Sharing the Harvest and Cooking with Friends

Happy 2014, Folks!! To ring in the New Year we have a very special guest post from our good friend Michelle Camiel, who took over our kitchen and showed us MAGIC!

Here’s her story:

I love to cook. My favorite thing about cooking is sharing the food I make with people I like. For the past few years I’ve been getting a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share from Shared Harvest, which supplies fresh veggies, fruit, and other locally-made items from several farms and artisans (i.e. dried beans from Baer’s Best). This year I signed up for the 2-month share, which I pick up once in November and once in December. Each share has approximately 40 pounds of fresh produce. Participating in a CSA forces me to cook differently by finding creative ways to use the produce I have. It took me a while to get used to this but now I love it. (I also do a CSA from June-October from Farmer Dave’s in Dracut.)

My friend AJ and I are always talking about food–in particular eating healthier food. When I got my December CSA I asked AJ if we could plan a cook day to make a bunch of recipes together so that I could share my CSA share contents. Of course he complied! I sent him some recipes to get approval. I also provided a shopping list for him to get some supplies for our 4 recipes. We decided on Carrot Miso Soup from Smitten Kitchen, Crunchy Cabbage Icebox Salad from Food and Wine, Black Bean Chili with Butternut Squash from Bon Appetit and Root Vegetable and Cauliflower Tagine with Parsley yogurt from Food and Wine.

Recipe#1: Carrot Miso Soup.

2013-12-22 14.26.12If you’re not familiar with Deb Perlman’s blog Smitten Kitchen I highly recommend it. It’s filled with simple, flavorful recipes like this soup. This is a great recipe to use up 2 pounds of carrots. The miso adds a salty umami bomb that sends this soup into flavor heaven. The suggested garnish of scallions and a tiny bit of sesame oil really push it over the top.

Bottom Line: AJ, Spencer and I all agreed this was a keeper.

Recipe #2: Crunchy Cabbage Icebox Salad.

Icrunchycabbagsaladfoodandwinephotowithcredit‘ve had this recipe on my mind for a while because I’m always looking for a good way to use up green cabbage. It’s a nutrition powerhouse as well as super crunchy and cheap. This is one of those layered salad recipes that hangs out in the fridge for a while before you eat it. I almost never make things like this so I was really curious about it and glad it made the cut. The dressing is a mix of greek yogurt, garlic, a bunch of fresh herbs, fresh lime juice, skim milk and cayenne. Kind of like a spicy ranch dressing but completely fat-free. My cayenne alarm went off when I saw that the recipe called for one teaspoon of it. That may not sound like a lot, but usually recipes just call for a pinch. Against my better judgment, I added the whole teaspoon. If I were to make this recipe again, I would definitely cut back on the cayenne or add ground chipotle powder instead. AJ suggested chili powder which I think would work well too. The thing about cayenne is that it adds heat but doesn’t add a lot of flavor. We had two smallish heads of cabbage and I showed AJ how to shred it using his new [used] handed down food processor. He was having fun shredding up the cabbage, radishes and kohlrabi (I substituted the jicama for the kohlrabi because I got kohlrabi in my share and I honestly never know what to do with it).

Bottom Line: This recipe was awesomely delicious. We all agreed that next time double the avocado, double the pumpkin seeds and definitely omit the cayenne or reduce it by a lot. A couple of things that made me really happy about making this salad were that AJ and Spencer had never had watermelon radishes or kohlrabi before, AJ is now a lover of Greek yogurt (say “FA-YEH!”) and the salad was freaking delicious! (Later in the week I grilled some sirloin flap steak from M.F. Dulock butcher in Somerville and had it on top of the salad–yummers!) Warning: this recipe makes a TON of salad!

Recipe #3: Black bean chili with butternut squash.

2013-12-22 14.48.10This recipe is awesome. I have made this many times and it’s delicious and nutritious and totally vegan if that’s what you’re into. The best part for me was that AJ peeled and cut up the butternut squash which is not a task I enjoy. This chili makes a huge amount and it’s great to freeze. Add the usual chili garnishes such as cheese, sour cream (we used greek yogurt), cilantro, avocado and you’ll be glad you did.

Bottom Line: Love it and feel good about eating it!

Recipe #4: Root vegetable and cauliflower tagine with parsley yogurt.

tagineandyogurtThis recipe calls for parsnips, turnips, and sweet potatoes which is why it appealed to me. I’m always looking for ways to use up these delicious root veggies from the share. In addition to these veggies this recipe calls for about 25 other ingredients so take that for what it’s worth. A few adjustments we made to this recipe were: I hate olives so I omitted them; I doubled the currants because I love them (you could totally use raisins instead); we added a few cups of butternut squash because we had it leftover from the chili recipe. If you decide to make this recipe, note that it’s a little soupy when it needs to be more stewy. I found it best to let it reduce down a bit.

Bottom Line: We all liked this recipe’s healthy deliciousness and the floral notes of the saffron, but it was a lot of work and I’m not sure we’d make it again. It had a lot of flavor and was a nutrition powerhouse.

For extra flavor, add couscous.

For extra flavor, add couscous.

The Grand TOTAL!

I highly recommend cooking with friends. Tasting all the food together and packing it up for the freezer and fridge is fun. I love the idea of opening my freezer and knowing there are lots of healthy options that we cooked ourselves. With a little planning and some good company and music you can take a few hours out of your life and make some healthy meals to start the new year off right. You don’t have to do it the CSA-way, but I love supporting local farmers and purveyors and turning friends on to this way of cooking and eating. Thanks AJ and Spencer for letting me take over your kitchen! I had a blast.

Oh Boy! The Boynton

boynton-family-restaurantOn certain Tuesday nights, my friend Tina and I go to “get soup” at The Boynton. Truth is, for me, it’s soup for the soul. It is for her, too, but she also loves their Chicken Rice Soup ($3.99). A Comforting Chicken Stock with an abundance of Rice, Chicken and bits of Carrots.

The Comfort continues in our conversation. Tina is a life gift. She’s a lady that leaves a mark on a person’s life. A good woman. No doubts here. We are growing people and we cheer each other on. We take time to talk to each other and listen to each other too.

The Boynton has grown quite a bit during its time in Worcester. I started enjoying their good food when they were a pub and a neighboring pizza shop. The bartender or, on certain nights, a waitress would assist with food. As you know, I am here for food, so all I’ll mention about the drinks is: they don’t skimp.

The Boynton’s food is indulgent. In the last 15-20 years, the growth of the business has been revolutionary. They’ve:

  1. Remodeled and reorganized.
  2. Rebuilt the pizza shop into a full-sized state-of-the-art all-stainless-steel, shiny, new kitchen.
  3. Implemented an entirely new menu.
  4. Purchased neighboring property to increase the size of the parking area.
  5. Grew more and more. They even put dining room additions onto the dining room additions!

It’s great!! This growth was mandatory. The Boynton is packed on most Tuesday nights at nearly 10pm. The energy is high and environment relaxed with populations of all ages and walks of life coming together. The table and bar service is really good. I’ve never been wary of this destination. Click here to make a reservation and beat the crowd.

boynton_barThis past week, we ventured there after Tina got out of work. I arrived first and secured a table on the outer border of the main bar area. Our waitress, Nikie, greeted me within a few minutes and was knocking my socks off from the very beginning. I ordered our beverages and an appetizer. We were off to the races. I was feeling a win coming my way.

What did we eat? Tina had her soup and shared the appetizer with me. I was craving pizza and decided that I would chance a suggestion from the waitress. I was thinking she’d suggest something healthy and she delivered. A small pizza with eggplant, broccoli and garlic. I added onions, peppers and feta. Y’all know how I feel about Feta.

Spinach Artichoke Dip ($10.99) Spinach and Marinated Artichoke Hearts blended with Garlic and Herb Cheese topped with Parmesan Cheese and oven baked. Served with Pita Chips. I asked Nikie to replace the chips with simple pita bread wedges. I can’t get the thought of deep fried bread into my wellness plan. LOL. She was happy to help.

Sm. Cheese Pizza + Broccoli, Feta, Garlic, Eggplant, Onions and Roasted Red Peppers = a mound of a pizza prices fairly at $13.73. This pizza was 4 meals. Very pleased.

We love to chat with servers. We also learned that Nikie is a vegetarian, a factory farm activist and a climate activist.

For those of you reading my meanderings, you may remember The Sole ProprieterThe Boynton is directly across the street. This Highland Street neighborhood must have good eating in the water or something. Try The Boynton – you can order online and pick up or eat in the brick-walled comfy space you see here. They are always going to make you happy with your decision.

This is direct from the Boynton website and I AGREE: “Highly recommended for a night out with friends, dinner with the familly and a popular spot for students. Named after one of the founding fathers of Worcester Polytech, the Boynton Restaurant is located at 117 Highland Street, (Route 9), ample parking in the back.”

Go. Experience. Enjoy!

photo credits: http://www.boyntonrestaurant.com/