Monday, December 10, 2012

Honeycomb Candy

I know this looks kind of crazy, and not entirely like food at all, but it is sooooooo delicious. Honeycomb candy is the name I know it by. It's a sweet nutty toffee that's light, crispy and melts in your mouth. It also goes by the name Sponge Candy, Seafoam, Fairy Food and Cinder Toffee depending on what part of the USA or the world you are from or discover it in (more info here)... I first discovered this more than a decade ago in a british candy bar called Crunchie sold at Fairway Markets in NYC.

During this season of holidays, sweets and treats, I thought I would try and make this special candy. I brought this batch to a holiday party on the tray I'd made it in and we smashed it to bits at the party. It was a fun, festive and addictive addition to the night. 

Honeycomb candy is pretty simple to make, but it's not a great one to do with young kids, as hot sugar can burn. The one thing to note is that you need to make this in a large pot as it expands by three or four times when you add the baking soda. If you don't have enough honey in the house, you can substitute some maple syrup. Not sure about substituting for the corn syrup, as it is often used in candies to keep sugar from crystalizing, but you might be able to get away with just using honey and sugar.  I added a pinch of salt to mine as I like the sweet/salty combo. 

Honeycomb Candy

1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup light corn syrup
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking soda
1/4 cup water
pinch salt
chocolate coating (optional):
     12 ounces dark chocolate
     2 tbsp butter
  1. Prepare a rimmed baking sheet by lining it with aluminum foil and spraying the foil with nonstick cooking spray or coating very lightly with oil.
  2. Combine the sugar, corn syrup, honey, and ¼ cup water in a large saucepan. You want to use a saucepan large enough so that the mixture can triple in size and still be safely contained (at least 3 quarts). Stir the ingredients together until the sugar is completely moistened. Using a wet pastry brush, wipe the sides of the saucepan to remove any stray sugar crystals.
  3. Insert a candy thermometer and cook the mixture over medium-high heat, without stirring, until the temperature reaches 300 degrees.
  4. Once the candy is at the right temperature, remove it from the heat and add the baking soda all at once. Immediately whisk the candy to incorporate the baking soda, and be careful—it will foam up a lot!
  5. As soon as the baking soda is incorporated, pour the candy carefully onto the prepared sheet. Don't spread it much as you will deflate the bubbles in the toffee.
  6. Allow it to cool and harden completely, then break it into small pieces. Honeycomb can be eaten as-is, or you can dip it in chocolate:
  7. Combine the chocolate and butter in a bowl and set it over simmering water, stir until melted. Note that the amount of chocolate required may vary depending on how thick you made your honeycomb and how many pieces you made.
  8. Using two forks, dip the individual pieces in chocolate so that they are completely covered, and replace them on the baking sheet. Repeat with remaining honeycomb and refrigerate until chocolate is set. Best enjoyed within 24 hours.
Note: Honeycomb cannot be left out in the open for any extended length of time, as it will get sticky. Keep it in an air tight container or ziplock bag. Mine lasted for about a week sipped up tight. These are great dipped in chocolate, but we enjoyed then so much straight off the pan as is.

You can control the thickness of the honeycomb by selecting a pan size based on your preference. If you use an 11x17 pan, the honeycomb will be approximately ¼” thick, while a 13x9 pan yields a ½” candy and an 8x8 pan produces an even thicker honeycomb.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Delicata - The Best Winter Squash

Aside from being absolutely delicious, my favorite winter squash (the delicata variety, pictured on the left above) stand out among all winter varieties because you do not have to peel them! The skin of a delicata squash is so thin it is edible, making preparation of it very easy. I thinly slice these, tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast them. The roasted squash can be added to anything you like! One of my favorite combinations is a green salad with roasted delicata squash, quick pickled red onions, toasted nuts (walnuts, peanuts or pumpkin seeds) and a curry vinaigrette.

Delicata squash are available at most farmers' markets right now, and in some local grocery stores.

Roasted Delicata Squash
2 baking sheets

3 delicata squash - cut in half lengthwise, seeds removed
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
you can also add spices such as curry, chili pepper, or cumin

Preheat oven to 425 degrees
  1. Slice squash into 1/4inch thick half circle slices
  2. Toss with olive oil until evenly coated
  3. Toss with salt and pepper to taste, adding other spices if desired
  4. Place in an even layer on a foil or parchment lined baking sheet.
  5. Roast in the oven until lightly browned, about 40 minutes. Rotate part way through and checking for browning on the bottom side. 

Salad with Roasted Delicata Squash, Pickled Red Onions and Peanuts
If you want to try out this salad:

(in this recipe use red onions, they will turn a gorgeous pink color and omit the basil)

2. Make a basic Vinaigrette and add some curry powder and a drizzle of honey

3. Wash and dry some delicious salad greens: a variety of lettuces, dandelion or mustard greens.

4. Toast nuts or pumpkin seeds in the oven or in a frying pan until fragrant. 

5. Toss the greens with dressing and pickled onions. Top with roasted squash and nuts, enjoy!

While you have the oven on, you might as well go ahead and roast an acorn squash (shown above, split, seeded and placed face down on a baking sheet with 1/2 cup of water. Or, roast some sweet potato wedges or anything else you have in the fridge, make the most of having the oven on and get a jump on your next meal. 

What do you like to roast?

Thanksgiving Food Musings and a Beautiful Bird

I have been hosting Thanksgiving for the past few years, which means that I have been in charge of the Turkey. Each year I have tried a different type of bird, and a few different cooking techniques, but for the last two years, I used the same technique and ended up with a deliciously moist bird cooked in only 2 hours. Two tricks that I think made all the difference: slather tons of garlic pureed with butter or oil and herbs under the skin and on top of the skin, and start with a high heat to brown the bird (in the bottom part of the oven, and then turn the temperature down a bit to cook the rest of the bird, draping the breast with foil if it is getting too dark before the rest of the turkey is done. For the last two years, my turkey has cooked in half the time I had calculated based on it's weigh, and I've had to scramble to get the rest of the meal on the table before the bird was cold. I write this in hopes that I will remember for this year!

I never posted my pictures from last year, so I thought this might be a good time to share. It was a fairly traditional year as far as side dishes and seasoning goes. I'm including links to some good recipes on my blog and in other locations:

Garlic and Herb Roasted Turkey (below)
Mashed Potatoes*
Buttermilk Biscuits
Kale Salad
Roasted Squash and Brussel Sprouts with Pecans
Caraway Roasted Rainbow Carrots (harvested that morning from my own garden!!)

I went a little nuts on dessert:
Raspberry Pie
Cardamom Buttermilk Pie (I topped mine with whipped cream just before serving)
Coconut Cream Pie
Apple Pear Pie
Pumpkin Pie (using a fresh pumpkin)

*Note on Mashed Potatoes: this linked recipe is a basic starting point. I would add a total of 4 tablespoons of butter and I boil my potatoes in the skin and peel them hot using a dish towel, then place them directly in the mixer or ricer, adding salt, hot mik and butter until they are fluffy. 1 

Perfect Roasted Turkey
1 Turkey (about 15-18 pounds)- at room temperature
1 stick butter or 1/4 cup olive oil
8 cloves garlic
1 small onion
salt and pepper
herbs or spices of your choosing

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Puree garlic, onion, salt and pepper with butter or olive oil.
  3. Loosen the skin on the turkey with your hands or a spoon.
  4. Smear garlic puree under the skin, reserving a few tablespoons to rub on the outside of the turkey skin.
  5. Tie turkey legs together with twin or string
  6. Place turkey in a large roasting pan breast side up and place in the oven on the bottom rack. 
  7. Roast at 450 until the skin is nicely browned, roughly 45 minutes to 1 hour. Turn oven down to 350 and continue roasting until turkey meat reaches 170 degrees when tested with a thermometer, approximately 1 more hour. 

This year I am thinking of going a little lighter all around. Contemplating poached pears and fruit based desserts rather than so many pies (the picture above is missing a few pies form our meal last year), and a lot of vegetables again....we'll see if people let me skip the biscuits or not....

I came across this paragraph I wrote last year about the joys of growing and eating my own food. It was an incredible experience to have a large harvest of one crop from my tiny backyard garden and get to share it with my family.

"Growing food in my backyard is an absolutely thrilling experience. To think that I put these tiny little seeds in dirt, let the sun shine on them, give them a little water, and try to keep the squirrels, stray cats and children from destroying them, and a few weeks or months later I have food. Such was the case with 2 raised beds of carrots. Now, carrots take a heck of a long time to grow (70-90 days), so it is amazing to me that they are so inexpensive in the grocery store. This crop took up two halves of raised beds; some precious garden real estate. The great thing is that I planted them so long ago that I'd almost forgotten about them. I'd been saving them for our Thanksgiving meal, and almost forgot to pick them. I sent the kids out on Thanksgiving morning to pull some of the carrots we'd been eyeing for months. The next 30 minutes was filled with kids racing in and out of the house showing us the fat danvers orange carrots, and the assortment of rainbow carrots, skinny white ones, stumpy purples, golden yellows and oranges. The kitchen floor was covered in dirt and brown leaves, the picnic table outside was piled high with carrots (greens and all), and I was filled with an inexplicable joy, both that my kids were taking such pleasure in a vegetable, and that I actually managed to grow something so beautiful and delicious. There was no need to remind myself to be thankful on this Thanksgiving."

 Any Favorite Thanksgiving Recipes you want to share?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Pie Ninjas

It's that time of year again...time to think about PIE.
Year two of my "How to be a Pie Ninja" class at Common Ground School.

What a great group of folks turned out for my class this year! We made pie dough from scratch and then set in on the apple or pear pies. The fun of this class (beyond the obvious bit of pie making) is that each group gets to personalize their pie:

apples or pears
a variety fo spices to explore: cardamom, allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon
candied ginger or fresh cranberries 
sugar or no sugar? white or brown? 
crumb top, double crust or stars and hearts?
lattice weave, crimped edge or fork finished edge....

There are so many ways to make a great pie, and it is glorious to watch people come to life with the choices and the realization that there is not one right way to master this sweet treat....and then watch them fall in love with their creation as it turns golden brown and flaky in the oven.

Beautiful warm lovely pie. We sing your praises.

A glimpse into the Pie Ninja's in training.......

And then for the very flaky pie crust:
Above: pie dough scraps baked into cinnamon twists. Showing off the flaky layers from the cold butter cut into the flour and left in large pieces (some small grape sized ones are fine!)

The Best Pie Dough
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (1 cup white flour plus 1/4 cup or more whole wheat flour or wheat germ)
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup ice water
1/2 teaspoon vinegar (white or cider)

Make the pie dough:

  1. Cut butter into 1-inch pieces and place in the freezer for 15 minutes. Measure and sift all of the dry ingredients. In a mixer, food processor or using two forks,  cut the butter into the dough until it is the size of larger peas or small grapes. Some larger sized piece of butter are good, just pinch them flat. Add the ice water and vinegar and mix dough till combined, dough should be tacky, but not sticky. If the dough is crumbling apart, it is too dry, add a spoonful more water. Gently form the dough into a disc, wrap with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for one hour or longer until well chilled
  2. Preheat the oven to 375°. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to an 11-inch round about 1/8 inch thick. Transfer the dough to a 9-inch pie dish and trim the overhang to 3/4 inch; fold the  overhang under itself and crimp decoratively. Prick the bottom of the pie shell all over and refrigerate until firm.

Basic Apple Pie Filling:
8 apples - peeled and sliced
1/2 cup to 3/4 cups sugar or other sweetener
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon (cardamom, nutmeg, allspice, clove - chose one or two or all...)

optional: 1 cup cranberries, 3 tablespoons chopped candied ginger, or anything else you dream up

  1. Toss fruit with other ingredients
  2. Form bottom crust and fill with fruit
  3. cover with top crust, crust shape cut-outs or crumb top
Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes until crust begins to brown, turn oven down to 325 and bake until juices are bubbling and have thickened and crust is nicely brown. Rotate pie part way through baking and adjust location in oven to encourage even baking. 

Check out this blog post from a Pie Party I had last winter, with links to some other great pie recipes:
Chocolate Souffle Pie, Coconut Cream Pie and more....
or this great Twice baked Raspberry pie or Sour Cherry Pie...amazing!

What are some of your favorite PIE recipes?

Monday, October 15, 2012

New Haven Food Summit 2012

Friday October 12,  2012 was the first ever New Haven Food Summit! City and community leaders gathered at City Hall to dig into the New Haven Food Action Plan developed by the New Haven Food Policy Council and their many partners. The Plan has 3 main goals:

  1. Increase access to healthy food for all people in New Haven
  2. Strengthen New Haven's local food economy
  3. Encourage healthy food choices through education and marketing efforts
Within the plan are 16 strategies and a long list of actions for how to achieve these three goals. The Food Summit was an opportunity to engage a wide range of the local community to build partnerships and set priorities for actions and change in food. Youth were well represented at the Summit from a number of schools and groups including: Common Ground High School, The Color of Words, Youth Unleashed (students from Hill House and Betsy Ross schools), New Horizon High School, New Haven Academy, and the Mayor's Youth Council. City leaders from Youth Services, the New Haven Health Department, Elderly Services, Economic Development, and Livable City Initiative were in attendance and Dr. Mayo, Superintendent of schools, and Mayor DeStefano made appearances as well. 

Local Organizations and community members turned out in droves including: CitySeed, CARE, Your Place Youth Center, Why Weight from Varick AME Zion Church, Yale Sustainable Food Project, Common Ground, New Haven Land Trust, Cornel Scott Hill Health Center, New Haven Farms, Little Red Hen Farm, and so many many more! It was an incredible turn out, we had to turn people away, so next time...we'll have to find a much bigger space. But packing City Hall with energized people ready to help make change was a powerful experience....and this is just the beginning!

Some incredible chefs donated time and food to our exciting launch of the Food Summit. We gathered in City Hall and we all cooked lunch together! It was fabulous!
Sustainable Sushi from Miya's,
CT Cole Slaw from Claire's Corner Copia,
Fresh pulled Mozzarella with Grilled vegetables from Caseus Fromagerie & Bistro,
Blackeyed Pea Salad from Cast Iron Soul,
Locally Grown Fall Salads from CitySeed,
Curry Chicken Salad and Chopped Turkey BBQ from Sandra's Next Generation,
Mini Apple Pies from Sono Baking Co,
and Mini Sweet Potato Pies from Katalina's Bakery.

Here is a small clip from the news:

If you want to check out the Food Action Plan, here is the draft. We will be making a few changes to this as a result of the summit!
New Haven Food Action Plan

And, a great short video from the Color of Words and Common Ground High School!

Building the Movement (video #6) from The Color of Words on Vimeo.

Check back soon for more information on the New Haven Food Summit!
And enormous thanks to every individual and organization that helped to make it a great event!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Food Justice

For many years when someone asked me "what do you do?" I had a fairly straightforward answer "I'm a chef".  When the conversation ventured into "what kind of food do you cook?" or "what's your specialty?" I'd try and find some way to explain a lifetime of experience and love of food in a sentence or two; not the easiest task, but people generally left the conversation understanding that I wield a knife and know how to make a royal delicious mess in a kitchen.

These days however, when people ask me what I do, the conversation goes something like this:
"what do you do?"
"I'm a chef, but I primarily do food justice work in the community."
"what is food justice?"

...and then ensues a long and winding conversation about equal access to healthy food for all people, growing food, food education, food policy, cooking classes, composting, food stamps, breastfeeding, economic development and food, food business incubators, food business resource centers, healthy corner stores, sustainably raised food, connecting farms with cities, and so much more....

I have a feeling that people leave this conversation with a vague idea of what I'm talking about, but not really certain what I do. It was a lot easier to just say, "I'm a Chef", but it's so much more statisfying to be living the work that I truly believe in and discovering and building the path infront of me each step of the way....and with so many more wonderful partners than when I stood behind a stove all day.  I often summarize my new work as, "community building through food", and just leave people wondering a bit.

Speaking of wondering, some of you may be curious about the lack of posts on my blog as of late. The answer to this query is much the same as the story of my work life's easier to write about cooking and food than the more complicated world of food justice.... or at least it takes a little more time to write about it, and time is in short supply in the busy life of work I have in front of me right now.
I'll give you a quick intro to some of the projects I'm working on and beg you to forgive me for the lack of postings...I promise they will increase towards the end of October!

Link to a New Haven Independent Article on 
community outreach with the New Haven Food Policy Council and CitySeed

Check out for more details to events listed below:

New Haven Food Action Plan - a draft plan from the New Haven Food Policy Council - open for comment until mid October. - see the link on the webpage above.

Community Feedback with the New Haven Food Policy Council  (those colorful post-its to the left are people's ideas of what should be done to improve food issues in out city.)

Feast From the Fields - Saturday Sept. 29, Common Ground fundraising dinner and auction

New Haven Food Summit, w/ guest Will Allen of Growing Power - October 12, 2012

The Big Stink, October 13, 2012 - making a stink about growing food in New Haven, a citywide bus tour and garlic planting.

Food Day 2012 -

Two other great events in October you  might want to know about:
New Haven Land Trust 30th Anniversary Gala dinner with Will Allen
Tickets available

15th Annual Cook & Care Walk-a-thon
to benefit 4 area emergency food providers

A Food Month poster should be available soon...
Please read the Food Action Plan on the city website and let me know what you think! -Tagan

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Gloden Raspberry Jam

Sunday morning / 9:15am / me and my 4 year-old daughter at Bishops Orchards / 20 minutes away from our home in the city of New Haven / sneaking past the dozens of rows of raspberries to the one lane of golden raspberries / hearts completely full and our picking bucket getting there.
Six years ago I left Brooklyn for my home town of New Haven, CT. I still miss some things about living in NYC, but all it takes to make me appreciate the simple pleasures of life in New Haven is the ease of a trip to a pick-your-own farm near by, and a pile of great fruit to enjoy and nourish my family. No traffic, no hassle, just good.

Bishops orchard has a ton of raspberries for picking, and I guess I'll let the cat out of box that they have one row of golden raspberries and two rows of're lucky if you get there when there are many of either of these berries left, as some passionate pickers clean them out good, but this was our lucky year.
My daughter announced that we should make jam, and I readily agreed. We didn't get too many berries, about a pound and a half of golden raspberries and the same amount of blackberries with a few red thrown in (that's just about all my 4 year-old had the patience for). Raspberry jam is super easy to make, just add sugar, boil, and pour into a jar. Done. The seeds have a lot of natural pectin in them which thickens the jelly. I noticed when looking up recipes that the golden raspberry jam seemed to have a ton of seeds, so I decided to add an apple to my recipe to reduce the number of seeds per square inch. Apples have a lot of natural pectin too, so no need to add anything else to the recipe. I cut the amount of sugar in half from the jelly recipes I found, and this jam resulted in a great texture and a sweet but tart flavor.  We cooked up the blackberries too, for the same lovely result (sans apple).

If you are going to eat this jelly over the course of a few weeks, you don't need to properly can and seal the jars, just keep them in the fridge and enjoy. If you want to can them for storage in your cabinet, look up canning instructions online.

Golden Raspberry Jam
makes 3 cups jam

1 1/2 pounds raspberries (about 4 cups)
1  large or two medium apples (or pears), pealed, cored and diced
2 cups sugar
optional: herbs or spices
  1. Put berries into a heavy bottomed pot, mash with the back of a spoon or a rubber spatula. 
  2. Add apples and sugar, and any herbs or spices you like (I threw in a few sprigs of lemon verbena, since I'm addicted to it)
  3. Put a plate in the freezer to use to test if the jam is done cooking.
  4. Cook on medium high heat until the jam starts to thicken, about 10 minutes. remove the plate from the freezer. Drop a small spoonful of jam on the plate to cool. Push it with your finger if it seems thick and "wrinkles" a bit when you push it, your jam is done. It will thicken up consideralbly when it is totally cool. If it seems very runny, just let it keep simmering until it thickens more, being sure to stir it so the bottom doesn't burn. Determining the thickness this way is not an exact science, as there is a wide range of acceptable thicknesses for jam, and if it is too thin, it will still taste great!
Don't stress over this, just throw some berries and sugar in a pot, boil, 
and enjoy the miracle of homemade jam!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Grilled Fish Slidders with Fennel Slaw

This season my mother purchased a share at Massaro Farm, a new local CSA farm that providess more than 100 families with weekly supplies of organic produce and donates thousands of pounds of food to people who needed it. My mother's weekly share includes a huge amount of greens, onions, herbs and loads of other delicious produce. There is more than enough for her and my stepfather, so she has been bringing me heads of cabbage, lettuce, onions, fennel and other yummy things (the benefit of living next door). I was planning a special dinner for my mother in-law (who was visiting from Brooklyn, and the cabbage and fennel inspired thoughts of a fresh vinegar dressed coleslaw, and proved to be a great inspiration for delicious grilled fish sandwiches for dinner.

We stoked up the grill, marinated some tilapia and wild salmon in a marinade of garlic, cilantro, vinegar, salt and oil. For simplicity sake the same marinade went on a large bowl of sliced peppers, onions, mushrooms and zucchini, which then got skewered and readied for grilling. The slaw was a combination of finely sliced white cabbage, fennel bulb and "leaves", basil, cilantro, tiny red onions, scallion, vinegar, honey and salt. The whole lot got tossed together to pickle a bit before the meal was served. A mock tartar sauce made of mayo doctored with a little vinegar, salt and honey added just the right embellishment to the fish, and tiny grilled brioche rolls from Judie's made the meal decadent. We topped off the dinner with some homemade pineapple mint sorbet; essentially a delicious smoothie poured into an ice cream maker to freeze while dinner was cooking. 

It was a great summer meal, one I'm sure will be repeated again before fall hits.
 Above: fennel slaw, Below: grilled vegetable kebabs, toasted mini brioche buns, mussels with garlic and tarragon (an extra treat), and marinated grilled tilapia.

 Pineapple mint sorbet:
Have you had any great grilled meals this summer? Please share!