Looking for a last-minute suggestion for where to dine out this Valentine's Day in Greater Boston? Or planning ahead for a spectacular St. Patrick's Day feast? Whether you're thinking about the latest holidays or deciding where to meet friends after work, Globe restaurant critic Devra First will field your questions and comments on Tuesday, Feb. 11, at noon. Submit your comments in the box below during the chat.
Need suggestions about where and what to eat? Chat live with Boston Globe restaurant critic Devra First for her take on the best places to visit right now.
Need last minute dining advice before the holidays? Critic Devra First answers your questions today at noon.
Have a question about a local restaurant? Want to know where to eat for the holidays? Check in with Devra First on Tuesday at noon.
Who needs dining-out suggestions? Chat live with Globe restaurant critic Devra First for her take on where to eat out in the Hub.
Perhaps you have been following the reaction to Time's "Gods of Food" package, which outraged many for its failure to cite a single woman chef. Perhaps you are entirely tired of the subject. Sorry. I'm here to revisit it.
I responded to Time's content here. Many others responded, too, including food writer Alan Richman. After reading his reaction -- find it here -- I tweeted the link, with the message: "Alan Richman's alternately wrongheaded and obvious take on 'Gods of Food' concurs there are no worthy woman chefs."
Some felt my tweet was unprofessional and a cheap shot, that it didn't state what I took issue with and explain why. I'm not a fan of cheap shots, so let this stand as a clarification.
The main reason I found Richman's piece wrongheaded was the one I stated in my tweet: It concurs there are no worthy woman chefs. "No women chefs among the magazine’s Gods of Food? Outrageous but accurate and, for that matter, obvious. I can’t understand why this earnest but banal list caused an uproar," Richman writes. I disagree, as stated in my earlier blog about the matter. A "culinary family tree," traced from four sets of chefs, included Rene Redzepi, Alain Passard, Ferran and Albert Adria, and Thomas Keller. I argued that Alice Waters has been as influential in our food culture as any of them. And Time's tree didn't include a single woman among nearly 60 chefs. No Elena Arzak, no Suzanne Goin, even though both easily fit into the lineage portrayed.
A few smaller points I'd also take issue with as wrongheaded:
"The relevant issue is why women do not move up in the kitchens of major restaurants, the breeding grounds for chefs aspiring to be Gods of Food. I suspect it’s due to restaurant kitchens' militaristic command structure, and women tend not to thrive in such situations."
No? Women find success in the actual military, the ultimate example of a militaristic command structure. We are going on suspicion here rather than research, and I suspect many women welcome clear-cut command structures and tend not to thrive in a squishy-wishy egalitarian kumbaya world of affirmation and processing where nothing actually ever gets accomplished. Not that those are the only two options.
"Chefs have never been particularly worldly or astute. Their skill set involves the stove."
Chefs travel more than most people I know, and in the interest of learning; there's no real way to experience the flavors and techniques coming out of Spain, Japan, Denmark, wherever, aside from actually going there. Not astute? Talk about a job that meshes right brain/left brain skills: Assuming we are talking about high-level chefs, one has to manage a staff of diverse personalities and issues, crunch numbers and manage costs and juggle tiny details to break a profit, finesse guests and the media, oh, and envision creative flavor combinations and presentations and make it all feel like art. A skill set that involves the stove -- rather than a computer? a professor's lectern? what? -- has no reflection on one's intelligence or lack thereof. There are plenty of sharp, clever chefs; there are plenty of dumb people-who-work-not-at-a-stove.
As for obvious:
In an aside, Richman asks: "Why has modern food journalism become little else but lists?" This may be rhetorical; I suspect we all know some of the answer. It has to do with time and money, both resources short for all kinds of journalists these days, and it has to do with page views. Lists get a lot of them.
And: "Excessive manliness is widespread in restaurant kitchens. Given a choice of promoting a man or a woman, male chefs generally pick a man -- he will feel humiliated if passed over for a women." This doesn't seem news, in any field. Hey, I'll bet men in kitchens pull higher salaries than women, too.
Richman and I do come to similar conclusions, however.
He writes: "The old guard of chefs never thought about creating opportunities for women. That’s changing. That system is too feudal for this world. Women will become gods, probably soon. The lid can’t stay on the pot forever."
I don't believe the new guard is necessarily thinking explicitly about creating opportunities for women; I suspect it is happening more organically than that. But it is happening.
As I wrote in my original post on the subject:
"When a version of this chart is drawn up in 10 years (as it will be; the culinary family tree is a staple of publications food-themed and otherwise), it will look different. The number of women-run restaurants with Michelin stars is increasing. There are more opportunities for leadership and mentorship. Food television (the influence of which Time simply ignores), a medium that's been friendly to women since Julia Child, is launching many woman chefs at a high level of visibility. About this world one thing is certain: Change will come."
These luscious lilttle squares are from "Mast Brothers Chocolate: A Family Cookbook." They're brownies made with hazelnuts, pecans, and almonds and they knocked me out. Once they cooled, I packed them in two tins lined with foil, secured tightly with masses of clear tape, and enclosed in bubble wrap. They're going to Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan to some soldiers from Massachusetts.
Last week I made chocolate ginger snaps, which are also memorable, from the Mast Brothers' book. The brothers are artisan chocolate makers based in Brooklyn. They will be in Boston on Tuesday. They have Red Sox beards, though doesn't everyone in Brooklyn?
Brownies with hazelnuts, almonds, and pecans
12 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut up
1 3/4 cups brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts
1/2 cup chopped almonds
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1. Set the oven at 325 degrees. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan.
2. In a saucepan over low heat, melt the chocolate, butter, and brown sugar. Stir in the vanilla.
3. Beat in the eggs until the mixture is smooth. Stir in the flour, salt, baking powder, and nuts. Mix until blended. Transfer the batter to the pan.
4. Bake the brownies for 30 minutes or until they are firm to the touch. Cool completely. Cut into 16 squares. Adapted from “Mast Brothers Chocolate: A Family Cookbook”
On Friday evening, Boston University hosted Los Angeles resident and Korean-born chef Roy Choi who discussed his new memoir/cookbook, "L.A. Chef: My Life, My City, My Food." Choi is a forerunner of the now popular food truck movement with his Kogi BBQ trucks, which serve Korean tacos -- marinated short rib, cabbage, romaine, lime juice, cilantro, onion, and salsa roja. When the trucks debuted in 2008, they were an immediate hit and publishers were begging Choi to write a cookbook.
"For two-three years I flat out rejected it. I was in no place to write it. I didn't want to confront any of this stuff. All I wanted, to be honest, was for everything to just go away." The "everything" Choi is referring to is his partying past. If he was going to agree to be published, he says, he wanted to do it his way; a memoir that told a complete story through food.
His other stipulations were that he wanted it to be accessible to his family and friends who don't cook. He didn't just want to focus on the successes that have fueled his popularity.
"It's not a Kogi book. It's about how this flavor came about. It's not a book about what I can do as a chef or creating food porn pictures that you roll through and never cook. Sometimes in the food world we only talk about the beautiful things," he says.
"The book was written like Pink Floyd's 'Dark Side of the Moon.' It's just one long layout. It starts at one point and you go through a story that evolves and changes and leads you somewhere."
One recipe Choi demonstrated at BU was his "Ghetto Pillsbury Fried Doughnuts," his take on traditional Portuguese malasadas. The presentation was simple and delicious: hunks of store-bought Pillsbury biscuit dough fried in shortening and rolled in cinnamon, sugar, and crushed sesame seeds. Choi vacations frequently in Hawaii -- a state with a large Portuguese population -- but this dish means far more to him in the context of his troubled history.
Before the event, Choi relayed a story of having his heart broken by a girl in Providence, then driving to "pre-Giuliani New York," being swindled out of all his money, and bunking with a stranger at a YMCA, where he was introduced to crack cocaine. Choi went into what he calls a "rabbit hole" of addiction, where his only comfort was in simple, but decadent foods like his "Ghetto" malasadas. He explores this and other recipes, such as ketchup fried rice and instant ramen topped with butter and American cheese.
Later in the evening, Choi navigated the spiritual aspects of washing and preparing perfect rice. He also talked about his early life and his mother's cooking, including her braised short rib stew, which he likened to American meatloaf.
"Every person you meet in Korean culture says their mom's Galbi Jjim is the best. This is a really special dish because there are not many dishes that can permeate every square inch and every fabric of your home. Bacon does that. Chocolate chip cookies do that. And Korean short rib stew."FULL ENTRY
The cover package for the Nov. 18 international editions of Time magazine is headlined "The Gods of Food." If you happen to be a goddess, good luck to you.
Four of 13 so-called gods of food are women. The package includes a story with the headline "The Dudes of Food," about chefs Alex Atala (D.O.M., Sao Paulo), Rene Redzepi (Noma, Cophenhagen), and David Chang (the Momofuku restaurants, New York and beyond). The three are pictured on the cover, with the subhed: "Meet the people who influence what (and how) you eat." And -- this is the part that really burns -- there is a family tree of chefs that doesn't include a single woman. Out of nearly 60 chefs.
In an interview with Eater, editor Howard Chua-Eoan explains. "We did not want to fill a quota of a woman chef," he says. "We wanted to go with reputation and influence."
But what about Alice Waters? Reputation? Influence? If anyone is responsible for the spread of the farm-to-table movement, for the embrace of local, seasonal, sustainably raised food, it is the founder of Chez Panisse. Indeed, Chua-Eoan says, they considered using her as one of starting points of the culinary family tree. (And one can certainly argue plenty of deserving male chefs were passed over as well.) "But her chart ... the thing about Alice is she retains a lot of loyalty, the people who work in her kitchens stay. There are a couple of big names who came out her kitchen, April [Bloomfield] and Dan Barber, I think, but otherwise the tree was sort of thin. So we had to go with someone else at that point. Alice is, of course, iconic."
In other words, the appearance of the graphic triumphed over its content. It's an unusually frank admission regarding the making of the sausage. So to speak. Anyone who works in editorial or design has been in a situation where one was compromised by the needs of the other. As an editorial person, I'd say it's more important, in putting together a graphic about influential chefs, to include the people who ought to be included. If one branch on the tree is thin, pad it out with another element, like the sections on "influential outliers" -- none of whom, in Time's tree, is a woman. (Or, really, an outlier.) Also, in the unnecessarily confusing key, one finds the categories "offshoots" and "shared techniques and inspirations." There's a lot of wiggle room there.
Oh, there is plenty to quibble about and suggest. Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers's River Cafe in London spawned chefs such as Jamie Oliver and the aforementioned Bloomfield. Elena Arzak of Arzak (3 Michelin stars) worked at El Bulli but doesn't appear on the Adria family tree. (In 2012, she was named "Best Female Chef in the World." That this category exists as separate is galling, too.) LA's Suzanne Goin worked with Passard. One wonders what Chang thinks of the package. One of his right-hand men is a woman, Christina Tosi. And although women are found more frequently in the front of the house at his restaurants, there are a good number of women sous chefs on staff.
But there is some truth here about women at the top of the restaurant industry, and about whom we pay attention to as being influential. The salve on the wound is that it is a historical truth. When a version of this chart is drawn up in 10 years (as it will be; the culinary family tree is a staple of publications food-themed and otherwise), it will look different. The number of women-run restaurants with Michelin stars is increasing. There are more opportunities for leadership and mentorship. Food television (the influence of which Time simply ignores), a medium that's been friendly to women since Julia Child, is launching many woman chefs at a high level of visibility. About this world one thing is certain: Change will come.
Now where are the black chefs?
Who needs dining-out suggestions? Replay the chat below to read Devra First's take on where to eat out in the Hub.
The new book, "Elizabeth David on Vegetables," compiled by Jill Norman, with recipes from the well-regarded British cookery writer, has many interesting things, including this Mayorquina, from the Mediterranean island of Majorca. The soup is little besides cabbage, tomatoes, and leeks, which simmer with water for a couple of hours.
It's peasant cooking at its best, with characteristics of both the French and Spanish kitchens, writes Norman. It might have cooked in an earthenware marmite. At one time the soup would have been poured into a tureen over slices of dark bread. Today, says Norman, you can put the bread in individual bowls and ladle in the soup. For a bowl that costs a few cents, the flavors are wonderful.
Someone overheard me recently going on and on about the wonderful Elizabeth David (1913-1992). Who is Elizabeth David? she asked.
"God," I answered.
(Cabbage soup from Majorca)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 leeks, sliced
1 Spanish onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
Salt and black pepper
2 plum tomatoes, peeled and sliced
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and sliced
3 quarts hot water, or more if needed
1 small whole cabbage, coarsely chopped
Few sprigs fresh thyme
1 whole clove
1 bay leaf
Extra olive oil (for serving)
Extra fresh thyme (for garnish)
1. In a soup pot, heat the 3 tablespoons olive oil. Cook the leeks, onion, garlic, salt, and black pepper, stirring often, for 10 minutes, or until soft but not brown.
2. Add the tomatoes and bell pepper and cook, stirring often, for 15 minutes.
3. Slow add the hot water and bring to a boil. Add the cabbage, thyme sprigs, clove, bay leaf, salt, and pepper. Set on the cover askew. Cook the soup, stirring occasionally, for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until the cabbage has almost melted.
4. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper, if you like. Ladle the soup over slices of whole-wheat bread into bowls. Sheryl Julian. Adapted from “Elizabeth David on Vegetables”
I can't remember when swordfish tasted as good as it does this year. I prefer broiling to grilling because the hardwood charcoals tend to dominate the dish. Under a hot broiler, the fish cooks quickly and you can keep a closer eye on it. Tomatoes are still fleshy. Chop up a couple, add lots of black and green olives, fresh parsley or whatever herbs you have growing, and you have an elegant meal.
Broiled swordfish steaks with tomato-olive relish
1 1/2 pounds thickly cut (1-inch) swordfish, cut into 4 pieces
Olive oil (for sprinkling)
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 ripe tomatoes, cored and chopped
3/4 cup mixed pitted black and green olives, chopped
3 scallions, trimmed and chopped
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1. Turn on the broiler.
2. Sprinkle the fish with olive oil, salt, and pepper; set aside for 5 minutes.
3. In a bowl, combine the tomatoes, pepper, olives, scallions, and 2 tablespoons of the parsley. Taste for seasoning and add salt, if you like.
4. Sprinkle a cast-iron skillet or heavy broiler pan with oil. Add the fish. Broil about 5-inches from the element for 6 minutes (do not turn) or until the fish is just cooked through.
5. Arrange a piece of fish on each of 4 dinner plates and add relish. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon parsley. Sheryl Julian
It's a weekend to celebrate food, with two festivals on opposite ends of the flavor spectrum.
Globe Staff File Photo/Suzanne Kreiter
At the Egleston Farmers' Market in JP, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on Saturday, check out the Fermentation Fest. Learn all about making pickles, sake, kombucha, tempeh, and more. Workshops include "Small Batch Vegetable Fermentation From a Vermont Expert," "Microbiology of Fermented Foods," and "Obliterating Stomach Issues & Cultivating Awesome Qi." Can't beat that.
File Photo Patrick D. Rosso/Your Town Correspondent
Then take your awesome qi over to Somerville for the eighth annual "What the Fluff?" festival, celebrating the invention of marshmallowy goodness in Union Square, Saturday 3-7 p.m. (Rain date is Sunday.) There will be free pedicab rides from the T and a designated parking area, food vendors, live performances, a cooking contest, and shenanigans ranging from Fluff jousting to blind man's Fluff. A new Pharaoh of Fluff will also be anointed. It could be you!
Many communities have cakes whose recipes are passed around and around. The confections in New England typically contain blueberies or apples. In the case of apples, some of the cake batter is spooned into the pan, a layer of apples goes on top, then another layer of cake. For the version pictured here, a crumb topping covers the round.
Boston Globe Food contributor Jean Kressy sent in this cake, which has just about everything a simple farmhouse confection should: tender crumb, moist apples, and a crunchy, buttery walnut topping.
This apple recipe and many more are in tomorrow's paper. Here it is, in case you have baking apples on hand and can't wait.
Apple crumb cake
Makes one 9-inch cake
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup walnuts, chopped
1. In a bowl, combine the flour, granulated and brown sugars, and butter.
2. With your fingers or 2 blunt knives, cut the butter into the mixture until it resembles crumbs. Add the walnuts and toss well.
2 large baking apples, cored, peeled, and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon flour
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1. In a bowl, combine the apples, granulated sugar, flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
2. Toss well.
Butter (for the pan)
Flour (for the pan)
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
Confectioners’ sugar (for sprinkling)
1. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch springform pan. Sprinkle the pan with flour and tap out the excess.
2. In a bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to blend them.
3. In an electric mixer set on medium speed, beat the butter and granulated sugar until well blended. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the vanilla.
4. With the mixer set on its lowest speed, blend in the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk. Spread about 2/3 of the batter in the pan. Arrange the apple mixture on top. Drop the remaining batter over the apples and spread with a spatula. Some fruit will not be covered; that’s OK. Sprinkle the crumbs on top.
5. Bake the cake for 55 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Set the pan on a wire rack to cool. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and cut into wedges. Jean Kressy for The Boston Globe
Here's how recipes get around. In August I was in Manchester, Vt. at Al Ducci's Italian Pantry, a shop that friends own just off the main drag. Their new cook, Yvonne Gomez, a cheerful sort who reads cookbooks thoroughly and takes them into her home kitchen in her spare time, had made a corn and yellow split salad with a garlicky pesto and salad greens. "You have to love cilantro," said Yvonne. I couldn't get enough of it.
She found the recipe in Heidi Swanson's “Super Natural Everyday” (she's the talent behind the 101cookbook blog) and adapted it to make it with corn. What I particularly liked about the dish was the fresh crunch of corn with the soft and immensely satisfying taste of the yellow split peas.
By the time I returned home yesterday from the farmstand with all the ingredients, it was too late to make pesto. Ditto toasting pepitas, as in the original recipe. So I made a simplified version.
Recipes get around and people change them for all sorts of reasons: time, preference, appeal, cost, and more. I've decided, after seeing and experiencing this for many years, that they're all good. Thank you, Heidi Swanson and Yvonne Gomez!
End-of-summer corn, yellow split pea, and cilantro salad
2 cups yellow split peas
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 tablespoons olive oil, or more to taste
4 ears fresh corn, kernels removed from cobs
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 jalapeno or other chili peppers, cored, seeded, and finely chopped
1/2 red onion, very thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Add the split peas and simmer for 25 minutes or until the peas are tender but not mushy. Add a generous pinch of salt at the end of cooking.
2. Drain the peas and transfer to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.
3. In a skillet heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the corn, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes. Add the chili powder, coriander, and cumin. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes more or until the corn is tender.
4. Tip the corn and all the spices into the split peas. Add the chilies, red onion, and cilantro. Stir well, taste for seasoning, and add more oil, salt, and pepper, if you like. Sheryl Julian. Adapted from Al Ducci's Italian Pantry and “Super Natural Everyday”
Here's my theory about shopping at the farm stand or farmers' market this time of year: Get it while you can.
Last weekend, I made this twice in a row, in huge batches. I gave some to my pilates teacher (labeled "summer succotash"), and poached rolled up flounder fillets on it one night. There's no recipe. Just add the ingredients to the pan. Use this as a base and add bell or hot peppers, green beans, leafy greens. Serve as a pasta sauce, ladle over warm white beans tossed with olive oil and parsley, or fold in shreds of poached chicken and wrap in a tortilla.
For 4 servings, saute 4 sliced zucchini in 2 tablespoons hot olive oil until they start to brown. Cut 3 large ripe tomatoes into wedges and add them to the pan with salt and crushed red pepper. Cook until the tomatoes start to collapse. Add corn from 4 ears and a large handful of fresh basil. Cook 2 minutes. Sprinkle with plenty of parsley. Eat hot, warm, or at room temperature. Sheryl Julian
What's cooking in the world of food.
ContributorsSheryl Julian, the Globe's Food Editor, writes regularly for the Food section.
Devra First is the Globe's food reporter and restaurant critic. Her reviews appear weekly in the Food section.
Ellen Bhang reviews Cheap Eats restaurants for the Globe and writes about wine.