TND – Taking a Break

May 22, 2014


Bits and Pieces of recent food-related news

The next season of Top Chef is filming in Boston. Apparently Padma Lakshmi has already been spotted at the Copley Square farmer’s market, and is as tall and gorgeous in person as she appears on TV. I predict that there will be some adventure on a lobster boat, and something involving food carts on the Greenway. Guest judges will definitely include Barbara Lynch (#9 Park, Sportello, Menton, etc.) and Tony Maws (Craigie on Main), with possible appearances by Tim Maslow (Ribelle), Ana Sortun (Oleana), Jody Adams (Rialto), and Barry Maiden (Hungry Mother)

There’s a revolution coming in restaurant reservations . . . maybe. Currently OpenTable has something of a strangle-hold on the on-line restaurant reservation world. I freely admit that I use them all the time and find them very convenient. However, apparently they’re not so great for the restaurants in economic terms. It’s not cost efficient for individual restaurants to all have their own online reservation system – the set up costs outweigh the benefits – and market saturation means that most people go to OpenTable before they check out the restaurant website (if they go there at all). However, a group in Chicago is trying out a new theory in restaurant reservations. Not only are they not using OpenTable, but they’re also rolling out a reservation system in which you pre-pay for your meal when you book the table and how much you pay for the meal depends on the date and time you choose. So, for example the same meal at 8pm on a Saturday in the middle of the season might cost of $235/person (very high end restaurant), whereas at 5:30pm on a Thursday in the middle of winter might only run you $185/person.

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about that. On the one hand, pre-paying for a meal is an interesting idea. On the other hand, I feel like it is adding yet another layer of stratification to a food culture which is already pretty stratified.

And finally, I am feeling vindicated by science. In a fascinating (and wildly unexpectedly ethical) turn of events the scientist who first scared the world with news of the celiac/gluten-intolerance epidemic went back and did his research all over again from scratch. What he found was that it might all be in your head. He revisited his test and controlled for even more variables this time around and discovered that many people who self-report as suffering from a gluten intolerance reported gastro-intestinal issues during the test period whether there was gluten in their food or not.

Now, either this means that there is a psychosomatic element at play, or that they are reacting to something else that isn’t gluten. That something else could be commercial preservatives commonly found in purchased foods, or more worryingly something known as FODMAPS which are short chain carbohydrates that are known to be digestively problematic. The danger with that is that FODMAPS are basically everything (fruits/vegetables) plus beans and grains, which I guess leaves you with a diet of meat? The paleo people might be happy about that.

There are, without doubt, people who suffer from celiac disease and/or other medically diagnosed problems that cause them to be unable to digest gluten. One of our friends is one such person, and am thrilled for her the degree to which labeling has become more precise on foods, and the sheer variety of good gluten-free alternatives that are available to her. On the other hand, there are many many people who self-diagnose and as far as I can tell make their lives more difficult for no particularly medically good reason.

And finally, an instance of decorative covetousness, I plan to buy one of these book shaped serving dishes as soon as I figure out which one is the most useful size.


Turkey Zucchini Sliders
Beet & Orange Salad with a Pomegranate-Balsamic Drizzle
Israeli Couscous with Roasted Cauliflower & Acorn Squash
Salad with Carrot Ginger Dressing

Turkey Zucchini Sliders
Indulging in a week of lighter Dinner fare as a pause between mountains of Easter chocolate, and the first official Birthday Dinner of the year.

Recipe previously given: Curiosity Killed the Cat


Beet & Orange Salad with a Pomegranate-Balsamic Drizzle
(serves 6-8)

4 large beets
3 oranges
2 oz goat cheese, crumbled
¼ cup pistachios, chopped
¼ cup pomegranate molasses
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp honey
Pepper, to taste

Combine the pomegranate molasses, balsamic vinegar and honey in a small saucepan. Simmer briskly until reduced to a syrup. Season to taste with a pinch of salt, and a generous sprinkle of pepper.

Roast, peel, and slice the beets into ¼” thick slices. Peel the oranges, and slice into ¼” thick slices.

Alternate the sliced beets and oranges on a serving platter. Scatter the crumbled goat cheese and chopped pistachios over the top. Drizzle with the reduced pomegranate-balsamic sauce.

beets & oranges

Israeli Couscous with Roasted Cauliflower & Acorn Squash
(serves 6-8)

1 large onion, minced
1 ½ cups Israeli couscous
15 oz water and/or stock (this is a weird amount of liquid – just under 2 cups – blame math*)
½-2/3 cup chopped dried apricots
Zest of ½ an orange
3” cinnamon stick
Handful each of mint, basil, parsley, finely minced
1 medium acorn squash, cut into a ½” dice (or any other kind of hard squash you have to hand/like)
1 small head cauliflower, sectioned into small florets
Olive oil
Mild vinegar (I used raspberry red wine – but any mild vinegar or lemon juice will work)

Preheat oven to 375.

Arrange the squash and cauliflower on a baking sheet. Season generously with salt and pepper. Dust with cinnamon and a pinch of cloves. Toss with olive oil, a splash of vinegar, and a drizzle of honey. Roast for 20-25 minutes, turning once halfway through for even browning.

Meanwhile, saute the onion in a little olive oil until softened, season with salt/pepper/sprinkle of cinnamon. Add the couscous and stir to coat the couscous and toast slightly. Add the dried apricots, orange zest and cinnamon stick and stir to combine. Add the water (or stock) and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 8-10 minutes, or until the couscous is cooked (should still have a slightly chewy texture). Remove from heat, cover with a towel & pot lid and allow to sit for 3-5 minutes.

Drain any excess water from the couscous and then mix with the roasted squash & cauliflower, and the minced herbs. Season to taste with salt/pepper/lemon juice/drizzle of olive oil.


* And by blame math I mean that the box of couscous recommends cooking 1 cup of couscous in 1 ¼ cups water which equals 10 oz. Therefore, to cook 1 ½ cups of couscous you need 1 7/8 cups water or 15 oz. Or, just eyeball something slightly less than 2 cups of water/stock and call it a day – I’d err on the side of slightly less liquid than slightly more because you don’t want your final dish to be soupy.

Salad with Carrot-Ginger Dressing

Recipe for Carrot-Ginger Dressing previously given: On a Mission



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