Monday, February 28, 2011

Vanishing of the Bees screening: Bad News but Sweet Honey

Students in the Agriculture, Food and Environment program (or students who take Ag classes at Tufts) learn a lot about soil science, fertilizer use, and most of the inputs necessary for plants to grow inside our agricultural system. But rarely do we hear about the pollination services (namely, honeybees) that are also needed to grow most of the food we eat (in fact, 1 out of every 3 bites of food that you take is produced with the help of honeybee pollination).

This Sunday, Slow Food Boston, Slow Food Tufts, and Slow Food BU teamed up to host a screening of the documentary “Vanishing of the Bees.” This movie, narrated by Ellen Page (Juno and Inception) shed light on the current research into Colony Collapse Disorder, how it affects different beekeepers, its implications on agriculture, food safety and society as a whole, and what is being done to remedy the situation. I highly recommend the documentary for anyone interested in learning more about beekeeping and pollination services in agriculture and current events related to Colony Collapse Disorder. This issue may turn out to be a large political and scientific problem in the near future, and all Slow Foodies should educate themselves about it in order to best promote clean and fair food.

After the movie, a panel of local beekeepers(including Golden Rule Honey and Allandale Honey Co) discussed their feelings about the film and their personal experience working with beehives. One overarching theme of both the film and the panel is that there is a new wave of hobby beekeepers in the U.S. Many major cities (including Seattle, Chicago, San Francisco, and New York) have made backyard beekeeping legal again, and Michelle Obama even installed a beehive into the organic garden at the White House. Lastly, we all got to taste the delicious, original honey produced by these local beekeepers. Local honey has such a distinct taste, and can change in taste and color depending on what crops honeybees get pollen from.

It was a pleasure to watch this eye-opening film, hear from local apiarists (and taste their honey) and meet members of Slow Food Boston and Slow Food BU. Hopefully there will be many more opportunities to collaborate on events in the future!

Watch the trailer here:

Vanishing of the Bees - Trailer from Bee The Change on Vimeo.

Also, thank you to Slow Food BU for hosting the event!

Slow Food tea-tasting

I was lucky enough to hold a tea-tasting last week, with the sponsorship and support of Slow Food Tufts. The turnout was a bit low, but this has a lot to do with the date chosen, President's Day, when a lot of people are gone for the weekend. Still, the company was lovely and we had some great teas!

Preparing for the event, I headed down to the Tea Zone at 15 Elm Street, Somerville, where I was amazed by the selection of teas. After careful browsing, I finally purchased 2 oz. of peach white, 2 oz. of Milima estate black, 2 oz. of cream Earl Grey, and 1 oz. of gyokuro green. The guy behind the counter was really nice, and I was unhappy to notice a "for lease" sign on the front window as I walked out.

I then went to the supermarket and got ingredients, out of which I made blueberry muffins and new-to-me cucumber sandwiches, which were just those little pumpernickel cocktail breads, with chive cream cheese and cucumber slices on top. Recipes for those vary somewhat; this was my own variation.

In attendance was Elana Brochin who brought with her a minty "tisane" (or herbal tea), Isaac Anderson (engineering grad student) who brought his delicious homemade chai latte, Catherine Owens who brought a smorgasbord of teas from her travels in Bolivia as well as some deluxe jasmine green tea, and Becca Weaver who dashed over from a flurry of meetings to join us.

We started with the gyokuro green, a premium Japanese tea that called for just two minutes of steeping with comparatively cool, 140 degree F water. This produced a very light brew with a surprisingly rich, earthy flavor. Next was the jasmine green tea that Catherine brought with her, which, simply upon opening the tin in which the tea came, elicited oo's and sighs from everyone around the table. The jasmine was indeed very strong in that pot and left my apartment with a pleasant after-smell, which was complemented well by the next pot we brewed, the peppermint-clove tisane brought by Elana. We made the collective decision that an herbal, non-caffeinated tea would be good for our next round, and it was a good choice, with the herbs opening up our throats and tasting like a summer garden.

It was at this point that Elana had to leave our company and we were sad to see her go. After that, our tea-time looked more like this:At this point, we made the decision to get into the teas of which I'm particularly fond: the black teas. Most commonly, these are your Liptons and Tetleys, etc. However, I had purchased the Milima estate black earlier and was raring to give it a try. Kenyan teas are generally of the Assam variety (generally what is used to make Irish breakfast teas), making very strong, dark brews. Unfortunately, I simply overdid the steeping time while my favorite teapot's spout became clogged. As a result, this was our least successful pot, becoming bitter with tannins, though it made an excellent case for the value of milk or cream in darker black teas.

Around this time, we all start getting both a bit giggly from caffeine and a bit groggy from two hours of tea-drinking, but we pressed on to one of my favorite teas, and probably my very favorite flavored tea: cream Earl Grey. Tealuxe sells this as Creme de la Earl Grey, but they are made the same way, by adding vanilla oil to Earl Grey tea, which is usually black tea with bergamot (a kind of citrus) oil on it. The result is a truly creamy taste (including the texture which is very slightly oily due to the added flavors), and Becca noted aptly its similarity to yellow birthday cake.

Though that sounded like dessert, we decided at that point that our tea-tasting needed to wind down, as we all noted emerging hiccups and general fa-tea-gue. It was time for one more treat: Isaac's homemade chai latte. Boxed Oregon Chai is simply no replacement for authentic chai latte, but even less so for it being freshly made and brought to your home in a glass jar. As we finished, we all breathed a sigh of relief, and also gradually realized that three hours had passed, with us simply sitting in one place, enjoying novel flavors and each other's company without noticing President's Day slowly passing us by. Numerous cucumber sandwiches, almost a whole pan of muffins, and five pots of tea plus a jar of chai latte later, my friends went home with some extra of their favorite new discoveries in tow and the feeling of freshness and subtle elation that tea delivers. I very sincerely hope that we can do this again soon.

Thanks to Slow Food Tufts for your sponsorship of this event!

-Jeff Hake

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Tedx Manhattan "Changing the Way We Eat" viewing party

When you’re a student at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy, it can sometimes feel like food is all you think or talk about. Earlier this month, though, it wasn’t just on our minds: thousands of other Americans tuned in to watch an eclectic, thoughtful line-up of speakers give creative, inspiring thoughts on how to change the global food system. The Tedx Manhattan “Changing the way we eat” event was held in NYC and webcast live to households and viewing parties. Several members of Slow Food Tufts attended a viewing party hosted by the MIT Food & Agriculture Collaborative, a new campus group “actively engaged in advocating for and supporting the development of a more sustainable food system” at MIT and around the world.

Slow Food members, MIT students and other guests enjoyed a delicious all-day potluck along with a full day of innovative and interesting conversations and talks. There was plenty of local NYC flavor, including Columbia professor Michael Conard’s New York foodshed analysis, a local business leader’s outline of Harlem’s efforts to reform its food landscape, and Dan Barber of Blue Hill restaurant, who shared the amazing story of a 27,000-acre fish farm so healthy it doesn’t need to feed its fish and “measures its success by the health of its predators.” Presenters described dozens of creative solutions to changing the way we eat, from DIY window farms to farms in pick-up trucks to innovative financing options for sustainable food entrepreneurs. Lucas Knowles from the USDA’s “Know your Farmer, Know your Food” initiative described examples of successful partnerships between industry and agriculture. And there were several other giants from the sustainable food movement, including Brian Halweil, Laurie David and Slow Food USA President Josh Viertel. Slow Food members were inspired by his description of his foray into enlightened eating and social change and of the challenges of voting with your fork when the incumbent—fast, convenient food—is the only option. See the rest of the line-up here.

TED is the 25-year-old non-profit devoted to “ideas worth spreading” that began as a conference linking people from the fields of technology, entertainment and design. Since then, TED has expanded with global talks, conferences, prizes, and fellowship programs in fields ranging from medicine to music, and also created TEDx, a program of independent, local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience.

Friday, February 18, 2011

First Spring Potluck: a delicious success!

Last night, members of Slow Food Tufts gathered at Maggie's house for a delicious potluck. We took a break from our studies to eat, drink, and talk. Conversation was never dull, and it was a great event for getting to know fellow Slow Foodies.

As always, the highlight of the event was the diverse, tasty food that everyone brought. We even ate an entire (relatively) large slice of double cream Brie... and opened a second package! Sarah Kasten brought homemade chutney that reminded us all of Christmas spices, Kyle made a yummy Baby Arugula Salad, and Emily brought Mochi for dessert. Ever the fan of wrapping appetizers, Maggie made Bacon and Kimchi wrapped Tofu, which was delicious!

In addition, we felt that it would be great to start compiling lists of recipes, so that people could make what they tried at the potluck. Here are some recipes from this potluck, see you at the next one!

Quinoa- Black Bean Salad with Smoky Lime Dressing
(made by Jesse Appelman, recipe from the NY Times)

1 cup quinoa (Inca Red from Ancient Harvest)
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons agave nectar or honey
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 canned chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
1 small garlic clove, finely chopped

Place the quinoa and 2 cups water in a medium saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil.

Lower heat, cover and simmer 15 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed. Stir in the green onions, black beans, and cilantro.

Puree the remaining ingredients together in a food processor; pour over quinoa and stir to coat with dressing. Adjust seasoning with salt and additional lime juice if desired.

Serve warm or at room temperature. Serves 4-6

Kale Mashed Potatoes
Made by Tina Galante

2-3 pounds potatoes, cut into chunks (I like to leave skins on)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch kale, large stems stripped and discarded, leaves chopped
1/2+ cup warm milk and/or cream
2-3 tablespoons salted butter
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Put the potatoes in a large pot and cover with water. Add a pinch of salt. Bring the water to a boil and continue boiling for 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.

Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and saute for a few minutes. Then add the chopped kale, a pinch of salt, and saute until tender.

Mash the potatoes with a potato masher or fork. Add butter and slowly stir in the milk and/or cream until the texture is smooth and creamy. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the kale.

Peppermint Chocolate Chip Cookies
Made by Rachael Kirk

3/4 cup butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets.
In a large bowl, cream together butter, white sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg, then stir in vanilla and peppermint extracts. Combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt; gradually stir into the creamed mixture. Mix in the chocolate chips. Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto the prepared cookie sheets.
Bake for 12 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on cookie sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Bacon/Kimchi Wrapped Tofu
Made by Maggie Holmes

1. purchase 1 pound of kimchi (preferably in long strips, not chopped), 1/2
pound of bacon, 1 packet extra firm tofu.
2. cut the tofu into cubes.
3. wrap the kimchi around the tofu
4. wrap the bacon around the kimchi/tofu and secure with toothpicks
5. broil on high for 8-10 minutes to heat through and crisp up the bacon
6. gobble down with a pack of your funnest pals!