VCS Rice Pilaf Tips

DSCN2197On March 17, Chef Connie Bearden from Sodexo was featured in our Visiting Chef Series. Chef Connie introduced our new trainees to the wide world of rice pilaf. Rice is one of humanity’s oldest crops, and in some cultures it was even used as currency.  Pilafs are steamed dishes that can be made with a wide number of ingredients.  Chef Connie had some great advice to make rice anything but boring.


  Rice types go way beyond grain length and brown or white. A rich spectrum of colors is found, and each variety expands differently when cooked. For example, the ends of jasmine rice explode and become puffy. Learn about these differences, and always keep the characteristics of the dish in mind to select an appropriate variety of rice.


Rice pilafs require 2 phases of cooking: in a skillet, and in the oven. While in the skillet, keep the rice moving to avoid burning it. Pilaf should be baked until all the liquid in the dish is gone, which typically takes 30 to 40 minutes. The rice should be soft, light, and fluffy. Fluff the pilaf with a fork before serving to prevent crushing the grains.


There really aren’t any set rules for what you can add. Pilafs come in many forms and flavors from all over the world. Experiment freely, and look to other cultures for inspiration. Keep the entire meal in mind to help select ingredients that will complement the other components.


VCS Baking Tips

DSCN2088[1]On March 10, our Visiting Chef Series featured Chef Sarah Powers from Flour Bakery + Café. She brought in blueberry muffins for our trainees and used the same batter for a blueberry streusel cake. Baking is an art that’s all about timing and precision, and Chef Sarah had some great tips for making it easier.

Preparation: Always read the directions first to make sure all ingredients are  on hand. Once they are assembled, measure out the needed amount.  If the recipe calls for melted butter and eggs, make sure to cool the butter before use. This prevents it from cooking the eggs.

Texture: The texture of any baked good is determined by several factors, but a big one is gluten. Gluten is created when 2 proteins found in wheat and some other grains mix with water to form chains. Long chains of gluten are stronger and form tougher textures. This is ideal for more robust goods like bread. Short chains will result in a more tender texture, which is great for muffins and cakes. The more the ingredients are mixed, the stronger the gluten will become.

Storage: Batter doesn’t need to be baked immediately; it can be covered in stored in the fridge for 5-7 days.  In fact, baking batter the day after it was made can maximize the rise and fluffiness of the final product.

Presentation: The appearance of baked goods has a lot to do with how they are set up just before baking. Ingredients like blueberries and chocolate chips can cause stains and discoloration. To prevent this, don’t mix them in while making the batter. Instead, layer them and the batter into the baking vessel. For an even distribution, use an ice cream scoop to measure out the batter. If needed, use a butter knife or spatula to smooth it all out.


National Cold Cuts Day

Today is National Cold Cuts Day! These meats are a lunch time staple just about everywhere, and iCater is no exception. Despite the humble name, cold cuts come in many exciting varieties. With so much to choose from, it can be hard to know where to start. Here is a brief Cold Cuts 101:

Essentially, cold cuts are any meat product that is cooked, then sliced and served cold. Turkey, ham, and roast beef are the most popular, but they are far from the only options out there. In fact, it goes far beyond merely what’s in it; the processes behind them are just as plentiful.  There are three major ways cold cuts are prepared:

  1. Whole cuts – Simple and self-explanatory. These start out as intact cuts of meat. The sections are cooked, and sometimes flavored with salt, spices, or sugar.

  2. Sectioned and formed – These meat products consist of sections of meat that have been bonded together. No grinding, chopping, emulsifying, slicing, or flaking is done to the meat during preparation. Proteins extracted from the meat or non-meat proteins can be used for bonding. The meat and bonding agent are tumbled and massaged. This causes the meat to be quite malleable, which allows it be shaped with molds or casings. The meat is then cooked, which binds the chunks together in their new shape. They are processed and structured to resemble intact cuts of meat in both consistency and appearance.

  3. Processed/Sausages – The bulk of what we call cold cuts falls into this category. Over 200 varieties are produced in the U.S., accounting for approximately 15% of the meat produced. Salami, bologna, olive loaf, and head cheese are all examples of this type. These meats are chopped, seasoned, and formed into a symmetrical shape by casings or molds. Preparation of the ingredients uses one of two methods: emulsion and non-emulsion. Emulsion occurs when the meat is finely chopped and the fat in the mixture is suspended and held in place by water. Non-emulsion often requires a casing and is typically used for coarser grinds.

iCater uses a variety of quality cold cuts in our Classic and Signature sandwiches. For example, our smoked ham and turkey are sourced from North Country Smokehouse. Located in New Hampshire, North Country is an award winning family-run smokehouse that prides itself on fresh, natural ingredients and old world craftsmanship. Our roast beef comes from Dan’s Prize, whose reputation was built on beef. They expertly craft Certified Angus Beef so that it’s flavorful, satisfying, and meets all of the USDA’s HAACCP food safety standards.

Spotlight on Success

 Please join us as we shine a light on the start of Pine Street’s job training programs, employment services and social enterprises.


Fun for Summer

Watermelon Granita Recipe

Butternut Chipotle Soup

Get inspired and warm up with Chef Jason’s Butternut Chipotle Soup to celebrate National Soup Month this January!


Roasted Garlic Burgers

iCater loves a good Labor Day cookout! Sure, it means summer is coming to an end, but there’s still time to fire up the grill before winter.

Try Chef Jason’s Roasted Garlic Burger Recipe. It’s sure to be a hit at your next barbecue or family dinner!















Click here to print this recipe card

iCater featured in Boston Globe

Read what the Boston Globe’s Business section has to say about iCater.

A Taste of the Working World
Boston Globe, January 25, 2012

“Frank Van Overbeeke used to prepare foie gras and filet mignon for the French brasserie crowd as executive chef at Bouchee on Newbury Street. Now he makes cheeseburger meatloaf for the residents at the Pine Street Inn.

In the shelter’s kitchen, he also oversees the preparation of jerk chicken with pineapple rice pilaf for the Boston Foundation, chicken tikka masala for Simmons College, and baked ziti for doctors at Boston Medical Center.” [Read More]



Super Healthy Super Bowl Chili

If you are getting ready to cheer on the Patriots this weekend, then you know a good Super Bowl party isn’t complete without mouthwatering foods for guests to enjoy.

This Super Bowl Sunday, cheer on the Patriots (or that other team) with a bowl of iCater’s delicious chili with a healthy spin.