Recently, Edible Nutmeg caught up with Vermont cookbook author and food writer Tracey Medeiros and Westport-based writer Christy Colasurdo to get the scoop on The Connecticut Farm Table Cookbook. The coauthors call the book “a farm-to-table culinary travelogue that takes readers on a tasting tour throughout the great state of Connecticut.”
Edible Nutmeg: The cookbook is full of delicious looking recipes. Was it difficult to convince these farmers and chefs to contribute their recipes?
Tracey Medeiros: Due to the generous nature of the farming community, it was not difficult to convince farmers and chefs to contribute their recipes for the cookbook. These talented individuals believe in and support all that is Connecticut-grown food.
Edible Nutmeg: The cookbook also features some incredible photographs of local farms and farmers, as well as some of Connecticut’s best restaurant dishes and the chefs who produce them.
Christy Colasurdo: Thanks! We tapped into a talented young photographer named Oliver Parini who first worked with Tracey on The Vermont Farm Table Cookbook (the first in this regional cookbook series) to shoot for this book as well. In addition, Winter Caplanson, director of the Coventry Regional Farmers’ Market, introduced us to a number of talented Connecticut-based photographers. We were blown away by some of the images that they submitted and many of these gorgeous shots figure prominently in the book. We wish we could have used images from each and every shoot!
Edible Nutmeg: How did you and coauthor Christy Colasurdo meet?
Tracey Medeiros: I met Christy at the Simon Pierce retail stores in Connecticut during a day of promotional touring. At that time, I was hosting book signing events for my first cookbook, Dishing Up Vermont. Christy was at the events promoting her business. She had contributed a recipe for my second cookbook, The Vermont Farm Table Cookbook, and thought it would be great if we joined forces to collaborate on a cookbook that celebrated Connecticut. If not for Simon Pierce, The Connecticut Farm Table Cookbook may not have become a reality. Thank you, Simon!
Edible Nutmeg: The Connecticut Farm Table Cookbook features both haute cuisine and smaller, more casual eateries. Was this a conscious decision?
Christy Colasurdo: Yes! We really wanted to mix it up to represent the way people eat today: sometimes it’s at a food truck or farmers’ market, sometimes it’s at a roadside stand or clam shack, and sometimes it’s at a four-star restaurant. We wanted to include places like the Westport Farmers’ Market, whose director takes great pains to ensure that all her vendors are the real deal—organic and non-GMO. We chose Connecticut’s James Beard Award-winning restaurants as well as lobster shacks, cafes, and pizza trucks that partner with small farmers.
Edible Nutmeg: Tracey, what is the biggest difference between writing The Vermont Farm Table Cookbook and the Connecticut version? Similarities?
Tracey Medeiros: Of course, the biggest difference between writing my Vermont cookbooks and the Connecticut Farm Table Cookbook was location and how that impacted the foods that were grown and produced. Both states were similar in the fact that their cookbook contributors were generous with their recipes and passionately dedicated to growing the best products possible. Vermont and Connecticut each displayed a strong sense of community and commitment to ” buying local.”
Edible Nutmeg: Can you tell readers a little about your creative process?
Tracey Medeiros: My inspiration for writing these books has always been the desire to promote community wellness by growing food in a healthy, responsible way. This has been my message in each of my books and a lifelong purpose. Every person who has been featured in my cookbooks has deeply inspired me by the work that they do. Their dedication and strong commitment to preserving their state’s agricultural way of life through the support of the local food culture is truly amazing.
For the recipe selection process, I first review the recipe to see if it is a do-able dish that will work for both the amateur and expert cook. I look for ingredient accessibility, method of preparation, ease, etc. If the recipe passes the initial review, I then edit the recipe for print. The ingredients are put in the order that they appear in the recipe. At this point, if something seems off, such as a measurement or cooking time, I contact the contributor for clarification. Then the recipe is ready to be tested. Each recipe is not only tested but evaluated using a recipe tester form that I created. Through this process, the recipe either stands on its own or is modified or retested based on the information which I listed on the evaluation form. We were very fortunate to have two talented recipe testers to help with the process. Finally, the recipe is sent to the contributor for review and written approval.
Christy Colasurdo: Well, for me, writing the book was a labor of love, and we split up the work according to our interests. I reached out to most of the restaurants and chefs and with Tracey’s input selected the participants and convinced them to share with us their best recipes, and then Tracey tested and edited the recipes and whittled down the list to 150 recipes. It was a big job. I loved ferreting out, visiting, and writing about the farms and the restaurants and putting a face on the folks who are growing and cooking our food. Our goal was to put together a good mix of restaurants and farms. I got a big kick out of featuring many of the local farmers and chefs whom I know and love. They deserve all the recognition they can get!
Edible Nutmeg: The book was released a few months ago and you both have put together quite a tour. How is that going?
Tracey Medeiros: The tour has been extremely rewarding! I have had the pleasure of meeting many of the people featured in The Connecticut Farm Table Cookbook and everyone has been warm and welcoming. It has been a lot of fun visiting many of the places featured in our book and sampling their varied recipes. I have also been enjoying promoting the book via television cooking segments which can be seen on The Connecticut Farm Table Cookbook YouTube channel.
Christy Colasurdo: The tour has been a great way to reach out and spread the word about the delicious bounty being grown and produced in Connecticut. I feel strongly that the best way to promote the farms and recipes in the book is by getting out there and doing farm dinners and “experiences” that bring the food and the farms to life. Our tour has included appearances at farmers’ markets, some really cool retailers like The Back 40 in Old Greenwich, Terrain and Williams Sonoma in Westport, and bookstores large and small. We’re also visiting gourmet food and wine shops and other fun outdoor venues, like Outstanding in the Field and other “in the field” farm dinners. Who doesn’t like fun, food-inspired events with demos and samplings?
Edible Nutmeg: So, would you do it again?
Tracey Medeiros: Yes, I will more than likely embark on another food related book, but right now I am concentrating on The Connecticut Farm Table Cookbook. In the meantime, I am enjoying the fact that our book has helped to give the Connecticut food community the recognition it so richly deserves.
Christy Colasurdo: Right now I am still in the thick of the book tour and enjoying every minute of it, so it’s hard to think well beyond this project at the moment. The biggest reward so far has been sharing the book with the chefs and the farmers who are featured in the pages and watching them swell up with pride.
Edible Nutmeg: Where can readers find the cookbook?
Christy Colasurdo: The book is available at local bookstores and larger retailers like Barnes & Noble. But our fans tell us that you can’t beat ordering on Amazon.com, which offers a discount and ships practically overnight: http://www.amazon.com/The-Connecticut-Farm-Table-Cookbook/dp/1581572565.
And for a taste of something from the cookbook, try out this mouth-watering skirt steak recipe that Tracey and Christy shared with us!