Garlic pepper linguini

Flour. A few good eggs. A bit of oil.

These are the sole ingredients for a batch of homemade pasta. They must be good ingredients, to be sure, but they are not complicated.

It is amazing then, that so few of us make the dish. It doesn't take long: just the kneading of flour and egg, the short rest to give the gluten a chance to settle in and stretch out, and the back and forth rolling and cutting into long, thin strips.

I used a pasta crank for the first time this week, which made the process easier still. The blades split the dough like strings in a piano belly, and I draped strip after strip over windowsill chopsticks to dry.

When the racks were full, I threw the extras into a bubbling pot to cook. They needed only three minutes before turning a thick, tender brown. Speckled with herbs and garlic pepper, they were rich enough to eat on their own with a cascading pat of butter and a bit of salt.

But we had a pile of leeks and summer squash to demise, and so I set to work making a sauce from a bit of salt pork and the lingering veggies. Leaks softened and simmered, fat sizzled, and the squash settled into a flavorful heap. I spooned it over the pasta, and sat down to a feast.


Heap onto the kitchen counter 3 and 1/2 cups flour (whole wheat can be used, but do not use all whole wheat as it will make the pasta impossibly tough). Make a well in the center, and crack in 4 good eggs, at room temperature. Add several tablespoons olive oil, and begin whisking eggs, slowly incorporating flour mixture from well sides. When a cohesive dough begins to form, start working it with your hands. Knead until it is elastic and smooth.

Cover in plastic wrap and let rest 30 minutes. Roll out dough to desired thinness and cut into strips or other shapes, depending on preference, or form using a pasta machine according to manufacturers directions. Cook 2-4 minutes, or dry for later use.


The gelatería: closing week

It is my deepest wish, one day, to open a gelatería.

I have harbored this hope for as long as I can remember. There have been defining moments, of course, when the dream has deepened: the first sip of my father's weekly chocolate milkshakes, the days I spent walking across Madrid from heladería to heladería in search of the perfect scoop, my summer as the ice cream girl sneaking Moose Tracks at Mac's Seafood.

But in my mind, the life of the shop has always remained a constant. It will be open summers only, from Memorial Day to Labor Day in the heat of the sun and the cool, hazy calm of evening. It will be surrounded by wire tables, carefully divided between sun and shade. Most importantly, it will be all about fruit.

The offerings will change with the seasons, ranging from gelatos to ice creams to sherbets to sorbets. Opening week will bring rhubarb, June strawberry, July blueberry, and August a medley of watermelon-raspberry. This week, it would be blackberry.

The blackberries near the marsh are in full swing now. They've ripened and deepened and the paths into the briars are well worn and beaten. Just the other day, I picked a gallon—a whole gallon!—in under a half hour. I mashed them up with a heap of sugar, poured in a splash of buttermilk, and let the ice cream machine do the rest. Seeds and cream churned into a deep violet perfection, and I could almost picture the first sold scoop.

Maybe next year.


Makes 2 quarts

In a large bowl, pour 2 cups of sugar over 4 cups of blackberries. Let stand 30 minutes, or until blackberries begin to juice. Add 2 cups buttermilk or sour milk, and mix well in a blender. Pour into ice cream machine and churn according to manufacturers instructions.


If you don’t have an ice cream machine, put the mixture into a 9-inch square pan, cover, and freeze for 8 hours. Break frozen mixture into chunks and beat in a blender until smooth. Return to the pan, cover and freeze 3 hours or until firm.


Pink & green slaw

I haven't always liked coleslaw. I worked at a bakery when I was younger, and for years afterwards, the mere mention of mayonnaise was enough to turn up my nose.

Other people liked the spread on everything: slathered in thick gobs across perfectly good sandwich bread, yellowed and jiggly against their tuna salad (which, I cannot help but point out, already has plenty mayo in it), and even—and this may have been my breaking point—on cinnamon swirl breakfast toast. Needless to say, the thought of adding it to perfectly good vegetables was not something I could condone.

Until I began making my own mayonnaise this winter. The process of actually whisking egg and oil into suspension myself reversed my aversion almost instantly, lending the spread a newfound aura of magic and reverence, and bringing it back onto my plate.

Last night's slaw brought yet another incarnation of my beloved condiment. After grating a small green cabbage and heap of candy radishes, a few carrots from the garden and a sweet, red onion, I whisked together egg and oil in anticipation of a dressing. From the cupboard I pulled a jar of Cape Cod cranberry drizzle—a flavored cider vinegar sold by Joan Massi at the mid-Cape farmers' market—and added it to the mix.

The pink, creamy mayo drizzled thin over the vegetables, and with a pinch of salt, a sprinkling of toasted watermelon seeds, and a few hot peppers, the salad was ready. Not only did I fill my bowl; upon finishing one course I hurried back for another.


Serves 4

Chop 1 small, green cabbage into thin strips. Mix with 3 grated candy-stripe radishes, 4 small grated carrots, 1 small thinly sliced red onion, 2 small finely minced hot peppers, and several tablespoons toasted watermelon or squash seeds (optional).

In a separate bowl, whisk together 1 egg yolk and 1 cup oil, adding oil very slowly at first and whisking constantly until the mixture becomes opaque (then oil can be added more quickly). Mix mayo with 1/4 to 1/2 cup cranberry drizzle vinegar, to taste. Toss over slaw and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve chilled or at room temperature.


The Local Food Report: fried zucchini blossoms

According to my friend Anna, fried zucchini blossoms are a Mexican thing. She tells me this as I stand in her doorway, exasperated and a bit confused, relaying what I fear will be an afternoon disaster. "I am attempting my first fried delicate flower," I tell her, in hopes that saying will turn to believing.

The truth is, I have never been good with cooking experiments of a delicate nature. Where the loose, basic principles of the kitchen are important, I move about with ease. But when it comes to precision—to the instant, say, of protecting the kid-glove shape of a delicate flower—I tend to become overzealous. I pinch off a petal or dip too deep, and the yellow blossoms crumple into a brown, rumpled mess.

Still, taste rarely fails, and so on Anna's suggestion I make my way home to find out what Mexican cuisine has to offer. Thankfully, the stalwart cooks of the south aren't too keen on precision, either. Instead, they favor frying the blossoms with hot peppers and onions, and sandwiching the whole fiasco with queso fresco into a piping hot quesadilla.

With delicacy pushed aside, I get to work. I pull out a good heap of onions, hot orange peppers, smoky cherry tomatoes, and several cloves of garlic. The knife flies across the board, slicing and dicing and mincing until my eyes begin to well and olive oil fries hot in the pan. I drop onions then garlic, cherry tomatoes and peppers onto the cast iron and stir carefully before adding the final ingredient.

I'd collected the last of the blossoms—males only, with no squash before their stem—that afternoon. Ten in all, they hit the pan wide eyed with a start before beginning to soften. Soon form yields to heat, and I leave the mixture to cool beside a mound of grated Cabot cheddar. When the steam has subsided, I toss the two together and spoon it evenly across ten flat tortillas.

Folded and sealed, they sizzle in remnants of hot oil and the dark heat of the griddle. Cheese melts into blossoms, and they emerge, sweet, crisp, and—some might even say—delicate.


Makes 10 small quesadillas

Adapted from a recipe said to have originated at El Bodegon del Guillermo, a popular Tijuana restaurant that burned to the ground in 1978.

Fry 1/2 white onion and 1 clove minced garlic in several tablespoons olive oil until translucent. Add 10 halved cherry tomatoes and cook until soft. Add 10 squash blossoms, 1 minced hot pepper, and salt and pepper to taste, and cook several more minutes. Spoon into a bowl and let sit until cool.

Toss with 6 ounces grated cheddar, and spoon evenly onto one side of each of 10 small flour tortillas. Fold tortillas over; fry in hot oil, flipping once, until tortillas are crisp and cheese melts. Eat hot.


Imperfect peaches

They were far from perfect in the way their half moon crescents shone against the sun. Tiny black blemishes dotted their skin, and peach fuzz lint balls collected in their crevices and folds. They'd been home three days now, and still were offering no indication that they would soon soften.

I ate one anyways, picked it up with all its dark and hairy imperfections and threw it onto the chopping board. Stiff, it lay like a stone, taunting the knife. But when the blade came down, it yielded easily. Slices slipped from the pit and through my fingers into the awaiting bowl; breakfast came quickly that morning.

Against the sunshine on the table, they glowed jack-o-lantern orange against the blue of the walls and the newfound sky. They were sweet—sweeter than expected—despite their pock-marked skins and rigid flesh. It was a good reminder, one of those back to school lessons. After all, it's what's on the inside that counts.


Fat jar tomato sauce

Heaven might just lie in a vat of simmering tomato sauce. Late yesterday afternoon, beneath shuddering clouds and the hazy clap of thunder, I watched the sky light up my heavy bottomed pot.

Thick, red fruit bubbled up in the flash, and the smell of rich red wine and frying fat rose up from the stove. Onion and salt, rosemary and thyme wafted into the rafters, and the storm began to quell.

By the time the rain had stopped, the sauce reached a slow, lilting simmer. The earth began to let go outside, sucking up the rain puddles and dew drops and breathing against the stark silence of the passing storm.

As the sounds of the yard began, slowly at first and then chirping and humming and swaying in earnest, again the sauce roared up. The pot burped and spat as red juice reduced to a thick, rich sauce.

The secret was in the fat jar from the freezer. Layer upon layer of drippings from bacon and salt pork, pink, juicy burgers, pork tenderloin and duck breast lay piled up, chilled stiff, in a Clausen pickle jar in the freezer door. I used it for frying, sometimes, for greasy spoon dishes like omelettes or grilled cheese. I'd snuck it into waffles once before, and even cornbread. It had never, ever, let me down. Bacon, as they say, is good with everything.

So in place of the olive oil requested by most recipes, I picked up a fork and began to pry away the top layer from the fat jar. I dropped it into the pan—hot!—and watched it leap and sizzle in anticipation of the onions. Finally they joined and then came the tomatoes and wine, dying the pot a thick, deep red. Rosemary topped it off with a dash of green.

This morning, lacking pasta, I ate a bowl plain and fast, cupping the spoon to my mouth in hungry anticipation. Not your average breakfast, to be sure, but delicious nonetheless.


Serves 6-8

Drop 5 tablespoons fat drippings into a hot pan. Add 1 cup of chopped white onions, and sauté until translucent. Add 6 cups chopped tomatoes. Add 1/2 to 3/4 cup red wine, and bring to a boil. Turn to low and simmer until reduced by a third. Season with 1/3 cup fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano, or basil) and salt and pepper to taste. Serve generously over fresh pasta.


Mother hubbard

Never before yesterday had I seen such a squash as this. Nestled beneath the crawling leaves and vines of Jean Iverson's squash patch, it lay vast and tough against the straw.

It was the first thing to catch my eye as the 87-year-old organic gardener gave me the tour of her unruly Cummaquid plot. "When my parents bought the land," she divulges, "there were 34 acres. An acre each for strawberries and asparagus alone." Over the years, the fields were sold to golfers and vacationers until only Iverson's 3/4 of an acre and the old farmhouse remained.

That's fine with her, she tells me, though it'd be nice to have a bit more saved. The area is quiet, beyond the daily passings of the train and the overhead chatter of gathering crows, and there's no place she'd rather be. "We have to work with what God gives us," she laughs, looking up to the sky and then down to the earth. "Sometimes it's too wet, like this year," she adds, "and some seasons too dry."

Though she's laid back about what she's given by the powers that be, there are a few measures she'll take to give her crops a boost. After all, she makes her living selling the fruits and vegetables at Kelly's Farm Stand out front. The other day, she tells me, she sprayed the squash leaves with a baking soda mixture in hopes of fighting the mildew that had begun to spread across the thicket of green.

She can't tell if it's working yet, but the hubbard squash she hopes especially will make it through. "I've got it marked for a friend," she smiles. "So long as the crows don't get to it first." The best variety for keeping, the hubbard is at least 10 or 15 pounds—a welcome gift at any winter table. Given its thick, gnarled shell, we both agree it's got a good chance.


Serves as many as you'd like it to with a good sized squash.

Peel squash and cut into cubes. Bake in a shallow Pyrex pan with 1/4 inch of water. Sprinkle with butter, brown sugar, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. Cover and bake 30 minutes at 350. Uncover and baste, adding more butter if necessary, and cook until tender (at least 30 minutes). Enjoy hot.


Sunday in August

My idea of a good friend is one who sets up a scene like this:

You arrive at work, harried and disgruntled, down and out in the throws of August-itis, as they call the sickness in these parts. You place your bag on the hostess stand, settle into the phone calls and reservation haranguing of early evening, and return an hour later to find a pleasant surprise.

There is an eggplant peeking out of your bag, a vegetable where just minutes before sat only loose change and perhaps the wrapper from an afternoon ice cream run. The eggplant is sleek and majestic in its comic beauty, ablaze with purple and white and still warm from the summer sun. Your friend looks at you and grins, and the havoc of the night exhales for one peaceful, stolen moment.

It is amazing the happiness a vegetable can bring, particularly when it is one grown by the hand of a friend, not far from home.


Winter harvest

I am planting like a mad woman. It began in the night, beneath a reading lamp with my dog and boyfriend fast asleep beside me. The only sounds as the clock ticked towards two a.m. were those of the pages turning, the trees howling, and the ebb and flow of my own breath.

It was a book by Eliot Coleman that had me up. Four Season Harvest, it was called. A friend had turned me on to it, touting the text as a sacred book of sorts, a recipe for winter locavore survival in the universe beyond southern California. (You will notice, if you think through the most famous advocates of the trend—Alice Waters, Michael Pollan, Barbara Kingsolver, even—that none of them lived in New England. Or really anywhere even close.) I have been drying and freezing and canning for winter, certainly, but I cannot expect us to live off of those provisions alone. There will have to be fresh food, too, and for that I had not yet devised a plan.

Until I met Eliot. With his seed lists and cold frames and construct-your-own root cellar diagrams, the winter gardening guru swept me off my feet. I lingered over his words until there was nothing left, until the only respite from learning was action itself. I hurried to the garden store in the morning, picked up a truckload of compost and a stack of seeding flats, and made my way home to place an order. Johnny's Selected Seeds, Eliot recommended. Arugula and claytonia and miner's lettuce and raddichio; evergreen scallions and kohlrabi and nero tondo black radishes. There were candy carrots and Asian specialty greens, celery and celeriac and broccoli raab. While the growing season might end, he reminded me, the harvest season need not.

Plenty of these crops could survive a hard frost. Frozen each night and thawed back to life during the day, they would remain fresh and hardy all winter long. Early spring varieties could be started now, too, ready to emerge once daylight returns.

It was revolutionary this idea of winter garden as Eden. The French do it, and the English, and others with our latitude and climate, but somehow in translation the tradition was lost. Without a custom of winter gardening, it is a difficult reality to grasp.

But there is only one way to begin, and that is to give it a try. I'm not expecting this year's harvest of tatsoi to keep us fed, but I do hope it will help point us in the right direction. Maybe if we spread the word, one of these seasons will bring a winter farmers' market. Until then here's a list of seeds and dates to start growing your own.


*Note that these planting dates are for Coleman's farm in Maine, which has a slightly shorter season and harsher temperatures. I'd guess they can be extended at least a week, if not two, for Cape gardeners.

BROCCOLI RAAB 7/1 to 8/1
CABBAGE, CHINESE 7/15 to 8/1
CORNSALAD 8/15 to 9/15
CLAYTONIA 8/15 to 9/15
ENDIVE, ESCAROLE 7/1 to 8/15
KALE ("WINTERBOR," "VATES") 7/1 to 8/1
LETTUCE 7/15 to 9/1
MIZUNA 7/15 to 8/15
RADICCHIO 10/15 to 11/15


Maple melon salad

I've forgotten the name of the strange apple like fruit that charmed me at the market. Something of a cross between an apple and a pear, it has the shape and firmness of a Northern Spy, with the skin texture and flavor of a Bosc. Thick, weathered exterior yields beneath the knife as I slice to a firm, delicate flesh.

I am making my first fruit salad of the season. While berries and peaches are my favorite for eating, the melons and apples of late August and early fall are the best fixings for a medley bowl. Their juices seep and blend until a pool of sweet delight sits at the bottom of the porcelain, steeping the fruits in a heightened potion of their own flavors.

A bit of maple syrup and lemon juice help in the process. The first enhances the sugars while the second adds a tart, biting edge and acts as savior of color. Finally, a touch of salt lends brilliance to it all; the cantaloupe brightens, the watermelon deepens, and the strange round pear seems to dance on the tongue. It is August, they seem to say, a chorus of calming voices in the midst of so much chaos, linger over us while you can.


Serves 3-4

Chop 1/2 cantaloupe, 1/2 small watermelon, and 1 Asian pear (or apple or pear) into bite size pieces. Mix in a serving bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon maple syrup, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, and several cranks sea salt to taste. Enjoy chilled.


The Local Food Report: purslane potato salad

Early in June, my garden was overrun with weeds. I found them struggling beneath the squash, sneaking up between the tomatoes, and towering above the dainty green hair of a row of unsuspecting carrots. I battled them for weeks, pulling here and there until finally the earth was bald of all but its rightful occupants.

But like so many well-intended wars, it turned out there were a few innocents strewn across the field at arms' end. The very next week, I headed to the farmers market, only to discover that one of my weeds was a dining table gem.

Purslane, as the common succulent plant is called, is found all over backyards, fields, and untended gardens on the Cape. Its proponents use it in casseroles and dips as a substitute for spinach, while others eat it fresh in a mix with lettuces and kale and other summer greens. I'd had its seaside cousin, orach, or sea purslane, baked into a summer spanakopita as a child, though I never made the connection until the other day.

The leaves, with their slightly salty and sour taste, are unknown to most Americans despite their popularity in Europe and Asia. There, the plant is cultivated for use in stir-fries and soups, prized for its omega-3 fatty acids and dietary minerals. In Greece, it is used in folk medicine as a remedy for constipation and urinary inflammation, while Pliny is said to have touted the plant as a protector from evil, and Indians as a cure for liver disease.

Beyond its rumored health benefits, the crunchy leaves boast an excellent flavor. Several spicy, lemony bunches from the farmers' market have been quickly devoured at my house since discovering the plant. Just this week, however, I picked up a new bunch and decided to experiment with something new. Potato salad, I'd learned, was a popular Ikranian destination for the leaves, and so I set about chopping.

A half hour and a pile of dishes later, I found myself with a delicious room temperature summer salad. Simultaneously filling and light, it proved the perfect addition to a beach towel, a good book, and an afternoon on the dunes.


Serves 4-6

In a medium pot, boil 5 cups chopped potatoes until tender. Drain and set aside to cool. In a bowl, mix 1 cucumber chopped into half moon slivers, 1 cup purslane leaves and buds (flowers and stalks are edible as well, if you choose), and 1 cup chopped scallions with greens. Add potatoes and mix well.

In a small, wide bowl, whisk 1 egg yolk until smooth. Drip in, whisking constantly, 1 cup olive oil, making sure to add slowly enough to keep mixture opaque. Add 1 teaspoon salt and 1-2 finely chopped Serrano peppers. Mix well. Spoon over potato and vegetable mixture (there may be some spicy mayo leftover; it will keep in the fridge for at least a week, if not longer), adding several tablespoons white wine or cider vinegar and fresh ground pepper and salt to taste. Toss well and serve at room temperature.


Bluefin steak

That, I am informed as I stand peering over my boyfriend Alex's shoulder as he cooks, is a nice piece of fish. He holds the steak to his nose, breathes in its scent, and grins. He grips it like a chunk of gold, positioning the red flesh beneath the stove light on a white serving platter for me to survey. I admire the lean simplicity of the meat, its deep scarlet color and the fine cross lines running through it, a maze of muscle and sinew.

He has good reason to appreciate this fish. At a time when tuna populations are at record lows, its massive body was quite a catch. Locally harpooned and dressed at 610 pounds, it was swimming, weighing in at well over 700, just hours before.

There should be more fish like this one; bluefin used to be so common that Atlantic fishermen discarded it as by-catch, or sold it at 30 cents per pound for cat food. The arrival of purse seine fishing, with its deep, all-encircling nets and an international high price sashimi market in the late 1950s and 1960s changed all that. Suddenly the bluefin were disappearing at record rates, sold at auction in Japanese fish houses and leaving nothing but babies in Atlantic waters.

The juveniles today are weighing in at as little as 150 pounds, meaning they have gathered neither the time nor the brawn yet to breed before they are caught. Worse, because the young fish must be sold under the table, they are not being recorded, making the Atlantic look more plentiful than it is. The few big fish that are still around and recorded make it look like catch has gone down, when in reality, it's just getting smaller.

Despite penalties in the thousands of dollars, poaching continues. It moves under the radar, from local fishermen to Cape restaurateurs, each excusing the deed as already done. For the fisherman, the market is a given; for the chef, the fish are already dead.

Consumer demand doesn't help. Hungry visitors and guests want sashimi and toro and bluefin specials, and they want them cheap. As stock dwindles, the only way to keep prices where they are is to keep supplying fish, regardless of size or its cost in the end.

The fishmonger who lives with me has a hard time with this. When you tell someone looking for dinner that their fish was harpooned, they look at you in despair, as though you have sullied the flesh by revealing it's dead. We only make the connection between death and dinner, it seems, by being reminded that fish get caught. It's beside the point whether it was illegally or humanely.

But don't put your fork down just yet. Hope lies for me in the belief that most of us, however innately, know a good piece of fish when we see one. You don't get big steaks from small fish; no toro lines their bellies; the cuttings are smaller. When you see that perfect steak, when you know that this is a good piece of fish, buy it. Otherwise, pass the pasta.


Serves 2

Cut a one pound bluefin steak into two 4- by 1- by 1-inch rectangles. Season with salt and pepper and sear for 20 seconds per side in a hot, oiled skillet. Slice rectangles into thin squares and eat hot with a ponzu dipping sauce made from equal parts rice vinegar, soy sauce, and lime juice.


Ground cherry pie

I can't say I was overly eager to take my first bite of ground cherry pie. Baked this weekend, it still sat carefully wrapped and untouched when I stumbled downstairs for breakfast this morning. The watermelon sorbet had competed for the dessert spot, to be sure.

But at the heart of my neglect was a lingering uncertainty that the tomato-like fruits should be made into pies.

My imagination conjured up the taste of a marinara with whole-wheat crust, more appealing with a dinner fork than a scoop of vanilla ice cream. But with baguettes devoured and watermelon dwindling, my eye settled on it this morning as the perfect answer to breakfast. Feeling courageous, I carefully cut through the lattice and scooped a piece into my bowl.

I noticed immediately the transformation. The once tomatillo-like cherries, after simmering in a bubbling sea of sugar and their own saccharine juices, now appeared more like round bits of candy orange. Soaked in syrup and dripping with shrunken seeds, the tiny mandarin-like pieces looked every bit the part of their cast as pie filling.

I pulled a first bite from my fork, and dug in. A cacophony of pineapple and tomato, cherry and orange erupted inside my mouth, lingering sweet on the tongue and quick to hit the belly. Eager to begin again, I took another bite and then another, devouring the piece in delighted disbelief.

The surprise success made me wish I'd eaten it hot, fresh from the oven with a dab of vanilla ice cream or perhaps a dollop of vanilla whipped cream. It should go within hours: a bowl of shucked cherries, a heap of sugar, a quickly rolled crust and the heat of an oven transforming fruit into delight. Quickly, quickly, the ice cream should melt, just as the sun goes down and a new day begins. Then in the end, it will still be around for a good cold breakfast.


Makes one pie with lattice top, plus some extra crust

Mix 1 cup whole wheat flour and 1 cup all purpose flour in a large mixing bowl. Add 1 teaspoon salt. Cut in 1 stick plus 2 tablespoons chilled butter; mix well with a pastry cutter. Add 4-5 tablespoons ice cold water until the dough forms a ball. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and roll out dough for crust bottom. Cut off edges and set aside for lattice top.

In a separate bowl, mix 2 and 1/2 cups husked ground cherries with 1/2 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons water, and 2 and 1/2 tablespoons flour. Mix well and spoon into crust. Top with woven lattice. Bake at 425 for 20 minutes, then turn oven to 300 and continue baking for 30 minutes, or until filling sets without burning crust.


Crushed tomatoes

Saturday morning, sweat beaded down my temples as I moved from garden to sink, sink to stove, and stove to compost. The tomatoes sat naked on the kitchen counter, stripped of their taut, rosy skins and perfectly unblemished in their translucence. It was canning day, and the kitchen was hot.

The tomatoes I'd been collecting all week. Some had ripened on the vines of our yellowing garden plants, others on the tables of the farmers market, and the rest on the windowsill of a friend. They had been prepared, each carefully washed and dried and set out alongside the cutting board by the stove to await a momentary plunge into the pot of rolling water.

Now skinned, they faced another pot. A sixth of the diaphanous globes dropped into a heavy bottomed Dutch oven, crushed by the force of a grinding arm and the weight of a broad black masher. They exuded juice and pulp, seeds floating atop a lake of viscous red. Their companions joined them one by one, falling in quarters into the pot and slowly softening to its contours. A thick tomato steam began to rise, and the time came to say goodbye.

The crushed fruits poured easily into glass jars. Made tart by a spoonful of lemon juice and flavorful with a pinch of salt, the tomatoes returned to the boiling water for a final bath before settling in to await the pot again. Next time, perhaps, as part of a batch of Portuguese kale, or winter minestrone.


Yields approximately one quart per 2 pounds of tomatoes

Skin, core, and quarter tomatoes (any quantity). Add 1/6 of pieces to a large, heavy bottomed pot and crush well to release juices. Heat quickly, gradually adding the rest of the tomatoes. For each quart, add a tablespoon of sugar. Boil gently 5 minutes.

Pack immediately into sterile quart jars, adding 2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice (to assure sufficient acidity) and 1 teaspoon salt to each jar before adding hot fruit. (For pints, halve these amounts). Wipe jar rims clean with a hot cloth and screw sterile caps on tightly. Process in a boiling water bath, 45 minutes for quarts and 35 minutes for pints.

Leave upside down overnight to cool; check seal and store in a cool, dark place.


Whole wheat baguette

The baguette was a labor of love, the story of a tin of whole wheat flour and the power of yeast. It started in Blue Willow Bakery the other morning, a coffee in my fist and the smell of fresh baked bread rising out from the tiny kitchen. I counted my quarters onto the counter, and tucked a loaf under my arm alongside the paper.

At home, it was gone within hours. It had been a while since I'd made bread, I realized. The large, heavy loaves of winter seemed somehow too much, and so I'd abandoned the practice all together. But the delight on our faces as we broke bread over supper, dipped its crevasses into a broth of mussels and tomatoes, made me realize I'd been wrong. Bread wasn't out of season; I simply had to change my recipe.

I started searching online: whole wheat baguette, all whole wheat baguette, 100 percent whole wheat. No luck. It appeared whole wheat was not cut out for baguettes, with their crusty tendencies and tender insides.

But whole wheat was all I had, and so I forged ahead anyways. The worst that could happen, I imagined, is that the loaf would go flat and the toast dense. There had been more defeating disasters, I was sure.

And so I simply did what the recipes all said not to. I used 3 cups of solid whole wheat, kneaded a little longer to stretch the low gluten, and left the dough to rise a bit more neglected than usual. When I returned, it had doubled in size and rolled out like satin. Perhaps it was the hard, red wheat flour, but the dough had come together just fine.

I shaped it into an elongated rectangle and rolled it into a log, pinching the ends, slashing the top, and sprinkling the top with a bit of water and more flour. Into the oven at 400, it emerged 15 minutes later a delicate golden brown, complete with thick crust and the tender flesh of a hot baguette.

The only trouble is, it's already gone.


Makes 2 loaves

In a large bowl, combine 1 and 1/4 cup very warm water, 2 and 3/4 teaspoons yeast, and 2 tablespoons sugar. Let stand 5 minutes. Stir in 1 and 1/2 cups whole wheat flour and 1 teaspoon salt vigorously, until smooth. Add another 1 and 1/2 cups whole wheat flour to form a dough; adding more if it feels too sticky. Knead for 10-15 minutes or until elastic on a lightly floured surface.

Preheat oven to 400, and leave dough in a warm place in a well-greased bowl until doubled in size. Punch down and separate into 2 balls. Roll each into a 5 by 12 inch rectangle, then roll along the long side to form a long, thin log. Pinch ends shut, slash diagonally several times with a sharp knife, and arrange loaves on a greased baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Brush loaves with water and sprinkle with a bit of flour. Let rise again and bake for 15-10 minutes, or until golden brown.


Yellow watermelon sorbet

I can hear the whir of it in the kitchen as I type: a lifetime of desire, finally churning away in my very own home. Its white, sleek, form sits atop the counter like a genie's lamp, stirring away at wish after wish.

I've wanted an ice cream maker since I took my first bite of the homemade cream at a friend's summer cottage. I was twelve years old.

I remember it perfectly: the stinging sweetness of fresh crushed raspberries, the pint of rich, heavy, cream, and the dash of sugar that magically transformed into a thick, frozen paste. The taste was unlike any ice cream I'd had before. It was less chewy and more dense, creamier and faster melting.

I've coveted a machine ever since. I've asked others to choose, over holidays or at graduations or for a birthday. But somehow, I've never been willing to buy my own. The hesitance stemmed in part, of course, from a lack of funds. Justifying $70 on a machine that makes dessert is hardly an easy economic argument when there are necessities to buy like bread and butter and a college education.

But more than the money, it was the idea that held me back. Actually possessing the machine, I was afraid, might shatter its majesty. I'd seen Cuisinart churners at yard sales; hand crank barrels collecting dust because no one could be bothered with rock salt. The idea that I, too, might regard the machine as mundane appalled me. It wasn't worth the risk.

Until today. This morning, fresh watermelon in hand at the farmers' market, I dropped the fruit into my car and marched across the street. Inside Snow's, I hit the kitchen appliance aisle and dropped to my knees. There it was, wrapped in cardboard and glistening in plastic. There on the shelf sat my ticket to watermelon sorbet.

When I got home, I tucked the freezer bowl against the ice trays and frozen pie crusts I had stashed away. "Wait 6 to 22 hours," the manual read. "Freezing times may vary." Six to 22 hours? After a lifetime of waiting, suddenly this seemed too long to bear. I began mixing a recipe instead, beginning by picking the seeds from the watermelon and boiling a simple syrup of water, lemon juice, a bit of zest, and white sugar.

It has been five hours since I tucked the bowl into the freezer. I first pulled it out and mixed the watermelon lemon juice for half an hour. Nothing happened. There was no grand thickening, no icy delight. For the bowl to freeze, it appears I'll have to wait at least overnight.

For now, just the sound of the dream is enough to make it seem true.


Makes 1 and 1/2 quarts

Seed, chop, and puree 4 cups watermelon. In a small pot, boil 1/4 cup water, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, the zest of two lemons, and 3/4 cup sugar until sugar dissolves and the mixture forms a simple syrup. Cool and add to watermelon puree. Mix well and strain through a fine mesh sieve, pressing watermelon pulp down with a wooden spoon until no liquid remains. Discard pulp and chill liquid until ready to use. Mix in ice cream making machine as directed in the instruction manual.


Zucchini pancakes

It became clear things were desperate when I began staring at the three terribly large zucchinis on my kitchen counter as potential breakfast objects. We'd eaten tens of the squashes for lunch and dinner in stir-fries, salads, breads—even desserts.

But when the morning meal rolled around, there was no choice but to continue. The plants' leaves may be yellowing, but they show no signs of stopping. So rather than revolt, I pulled out my trusted pile of cookbooks and started paging.

The problem was, no author was this desperate. They listed casseroles and gratins, minestrones and breads. Even amidst the many listings for chocolate chip zucchini cookies I could not find an answer. So I turned instead to a new plan. Rather than hunt for a breakfast recipe already involving zucchini, I would think first of what I wanted to eat, and then devise a way of adding the squash to it.

Almost immediately, my thoughts turned to pancakes. I could see the stack, several inches wide and four puffy cakes high, drowning in syrup and topped with a quickly cascading pat of melting butter. I'd been subsisting on breakfasts of fruits and tomatoes, delicious as they were, for months now; it was time for a lumberjack breakfast.

I pulled out the mixing bowl and began adding the traditional ingredients for a hearty stack. I sifted flour and baking powder, sugar and salt, and whisked together a whirlpool of milk and egg. In went vanilla and butter and a touch more flour, and it was time for the moment of truth. I grated a cup of zucchini, and threw it on the pile.

Several minutes later, the griddle was sizzling and the smell of sweet batter steamed up through the kitchen hood. I pulled out plates and syrup, a knife and a fork, and sat down to the perfect stack of my imagination. If it hadn't been for a few green flecks and an ever so slight sweet, zucchini flavor, I may never have known the difference. Zucchini pancakes proved to be one experiment I'll happily repeat.


Serves 2

Mix together 1 cup whole wheat flour, 3/4 teaspoon baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1 and 1/2 tablespoons sugar. In a separate bowl, whisk together 3/4 cup milk, 1-2 tablespoons melted butter, 1 egg, and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla. Add 1/2 to 1 cup shredded zucchini (depending on taste) and stir into dry ingredients until just barely mixed. Fry in butter on hot griddle or cast iron pan until golden. Serve hot with butter and maple syrup.


THE LOCAL FOOD REPORT: Shy Brothers Cheese

Meet Kevin, Arthur, Norman, and Karl Santos, the faces behind Shy Brothers Cheese. Two years ago they didn't know a thing about cheesemaking; today, they churn out thousands of pieces a week of the thimble shaped pieces of the French Cantal cheese they've become known for.

The Hannahbells, as they call the hors d'oeuvre-sized cheeses they named for their late mother, Hannah, are their take on the French "button de culotte"—literally, "trouser button"—a traditional soft goats' cheese produced in the Mâconnaise region of southern Burgundy. Karl and the brothers' business partner, Barbara Hanley, learned to make the cheese from a group of French women with a herd of Holstein-Ayreshire crosses. They brought back several weeks of practice and a bit of tangy Burgundy mold, and began churning out 10,000 to 13,000 of the bite-sized buttons each week.

While the brothers might be shy, Hanley is not. The "one woman lone ranger," as Shy Brothers salesman Tony Melli calls her, has watched with despair as over sixty percent of Westport's once numerous dairy farms sold to developers over the past thirty years. "Children watched their parents growing up working seven days—literally, seven days a week—and losing money every year," says Melli. "They refused to continue; they had to sell the farmland."

As dairy costs continued to rise and milk prices in town stayed the same, Hanley feared the Santos brothers would be forced to do the same. With three generations of milking in their blood, selling out wouldn't have been an easy decision for any of them. Fortunately, with a few plane tickets and a hearty appetite, Hanley was able to help the Shy Brothers save their herd of 120 Holsteins and the 150-acres of rolling pasture their grandfather purchased in the mid-1940s.

"She said listen," says Melli. "'There's a concept now in marketing known as value-added. Take your milk, and turn it into something special.'" Karl latched onto the idea of cheese, and the brothers settled into the special niche of artisanal finger food—a void southeastern Massachusetts foodies were apparently eager to have filled. The Santos brothers hired Melli as their anything-but-bashful salesman, and he began selling out at farmers' markets across the state.

With online sales booming and plans to double production in the works, the move to cheesemaking has proved a smart one for the brothers. These days, they're working to share what they've learned about both marketing and artisanal production with other dairies in the area, in hopes of saving more land from development and fostering the growth of a local food network.

"If the rest of the farms go, we lose the beautiful opportunity to have fresh food and fresh dairy, and we increase the population another twenty-five percent," says Melli. It's not just the land he sees as important, but also the concept of farming. American democracy, after all, has its roots in the tradition.

The brothers, the Santos farm, and the way of life they preserve are easy to support. Pick up a package of Hannahbells, head to the kitchen, and get cooking! Here are some recipes to get you started.


Serves 4

Preheat an outdoor charcoal grill for high heat and lightly oil grate. Shuck 4 ears fresh corn and pull off silk. Soak ears in cold water for 10-20 minutes. Grill over charcoal, turning occasionally, for 10-15 minutes, or until tender and lightly charred in some spots.

Remove corn from heat and immediately rub with four Shy Brothers Classic French Hannahbells (one per ear). The thimbles of cheese should not melt completely but rather glob on to the kernels in small, softened pieces. Place ears on a serving platter, sprinkle with 2 more crumbled Hannahbells. Dress with a marinade of 3 tablespoons melted butter, 1 teaspoon lime juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and let sit several minutes before serving.

For more recipes using Shy Brothers Cheese, including one for Italian inspired Pizza Bianca , continue reading here...

To listen to the audio Local Food Report with Elspeth Pierson from WCAI, the Cape and Islands NPR station, visit the show's website.

Photo courtesy of Barbara Hanley.


The Local Food Report

For the past several months, I have been working with WCAI, the Cape and Islands NPR station, and Atlantic Public Media to develop a weekly radio show on local food. The "Local Food Report" has come to fruition and will air tomorrow morning for the first time!

The show will broadcast weekly Thursdays on 90.1, 91.1, and 94.3 at 7:30am during Morning Edition and at 5:30pm during All Things Considered. Listen in tomorrow for a piece on Shy Brothers Cheese. As of midnight EST tonight, you will also be able to listen online on WCAI's webpage. In the next few weeks, we will be adding the option to subscribe to a podcast on the same page, so stay tuned...


Pan tostado con tomate y aceite

Eight years ago for Easter my family traveled to a rural Spanish village to celebrate with friends. My mother's college roommate had married a Spaniard, and the white washed campo, La Loma, in the hills of Andalucia, had become a meeting spot of sorts.

Standing out against the stunted silhouettes of olive orchards and barren crags, the adobe home and its outdoor living space became our holiday. It was simple, rustic, and elegant at once, surrounded by red earth and wisened fruit.

I rose late one morning to find breakfast already set out on the picnic table in the courtyard. A decanter of olive oil sat surrounded by long halves of toasted baguette, a bowl of freshly grated tomatoes, and a finger bowl of sea salt. A lone clove of garlic sat on every plate.

I watched my host rub the clove vigorously over the surface of his bread as I found my way into a chair. My father did the same, soaking the bread with a dash of olive oil and spreading the red tomatoes across the top. A bit of sea salt finished the preparation, and he bit in, tore the bread, and shot me a smile.

We ate the Mediterranean breakfast every day for the rest of the trip. When we returned home, however, the luscious tomatoes of Spanish spring were nowhere to be found, and I tucked away the dish as a memory for July.

It wasn't until last year that I remembered those Easter breakfasts. When the tomatoes began pouring in from the gardens of neighbors and friends, I headed into town for a baguette and a good bottle of olive oil. In the kitchen, I rearranged the dish to my own tastes: thicker chunks of tomato, a bit less oil, and several sprigs of rosemary sprinkled over top. While the fruit lasted, we ate it every morning.

This week my Early Girl began producing in earnest, bringing the first over abundance of tomatoes from the garden. I pulled into a bakery, picked up a loaf of day old baguette, and the tradition commenced for another August.


Serves 3-4

Finely dice 4-6 tomatoes (roughly 3 cups). In a wide serving bowl, mix with 1/3 cup olive oil and 2 tablespoons fresh chopped rosemary. Set out a finger bowl of sea salt and peel one clove garlic per person. Serve garlic on plate beside several pieces toast. Rub toast with garlic, spread with tomatoes and oil, and sprinkle with sea salt to taste.


Ground cherries

The first ground cherries of the season lay strewn like paper lanterns across the table of Bon Terra Nursery at the Orleans Farmers' Market yesterday. Part sweet part savory, the uncommon fruits are an old-fashioned treat, all but forgotten on the modern table.

It wasn't until examining a southeastern Massachusetts harvest calendar the other day, in fact, that I'd ever heard of them. As I read past apples and apricots, blueberries and cantaloupe, gooseberries and grapes, I came upon the mysterious words. A quick Google of "ground cherry" turned up a picture, and I wondered at the delicate relative of the Mexican tomatillo.

According to most sources, the plants grow wild across the United States, spreading along roadsides and disturbed soil, hardy pioneers in the face of opportunity. Tucked into their husks, they will store for months on end, still edible in the winter months when the cherry tomato seems a figment of August's imagination.

Those who know of the fruits often remember them from the pies of a grandmother or aunt. Their flavor is reminiscent of a cross between a tomato and a pineapple, their texture and size just slightly smaller than that of a cherry tomato. While I'm sure they're excellent sugared and baked, for now I'm content just to snack on them.


Yellow watermelon & cherry tomato salad

Rather than simply see this salad, I wish that you could smell it. The heavy, honeyed breath of the yellow watermelon mingles with the tingling spice of the shredded basil and the sweet, robust scent of the tiny cherry tomatoes to form a medley maddening in its redolence.

Crumbled blue cheese and sweet balsamic add tang and breadth, and the perfume settles like a haze over the kitchen.

Just as the fruits are perfectly ripe, the heft of the meal fits the season, too. The watermelon slips down like a jug of sugared ice tea, heavy and smooth and just sweet enough. Basil adds zest; the tomatoes are at once hearty and delicate. Blue cheese quenches the pit of hunger left otherwise to continue wandering through the belly; balsamic dressing adds a touch of satisfying oil.

Salt enhances the zip of it all, sprinkled over the melon as a sweetener to its sunny flesh. A lone fork can finish the deal, stealing piece after piece until finally all that remains is a puddle of juice and seed, and the lingering smell. Here at the table, the next day, I can almost smell it still, the aroma of high August.


Serves 4-6

Cut one small yellow watermelon into bite sized chunks, removing seeds if possible. Halve 2 and 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes. Tear 1/2 cup basil leaves into halves (to release smell). Mix watermelon, tomatoes, and basil in a large bowl and sprinkle lightly with salt. Top with 1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese and several tablespoons sweet balsamic dressing.


Chocolate zucchini muffins

Perhaps it's the rain, but recent days have found me holding in a baking pattern. While the air cools down outside, earth damp and leaves dewy, I settle into my kitchen for another afternoon with the oven.

Yesterday, it was the baseball bat I found lurking under the leaves of my zucchini plant that inspired me. Carrying it back to the kitchen alongside cherry tomatoes and green beans, I wondered what use I could possible make of it. It was no day for a stir fry, lasagna loomed too complicated, and the freezer shelves sat already packed with dated bags: zucchini, our garden 7/12...

Suddenly, I pulled out the grater and reduced the bat to a heap of shredded squash. I donned an apron and grabbed a mixing bowl and spoon, pulled out cocoa and flour, salt and butter, cinnamon and vanilla, and prepared for a summertime ritual.

Chocolate zucchini bread has been a favorite in my family since the day we first fooled my father. While he didn't like the idea of greenery in his birthday cake, he could boast no complaints about the taste. And so we started making it for more mundane occasions: to mark the passing of another week with too many zucchini, to celebrate the arrival of a baseball bat, or to freeze for a winter breakfast with warmth and a hint of August.

Since leaving home, I hadn't had a piece; this is my first year with a garden, and it seems my neighbors are too polite to try to fool me with a sample. I, for one, won't let that stop me. With a recipe this good, it's only courteous to share.


Makes 16 small muffins or 1 10-inch loaf

In a mixing bowl, combine 2 and 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour, 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 2 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Stir, set aside, and preheat the oven to 350.

In a large mixing bowl, beat 3/4 cup softened butter with 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup maple syrup, and 1/4 cup honey. Add 3 eggs, 1/2 cup milk, and 2 teaspoons vanilla and continue mixing. Setting the beater aside, mix in 2 cups shredded, un-peeled zucchini. Stir in flour mixture and pour into muffin tins or one 10-inch tube pan. Do not overcook; bread should be slightly gooey at the center.

If desired, leave out cocoa for plain zucchini bread or muffins. Both versions can be drizzled when cool with a glaze of 2 cups powdered sugar, 3 tablespoons milk, and 1 teaspoon vanilla beaten together for a light dessert.


Chocolate chip cookies

I have a confession to make. I am a slave to chocolate chip cookies. Not just any chocolate chip cookies: soft ones, with large, unbreakable chips of solid dark chocolate surrounded by only the thinest cushioning of dough.

Given the choice, I do not like them warm. I prefer that the chocolate re-solidify, that the rich sweet chunks melt slowly against the tongue, and that the surrounding dough crumble slowly into a thick syrup against the roof of my mouth.

In the summer, I buy them at the Flying Fish alongside a cup of creamy iced coffee, from behind the deli counter at Jam's on the way to work, or from the Sweet Escape instead of an afternoon ice cream. I have spent, I am sure, far more money on this habit than I would prefer to imagine.

So when the New York Times came out with a new recipe for the cookies—not just a new one, but what it called the best one—I was itching to try it, and perhaps even save some money in the process. Problem was, I didn't have any of the ingredients. Cake flour? Bread flour? I had a tin of whole wheat flour from a farm in Maine, the closest and best I could find, purchased twice a year in 20 pound bags. Then there was the light brown sugar; while I keep granulated around for canning and jams, I hadn't seen a bag of Domino's light in the cupboard for at least a year.

But butter I had, and sixty percent cacao large chips care of Ghiradelli's, one of my most indulgent exceptions to the eat local goal (along with olive oil, a good stock of leavening agents, and a few other essentials—after all, even Barbara Kingsolver only managed to source about 70 percent of her family's food regionally).

So when I awoke this morning to the sound of a heavy rain and the smell of wet earth, I put aside my better intentions for the day and set to work testing the New York Times' recipe the locavore way. I subbed honey for brown sugar, whole wheat for cake flour, and added a bit of extra baking soda to counteract the changes. I swapped thin disks for large chips, pre-heated the oven to a temperature just a bit cooler than recommended, and scooped dough into brown balls on two silver sheets.

The cookies emerged several minutes later, golden and shimmering with sea salt. I walked through the article's perfection checklist as I bit in for a taste: the cookies were large, as recommended, warm, and ringed from soft middle to crisp edges in three distinct texture phases. With a few changes, it appears a locavore can have her cookie and eat it too.

Though next time, I think I'll have mine cold. David Leite might not like his that way, but he hasn't won me over just yet.


adapted from the New York Times recipe, published July 9, 2008

Makes 2 dozen

In a mixing bowl, sift together 3 and 1/2 cups whole wheat flour, 1 and 3/4 teaspoons baking soda (I added an extra 1/2 teaspoon for the cup of honey I substituted for light brown sugar, as this helps baked goods made with the syrup rise), and 1 and 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt.

In a separate mixing bowl, beat 2 and 1/2 sticks room temperature butter with 1 cup honey and 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar. Add 2 large eggs and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract and mix well. Add dry ingredients and 1 and 1/4 pounds 60 percent cocao chocolate chips, or more to taste.

Chill batter at least 24 hours, preferably 36. Bake at 325 degrees (rather than 350, as honey tends to need a 25 degree lower baking temperature when substituted) until golden brown. Sprinkle with sea salt.


Peach salsa

When I bought the peaches, they were hard as a rock. With skins taught and flesh green, they had barely any scent and little appeal. "Just you wait," the woman at the Crow Farm stand in Sandwich laughed. "By tomorrow they'll be soft as anything."

I made the purchase on faith. Sure enough, just 24 hours after leaving the branch, the fruit was supple and juicy, slighting beneath the firm grasp of my fingers and bruising under their weight.

I slipped the peaches from their basket, whisked them into the kitchen, and prepared to chop. I was hoping to grill fish for dinner, maybe a cut of striper or cod or a skewer of scallops. With a basket of fingerling potatoes waiting to accompany the catch, all that was missing was a fresh salsa to top the meal off.

Peach skins gave way to pit as I sliced one and then two of the ambrosial orange fruits down to the core. Chopping slices into a fine dice, I threw them in a bowl with a dash of balsamic, a bit of honey and mustard, and a touch of oil to marinate. Next came the green pepper, thin sweet shell minced into a fine green dust, and finally the leaves of a handful of fresh cilantro.

Between the bass, the whipped potatoes, and the soft tang of the salsa, it was about as good a local dinner as a Cape Codder can get.


Serves 2

Finely chop 2 ripe peaches, removing pit, and one sweet green pepper. Marinate in a dressing of 1 tablespoon balsamic, 1 teaspoon fresh minced cilantro, 1 tablespoon oil, a dab of honey, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve chilled over fresh grilled fish.


Heirloom tomato, basil, and Maine goat cheese salad

Still lingering from my trip to the Brunswick Farmers' Market this morning was a roll of fresh chevre. Curled into a tight roll of soft cheese and green peppercorns, the goat's milk cheese from York Hill Farm in New Sharon had barely survived the journey home.

En route, we'd eaten it on dried figs and thin crackers, promising to put it away as it crumbled against the leather seat and then reaching for another taste.

The cheese was unusually flavorful; in their twenty-fourth year as cheesemakers, John and Penny Duncan seem to have reached some sort of goat's milk pinnacle, converting the white liquid into a heavenly spread filled with herbs and spices and a great deal of taste. In addition to the Chevre Rolls, the couple also sells Capriano, a hard cheese formed into wheels and aged in its rind in their cellar for up to a year.

While the Capriano was more suited to topping pasta or grinding into a rich, green pesto, the soft peppered cheese made the ultimate twist on Caprese salad. With a bowl of heirloom tomatoes fresh from The Farm on Main Street in Yarmouth, I began to slice. Purple, yellow, red, and green slices layered atop a bed of spicy mesclun mix, followed by tiny green basil leaves and a sprinkling of balsamic vinegar. A bit of salt and pepper, a dash of oil, and the summer salad was ready for its final touch: soft, crumbling chevre.

For an impromptu creation, it certainly packed a punch.

For more information on York Hill Farm and its cheeses, visit the Maine Cheese Guild online at www.mainecheeseguild.org, or call John and Penny at (207) 778-9741. For more information on Massachusetts goat cheese, check out Westfield Farm at www.chevre.com or Valley View Farm at valleyviewcheese.com. Happy eating!


On the road, day 2: 6A Farm Stands

Driving home from my weekend away late this afternoon, I decided to take the slow road home. Rather than brave the traffic of Rt. 6, I veered off instead onto the winding lanes of 6A, through small town after small town as it grew dark until finally I reached my own.

There were a few stops along the way, of course; my companion was instructed to brake for any sign that promised local produce. At the mere hint of fresh corn or vine ripened tomatoes, we veered off the road into dusky parking lots or grassy roads.

Our first stop was Crow Farm in Sandwich. The fields were visible from the stand; always a good sign as some "farm" stands are just as likely to sell California avocados as they are Cape green beans. A tractor moved lazily through the rows, tilling for fall crops and readying the ground for a cooler season. A row of hot pepper plants (pictured above) sat outside alongside potted flowers and herbs.

Inside, produce abounded. We found sweet corn and green tomatoes, wax beans and peaches, swiss chard and green peppers and enough dried cranberries to last us several months. I picked up a book on cooking with honey and a bag of Sandwich ground cornmeal, and we headed on our way.

Next stop was Tobey Farm in Dennis. While outside was piled ear upon ear of fresh grown corn, inside the produce was from away beyond a pile of locally ripened tomatoes. As we already had both, we kept on driving.

We passed by Cape Abilities Farm—an excellent place to find hydroponic tomatoes, not to mention eggplants, cucumbers, summer squash, zucchini, corn, blueberries, and green peppers. Next we hit up the Farm on Main Street, a small stand in East Dennis that greeted us with the greatest find of all: locally grown yellow watermelons. In addition to the four we stashed in our backseat, we picked up several pounds of heirloom tomatoes in every shade from yellow to purple, and a bag of wax beans to snack on as we drove.

In Brewster it was Fran's Farm, a self serve berry stand, that merited a stop. Raspberries were past, but pints of sweet, fat blueberries lined the refrigerator. We slipped $12 into the cash register and left with two.

Finally, we met back up with Route 6 in Orleans and found ourselves home. While the detour had added an hour to our trip, it was certainly worth the wander. Tonight, we'll crack open a watermelon and toast to adventure.


On the road: Brunswick, ME Farmers' Market

In my hometown of Brunswick, Maine, for the weekend, I ventured mid-morning yesterday to the farmers' market with my mother. We parked lazily alongside a Maine Street curb, and walked baskets in hand to where twenty odd vendors lined a quarter mile strip of downtown grass.

In theory, it was just like a Cape market. Farmers sold blueberries and summer squash and honey and baked goods. Buyers asked about pesticide use on corn, and how long the supply of heirloom tomatoes were likely to last.

But in scale, it was much different. For starters, no one was lining up at seven a.m. to make sure that they got a box of blackberries. There was no rush to a particular vendor, no worry that perhaps there wasn't quite enough greenery to go around. These farmers were here twice a week, rain or shine, for most of the day—long enough and with deep enough reserves to allow for a more relaxed shopping experience.

The prices were lower, too. A one-gallon mason jar of honey cost $22; in Hyannis at the mid-Cape market, a quart goes for $21. High bush blueberries were at $4 a pint, down from $6 in Provincetown. Heirloom tomatoes went for $4 a pound, a far cry from the $5.75 they'll cost you at most Cape markets.

It's not surprising when you think about the land differences. Of course locally grown food costs more and is less plentiful on our sandy peninsula; we lack space, the soil, and the real estate prices to make farming for a living a more affordable endeavor.

Still, the Brunswick market lead me to envision a day when each Cape town might have its own market, held not just one morning but two, with plenty of food and enough reserves to feed whatever hungry shoppers might happen by. Many sellers I've interviewed recently started within the last few years, a trend that, if it continues, might mean such a possibility is not so far away.


Guest Blog: Farm Aid 2008

Always on the lookout for something new in the locavore world, I was immediately drawn to an article in the Boston Globe the other day. "New England Reaps the Farm Aid Show," the headline read.

Skimming the first few paragraphs, I quickly learned a bit about Farm Aid, a twenty-three year old organization based in Somerville, MA, just minutes from my own home. The organization's mission is to keep small family farmers on their land, and by now, Farm Aid has granted almost $420,000 to groups in New England alone. As the younger sister of a locavore, my local-food radar immediately began to buzz and I quickly called Elspeth to tell her about what I had found.

Part of the money granted by Farm Aid is raised at the organization's annual Farm Aid benefit concert. This year, the concert will be sticking closer to home—held at the Comcast Center in Mansfield, MA, it will feature tasty local treats as well as concert headliners Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, Neil Young, Dave Matthews, and Kenny Chesney. In addition, an interactive "HOMEGROWN Village" will allow attending locavores to learn about the relationship between the food we eat and the people who grow it.

Find out more about Farm Aid by visiting www.FarmAid.org. For tickets to the Farm Aid Benefit Concert, visit www.ticketmaster.com.

Guest blogger Anna Pierson writes from Boston, MA, where she often performs locavore research for her sister, Elspeth.


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All text, photographs, and other original material copyright 2008-2010 by Elspeth Hay unless otherwise noted.