Jun 28, 2011

Going It Alone: Joe Eck

Joe Eck

North Hill Symposium
  June 24 2011

For the first time in 16 years,
Joe Eck stood alone at the podium. 
His partner of 40 years,
Wayne Winterrowd passed away in 2010.
The last time I attended the North Hill Symposium I was living in Vermont.  I had forgotten what distinguishes this powwow from others like it.  It is a gathering of friends.  Friends who don't know each other.  It's purpose is to bring gardeners together who want to share their experiences and knowledge.  It is intimate, personal; it feels like family.

Jennifer Bartley was the first speaker and the most academic.  Having written her thesis on the french potager, Ms. Bartley traced the roots of the current kitchen garden.  From the paradiso to oasis to cloister to edible garden, the theme was the same:  walled in.

What was noteworthy about this history lesson was the comparison between English and French potagers.  The English veg garden no matter how large is far from the house and the French veg garden is "out the door."  Bartley attributes the better quality of food in France to the potagers' proximity to the house.  Even at the over-the-top, Chateau Villandry, the  vegetable garden, enclosed by boxwood, is situated in the chateau's "backyard". 
Chateau Villandry Vegetable Garden
With great enthusiasm Bartley advocated that the vegetable garden be what and where the ornamental garden used to be.  After her talk ended, I asked the woman sitting next to me  where her veg garden was located.  "It's not next to my house.  You walk down a path.  It's a journey that I enjoy taking."

That is way I felt about the symposium.  No hard core information, but little tidbits and gems along the way.  At 3pm Beatrice Tosti di Valminuta took the "stage."  With help, she carried up a table of vegetables and condiments.  Ms. di Valminuta owns a restaurant called Il Bagatto in New York City that specializes in Roman cuisine.  A favorite of Joe and Wayne. 

From Beatrice Tosti di Valminuta
"Roman cuisine is poor, uncomplicated, masculine, very tasty and a celebration.  I hope you will enjoy trying these recipes and sharing them with family and friends.  I know the vegetable dishes will seem overcooked to you.  We just believe that French vegetables are undercooked."
Swiss chard with tomato - works wonderful with dandelions
When you are in the Roman countryside you can still see women picking up all sorts of greens on the side of the road or gleaning the fields.  They are after dandelions, rughetta (wild arugola) and sometimes swiss chard.
2 lb of swiss chard washed
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
4 anchovies
7 ripe plum tomatoes diced (the overachievers can peel them if they like)
4 cloves of garlic
A pinch of spicy red crushed pepper if you like
Sea salt to taste.

Cook the swiss chard in abundant salted water.  Drain, cut an squeeze and set aside.  Place the garlic cloves in a large saute pan with the oil over medium heat.  In Italy we almost never keep garlic, we just let it flavor the oil and then we discard it.  Feel free to keep it.  Add the anchovies and reduce it to a pulp with a fork.  Add the tomatoes and  a pinch of salt and cook for 15 minutes.  Add the swiss chard and cook for another 10 minutes stirring frequently.  Taste for salt.
This recipe could not be further away from Roman cuisine than General Tsao Chicken  - well maybe a little closer - but it is my homage to the amazingly beautiful state of Vermont.

2 cups creamy goat cheese
2/3 cup whole milk or goat milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
2.5 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 teaspoon gelatin

macedonia is the name we give to all kinds of fruit salad.  They are lovely and sometimes boozy.
2 pints strawberries washed and cut in quarters
3 tablespoons brown sugar/
the juice of one lemon
the juice of one orange
a pinch of cayenne
8 leaves of mint
Combine all the ingredients at least one our prior to serving and place covered in the refrigerator.

Add two tablespoons of cold water to a small bowl and sprinkle gelatin on top.  Set aside.

In a sauce pan combine goat cheese, heavy crream, milk, honey and vanilla extract.  Let it heat up over medium heat without boiling.  Stirring from time to time.
Remove from the heat and add the gelatin whisking to make sure it incorporates into the mixture.  At this point I like to give 3 fast pulses of an immersion blender, feel free to whisk vigorously or to strain your mixture so you do not have any clumps. Also a little clump never killed anyone.  Place in ramekins and refrigerate for at least 5 hours.  Can be prepared up to 2 days before.   Serve with the macedonia.

At the end of the day, each one of us tasted the Vermont Goat Cheese Pannacotta, Beatrice had made for each of us.  It turned a slightly bittersweet day into one of simple flavors.
Garden of Joe Eck
and Wayne Winterrowd

PO Box 178
Readsboro, VT 05350
"In the coming year, the garden will be open each Friday and Saturday afternoon from the end of April to middle of October.  Two workshops, seminars or demonstrations will occur each month.  Guided tours will be available to garden clubs and horticultural societies."


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