Craving Boston: A New WGBH Food Blog

Craving Boston food blog

Some of you may remember reading about a surprise announcement coming up. Well, here it is! Recently, I’ve become a contributing writer for Craving Boston! A new food blog! I’m so excited! For those of you not from the local area, WGBH is one of our local PBS and NPR media outlets.

I’ve been a WGBH sustaining member for several years and a fan for even longer. Most of my life actually! As a kid, watching Sesame Street on WGBH may have been one of my first ever long-term television watching experiences. So I’ve come full circle.

Craving Boston is a food blog exploring the deep connection between the New England region and its cuisine.

My first article for the food blog, Prison Gardens Grow Food and Skill Sets, came about because I learned about the large vegetable harvest from the garden at Bridgewater State Hospital.

Also, I have been thinking about the issue of incarceration. It’s been in the news a great deal lately. From President Obama being the first president to visit a prison to Pope Francis visiting inmates as well. A Washington Post article quotes the Pope’s words.

This time in your life can only have one purpose: to give you a hand in getting back on the right road, to give you a hand to help you rejoin society. All of us are part of that effort, all of us are invited to encourage, help and enable your rehabilitation.

The New Garden Society provides “therapeutic and vocational horticulture training” to the students as part of the facility’s Horticulture program. The Horticulture Society of New York talks about the benefits of gardening.

Horticultural therapy is an ancient practice that uses plants and gardens as tools in human healing and rehabilitation. Its benefits include stress reduction, mood improvement, alleviation of depression, social growth, physical and mental rehabilitation, wellness, and vocational training.

Since today is Halloween, I am especially reminded of a statement by one of the students. He said that he hadn’t seen a pumpkin in 20 years. I cannot even imagine that.

Seeing pumpkins is a signal for the change in seasons and something that we take for granted this time of year. Sometimes the simplest things can be the most important.

I hope you’ll click over and take a look at the full article. Happy Halloween!

*Updated 12/12/2020* I should have updated this post years ago. Craving Boston no longer exists, but most of the articles that I wrote have moved over to WGBH website. Unfortunately, this original article wasn’t moved over, but I  found it archived on The Wayback Machine.

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Screenshot: WGBH

{You Pick Six} An Interview with Writer: Amy Traverso

Amy TraversoMy apple appetite keeps increasing. Sometimes I’m eating more than an apple a day!

But who can blame me? Certainly not Amy Traverso, who wrote The Apple Lover’s Cookbook and is Senior Lifestyle Editor at Yankee Magazine.

As mentioned in a previous post, I learned about Amy’s book after seeing her speak as part of a panel discussion at TECHmunch Boston. She was also named one of Boston’s “Ultimate Tastemakers” by Boston Common magazine.

So it’s truly an honor to have her participate in the eighth part of the interview series, You Pick Six. Let’s jump in!

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What is a favorite simple recipe to prepare at home?
This time of year, it’s definitely my grandmother’s apple crisp, which she first discovered in an issue of Country Gentleman magazine back in the 1930s. She saved the clipping and now I have it. It’s different from the oatmeal-based crisps that most people know, because the topping is more like a cobbler or a sweet biscuit. You combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder as the base and the only liquid comes from a couple of eggs that you stir in until the mixture is crumbly. Then you drizzle 6 or 8 tablespoons of butter over the whole thing and sprinkle it with cinnamon. I have absolutely no self-control around this dish and will gladly eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you come to my house for dinner in the fall, chances are this is what I’m serving for dessert.

Grandma Mary’s Apple Crisp
Yield: 8 servings
Time: 1¼ hours, largely unattended

5 large tender-tart apples (such as McIntosh or Jonathan; about 2½ pounds total), peeled, cored, and cut into ¼-inch-thick rings or slices
5 large firm-sweet apples (such as Jazz or Ginger Gold; about 2½ pounds total), peeled, cored, and cut into ¼-inch-thick rings or slices
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup (1 stick) salted butter, melted and cooled
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF, and set a rack to the middle position. Arrange the sliced apples in an even layer in a 9- by 13-inch baking dish (no need to grease it); set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Add the eggs and, using a fork or a pastry cutter, work in until crumbly. The mixture will look like streusel, with a mix of wet and dry bits. (Have no fear; the eggs provide enough liquid.)

3. Spread the topping evenly over the apples, then drizzle all over with the melted butter. Sprinkle with cinnamon and bake until the topping is golden brown and apple juices are bubbling, 45 to 55 minutes. Let cool 20 minutes, then serve warm from the pan.

Apple Stack Cake-horz2What is some of the best advice you’ve ever received?
My father always told me that if you become an expert at something, you’ll always have work to do. Of course, you also have to be good at many things in order to have a career as a food writer. You should be able to cook, to cover trends, to write about restaurants. But having one area of concentration is useful.

What is a favorite quote?
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” – from Neale Donald Walsch. I used to hate public speaking or doing live TV. I completely dreaded having to promote The Apple Lover’s Cookbook. I wanted to stay in the kitchen and behind my computer!  And then I got a call from my publicist informing me that she had booked me on The Martha Stewart Show. I hung up the phone and cried. But having to do it (Martha was very nice, btw) and having to get up there and give talks at libraries and women’s clubs and farmers’ markets reminded me that the only answer to fear is doing exactly the thing that you want to avoid. And the rewards come back tenfold. I’ve had so many wonderful experiences since I got out there.

What is a favorite childhood food memory?
I grew up in one of those Italian families with the grape arbor and a big garden in grandma’s back yard and salame hanging from the rafters in the root cellar. We had big Sunday dinners with homemade pasta and from-scratch cakes. (As I type this, I realize it sounds like a bad cliche or a Saveur personal essay parody, so let me add that my grandparents mixed their red wine with ginger ale and we made our pesto with cream cheese instead of pine nuts because it was cheaper). But the centrality of those Sunday dinners taught me that food isn’t merely sustenance or fashion, but something that can connect you with your community and history. It’s where some of my happiest childhood memories live and it’s what I wanted to bring into my adult life by becoming a food writer.

What is a favorite cookbook?
I still go back to The Zuni Cafe Cookbook and have learned more from it than perhaps any other book I own. There are others that do a terrific job of teaching technique, but Judy Rodgers knew how to explain the mechanics without losing the poetry. Also, reading her book reminds me of living in San Francisco and all the wonderful food we had there.

Tell me about your book.
The Apple Lover’s Cookbook is my love letter to an incredible fruit—one that has woven itself into human history for thousands of years. The project began with a simple love of apple crisp and other homey recipes and of the orchards themselves, but when I started learning about the history (for example: Apples are native to Asia, not North America) and about their diversity (there are thousands of varieties being grown worldwide), I was hooked.

The Apple Lover's CookbookApple are unique in the fruit world for many reasons. Unlike, say, oranges or lemons, apples are available in multiple varieties pretty much everywhere they’re sold. Even my neighborhood convenience store has Granny Smith and Red Delicious. And they all taste very different. They also respond differently to cooking: one (Northern Spy) will hold up well in a pie and another (McIntosh) will turn to mush. So I decided to bring some order to the chaos and organize about 60 different varieties into one of four categories, based on how sweet (or tart) they are and on how they respond to cooking. Are they firm and tart? Tender and sweet? I used that info to guide the recipes—there are 100 of them, from soup to entrees to dessert—and the book helps you choose the best ones for, say, pie versus pancakes versus braised brisket.

The book is full of gorgeous photos by Squire Fox, and I give tasting notes and historical info for each variety, plus an index with apple products, apple festivals, and a guide to hard cider, which is growing exponentially in popularity.

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Thank you so much for participating Amy!

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Photos provided by Amy Traverso.

{You Pick Six} An Interview with Writer + Cheese Maker: Korsha Wilson

Food Writer Korsha WilsonHave you ever met a cheese maker? Well, you’re about to! While, she is now a former cheese maker, it’s still quite a unique skill set to bring to the table, especially as a food writer.

Last summer while eating lunch at a Drive the District food blogger event, I met Korsha Wilson. I was fascinated to learn back then that she made cheese for a living and also writes about food.

Some of her older writings were at The Industry Press, where people in the Boston area restaurant industry shared their stories.

As a writer, her repertoire is constantly expanding. She’s written for Eater, New York Times Food, Civil Eats, Food & Wine and more. Follow her on Twitter to find her latest articles.

Let’s learn a little more about this prolific food writer, as Korsha answers six questions for the third part in the interview series, You Pick Six.

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What is a favorite snack?
I’m obsessed with french fries. I get cravings for them on a very regular basis and am constantly seeking out restaurants and bars that make them well. A good french fry (crispy and salty with great potato flavor) is surprisingly hard to find.

What is a favorite food movie?
Eat Drink Man Woman is one of the most underrated food movies in my opinion. It really captures the the beauty of preparing a meal for loved ones. Ratatouille is one of my all-time favorite movies and I think it does the best job of illustrating food’s ability to create connection. Also, there’s a bad ass female chef as one of the central characters and she has the same name as my mom.

What do you think that most people don’t understand about food?
I think a lot of people in this country feel like their love of food isn’t valid if it isn’t ‘fine dining.’ The proliferation of food media has led to the general public having a lot more food knowledge but it has also led to people feeling like food has to include certain ingredients or be cooked a certain way to be ‘good’. The food world is made up of everything that everyone eats. Period. Food belongs to everyone and everyone has a valid palate. I meet a lot of people who are afraid to tell me what they like to eat or cook because they assume that since I went to culinary school and worked in restaurants that all of the food that I eat is high-end or expensive. If you’re using great ingredients and cooking with care, whatever you’re cooking is going to be delicious and it’s worthy of being talked about.

best meal ever Locanda SpinolaWhat is the best meal you ever had and where was it?
That’s tough. I believe that every restaurant experience or every meal you make at home is different depending on your mood and other factors. My most recent favorite meal was at a small restaurant in Genoa, Italy.

After a day of sightseeing, my boyfriend and I had a drink at a local bar and asked the bartender where to have a good dinner. Instead of just giving us his answer, he asked the rest of the bar patrons and the kitchen staff what they thought and they all agreed that we should go to Locanda Spinola, a new restaurant nearby. Long story short, it was amazing. Homemade pastas, simply prepared fresh seafood and local wine. The service was so hospitable and warm! My boyfriend and I stayed after our dinner (and after the restaurant closed) drinking beer with the staff and talking about restaurants in the U.S. and Italy. It was wonderful.

How did food become an important part of your life?
Food was always an important part of family gatherings. I’m lucky to have grown up with great cooks on both sides of my family and I learned early that food is a way to communicate love. That pushed me to go to culinary school and journalism school, work in restaurants and write about food for a living.

Tell me about what you’re working on now.
I am currently working on lots and lots of freelance writing. Haha. Ultimately, I would like to contribute to a more diverse food media landscape and explore different media projects. I’ll keep you posted on how that goes.

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Thank you so much for participating Korsha!

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Photos provided by Korsha Wilson.

{You Pick Six} An Interview with Writer: Richard Auffrey

Writer Richard AuffreyIf you’re a food blogger or writer in the Boston area, you may have already met Richard Auffrey at a food event around the city.

He is a familiar face that I always enjoy seeing in a crowd. Richard’s blog, The Passionate Foodie, is aptly named, because as a writer, he has a true love for food and drink. He also strives to bring more inclusiveness to the food blogger community and celebrates its diversity.

I’m sure you’ll enjoy learning more about Richard as he answers questions for the second part in the interview series, You Pick Six.

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What is a favorite simple recipe to prepare at home?
I make a simple Teriyaki sauce. Simply add 7 parts Sake, 7 parts Mirin, 7 parts Soy Sauce & 1 part Sugar to a sauce pan. Bring to a boil under a medium heat, stirring constantly until all the sugar dissolves. And that’s it! Once it cools, you can bottle and refrigerate it for future use. If you want, you can also add minced garlic.

What is a favorite dessert?
I love a well made Bread Pudding, though it can’t have raisins. I think it is also a versatile dessert and I’m surprised that no bakery has chosen to specialize in Bread Pudding. Forget all these cupcake shops, give me a Bread Pudding bakery.

What is a favorite quote?
“O what an ugly sight the man who thinks he’s wise and never drinks sake!”
–Otomo no Tabito (c. 662-731)

What is a favorite food movie?
Ratatouille, the animated film about a rat who becomes a chef. Besides being a fun movie, it has so many excellent lines such as “Good food is like music you can taste, color you can smell. There is excellence all around you. You need only to be aware to stop and savor it.”

What is a favorite childhood food memory?
My mother’s Cinnamon Rolls, especially when they are still hot and fresh out of the oven. They always brought me joy and I saw them as a sign of my mother’s love. And after all these years, my mom still makes those Cinnamon Rolls, with the same recipe, and they immediately bring me back to my childhood and they also still are a sign of her love.

Halloween Nightmare at Fenway Tipsy SenseiTell me about your book.
Halloween Nightmare At Fenway is my third novel in the Tipsy Sensei series, which centers on a Boston-based Sake expert who learns that the supernatural creatures of Japanese folklore are real. In this latest novel, the darkest element of Japan from World War 2 spawns supernatural creatures which now threaten Boston, choosing Fenway Park during the World Series as the site of their primary threat. Nate, the Sake expert, must stop the threat, assisted by an immortal Japanese samurai and a homicide detective, a woman of color. As the novel occurs in Boston, I also mention some of my favorite restaurants. The Tipsy Sensei series is a way for me to share my passion for Sake and to tell a thrilling tale.

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Thank you so much for participating Richard!

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Photos provided by Writer Richard Auffrey.

{You Pick Six} An Interview with Writer: Anastacia Marx de Salcedo

Anastacia Salcedo © Jorge SalcedoHappy September! Since it’s the first day of a new month and back to school time, it seems like the perfect day to begin something new. You Pick Six is a new interview series where I email several questions to interesting New Englanders and let them decide the six questions that they would like to answer.

There are so many fascinating people in the New England area. With this new type of interview, I hope to learn a few things and share some of these people with you.

Let’s get this first interview started with writer Anastacia Marx de Salcedo, who has a new book out called Combat-Ready Kitchen: How the U.S. Military Shapes the Way You Eat.

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What is a favorite simple recipe to prepare at home?
I don’t have a favorite recipe; I have a favorite way—actually ways—to turn vegetables delectable, and those rely on two workhouse appliances, the toaster-oven and the blender. The toaster-oven is great for roasting. I cut all sorts of things— cauliflower, eggplant, okra, peppers, Brussel sprouts, zucchini—into bite-size chunks, toss with olive oil and sea salt, and cook at 400 °F for anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes. I serve these at parties as finger foods and people can’t stop eating them. My other infallible vegetable cookery method is a smidge more complicated, which is to braise in water or stock such standards as asparagus, broccoli, carrots, and mushrooms; make a white sauce (aka New England soul food); puree the vegetables in the blender; and then mix everything together in a soup pot. Great winter night fare!

What brings you peace every day?
Running. Laughing with my kids. Being in bed with my husband.

What is some of the best advice you’ve ever received?
When you can’t solve something, keeping reading. Thanks, Dad!

What three people do you admire most?
I admire many ordinary people, drawing from them a collection of the qualities that seem necessary to live a good life. Some of those are courage, optimism, and dedication. Personally, I’m always asking myself if I’m being a good role model for my children. If I’m behaving in a way that I’d like them to emulate, I feel good about my decisions.

What is the best meal you ever had and where was it?
Tiny, just-dug, hot potatoes sprinkled with kosher salt eaten from a plastic sandwich bag; a hard-boiled egg (undoubtedly laid that day), also with kosher salt; and sweet coffee eaten in a small, Ecuadorian mountain village at sunrise. Why was it the best? I was hungry. I was happy. It was a moment of purity.

Combat-Ready Kitchen - coverTell me about your book.
My book untangles the profound influence the US military has had on American food science and processed foods. If you’d told me ten years ago that I’d be writing about this topic, I would have been very surprised. But one day I started thinking about a sandwich—specifically that its components all had a rather long shelf-life—and that led me down a rabbit hole into the military’s involvement in our food system. The book’s got a lot of important 20th century food science in it, although it’s been digested by me, the ultimate layperson and written in lay terms. Writing about it made me realize how scarily little we humanities types often understand about how the material world works. Time to change that, y’all!

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Thank you so much for participating Anastacia!

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Photos provided by Anastacia Marx de Salcedo. Credit: © Jorge Salcedo.