Let us eat cake and kale and everything in between.

Re-Defining what it means to be a Foodie in 2020

Once upon a time, long before I started Let’s Talk About Food, I was the co-owner of three restaurants. The work was so hard it made me cry. The work was so wonderful it made me cry. There is nothing more gratifying and exhausting, or more important, than feeding your community and yourself. But I admit that until I was in the actual gritty business of food I had not grasped the simple fact that food is the core that ties us together as humans. Our social rituals. Our physical need. The energizer of migrations and human ingenuity. The simple act of breaking bread together.


We all eat. Three times a day if we can. With joy and hunger. And hopefully with the understanding that good clean food is the essential fuel for human health and community. If we are average American lucky we can choose what we eat and when and where we eat it. If we are even luckier, we can search out the best ingredients, the most righteous sources, the rarest of the rare and enjoy it all with joy and ceremony. And perhaps a bottle of wine. But many of our neighbors, in the wider world and even in our close community, are not so lucky.


To be a Foodie in 2020 requires us to go much deeper than we did before. In addition to delighting ourselves, the key challenge for a 2020 Foodie is to figure how to feed the planet and the next billion members of our species. We all still love food. We obsess about food, reveling in new recipes and flavors. We root for the chefs! Nothing wrong with food as a source of pleasure and joy! But we 2020 Foodies are required to think about food more broadly, more systemically. We start at the beginning of where and who grows our food, who brings it from the oceans, coaxes it from the soil, who works with our food in industrial kitchens and labs, in large greenhouses and in small craft cellars, or even in the vast commissaries of the U.S. Army. We care about the supply chain of how food gets from here to there, and how much of it gets left behind. We care about food waste, we care about food insecurity and justice. We care about how many miles food travels to get to us, and we happily hyperventilate about whether GMO’s are good, or bad, or simply irrelevant. We want our kids to know where food comes from (hint: spaghetti does not grow in plastic bags!), how to cook a meal or six, and we want our food dollars to stretch like Bazooka bubblegum. We 2020 Foodies are Citizen Eaters. Mindful of food, proud of our appetites, soldiers for food justice. Food isn’t just what we eat for dinner. It’s the whole circus of life.


Back in 2010 when I first started Let’s Talk About with the Museum of Science in Boston, I used to tell people that I was agnostic about why people came to food as long as they were engaged. They could be hungry gourmands, or fit people concerned about wellness, or moms crazed by the manipulations of the big food companies. They could care about school food, or composting, or be fascinated by the science how bread rises, eggs scramble and salad dressings emulsify. I really didn’t care as long as they were engaged. My mantra was that I wanted everyone to come away with a nugget of food information that they didn’t possess before. Because you never unlearn food. That’s still the hope of Let’s Talk About Food. It’s an event where we come together to have fun, get turned on and think about the collective impact we can have with every bite we take.


On September 28th, the 10th annual Let’s Talk About Food Festival is presented by the Food Voice, Harvard University Dining Services, and Whole Foods Markets.

Irene Li’s Beef & Bleu Cheese Dumplings and Scallion Pancakes

Chef Irene Li was part of our Meals From My Mama segment on the Let’s Talk About Food mainstage. She created two dishes from her Chinese-American childhood.

Chef Irene Li of Mei Mei

  • Beef & Bleu Cheese Dumplings with Rosemary Red Wine Sauce

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting work surface

  • 1 cup boiling water

  • 2 cups toasted sesame seed oil

  • 2 bu scallions

  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce

  • 2 tablespoons Chinkiang or rice wine vinegar

  • 1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

  • 2 teaspoons sugar

  • Canola oil

  • Kosher salt

  • 1 package circular (not square) dumpling wrappers (Twin Marquis preferable)

  • 2# ground beef (preferably grass fed)

  • 8 oz blue cheese (preferably local)

  • 3 large onions, diced

  • Pepper

  • 1 tbs balsamic vinegar

  • 1 cup red wine

  • 1 cup beef or veggie stock

  • 4 oz butter

  • 2 springs rosemary


In a bowl, mix the beef, cheese, and 2 diced onions together. Season with black pepper – if you like, microwave a small piece to test the salt and funk level.

One at a time, fold the dumplings: wet your fingers and moisten the edge of each dumpling wrapper. Scoop in a tablespoon of filling. Fold the dumpling in half, into a pyramid, into a pleated shape, whatever your preference.

In a pan on medium heat with 3 TBS canola oil, fry dumplings until bottoms are golden brown, swirling the pan. Add 1/2 cup of water and cover with a lid – steam for 8 minutes, adding water if necessary. Remove lid and cook until bottoms of dumplings are crispy again. Drain on paper towels.

For the sauce, sautee the third diced onion in canola oil until soft. Add balsamic vinegar and stir until mostly evaporated. Add red wine, stock, and rosemary, then reduce to 1/3 the original volume. Remove rosemary and stir in butter 1 TBS at a time, whisking in between. Season with black pepper and salt.

Scallion Pancakes-Adapted from J. Kenji Alt-Lopez

  • For the Pancakes:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting work surface

  • 1 cup boiling water

  • Up to 1/4 cup toasted sesame seed oil

  • 2 cups thinly sliced scallion greens

  • For the Dipping Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce

  • 2 tablespoons Chinkiang or rice wine vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon finely sliced scallion greens

  • 1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

  • 2 teaspoons sugar

  • To Cook:

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

  • Kosher salt

Put the flour in your food processor and slowly pour in about 3/4 cup of the boiling water with the food processor on. The dough should come together in a ball; if it doesn’t, slowly drizzle more water in a teaspoon or so at a time. Remove the dough, and knead it a few times until it’s a smooth ball – if it’s sticky, dust it with a little more flour. Wrap in plastic and rest in fridge for at least 30 minutes or overnight.

Split the dough ball into 4 pieces and roll each one into a ball, and then a disc. Drizzle sesame oil and 1/4 of the sliced scallions (or any other herb) on each one. Roll each disc into a “snake”, and then into a “snail” (or into a jelly roll, and then into a cinnamon bun). Flatten and roll out again.

Combine all sauce ingredients. Fry pancakes in pan with canola oil, cook on both sides.

Brian Mercury’s Chocolate Cremeux

Chef Brian Mercury showed us how to create sweet treats with a little less sugar while keeping the sweetness and dessert course delight at LTAF this year. Here is one of his recipes. 

Low Sugar Chocolate Cremeux
Executive Pastry Chef Brian Mercury, Oak + Rowan 

1 pound 70% dark chocolate
1 ½ cups heavy cream
¾ cups whole milk
2 oz sugar
2 pinches salt
5 each egg yolks

Heat milk, cream, sugar and salt in a sauce pan till almost a simmer.

Temper the warm cream mixture with egg yolks, a little at a time, no more than a third of cream mixture.

Bring remaining cream to a boil and immediately pour in yolk mixture, stir for 10-15 seconds

Strain mixture through a fine mesh strainer directly over chocolate and stir until thick and smooth. Pour into desired molds and chill to set, 4 hours to overnight


Revolution Foods Fire Roasted Salsa

Revolution Foods is turning Boston School Food on its head by serving healthy meals to 40,000 kids a day. Here is their recipe for fire roasted salsa as prepared on stage by Chef Nate Lopez and his sous chefs. 

Serves: 4


4  large vine ripened tomatoes
1 each jalapeno, or other green chili
6 cloves fresh garlic
1 small yellow onion
1 bunch fresh cilantro, washed and dried, stems removed
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground black pepper

Using an open flame or grill, jalapenos on burner grates and allow skins to turn black, rotate and repeat until fully charred. Remove from flames and place in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap immediately. Set aside for 5 minutes.

  1. While the jalapeno is steaming, using a pan, lightly toast garlic cloves until slightly brown and fragrant.

  2. Peel and slice yellow onion into rings and place on grill or burner. Once a slight char has formed, turn and repeat on the other side.

  3. Using a napkin or paper towel, remove the charred skins of the jalapeno. Then remove the stem portion and rough chop the jalapeno. If you want a milder salsa remove the seeds and white “ribs” of the pepper before rough chopping.

  4. Remove stems from tomato and rough chop. Combine all ingredients into a food processor and pulse on high for about 30 seconds.

Chef Vic Passacantilli’s Pasta Fagioli Recipe

Star Market Executive Chef Vic Passacantilli chose pasta fagioli for our Meals From My Mama segment. It was delicious! Here is his recipe for this old time favorite. 

Pasta Fagioli

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 diced carrot
1  diced celery stalk
2 cloves chopped garlic
32oz can tomato sauce
14oz chicken broth
Ground pepper to taste
1 tablespoon parsley
15oz can of cannellini beans
1 ½ cups of ditalini pasta
Half stick of diced pepperoni

Sauté celery, garlic and carrots in olive oil. Add pepper to taste. Once vegetables are tender add pepperoni. Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.

Add tomato sauce and chicken broth. Bring to slow boil and then add beans. Cook for 15-20 minutes on medium heat. Garnish with fresh basil leaf.