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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Two Vermonters Are Among Who's Who of Food & Beverage Inductees

Posted By on Thu, Mar 13, 2014 at 3:19 PM

Ed Behr
  • Ed Behr
The James Beard Foundation announced its 2014 Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America inductees this afternoon. Of the six recognized this year, four are chefs, including New Orleans legend John Besh and David Chang of the international Momofuku brand. Only two are writers, both of whom are Vermont residents.

"These four influential chefs and two talented journalists represent the best of the best in our culinary world," said president of the James Beard Foundation Susan Ungaro in a press release. "They join a prestigious group of over 200 people who have made a significant impact in how Americans think about food."

St. Johnsbury author Ed Behr is no stranger to the James Beard Foundation. He's even blogged for the culinary association's website. But the international speaker and founder of magazine the Art of Eating wasn't expecting a call from New York's Beard House last week. "It wasn't anything that was remotely in my mind," Behr tells Seven Days.

"I'm actually shocked," says multiple James Beard Foundation Award winner Barry Estabrook of Ferrisburgh. He also got the call last week, but was sworn to secrecy until now. "This is a great day for Vermont. It's a state full of wonderful food writers and I sort of accept this on behalf of all them," he says.

Behr says he is especially surprised to see himself and Estabrook awarded the same year because most Beard honorees come from big cities. "I represent the point of view that is not a restaurant point of view," he says. "Beard restaurants are few and far between [in Vermont]." He suggests that his and Estabrook's recognition may point to a greater awareness of nature and connection to the land in the country's big-name, mainstream food culture.

Both men will receive their awards at Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater at the black-tie James Beard Foundation Awards Gala on May 5.

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Friday, April 6, 2012

Grazing: Vodka From Dawn Till Dusk

Posted By on Fri, Apr 6, 2012 at 3:20 PM

A few days ago, I jumpstarted a chilly spring morning with a shot of vodka. Black tea and peach bitters were blended in, too, but the warm feeling that spread through my shoulders still felt kind of illicit at 10 a.m.

The excuse was solid: a drop-in to the new Vermont Spirits tasting room in Quechee, which opened about a month ago. Last summer, Vermont Spirits had their steel headquarters painstakingly dissembled and moved from Barnet — where they'd distilled for 13 years — to this complex along Route 4. 

The place took longer than expected to assemble, but the care shows in the details: an elegant slate floor, modern industrial lights, a bar made from salvaged barn beams, and shelves stocked with bottles of vodka and Fee Brothers Bitters, as well as books and videos from the American Distilling Institute.

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Friday, October 7, 2011

Grazing: Pesto Trapanese

Posted By on Fri, Oct 7, 2011 at 4:58 PM

Ah, October. Crisp days and high time to roast squash, quaff cider, and ... make pesto?

Our first bonafide frost this week meant a bittersweet harvest of my remaining basil and tomatoes. As I hauled them inside, I wondered how to repurpose them. As serendipity would have it, we had just received a copy of Ed Behr's new book, The Art of Eating Cookbook: Recipes From the First 25 Years. In this elegant tome, Behr has included dozens of fundamental recipes of mostly French and Italian origin, many introduced by notes on history and technique.

During a phone interview, Behr had kinds words for charcuterie, chestnut soup and traditional Ragù Bolognese. He then dubbed Pesto Trapanese, a western Sicilian version of the classic sauce, "one of the world's most underappreciated recipes."

At home, I thumbed to page 74 and read about this twist on pesto that uses almonds instead of pignoli, eschews cheese, and includes tomatoes. Like many great Italian recipes, it was simple and delicious. Best of all, it relied on the two things I had in abundance.

Behr is a proponent of good-quality olive oil — it can go rancid easily, he says — and I sniffed mine before dribbling it into a food processor with almonds, eventually throwing in a few handsful of basil and peeled tomatoes. Spooned over gemelli, it was a creamy, garlicky, last-gasp-of-summer feast. 

Someone else out there must still be swimming in basil. For you, here's Ed Behr's recipe. As in his book, I haven't included a photo of the final dish. "I think it's almost freeing not to have photos," he says. 

Pesto Trapanese (Raw Tomato-Basil Pesto)
courtesy of Ed Behr 


About 1/4 cup peeled almonds

2 to 4 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 to 1 cup basil leaves

1/2 cup excellent, fresh-tasting olive oil

4 to 6 ripe red summer tomatoes, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped

black pepper

1 1/2 pounds of dried pasta

To peel the almonds, put them in boiling water for half a minute, remove them with a slotted spoon, and then pop them out of their skins and dry them. Prepare the tomatoes by scoring an X in the blossom end and putting them into the same pot of boiling water for 30 to 45 seconds; then cut out the core of each and pull of the skin. (You can pull off the skin of an extremely ripe tomato almost as easily without any blanching at all.) Slice the tomato in half; with your little finger, scoop out the seeds and gel and discard them. Compared with a food processor, a mortar produces superior texture — more uneven and slippery. If you have one of the capacity of at least a quart (a liter), use it. Giuseppe Coria, the great recorder of Sicilian recipes, wrote, "Let the sauce rest for as long as it takes to cook the pasta."

In a large mortar, mash the almonds to a paste with the pestle and remove them. Put in the garlic and the salt, and reduce those to a paste; then add the basil and reduce it. Return the almonds to the mortar, add the olive oil, and turn with the pestle until the whole becomes creamy. Add the tomatoes little by little, mashing each time so as to retain the emulsion.

Or, if you are using a food processor, reduce the almonds, garlic, salt and olive oil to as smooth a paste as possible. Only then — to avoid a brown color, an utter purée, and a loss of flavor — add the basil and pulse several times, and then add the tomatoes and pulse several times, and don't pulse again.

With either method, taste the sauce and season it with salt if needed and grind in pepper. Cook the pasta and drain it well, then mix it immediately and thoroughly with the room-temperature raw sauce in a large warm bowl, and serve it in warm individual bowls. Because you can't serve the sauce chilled and you can't heat it, use it within about 2 hours (the flavor is good for several hours — left overnight in the refrigerator, it largely deteriorates). Serves 6.

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