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bucatini

Bucatini

Finally, finally I got over to 10 Tables in JP. It was a mixed celebration of summer, the end of a hectic rowing season for my husband, and our upcoming anniversary. Given the last cause, the wine dinner theme of Italy was appropriate as it’s where we honeymooned and enjoyed many a memorable meal. 

Not only was the meal fantastic, but sitting at the small bar they call the Chef’s Table was, as well. We got to share recipes, meals, and favorite restaurants with the quiet but genuine Dave Punch and his assistant. We found we’re all big fans of Franklin Cafe, and got a few new ideas for places we must try soon, including Toro in the South End. Stanislas Hilbert was our waiter and thoughtfully picked all of the wines we enjoyed on this evening. Each of the four was unique and enjoyable, with just a little reservation on the very sweet dessert wine, a 2004 Passito di Pantelleria from Sicily. But I’m not a fan of real sweet wines, so that probably explains that. My husband enjoyed it greatly.

Dinner began with a fresh, cool salad of shaved zucchini, crimini and fennel, and ricotta salata. We will no doubt be trying the ricotta salata, a dried and salted ricotta, at home this summer. It’s excellent on salad. The next course was probably my favorite – bucatini alla matriciana. Oh, heaven. Very fresh pasta of Abbruzi (via Formaggio Kitchen) covered in a rich tomato sauce with onions, garlic, evoo, fresh herbs and most important, pancetta, that had simmered for hours. Served with the 2004 Salice Salentino Rivera, it was a perfect coupling. Feeling like I could eat this dish all night long, not to mention my hesitation to move onto the next wine because the Rivera was so complex, rich, and delicious, we did, and rest assured we more than survived the tuscan style steak course. It was amazing – marinated yet not overly flavored with anything besides its natural goodness, it was a fair portion served with a few nice light greens and wonderful oven roasted potatoes that melted in your mouth. Hints of truffle oil and Sabo were on the plate. It was well paired with a 2005 Cannonau Reserva, Sella & Mosca from Sardenia. Almost as good as the Rivera. I will definitely look for both. We finished things off with a caradamom scented arborio rice pudding with pistachio and coconut. Not a big rice pudding fan myself, I still enjoyed dessert especially given the luscious crunchy topping, and shared my portion with my husband, the biggest rice pudding fan I know.

10 Tables, you are small but what’s the saying – good things come in small packages. I look forward to another fantastic Tuesday night regional wine dinner later in the summer.  

Ten Tables 

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I’m back. This time, with a recipe for my favorite homemade pizza. It is so easy. So easy, that we’ve incorporated it into our weekly dinner menus here at homepizza-dough. This is a great way to satisfy your and yours’ stomachs sans meat (a la Michael Pollan and Mark Bittman whose views I subscribe to). And that’s better for the environment of course. 

Here’s what you need: 

1/2 c warm water

1 envelope (2 1/4 t) active dry yeast

1 1/4 c water – room temperature

2 T EVOO

4 c bread flour (up to 2c whole wheat recommended. If no bread flour, don’t sweat it – regular unbleached is ok too)

1 t sugar

1 1/2 t salt

1) Fill 2-cup measuring cup with warm water and add yeast.  Let sit for 5 min. Add room temp water and EVOO. 

2) Mix flour, salt, and sugar loosely with wooden spoon in the bowl of your stand-up mixer. 

3) Add liquid ingredients and mix with paddle attachment until a cohesive ball of dough forms, then replace the paddle with the dough hook. Knead until dough is smooth and elastic ~5 min. Form dough into ball and place in a deep oiled bowl. Cover with clean dish towel. 

4) Let it rise. Should take at least an hour, but if you leave it for longer (I’ve gone up to 3-4 hours) it should be fine. 

Now you’re ready to make your ‘za!  Heat the oven to 450F. I like to divide the dough into 3 equal balls. Each will make a good sized pizza for 2-3. Using a rolling pin on a floured surface, spread it out, nice and thin. Place the rolled dough over the bottom side of a professional baking cookie sheet. Bake the dough for 4-5 minutes. 

Now for the SAUCE. This is SO easy:

 

1 28-oz can of ORGANIC crushed tomatoes (organic really makes a difference here)

2 T EVOO

3 cloves garlic

salt and pepper

 

Simply mix these together, and you’ve got your sauce. Don’t pre-cook it – the oven will do it justice.  Mmmm. Bostonians – this sauce is reminiscent of Upper Crust’s…

Assembly:

Spread the sauce liberally over the dough which you’ve removed from the oven (it will have just started to cook). You should have just enough sauce for all three pizzas (you can save the sauce and dough separately in the fridge for a day or two if you don’t want to make all 3 pizzas at once). Next, top with fresh mozzarella cheese slices, and your choice of any other toppings. My personal favorite – caramelized onions. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Place the pizzas in the oven for about 8-12 minutes (you have to watch – it really depends on your oven). Remove when the cheese has spread but before it browns. Wha-lah. That, my friends, is the ultimate home-made pizza.

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pollan-cover2This is overdue but none the less I wanted to share a few thoughts from the lecture I attended with a good friend, (and graduate of the Tufts Nutrition Masters program) last Tuesday. I finished Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilema several months ago now, but many of the stories and messages from within the book have stayed with me, making a notable impact on the way my family and I eat and the way I think about food. The book’s a non-fiction page-turner, reminicent in some ways of Fast Food Nation, yet more eloquently written, more fascinating and uplifting as it focused more on positive aspects of eating. 

Michael was invited by Tufts to speak on his latest book, In Defense of Food. I can’t say I’ve read it yet, but I can’t wait to. It’s next in the queue of nutrition and foodie books, right after Bitman’s new one which I’m just about finished with (by the way, Bitman’s latest is quite reminicent of Pollan’s Omnivore’s). 
Pollan spoke clearly and easily, focusing on content from his latest book, leaning more towards following what we know to be true than on recent scientific knowledge about nutrients and food of which there is little of (this seemed to perturb some of the Nutrition school’s heavyweights who were sitting beside him on stage). He acknowleged that there is so much we don’t know about food today, but we can and should abide by what we know to be true. We know plants are good for us, and that today’s mainstream western diet is not; and he implied to rely less on meats and processed foods and more on natural plant based substances. He actually focused much of the talk on processed-non-food items, which to most of the audience was probably a no-brainer, however he hit it home by talking about how the food industry is incented to continually innovate (i.e. ‘process’) new substances, and how this has been to our demise. How bizarre it is that a 3 year old Twinkee never decays, and thinking about bringing our grandmothers or great grandmothers to the grocery store and how little of the food they’d actually recognize. He touched on some other topics which I really appreciated, such as considering the 7-year rotation farming style practiced by the Argentinians, finding foods with less than 5 ingredients, and looking in stores for foods that don’t promote themselves (ie produce isn’t packaged labeled with ‘low fat’ or ‘loaded with Omega 3!). He emphasized the importance of cooking and how lately it’s become a lost art. Given my passion for this, it really resonated. I couldn’t help but think about what ways we can try to bring cooking back into our family kitchens despite being busier than ever…
In the end he came over to the overflow room where we were seated and answered questions for our smaller audience which I really appreciated. I wasn’t called on, but what I really wanted to know, was where does locavore Michael Pollan, with just one night in Boston, choose to have dinner? I guess I’ll have to try to find out another time, maybe next month when he comes to West Roxbury for a book signing.

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For many people, what comes to mind when asked if they recycle, is filling the green or blue plastic curbside containers with used plastic and papers. While it’s great so many municipalities have curbside recycling programs, it’s time we all start thinking outside the box in terms of what we can do to recycle other materials in our household. 

We moved to a new house within the last year. When we left our last place, I couldn’t bear to leave most of our curtains and window treatments behind. They weren’t especially lavish or expensive, but they were carefully chosen to match the decor and many hemmed by my mother to fit ‘just right’. I knew most would not fit our new home’s new windows as well, but I hoped the material could be reused somehow – after all  have a crafty mom who loves to sew, and I imagined new placemats, tablecloths, or new window treatments being derived from the old curtains. And now I’m sitting in my remodeled kitchen, admiring the red toile roman shades that mom stitched up from, yup, our old shower curtain (it didn’t match the new house either). We’ve accumulated quite a bit of ‘stuff’ over the last 5-8 years and hard a hard time letting go of much of the unneeded furniture, despite having moved 3 times. When we needed a few extra stools for the new kitchen peninsula, instead of buying more stools from the store, we turned two old (temporary – Ikea) bedside tables into stools that we could just pull in from the dining room when additional seating was needed. Come to think of it, those were stools that we had turned into night tables in the first place.
Some other ideas for recycling outside the box: 
1) Check the basement/attic – do you have something that can transition into what you need?
2) Craigslist.org – Always check the ‘free’ category first, then look for the other items you may be looking for, if you need a new piece of furniture
3) Kids craft projects – looking for something different to entertain the kids for a while? Try a collage with old magazine clippings, papers, and some crayons or markers. 
4) Glass jars that once contained jam or condiments can be great for leftovers, salad dressings, or even holding small toys such as small lego pieces (for older kids). Or save them up for the holidays and fill them with homemade candy and a pretty ribbon
5) Wrapping paper – my husband’s family taught me this, as they carefully unwrap gifts and set aside any paper that stays in tact for next year’s presents. This works especially well with nice presents, which now I don’t mind splurging for because I know I’ll get so much use out of it over and over
6) Freecycle – have something in your house that’s outdated that you’re replacing or upgrading? Don’t just trash the original, see if someone else can use it. Post a ‘curbside alert’ on Craigslist’s Free category, or try freecycle online and see if there’s an online community it your neighborhood.
Like anything, recycling is a mentality that once you start doing, becomes second nature. It’s a mindset, really, and I think, addictive!

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Welcome

Welcome! In 2009, I resolved to start a blog and to be more GREEN in my ways. Thus I find myself writing a blog about becoming more green, documenting musings, ideas, and real changes I’m making for me, my family, my community and mother Earth.

Disclaimer: I’m still a suburban working mom with a fairly laid back preppy style. I don’t strive to live perfectly green because I don’t think it’s possible (unless I were to make some major life changes like give up my job or house etc). But I do strongly believe we can all do our part to make the world a better place for our children, and that we can save money in the process. To me it’s easy – a WIN-WIN. This world has its challenges a plenty, and I’d hate to think I didn’t do my part to make life healthier, safer, and less taxing for my children. I’m not saying I don’t want them to work hard, but I do mean I don’t think they need to pay for our abuse of using too many non-recyclible materials, watch their health suffer because our generation didn’t bother to try to reduce emissions or reduce the widespread use of antibiotics and genetically modified corn-based diets in the meat we eat.
As a working mom, I strive for efficiency at home, because my time at home, and especially with my children is sacred and limited. I want to make the most of it. I will pay a little more for convenience sometimes, but not at the expense of our health or the environment. So for example, although it makes packing lunches easier, I’m trying not to purchase individual yogurt cups for my kids. It saves packaging and money if I fill my own plastic containers for the girls with plain yogurt and fresh or frozen fruit. (I’m not thrilled about using so much plastic, but that is another story for another time).
So what have I done lately that is green? I am the proud new owner of my own seltzer making machine from the Soda Club! My husband and I both have a weakness for seltzer. We don’t drink soda at home, but we love bubbly water. I was getting so tired of lugging 1 and 2 liter bottles into the house and starting to feel pretty guilty about all the wasted plastic, too. I remember thinking and saying to my husband that we need a solution to make our own seltzer at home, and then wah-lah, soon after I found a link on Tree Hugger to the Soda Club! The Soda Club sells a variety of carbonated beverage making appliances which are compact and affordable. We purchased a kit that included 2 rental and reusable CO tanks, bottles for storing the seltzer, and even a bunch of free samples for soda and seltzer flavors. Just as claimed, it’s easy to use and even kinda fun to make your own seltzer at home! I’m sure it will not be long before we’re seeing our return on this investment given all of the seltzer we were buying. And, I’m feeling pretty green! Yah!

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