Authors Posts by Joyce Wagner

Joyce Wagner

Joyce Wagner
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A week of food and fellowship.

The group of the volunteers at the West Tisbury Church supper, from left: Miki Badnek, Vicky Bartels, Candy Lincoln, Penny Winter, Marjorie Peirce, Suzanne Fenn, and Martha MacGillivray. – Photo by Larisa Stinga

Where can you go during an Island winter when there’s no place to go? Where do you find a nourishing, quality meal and good companionship when the rock is cold, gray, and seemingly devoid of people? And where do you find all this for free? Seven of the Island’s churches sponsor community suppers — one for each night of the week — and all you have to do is show up. Two are held in Edgartown, two in Vineyard Haven, one in Chilmark, one in West Tisbury, and one in Oak Bluffs. All satisfy the hunger that rumbles the belly and the yearning for socializing in the quiet months of winter.

The suppers began in the 1980s when three of the churches decided that because of a downturn in the economy, there was a need for free, wholesome dinners for those who were out of work for the winter. They began creating the meals, and soon, as many people were coming for the camaraderie as for the food. The other churches jumped on the bandwagon a few years later, until every night of the week was covered.

Recently, Times contributor Joyce Wagner enjoyed a week of community suppers.

Sofia Anthony enjoys lasagna at the Federated Church in Edgartown. – Photo by Maria Thibodeau
Sofia Anthony enjoys lasagna at the Federated Church in Edgartown. – Photo by Maria Thibodeau

Federated Church, Edgartown

Sundays, 12:30 pm to 2 pm

The weekly Sunday lasagna dinner at the Federated Church, now in its third year, is the only supper held at lunchtime. Serving begins at 12:30, but coffee and tea are available for those who arrive early. Pam Butterick, a petite blond with a ready smile, supervises the volunteers in the kitchen.

Pans of lasagna emerged piping hot from the oven. “We’re always prepared to feed at least 48,” Pam informed me. “And we have a whole freezer full of lasagna. Some of it’s homemade and some of it’s Stouffer’s. We combine them, and we always have a vegetarian one.”

Slabs of garlic bread waited atop the stove. A leafy green salad and a kale salad with a homemade dressing waited on the serving table. Mary Jean Miner, a volunteer, told me that they change salads and desserts frequently. “It’s different every week,” she said. “We have fun.”

A group of regulars — Tom and Elise Thomas, Ethel Chapman, Marissa Salomon, and a woman named Mary — welcomed newcomers to the table. As others arrived, they called out greetings. “Here comes Elliott,” Ethel announced. “Maybe he’ll sit with us. He has good stories.” A young woman and her two children, ages 2½ and 6, settled at the other end of the table. The little girl was a good eater, finishing everything on her plate. The boy —not so much.

The food was plentiful and delicious. As everyone leaned back in their seats, volunteers made the rounds with cookies and homemade gingerbread left over from dessert. The remaining salad, lasagna, and garlic bread were spooned into Styrofoam containers and offered to anyone who would like to take some home. Some were given to specific people to take to neighbors and friends who were not able to get to the dinner.

By the end, approximately 24 people were served onsite. Of those, Pam predicted that about half attended out of need and the others came for the socializing. This year the suppers began on the second Sunday of January and will continue through March. “We decided that because that’s the hardest time for people,” Pam explained. “They’re out of work.”

Members of the Federated Church decided to make their community supper at lunchtime on Sundays because, Pam said, “Sundays weren’t covered. No one was doing it on Sunday. And we’re here! We come for church!”

Dessert! – Photo by Larisa Stinga
Dessert! – Photo by Larisa Stinga

Old Whaling Church, Edgartown

Mondays, 5:30 pm

Monday night brought the diners around to the side of the Old Whaling Church, where they entered the Baylies Room, a large, noisy hall. While people clamored for seats, eight volunteers — six of them men — in blue Rotary Club aprons hustled around the kitchen, pulling roast pork with mashed potatoes out of ovens. Usually the Methodist congregation of the Old Whaling church cooks and serve the meal, but once a month the Rotary Club handles the food service. When it’s the Rotarian’s turn, members of the Culinary Arts program prepare the entrée at the high school, and volunteers pick it up and take it to the church. The rest of the meal is donated. Tomato soup, raisin bread and butter, and salad with two dressings already waited on the serving table. The dessert table held three kinds of cake, cupcakes, fruit salad, and a lemon meringue pie that I was betting would go fast.

Liz Villard is in charge of the event. She started the evening with announcements, then turned the floor over to Reverend Richard Rego for grace.

I saw familiar faces from Sunday’s supper: Ethel, Mary, Marissa, and Elliott. Other regulars joined them at a table — Dianne Holt, Lolita Duarte, and two women, Elaine and Carol. The young woman from the Federated Church arrived with her two children, and I recognized other faces around the brightly lighted hall.

This Whaling Church meal is one of the longest-running community suppers. This year will be their 23rd season, and they’ve served more than 70,000 meals in their long history. Karen Burke boasted that she’s been coming for 12 years.

Diners are very forthcoming about the community suppers — their favorites and least favorites. Most agree that the Chilmark supper is the least populated because of the distance. Elaine leaned over and confided to me, “Too far, too dark, and too many deer.”

By meal’s end, the Rotarians served approximately 30 dinners. Leftovers were available to take home by request.

Brenda Piland takes a plate of food. – Photo by Larisa Stinga
Brenda Piland takes a plate of food. – Photo by Larisa Stinga

Chilmark Community Church, Chilmark

Tuesdays, 5:30 pm

The community supper at the Chilmark Community Church may be distant, but it’s friendly, cozy, and well worth the ride. Although it’s called a “soup supper,” there are other items on the menu. Besides two kinds of homemade soups, chili-mac, macaroni and cheese, devilled eggs, and bread and butter were served. There were four different pies, brownies, and cookies for dessert.

To me, the Chilmark supper seems the most intimate and companionable of the suppers. It’s a smaller venue than the others, and only about 17 people showed up. Pam Goff, the woman in charge, told me, “You caught us on a slow night. Some people are sick and the pastor’s away.”

As expected, the regulars from the previous two dinners didn’t make the trip. Stephanie Brothers, a whirlwind of enthusiasm, shared a table with her 10-year-old daughter, Annabelle, and another charge, Chloe Maley. “Did you know we play Bananagrams after dinner?” she asked me. While one group settled at a round table for conversation, six women gathered around an oblong table and scattered the Bananagrams tiles in the middle. A fast game ensued, with one woman winning most of the rounds.

Bucky Burrows carves the ham, the main entrée of the night at the West Tisbury Church. – Photo by Larisa Stinga
Bucky Burrows carves the ham, the main entrée of the night at the West Tisbury Church. – Photo by Larisa Stinga

West Tisbury Church, West Tisbury

Wednesdays, 5:30 pm

The Wednesday night community supper in West Tisbury is the one most discussed by the regulars. It has the most food, the most people, and is the one most likely to accommodate dietary restrictions. The Reverend Cathlin Baker greeted diners at the door, then we proceeded to numbered tables. When our number was called, we formed a line to the serving table. Last Wednesday, the menu featured 15 dishes, including four different breads, two cornbreads (one gluten-free), ham, two kinds of baked beans (one vegetarian), roasted veggies, and lentil soup. Desserts included three kinds of ice cream with chocolate sauce, spice cake, chocolate zucchini cake, fruit salad, and bread pudding.

All the regulars who skipped Chilmark attended, plus many others. Ben and Rose Runner arrived late with their 3-month-old baby, Benjamin David Runner, who seemed not only unfazed by the noise but happy to be the object of attention of the other diners. Other children zipped around the tables in a sugar rush. The little 2½-year-old girl with the excellent appetite charmed everyone she met.

The West Tisbury dinner is also one of the oldest on the Island, one of the three early participants. According to Marjorie Pierce, chair of the church’s Mission Outreach Board, “Each winter we’ve seen an increasing need and increasing participation. Now 80 [dinners a week] is our average. It’s a stretch for our parish hall, but we make it work.”

Due to the need, the suppers, which used to run through March, will now keep going through April.

Baby Benjamin David Runner having dinner with his mother Rose Runner and his father Benjamin Runner, at the West Tisbury Wednesday dinner.  – Photo by Larisa Stinga
Baby Benjamin David Runner having dinner with his mother Rose Runner and his father Benjamin Runner, at the West Tisbury Wednesday dinner. – Photo by Larisa Stinga

Saint Augustine’s Church, Vineyard Haven

Thursdays, 5 pm

The turnout at St. Augustine’s community supper was small, but featured special guests who came out on the bitterly cold and iced-over evening: Six students from the National Honor Society at the high school showed up to help serve and clean up.

Gail Burke, major-domo of the event, said she thought the small turnout had to do with the ice, and the fear some attendees have of climbing the stairs.

Those who didn’t attend missed out on penne pasta with homemade meat sauce, meatballs, sausage, beef chili, rolls and butter, coffee, lemonade, and tea. Dessert was ice cream and a chocolate cake donated by the Black Dog.

Perhaps because of the weather, some latecomers straggled in, among them the woman with the two children. Conversations were quiet, and centered around Island gossip. In all, about 25 meals were served. “We usually range from 20 to 40,” Gail told me.

Church employee Joe Capobianco, a large man who appears to enjoy his own cooking, prepared the pasta dishes with the help of Joe Vinci, a volunteer. Mr. Capobianco settled at a table to chat, then left early to take food to a volunteer who was ill. He explained, “We don’t usually pack stuff up to go, but we also don’t say no.” The woman with the two children received a large package to go.

This year, once a month, volunteers from the Hebrew Center will be helping with the serving and clean-up.

From left, Federated Church Sunday lunch volunteers Gerry Longeo, Jim Butterick, Pam Butterick, Bill Leete, and Mary-Jean Miner. – Photo by Maria Thibodeau
From left, Federated Church Sunday lunch volunteers Gerry Longeo, Jim Butterick, Pam Butterick, Bill Leete, and Mary-Jean Miner. – Photo by Maria Thibodeau

Grace Church, Vineyard Haven

Fridays, 5 pm

When people think of food and Grace Church, most will think lobster rolls, but Grace’s was one of the first of the weekly suppers. Last Friday they celebrated the Chinese New Year with Asian dishes and a dragon. Perhaps it’s because it’s the weekend and people want to get out, but the parish hall tends to fill to capacity and beyond. For the past three weeks, volunteers have been serving more than 60 meals per night. Last Friday, extra tables were set up, and still many people sat on the window seats to dine.

A whiteboard featured the menu, which included four soups, lo mein, pasta, jambalaya, fried dumplings, brown and white fried rice, rolls, and bread and butter. Desserts included two kinds of brownies, gluten-free banana bread, cookies, and fruit salad. A volunteer circulated with a bowl of fortune cookies, then peppered the tables with noisemakers. Stephanie Brother’s daughter Annabelle was asked to help with the dragon. “Annabelle has been part of the dragon since she was in preschool,” her mother brags, as we all sat in anticipation of the much-discussed dragon.

Then, to the accompaniment of toy drums and tambourines, a papier-mâché and fabric dragon made its way through the tables, into the kitchen, and back again. Six adult legs and one set of 10-year-old’s could be seen beneath the fabric. The 2-year-old girl screamed her disapproval.

Trinity Parish House, Oak Bluffs

Saturdays, 5:30 pm

Saturday night’s community supper was, perhaps, the most casual. Suitably enough for a Saturday, fare was hot dogs and beans, accompanied by corn chowder, salad, cole slaw, potato chips, and ice cream, all excellently prepared and distributed. Karen Rego, chief cook, estimates that they serve an average of 60 to 70 meals and, of those, only about 30% of participants are there due to financial need. “Especially this time of year,” she says, “[people] need the fellowship. Many live alone.”

Many of Trinity’s entrées are purchased with donations from Cash & Carry or Stop and Shop, and Island Food Products and Stop and Shop occasionally donate groceries. Almost all the regulars attend, presumably because it’s Saturday night and the venue is centrally located. But there’s no denying there’s love that goes into the preparation of the simple food.

“I cook,” Karen told me, “as if everyone was at my home eating.”

Virginia Munro plates servings of Slow Cooker Indian Chicken Curry which she's prepared for the class. -Photos by Michael Cummo

Dust off that old, slow Crock-Pot that you received years ago as a wedding gift. Scour the thrift shops for discarded ones. Sneak into your mother-in-law’s basement and snatch one. Slow cooking is back and, as performed by Virginia Munro, flies way beyond the standard chili and chicken stew.

Ms. Munro, adult programs director for the Edgartown Library and longtime cooking and dining aficionado, makes it her mission to take her favorite recipes and transform them into slow-cooker wonders. She has begun to share her prowess once a month during the winter with demos at the library.

For January, she demonstrated Slow Cooker Indian Chicken Curry, adapted from Islander Uma Datta’s recipe.

Virginia Munro shares tips and recipes for the Crock-Pot.
Virginia Munro shares tips and recipes for the Crock-Pot.

Although we remember slow cookers best as the most duplicated wedding shower gift of the 1970s, it was actually patented in 1940 by its inventor, Irving Naxon. Then called the Naxon Beanery, the design was sold in the early ’70s to Rival Manufacturing, which rechristened it the Crock-Pot. At that time women were beginning to work outside the home, and since microwaves were not yet available to consumers, it was a terrific solution for preparing a meal: Dump the ingredients into the liner in the morning, arrive home to a fully cooked and hearty meal. As Ms. Munro explains it, “Put it together in 15 minutes before work and it’s like Mummy has been cooking all day.”

Early slow cookers had one knob and two settings — “on” and “off.” Now, enjoying a comeback, they are available with removable inserts, multiple settings, computer timing, and a variety of accessories. According to ConsumerReports.org, 83% of families owned a slow cooker in 2011. No wonder Ms. Munro enjoyed a capacity crowd at her January demo.

The lower level of the library — not really equipped for cooking — became a temporary kitchen with a double hot plate, sauté pans, a cutting board and knives, and a large slow-cooker sitting atop a bookcase. The 12 or so viewers (a good turnout for an especially cold day) lined up chairs along a narrow aisle. The sightlines were surprisingly good. Ms. Munro began by apologizing. “This is my first cooking demo in about 20 years,” she confessed. “But now I’m so much better a cook.”

While Ms. Munro was sautéing chicken and chopping onion, garlic, ginger, and cilantro, she explained how she discovered slow cooking. “With all the great [dairy] farms on the Island,” she said, “I wanted to start making my own yogurt. It went from there to all of the special things I like to cook with.” She cited the French sour-cream-like crème fraîche as an example: “I wouldn’t give you two cents for what’s available in the supermarket, and it’s expensive. But you can make your own in a slow cooker.”

She also advocates using the slow cooker in summer, instead of heating up the kitchen. On low heat, the cooker gives off about the same amount of heat as a 75-watt light bulb. At high, it’s about the equivalent of a 300-watt light bulb — still a lot less than a standard oven would produce. And, she adds, slow-cooked meals freeze well.

The participants asked questions and nodded their enthusiasm as Ms. Munro cooked.  Almost as one, they inhaled the piquant aroma when she warmed the spices in the sauté pan. Mouths begin to water and midday stomachs growled. Everything was in the pot and ready for its one-hour stint on high before the heat was lowered for the duration.

Virginia Munro prepares the ingredients for Slow Cooker Indian Chicken Curry, one of her favorite Crock-Pot recipes.
Virginia Munro prepares the ingredients for Slow Cooker Indian Chicken Curry, one of her favorite Crock-Pot recipes.

Sampling of the finished product is de rigueur at cooking classes and demos, but unfortunately, a slow-cooked recipe can’t be rushed, and of course, no one was going to stay the four hours until completion. Ms. Munro had that covered. She’d made a batch of the Indian Chicken Curry the night before, and the viewers were treated to lunch-size portions of the recipe — accompanied by rice and two kinds of Indian bread.

Eyes closed and heads fell back in appreciation of the flavors. Some oohed. Others ahhed. All agreed that the dish has a nice spicy kick, but not enough to alienate the pepper-phobic.

As napkins wiped the last of the sauce from mouths, Ms. Munro invited all to return on Feb. 12, when she’ll be demonstrating Slow-Cooked Beef Bourguignon in honor of Valentine’s Day. It’s a recipe she adapted from the famous one by Julia Child.

As the participants leave, one woman remarks that the 20-year absence did not seem to make a difference in Ms. Munro’s demo skills. “She’s a great teacher AND a great cook.”

Slow Cooker Indian Chicken Curry

Adapted for the crockpot from Uma Datta’s recipe

Serves 6–8

2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 tsp. salt
½ cup cooking oil (canola recommended)
1½ cup chopped onion
1 Tbs. minced garlic
1½ Tbs. minced fresh ginger root
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 Tbs. curry powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground turmeric
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. garam masala
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1 cup hot water or chicken broth
1 cup plain yogurt
2 Tbs. butter
2 Tbs. cilantro (reserve one tbsp. for garnish)
salt to taste

Preparation:

  1. Quarter the chicken thighs and sprinkle with 2 tsp. salt. Heat oil in a large skillet over high heat; brown chicken in oil. Transfer the browned chicken to slow-cooker insert.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium high; add the onions, garlic, and ginger to the oil remaining in the skillet and cook, continuously stirring, until the onions wilt (about 5 minutes). Add to slow-cooker insert. Drain (do not rinse) tomatoes and add to insert — spread evenly.
  3. Mix the curry powder, cumin, turmeric, coriander, cayenne pepper, garam masala, lemon juice, and 1 cup hot water (or broth) well in a mixing cup and then add to slow cooker. Stir well for one minute.
  4. Cook on HIGH for 1 hour.
  5. Add yogurt, butter, and 1 Tbs. of chopped cilantro. Stir well, stirring the chicken until coated with the sauce, and cook on LOW for 4 hours.
  6. Garnish with 1 Tbs. chopped cilantro. Serve with basmati rice.

    Slow Cooker Indian Chicken Curry is served over basmati rice and accompanied by bread.
    Slow Cooker Indian Chicken Curry is served over basmati rice and accompanied by bread.

Making dinner a family affair.

MVRHS Culinary Arts teacher Jack O'Malley shares one of his favorite go-to recipes. – Photo by Michael Cummo

If you have a last-minute, go-to dish for a Fast Supper story you’d like to share, please send it to us at calendar@mvtimes.com.

It seems almost a requirement for developing chefs to have had a grandmother who was a fabulous cook to provide inspiration. That prerequisite is present in spades with the high school’s longtime culinary arts teacher, Jack O’Malley. “She was always trying new recipes, new ethnic cuisine,” Jack recalls. “She lived in Boston, so she had access to different ethnic markets.” And he cooked with her, although he’s not certain when he began; “I just always remember being involved,” he says.

In sixth grade, he won a blue ribbon for his construction of a bombe or bombe glacée(a molded ice cream, whipped cream, and fruit dessert) from her recipe. He began cooking in a diner while he was still in high school, and was running small family restaurants by the time he was 20. After finishing culinary arts school, he returned to his grandmother to cook her a dinner. He used her hand-cranked pasta machine to make angel-hair linguine for her. “At the end of the meal, she gave me her pasta machine,” he relates with pride. He later inherited her “cookbook,” a collection of 3 by 5 cards: “One of my aunts found them. It’s a huge binding.” He was paging through it recently, and rediscovered his blue-ribbon recipe.

Now, Jack’s own kids — twin 15-year-old boys and an 11-year-old girl (another boy, 20, is away at college) — cook along with him and his wife at home. “All three love to cook,” he says. “We divide up the prep.”

Because the kids are also active in extracurricular activities like horseback riding and basketball, dinnertime is hectic at the O’Malley house. “I have to round them up, feed them dinner, and get them started on homework,” Jack explains. The following recipe, Shrimp Vittorio, fills the bill for quick and easy. “Except for the shrimp, I usually have all the ingredients on hand,” Jack says. “And you can now buy the shrimp already peeled and deveined.”

This recipe also has sentimental value. “When my wife and I were first married, we’d go to this restaurant and it was on the menu. I adapted it. It kind of reminds me of when we were first married, didn’t have kids, and were able to go out to eat.”

There’s a smile in his voice. “My wife really liked it then, and now, too.”

Shrimp Vittorio

1 lb. penne pasta

1 Tbs.  canola oil

1 1b., or approximately 21–25, jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 tsp. minced garlic

2 Tbs. sundried tomatoes sliced in thin strips (packed in oil is easier)

2 oz. vodka

1 cup heavy cream

1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

2 oz. Parmesan cheese

2 Tbs. basil chiffonade (sliced in thin strips)

Salt and black pepper to taste

Preparation

  1. Bring 4 quarts of salted water to a boil: add penne and cook until al dente.
  2. Drain pasta, reserving one cup of water.
  3. In large sauté pan heat oil; place in shrimp (do not overcrowd; if necessary, sauté in two batches).
  4. Cook shrimp on first side until they release from the pan; turn over; cook again for one minute. Do not overcook shrimp — they will finish in the sauce.
  5. Remove shrimp from pan; return pan to heat; add garlic and sundried tomatoes; continue to cook for another minute.
  6. Remove pan from heat; deglaze with vodka (carefully put back on heat or it will ignite).
  7. Reduce liquid by half; add cream and crushed red pepper; return shrimp to pan.
  8. Cook for another minute; add cooked pasta and Parmesan cheese. Return to heat, then add reserved pasta water to achieve desired sauce consistency. Plate individual pasta bowls and garnish with basil.

Leslie Hewson gives dinner ingredients a second chance.

The Hewsons' last-minute meal calls for leftovers plus rice, garlic, salsa, cheese, jalapeño, sour cream, and tortillas. – Photo by Michael Cummo

If you have a last-minute, go-to dish for a Fast Supper story you’d like to share, please send it to us at calendar@mvtimes.com.

Leslie and Douglas Hewson’s secret for a quick and satisfying dinner is leftovers. “If you want to put together a meal in five or 10 minutes, you have to know what you have to work with,” Leslie explains. “You have to look at what you have. We always have leftover rice or a piece of sirloin or a chicken breast or the carcass of a roast chicken.”

Leslie and Douglas Hewson are the parents of two daughters, Haley, 21 years old and living on her own, and Emily, 15. Leslie discovered the recipe for Arroz con Carne or Pollo about nine years ago, and was taken by its appeal to her girls. “It’s an old recipe,” she says. “They like all those [ingredients], so why not put it together? It’s easy, and it’s a one-pot deal.” She likes to supplement it with a salad or one of their girls’ favorite vegetables.

Leslie laughs as she recounts her daughters’ differing relationships with the dish. “[Haley’s] taken this recipe to her apartment, and she’s like ‘Oh! I can cook now!’ which I find hilarious. She doesn’t really cook. The little one seems to be more kitcheny. She has a recipe book. The first recipe she put in the book was rice. The second is the rice dish.” In fact, Emily ungrudgingly helps out in the kitchen. Leslie knows that if she has to dash out to the store, she can depend on Emily to start the potatoes or rice. “She’s really good at sides,” Leslie boasts.

Leslie and Douglas Hewson, along with their daughter Emily, enjoy their favorite last-minute meal of Arroz con Pollo. – Photo by Michael Cummo
Leslie and Douglas Hewson, along with their daughter Emily, enjoy their favorite last-minute meal of Arroz con Pollo. – Photo by Michael Cummo

The Hewsons have been in the food business for 30 years, starting in their teens. On-Island since 1998, Douglas came here to work for the Black Dog, and Leslie eventually joined the staff. He is currently executive chef at Offshore Ale. Leslie is the seasonal pastry chef for L’Etoile and Offshore Ale.

The winter presents some culinary challenges for the couple. Leslie explains, “In the fall and winter, I’ve got a minimal amount of time to feed [Emily]. She has to be picked up at the high school at 5:30. You get out of work at 5:00. It’s a small amount of time — the night’s already slipping away. You know she’s going to be hungry, and if you don’t feed them, how do you get them to do their homework? You don’t want to feed your kids at eight — which we were doing in the summertime. I know she’ll eat [the Arroz]. If she had her way, she’d put it on the schedule every week.”

But Leslie seems a bit embarrassed about the simplicity of the dish. “I know that my culinary skills have been reduced,” she says with a chuckle, “but there’s something noble about just making sure your kids have proper nutrition.”

Arroz con Carne or Pollo

Serves 4

4 cups fresh or leftover rice (use less water if making fresh, to allow for salsa liquid)

¼ onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

Oil

1 cup leftover protein:  sirloin, chicken breast, roast chicken

Pinch red pepper flake (optional)

1 jar favorite salsa

1 cup loosely-packed mixed cheese: jack, cheddar, muenster, mozzarella

Salt and pepper

Optional:

Minced jalapeño

Sour cream

Black beans

Diced squash

Tortilla chips

Preparation

Look in fridge. See what you have. Proceed.

Retrieve a big pan.

Prepare protein by cutting or pulling bite-size pieces. If the protein is already cold, follow directions. If it is fresh, add at the end just before cheese step.

On medium-high heat, sauté onion and garlic in oil (pepper flake optional) until soft and golden. Add protein and stir 2 minutes. Add rice, salsa, and any optional items. This is where the big pan comes in. … Stir the rice mixture till salsa is evenly distributed. Add more salsa if not wet enough. Add ⅔ cup cheese. Stir. Turn off heat. Top with remaining ⅓ cup cheese, cover with a lid or place entire pan under broiler and melt cheese.

“It’s OK to eat out of the pan, says my 15-year-old.”

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Best dishes of 2014, and what’s up for 2015.

Peter Smyth, chef and owner of Slice of Life in Oak Bluffs. – Photo by Kelsey Perrett.

The end of the year is, traditionally, a time to ponder the past and strategize for the future. We asked some of our favorite on-Island executive chefs to talk to us about years gone by and what they have planned for the next. Here’s what we learned.

What’s the best new dish you made all year?

A basil pesto crusted local codfish elevated on a vegetable fused tri-colored orzo pasta with heirloom tomato ragout and grilled baby summer squash. The basil, tomatoes, and summer squash were from our garden.

– James McDonough, Lambert’s Cove Inn, Farm & Restaurant, West Tisbury

Laksa! A dish indigenous to Singapore. A coconut based noodle soup with fish, vegetables, hard-boiled egg, laced with chili paste.

– Ron “Puppy” Cavallo, Soigne, Edgartown

Seared Edgartown bay scallops with toasted farro, roasted Morning Glory Farm sweet potatoes, and MV Organics sunflower shoots. It’s a nice local seasonal dish we put together to utilize some cold weather ingredients found on Island.

– Justin Melnick, The Terrace at the Charlotte Inn, Edgartown

Judy Klumick of Black Sheep enjoys fishing on a fall day off. — Photo courtesy of Judy Klumick.
Judy Klumick of Black Sheep enjoys fishing on a fall day off. — Photo courtesy of Judy Klumick.

Fun and memorable was the open-faced pulled pork sandwich I had on the Black Sheep Luncheonette menu this winter. I served it on cranberry steamed pudding (brown bread steamed in a coffee can) with avocado and chipotle crema with slaw.

– Judy Klumick, Black Sheep, Edgartown

We introduced a salmon salad this year that we are very proud of. The salmon is poached in mirin and served with baby spinach, avocado, pickled radishes, wasabi peas, and a housemade unagi glaze.

– Merrick Carreiro, Little House Café, Vineyard Haven

The chickpea crepes with eggplant relish. The crepe is savory and warm with a bright citrus relish inside. It is delicious.

– Doug Smith, Lucky Hank’s, Edgartown

An hors d’oeuvre we have butler passed for our Christmas parties and soon to be on the menu:  crispy fried shrimp marinated in Poppin’ Pink lemonade. It’s light and delicate. We’ve had more response about this than any other.

– Tony Saccoccia, The Grill on Main, Edgartown

I’ve been playing around with pizza dough and different dessert ideas.

– Pete Smyth, Slice of Life, Oak Bluffs

Are you inventing anything new for the new year?

When we reopen the week of January 5th, expect to see our newly developed hot cereal on the breakfast menu. This isn’t just your ordinary run-of-the-mill oatmeal or porridge — it is something in the middle, Little House style.

– Merrick Carreiro

We will be reconstructing the traditional Cuban sandwich in honor of the lifting of the embargo.

– Puppy Cavallo

Even when not at his restaurant, The Grill on Main, Tony Saccoccia is often cooking. — Photo courtesy of Tony Saccoccia
Even when not at his restaurant, The Grill on Main, Tony Saccoccia is often cooking. — Photo courtesy of Tony Saccoccia

I would like to work on some healthy and vegan desserts this year as so many ingredients for desserts can be very healthy and delicious at the same time. Ingredients like beets, cocoa powder, coconut oil, and dried fruits, to name a few.

– Tony Saccoccia

We generally stay away from “inventing” too many new things, but rather putting a twist on some of the classics.

– Justin Melnick

What ingredient might you start using that you haven’t yet?

One new ingredient I’ll have the great fortune to create with this coming season is fresh goat milk from our two farm goats, Zsa Zsa and Ava.

– James McDonough

I will start to use rennet to make my own cheeses in-house in an artisanal style. I would like to explore some of the European traditions even though there are great cheeses made in the U.S. today.

– Tony Saccoccia

Galangal — a root in the ginger family. I can use it to make fresh chili paste. I will be incorporating more Southeast Asian dishes in our repertoire.

– Puppy Cavallo

Do you have a culinary New Year’s resolution?

Continue to learn and improve.

– Doug Smith

We are looking to add a packaged food line to our offerings this year: salads, soups, granola, etc.

Slow down my cooking at home. I tend to bring my cooking pace home.

– Merrick Carreiro

To eliminate any product containing iodized salt. For years we have only used sea salt in our own preparation.

– Puppy Cavallo

What are you making for New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day?

We are serving a five-course Prix Fixe menu with a choice of options in each course such as house-cured gravlax with osetra caviar, lentils and sausage soup, wild shrimp cocktail. Butter poached sole, beef Wellington. My wife, Emily, will be putting together a vanilla panna cotta as well as her signature chocolate tart.

– Justin Melnick

I will be cooking at home for my family for New Year’s Eve. I’ll be starting with crab cakes with saffron aioli hummus with vegetables and pita chips, lead into a mixed greens salad with a black mission fig vinaigrette, candied pecans, goat cheese, and baby tomatoes and as entrees I’ll make a marinated sirloin roast, Merlot demi, roast turkey, sushi platters, rosemary Yukon gold potatoes, and sautéed mixed vegetables. For dessert we’ll have apple pie with vanilla bean gelato, quad cake, peppermint bark, and a variety of Christmas cookies.

– James McDonough

New Year’s Eve to me screams surf-n-turf and chocolate. I don’t know why but I’m sure I’m not alone. Could be the decadence.

– Tony Saccoccia

Linguine with fresh cockles! It’s a New Year’s tradition.

– Puppy Cavallo

I plan not to cook at all this New Year’s and allow others to cook for me. There is nothing better than sitting back and enjoying a good meal I had nothing to do with.

– Merrick Carreiro

New Year’s Eve is classic and elegant. We’ll be serving beef tenderloin and local bay scallops, profiteroles, and flourless chocolate cake for dessert.

– Pete Smyth

We’ll have a veal dish and duck confit.

– Doug Smith

What was the best New Year’s Eve you’ve ever had?

Two years ago, my friend, Stelianie, came to visit. We had dinner in my new restaurant followed by fireworks over the water near the lighthouse.

– Doug Smith

On the eve of 1981, my wife, Dede, and I were invited to the home of the head CIA operative in the Mediterranean, stationed in Athens, Greece. An American home away from home for two road-weary travelers trekking the continents.

– Puppy Cavallo

I had New Year’s off three years ago. My wife, daughter, and I had a variety of small plates we created together and then watched a movie. At midnight, we woke my daughter and we watched the Edgartown fireworks from our driveway.

– Pete Smyth

I remember when I was old enough to work the line as a cook on New Year’s Eve. It was a time when I was proud to finally be recognized and respected as a cook.

– Tony Saccoccia

The best New Year’s Day was 1994-1995. I was the chef at the time at Hotel 1829 in St. Thomas. We had a great night in the restaurant. Food quality was high, there was a good flow to the service. We finished the night serving over 200 hundred people! But the night kept getting better. Arriving home just before midnight, I kissed my beautiful Mary goodnight and fell asleep. One hour later Mary’s water broke and I called our midwife Linda who arrived in a flash. At 4:38 am, New Year’s Day, our son Patrick was born. What a magical birth!

– James McDonough

LeRoux's April Levandowski feeds her family this easy, seasonal recipe when she’s short on time.

This local bay scallop dinner is a fan favorite in April Levandowski's home. Photo by April Levandowski.

Who could be busier than April and Michael Levandowski during the holidays? The hubbub ends on Christmas Day for Santa, but these two have five kitchen/home/gourmet shops to tend to all year long. Once the Christmas shopping is over, it’s time to prepare for New Years parties. Yet, the couple still finds time to entertain. Their go-to recipe for company dinner during the holiday chaos is Martha’s Vineyard Bay Scallops with Squash, Mashed Potatoes, and Greens. It’s easy, it’s foolproof, and it’s satisfying. April defines it as “elegant comfort food.”

The couple own the LeRoux stores – LeRoux at Home and LeRoux Gourmet in Vineyard Haven, and three LeRoux Kitchen stores in New Hampshire and Maine. Islanders since 1988, they’ve owned many retail businesses and an inn, but, with both enjoying an interest in cooking, decided to focus on food and domestics shops. “We struggled with Martha’s Vineyard,” April explains, “in terms of the availability of tools and good things to cook.” So, they decided to turn LeRoux Clothing (which they already owned) into a kitchen/home store. “It wasn’t so much an opportunity,” April says, “as ‘I can’t believe we can’t find a place to buy a nice pan on Martha’s Vineyard!’ We’d have to go off-Island or use the internet. And (at that time) the internet wasn’t even so much an option.”

The Levandowskis developed the recipe with a desire to showcase their favorite local ingredient. “The Martha’s Vineyard bay scallops are like candy,” April says. “They’re gems. They are something that is very special to us.” So much so, that when visiting friends during a Florida vacation, the Levandowskis had them air shipped from the Island so their friends could taste them.

The recipe also had to be easy. It’s fifteen minutes to marinate the scallops, and the other components can be put together in the meantime. And it’s seasonally colorful. “It doesn’t have red for Christmas,” April says. “But the bright orange! And the fresh rosemary! We like the way it looks on the plate.”

Bay scallops marinating. Photo by April Levandowski.
Bay scallops marinating. Photo by April Levandowski.

MV Bay Scallops with Squash, Mashed potatoes and Greens

Serves 4 (plan about ⅓ lb. of scallops per person)

1–1¼ lb bay scallops

¼ olive oil

¼ cup dry vermouth

2 Tbs. chopped fresh rosemary

Salt & fresh cracked pepper

1 butternut squash seeded and quartered

4-6 medium size yellow potatoes, washed and quartered

Preparation

Clean scallops by removing the white rectangular connecting muscle.

Rinse thoroughly and drain.

In a bowl, combine olive oil, dry vermouth, scallops, rosemary, salt and pepper. Stir, cover, and refrigerate for at least 15 but no more than 60 minutes..

In the meantime, prepare squash and mashed potatoes.

Squash

Heat oven to 400

Place 1 tsp of butter, maple syrup & brown sugar into cavity.

Add salt & pepper

Bake until soft (45-60 min)

When squash is done, remove and cover with foil to keep warm.

Mashed Potatoes

Place washed and quartered yellow potatoes in saucepan filled ¾ with salted water.

Boil until tender.

Drain.

Add butter, cream, salt and pepper and mash. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Set aside and reheat slightly before serving.

Oven to Broil

Using a slotted spoon, transfer marinated scallops to a baking dish.

Broil until caramelized (maybe 10 min.).

While broiling scallops, prepare your choice of green vegetable to serve alongside the scallops.

Assembly

Place squash wedge onto plate or shallow bowl.

Fill cavity with mashed potatoes.

Place one fourth of the scallops on top of the potatoes.

Arrange sautéed or steamed greens (arugula, spinach, broccolini, etc) alongside.

Enjoy!

Because why wouldn’t you want to paint your Christmas cookies?!

Red and white sugar cookie pinwheels were quickly devoured while still warm. No wonder. –Photos by Michael Cummo

Cookies mean Christmas to me. I’ve fond memories of my mother piping spritz cookies in the shapes of wreaths, crosses, and trees onto baking sheets. It was always a magical moment when Mom would sprinkle chocolate chips over hot toffee cookies and the heat would turn them gooey and shiny.

From right, Joyce Wagner rolls out dough for cookies while Cathy Nee and Diane Hartmann look on.
From right, Joyce Wagner rolls out dough for cookies while Cathy Nee and Diane Hartmann look on.

She’d roll out Kolachkys and spread them with apricot or poppy seed fillings, she’d dip irons coated with batter into hot oil to make the delicate rosettes, and roll sandcastle-fragile almond crescents in powdered sugar.

Any idea how hard it is to try to make Santa’s “nice” list by hunkering down to homework when those delicious sweet and buttery smells are wafting from the kitchen?

I’m grown now and Mom is half a continent away, so I’ve started my own Christmas patisserie tradition — the Cookie Painting Party. Last year was kind of a trial run, but this year ran like chocolate at a Hershey’s factory.

My day began at six when I pulled the dough I made the week before from the fridge and baked bread. It’s a mostly foolproof method and, although there’s a bit of prep at the onset, it’s easy and the results are fabulous.

From left, Debra Gaines, Pamela Danz and Teresa Tuan paint cookies.
From left, Debra Gaines, Pamela Danz and Teresa Yuan paint cookies.

Sail-charter captain Diane Hartmann (who is also my BFF and housemate) and I set up a table in the living room for my chili, bread, and the potluck goodies to come. I started rolling out and cutting cookie dough (which I made and refrigerated the night before) at one o’clock. Last year I waited until the guests arrived before starting, and that put me behind. I doubled the recipe (which follows) but, it turns out, didn’t need to. There was a lot of dough left over.

By two, when women from my Zumba classes, my ballroom group, the CSA I volunteer at, and lots of old friends started gathering in my kitchen, I had several baking sheets covered with cut-out cookie blanks ready for painting. The friends who were new to the process doubtfully eyed the brushes and small containers of “paint.” Really — applying egg yolk and food coloring onto raw cookie dough?

Personalize blank cookies with egg white paint .
Personalize blank cookies with egg white paint .

Besides my turkey chili and bread, the table in the living room began filling with such delectables as turkey soup with orzo, artichoke dip, hummus (naturally), and one of artist, landscaper, and cooking teacher Teresa Yuan’s yummy Asian noodle creations.

Cathy Nee — whom I’m considering elevating to best-pal status — brought gingerbread martinis. Because four of the six ingredients are liquor and we had a mission, we sipped. That took a lot of restraint.

The experienced and reluctant painters gathered around the dining room table, and began to work. Manipulating shared cookie sheets of raw dough blanks elicited laughter and conversation among women who’d only just met. Half-size cookie sheets (available at LeRoux) allowed some cookie artists to work solo.

Brenda Buck, a part-time pharmacist at the hospital, brought dough for Red & White Sugar Cookie Pinwheels. These were the first into the oven, and quickly devoured while still warm. Brenda substituted raspberry extract for the peppermint and used jimmies instead of sprinkles — and we all agreed the results were terrific.

Soon the first batch of adorned cookies was ready for the oven. When I took them out, I was redeemed. We oohed. We aahed.

By three, the neophyte cookie painters had mastered the art and fabulous creations were emerging from the oven. I was rolling and cutting like an elf on deadline now, and still couldn’t keep up with the demand. I would do one roll-out for each chunk of dough and tossed the scraps back into the fridge.

By four, we were hot, exhausted, fed, and fortified by martinis. I’d made a lot of small cookies for the learning curve, and we all got to taste some of the rejects. The painters picked out their masterpieces and we packaged them up for the trips home. There was a lot of dough left over, and, because I would be leaving the Island for a week and wouldn’t have time to use it, almost everyone took some.

At four-thirty a few women remained, sitting around the dining room table, indulging in the martinis, and admiring our work. I quickly rolled out one more tray, and, while enjoying the conversation, painted my own bunch.

So, the recipe follows. One batch makes about seven dozen 3-inch cookies. The dough can also be baked without the “paint,” and decorated with icing and fancy sugars when cooled. I’ve also included a meringue cookie recipe you can make with all the leftover egg whites.

I’ve not included the nutrition and calorie contents because you don’t want to know. It’s Christmas: indulge.

Painted Christmas Cutouts

Cookies

2 cups butter, softened

1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened

2 cups sugar

2 egg yolks

1 tsp. vanilla extract (The good stuff. Don’t cheap it out. Makes a difference.)

4-½ cups all-purpose flour

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add sugar, egg yolks and vanilla. Mix well. Gradually add flour. Make into disks (adding flour just as needed), wrap in plastic wrap and chill two hours or until firm (I do this the evening before I want to roll them out and refrigerate overnight).

Take out one disk at a time and let it sit at room temperature for a few minutes before rolling. Roll on a floured surface to ¼”. Cut with cookie cutters. I begin with small, simple ones so that the painters can get used to the brushes and techniques before tackling larger ones. Place on cookie sheets.

Using clean brushes, paint with egg yolk paint. Don’t cheap out on brushes: you don’t have to spend a lot, but if the brushes are ten for a dollar, you’re going to find brush hairs in your cookies.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes (cookies should be set and barely browned around the edges). Cool 5 to 10 minutes on cookie sheets, then remove to cooling racks.

Cookie paint

Approximately seven drops of food coloring per color

1 egg yolk per color

Put egg yolks into small containers. Add the food coloring and stir until well-blended.

Mini Chip Meringues

Note: If possible, wait for a dry day to work with meringue. Humidity makes it very difficult to handle. Also, believe it or not, older egg whites work better than fresh.

4 large egg whites

½ tsp. salt

½ tsp. cream of tartar

1 cup sugar

2 cups (16 oz.) Semi-sweet mini chocolate chips

Beat egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar in a small mixer bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar. Beat until stiff peaks form. Gently fold in the chocolate chips, a little at a time. Drop by level tablespoons (or pipe if you’re brave) onto greased baking sheets.

Bake at 300 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until the meringues are dry and crisp. Cool on sheets for two minutes then remove to wire racks to cool completely. Store in airtight containers.

Debra Gaines’s recipe for Gluten-free/dairy-free/sugar-free Christmas Cutout Cookies

2 ½ cups blanched almond flour

½ tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1 egg (beaten)

½ cup coconut oil (melted)

3 tbs. agave syrup

3 tbs. honey

2 tbs. vanilla extract (bourbon)

½ tsp. orange zest

Mix almond flour, salt and baking soda in one bowl.

Mix beaten egg, agave, honey, vanilla, orange zest and the coconut oil (warm, not hot so as not to cook the egg) in another bowl.

Combine in one bowl or a food processor like I did to really mix the ingredients together.

Roll dough into one or two big balls, wrap each one in wax paper and chill until dough is firm and can be rolled out. (This step took a lot longer than I thought it would. In fact, I finally put it in the freezer. I recommend making this dough the night before you wish to use it; but the freezer did work!)

Roll dough out either between wax paper sheets or with a light gluten-free flour (such as rice flour). Cut out the shapes and place in a greased cookie sheet.

Add sprinkles if desired, or leave plain to frost later (coconut cream would be awesome).

Bake at 350 for 11–12 minutes.

Amy Williams’s chili gets its kick from bourbon.

Photo courtesy of Amy Williams

Even in the slow season, many of us have frantic days where eating is almost an afterthought. If we have more than ourselves to feed, it can become a source of stress in itself. So, how do we provide healthy meals for ourselves and our families in limited time without sacrificing health benefits, eye appeal, and flavor? In this ongoing series, Islanders share their quick, go-to recipes.

Amy Simcik Williams cooks big. She is the involved mother of Rosalyn, a third-grader, and a helpmate in her husband Seth’s plumbing business in addition to her commitments to Island community service, so she hasn’t a lot of time to cadge together an evening meal. So, she cooks ahead.

“The reason we would need a fast supper,” Amy explains, “is because our lives kind of revolve around the school schedule and my husband is busy in his line of work and we’re usually coming together around dinner time. Making that part of the day less stressful and easier to get together is a priority for us. Having a meal that’s ready to go and easy to serve is especially beneficial.”

Amy devised her turkey chili recipe on her own. “I was with some friends and we were talking about what to have for dinner one night,” she recalls. “A young friend of mine — a teenager — said ‘How about chili?’” Tired of the usual fare, Amy decided to make it with turkey instead of the usual beef. “I wanted to add more vegetables, but I also wanted to make it meaty. Seth likes heartier foods.”

At Cronig’s, she found Plainville Ground Turkey and continued around the store to pick up ingredients that would seem to enhance the dish. “I bought three kinds of beans,” she says.

And the bourbon? “I thought, turkey can be kind of bland, so I was trying to think of some sort of liquid that would give it some extra flavor in addition to the kick of the chili spices.”

Besides the convenience of keeping it stashed in the refrigerator, Amy likes the versatility of the dish. “Chili recipes are pretty straightforward,” she says, “and you can adapt them to your taste any way you want. You can use more beans and less meat, substitute sweet potato instead of butternut squash. If you want to add onions, add onions.”

For health reasons, Amy cooks gluten and dairy free. Instead of corn bread, she serves the chili with Late July Multi-Grain Corn Tortilla Chips. “What I like about this recipe,” she says, “is that I can make a lot of it and we can eat off of it for almost a week. We have it available for lunch and/or dinner. That way I will have a back-up for a night that I don’t have time to cook a meal.

“It sits in the fridge and it seems like the longer it sits, the better it tastes.”

img_0117Bourbon Turkey Chili

Serves 8 to 10

5 4-oz. pkgs. of Plainville Natural ground turkey

1/8 cup grapeseed oil

1 1/2 Tbs. paprika

2 tsp. cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp. black pepper

7 or 8 cloves of garlic, minced

2 tsp. sea salt

3 shot glasses of Knob Creek Bourbon

Add oil and ground turkey to Le Creuset or other large French/Dutch oven, cook at low to medium heat, adding spices, garlic, salt, and bourbon. Stir together and cook, mixing and chopping turkey mixture occasionally.

1 jar Amy’s (brand-name) family organic pasta sauce, or choose your favorite pasta sauce, and add some water from rinsing jar (1/2 cup).

2 26-oz. POMI (boxes) chopped tomatoes

1 15-oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed

1 15-oz can of red beans, drained and rinsed

1 15-oz can of pinto beans, drained and rinsed

2 1/2 cups of butternut squash, cubed small

1 bunch of cilantro washed and finely chopped, without stems.

When the turkey is thoroughly cooked after mixing and chopping up large pieces with a wooden spoon, stir in tomato sauce, water, and the chopped tomatoes. Then add the beans (drained and rinsed well) and butternut squash. Stir ingredients. Cook together for 30 minutes over low to medium heat, cover pot. Check and stir occasionally.

After 30 minutes or so, add the cilantro. Mix together and let cook for another 30 to 40 minutes, until butternut squash is softened and all flavors marry. Add extra salt or pepper as desired. The chili tastes even better after a couple of days in the refrigerator.

Reheat slowly, adding a little water to soften cold chili. You can freeze the chili once it has thoroughly cooked and cooled, storing it in plastic freezer bags.

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Gifts made only on Martha’s Vineyard.

Sue Fairbanks makes glass beads for jewelry. – Photo by MIchael Cummo

made_on_mvy_logoWhen the last beach ball is deflated, when we’ve waved our last farewell to the summer visitors, when we’re already debating which restaurants are still open, there is still a wealth of creative talent on this Island. We poked our noses into festivals, co-op galleries, and pop-up shops to examine who is doing what for the holidays. And, more important, where can we get some?

Heidi Feldman, Martha’s Vineyard Sea Salt

Martha's Vineyard Sea Salt is now available in five varieties.
Martha’s Vineyard Sea Salt is now available in five varieties.

It started with a bag of chips. “Our shiitake [mushroom] operation failed because of all those moths and caterpillars that descended on the Island,” says Heidi Feldman. “I was sitting in my car outside of Alley’s eating a bag of vinegar and sea-salt potato chips when I realized nobody on the Island was making sea salt. I started asking around, and Curtis [Friedman, her husband and business partner at Down Island Farm] started asking around.” They started making test batches on their kitchen stove, but decided to use solar-powered evaporators to keep fuel costs down.

That was in 2013. Now available in five varieties and several package sizes, Martha’s Vineyard Sea Salt is ubiquitous on the Island, used in five Island restaurants, in products for five Island companies, and sold in 20 Island stores. “It’s a sun-dried, premium-finish sea salt,” Heidi explains. “It’s 60% saltier than normal table salt.”

The couple have great plans for the holidays. In addition to their current retail outlets, like Juliska, Not Your Sugar Mamas and LeRoux, their products will be featured at the West Tisbury Farmers Market and many holiday events. “We’re doing all kinds of salty gifts for the holidays,” Heidi boasts. They’re putting together combinations that will include products from other Island creatives, like Scott Campbell’s clay spoons and bowls. “Everything will have an Island theme,” she says. “Everything that’s included will be from the Island.”

Martha’s Vineyard Sea Salt/Down Island Farm products are for sale at West Tisbury Farmers Market (Saturdays, 10 am-1 pm), Vineyard Holiday Market on Spring Street in Vineyard Haven (this weekend through Christmas), Juliska, LeRoux, Cronig’s, Morning Glory, Rainy Day, Not Your Sugar Mamas — check website for complete listing. 508-560-3315; downislandfarm@gmail.com; mvseasalt.com.

Teresa Yuan, decorative wreaths

When Teresa Yuan can no longer landscape, she makes decorative wreaths from flowers and vines she dries herself.
When Teresa Yuan can no longer landscape, she makes decorative wreaths from flowers and vines she dries herself.

“I’m a very creative person,” Teresa Yuan says, her voice ringing with enthusiasm. “I can’t just sit still.” A landscaper under the name Yuan Gardens during the three growing seasons, Teresa continues her involvement with nature over the fourth. Using flowers and vines she dries herself, she constructs wreaths in many sizes, shapes, and colors. And they’re not just for the holidays. Scallop shells share space with ocean-blue hydrangeas and sunshine-yellow roses. Mini crabs cuddle up with dried sage and a big red gingham bow. These are Island-themed to the max, and much more durable than you would think. “If you keep them out of the sun, they can last four or five years,” she says.

A native New Yorker who came to the Island in 1978, Teresa is also a painter (her work is currently showing at Kennedy Studios) and has taught cooking classes. Flower drying was a trial-and-error process when she began. “You can dry too early,” she explains. “And you can pick too early.” Now her basement is hung with bunches of drying flowers, herbs, and vines, and the hum of dehumidifiers. “I just love flowers,” Teresa says. It shows.

Teresa Yuan’s wreaths will be available at the Vineyard Holiday Gift Shop on Spring Street in Vineyard Haven, and by appointment at her Edgartown home studio. She also takes custom orders for fresh holiday wreaths. 508-627-8428; yuangardens@gmail.com; teresayuan.com.

Sue Fairbanks, glass bead jewelry

Sue Fair makes beads.
Sue Fair makes beads.

Brave: That’s the word that comes to mind when speaking of Sue Fairbanks. Brave for buying an RV upon retirement to travel the country. Then brave to pick up a portable hobby that uses flame and hot glass. Sue’s stock-in-trade is lampwork beads — those glass globes that Pandora made so popular. She creates them in sizes that range from ¼″ to 2″, and in many color and design combinations. Some are etched to resemble beach glass, but most are pop-your-eye shiny.

It wasn’t easy learning the process, and there were a few minor injuries along the way. Sue explains, “I have never burned myself with the glass, but on the rod called a mandrel [around which the bead is formed]. I would heat up the mandrel before I put the glass on it, then realize I didn’t have the color I wanted to use, so I’d stand up and move, forgetting that I was holding a hot mandrel in my hand. So I would loosen my hand, and it would slide, and I’d grab it at the hot end.”

The process itself, even when not dangerous, is complicated. Learning how much flame to use with how much glass and for how long is a matter of trial and error — a product of experience and patience.

But it would seem that the growing pains Sue suffered were well worth it. She sells a lot of inventory over the summer in the festivals and flea markets, and her jewelry will be available over the holidays at several Christmas markets.

Sue Fairbanks’ jewelry will be available at the Featherstone Holiday Flea Market, the Vineyard Holiday Gift Shop on Spring Street in Vineyard Haven, and at Moonstone in Vineyard Haven.

John Duryea, Krug & Ryan Co.

The Krug & Ryan cutting boards are painstakingly cut and assembled.
The Krug & Ryan cutting boards are painstakingly cut and assembled.

“I love my knives,” John Duryea admits, and “they’re the best thing for the knife,” he says fondly about the two butcher-block cutting boards he uses in his home kitchen. “Any other kind of cutting board damages the knife. I am a home cook, for sure, and they get used quite a bit. These are chef-quality. End-grain. The best kind.”

John began producing the handcrafted, hardwood end-grained butcher-block cutting boards in the winter of 2007, when he was asked to be in three wedding parties and a guest at three more. “That’s six wedding gifts,” he exclaims. He was working in construction, and things had slowed down for the winter. “I made these as wedding gifts to start with,” he recalls. “Here we are, seven seasons later, and I’m doing this full-time.”

The products are butcher-block-type boards, painstakingly cut and assembled. “Not many are being made this way,” John says. “It’s the old-school way of doing it. There was a lot of trial and error that winter of 2007.”

The boards come with a 20-year warranty and instructions on how to maintain the board. Krug & Ryan’s customers range from younger people who are also faced with buying wedding gifts for their friends to 40- to 60-somethings who love their kitchens and love to cook.

John Duryea’s work is available at the Thanksgiving Vineyard Artisans Festival, on his website, and by appointment. 508-388-9999; krugandryan.com.

Sarah Crittenden, silk and dyed wool accessories

Sarah Crittenden's scarves are available at Ghost Island Farm and the Vineyard Holiday Gift shop.
Sarah Crittenden’s scarves are available at Ghost Island Farm and the Vineyard Holiday Gift shop.

Sarah Crittenden has been playing with dyes on wool for 15 years. “With the yarn, I like to do crochet — do different things and use my colors in yarn creations,” she says, “but with silk scarves, it’s all about the colors. Rather than having the color and doing something else with it, the goal is to get the color.” She speaks rhapsodically about madder root and Japanese indigo and scabiosa flowers, about the beautiful turquoise, deep blues and purples, and rosy reds they produce.

Sarah, who, with her “sweetie” Rusty Gordon runs Ghost Island Farm in West Tisbury, grows most of the natural materials she uses to dye her 100% silk scarves. But the dying process seems more fun than work for her. “I have this playful spirit,” she says. “I really enjoy playing with the process and seeing what happens. It’s not that I don’t care if it’s a fail, I just don’t worry about it.” She frequently redyes colors that come out blah, and she’s been known to rip up unfortunate results to use as ribbons for bouquets.

Sarah Crittenden’s scarves will be available at the Vineyard Holiday Gift Shop on Spring Street in Vineyard Haven and at the farm stand at Ghost Island Farm on State Road in West Tisbury.

Alice Thompson, Photos by Alice

Sarah's Island home photo card.
Alice Thompson’s Island Home photo card.

An iPhone? Really? Who would think that one could take this kind of quality photo with an iPhone? Alice Thompson of Oak Bluffs, that’s who. “I’m totally intimidated by mechanical things,” Alice demurs. While some people have problems learning how to use an iPhone to make a phone call, she seems to have mastered it as a tool for her art.

“She’s known for having an eye,” says former co-worker Diane Hartmann. “Her work is beautiful.” Alice readily admits it: “I do have a really good gift from God. I like to photograph from my heart and what I’m led to.” The results are stunning, ready-to-frame matted photos in three sizes, and greeting cards that, she says, “sell like hotcakes.” The photos are mostly scenes of the Island and Italy and France, but include some snowy winter vistas that are perfect for holiday greetings.

With the exception of the Vineyard Holiday Gift Shop, Alice prefers to sell in person at the festivals and flea markets, rather than place her work in retail stores. “You know, I really enjoy meeting the people,” she says. “I love the one-on-one contact, so I can tell them the stories behind my photos, as opposed to them going into a shop and picking out a card.”

Alice Thompson’s wares will be available at the Vineyard Holiday Gift Shop on Spring Street in Vineyard Haven and at several of the holiday gift fairs on the Island. She can be reached at  june.cherokee945@gmail.com.

Robert and Debra Yapp, Miles from Mainland

Bob Yapp, who own the company "Miles from Mainland" with his wife Debbie, created this rocking horse.
Bob Yapp, who own the company “Miles from Mainland” with his wife Debbie, created this rocking horse.

These folks are a natural team. He makes the lamp base, she makes the shade. He pulls together a frame for a mirror, she decorates it. And they both consider their retirement enterprise “an adventure.”

Bob and Debra Yapp of West Tisbury were schoolteachers. She taught mostly third and fifth grade at Edgartown School, and he split his time between the industrial-arts shops of Edgartown and Oak Bluffs. They taught for 68 years between them, sometimes finding ways to combine their efforts into projects for their students. Now retired, they’re working out of their home studio in West Tisbury. Bob creates inlaid-wood home furnishings, and Debra dries ferns, leaves, and flowers to decorate Bob-made mirror frames, trays, and picture frames.

Debbie Yapp makes these lampshades from pressed flowers.
Debbie Yapp makes these lampshades from pressed flowers.

“We love working together,” says Debra. “It’s really fun. Especially operating out of our home. There’s really no stress if we don’t sell something. We have the space to do it, the time to do it.”

Her husband concurs: “We have a blast. There’s never a boring moment. We’re always excited about developing new things.”

The old standards comprise a large variety of home furnishings, from a mermaid-inlaid tissue box to a custom “live edge” coffee table — all made from natural materials, found and sourced on the Island. What’s new this year, by popular request, are napkin holders, desk accessories, and wooden deer for holiday tablescaping. And, like the Yapps, all are greater than the sum of their parts.

Miles from Mainland wares are available at Rainy Day in Vineyard Haven, the Holiday Craft Show in Edgartown, the Thanksgiving Vineyard Artisans Festival, and in the Yapps’ home studio by appointment. They are also on Facebook at Miles from Mainland. 508-693-4565;

milesfrommainland@gmail.com.

Celine Segel, CS Jewelry

Chain maille pendant.
Chain maille pendant.

The method is centuries old, but the product is new as the last second. Celine Segel, late of France, now residing and working in West Tisbury, has brought the ancient techniques of chainmaille to her modern jewelry.

“You might be more familiar with chainmaille from seeing the knights’ armor,” Celine tells us. “It dates back to 2,700 years ago. They’ve found traces of jewelry used by the Vikings and even the Egyptians. They don’t really know how far [back] it goes, but it’s very ancient.”

Celine Segal at work.
Celine Segal at work.

The process, as she explains it, goes like this: You coil metal wire (gold, silver, etc.) around a rod, then hand-cut it with a saw to create “jump rings” – open circles. Using pliers, you pull the ends apart and weave them into one another. Sounds elementary, but the results can be very complicated — and beautiful. And yet Celine started working at her trade in a very simple way: “I just wanted to make myself a chain,” she says. “I stumbled on the technique and took some workshops, and the rest I taught myself.”

CS Jewelry comes in silver, gold, and coated rings, and ranges from an uncomplicated suspended-pearl teardrop necklace to frantic and colorful Byzantine bracelets. Celine sells a triple-decker coated-wire bracelet that comes in stunning colors. The dilemma becomes, Which to buy?

Celine Segel’s work is available at the Vineyard Holiday Gift Shop on Spring Street in Vineyard Haven and on her website. celine.segel@gmail.com; celinesegeljewelry.com.

Irene Fox, Simple Joy Herbals

Irene Fox is a West Tisbury landscaper who realized she needed balms for cuts and scrapes. So she made them, and sells them as "Simple Joy Herbals."
Irene Fox is a West Tisbury landscaper who realized she needed balms for cuts and scrapes. So she made them, and sells them as “Simple Joy Herbals.”

Many of Irene Fox’s formulas came about by necessity. She’s a West Tisbury gardener and landscaper, and she suffered the slings and arrows of extended periods on her knees in the brush. “You’re landscaping!” she laughs. “You get cuts and scrapes. Here’s the perfect balm to make for that. You’re landscaping! Your muscles hurt, so I created an arthritis muscle salve. It’s like 20 different herbs that heal and take the pain away from achy muscles. I have dry hands! I want to make a moisturizer.” Soon she was producing for other people and selling at farmers’ markets — the logical venue for such things.

Now her inventory has expanded far beyond the needs of the dig-in-the-dirt set. Every product, from balms to splashes to butters, is made from 100% natural ingredients — even the preservatives. And her market has expanded. “Now it’s different,” Irene says. “Selling at the Farmers Market, you have the full range of demographics. You’ve got people from Washington. You’ve got people from California. You get a lot of people who have not a clue what natural healing is all about, but because they’re at the Farmers Market, they stop and ask what you’re doing. It turns on a lot of people who would never go into a health food store.”

Irene Fox’s natural products are available at Morning Glory Farms, Healthy Additions (Cronig’s), Ghost Island Farm, the Vineyard Holiday Gift Shop on Spring Street in Vineyard Haven, and various holiday events. 508-388-9793; simplejoyherbals.com.

Laura Silber, Demolition Revival Furniture

Laura Silber makes new furniture out of old boards.  – Photo by Eli Dagostino
Laura Silber makes new furniture out of old boards. – Photo by Eli Dagostino

What Laura Silber doesn’t do: rework or refinish existing furniture. What Laura Silber does do: create furniture and furnishings of her own design made from reclaimed board (decking, siding, flooring) and repurposed hardware. The result is fun, often colorful, and always surprising. Cabinet doors will be fashioned from Victorian metal heating grates. An antique in-door mailbox serves as a drawer pull. Old tin ceiling tiles form a decorative panel on a cabinet.

Laura learned her craft by building her own house. “It’s always surprising to people that I’m a woman and I’m doing this, and I work the power tools,” she says. “I do all the stuff on my own. There’s an assumption that the heavy cutting and heavy labor isn’t done by me. I do, every once in a while, have to call in somebody to hold up the end of the board.”

But there is one man involved. Laura trained under Island cabinetmaker Ralph Braun. “He’s an amazing, amazing, cabinetmaker,” she says. “Because he trained in Germany, he worked with old, old materials and houses. He has an amazing understanding of vintage materials.”

Laura Silber’s work can be found at Vineyard Artisans Festivals, on her website, and in her West Tisbury studio by appointment. 508-696-8475; info@demolitionrevival.com; demolitionrevival.com.

Berta Welch, Aquinnah Wampum

Tourists wear Black Dog. Islanders wear wampum — as do “in the know” tourists.

Some of the best wampum comes almost directly from the source. Berta Welch is a native Aquinnah Wampanoag — the original creators of the coveted purple and white beads. In fact, one of her favorite things to do is correct the misconception that wampum was used as currency by the tribe. “Early colonists of New England mistook the offering of wampum to establish peaceful relations as payment,” she says. “The English assigned value to the beads as currency.”

Berta’s creations are prettier than any shiny coin. Her technique mixes the quahog shell beads with other stones and shells, or she creates inlays of wampum on wampum. Her bracelets, necklaces, and earrings sport a unique contemporary style unlike that of other Island producers.

Ironically, it was her husband, Vern Welch, a native of Rhode Island, who started making wampum. Now it’s a family affair, with their son Giles and daughter Sophia adding to the mix. “We all work in our own styles,” Berta says. The work of all four artisans is featured in the family-owned shop, Stony Creek Gifts, on the cliffs of Aquinnah.

Berta Welch’s work can be found at Allen Farms, Claudia’s in Vineyard Haven and Edgartown, and at Stony Creek in Aquinnah on weekends through Thanksgiving, and by appointment. 508-645-3595; bertawelch@hotmail.com.

Laura Hearn, MV Treasures

Laura Hearn makes wrap bracelets from leather and beads.
Laura Hearn makes wrap bracelets from leather and beads.

“I started because my daughter told me how beautiful I was when I wore earrings,” recalls Laura Hearn. “She was about 2. Of course, it started me wearing more earrings and more bracelets, and that’s what got me into jewelry.” That was five years ago.

Laura’s current passion, leather and bead wrap bracelets, came about because she saw one she liked, but couldn’t afford it. So she bought an inexpensive one and took it apart to learn how to make it.

Her business actually began with making and selling necklaces of knotted hemp: “A friend of mine saw one and loved it, and purchased two for presents. That’s what made me realize I could make them and people could buy them. I was a stay-at-home-mom at the time. This was something I could sell online and in stores, and not have to leave the house and worry about childcare.”

Now her daughter is 7½ years old, and thanks to the Internet — her Etsy shop, and Facebook — MV Treasures has customers all over the world. And because of Laura’s placement in Citrine and Slip 77, she has a lot of Island customers. She’s done custom bridal jewelry, and will create bracelets to order.

508-696-8759; 1Woman2Worlds.com.

Donna Michalski, Aunt Ollie’s Soap

sun_and_moonYou can’t go wrong with soap. Hostess gift, something for that fussy aunt, your hard-to-buy-for brother, the boss — everyone washes. And if they don’t, we don’t hang around with them, right? Donna Michalski, AKA Aunt Ollie, produces two kinds of soap — melt-and-pour fancy glycerin soaps, and cold-process, from-scratch (using lye and oils) specialty soaps. And she is truly an artist — one could almost say a chef. Many of her glycerin creations are shaped like layer cakes, cupcakes, and candies.  “I learned cake decorating in college and,” she chuckles, “I’ve always been interested in food.”

She began producing soap for profit two years ago when she was asked to make up some baskets for a silent auction. “I had fooled around with soap for myself, then thought, Why not?” Donna recalls. She posted pictures on Facebook, and people began to ask if they could buy it. “Now I paste everything I make on Facebook,” she says.

For now, she’s focusing on soaps with holiday themes — including gingerbread men, Christmas trees, holly, and peppermint — but she also carries a line of Island- and beach-themed soaps, including one that is shaped like the Island. And she’s working on other bath items like fizzies, bars, and bombs.

Donna Michalski’s soaps can be found at the Vineyard Holiday Gift Shop on Spring Street in Vineyard Haven, and MV Florist. She also takes custom orders for showers, weddings, reunions, and other events. She’s on Facebook as Aunt Ollie.508-696-8759.

Randi Hadley, retro aprons

Randi Hadley's retro aprons are reversible.
Randi Hadley’s retro aprons are reversible.

When Randi Hadley of Vineyard Haven moved to the Island in 1981, she brought her sewing machine with her on the plane. She made all of her own clothes in high school (“I was very fashionable,” she confides), and started making aprons about five years ago. And they are clever. Besides being very vintage-looking — some are actually made from vintage patterns — they are reversible. One side is pure retro. Randi uses up to four different fabrics, and buttons with shapes like chickens, teacups, mermaids, or roosters. Some even include wampum.

The other side is plain fabric. “My idea is that you cook with the plain side out,” she explains. “Then, when you’re ready for dinner, you flip it around and you can wear it to the table.” For a final practical flourish, she attaches a hand towel.

But her aprons are not always for the kitchen. “I wear mine out, sometimes,” she says. And customers have been known to hang them as artwork on the walls of their kitchens. They’ve taken blue ribbons at the Ag Fair four years out of five.

Randi Hadley’s aprons are available at Alley Cat in Vineyard Haven, the Vineyard Holiday Gift Shop on Spring Street in Vineyard Haven, and by appointment. Custom aprons can be ordered.508-696-9215.

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After the formal Salsa dancing lessons, instructors Saskia and David Vanderhoop (at right), let loose. —Photo by Siobhan Beasley

It’s hot. It’s spicy. It comes from Cuba and Africa and New York City. It’s salsa, and every Wednesday evening, it’s on the menu, that is, the dance floor at The Ritz.

Salsa lessons begin at 7 pm at the Circuit Ave. establishment, with a sort of conga line that snakes into the bar area, back into the dance area, and continues in a circle there. A boom box thumps out a loud Latin beat. The wooden floor squeaks and groans under the bouncing weight of the dancers, and workday fatigue appears to disappear. The dancers range in age from 20-something to golden years. Retirees join construction workers and fitness experts. The dress-code is Island casual — mostly denim and tees.

The music ends and the 19 students are divided into two groups based upon their ability to perform a “right hand turn.” David Vanderhoop, one of the teachers, guides the advanced participants toward the front of the room and his wife, Saskia Vanderhoop — the other teacher — corrals the beginners into the back. The groups are further divided and the leaders — a few of them women because of a shortage of men – face the followers. A deep voice from one group rings out “Go!” The followers turn under the arms of their partners. And the music pounds again.

David gets his charges moving back and forth in the basic step, then shouts “Go!” The leaders raise their arms and the followers duck under and turn. This is week two. They know the drill. He shouts again, his low voice competing with the loud thump of the music. The leaders turn.

From the other group comes Saskia’s high-pitched directive: “This time I want to see hips! Now shoulders!”

Hips swivel, feet tangle, and people laugh their embarrassment at turning the wrong way or bumping into their neighbors.

“Cross body lead!” David trumpets.

“Okay, pair up!” Saskia shouts.

Saskia Vanderhoop, who, with David, founded and continues to teach at Sassafras Earth Education in Aquinnah, landed on the Island 16 years ago. She was born and raised in the Netherlands, and at 18 she began learning social dance, but salsa was still a distant dream. “When I moved to the Dutch Antilles for about a year,” she explains, “that’s when I really got in the groove.” Later, she studied in Amsterdam where she organized the first salsa event there. She studied jazz dance. She went to Cuba to learn folk dance and African dance — all of it feeding her salsa skills. “For a good 30 years now,” she says, “I’ve been studying salsa dancing.”

The roots of salsa, popular in the U.S. since the 1970s, are deep in Latin forms as well as Afro-Cuban and Afro-Caribbean dances. There are also elements of earlier dance forms such as cha-cha and mambo and a step or two of swing and hustle.

When Saskia met and married David Vanderhoop, a native of Martha’s Vineyard and member of the Wampanoag Tribe, she taught him to salsa and they have been tag-teaming since. “We used to go out to New York and sometimes took workshops together,” she relates. “We studied both salsa and mambo.”

The dance is kind of a moving target on the Island. Lessons are sporadic. Another couple, Esther Deming and Sergio Racig, frequently teach in their home studio. Ballroom Dance MV, which meets on Sunday nights, includes salsa in their open dancing and occasionally in their pre-dance lessons. The lessons at The Ritz ($10 per one-hour session) are, at press time, in their third week out of eight. The couples give private lessons upon request.

As the class at The Ritz shakes into its second half-hour, the room is getting hot — with energy and Fahrenheit. David’s volume increases as he directs, “Cross body lead! Underarm turn!”

In the beginners group, a young woman wearing a purple top beams as she nails a move. She’s one of the few who seem sure enough in her steps to be able to hear the rhythm. She’s a natural and, no doubt, will be moving up to David’s group within the next week or so. Most of the others have, thanks to Saskia’s enthusiastic repetitions, caught on, but most are still stepping more than dancing. The men tend to be stiff and there’s counting in their eyes. But the beat of the music is strong, and they are becoming looser by the moment. Some of the women have already caught the groove and their shoulders dip in opposition to their hips.

The advanced group is also sporting more sway than when they arrived. There’s more lead-and-follow than choreography now and, with little variation, wrong turns and collisions with other dancers have been replaced by smooth precision.

Karen and David Kolb of Oak Bluffs dance with the advanced learners. They’ve had some experience with other social dances and taken lessons from the Vanderhoops before. “They’re fun and relaxed,” Ms. Kolb said. “They’re a good team. They work well together.”

And the draw of Salsa? “I’ve just always liked salsa and Latin dancing,” she said. “When you go to a dance it gives you another style you can do.”

The class is close to ending. The purple shirt girl is dancing with Saskia, watching her feet with determination. She’s going to get the step. You know it.

People are beginning to arrive for the open dancing. Jose Sanabria — grey-haired, and Latin-handsome — arrives for his weekly salsa fix. “I was dancing in my mother’s womb,” he insisted. A strength and conditioning coach at the YMCA, he speaks of growing up in Mexico City. “There were no parties that didn’t end with dancing. We would eat, and we would talk,” he added, his face expanding into a grin, “and then we would dance.”

Back at The Ritz, more dancers arrive and wait out the lesson in the bar or around the periphery of the room. Saskia announces that the time has come for everyone to show off what they learned. The advanced group clears the floor and the beginners move to the center. Saskia, all long legs and blond hair, towers over many of her charges. “Remember when you were little kids and made up dances and went all out?” she asks. “That’s what I want to see!”

Both groups perform with varying degrees of nervousness and competency, but all are forgiven and the applause is generous. Then the lights dim and the DJ takes his place. Saskia and David begin to dance together and, with their long limbs and her flying blond hair, become the floor show. Some of the students retreat to the bar for refreshment and liquid fortitude, while veterans join newbies on the boards. Soon the space is hip-to-gyrating-hip with dancers.

Just another off-season Wednesday night at the Ritz.