Serving Up Vermont
Why is it so hard to reform our food system? Perhaps because so many different arms of the food industry need time and attention. Take food waste, for example. It’s neither glamorous nor obvious, but it is starting to become a leading actor in conversations about food system reform. Why? Because not only does food waste affect how we approach hunger, it also affects our land use patterns and climate change.
The last two weeks of December, I definitely indulged my sweet tooth a lot. Judging by the capacity at our German and Italian holiday baking classes, I was not the only one who participated with a little extra cheer in the holiday dessert department!
Once in a while, you meet a person who is hard to forget. In the case of the Mosaic of Flavor series, that seems to happen every month, as one person after another makes a lasting impression on us with his or her presence, stories, and cooking. As one participant in a recent class quipped: “I don’t come for the food, I come for the stories!” Still, at the end of the evening, when these inspiring people have guided us through preparing a dish or dishes from their home countries, from which they are exiled, the food is almost as unforgettable as the stories.
Hi! I’m Todd, the Outreach and Education Manager here at the Co-op. You’ve heard from my coworkers Caroline and Sarah, and my predecessor Meg, here on Serving Up Vermont, and now it’s time for me to add my voice. I thought a good way to introduce myself would be to share this personal tale of change.
I recently started eating meat again for the first time in 12 years. Up until then, fruits, vegetables, fungi, grains, legumes and yes, cheese and eggs, were all familiar supplies in my kitchen. Aside from accidental bits of bacon hidden in my aunt’s favorite salad recipe or an occasional misread order at a restaurant, no animal flesh had reached my mouth in over a dozen years. And I didn’t miss it one bit.
Vegetarianism was a subtle, yet defining part of my life that started back in college. I grew up eating meat and my family had taught me how to be comfortable in the kitchen, but my love of food didn’t really start until I left the nest. Learning how to cook for myself coincided serendipitously with my environmentally-focused studies at UVM. After learning about the impacts of large-scale meat production and the uncertainty around how to feed a growing global population, it seemed like cutting animals out of my diet was a simple, decisive action that I could take. So what happened?
While the issue of GMO labeling has quieted down in Vermont since the Legislature adjourned for the year, the battle is still raging across the country, particularly in Washington State. At City Market we believe in fostering a community of well-informed citizens, and as such, believe that products should be labeled in ways that allow consumers to make informed choices based on their personal values and priorities. So, in the midst of the calm, let’s take a moment to revisit the GMO labeling debate.
How do you make gnocchi? Chef Antonino DiRuocco shows us how!
The first time I tried to make gnocchi, I was 22, living abroad, and a vegetarian. I had no idea how to cook, yet alone to make Italian specialties, but I had it in my head that I would make spinach gnocchi and pictured myself reclining with a plate of perfectly fluffy, bright green gnocchi (because despite the starchiness of the object of my desire, these would be not only delicious, but also HEALTHY, darn it!). Hours later (it may have been 10 or 11 p.m. by this time) - every surface of my small studio apartment was covered with gnocchi and flour as I, in my foolishness, had tried to simply fold in watery spinach and then kept adding more and more flour until I had a massive amount of dough (was it too wet? too dry? by this point, I had no idea. Perhaps another egg would help bind it!). Upon boiling, these little green nuggets became a gluey mass in the pot, and it would be a long time before I could forget the smell of sodden spinach.
When I first read the description of "Maklouba" (there are many different spellings for this Arabic word) for the September Mosaic of Flavors class, I had to Google it: We were trying to make what, exactly? An inverted pot of rice layered with spiced goat meat and vegetables and topped with a shower of toasted almonds and pine nuts?
Google images confirmed it was a culinary tour de force, the kind of thing that cooks might pray over as they flip it. It sounded so fancy, like the kind of thing American cooks haven't tried to pull off since the heyday of the aspic (if you, like me, are too young to remember, at least I know you've seen pictures of these gelatin molded dinners jauntily decorated with bits of lettuce and parsley).
It turns out, Maklouba is both fun to make, delicious, and remains rather mystifying! Here is what happened when we attempted to flip ours during the Maklouba class with Syrian cook Naghim Nasser (assisted by volunteers from the class):
Imagine opening up your fridge door and seeing all the jars and bottles there, from mustards and relishes to ketchups, salsas, salad dressings, and hot sauce. What if you could make these yourself, and replace those bottles with homemade versions with local ingredients that suit your favorite flavor preferences? And what if they were healthier, too, and preserved with an age-old method for retaining nutrition and flavor?
Welcome to the past.... and maybe the future!
Woodcut illustration of hot peppers and spices
Since moving to Burlington last year, I haven’t yet ventured too far off the main highways. But, finding a need to do a farm visit for one of my classes, I was forced to find a livestock producer who would let me visit his/her farm to take pictures and ask a million prying questions. Luckily, Kristan, one half of Does’ Leap Farm, was willing to let me stop by their farm in East Fairfield, about an hour northwest of Burlington (and a little way off the main highway).
(Photo from Does' Leap Farm)
Two amazing recipes from Jess Bongard of Sweet Lime Cooking Studio in our Summer Inspired Vegetarian class: These recipes take melons to a whole new level: Watermelon-Rosewater Salad with Dates and Pistachios and Green Heirloom Tomato and Honeydew Melon Salad (pictures below). Oh my goodness! If you have melons, make these. If you don't, why ever not?? It's melon season! Come and get 'em!
Ice-cold seedless watermelon - yum!