Archives for posts with tag: Vermont

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Any dish that ends “…with ginger and chili” I am predisposed to like. It’s kind of my current favorite flavor profile. I generally like heat over sweet, and there is something medicinal, healing, about the combination. When I can remember to, I like to start my mornings steeping ginger and chili in hot water, sometimes with a little bit of fresh squeezed lemon, and if I’m feeling a stuffy nose coming on, a tiny bit of honey.

So when I stumbled upon a recipe for a spicy butternut squash soup I perused the ingredient list and liked what I saw: coconut milk, fresh ginger, fresh chili, cilantro, turmeric. This was a recipe for October, for crisp weather and fending off colds. It is warmth in a bowl.

I’m in Vermont for a few days watching over a two-month-old kitten named Sam—short for Sammy Davis Jr., naturally. While born feral and therefore fearful of humans, she surprised me this morning when I woke to discover her resting peacefully on my chest. Up, down, with my breath. I picked long red chili peppers with my stepmother from her garden before she headed out of town, putting the better part of one to good use in this recipe. Now I just need to find something to do with all the Swiss chard, white eggplant, and green tomatoes we picked. In the meantime…

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Butternut Squash Soup with Ginger and Chili
adapted from Brooklyn Vegetarian

2 tablespoons coconut oil (olive oil works well too)
1 medium onion, diced
Knob of fresh ginger, approx. 1 inch, peeled and minced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
Fresh red chili pepper, minced, to taste (I used a piece 2 inches long)
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 carrot, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 medium to large butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed
4 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup coconut milk
Salt and pepper, to taste
Parsley or cilantro, to garnish
Scallions, to garnish

In a large saucepan heat the oil on medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for about 5 minutes, or until it turns translucent. Add the ginger, garlic, and chili and sauté for about 1 minute, then add the cumin and turmeric. Stir, then add the carrot and celery and sauté for several minutes until they begin to soften. If the pan gets too dry you can add a spoonful or two of water, so the onions don’t stick. Add the squash, broth, and coconut milk, season with salt and pepper, and slowly bring to just before the boil. Turn the heat down and simmer until the squash is cooked through, about 20 minutes. Allow the soup to cool some before transferring to a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth, in batches if necessary. You can reheat the soup in its pan before serving if you’d like. Garnish the soup with sliced scallions and parsley or cilantro.

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“I like to hang out with people who make me forget to look at my phone.”
-quote I heard recently

I’m in the middle of my summer sabbatical. As some of you know, each summer I take time off from my life in New York City and retreat to my on-again off-again childhood home of Vermont. This is the loveliest time of year in one of the loveliest places on earth. (That’s a fact by the way, not some silly opinion; seriously, check wikipedia.) The Champlain Valley of Vermont: the western side of the state, close to Lake Champlain, and not as far north as you can get, but pretty up there. It is where my heart feels most at home, most at ease. My father and stepmother have the good fortune of calling this place home year round. Up here in the summer I can swim in their pond, shower outside under the stars, read in the hammock on the back porch, and this month, play—or attempt to play—with the three new kittens that were born in their garage. We pick chard and kale and cukes and tomatoes and dill and basil from the garden.

It’s been a good summer for me so far but not without its challenges. I have been working harder than almost any other time in the past few years, while also tending to a tender heart. As you may have noticed I have not been too focused on making or writing about food and I miss it. Although I am editing a cookbook this summer and it’s been both a great pleasure and challenge and once I’m done with the manuscript can hopefully share some of the recipes here.

The only hitch in these lovely summer sojourns is that my time in Vermont must come to an end, and as much as I like Brooklyn, I never want to return to my 400-square-foot apartment or riding the subway or meetings or general lack of lakes to swim in.

While up here though, I, on occasion, leave what we call “the compound,” and venture out to swim in the lake, meet friends for dinner at Black Sheep Bistro, get pastries at Vergennes Laundry, shop at the Middlebury Food Coop (where I worked in high school!), eat ice cream at Lulu’s in Bristol (slumdog millionaire ice cream flavor anyone?), or, like I did today, go blueberry picking. Pelkey’s is the go-to place to pick blueberries in this part of the state in August. I’ve been doing it every summer for the last number of years in a row. Here’s a blueberry cobbler recipe on my blog from July 2011 (and an unrelated potato and green bean salad from July 2012, and a summer roundup from Vermont in August 2012).
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I picked six pounds of blueberries today in just under an hour. I would have stayed and picked double that but I was with friends including a one-year-old in need of a nap and it was about 85 degrees and I was without a hat to block the sun. So, what to make with all these blueberries? My friend Emmanuelle gave me a great idea the other day: Nigel Slater’s Cake for Midsummer, a not-too-sweet peach-and-blueberry inflected cake with hints of almond and orange zest. Slater, being from the UK, writes in the metric system of course, but so does the chef I’m working with and so metric to imperial conversions have become a snap for me.

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A Midsummer Cake

adapted from Nigel Slater
serves 8–10

175 grams unsalted butter, room temp (about 1 1/2 sticks)
175 grams sugar (orig. recipe, I reduced to 2/3 cup and used half white half brown sugar)
2 large eggs
175 grams flour (approx. 1 1/4 cup)
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
100 grams ground almonds (scant 1 cup)*
1 tsp grated orange zest + splash of orange juice
a few drops of vanilla extract
200 grams ripe peaches, roughly chopped (1 peach)
150 grams blueberries (approx. 1 cup)

Grease and flour an 8- or 9-inch round cake pan. Preheat the oven to 340 degrees Fahrenheit (170 degrees Celsius).

Using an electric or stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. (Use good butter if you can, it makes a difference here in the flavor.) One by one add the eggs and beat until combined.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and almonds then add, gradually, to the butter and sugar mixture. Add the orange zest, splash of juice, vanilla, and incorporate. Then fold in the chopped peaches and blueberries.

Transfer the mixture to the cake pan and bake for 50 minutes to an hour and ten minutes, depending on the size of your pan. My 9-inch pan required about a 57-minute baking time. An 8-inch pan might take an extra five minutes or so. Stick a toothpick in and it should come out clean. Let the cake cool before sliding it out onto a serving plate. Some unsweetened freshly whipped cream would be a nice accompaniment, as would a strong cup of tea.

*I think a neat substitution would be cornmeal in place of the almonds. Or, buckwheat flour in place of the all-purpose flour.

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I was up in Vermont this past weekend extending my birthday celebrations with old and new friends and, of course, delicious food. I hesitated before posting because I didn’t get the best food shots (cooking in the evening) but one dish in particular was so tasty I wanted to share. AND it makes use of those preserved lemons you made after reading my recent post. It’s so addictive, and easy to make, this will go into my regular rotation.

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March in Vermont. You can hardly call it spring. It’s either mud season or maple sugaring season, depending on how charitable you feel. These are some shots taken in the surroundings of my parents’ house, including the not-quite-frozen pond and hardy grasses that survived the winter. Check out the cerulean sky!

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One reason I haven’t posted too much lately — aside from concussion recovery — has been wanting to focus more on vegan and vegetarian food and less on meat-centered dishes, not that that was ever my focus. A goal of mine this year is to move more gradually in the direction of an animal-free diet. I’m about 80% there already but it’s that last 20% I find challenging. This spicy carrot salad is vegan (if you omit the optional Greek yogurt) and goes great with a number of main dishes.

This weekend I served it with a very non-vegan leg of lamb, the recipe of which came from the cookbook Jerusalem. The meat was from Duclos’s Sheep Farm in Weybridge, which I mentioned here last summer. From “mostly food” to “mostly vegan!” It’s a gradual process…

Ok, carrots. I love this dish because it’s richness comes from the onion and spices and not from butter or dairy or lots of oil. You can adjust the level of spiciness to your liking, but the recipe below is fairly mild. You could serve this with a warm freekah salad, which I should probably post about next. You cook the freekah just as you would brown rice and add to it caramelized shallots, scallions, and lots of fresh parsley. Dig in.

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Spicy carrot salad
Adapted from Plenty

Serves 4–6

2 lbs carrots
1/3 c olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tsp maple syrup
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 medium jalapeño, finely chopped
1 scallion, green and white parts, finely chopped
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground coriander
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp chopped preserved lemon (recipe here)
salt
2 1/2 c cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 c Greek yogurt, optional

Peel the carrots and cut them into semicircles 1/2 inch thick. Place in a large saucepan covered by cold salted water and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes until tender but still crunchy. Drain in a colander and leave to cool and dry out.

Heat the oil in a large pan and sauté the onion for 12 minutes on medium heat until soft and starting to brown. Add the cooked carrots and all the remaining ingredients, apart from the cilantro and yogurt. Mix well. Remove from heat. Season with salt, stir, and leave to cool.

Before serving, stir in the cilantro, and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Serve with a dollop of yogurt or, to keep it vegan, drizzle with olive oil. Garnish with a little more cilantro.

Below is Wolfgang Laib’s installation at MoMA which just ended on Monday: hazelnut pollen in the main atrium. Beautiful, meditative, and beckoning spring.

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