New England-native Tracey Medeiros recently published The Vermont Non-GMO Cookbook, the pages of which are filled with recipes using seasonal produce and locally sourced goods. The Clean Food Club interviewed Tracey about her new book and her passion for the New England food system, and we talked about her love of Vermont maple syrup, the admiration she has for local food producers, and the need for more transparency. Read the interview below, and try out her spring recipe for Creamy Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Vermont Maple Smoked Cheddar Cheese!
I am a Massachusetts native. Food has always been my passion, my true center of interest. My dream was to one day study the art of food and its preparation. To this end, I enrolled at Johnson and Wales University where, after graduation, I quickly became interested in the sustainability movement.
My love of farmers’ markets and roadside food stands led to the birth of my first cookbook, Dishing Up Vermont. My second book, The Vermont Farm Table Cookbook, paved the way for my involvement with the non-GMO movement. During this period, I kept hearing the term non-GMO and meeting more and more farmers, farms and food producers who practiced this philosophy. The fall of 2017 saw the release of my fourth book, The Vermont Non-GMO Cookbook. I am also the co-author of The Connecticut Farm Table Cookbook. Each book just seemed to lead the way for the next. In addition, I write The Farmhouse Kitchen: A Guide to Eating Local column for Edible GreenMountains Magazine. I am also a freelance writer, recipe developer and tester. Currently, I reside in Vermont.
What is it about food and the food system in Vermont that you find interesting?
Vermont’s farmers have such a sense of commitment and loyalty to our state. They look to each other to make the land environmentally safe for producing high-quality products. This is done not for profitability, but for the health and well-being of our earth and its inhabitants.
The Vermont Non-GMO Cookbook focuses on the non-GMO and organic elements of the food system throughout the entire state of Vermont. The book’s emphasis is on food transparency – “Know What is in Your Food.” It simplifies the complexity of the movement with recipes that include ingredients which do not contain genetically modified organisms. The book takes the reader throughout the Green Mountain State to not only its tiny villages and picturesque towns, but also to Vermont’s lively cities. The reader travels from the quiet of rural farms to quaint rustic bakeries; meets ice cream, candy and maple producers; and visits cafes, restaurants; co-ops and general stores; wineries, canneries, and learning centers. All of the farm contributors featured are certified organic and the food producers are either certified organic, non-GMO, or both. Each of the chefs and restaurants in the cookbook feature organic and non-GMO on their menus.
Folks will find ideas for serving healthy, delicious meals using recipes that offer alternatives to the foods that we usually eat. Along with these recipes, profile formats are used to introduce the reader to the book’s contributors. I wanted to put a face on the hardworking folks who took time out of their busy lives to share their stories with me. It was important to me that readers not only savor the delicious recipes, but walk in these folks’ shoes for a bit and share their thoughts, dreams and passion for what they do. All work hard to positively impact Vermont’s culinary landscape.
What’s your favorite locally sourced item to cook with?
I know this may sound a bit cliché – but Vermont maple syrup. I use it every day in my coffee and as a sugar alternative when baking.
Why do you choose to eat and support organic and non-GMO?
I have always strived to purchase fresh, locally grown food. Food that is grown in the healthiest manner possible. Soil is the foundation for food production and its health is critical for providing nutrient-dense food. I support organic and non-GMO because it is of paramount importance for me to know what is in the food I feed both myself and my family, and how it is grown.
What does local mean to you?
Local to me means enjoying trips to area farmers’ markets and getting to know the farmers. Wandering through the different displays and arrays of food products that are grown in and near my community often gives me an inspiration for my next recipe creation. Many times, my dishes are guided by what is in season. It also means spending dollars, for local products to help ensure the economic health of our agricultural community thereby, sustaining local businesses, farmers, and the environment.
Working with the food community is very important to me. One of the best parts of being a food writer is that it offers me an opportunity to spread the word about the amazing work that folks are doing to help promote community wellness through food. Having the ability to showcase all the great things that are happening in the agricultural and food communities gives me a great sense of satisfaction and is the driving force behind my writing. Meeting so many of the wonderful folks in our food community was such a joy. Going behind the scenes to see how everything works, so to speak, is truly an eye opener. I wanted the reader to learn about how the book’s participants work to effect positive change not only for today, but for generations to come.
How did you choose recipes for your cookbook? Were you motivated by seasonal ingredients, family traditions, etc.?
I was drawn to the folks and their recipes that are profiled in The Vermont Non-GMO Cookbook because of their universal devotion to their communities and the state of Vermont. They are concerned about the health of our planet and its inhabitants, and are doing all that they can to connect consumers to healthy food, while also caring for the soil in which it is grown. They each believe that it is everyone’s right to know where their food comes from and what is in their food. All subjects are either certified organic or non-GMO, or both. The featured chefs and restaurants support these movements on their menus. Many of the recipes that were so generously shared were family favorites or created around seasonal products. Some of my favorite recipes found in The Vermont Non-GMO Cookbook are: Honey-Glazed Pork Bellies, which these bellies have a succulent, melt-in your mouth texture and a wonderfully rich flavor; Apple-Raspberry Pie, which is a beautiful rustic dessert; and Northern Lake Fish Chowder where the sweet, crisp flavors of the hard apple cider provide the perfect counterpoint to the smoky flavor of the lake fish and smooth, velvety texture from the cream and fish stock.
What surprised you while writing this cookbook?
When speaking with the farmers and businesses who are featured in my cookbooks, I was truly amazed by their unwavering sense of commitment to their communities, our great state of Vermont, and our beautiful planet – not just for today, but for all of the tomorrows to come. Their passion is so inspiring. Even though Vermont’s historic GMO Food Labeling law was nullified, these hardworking folks forge on, working to educate consumers on the importance of “Knowing What is in Your Food!”
What is an important lesson you’ve learned after writing your cookbook?
I am even more aware of the importance of food labeling and transparency. In order for me to make informed decisions about what I am eating –I must know what is in my food.
What we eat affects our health and the world around us. The legacy we leave our children will be determined by how we care for our agricultural system.
Tracey Medieros (left), author of The Vermont Non-GMO Cookbook, Dishing Up Vermont, and The Vermont Farm Table Cookbook. Additionally, Tracey writes The Farmhouse Kitchen: A Guide to Eating Local column for Edible Green Mountains Magazine. (All above images by Oliver Parini, below image by Brent Harrewyn)
Creamy Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Vermont Maple Smoked Cheddar Cheese
Recipe from The Vermont Non-GMO Cookbook – Vermont maple smoked cheddar cheese has a delicate balance of smoky and nuttiness that complements the earthy and slight nutty-sweet flavor of the Jerusalem artichokes. The soup is irresistibly creamy with a rich flavor that’s perfect for autumn. Serve this rustic soup with a tossed green salad and a nice crusty baguette.
Makes 6 servings
2 slices thick-cut bacon, diced
1 cup shredded Vermont maple smoked cheddar cheese
1 1/4 pounds Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed, peeled and cut into 1⁄2-inch cubes
1/2 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed, peeled and cut into 1⁄2-inch cubes
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and diced
1 small red beet, trimmed, scrubbed, and cut into 1⁄2-inch cubes
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1⁄2-inch cubes
1/2 pound sausage, preferably linguica or chourico, diced
2 medium garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 teaspoons fresh minced rosemary leaves, plus extra for garnish
1/8 teaspoon toasted ground caraway seeds, optional
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1⁄3 cup all-purpose flour, preferably King Arthur organic
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 quarts chicken stock, warmed
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest (preferably from an unwaxed lemon)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup heavy cream
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Cook the bacon in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until crisp, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain and set aside. Leave the bacon drippings in the pot.
- In the same pot with the bacon drippings, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the Jerusalem artichokes, onion, beet, and carrot to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat until the onion is soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the sausage, rosemary, and caraway seeds and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the sausage is lightly browned, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Reduce the heat to medium- low. Add the flour and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Add the potatoes and bay leaf, then slowly whisk in the stock. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, whisking frequently. Continue to simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are fork tender, about 15 minutes. Remove the bay leaf. Add the lemon zest and juice.
- Transfer half of the soup to a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Return the pureed soup to the stockpot.
- Stir in the cheese 1⁄4 cup at a time, stirring frequently, until completely melted. Slowly whisk in the cream. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with the reserved bacon and rosemary. Serve at once.
To learn more about Tracey, and to purchase her new cookbook,The Vermont Non-GMO Cookbook, visit http://www.traceymedeiros.com.
Alice Kathryn Richardson is a new media photojournalist and creator of The Clean Food Club. She previously spent two years working on Deserts in the District, a series of short-form documentaries exploring food access and hunger in Washington, DC. She is committed to supporting local and sustainable food businesses by telling their stories with photo and video. Follow her on Twitter @AKR_Pictures.