Summer Cooking at Fresh Tracks Farm

When I think of spring, not only do I think of warmer weather, I think of how best to use these longer, more temperate days. Especially after months of frigid weather. I mean, it was cold, even by Vermont standards. But it is over and done with, and will only make this summer season even more pleasant. Now back to my day dreams: to me, making good use of these summer afternoons usually involves copious amounts of food, libations, and of course, lovely company!

If we are talking June, we are talking back-yard wine cocktail parties, where roses (and Rosés) can once again take the stage. I am a person that loves Rosé all year long, but the wine especially captures the spirit of spring and early summer; it’s crisp and bright, with floral and fruity linings peaking through, and just enough body and texture to keep up with the cooler evenings as we descend to twilight gatherings around a fire. You might even find a semi dry rosé that works well with s’mores! Note: If you do, please let us know ASAP. We must know. For obvious reasons.

While s’mores are all well and good, for a wine-themed cocktail party you might be looking for something a little less messy. Like a simple nibbler that can complement what’s in your glass, or be enjoyed on its own. Our Little Piggy Pink is a classic late spring/early summer sipper, with its juicy cherry aromas and sweet-tart finish. It is a most versatile of wines, and can be teamed up with char-grilled venison burgers, mounds of strawberry shortcake, or going it alone as you recline in an Adirondack chair at a Vermont vineyard (hint hint).

On one of our recent culinary escapades we discovered a little savory treat that would be make for some great nibbling food. A simple crostini topped with peaches and blue cheese, finished off with a drizzle of local honey, partnered with our fruity rose.

We loved this recipe because it was super easy, super fast, and super yummy. It also gracefully accommodates pantry miscalculations, so if you don’t happen to have peaches available you could probably substitute juicy pears, nectarines, or even mango if you wanted to get a little wild! We are fortunate enough to have many wonderful bakers who provide us fresh bread, as well as many fruit growers and cheese makers, so if you are a local warrior you can always find ingredients around here to suit your fancy. The cambozola cheese in this recipe is a triple cream gorgonzola, so it is very strong; if you prefer a milder or sweeter blue cheese, we would suggest trying Middlebury Blue or Bayley Hazen Blue. I wouldn’t say no to a fresh chevre or tomme either. Point is: have some fun with it!

Our afternoon of cooking was far from over! After some deliberation, we decided that our waistlines would benefit from something a little more healthy to go with our crostini. We found this fun recipe for buffalo chicken quinoa bites, with a greek yogurt blue cheese dip. that goes along with our easy fast and yummy theme. Crispy on the outside, cheesy and meaty on the inside, and the quinoa provided a great chewiness. We also whipped up a delicious combination of fresh fiddleheads, ramps, and farm eggs. While not a finger food, it is still a pretty plate to have at a dinner party or even as a brunch item! There are not many measurements with this recipe as it was partially on the fly, so just adjust to your liking and people being served.

After tasting all of the dishes individually, we dived head on into matching them with wine. While the original intent was to find some delightful pairings with our Vermont Rosé, in the end we discovered that our recipes went better with some of our other wines instead. Fortunately (and unsurprisingly), we had a fresh supply of other wines at our disposal. The peach and blue cheese crostini was a hit with our Little Piggy Pink, with the fruit cherry flavors of the wine hitting the same sensory notes as the peach, and creating a great alternate to the rich blue cheese. The tangy quinoa bites were just a little too hearty for the Vermont Rosés acidity; however the richer berry notes, spice, and hint of sweetness of the Dog River Red held up eagerly. The hotcake and fiddlehead dish was rich and bright at the same time, a perfect match with our succulent yet invigorating La Crescent. The Vermont Rosé doesn’t need big flavors, it was very happy to go with some leftover French fries and the Pan Fried Fiddleheads.

Ultimately, we’re always on a quest here at Fresh Tracks Farm – even when we’re off the clock. It’s a quest for the perfect pairing. That ultimate fireworks moment when you take your first bite and then, when you add a sip of wine to the mix, the flavors dance together in happy harmony in your mouth. When we find that combination, the whole experience is better than the sum of its parts. And in order to better discover those hidden Perfect Pairings, we have enlisted the help of many local producers, such as Nutty Stephs, Von Trapp Farmstead, and Vermont Salumi. Our food-and-wine events were created with the idea that wine can be better with food, and food better with wine. We wanted to give everyone the opportunity to create their own ‘Wow!’ moments, and what better way to do that than providing the space, food, and wine all in one place!

Buffalo Chicken Quinoa Bites

We needed something more savory and “healthy” to go along with our crostini, so we found this fun recipe for quinoa balls that goes along with our easy fast and yummy theme. Crispy on the outside, cheesy and meaty on the inside with a great chew from the quinoa meant the plate was empty far too quickly!

Buffalo Chicken Quinoa Bites with Greek Yogurt Blue Cheese Dip

Enough for 4 appetizer servings

  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1 cup shredded chicken
  • ¼ cup goats cheese
  • ¼ cup sharp shredded cheddar
  • ¼ cup buffalo sauce
  • ¼ cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Dipping sauce:

  • 1 cup Greek yogurt, preferably full or part fat
  • ¼ cup blue cheese, crumbled
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp dried dill
  • ½ tsp dried parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a small bowl, combine the Greek yogurt, blue cheese, garlic powder, dill and parsley together and whisk well until combined. If the blue cheese chunks are too large mash them with a fork and re-whisk mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and set aside in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly oil a mini muffin pan and set aside. In a large bowl, combine the all of the quinoa bite ingredients (quinoa, chicken, cheese, etc) together and season with salt and pepper to taste. Using a small cookie scoop or two spoons, scoop the mixture evenly into the muffin tray, about 1 ½ tablespoons each. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the bites are golden brown and set. Serve right away with the dipping sauce.

Fiddleheads Recipe w/ Hotcakes, Poached Eggs, and Ramp Cream

Out of whimsical fancy and the fever of spring, we came up with this easy and elegant fiddleheads recipe that highlighted flavors of farm and season. Fresh pan-fried fiddleheads, ramps, and farm eggs. While not a finger food, it is still a pretty plate to have at a dinner party or even as a brunch item! There are not many measurements with this recipe as it was partially on the fly, so just adjust to your liking and people being served.

Hotcakes with Fiddleheads, Poached Eggs, and Ramp Cream

  • Pan-fried Fiddleheads (recipe following)
  • Ramp pesto (recipe following)
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt, full or part fat
  • Fresh farm eggs (1 per person)
  • Salted butter
  • Your favorite pancake mix, prepared
  • Salt and pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, heat about a tablespoon of butter on medium-high heat in a heavy bottom pan large enough to hold three or four 3” hotcakes. If there is not enough melted butter to cover the bottom of the pan then feel free to add more. When the butter is frothing and beginning to turn golden brown, add about a ¼ cup of pancake mix to the pan for each hotcake; cook until golden brown on each side (about 2-3 min a side) and cooked through. Set aside and keep warm.

Poach the eggs in the boiling water. If you have never done this before there are some really great videos online that can show you. Of if you want to take my word for it, try this method: crack your egg in a heat proof dish, and using a large spoon create a whirlpool effect in the hot water. When you get the water spinning enough to get a good divot in the whirlpool carefully slip the egg into the middle of it and stop stirring. Allow the egg to cook for about 3 minutes, remove from the boiling water and drain on a paper towel. If you find your eggs still coming out lose, try adding some white vinegar (1/4cup vinegar/1 gallon water) to the boiling water.

Whisk in the ramp pesto into the Greek yogurt, starting with 1 tablespoon and then adding more to your preference. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To assemble: Place a tablespoon of ramp mixture on a small plate and place one hotcake partially on top. Top the hotcake with about a quarter cup of pan-fried fiddleheads, one poached egg, and a very small dollop of ramp pesto. Serve immediately while still warm.

Ramp Pesto

  • 4 cups fresh chopped ramps, leaves and bulbs
  • ¼ cup shaved pecorino romano cheese
  • ¼ cup finely chopped roasted almonds
  • Olive oil
  • 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper

Pulse the first three ingredients in a food processor. A soup wand works well in a pinch. Zest half the lemon into the mixture, as well as the juice of half the lemon. Starting with ¼ cup, add the olive oil to the batch until the texture is smooth and the thickness is to your preference. I like to keep it somewhat thick so I can dilute it with olive oil when I need it or use it in cooking. Pour into half pint jars and seal via canning methods or store in your freezer if you are not going to use it within a week. Yum.

Pan-Fried Fiddleheads

  • 3 cups fresh fiddleheads, rinsed and trimmed
  • Butter
  • Salt

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the fiddleheads and blanch for about 30 seconds. Drain and dry on a clean dishtowel or paper towels. Meanwhile, heat a large cast iron pan or equivalent on medium high heat with a good amount of butter, about 2-3 tbsp, until golden and frothy. Add the fiddleheads to the pan and cook until crisp and browned on each side (generally). Transfer to a plate and season with salt. Munch as is with a dry rosé, like our Vermont Rosé, add to your favorite recipes for some spring flair!

Vermont Grape Jam

Prep Time: 45 min
Total Time: 45 min
Makes: About 9 jars (1-cup each)

What You Need

10 Mason Jars
6 cups prepared fruit (made from jam grapes, see below)
1 box Fruit Pectin (liquid)
1/4 tsp. butter or margarine
7.5 cups sugar, measured into separate bowl

Make It!

Fill a water-canner halfway and bring it to a simmer. Wash jars and screw bands in hot soapy water; rinse with warm water. Pour boiling water over flat lids in saucepan off the heat. Let stand in hot water until ready to use. Drain well before filling.

Slip skins from your freshly picked Vermont grapes (i.e. separate the pulp from the skins and place in separate bowls).

Finely chop skins in a blender; set aside. Place grape pulp in a saucepan. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 5 min. Press through sieve to remove seeds. Combine blended skins and pulp. This is your prepared fruit. Measure exactly 6 cups prepared fruit into 6 or 8 quart pot.

Add sugar and butter (to reduce foaming) to the mixture. Bring mixture to full rolling boil (a boil that doesn’t stop bubbling when stirred) on high heat, stirring constantly. Stir in pectin. Return to full rolling boil and stir constantly for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Skim off any foam with metal spoon.

Ladle immediately into prepared jars, filling to within 1/8 inch of tops. Wipe jar rims and threads. Cover with two-piece lids. Screw bands tightly. Place jars on elevated rack in canner. Lower rack into canner. (Water must cover jars by 1 to 2 inches. Add boiling water, if necessary.) Cover; bring water to gentle boil. Process 10 min. Remove jars and place upright on towel to cool completely. After jars cool, check seals by pressing middles of lids with finger. (If lids spring back, lids are not sealed and refrigeration is necessary.)