We had the great opportunity to ask Ian Cheney of King Corn 10 questions.
"King Corn is a feature documentary about two friends, one acre of corn, and the subsidized crop that drives our fast-food nation. In King Corn, Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, best friends from college on the east coast, move to the heartland to learn where their food comes from. With the help of friendly neighbors, genetically modified seeds, and powerful herbicides, they plant and grow a bumper crop of America's most-productive, most-subsidized grain on one acre of Iowa soil. But when they try to follow their pile of corn into the food system, what they find raises troubling questions about how we eat-and how we farm."
1. What was your goal going into making King Corn?
Ian: Growing up on the East Coast, I had a decent understanding of where apples, blueberries and cranberries came from, but the majority of what I ate came from elsewhere. Put simply, my goal in developing King Corn with Curt and Aaron was to tell the story of where our food comes from -- by growing it.
2. How was King Corn financed? Were large donations made to the making of the film?
Ian: King Corn was a grassroots operation. Small foundations and dozens of generous individuals buoyed us through the first several years, until the Independent Television Service (ITVS) came on board with funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
3. Did you have any previous education or experience in the food industry or agriculture going into this film?
Ian: In college I became very active in bringing local farmers to campus to supply their produce to the dining halls. Like many of my peers, I had an almost instinctual desire to forge a better connection with the sources of my food. As this work developed into the Yale Sustainable Food Project, I also completed a Master's degree studying the ways in which consumers become disconnected from the sources of their food. But it wasn't really possible to study food or farming at my liberal arts college, and most of the calories in the dining hall were from cattle ranches or processing plants thousands of miles away.
5. Did you ever raise enough to buy the acre of land? Was it left empty or was something else planted on it?
6. Why did the farmer you stayed with end up leaving Greene? Was he forced out, retired, etc...?
9. How did you connect with Michael Pollan? How large was his role/influence in the making of King Corn? Was the King Corn concept born before Michael Pollans omnivore's dilemma was published?
10. What is the best way average people can change the way our food system is currently set up for the better?
Ian: There's a lot to be done -- but I'd like to say, "Ask." Ask your waiter where the beef or pork or chicken comes from. Is it grass-fed? Pasture-raised? Local? Are there local options on the menu? Ask at the grocery store, at the convenience store -- and if you don't find what you want, ask why not?
Please check http://www.kingcorn.net/ for screening times and cities.
The Salted Cod would like to thank Ian Cheney & Naomi Starkman for this great opportunity.
Fornino’s is artisan pizza at its very best. As far as we know from reading the menu, everything is made in house, including the mozzarella. They also have their own garden space to grow herbs and tomatoes. The wood fired oven gives the crust a nice, crispy, slightly charred flavor. This is the only way too cook a pizza; we’re thinking of starting a petition to have the government mandate this.
We actually visited Fornino on two consecutive nights. On our first visit we ordered (and engulfed) a pie called the Al Roker. This was ordered partly due to the hilarious nature of the name, being the only celebrity pie on the menu. More so because we were craving caramelized onions on our pie. In addition to the caramelized onions, the Al Roker included sopressata, garlic, rosemary and fresh mozzarella. A winning combination, the rosemary really accents the sweet smokey tomato sauce while the sopressata is just salty enough to make you crave more.
The next night we truly tried to find a new joint to check out but we had to face the facts, we wanted another slice of Fornino. We order the Margherita classic as pictured. So simple, so good. Some great olive oil drizzled on at the end was a nice touch.
We’re already craving more; maybe we’ll hit up Emmas in Cambridge this week…
The party menu is as follows:
Caprese salad with balsamic & oil
Arugula & shaved carrot salad with lemon garlic vinaigrette
Grilled Kielbasa marinated in Sam Adams Oktoberfest & Fresh pressed apple cider served with a side of sauerkraut & apples braised in apple cider
Birthday cake provided by host
I left work at 4:30 with the massive shopping list; I had a few stores to go to acquire all of the needed ingredients. I arrived back home at 7:30, unpacked and sorted a trunk full of items and get to work.
First thing first, I had to make two massive batches of tomato sauce for both our meatballs and lasagnas. This is my basic sauce minus the chili flakes that we make quite often. It is like by most people so we didn’t mess around. I had a hell of a lot of San Marzano tomatoes, onions, a bit of sugar, olive oil and basil. Once the two massive pots of sauce started bubbling away we moved on to our meatballs.
I found the meatballs to be the most challenging part of the hire. We decided on two trays for the party with a total of 10 pounds of meat. I split the meat right in half, half beef, half pork. The meat was seasoned with salt, garlic, and parmesan. We also had some day old crusty bread which we soaked in milk to help keep the meatballs moist. We flash fried the meatballs just enough to keep them together before simmering in the sauce to finish.
At this point I'm ready to call it a night, its 1 am and the sauce and meatballs are complete. We have one last quick thing to do. Stick all the kielbasa in a pot to marinate with the Oktoberfest and cider.
First thing first crank that oven up and pump out 3 trays of lasagna with enough time to rest each tray before serving. We mixed our ricotta with 3 eggs per 2 quarts of ricotta, parsley, black pepper, salt and parmesan. Each tray had 5 layers of sauce, pasta, ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan, with the middle layer receiving a splash of green with some fresh basil.
I purchased the Kielbasa at Euromart in Dorchester. Euromart is a great polish deli with lots of homemade goodies and great meats.
The kielbasa was grilled with no problems at all, about an hours worth of work. I also had a small spray bottle of cider to constantly spritz the meat while grilling. The drained sauerkraut and diced apples were braised in cider to serve as a side.
I had a great helper for the salad who did most of the prep for me while I made the dressings.
Everything is now packed and ready to go 3 hours before show time.
What a whirlwind of a weekend. I clocked in 10 hours of kitchen time without counting trip the store. It turned out to be quite a feast. The meatballs were a bit on the bland side, theys to could have definitely used more salt. I found it on the harder side to control the quality with such a large batch. Next time we will be making mini balls to test along the way. The rest of our dishes came out great and were well received.
I got home and fell directly asleep with my clothes on, exhausted at 9:00pm. It was a hell of an experience.
I’ve enclosed a slightly embarrassing picture of my radical costume this year, "Cosmic space dude." Every year we embark on a zombie trolley ride around the city of Boston to go party hopping and try to spook the general public.
The highlight for me is wolfing down as many Halloween treats as I can at manage to eat at each party. I had way too many spooky shrimp, devious deviled eggs and other tasty Halloween treats. Not to mention plenty of devil's punch which may have caused me to space dance with my snazzy silver space cape.
We will be heading out to Salem Massachusetts to take in the festivities tonight, maybe we'll see you there!
This month, we were lucky enough to try our hands at a favorite New England tradition, apple cider pressing.
The idea first came about when our good friends in Shelburne Falls obtained a cider press which was built years ago but apparently had been "forgotten" about. We were shocked to discover this, but later learned the press was shared with a family friend who also took part in the building process and had been hiding it in their garage.
If you've never had the opportunity to visit Shelburne Falls, we highly recommend you do. Its small town New England at its best with everything you could ask for- glacial potholes, candle making, kayaking, foliage, sugar shacks, the bridge of flowers, an obscenely old bowling alley, the elderly and everyone's favorite shop Mo's Fudge Factor.
In order to make a significant amount of cider, we realized early on it would be quite expensive so we used our Shelburne connections to work a deal with the owner of a local apple orchard. Instead of picking perfect apples from the trees with everyone else, we followed a man in a golf cart to the back of the orchard who directed us to our ground apples. Sure the apples were full of bruises, bumps and other imperfections, but faired wonderfully for the cider (especially since they had higher sugar content from all that sitting around.) We heard tree apples are for snobs anyway. No time was wasted and quickly grabbed every apple we could cram into a Chevy Malibu. Don’t worry though; no members of The Salted Cod actually drive a Chevy Malibu.
I was given a lot of flack from the rest of our crew (particularly from a fellow Cod) for wanting to wash the apples before grinding them into a delicious juicy pulp. Apparently dirt on the apples provides character to your cider. Bull.
In the end, we compromised by hosing the apples down on the grass. After our short set back, we finally began grinding the apples. Although fun at first, grinding was far more labor intensive than we expected. It turns out that food bloggers are weaker than most folks, including large five year-olds. Luckily, one female member of our crew had a blue ribbon arm for grinding apples. When she became tired from cranking she’d simply switch off with the five year-old. It seemed like a good system.
In case you were wondering, the ground apples were being caught and filtered by some old cheesecloth found in a junk drawer. I was skeptical of this at first but must admit, it really did the trick. So basically, once you’ve ground as many apples as you can fit in the barrel lined with cheesecloth, the press is then lowered and the cider begins to flow. If the press is lowered too quickly the cider flow will change from a fountain trickle to a small waterfall so we had to keep testing its limits until the right pressure was found.
We also discovered during this step (to no one's surprise) that bees love cider. We tried our hardest to shoo any cider-loving bees away from the press but one or two may have reached their fate and passed through. Of course, most of our crew didn't mind dirt in their cider so obviously a few bees didn’t phase them.
The cider was then filtered through cheesecloth one more time and poured into clean gallon jugs our Shelburne friends apparently bartered for from a local farmer.
We repeated these steps of washing, grinding, pressing and bottling the apples for the next three or four hours with relaxing kayaking breaks throughout the day.
In the end, we used every ground apple which produced around twelve gallons of cider. Because our cider was unpasteurized (with a fridge life of around one week), most of the cider was frozen for later enjoyment. I’m looking forward to sipping hot mulled cider this winter. We also provided the compost with large amounts of apple pulp.
A helpful hint when picking ground apples; wear clothing with long sleeves…especially if there is a nasty patch poison ivy surrounding your apples. It will really help prevent two long weeks of having to explain to your friends why you only have poison ivy on your forearms.
We have some cider surprises in store for the very near future, so stay tuned. Seriously.
Click here to view the complete photo set from our day on our flickr site
We have been making a small salad with arugula, cherry tomatoes, and shaved carrots (everything but the tomatoes came from our CSA) and topped with a quick lemon vinaigrette.
We also purchased three year barley miso from South River Miso here in Massachusetts. Just plop an over sized table spoon of miso into a coffee mug with a lid and add some furikake for extra flavor. This is a Japanese seasoning which consists of a mixture of sesame seeds, bonito flakes and seaweed. To finish, we add fresh tofu and chopped scallions. This has worked out to be a quick and easy lunch at work. When ready to eat, just go to the water cooler and add hot water. Talk about instant soup, take that ramen noodles!
We're not one to eat at our desk or be chained indoors at lunch so we usually take it to the streets.
Flo’s Hot dogs in Kittery Maine has been in operation since 1959. Flo dogs have been revered by locals, tourists, truckers and food critics alike. This is a one woman operation working out of a simple shack serving up dogs, soda, and chips. The floor slants upwards as you get closer to placing your order. We heard rumors that the older lady behind the counter has been compared to the soup nazi in Seinfeld, turning away customers who don’t order fast enough or leave the door open. One story goes a trucker stopped in to get a cup of coffee; she asks “how about a dog?” The trucker says “I ate down the street.” She says “you can get your coffee down the street too.” We unfortunately did not see her on our trip.
Inches away from hitting the ceiling at 5’8, the line was long and crowd was hungry. One larger (honestly large) man in line ahead of us suggested we order the house special. This consists of a steamed dog and bun topped with mayo, sauce and celery salt. We ordered 2, our friend ordered six.
The dogs were quite tasty and very soft, we were hesitant to order mayo on a dog but it worked quite well and we will never turn down the advice of a man of that stature. As for the sauce, from what we could take it was onions reduced in a molassesey sauce giving it the taste and look of Boston baked beans.
Our belly was quite happy and was actually barking for one more. This is a great stop for some classic American road food.
The first step to a great chile verde involves lots of roasting. We grabbed our largest baking pan and threw in our tomatillos along with four jalapenos drizzled with oil.
We roasted our pepper pan at 500 for a good 20 minutes until the skins were slightly charred. While those were roasting in the oven, we utilized all four burners on our gas stovetop as a make-shift chili roaster for the poblanos. The chilies finished around the same time and the house smelled SPICY!
In our over-sized Le Creuset we slowly browned four pounds of pork shoulder and to this we added a puree of the roasted tomatillos and peppers, four cups of chicken stock and cumin to taste. Set to low heat, we walked away and let our stew simmer for 6 hours.
After the stew was done simmering, we had delicious filling for our enchiladas topped with fresh cilantro and jack cheese.
The Salted Cod is not one for showboating but this was an excellent chile verde and we couldn't have been prouder. It brought us right back to our stay in New Mexico.
Arriving late in the evening, the door was just minutes away from being locked so our selection was minimal. We purchased two cupcakes. The Lucky was our first, a lemon cake with white chocolate frosting and a few small pieces of candied ginger. As an added bonus, it comes with a small fortune on top, similar to one found in an actual fortune cookie. Also purchased was The Super Chocolate, a chocolate cake (obviously) with a dollop of rich chocolate on top, reminiscent of a thumbprint cookie from childhood and a few chocolate shavings to complete the look.
Over all, both cupcakes were much smaller than we hoped for the price of $2.75 each. They were also on the dry side but this might be due to purchasing so late in the day. Both had great presentation but fell short on flavor and consistency. With a name like "Kick Ass," we were really anticipating a tastier product.
The highlight for us was the fresh milk for sale from Shaw Farm in Dracut, MA. We'll be more likely to stop by again soon just for some milk.
The Salted Cod understands they are a new local business and we plan on giving Kick Ass Cupcakes another shot down the road. Next time we'll be sure to arrive earlier in the day and try a few different flavors, hopefully a Red Velvet if they have one.
Yesterday it was just too nice to sit in traffic after work so we decided to go on an expedition in the woods. We had a few spots in mind out side of the city to check for grapes and sure enough they were ripe for the picking. We spent 2 hours picking wild Concord grapes from 3 different locations outside of Boston. We were so excited with our booty we brought our bushel right to the bathroom scale. We walked away with 10 pounds!
This begin phase 1 of wild Concord grapes.
We’ve taken 5 pounds of our grapes for jam making.
Very simple recipe
· Simmer 5 pounds of cleaned wild Concord grapes with 1 cup of water
· Run the simmer reduced product through a food mill. This will remove all the seeds and any tough skins.
· You should have about 6 cups of grapes after the mill. Simmer this with one box of pectin.
· Once dissolved add up to 7 cups of sugar.
· Can away…
This was actually quite labor intensive from vine to canned jam we spent around 6 hours. After the jam sets we will know if it’s worth it.
Some tips for finding wild grapes in your area. We’ve actually been finding them close to sources of water such as streams, ponds and swamps. They have also been on the edge of the wooded areas in sunny locations. Look high and look very low. Don’t be afraid to use your nose to follow the scent.
Two of our favorite things are coming together this holiday season.
Our favorite badass celeb chef Anothony Bourdain is bringing in the QOTSA boys for his holiday special. Honestly, it doesn't get much better than this. In the past, Bourdain has rambled on about his love for Swedish greaser rock bands such as The Hellacopters.
Emeril take note...
Josh Homme and his Queens of the Stone Age crew give off badass rock'n'roller vibes like it's their job, which it sort of is. So if seeing them dressed to the nines in holiday sweaters best suited to little old ladies doesn't totally contradict their image, it at least complicates it. Truth told, who among us doesn't like to get in touch with his or her inner octogenarian once in a while?
But for what occasion did these hard rocking dudes don such festive duds? A holiday television special, of course. Specifically, an episode of chef Anthony Bourdain's Travel Channel show "No Reservations", according to a report from Rolling Stone's Rock & Roll Daily blog.
The forthcoming episode finds Queens rocking the basement of Bourdain's Connecticut home while he is upstairs cooking a holiday feast for them to enjoy together. In addition to their own tunes, the band also performs a version of "Silver Bells", renamed "Turkey Bells".
The report goes on to say the episode will include "karaoke, surly adolescents, and a Japanese businessman." As for those sweaters, Homme said, "I think someone Googled the word 'horrible,' and that's how we found them."
Above text and photo courtesy of Pitchforkmedia.com
Russ Cohen is the regions foremost expert on wild edible plants. He is a self proclaimed “landscape nibbler” who tries to find something edible everywhere he goes. Russ lead our group of around 35 through out the edges and woods of Blue Heron farm. Organic farms are a great place to find edible species because they do not use pesticides and use only minimal fertilizers. Most farmers don’t mind you roaming along their perimeter looking for species if you ask for permission. The majority of the species we found are considered invasive.
Upon arrival, Russ greeted us with two snacks. First, a homemade fruit leather made from the autumn olive berry. It tasted tart, much like a good cranberry. The consistency was equavilent to the fruit leathers we remember from our snack cart days in school. Russ boiled the berries down with some sugar. The result was put through a sieve then poured onto a baking sheet to dry. After tasting, we then washed the leathers down with some staghorn sumac juice. A tasty and tart tea-like drink reminicent to lemonade. Fairly simple to create, just grab a few staghorn berry clusters and let them steep in water.
To the left is Queens Anne’s Lace. The root of this plant is actually a wild carrot. Amateur foragers beware because the leaves of this species do resemble the poison hemlock.
Further on we came across Sweetfern. The Sweetfern has many uses including insect repellent and poison ivy relief. Colonials steeped the leaves as a tea during the tea party era, wikipedia also lists this species as redneck reefer.
We also found Wood Sorrel which looks like heart-shaped clover and tastes like lemon; a great addition to salads.
We came across immature Concord grapes and learned that grape leaves are excellent for pickling by helping to keep things crisp.
I spotted a huge chicken mushroom , also known as a sulfur shelf, that was just starting to decompose.
Finally, on the way back we came across husk tomatoes , or ground cherries. Deliciously sweet like little candies.
We learned a lot and found quite a few edible species in a small amount of space and time. We even picked up Russ’ book, "Wild Plants I Have Known...and Eaten" to help us identify species on our own on future foraging expeditions. Russ leads many walks throughout the year and if you have any interest on this subject, we highly recommend partaking in one.
The Salted Cod gets excited when Steve opens his truck door and corn is pilled high, practically bursting from the seams. We can only imagine what it must be like growing up in the Corn Belt where these ears are everyone's source of income. The scent was sweet with a hint of the farm, something Midwesterners must be all too familar with during those hot summer months. It also reminded us of our favorite regional scent when we traveled to Hatch New Mexico. In Hatch, chilies are drying and roasting everywhere you turn (including rooftops). The scent was so thick in the air you could smell it on your clothes and hair the next day; a delicious combination of smokey, sweet and spicy. We are trying to think of what a true New England scent would be to represent summer. Maybe low tide or rotting cod from the fisherman’s catch...
Anyway, back to week 12:
In our wonderful Le Creuset dutch oven we cooked 6 slices of bacon (we like our chowda smokey here). Once cooked, we removed the bacon and left about 2 tbs of the grease to sauté our onions, celery, and a few celery leaves. That right, we said celery leaves. Once softened and translucent we added 6 ears worth of corn kernels, 4 cups of whole milk and 2 cups of chicken stock. We also added halved cherry tomatoes and precooked and chopped potatoes. A little salt & pepper and you are good to go.
We had enough for dinner and to freeze for the colder months.
We’ve picked up a nice brandywine tomato for another caprese. No picture sorry.
$1.98 for a huge bushel of basil! We actually had a random customer tell us we’d never use this much and it would go to waste. We made more pesto to freeze…
We also picked up a quart of fresh blackberries, 5 nectarines, shortcake and awesome homemade whip cream. We made a little blackberry sauce for the shortcake and topped this with a sprig of mint.
All in all we spent close to $40 for a 3 course meal for two. We are very happy we are part of a CSA program; they are a huge value and well worth it.