Chef Jody Adams Cooking Tips PLUS Bonus Recipe!

chef jody adams

Chef Jody Adams

This week, we are honored and excited to welcome legendary Boston chef Jody Adams to Just Add Cooking for a series of celebrity chef recipes that will be released in upcoming boxes. First up: the James Beard Award-winner and chef at the helm of TRADE, Porto and Saloniki here in Boston is giving us the recipe for her Roasted Chicken with Muhammara, a hot pepper dip originally from Syria, out in this week’s box!

We checked in with Chef Jody Adams to get her inside tips for making this dish as tasty as possible. Here’s what she had to say: “Seasoning the chicken with salt and pepper overnight allows the seasonings to penetrate the bird. When cooking, I put a little water in the roasted pan so the sugar in the pomegranate molasses doesn’t burn.”

jody adams roasted chicken with muhammara

Keep an eye out for future recipes from Jody Adams in September boxes, and we’ll be partnering with other fantastic Boston chefs throughout the fall, so stay tuned! In the meantime, if you’re itching to get cooking like a world-class chef at home, check out this BONUS recipe from Jody Adams, Spaghetti with Maine Crab Meat, Toasted Breadcrumbs and Garlic. A perfect end-of-summer meal!

Spaghetti with Maine Crab Meat, Toasted Breadcrumbs and Garlic

From In The Hands of a Chef

Makes 4 entrée servings

The Ingredients

Kosher salt
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1½ cups coarse slightly dry breadcrumbs
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
¼ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes, plus more to taste
1 pound high-quality dried spaghetti
1 pound Maine crab meat (fresh, or frozen and thawed—it’s broken up in the coarse of the recipe so either will do), picked through to remove any shell
½ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

The Recipe

1. Put a large pot of salted water on to boil.

2. Heat ¼ cup olive oil in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs, stirring until they’re toasted and golden brown. Remove from the pan and set aside.

3. Wipe out the pan with a paper towel and add the remaining oil to the pan. Add the garlic. Cook the garlic over medium heat until golden. Add the tomatoes and ¼ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes (more if you prefer), season with salt and cook until the tomatoes are tender but not falling apart, about 3 minutes. Set aside until the pasta is cooked.

4. Add the pasta to the boiling water, stirring so the individual strands remain separate. If the pot isn’t large enough for all of the spaghetti to lie flat, either break the strands in half or hold one end of the pasta bundle while the other end softens in the boiling water. As soon as the end softens release the pasta into the water. Cover, if necessary, to bring the water back to a boil Wait 1 minute, then stir again. Check periodically to make sure the strands aren’t sticking together. Cook until the spaghetti is tender, but still offers a little bit of resistance as you bite into it. Begin checking for doneness after 8 minutes. Before removing the pasta, take a measuring cup and scoop out ¼ cup pasta water. Set it aside for use with the sauce. While the pasta is cooking warm a large bowl.

5. Pour the pasta into a colander. While it’s draining, return the tomatoes to high heat. Add the crabmeat and parsley and heat through. Empty the spaghetti into the warm bowl. Pour the tomatoes and crab over it and toss well. If the sauce is too thick to coat the spaghetti, add the pasta water to thin it, then toss again. Toss with the breadcrumbs and serve.

5 Questions with Our Guest Chef Jeremy Sewall

Chef Jeremy Sewall Lo Resolution

Chef Jeremy Sewall is an acclaimed Boston chef, restaurateur and seafood authority. Chef Sewall is the author of the James Beard nominated cookbook “The New England Kitchen: Fresh Take on Seasonal Recipes” and the chef/owner of Lineage in Brookline, MA, Island Creek Oyster Bar in Boston and its sister restaurant Row 34.

Chef Sewall has contributed three delicious recipes for upcoming Just Add Cooking boxes. Before you cook, get inspired with some tips from Chef Sewall himself.

Your career, while global, has focused on fresh, local, farm-to-table food. What inspired this focus?

Food rarely benefits from travel. I have a romantic idea of food in my head; about only cooking and eating fresh caught fish and freshly picked produce. That is what inspires me in both my cooking and how I design a menu. I try to keep my focus on utilizing what is local and freshest to me. 

bacon_wrapped_monkfish_with_sunchokesYour recipes, both in your restaurants and cookbook, utilize a lot of local fish that some of us may not normally think to cook with. Two great examples are the monkfish and mackerel featured in your Just Add Cooking recipes. What local seafood do you think New Englanders often overlook, and what are your tips for cooking confidently with them?

I think most New Englanders focus on the old standbys, cod, haddock, lobster and familiar species like those. New England waters have so much more to offer like monkfish, mackerel, bluefish, hake, redfish and countless shellfish. Don’t be afraid to try new things, the confidence comes with repetition of cooking these over and over.

We’re headed into the warm weather in Boston and many of us will be seeing produce we’re unfamiliar with at the farmer’s market. What’s one “can’t miss” under-appreciated local item, and what’s your favorite way to prepare it? 

There is not only one thing that you can’t miss. There are so many things that everyone should try. I think some of the different greens and root crops get passed over some times. I always encourage people to buy one thing weekly that they have never tried before and this will give them new favorites that they will look forward to. When preparing new things I start with simple recipes, make sure you are really highlighting the ingredient. 

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What’s your personal favorite dish, whether in the cookbook, your restaurants or simply something you cook for your family at home?

I don’t have one favorite recipe or dish. If I am cooking in the restaurants it is different then cooking at home. Cooking at home for my family, is always fun because it can be communal and simple. It’s as much about the time together as it is the food in front of us. Cooking in the restaurants I am inspired by the season, what’s new and what’s next.

Our customers are not professional chefs. What’s your best advice to someone who’s feeling a little intimidated cooking the recipes of an award-winning chef?

Don’t be intimidated, it’s just food. Enjoy the process as much as the result.

Want to give Chef Sewall’s recipes a try? They are available for delivery starting Sunday, April 24th, so order now to choose them for your box!

Defining “Free Range” and “Cage Free” Eggs

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Pick up any carton of eggs and you’re likely to see a plethora of ‘buzz’ words on them, all designed to catch your attention and entice you to buy them. Words like ‘cage free’ and ‘free range’ and ‘vegetarian diet’ and even ‘omega 3’ all swim in front of your eyes. What do they all mean? Is one better than the other? Are they gimmicks or do they have validity?

Cage free means that the chickens were not kept in cases or cages. Usually, however, they are still confined in a building in very close quarters with very little room to move and little or no access to outdoors. When we think ‘cage free’ often we picture happy chickens roaming around the barnyard.

When we think ‘free range’, we might imagine chickens roaming the countryside. In fact, free range is not quite as free as one would like to think. The term ‘free range’ means that the chickens were allowed access to the outside. It does not specify for how long or what the quality of the ‘outside access’ is. It could literally mean that a door at the end of the building which houses the chickens is left open which, technically, could provide ‘outside access’.

Vegetarian diet and grain fed are relatively the same term. Vegetarian diet sounds great and healthy even. Fresh vegetables and fruits galore. It’s terrific, with one, tiny little caveat. Chickens are carnivores. They like to eat insects. Have you ever watched a chicken roam around on a farm? Or perhaps in your neighbor’s back yard? They hunt and peck and scratch. They are looking for juicy little morsels of buggy goodness. A chicken raised on a vegetarian diet is likely being fed industrialized grain (with a high probability of said feed being GMO) and never allowed outside.

Omega 3 eggs come from hens whose diet includes flax seed or fish oil. While omega 3 fatty acids can play an important role in a healthy diet, they can be easily found in their natural sources (flax seeds, fatty fish, walnuts) and it is not necessary to consume ‘omega 3 eggs’. Also, as with the vegetarian diet fed chickens, it is highly likely that they are never allowed outside and are kept in cramped quarters.

Pasture raised means that the chickens are raised outside, in a pasture. In their natural habitat, if you will. They have free access to roam at will, consume all of the lovely insects they would like and have access to shelter (usually a barn or hen house). Some pasture raised hens are fed a supplemental grain diet as well.

Some of the USDA regulations seem to be loosely interpreted by the egg industry as a marketing ploy in an effort to entice consumers to purchase their product (eggs). Cage free and free range sound great until you read the USDA guidelines and realize that it doesn’t quiet mean what the advertising implies it is. So which is best? Well, it is a matter of what is important to you. If you are like me, you would like to know that your chickens were treated with care, allowed free access to a barnyard filled with delicious insects and gorged themselves silly on them.

 

Oh give me a home, where the chickens do roam….

 

 

 

 

Tips for Ingredient Substitutes and Swaps

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It’s a common dilemma: you’re halfway through a recipe when you realize you don’t have one of the ingredients on hand. Or, an allergy or dietary preference prohibits you from using it. Can this recipe be saved?

It sure can! Recipes are great guidelines. They offer an overall picture of what the finished dish will look and taste like. While they provide a certain structure, they can also be played with, modified, tweaked or customized to fit your own personal tastes and dietary habits. Nothing is gospel or written in stone. The world of baking is more precise and certain ingredient combinations produce chemical reactions necessary for the particular application, but in general, you can play with your food.

Making substitutions involves a certain amount of creativity and experimentation and that, at least for me, is where the fun is. I can already hear some of you saying “Maybe for you it’s fun. I just want to know what I can do when I am making pancakes on Sunday morning and the recipe calls for buttermilk and I don’t have any!” Turns out, there are a few things you can do. Let’s take a look:

Substitutions for Buttermilk, Sour Cream or Yogurt: These items are all interchangeable. They have the same basic sour or acidic properties and will produce similar results. You can substitute measure for measure sour cream and yogurt for each other. For instance, if you are making a dip or are adding it to a cake recipe, either will work. If a recipe calls for buttermilk and you have sour cream or yogurt you can use either, thinned with a bit of milk or water. You can also use plain milk with 1 Tbsp (for every 8oz) of lemon juice or vinegar added to it.

Substitutions for Natural Sweeteners vs. Refined Sugars or Sweeteners: honey, maple syrup, maple sugar and date sugar are great alternatives to refined white sugar. An easy rule of thumb when using natural sweeteners as replacements is to reduce the quantity by one quarter to one third. For instance, if a recipe calls for one cup of sugar, you can replace it with 2/3 – ¾ cup of natural sweetener. Because natural sweeteners are less processed, their flavor is more pronounced, therefore less is required.

Liquids: this can be a much more subjective category and has a few different sub-texts. Let’s start with alcohol (wine, for instance). In most dishes, wine or beer or liquor is used to enhance the flavor. The alcohol is generally cooked off, intensifying the flavors and reducing the liquid. In most cases another liquid such as stock or water can be substituted. Some of the exceptions are dishes that include alcohol as a main component such as Boeuf Bourguignon, a traditional French beef stew incorporating Burgundy wine or Bananas Foster or Flambe in which rum or brandy is added to the bananas and the dish is lit on fire to cook off the alcohol (and produce quite a tableside show!).

Water and stock can be used or substituted interchangeably. If you are making a soup and have no stock in your pantry or freezer, you can easily use water instead with attention paid to the required adjustments in seasonings.

Substitutions for Dairy items (milk, cream, or half and half): Can be replaced with non-dairy liquids (rice, almond, coconut or soy milk) in most cases, however the results will vary. This is more of a ‘grey’ or ‘experimentation’ area for most folks. The flavors, textures and structures of sauces, soups and baked goods will vary slightly. Whole milk can be replaced with lower-fat milk versions with slight differences in taste and texture. The same can be said for half and half (which is a combination of whole milk and heavy cream in equal quantities – thus ‘half and half’).

Heavy cream is an entity of its own. Its high fat content make it a luxurious, creamy addition to sauces, soups, baked goods and other dishes. Heavy cream will hold over high heat (boiling, for instance) without curdling, whereas milk has a much lower scalding or curdling point. Half and half and whole milk can be used in place of heavy cream in many instances (soups, sauces, baked goods). When making custard or ice cream, it is the higher fat content of the heavy cream that produces the unctuous texture and structure of the dish, therefore substitutions are discouraged.

Substitutions for Eggs: in baked goods, there are several different ways to make substitutions for eggs. One way is to use 1 tbsp of ground flax seed plus 3 tbsp of water (mix together until gelatinous) for every 1 egg. Other alternatives are half of a ripe banana or ¼ cup of applesauce for an egg. The eggs provide structure, fat and leavening and while the substitutions may not replicate the qualities of the egg exactly, they will produce good results and definitely do in a pinch.

There are myriad other items that are replaceable or can be omitted entirely in dishes. If you are making a stir-fry, for instance, that calls for mushrooms and you do not care for them, they are easily substituted with a vegetable you do like. Again, the exception would be a dish that uses the ingredient as a main component, such as a mushroom soup or stuffed mushrooms. At that point, better to move on to a different recipe. It really is all up to you.

- Chef Holly Pierce

How to Choose the Right Chef’s Knife

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Using the right knives is essential to success in the kitchen. Whether you’ve just invested in a set of knives or are looking for advice on the right things to add to your collection as you start cooking more, we’ve got you covered. The first part of our Knife Skills series will focus on how to choose the right chef’s knife: what to look for when purchasing a good-quality knife, the price range and how to care for your knives.

A good chef’s knife is an investment. It is the one ‘go-to’ tool in your kitchen that can perform a myriad of tasks and, if treated correctly, will last a lifetime. I’ve had some of my knives for over 20 years and they are still going strong. This in, in part, because of the initial financial investment I made in them and also because of the way I care for them.

Step 1: Test the Knives

When purchasing a knife, be it a chef’s knife or other type, it is a good idea to go to a store where you can test out the knives – physically hold them and see how they feel in your hand. Some knives are heavier than others and have different handle configurations. Some handles are made of wood, others of plastic, and some are metal. When you are using your knife, you want it to feel comfortable, like it is an extension of your arm.

What to Look For

Weight: You will notice, when you actually hold the different knives that there is a marked difference in the feel and the weight of them. German made knives tend to be heavier, and the blades thicker while Japanese knives are lighter and the blades are thinner. Ceramic blade knives are very light as are some of the less expensive (read: less well-made) knives.

Knives that are forged of high carbon or high carbon stainless steel are the choice of many professionals and home cooks alike. The have many pluses, including their quality and durability, their ability to keep an edge and ease in sharpening and a few drawbacks, the most notable being the price.

Sturdiness: When you hold the knife, you want it to feel solid, and when you engage the blade, it should remain strong and firm. If it wobbles or bends at all, set it down and move to then next one.

The exception to this is if you are purchasing a fillet, slicing or boning knife. We’ll talk about those in the next post. As you hold the chef’s knife, notice the blade. It should be smooth and sharp, with a definable edge to it. If it has serrations on it, again, set it down and move along.

Blade Extension: Look at the blade as it meets the handle. A good knife’s blade will extend all the way through the handle. This helps to balance the knife and reinforces the blade.

You will notice some knives that have handles that are simply attached to the blades. These are generally less expensive than full-tang knives making them a budget-friendly option. They are also lighter and made of stamped stainless steel. Their main drawbacks are that they are not as strong as high carbon forged knives and they are difficult to sharpen. They range in price from $30 to $100.

Ceramic blade knives are also very light and have super-sharp blades. They are budget friendly also. Their main drawback is that the blades can chip very easily and some are less durable. They range from about $20 to $70.

Step 2: Set a Budget

A good chef’s knife, one that will last you for years and years with proper care, will cost anywhere between $75 and $300. I advocate for one closer to the $75-$150 range. Some of the better known manufacturers are Wusthof, Henckels, Victronix, Miyabi, Global and Shun.

$150 for one knife may seem like (or be!) a lot of dough to lay out. Again, if you think of it as an investment, it may ease the initial wallet shock. Many of the better made knives come with lifetime warranties as well. Good to know when you’re considering which knives to buy.

Step 3: Set up a Care Routine

To ensure that your knife will last you a lifetime, proper care is in order. If I can impress one thing upon you it is to never, EVER put your knives in the dishwasher. EVER. Hand wash them with hot, soapy water (no steel wool!) and dry them. Store them either in a knife block, in a knife sheath or on a magnetized bar. This is to protect the blades and also for safety.

Next post we’ll learn about the different knife types and their applications and I’ll offer suggestions as to which knives will provide a good, solid foundation for all of your kitchen adventures. Until then, happy chopping!

- Chef Holly Pierce

How to Tell When Food is “Done”

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We’ve followed the recipe, made sure we diced and chopped and stirred and prepared to the exact specifications in the directions. We’re ready to apply some heat and get things cranked up. We sear, we roast, we braise, we saute and we consult our directions to find out at which point we stop cooking and start eating. And there it is, the mother of all ambiguous instructions, ‘cook until done’.

Cook until done?! We look in the pan and that pork chop is staring back at us. And it’s not giving up any secrets. In fact, we could swear it is taunting us, ‘Do I look done?’ it says. We poke it, we prod it, we may even cut into it – a few times during the cooking process – and still we are left with uncertainty. Is it done?

Search the internet and you will find a slew of blogs, charts, websites and articles all offering up information on ‘how to tell when it’s done’. Everything from the hand test to calculating thickness or pounds to determine length of cooking time and a host of other (some questionably reliable) ways in between. Most of this information is formulated to test the doneness of animal proteins (beef, poultry, pork, fish, etc). This is because the USDA has determined that in order to kill bacteria that meats harbor (which could cause sickness in humans), they must be cooked to a certain ‘doneness’ or internal temperature.

‘Doneness’ relies on a few factors and the most reliable way to determine the doneness or internal temperature of a piece of steak or a roast chicken is with an instant read thermometer. This handy little device is an almost foolproof way to ensure meats and fish are cooked to the perfect degree of juicy tastiness. It is a terrific and inexpensive investment, about $6 for the standard dial-type and $10-15 for a digital, which can take the angst out of the ‘Is it done yet?’ part of dinner. The chart below is a great primer for different types of meats and their internal done cooking temperature.

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There are also some reliable methods of determining when meat is done if you do not own or do not care to own an instant read thermometer. For whole chickens or turkeys, the rule of thumb is 20 minutes of cooking time per pound of meat at 350 degrees. So for a 4 pound chicken it would take 80 minutes or about one and a quarter hours to cook. Before taking it out of the oven, pierce the thigh of the chicken with the tip of a knife or a sharp pronged fork; if the juices run clear (instead of cloudy or bloody) the bird is done. The same rule can be applied to beef and pork roasts, with the exception of beef tenderloin. The tenderloin is a very lean cut and therefore will dry out very quickly when cooked for a long period of time. Cook it at a higher temperature, 425 degrees, for about 12 minutes per pound.

When frying or broiling a steak or chop (beef, pork, lamb), use the thickness as a guideline. For 1 to 1-1/2” thick steaks or chops, cook for 8-10 minutes per side. The less time, the rarer the meat. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts can follow the same thickness rule. For cuts that are 2” thick or more, cook 12-15 minutes per side (for medium).

Fish is done when it flakes easily with a fork and is opaque throughout. Cooking time depends on the thickness or weight of the piece of fish. For the average ¾” – 1” fillet, cooking time is 4-5 minutes per side if fried/sauteed or 6 minutes per pound if baked or roasted (whole or fillet). Shrimp is done when it turns bright pink on each side, depending on the size, about 2-4 minutes per side. Clams and mussels are done as soon as they open. If they do not open after cooking, toss them!

Whichever method you choose to use to test the doneness, you can be sure that we will provide instructions and information that is as detailed and easy to follow as possible. So that when you look at that pork chop in the pan, you know it will be smiling back at you saying “I’m ready”.

Resolutions are So Last Year

26714686 2016 signAs we enter a new year, many of us have been noodling away at our list of resolutions. We look at the coming months as a blank slate on which we can write all of our positive aspirations. Turn a new leaf. Change a habit which we have outgrown or adopt a new habit or regime. We think about how we can improve our finances, reduce stress, go on vacation, take a class, explore new job opportunities or find more time for friends and family or leisure pursuits. We resolve to lose weight, eat ‘healthier’, exercise more, and attain that perfect image we have for ourselves.

Our lists can grow so long or become so rigid that we can find ourselves becoming overwhelmed and frustrated. We look for ‘expert’ advice and guidance only to find that there are many ‘experts’ all with differing ideas and agendas. Is it any wonder many of our resolution lists are scrapped by March? How do we enact positive change to make better and lasting choices for ourselves?

It starts with the idea behind the ‘resolution’. What if, instead of dogmatically resolving to ‘lose weight’ or ‘eat healthy’ this year, we soften that up and set an intention to take care of ourselves this year? That could encompass choosing to eat healthier foods, setting aside some ‘me’ time, having a massage, taking a cooking class, going out for a hike, reading a book or taking a dance class; generally anything that makes us feel nurtured, nourished and cared for. Without rules. Without a set end goal in sight. One small step at a time. Instead of saying “I will eat only ‘healthy’ foods” we can soften that to “My desire is to feel good in body and mind”. How we interpret ‘feeling good’ is up to us. Choosing whole, natural foods can definitely be a part of that.

When we set parameters for ourselves it can become discouraging if we stray outside of them. We can chastise ourselves for ‘eating that ice cream’ or ‘missing that workout’. Folks, we’re only human. We have lives that get messy, spill color outside the lines, throw curveballs our way and challenge us even on the best of days. What matters is the commitment. It is easier to commit to something when it helps us to feel good. So when we have those ‘off’ moments (or days) we can roll with them and not become derailed.

If you are resolving to ‘be healthier’ or ‘try something new’ this year, we’d like to help you with that. We can take it at your pace, and introduce new things to you one step at a time. We can even address some of your other intentions, like spending more time with family or learning a new skill. Whatever your resolutions or intentions are for the coming year may yours be healthy, happy and delicious.

Chili – with or without beans?

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Nothing warms us up on a chilly day like a steaming, fragrantly spicy bowl of chili. Topped with cheese or sour cream or avocado or crushed up tortilla chips, it is a treat for the tastebuds and the tummy. This humble bowl has interesting beginnings and quite a heated controversy among chili purists.

The origin of chili, or chili con carne (chili with meat), dates back to the mid-1800’s in the US. Trail cooks in and around California and Texas devised a brick of dried beef, suet (beef fat), salt, pepper and chilis that they could boil in pots of water along the trail. The ‘bricks’ were lightweight and stackable, thus lending to their ease of portability. They were also hearty enough to feed hungry cowboys at the end of a long day on the trail.

Chili parlors were a popular staple in Texas in the early 1900’s and wove their way into other states, generally through Texans who emigrated from their home. In the late 1800’s in San Antonio, chili stands were operated by ‘chili queens’ (latino women) in the town center marketplace. The women would make the chili at home and then bring it to town in brightly colored wagons to feed the soldiers there. Offered in plentiful portions at cheap prices, the chili wagons soon became popular with all classes of people who came regularly to eat.

“Texas-style chili”, what chili aficionados refer to as ‘real chili’, is meat (usually beef) and chili peppers. The addition of beans is hotly contested amongst the chili elite and they consider chili with beans inauthentic. As a mandate for inclusion in their official chili competition, the Chili Appreciation Society forbids the inclusion of beans in any preparation of chili. Some even feel the addition of other vegetables such as tomatoes, onions, or garlic are a departure from true chili.

Beans, it seems, came onto the chili scene in the early 1900’s. The most commonly used beans in chili are small red beans, kidney beans, black-eyed peas, navy beans or great northern beans. They are simmered along with the meat, chilis and vegetables.

Today there are many variations of chili; with or without beans, white chili, chili verde, vegetarian chili, chicken or turkey chili. To many of us, chili refers to a stew made with beans, sometimes meat and generally an assortment of spices. For some, the hotter the better. Some folks have honed their chili recipes to perfection and guard them with their lives. We’re happy to share our chili recipe with you. While it may raise the eyebrow of some purists, we’re pretty sure you’ll think it’s delicious; with or without beans.

Mince, Dice or Chop (and what’s the difference?)

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We’ve all been there. We are reading through a recipe that calls for 1 cup of chopped onion, 1 clove of minced garlic and 2 carrots diced into 1/2 cubes and we and we think, “Well, what’s the difference?” It’s a great question. A quick search on the internet pulls up the online dictionary definitions of each as follows:

Mince: to chop food into small pieces

Dice: to cut food into small cubes

Chop: to cut into small pieces

The French have their own set of definitions for size and cut of vegetables (three alone for dicing), but we’ll stick with the abbreviated English versions for now. What the dictionary definitions lack is the reasoning behind the particular method. They are also rather sparse on the information, so we’re here to save the day with details on what each technique means and when to use it.

Mincing

To mince is to chop food into the tiniest possible pieces while still maintaining the integrity of the ingredient. Think of the items that you mince (garlic, shallots, fresh herbs) as something that you want to blend into whatever you are making without any noticeable chunks or pieces. If you are making a shallot vinaigrette, for instance, you would mince the shallot into tiny pieces so that it blends into the dressing seamlessly.

Dicing

When your recipe calls for dicing something, like a carrot or potato or squash, it means to cut it into uniform cubes. Size depends on what the recipe calls for. Personally, I do not keep a tape measure in the kitchen (for those recipes that specify the inch size of the dice) so I rely on the common sense rule of thumb.

If you are dicing vegetables for a soup, the pieces should be about the size of a sugar cube. For a stew or when roasting vegetables, they can be bigger, about the size of, say, a square of chocolate or a caramel or even an ice cube. Cutting vegetables into uniform sizes and shapes allows them to cook at the same pace, ensuring even doneness. This is also the choice to make when you want your dish or your vegetables to look pretty.

Chopping

Chopping is a little looser in practice. It basically means getting the vegetable from its whole form into chunks or pieces. The sizes don’t have to be uniform, as in dicing, and can be somewhat haphazard in shape. Chopped vegetables are great for soups that will be pureed, as a base layer for roasted meats or when you just don’t have the inclination to be all that precise with you mad knife skills.

Can you substitute one for another? In most cases, yes. Just pay attention to what you are making and what textures are a part of the dish. Do you need all of the pieces to cook evenly in the same amount of time? Do you care if you bite down into large chunks of garlic in your stir-fry or would you prefer the tiny pieces to melt on your tongue? Are you trying to get all of the vegetables into a pot of water in the least amount of time so you can sit down for 10 minutes before buzzing them in the blender and getting the delicious butternut squash soup on the table? It’s your call. We’ll always provide you with the guidelines and then encourage you to explore.

Livin’ La Vida Locavore

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In today’s food and culinary culture, there are a lot of buzz words bandied about–so many it can be downright dizzying. One you may have heard, especially if you are a patron of your local farmers market, is locavore. Although it sounds a bit like a type of rail transport, it is actually a word used to describe a person who eats food grown locally, generally within a 100 mile radius. This loose definition most often refers to produce (fruits and vegetables) although it can include meats and dairy products.

Eating locally is not a new concept. For centuries it was the only concept. What one needed to eat one grew, hunted or harvested oneself. In communities goods were traded and shared. By the mid-1800’s with the advent of the US railway, it became possible to transport agriculture within the US and then internationally. We now live in an age where taking a trip to the supermarket is like visiting the United Nations. Our food is trucked, shipped and flown in from all corners of the world.

While finding exotic fruits and vegetables at the supermarket is fun and having access to strawberries year-round is a nice convenience, eating locally and in-season provides us with an array of foods that are fresher, tastier and more economically sound. Foods that are locally grown or produced are generally minimally processed and harvested within a few days or hours of selling or packaging (meats, dairy products, cheeses, etc).

Eating local makes sense for many reasons. It has the power to boost the local economy by keeping dollars in the community and providing employment opportunities. It helps to reduce our carbon footprint by keeping the transport to a minimum. It allows us to connect with the people who grow our food, and provides occasions for us to meet and talk with them and learn about their farming practices. It enables us to take control of our health and well-being through conscious choice and selection. And it just feels – and tastes – good.

According to the 2015 Locavore Index, which culls information from all 50 states in regards to consumers’ commitment to eat local food, Massachusetts ranks in the top 5. That means that a large percentage of people in Massachusetts consistently choose to shop at local farmers markets and farm stands, cultivate a back or front yard garden or are a member of a community garden, participate in community supported agriculture (CSA) or patronize companies or services (like Just Add Cooking) that engage local farms and purveyors.

That’s pretty great. And Just Add Cooking is proud to be a part of that by committing to source our ingredients from local farms, vendors and purveyors. Want to learn more about our local philosophy? Check out some of our featured vendors here, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to get the scoop on the local ingredients we’re featuring each week!