{You Pick Six} An Interview with Cookbook Author: Tracey Medeiros

Tracey Medeiros Author of The Vermont Non-GMO Cookbook

One of the things that I love most about certain books, movies and television shows is when I become immersed in a place. I’m suddenly lingering in a local coffee shop or enjoying the breeze as I ride a bike around the town square.

If you’re a fan of Scandal, at the beginning, the show conjured up their idea of Vermont. It was serenity, the forest and making jam. It was beautiful.

When I drove to Montreal several years ago, I remember driving through parts of Vermont that were so breathtaking I wanted to stop and stay there.

Now I haven’t read through each page of The Vermont Non-GMO Cookbook, but what I’ve read reminds me that I need to make visiting Vermont a priority. Not only is it a cookbook, but it’s a travel guide. The author, Tracey Medeiros, has done a fantastic job of weaving each recipe together with a profile of a local place.

Coincidentally, over the last several months I started buying Butternut Mountain Farm Maple Syrup. I was attracted to the 100% pure Vermont maple syrup label. I love supporting local business and consider the whole New England region as local. This syrup is my favorite right now and it was such a treat seeing Butternut Mountain Farm mentioned in the book! Plus, she paired it with a Maple Milkshake recipe. Yum! I cannot wait to try it!

Can you tell that I’m already a fan of this cookbook? But it’s not just me! The Vermont Non-GMO Cookbook is a finalist for a Readable Feast award in the Socially Conscious category as well as a candidate for their People’s Choice Award.

Since I was intrigued by the concept of this cookbook, I was interested to learn more about the author behind it. Let’s picture ourselves sitting in a cafe somewhere in Vermont with Tracey and resume this ongoing series with the 21st interview of You Pick Six.

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What is your favorite quote?
“Kind words can be short and easy to speak but their echoes are truly endless” – Mother Teresa

What inspires you?
I am inspired by the love and passion for my work and the joy it brings me. I am driven by the pleasure of food and the art of cooking – it feeds my creativity. The talented contributors I feature in my books are also a source of inspiration for me.

What is some of the best advice you’ve ever received?
Be humble, work hard, and always take pride in your work – thanks Mom!

What is a favorite simple recipe to prepare at home?
Roast chicken – it’s the ultimate comfort food. I love using the leftover chicken meat in soups, salads, enchiladas and pasta dishes. Nothing goes to waste, I use the chicken carcass and bones to make a homemade chicken stock.

The Vermont Non-GMO Cookbook

How did food become an important part of your life?
I have always loved everything that is food related, even as a child I liked to cook. My dream was to one day study the art of food and its preparation. To this end, I enrolled at Johnson and Wales University where, after graduation, I quickly became interested in the sustainability movement. My love of farmers’ markets and roadside food stands led to the birth of my first cookbook, Dishing Up Vermont. I am also the author of The Vermont Farm Table Cookbook and co-author of The Connecticut Farm Table Cookbook. The fall of 2017 saw the release of my fourth book, The Vermont Non-GMO Cookbook. Each of my books seem to pave the way for my next literary adventure.

Tell me about your book.
The Vermont Non-GMO Cookbook focuses on the non-GMO and organic elements of the food system throughout the entire state of Vermont. The book’s emphasis is on food transparency – “Know What is in Your Food,” simplifying the complexity of the movement with recipes that include ingredients which do not contain genetically modified organisms. All of the farm contributors are certified organic, its food producers are either certified organic, non-GMO, or both. Each of the chefs and restaurants in the cookbook feature organic and non-GMO on their menus. Accompanying each contributor’s recipe(s) is a profile which puts a face on these folks who work so hard to positively impact Vermont’s agricultural landscape.

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Thank you so much for participating Tracey!

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Photos: Provided by Tracey Medeiros.

Disclosure: Tracey provided me with a free copy of her cookbook The Vermont Non-GMO Cookbook. Thank you Tracey!

The Book List: A Belle Époque for African-American Cooking

The Up South Cookbook by Nicole A. Taylor

Yesterday I compiled a summary list with links for the restaurants mentioned in the New York Time’s article, A Belle Époque for African-American Cooking. Now for the book list!

I figured I might as well summarize the book list too. The list below has the names of each book mentioned in the article, along with the authors’ names and links to their websites.

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The Up South Cookbook (Nicole A. Taylor)

Hog and Hominy: Soul Food From Africa to America (Frederick Douglass Opie)

High on the Hog (Jessica B. Harris)

Senegal (Pierre Thiam)

The Jemima Code (Toni Tipton-Martin)

Afro-Vegan (Bryant Terry)

 

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Screenshot: Amazon

{You Pick Six} An Interview with Writer: Amy Traverso

Amy TraversoMy apple appetite keeps increasing. Sometimes I’m eating more than an apple a day!

But who can blame me? Certainly not Amy Traverso, who wrote The Apple Lover’s Cookbook and is Senior Lifestyle Editor at Yankee Magazine.

As mentioned in a previous post, I learned about Amy’s book after seeing her speak as part of a panel discussion at TECHmunch Boston. She was also named one of Boston’s “Ultimate Tastemakers” by Boston Common magazine.

So it’s truly an honor to have her participate in the eighth part of the interview series, You Pick Six. Let’s jump in!

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What is a favorite simple recipe to prepare at home?
This time of year, it’s definitely my grandmother’s apple crisp, which she first discovered in an issue of Country Gentleman magazine back in the 1930s. She saved the clipping and now I have it. It’s different from the oatmeal-based crisps that most people know, because the topping is more like a cobbler or a sweet biscuit. You combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder as the base and the only liquid comes from a couple of eggs that you stir in until the mixture is crumbly. Then you drizzle 6 or 8 tablespoons of butter over the whole thing and sprinkle it with cinnamon. I have absolutely no self-control around this dish and will gladly eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you come to my house for dinner in the fall, chances are this is what I’m serving for dessert.

Grandma Mary’s Apple Crisp
Yield: 8 servings
Time: 1¼ hours, largely unattended

5 large tender-tart apples (such as McIntosh or Jonathan; about 2½ pounds total), peeled, cored, and cut into ¼-inch-thick rings or slices
5 large firm-sweet apples (such as Jazz or Ginger Gold; about 2½ pounds total), peeled, cored, and cut into ¼-inch-thick rings or slices
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup (1 stick) salted butter, melted and cooled
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF, and set a rack to the middle position. Arrange the sliced apples in an even layer in a 9- by 13-inch baking dish (no need to grease it); set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Add the eggs and, using a fork or a pastry cutter, work in until crumbly. The mixture will look like streusel, with a mix of wet and dry bits. (Have no fear; the eggs provide enough liquid.)

3. Spread the topping evenly over the apples, then drizzle all over with the melted butter. Sprinkle with cinnamon and bake until the topping is golden brown and apple juices are bubbling, 45 to 55 minutes. Let cool 20 minutes, then serve warm from the pan.

Apple Stack Cake-horz2What is some of the best advice you’ve ever received?
My father always told me that if you become an expert at something, you’ll always have work to do. Of course, you also have to be good at many things in order to have a career as a food writer. You should be able to cook, to cover trends, to write about restaurants. But having one area of concentration is useful.

What is a favorite quote?
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” – from Neale Donald Walsch. I used to hate public speaking or doing live TV. I completely dreaded having to promote The Apple Lover’s Cookbook. I wanted to stay in the kitchen and behind my computer!  And then I got a call from my publicist informing me that she had booked me on The Martha Stewart Show. I hung up the phone and cried. But having to do it (Martha was very nice, btw) and having to get up there and give talks at libraries and women’s clubs and farmers’ markets reminded me that the only answer to fear is doing exactly the thing that you want to avoid. And the rewards come back tenfold. I’ve had so many wonderful experiences since I got out there.

What is a favorite childhood food memory?
I grew up in one of those Italian families with the grape arbor and a big garden in grandma’s back yard and salame hanging from the rafters in the root cellar. We had big Sunday dinners with homemade pasta and from-scratch cakes. (As I type this, I realize it sounds like a bad cliche or a Saveur personal essay parody, so let me add that my grandparents mixed their red wine with ginger ale and we made our pesto with cream cheese instead of pine nuts because it was cheaper). But the centrality of those Sunday dinners taught me that food isn’t merely sustenance or fashion, but something that can connect you with your community and history. It’s where some of my happiest childhood memories live and it’s what I wanted to bring into my adult life by becoming a food writer.

What is a favorite cookbook?
I still go back to The Zuni Cafe Cookbook and have learned more from it than perhaps any other book I own. There are others that do a terrific job of teaching technique, but Judy Rodgers knew how to explain the mechanics without losing the poetry. Also, reading her book reminds me of living in San Francisco and all the wonderful food we had there.

Tell me about your book.
The Apple Lover’s Cookbook is my love letter to an incredible fruit—one that has woven itself into human history for thousands of years. The project began with a simple love of apple crisp and other homey recipes and of the orchards themselves, but when I started learning about the history (for example: Apples are native to Asia, not North America) and about their diversity (there are thousands of varieties being grown worldwide), I was hooked.

The Apple Lover's CookbookApple are unique in the fruit world for many reasons. Unlike, say, oranges or lemons, apples are available in multiple varieties pretty much everywhere they’re sold. Even my neighborhood convenience store has Granny Smith and Red Delicious. And they all taste very different. They also respond differently to cooking: one (Northern Spy) will hold up well in a pie and another (McIntosh) will turn to mush. So I decided to bring some order to the chaos and organize about 60 different varieties into one of four categories, based on how sweet (or tart) they are and on how they respond to cooking. Are they firm and tart? Tender and sweet? I used that info to guide the recipes—there are 100 of them, from soup to entrees to dessert—and the book helps you choose the best ones for, say, pie versus pancakes versus braised brisket.

The book is full of gorgeous photos by Squire Fox, and I give tasting notes and historical info for each variety, plus an index with apple products, apple festivals, and a guide to hard cider, which is growing exponentially in popularity.

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Thank you so much for participating Amy!

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Photos provided by Amy Traverso.

Apples 2 Apples: Spencer + Mutsu

applesNot only do I love the board game, but over the past few years, I’ve found my love for apples increasing.

Back in 2009, I blogged an apple taste test, Macoun v. Braebern. They were both good, but I chose the Braebern and it was my apple of choice for several years, even though I ate, cooked and baked with other apples too.

A couple of years later, I attended TECHmunch in Boston and heard Amy Traverso speaking as part of a panel discussion. This may have been the first time that I learned about her book,The Apple Lover’s Cookbook. I planned to get it right away, but didn’t and now find myself thinking that this book is becoming a necessity.

There are so many different types of apples and this is supposed to be a very good season here in New England. I want to learn more about apples and of course eat them too. Chronicle, a local lifestyle television program, recently had a wonderful show all about apples.

They mentioned some urban orchards that allow apple picking and talked about the Roxbury Russett, which originated in the Roxbury section of Boston, where I was born. My parents, who grew up in Roxbury, talk about how when they were young, they could just randomly pick apples and other fruits on trees that were around the city.

When my brother and I were little, my parents would take us apple picking in the fall. By then we had moved out of the city to the suburbs. My father loved taking us on long drives and we’d go all over New England. We’d get fresh apple cider and my mom would make apple sauce, apple pie and buckwheat pancakes with apples. Just the memory of the scent of apples cooking, usually with cinnamon, makes me smile.

When I was at the farmers market at Dewey Square last week, I saw so many new to me varieties of apples. I decided to try the Spencer and Mutsu. Below are descriptions of both from the New England Apple Association’s blog.

Ripening in mid- to late September, Spencer is a conical apple, nearly solid red-pink in color, with green highlights. Its flesh is crisp, juicy, and more sweet than tart, though less sweet than its Golden Delicious parent (Spencer’s other parent — surprise! — is McIntosh). Spencer is an all-purpose apple, especially good in pies and sauce. It does not have a lengthy storage life.

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They make outstanding sauce and cider. Also known as Crispin, Mutsus have a sweet, light flavor when cooked, and hold their shape well. An excellent dessert apple, they are also especially good in salads.

Mutsus are a late-season apple ranging in color from greenish to yellow, with an orange blush. Their firm, juicy flesh is creamy white to pale yellow. They can grow quite large (a pie made with Mutsus may require as few as three apples).

Mutsu has its origins in Japan, from a Golden Delicious crossed with an Indo, a Japanese seedling, in 1930. It was introduced in the United States in 1948.

I ate these apples raw and loved them both. There was no side-by-side comparison, so I can’t describe them that way, but they were sweet enough for me and super juicy.

The plan is to make Apples 2 Apples a continuing series of posts about apples, so we’ll see how it plays out. Plus, there may be a surprise announcement to come!