This week we spent a few days in and around Manchester, Vermont. Chuck’s sister and brother-in-law, Marcia & Ron, have a lovely home at nearby Stratton Mountain, in Winhall. Chuck’s brother and sister-in-law, Howard & Donna, were visiting from Phoenix, where they now live. This was the first time in three or four years that the six of us were together, just us, without our kids. I’m a little envious of this for my own brother & sister and their spouses – I can’t think of the last time we were together, just the six of us. I’m going to have to get that organized.
Vermont in summer is beautiful. There are flowers blooming everywhere, including roses and daylilies that faded away in Rhode Island a few weeks ago. It is filled with trees and soft green mountains and farmer’s markets and general stores and yoga studios. There are also designer outlet malls and golf courses, if that’s your thing – we have enjoyed both (although in truth, since we’re lousy golfers, we’ve only enjoyed lunch at the golf course). There are rivers for kayaking, trails for hiking, and roads for biking or, if you’re lazy and indulgent like we were, scenic byways for driving. Little cemeteries sleep in each town. We saw pokey little markets and antique stores along with perfectly restored houses and tumbledown properties waiting to be fixed up. B&B’s. A sheep dairy. Cheese tastings. If it weren’t so blasted cold there in the winter, we might consider it as a retirement locale.
At lunch on Thursday we discovered a new-to-us Bloody Mary twist: garnished, in addition to the olives and celery, with a toasty grilled cheese sandwich. Sounds bizarre! It was delicious, like grown-up grilled cheese dunked in tomato soup, only better, because I don’t much like tomato soup. Imagine a chewy-crusty sourdough or Italian country bread, buttered and grilled with a beautiful Vermont cheese, like the Grafton Village sage cheddar. Mmm.
Thursday we also hit the Manchester Farmer’s Market, and I tasted and bought some Mama Ghanoush – like Baba but made with zucchini instead of eggplant. Crazy good! We also bought from them a quinoa tabbouli made with tons of mint. This morning I tried to recreate the Mama Ghanoush – it’s tasty but not as good as what I bought from Earth Sky Time Community Farm’s table. Next time I will quarter the zucchini and scrape out the seeds before roasting – made with the whole squash, it was a bit wet.
At the Farmer’s Market we visited a maple table, in search of Maple Cream. If you haven’t ever had it, you must. It is sublime on toast, waffles, or muffins. I tried to make it myself once, but it was not a success. It is almost impossible to find in a store outside of Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts, but it can be ordered online. This table was from K & S Ruane Maple Sugar Farm in Tinmouth. Howard asked if they knew his & Donna’s niece and her family, who also live in Tinmouth – it turns out that K & S not only know them, they gave their dog to H & D’s great-niece. Vermont is a small place.
Ellen’s Mama Ghanoush
- 1 pound zucchini – about 1 medium
- olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 cup sunflower seeds, or about ¼ cup tahini
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- salt & pepper to taste
Coat the zucchini with olive oil, then place on medium heat on the grill. Turn every few minutes until somewhat soft and charred on the outside. Remove from heat, then cut off the ends. Let cool until you can handle it.
Whiz up the garlic in the food processor, then add the sunflower seeds and two tablespoons olive oil and process until finely pureed – like a paste. Or just use the prepared tahini. Cut the zucchini into chunks and add them to the processor with the rest of the ingredients. Puree until smooth and fluffy. Taste and adjust seasonings.