My favorite thing about this time of year is being able to make a salad from the backyard. I love to harvest vegetables with the dirt still clinging on, roots and leaves intact, unlike the manicured vegetables that you often find at the grocery store. For some, the prepackaged and ready to eat vegetables may be a matter of convenience, but for me I want the greens with my beets, the tops to my carrots, the stalks on my broccoli, and the fronds on my fennel.
Beet greens are delicious sautéed with olive oil and garlic and topped with a splash of vinegar, carrot tops make a great pesto, broccoli stems can be steamed or shaved into a slaw, and fennel fronds add flavor to salads and stocks and pair great with seafood. These items are not for the compost.
This week, visit the Agricultural Fair to see the pride that Islanders have in the vegetables that they grow. Head to the West Tisbury Farmers Market or a farm stand and talk with the farmers about their different vegetable varieties and how to best prepare them. Lisa Fisher from Stannard Farm, a certified organic farm in West Tisbury, grows a variety of greens that you may not think to include in a salad. Choose from radish greens, mustard greens, upland cress, and dandelion, just to name a few. Or gather fingerling and petite potatoes, such as purple majesty and Russian banana, from wooden bins to create a fun mix of flavors, colors, and textures for your next potato salad.
Let the fresh flavors of summer vegetables shine on their own. Simple preparations are always best. Roasting, sautéing, boiling, frying, and grilling transforms vegetables, creating new flavor profiles and textures. For a quick side dish, sauté sweet corn with garlic and add garden tomatoes and basil; or make a potato salad using a combination of fingerling and petite potatoes topped with fresh herbs and an easy vinaigrette of garlic, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, and olive oil. With any garden vegetable, try making a quick pickle: boil vinegar, sugar, and salt with herbs and spices and let the vegetable steep in the brine.
Summer is the perfect time to make vegetables the center of attention. Here is a selection of restaurants that celebrate Island vegetables. The best part is, you don’t have to be a vegetarian to enjoy them.
Lucky Hank’s in Edgartown has a daily vegetable offering named the Farm Share. The idea stems from a farm share that owner Doug Smith has with Whippoorwill Farm’s CSA (community supported agriculture). “It’s whatever they are growing that week,” says Mr. Smith. “It’s the same idea: take what’s fresh and local and turn it into a vegetable plate that changes every day.” The entrée consists of three vegetable components that change daily. Past farm shares have included house-made fettuccine with crispy kale; roasted faro with eggplant; Swiss chard sautéed in garlic and served over quinoa; summer ratatouille; and watermelon salad with fresh mint, basil, and crumbled feta.
Visit the Red Cat Kitchen at Ken ‘n’ Beck in Oak Bluffs for the Vegetarian Showdown, a sampling of small vegetarian plates that is always a surprise. The Showdown usually comes with five dishes that range from a beet salad and roasted Brussels sprouts to vegetable risotto and white bean cassoulet. Other favorite additions have included tempura green beans; Island fresca, a corn and tomato soup; and gnocchi.
“It’s a huge vegetable explosion,” says co-owner Sarah Omer, wife of chef Ben DeForest. “He [Ben] has been getting in some really nice vegetables,” which can be seen highlighted in a farm share salad with local greens, marinated tomatoes and potatoes, beans, radishes and mushrooms. “It’s a fun way to be a vegetarian. You can taste multiple things and it broadens your horizon,” Ms. Omer says
Water Street at the Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown offers the Farmer’s Plate, a chef-inspired dish that highlights local vegetables, herbs, and grains. It consists of “whatever vegetables we can purchase on Island and whatever we can grow in the hotel,” says executive sous chef Nathan Gould. The Harbor View has 11 gardens on the property that Mr. Gould and executive chef Shaun Sells harvest food from each day.
“We started to do seedlings in the kitchen in January,” continues Mr. Gould. The farmer’s plate changes daily and includes vegetables cooked in a variety of ways, such as roasted, fried, sautéed, or shaved raw. On a recent night, the plate was made up of millet with candied striped beets, ghost eggplant from Morning Glory Farm, dragon carrots, maxi cucumbers, sweet cherry heirloom tomatoes, and Serrano chilies from the hotel garden as well as hotel-grown micro carrots and fried green tomatoes with a spicy Korean pepper aioli and nasturtiums and sorrel, also from the garden. “It showcases 100 percent of Island-grown vegetables,” Mr. Gould says.
Next time you go to a restaurant, check out the vegetarian option. You may just be surprised.