The smell of roasted vegetables, melting butter, and cured meats wafted through the kitchen, and a smoky haze permeated the space, a telltale sign of cozy-cooking at work. The three women – Christina, Hannah, and Tracy – had shed their roles as winemakers and managers, and were now bouncing around the room in a whirlwind of culinary prowess,with spatulas, pots, and pans in hand.
It was truly a sight to behold, and the end-result was even more splendid: an entire table filled with toasty grilled ham and cheese sandwiches; pancetta puff pastries with melted cheese, scallions, and prosciutto; a kale salad mixed with a medley of citrus fruits; and a hearty arugula salad topped with sliced apples, crumbled blue cheese, and roasted Brussels sprouts.
The pièce de résistance? Two freshly uncorked bottles – The Messenger and Vermont Apple Wine – stood in the center of it all, begging to be paired with the surrounding food.
First, we started with the Citrus Kale Salad (detailed recipe here). A delicious blend of sliced grapefruit, orange, avocados, and pea sprouts, atop a nest of chopped kale and radicchio, with grapefruit vinaigrette drizzled on top.
The beauty of this salad comes from its simplicity. All the ingredients give a little something; sweet-tart citrus, creamy avocado, hearty kale, crunchy peas, bitter radicchio, and the pop of the pea sprouts to top it all off. The juice from the citrus played into the vinaigrette, allowing the citrus presence in the salad to be distinct without overwhelming any of the other flavors. The colors remind us of spring and sunny days – which are just around the corner, we hope – while the flavors are distinctly hardy and cold-weather oriented.
The dressing was just as simple: mix the juice collected from segmenting the citrus with a little red wine vinegar (thankfully we make some right here on the farm), whisk in some olive oil, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Fabulous.
Our other amazing salad was comprised of arugula, apple slices, roasted Brussels sprouts, peas, and red onions (full recipe here). Arugula is a terrific and versatile ingredient. It can be worked into salads, omelets, soups, stir-frys, even sauces. Here, it’s was the base for this substantial salad, perfect for a side dish or a light meal. A bed of arugula holds the roasted Brussels sprouts, local Empire apples, slivered peas, and pickled onions. The crown to this dish is the blue cheese, which adds a little more richness and salt. We used “Middlebury Blue” from Blue Ledge Farm in Leicester, Vermont.
The grilled ham and cheese sandwiches (full recipe here) served as our “main dish,” so to speak, and were incredibly easy to make. Simply add some ham from North Country Smokehouse, slice up some Gruyere cheese, and melt it all between two slices of buttery, toasty bread from O Bread Bakery in Shelburne – we used a smoking-hot cast-iron pan for this recipe, too. Also, if you’re looking to spruce up this already-delicious meal, try spreading a little Rosé Wine Jelly on one of the slices of bread. It will add some sweetness to counter the salt of the sandwich. Out of all our available wines, we were drawn to The Messenger in particular when tasting these cheesy treats. The savory, almost-caramelized flavors of the grilled gruyere and ham blended beautifully with the woodsy components of the wine, and The Messenger’s acidity downplayed the sandwiches’ salt to a level of elegant sensory interplay. Translation: It rocked.
The puff pastries were topped with gruyere, cheddar, scallions, prosciutto, and ground pepper. Simply take the dough (bought frozen), add the extra ingredients, set the oven to 400, and stick them in for fifteen minutes, or until the outside turns a nice, crispy golden-brown. Be careful if you finish cooking these before the rest of the food is ready – I nearly spoiled my appetite just from snacking on these alone.
The Vermont Apple Wine was a home run when coupled with this flaky delight: its sweetness and crisp, juicy intensity complemented the pastry’s richness and the wine’s spicy finish married well with the prosciutto. Not to mention the fact that cheddar cheese and apples make a perfect pairing on their own. Like we said, it’s a no brainer.
All in all, it was a near-perfect way to spend an afternoon. Friends gathered together, creating and enjoying a well-earned meal. And we hope, ultimately, that you can take this recipe with you and make your very own rendition to share with friends, family and loved ones, too. A word of caution, however: stock up on napkins, because this can get deliciously messy!