Serving Up Vermont
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!
By now, I've had several weeks to digest the TED-style talks from the UVM Food Systems Summit on June 27. The last speaker, Sandor Katz, may have summed the day up well when he said, "Food is more than the sum of the nutrients contained in the food. It's about relationships: with micro-organisms, plants, animals, neighbors, farmers."
As we approach the August anniversary of the tremendous flooding in the Intervale 2 years ago that completely finished the growing season months early and had volunteers carrying out what produce they could amid rapidly advancing flood waters, I am reminded, potently, of how we are all in this together.
Postcard "thank you" from Digger's Mirth for helping to carry out crops during the August 2011 flooding
Few things make me as happy as cooking classes where instructors bring their mothers. It seems to happen more with our male instructors, such as the sweet Umesh from Nepal who brought his mother Uma and introduced her by saying, "This is my mother Uma, she taught me how to cook, and I am so proud of her."
So I was delighted when we had a bonus instructor in Hugo Lara's mother Julia, who rolled up her sleeves and got to work chopping and mixing alongside our beloved instructor as we learned to make a couple of Peruvian dishes with Vermont and Peruvian ingredients!
Hugo Lara of A Little Peruvian cooks for a City Market class with his mother, Julia
I've been trying to entice people to come to vegetable cooking classes for years. They have been, ahem, slightly less than popular. Until Jessica Bongard's The Inspired Vegetarian class, that is, where everything fresh and bright and green was on the menu, and vegetable lovers and vegetarians alike arrived in droves ready to cook and eat. The food was amazing.