Everyday Gourmet

Aug. 21, 2008
By Kim Dannies

Grazin’ in the grass


I had a Vermont ‘staycation’ last week and it was a blast. I visited Shelburne Farms for the Vermont Fresh Network event; learned about primal cuts at a workshop on grass-fed meats; saw the Mary Cassatt exhibit at the Shelburne Museum; biked up ApGap; and ate a maple creemee from the Sunoco station every day. At the Richmond farmer’s market, I splurged on grass-fed porterhouse steak from Maple Wind Farm in Huntington (www.maplewindfarm.com) that was so good it made my eyes roll back in my head. The meat is lean and juicy and herbal tasting. It requires less time on the grill and a 20-minute resting period in foil. I gave it a slather of Laudemio olive oil and a big pinch of sea salt. Paired with a Columbia Valley pinot noir, Helix 2004, (spied at Fresh Market on Pine Street) it was simple perfection.

For side dishes, I lightly mashed some baby potatoes called “cranberry” that are bright purple inside. They looked stunning with snipped chives and a glistening knob of butter. A lightly steamed rainbow of fresh green, yellow and purple beans made for a quick salad.

Who needs an airport? In the summer, among Vermont’s gorgeous green pastures, vacation simply doesn’t get any better than this.

Farmers’ market salad

2 pounds of mixed fresh garden beans

8 cherry tomatoes; sliced in half

1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

2 bunches of fresh baby greens

4 ounces Vermont goat cheese, crumbled

Trim beans and cut into thirds. Rinse. Place in a glass bowl with a film of plastic wrap. Zap in microwave for 2 minutes. Remove wrap, pour beans into a colander and sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper. Place greens on a serving plate. Add beans and top with tomatoes, nuts and cheese. If you have any stray fresh herbs, toss those in, too. Using a zigzag motion, pour desired amount of dressing over the salad. Serves 4.

Sunny maple mustard dressing

The turmeric is what gives this dressing a sunny color. If you don’t have any, don’t sweat it, but it is a fun spice to play with in small amounts.

In a small food processor chop 2 garlic cloves. Add a pinch of turmeric, 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon of maple syrup and a large pinch of kosher salt. Blend for 30 seconds. With motor running, add 1/3 cup of olive oil in a stream; blend about 2 minutes, until the mixture emulsifies slightly. Yields 3/4 of a cup.

Kim Dannies is a graduate of La Varenne Cooking School in France. She lives in Williston with her husband, Jeff; they have three college-aged daughters. For archived Everyday Gourmet columns go to kimdannies.

Everyday Gourmet

Beet the summer heat

By Kim Dannies
August 7, 2008

Fresh beets are super sweet this summer. Pulled from the moist earth, rinsed, roasted and ready to please, they are excellent in cold salads. To cut down on kitchen heat, roast a large amount at once, adding them to various dishes all week long; puree any leftovers into chilled borscht. Beets are loaded with folic acid and manganese and their deep berry color boasts a veggie loaded with antioxidants. Beets are reputed to be good for the memory, to — so don't forget to serve up this unbeatable salad.

Summer beet salad

5 pounds fresh beets, roasted, cleaned and cut into large dice

2 cups fresh carrots, cut into tiny matchsticks

1 cup freshly pitted cherries, cut in halves

1/2 cup pistachio nuts, lightly toasted and crushed

3 ounces blue cheese or goat cheese, crumbled

1 cup fresh mint leaves, lightly shredded

Ginger balsamic syrup

4 – 5 cups of inexpensive balsamic vinegar

1-teaspoon mixture of powdered clove and cinnamon

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger

1 pinch of red pepper flakes

In a large sauté pan combine the vinegar, spices and sugar. Simmer, on medium heat, until the mixture becomes syrup-like and coats the back of a spoon, about 20 to 25 minutes. Stir in ginger and red pepper flakes; let syrup cool. Adjust for seasoning with kosher salt. In a prep bowl combine the beets, carrot and cherries and pour syrup over, coating well. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Can be prepared 1 day ahead at this point.

To serve, place a light bed of clean, shredded baby beet greens or mixed greens in a shallow, wide serving bowl. Pour in beet mixture, tossing in the fresh mint. Add a final light sprinkle of kosher salt. Top with crumbled cheese and pistachios.

Tips for roasting beets:

Beets come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes so cut them into uniform chunks for even roasting. Beet chunks the size of a lime make for a quick roast. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rinse beets well, and place on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil lightly over the beets and sprinkle generously with kosher salt. Roast for 40-60 minutes, checking the center of the beets with a cake tester. The tester should go in easily but the center should resist a bit, too, yielding a firm but cooked beet. Cool. The skins will peel off under a light water rinse.


Kim Dannies is a graduate of La Varenne Cooking School in France. She lives in Williston with her husband, Jeff; they have three college-aged daughters. For archived Everyday Gourmet columns go to kimdannies.com.

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Everyday Gourmet

Umami is the flavor mommy

By Kim Dannies

Japanese cuisine is among the most stunning and flavorful in the world. Asian chefs use the word umami (pronounced “oou-mommy”) to describe foods that are especially savory and delicious. It is thanks to the work of Japanese scientist Dr. Kikunae Ikeda, who first discovered that the amino acid glutamic was responsible for the umami taste in seaweed.
For centuries food tastes were categorized as either sweet, sour, salty or bitter, and it wasn’t until 1908 that Dr. Ikeda identified the fifth flavor, umami. The glutamates common in protein-rich foods, ripe tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, cured ham, soy sauce, beef, oily fish, seaweed and mushrooms are some of the curators of this earthy essence. The taste of umami itself is subtle, yet it blends well with other tastes, expanding the flavors that make a dish more delicious.
Taste, smell, color, temperature, freshness and appearance all combine to create the quality of a food’s flavor. We immediately recognize the taste of sweet when we bite into a cookie or the sour pucker from a plump apple, but most palates don’t immediately identify the quality of umami. Newborn babies naturally detest sour and bitter flavors and adore the sweet. But breastfed babies become instant experts on the wonders of umami and experience its magic every time they suckle their mother’s breast milk, a protein source naturally rich in glutamates. (These babes are thinking “oou mommy, that’s so good” and they don’t care why.)
As cooks and eaters we already possess a natural instinct for aligning umami-rich ingredients. Traditional food pairings have endured for a reason — think tomato sauce sprinkled with Parmesan cheese, or grilled beef with mushrooms sautéed in butter. Next time you prepare a recipe, before you decide to pare down the ingredient list or substitute items, consider this: Are you cheating your cuisine out of a layer of umami, and therefore extra flavor?
Umami has four roles in the kitchen to help cooks create more flavors on the plate:


1.    Flavor partner: Add umami-rich mushrooms, or ham, and fortified wine to savory dishes.
2.    Flavor builder: Use a tomato base, such as ketchup, and add soy, wasabi, fish sauce, brown sugar or horseradish combinations to layer additional flavors.
3.    Flavor balancer: Blend anchovies with mayo and raw garlic to soothe the bitter garlic and tame the unctuous mayonnaise.
4.    Flavor catalyst: In a roasted fish dish umami is the backbone flavor, yet it is nimble enough to welcome drops of lemon juice and pinches of salt to expand its primary flavor.
It may be known as “the fifth flavor,” but really, after exploring umami’s epic influence on taste, I’m thinking it is the mother of all flavors.


Kim Dannies is a graduate of La Varenne Cooking School in France. She lives in Williston with her husband, Jeff; they have three college-aged daughters. For archived Everyday Gourmet columns go to kimdannies.com.

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