Thursday, July 31, 2008

Green Grocer Chic

If you're like me, you get to the checkout line at the grocery store when suddenly it dawns on you that the pile of reusable grocery bags you conveniently stash in the car are, conveniently, still. in. the. car.


Dilemma and, well, just plain bulky. If you're like me, you grab a basket and seemingly shop for enough food to feed a family of 8, convincing myself that it will all cram nicely in a one by two plastic basket instead of a cart. With all this food, where exactly are all those folded up canvas bags going to go anyway?

Well, on a recent trip to NYC, I discovered the solution to my problem: Envirosax. Envirosax are eco-friendly reusable polyester bags that fold up and roll up so tiny that they easily fit into your purse or pocket. They are sold individually or in pouches of 5 and hold an amazing 44 pounds of, well, whatever! In addition to being washable, they come in upwards of 30 colors and prints, so you can save the planet in style.

As always, it seems that high fashion comes with a high price tag, and Envirosax are definitely not your typical dirt cheap canvas or "plastic" grocery sack made from recycled soda bottles. A single bag will run you $8.50 and their pouch of 5 a cool $37.95.

Steep yes, but where are my Envirosax? In my purse, ready for the farm stand, grocery store or next trip to the pharmacy, never to be forgotten in the car again!

Fabulous Feasting,
The Diva.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Hands off the tomalley, people!

This week the FDA issued an advisory against the consumption of Maine Lobster tomalley due to dangerous levels of toxins that could lead to Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP).

For clarity, tomalley is the "icky green stuff" in the body cavity of the lobster that acts as the liver and pancreas. Mmmm...

For further clarity, I don't know about you, but the liver of a bottom-feeding crustacean is not at the top of my list of things to eat in the first place. Just think about how your liver felt after a long night of drinking in college and then think about a lobster digesting a nice meal of dead fish and boat fuel before ending up on your plate. Alas, I digress.

The culprit responsible for hindering the consumption of green gooey (questionable) goodness? Likely the result of the summertime gift that keeps on giving, the red tide. Most shellfish and crustaceans store PSP toxins for 6 weeks following a red tide, however some can store it for 2 years.

Just so you know, Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning is no laughing matter. According to the FDA, "Symptoms of PSP include tingling and/or numbness of the mouth, face or neck; muscle weakness; headache; and nausea. In extreme cases, when large amounts of the toxin are consumed, these symptoms can lead to respiratory failure and death. Symptoms usually occur within two hours of exposure to the toxin. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek medical attention."

While a lobster's tomalley may be seething with toxins, luckily, the meet remains unaffected, so don that plastic bib and dig in!

Fabulous Feasting,
The Diva.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Casting Call: Food Network

The Food Network is looking for America's worst home cooks for a new show that pairs hapless culinary failures with some of the best chefs from around the country. So if you or someone you know is miserable in the kitchen (we're talking burn-the-house-down miserable), sign up today!

More information can be found here.

Fabulous Feasting,
The Diva.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Make Your Reservations!

As promised, dear readers, I deliver. Open Table is now accepting reservations for Boston's 2008 Summer Restaurant Week participants.

Go. Now! Make your reservations! I'm way ahead of you with 5, so go!

Fabulous Feasting,
The Diva.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Another Reason to Eat Your Broccoli, Boys

Last week, scientists from the Institute of Food Research in England announced findings that suggest that broccoli can provide protection against prostate cancer. Study results showed that men with a gene called GSTM1 react well to a diet of large quantities of cruciferous vegetables, and that the byproducts of glucosinolates (of which broccoli has ALOT) can block some signals -- the cancer-causing signals, that is -- that are sent within cancer cells.

On a nerdier note (hey, I like the nerdy) the scientists used gene expression (a method often used in drug discovery) to measure and compare biopsy tissue from the prostates of pea-fed and broccoli-fed volunteers. It marks both a new application of gene expression and a new approach to performing dietary research.

Bottom line? Mom was right: eat your's good for you.

Fabulous Feasting,
The Diva.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Restaurant Week Boston, Summer 2008

Boston's summertime Restaurant Week stint is on the calendar, though detailed information is still forthcoming. It will run two weeks in August, from the 10th - 15th and then again from the 17th - 22nd.

Per usual, 3-course lunches and dinners at more than 200 of the Boston-area's best restaurants will be priced $20.08 and $33.08 respectively.

Stay tuned to The Diva for additional details, or visit the Restaurant Week Boston site for more information. Don't forget, reservations are through Open Table and fill up fast!

Fabulous Feasting,
The Diva.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Sweet Balsamic Corn Salad

When it's hot and I don't feel like cooking and certainly don't feel like eating yet another green salad, I throw together a quick and easy corn salad that makes for a welcome change. The great thing about this salad is that its versatile. Most of the ingredients are readily available in the fridge during the summer months and you can make it with either fresh or leftover cooked corn, depending on what you have on hand (or what you prefer). Just make sure if you use cooked corn that it's chilled or at least room temperature. Also, you can serve it alone, or mixed with baby arugula or mesclun, depending on your mood.

Balsamic Corn Salad

3 ears of corn (raw or cooked)
1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Using a sharp knife, remove corn kernels from the cob. Transfer to a large bowl and use fingers to break up any large pieces. Combine corn with red onion, parsley, oil and vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Serves 4

Recipe Notes:

Depending on the size of the ears and your personal tastes, you may need to adjust the amounts of the ingredients. When I make it, it's more of a "toss a little of this, a little of that" type of measurement, so the amounts listed above are something of an approximation.

The salad should be coated but not drowning in oil and vinegar, so err on the side of caution when adding liquid. Also, the longer the salad sits before serving, the more natural juices seep from the corn.

I like this salad much better chilled, rather than room temperature.

Fabulous Feasting,
The Diva.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A blast from the past: Jordan Marsh Blueberry Muffins

Before we get to the good stuff, a brief history lesson.

Jordan Marsh was a Boston-based department store founded in 1841 by Eben Jordan and Benjamin L. Marsh. With the rise of retail conglomerates, Jordan Marsh became part of Allied Stores (1931) and then Federated Department Stores (1988), a move that renamed all stores, including the flagship store in Boston's Downtown Crossing shopping district (pictured at left), Macy's.

The Jordan Marsh flagship store was home to the legendary Enchanted Village, an elaborate holiday display which, at times, spanned entire floor of the store in addition to its windows.

Perhaps even more legendary was Jordan Marsh's bakeries. Infamous, however, were the blueberry muffins.

A December 2004 Boston Globe article put it best: "For decades, any decent downtown shopping trip ended at Jordan Marsh, where the promise of a sugar-crusted blueberry muffin could make annoying children angelic."

Manning the ovens was John Pupek, who made the muffins by hand, one batch at a time. In the 1990's, when Jordan Marsh was no more, Pupek opened the Jordan Marsh Muffin Company in Brockton to fulfill the cravings of blueberry-muffin hungry Bostonians. He did so until closing up shop on Christmas Eve 2004.

Pupek may not be baking Jordan Marsh blueberry muffins any longer, but the recipe lives on.

Jordan Marsh Blueberry Muffins

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup milk
2 cups blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream the butter and cups sugar until light and smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder and add to the creamed mixture alternately with the milk. Crush 1/2 cup blueberries with a fork, and mix into the batter. Gently fold in the remaining whole berries.

Grease 12 large muffin cups, including the surface of the tin (alternative: grease surface of tin and line tin with paper liners). Fill generously with batter. Sprinkle sugar over the tops of the muffins, and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.

Cool 30 minutes before removing. Store, uncovered, because the muffins are so moist.

Yield: 12 muffins.

Recipe Notes:

I've seen versions of this recipe that call for different baking methods: 375 for 30 minutes, 450 for 5 minutes and then an additional 30 to 35 minutes at 375, etc. These variations have yet to be tested in my kitchen (give me time, I've got plenty of blueberries left).

Depending on how sweet your blueberries are, you may want to reduce the amount of sugar in the batter to one cup. When it comes to sprinkling sugar on top of the muffins, be creative! I used vanilla sugar and raw sugar on mine, but good old granulated sugar works just fine.

If your berries are particularly large, consider mashing up more than 1/2 cup. I'll likely do this the next time, since the whole berries can take over the batter and cause the muffins to fall after baking.

I came across a recipe that includes 1-2 teaspoons of vanilla, something that deviates from the original. Go for it, if it strikes your fancy. I prefer sans-vanilla.

For extra large muffins, chill the batter in the fridge for about 15 minutes before scooping into large muffin tins.

Fabulous Feasting,
The Diva.