Tag Archives: Food

Outstanding In The Field

11 Feb

Outstanding In The Field

The Farm to Table movement has been afoot for some time now.  One of the early adopters to this movement, and one who has taken it on the road so to speak is “Outstanding in the Field” and its founder Jim Denevan.  The idea that Jim brought about, with the help of  his brother Bill Denevan, a pioneering organic grower in California, was to bring farmers and regular producers out of the field and to Gabriella Cafe in Santa Cruz, California, where Jim was Chef, and to have them explain the food they raised.   These “farmer dinners” began back in 1998.

In the field at Allandale Farm, Brookline

After a number of seasons of successful farmer dinners, the realization that the experience could be turned around and brought to the farm directly came in 2003 when a red and white bus was purchased and the show was taken on the road.

Jim Denevan, in cowboy hat, and Allandale Farmer John Lee

Outstanding In The Field (OITF) came to Boston in 2008 under dark skies and a storm watch for the region.  The group visited the last farm within the city limits, Allandale Farm in Boston, where Chef and founder Jim Denevan partnered with Chef Mary Dumont of Harvest in Cambridge, and farmer John Lee.  Apparently Chef Dumont worked at Gabriella Cafe with Jim before leaving the front of the house to pursue her passion in the kitchen, and the event was a great success despite the dark skies.

Island Creek Oysters started out the night

The boys from Island Creek Oysters came up from Duxbury and did some shucking, and a tour of the farm was organized.

Touring Allandale Farm

Table seating outside at the farm

Chef Jim and Chef Mary Dumont of Harvest go over the menu

Chef and Founder Jim telling farm stories late into the night

And walking away at the end of the night

Susan and I had a great time, despite the fresh striped bass (Susan isn’t much for fish, though I enjoyed it).  It was a great way to feel connected to the farm community and to meet and speak with locals who share the same love of food and the outdoors as I do.

Tour dates and tickets for Outstanding in the Field 2011 go on sale March 20, 2011, but you can sign up for a newsletter/email blast on their home page, or following them on twitter.   Think about it while you contemplate shoveling snow for another couple of months.  Spring will come.

Remember, Food is Love!




Garlic: A love affair with history

25 Jan

“And, most dear actors, eat no onions nor garlic, for we are to utter sweet breath.”
William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616)
‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’

One of the many memorable interactions, for me, from the movie The Big Chill is this dialog between Michael and Sam.

Michael: I don’t know anyone who could get through the day without two or three juicy rationalizations. They’re more important than sex.

Sam Weber: Ah, come on. Nothing’s more important than sex.

Michael: Oh yeah? Ever gone a week without a rationalization?

Score one for Jeff Goldblum.  But along those lines, I’d like you to sit back and imagine going a week without garlic in your kitchen.  A week?  Think you could do it?

Garlic has been around since the beginning of time, and evidence of the use of garlic can be found in ancient Egypt and even William Shakespeare spoke of it in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  To this day the pungent flavor can be found in traditional cooking across the four corners of the world, and I for one would cry if I had to go a week without it in my kitchen.

Garlic is relatively easy to grow, and  can be produced in varying climates, and in the US it is grown as a cash crop in every state except Alaska.  California is the lead producer domestically, but China takes the bulb, so to speak, in producing about 77% of the world’s total production.

I lived in Guatemala while serving in the Peace Corps, and in the Northwest Highlands were I was, Garlic was king.   It grew everywhere and was used in everything.

Garlic for roasting plus a little olive oil

With all this snow and cold weather we are having, making soup is a nice way to take the chill out of the house and our of your bones.   I found this recipe for Roasted Garlic with Parmesan Soup on epicurious.com, and it seems perfect for a nice warm lunch.

Garlic tossed with olive oil and salt and pepper

I tossed the garlic cloves with olive oil and salt and pepper, placed them in a baking dish, and covered the dish with foil and placed it in the over at 350 for about 45 minutes.  In the interim I sliced a yellow onion and peeled another 15 or 20 cloves of garlic.   As the garlic was roasting I sautéed the onions and chopped thyme in our Le Creuset 5 quart pan, the favorite in our house.  After the garlic was done roasting I popped it out of the shells and into the pan with the onions and thyme.

Fresh roasted garlic

Sautéed onions, roasted garlic, thyme and fresh garlic

The smell in the kitchen was strong but familiar.  I let everything come together in the pan on low heat and caramelize for about 15 minutes.  It was more than the recipe called for, but I was looking to get as much flavor out of the ingredients as I could.  I then added the chicken stock and covered, while I pulled out the parmesan cheese to grate for the final touch in the soup.

Soup is on

I finished the soup with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese and a squeeze of lemon, and added some croutons on top that I toasted with some butter.  The soup came out wonderful, and although my wife was skeptical (she’s not a huge garlic lover) when she came home for lunch, and was slightly shocked by the smell in the house as soon as she walked in, she was pleasantly surprised and gave the final product two thumbs up.

Remember, Food is Love!



Do you speak cheese?

24 Jan

This is from the Harvard Gazette on a group of students visting Formaggio Kitchen and making their own cheese!  Check out the audio slide show I created for my “day job.”

Remember, Food is Love!



Mise En Place Monday

24 Jan

Opening night at Menton

Like a great wine or dish, this photo is full of complex layers, which is why I love it.


Vegetable stock at No. 9 Park

I love the richness and simplicity of this shot of stock, one of the first photos I took for the Gruppo.

Remember, Food is Love!



Warm & Juicy Roast Chicken – A Sunday Supper

23 Jan

Roast Chicken and brussel sprouts with bacon and fingerling potatoes

Roast chicken is one of the easiest and most satisfying meals you can make at home.  Juicy and warm with a crispy skin, a well seasoned roasted chicken is succulent and comforting. And because it is simple, the flavor to work ratio is off the scale. Chicken is the most common type of domesticated bird in the world, and we’ve been eating them for forever, literately.  It was the most prevalent meat available in the Middle Ages, was part of a presidential campaign when in 1928 Herbert Hoover ran on the promise to “put a chicken in every pot, a car in every garage.” Since then it has been on a steady incline in the US since the 1950’s, and is currently eaten more than any other protein in the US.

A beautiful roasting bird ready for seasoning

Like most things, starting with the best quality ingredients is one of the best things you can do to improve your cooking and the flavors that you ultimately share at your table.   Finding a fresh not frozen bird is the first step in this hunt for city dwellers, but it isn’t that difficult these days.  In Cambridge, Mayflower Poultry is about as fresh as you can get. You can even pick up some undergarments with their logo, “Live Poultry Fresh Killed” on them.  I purchased this particular bird at Wilson Farm in Lexington, because it is close to where we live, but no matter where you live most markets will have organic free range birds on hand all the time.

Dressed and ready for the oven

Simple is essential.   Salt, pepper, butter and an herb (I used tarragon, a favorite of mine) are all you need.   I chopped a handful of fresh tarragon leaves and added it to some melting butter, and then drizzled the herb butter over the chicken. I put half a lemon and the tarragon stems into the cavity and trussed the bird. I had a bit of trouble trussing the bird because it was missing a wing (came that way, and when I called Wilson Farm they said that that sometimes happens, and I could exchange it if I wanted) so the legs were higher than I normally like them.  I placed the roasting pan in a pre-heated oven at 475 degrees.  I roasted the chicken for about 45 minutes, putting a piece of foil on top of it for the last ten minutes.   I used a quick read thermometer and when it read about 155 I pulled the bird out and let it rest.  With the foil on top, it continued to cook and reached 165 in another ten minutes.

Chopped bacon for the brussel sprouts

Brussel sprouts in a bowl of ice after steaming

While my chicken done, I prepared some brussel sprouts and fingerling potatoes.   I cut the brussel sprouts in half and steamed them for a few minutes until they were almost al dente.  If you over cook brussel sprouts they tend to releases the glucosinolate sinigrin, which has a sulfurous odor, and for this reason that many people seem to dislike Brussels sprouts.

Fingerling potatoes with herbs and olive oil

Brussel sprouts almost done, I moved on to my fingerling potatoes, which I simply simply roasted in the oven with some olive oil, salt and pepper and some leftover tarragon and thyme.   Simple is essential, simple is good!

Blood oranges

Mixed salad with blood orange supreme vinaigrette

The final part of this comforting Sunday Supper was a mixed green salad with some candied almonds we had left over, and a blood orange vinaigrette. I supremed the blood oranges and used the juice of the remnants along with some olive oil and vinegar.  I tossed the brussel sprouts with the fried bacon – can’t go wrong there – along with a touch of balsamic vinegar we brought home from Italy last year, and the plate was completed with the roasted fingerlings.

A Sunday Simple Supper

A wonderful meal that although simple, was not plain.  Everything was fresh and full of flavor, and in the company of my wife and daughter, it was a perfect Sunday Supper.

Remember, Food is Love!



Gratin Dauphinois

28 Dec

Gratin Dauphinois or Scalloped Potatoes

Gratin Dauphinois is a French dish my mother called Scalloped Potatoes.  The “gratin,” comes from the French meaning “to scrape” or the “scrapings” of bread or cheese that is often found in casserole dishes with a crusty top.  The Dauphine, a region, is part of southeastern France that since the time of the French Revolution has has been divided into three departments, IsèreDrôme and Hautes-Alpes and is the site of the Dauphine Libere, a yearly tune up for those who will ride in Le Tour de France cycling race.  In addition to being the culinary epicenter for Scalloped Potatoes or Potatoes Au Gratin, this region of France is also famous for a green liquor made by Carthusian monks called Chartreuse, but that is another post.

Julia Child, in Mastering the Art of French Cooking said, “There are as many “authentic” (sic) versions of gratin dauphinois as there are of bouillabaise,” and I’d tend to agree with her.   In this version, as if often the case with what I cook, I took a look at what we had in the fridge and freezer and came up with this version of my own.

My Mandoline after being washed

I used a mandoline, something no kitchen should be without, to slice up some potatoes we had lying around and grabbed some left over spiral ham we had in the freezer from Thanksgiving.   My Mother’s version of scalloped potatoes always had onions in them, but we didn’t have any here in the house and I wasn’t going out in the cold to track some down.

Uniform width really helps with cooking time

I cut most of the larger slices in half

Using a mandoline is great for getting all of your slices exactly the same width, which helps with presentation but more importantly with cooking time.

Next I diced up some of the leftover ham, and Utah and Normand were good about helping with those unused scraps, and then chopped some fresh sage that we had to add some more flavor.

Leftover ham chopped up and added to the mix

I grated some Gruyere, a cow’s milk cheese from Switzerland that is a bit salty and nutty and is great for things like quiche and yes, Gratin, and added that to the pile of things I was collecting.

Nutmeg, sage and cheese

Once all the ingredients were prepped, I put some butter to melt in a pan, and added some flour to create a bit of a roux and added milk to the mix.   I also added a couple of table spoons of sour cream and the Gruyere and grated in nutmeg.  Salt and pepper to taste and that was done.

Yummy goodness

After using a wisk to bring this all together over a medium heat, I layered the the potatoes and ham in my stoneware pan, and poured the creamy mixture over it, and did the same a number of times.   I finished with a bit of grated sharp cheddar on top and put the mix into the oven covered for about an hour.

Layer upon layer

Grated cheddar on top

The results were wonderful, and after letting it cool for a bit.  A perfect hot, homey meal for a cold winter’s night.

Gratin Dauphinois avec Jambon

I would love to know what you think about the blog, meal or drink ideas, cooking, my photography, restaurant recommendations, or anything else you’d like to share.

Remember, Food is Love!

Cheers – JI

What is in a name …

31 Aug

So when we decided to start his blog, there really was only one choice for the name of it.   In the last couple of years Susan and I have had the good fortune of spending some time with James Beard award-winning  Chef Barbara Lynch.


It all started about three years ago, almost to the day, when I was searching around for a cooking class for Susan, to give to her for her birthday.   I stumbled upon Stir, a new ” demonstration kitchen and cookbook library.”  Everything sounded great, but there were no photos on the site!

I wasn’t able to sign up for a class that I wanted – it was sold out, a good sign of things to come – but I did email them to get on the newsletter list, and I mentioned that I was a photographer interested in food, and I’d be happy to shoot for them.  Long story short, we’ve become connected to Barbara and the “Gruppo” family a bit, and I’ve photographed in all of her restaurants and locations since.

Part of the beauty of being in the kitchen with Barbara is you get to see an amazing Chef and her staff at work, and you get to hear some of the back stories about the food, people and chaos that surrounds the various establishments she runs.  During one of these moments, Chef was talking about presenting a cooking class to a small group of people, and taking questions from the “students.”  Among the various inquires about technique and cooking time came the question, “Is it OK to substitute two-percent milk for the heavy cream in that recipe?”

F2% came from that interaction, and has been my “unofficial motto” ever since I heard the story told.