The Local Food Report: radish recipes

Radishes. They're tempting, right? It's not just me? They sit there at the farmers' market all pink and blushing and suddenly there are three bunches on your kitchen counter and you have no idea what to do with them. Because while radishes are nice in salads and just for snacking, plain, that's not going to take care of three bunches in a week, not to mention the greens.

I figured farmers probably have this same problem except even worse, so last week, I decided to ask them what they do. I got all kinds of answers—everyone said they snacked on them, raw, straight from the garden, and sliced up fresh over salads—but I got some new ideas, too. Here are the best ones, I think—from the farmers' at the Orleans market, to me, to you:

1. Oven-roasted radishes

This comes from Kristen Watkins, who with her boyfriend Lucas Dinwiddie runs Halcyon Farm in Brewster. They grow French Breakfast radishes, and a few weeks ago, looking for inspiration, they decided to roast them in the oven, the way you would potatoes. They scrubbed them, then trimmed the greens so there were a few little stems still on, the way you sometimes see fancy restaurants do with small carrots. Then they sliced them in half, tossed them with olive oil and lemon juice and a little bit of salt and pepper, and roasted them on 400 degrees F for 10 or 15 minutes. Kristen says the roasting changed their texture—made them soft and juicy and a little bit crispy around the edges—and also made them sweet.

2. Radish pasta salad

This is Darnell Caffoni's recipe, from Boxwood Gardens in Orleans. She's a big fan of cold summer pasta salads, and one with chopped spring radishes and carrots, torn up salad greens, a few slivers of hard-boiled egg, and a Greek or Italian style dressing is her favorite. Just be sure to get the radishes this time of year, she says, while they're still young—later in the season they'll get kind of pithy, and won't be so mild.

3. Sautéed radish greens

Every farmer I talked with agreed you should save the greens. Like turnip greens, they're super healthy and also super tasty. Ron Backer likes his sautéed in olive oil with a little bit of spring garlic and asparagus—yum! I'd add an egg over easy and a slice of toast and sit down to breakfast.

4. Radish greens in pasta

Kristen Watkins says that her favorite thing to do with the greens is chop them up and toss them into hot pasta to wilt, the way you would with basil or arugula. She especially likes doing this with a dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, grated Parmesan, and a little bit of salt and pepper.

The other night, I tried two of these ideas. I grabbed two bunches of radishes—one French Breakfast and one Easter Egg—and cut off the greens. I set the greens aside, then scrubbed the radishes and chopped them in half. I tossed the radishes in a roasting pan with a diced onion and a little bit of olive oil and some fresh rosemary, and put them in the oven on 400. Then I boiled a pot of whole-wheat rotini and cooked a few slices of bacon. When the bacon was done, I sautéed the radish greens in the grease with a little bit of minced garlic, and grated a handful of cheddar cheese. Finally, I threw the whole mess together—hot pasta, grated cheese, crumbled bacon, and garlic-spiced radish greens. By the time we'd gotten out forks and water glasses and plates, the roasted radishes were done too, and we sat down to a whole radish meal—and ate our way from tops to tails. It was easy, new, and delicious to boot.


We're home

Hi! We're home. We have taken every last pair of pajamas, every toothbrush, and even a final forgotten E & T Farm tomato from Alex's parents house. We're not quite in our own bed, mind you—things are still fairly messy upstairs—but we are in our own basement, and for me, for now, that feels amazingly, ecstatically good.

We spent the entire day yesterday cleaning—scrubbing every glass, every pot, every surface of the kitchen counters and shelves. The rest of the house won't be livable for a few days yet, but hey!—I figure with the kitchen down, we have covered at least the most important ground. We can now eat, and cook, and clean up—at least once we get a little rest.

In the meantime, I wanted to share with you a recipe I've made twice in the past week—an asparagus-spinach pasta, dressed with crushed pistachios and grated Parmesan and a garlic-lemon-EVO dressing. The inspiration came from a recipe for asparagus with an orange zest-pistachio aillade I tried from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook last spring. I liked the flavors, but there were too many odd ingredients, and it was too fussy. This take is fresh, and easy, and springy, and does a good job, I think, of showcasing the main star: the asparagus.

If you make it, let me know what you think. I'll be here, scrubbing away.


We can't pick from our asparagus patch yet (it still has another two years!), but Ron Backer's had spears at the Orleans farmers' market the past two weeks. As for the pasta, rotini is the corkscrew-shaped kind that comes in short, thumb-length pieces. It isn't the only option for this, but I like the way it catches the garlic and pistachios and spinach as it rolls around in the dish.

1/2 pound dry whole-wheat rotini or other pasta
5 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup shucked pistachios
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 pound spinach, washed
1 pound asparagus, woody ends snapped off and spears cut into roughly 1 and 1/2-inch pieces
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
grated Parmesan to taste

Put the pasta on to boil.

Meanwhile, pulse the garlic in a food processor until finely minced. Add the pistachios and sea salt and pulse several times, until the pistachios are crumbled.

When the pasta is about 1 minute away from being fully cooked, add the spinach and asparagus to the pot. Stir well so that the vegetables are evenly cooked, and take care not to over cook the asparagus. When the pasta is fully cooked and the asparagus is still al dente, drain the water from the pot.

Toss the hot pasta and vegetables with the pistachio-garlic mixture, the olive oil, and the lemon juice. Add more salt to taste if needed. Let it sit for a few minutes to allow the flavors to meld, then serve still piping warm topped with grated Parmesan.


The Local Food Report: the cinnamon fern

In Maine, this time of year, you eat fiddleheads. It doesn't really matter if you're particularly fond of them, or whether or not you have some fantastic recipe, or even a foraging spot. You pick some up at a farmers' market, or maybe the local health food store, and you dig in. I'm not even especially crazy about the ferns, but still; it's one of those rituals I've missed.

Until this year. I was at work the other night, one of the first nights, pulling at my tights and standing in the kitchen eating bread. In the corner, spread out near the sink, I saw what looked like a pile of fiddleheads. They were green fern heads, still tightly curled like the regular Ostrich fern type, but instead of looking relatively clean, they were covered all over with a sort of fine, fuzzy hair. The cooks told me that a local forager had brought them in and that they were a different kind of fern—a Cinnamon fern—a kind that tasted pretty similar but was really difficult to clean. They could get the fuzz off by running the ferns under cold water and rubbing at the stalks, but for a restaurant kitchen, it was way too much work. They gave me the forager's name, though, and I called him: Charlie Grimm.

Charlie took me along with him last week—I can't say exactly where, as I'm sworn to secrecy— it was in Truro, in the woods, in a place that was both mossy and a little bit boggy. It was also pretty shady, and there, under a canopy of tall hardwoods, we found lots and lots of Cinnamon ferns. Some were open, but most were still pretty tightly curled, and we picked enough for Charlie to take home and cook for his family. I would have tried some, but apparently one study linked extremely heavy fern consumption in Japan to stomach cancer and an inability to absorb certain important B vitamins, and while that's all fine and good for a normal, healthy adult eating a few every now and again, it didn't seem like such a good idea for an unborn baby. So, Charlie took them home, and I took pictures.

But he did send me his recipe—a very delicious sounding recipe involving butter and garlic and high heat and sauteing—and I wanted to pass it along. That way it's recorded this year for you, and next year for me. Happy foraging, friends.


Clean thoroughly, removing the downy hairs as completely as possible, and wash well in cold water. Boil in salted water for 8-10 minutes. (Charlie says he's eaten the fern heads raw with no ill effects, but that it's not recommended as they do contain some mild toxins that can give you indigestion.)

Drain and saute in a hot pan with butter and minced garlic, adding salt and pepper as desired. Serve warm.

Alternatively, after you've boiled the ferns, simply dress them with a vinaigrette, like you might with asparagus.


A tulip

for you, to chase away the rain. I'm off to the Wellfleet Farmers' Market at Preservation Hall—Hunter wellies on, rain pants & jacket on, hood up. Let's hope it's still on, despite the gray.


Satisfying, and beautiful

Hi! I tried to stop in here on Friday, but Blogger was having some kind of meltdown, so I couldn't. I wanted to tell you that the first farmers' market of the season was Saturday morning at eight o'clock sharp in Orleans, and that I was looking forward to seeing you there. I hope you made it.

If you didn't, though, don't worry. Barbara and Gretel and Lucas and the gang will be there every week from now on, and the Provincetown market starts this Saturday. There's also a new farmers' market on the block, starting up this Wednesday at the brand-spanking-new Preservation Hall in Wellfleet. I'm not quite sure who will be there yet, but I'm planning on going, and I promise to report back. It is so nice to have a fridge full of local greens and spring carrots and hothouse tomatoes (!) and cucumbers (!) and Ron Backer's asparagus. Finally! It makes me a little giddy.

It is also a good reminder that there are, believe it or not, other food groups besides rhubarb & Meyer lemon desserts. Between the rhubarb pie testing my mother and I have been doing, and last week's attempt at this Shaker Lemon Pie, and the rhubarb-lemon cobbler we talked about two weeks ago, I find it hard to fathom, but according to the Little Caesar lettuces and the French Breakfast radishes, it's true.

And I have to say, it feels pretty good to step back into the salad world. Yesterday, Alex and I had one of those hugely productive Sundays—tidied up, did the laundry, finished the house budget, picked out paint colors, planted squash, planted melons, planted tomatoes, went to the dump, scrubbed the guest room!—and mid-day, we stopped for a quick rest at the kitchen table. We didn't have time for a long break—there were still way too many spiders living in the baseboards—but I wanted to make something a little bit elegant, something pretty and simple.

I pulled out a nice china salad bowl, and three bags of greens from the fridge. I did a little mix-and-match—some of Barbara's butter lettuce, a handful of spicy mustard Mizuna from Rod and Darnell, and a whole bunch of Lucas's baby braising mix. Then I chopped up a tomato, sliced a carrot and cucumber and two radishes thin with the mandolin, and crumbled some goat cheese and gorgonzola on top. It was hardly fancy, but it was satisfying, and beautiful, and with a few slices of baguette and butter, it did the trick.

If you're feeling anything like I am these days—hungry, and busy, and a little too interested in gardening to sit down and make anything terribly fussy or complicated—I highly recommend giving it a whirl.


This is hardly complicated enough to count as a recipe, but it's what we've been eating all week, and it's also delicious. Tomatoes and cucumbers are not normally things I associate with spring, but with Ed and Betty's hothouse in full operation, maybe they'll move up permanently on the calendar—keep your fingers crossed, and who knows.

1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon whole grain mustard
a pinch of salt
freshly cracked pepper
1/2 pound mixed spring greens
1 spring carrot, trimmed and sliced thin
2 French Breakfast radishes, trimmed and sliced thin
1 tomato, chopped into half wedges
1/2 cucumber, sliced thin
a handful of crumbled gorgonzola
a handful of crumbled chevre

Whisk together the balsamic, olive oil, mustard, and salt and pepper to taste in a small pitcher. Be sure to whisk for at least 30 seconds; it takes the mustard a little while to bring the vinegar and oil together and get the whole thing to emulsify. Set the dressing aside.

In a large salad bowl, toss together the greens and other vegetables. Crumble the cheeses on top, dress, and toss well. Serve at once, with a hunk of crusty bread to mop up the extra cheese and dressing and veggie juice.


The Local Food Report: community kitchens

Jennifer Joslin didn't plan on starting a pasta sauce business. She had three kids, picky kids, and the two things they really liked were pasta and pizza. She figured the easiest way to get carrots and green beans and cabbage into them was to sneak it into their tomato sauce, and so she did.

Then it hit her: Eat Your Vegetables! Maybe, just maybe, she could support her family and help other parents put a healthy meal on the table by turning this pasta sauce into a business. The thing was, she didn't have the money to buy equipment and build a certified kitchen. Building a kitchen is expensive, hugely expensive, and she wasn't even sure yet if this idea was going to work. Then she found out about the Dartmouth Grange.

The story behind grange is this: a few years ago, a group of Dartmouth residents noticed that their grange, their historic community hall, was sitting largely unused. They wanted to change that. They also wanted to help Dartmouth stay rural, but still boost agricultural and economic development. So they raised money to put a 2,000 square foot addition on the historic hall, complete with a steam kettle, braising pan, stovetop range, several ovens, and a filling machine—in short, a complete clean, certified, licensed kitchen space. Then they established a rate—the kitchen costs about $33 per hour to rent—and opened the doors to the public.

For Jennifer, it was the perfect place. She could start her pasta sauce company with very, very little overhead, and even less of an investment risk. All she was really buying besides the time was the vegetables and the glass jars, and hey! if the company never took off, she and her family could eat that commercially-certified shelf-stable sauce for for years.

But the company did take off. Within a few months, Jennifer had her sauce in two markets, and after a year, she now sells it in sixteen. (And one of those is a Whole Foods!) Parents liked that it had six vegetables (tomatoes, carrots, garlic, green beans, eggplant, and red cabbage) and that two of them were often from local farms (the carrots and the eggplants) and that it was appealing to their kids.

Recently Jennifer moved to another shared use kitchen—a community kitchen with a bigger steam kettle at How on Earth in Mattapoisett—so that she could make larger batches. Hers is a story of community kitchen success.

She's met lots of other people who got their businesses off the ground in community kitchens, too. There are granola makers, pickles, jammers, and all sorts of folks, all producing small-scale, local, artisanal products in these two kitchens. It's pretty cool.

You can find out more about Jennifer's pasta sauce, Eat Your Vegetables!, over here. For a link to the Dartmouth Grange kitchen head on over here, and you can learn more about the shared used kitchen at How on Earth in Mattapoisett over here.

Happy dreaming, everyone.


Sturdy and fragile

Last May, one very early morning, I went out weir fishing. I was exhausted from work the night before, and not really looking forward to getting up and getting on a boat with all the wet and the cold. But when I got there—when I met Shannon and Ernie and Shareen and motored out and saw the weir—everything changed. I was awake suddenly, wide awake, and the morning was ethereal, magical.

I've never seen anything simultaneously so sturdy and fragile as the weir. It was made of posts—hickory posts, driven deep down into the sea bed—with a series of nets that let the fish in. They could swim out, but they can't figure out how, and so they get trapped—hundreds and hundreds of squid, mackerel, butterfish.
When I got home, I got Alex and Ernie in touch. The Eldgredges sell mostly through a CSF—a community supported fisheries program that's run just like a CSA—but they had enough to sell to Alex, too. Last year, the big run was butterfish, and he got a whole tote full for the markets. His restaurant and the one where I work fried them up and ran them as specials—fish and chips served head on, skeleton in. There were a few leftover for staff meal one night—sweet, rich flesh with tails that crunched like potato chips.

This year, it's mackerel that keeps swimming in. Alex brought some home last night—those glossy bodies up there—silvery, midnight blue, amazingly fresh. We ate them whole, escabeche style, pan fried. I slivered carrots and onions while Alex cleaned the fish—heads off, tails on, guts tossed and body cavity washed out. While he seared I made an olive tapenade—plenty of garlic, green olives, salt.

I'd never really eaten much mackerel, but I was sold pretty quick. Some people think they're oily, but when they're fresh like this, they're fleshy and sweet and rich. The marinade added tang, the tapenade gave them brine, and we both cleaned our plates. There was something about them that was just right—the crisp maybe, or the give. Whatever it was, it fit the night, the mood, the season—so if you have a chance, dig in.


Escabeche is a Mediterranean thing. The general idea is to take an oily fish, poach or fry it, and serve it with an acidic vegetable marinade. It's also popular in Jamaica, although it tends to be much spicier down there. We adapted this recipe from one we found over here, and found it absolutely delicious.

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for frying
2 large shallots, thinly sliced
2 medium carrots, peeled, trimmed, and cut into 2-inch long slivers
4 sprigs fresh thyme or 2 teaspoons dried
2 bay leaves

3 large garlic cloves, minced, divided
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup minced green olives
four 8 ounce mackerel, guts and heads removed

Heat up the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots, carrots, thyme, bay leaves, and a third of the garlic and cook until the vegetables are softened, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to a shallow serving dish. Stir in the vinegar, season with salt and pepper, and set aside.
Mix the remaining garlic with the green olives to make the tapenade, then set aside.

Fill the skillet with about 1/4-inch of olive oil. Heat the oil over high heat until shimmering. While you wait, season the mackerel with salt and pepper. When the pan's hot, add them to the skillet and cook until the skin is brown and crisp, about 4 minutes. Turn the fish and cook another 3-4 minutes on the other side, or until the flesh is cooked through and the skin is crisp.

Serve each fish with a large spoonful of the vegetables and their marinade and a sprinkling of olive tapenade on top. Eat from the tail to the head, taking the flesh on the top half first, then gently pulling the skeleton out before eating the rest. About one fish per person makes a good serving.

P.S. If you're looking for local mackerel, Alex thinks he'll be getting it in to his Eastham and Truro markets until about mid-June!


Keeps them homey

I know I already kind of mentioned this, but we aren't living at home these days. Home was ripped apart in anticipation of the baby's arrival, and is slowly coming back together. Slowly being the key word. So, in the meantime, we are living up in Truro, at Alex's parents' house, which just so happens to be right smack on the bay, in an absolute stunner of a spot.

It's only three miles away, but—laugh if you want—I get homesick. I would like to blame it on some sort of nesting instinct, but the truth is, I've always been this way. I am a homebody through and through, and when I'm not home, I ache for it. Home has changed over the years—it was Harpswell Neck forever, but it's gradually switched to Wellfleet—and when I'm not there, I miss it in some sort of deep, primeval place.

To try and counter this, I go by and visit our house when I can—check the progress, grab the mail, see who needs water or repotting or weeding. Yesterday, Alex and I spent the whole day there—planting trees and roses and literally watching the asparagus grow. Before we left, I picked another handful of Meyer lemons from our little tree and almost a pound of rhubarb! It made me very, very happy.

When it started to get late, we came back up to Truro, and I did something that made me even happier: I put dinner on the stove—pot roast—and baked a Meyer lemon and rhubarb cobbler with a cornmeal biscuit topping. It was absolutely, positively amazing.

I wasn't sure, when I came up with it, if it would be too Holy Zing! or tart or sour or something, but actually, I think it was a little sweet. I used this as a base recipe, but swapped out the blackberries and peaches for all rhubarb, added a little lemon zest, and swapped in a little extra sugar for the honey. Oh! and I used yogurt and whole wheat flour in the topping. Some people don't like whole wheat anything in desserts, I know, but with the exception of pie crusts, I don't really mind it. I think it makes things nice and moist, and keeps them homey.

Which, you know, is something I appreciate a little extra these days.


I won't go into it again, but you can find the whole history of my original adaptation of this recipe over here. What you need to know for this version is that 1) Meyer lemon trees make excellent indoor house plants and if you have a birthday coming up I highly recommend requesting one and 2) in a Cape Cod window their fruit gets ripe right around this time of year and 3) you can use plain old lemons and this cobbler will be good, very good even, but definitely not quite the same. So there you go—find some Meyer lemons if you can, if not, cut your rhubarb anyhow and fire the oven up.

for the fruit:
4 heaping cups rhubarb, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2-2/3 cup granulated sugar (I used 3/4 cup and it was a bit too much)
juice and zest of 1 Meyer lemon or 1 smallish regular lemon
2 tablespoons flour (whole wheat or all-purpose is fine)
a pinch of cinnamon
a pinch of salt

for the cornmeal biscuit topping:
1/2 cup flour (again, whole wheat or all-purpose is fine)
1/2 cup stone ground cornmeal
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
a pinch of salt
3 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup buttermilk or heavy cream or yogurt

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Combine the rhubarb, sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a bowl and stir to mix. Add the flour, cinnamon, and salt and toss until fruit is coated. Spoon this mixture into the bottom of a 1 and 1/2 quart baking dish.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut the butter into the dry mixture, add the buttermilk or cream, and mix until a wet dough comes together.

Spoon dollops of the biscuit dough over the filling—it won't cover the entire surface; that's fine. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the biscuit topping is golden brown and the fruit is syrupy and bubbling. Serve warm, with vanilla ice cream.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
All text, photographs, and other original material copyright 2008-2010 by Elspeth Hay unless otherwise noted.