Spotlight on Cambridge: Formaggio Kitchen

When my boyfriend moved up to Cambridge last August, one of the very first places we went to in Cambridge was Formaggio Kitchen located in North Cambridge.  Formaggio has two locations in the Boston area (one in Cambridge and another in South End) and one in New York.

The cheese counter at Formaggio.

The cheese counter at Formaggio.

Formaggio focuses on providing artisan cheeses and meats, as well as olive oils, vinegars, fruit spreads, wine and beer.  What I especially love about Formaggio is that they try to only source their products from farmers and cheese makers that focus on the traditional methods of cheese and charcuterie preparation and avoid the mass production of the modern world.   A lot of their products are organic and come from small farms that emphasize appropriate treatment of animals.  They also have a cheese cave at their Cambridge location to make sure the cheese they are selling is maintained at the correct temperature which you can apparently visit according to their website.

The refrigerated part of the cheese counter.

The refrigerated part of the cheese counter.

I also love the fact that all of the people that work at the cheese are charcuterie counter are extremely knowledgeable about their products and can tell you exactly how each cheese was made.  Usually I just walk in, ask for a recommendation, and walk out with something amazing, like today, when I left with a soft cheese that had hints of blueberry.  One word: divine.

A cheese board we made with our haul from Formaggio.  On the far left is lomo, to its right is prosciutto, on the far left is mousse trufee and in the top right corner is Zimbro, a sheep's milk cheese.  In the center is fig preserves and at the top is a fresh baguette.

A cheese board we made with our haul from Formaggio.  On the far left is lomo, to its right is prosciutto, on the far left is mousse trufee and in the top right corner is Zimbro, a sheep's milk cheese.  In the center is fig preserves and at the top is a fresh baguette.

If you are ever in Cambridge, I highly recommend checking this place out.  They're awesome.

Urban Gardening Update!

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about the state of my urban garden here.  At that point, the only thing doing anything was the kale, which is actually still rocking.  Sadly, our zucchini that showed so much promise either never got pollinated or just wasn't suited for the porch life.  So my dreams of endless amounts of zucchini bread this summer have died.

The kale has gone through several harvests.  As long as you don't cut the bud in the middle, it'll keep producing delicious kale.

The kale has gone through several harvests.  As long as you don't cut the bud in the middle, it'll keep producing delicious kale.

The good news is we have two peppers!  Look at how awesome they're doing!  We put them up on buckets in an attempt to get them more sun and that seems to be working.

Our tomato plant also seems to be finally starting to produce.  Right now we have one tiny little green tomato, but here's hoping more come soon!  I love nothing more than ripe tomatoes picked fresh off of the vines.

My teeny little tomato.

My teeny little tomato.

Here's the cucumber.  He had a very slow start and was actually the last to sprout when we had them inside.  In fact, I was almost certain we weren't going to get any cucumbers, but then they started flowering, and I can see the beginnings of a baby cucumber!  Needless to say, I'm super excited.

My little cucumber that could.  Look at the little flowers on the left!

My little cucumber that could.  Look at the little flowers on the left!

What I've learned so far is that plants like zucchini need a lot of space and lots of bees: things in which porches in Cambridge are severely lacking.  Other plants like hot peppers (we gave ours a way to a home with more sunlight) need lots and lots of sunlight to grow.  Kale it appears is the rock star of this crop, so I think next year, I'm going to plant more things like chard, kale, kohlrabi, and spinach since they seem to do well in the limited space I have.

Let me know if you have any urban gardening tips!

Chimichurri Roast Chicken

I don't know about you, but my CSA box is overflowing with greens right now.  I'm getting more kale, chard, collard greens, parsley, oregano, mustard greens and arugula than I know what to do with.  So in an effort to take advantage of these yummy greens before they go bad, I decided to make a chimichurri sauce, an Argentinian specialty, that can be used with practically anything, but I decided to pair it with roast chicken and vegetables.

Chimichurri is great for roasted vegetables, a side for grilled and roasted meats and just about anything you can think of except maybe ice cream.

Chimichurri is great for roasted vegetables, a side for grilled and roasted meats and just about anything you can think of except maybe ice cream.

Here's what you need for the Chimichurri:

  • a bunch of parsley (the standard amount you buy at a grocery store)
  • 4 T of fresh oregano pulled off the stems
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 4 T of dried chili pepper (more or less of this if you want it spicier/less spicy)
  • 4 T paprika
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • salt to taste
  • 1 basil leaf
  • olive oil

What to do:

  1. Coarsely chop the parsley and oregano.
  2. Combine with the rest of the ingredients (excluding the basil leaf) in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped and well mixed.
  3. Put the parsley mixture into a glass bowl and add the basil leaf.  
  4. Pour the olive oil over the parsley mixture until it comes to about a fingers width above the parsley mixture.
  5. Allow to sit for 24 hours to allow the flavors to meld.
Here is the roasted chicken with chimichurri sauce served alongside roasted sunchokes and parsnips and sauteed kale.

Here is the roasted chicken with chimichurri sauce served alongside roasted sunchokes and parsnips and sauteed kale.

For the chicken:

What you need:

  • 2 pounds of chicken thighs
  • Chimichurri sauce (above)

What to do:

  1. Combine the chicken thighs with the desired amount of chimichurri sauce and allow to marinate for 4 hours or overnight.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  3. Cook the chicken at 375 degrees for 30-35 minutes.
  4. Enjoy!

Book Review: VB6

I've always been a huge fan of Mark Bittman.  I always read all of his food articles, so when I saw VB6 (Vegan Before 6) on display at the library, I snatched it up.

VB6 is Bittman's own diet plan, or healthy eating advice that advoctes for a vegan diet before 6 pm.  After 6 pm, you can eat all of the animal products you want.  What makes this book better than any other diet books I've seen is that he advocates a sustainable, easy system to lose weight and to eat healthier, with the main emphasis being on the "healthy" and not the "weight."  

As a nutrition student, I appreciated how much science he incorporated into his text.  He explains why there are some types of fats that are good for you and some that aren't.  He goes into the difference between LDL and HDL cholesterol: a distinction I didn't understand until I took organic chemistry, but one that he explains beautifully.  He discusses what makes a bad carb "bad" and a good carb "good."  He also talks about long, term sustainable goals and how to mentally prepare yourself for a healthier lifestyle.

A lot of this information wasn't new to me, but at one point, it was.  I made the switch to a plant-based diet about 3 years ago, but before then, I was just as confused about what to eat as the next guy.  I would have certainly loved to have had this book then.

As for the rules of the diet, they're easy:

  1. Eat mostly plants (fruits, vegetables and whole grains).  
  2. Treat animal products a side dish or garnish, not the main event.
  3. No more junk food.  If the food you're eating has a paragraph-long list of what's in it, don't eat it.  This includes so-called "health" foods like energy bars and granola bars.  
  4. Cook at home as much as possible.  This way you know what you're eating and control for anything you don't want to be in your food.
  5. Choose quality over quantity.  It's better to buy that grass-fed, organic and humanely raised steak for $10 a pound than the factory-farmed, abused, grain-fed steak for $1.99 a pound.
  6. Don't define your health by the number on the scale.

As for the "vegan before 6" part of the diet, this can chance based on who you are and when you eat dinner.  If you eat dinner at 6, then stick with the 6 pm.  If you eat at 9, maybe go with "vegan before 9 pm."  What I took away from this though, is that it has nothing to do with the time of day that you're being vegan, just that you're eating more plant-products and much less animal products.  So if you want to be vegan before 9 am and after 4 pm, that's probably fine too.  The cool thing about this plan is that it's not actually a plan.  There are no set meals to eat when and no cutting out carbs or fat or whatever else.  It's adjustable to your lifestyle, and that makes me think it has the capacity to actually work.

Did you read this book?  What did you think?