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Friday, May 15, 2020

Sharp Increase in Reported Poisonings From Ramp Look-Alike

Posted By on Fri, May 15, 2020 at 8:01 PM

Ramps (Allium tricoccum) harvested in late April (not be used for ID purposes) - MELISSA PASANEN
  • Melissa Pasanen
  • Ramps (Allium tricoccum) harvested in late April (not be used for ID purposes)
Reported cases of serious illness due to people mistaking highly poisonous false hellebore (Veratrum viride) for a prized wild edible, ramps (Allium tricoccum), have more than doubled in Vermont over last year's number: to 22 so far, according to Dr. Karen Simone, director of the Northern New England Poison Center.

"It makes you wonder: Are people just having more time on their hands, or are they going back to nature because of all the things that are happening?" Simone said. "It's hard to know, but it's definitely a big increase."

The Poison Center, based in Portland, Maine, serves Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire; it typically receives from zero to eight reports of false hellebore poisoning per year across all three states. The total number of cases to date is 25. All but three of those have been reported in Vermont, mostly in May. 

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Thursday, May 7, 2020

Williston Cookbook Author Earns Another James Beard Nod

Posted By on Thu, May 7, 2020 at 8:20 AM

Bowl of soup and James Beard finalist cookbook by Molly Stevens - DARIA BISHOP
  • Daria Bishop
  • Bowl of soup and James Beard finalist cookbook by Molly Stevens

Molly Stevens, the award-winning, Williston-based cooking instructor, food writer and cookbook author, just earned a prestigious James Beard Foundation finalist nomination for her most recent book, All About Dinner: Simple Meals, Expert Advice (W.W. Norton, 2019).

Stevens is one of three finalists in the general cookbook category alongside part-time Vermonter Christopher Kimball and his book Milk Street: The New Rules: Recipes That Will Change the Way You Cook (Voracious, 2019).

Previously announced semifinalists in James Beard Foundation's annual Restaurant and Chef Awards — Cara Chigazola Tobin, chef and co-owner of Honey Road in Burlington, and winemaker Deirdre Heekin of La Garagista Farm + Winery in Barnard — did not advance to the finalist round.

Winners will be announced May 27.

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Thursday, April 23, 2020

Williston's 'Bread Fairy' Delivers Homemade Loaves to Neighbors in Need

Posted By on Thu, Apr 23, 2020 at 7:11 PM

"Bread Fairy" loaves ready for delivery - COURTESY OF MARY JANE DIETER
  • Courtesy of Mary Jane Dieter
  • "Bread Fairy" loaves ready for delivery
About a month ago, Mary Jane Dieter decided to start baking bread for her neighbors. Dieter was looking for a way to help her Williston community during the COVID-19 crisis and realized that her skills as an avid from-scratch home baker were a perfect way to help those feeling the impacts of social isolation.

Dieter is a social worker by training and a facilitator for creating positive change in organizations through her business Appreciative Pathways.

"I can't offer facilitation skills right now, as most people aren't working or are working remotely, but helping people is my happy place," Dieter told Seven Days over the phone. "So I thought, I can make bread. It's my way to show my gratitude for all of my good fortune and to connect with people; it's just another appreciative pathway."

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Monday, April 13, 2020

Home on the Range: Fridge-Foraged Fried Rice

Posted By on Mon, Apr 13, 2020 at 8:00 AM

Fridge-foraged fried rice topped with an egg - MELISSA PASANEN
  • Melissa Pasanen
  • Fridge-foraged fried rice topped with an egg

When our two sons first started cooking for themselves, they’d often text or call me for advice. I came up with two basic recipe methods that were inexpensive, flexible and quick. One was a Mexican-style rice and bean casserole, and the other a boilerplate for Asian stir-fry or fried rice.

The bonus is that both meals can swallow up all manner of bits and bobs that tend to get lost in the back of the fridge. Cutting food waste is always a good idea. These days it’s an even better one. 

This fried rice was inspired by writer and chef Tamar Adler’s recipe for Thai fried rice in her book An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace (Scribner, 2011). I love the funk of fish sauce, but soy sauce works fine if you're not a fan (like my boys) or don’t have it on hand.

Once you’ve got everything chopped, the fried rice is super quick to pull together — so quick, in fact, you’ll want the ingredients laid out ready to go before you turn on the stove. 

The only thing that you need to plan ahead is having cold cooked rice, the kind you might have left over from Asian takeout. Or, if you’re making rice for another meal, cook extra. You can store it in the fridge for a few days, or even freeze and then thaw it.

Do not even think about making this dish with freshly cooked rice. It will be a dismal failure. As Adler writes, “Thank heavens for the occasional, calculable superiority of old things.”

The vegetables can be pretty much anything you have on hand. I especially like to use stems or leaves that might normally get tossed. Thinly slice kale stems or broccoli stems, or the inner stalks and leaves of celery; ribbon up radish or beet greens. (If those greens are a little limp, soak them in cool water for an hour or so and you'll be amazed by how they come back to life.)

Ingredients ready for fried rice - MELISSA PASANEN
  • Melissa Pasanen
  • Ingredients ready for fried rice

I’ve made this with finely diced ham, chicken, smoked tofu — even leftover fried calamari. You can scramble a couple eggs into the rice after it’s crisped up, but my favorite way to finish it off is with a runny-yolked fried egg, a shower of chopped green herbs and something crunchy. Roasted peanuts are perfect, but crushed potato chips are also a surprisingly great option.

Adler does not include potato chips in her recipe, but I think she might agree that using up those bits stuck at the bottom of the bag is the epitome of cooking with economy and grace.

Fridge-Foraged Fried Rice

Makes 2 servings (can be multiplied, but fry rice in batches so it gets crispy)

Ingredients

  • 2 to 3 bacon strips, thinly sliced, optional
  • About 3 tablespoons peanut oil, divided (sub: any vegetable oil)
  • 2 cups sliced vegetables
  • 1 medium shallot, thinly sliced (sub: 1/4 cup sliced onion or scallions)
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced lengthwise
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, plus more to taste
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons Thai fish sauce, divided (sub: soy sauce or Asian stir-fry sauce)
  • 2 cups cold cooked rice
  • 1 lime (sub: bottled lime juice or rice vinegar to taste)
  • 3/4 teaspoon sugar
  • Salt, to taste
  • Egg per person, optional (or any leftover cooked meats, seafood, tofu or seitan, diced small)
  • 1/2 chopped cilantro (sub: fresh green herb such as mint, basil, parsley)
  • Chopped roasted peanuts, optional (sub: toasted sesame seeds, packaged fried onion rings or even crumbled potato chips)

Directions

  1. Prepare and measure out all ingredients. Turn on your kitchen fan.
  2. If using bacon, cook it over medium heat in a large flat-bottomed sauté pan or wok just until crisp. Remove bacon to a plate lined with paper towel. Add enough oil to pan to measure about 1 tablespoon total fat, including bacon fat if you cooked bacon.
  3. Increase heat to medium high. When a drop of water sizzles in the oil, add the sturdiest vegetables (I started with kale stems and cabbage) and cook 3 to 4 minutes, stirring. Add remaining vegetables (for me, this was sliced radishes and mushrooms) along with shallots, garlic and crushed red pepper. Cook, stirring a few times, another 4 to 5 minutes until vegetables are cooked to your liking. Splash in about 1 teaspoon of the fish sauce and cook 1 more minute. Remove vegetables to a plate.
  4. Set pan back over medium-high heat and add remaining 2 tablespoons oil. When a drop of water sizzles in the oil, add rice, spreading it out to cover the pan. Let it cook without stirring for 2 to 3 minutes, then add 1 teaspoon fish sauce and turn rice over to crisp up as much of it as possible. Cook another 2 to 3 minutes.
  5. If using eggs, while rice is cooking, set a frying pan over medium heat with a little oil and fry eggs.
  6. When rice is crispy, if using other meats or proteins, toss those in and warm through. Then return vegetables and bacon, if used, to the pan. Sprinkle in sugar and a good squeeze of lime juice and toss to combine. Taste and add more fish sauce, lime juice or a little salt if desired.
  7. Serve fried rice topped with eggs, if using. Shower with chopped herbs, peanuts, another sprinkle of crushed red pepper flakes, and serve with lime wedges.
Got cooking questions? Feel free to email them to pasanen@sevendaysvt.com.

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Monday, April 6, 2020

Home on the Range: Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpea Curry

Posted By on Mon, Apr 6, 2020 at 8:15 PM

Cooking curry together over FaceTime - MELISSA PASANEN
  • Melissa Pasanen
  • Cooking curry together over FaceTime
Now is either a really good time to improve your cooking skills, or it’s a terrible time. Probably it’s both.

Most of us are stuck at home with far more meals to feed ourselves than normal. Some have added a second full-time job of caring for kids and managing their schoolwork. We’re trying to minimize our trips to buy ingredients. When we do venture out, there is pressure to be efficient, but also flexible if favorite or desired items are out of stock.

On the plus side, in between juggling the rest of our lives from home, we have more time to simmer up homemade meals and bake, if Instagram parades of crusty loaves are any indication.

For some people, cooking can be relaxing. Especially if someone else does the dishes. (Assign the kids clean-up duties and award them extra credit for life skills.)

Whichever camp you fall in, our Home on the Range cooking column is here to help. We’ll  offer a couple of simple, flexible recipes each week, including some from local chefs — many of whom are also cooking more at home these days.

This first recipe is an example of a basic method with lots of options to use what you have on hand. I cooked it a couple weeks ago over FaceTime with my brother-in-law, Conor. He used chicken; I stuck with vegetables. I had coconut milk on hand; he didn’t and used plain yogurt.

Conor and my youngest sister, Julia, are thirtysomethings expecting their first baby in mid-June. She’s a great cook but needs a break, so he’s trying to step up to cook a couple times a week.

What he lacks in kitchen experience, Conor makes up in willingness to learn. (Sorry, Con, I’ve got to share how you didn’t know the difference between a tablespoon (big T) and teaspoon (little t), resulting in a very spicy pasta sauce.) What I’m trying to say is, if Conor can do it, so can you.

The results have been pretty good; Julia has given Conor a solid B+ on our last two efforts. After we cook, my husband and I sit down to eat “with” them. It connects us regularly in a way we wouldn’t have experienced when we were living our busy, pre-pandemic lives in NYC and Vermont, respectively. (See this recent Stuck in Vermont episode for a brother and sister who’ve been doing this for several years.)

For a few hours, our worries fade to the background while we focus on feeding those we love.
Stirring roasted cauliflower into the curry - MELISSA PASANEN
  • Melissa Pasanen
  • Stirring roasted cauliflower into the curry

Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpea Curry (Optional Chicken)

Makes about 4 servings (more if using chicken).

Ingredients

For optional chicken:
  • ½ cup plain yogurt (sub: the thick top layer from a can of full-fat coconut milk)
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons curry powder, to taste
  • ½ teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts or thighs, trimmed and cut into bite-size cubes
For rest of curry:
  • About half a large head of cauliflower, including stem and ribbed leaves, cut into bite-size pieces (sub: broccoli, or 1 pound turnips or all-purpose potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces)
  • 2 tablespoons oil, plus a little for oiling the chicken pan if needed (coconut, canola, olive)
  • 3 teaspoons curry powder, divided
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt, divided
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 to 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1-inch chunk fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated, or ½ teaspoon powdered ginger
  • About 1½  cups (14-ounce can) diced tomatoes (sub: whole or crushed tomatoes; if using whole tomatoes, break them up with hands or use kitchen scissors to snip them before adding)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (sub: cooked or canned beans or lentils)
  • 1 pound fresh spinach or 10-ounce package frozen, thawed and squeezed as dry as possible (sub: baby kale or ribboned chard; 1½ cups thawed frozen peas)
  • 1 cup coconut milk (sub: ½ cup plain yogurt or heavy cream, or skip)
Directions
  1. If using chicken, at least 30 minutes and up to several hours before you plan to start cooking, whisk together yogurt, 1 teaspoon curry powder and salt. Taste and add curry powder if desired. Stir in chicken and refrigerate, covered.
  2. Heat oven to 375 degrees. On a rimmed baking sheet or shallow roasting pan, toss cauliflower with 1 tablespoon of oil, 1½  teaspoons curry powder and ½ teaspoon coarse salt. If using chicken, lightly oil another rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan and spread marinated chicken evenly in the pan. Roast cauliflower and chicken for about 20 to 25 minutes until browned and chicken is cooked through, stirring each pan once. Set aside.
  3. In a large sauté pan, heat remaining tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. When a drop of water sizzles in the oil, add onion with ½ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, 4 to 5 minutes until softened. Reduce heat to medium and stir in garlic, ginger and remaining 1 ½ teaspoons curry powder. Cook for 1 minute until fragrant. Add tomatoes and remaining teaspoon salt to the pan. Stir to combine and scrape up any brown bits from bottom of pan.
  4. Stir in chickpeas, spinach and coconut milk. Cover to wilt spinach for about 3 minutes. Uncover and stir. Stir in roasted cauliflower and chicken, if using. Bring to a simmer and add a little water if needed to keep it saucy. Simmer gently (especially if using yogurt) for about 5 to 7 minutes until everything is hot. Taste and add more curry powder or salt as desired. Serve over rice.
Got cooking questions? Feel free to email them to pasanen@sevendaysvt.com.

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Thursday, February 6, 2020

An Omnivorous Food Writer Tests a Vegan Diet

Posted By on Thu, Feb 6, 2020 at 12:42 PM

Smoked paprika and honey-brushed cauliflower steaks headed into the oven - MELISSA PASANEN
  • Melissa Pasanen
  • Smoked paprika and honey-brushed cauliflower steaks headed into the oven
Last August, my husband and I were hiking and talking about lots of stuff including the recently released United Nations report on land use and climate change. Among other things, the report analyzed agriculture’s contributions to the climate crisis and the lesser impact of a mostly plant-based diet.

“Why don’t we try going vegan for a month?” he proposed. (Unrelated to climate change, he also suggested going alcohol-free for a month, but we agreed these two experiments should not be simultaneous.)

It took us a while, between travel and the holidays, work commitments and way too much cheese in our fridge, but we finally carved out three weeks and started our experiment about a week ago.

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Thursday, June 6, 2019

Make It Maple Revs Up on the Food Network

Posted By on Thu, Jun 6, 2019 at 12:07 PM

Paulette Fiorentino-Robinson, left, Charlie Aldrich and Sue Aldrich - COURTESY OF THE FOOD NETWORK
  • Courtesy of the Food Network
  • Paulette Fiorentino-Robinson, left, Charlie Aldrich and Sue Aldrich

A trio of food-truck and showbiz rookies from Montpelier are contestants in the upcoming season of  "The Great Food Truck Race,” a Food Network TV show that kicks off its 10th season Sunday, June 9, at 9 p.m.

Sue Aldrich, her son Charlie Aldrich, and her friend Paulette Fiorentino-Robinson  form a team called Make It Maple. It’s one of nine food-truck teams competing for a $50,000 prize by cooking and peddling food on a southern road trip along the Atlantic seacoast.  The teams, including Brunch Babes (Grand Rapids, Mich.) and the People's Fry (Nashville), also compete in various culinary challenges. Each week,  the truck that makes the least amount of money is eliminated from the competition.

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Friday, March 1, 2019

School Daze: A Throwback Dinner at Butch + Babe's

Posted By on Fri, Mar 1, 2019 at 5:10 PM

Cafeteria-style dinner at Butch + Babe's - SALLY POLLAK
  • Sally Pollak
  • Cafeteria-style dinner at Butch + Babe's
Preschoolers, school kids and grown-ups who thought their school-lunch days were a thing of the past dined on chicken nuggets, veggie tots and butterscotch pudding on Wednesday at Butch + Babe’s in Burlington.

The Old North End restaurant hosted a cafeteria-style dinner to benefit the Burlington School Food Project. The event raised $150 for the district’s food program, but its primary purpose was to raise awareness, according to Butch + Babe's owner Kortnee Bush, who is a former Burlington School District cook.

“Hunger is what this is about,” Bush said. “People don’t realize how hunger is a real problem in the state and locally.”

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Tuesday, January 2, 2018

A Food Resolution Round-Up

Posted By on Tue, Jan 2, 2018 at 4:22 PM

FILE: MICHAEL TONN
  • File: MIchael Tonn
During the winter doldrums, how and what we eat seems particularly important — whether to offset holiday excesses, fulfill New Year's resolutions, or find comfort from the cold. Whatever food indulgences we allow between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve, most of us approach January with a little culinary restraint — and maybe ramp up the gym time.

A glimpse through the Seven Days archives reveals that our food writers past and present have different ways of dealing with dining in January. Here's a brief recap.

Longtime readers likely remember Alice Levitt for her larger-than-life persona and love of meat (her Vermont vanity plate read "bulgogi," referring to the Korean beef dish). But a January 2015 story was all about fresh produce. She even assembled a few coworkers for a juice tasting Melissa Haskin's tenure was short, but we still recall her "taco cleanse." How did that go? Not exactly as expected.  Corin Hirsch took the idea of cleansing a little more seriously, investigating various foods that can give the body a bit of a reboot without fasting. Her recommendations: astringent, acidic and bracing foods, such as bitters, lemon juice and curries.  Some people crave comfort in the cold, and Hannah Palmer Egan seems to be one of them. In January 2016, with help from Haskin, she gathered a sweet selection of slow-cooker recipes As for me, I tend to eat the same way I always do, but in the new year I might get a little sillier about it. For several years, I wrote up tongue-in-cheek guides to the hottest Vermont food trends.

Happy New Year!

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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Talking All Things Food With Chef Sara Moulton

Posted By on Tue, Jul 19, 2016 at 3:00 PM

From Sara Moulton's Home Cooking 101: How to Make Everything Taste Better - COURTESY OF SARA MOULTON
  • Courtesy of Sara Moulton
  • From Sara Moulton's Home Cooking 101: How to Make Everything Taste Better
You might remember chef Sara Moulton as one of the Food Network’s original celebrities during its first decade of television. Maybe you recognize her from her current show, "Sara's Weeknight Meals," which is set to air its sixth season in January 2017.  Or perhaps you own one of her best-selling cookbooks. Her latest, Sara Moulton’s Home Cooking 101: How to Make Everything Taste Better is an opus of home cooking, relevant to those with and without experience in the restaurant world.

With more than 30 years of culinary experience, Moulton’s other distinctions include being a protégé of Julia Child, executive chef of Gourmet Magazine, cofounder of the New York Women’s Culinary Alliance, and a member of the James Beard Foundation’s Who’s Who of Food and Beverage.

On July 9, I had the privilege of meeting the acclaimed chef at the 2016 Grafton Food Festival. Moulton and I settled into two armchairs at the Grafton Inn to talk about Child, culinary media and Vermont's influence on the food world. 

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