Archives for the month of: August, 2010

Written by Tom Brooks, Director of Food & Beverage at The Essex, Vermont’s Culinary Resort & Spa

The other day, we received an order of the most gorgeous, locally-grown heirloom tomatoes, which prompted me and our new Executive Chef Shawn Calley to have a discussion about how we could best incorporate them into an item for our menu.

Chef Shawn suggested we slice the tomatoes and toss them with a little fresh mozzarella and some of our fresh, garden-grown basil. While that certainly seemed like a delicious option, I couldn’t bring myself to chop such a beautiful tomato. Instead, here’s what I came up with, and it will soon be featured on the menu in our new Butler’s Farm restaurant.


Heirloom Lady Salad (serves 4)
4 large purple tiger-striped tomatoes
12 oz. lump crabmeat
12 small baby beats (orange and red), quartered and cooked
½ cup fresh peas (or thawed frozen)
1 shallot, chopped
1 celery stalk, finely diced
2 sprigs tarragon, chopped
1 orange, juiced and zested
2 tbsp cider or champagne vinegar
1 egg yolk
½ cup hazelnut oil
½ tbsp. Old Bay seasoning
½ tbsp. yellow curry
2 cups balsamic vinegar

Cut the top off the tomato and hollow out the seeds, leaving a nice-sized opening for the presentation of the crabmeat stuffing. Cut a small slice off the bottom of the tomato to keep it stable on a plate. In a bowl combine crabmeat, peas, beats, shallot, and celery. In another bowl make a vinaigrette out of the tarragon, orange zest and juice, cider, egg yolk and oil. In a saucepan reduce the balsamic vinegar until it is the consistency of syrup, and let cool. Mix the crabmeat salad and the vinaigrette together and add the Old Bay and the curry. Stuff the tomato and drizzle the balsamic vinegar on top (just for looks and a delicious flavor). Serve with Groth Sauvignon Blanc or a tall cool Arnold Palmer.

Written by Tom Brooks, Director of Food & Beverage at The Essex, Vermont’s Culinary Resort & Spa

Julia Roberts’ latest, Eat Pray Love, arrives in theaters today, which means people the world over will be re-discovering their love for authentic Italian food. I, for one, have never lost my love for Italian cuisine, and thanks to my parents I know I never will.

It all started several years ago, when my mom asked me for a simple dish with authentic Italian flavors that she could share with her St. Francis of Assisi church group. I put together a recipe for a very easy mint-almond pesto, and it was an instant hit. She used it in her tomato, mozzarella, & black olive salad, and she still makes it every week for the group, which studies the life and teachings of St. Francis. Three years ago, the group went on a pilgrimage to the actual Italian town of Assisi, and my parents took the opportunity to renew their vows on the trip, which coincided with their 53rd anniversary.

So, as it turns out, this mint-almond pesto recipe is a little bit ‘eat’, a little bit ‘pray’, and a lot ‘love’, and it makes it that much more special. I can’t eat it without thinking of my loving parents.

The recipe is about as Italian as you can get, and it really is remarkably simple. You can use it on everything from, yes, a mozzarella, tomato & black olive salad, to a plate of fresh pasta, and even as a lovely topping for a grilled rack of lamb.

Buon Appetito and enjoy!

Mint-Almond Pesto
2 big bunches of mint
3 cloves of garlic
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
1 cup toasted almonds
1-2 lemons to taste
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Wash the mint very well and cut off the ends of the woody mint stems. Put the mint, garlic, parmesan, and almonds into a food processor and pulse until smooth. Squeeze in the juice of the lemons to taste and add the olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste. It’s just that simple.

This can be frozen, if you want to make some ahead of time– just omit the parmesan cheese until you’re ready to eat the pesto.

Written by Tom Brooks, Director of Food & Beverage at The Essex, Vermont’s Culinary Resort & Spa

I’ve been around food all my life, and I love coming up with new recipes and interesting combinations of different flavors. But I must admit I don’t often sit around thinking about where certain ingredients originated.

Take the lemon for example. At some point long ago, no one had ever eaten a lemon before. And then someone picked one off a tree and took a bite. (Hopefully they peeled it first, but who knows?) Fortunately for all of us, that person liked the taste, told a friend, and BOOM! All of a sudden, Meringue Pie, Chicken Piccata, and Hollandaise Sauce tasted a lot better.

Okay, it probably didn’t happen that way, but it makes for a great story doesn’t it?

Keeping with this week’s theme of ‘lemons’, here’s my recipe for Frozen Lemon Succés (pronounced sook-SAY). It may seem tricky, but is well worth the effort. And once you’ve mastered the individual components, you’ll have the ability to use them over and over again in dozens of different recipes.

The recipe makes one tall 8” cake or one thin 10” succés. Enjoy!

Almond Praline
2 cups almonds, toasted and peeled
2 cups sugar
3 tbsp. water

On a sheet pan, toast almonds in a 350° degree oven until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool. Combine sugar with water and melt over medium heat in a sauce pan. When the sugar becomes a liquid and clear, start stirring gently until it turns light brown. Pour the sugar over the almonds on a greased sheet pan, and let cool completely. Pulse in a food processor until fine powder. Set aside.

8 egg whites
Pinch of salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
8-10” spring form pan

Whisk salt, egg whites, and vanilla in stainless steel bowl. Slowly add sugar until the egg whites form stiff peaks. Fold the praline into the meringue. On a parchment lined sheet pan pipe the meringue in a spiral, starting in the middle and circling around until it’s the size of your spring form pan. You should have enough meringue to make three. Bake in a low-heat (150°) oven for 45 minutes, until the meringue is crispy. Set aside and let cool.

Lemon Curd Mousse
6 eggs
6 egg yolks
1½ cups sugar
18 tbsp. lemon juice
3 lemons, zested
3 sticks (12 oz.) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 cups heavy cream

Using a whisk, combine all ingredients except butter in a heavy saucepan. Add butter. Stir constantly over low heat until curd thickens (do not boil!). Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and cool with the plastic touching the curd. In a bowl, whip the heavy cream into soft peaks and fold into curd mixture when the mixture is cooled. (Note: This makes an excellent spread for scones or a filling between layers of cake.)

Assembly: Frozen Lemon Succés
Line the bottom of the spring form pan with parchment paper. Place one of the meringues on the bottom and cover with one-third of the lemon curd mousse. Alternate layers until you reach the top of your pan. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze overnight. Cut into wedges and serve with any fruit purée sauce.