Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Food Trucks in Boston

Food trucks have come to Boston! The trend that's booming in New York and L.A. has now arrived to Beantown. But can it survive in a city that's so cold for most of the year? Time will tell.

Gourmet food trucks are emerging as a new industry serving the growing number of foodies on the go, such as urban professionals on their lunch break, shoppers at outdoor street fairs and festivals, and especially young city dwellers that can't necessarily afford a sit-down meal but still want something better than fast food. These newer food trucks are a world away from the old carts you seen in New York serving greasy, stale food, but instead are mobile kitchens creating a wide array of delicacies. These operations focus on using fresh and more natural ingredients, catering to the demand for healthy alternatives for snacks and quick meals. Clover Food Lab, a truck started by recent MIT graduates, features a seasonal menu using local and organic ingredients, and has developed a loyal following in Cambridge and at the SoWa market in the South End, held on summer weekends. Even Governor Deval Patrick as eaten from the Clover Food Truck. For good reason: Clover Food includes vegetarian-friendly options such as a tasty soy BLT and seitan BBQ, a crowd favorite chickpea fritters, a light beet and mint salad, juicy fried green tomatoes, and even rhubarb agua fresca. This food is creative and fresh, and it's on the move.

New food trucks to hit the streets of Boston include: Bon Me - Banh Mi Vietnamese sandwiches, Cambridge staple Red Bones BBQ, Grilled Cheese Nation, and Kickass Cupcakes. Look out Boston, the trucks have arrived.

Monday, July 18, 2011


Grasshopper in Allston is a vegetarian restaurant serving Chinese and Vietnamese specialties sans-meat, and it's really incredible. Yesterday we went for the vegan buffet, which is the third Sunday evening every month, where you get an all-you-can eat dinner for just over $10, a great deal. Grasshopper serves everything from spring rolls to lo mein to vermicelli noodle dishes, all with tofu, seitan, or imitation-shrimp, chicken pork, etc.- that's so close to the real thing you wouldn't know it's not real meat unless someone told you.

Buffet favorites include the kale with veggie-beef, the fried dumplings, and the infamous "no-name": battered gluten in a sweet and sour sauce topped with sesame seeds - so delicious it needs no name. It tastes like general tso's chicken, a favorite of Chinese take-out, yet without the extra fat, msg, and other additives. Until you've tried this, you would not believe how much it tastes like chicken. Meat-eaters will be satisfied with this dish, even.

Other excellent dishes include spicy curry with sweet potato and tofu, braised spicy tofu and assorted seitans in a clay hot pot with pineapple and lemon grass, and the crispy taro nest. Being a vegetarian restaurant Grasshopper has every combination of vegetable dish you could desire, from juicy eggplant, meaty mushrooms, tender asparagus, rich kale, crisp carrots, savory spinach, sweet leafy Chinese broccoli, spicy bamboo shoots and root vegetables. The menu is a celebration of vegetables in all their many forms. Finish it all off with a surprisingly sweet and delicious avocado soy smoothie and you'll go home happy. (Truth be told, Grasshopper buffet is the only time when I literally feel I may burst afterward ... it's worse than Thanksgiving by far. Who knew vegetables could be that addictive?)

Now the restaurant itself is somewhat hilarious - bright green walls to go with the grasshopper theme, bizzare paintings of obscure animals adorning the walls, such as zebras and other African safari favorites not indigenous to Asia, and faux-Italian themed tiles of different types of wine such as Cabernet Sauvignon decorated with bunches of cartoon-like grapes - creating a whimsical atmosphere. Nestled among the plethora of ethnic restaurants that help to make Allston the thriving cultural melting pot (and late night munchie destination), Grasshopper truly shines. The vegan pizza place two doors down? Virtually empty. Grasshopper buffet? Literally a line out the door. So the next time you're craving Chinese (a stealthy itch that must be scratched), try Grasshopper for a change. It puts meat to shame.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Di il Mare

Fresh mussels and clams in a white wine tomato broth with spaghetti and stewed artichokes

Monday, July 11, 2011

Veggie Medley

This weekend I decided to experiment with all the fresh produce from the farmer's market and came up with such dishes as grilled portobello mushrooms topped with yellow tomato puree, Sicilian kale: kale sauteed with toasted pine nuts, golden raisins, garlic and chili pepper, and the creation I call my "vegetarian cassoulet":

Good olive oil
Minced garlic
1 block extra-firm tofu
Fagiole - giant white beans (from jar with tomato sauce/oil)
1/2 cipolla onion (large)
1 zucchini (large)
1 summer squash (large)
1 cousa squash (large)
1 eggplant (medium size)
Forest mushrooms (c. 1/2 cup)
1 tomato, roasted
Yellow tomato puree
Phyllo dough sheets, defrosted
Italian dried herb seasoning
Fresh basil, torn
Fresh parsley, chopped
Parmesan cheese
Red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste

1) Slice eggplant into 1" rounds and sprinkle with salt, setting in a bowl at room temperature to draw out the moisture.
2) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and drizzle olive oil over the bottom of a 9x9" pan (size can be adjusted for a larger batch.)
3) Slice both squash and zucchini into rounds and grill - I used a grill pan but a proper grill would be great. Slice onion and saute in pan with olive oil and red pepper flakes, until translucent.
4) Remove onions from pan; dust salt off eggplant and dice into cubes. Saute eggplant with garlic and black pepper. Saute onions until browned.
5) In separate skillet, saute diced tofu until edges are crispy, turning so each side of the cubes are golden brown.
6) Begin to build casserole: lay sheets of phyllo dough in pan to cover bottom completely, drizzling olive oil over top. Lay grilled vegetables around on top, scattering sauteed onions, mushrooms and eggplants in between, and pieces of tofu and giant white beans at random. Season with herbs, salt and pepper. Mash roasted red tomato and spread dollops, and yellow tomato puree as well, over top of vegetables as ratatouille sauce. Grate parmesan cheese.
7) Next layer: place another layer of phyllo dough covering the vegetable mixture and repeat, covering with veggies, etc. at random. Layer until baking dish is full. Finish with layer of phyllo topped with grated cheese. In effect the dish is a sort of Greek lasagna, using phyllo rather than pasta and vegetables for the filling.
8) Bake for 25 minutes or until the edges are golden and crispy. Drizzle olive oil over top and garnish with fresh basil and parsley before serving. Serves 4.

This dish is so flavorful with many different vegetables that even the non-vegetarians won't miss the meat - it's hearty and packed with flavor in every bite. I served this vegetable entree with good fresh bread and a roasted red pepper white bean puree on the side (literally a red bell pepper roasted with salt, pepper, and olive oil, blended with cannelini beans) and finished the dinner party with homemade almond gelato for dessert (made from almond milk, light cream, and a dash of sugar and almond extract) topped with slivered almonds, for a perfect, light and refreshing, summer meal.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Farmers Market Finds

It's farmers market season! I went to my local favorite, the Brookline Farmer's Market, yesterday and found some great fresh produce. This farmers market is open through the summer and fall every Thursday and brings local growers from around the region, such as Cook's Farm Orchard, Kimball Fruit Farm and Bob's Turkey Farm, as well as Smith's Country Cheese and local organic Taza Chocolate.

This trip to the market I found some leafy green kale, gleaming yellow squash, shining zucchini, and a less common variety:

Cousa squash, similar to a zucchini but lighter in color, is a great different summer squash. Originated in the Middle East, cousa squash can be found in Persian cuisine, often stuffed with tabbouleh, rice, lamb, or couscous. It's naturally sweet and perfect for summer meals!

I also found some massive heirloom tomatoes, swirling red, yellow and green, that were irresistable:

With this enormous yellow tomato I made a roasted golden tomato puree, by roasting the whole tomato in the oven with salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil, for about 45 minutes, then cooling and blending in the food processer with a bit of sauteed onions, garlic, red chili, and basil. The combination of smoky roasted flavor and sweet yellow tomato made a delightful sauce that I used to top grilled portobello mushroom caps, with fresh julienned basil, for a succulent veggie meal. Heirloom tomatoes are also delicious fresh, with some sea salt sprinkled over top -

"You don't have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces - just good food from fresh ingredients." - Julia Child

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Bok Choy with Cashews

I was lucky enough to get some greens from Beth's Farm, and I decided to make the bok choy with an Asian flair. Cashews are my newfound love - when I was a kid I thought I didn't like nuts, and slowly over the years have been introducing them to my diet; this summer I discovered that I love cashews! Packed with protein, magnesium, and iron, these nuts pack a quick energy punch and indulge cravings with monounsaturated fat that give the buttery rich taste. Cashews are typical in Thai, Chinese and Indian cuisine, mixed into sauces and used as crunchy garnishes, an excellent way to add protein to a vegetarian dish. I've just gone nuts for cashews! (Terrible pun intended.)

Here's my Bok Choy with Cashews recipe:


Cashews (to taste - I used about half a cup)

Bok choy (1 head per serving)

Bunch green onions (2-3 per head of bok choy)

Few tsp. peanut oil

Few tsp. minced garlic

Splash of sesame oil

Pinch of hot chili paste (I used , authentic Asian)

1/2 tsp. soy sauce (I'm not a huge fan of soy)

Sesame seeds (to taste)

Salt and pepper to taste

1) Toast cashews in a dry pan on medium-low heat until the nuts are fragrant. I used raw cashews (unsalted allows you to control the level of sodium in the dish) and toasted them for about 20 minutes and then removed them from the pan. Toast the sesame seeds as well if preferred.
2) Add the peanut oil to the pan and chopped scallions, including both the greens and the whites. Once the scallions are getting soft, add the minced garlic to the pan.
3) Wilt the boy choy into the pan, roughly chopped, adding splash of sesame oil, soy and hot chili paste. Toss with tongs to coat bok choy evenly in oil and mix around seasoning.
4) Turn heat down to low and cover, cooking for a minute. Add cashews and sesame seeds back to the pan and season with salt and pepper.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Pie in the Sky

Pie in the Sky in Woods Hole, MA is the best place for a date in town. (And not because it's one of the only places.) The bakery and cafe is of course famous for its pies, and also serves homemade pastries such as croissants, baked goods such as cookies and popovers, and breads - the air always smells heavenly around this cozy joint by the harbor. With an assortment of organic coffees, espresso and cocoa for the colder months and savory foods such as made-to-order sandwiches, Pie in the Sky hits all the spots. The outdoor patio seating and smoothie/juice bar is perfect for summer days, and for Sunday breakfast the place was literally overflowing with people, packed to the brim at 9 a.m. It's the best place in town.

The rotating selection of seasonal pies never fail to impress: upon my visit I saw a rhubarb pie, pecan pie, key lime pie, and a decadent chocolate creation - at Pie in the Sky you can get pie around the clock. (Ever had pie for breakfast? Awesome.) The bakery had served up classic chocolate chip cookies, blondies, seven-layer bars, a decadent-lookin chocolate peanut butter bar, and key lime raspberry bars that were tart, light and refreshing despite the massive-sized serving they give you - we ate it with a spoon.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Cape Cod Cranberry Orange Muffins

I decided to make orange cranberry muffins to bring in a picnic basket to the shore over the weekend, and created this recipe for a healthier breakfast treat:

1 cup dried cranberries
3 oranges, zest and juice
2/3 cups light brown sugar
1/2 cup Earth Balance butter
2 eggs (applesauce snack-sized cup as vegan substitute)
1/4 tsp. almond extract
3/4 cups flour (can use almond flour as substitute)
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup 2% milk (soy or almond milk as substitute)
1/2 container orange yogurt (I used Yoplait orange creme mousse for a light and fluffy tang)
Few tbsp. turbinado sugar

1.) Place dried cranberries in a small saucepan on low heat with a few tbsp. water, the juice of one orange, and a few tbsp. brown sugar. Stir with a wooden spoon, allowing the cranberries to soak. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease muffin tin.
2.) Zest the oranges, while allowing butter and eggs to come to room temperature. Cream butter and sugar and add the orange zest of all three oranges, the juice of another orange, and then the eggs and extract.
3.) Alternate between adding dry ingredients and milk and yogurt, scraping sides of the bowl with a spatula but not overmixing.
4.) Remove plumped cranberries from heat and fold into batter, reserving their soaking liquid. Add the juice of the last orange. Pour into muffin tin and top with turbinado sugar and any remaining orange zest.
5.) Bake for 25 minutes or until toothpick comes clean. Cool and enjoy!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Farm Fresh al Fresco

Dining al fresco: heirloom tomatoes stuffed with basil-shallot couscous, steamed beet greens, and a green salad with radishes, slender sweet carrots, and juicy strawberries from the farm.

My friend Ashley brought back produce from her family's farm in Maine, a gorgeous place with a farm stand, Beth's Farm Market, that sells fresh produce home-grown on the farm, bakery items, and greenhouse flowers. The strawberries are incredible, with made-to-order strawberry shortcakes in the summer that have become infamous in the area:

(see photo)

(On my trip up to the farm the summer before last. Nothing better than eating strawberries next to the field they're growing in ...)

Beth's Farm Market has everything from wild Maine blueberries to sweet corn to an array of greens: curly leaf and lacinta kale, dandelion greens, red and swish chard, to Chinese cabbage. Not to mention rhubarb, kohlrabi, and 11 kinds of squash. Definitely stop by if you're heading to Maine!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Oh, Canada ...

In honor of Canada Day, an ode to poutine, a typical dish in Quebec:

(fries covered in gravy and cheese curds)

If you're craving this indulgent late night snack, it can be found in Boston at the Beehive in the South End, which is one of my favorite places, hands down. This restaurant and bar has an excellent ambience with funky, speakeasy decor, good food and delightful cocktails, and live music with everything from soul to Afro-jazz to reggae - it's a vibrant scene unlike the rest in the city.
Try the Flying Dutchman martini. But be warned: they pack a real punch! You may just need some poutine after to soak it up...

In the Canadian spirit, check out my previous post: http://princess-peach-kitchen.blogspot.com/2010/06/montreal-dining.html