The Local Food Report: keeping rosemary alive

Every spring, I buy a rosemary plant. And every winter, despite my best intentions, I manage to kill it. My friend Pete grows all kinds of varieties of rosemary, and he says it's not my fault. They're fussy. Still, he has some tips.

Here's the Pete Krumplebeck guide to keeping rosemary alive on Cape Cod:

1. Buy the right variety. Arp is apparently the only rosemary that has half a chance of surviving winter outside, in the ground, around here. It's hardy to zone 6, while most other varieties only make it to zone 8. We're in zone 7a, so Arp is a good pick.

He also grows Tuscan, BBQ, and a prostrate rosemary, but he keeps those in pots and brings them inside for the winter.

2. Keep them outside as long as possible. I usually bring my rosemary in around October, but Pete says this is too early. They like cold roots, prefer them even, and until there's a hard freeze, they're happier outside. He says he usually brings his in sometime between Christmas and New Year's Day.

3. Keep an eye on their water. Rosemary roots are very fussy, Pete says. They don't like to be dry but they also like to be well-drained, so you need to pot them correctly. He fills the bottom of third of his pots with perlite, then uses a regular potting soil mixture without too much organic matter on top to fill them. He says you should give the plants a good dunking every 7 to 10 days, and that when you do, the water should drain out in 2-4 seconds. And whatever you do, don't water with hot water—he says that's the easiest way to kill them.

4. Put them in a sunny spot with moving air and not too much heat. Inside, rosemary will get powdery mildew if it's left still for too long. Put it near a window or a fan, or dust it off every once in a while.

5. Outside, if you're having trouble with aphids or little white flies, give it a baking soda bath. Pete calls baking soda a multi-purpose "bugicide," and says it'll work wonders.


I have long been a fan of the watermelon salad. We've been eating one version or another since the melons came into season a few weeks ago. But this riff is something new to me—I never would have thought of adding rosemary! Now I'm not sure I can imagine watermelon salad without it. It's sweet, juicy, and robust, and the feta adds salt and tang.

4 cups chilled watermelon cubes
2 ounces feta cheese, drained and crumbled
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
2 slices rustic bread
olive oil
sea salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste

Arrange the watermelon and feta in a shallow pie plate or bowl. Sprinkle the rosemary over top. Heat up a cast iron skillet or griddle, drizzle the bread with olive oil, and grill until golden on both sides. Cut into croutons.

Drizzle the salad with olive oil, arrange the croutons on top, and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Serve at once.


Pizza & pups

Today is my due date. You are not going to get a cohesive sentence out of me, so let's try pictures instead.

Puppies! No Baby Hay yet, but we bred Fisher in July, and his little ones have arrived. My sister and her boyfriend and I went to see them this weekend, and they did a fairly good if temporary job of satisfying our need to snuggle with a small mammal. They're almost four weeks old, big enough to open their eyes and wobble around and chew on each other's chins and tails, but not big enough to do much else. There are five black ones, two yellows, and one tired nursing mama. Fisher came in and took a sniff, but he seemed pretty scared of the whole situation, and quickly backed out. We spent the rest of the weekend teasing him for being such a deadbeat dad.

Oh! and we made pizza.

I'd been wanting to make homemade pizza for a while, and I finally found a good recipe for whole wheat crust. Alex's nieces were over, and my sister was visiting, and it seemed like the perfect night. The only thing was, we didn't have any of the traditional pizza toppings on hand—the tomato sauce was all tucked into the freezer, the basil was dwindling, and there wasn't even a ball of plain mozzarella in the fridge.

And so we went unconventional, and I am so, so glad that we did. Alex caramelized an onion, then stirred in some finely chopped rosemary and a good dollop of homemade fig butter to make a spread. He smoothed this on the crust, then layered on arugula, bits of cooked bacon, pieces of sauteed eggplant, goat cheese, and slices of fig and almond burrata from Kathleen Kadlik. It was sweet and savory all at once, and very, very good.


This is a pretty loose recipe. We used one ball of the whole wheat crust from the New York Times link up there, and I made fig butter from fresh figs, not dried, following Kim Boyce's recipe in Good to the Grain. This preserve is full of butter. If you use fig jam, be sure to add a few tablespoons of butter when you melt it with the onions.

1 ball whole wheat pizza dough at room temperature
cornmeal, for the peel
1 medium size onion, sliced thin
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/3 cup fig butter
olive oil
1 small eggplant, cut into thin strips
a handful of torn arugula
4 strips cooked bacon, torn into 1/2-inch pieces
1 ball fig & almond burrata mozzarella
2-3 ounces chevre

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Roll out the dough as thin as you can. We used a half sheet pan, so we rolled ours into a rectangle, but obviously you should roll yours into whatever shape your pan is. Sprinkle the pan with cornmeal and lay the dough on top.

Caramelize the onion in a heavy skillet over medium-low heat. When it's tender, add the rosemary and fig butter and sauté another minute or so, until they're warmed through. Spread this mixture evenly across the pizza dough.

In the same skillet, warm up a glug of olive oil. Salt the eggplant slices and sauté until tender, about five to eight minutes. Layer the cooked eggplant strips evenly over the pizza. Do the same with the arugula, bacon pieces, and the two cheeses.

Bake the pizza for 15-20 minutes, or until the dough is crispy around the edges and the cheeses are bubbling. Enjoy hot.


The Local Food Report: long pie pumpkin

Peter Burgess is into local history. He named his fields in Truro Six Pence Farm after he found an original 17th century six pence while he was out there digging one day. And when it comes to vegetable varieties, he prefers to grow those with some age and a story.

That's the Long Pie Pumpkin. When it's underripe, it looks sort of like an overgrown zucchini, but once it blushes orange, it's more of a pumpkin torpedo. Peter found out about it through the Fedco seed catalog, and he grew it for the first time this year.

It's said to have come over to Nantucket in 1832, aboard a whaling ship from the Isle of St. George in the Azores off of Portugal. It got popular with local farmers, and for a while it was simply called the Nantucket Pumpkin. Eventually the variety made its way north, and by the 1930s it was a favorite with growers in Androscoggin County, near where I grew up in Maine.

Farming started to peter out on Nantucket and the variety got less common in Maine, but a few growers kept it alive. According to researchers in Waldoboro, a man named John Navazio saved the seeds for years, and eventually went to work at a company called Garden City Seeds. They put the variety up for sale, and slowly but surely, it's making a comeback. RAFT listed it as an endangered heirloom last year, and in response, Chef's Collaborative sponsored a Long Pie Pumpkin "grow-out." Farmers all over New England grew the variety, told their neighbors about it, and with any luck, convinced a few more to grow it this season.

Peter Burgess, for one, is a fan. He says Long Pie Pumpkin is very resistant to squash borers and squash beetles, and that you can pick it early and let it ripen inside if you have a cold growing season. Also, most importantly, he says it makes the best pie ever, because it's sweet and meaty and cooks down like a squash.

My grandmother's recipe for pumpkin pie is up over here. I plan to get my hands on an orange torpedo asap.


Time & tomatoes

They say amniotic fluid has flavor---that babies can taste what their mothers eat, and develop food preferences in utero. If that's true, this baby is going to have quite a thing for tomatoes.

I've been eating tomatoes at least once a day since late July. Most of the time, I've been eating them simply---cut up and drizzled with olive oil, tucked into sandwiches and salads, cooked down into soups and sauce. A few weeks ago, Tom, one of the cooks at the restaurant, made a creamy tomato bisque, and I must have eaten a gallon of the stuff. I can't seem to get enough.

Out in the garden, the season's almost over, but we're still holding on. There are a few more meals left out there, and just in case this baby's not quite sure yet how it feels about tomatoes, I'm going to make these last few meals count. We're going to eat tomatoes my favorite way: sliced into big chunks, topped with torn basil and big hunks of creamy burrata mozzarella and grilled croutons, then drizzled with olive oil and sweet balsamic glaze and sprinkled with sea salt. We had this last night for dinner, and the day before for lunch.

Today when it gets to noon, I'm going to head out to the garden, pick a few last red globes, and make up another plate before time and tomatoes run out.


There are so many different versions of this it hardly counts as a recipe. The most important thing to focus on is the quality of your ingredients---you need sweet, super ripe tomatoes, and a rich creamy burrata. Recently I've been using a brand called Maplebrooks Farm from Vermont, but I also like the gorgonzola-stuffed mozarella that Kathleen Kadlik sells at the farmers' markets in Orleans, Falmouth, and Provincetown.

2 large heirloom tomatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
a handful of basil leaves, torn in half if large
1 four ounce ball of burrata or mozzarella, cut into bite-size pieces
2 slices rustic bread
olive oil
balsamic glaze
sea salt

Warm up a cast iron skillet or griddle over medium heat. Meanwhile, arrange the tomatoes, basil leaves, and cheese in a wide, shallow bowl. When the griddle's hot, drizzle the bread slices with olive oil and grill until golden and just crispy on both sides. Cut the bread into croutons. Drizzle the salad with olive oil and balsamic glaze, arrange the croutons on top, and sprinkle with sea salt. Enjoy at once.


The Local Food Report: tomatillo salsa

Good morning, everyone. I'd like to introduce the tomatillo:

Isn't it a beautiful fruit? I met it last summer, talking with Ron Backer of Surrey Farms in Brewster. He grows all sorts of interesting heirlooms, including the tomatillo, which originated in Mexico. A lot of people think it's a tomato relative, and it is in the Solanaceae family, but it's more closely related to ground cherries and Giant Cape Gooseberries. It grows inside a paper husk, and depending on the variety and how ripe it is, the fruit can be any shade from yellow to lime green to a deep violet. Most importantly, it makes a killer salsa.

Ron feels so strongly about tomatillos and salsa that he calls salsa made with regular old tomatoes gazpacho in disguise. He admits that tomatillos are a little bit sour, but he says he likes this taste, and that Americans are too into sweet. He thinks it's a cultural thing that comes from eating too much high fructose corn syrup, and that we need to start thinking like the Latin Americans and Asians who count sour and bitter as good tastes.

And really, once you taste tomatillo salsa, I don't think you'll need much convincing. He makes his by roasting the fruits, then pureeing them with jalapenos, cilantro, onions, garlic, and a little bit of lime juice and salt. I tried it the other day, and I have to say, it's delicious.

If you're looking for tomatillos, they can be kind of tricky to find, but they are around. Silverbrook Farms grows them, and they sell at the Provincetown and Falmouth farmers' markets, and there are vendors selling them in Orleans and Wellfleet, too. Happy salsa season, everyone!


This salsa is amazingly easy. There is almost no chopping involved, and it takes total about 10 minutes to make. Then all you have to do is chill it!

1 lb fresh tomatillos, husked and rinsed
2 fresh jalapeno or serrano chillies
2 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 bunch fresh cilantro
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
lime juice to taste

Preheat your oven broiler. Arrange the tomatillos, chillies, and garlic cloves on a baking sheet. Broil for about 7-8 minutes, or until the tomatillos are soft and a bit charred, turning occasionally. (I ended up taking some tomatillos out early and leaving the rest to roast a bit longer, as they cook at different rates depending on ripeness.)

Peel garlic and pull tops off of chillies. Puree in a blender or food processor along with tomatillos, cilantro, onion, salt, and lime juice. Chill before serving.


A plate to clean

Hi friends. Sorry for the radio silence. It's been a bit of a week around here---my computer decided, with exactly two weeks until my due date and exactly three radio shows still to finish---that now would be a good time to quit. I'm still waiting to hear back from the very nice man at Cape Mac, but in the meantime, I thought I'd stop by from Alex's computer.

I have to admit, it hasn't been all bad here in the land of the computer-less. I've planted lettuce, staked the dahlias, been to the beach twice, finished a book (The Shipping News---an excellent read!) and started another (The Help, so far excellent).

I've also been cooking. I made a huge batch of oven-roasted tomatoes the other day, and a big bowl of homemade salsa, and even an anchovy-garlic tomato sauce that we poured over pasta and topped with torn basil and toasted bread crumbs. As you can see, we're still in a very serious tomato phase.

That last recipe in particular turned out very nicely. I wanted to tell you about it because it came from one of those confusion inspirations---the type where you read a recipe wrong and then it turns out you're glad you did in the end. I was looking through the new Bon Appetit and there was a whole page on anchovies. I saw what I thought was a recipe for an anchovy-tomato pasta sauce, but what turned out to really be a recipe for an anchovy-laced vinaigrette that you poured over sliced tomatoes. Anyway, by the time it got to dinner time and I'd gone to the market to get anchovies and hauled in another few pounds of tomatoes from the garden, I had the pasta dish very set in my head. I didn't let it deter me, when I looked for the recipe, that it didn't actually exist.

Instead, I browned some garlic in olive oil, added the anchovies, and stirred until they sort of dissolved into a paste in the pan. Then in a separate pot I cooked down the tomatoes with onions and red wine and basil into sauce, the way I do when I'm going to put it up to freeze it. I pureed it at the end, so that it was smooth, and then added a good glug to the anchovy-garlic mixture. While the two came together, I put on a pot of water to boil and threw the pasta in, and then tore the leaves from a few basil stems. Finally, I toasted some Panko crumbs in olive oil and grated some Parmesan. When the pasta was hot and drained, I lit the candles, cut some fresh dahlias for the table, and pulled out the china. I tossed the pasta in with the anchovy-tomato sauce, arranged a nice nest of it on each plate, and sprinkled torn basil and grated Parmesan and toasted Panko crumbs on top.

Then we ate. I cleaned my plate, and Alex cleaned his. The dog sat under the table, wishing he had a plate to clean, and finally, we blew out the candles, closed the screen door, and went to bed. It was, all in all, pretty terrific.


If you're looking for anchovies, Alex sells a very nice Spanish variety at his market in Truro, which is what I used. Wherever you find yours, just be sure to use the kind marinated in vinegar, not oil, as it will give the pasta sauce a very different texture and taste. This recipe serves 2-3.

olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 package white anchovies marinated in vinegar (roughly 100 grams net weight)
1 and 1/2 cups thick, smooth tomato sauce (I used homemade tomato-basil)
1/3 pound spaghetti, cooked and drained
1/3 cup toasted Panko bread crumbs
1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated
a handful of torn basil leaves
optional: several oven roasted tomatoes, to place on top

Heat up a glug of olive oil in a large cast iron skillet over low heat. Add the garlic and saute, stirring constantly, for about a minute, or until it starts to get fragrant. Pour in the anchovies, vinegar and all, and turn the heat up to medium. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, or until the anchovies dissolve into a sort of paste with the oil and the garlic. Add the tomato sauce and continue cooking until everything is well combined and comes to a simmer. Combine the pasta and sauce and toss well.

On each plate, arrange a nest of pasta and top with toasted Panko crumbs, grated Parmesan, torn basil leaves, and if you have some on hand, a few oven roasted tomatoes. Serve immediately.


See you in a few

Hi! Happy Labor Day. I'm running out the door to work, but I just wanted to stop in and say that I hope you're having a wonderful holiday.

That up there is my friend Max celebrating the end of the season a few years ago, and I think his grin pretty much sums up how I feel about today. Sadly, I've been working all weekend, so I don't have a recipe for you today, but last week was my last full week of work (!) before the baby comes, so I'll be back in the kitchen soon.

In the meantime, enjoy the afternoon, join me in eating a watermelon or two, and I'll see you in a few days.


The Local Food Report: everbearing raspberries

Some raspberry bushes give fruit twice. Did you know that? I had a hunch, but I wasn't sure.

The thing is, growing up, we had wild raspberry bushes in our yard, and they only fruited once. The fruit sort of trickled in, a little bit sporadic, but there was definitely only one harvest, sometime in July. Then a few years ago, we put in a raspberry patch here. A friend gave us the bushes, dug up from ramblers that had grown into her yard under her neighbor's fence, and we tucked them into a sandy hill with a good helping of loam. We weren't sure what to expect, really, so when we got a seemingly erratic but plentiful harvest of goldens, black raspberries, and reds, we were pleased. They seemed to come all summer long: from June into July, with a little break in August, and then again in September. We didn't pay much attention to the pattern; we were just happy to pick.

But the other day, when I saw Jane Ditzel had red berries at the farmers' market in Orleans, it was like someone flipped on a light switch. She was telling me that this is her fall crop of berries, from her Polana variety plants, and that both of her varieties—the other one is Heritage—bear fruit twice: once in July, and again starting in September, into late October or even early November. They're everbearing varieties, she explained. This means that unlike regular raspberries, which only bear fruit on two-year old canes in mid-summer, they also bear fruit on new growth—brand new first year canes—starting in the fall until frost hits.

This explained why we'd been getting berries all season at our house: we have black raspberries, which only fruit once in June and early July, and then we got the mid-summer fruiting from our Heritage and golden plants, and then things went quiet for a little while, only to ramp back up in mid-September, just in time for Alex's birthday. I was looking through some old film, and I found this picture of Stevie the cat in the raspberry patch helping me pick. The roll was dated September 22, 2009, which made me realize we've been getting two harvests all along—I just never realized it.

At any rate, if you're interested in planting a patch, there's some very good information about hardy New England varieties, including everbearing plants, over here. And if you're more interested in eating raspberries, specifically raspberry pie, all you need to do is scroll down. It's nice to know the season's here, again.


There is something incredibly decadent about raspberry pie, I think. So many precious berries! This recipe is adapted from a recipe for blueberry pie in The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters.

dough for one 9-inch bottom and top crust
6 cups raspberries
3/4 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Roll out the dough for the bottom crust and drape it across a 9-inch pie plate.

In a large bowl, stir together the raspberries, sugar, tapioca, lemon zest and juice, and salt. Let the mixture stand 10 minutes, then pour it into the prepared pie crust. Dot the berries with the butter.

Roll out the top crust and drape it over top. Trim any excess dough so that both top and bottom crusts have a 1-inch over hang. Then roll the edges of the top and bottom crust in together toward the rim of the pie plate. Pinch the crusts together and crimp all around. Cut steam vents in the top of the crust.

Bake the pie at 400 for 15 minutes, then turn the heat down to 350 and bake until the crust is golden and the juice is thick and bubbles through the steam vents, about 45 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream.


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