Fresh food. Simple and seasonal. Mostly Mediterranean.



Our Favorite Waffle

M.M.

In this age of shunning carbs, traditional waffles can now seem like a guilty pleasure. So we were delighted to discover this healthy alternative, a fantastic oatmeal waffle recipe that keeps the waffle love alive. Two cups of oatmeal to a half a cup of flour tips the balance towards a less refined treat. We call it "oatmeal on a plate." We hope that you will call it your new favorite waffle!

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Beyond Shortcake: Competition Tests Creativity
Seasonal Special

J.W.

As a judge at the recent annual Strawberry Dessert Contest at Verrill Farm in Concord, Mass., I had a tough task: choosing with my fellow judges a winning entry among seven beautiful and tasty desserts -- all made by kids. (We also judged adult entries, of which only three were submitted.) For about an hour before judging time, eager and ernest contestants presented their creations to our team of five judges -- members of the Culinary Guild of New England, and we tried our best to show equal enthusiasm for each platter of cupcakes, cookies, and custard. As the deadline loomed, we gathered our tasting spoons, palate-cleansing glasses of water, and grading sheets. Contestants, their family and friends, and other onlookers swarmed our table. We picked up our tiny tasting spoons and got to work, tasting and ranking each dessert on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the top score, in three different categories: creativity, presentation, and taste. Some desserts looked gorgeous but lacked imagination; others appeared ho-hum but burst with flavor. After sampling each one and pensively considering each category, the mathematician among us tallied up the scores, and the suspense mounted.... Alas, one dessert towered above the rest: a silky smooth Buttermilk Strawberry Panna Cotta garnished with fresh basil and macerated fresh strawberries. It was not only pretty but also delectably sweet-tasting. And most impressive of all, the Strawberry Buttermilk Panna Cotta was made by a 10-year-old. Bravo, Rachel T.!

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Our Favorite Waffle

M.M.

In this age of shunning carbs, traditional waffles can now seem like a guilty pleasure. So we were delighted to discover this healthy alternative, a fantastic oatmeal waffle recipe that keeps the waffle love alive. Two cups of oatmeal to a half a cup of flour tips the balance towards a less refined treat. We call it "oatmeal on a plate." We hope that you will call it your new favorite waffle!

Read more ...


Beyond Shortcake: Competition Tests Creativity

J.W.

As a judge at the recent annual Strawberry Dessert Contest at Verrill Farm in Concord, Mass., I had a tough task: choosing with my fellow judges a winning entry among seven beautiful and tasty desserts -- all made by kids. (We also judged adult entries, of which only three were submitted.) For about an hour before judging time, eager and ernest contestants presented their creations to our team of five judges -- members of the Culinary Guild of New England, and we tried our best to show equal enthusiasm for each platter of cupcakes, cookies, and custard. As the deadline loomed, we gathered our tasting spoons, palate-cleansing glasses of water, and grading sheets. Contestants, their family and friends, and other onlookers swarmed our table. We picked up our tiny tasting spoons and got to work, tasting and ranking each dessert on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the top score, in three different categories: creativity, presentation, and taste. Some desserts looked gorgeous but lacked imagination; others appeared ho-hum but burst with flavor. After sampling each one and pensively considering each category, the mathematician among us tallied up the scores, and the suspense mounted.... Alas, one dessert towered above the rest: a silky smooth Buttermilk Strawberry Panna Cotta garnished with fresh basil and macerated fresh strawberries. It was not only pretty but also delectably sweet-tasting. And most impressive of all, the Strawberry Buttermilk Panna Cotta was made by a 10-year-old. Bravo, Rachel T.!

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Tomates a la Monique

J.W.

I feel so fortunate. My lovely mother-in-law, Monique, is one of the best cooks I know, and she has been spoiling us with fabulous meals during our visit to her home in Montpellier, France. She calls her cooking "simple," and she's modest about her immense talent. She grew up in Algeria and learned everything about cooking from her mother, an intuitive cook who had all of the wonderful Mediterranean ingredients within arm's reach. Here in Montpellier, the capital of the Languedoc-Roussillon region in southern France, just an overnight ferry away from Monique's birthplace, those same ingredients are also readily available. With them, she works her magic and every dish is divine. Last night, for example, she started us off with bite-sized puff pastry filled with garlic and anchovies and a beet salad drizzled with a mustard vinaigrette and garnished with chives. Then we moved on to lamb shanks, slow cooked in red wine, fresh thyme, and honey; perfectly cooked haricots verts, and one of my favorite of her recipes, Tomates a la Provençal. It's not quite tomato season back home, but here in southern France, they are appearing at markets right alongside the season's delectable cherries and apricots. So here's a recipe to whet your appetite for that the beloved and all-too-fleeting season of tomatoes. Bon Appetit!

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Another Snowstorm? Let Them Eat Cake!

J.W.

I discovered this fabulous Orange Flourless Chocolate Cake when I interviewed White House pastry chef Roland Mesnier for the Christian Science Monitor. This cake, from Mesnier's memoir "All the President's Pastries," stood out to me. It happened to have been the favorite dessert of the Reagan family. It's now our family favorite as well, especially when we need a little pick-me-up after yet another day of shoveling snow! Bon Appetit!

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New York Entrepreneur Shines Spotlight on Ethnic Cooks

M.M.

Pantry Road hit the road last month to attend the International Association of Culinary Professional Conference (IACP) in Washington DC. This incredible four-day meeting gathers food writers, chefs, cookbook authors, cooking teachers, food innovators among others to share ideas, discover trends, and spark discussion about the world of food. It's a highlight of the year to connect with like-minded professionals eager to share their passion. A bonus of the culinary profession is that it attracts givers who nurture by nature. Unwilling to let the flame of that generosity and inspiration dim, we are eager to share stories of some of the amazing people we met. Our inaugural story is very spicy ... both figuratively and literally. The League of Kitchens, an accidental business.... Lisa Gross didn't intend to create an innovative cooking business unlike any other. The League of Kitchens evolved from an art project designed to highlight great ethnic cooks. But the deeper Lisa delved into the project, she realized there was a rich pool of talent waiting to be tapped, and once unleashed, there was no putting that genie back in the bottle.

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Divya's Kale Salad

J.W.

Last winter, when I was recovering from knee surgery and hobbling around, my lovely neighbor, Divya, brought our family this beautiful, fresh, nutrient-packed salad. It has since become a staple in our home and a dish that I often bring to gatherings, including this year's Thanksgiving, where it was a hit on our holiday table. Just the other night, while Blizzard Juno was raging, Divya and her family trudged through the snow, clutching a heaping bowl of her beloved kale salad, for an impromptu dinner at our place. I was reminded, once again, of its deliciousness. It's not bad looking either. Makes for a perfect contribution to any potluck!

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Azores Food Tour Now Offered with Pantry Road !

J.W.

This coming July, Chef Guida Ponte will be leading a culinary tour to her stunningly beautiful island, Sao Miguel, and Pantry Road will tag along and also helping Guida with the tour. (Above, l. to r., chef Guida Pointe, Pantry Road co-founder and tour assistant Jennifer Wolcott, and Azores local and assistant Sandra Goyanes.) So far, five people have signed up for the tour, which takes place July 25 to Aug. 1 -- and we have space for more. Please let us know ASAP if you'd like to join us. (See contact info below.) Her food tours are unlike any other. Guida knows São Miguel intimately, she has many friends and relatives there, and Guida is exceptionally skilled at cooking with the island’s bounty of seafood, spices, vegetables, and exotic fruits. Guests will visit a tea plantation, a pineapple farm, cook in a volcano, shop at farmer’s markets, or just relax at the beach or kick back at a cafe with a glass of local wine. Guida is a dear friend of Pantry Road's co-founders, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to be traveling with Guida to her beloved island, the largest of the Portuguese islands, also known as the “Green Island.” Guida wows customers every day with her cooking at Verrill Farm in Concord, Mass. Guida also lent her talent for nearly 20 years to Legal Seafood, where her Portuguese Fish Stew is still one of the most popular dishes on the menu there. She has cooked at the legendary James Beard House, and she was one of 500 American chefs chosen to participate in First Lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move to Schools" campaign.

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Cauliflower Beyond the Crudité Platter

J.W.

Long gone are the days when cauliflower only shows up for parties, typically on a platter with raw broccoli florets, carrot sticks, and a bowl of sour-cream-and-onion dip. Even boiling or steaming cauliflower is passé, as many cooks have caught on to the fact that those methods often result in a rather flavorless and sometimes water-logged dish. Fortunately, today's cooks have discovered many more imaginative ways to cook this nutrient-packed cruciferous vegetable. Roasting simply with garlic and olive oil often works well, but the absolute best recipe I've come across for cauliflower is this braised dish from "All About Braising," by Molly Stevens. During the winter months, I turn to Stevens's book often, as braising -- slow cooking on low temperatures in a closed pot with liquid such as stock, wine, or beer -- is a wonderfully comforting way to cook on a frigid day. Stevens won a James Beard Award for this cookbook in 2005, and it's no wonder. Every dish I've tried from "All About Braising" has been a standout.

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From Tabouli to Tartare, New Eastern Mediterranean Spot Wows Diners

M.M.

Chef Dave Becker, mastermind of the wildly popular Sweet Basil in Needham, has crossed the border into Wellesley with Juniper. Sweet Basil offers southern Italian comfort food... homemade pasta, fried calamari and unarguably the best Chicken Parmesan this side of Italy. Not content to rest on his laurels by duplicating his winning Italian formula, Dave reinvented himself by creating an intriguing Mediterranean menu to launch Juniper. Pantry Road took one for the team and stopped by for lunch recently. We were smitten by the food, the setting and the service. And we're eager to return for dinner to explore the rest of the Mediterranean by way of Chef Dave's inventive interpretations.

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Brussels Sprouts Worth the Drive

J.W.

On a recent jaunt up to Portland, Maine, I finally made it to Duckfat. I'd heard raves about the place for a long time and always wanted to discover why, with all the great restaurants in that town, this one is so popular. Even at 2:30 on a chilly afternoon in December, the place was mobbed. My husband and I were handed a pager, and then told a table would likely free up in about 15 minutes. After a few bites of our late lunch at Duckfat, we understood all the fuss. We started with their famous fries, fried in duck fat, of course, and the accompanying lemon-herb dipping sauce. We also shared a "Hali Pani," a panini made with fresh halibut, cheese, and caramelized red onion. But the best tasting dish of the day was a bowl of Brussels Sprouts, sautéed in duck fat and tossed with bread crumbs, bacon, and garlic. We literally fought with our forks over every last bite in that bowl. At home, I have been determined to replicate this same dish as best I can -- both with and, dare I say, without, the restaurant's signature ingredient -- for readers, who just might not have a couple of tablespoons of duckfat on hand. The flavor is a tad different without it but still excellent. If you can't get to Portland, this recipe will give you a feel for the dish. But the better option would be to make the trek -- yes, even in the wintertime, to savor Duckfat's Brussels Sprouts and the restaurant's many other fabulous dishes. Don't wait for a beach day to enjoy this vibrant city, where the food scene just gets better and better.

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