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Showing Off Shelburne Farms

Side Dishes: New cookbook features foods from Vermont


Published September 12, 2007 at 4:00 a.m.

A lucky group of food aficionados and weekend guests got a taste of Cooking with Shelburne Farms: Food and Stories From Vermont at a special brunch last weekend hosted by the Inn at Shelburne Farms. The new cookbook, by food writer Melissa Pasanen and Chef Rick Gencarelli, aims "to connect farm to fork," said Pasanen.

Attendees got to feast on a few recipes from the forthcoming title, including a selection of fresh vegetables accompanied by a delicate "spring herb mayonnaise." A few unusual veggies, such as bits of Romanesco cauliflower and slices of tomatillo, stood out among the produce artfully arranged on a wooden board.

Quoting Gencarelli, Pasanen told the crowd he said, "I barely have to trim them . . . I can just put these beautiful things out there and they speak for themselves." More effort probably went into the repast that followed, which included just-bitter-enough braised broccoli raab, juicy skin-on chicken breast topped with thick bacon and chicken-of-the-woods 'shrooms, and apple blackberry crisp.

Along with the food, organizers passed advance copies of the book, which won't be available in stores until September 20. Instead of the conventional progression from app and entrée to dessert, its chapters are grouped by foodstuffs that are "connected to Vermont heritage," Pasanen explains. There's one on lamb, for example, and one on wild mushrooms, while milk and maple get a total of four: Each gets separate sweet and savory chapters.

Unlike in most cookbooks, the folks who farm and forage the featured foods get to share the spotlight with their products. Pasanen's stories are supplemented by black-and-white photos of the subjects by Jordan Silverman.

Though the finished product doesn't reflect it, the authors encountered their share of hurdles. "I spent the winter chasing Rick around my home kitchen with measuring spoons and cups," Pasanen says, joking about chefs' well-known distaste for measuring. In the interest of stunning results, the authors even specified the amount of salt rather than have readers season "to taste." Why? "It's amazing what the right amount of salt brings to the food," Pasanen explains. When applied properly, it doesn't make food taste briny but merely brings out the other flavors.

Want to sample the book before buying? As part of the Burlington Book Festival, City Market will host a sneak preview reading and demo by Pasanen on Sunday, September 16 at 3 p.m.

At 5 p.m. the following day, again as part of the BBF, the co-op will host a demo and book signing by Sissy Hicks, chef-owner of The Dorset Inn. She'll sign copies of Elegant Comfort Food From the Dorset Inn, a compilation of her best dishes written by Jane and Michael Stern of Roadfood fame. Inside, you'll find homey recipes for turkey croquettes, braised lamb shank, bacon-potato pancakes and more. According to Dorset Inn staffer Meaghan Meachem, the book is "an outsider's perspective on Sissy, her food and the inn." Whip up these recipes at home, and you'll feel like an insider.