Flavors of the Valley: Expo Features Local Food Purveyors and Farm Products

Leave a comment

New Faces & New Places to Find Local Food All Year  by Martha Esersky Lorden


It’s really not that hard to eat local and eat well in the Upper Valley region of the Connecticut River, and the recent Flavors of the Valley expo reminds us of that the food and farm connection is a healthy one in our region.

I spent a morning navigating the booths and tables overflowing with local bounty. This year’s event coincided with one of the first true spring days of the year. I was surrounded by happy farmers, chefs, and locovore lovers so it didn’t take long for me to be filled with the optimism of the perennial gardener.

It was fun to schmooze and also to learn. For 15 years, Vital Communities (http://www.vitalcommunities.org) has sponsored this event, which is both educational and delicious. Consumers, farmers, and also schools benefit from their efforts, and the Flavors gathering is a wonderful celebration of their commitment.  It’s also a chance to see what’s new on the local market.

I met some folks this year who are hard at work bringing their local produce to the regional table:


Meet Norah Lake, proprietor at Sweetland Farm in Norwich, VT, a CSA that runs from mid-May through October.  Shareholders can enjoy the farm firsthand when picking up produce. Sweetland also delivers to several central locations. They sell their own processed meats like pork, chicken, and lamb, and shareholders can get honey, eggs, flowers, and herbs, too.  I’ll be gathering my own brown bag from the Sweetland Farm CSA this summer. What a great source for healthy, local food.



Next meet Erik from the Bickford Homestead Cheese of Peaked Moon Farms. I sampled a creamy and tangy cow’s milk feta, which was definitely over the moon. There was a fresh mozzarella, too. These young cheeses were superb, and we can look forward to more aged cheeses from them in the future.


Alice Mower of Alice’s Kitchen out of Cornith, VT tempted everyone with her light, crispy and buttery maple cookies and smooth rich chocolate sauce varieties. I purchased her peppermint chocolate sauce, but equally swooned over the almond flavored variety. Her confections are refined and indulgent sweet treats.

 IMG_0852      IMG_0851

Next, I made a beeline for the hot food buffet tables. Chef Eli Morse, director of food services at the Hanover Consumer Co-op Society was dishing up a creamy polenta topped with a tender veal stew. I spied pulled chicken sliders and classic whoopee pies lined up on the table from Pine, the Hanover Inn’s anchor restaurant, but opted for a more hearty macho kitchen cuisine. The notorious local BBQ joint called Big Fatty’s BBQ out of White River Junction, Vt, (a growing hipster haven for great food, art, theater, and generally funky stuff ) was getting a lot of attention. Brandon Fox, Big Fatty’s keeper of the smoke pit, had just set out chunks of luscious smoked pork bellies. He enjoyed the compliments, but assured folks that a crispy version of the fragrant meat was in the works.  Consider BFBBQ for your next catered event.


With the growing interest in sustainability education, local products and regional cuisine, I predict that the Flavors of the Valley event will be forced to seek a new venue. I had to sidestep over bales of hay, composts devices, tree surgeon displays, and flower pots. Many of these vendors are now popular and familiar faces at the local farmers markets during both the winter and summer seasons. The Upper Valley grows really good food and is supported by an enthusiastic public working together to forge a powerful and delicious farm to table network.

This year, nearly every farm table display was awash in giant bags of carrots. It must have been a banner year for the sweet root vegetable; one table even had a large basket of them with a sign that said “Please Take One.” Many obliged as I saw numerous folks chomping on the orange veggie like Bugs Bunny, but I by-passed the healthy treat, collected my free petunia, and headed out the door toward the re-awakening Connecticut River valley.

Fast Food Can be Slow Food: Cooking Under Pressure

Leave a comment

Cooking Under Pressure
by Martha Esersky Lorden

The Slow Food movement has issued a challenge to the way we eat. Its premise that sustainable, locally raised plants and livestock can transform this nation’s over-dependance on a globalized, national food industry that markets unhealthy fast food products has everyone rethinking what they eat and how they cook.

In addition, the movement celebrates regional and traditional food products along with the personal history accompanying their preparation. Savoring our food, preserving old food ways and cooking methods and reflecting on how we source ingredients is at the very heart of the movement. So when I tell you that you can still march in the ranks of the Slow Food movement while accelerating cooking time, you might be a bit surprised. In this era of speed reading, speed walking, and even speed dating, you really can speed up the cooking process, yet stay true to the school of Slow Food, with an old-fashioned, ingenious piece of kitchen tech known as the pressure cooker.

In today’s home kitchen, cuisine rapido is an obsession and much needed skill in our overbooked lives. The preponderance of cookbooks promising Quick and Easy, Quick and Healthy, or 1-2-3  meals tells us that we desire tricks for getting simple-to-prepare, healthy meals on the table. The set-it-and-forget-it ease of the slow cooker is certainly an option, but you will find that a pressure cooker delivers a complete, nutritional one-pot meal in minutes that is as good as the long, stewing variety.


History of the Device

In 1679, during the reign of the English King Charles, a French physicist and mathematician named Denis Papin invented a cast metal furnace with a locking lid that raised the boiling point of water from 215º to 250º. The high temperature cooked and softened meat quickly, but this “digester” posed dangers of explosion, given the difficulty of regulating the steam pressure. Eventually, Papin invented a safety valve, but there was still the problem of cracks in the cast vessel. Despite earning him membership in the Royal Society after a successful demonstration of the device to King Charles and Society aristocracy, Papin never saw the complete success of his concept, though the science and application of his invention were established.

The set-it-and-forget-it ease of the slow cooker is certainly an option, but you will find that a pressure cooker delivers a complete, nutritional one-pot meal in minutes that is as good as the long, stewing variety.

The pressure cooker eventually became more than a science experiment. Commercial cast iron models appeared in the 19th century, and small domestic models came later. By the early 1920’s, home cooks employed them, but some dangers still persisted. With the arrival of World War II, as most manufacturers converted production to wartime industries, commercial pressure canners prepared food for hungry soldiers across the seas. With the war’s end, home cooks could enjoy modern appliances at cheap prices as manufacturers capitalized on the “benefits of using a pressure cooker for preparing meals, cooking in just one-third of the time, preserving vitamin and mineral content of food, and saving both food flavor and color.” (Miss Vickie’s Pressure Cooker Recipes)  


But by the 1950’s, the pressure cooker was overshadowed by products such as frozen foods, boxed preparations, and other convenience foods which touted a “modern” and “healthy” approach to food preparation. When the interest for a natural and healthy approach to eating surfaced in the 1960’s and 1970’s, the pressure cooker re-appeared briefly, only to be overshadowed by the arrival of increasing fast food options, the slow cooker crock pot, and the microwave oven. Once again, the pressure cooker retreated to the bowels of the kitchen cupboard. Considered old fashioned and not a major go-to appliance, some women were simply reluctant to use a mechanical device which sent out a plume of steam from a jiggling valve and sputtering top.


Pressure Cooker Advantages

While most Americans kept grandmother’s pressure cooker stored in the cellar, European and Asian manufacturers perfected the device, still found in most homes abroad.

Why is this old-fashioned cooking method suddenly popular again today? New models have improved with the advent of better safety-valve design, nonstick surfaces, low noise, ease of use, and even electric models. Today, these new generation, high-end pressure cookers are being exported to America. The pressure cooker of old that rattled, belched, and steamed on the stovetop is a thing of the past.

The advantages of this cooking method are many:

1) You will eat healthier food in less time. Food cooks in up to 70% less time.

2) You can save money.  A quick cooking time means saved energy by using two-thirds less energy. Eat faster and pay less.

3) Less heat escapes into your kitchen.

4) Cheap cuts of meat can be turned into tender, better tasting dishes by the enhanced flavor.

5) Economical whole foods like dried beans, grains, root vegetables, and rice are quick dishes.

6) Flavors are preserved as the food cooks in its own juices, not diluting liquids, producing a rich gravy.

7) Modern pressure cookers are a multi-purpose pot and not just for steaming. They can be a Dutch oven, sauce pan, or a baking pan.

8) Pressure cookers are a quick way to can or preserve foods.

Cooks can count on making better tasting, nutritious food in the fraction of the time with a pressure cooker.

My mother’s pressure cooker was a slightly bent, aluminum affair with a dimpled surface. I remember the clickety clack of the dancing safety valve as the steam escaped. She still talks about the pot roasts and potatoes she cooked in it. When she offered me the cooker and food-stained manual with recipes, I declined, foolishly. It just seemed too passé, too complicated. But since then, I’ve enjoyed two memorable meals made in a pressure cooker. I once prepared a succulent pork posole with a Pueblo Indian woman at her reservation home in New Mexico. In fact, I was so enamored of this meal steeped in tradition, and so grateful for her day of cooking instruction, that I gifted her a new pressure cooker to replace her flimsy, worn-out model. Frankly, I’d be surprised if she gave up her ailing, tried and true model for the new one. I enjoyed another memorable dish of a tender, rosemary pork roast braised in milk. It was prepared by a Roman woman who hosted me during my first visit to the city. I still can’t get that dish and its sweet, rich and creamy sauce out of my mind, and I’ve included the recipe below.

The popularity of the pressure cooker is, well, exploding. As a cooking technique, it is wonderfully in sync with the emerging, modern food philosophy. With so many excellent models (see What to Look for in a Pressure Cooker, America’s Test Kitchen, www.youtube.com/watch?v=IiCUKA7dDUs) to choose from, the convenience of a fast, whole food meal is accessible and easy to schedule into our busy lives. A pressure cooker could just be a modern kitchen’s best kept secret.


Pressure Cooker Pork Loin Braised in Milk à la Romana

This recipe is adapted from The Classic Italian Cookbook by the late, great Marcella Hazan. The dish is excellent served on a base of warm polenta with a sauté of Porcini mushrooms. 

It’s hard to believe this company’s coming dish only takes about 40 minutes to cook, thanks to the magic of the pressure cooker.  


2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 pounds pork loin in one piece with some fat on it, securely tied

2 teaspoon salt

freshly ground black pepper

about 2 ½ cups or ¾ lt. milk


1.In the pressure cooker, with the lid off on medium-low heat, melt butter and oil.

2.When the butter is melted add the meat, fat side facing down first.

3.Brown the roast thoroughly on all sides, and finish on the side where you started.

4.Add the salt, pepper, bay leaf and milk pouring it on top of the roast and adding enough for it to cover the roast by half.

5.Close and lock the lid of the pressure cooker. Turn the heat to high and when the pressure cooker reaches pressure lower the heat and begin counting 30 minutes cooking time at high pressure.

6.When time is up, open the pressure cooker with the Natural release method – move the cooker off the burner and wait for the pressure to come down on its own (about 10 minutes). For electric pressure cookers, when cooking time is up count 10 minutes of natural open time. Then, release the rest of the pressure using the valve.

7.Move the roast to a serving dish tented with tin foil to rest.

8.Let the sauce cool and spoon out the fat, discard the bay leaf and reduce the sauce in the open pressure cooker, if needed.

9.If you do not like the coagulated milk clusters, whisk in some fresh milk or cream or break them up with a stick blender. Taste to check seasoning and add any additional salt, if needed.

10.Slice the roast and arrange on platter. Pour on the warm sauce and serve.

Stock Options: Selecting a Stock for Soups, Sauces, and Simmering

Leave a comment

Screen Shot 2015-01-07 at 7.08.31 AM

Stock Options:   Selecting a Stock for Soups, Sauces, and Simmering

by Martha Esersky Lorden

The traditional cure-all for whatever ails a body is a bowl of chicken soup. How it acquired such status as a great folk remedy is anyone’s guess.

The effectiveness of this magical broth in un-stuffing noses has been the subject of great study, and the results are in. According to Dr. Stephen Rennard of the University of Nebraska Medical Center (http://fyinutrition.com/mystery-chicken-noodle-soup), chicken soup’s high levels of zinc and cysteine have anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce phlegm. Its disinfecting, soothing heat can alleviate cold symptoms and speed recovery, and versions including garlic and onion pack a powerful antioxidant-al punch. Who knew that there really is such a thing as Jewish Penicillin?

Folks looking to create a made-from-scratch soup stock might turn to Gramma’s recipe of old, but home cooks should not discount utilizing the quality stocks available commercially, which also contain (and may even surpass) the healing potential of the favorite family super soup. The grocery shelves are brimming with options. Where to begin? There are cans, bottles, boxes, and jars—  some labeled as stock, others as broth. There are granulated powders, concentrates, and bullion cubes; low fat, low sodium, MSG free; organic, stock made from free-range chickens, stock with wine and seasonings, gluten-free… it boggles the mind. The makers of stocks and broths are obviously keeping up with the latest  food trends— even for something as basic as soup stock.


The creation of a good stock, according to chef Jacob Brun (Stella Culinary School), is the foundation of all great cuisines. Its role in the kitchen is profound. The art of making a stock lies behind any chef’s mastery of the mother sauces of classical cuisine as they are precise reductions of a quality stock.

But what exactly is a stock? And how does it differ from a broth? Many cooks look to richness or thickness as a point of differentiation, with stocks requiring simmering roasted bones to produce a flavorful gelatin. Some identify simmering fresh meat as what renders the lighter broth. Then there are debates about the levels or salt and seasonings. Like much terminology, colloquial usage can confuse the culinary definition. It’s a tedious affair trying to get to the bottom of these differences because, in truth, the differences are not easily standardized.

A quick look in the dictionary of the culinary world, Barron’s Food Lover’s Companion, and we find that broth is defined as a liquid resulting from cooking vegetables, meat or fish in water. The term is sometimes used synonymously with bouillon. On the other hand, a stock (from an old German word meaning  “root”) is simply a strained broth. In other words, a stock is just a broth until it is strained.  As a mere physical, not culinary, refinement of a broth, stock is associated with professional kitchens and serves as as a base for sauce-making or for simmering other ingredients.

When my favorite Food Network cooking diva sings the praises of keeping copious amounts of fabulous stock in the freezer for braises, gravies, and soups, I scoff.  Sure, I envy the luxury she enjoys every time she pops the lid of one of her quarts of stock kept on hand for cooking up comforting soups or braised shanks, but I know that her home made liquid gold takes pounds of ingredients and hours of simmering, usually in pots the size of the Grand Canyon. Or does it?

In just a basic home stockpot, cooks can pull off a restaurant grade stock.The basic building blocks are the classical triad of bones, some aromatics (like onions, carrots, celery, and parsley) and water. The formula seems simple enough, and what a great way to use up odds and ends of vegetables or those bone-in meat parts not usually served up as main dishes—  chicken necks, backs, and wings, or veal knuckle bones. How difficult can it be to roast the bones and vegetables, cover them in water, and simmer them with a sachet of seasonings (bay leaf, peppercorns, thyme, and garlic)?  A little cooling after a 3-4 hour simmer, some skimming of fat, and a thorough straining, and voilá— stock!

For the impatient and busy home cook, there are also excellent quick methods for making stock. I had my doubts, but I’ve finally come up with a recipe, inspired by Mark Bittman, that produces a flavorful, golden stock in just under an hour with some fresh chicken parts that you can get from your butcher. Part stock, part broth, this liquid cooking base can do anything that a stock-in-a-box can do. I love to cook rice in it or use it as a base for my pasta sauces. It also makes a terrific base for soups. You can also make any kind of stock at home in the reliable and convenient set-it-and-forget-it slow cooker.  (See recipes below.)

While many say that homemade stock is much better than anything you can buy in a can or carton, the tongue is the final judge. Yet, many home cooks opt for a commercial brand  that delivers a nice umami from its combination of sodium levels, additives, and meat /vegetable/seafood base. Some choose a prepared stock based on label information alone, not taste, and still other cooks select a variety simply because it has absolutely no additives whatsoever. Seeking to control the level of intensity or salinity in their dishes, many cooks enjoy using granulated bouillon, low salt/low fat stocks, or concentrates. When looking for a quality stand-in for homemade stock, you want a clean and savory flavor of meat, seafood, or vegetables, and you don’t want any lingering chemical tastes or anything overly salty.  And as for shelf life, prepared stock can’t be beat.

Be adventurous in your sampling, and you are certain to find that go-to stock for all your cooking. Though labeled “stock”, these prepared liquids are flavorful factory-made broths designed for the home cook. Unless you are preparing a demi-glace sauce for your master chef class, no worries. Your stock options are plentiful.



(an interpretation of a Mark Bittman recipe from How to Cook Everything)

I use this recipe as the base for my Matzoh Ball soup and pasta sauces as well as for cooking rice and braising chicken.  It is surprisingly flavorful— and fast. You know its done when a golden color is achieved and a rich chicken flavor develops.   —Martha Lorden


4 chicken wings with skin and meat removed

2 backs of a Chicken with skin removed

1/2 large onion, rough chopped (don’t peel it)

1 large carrot, rough chopped

1 stalk of celery, rough chopped

1 bay leaf


1. Combine wings and backbone with onion, carrot, celery, and bay leaf in a large pot with 4 cups of water and turn heat to high.

2. Bring almost to boil, then lower the heat so the so the mixture bubbles very lightly. Cook for 30 minutes, or an hour if you have more time.

3. Cool slightly and strain. Press down the solids to extract as much liquid as possible and discard the solids.

Homemade Vegetable Stock (Slow Cooker Method)

(from Slow Cooker: The Best Cookbook Ever with More Than 400 Easy-to-Make Recipes by Diane Phillips)


1/4 cup olive oil

4 carrots, cut into chunks

4 parsnips, cut into chunks

2 large onions, chopped

1 bunch (approximately 3 cups chopped) Swiss chard

8 oz slice mushroom

2 cups water

2 tbsp tomato paste

2 tsp dried thyme

1 bay leaf

2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns


1. Put everything (and I mean everything!) into the insert of a 5 to 7 quart slow cooker and gently stir to combine. Cook on high for 5 hours or low for 9 hours.

2. Pour vegetable stock through a fine-meshed sieve set over a large bowl. If you desire, remove some of the larger chunks of vegetables first and discard them prior to pouring. Skim off any fat that accumulates.

3. In refrigerator, stock will keep for up to five days. In the freezer this will stay fresh up to 6 months.

Pleasures of the Picnic


by MELorden


Whenever I see a red checkered tablecloth, I can’t help but think of a picnic. Turned into a colorful blanket, the symbol of eating al fresco is the classic canvas for a spread of old-fashioned American culinary delights. Add a green hillside dotted with daisies and a woven wicker basket. Now toss in a bottle of wine accompanied by plates of cheese, bread, and fruit. For good measure, bring along a few large brimmed hats, and the picture is complete.

9631361-picnic-basket-and-bottle-of-white-wine-on-red-gingham-blanket-beside-lake With summer now in full swing, the desire to picnic is picking up. This portable and often impromptu outdoor meal is a wonderful option with the increased selection of fresh, seasonal local produce at farm stands and regional cooperatives.  Browsing the produce and prepared food sections of  your grocery store or the stalls of local farmers markets inspires a seasonal picnic menu.


Victorian-Picnic The ideal picnic has a certain romantic elegance. Victorian style picnics came into fashion in America by the 1860’s and were often very elaborate affairs. Designed around lengthy menus and elegantly outfitted hampers, Victorian picnickers filled them with every tool and gastronomic delight imaginable:  Dishes included timbales, stuffed eggs, pressed chicken salad, aspics, jellied roasts, fish balls, and the ever-popular baked bean sandwich. Desserts featured puddings, prune and other fruit whips, custards, and cakes. By the 19th century, the American picnic was a sort of English high tea en plein air.

This stylish “informality” in dining came to America via Great Britain, by way of the French. The origins of the word piquenique, according to Michael Quinon at World Wide Words, describe an outdoor gathering with food, where participants bring a little something to the party. The French piquer enjoyed this leisurely pot-luck meal where attendees gracefully picked at delicious trifles of this and that. Historians find references to the word in the17th and 18th century (the period of Louis XIV – XV), and by 1800 it appears in English.

71eWMl9A-FL._SL1500_ I like to imagine the French nobility at these affairs joyously poo-pooing the cumbersome rules of formal dining at Versailles while eating finger food and romping about in nature days before the French Revolution.

The American Picnic

It is this mildly rebellious spirit of the picnic that makes it such a great match for Americans. Picnics are a collaborative, resourceful approach to enjoying the fruits of one’s labor in the wild.  Busy as bees and as industrious as the ants that march across their picnic blankets, Americans found ways to eat outdoors:  clambakes, the old box social, Texas BBQs, and Louisiana shrimp boils. There’s backyard grilling, tailgating at athletic events, outdoor concerts, the Old-Fashioned July 4th family reunion. Don’t forget the hiking trails, seaside vistas, mountain tops, and national or state parks where picnic tables beckon. Given the cornucopia of fresh food from the American landscape, the options for what to pack in the picnic box are limitless.

Picnic Fare

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to American picnic foods– there are just traditions. Many of us fall back on the reliable cold chicken with potato salad, cole slaw, and rolls, or ham and cheese sandwiches with chips and pickles followed by brownies or fresh fruit salad. Hamburgers, hotdogs, and beans are also perennial favorites for noshing out of doors, and for many folks, cookouts simply feel incomplete without them. On the other hand, there is that extreme form of outdoor dining typical of the professional and competitive picnicker: NFL tailgaters or sophisticated diners on the lawn at Tanglewood light torches and enjoy champagne, entire roast pig, coq au vin, escargots, and chocolate mousse served on real china, eaten with sterling silver and accompanied by linens that are actually made of linen (no folksy red-checkered tablecloths here).


Indeed, today’s picnic venues and menus are getting an extreme makeover, but there is no need to go to such lengths to amp up your picnic experience. What we eat at a picnic can be more than a box lunch but need not be a gourmet tour de force. A picnic can be a break from mealtime routine, a chance to commune with both nature and your company. Most importantly, a picnic can be an opportunity for tasting a number of small portable plates that, once consumed in the fresh air, become memorable culinary experiences and part of your own picnic food traditions.

High on my list of excellent picnic foods are cold soups and tortes, pickled foods, slaws, local cheeses, and crusty breads. Chilled roasted vegetables and salads travel well and offer that refreshing crunch as well as hydration in the hot weather. Grain-based salads (quinoa, couscous, farro, and barley) are nice replacements for traditional pasta-based and mayonnaise dressed salads. Sliced baked ham, or marinated chicken and beef make wonderful contents for wraps or are great rolled around asparagus and red peppers.  Food eaten with your fingers adds to the convenience of the fun we associate with summer picnics.  And you can leave the clean up to the ants.

Planning a Picnic

Regardless of the equipment used to package, transport, or eat picnic fare, you can plan a quality dining experience that is both smart and simple. Pick up a used basket at a thrift store, or drag out that old Scotch Plaid cooler if you want to be stylish or retro.large_PicnicLunch-basket  With the advent of lightweight insulated bag coolers, you can easily hike to your picnic destination and not worry about bringing along ice cold dishes on a summer’s day.

If you are looking for a more intimate and personal picnic experience, and the sound of distant thunder looms, plan an indoor picnic. Move over breakfast in bed! Why not picnic on the porch, or on the floor?  Bring out the basket, the ground cloth, the picnic plates and cutlery and treat yourself to a great picnic menu under your own roof.  Add a few flowers as a centerpiece, and enjoy your own picnic paradise at home.

Sometimes the best picnics are those that are not extensively planned. Beautiful weather beckons, friends are free, and with a destination selected, the meal comes together in a collaborative fashion. Great expense of time or money is not needed for a sophisticated and satisfying picnic adventure. However, with a little planning and a few good picnic-worthy recipes by your side, you can assemble a simple smorgasbord of samplings that are in tune with the available produce of the summer season.

When I got married, a very popular wedding gift was a woven wicker picnic basket. Somehow, that basket with its nestled cups and plates and its snaps and straps for cutlery, a bottle opener, and linens represented the idyllic adventures my husband and I were going enjoy together for the rest of our lives.  As someone once said, “You can plan a pretty picnic, but you can never predict the weather.”  Now that we are both retired, I’ve dusted it off.  For us, eating on the road these days is actually more of a fast food picnic, but I still believe that the stylish wicker suitcase is nothing short of romance in a box.



These refreshing cold soups are two of my favorites, and they are just as delicious when served from a paper cup as from a wine glass.  The roasted vegetable torte is an Ina Garten gem.  I was served this elegant but simply prepared layered vegetable dish at a recent luncheon.  It can be served either cold or hot and holds up well.  Top it with a spoonful of your favorite yogurt or tangy vinaigrette.     

Summer Gazpachos

Adapted from Company’s Coming Soups by Jean Paré (2006)

Combine the following ingredients in a bowl; toss.  Then pureé in a blender till smooth.

4 large hothouse tomatoes (peeled, seeded, and chopped)

1 English cucumber (peeled, seeded, and chopped)

1 cup chopped red pepper

1/2 cup chopped red onion

2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 garlic clove (minced)

1/2 teaspoon lime juice

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar

2 dashes Tobasco

Salt and pepper to taste

Serve with chopped cucumber, sliced avocado, croutons, or a dollop of sour cream.

Yellow Summer Squash Buttermilk Soup

Adapted from the Whole Living website


Curry powder (1-2 teaspoons)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 medium sweet onion coarsely, chopped

2 medium garlic cloves, minced

2 pounds yellow squash, cut into 1/2” thick rounds

1 large Russet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2” cubes

3 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken stock

1/2 cup buttermilk

Chives, chopped for garnish


Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.

Cook onion, garlic, squash, and potato, stirring often, until vegetables begin to soften (but not brown), about 5 minutes.

Add curry powder and combine.

Add 3 cups stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, stirring occasionally until potato is tender when pierced with the tip of a paring knife, 20 to 25 minutes.

Remove from heat; let cool slightly.

Puree soup until smooth.

Pour through a fine sieve into a clean large saucepan. Set pan over med.-low hat.

Stir in remaining 1/2 cup stock; stirring constantly for 5 minutes. Slowly pour in buttermilk.

Serve chilled.

Roasted Vegetable Torte

Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Cooks (1999) by Ina Garten


2  Zucchini, cut into 1/4 inch slices

1 Red onion, sliced

1 Garlic clove, minced

2 Red bell peppers, halved, cored, and seeded

2 Yellow bell peppers, halved, cored, and seeded

1 Eggplant, unpeeled, cut into 1/4 inch slices (1 1/2 pounds)

1/2 Cup grated parmesan


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In large sauté pan, cook zucchini, onion, garlic, and 2 tablespoons olive for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Brush the peppers and eggplant with olive, season with salt and pepper and roast on a baking sheet for 30-40  minutes until soft (not browned)

In 6 inch round cake pan, place each vegetable in a single, overlapping layer, sprinkling Parmesan, salt and pepper to taste between each of the layers of vegetables:

  • Begin with half of the eggplant, then layer half of the zucchini and onions, then all of the red peppers,then the rest of the zucchini and onions, and then finally the rest of the eggplant.

Cover the top of the vegetables with a 6 inch round of parchment or waxed paper.  Place another cake pan or bottom of a tart pan on top and weight it with a heavy jar. Place on a plate or baking sheet (it will leak) and chill completely.

Drain the liquids, place on a platter, and serve at room temperature.


The Last Dish


by MELorden

I have a regular volunteer kitchen clean-up crew of one in my house– my husband.  Like many households in the modern era, kitchen duties are shared by couples and family members. Interestingly enough, I have no memory of ever brokering this arrangement, and that is why the fact that my husband leaps for the sink after mealtime to wash up touches the very depths of my heart. How generous, how thoughtful, how sweet. What better wish is there for the exhausted chief cook and bottle-washer than to pass along her dish duty to a willing and appreciative mate?

After several decades of this arrangement, I say, “Be careful what you wish for.”

My husband’s dish-doing has become a great source of frustration for me. The task has become, of late, a gesture with little skill behind it, and the more I request he attend to a few details of proper washing up, the less likely he is to oblige.

First of all, we have a dishwasher.  Yes– that’s right.  So how can simply loading it be problematic?  It’s not that I care about the arrangement of the dishes, but since the machine is on its last legs, and we don’t run it everyday, there are just a few simple considerations that would make a world of difference– like, please rinse the grease and goo off the dishes.  If not, the drying food festers and smells up the dishwasher, and oh, yeah– doesn’t come off in the cycle.  And wine glasses should not go in because they shatter from the extreme heat and break when the swirling water crashes them up against the other glasses in the top level.  And the peanut butter on knives and oatmeal on spoons need to be rinsed off because the dishwasher simply can’t clean them, especially after they have cured to cement.

Since hubby generously empties the dishwasher, too (What a love!), he obviously doesn’t mind putting dirty flatware  back into the drawer, or picking out the shards of broken glass. I spend pre-meal time re-washing and scraping the crud off the forks and dishware, particularly when we have guests.

His technique for washing pots and pans also leaves much to be desired.  It’s a quick perfunctory tour of the inside of the pot with the greasy and soap-less sponge.  Drying with a dish towel simply spreads the grease around. I used to redo them quietly, but now I toss them back into the sink, soap up the sponge with very hot water, and glare. Yup. You get a do-over, Buddy.

Most irksome of all is when my Dinnertime Dishman (I think there is a blues song in there somewhere) flicks off the kitchen light and retires to the living room with his coffee and reading material, well-fed and self-satisfied with his specialized and self-appointed marital role on the kitchen front. I enter the kitchen right behind and approach the sink with dread.  And as always, in the bottom of the double basin is the sodden sponge, chunks of food, along with both drain catchers full to the brim with bone and gristle and pieces of garbage. Shining brightly around the entire edge of each sink is a reddish-brown, tomato-tinged ring of soapy slime– evidence of my husband’s valiant effort.


I cry out, deliver a stream of mildly cynical rantings, and commence a vigorous scrubbing and disposing of the nasty bits of food.  I sing out, “Remember, please, that the sink needs to be washed, too.  Think of it as the last dish, honey, okay?”    I hope the term ‘honey’  helps.  A muffled ‘yup’ is the only reply.

il_340x270.215472771 I am married to a very helpful man, and since hammering nails and any sort of house repair is really not his thing, I get a great guy who runs a vacuum, makes the bed, hangs up his clothes, and washes dishes– all without any begging on my part. He gets lots of points for that along with my adoration and love. But it’s his role as dishwasher that really seems to impress my family and friends. To that I say phtppp.

Sure, getting some fancy new dishwasher might forever end my anxiety about the whole affair, but there will always be the matter of the last dish, my husband’s last stand– a gentle and annoying reminder that when it comes to doing the dishes, he is going to continue to do them on his terms.  I think we’ll be going out to dinner more often.

Good Books for Cooks: Going Solo for Supper


Solo Suppers: Simple Delicious Meals to Cook for Yourself

by Joyce Goldstein, photos by Judi Swinks, Chronicle Books, $19.95 (155p)

Book Review by Martha Esersky Lorden

America has the highest rate of single-person households in the world, so it is no surprise that an interest in healthy “cooking for one” is on the rise. Nearly 28 percent of Americans are living alone, and for many, preparing home-cooked meals is not a high priority. Options like dining out alone, tossing packaged foods into the microwave, or bringing home fast food take-out meals on a regular basis can, however, become an expensive and less-than-healthy choice for singles. Yet, many find sitting down to a home-cooked meal alone an unlikely and inconvenient scenario.Solo-Suppers-Goldstein-Joyce-9780811836203

As food-conscious folks address the challenges posed by the single lifestyle, a number of new cookbooks specifically designed to promote the benefits and ease of cooking solo are growing in popularity. Cooking for yourself, they explain, is satisfying, enjoyable, and if done thoughtfully, avoids waste, time, and expense.

In fact, living alone has its culinary advantages. It means that one does not have to cook for another person or cater to another’s tastes and food preferences. Also, the single’s kitchen presents an opportunity to creatively indulge in whatever meals one desires, where the cook is free to experiment and even to use the very same spoon to stir as to taste.

Joyce Goldstein’s Solo Suppers: Simple Delicious Meals to Cook For Yourselfis an excellent cookbook that presents the art of “one-shot dinners” as comforting “creative challenges.” The seventy recipes, formulated for one serving, present well-balanced repasts based on fresh produce, herbs, and good cuts of protein. Full of hints to facilitate shopping and ease of preparation, the cookbook also outlines cupboard and condiment basics and guidelines for turning any leftovers into “new creations.”

The recipes in Solo Suppers are uncomplicated, but they are not gimmicky, shortcut meals for the busy single professional. Each dish is a composed, comforting meal designed to yield a mindful dining experience in the solitude of one’s home. They are sophisticated creations that produce a single meal based on mood or the season. Relaxing in preparation and offering a healthy indulgence, dishes celebrate the Zen of dining solo.

Goldstein loves the versatility of sauces which she believes are “key to making food exciting.” Her pomegranate marinade, Romesco sauce, tangy mango chutney, and citrus-y prune sauce brighten up poultry, fish, noodles, or meat. Recipes for savory soups feature beans with shellfish, Persian style meatballs, lentils, various greens, and Asian-inspired noodle broths.

Pasta dishes like Orecchiette with Broccoli and Chickpeas or Rigatoni with Eggplant, Meatballs, and Tomato Sauce are satisfying and inexpensive dinners for one. Goldstein loves healthy comfort foods like Polenta with Spinach and Peas along with dressed-up versions of macaroni and cheese. Several salad recipes featuring Goldstein’s passion for tart and refreshing vinaigrettes work well as both starters and main dishes. Elegant fare for one includes soufflés, Greek-style lamb steaks, and even a lobster dinner. Cheese and fruit desserts, a number of puddings, and a Spanish-inspired pain perdu with fresh berries are fine finishes for solo suppers.

The cozy recipes in Solo Suppers reflect Goldstein’s belief that everyone “deserves a great meal, an excellent glass of wine, and the time to relax and enjoy” your own company. Solo Suppers teaches single cooks how to be their own best guest, but singles who master these delightful recipes may, in time, find that they are more than likely to have additional guests at their table.


Poached Salmon with Mushrooms, Tarragon, and Cream

From Solo Suppers: Simple Delicious Meals to Cook for Yourself

Because salmon is so easy to cook at home, I almost never order it in restaurants. I can poach it in white or red wine and make a sauce by adding some cream to the pan. When I want an elegant salmon supper, however, this is the recipe I return to over and over again. It combines three of my favorite ingredient: fresh tarragon, sautéed mushrooms, and salmon. If I don’t have an open bottle of white wine on hand, I use dry white vermouth, which is shelf stable.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 ounces fresh mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups dry white wine, dry white vermouth, or part wine and part water
1 salmon fillet, about 6 ounces, skinned
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon, plus more for garnish

In a small skillet, melt the butter over high heat. Add the mushrooms and sauté until they give off some liquid, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour the wine into a saucepan large enough to hold the salmon and bring to a simmer. Slip in the salmon, cover the pan, and poach gently over low heat until the salmon tests done (it should appear opaque when pierced with the point of a knife), 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the salmon from the poaching liquid with a slotted skimmer and set aside on a warmed plate; keep warm.

Add the cream and 1 tablespoon tarragon to the poaching liquid and reduce over high heat to a slightly syrupy sauce. Add the mushrooms and warm through. Spoon the sauce over the salmon. Garnish with a bit more tarragon.

© 2003 Joyce Goldstein

When the Flavorful Gather

Leave a comment


Food expos seem to be popping up like spring daffodils in the Upper Valley.  OTK went outtathekitchen last weekend to one food fair where  local culinary and pure food artisans introduced the public to their wares.  Locavores and the food curious swarmed the hall and sampled their way through the 40 or so booths. The event, sponsored by Vital Communities, a nonprofit serving the Upper Connecticut River Valley of NH and VT,  champions the Valley Food and Farm effort of the region. From the valley’s fancy inns to the small home kitchen canners, food lovers gathered for the meet, greet, and eat.


Whole grain boules made just hours ago from Bee and The Baker

Near the long ticket line at the entrance, visitors enjoyed the attractive mobile museum of the National  Fish and Wildlife Refuge, an educational exhibit on wheels all about the Connecticut River Valley watershed. Its interior, part museum and part fun-mobile for kids, contained educational displays about the natural habitat which thrives in the waters and on the shores of the river.


And this gathering of hungry humans at the expo depends on the watershed, too, as this year’s Flavors of the Valley event proved.


Navigating the crowded gymnasium was tough, but given the amount of  free food being served up, visitors managed just fine.  Many brought their own utensils for the samples and bellied-up to crowded tables where they were served tidbits of sausages, fresh whole grain breads, jams, jellies, and salsas; goat cheeses galore, unpasteurized milk and yogurts, and hot dishes from caterers; caramels and chocolates, too.  Dairy and meat products seemed to dominate– all-natural, organic purity was the theme. Squeezed between the food booths were local associations fighting pollution and land abuse, and plentiful information was available at booths promoting the expo’s business sponsors, such as the Hanover Coop.  Flower and vegetable farmers reminded the public that planting was only a few weeks away, their mini-nurseries featuring seedlings along with purple and yellow happy-faced pansies. An earthy odor of their fresh loam mingled with the perfume of grilled spicy chorizo sausage.

I had the pleasure of talking with one very creative home canner.  John Snell, a Moretown,VT chef and owner of  Marsh Hollow artisan jams, jellies, and condiments, simply blew the competition out of the water. He describes his products as “non-traditional,” and the flavor combinations he designs are truly original in both concept and execution. Sweet and savory, his freshly crafted and seasonally preserved jams and jellies are uncommon and produced in small batches.


I strongly suggest the Blueberry Almond, especially added to yogurt.  But then again, straight out of the jar rocks, too. Fig and Apple, devoid of that cloyingly sweet fig aftertaste common to many fig jams, brings together Italy and New England. There’s Irish Beer Jelly, Bruschetta, and my hands down favorite– Roasted Pepper Lime Jam. He plays around with rhubarb and carrots and pumpkins, too. Sampling these condiments sent my own creative recipe juices flowing, and I am looking forward to using them in fruited tangy sauces for venison, duck, and turkey this fall as well as filling my delicate cupcake confections with frostings and creams incorporating Marsh Hollow artisan jams, jellies, and condiments.


You can also order up delivery of a Jam of the Month. If you join this condiment club, the shipping is free, and the featured flavors include his regular line along with whatever is seasonal– or  better yet, John’s latest inventive combination of seasonal produce– which is exactly what inspires a truly fine chef like John.

Perched at the end of Bee and The Baker’s table of organic breads (all baked in a hand built oven), was newcomer nurse-turned-home-canner, Barbara Badgley of Fairlee, VT, who offered a finely crafted line of hot pepper jelly called Radiant Heat.   This was her debut, and boy, what an entrance.

000_0146These hot pepper jellies are composed of serano and jalepeno peppers from her own garden. Unlike most pepper jellies that feature a sweet viscous base with pepper flakes, her jellies are packed with garden fresh miniature peppers in a tangy jelly and a generous level of heat. Sampling this product was like walking into a garden of flavor as the peppers were so very fresh and kept their integrity.  The product is somewhere between a salsa and a jam and a pickle.  I went home with the Sonoran Sunrise Jalapeño Pepper with Apricot and Ginger and Radiant Heat’s Irresistable  Hot Pepper Jam.  No joke!  Barbara is looking forward to planting some heirloom variety peppers this year.  I think it was a great day for Barbara, and I loved her aspirations for the upcoming season.


Attending this sort of expo is dangerous for I am once again seriously contemplating raising chickens in my backyard. Having gorged on beer cheese, home made pastas, artisan organic butters, honey and maple syrup-based candies, I left Flavors of the Upper Valley with quite a few dreams of my own– for my garden, for my cooking, and for the continued success of these local farmers and chefs.  And the parallel efforts of conservationists of the region make for a wonderful marriage with the creative culinary dreams of the people in this region.  The continued environmental health of the surrounding Connecticut River Valley must never be taken for granted as it remains the foundation of the bounty enjoyed by all in the region.  The alliance of  foodies, farmers, environmentalists, and local business will keep important issues and sustainable agriculture on the front burner.


by MELorden