In The Kitchen: Women and Food Project Summer Update

WFSummer2014Collage

I have been working on the Women & Food Project as many of you, my dear readers, know.  The website is looking pretty stellar, just in time to welcome three new participants (left to right):

Alison Ladman, owner of Crust & Crumb Bakery in Concord, NH, and manager of the AP Test Kitchen.
Mary Lou Heiss, co-owner of Tea Trekker in Northampton, MA.
Jamie Paxton, sous-chef at CrossRoads Food Shop in Hillsdale, NY.

Visit womenandfoodproject.com to see photographs of all the participants, watch selected “mini docs” and read handwritten memories.

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December Favorite: Beekman 1802 Heirloom Dessert Cookbook

Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell are affectionately known around my kitchen as the Fabulous Beekman Boys.  They’re the goat farmer winners of Amazing Race season 21 and, more importantly, the founders with flawless taste of Beekman 1802, a lifestyle brand with a vintage-modern aesthetic based around their 60-acre farm in Sharon Springs, New York.

I interviewed Brent about their second cookbook, the Beekman 1802 Heirloom Desserts Cookbook: 100 Delicious Heritage Recipes from the Farm and Garden.  The book landed on shelves this fall and has quickly earned accolades, including a top spot on Bakepedia’s Best Baking Books of 2013 and Amazon.com Editor’s Picks for Best Gift Books of the Year.

Just like the focus of their best-selling Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook, the newest one features solely sweets and stories passed down through generations.

“After our first cookbook, we had so many people asking for more desserts recipes and whenever we posted them on our website they were always the most shared,” said Ridge.

“There are no better recipes that illustrate the heirloom quality than a dessert recipe.  They get made over and over again and there’s always that special one that someone makes for every Thanksgiving, Easter or Fourth of July.”

In order for a recipe to develop such complex layers of nostalgia, it must meet three standards:  It must be delicious, it must be relatively simple to make, and the ingredients must be readily available to everyone.

Over one hundred gorgeous photos taken by Paulette Tavormina capture the delightful confections and beautiful backdrop that is the Beekman farm.  Page introductions beget giggles and sighs of endearment.

Recipes are even divided into seasons and arranged so that readers can take advantage of the freshest ingredients at that time of year.  The winter section features a superb selection of naturally gluten-free recipes like Vanilla Panna Cotta Surprise, Winter Kabocha Squash Pie (without the crust), Chocolate-Espresso Soup with Marshmallows, Lemon Curd, Snow Cream with Sweetened Condensed Milk, Sugarplums, Orange-Chocolate Pots de Crème, Candied Citrus Zest and Mushroom Meringues.

The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Dessert Cookbook is available in hardcover and e-book.  Readers are encouraged to tinker with the recipes and share them on the Beekman Facebook page or keep it old school by adding their own handwritten notes and recipes to the pages of the book.

“Each family has their own recipes that they treasure so we put in space for that.  We want this book to become a placeholder, the book that you pull off the shelf over and over again, whether you are making or adapting one of ours or because you know that’s where you keep your own,” said Ridge.

I plan to revisit the Beekman 1802 Heirloom Desserts Cookbook again in the spring to highlight that season’s gluten-friendly recipes and transform one that is not.  Don’t forget to keep up with what is happening on the farm by visiting beekman1802.com.

Beekman Brownie Inspiration

Deciding to make a gluten-free version of something gluten-full from the book, I settled on page 25’s Salty Nougat Fudge Brownies.  I riffed on it, subbing the salted roasted peanuts for homemade salted roasted pecans and swapping the Snickers nougat for a Skor toffee bar.  (Hey, Brent did say we could tinker!)  Another great discovery from this Beekman baking adventure was finding Domata Gluten-Free Flour.  I stumbled across it at the market and it’s a recipe-ready cup for cup exchange since the xanthan gum is already added.  Perfect brownies!

Salted Pecan and Toffee Brownies (Serves 12)
Ingredients:
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate chips
6 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 large eggs
½ c. granulated sugar
1/3 c. packed brown sugar
2 tbsp. simple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2/3 c. gluten-free flour, such as Domata Gluten-Free Recipe Ready Flour
½ c. salted roasted pecans, coarsely chopped
2 Skor bars, coarsely chopped

Instructions:
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter an 8” square baking pan and line with parchment paper, leaving a few inches on the sides so you can pull out the brownies.  Butter the bottom of the paper lining.
-Melt chocolate and butter together in a Pyrex dish over boiling water.
-Whisk eggs, sugars, syrup, remaining liquids and salt in a large bowl.  Stir in the chocolate mixture and flour, alternating a little each time.  Fold in nuts and candy.  Transfer to baking pan.
-Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until edges are set and toothpick comes out clean.  Cool in the pan then serve.

(Recipe adapted from the Beekman 1802 Heirloom Desserts Cookbook’s Salty Nougat Fudge Brownies.)

Lunch At: The Red Lion Inn

Sometimes I actually get leave the kitchen and visit places that make delicious food and talk with good people  Here’s a story about my gluten-friendly lunch at the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. 

Red Lion Inn Lunch

I was very excited when Stephanie Gravalese-Wood, long-time foodie friend and marketing and communications manager at the Red Lion Inn, invited me to lunch.  I had never eaten at the storied Stockbridge place, known for its quintessential New England cuisine and staging Christmas photo shoots for Japanese magazines in the middle of July.

But I was worried.  This was the place of pewter chargers, Hitchcock furniture and delicious things full of gluten.  Sure, the executive chef Brian Alberg has made ten dinners at the James Beard House and has been featured in Boston Globe, New York Times, Gastronomica, Saveur and Good Morning America…but has he ever made a meal for me?

“We pride ourselves on having options, no matter what a person’s sensitivity is.  Everyone should be able to experience really good food, whatever the modifications needed,” said Stephanie.

There are real options, too, not just ones relegated to one corner of the menu or marked with a sad little dot among a sea of scrumptious non-prospects.  The servers help gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan diners navigate the menu.  They are all allergy-awareness trained, can break down dishes and even give suggestions as to the best pairs from over 400 selections of wine.

As usual, I did my best test our server and I must say that she was unflappable.  I settled on the chick pea and quinoa patty with green bean-radish salad and dressed mesclun greens, a popular dish that Stephanie ordered, too.

While we waited, we nibbled on gluten-free rolls and drank Harney & Sons Earl Grey tea while talking about the Inn’s food philosophy.  I knew of the Inn only as one with classic options in a beautiful setting tied to a farm to table values with local, seasonal ingredients.  I didn’t know that Alberg took the idea a step further as the president of Berkshire Grown, a regional association that champions the flourishing local food movement.

“We want to source as locally as possible.  We’ve been doing this and we’ll still be doing in twenty years.  It’s definitely not a fad,” she said.

Working together with over 90 farms in the Berkshire-Hudson region, these partnerships mean real economic development.  Even before the growing season starts, Alberg is meeting with farmers and collaborating.  Farmers visit the kitchen as frequently as its regular staff and names of places are often worked into selection titles.

I learned that staples like clam chowder and comfort food standards of pot pie, pot roast and turkey dinner have been celebrated along with the Inn’s famed lodging for over 200 years.  They proudly have their own spot on the menu, as the Widow Bingham’s Favorites, and minister to the core group of customers, a solid foundation of seasonal and generational guests during summer or Tanglewood season.

There’s a younger crowd, though, that enjoys the dishes that are riffs off these classic American favorites…ones that feature the late summer harvests in quiche, Eggs Benedict and penne with roasted vegetables.  Berkshire greens Caesar salad with white anchovies and mouthwatering burgers with local Grafton Cheddar and Bayley Hazen Bleu cheeses can be enjoyed with Big Elm Brewery’s Red Lion Ale or Johnny Mash hard cider in the Lion’s Den Pub, the newest addition that opened in 1934.  It’s said to be the first bar in the county to have received a liquor license after prohibition.

“Our menus have been constructed so that people with different sensibilities can enjoy great, local and historical cuisine.  There’s a special experience when you come to eat a place like the Red Lion Inn and no one should be limited because of their dietary restrictions,” said Gravelese-Wood.

We happily dug in when our dishes arrived.  The mark of a good meal is when no one talks but we couldn’t help pointing out what we liked best.  “It’s like eating a whole plate of the best part of Thanksgiving, the stuffing!”  The chick pea and quinoa patty topped with a creamy, spicy sauce had a great texture and color with its carrots and sunflower seeds.  It rested on a bed of greens, cucumber, red onions and green beans with refreshing, lemony dressing.  “SO flavorful!”

The gluten-free rolls were light.  Steph described them as “exactly what I needed” but I was partial to the whipped butter.  We finished our lunchtime with a plate of Taza salted almond chocolate.  Next time, I think we’ll pick a darker chocolate.

Want to have lunch at the Red Lion Inn? Make a reservation by calling 413-298-5545 or emailing reservations@redlioninn.com.

Lunch might have been on the house that day but all thoughts and opinions are my own.

September Favorite: Women & Food Project

Many of you, my dear readers, have probably been wondering where I’ve been all summer.  I’ve been working on something very special called the Women & Food Project.

Women & Food Dozen PanIt is currently on display at Easthampton City Arts Gallery, one of the top galleries here in New England, now until September 30th.  The opening reception is this Saturday from 5-8pm.  The online home that you faraway friends can visit is womenandfoodproject.com.  There you can see the photographs and watch the “mini docs”.  Gallery visitors actually access these via QR codes with their smart phones.  Those with “not so smart” phones can watch them on a monitor.

Soon the website will have recipes from participants, handwritten memories from gallery visitors and new interviews as the next round of interviews start in October.   Leave a note below and let me know which photo you like best.  The project has received some fantastic press, including some super sweet tweets from…

 

August Favorite: Farmers’ Market Style

August’s favorite thing is farmers’ market style!
Prep for a tour ’round the tents and bring these essential items when shopping for local eats.

1. A pocket-sized notebook.  This letter-pressed gem by Portugal’s ARMINHO is perfect for your shopping list, recipe ideas from vendors and directions to markets Pioneer Valley that you found on buylocalfood.org.

2.  Market bag. Stand out in the crowd with the To Market To Market tote by HappyTownHawaii. A sturdy canvas or nylon bag or two will help you tote your items to and from home. Backpacks are good for hauling bulky items.  Don’t forget to wash these regularly!

3.  Zip-pouch wallet. Vendors love small bills and coins, especially if you’re an early bird hoping to take the best picks. Close or exact change helps them and here’s a cute seed packet pouch by Minnesota’s SewTini to put them in.

What are your top three essential items to bring to a farmers’ market?

Good to Know: Eat Write Retreat

Sarah in the Kitchen Goes to the Eat Write Retreat from Sarah on Vimeo.

It’s been almost two months since I came home from the Eat Write Retreat, my first-ever intensive learning weekend for food bloggers and writers.  I waited to write this post because I wanted to see what I put into practice.  Here’s what stuck:

  1. I’ve been networking all wrong.  For the record, I wasn’t doing terribly but Joy Manning’s insights made me think more about the long-term aspects of working with others.  She encouraged all of us to think more about building professional relationships instead of just angling and reminded us that thank you notes never ever go out of style.
  2. Working with brands is a two-way street.  Monica Bhide made us consider the other side of blogger relations with her talk about the sponsored post.  Her words made me take a good hard look at the brands that I have worked with in the past and helped set a strict standard for the ones who want to work with me in the future.
  3. Timing is everything.  Yes, it’s true.  I’ve slowly been drowning in the catch-as-catch-can freelance writing world that I’ve been living in the past three years.  Debbie Koening threw me a life raft when she inspired us all to restructure our work day into a few 90-minute blocks with no interruptions, rank our priorities and divorce the grief.  Amen.

I stretched my culinary creativity for the Eat Write Retreat challenges with a special version of my Saturday Sugars for In The Raw and a fig and pasta dish for the FleishmanHillard Amazing Appetizers contest.  Both were popular posts here and were picked up by Honest Cooking Magazine.  The coolest was when Atoosa from Calphalon told me that my picks helped me win the Your Set Challenge.  I love being in my kitchen even more now!

Calphalon Prize

The workshops taught me so much.  Brona Cosgrave enlightened us about water (who knew?!), Jenn Sutherland connected us with mushroom growers and Marisa McClellan opened my eyes to small batch canning.  I learned all things BBQ and beauty queen with Karen Adler and Judith Fertig.  I interviewed Judith last week for a story on her Back in the Swing Cookbook and let her know I had been practicing my waves.

Best of all was making new friends.  Casey and Robyn, our fearless leaders, did right by connecting participants and professionals so we could all get to know each other as people.  We brainstormed for the OXO Challenge, snapped pictures in the low-tech food photo workshop, and gabbed on the way to and from the Supper Restaurant, R2L and Williams Sonoma.  It’s been nice to keep in touch and have a support team until we see each other again.

Here’s hoping I can get to Philly in 2014…it will be very hard to do but I’ve already started saving my pennies!

June Favorite: Ceramic Gastronomy

This month’s favorite thing is the ceramic gastronomy class that I took with Susan Halls.  She’s a tremendous artist and taught a workshop at White Square Books in Easthampton, Mass..  The dishes will create a fab window display to celebrate the arrival of William Sitwell, editor of UK’s Waitrose Kitchen, for the American launch party of his first book, A History of Food in 100 Recipes.

To learn more about Susan Halls, visit www.susanhalls.com.  Interested in William Sitwell and his book?  Check out www.williamsitwell.com.

Eat Write Retreat 2013

It’s finally here!  The weekend I’ve been waiting ages for…the Eat Write Retreat!!

EWR13 Blog Banner

Let me catch you up on all the neat-o things I’ve done to prepare for my trip!

1.  My Indiegogo fundraiser, “Send Sarah to Philadelphia!”, is the reason I’m here.  Family, friends, blog readers and people I didn’t even know contributed for perks to help me reach my goal and beyond.  They made me realize a very big thing: Sometimes it’s okay to ask for support to make the big ideas happen. Without them, it would have been a much tougher climb but everyone rallied behind me and I’m thankful for my Sherpas!

2. My Amazing Apps Culinary Challenge for the conference featured California figs.  My dish was Broccoli Raab with Sausage and Black Mission Figs & Gluten-Free Hot Pepper Ziti.  You can read more and see photos here.  It was a popular post and garnered notice from Honest Cooking Magazine plus a shout out by Valley Fig Growers.

3. I created a special version of my Saturday Sugars with dark chocolate and Italian basil for the conference’s Monk Fruit In The Raw challenge.  They were pretty tasty (think Milanos but better!) and one blog follower from Ohio thought so, too, since he ordered a batch for his favorite co-worker who is gluten-free.

4. Calphalon asked us to curate five recipes on Pinterest that we wanted to make with their cookware and then featured our picks on their website!  For a brief moment in time, I was next to Chef Michael Symon on the website.  Maybe one day I’ll be able to cook with him on The Chew!

That’s it for now.  I’ll be posting updates on my Twitter (@anselblue) and the kitchen page on FB.  Expect a wrap-up post on here next week.  Have a great weekend everyone!

Sarah Signature

May Favorite: #Brimfield and Abby Berkson

May’s favorites include breakfast, #Brimfield Antique Show and Abby Berkson!

Brimfield Breakfast Abby Mug

I’m headed to Brimfield Antique Show today with my design friend, Kris.  I decided to make myself a breakfast of champions with pan-fried tofu with sriracha and sweet balsamic, arrepas and Oaxaca cheese over rough chop mixed greens.  Look out dealers, the best bargain hunters are on their way!  My hazelnut coffee is in a mug created by the fabulous Abby Berkson.  Want a cutie mug like mine?  Visit abbyberkson.com and check out her delightful handmade work.