The One Where the Cook Stays Home Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

This gorgeous sunflower field is on my commute!

This gorgeous sunflower field is on my commute!

Last weekend, four of my girlfriends were meeting up in Michigan for a book festival. It disappointed me that I wasn’t able to join them, so I tried to make the most of being home by celebrating the season in my own backyard!

Every month in Vermont has its jewels (well, maybe not January and February!), but September really stands out for me. The days are getting shorter, it’s dark when I get up in the morning and my evening walks sometimes end at dusk. And there is something about September’s light that is special; I can look at the reflection of the sunset on the mountain range that makes every little pine tree stand out, and then it is gone in the blink of an eye. The days and nights are getting cooler too, although you wouldn’t know it by Saturday’s record high of 85 degrees.

Photo7This time of year in Vermont you’ll run into harvest festivals, a celebration of the bountiful season with local farmers and vendors, and sometimes even suppers. This is one of my favorite times of year to cook because of the fall harvest, and while I’ve been cooking with the season, I didn’t have any special or new recipes to share (roasted beets, garlic mashed potatoes, and sautéed kale anyone?), but realized since I went to my coop’s harvest festival that I could share some of my favorite Vermont producers I buy on a regular basis for my far away readers! Many have stores, so check out their websites. If you are in Vermont, you can pop in for a visit and let me know if you liked them! And special thanks to The Eater of the House, who helped me out with the photographs, because I forgot my camera!

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Vermont Coffee Company
This is hands down the best coffee in the WORLD! Although I tend to be more of a tea girl these days (more on that later), if I do drink coffee, VCC’s dark roast is my choice. I’ve shared this coffee with many and a care package to a certain friend in Seattle isn’t complete without a bag of the dark roast. I sipped a sample of iced coffee sweetened with cream and maple syrup and I learned their method of making iced coffee that is a cold method rather than my method of making a pot then cooling it in the fridge. (They were out of pamphlets, otherwise I’d give you the secret!)

Photo2MapleBrook Farm
MapleBrook Farm’s specialty isn’t cheddar, it’s mozzarella. And now they are selling handmade burrata. Burrata was the “it” cheese a couple of years ago and I tasted it for the first time in New York City and since then I’ve been obsessed with it, but have avoided it since I know I’d eat the whole thing in one sitting. Burrata is a fresh mozzarella cheese, the outer shell is mozzarella, while the inside is both mozzarella and cream. MapleBrook’s samples served the cheese with a tiny basil leaf, a halved baby tomato, and a drop of balsamic vinegar and were an incredible taste treat. What I really wanted to do was eat the entire platter, but I was polite and stuck with just one. I now know what to make next time I’m searching for a special appetizer!

Photo3Red Hen Baking Company
I don’t buy bread that often, but when I do Red Hen is one of just two Vermont breads that I will buy. I almost always pick up a loaf of their seeded baguette on the weekend and serve it with olive oil and fresh garlic or just with some good cheese or local butter. (The above burrata would be incredible!) And their bread ingredients are what should make up a bread recipe: flour, yeast, water, and salt with no other additives.

Photo4Stone Leaf Teahouse
Like I said above, I drink mostly tea these days, usually flavored green tea or as a special treat, my favorite Yorkshire Gold. I always think of tea as an English beverage, so I have a lot to learn about Asian teas. And a visit to Stone Leaf Teahouse is a great place to do that. I had a sample of a dark Asian tea and some Chai, which was SO good!

Photo5Butterworks Farm
I have been eating Butterworks Farm’s yogurt for as long as I can remember, so I had a great discussion about their products, where they have been and where they are going. The oldest organic farm in the state, it produces yogurt and other dairy products and has now expanded and sells whole wheat flour, cornmeal, wheat berries, and dried black beans. And I learned something new! Apparently Jersey cows give higher protein milk, so their yogurt has a higher protein content than some others. I had no idea that different cows produced different levels of protein in their milk. And while I’m full-fat dairy all the way, they also produce low and non-fat yogurts, which allows them to skim off the fat for their cream.

Photo6Sunrise Orchards
My tiny town has its own orchard that I frequent in the fall, but it closes right before Thanksgiving, so winter fruit, besides citrus, is at a minimum for me. But I am able to get apples at the coop from Sunrise Orchards well into spring! Their Empire apples, a hardier variety, which I eat in the winter, are kept in a special climate controlled fridge that eliminates moisture, so the apples are kept fresh all winter long. I always wondered why their apples were fresher than if I kept them in my own fridge!

The weekend ended at a lovely local restaurant for a special evening of dinner, dancing, and watching the sun set behind the Adirondacks. Not bad to spend a weekend at home!

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IMG_2841MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Ruth is Back in the Kitchen!
Last week, I lamented the fact that Mark Bittman is no longer writing for the New York Times. But this week I’m happy again, because my other favorite food writer, Ruth Reichl, has a new cookbook coming out!

The former editor of Gourmet magazine, the rug was pulled out from under Reichl in 2009 when the magazine shut its doors quickly and swiftly with no advance warning. So Reichl did what many of us cooks do, she retreated to the kitchen and cooked. My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes that Changed my Life, which is released on September 29, focuses on those recipes she made during that year of recovery, step by step, month by month.

If you’ve ever read any of Reichl’s writing, be it her memoirs, articles in Gourmet, or even her tweets, you know you are going to be in for a treat when you sit down with this book and I can’t wait. The New York Times had a great profile on her and the writing for the cookbook last week. You can read it by clicking here.

Perfect for a Potluck: Barley, Corn, and Provolone Bake

Maybe it’s a Vermont thing, but I find several times a year we’re invited to a potluck supper. Everyone brings a dish to share, be it appetizers, casseroles, or desserts and I always love these, since I like to take a little taste of everything. A couple of weeks ago I was lamenting what to take to a potluck supper. I admit, sometimes cooking for a crowd has lost its appeal of late; so many people have food allergies, it sort of takes the winds out of my sails when I am deciding what to make. This time, I decided to make a homey casserole that I brought warm. And it was perfect—and I went home with an empty dish! Please note, this is barley, so it contains gluten and cheese, but it was the perfect dish to warm you up before an evening of dancing. And this would be a great weeknight dish to put together; just cook the barley in the morning when you’re fixing breakfast and lunch! My only switch was I used a cup of frozen corn. This was delicious and I plan on making again for dinner for two!

barleyBarley, Corn, and Provolone Bake
This recipe originally appeared in the November 2000 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 3/4 cup).

3 1/2 cups water
3/4 teaspoon salt — divided
1 cup uncooked pearl barley
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped sweet onion
1 cup corn kernels — fresh (about 2 ears)
1 cup diced red bell pepper — (about 1 large)
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup provolone cheese — or fontina, or part-skim mozzarella (3 ounces)
Cooking spray

1. Combine water and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large saucepan; bring to a boil. Add barley. Return to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 45 minutes. Remove from heat; let stand, covered, 5 minutes.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
3. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and corn; saute 6 minutes. Add bell pepper; saute 3 minutes. Stir in cooked barley, 1/2 teaspoon salt, parsley, thyme, and black pepper. Remove from heat; stir in cheese. Spoon into a 2-quart casserole coated with cooking spray; cover with lid. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Uncover; bake an additional 5 minutes.

england's flagMVK Eats London, Part Deux
(To read Part One, click here.)

A month or so before we left on our trip, our friend, Jen, asked me what I thought about a sunrise breakfast at the tallest building in London. Yes please! So at the ungodly hour of 5:30 Monday morning, we got up for 6:30 breakfast reservations at the Duck and Waffle restaurant atop the Heron Building. As we took the glass elevator to the tippy top of London, we all looked at each other with sleepy eyes and said, “this better be worth it.” And it exceeded all of our expectations! I thought the restaurant would be full, but we were just one of three tables. (As an aside, at the table next to us were seated two players from the Dallas Cowboys, who played an exhibition game in London the night before. And they won, too! Thanks for the mimosas, guys!) Seated in a rounded booth that overlooked the city, we were able to watch the sky grow light and every five minutes or so, everything came into view, so we kept getting up and taking more pictures. London Bridge, the Gherkin building, everything grew more and more beautiful as the sun came up. Oh, and breakfast was delicious! I got an egg scramble with avocado which was really yummy, Jen got the Duck and Waffle (when in London!), and the Eater of the House got the traditional English breakfast. Two pots of tea, our stomachs full, we headed out for a very long day of walking and sightseeing. (As an aside, Jen cooked up blood sausage [or blood pudding, as it is sometimes called, which is definitely not pudding!] she brought back from Scotland for my first British breakfast! Don’t think about the name and don’t look up what it is, but if you ever have the opportunity to try it, I found it delicious! And was thrilled when I found some in my local meat market when I got home, although I didn’t find it as good as the “real” thing.)

 

The view from atop London.

The view from atop London.

For those of you who are book lovers, I just had to share this with you. 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff is one of my favorite books of all time. For decades, Hanff corresponded with this small London bookshop, buying books from them. It is a lovely story, and one that I discovered while in London is truly American. While I knew the shop was no longer there, I knew there was a plaque somewhere on a building. We walked up and down Charing Cross Road several times and for the life of me I couldn’t find number 84. I went into 82, they didn’t know. I went into a bookshop, the clerk didn’t know. I went into another bookshop and the clerk said, “yes, it’s there.” But where? “It’s there,” was all he said. So I said I’ll walk up the street one more time and after that I give up. I expected the plaque to be eye-level, but when I looked up, there it was. My Holy Grail. I’ll admit I got very weepy when I found it; I’ll just blame it on jet lag and the early morning rise, but I tend to get emotional over sentimental things. So the photo of me in front of it has me with a red face and teary eyes. Oh well.

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This statue outside the National Gallery was in honor of the World War I soldiers.

This statue outside the National Gallery was in honor of the World War I soldiers.

Like I said, Monday was a BUSY day! We walked to the Tower of London to see the poppies dedicated for World War I, the National Portrait Gallery, National Gallery, then we walked down to Parliament, past Downing Street, Westminster Abbey, and down to the St. Ermin’s Hotel, because I had a date with Jen for high tea! We selected this hotel because they have their own bees and make honey, but we didn’t see any bees–or did we have any honey! Finger sandwiches and lots of sweets and delicious tea. It was a wonderful way to loll away an afternoon. But we couldn’t stay too late, we had a date with best-selling author David Mitchell! After the reading and having our books signed, we went out for tapas in SoHo, this time Peruvian, but I was so tired and hungry I didn’t take any pictures, but trust me, it was an amazing meal.

Look at the cute shelf they use for our sandwiches and goodies!

Look at the cute shelf they used for our sandwiches and sweet treats! And I loved that my china was in my favorite color–pink!

Off to Cambridge for an overnighter! Just a quick 40-minute train ride, and you are off in another land of academia and tiny bookshops. It was lovely and the architecture was incredible. We had lunch in The Eagle Pub, where in 1953 Francis Crick announced that he and James Watson discovered DNA! No announcements that day, although I’d like to announce I had a great plate of fish and chips! I also discovered a food treat at our B & B that I’ve been making since we got home, bircher muesli. Basically, yogurt with muesli or oatmeal and apples, stir, and then everything is nice and soft when you go and eat it. It’s delicious!

 

Cambridge.

Cambridge University.

Our goodbye dinner was at Simpsons On the Strand. I had wavered back and forth if this was a good decision, but we all agreed it was as we left the restaurant. My parents had eaten there more than 30 years ago and had told me what a special time they had, so I wanted to replicate the evening. And we did. My other BFF from Switzerland “popped” over for a quick weekend, so her joining us made the evening extra special. Simpsons is a London landmark, and if you order the beef, they will bring the huge roast to your table and carve it for you right there. Beware all vegetarians of the below photo! I like my beef rare, and this was cooked perfectly and just the right portion, too. Thinly sliced with freshly grated horseradish, I was in heaven. It was a lovely way to end an incredible week in London.

simpsons2

simpsons1

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A quick girls only walk in the morning before we headed to the train station to go back to Heathrow. We did so much during these days and I only touched the surface with my stories! Tea in Hyde Park! Tea at Fortum and Mason! A stroll through Selfridges department store’s amazing food court! How my Munich-made, via Zurich, via London white sausages were confiscated at customs! (But I was able to keep the cheese!) And so many delicious meals! But alas our fabulous journey had to come to an end and we had to go back to reality.

And this was MY reality Monday morning!

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