Foodie Blog

At a Boston Organic Hotspot, Shrugging Off New Concerns

By Adam Reilly   |   Thursday, September 6, 2012
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Organic tomatoes at a farmer's market in North America, September 2011. (Credit: public domain)

At City Feed in Jamaica Plain — one of Boston's go-to destinations for organic foods — customers didn't seem to concerned about a new study that questioned the health benefits of eating organic.

The study, which was conducted by researchers at Stanford University, reviewed four decades of data on organic produce and meat and found that the benefits of eating organic are questionable.

The researchers found that organic foods do offer some benefits — including fewer traces of pesticides on produce and less bacterial contamination on meats. But they also found that, on balance, organic food is no more nutritious than conventional alternatives. 

But at City Feed on September 4, the organic die-hards who spoke with WGBH said they won't be changing their shopping habits any time soon.

"I like to avoid pesticides," said Peggy Lynch of Cambridge. "I like to see fewer chemicals in our soil. And I really feel for the farmworkers who have to apply pesticides."

Lynch added that her decision to buy organic is based on environmental concerns, too.

"We need insects," she said. "We need bees. We need those small creatures to be part of our ecosystem."

Nathan Bowen of Jamaica Plain was similarly unimpressed.

"It's just one study," he said.

Bowen said he tends to buy local food that's also organically raised — and that his motivations remain intact.

"The reduction in transportation costs and fossil-fuel use is important to me personally," Bowen explained. "I also think it’s nice to know my eggs come from Farmer Joe down the street."

Of course, since organic food items frequently costs more than conventional equivalents, that knowledge has a price. And Stanford's study may give some ambivalent customers an excuse not to pay it. 

Watch Adam's interview and see more video from Greater Boston.

Recipe from The French Chef: Potage Parmentier

Wednesday, August 22, 2012
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Julia Child with French Onion Soup, as seen on The French Chef, 1963. (WGBH)


Potage Parmentier
(Leek or Onion and Potato Soup)

In this busy, can-opener world, a homemade soup often seems like a new taste sensation. The old French standby, leek and potato soup, tastes so good you cannot believe it is nothing but vegetables, water and salt simmered together. It is also versatile: add watercress and you have a potage au cresson, or chill it, lace it with cream and you have vichyssoise. Another delicious soup is cream of watercress with its final enrichment of egg yolks. Hot or cold, most French soups are very easy, and can be made ready hours before serving time.

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Chef Demonstration: Barbara Lynch

Wednesday, August 22, 2012
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Richard Garcia's Squid Submarine Sandwich

Wednesday, July 25, 2012
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Chef Garcia's Squid Submarine Sandwich

Seeking an alternative to the dismal meatball sandwiches from school cafeterias past, Chef Garcia has crafted local squid balls out of ground Long Fin squid from Point Judith, RI; breadcrumbs, garlic and marjoram; sandwiched in a black squid ink sesame submarine roll, topped with crispy tentacles and an old school tomato sauce he learned as a kid.

The sandwich combines chef Garcia’s passion for local, sustainable seafood and affinity for a good ol’ meatball sandwich, with a result that is as comforting as it is adventurous. “It’s a great alternative to a heavy meatball sub," says Garcia. "Once we add the seasoning and sauce, it literally tastes the same! Neither the squid nor the ink impart distinct flavors, so it’s more of a novelty than culinary genius, but always a hit when we feature it on the specials menu.”

Squid Submarine Sandwich

Ink Bread

3/4 oz Dry Yeast
1/2 cup whole milk
2 cups warm filtered water
2 oz unsalted butter (melted)
1 tsp Granulated sugar
2 TB squid ink
2 lbs AP Flour
2 tsp kosher salt

In bowl fitted with dough hook place all ingredients except for the flour and salt.
Place mixer on lowest setting and allow yeast to dissolve completely and all remaining ingredients to incorporate.
Add flour & salt and mix until a ball is formed.
Cover and place in a warm area of the kitchen. Allow to double in size
Punch down and remove from bowl onto floured surface. Cut into 4 oz balls. Shape the balls into ovals and uncovered  allow to rise (double in size) in warm area of kitchen again.
Brush with an egg wash before baking at 350F for 9-11 minutes.
Squid Meatballs

3 tbsp EVOO
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1 lb cleaned fresh squid tubes & tentacles
1 TB chopped FRESH oregano
1 TB chopped flat leaf parsley
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup finely ground panko bread crumbs
AP Flour for coating  meatballs
Red Sauce of Your choice (see below)

Saute the garlic & red onion in the extra virgin olive oil until translucent (do not allow to get any color).
Season the garlic and onion mixture with salt & pepper.
Process the tubes and tentacles ( reserve a few tentacles for garnish) in a food processor.
With the machine still running slowly incorporate the garlic mixture into the squid and then add the herbs, red pepper flake  and bread crumbs. Season with salt & pepper.
Form into meatballs and place in the freezer for 15 minutes to allow to set up properly.
Dust meatballs in flour and sauté in olive oil until golden brown.
Heat up your red sauce and add the meatballs, cook the meatballs in the sauce over low heat for 15 minutes

Old School Tomato Sauce

1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
10 lb of your farmers over ripe tomatoes, halved lengthwise, cored, and coarsely chopped
10 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly smashed
1 red onion sliced thinly
1 cup SPANISH extra-virgin olive oil (sorry I can never resist saying that)
1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves

Toss salt and sugar with tomatoes in a large bowl, then let stand until you can see lots of juice, this will take about 15 minutes.

Cook the onions and garlic in the extra virgin olive oil in a wide 8 to 10-quart heavy pot over low-moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until soft, 3 to 5 minutes. Carefully add tomato mixture, stirring to combine. Bring to a boil, covered, stirring occasionally, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring more frequently toward end of cooking, until sauce is thickened and reduced by half which will take about 3 hours. Add your fresh basil and force sauce through food mill (if you don't have a food mill, you can put everything in a food processor at this time or a blender)  into a large bowl, discarding all the solids left in the food mill. Ladle sauce into airtight containers and cool completely, uncovered, then freeze, covered if you’re not going to use right away. This makes about 2 qts of sauce.


Richard Garcia is the Executive Chef of the Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel. He is one of the many chefs who will be at the Taste of WGBH Food and Wine Festival on September 13-15, 2012. Be sure to check out his Chef Demo on Saturday.

Manju: A Taste Of Home For Seattle's Japanese Community

By Florangela Davila   |   Monday, July 9, 2012
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July 7, 2012
Manju from Umai Do Japanese Sweets, a bakery in Seattle, Wash.

Manju (MAHN-jew) are Japanese dough buns — often sweet — made from pounded rice flour dough and flavored fillings. In Japanese culture, a box of manju is what you'd take to someone's house on a special occasion, like Children's Day. Or you might simply snack on it with a cup of tea. But manju have to be eaten fresh, and they're pretty labor intensive, so nowadays, they can be hard to find.

On Saturdays, Art Oki's mom used to take him to the local sweets shop in Seattle's Nihonmachi, or Japantown. He was 6 years old and the perfect height to stare right into the display case. But that place closed in the 1970s.

Today Oki has his own shop called Umai Do on a street that used to cut through the old Japantown. In his shop, the manju sit in tidy rows. They look like dumplings in all different colors — bubblegum pink; green tea green; shiny white. They're steamed or baked. I pick one that looks like a potato, called imogashi.

It's got "cinnamon on the outside, cake covering, with white lima bean paste in the middle. I call that my Japanese version of a snickerdoodle," Oki says.

You read that right: white lima bean paste. It's surprisingly sweet. There are also manju filled with red azuki beans, and if this makes you leery, Oki will slip into manju sales mode. Beans have been a common ingredient in Asian desserts for centuries.

"When I talk to people who are new to Japanese sweets, I remind them it's a little softer than gummy bears," he says.

I say it's like gooey rice but a better consistency. It's like getting to eat a really good Play-Doh.

After the sweets shop from Oki's childhood closed, the nearest place to get manju was in Vancouver, B.C. And when that one closed, anyone traveling to California or Hawaii would get manju requests.

"At times I would have to bring back, like, six-dozen, so that was, like, half my carry-on," Oki recalls.

These chewy morsels speak to Japanese tradition and nostalgia, as our colleagues over at KQED have reported.

"My mother would say, 'Oh, I think you'd like this one.' I went with the plain white one, and I liked the anko, the bean paste, and got hooked," Oki says.

But getting hooked on the taste didn't mean he started baking then and there. For 30 years, Oki worked in local government as an accountant. Then he started at the bottom, apprenticing at a manju shop in Los Angeles where he learned the basics. He opened his store in Seattle only last year, and takes his sweets to cultural festivals, growing his customer base beyond those of Japanese descent. And, he says, he is learning from customers.

"The Hawaii folks actually suggested my newest item, the chi chi dango — coconut milk infused into the mochi. It tastes just like Hawaii," he says.

And for many people in Seattle, it tastes like home.

Copyright 2012 KPLU-FM. To see more, visit

Since When Does Summer Taste Like Doughnuts?

By Bonny Wolf   |   Monday, July 9, 2012
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July 8, 2012



I get saltwater taffy. You're at an ocean that is made of salt water. But doughnuts?

I'm clearly missing something, because many summer communities have doughnut shops, often open just for the season. Critical summer doughnut mass seems to be concentrated in the north and east — maybe because it's always summer in California, where they have their own different doughnut culture.

The summer shops usually are simple shacks with awnings and screen windows, no inside seating and a picnic table outside in the hot sun.

And each one has the world's best doughnuts.

In Grand Marais, Minn., near the entrance to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, there's a place that even changed its name from the Grand Marais Donut Shop to World's Best Donuts.

Like many others, World's Best is a family business — fourth generation in this case. When they opened in 1969, they used a tackle box under the counter as a cash register. The business grew and moved to a bigger building. But they're still open only in summer.

Britt's in Carolina Beach, N.C., has a fanatic following. Bloggers post the day and hour for the season opening. Since 1939, doughnut eaters have lined up for Britt's only doughnut offering: glazed. No sprinkles, jam, fruit or surprising colors.

Just the opposite is the Fractured Prune in Ocean City, Md., where you can get blueberry, creamsicle, lemonade and peanut butter cup doughnuts.

The Downyflake in Nantucket is believed to be the only one left of a chain that started in the 1930s. For years, my friend David got up early to beat the crowds and bring home a dozen doughnuts for his family. He won a family contest by eating eight at one sitting.

Much doughnut baking starts in the wee small hours of the morning, and the lines of barefoot, shorts-clad customers starts early and is always long.

At the Back Door of Martha's Vineyard Gourmet Cafe and Bakery, though, people line up between 7:30 at night and 1 a.m. for doughnuts. One regular says, yes, these are the world's best doughnuts.

I still don't quite get it. To me, summer is more snow cones and popsicles than doughnuts. But maybe Homer Simpson was right when he said, "Doughnuts. Is there anything they can't do?"

Bonny Wolf is the author of Talking with My Mouth Full and contributing editor of NPR's Kitchen Window.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit

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Adam Reilly is a political reporter and associate producer for WGBH's Greater Boston.


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