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Monday, October 19, 2020

Home on the Range: Zucchini Hot Dish

Posted By on Mon, Oct 19, 2020 at 3:15 PM

Zucchini hot dish - MELISSA PASANEN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Melissa Pasanen ©️ Seven Days
  • Zucchini hot dish
I have reluctantly started to clean up my vegetable and herb gardens. It's not like putting off cleanup will deter the steady march towards winter, but I have been procrastinating to prolong the growing season as long as possible.

This past weekend, I finally pulled out all my tomato plants and have tons of green cherry tomatoes. I plan to pickle some and make another batch of green tomato salsa.

In my main garden, a few broccoli heads remain standing and the squash vine that completely took over during late summer is still doing its Jack and the Beanstalk thing.
Trombetta di Albenga growing in the garden - MELISSA PASANEN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Melissa Pasanen ©️ Seven Days
  • Trombetta di Albenga growing in the garden

The variety is Trombetta di Albenga, described on the seed packet as an "heirloom climbing summer squash." It is both amazingly prolific and smile-provoking with long, tubular curvy squash that end in a bulbous swelling.

The fruits look more like balloon creatures gone wild than trumpets, the musical instrument for which they were named.

In the kitchen, it is the best kind of summer squash: mild, a little nutty, not seedy and never watery. I've cubed and roasted it, cut it into matchsticks and stir-fried it, sliced and ribboned it into raw salads, and diced it to fold into omelettes and bake into frittatas.

Trombetta di Albenga in the kitchen - MELISSA PASANEN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Melissa Pasanen ©️ Seven Days
  • Trombetta di Albenga in the kitchen
I have given away many of these squash and still have a bunch on the vine that I need to bring in. I understand it can be stored like a winter squash, so we will see how that goes.

Most recently, I used some of my mother lode in a recipe for Zucchini Hot Dish sent to me by a reader, Patty Thomas of Colchester.

She had me at hot dish. I was further enamored by the use of hamburg to describe ground beef, a classic New England term my mother-in-law introduced me to years ago.

It's all the things a late-fall, one-dish supper should be: homey and comforting and easily made with staples on hand. Plus, it used up a good chunk of a monster trombetta squash.

Zucchini Hot Dish

Serves 4 to 6
The original recipe calls for boiling the zucchini, but I opted to sauté the slices to bump up their flavor with caramelization.

Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more to coat casserole dish
  • 4 cups thinly sliced zucchini
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt, plus more to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound hamburg aka ground beef (sub: ground turkey or cooked lentils)
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil (sub: 1 tablespoon minced fresh basil)
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano (sub: 2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano)
  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce (sub: 1½ cups diced fresh tomato)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly oil or butter a 2 to 3-quart casserole dish.
  2. Set a large sauté pan over medium heat with the tablespoon oil. When the oil is warm, add the zucchini slices with ½ teaspoon salt and several grinds of pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and just tender, about 6-8 minutes.
  3. Remove the zucchini to a plate and set the sauté pan back over medium-high heat. Add the meat to the pan along with the onion, garlic, basil, oregano and remaining ½ teaspoon salt, plus more grinds of pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally to break up meat, until onion is softened and meat is browned, about 8-10 minutes.
  4. Stir in tomato sauce and rice. Taste and add salt and pepper as desired. Pull pan off heat.
  5. While the meat is cooking, in a small bowl, beat the egg and then stir in the cottage cheese.
  6. Arrange half of the cooked zucchini slices in the bottom of the prepared casserole dish. Spread the meat and rice mixture evenly over the zucchini. Spread the egg and cottage cheese mixture evenly over the meat and rice. Top with the remaining zucchini and sprinkle with the shredded cheese.
  7. Bake 25-30 minutes until golden and bubbly. Cool a few minutes before serving.
Source: Patty Thomas

Got cooking questions or a favorite family recipe to share? Email pasanen@sevendaysvt.com.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Home on the Range: Green Tomato Salsa

Posted By on Tue, Oct 6, 2020 at 2:20 PM

Green tomato salsa - MELISSA PASANEN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Melissa Pasanen ©️ Seven Days
  • Green tomato salsa
Falling leaves are temporarily recarpeting  my front yard, turning it from green to  variegated reds and golds. I'm bargaining with the squirrels and birds for my share of apples from our small tree. And I'm watching the forecast carefully, hoping to pull a few more ripe tomatoes from my garden before frost.

Although green tomatoes can turn red indoors, they never taste quite the same as those ripened on the vine. Each disappointing bite only hammers home the wistful reminder that summer is definitely over.  I prefer to use them in ways that let their true tart and sturdy personality shine.

A recipe recently landed in my in box via Red Wagon Plants in Hinesburg that presented a great option for my green tomatoes: a way to turn them into something delicious with the help of peppers and cilantro from my garden and CSA share.

The recipe for salsa verde comes originally from a website called Local Kitchen and is written for tomatillos, which are similar in taste and texture to green tomatoes. The level of heat from chili peppers and optional chili flakes is up to the maker.

The roughly 5-cup yield is small enough that prep doesn't take long, and you don't need to get involved in the multi-step process of canning. I gifted one large jar and the remaining one will last several weeks in the fridge.

I can think of many ways to deploy this salsa: slathered over grilled seafood, chicken, pork or any type of burger; dolloped onto tacos, grain bowls or eggs; and spread generously on cheese or hummus sandwiches.

In fact, now I'm kind of annoyed with myself that I didn't double the recipe as the Red Wagon blog encourages. 
Ingredients for green tomato salsa - MELISSA PASANEN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Melissa Pasanen ©️ Seven Days
  • Ingredients for green tomato salsa

Green Tomato Salsa

Makes about 5 cups

Ingredients
  • 4 cups finely chopped green tomatoes (about 2 pounds)
  • ½ cup finely diced red onion
  • ½ cup seeded and finely diced bell peppers (any color)
  • ¼-½ cup seeded and minced chili peppers (to taste and depending on heat level of peppers)
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons cider vinegar (sub: white wine vinegar)
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup, optional (sub: 1 teaspoon sugar)
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cumin
  • ¾ teaspoon coarse salt, plus more to taste
  • ¼ cup finely chopped cilantro
  • ¼ teaspoon chili flakes, optional
Directions
  1. Combine all ingredients except for cilantro in a large, heavy-bottomed pot set over high heat. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to an active simmer.
  2. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes until the vegetables have broken down and the salsa has thickened slightly.
  3. Stir in the cilantro and return the mixture to a simmer. Taste and add salt or increase heat level with chili flakes as desired.
  4. Pour into clean jars and cool on counter before refrigerating. If canning for pantry storage, Local Kitchen has a good guide.
Source: Slightly adapted from Red Wagon Plants and Local Kitchen.

Got cooking questions? Email pasanen@sevendaysvt.com

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Thursday, October 1, 2020

Red Onion Café to Leave Church Street, Open in Charlotte

Posted By on Thu, Oct 1, 2020 at 4:09 PM

Red Onion Café on Church Street - FILE: LUKE AWTRY ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • File: Luke Awtry ©️ Seven Days
  • Red Onion Café on Church Street
After 30 years on Church Street in Burlington, the Red Onion Café will move to Charlotte at the end of October.

The Red Onion will sell its beloved sandwiches, soups, salads and homemade breads from a retail location in Charlotte Crossings, the multi-use commercial building at 3488 Route 7.

Owner Mickey West announced the move in a press release Thursday. In July, West told Seven Days she was looking to relocate due to the effects of the pandemic.

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A Broccoli Bar Grows in Brooklyn

Posted By on Thu, Oct 1, 2020 at 12:58 PM

The Broccoli Bar in Brooklyn - TREVOR SULLIVAN
  • Trevor Sullivan
  • The Broccoli Bar in Brooklyn
Only in Brooklyn would Brisket Brothers give way to the Broccoli Bar.

That’s what’s happening at 690 Fulton Street in Fort Greene, where Burlington’s Pingala Café will open the Broccoli Bar on October 10, according to Trevor Sullivan, owner of Pingala and co-owner of the new Broccoli Bar.

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Home on the Range: Farro with Roasted Squash and Sage-Brown Butter Dressing

Posted By on Thu, Oct 1, 2020 at 12:10 PM

Farro with roasted squash and broccoli and sage-brown butter dressing - MELISSA PASANEN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Melissa Pasanen ©️ Seven Days
  • Farro with roasted squash and broccoli and sage-brown butter dressing
Meal planning can be a creative challenge but it can also be a chore. Sometimes I'm lucky and the universe tells me what to make for dinner.

Most recently that occurred when the universe sent me several messages over the course of a few days.

First, I interviewed acclaimed author Jonathan Safran Foer about his most recent book, We are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast, in advance of his University of Vermont George D. Aiken Lecture on October 8.

Among the things Foer and I discussed were what he had eaten for breakfast: nothing, because he doesn't eat breakfast, making his book subtitle a tad disingenuous.
I also asked him what he had eaten for dinner the preceding night: spinach and herb pie with roasted potatoes and farro. After being impressed by his complete disregard for the low-carb frenzy, I thought, Hmmm ... farro. I haven't made that lately.

Scrolling through Instagram a few days later, my eye landed on a beautiful photo from Farmhouse Pottery in Woodstock of a farro salad with roasted butternut squash and sage-brown butter dressing. Hmmm... farro. I haven't made that lately, I mused again.

The recipe called for 2 cups of farro and it turned out that was exactly the amount I had left in my larder. I also happened to have delicata squash from my CSA share and plenty of sage in my garden.

We've been trying to eat a few more plant-centric meals each week. You can't really argue with eating more vegetables and whole grains. There's also the point Foer makes forcefully in his book: Americans in general eat too much meat, and industrial livestock farming has contributed significantly to the climate crisis.

But who am I kidding? It was all about the brown butter.

I built on the Farmhouse Pottery recipe by adding roasted broccoli along with the squash and also stirring some sherry vinegar into the brown butter, shallot, maple and sage dressing for acidity and balance.

The nutty, chewy farro cooked in about 30 minutes, about the time it took for the squash and broccoli to caramelize nicely in a hot oven. While those cooked, I sliced up shallots, picked the sage leaves and made the warm dressing on the stovetop. It all went in a big bowl with toasted pecans and a scattering of Vermont goat feta. 

Thank you, Jonathan Safran Foer, Farmhouse Pottery and the universe.

Farro with Roasted Squash and Sage-Brown Butter Dressing

Serves 4-6 as a main course

Ingredients
  • 2¼ teaspoons coarse salt, divided, plus more to taste
  • 1 large delicata squash, seeded and sliced into half moons (sub: any winter squash, peeled, seeded and cubed)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 head broccoli, including leaves and stems, cut into bite size pieces (sub: cauliflower)
  • 2 cups uncooked farro (sub: wheat berries, quinoa or brown rice; note wheat berries and brown rice will take longer to cook)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • About 10 medium sage leaves sliced or scissored into ribbons
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar (sub: red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar)
  • 1 cup toasted, chopped pecans
  • ½ cup crumbled goat cheese, such as feta
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Fill a large pot with water and add 1 teaspoon of salt. Set the pot over high heat and bring to a boil.
  2. On a rimmed sheet pan, toss the squash with 1 tablespoon olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt and several grinds of freshly ground pepper. On a second rimmed sheet pan, toss the broccoli with the remaining tablespoon olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt and freshly ground pepper.
  3. Roast the vegetables, turning once, for about 25-30 minutes until they are cooked and a little caramelized.
  4. When the pot of water has come to a boil, add the farro and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook about 20-30 minutes until farro is  tender to the bite but not mushy. (This will vary depending on age of farro.)
  5. While everything is cooking, make the dressing. In a medium sauté or frying pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the shallot and increase heat to medium high. Cook, stirring occasionally, until shallots are softened and golden, about 5 minutes.
  6. Stir in the sage leaves and cook another 2-3 minutes until the butter starts browning. Stir in the maple syrup and sherry vinegar and cook to reduce slightly, about 2 minutes. Add ¼ teaspoon salt.
  7. Put the hot cooked farro in a big bowl and pour the sage-brown butter dressing over it. Add the pecans and toss to combine. Taste and add salt or pepper as desired. Top with roasted vegetables and crumbled feta.
Source: adapted from Farmhouse Pottery
Got cooking questions? Email pasanen@sevendaysvt.com.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Dining on a Dime: Conscious Eatz Food Truck

Posted By on Tue, Sep 29, 2020 at 1:58 PM

Conscious Eatz food truck - MELISSA PASANEN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Melissa Pasanen ©️ Seven Days
  • Conscious Eatz food truck
Burlington's vegan scene got a bit bigger — and more mobile — this month.

Conscious Eatz rolled into town on September 3, spending a week down near the waterfront before parking in its current location near the top of the Church Street Marketplace at 6 Clarke Street.

Partners Jane Morgan and Tyler Weith have followed a plant-based diet for a few years. After moving back to Burlington last summer, they noticed a "major gap in vegan and vegetarian foods," Morgan said.

"For such a progressive city, it really surprised us that there weren't more options," she continued. "We love to cook, and love to make plant-based things, so we figured we could bring plant-based options to Burlington in a really approachable way."

Buffalo-cauliflower tacos from Conscious Eatz - MELISSA PASANEN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Melissa Pasanen ©️ Seven Days
  • Buffalo-cauliflower tacos from Conscious Eatz
Approachability is key to the food truck's menu. Items like buffalo-cauliflower tacos ($12) — a play on a buffalo chicken wing adapted into taco form to make it street-food friendly — and the maple-glazed tempeh burrito ($11) have been popular from the get-go.

"I've found that friends of mine who aren't plant-based can get intimidated by some of the vegan ingredients and foods," Morgan said. "We really tried to make all of our ingredients and menu items things that would appeal to anybody."

Morgan and Weith had started conceptualizing Conscious Eatz prior to the pandemic, and their planned business model has adapted well. "It's mostly takeout, and now we're set up with some of the delivery services," Morgan said. "Everything's pretty contactless, and it's working out well for us." 

The mission of Conscious Eatz is to serve food that has a positive impact on the environment, animals and personal health, Morgan explained.

"If one person who typically eats meat decides for one of their meals, one day a week, to not eat meat, that in itself has a positive impact," she said.

Chickpea tuna sandwich - JORDAN BARRY ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Jordan Barry ©️ Seven Days
  • Chickpea tuna sandwich
With that in mind, my dining companion and I skipped our usual omnivorous lunch plans over the weekend and placed an order for two sandwiches from Conscious Eatz: the chickpea tuna sandwich ($9) and the Lucerne club ($9), both of which came with an ample side of potato chips.

The "tuna" successfully mimics the classic sandwich. The combination of chickpeas and smooth hummus — spiked with celery, of course — has everything except the fishiness.

It would be a perfect polite solution to a tuna craving at the office, if sitting near coworkers for lunch al desko were something we could actually do.

Lucerne club with carrot bacon, shredded carrots, sprouts and peanut sauce - JORDAN BARRY ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Jordan Barry ©️ Seven Days
  • Lucerne club with carrot bacon, shredded carrots, sprouts and peanut sauce
The Lucerne club strays further from the original (no frilly toothpicks), but it's a twist worth trying. The sandwich is piled high with shredded carrots, sprouts and crispy "carrot bacon," and slathered with a Thai-inspired peanut sauce.

In a world of increasingly expensive sandwiches, these felt like a good deal at $9. We'd been tempted by the desserts — particularly the blueberry cheezecake ($5) — but skipped it to stay under our $12 per person limit. That ended up being for the best, as we were stuffed.

Conscious Eatz can typically be found on Clarke Street Wednesday through Sunday, barring special events that take the truck elsewhere. Check out the weekly schedule online and on social media.

Dining on a Dime is a weekly series featuring well-made, filling bites (something substantial enough to qualify as a small meal or better) for $12 or less. Know of a tasty dish we should feature? Drop us a line: food@sevendaysvt.com.

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Monday, September 28, 2020

Vermont Restaurants and Retailers Support University of Vermont Cancer Center

Posted By on Mon, Sep 28, 2020 at 1:41 PM

Chef-owner Donnell Collins and former co-owner Bob Conlon of Leunig's Bistro & Café, the first restaurant fundraiser participant - FILE: LUKE AWTRY ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • File: Luke Awtry ©️ Seven Days
  • Chef-owner Donnell Collins and former co-owner Bob Conlon of Leunig's Bistro & Café, the first restaurant fundraiser participant
Things may look very different at local restaurants this fall but many are continuing their seasonal tradition of supporting the annual University of Vermont Cancer Center fundraiser.

In partnership with Farrell Distributing, 20 restaurant plus 20 retailers will donate $1 to the Cancer Center for every qualifying bottle of wine from the Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits portfolio or 12-pack of von Trapp Brewing beer sold during September and October.  (See here for a full list of participating locations.)

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Tuesday, September 22, 2020

USDA Shifts Vermont Farmers to Families Contract to Boston Company

Posted By on Tue, Sep 22, 2020 at 7:04 PM

Dairy products in a Farmers to Families Food Box sourced by the Abbey Group - COURTESY THE ABBEY GROUP
  • Courtesy the Abbey Group
  • Dairy products in a Farmers to Families Food Box sourced by the Abbey Group
The Abbey Group, a family-owned food service management company based in Enosburg Falls, has failed to land a contract for the latest round of the USDA Farmers to Families food boxes in Vermont.

It had previously earned two USDA contracts worth $13.9 million to distribute boxes of staple foods to Vermonters experiencing food insecurity due to the pandemic.

Instead, the main Vermont contract was awarded to Boston-based Costa Fruit & Produce, confirmed Vermont Foodbank CEO John Sayles.

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Friday, September 18, 2020

Stone's Throw Pizza Coming to Charlotte

Posted By on Fri, Sep 18, 2020 at 1:56 PM

Stone's Throw Pizza in Fairfax - JAMES BUCK/FILE ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • James Buck/File ©️ Seven Days
  • Stone's Throw Pizza in Fairfax
Stone’s Throw Pizza will open its third pizzeria  — this one at 86 Ferry Road in Charlotte — in late fall or early winter,  according to co-owner Silas Pollitt.

The Charlotte branch of Stone’s Throw will be takeout only. The business will serve pizzas, salads and desserts to-go, and have a retail component that sells beer and wine, housemade pickles and kimchi, and pizza dough, according to Pollitt.

“There’s lots of brainstorming going on,” Pollitt said.  "The concept allows us to exercise the imagination a little bit.”

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Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Dining on a Dime: Zabby & Elf's Stone Soup

Posted By on Tue, Sep 15, 2020 at 9:00 AM

Dinner from Stone Soup - SALLY POLLAK ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Sally Pollak ©️ Seven Days
  • Dinner from Stone Soup

Normalcy — sort of — returned to College Street in Burlington last week in the form of sweet potatoes, kale and brown rice.

The mainstays of the hot bar at Zabby & Elf’s Stone Soup are back in action after a six-month moratorium. The cafe's trio of basics made their comeback along with sandwiches, soups, muffins and bread — and the changing array of items in the hot and cold bars.

The un-normal part is that this last category of food is no longer self-serve, which was Stone Soup’s pre-pandemic way. In the new system, a staffer fills your plate for you. A Plexiglas shield — probably the prettiest in town — guards the food and the people, and separates one from the other.

(Ever been tempted to snitch a crouton or an olive when you serve yourself at Stone Soup? Sorry, that game is over.)

The new system at Stone Soup works two ways: You can guide a staffer and tell them what you’d like — three chicken wings, please, some curried cauliflower and chickpeas and those seared Brussels sprouts! How about some salad and cottage cheese, a spoonful of pickled beets, a hit of roasted mushrooms and dried apricots.

Or you can opt for a chef’s tasting plate: $10 for small, $15 for large. Specify vegan, vegetarian or omnivore, and let a Stone Souper pick your food for you.

I’m always pleased to relinquish responsibility, so I chose the second option when my daughter and I stopped at Stone Soup for dinner last week. Though the dining room is open at reduced capacity, with off-limit tables marked by arrangements of flowers and stones, we took our meals home.
Hanging plants in the open window at Stone Soup - SALLY POLLAK ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Sally Pollak ©️ Seven Days
  • Hanging plants in the open window at Stone Soup
“We’re working hard to create products that work in this setting, but still serving the food everybody has been used to,” co-owner Tim Elliott told me before the September 9 reopening.  “You need to have trust in your server.”

As it happened, co-owner Avery Rifkin was on duty the evening we stopped in and I trust him (and everyone else) to feed me.  I chose the small plate ($10) to qualify for Dining on a Dime, and had $2 left for a chocolate cookie. Rifkin loaded me up with food I’ve been missing for six months: chicken wings,  kale salad, cucumber salad, mac and cheese with vegetables, beet hummus,  a thick slice of whole wheat bread. 

Stone Soup’s reopening coincides with Rosh Hashanah, which starts this Friday at sundown. If I could pick a word to describe the marking of the Jewish New Year at Stone Soup, normal is not the word I’d select. The café’s candlelit celebration is one of a kind. (At least I’ve never seen anything like it in a restaurant.)
Rosh Hashanah at Stone Soup in 2019 - SALLY POLLAK ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Sally Pollak ©️ Seven Days
  • Rosh Hashanah at Stone Soup in 2019
Rifkin said he’ll start working at 7 a.m. Thursday on his Rosh Hashanah preparation, and he'll be at Stone Soup straight through until Friday afternoon. Though the café opens at 9 a.m. these days, people are welcome to come in earlier Friday morning, he said.

Rifkin will bake 150 to 200 loaves of round challah, the only week of the year the challah is round. The baker will make rugelach, mini-babkas, apple cake and honey cake. The counter will hold candles, flowers, pumpkins and gourds, along with  baked goods.

In years past, apple slices and pieces of cake were set out for people to help themselves. They were placed near a tiered stack of rugelach, an annual engineering marvel.

Who knows what the presentation will be this year. But I have high hopes that Rosh Hashanah at Stone Soup will be — as usual — not normal.

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