Employee Spotlight – Athena Hay

Athena Photo

March’s Employee Spotlight is a shout out to Athena Hay.  Athena’s contagious smile has been welcoming our guests at EVOO for almost a year.  As a host she is often the first and last person to interact with our guests, and she is exactly the type of person we want for that job:  friendly, outgoing and affable.  When you arrive at EVOO she may be there to greet you with her professional yet vibrant demeanor shining through, assuring you that we will take great care of you.

As usual Steve Kurland our General Manager and business partner, took on the task of presenting this month’s employee spotlight, Athena Hay, with questions.  Read on and get to know her a little better.

How long have you worked at EVOO and in which job(s)?   I’ve worked at EVOO as a nighttime host for about a year or so.

What’s your favorite food item on our current menu?   Current favorite is the Beef Tartare, but the Chinese Box is still my go-to item.

What have you enjoyed about working at EVOO?   Often when beginning a new job and learning about the “behind the scenes” work, the magic of a place can be lost. But, what I loved about EVOO is that the magic just grew. Learning how much EVOO takes to heart the mission to be environmentally conscious and support and serve local.  And, the actions taken that not all patrons might first notice, like how we reuse all our plate liners and how the server notepads are made from our re-purposed menus.  Or how we grow our own herbs and little tomatoes right on the roof of our building!

What are you watching on TV these days?   Planet Earth II on Netflix is a must see if you haven’t watched it yet!

Do you have any pets?   I do not unfortunately! I do try to keep animals in my life as much as possible however. When I’m not working at EVOO, I have an independent dog boarding and walking job so it is not uncommon to see me walking around town with a posse of pups!

Where did you attend college? What was your favorite class?   I attended Massachusetts College of Art and Design where I graduated with a BFA in Architecture. I loved all my design studios but it was also great to step out of my comfort zone with classes like Introduction to Jewelry Metal smithing.

What is the last show you attended?   Last show I attended was a jazz show at the Beat Brasserie in Harvard Square.

Where did you grow up? How did you end up in the Boston area?  I am from the suburbs of Boston and first moved into the city for school, Boston is definitely my hometown!

What is your dream job (other than EVOO)?   Researching and designing public outdoor communal spaces is what excites me most in design so my dream job would be working with a like-minded, passionate team designing for a future communities.

Athena

In 1982, at least 15 years before she was born The Who wrote a song about her.

 

 

Employee Spotlight – Hannah Schwab

 

 

K&H

Hannah Schwab, no, it’s not her high school yearbook photo

 

February’s employee spotlight is Hannah Schwab.  Hannah has many roles at EVOO and Za, most importantly she is half of our events team, corresponding with, helping plan and execute our private events.  She also can be seen waiting tables, running food and being a shift supervisor at any of the restaurants.  I am often lucky enough to share the office space with Hannah, between her many emails and phone conversations, she always has a story to tell, most of them are quite amusing.  When Hannah isn’t fulfilling one of her many roles with us she is often training for her next physical challenge, anything from a 5K to a marathon or a triathlon, Hannah is always pushing herself to great achievements.

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Hannah on the right is all smiles after finishing the Cambridge 1/2 Marathon with Kylie Millbern, Colleen and me.

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Hannah during a recent triathlon

Steve Kurland, our General Manager and business partner, came up with this insightful list of questions for Hannah. Continue reading to learn more than you ever wanted to know about Hannah.

How long have you worked at EVOO and in which jobs?   I started working at EVOO in 2011.  I first started working at Za (EVOO’s sister restaurant) in Arlington back in 2005.  In 2010, when we opened Za and EVOO in Kendall Square, I began working full time. At EVOO I am currently part of the events team, supervisor, and serve two nights a week.

What do you enjoy most about your different job roles?   I love the variety that it provides each day.  It’s great to see an event from the first initial phone call to actually serving the party.  I think it is helpful when planning events to also have insight on serving the group as well.  I am a firm believer in the phrase :variety is the spice of life!”

Tell us a bout being a Doula:   One of my really good friends (and a past employee of the restaurant) recently asked me and another friend to be her doulas for her second child’s birth coming up this February.  For those that have never heard of a doula, they are meant to help provide support to the mother and family during child birth and after.  I took a class and learned all there is to know. I am excited to support my friend. I also think that is not something you normally hear about. How awesome to have a support system built around you for not only the mother and baby but for the significant others as well. You never know, it could be a future side job.

What’s your favorite food item on our current menu?   I LOVE everything on the menu. The burratina dish is always great.  We have just started to have a burger on the menu and it changes weekly, and they are all amazing.  Who doesn’t love a burger?  The Haddock dish has some great flavors.  I could go on and on. I always tell everyone how spoiled I am working here and having the opportunity to eat great food all the time. It’s a blessing.  My all time favorite dish is our strawberry gazpacho in the summer and the strawberry rhubarb crisp!  And don’t even get me started on the pizza at Za.  

What have you learned working at EVOO?   Wow, there are so many things.  I guess the skill of being great at customer service. Whether at a table talking about our menu or helping someone planning a party, a smile, thank you, and overall enthusiasm for our food and mission goes a long way.  I feel very fortunate to be a part of a great team here!

What’s on your music playlist right now?   I have recently been on a music surge lately of some artists.  Currently in rotation are Big Thief, Colter Wall, and Lisa LeBlanc. The later two are both from Canada.

What was your favorite clothing item in high school?   I don’t think that I had a favorite clothing item.  I had a red Jansport backpack that I  loved.  I really liked the television series “My So Called Life”.  And the lead character had a red Jansport. So I thought it was pretty cool.

What is the last show you attended?   I recently went to see Greensky Bluegrass at the House of  Blues in Boston .  There’s nothing like adding a little twang to your evening to make your soul happy. These guys are really great musicians and put on a fantastic show.

Where did you grow up? How did you end up in the Boston area?   I grew up in Western Pennsylvania, a little town called Beaver Falls.  Famous for the being the home town of  Jets quarterback Joe Namath.  After high school, I joined the United States Coast Guard.  I was stationed in Buffalo, NY and Cape Cod.  I met a bunch of awesome friends and overall had a great experience.  After the Coast Guard, I moved to Boston and went to college and have never left. At my heart I am still and will always be a Pittsburgh Steeler fan!

What was your first car?   A 1994 Toyota Corolla.  It was a great car. Drove cross country in it.  I should never have traded it in but liked the look of the old Jettas so off it went.  I now have a 2004 Honda Civic Coupe, Scooter, he’s the best!  Trying to keep him on the road for another year!

What’s your dream job (other than EVOO)?   This is a tough question.  There are lots of things I would like to do. The next step would likely be some role within event planning and maybe not at a restaurant but within the arts world some how.  I always wanted to be a park ranger (since High School) and work a historical site giving tours.  I also went to school for radio broadcasting so maybe working for public radio.  

What is one thing you are passionate about?   I don’t think that I could list just one thing that I am passionate about; it’s like naming one band as your favorite band.  So here are a few: Family, Hankers (Hannah’s boyfriend Hank), Friends, Work, Running, Triathlons (my picture is from after I finished an Olympic distance triathlon this past Summer), Biking, Ocean, Swimming, Music, Concerts, Records, Reading, Walden Pond, Cooking, Knitting, Yoga, Movies, Eating, Dancing, Outdoors,  really just enjoying all there is too life!

Za final cooking instructions

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1/2 cooked, not cut ‘za

As many of you know Za is EVOO’s sister restaurant with two locations, one in Kendall Square, Cambridge, abutting EVOO and the original Za is on Massachusetts Avenue in Arlington.  When the timing is not right for you to dine at either restaurant, you can still enjoy ‘za on your own schedule.  Below is the best way I have found for finish cooking or re-heating ‘za. So, if you are not sure what time you want to eat, but you know you want ‘za, don’t serve it soggy and cold.  Follow these simple instructions to eat crispy crusted hot pizza whenever you want with little effort.

The first thing you need to do is order a stack of za from either location.  They are 10″ pizzas that will serve one hardy appetite or two can share one za paired with one of Za’s amazing salads.  Order a bunch and finish cooking on your time.  I tend to order them early in the day, asking for them to be 1/2 cooked, not cut and refrigerated until pick-up. There is no need to take them home hot.  When I get home I refrigerate the pizzas until I’m ready, whether it’s a few hours or a few days it doesn’t matter.

When it’s time, preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Once your oven reaches 375, place a heavy duty cookie sheet on the middle rack in your oven and heat the cookie sheet for 5 minutes, this will ensure a crisp bottom.  If you have multiple racks and multiple sheet pans you can finish cooking several pizzas at a time, however, be careful the temperature on the bottom and top racks can vary greatly from the middle one.

Now add your pizza, I have found it takes between 8 and 12 minutes to get the crust crispy and the cheese to gooey.  Use a burger flipping spatula lifting the ‘za in the middle.  The sides of the ‘za not being held by the spatula should not droop, the topping should be hot and bubbling in spots. Remove the Za from the oven place on a big cutting board, cut into eight equal sized pieces and serve.

 

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Step 1: Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

 

 

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Step 2: When oven reaches 375, place sheet pan on the middle rack in the oven for an additional 5 minutes.

 

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Step 3: Place ‘za on hot sheet pan.

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Step 4: Look at doneness, brown edges, bubbly cheese.

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Step 5: Check bottom, za is nicely browned and not droopy.

cutting za

Step 6: Cut and enjoy your za.

 

Mason Jars

During the local growing season we fill a great quantity of Mason jars.  In an effort to prolong the local growing season, we pickle, can and preserve a variety of local ingredients; keeping us stocked-up with locally grown produce through New England’s long winter.  We make sweet pickles, dill pickles, pickled cauliflower, pickled peppers, pickled onions, pickled garlic, pickled okra, pickled rhubarb, pickled fiddlehead ferns, pickled ramps and pickled scapes.  In addition to all of the pickles we make a variety fruit jams, this year we made grape jelly, raspberry jam, strawberry jam and plum jam.  We also canned cherries soaked in spiced red wine, and we finish our canning season with many jars of apple butter.  Having all of these pickles and preserves available to us allows us to add locally grown sweet, spicy, acidic and interesting flavors to our menu.  Making all of the pickles and preserves is no small feat, many man (or woman) hours are used every week to stock up our inventory.

At the end of September when habanero pepper season is in full swing, and carrots, onions, garlic and tomatoes are all still readily available, we make enough hot sauce to last us the entire year; this year we made 15 gallons.  We use the hot sauce in our habanero coleslaw, it often finds it’s way into hollandaise, tartar sauce and wherever we need to add some heat.

EVOO Habanero Hot Sauce

Habanero Hot Sauce

Our most popular and most utilized Mason jar fodder is jalapenos.  We fill more than 200 quart sized Mason jars with our sweet – spicy pickled jalapenos.  During the local growing season, which runs from July through first frost, Kimball Fruit Farm in Pepperell, MA, supplies us with a bushel or two each week.  Fredy, our prep cook extraordinaire slices the peppers, rinses them with cold water to remove excess seeds; which contributes to the spicy heat, and then he prepares the brine.  He sterilizes the jars, fills them with the rinsed peppers and hot brine and finally he processes them in a hot water bath.  We set them up in hopes that we have produced enough for the full year, until we can make more.  I don’t want to run out of these peppers they are too popular.  At every family or friend  gathering I get hounded for these peppers.  I make sure a bring several jars with me to keep everyone from twitching.  I get it, I personally go through three to four Mason Jar quarts a year. They are really that good.

At EVOO we always have our pickled jalapenos on our lunch menu, served on our chicken sausage sandwich.  At Za our sister we use them as a pizza topping and in as an ingredient in our avocado salad.  Any recipe that I write that calls for jalapenos we use our home made pickles. Just like any of the other pickles you find on our menu they are all made in house, with recipes that we have spent a long time perfecting. We never use store bought pickles.

 

 

Pie in the Sky

Community servings logo

We are proudly baking pies for the twentieth consecutive year in support of Community Servings’ annual fund raiser Pie in the Sky.  Every year since EVOO opened in 1998, we bake 25 to 30 pies, for pick-up a couple of days before Thanksgiving. Many of the areas best restaurants, bakeries and caterers bake a total of 2500 pies to support Community Servings.

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Fredy getting ready to par-bake some of the pie shells

Each pie costs $30, which provides a week’s worth of nutritious home-delivered meals to a Community Servings’ client and a tasty Thanksgiving treat to the buyer.

 

Follow this link to find to buy a pie.  https://pieinthesky.org/buyflow/cart.cfm

 

EVOO’s Sweet Potato Pie Recipe

Ingredients:

1 each      pre-baked Pie Shell

¼ cup      Dark Brown Sugar

2 cups      Sweet Potato Purée

(from 3-4 baked sweet potatoes)

2 TB        Unsalted Butter

3 TB        Bourbon

1 TB        Molasses

3 each      Eggs

2 each      Egg Yolks

1 cup       granulated Sugar

½ ts         ground Nutmeg

¼ ts         Salt

1 ts          Vanilla Extract

2/3 cup    Milk

 

Method:

Find your favorite pie shell recipe make and pre-bake it.  Evenly spread the brown sugar inside the pie shell.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Bake the sweet potatoes until cooked, while they are still hot, scoop out the pulp, measure out 2 packed cups. Place the sweet potato pulp in the bowl of a food processor and add the butter, pulse until butter is melted and sweet potatoes are a smooth puree. Add the remaining ingredients, pulse until smooth. Pour the sweet potato mixture into the prepared pie shell. Bake until set 45 minutes – 1 hour, until set.

Cool at room temperature for 2 hours and serve with top quality apple butter and lots of whipped cream.

 

 

Seasonal Fruit Crisp

Blackberry - nectarine crisp with corn crisp

Blackberry – Nectarine Crisp with Sweet Corn Ice Cream

At EVOO we almost always have a fruit crisp on our menu.  Starting in the spring with raspberries usually paired with rhubarb, moving into strawberries, blackberries, cultivated blueberries and then my favorite wild blueberries.  Peaches and nectarines are often in the summer mix of crisps sometimes mixed with berries and at times mixed with basil from our rooftop garden.  Going into autumn we like to make pear filled crisps, some years it’s just pears flavored with a little brandy, as is on our current menu; recipe is below.  Other years we pair the pears with dry fruit such as raisins, currants and / or dry cranberries.  Later into the fall and through the winter we are able to get apples cellared at local farms for use in our apple crisp.

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The recipes for all of the crisps are quite similar; fruit mixed with some sugar and flavors topped with an oatmeal – nut topping, baked and served with our in-house made ice cream.  The ice cream flavors depend on which fruit is filling the crisp.  The berry and stone fruit crisps often get creamy, yet mild flavored ice creams such as vanilla, sour cream, buttermilk or even sweet corn.  The pear crisp that is on our current menu is topped with ginger – brown sugar ice cream and our apple crisp is almost always paired with salted caramel ice cream.

 

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Pear Crisp with Ginger – Brown Sugar Ice Cream

EVOO’s Pear Crisp

Ingredients:

Topping:

¾ cup         Granulated Sugar

¾ cup         Light Brown Sugar

¾ lb           ½” cubed Butter

1½ ts           Vanilla Extract

1½ ts           ground Cinnamon

½ ts            Kosher Salt

3 cups        All Purpose flour

¾ cups       Rolled Oats

1½ cups     toasted slivered Almonds

Filling:

5 cups        peeled, cored, large diced Pears

1 TB           Brandy

2 TB           Lemon Juice

1 ts             Vanilla Extract

1 ts             Ground Cinnamon

1 ts             fresh ground Nutmeg

1/3 cup      Granulated Sugar

1/2 ts                   Kosher Salt

3 TB           Corn Starch

1/8th lb       1/4″ diced Butter

 

Method:

Topping:

In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment combine the sugar, brown sugar, butter, vanilla extract, cinnamon and salt until smooth and creamy. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until just combined.

Filling:

In a large bowl combine all of the ingredients.

Baking:

Pre-heat oven to 310 degrees. Fill individual portion sized ceramic ramekins with the filling. Place filled ramekins on a sheet pan. Top each ramekin with 1/3 cup of topping. Bake for 25 minutes. Top each crisp with an additional 3TB of topping and bake for an additional 25 minutes. The filling should be bubbling over the sides and the topping nicely browned. Let cool a bit and serve with ice cream.

Peaches, peaches and more peaches

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I love peaches.  They are another one of the many locally grown crops, such as tomatoes, apples, berries and corn that we look forward to cooking and eating every year.  This peach season is extra special because due to a winter thaw that tricked the peach trees into budding early, followed by a deep freeze that eliminated the buds and ultimately peaches in New England last season.  Fortunately, peaches are plentiful this year and we are celebrating by incorporating them all over our menu.

You can click on the following URL to read an article from the Boston Globe to get a more detailed account of last years peach pounding.

https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2017/05/14/after-sad-summer-peaches-new-england-could-see-bumper-crop-this-year/nKxSdZ7cap4kEgXNPGilJN/story.html

 

Some of this season peach menu items are; a smoky, slightly spicy and cool Chipotle laced Peach Gazpacho (recipe follows) is on both our lunch and dinner menus.  Peach, Bacon and Cheddar Panini is on our lunch menu.  We are making a Peach-Basil Relish that we serve with smoked bluefish.  Peach-Blueberry Crisp (recipe follows) with our homemade sour cream ice cream is on our dessert menu; as are White Wine Poached Peaches that we are serving with an almond financier.  We are also in the process of making Peach Butter and habanero laced Peach Hot Sauce, which we will preserve in Mason jars for use during the winter months.  I don’t want to leave out that we serving a Peach-Goat Cheese Pizza at our sister restaurant Za.  And, I can’t forget about our bar where our bartenders are are creating mixed drinks and Sangria with summer’s golden fruit.

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Chipotle laced peach gazpacho

EVOO’s Chipotle Laced Peach Gazpacho

Soup Base Ingredients:

1½  qts         large diced Peaches

¾ cup           Orange Juice

1 TB             Lime Juice

1 TB             Rice Vinegar

1/3 cup         Water

1½  TB         Honey

2 TB             EVOO

1 ts               minced Chipotle Chilies

1 ts               Kosher Salt

½ ts              fresh ground Black Pepper

Garnish Ingredients:

½ cup           medium diced Peaches

½ cup           medium diced seeded Cucumbers

¼ cup           toasted slivered Almonds

2 TB             small diced Red Onion

1 TB             fresh chopped Cilantro

3 TB             EVOO

Method:

In a tall thin non-reactive container combine the soup base ingredients. Using an immersion blender puree until smooth. strain through a fine mesh strainer. Chill.

Just before serving, in a separate bowl, combine all garnish ingredients. Ladle soup base into chilled bowls, spoon generous amounts of garnish into the center of each dish. Serve.

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Peach – Blueberry Crisp

Peach-Blueberry Crisp

Ingredients:

Topping:

¾ cup      Sugar

¾ cup      Light Brown Sugar

¾ lb         1/2″ cubed Butter

1½ ts       Vanilla Extract

1 ts          ground Cinnamon

½ ts         Kosher Salt

3 cups      All Purpose flour

1 cup       Rolled Oats

1½ cups   toasted slivered Almonds

Filling:

5 cups      large diced Peaches

3 cups      Blueberries

3 TB        Lemon Juice

2 TB        Brandy

1/2 ts       Kosher Salt

1 cups      Sugar

¼ cup      Corn Starch

¼ lb         1/4″ diced Butter

1 ea         Zest from Lemon

Method:

Topping:

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment combine the sugar, brown sugar, butter, vanilla extract, cinnamon and salt until smooth and creamy. Add the remaining ingredient and mix until just combined.

Filling:

In a large bowl combine all of the ingredients.

Baking:

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Place the filling into a 9 inch X 13 inch baking pan. Evenly spread two-thirds of the topping on top of the filling and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the crisp from the oven and evenly spread the remaining third of the topping over the top and then bake for an additional 20 – 30 minutes, until the filling is bubbling around the edges and the topping is nicely browned. Remove the crisp from the oven and let it rest for 20 minutes before enjoying.