Zero Waste for the Win!

We had an amazing Flavors of the Valley, our annual local food tasting expo, with a record-breaking 1,200 attendees! From savory to sweet, the flavors were out of this world and all of them oh so local. 50 vendors connected with their neighbors over their delicious offerings, shared samples, and sold some food and farm products, too. We had music, kids’ activities, even a series of bike tire changing demos. We had a blast reveling in the bounty of our community, and of course popping from sample to sample in the event’s characteristic bustle.

We’re excited to announce that with all the food distributed, this year’s Flavors of the Valley was also zero waste! Sampling events can generate a lot of garbage–cups, plates, napkins, utensils–it can really pile up. While we’re generally waste conscious, this year we gave it our all and re-directed the event’s waste stream entirely. We sourced compostable cups, plates, napkins, and utensils for the big day, and of course considered all the food scraps, too. Instead of sending waste to the landfill, we sent bags and bags of compostable material to the new Upper Valley Compost Company (who was also a vendor this year!)

The folks at Upper Valley Compost partner with composting facilities in Vermont and New Hampshire to turn food waste and other compostable materials into rich soil. We are thrilled to report that we had but one wee bag of trash by the end of Flavors of the Valley–the rest of the event waste is on its way to becoming soil, and feeding our local food system yet again!

Check out these comparison shots of last year’s trash pile versus this years:

2017 trash pile                                                 2018 trash pile

…and then there was one!!

Spring Salad Made From Anything

I made this colorful crunchy salad on the fly on Memorial Day when the grocery stores were closed for the holiday and my parents, siblings, and out-of-town cousin were on their way over for dinner. I wanted a salad but only had asparagus, broccolini, scallions, and radishes from Cedar Circle Farm plus a few carrots in the fridge and herbs in the garden. And thus this salad put itself together with a little thoughtful slicing and a lemon dressing.

Thoughtful slicing? By that I mean thinking about the best way to slice each vegetable to make the salad both beautiful AND to make each bite make sense in your mouth.

For example, radishes are pungent and spicy, so I sliced some of them into paper-thin rounds and the rest into thin wedges – both shapes ensure a huge chunk of radish won’t ruin a bite. 

Similarly, raw carrots are great, but I don’t love them shredded and neither do I want huge carrot sticks. So I cut them in thinIMG_1127 irregular slices on the diagonal that are easy to pick up with a fork without too much crunching and drama. I prefer my broccoli cooked, so I did that before slicing it into long strips.

You get the idea. Give each vegetable a moment of thought to optimize its good qualities and make it pretty and easy to eat. Mix up colors and flavors, shapes and textures.

This salad can be made with any spring vegetable you like eating. Keep a vegetable raw if it tastes good raw (like scallions, kholrabi, peas, and radishes). Briefly steam, saute, or roast it if it’s better cooked (like broccoli, fiddleheads, or bok choy) and then cool before adding. Don’t forget the fresh herbs! I mixed dill, cilantro, basil, and marjoram, all from my backyard. In my opinion, any combination of fresh herbs is good in a salad.

(I used a lemon dressing, but you can use any dressing you have and like. Optional additions are grated, crumbled, or shaved cheese of your choosing, a cooked grain or pasta, beans, or pieces of chicken.)

–Bethany Fleishman,Vital Communities’ Transportation Program Assistant and former pastry chef, is contributing recipes this spring for our Valley Food & Farm program.

Here’s my recipe; adapt as needed:

Spring Salad Made From Anything

Ingredients

one bunch asparagus – kept raw and shaved into ribbons with a peeler (or if you prefer it cooked, steam, cool, and slice)

4-6 radishes, some thinly sliced into rounds, the rest sliced into thin wedges (you can keep the root and a little of the green intact)

3-5 scallions, white and green parts, sliced thinly on the diagonal (extra pretty that way)

2-4 carrots, sliced into thin and irregular spears on the diagonal

2-3 stalks broccolini or one head of broccoli, briefly steamed, cooled, then sliced into long thin pieces

a handful of fresh herbs – basil, cilantro, parsley, marjoram, dill, chives, etc.

salt

Mix everything together in a salad bowl with a little salt (these vegetable chunks will soak up more salt than a plain salad of greens, so don’t be shy with the salt).IMG_1129

Make a lemon vinaigrette with:

half a lemon, juice & grated rind 

one clove garlic, sliced, mashed, or grated

salt & pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

Whisk this all together until smooth and creamy. Toss with the salad and serve immediately.

*Also on the family Memorial day supper menu:
– delicious juicy hamburgers with beef from Back Beyond Farm in Chelsea, Vermont, covered in fried onions and spicy sauerkraut.
– A grain salad my mom made
– Vermont ice cream with chocolate sauce.

**Thank you to my brother Ben for the photos.

Mastering Perfect Spinach

When my friend Justin opened a restaurant in Maine, I fixated on his strategy to train kitchen staff: cooks would learn the best one or two ways to prepare each vegetable, so they’d be optimally equipped to deal on the fly with unpredictable supplies of local vegetables and a daily changing menu.

Let’s try this method together – and make perfect creamed spinach like skilled professionals.

Spinach can deserve its reputation, but it’s delicious when done right. Plus, it’s a nutritional powerhouse.

Why creamed spinach, specifically? Because it’s emerald green and perfect with a steak. And because like the names of our great-grandparents, food like this is coming into style again.

Thank you to the New York Times Cooking section for providing me the hankering and the recipe for creamed spinach. And to Justin for helping me make that original recipe more awesome and for taste testing.

–Bethany Fleishman,Vital Communities’ Transportation Program Assistant and former pastry chef, is contributing recipes this spring for our Valley Food & Farm program.

Creamed Spinach
Recipe adapted from The New York Times Cooking section

Ingredients

About 2 pounds spinach (from a local farm or garden – that’s the whole point!)Raw Spinach
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour (gluten free flour is fine as long as it has some thickening power)
1 cup milk (ideally whole, but use what you have)
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Bay leaf (OPTIONAL)
1 clove of garlic (OPTIONAL)
A healthy sprinkle of grated Parmesan or other sharp cheese (OPTIONAL)

Directions

1. Pick over the spinach to remove any debris, tough stems, and blemished leaves.

2. Rinse the spinach and shake dry.

3. Stuff the spinach into a saucepan with a quarter cup or so of water and cook on medium heat, stirring, until the spinach has wilted and turned bright green. You’re doing a combination sauté and steam here. (I like this method because it’s quick, and I have a completely unfounded suspicion that it preserves the most nutrients.)

4. Run the spinach under cold running water until chilled.

5. Grab the spinach by the handful and squeeze out the liquid. This is important to prevent watery creamed spinach.

6. Thoroughly blend the spinach in a food processor or blender. Set aside.Roux

7. Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the flour, stirring with a whisk.

8. Add the milk, stirring rapidly with the whisk. For extra flavor, add a whole clove of garlic (or minced if you like a lot of garlic flavor) and a Bay leaf.

9. Add nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste. Cook on medium heat, stirring constantly, about 5 minutes until it thickens.

2Bowls10. If you used them, fish out the Bay leaf and garlic clove (unless you minced it), and add the cheese (if using).

11. Add the spinach. Stir to blend. Heat
and serve with more ground black pepper.

You’re building your skills: Did you know that the sauce you just made for the spinach is called Béchamel sauce, and is one of the five “mother sauces” in French cuisine? You can use this for the base for cheese sauce and so much more.

Sausage Bean Stew for the Spring Doldrums

This easy recipe was a crowd pleaser at Flavors of the Valley on April 10, 2016. Nancy made 20 batches in five Crock Pots to sample to about 1,000 attendees that day! (In case you missed it, we also served samples of quick kimchi. I (Bethany) made five gallons of it the day before!)

I didn’t snag a bite of the Sausage Bean Stew during the event, but fortunately had a bowlful when Nancy made a test batch earlier in the week. It’s delicious!

I find April a tough time of year in the Upper Valley for eating local and healthy. I always freeze and preserve food in the summer, but at this time of year, the freezer looks pretty lean. I’m antsy for new local vegetables, and already ate my week’s worth of farmers’ market spinach. Plus the weather’s weird, and Daylight Savings came too early. All this is to say that I’m not really in the mood to put a lot of energy into a meal.

That’s why Sausage Bean Stew is perfect for early spring doldrums – it’s hearty and warm, yet bright and fresh, and best of all, so easy! The recipe calls for canned fire-roasted tomatoes, but if you canned or froze your own tomatoes, use those up, since summer’s on its way. You can get the garlic, onion, sausage, and dried beans at the winter farmers’ markets.

NOTE: don’t use red kidney beans in this recipe, as I explain later.

Sausage & Bean Stew
adapted from Food Network Kitchen

Ingredients

1 onion, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 carrots, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
8 ounces dried white beans (navy, cannellini, etc. picked over and rinsed)
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 pound sweet or hot Italian sausage links (2 links)
One 14.5-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
3 cups chicken broth or stock
1/2 cup ditalini or other small pasta
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
grated Parmesan and crusty bread, for serving

 

Photo (62)

Directions:

Spread the onions over the bottom of a 6- to 7-quart slow cooker and top with the carrots, garlic, white beans, thyme bundle and sausage links. Mix the diced tomatoes with the broth and 3 cups water and pour over the sausages.

Cook on high for 4 to 5 hours or on low for 7 to 8 hours; the beans will be tender and begin to fall apart. Uncover the slow cooker, remove and discard the thyme bundle and transfer the sausage links to a cutting board. Stir the pasta into the stew and continue to cook, covered, until the pasta is cooked through, about 20 minutes.

Turn off the heat. Cut the sausages into bite-size pieces and add back into the stew along with the parsley and vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with grated Parmesan on the side for sprinkling on top and crusty bread for soaking up the broth.

Notes:

Choose your beans wisely: all raw or under-cooked beans contain a small amount of a toxin called phytohaemagglutinin that causes gastrointestinal distress. Red kidney beans contain more of this toxin than other beans, and since many slow cookers don’t reach the temperature needed to break down the toxin, it’s best to keep red kidneys out of the slow cooker.

Boost flavor with Parmesan rind: If you have it, add a 4 ounce chunk of Parmesan rind to the pot in the beginning and discard with the herbs at the end.

Use up leftover pasta: Substitute leftover pasta (or rice!) for the uncooked pasta by reducing the water by 1 cup and adding 1 cup of cooked pasta with the sausages at the end.

Parsnip and Carrot Muffins

By now carrot, parsnip and other root crop supplies are winding down for the spring. But before we say goodbye, why not use them in one creative, less obvious method? These muffins make a healthy breakfast option that could adapted to include additional nutritional benefits with ingredients such as ground flax seeds and golden raisins. Or, for a special celebration, turn them into cupcakes with a maple cream cheese frosting. For those of you who must hide vegetables to get picky kids or stubborn adults to eat them, this should help too.

Parsnip and Carrot Muffins

Makes 12 standard muffins or 24+ mini

Ingredients
1/4 cup chopped almonds
1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3 eggs
1/2 cup yogurt
1/4 vegetable oil + more for greasing
3/4 cups maple syrup + a splash more
1/2 cup grated parsnips
3/4 cup grated carrots

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Coat a muffin pan with vegetable oil or use muffin liners.

Place the chopped almonds and the splash of maple syrup in a small pan over medium heat. Cook until the nuts are well coated then remove to a plate to cool slightly.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl.

Whisk the eggs, yogurt, vegetable oil and maple syrup in a large mixing bowl until combined. Add the flour mixture, carrots and parsnips, and fold with a spatula until all of the flour is moistened. Divide the mixture evenly among the muffin cups.

Sprinkle the top of each muffin with the maple almonds (you’ll probably have to break them up a bit if they’ve cooled for long). Bake for 20 minutes for regular sized muffins or 8 minutes for mini, either way, checking and rotating the pans halfway through baking. Check with a toothpick for doneness. Cool for 10 minutes before removing. Serve warm.

Adapted from a recipe by Alton Brown

Quick Kimchi

Photo Julia A Reed

Photo Julia A Reed.

Cabbage, cabbage, everywhere – this is the time of year for the versatile Brassica. Napa cabbage (also called celery cabbage and Chinese cabbage) grows well in our region and is often found in fall CSA shares, at farmers’ markets, and farmstands so here is an easy recipe for this crunchy vegetable.

napa cabbage

Napa is a leafy vegetable that is low in calories, but high in fiber, antioxidants, vitamin C & K, and folic acid  – that’s a lot of bang for the buck! And, it happens to be versatile and delicious.

Kimchi is a traditional Korean fermented vegetable condiment. This unfermented take on kimchi is quick, easy, delicious and a great way to enjoy the bounty of napa cabbage available this time of year. I found this recipe on sheknows.com and it takes just a few minutes to prepare and can last in the refrigerator for several weeks.

kimchi ingredients

The heat comes from the sambal oelek which is a Southeast Asian hot chili pepper sauce that you can find in many stores in the International aisle. You can adjust the amount of chili paste you add to the kimchi to make it more to less spicy.

kimchi chopped napa

Quick Kimchi
adapted from she knows.com

1 head napa cabbage, rough chopped
8-12 cloves garlic, sliced
3 Tbsp sambal oelek chili paste
1/2 cup rice vinegar
salt to taste

mixing ingredients

Directions

Rough chop cabbage and mix with vinegar, chili paste, salt, and sliced garlic. Store in glass jar and refrigerate overnight.

ready for fridge

Photo Julia A Reed

Photo Julia A Reed

Grilled Asparagus

Late spring and early summer is when you’ll find asparagus in its prime. And that means now. With an unique flavor and texture unlike much else – except perhaps fiddleheads – you don’t want to miss out on its relatively short growing season.

For many, the grill takes the reigns as the prime cooking tool for the summer. Good news. You’ll find that asparagus and the grill pair very well together. In a matter of a few short minutes and with minimal prep, asparagus is ready to go  as a healthy side to your other grilled foods.

But don’t let the possibility of what is commonly referred to as “asparagus pee” prevent you from eating this super nutritious food. Not everyone can even notice the side effects – it’s actually a trait determined by genetics. And those who do notice it should not fear. The odor is an indication that a sulfur-containing amino acid has been successfully broken down. Asparagus is low in fat and calories, high in fiber, a good source of Vitamin C and B, and contains the highest amount of glutathione – a powerful antioxidant and phytochemical – of any fruit of any vegetable. Glutathione helps prevent aging and a number of diseases like cancer, heart disease and dementia.

 

To start, (even if you don’t intend to grill), you want to purchase thin, tender stalks. They should be about the size of your pinky in diameter. If you have unusually large hands – think about the width of a pencil. Though as the season progresses, and it already has to some degree, you’ll notice thicker stalks (more like the width of your thumb) for sale, and these are still perfectly fine. It’s just that the thicker the stalk, the woodier the asparagus might taste. Some people like to peel the stalks of thicker asparagus to remove some of that toughness. I’ve never done so, though.

Asparagus

Regardless of the size of your asparagus, you store it all the same way – upright, in water, in the fridge, and at a temp below 40F. But first, trim the ends of the stalks slightly, as you would a bouquet of flowers. Asparagus is just one of those produce items you want to use as soon as absolutely possible – because it will lose its flavor and nutritional value pretty quickly.

When you’re ready to eat, the first thing you want to do is break off the woody bottoms. This is more necessary in thicker stalks than thinner. But all you have to do is hold the stalk with both hands and bend the bottom until you find its breaking point. Discard the ends and save them (with any peelings, if you choose to peel) in the freezer for your next batch of vegetable stock. Afterwards, give your bunch of asparagus a good rinse and pat dry with a towel.

 

For grilling, coat the asparagus in an equal mix of lemon juice and olive oil. Sprinkle with a little kosher salt and some minced garlic, if you’d like. Place the stalks on your clean (this is important!), hot grill. I like to cook them over a medium high flame for about 5 minutes. This leaves them with a good amount of crunch – just how I like them. There is really no need, however you choose to cook asparagus, to overcook them. Doing so can confuse people into thinking asparagus is a bland and mushy vegetable. And no one likes those.

Grilled Asparagus

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 6 minutes

Total Time: 11 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch fresh asparagus
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 clove minced garlic

Instructions

  1. Clean and preheat your grill with a medium-high flame.
  2. Give the asparagus a good rinse and pat dry with paper towels.
  3. Break off the woody ends of the asparagus.
  4. Lightly coat with the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and a couple pinches of salt.
  5. Arrange the asparagus horizontally on the heated grill.
  6. Rotate every couple of minutes with tongs, cooking for a total of about 6 minutes for a crunchy bite, or a bit longer for less.
  7. Sprinkle a little more lemon juice and salt over the cooked asparagus and serve.

Pea Shoots

Have you tried pea shoots? How about sunflower? Shoots are the early growth of the plant at just a few days after sprouting. That’s why you’ll most likely find them out only around this time of year, when farmers are just getting their plants growing. They have tender, sweet leaves and a crunchy stem. And, yup, it’s all edible. What’s really cool about these shoots is that they taste very much like peas and sunflower seeds, but in a fraction of the time it would take for the whole plant to grow. Even better is that they’re super high in nutrients.

So how do you eat them? Easy. On and with anything. Like me, you can stack them on your favorite sandwiches or also like me – with eggs. They’re excellent in a salad or as a salad all their own. Or if you’d like to cook them, try sauteing with garlic and a little soy sauce. A stir fry would be perfect too. However you choose to enjoy them, just make sure you do so soon – they won’t be around for long!

Chard, Beet & Orange Salad

I’m a big fan of salads that aren’t just plain old salads. Not that there’s anything wrong with those, of course. But salads don’t all have to be a big bowl of lettuce. Maybe you can already figure that out from some of the other recipes I’ve posted. Raw or cooked. Hot or cold. Really, a salad can be whatever you throw together and toss with dressing.

chardbeets

Future Chefs Challenge second-place winner Izabela Woolf with her White and Green Goodness salad. (Albert J. Marro / photo)

Earlier this spring, I was a judge in Sodexo’s Future Chef Challenge where Rutland fourth and fifth graders competed with their favorite salad recipes. With tasty combinations like tortellini salad, southwestern salad, Greek salad and Thanksgiving salad, those talented kids proved the point I’m trying to make. You can find an article I wrote about the event about the event in The Rutland Reader.

The combination of grated raw beets, lightly cooked rainbow chard, bright, juicy oranges and tangy balsamic dressing in this salad is refreshing and simple. It’s a good way to get beet detractors to give the vegetable another try. They’ve probably never had them like this – crunchy and raw, so they might be surprised this time around. At least, that was my experience when I served this for my sister – who actually wanted to keep the leftovers after dinner. And at a recent demo at GE, attendees quickly finished up the entire bowl I made for them and I didn’t hear one beet complaint. Woohoo!

On the other hand, the quick cooking down of the chard takes away some of the bitterness people often encounter when trying the green raw. Yet that aspect is no longer an issue here. All around, this salad will change your preconceptions. Give it a try at your next picnic.

  Sauteed Chard and Raw Beet Salad

  • 3-4 medium-sized beets with the leaves
  • 1 large bunch rainbow chard
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces of goat cheese, crumbled (optional)
  • 1 medium orange, peeled and segmented

For the dressing:

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Peel the beets and either grate them on a box grater or in a food processor. If you’d rather not have your hands stained purple, handle the beets with paper towels or wear gloves. You should have about 2-3 cups grated beets in the end.

Wash the chard. Shake to remove excess water, but no need to dry. Separate the stems and ribs from the leaves either carefully with a knife or by simply tearing by hand. Give the ribs a rough chop. Stack the leaves on top of each other and slice them crosswise into thick ribbons.

Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and stems and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the leaves of the chard and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the leaves have wilted and taste tender. If the leaves still taste bitter, season with additional salt. Transfer the chard to a large bowl and allow to cool for a few minutes.

To make the dressing, combine ingredients in a small jar and shake until thoroughly mixed.

Combine the greens and the shredded beets, and toss with the vinaigrette. Serve, topping each plate with goat cheese, if using, and orange pieces.

This salad will keep refrigerated for up to one week, but wait to dress and top with goat cheese until just before serving.

Adapted from Elizabeth Passarella at The Kitchn

Ramp and Potato Soup

Memorial Day weekend is supposed to be the kick-off of summer. Sun. Gardening. Grilling. Relaxing at the lake.

Yet the weather around here looks cool and rainy. So I might trade in my plans to break out the grill and instead, huddle over a big pot of warm soup – because I will not be turning my heat back on, no matter how cold it might get. It’s almost June!

Depressing, yes. On the other hand, I’m a little excited to make a pot of ramp and potato soup. It’s a variation on leek and potato, but to me, it just has a fresher taste. Despite the weather, it kind of really invokes spring. Though at this point – shouldn’t we be thinking of summer

Hilary Adams and I made a pot of this soup at the Asa Bloomer building in downtown Rutland last week, as the second culinary event in the Real Rutland series. We actually threw in a number of different alliums (onion and garlic family members) in the pot, including garlic greens, yellow onions, shallots, and chives. Then we whipped up a garlic green pesto. Thanks to all who stopped by to talk with us and try these delicious local foods.

Ramp and Potato Soup

Many recipes will call for milk and/or cream as the liquid in a leek and potato soup. This doesn’t really work when you have dairy issues, like me. Of course, you could try a non-dairy milk. Coconut is often a route I take with soup. But I think the potatoes, and addition of a little yogurt, make this creamy enough without the extra fat. But use whichever you prefer. 

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cups sliced and washed ramps, or any combination of your favorite alliums
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cups potatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 large, sweet onion, chopped
  • fresh thyme
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt, plus more to taste
  • 6 cups water or broth
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • A small bunch of chives, chopped

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and let sweat, about 5 minutes. Add in the garlic, ramps or other alliums, some salt and let cook for another 8-10 minutes. Pour in your liquid of choice, the potatoes, thyme, and a little more salt. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.

With an immersion blender, puree the soup until almost smooth. Alternatively, very carefully transfer slightly cooled soup in batches a blender. Stir in the yogurt. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Serve in bowls, topped with the chives and some crusty bread on the side.

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