Book Review: A Master Class

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It is pouring rain here in Vermont, again. We’re warm and dry right here, at this moment, but I can’t keep my thoughts from those who have lost their homes, their farms and businesses, and everything to the flooding from Hurricane Irene.It is truly heartbreaking to see the damage. There is still so much to do to help clean up, and to provide housing, clothing and care to those who need it. But this is Vermont, and true to form, the response around the state to our friends and neighbors in need has been quick and heartfelt.

In my conversations with friends who farm around the state, regardless of how adversely they were personally affected, the dialogue has the same refrain: buying local has never been so important as it is now, and the best and simplest way to help affected farmers is to buy their produce, meat or dairy products. Whether it is directly from the farmer at a farmer’s market or at a grocery store that supports local agriculture, our state’s economy is strengthened by buying local.

The cookbook, A Master Class: Fresh, Passionate New England Cooking by the New England Culinary Institute and Ellen Michaud, will help to inspire ideas and ways use those delicious Vermont-grown products. With 170 recipes to choose from, divided into seasons and then into courses, this book offers a wide range of meal possibilities.

Among the favorite things we tested this summer using locally sourced ingredients were the Roasted Garlic Soup, the Dilled Organic New Potatoes and the Grilled Beef Tenderloin with Mixed Mushroom Tapenade. Fresh corn from the farmer’s market went right into the Fresh Summer Corn, Smoked Bacon and Scallion Hash, as well as the Sweet Corn Pancakes served at brunch with thick, salty ham and eggs and then again as a light supper with heirloom tomato salsa and sour cream.

Another great dish, the Vermont Chevre and Chives Omelet, has also reappeared several times on our breakfast table.And, while cod, or the oft substituted haddock, is not a locally sourced product for Vermont, the Microbrewery Fish and Chips was a delicious dish which does call for a locally brewed beer in the batter.

The dessert section of A Master Class provides more than a few delicious options as well. The Summer Lemon-Strawberry Tart and the Pumpkin Cheesecake were particularly good. As for the decadent Reverse Chocolate Chip Cookies and the versatile New England Crunch Cookies, both would make very good offerings in a care package to any friends or neighbors who might need a little comfort food right about now.

“A Master Class: Fresh, Passionate New England Cooking” by New England Culinary Institute and Ellen Michaud. Published by University Press of New England, 2008. 274 pages, color photographs by John Churchman.

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