FARM TO SCHOOL AT TRURO CENTRAL // the local food report

School. It's where we, as a society, try to set our best example. At least, that's idea. Right? Except, it doesn't always happen. In the cafeteria there are so many issues at play: shrinking budgets. Kids' tastes. Parents' tastes. Federal guidelines. Federal subsidies. Purchasing contracts. Twenty years ago, my mom packed my lunch. But things are getting better. Last year Obama signed into law the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act—the first change in fifteen years—which gave the nutrition requirements a serious overhaul. I don't agree with all of the changes. In particular, I find the low-fat rhetoric pretty outdated. But I'm all for fruits and veggies every day of the week, more whole grains, proper portion size, and the elimination of trans fats. 

And there are some pretty cool things going on in local schools. Truro, for one, is cooking local meals twice a week. Warren Faulkenburg has been cooking there for twenty years. Two years ago, he and the school nurse, Helen Grimm, and the non-profit Sustainable Cape worked together with Principal (and Superintendent, as Truro Central is a one-school district) Brian Davis to put together a Farm to School program. That up there is chicken from Drew Locke's farm in Truro, Hillside Poultry. Drew is in his early twenties, raises his chickens on pasture, and happens to be a former student of Truro Central. The kids at Truro Central eat Drew's chicken once a week, every Thursday. They also have fresh local fish once a week, and in the fall and spring they get local greens and other produce and harvest veggies from the raised beds the kids tend on the property.

It's pretty cool. There are other schools all over our area doing great things with local food, and over the next few months we're going to profile a few of them here. If you have suggestions, we'd love to hear them! Let us know what your local school is doing.



I wasn't sure I was going to share this recipe with you or not. Even though the crackers are delicious. Even though I made them with locally grown whole-wheat flour—hard red spring wheat, to be specific—from Fairwinds Farm in Bowdoinham. The thing is, I hadn't made them in a while, and to be honest, I'd forgotten what they actually look like. They're not exactly magazine-cover material, are they? 

It was my fishmonger son-in-law who saved the day. He was spending the night on his way up to the mountains for a ski weekend, and I'd just pulled the crackers out of the oven. We were hovering around the kitchen counter devouring them, but I was also fretting over what they looked like. "I think they're too ragtag for the blog," I lamented.  "Are you kidding?" said Alex. "We ate something that looked and tasted exactly like this at Fore Street in Portland last night." Well, OK, then! Back when Gourmet Magazine was in business, it ranked Fore Street number 16 in a list of the top 50 restaurants in the country. 

The dough for these crackers comes together in about 2 minutes. But then you need to roll the dough into a log, slice it, roll out and seed the crackers, carefully transfer them to a cookie sheet, and brush them with butter. It gets a little fussy, but not in a bad way—just in a don't-think-you're-gonna-do-this-in-10-minutes kind of way. It probably took me a good 45 minutes to make them.

If I had all the time in the world, I could have trimmed the crackers into tidy squares once I put them on the cookie sheet. But I don't have that kind of time. In fact, I have a monster pile of post-holiday editing sitting on my desk, and I need to get back to it. I'm sure you're busy too. So here's the recipe. If you can get your hands on some locally grown wheat, so much the better.

Happy cracker making!


This recipe, with a few small changes, comes from my dog-earred 1976 copy of Laurel's Kitchen, where it's called "Crispy Seed Wafers." I recommend using the ground nuts, but note that they'll probably require you to use a little more water. I also recommend a few sheets of wax paper or parchment paper, which I find easier to use than a floured countertop once I start rolling out the crackers.

31/2 cup ground nuts (optional)
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/4 cup melted butter, divided
1/4 cup warm water
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons seeds: pretty much any seed, or mix of seeds, will do; I like to use equal parts poppy seeds, sesame seeds, and caraway seeds
sea salt and ground pepper (optional)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

Mix the dry ingredients together, including the nuts, then add 2 tablespoons of the melted butter, the water, and the vinegar. Mix thoroughly and then knead for a few minutes to form a stiff dough. If necessary, add a tiny bit more water if the dough is too dry, or a little more flour if it's too wet.

Shape your dough into a cylinder about 12 inches long (it will help if you oil your hands lightly) and place it on a sheet of wax paper. Using a good sharp knife, gently slice the roll into about 16 slices.

Now get another sheet of wax paper, for rolling out the crackers. Start by spreading about a teaspoon of seeds in a small circle on the paper. Press one slice of your dough firmly onto the seeds and, using a rolling pin, roll it into a paper-thin wafer. Sprinkle some more seeds on top of the wafer and roll these in too.

Once you have a few wafers ready, use a spatula with a good sharp edge to gently transfer them onto an un-greased cookie sheet. Brush lightly with melted butter. I like to add a quick grind of sea salt and sometimes pepper too. Bake 5–8 minutes—the exact time will depend on how thin your wafers are. The goal is to get them as well-baked (i.e., dry) as possible without burning them.

Repeat with the remaining dough. The crackers will keep at least a week in an airtight container. Be sure they're completely cool before storing, otherwise they won't stay crisp.


GINGER // the local food report

The surprises are what make my work interesting. I went to talk with Stan about turkeys, but I found him in the greenhouse weeding ginger. I knew people were growing it—people in Maine and people in Western Massachusetts—but I had no idea locally grown ginger was happening here, in our long sliver of the state.

It is. Stan started two years ago, after digging for small nubs at the grocery store. He planted these nubs—small pieces of the regular old ginger you buy—in small pots in February or March. They were in a greenhouse, a space that never went below 50 degrees F at night at got up to maybe 75 or 80 on sunny days. Some took a month to sprout, others six weeks. But they almost all did. He transplanted them to the greenhouse floor, and eight months later, that up there is what they looked like—a lush, tropical row of green.

The roots that peek out underneath look like the roots my mom bought in Maine—same shape and size as what you'd find at the grocery store, but less mature. Instead of the tough brown skin, it's white blushed with pink.

It's beautiful. Stan says his wife likes to use it for fresh ginger tea. When I get a cold I always use fresh ginger to make a hot remedy—lemon juice and garlic and honey and fresh ginger with hot water poured over top. Usually, I buy the ginger at the store. But next month I'm thinking of planting my own. Stan says all you need is a wide, shallow pot, a ginger nub from the store, some rich soil that drains well, and a sunny window.

You in?



I have a thing for broccoli salads. I thought everyone did, but I have been set straight.

Apparently most people (or at least most people I know) think raw broccoli is gross and the dressing most people toss it with is too sweet and the chunks are usually too big. And here I've been enjoying it all these years! I feel sort of like Berger when Carrie told him about the scrunchies. I am here to defend broccoli salad.

The recipe I like comes from Smitten Kitchen, from the hilarious Deb Perelman, who is not afraid of a good broccoli slaw. She got the low-down from her husband's cousin. (Though apparently her husband also stands firmly in the anti-raw-broccoli camp. His loss.) At any rate, it is everything we broccoli-salad lovers want it to be: yes, the dressing is sweet, the broccoli is crunchy, and the almonds add just the loveliest little bit of nuttiness. Oh yeah, and there are enough red onions and shallots in the mix that you taste them on your breath for at least an hour afterward.

In short, it is heaven.


This recipe (with one change) comes from Deb Perelman at SmittenKitchen.com. A note about buttermilk: in many recipes you can substitute powdered buttermilk or whole milk plain yogurt for the real deal, but I don't recommend that here. You want the thickness and the sweetness of true buttermilk for this recipe. It makes about six cups of salad. 

1/2 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 small shallot, finely chopped (scant 1/4 cup)
2 heads broccoli
1/2 cup thinly sliced almonds, toasted
1/2 small red onion, sliced very thin
sea salt and pepper

First make the dressing. Combine the buttermilk, mayo, cider vinegar, sugar, and shallot in a mason jar and shake well. Set aside.

Trim the broccoli stems and cut the heads into big pieces. Cut each big piece into fine slivers—remember, it's staying raw and you want crunch, not inedibility—you can use either a knife or a mandolin. Toss the broccoli in a large bowl with the almonds, red onions, and all of the dressing. Season with salt and pepper to taste (it doesn't need much). Serve at once. 

The salad will keep a couple of days in the fridge, though the almonds will get less crunchy as time goes on.


A MOBILE GREENHOUSE // the local food report

Yesterday I spent the morning building a little moveable row cover. It's tiny—44 inches wide by maybe 60 inches long, but it'll be enough to house our lettuce starts come February. By the time they get big enough to be crowded, we'll be able to pull the cover off and transplant them into rows. In a climate like ours, it's all about getting a jump start.

My friend Lucas Dinwiddie is working to do this on a much bigger scale. Last spring he got a Matching Enterprise Grant for Agriculture, or what the state calls a "MEGA" grant. The idea is to help beginning farm businesses in Massachusetts with start up or expansion costs. In Lucas's case, the grant helped him build what you see up there—a 25 by 12 foot mobile greenhouse that slides back and forth over a 50 foot plot.

The idea comes from Eliot Coleman. He's the one growing greens and root vegetables and lemons year round in Maine, and he and his wife Barbara Damarosch have written quite a few books and articles on four season farming. The idea with the moveable greenhouse is that different crops need insulation at different times of the year. 

For instance, if you had a three plot system, the rotation might go something like this. You cover winter greens in Field A from late November through mid March. Then in early April, once the weather has warmed up enough that the greens will be fine without covering, you slide the hoophouse down the tracks 25 feet to Field B and get a jumpstart on your tomato crop by planting the seeds in the ground under the plastic. Once the frost free date comes, you slide the hoophouse another 25 feet to Field C where you plant seedlings of a heat-loving crop like peppers or melons. You leave the hoophouse over them for the summer, then cover another crop of greens come fall. It's a pretty ingenious system. 

There are all sorts of different combinations of crop rotations you can do, and you can put as many beds in a row as you want as long as you have a long row of level space. Eliot Coleman lays out one plan that has five fields! Lucas's has a two plot system, and his plan is to cover greens in the cool months and tomatoes in the summer. 

Beyond the two-for-one aspect—Lucas has essentially gained two greenhouse spaces for the price of one, which is pretty cool—the mobile greenhouse also helps combat common soil problems that arise in continually covered spaces. Pests, diseases, excess nutrient salts, and dry soil are all more common in stationary greenhouses, but are much less problematic in fields that are covered only part of the year. 

If you're interested in building something similar, check out these online plans from Eliot Coleman. And if you're interested in doing something on a smaller scale, I'll post a photo and plans for my moveable row cover soon. Hard to believe, but it's time to start thinking about planting again soon. Happy dreaming!



In Maine, where Sally and I are visiting my mom and sister and dad, it's minus 9. Today is the kind of day where I look for excuses to turn on the oven. Need a piece of bread toasted? We should probably crank the oven on. Garlic for the salad dressing? Let's roast it. In that spirit, we're having homemade pizza for dinner tonight, and for breakfast tomorrow, I want to recommend these blueberry muffins. 

I printed them out from 101cookbooks.com the day Heidi posted them. It was two days after my mother's 60th birthday last March, and I just the other day got around to baking them, which tells you something about the height of the recipe pile I keep in our kitchen. It is mammoth.

I'm glad I finally unearthed these, because they are keepers. They're kind of like a cross between banana bread and blueberry muffins, which is pretty much the best breakfast goodie union I can imagine. You mix whole grain flour with muscovado sugar, frozen blueberries, butter, and mashed bananas. Then you pour the batter into tins, sprinkle blueberries and cinnamon on top, and pour the extra batter into a small loaf pan. Finally, you bake. They don't need long—15, maybe 20 minutes—and then you're ready to pull them out, spread them with butter, and feel the warmth spread from mouth to belly, belly to limbs. 


I used frozen wild Maine blueberries here, but high bush would also work, as would fresh in season. I think you could use just about any kind of berries—blackberries would be especially amazing. You can also sub whole wheat flour for the spelt flour. Finally, I used muscovado sugar because I was looking for the least refined option, but brown sugar would work just fine. This recipe makes 1 and 1/2 dozen muffins, or a dozen muffins and a small loaf of breakfast bread.

3 and 1/2 cups spelt flour
1/2 cup firmly packed muscovado sugar
3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup yogurt
1 cup whole milk
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup frozen blueberries, plus more for topping
cinnamon, for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with baking cups, and grease a small loaf pan if you're using it. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and baking powder.

In another bowl, combine the bananas, yogurt, milk, eggs, vanilla, and melted butter. 

Stir the blueberries in with the dry ingredients, then pour the wet ingredients in and mix until just barely combined. Pour the batter into the muffin tins until they're almost full and then pour the extra into the loaf pan, if using. Sprinkle the tops of the muffins and loaf with extra blueberries and a little bit of cinnamon. Bake for 25-40 minutes, depending on the size of your muffins and/or loaf. they are done when they're golden on top and a cake tester comes out clean. Cool for 15-20 minutes before digging in.


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