and made my salad meal feel a little more substantial. Oh, and they taste great with a little ketchup….my one and only favorite condiment.

These dishes completely hit the spot: officially very stuffed yet satisfied and extremely fast to cook. Ready to keep relaxing and enjoy this lazy 80 degree sunday!


feeling a little bit country

Every sunday in Boston there is a huge market called the SOWA market located in the south end, the new up and coming neighborhood and by far one of my favorite places. Lining the streets are restaurants with some of the best chefs in boston interspersed among sheek clothing stores and underground jazz bars. If you move away from this bustling street known as Tremont, you land dead smack in the middle of the of a neighborhood with million dollar brownstone homes on one side and low income housing on the other. This is why the south end seizes to amaze me…there is so much culture and diversity shoved into its few little blocks, amazing.  Hidden away amongst this all is my new favorite gem, the SOWA market.

I started out this morning with a trek in mind. I planned on taking advantage of the nice weather and walking from Allston all the way to the South End with a short stop in Kenmore to pick up my nutrition book for my new class starting on Wednesday. Figured it would be a great way to see my favorite sites, walk down my favorite streets. After recruiting a friend on my mission to finally make it to this market, since I finally had the day off from work, I didn’t walk the entire way but did manage to take a nice 45 minute walk through the streets of boston listening to some great jams on my ipod.

We entered the market to be very surprised. I had heard it was huge and the pictures on the online site showed a tremendous crowd.  We were happy to find out we had only entered a small part of it and there was much more to see. On one side is a parking lot full of farmers markets products. There were stands with sweets and breads as well as fresh fish, vegetables, fresh hummus, gourmet pastas, plants, herbs, and the like. I had planned to do my weeks shopping here but sadly spent my cash else where and by the time we made it back to this section a lot of the stalls were pretty bare, which gives me an even better excuse to go back next week!

If you enter a tunnel to your left in the market you enter the other bustling side of the SOWA experience. On this side there are walkways lined with art galleries that lead to another huge lot outlined by gourmet food trucks. In the center there is a large group of stalls filled with all kinds of indie crafts ranging from jewelry, bags, clothing, wall hangings, hair feathers, headbands, and much more.  All very small artists with amazing varieties of crafts.  The trucks were one of my favorite parts. There was one that was fashioning different kinds of grilled cheeses…with things like blue cheese and bacon to plain cheese and tomato. The one we choose to eat at for lunch was the Bon Me food truck. It was vietnamese inspired food. My friend blaire picked and enjoyed the bbq pork Banh Mi sandwich and I choose the delicious noodle salad filled with tofu, soba noodles, cilantro, pickled carrots, shiitake mushrooms, bean sprouts, and had a toasted sesame dressing. Probably one of the best meals I have had in Boston in a long time, reminded me of the health food you can find back at home at hole in the wall restaurants in Santa Barbara, Santa Monica, and Santa Cruz. Again nostalgic for home. But don’t worry Boston…I do love you too.

Definitely very worth checking out if you never have: http://www.bonmetruck.com/

Bon Me Truck

From here we entered the upstairs area inside a building next door that was called the vintage market. With the idea in mind to come to this market to shop for food, this is where my calling was and where my money ended up being spent. It was a huge warehouse filled with the most random vintage things, ranging from records, to clothes, boots, jewelry, house decorations, silver, crystal, old board games, and etc… I felt so at home in this warehouse of wonders! I have always had a love for old things and their history, as well as just history in general. After spending eternity in here walking down every aisle checking out all the fascinating things, me and blaire both fell in love with some vintage boots. What should have cost me 250 dollars cost me 60 and I couldn’t be happier with my brown suede distressed (maybe a little country) boots.

(I guess the country part was all the master thoughts of the boy that said “hey there cowgirl” while I strutted around in my new boots)

This is where our SOWA market experience ended and even though very satisfied with my experience I still left craving what I had come for: the fixings for a healthy and fresh vegetarian meal. This is what led me to resort to some Whole Foods shopping. (never a bad thing). Here I stocked up on all the things I had wished to purchase at the market and will definitely go back to get next week or some sunday soon. Upon leaving Whole Foods it began to pour and let me tell you…the brown bags they are so crafty at packing your food into DO NOT hold up in the rain. Luckily blaire came to my rescue and picked me up. After spending the rest of the afternoon on her porch drinking some Wolf gewurztraminer, playing cards, and watching the rain, I thought no other way to end this perfect summer adventure day with some home cooking with the vegetables I purchased.

So with this long winded story…..I leave you with the food I cooked

while dancing around in my boots feeling a little country.

Summer Stuffed Peppers:

1 orange bell pepper (to be cut in half)

1/3 of an eggplant

1/2 can of lentils

1/2 of a zucunni

olive oil

1/2 of a yellow squash                                                freshly ground black pepper

1/3 of a medium onion                                               cheddar cheese

a handful of mushrooms                                            2 cloves of garlic

(I had planned to also use some kale, collard greens, spinach but at the time it seemed a little excessive….have to leave something for later in the week to make that dish different and stand out) Also this will probably make extra filling that can be used again with a second pepper…I only cooked one at time since there is only one little me.

All of the vegetables should be finely chopped minus the orange pepper. Then together saute them in a pan until cooked. Heat the oven to 450 and place the

orange peppers in a tin filled with the vegetable mix. Then on top sprinkle some cheese for a little homey flavor and a splash of olive oil to help the peppers cook. Cook for about 5 minutes or so until the cheese melts and bubbles. This way the peppers will stay crisp on the outside. Then bon appetite!!


and a couple more shots

plus some interesting and just plain fun shots to match my mood


Heres the link to the market: like I said, definitely worth a visit!

http://www.sowaopenmarket.com/

Illustration by n8t Williams


Food Conference

I spent this past weekend volunteering at the International Food Styling and Photography Conference put on at BU. Luckily the work was not strenuous and I got to sit in on a lot of the talks given by some of the most famous and successful people in the business, couldn’t have been happier. Tomorrows talks are all focused on food blogging which will probably be right up my ally; seeing how I am new to this I would love to hear more about the ins and outs of food blogging.

After a long day of conferencing, I stopped by my local shaws on the way home to pick up a few ingredients for one of my favorite new obsessions. Its a new recipe that my mother has been making over the past year that I have come to find huge tupperware containers full of when I get home during breaks. Heavy on the protein and heavy on the love. Just what I needed before starting a final for my Anthropology of Food summer class.

My mother keeps a lot of it around because it can be used on salads for herself and put on bread to

make a hardy sandwich for my dad. Plus its also really good on crackers and just plain by self.

I call it the perfect summer salad.

Ingredients:

A can of white tuna in water

A can, fresh, or frozen artichoke hearts cut up

A package of dried cranberrys (not sweetened unless you would prefer those)….of which to be sprinkled in to your own liking

3 hard boil eggs (only use one yolk)

Olive oil

Black pepper

Freshly made

whole wheat bread

Add all together in a big bowl, mashing the hard boiled eggs. Only takes one step…as usual, simple and easy.

Feeling inspired by all the great photographers I figured I would take some pictures. Ill get to their level some day (hopefully)!