Monday, May 31, 2010

Return to the Green Mountains

As promised I have put together a menu from the ingredients I brought back from Vermont. Cheddar cheese, maple vinegar, maple syrup and Vermont Common Crackers. My last visit I brought home a cookbook "Dishing Up Vermont". Two of the recipes I made came from that book.

Cheddar-Dill Scones
Grafton Cheddar Ale Soup
Fresh Spinach Salad with Basil Maple Vinaigrette

The scone recipe didn't come from the book but is from The Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten. They are made with butter, eggs, whipping cream, dill and cheese. Knowing they would be very rich, I made them small, about two bites each. I have lots of them and froze what was left for another time. They are excellent and go well with the soup and salad.

The soup was a surprise. I have made cheese soup before it is very heavy; hardly a good idea when the temperature is 90+ degrees. This was not heavy at all. I think the bottle of ale helped to smooth out the milk, cream, Worcestershire, dry mustard, garlic and chicken stock. The cheese melted nicely off the heat. Vermont Common Crackers are placed in the bottom of the bowl and soup poured over, as is done with chowders along the Maine coast. We are more accustomed to topping soups with oyster crackers which are very small in comparison. I reheated a bowl of the soup on Sunday and added a cup of blanched chopped broccoli (one of my favorite vegetables). It too was very good.

The salad is a mixture of chopped basil leaves, torn baby spinach, and minced shallots. I added grape tomatoes, cut in half, and fresh mozzarella. I made the mozzarella in a cheese class at Viking Cooking School a couple of days before. The dressing is maple vinegar, Dijon mustard, maple syrup, salt/pepper and EVOO. A perfect dressing for the salad. Crumbled maple bacon on the top and the salad is complete. Maple bacon is baked on a rack in the oven and brushed with maple syrup and fresh cracked black pepper. My favorite way to cook bacon. I was able to bake them with the scones so my kitchen did not get too hot.

Given that this is Memorial Day, I had to do some barbecue so I have two more recipes to do next week. Twice baked cheese souffles and a green bean cheddar dish.

I grilled a chicken breast and the last five minutes basted it with BBQ sauce mixed with mashed strawberries. I had it with leftover salad and iced tea. All in all a great foodie weekend and the recipes were simple and fairly quick so I could ready my balcony for the summer. Hanging baskets and a railing basket of herbs. A perfect sanctuary to relax with a book and a glass of something. Enjoy the week and well see you next time.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Springtime in Vermont

I'm back from visiting good friends in Vermont. Vermont is an amazing place. The population of the state is smaller than half of Cook County in Illinois. The scenery is gorgeous. The Green Mountains are so interesting. I called them the 'broccoli forrest' since the visual looks much like a bunch of broccoli. My friends are avid birders. I can't tell you how many species there are. A few are hummingbirds, orioles, cardinals, wood peckers, catbirds, grossbeaks, and finches of many varieties. The best was the last day... Indigo buntings!!! How blue they are!!! I know I left out many, but can't think of them. I was a bit disappointed...or not...that I did not see the bear.. But since I had to walk from the main house to the cottage (where I stayed) in the dark..maybe not.

Most villages are small. All have a 'country store' They have EVERYTHING. Beer, wine, vegetables, dairy, clothes, hardware, Movies, it, they have it. Also galleries of local artists. My favorite village is Manchester. The home of Orvis, great clothes and fly fishing equipment and Vermont foods. Also an amazing book store. Northshire Bookstore!!! It has a cafe and we have lunch there and peruse books we are interested in while eating. We watched "Mash" Great way to spend an evening (they have all 14 seasons) and the "1900 House" film.

I purchased Vermont food to use next week in my meal. Maple syrup, Cabot Cheddar cheese, Vermont Common Cracher (oyster cracker on steroids) and a surprise , maple vinegar. Stay tuned for a menu to enjoy for spring.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Visiting Vermont

Since I will be away this week, I didn't prepare anything exciting except to empty my refrigerator of anything that would not keep. I oven roasted the leftover vegetables and mixed them with quinoa, used up the fresh fruit and salad greens. Nothing very creative or interesting.

What do you think of when you think of Vermont? Covered bridges, country roads and green hills? Well, I think of Vermont cheddar cheese, maple syrup,Vermont Common Crackers and Ben and Jerry's ice cream. I hope to bring some crackers, cheese and syrup home with me and some new ideas on how to use them. The Ben and Jerry's probably would not do well in my suitcase? So I will get it at Dominick's. Hopefully next week I will have some interesting tasty things to tell you about.

Have a good week

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Meatless Monday.....Well, Actually Saturday

I'm back from my high school class reunion. It was a very nice weekend. Saw lots of people I had not seen or thought about in many years. It was, however, a good thing our name tags had our senior class picture on it. Some had changed very little and others......well??? But back to the groove. The past weeks there has been a lot of talk about meatless Monday's on Face Book. I decided to try to have at least one meatless day a week. This week menu:

Risotto with Artichokes, Asparagus and Leeks
Salad of Shaved Fennel and Oranges
Strawberry Rhubarb Tart

Making risotto is an experience. Have not made it often and wonder why. I really like it and it's not difficult. Sauteed leeks in EVOO. The Arborio rice is added and stirred to coat each grain with the oil. Hot vegetable broth is added a ladle at a time until almost absorbed. At the end, blanched asparagus and thawed cut up artichoke hearts are added. Parmesan cheese and minced rosemary are added just before serving. A very nice dish with a fair amount of leftovers for the week.

The salad too was easy. The fennel is shaved thinly on a mandolin and put in a bowl with segments of an orange and lots of chopped parsley. The vinaigrette is made of red wine vinegar, lemon juice EVOO and salt/pepper. I like vinaigrette's with different vinegars. Went well with the fennel and oranges. A nice contrast with the risotto.

Received a bunch of rhubarb this week and put it together with strawberries to fill a graham cracker tart shell. A spoon of vanilla flavored Greek yogurt topped off the tart. Love rhubarb and this was just the right ending to the meatless meal.

I have several vegetarian cookbooks and will do this kind of meal again. Maybe more often than once a week. I think next week I will start an adventure with main dish salads. Summer will be here soon and salads are welcome on warm days.