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Salad dressing opens a new path for this former social worker

As a social worker trained in mediation, Nancy Brown has learned how to bring things together, but now she's working with olive oil and vinegar instead of people.

Brown, 61, is the owner of Three Acre Kitchen, a home-based business that specializes in balsamic salad dressings and cooking sauces, a venture she launched when she decided she needed to be home with her family.

Brown and her husband, a Unitarian Universalist minister, moved to New Hampshire from South Carolina to serve a local congregation.

Brown has a master's degree in social work and has worked with women coming out of prison, with teenaged kids who aren't thriving in foster homes, and helping to resolve conflicts as a mediator.

But a few years ago, Brown decided she needed shift the focus of her attention to her own family so she left social work, and with more time on her hands, she decided to play around with another passion she had — cooking.

'I've always loved cooking,' she said. 'My favorite thing is bringing people in and making them a good meal.'

One of Brown's specialties was a vinaigrette salad dressing made with balsamic vinegar imported from Italy which always seemed to draw praise from her guests. When a friend began organizing the Contoocook Farmer's Market in 2002, Brown decided to bottle her dressing and brought it to the market.

'By the end of the day, it was all gone,' she said.

From there, Three Acre Kitchen was born, a community effort that threw Brown, her fam­ily and friends into the salad dressing business with everyone pitching in to mix, bottle, cap and label her creation.

In 2004, she participated in a Made in New Hampshire Expo, and it was clear she had come up with a winning product.

'The first day of the expo, I picked up my first retail accounts,' she said. Today, Three Acre Kitchen products can be found in 200 stores throughout New England.

Brown has focused her attention on three products including her original Balsamic Vinaigrette, a Balsamic Cooking Sauce with juniper and rosemary, and a Blueberry Balsamic Finishing Sauce that combines a hint of sweet with the savory Italian balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

The vinaigrette is perfect for salads and sandwiches, while the cooking sauce gives a rich flavor to a variety of dishes from roasted vegetables to grilled chicken, she said. The Blueberry Balsamic Finishing Sauce works surprisingly well with everything from salmon and duck to fresh fruit and even pies.

For more information visit www.threeacrekitchen.com.

Recipes courtesy of Nancy Brown:

Blueberry Balsamic Mascarpone Poundcake

8 oz. Mascarpone cheese

1/3 cup Blueberry Balsamic Finishing Sauce

1 cup fresh strawberries, sliced

4 thick slices pound cake

1 cup fresh whipped cream

Mix the marscapone with the finishing sauce. Place the slices of pound cake on plates. Spread the cheese mixture on the slices, then spoon fresh fruit over the cake.

Top with whipped cream and drizzle with a little bit of finishing sauce.

Grilled Balsamic Chicken and Summer Vegetables


3/4 cup Three Acre Kitchen's Balsamic Cooking Sauce

4 boneless chicken breast halves

2 long oriental eggplant — sliced down the center lengthwise

2 medium zucchinis — cut in 1/2-inch slices lengthwise

2 large red peppers — quartered lengthwise

2 medium Vidalia onions — cut in half-inch slices across the grain (so you can see the rings)

2 Portobello mushrooms, cut in 1/2-inch slices

Sprinkle salt on the slices of eggplant and zucchini and let drain in a colander for about 20 or 30 minutes. This process pulls any bitterness from the eggplant and removes excess water from the squash so it will hold together while cooking.

Pour the marinade into a 9 x 13 inch glass or stainless steel baking dish (not aluminum).

Pat the eggplant and zucchini dry with paper towels. Mix all the vegetables together with the cooking sauce and marinate for 15 minutes; remove vegetables to another dish and cover.

Add the chicken to the marinade, turning to cover both sides and marinate for 15 minutes.

Cook chicken and vegetables over coals or medium heat on a gas grill turning every 4 minutes until done (about 10 to 15 minutes — depending on the heat of the grill). Drizzle any extra marinade over the chicken and vegetables before the first turn.

Remove the chicken and vegetables from the grill to a clean platter.

Cranberry Goat Cheese Spread

1/2 pound of your favorite goat cheese

1/2 (generous) cup of Craisins (dried sweetened cranberries)

2 tablespoons

Three Acre Kitchen Balsamic Vinaigrette

Pulse the Craisins in a food processor until they are about half their original volume.

Add goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette and blend.

Refrigerate until ready to use.

The color will turn to a beautiful raspberry as the spread sits.