Maplebrook Farm Cheese and Roast Vegetables
A sublime duet
For the second time at this point in the year we have perhaps overloaded what with birds and stuffing and sweet potato and mashed potato and pies and chocolate logs. It is time to lighten the rich feeling and this might be as propitious a moment as any to turn to vegetables. The 'icing' on the vegetable cake is comprised of some Maplebrook Farm cheese; their Burrata, Stracciatella and their Wholemilk Block Feta are simply outstanding.
My husband has a limited affinity for certain green vegetables, especially brussel sprouts and kale. I have discovered that the Olivia's Organics Baby Kale, available almost everywhere, can be marvelously disguised in a salad. By the time I have tossed in one third kale with two thirds of a favourite lettuce, some sliced avocado, cucumber, carrot, chopped boiled egg and perhaps a handful of blueberries, a creamy dressing cloaks the entirety and I will have secretly armed him with that healthy super green. Make a large portion and you have a healthy meal ready to go with some toasted baguette and a creamy cheese.
The next simple meal starts with roast vegetables. However, as with different pastas, which require the correct sauce, vegetable combinations should be worked out to fully complement one another. This is when the right cheese may also help create a delicious, healthy dish. Once again, Vermont offers us a treasure-trove of farm cheese selections. We know there are many incredible cheesemakers in-state and this time I am concentrating on Maplebrook Farm in Bennington. A glance at their website says that they now produce about 40,000 pounds of cheese a week, quite a feat having started with 20 mozarella balls back in 2003! As a matter of fact, for the last few years their Burrata, Ricotta Alta and Feta have won top awards both from the American Cheese Society and the Big E Cheese Competition. Their website will give you the whole array: maplebrookvt.com
Preparing for some roast vegetables is simple. Buy them, wash them, sometimes peel them, and then roast them! I find that the same steps with a flat baking tray, a 375-degree Farenheit oven and about 15-20 minutes' cooking time are a reliable pattern. Dribble some olive oil generously over the top to wet the vegetables but not douse or drown them. Add salt and pepper then some dried mint or oregano and this completes the prep.
Zucchini is a year-round favourite. After slicing three of the smaller size thinly, prep choosing mint, roast and remove. Once out of the oven, transfer the slices to a plate or shallow bowl and then for the pièce de résistance, use your hands to break apart a Burrata pouch and watch the creamy innards flow and seep through the slices.
Swiss Chard prepped with mint will take about 7 minutes and once out of the oven, a gentle smother of Burrata is hard to resist, but a little Ricotta Alta is a great option here as well.
The next delicious roast combo is some cauliflower florets, some green beans, wild mushroom mix (the Co Ops have a great such package) and cherry tomatoes. Place all of this on your baking tray- a measurement of about a quarter of each and the oregano. When roasted to your liking, transfer to your dish and reach immediately for the Whole Milk Block Feta. The cheese will delicately warm from the colourful nest beneath it. One of my last articles discussed the ideal winter tomato choices out there too.
I might say that broccolini growers have very saavy accountants. I don't know why a small bouquet has to cost so much; nevertheless, I cannot help myself. Roast Broccolini and mint sharing a plate and hunkered down with a few broken chunks of the Feta or the Ricotta Alta is soothing.
The orange treat: with a couple of small sweet potatoes and some carrots sliced in matching wedges, switch out the mint for some thyme and leave the tray in for some 40 minutes. About 5 minutes before they are ready, pour over a couple of tablespoons of local liquid honey. This emerges rich enough as is and any cheese might prove mutinous.
In many an Italian home, especially in the south, a miracle of cheese called Stracciatella is often placed on the table. It is basically what is inside your Burrata here, but in a shallow bowl with a little olive oil and some fresh herbs sprinkled over, it is simple fresh, white luxury. Flop some of it onto some thick slices of lightly toasted white country bread at breakfast time!
Finally, because the Burrata, in particular, has now become an obsession, I have found that it freezes perfectly to maintain a constant supply. As a matter of fact, if I were a chemist I might be able to explain what freezing adds. Who might explain that when a frozen mozarella or Burrata thaws, the frozen exposure will have enriched the creamy middle even more?
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