BLUEBERRY BUCKLE // the local food report

We could talk about something else. But I'd rather keep talking about blueberries. We have eaten 15 pints in 8 days, and the feeling of bounty is what I imagine it might be like to win the lottery. We've picked 29 pints in all, frozen 13, and used one to make a blueberry buckle. 

We'll talk more about the buckle in a minute, but in the meantime I want to take a second to talk about varieties. I was picking wild blueberries the other day, and I noticed that there were very light and very dark blueberries on bushes right next to each other. Some were big, some were smaller, some were tart, and some were sweet. But they were all there, in the same swamp, side by side. I decided to check in my field guide when I got home, and I discovered that there are four distinct varieties of wild blueberries that grow in our area. I also learned that huckleberries are a close relative, and that something called the bilberry is also related and edible. (Though I have yet to knowingly encounter one.) The distinguishing feature to look for on all three berries is the crown at the base of the berry—it should have five sharp points ringed in a circle. I also learned that blueberries and huckleberries often cross in the wild, which could explain why I saw so many varieties growing in one area. If you're interested, here's the blueberry page, from Wild Edible Plants of New England by Joan Richardson. (It will get bigger if you click on it.)

I think I've found mostly early low and classic highbush blueberries around here, though that doesn't explain the darker berries, which I'm guessing are a blueberry-huckleberry hybrid. I've seen them on the edges of ponds, in the woods all over Wellfleet, and in wet areas in the dunes on the bay side. 

All of this reading up got me curious about domesticated blueberry varieties, too, which is how I met Stephen Spear of Hokum Rock Farm in Dennis and put together this week's Local Food Report (you can listen here). He grows five varieties, and in the process of researching for the show, I discovered there are dozens of other domesticated varieties. The best online review I've found for gardeners in our area is through Cornell University over here. Stephen grows Duke, Spartan, Bluecrop, Bluegold, and Coville, all of which do well with cold winters and are known for big, sweet berries with high yielding plants. This in turn makes for happy pick-your-own customers, and a productive acre and a half. Stephen's planted 1500 plants in all, and the varieties ripen in the order listed above to span a season that lasts from early July to mid-August. It's pretty neat.

As for the blueberry buckle, it's Stephen's recipe. I'm not entirely sure how it's intended to be eaten, but it's one of those things I think can be called a cake at dinner time and a coffee cake in the morning. In other words, I can always find an excuse to cut off a slice. It feels celebratory and decadent and is both sweet and moist, and in general lives up to the way summer ought to feel. It's a keeper, I think.


This recipe is adapted from the one posted online at the Hokum Rock Farm website. You could use small berries, but I think it's best with the big highbush varieties, as they melt into the dough and form big pockets of sweetness. If you're freezing berries, this would totally work as a winter dish—just thaw the berries before you throw them in.

for the cake:
3/4 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons soft butter
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
2 cups blueberries

for the crumb topping:
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons butter at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch square cake pan. In a large bowl, beat together the sugar, butter, and egg. Stir in the milk.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, and salt. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just mixed, then fold the berries in carefully. Spread the mixture into the prepared pan.

To make the topping, whisk together the dry ingredients in a small bowl and then cut in the butter. Spread evenly over berry mixture and bake for 40-50 minutes, until just set.

Cool for at least 15 minutes before serving. After dinner, a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top is nice. In the morning, it's especially good with milky coffee.



Most of the time, I like my green beans al dente. Raw even, in a salad, or lightly sautéed so that they're just past crunchy, moving toward tender. But there are exceptions. This dish, something Rawia Bishara calls "Fasooliya bi Zeit" in Arabic, is one. It's a side dish, something you want to serve with bread or rice, something you want cooked through, wilted, thoroughly sauced. It takes the best of summer produce—green beans and tomatoes—and cooks them down with garlic and shallots and spices into a sort of July comfort food. It's more of a meal than most things I've done with green beans, and it's delicious.

It's not, as you can see, very pretty, but it makes up for that in droves with its flavors. Oh! And that's the bean teepee I told you about this spring, all fleshed out. We choose Rattlesnake and Blue Coco for our pole bean varieties, and as you can see above and below, they're thriving. Sally loves having a hiding spot in the garden, and I like it because it keeps her somewhat contained and happy.

Happy bean season, friends. 


This recipe comes from Olives, Lemon, & Za'atar by Rawi Bishara. She's originally from Israel and now runs a restaurant in Brooklyn that we learned about through a friend's wedding. She says this dish is a regular on Friday night dinner tables in her home country, and it's best served with bread or rice to mop up the sauce.

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 heaping tablespoon ground coriander
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon ground allspice
2 and 1/2 pounds green beans, both ends trimmed, cut into 1 and 1/2-inch pieces
1 and 1/2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt
3 large tomatoes, chopped, with their juice
8 ounces diced or crushed canned tomatoes
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Warm up the olive oil over high heat in a large pot. Add the shallots and sauté for about a minute, until soft and fragrant. Add the garlic, cook another 30 seconds or so stirring constantly, and stir in the spices. Cook another 30 seconds and add the green beans, salt, and tomatoes. Stir to combine, turn down the heat to medium, cover, and cook for 10 minutes, until the green beans are tender. Stir in the crushed tomatoes and lemon juice and cook uncovered for another 4-5 minutes. Taste for salt and adjust as needed.

The original recipe calls for serving this hot, but I actually like it better cold the next day. It reminds me of a deli side. That said, it is still delicious straight out of the pot. This serves quite a few, so you should have enough left over to experiment with it both ways.


PICK YOUR OWN // the local food report

Growing up, I went strawberry picking. I've written about it here before—it's still an annual ritual, and every year my sister and I go home to pick with my parents in Maine. It's something I want Sally to grow up doing, but so far, I haven't found a pick-your-own strawberry farm on the Cape that recreates the experience.

So instead, we're picking blueberries. We visited Hokum Rock Blueberry Farm in Dennis for the first time last August, on the last day of the season. We were too late to do any serious picking—the fields were almost picked out, and we each only got a pint. But this year we showed up the first week, and the haul was amazing. I picked 10 pints in half an hour, and we went back this week for more. The thing that struck me most about the morning was how much fun everyone was having. There wasn't a single person in the field who wasn't exclaiming over the size of the berries or how many there were, or sharing their plans for what they were going to do with them. Ninety-six-year-old Marie Pont, up there with her son Ron, put it perfectly. "This," she said, "is heaven." 

Over the course of the morning, I spoke with all kinds of people—toddlers, parents, grandparents, honeymooners—from all over the East Coast. Here's what they're planning on making.

The Blueberry Smash: A cocktail with fresh muddled blueberries, mint, lemon and lime slices, and a generous pour of vodka and St. Germain.

Blueberry Pie: I like a traditional recipe, from the Joy of Cooking. But a kid named Joe from Westchester, New York says he and his siblings make blueberry pie with melted marshmallows on top. You use a traditional 9-inch crust, make a regular blueberry pie filling, and then let the marshmallows melt while it bakes to make a kind of meringue. It sounds just like this recipe, except with blueberries.

Blueberry Bread: This blueberry-lemon version from Bon Appétit is amazing. Kind of like pound cake, except in loaf form.

Blueberry Muffins: This version, with bananas and spelt flour, is a favorite around here.

Blueberry Pancakes: Try using this recipe with rye flour and buttermilk for a tangy, lumberjack twist on the original.

Happy blueberry season, everyone!


LEMON-VERBENA SCENTED POUND CAKE // the local food report

It's waay too hot and humid for the oven. I know. And yet, the other night after dinner, Sally and I found ourselves baking a cake. The cake in question is a riff on David Lebovitz's bay-leaf scented pound cake, only we used lemon verbena leaves. I'd been learning about unusual summer herbs for this week's Local Food Report, and lemon verbena and orange with a rich sour cream batter sounded very, very right. 

It was. The specimen you see up there is the unglazed version, but I've included the glaze in the recipe below. With it, it's dessert. Without it, it can pass for breakfast, which is how we've been justifying the slices that disappear at 7am. 


Adapted from this recipe by David Lebovitz. If you can't get your hands on lemon verbena leaves, you can always try the original! I've made it both ways, and it's amazing pretty much no matter what.

for the cake:
6 tablespoons butter, melted
14 fresh lemon verbena leaves
1 and 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
finely grated zest of one orange
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

for the glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 and 1/2 tablespoons orange juice, plus more if needed
1 teaspoon orange liquor, like Grand Mariner

Grease a standard 9-inch loaf pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 

Dip ten of the lemon verbena leaves in the butter and arrange them on the bottom of the loaf pan. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In another small bowl, whisk together the butter, eggs, sour cream, orange zest, and vanilla. Use a spatula to gently fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just mixed. Scrape the batter into the pan, then arrange the remaining four lemon verbena leaves on top. Bake for 35-45 minutes, until just set. It's better to under- than over-bake this cake.

Cool for ten minutes in the pan, then gently take the loaf out. Cool completely before glazing. To make the glaze, stir together the powdered sugar, orange juice, and orange liquor until smooth. Pour the glaze over the cake, and let it drip down the sides and harden before serving.



From Sally, a public service announcement: If there's a birthday coming up in your life, you ought to make the person you're celebrating this chocolate cake. It is dead simple, and sinfully, amazingly delicious. It's also easy to make gluten-free, in the event that the person you're baking for can't tolerate wheat. You will thank her, she says. Oh! And lick the bowl. Even if it wrecks your face.

And from me, birthday wishes. Happiest of days to Siobhan and Casey, two of my very best friends in the world. I'm not sure what exactly, but I feel like it means something that you were born on the same day. 



A few years ago—five, maybe six?—we planted a mulberry tree. I got the idea from a neighborhood my sister lived in during college, where every summer it rained mulberries. They stained the sidewalks and porches and stuck to people's shoes, but there were heaps and heaps of beautiful black berries. 

Our tree started producing right away, and every year it's gotten bigger. This year for the first time, the top branches are too high to reach. So the other day Sally and I took out three old sheets, laid them on the ground around the tree, and gave it a good shake. I'd say we got about a quart of berries, and judging by the number of green ones still on the tree, I'd say we have at least another 4-5 quarts coming.

But besides eating them, I'm not really sure what to do with all these mulberries. I've never had enough to try jam or cobbler or ice cream. They don't hold their shape for long, but the flavor is fantastic—subtle, not too sweet, almost grape-y. So I'm wondering—anyone out there have any ideas for mulberries? Any must-try recipes? In the meantime, we'll be snacking.



We're just home from five busy, wonderful days in Wellfleet. I took my copy of The Farm by Ian Knauer, and Elspeth and I had fun perusing it together. I'd been especially eager to try this beet and snap pea salad. It's not as quick and easy as the garlic scape pesto Elspeth wrote about a few days ago, but it's very tasty. It's also gorgeous. I thought the original recipe was fussier than it needed to be, so I've pared down the steps in our version. 

Two tips. (1) Don't use several small beets, as I did the first time I made the recipe; it makes the peeling and slicing a big nuisance. A few good-sized beets are much easier to handle. (2) If you can find fresh black walnuts, lucky you. The taste is incomparable. Regular walnuts will work just fine, however. 

We made this for lunch yesterday, after working all morning in the garden. It's more substantial than you might think, especially with the ricotta on it. We served it as a ploughman's lunch: with a platter of fresh carrots, cheese, two types of hard salami, and some nice crackers, alongside a big pitcher of freshly made iced tea. Then we sat down at the picnic table and dug in. We all agreed: it was different, a good addition to our usual salad repertoire, and altogether a perfect summer lunch.


This recipe comes from The Farm by Ian Knauer. We've adapted it slightly to make it simpler. It serves 6.

1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound sugar snap peas
1 pound beets; a combination of varieties—red and golden, for example—are especially beautiful
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint, plus a few leaves for garnish
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/2  teaspoons sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup ricotta

Toast the walnuts in the olive oil in a small skillet, over medium-high heat, for 2–3 minutes—until they are nicely golden. Watch them carefully, as they can go in an instant from just-right-done to burned. Set aside and let cool.

Trim the peas, slice them thinly on the diagonal, and put them in a large bowl. 

Trim the roots off the beets, peel them, and slice them thinly. (If you have one, a mandolin works well for this.) Cut the slices into thin matchsticks and add them to the bowl with the peas. 

Add the nuts and olive oil, mint, vinegar, salt, and pepper and toss the salad gently. Serve with a garnish of mint leaves and dollops of ricotta on the side.


GARLIC SCAPE PESTO // the local food report

Garlic scapes. You see them everywhere at farmers' markets this time of year. But what do you do with them? Around here, we make pesto. Specifically, Ian Knauer's pistachio-laced garlic scape pesto from his beautiful cookbook The Farm. I don't own it, but my mom does, and for a while it sat on her coffee table. This recipe caught my eye right away—it's simple, and it does great things with a hard to use ingredient.


We use this as a spread on bread, rubbed onto a whole chicken, or tossed over pasta. It will keep for about a week in the fridge, and you can also freeze it if you want to have some on hand for the winter. 

10 large garlic scapes
1/3 cup unsalted shelled pistachios
1/3 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
fine grain sea salt and black pepper to taste
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Puree the garlic scapes, pistachios, Parmesan, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a food processor. Keep pureeing until the scapes and nuts are finely chopped. With the motor running, slowly pour in the oil. Season with more salt and pepper to taste.


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