The Local Food Report: starts & seeds

You know what? It's not too late. You can throw your squash vines in the compost (R.I.P, butternuts) and try to kill the army of borer beetles and what the heck even rip your spent tomatoes out, but it is Not Over Yet. There's still time! There are cold loving plants!

Natalie at Bayberry gave me the rundown the other day. She does all the ordering for the fall seedlings and seed packet sales at the nursery, and she's got some real gems. My personal favorite is Veronica Cauliflower.

Have you ever seen it? It looks like something out of science fiction. The florets are bright lime green and they swirl and point. Natalie thinks it looks like dinosaur horns. However you want to describe it, the taste is mild and sweet and a little bit nutty and a big hit. It's a bit late to start Veronicas from seed, but Natalie has starts.

Beets are another story. Natalie says beets are always better from seed—she likes Jewel-Tone and her dad likes Detroit Red and they also have a few packets of Early Wonder kicking around. Natalie says beets also like bonemeal and plenty of water, that if they dry out they can get a cavity inside. 

Then of course there are greens. Arugula and kale (lacinato up there and curly leaf are Natalie's picks) and lettuces of every shape and sort. For kale you want starts, but Natalie says it's not too late to start arugula and lettuce from seed. She recommends picking a looseleaf variety for lettuces, something that doesn't take as long as the heading varieties like Tom Thumb or Romaine. That way you can start cutting individual leaves pretty early on.

Finally, it's not too late for fennel or bush beans. Fennel will overwinter or stick around until you decide it's time to pull it out, and bush bean starts planted now will produce through the end of fall. 

Things around here are starting to wind down. The squash vine borer beetles hit us hard, and while we have arugula and fava beans coming in and kale and turnips in the ground, there's not much else going on. But Natalie's got me thinking, and what I'm thinking about is a second wind. The tomatoes are about done, the vines will be out of the hoophouse soon, and what's to stop me from transplanting baby lettuces and bean starts in? 

Bring on the seeds and let's march into fall.


It sounds unlikely, I know. But Natalie swears it's delicious, and so does her sister. It comes from their aunt, Christy Milliken.

1 onion, peeled and chopped
6 stalks celery, chopped
1 leek, trimmed and thinly sliced
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
olive oil
1/2 pound arugula
1/2 pound spinach
6 cups chicken stock
1 stick butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup heavy cream

Sauté the onion, celery, leeks, and garlic in a little bit of olive oil in a big pot over medium heat. When the veggies are soft and translucent, add the arugula and spinach and stir until wilted. Next, add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. In a separate melt the butter and slowly whisk in the flour to make a roux. Stir the roux into the soup to thicken it, then add the heavy cream. Puree with an immersion blender until smooth. Add more stock if needed. Season with salt and pepper and serve hot. 


Un-interrupted sunshine

It may be August and it may be hot and you may be tired but people RISE AND SHINE! Our farmers' are bringing it in, and now more than ever is the time to stop by. We'll be behind Preservation Hall from 8am to noon, rain or the predicted 73 degrees of pure un-interrupted sunshine. (Amora too.)

Here's what to expect for your meal planning this week:

cherry tomatoes, regular size tomatoes, basil, cucumbers, peaches, Okinawan purple sweet potatoes, yams, fingerling potatoes, squash blossoms, squash, eggs, pole beans, bush beans, eggplants, leeks, purslane, honey, mint, tomatillos, three kinds of pesto, tomatillo salsa, BEACH PLUM JAM, celery, red cabbage, hot peppers, sweet peppers, Turkish eggplants (think tiny plastic jack-o-lanterns), blackberries, and kale (pending a cessation of the rain). 

Oh! and if you're having a dinner party, you don't have to bake. Anabel, Marissa, and Michelle have got you covered with pies in every size and plenty of homemade sweets. 

Happy Labor Day week!


A taste of it

You can feel the change. I wore pajamas to bed last night, and when Alex left for work early this morning, I pulled on another quilt. Sunrise on it's still summer, though. There are still green beans coming in from the garden and there's corn at the markets and the other day we had a classic Cape Cod lobster dinner. 

It was a nice way to pretend, for a few hours, that we're on vacation here. That we're not up early and late and secretly, in a wistful way, counting down the hours til Labor Day. We boiled lobsters and corn and steamed green beans with butter, and then we made a big dish of potato salad. We had beer and chocolate chip cookies with vanilla ice cream for dessert, and when we were done we went straight to bed without doing a single dish. 

It was magnificent.

The next day we had three lobsters left over, and today my sister and I picked the meat and made a top-notch lobster salad. It was a good way to keep the feeling going: leftover melted butter from dipping, a touch of mayo and lemon juice, and a small red onion, sliced thin. We are eating it as I type—Sally's flinging onions from her high chair, Anna's stealing mouthfuls as she clears the dishes, and I'm taking bites in between sentences. We are not, after all, on vacation. Still, it's awfully nice to get a taste of it.


I like my lobster salad simple. This version pairs particularly well with sliced tomatoes and cucumbers and a nice tangy vinaigrette. 

2 and 1/2 cups chopped lobster meat (from about three 1 and 1/4 to 1 and 1/2 pound bugs)
1 small red onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons melted butter (we used the leftover from dipping lobster meat when we ate them whole the day before)
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
a squeeze of lemon juice
a pinch of sea salt

Toss together all the ingredients until the lobster is evenly coated with dressing and well mixed with the onions. Serve at once.


The Local Food Report: county garden

There's a demonstration garden at the Barnstable County Fairgrounds in East Falmouth. It's an educational exhibit, and it's always open to the public. You ought to go check it out in person—it's a county resource, and it's fantastic. But just in case you have to work for the rest of August or the traffic's too much, let's take a virtual tour:

We're standing in the middle of nine raised beds. The one you see up there is full of soybeans, and the one behind us is freshly planted with chard and lettuces. You can see Russ Norton, horticultural educator for the county, giving them some water below.

You can also see the six huge high bush blueberry plants behind him. They're on the outside of the area where the raised beds are, surrounded on all sides by chicken wire and fence. They're very, very well protected. 

There are also red and white onions:

and purple cabbage:

and sweet potatoes:

Who would have thought they grew like that, in a big tangle of vines? I didn't even realize sweet potatoes grew here, this far north, on Cape Cod without a miracle or a greenhouse.  So long as you get right varieties, they do great. (Those are Bonita, Evangeline, and Beauregard.) 

Same goes for artichokes. Russ says the varieties that do well here are Violetto and Imperial Star:

The garden was also sporting the most fantastic tomato cages I've seen in a long time. They were homemade, built out of stakes, and about 10 feet high. 

I left this place pretty inspired. What do you think? Will you plant ground cherries next year? Build tomato cages? Plant a bed of sweet potatoes and embrace the vines? 

8.27.12 Here's a P.S. photo for anonymous! 


The Local Food Report: blueberries & fowl

Remember Stan? He's still out in the fields at Coonamessett. He's still fighting the good fight—still tying up tomatoes and weeding leeks and tending hens. And he's still innovating. A few years ago he had a pile of fowl he wanted to put on pasture, but nowhere with a fence. He also had plans to fence off and net an acre of blueberries. He decided to kill two birds with one stone, and these days, when you go into the field to pick, there are turkeys pecking at your shoelaces.

Luckily they're friendly, and they don't eat too many berries beyond the drops. Even better, they are Stan's very own army of two-legged mowers, weedwackers (see page 14, front and center), and insectivores. Hurrah for the birds!

In terms of pest control, Stan's not sure exactly how much the birds are doing. They could be eating winter moths or helping with fruit flies (see the bottom left of page 9) or even the new spotted fruit flies that attack the fruit before it gets ripe. All he knows is he had a bumper crop of berries this year, and he's also raising some pretty fine pastured birds. It's a win-win-win

Which brings me to the jam. Last week our friends Teresa and Ed were renting out their house. That same week, Teresa received a 10 pound delivery of local berries from a friend. She didn't have a jam-ready kitchen, so she came over to use ours. I had to go to work, so she hung out with my parents and Sally while she cooked, and when I came home there were clean counters and five jars of anise-spiced blueberry jam. It is an experience I would like to have again.

Happily, I can relive it every time I eat the jam. Which will be generously and often, on hot griddle toast with butter-stained hands.


I've never made blueberry jam. I learned from my mother, who makes strawberry and rhubarb and blackberry, and I guess it never occurred to me to put blueberries into anything other than crisps and pies and open hands. This is the jam to change that stance—sweet, big, with warm undertones of lemon and anise.

Teresa got her inspiration from the Blue Chair Jam Cookbook and the French confiture genius Christine Ferber. Finally, an interesting note about using unlined copper jam pots over here.

12 pints blueberries
5 pounds granulated sugar
1 and 1/2 cups lemon juice
2 "stars" of star anise

Combine the blueberries and sugar in a gigantic pot (alternatively, make two batches). Add the lemon juice and bring slowly to a simmer, stirring to be sure the jam doesn't scorch on the bottom of the pan. Once the sugar has dissolved, raise the heat to bring the jam to the boil. Let it bubble, stirring often. You can skim the firm foam that builds on top; as Teresa says, this gives you something to do while the jam jams. It takes about 15 minutes for the jam to begin to look less liquidy and for the juices to seem a little sticky. That's when it's done. Pack hot into hot sterilized jars.

Yield: about 20 pints.


See you

Tomorrow. In Wellfleet; 355 Main behind Preservation Hall. 

We'll have cukes, squash blossoms, beans, peaches, fingerling potatoes, cherry tomatoes & big ones too! honey, zucchini, baked goods, greens, Pattypan squashes, eggs, basil, leeks, onion braids, pineapple tomatillos, and maybe, just maybe, Turkish eggplant. 

And this just in from our musicians: a few compostably packed home-made Wellfleet songs plus live music and a petition for green energy.

Be there! (8 to noon, rain or shine) —we will.


Ratatouille pie

Anonymous, are you out there? 

I got your note about the pie. I'm glad you wrote it, too, because I don't have much else to offer here today. Alex has been working like crazy, I've been working an extra shift, and we've both had enough family in town that we haven't had to cook much. We've been surviving on their kindness and simple salads from the garden: cucumbers, tomatoes, green beans. The salad dressing is homemade, and that's about as close to cooking as we get these days. 

Soon enough things will calm down—two weeks, I think—and when they do, ratatouille will be first on my list. I've got green peppers coming along in the garden and plenty of heirlooms, and I've seen the first of the eggplants and the big meaty onions at the market. 

I usually freeze all of my ratatouille, but this year, I think I'll make a pie fresh. Sally likes a good egg, and it'd be nice to serve it up with bacon and veggies and a pie crust that's homemade. 

When I do, Anon., I'll be thinking of you. Thank you for the reminder, and for being here, as always.


When I asked my mom for this recipe, she first told me she didn't have one. She did eventually dig it up, but the point is, it's very open to substitutions and variations. If you don't like bacon, it's perfectly good without it, although as a bacon fan I have to say it adds a nice hit of flavor. 

7 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 cups ratatouille
1/4 cup grated cheese (cheddar or mozzarella both work well)
1 bottom pie crust, partially baked
4 eggs
1-2 tablespoons milk
1-2 tablespoons flour

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Combine the bacon, ratatouille, and cheese and spread this mixture over the bottom of the pie crust. Whisk the eggs, milk, and flour together in a small bowl and pour the egg mixture into the pie crust over the veggies. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the eggs are set and a big golden on top. Serve warm or chilled.


The Local Food Report: summer beans

There is a bean for everyone. There are beans for people with cool soil. There are beans for chefs. There are beans for grandmothers and there are beans for everyone in between. What's your bean profile? 

To find out, I made you a quiz. That's right, Seventeen style. Enjoy & report back! (If you click on the quiz, it opens up bigger in a new window.)

(You will note that the yellow Yes! variety is missing. You can find it below under Indy Gold. Sorry about that!)

Haricot Vert: These French fillet beans can be fussy. Chefs love them, but with most varieties you have to check on them and pick daily—or even hourly—to get them while they're the right size. 

Provider: Your grandmother's standby. Germinates well in cool soil and is resistant to many pests and fungi. A very high yielding variety with an early crop.

Empress: According to many seed catalogs, you have to plant this slightly later than Provider but it's just as good for yield and better for taste. Crisp and great for canning and freezing.

Royal Burgundy: Purple on the outside but green on the inside. Thanks to a chemical reaction these beans turn green when cooked. Crisp and nutty with great yield. Delicious!

Indy Gold: Comparable to Provider in terms of hardiness and yield and resistance; good for shelling or eating fresh.

Dragon Langerie: Flat purple and green streaked pods—stunning. Crisp and great for eating raw. 

We grew Masai Bush Haricot Vert this year. The bulk of our crop came in the other day, and to celebrate we made a nicoise salad. It seemed only fitting for a French fillet bean.


This is a summer salad by definition. It calls for fresh green beans, waxy new potatoes, local quail eggs, and pan-seared bluefin tuna. They key to the dressing is the anchovies, which provide a serious kick of salt. 

1 recipe anchovy vinaigrette (see below)
2 6 oz tuna steaks
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 head butter lettuce, washed and torn
a handful of parsley leaves
1 pound new potatoes, scrubbed, diced, and boiled til tender
a handful of capers
8 hardboiled quail eggs, peeled and halved
a handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
1 pound haricot vert or fresh green beans

Season the tuna with salt and pepper. Warm up a skillet or cast iron griddle over high heat; pour on the oil and let that warm up. Sear the tuna for about 2 minutes per side. Set the fish aside.

In a large bowl, toss together the butter lettuce, parsley, and anchovy vinaigrette. Layer on top the new potatoes, capers, quail eggs, cherry tomatoes, haricot vert, and tuna. Serve at once.


2 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1/2 small shallot, minced
2-4 anchovy fillets
salt, pepper, and parsley to taste
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons warm water
a pinch of sugar
1/2 cup olive oil.

Pulse all ingredients together in a blender until well-mixed.



The Local Food Report: gourmet trucks

J'aime Sparrow thinks that fast food should also be local and fresh. 

Here she is, peeking out the window of the new food truck she and her husband Christian opened on the side of Route 6 in Wellfleet. He's a designer; she's a chef, and together they've created a road side restaurant that is tasty, affordable, and stocked almost entirely with local food. They're working with people like Ron Backer and Lucas Dinwiddie in Brewster, Peter Burgess in Truro, and Andrew Cummings in Wellfleet. Right now the menu looks like this:

And they're not the only ones. Heidi Pleso opened a gourmet food truck called Fiddlestix in Sandwich, where she's serving up things like an all-local Caprese salad with mozzarella from Fromage A Trois and Crow Farm veggies.

The gourmet food truck movement started in New York City and Los Angelos, but lo and behold it has made its way to the east coast, Paris, and even Cape Cod. Last year, Zagat even added a food truck review category. 

There was supposed to be a food truck festival at the Barnstable County Fairgrounds at the end of August, but unfortunately our leg of the journey was cancelled. (The tour is still going on, though, and is getting as close as Rhode Island, Hingham, and Framingham, so check here for dates and locations around New England.)

You can find out current menu and location info for Sunbird and Fiddlestix on Facebook. You can see a photo gallery and read more about top gourmet food trucks around the country over here, and there's more about the movement over here.


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