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

IMG_0856

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:

IMG_0849

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.

header-with-new-sign-copy1

IMG_0853

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.

          IMG_0854

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.

IMG_0855big_fattysbbq_logo

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.

Advertisements

Pleasures of the Picnic

6 Comments

by MELorden

woman-kissing-man-on-picnic-blanket-illustration

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.

 History

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).

6076

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.

∞∞∞∞∞

RECIPES

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

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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.

14

Spinach-Pancetta Quiche

Leave a comment

Maggie is at it again. Yum. Real hungry people eat quiche, especially when it is full of sweet and salty panchetta and wholesome spinach.

maggiesonebuttkitchen

Spinach-Pancetta Quiche

8Or71oqQ13c213336323735363GqgdhtHS_1346364773

preheat oven to 350 degrees

Crust

1 cup chilled butter, cut into cubes

3 1/2 cups flour

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup white wine

1 egg

1/4 cup olive oil

Filling

6 eggs

2 cups heavy cream

salt and pepper , to taste

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

2 cups yellow onion, chopped

1/2 lb. pancetta, chopped

1/4 cup grated parmesan

1/4 lb. Gruyere cheese, grated

1/2 lb. fresh baby spinach

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with metal blade add flour, salt, and butter cut into cubes. Pulse until it resembles cornmeal. Add the wine , olive oil and egg. Blend until dough comes together. Remove from bowl and divide in half. Place one half wrapped in plastic in freezer for later use. With the other half, wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes. Roll dough out to fit a 10 pie…

View original post 190 more words

OTK Issue #3: Coming Attractions

Leave a comment

Art and Food: The Connection Explored

Meetup Party Photos: Our Italian Feast

Plus Recipes!  

Eating Italy in Six Courses

mapping-italy1

Good Books for Cooks:  

New Orleans Classics series by Kit Wohl

Adventures in Food History:   Da Vinci’s Renaissance Cuisine

Steak Diane:  An Elusive Recipe by Tina Rosser

Can Eating Apples Chase Away the Blues?

outtathekitchen to King Arthur Flour

2 Comments

OTK took a trip outtathekitchen and into Vermont to visit a famous flour company founded in 1790 in Boston.

In 1984 it moved to Norwich, Vermont where it now has its central headquarters. Come along and visit the home of  The Baker’s Catalogue.

    

On this pilgrimage to Camelot, the headquarters of  the King Arthur Flour company, I visited the Baking Education Center, Baker’s Store, café  and their kitchens.

This visit was particularly meaningful to me. In the early 1900′s, my grandfather Thomas Esersky used to take a train from Claremont, NH to Boston to buy King Arthur’s large bags and barrels of rye, whole wheat, and white flour for his Ward 7 Bakery.  My grandmother Edith made a Russian black bread greatly favored by  the local Polish and Russian immigrant populations.

static_1896

The spacious retail center has an eye-popping array of every flour type imaginable, including gluten-free variations, along with packaged products such as scones and muffins, bread batters, cookies and squares, toppings, flavorings– everything imaginable for preparing baked confections.  Plenty of upscale kitchen gadgetry and gifts galore at every turn, too.

 

There is also a new baking demo area where I  met Lee who had just finished off some basic bread recipes and two kinds of scones, white and wheat flour.   I enjoyed chatting with her (as well as “testing” the free samples. I could not believe how tender and rich the whole wheat scones were).

The highlight of the visit was the chance to go behind the scenes of the whole operation to see where skilled bakers make all the products for the KAF cafés and several nearby food stores.

These guys had been here since 4:00 AM and were still in a good mood. This kitchen looked like a very cool place to work. And it smelled heavenly.

KAF brags a 100% employee owned company.

Angela Fredericks, a 3rd generation baker from the midwest, works massive amounts of beautiful and elastic dough into exactly 3.5 lb loaves

Her grandparents and parents ran Frederick’s Bakery in Sheboygan.

Clouds of puffy and fragrant dough will see another rise before being baked.

These  dough-rising baskets, or brotformen,  are made of coiled willow and are sold for the home baker  in the retail area.

Nearly 40 different varieties of bread are baked on the premises on specific days, (see listing at http://www.kingarthurflour.com/visit/bread.html ), but today featured deli rye and classic baguettes.

There is also an impressive cookbook selection focused exclusively on the art of baking.

For a listing of the King Arthur Flour series of cookbooks, see

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=king+arthur+flour+cookbooks

And don’t forget to check out the handsome Commemorative edition of the Original King Arthur Flour Cookbook celebrating 200 years of KAF.

Next, it was time for a peek at the spacious education center. Courses are generally booked solid.  I met guest teacher, consultant, and educator,  JamesMacGuire of Montreal.  He was preparing for the upcoming class on brioche and croissants– a challenging level of difficulty here. MacGuire emphasizes the importance of the artisan’s hand in making these French style breads.

When the new center was reconfigured and refurbished, the directors and staff decided to save the original bread oven.  It now sits on the entrance to the property, and there are plans to develop a community oven program.  It is a magnificent piece of masonry and seems to be weathering the Vermont winter well.

Before departing, I treated myself to a piece of  roasted tomato pizza– fresh and yeasty crust with intensely flavored grape tomatoes and basil.

Nor could I escape the allure of  the specialty raspberry and lemon curd filled cupcake.  It never made it back to the car.

I am sure to return to shop and get the salted caramel glazed cupcake next time.

And I picked up a few items from the retail store as well.

No one escapes King Arthur Flour’s digs without some fond food memories and a couple of  treasures from this castle of confection.

–MELorden   

http://www.kingarthurflour.com

Peruse The Baker’s Catalogue and be prepared to experience a baker’s dream.

For an excellent history of the company, see

http://youtube.googleapis.com/v/l3wq5zQtAm4

The website is terrific and there is plenty to explore.

Many thanks to my delightful tour guide, Terry Rosenstock, Public Relations Coordinator at KAF.

Coming Attractions in the new issue of OTK for Monday 1/21:

2 Comments

OTK presents a 1950’s food focus in its second issue.

Take a step back into the mid-century, “modern” kitchen

for an Adventure in Food History!

Screen Shot 2013-01-18 at 8.57.20 AM

Featured Articles

“The Mother of All Mixers:  The Sunbeam Mixmaster”

“Cooking  from Comic Books:  In the Kitchen with Disney Classics”

“On the Road with OTK”  presents a special tour of  the newly refurbished King Arthur Flour

 flagship bakery store, café, and education center.

Enjoy our regular columns featuring

wacky new kitchen gadgets, cookbook reviews, and the sage wisdom of our OTK’s own Kitchen Shrink.