‘Community-supported’ chef whips up vegetarian delights to take homeStefan Hard / Staff Photo
Lisa Barnes of Fiddleheads Cuisine prepares a meal in the kitchen of her home in Moretown. A certified natural chef, Barnes cooks and delivers meals to three drop-off points in Moretown, Waterbury and Waitfield three days a week for up to 40 customers.
MORETOWN — In her serene and sunny Moretown kitchen, Lisa Barnes creates meals that are complete in a couple of ways. Not only do her meals contain complete vegetarian proteins, they’re also completely cooked. So all her “community-supported kitchen” members need to do is reheat the freshly prepared dishes before enjoying the meals in the comfort of their own homes.
Barnes, 26, founded Fiddleheads Cuisine just about a year ago to share her love of healthy, delicious food that supports a healthy, sustainable lifestyle. From her home catering kitchen, she creates meals three times a week, delivering them to drop-off points for customers to pick up and take home.
And what meals! Each includes one main dish, two side dishes and one “conscious” dessert. Main dishes might include spicy almond soba noodles with pan-fried orange tofu, or Indian-influenced twice-baked potatoes with a samosa-like filling. Recent side dishes have run the gamut from sesame snow pea salad to yellow lentil daal to ginger-lime green beans.
“I find that people really like Asian,” Barnes says, noting that one menu each week is Asian-themed. Another is usually a traditional bistro offering, with the third being what she describes as a wild card menu.
Barnes avoids commonly allergenic foods, and she’s able to modify a family’s meals to accommodate specific allergies. “Last week, I did Italian flavors but without wheat and cheese,” she says. “I used thinly sliced eggplant, roasted, then filled with a creamy pesto filling and rolled like manicotti.”
A sweet treat ends each meal and might include a nut-based dessert like maple almond brittle or sesame almond cookies, orange-ginger sauteed plantains or vegan triple chocolate coconut cupcakes.
Barnes is vegetarian, as are all the meals she offers. Non-vegetarian customers report that they enjoy having new, creative meals that aren’t based on meat, she says. “People are enjoying the exposure to new foods they wouldn’t try at home,” she says. “Longer-term customers are saying they’re changing the way they cook, to include more whole foods.”
Building off the community-supported agriculture model, in which members pay at the beginning of the season for a season’s worth of food, Fiddleheads members commit to a month’s worth of meals. Customers can choose to receive meals on Monday, Tuesday and/or Thursday. Customers have the flexibility to decide each week which day works best for them, based on their schedule or menu preference.
Members pay $30 a week for two portions or $50 a week for four portions, plus a refundable $50 deposit for the microwave-safe glass containers. Members can pick up their meals in Moretown, Waterbury or Waitsfield.
A Moretown native and longtime “big home cook,” Barnes was working at the Howard Center in Burlington when she decided to enroll in a “certified natural chef” program at the Bauman College of Holistic Nutrition and Culinary Arts in Santa Cruz, Calif.
“I went in not knowing if it would be a career change or a just a ‘follow your passion’ thing,” she recalls. After completing the program, “It was clear that I wanted to give it a go.”
With information she’d gleaned while working in the kitchen at the Yestermorrow architecture and construction school in Warren, she designed and built a home catering kitchen with enough room for cooking classes, which she holds monthly. Past class participants have learned how to cook Thai and Indian menus; use legumes and shop in the bulk section; prepare a vegetarian Thanksgiving; and concoct healthy sauces.
On the weekends, Barnes caters small parties, offering pick up, buffet and full-service options for up to 30 diners. Focusing on vegetarian meals “is a great niche,” she says, “because there aren’t a lot of caterers who can do, for example, a vegan wedding well.”
Barnes is committed to sharing delicious, original vegetarian cuisine with everyone, whether longtime vegetarians or dedicated carnivores who just want to eat a little less meat, noting, “people feel good when they’re eating more fresh and high-quality food.”
To learn more about Fiddleheads Cuisine and Lisa Barnes’ cooking classes, visit www.fiddleheadscuisine.com.
Sylvia Fagin writes about local food and agriculture from her home in Montpelier. Contact her via her blog “Aar, Naam ~ Come, Eat,” at sylviafagin.wordpress.com, or follow her on Twitter: @sylviafagin.
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