It’s finally spring, though the weather doesn’t quite feel like it. For me, this time of year is about scrambling to finish the projects and accomplish the things I had planned to do over the winter. The sunshine filled days that last until seven o’clock get me excited about the summer and motivate me to stop procrastinating and finish spring cleaning. They also get me excited about my favorite restaurants opening for the season.
April 1 is right around the corner, and so are the openings of many seasonal establishments, such as The Lampost in Oak Bluffs, with its inaugural April Fool’s Day opening. Expect to see a facelift to the façade of the Circuit Avenue institution, with the addition of patio seating and windows.
Atlantic Fish and Chop House in Edgartown will reopen on Wednesday, April 2, with the addition of a new street-side outdoor cafe section, as well as a completely private dining room that seats 12.
Chesca’s Restaurant in Edgartown celebrates its 20th season this year and opens its doors on Thursday, April 10. Be on the lookout for celebratory specials.
Coop deVille will open on April 18, and Petey says he’ll be stocking at least 100 beers this summer. And The Red Cat Kitchen at Ken ‘n’ Beck in Oak Bluffs opens Tuesday, April 15.
One of my favorite spring traditions is eating my first slice of Gio’s pizza of the season, which will happen on Thursday, April 24, when Giordano’s takeout opens.
What places are you excited about? Here’s what some Islanders had to say:
“I’m really excited about most recently State Road Restaurant reopening this Thursday [March 27], and then after that The Lookout [opens April 3]. That’s a sign of the summer. The Lookout is always good because of the location, seafood, and sushi. I’m also excited for The Port Hunter to open [opens May 15]. I’m really excited about local food being served, it’s a sign of spring and summer,” says Sarah Soushek of Vineyard Haven.
“A place that I am really excited about this summer is definitely l’etoile [opens April 24]. Their desserts are really good, they’re not overdone, and the prices are right. I like the bar menu too,” says Denis Toomey of Edgartown. “I also like The Lookout, sushi is always good, and I like eating outside on the deck, seeing the boats coming in. It’s always nice to get seafood right on the water down-Island. The outdoor seating and quickness of The Net Result is always pretty good. You walk in and order, and in three minutes it comes out. I like how much they give you on the fish and chips. They give you two big solid pieces of fish, and also the fries are pretty good. Also The Port Hunter rocks.”
“I can’t wait for Faith’s Seafood Shack to open: sushi, fro yo, and really good coffee. I also long for 7a [opens April 1]. I want to sit in the sun with my coffee, see my friends, and eat my Liz Lemon sandwich. Cannot wait,” says Aretha Brown of Chilmark.
“I’m excited about being on the harbor in Oak Bluffs and just being outside more, because it’s been very cold and I’ve been hibernating,” says Elyse Madeiras of Oak Bluffs. “I like to go to Donovan’s [Reef] to visit him. I love being on the beach with friends. We always manage to go to Norton Point to cookout. The best is when everyone starts to go fishing, and we grill on the porch at my house, and quahogs, quahogs, quahogs. Quahogs for days, that’s my candy. I do miss The Lookout a lot, but definitely look forward to spending time on the harbor in Oak Bluffs, people watching and seeing everybody outside.”
Word on the street is that there will be a few surprises this summer with new restaurants opening and changes in ownership. Stay tuned for updates.
Chef Chris Fischer of Beach Plum Inn & Food, Chef Dan Sauer of 7a Foods, and Bennett Coffey and Kyleen Keenan of Not Your Sugar Mamas are being recognized by StarChefs.com as coastal New England rising stars. They will be honored at the Rising Stars Gala on Tuesday, April 15, at the Providence Biltmore Hotel, where they will showcase their signature dishes. Tickets start at $95. For more information, visit starchefs.com.
Sadly, this will be my last article for Good Taste. It’s been a fun ride. Thank you to all who have been so encouraging, helpful, and supportive. Keep cooking, and be sure to support Island restaurants and local food.
The long awaited Copper Wok restaurant on Main Street in Vineyard Haven celebrated their opening this past weekend. “We wanted to do multiple parties to reduce the number of people so it wasn’t chaotic,” said owner JB Blau. “We’ve had multiple opening parties before with too many people. It’s not that comfortable, you can’t really see the place, you can’t get to the bar, and you can’t feel comfortable in the space at all.” So this time he did it a little differently.
The four parties sold out quickly, so they added three more, with all of the proceeds from the ticket sales going to the Boys and Girls Club. “We wanted people to have room to walk around, experience things, look at the room, and not be fighting everyone for food,” said Mr. Blau. Guests enjoyed a selection of appetizers ranging from fried rice and street noodles to boneless spare ribs and dumplings.
Mr. Blau is the man behind Sharky’s in Oak Bluffs and Edgartown as well as Martha’s Vineyard Chowder Company in Oak Bluffs. So how did Copper Wok come to fruition? “Chef Alex Nagi and I have always loved Asian food, we always wanted to do it,” said Mr. Blau. “He is a business partner in this venture, as well as at the Chowder Company. We walked in here and sat down and immediately thought that this is an Asian Restaurant.” They really liked the idea of people getting on or off the boat being able to grab Chinese food. “Vineyard Haven just seemed right for something a little different,” he continued. “It gives our guests the opportunity to try something different, to still get their points on their VIP cards and the whole network but not to be repetitive at all.”
Executive chef Alex Nagi and team members with cooking experience ranging from the Philippines to Chinatown in Boston will be putting out Pan Asian cuisine, creating dishes from India and Thailand to China and Japan. The menu will focus on “Chinese food that you are accustomed to from Chinese restaurants with a Chowder Company chef perspective. It will be the highest quality, while not making the price prohibitive,” said Mr. Blau.
The Zen-like space features a 20-person sushi bar, banquettes and a 22 seat, counter-height community table where guests may mingle with their neighbors. There is also a patio, screened during the summer, and usable during the winter with the help of plexiglass and heaters.
Most of the dishes are conducive to sharing and will be served family style. Menu items will include a hybrid of Kung Pao and Szechuan chicken aptly named Szech-pao chicken, as well as standard items that you would expect such as crab Rangoon and spring rolls, all handmade on the premises. “There is a tendency in restaurants to have things that are premade or prepackaged,” said Mr. Blau. “We are going to try to do as much as we can do in house. It’s a very prep heavy concept where we will be working with a lot of fresh ingredients and handmade things.”
Don’t expect an eight to ten page menu, rather imagine the top twenty Asian inspired dishes that you would want to eat. “As we get our legs under us, then we’ll roll out more entrée style dishes, more like with Chowder Company edge,” said Mr. Blau. They hope to be featuring entrees with tuna and lobster during the summer, with more dishes coming off of the grill and sauté stations.
Sake will be the main attraction behind the bar, accompanied by fresh fruit and fresh juices. Expect Sake sangria with lemongrass, ginger and lime and a Sake blueberry cosmo. “This will be the first drink in Vineyard Haven served in a martini glass, but it’s wine – Sake is a rice wine,” said Mr. Blau. Copper Wok will feature ten different types of Sake, eight beers on tap, a a twelve bottle beer list with six Asian beers and a tea program with traditional teas. Mr. Blau hopes that trying Sake will be an educational experience at Copper Wok, similar to tequilas at Sharky’s and whisky at Chowder Company, but he emphasizes that they can only serve beer and wine, and that food is required to order a drink.
Be on the lookout for custom fortune cookies in the future, stuffed with Island fortunes, sayings and mantras. “We recently hooked up with an amazing pastry chef,” said Mr. Blau. They hope to incorporate desserts focusing on flavors of lychee and green tea and maybe an oversized fortune cookie with a chocolate dipping sauce.
Although they plan for takeout to be a big part of the business, it won’t be offered right away. “We want to focus on the diners in the restaurant before we look at takeout. The last thing we want is for somebody that got to-go food to be disappointed that it took too long and somebody that is sitting down to feel like their dish is taking too long,” said Mr. Blau. “We want to make sure that we have it 100% right and then we’ll roll out each subsequent thing.” Down the road they hope to offer some sort of delivery program as well as serve Dim Sum during the weekends in the winter and seven days a week in the summer.
“We’re just really excited to be in Vineyard Haven; we’ve been in Oak Bluffs and Edgartown, this is the next obvious piece of the puzzle.”
Copper Wok is located adjacent to the Mansion House on Main Street in Vineyard Haven. They will be open for dinner starting Wednesday, March 12, seven days a week from 4 pm to 11 pm. Lunch will soon follow on the weekends. For more information, call 508-693-3416.
It is March on Martha’s Vineyard, the awkward month that yields snow yet is the gateway to spring, the month that plays host to daylight savings and the vernal equinox. This time of year confuses me: one day I’m scraping the snow off of my car and the next I’m driving with my sunroof open. This confusion extends to other aspects of Island living. Constant questions flow through my head, such as what time does the library open? Is the dump closed on Tuesday? Arbitrary hours of operation continuously haunt me while I try to open locked doors and peer into dark establishments wondering why they are closed on Monday. Some restaurants have taken a brief hiatus; while others such as Copper Wok in Vineyard Haven will have its grand opening this weekend (check out their Facebook page for opening party information).
March is full of random holidays and national days that celebrate things like potato chips, clams on the half shell, and peanut butter lovers’. March is also national frozen food month, so be on the lookout for coupons for your favorite frozen treats. But above all, March is the month to make your own fun. Why not find an excuse to celebrate and host a party. I love throwing dinner parties, and I think that they are way more fun when there is a theme involved.
Here is some inspiration to make the month of March a little more exciting.
Keep celebrating Fat Tuesday this weekend with a Mardi Gras party. Bring the French Quarter to your house with purple, green, and gold beads and feathery masks. Create a menu full of Cajun and Creole flavors featuring dishes like gumbo or étouffée, beignets, po’boys, muffuletta, and a king cake (don’t forget the baby). Sip on Sazeracs or Hurricanes and play some zydeco and your favorite brass band music.
Make your friends do some of the work by throwing a potluck party. It’s always fun to choose a country or region and have guests bring a dish they’ve created inspired by that location. Another fun way to host a potluck party is through a cooking contest. During past holidays my family would decide on a dish and have everyone take their best go at it. For the pizza competition, my father’s shrimp pesto pizza still reigns supreme.
Last year, on a ski trip I went on, there was some serious competition in the kitchen. The first night was a meatball contest, where people brought meatballs already made and everyone voted on which they liked best. Another night was devoted to the game “Stir Crazy” where two teams battled it out in the kitchens to create an Asian inspired appetizer, entrée, and side dish with pre-selected ingredients and no recipes. For your own “Iron Chef” or “Chopped” experience, have guests bring random ingredients and collaboratively make a meal together or divide into teams and throw down.
Expand your wine knowledge by having a wine tasting party. Invite guests to bring a bottle of red or white wine, depending on which varietals you want to try. Put bottles into brown paper lunch bags and fasten using a rubber band or twine. Judge the wine based on its characteristics, and try to determine its value, region, and varietal.
Plan your next party around a game night featuring poker, Monopoly, or good old-fashioned charades and create no-mess finger foods that are easy to pop in your mouth between turns (you don’t want sticky cards). Or whip up some Super Bowl inspired snacks to watch during a March Madness game.
Keep dinner parties simple by creating one pot meals such as pasta, risotto, or jambalaya or throw something in the slow cooker like pulled pork. I love serving dishes that are interactive, that guests can participate in creating such as personal pizzas or tacos and chili that can be doctored with toppings of choice. The same topping bar idea holds true for dessert, where build-your-own ice cream sundaes are always a crowd pleaser (make sure to have chocolate chip cookies or brownies on hand).
It’s always fun to celebrate a food or ingredient and make it the center of attention at a dinner party. I have attended parties that have celebrated crabs, oysters, lobster, scallops, and bacon. Choose something that is in season or that is fun to cook with and create a menu that highlights the ingredient in each dish that you serve.
Themes can focus on food or on cooking methods. Recently, a friend fired up his wood stove for some winter grilling of New York strip steaks. It was a fun conversation piece and warm spot for people to congregate. Try your hand at an outdoor smoker or just in time for St. Patrick’s Day fix your friends a boiled dinner to serve with green beer.
Parties don’t have to be limited to evenings. One of my favorite parties to host when living in Boston was a Sunday brunch. I would do most of the cooking the night before and serve items such as stratas or frittatas, muffins, roasted vegetables, prosciutto, fruit, mimosas, and bloody Marys. Most of my friends lived walking distance from my house and it was always a fun way to start off the day.
We shouldn’t need excuses to get together during the winter and spend time with friends. Get out of the house, plan a party, attend a party, or check out a restaurant you haven’t been to. Make haste, summer will be here before we know it.
On that note, Dairy Queen in Edgartown opens Tuesday, March 11.
The Food Truck, operated by Josh Aronie, formerly of the Menemsha Café in Chilmark and Café Moxie in Vineyard Haven, celebrates its one-month anniversary this week. Parked in front of the Chilmark General Store, you can’t miss this mobile hotspot on State Road in Chilmark, serving food from 10:30 am to 2 pm, Mondays through Fridays.
Most of the menu items are $10 and under, and they change daily. Past offerings have included chili, chicken tacos, meatloaf sandwich, pulled pork, chili dogs, lemon rosemary French fries, and soups such as mushroom, kale, and carrot ginger. Don’t miss out on the fresh baked cookies and coffee from the Chilmark Coffee Company.
This past Monday I visited the truck, enjoyed a falafel salad, and asked Mr. Aronie a few questions.
What has been your most memorable day so far?
I think it was the day that we had to close the windows half way because the snow and rain were coming in, snowflakes sizes of golf balls were coming in through the window. It was probably one of the most memorable. We’ve been open throughout everything. We are a little like the post office only we are getting it done.
How late in the season will you be open and what are your plans after you close?
Right now this is pretty much just until the middle of April, and then I haven’t really made my decision on what I’m doing going beyond that.
How do you come up with items you are going to serve? Does it change daily?
We always have the breakfast burrito [made with local eggs], the falafel [served as a wrap or salad], and the chicken sandwich, and then we try to put in one or two fluctuating sandwiches or specials. Today we have the veg wrap and American chop suey. With the American chop suey we kept getting requests for it so we thought, let’s just do it, we’ll see how it goes. We know that some of the guys up here that work in the town like it. It’s actually sold pretty well today. And the veg wrap always sells well. We just go by the feel of people.
How is cooking in a food truck different than your experience cooking in a restaurant kitchen?
It’s kind of nice because it is tight and limited and you can’t do as much, so you kind of get to focus a little more, but it’s definitely limiting at times. We are far from our home base, so when we are out of food, we are out of food, we don’t have an option.
Have you run out before?
We’ve run out of a few things here and there, but we usually try to over pack. There have been days when we didn’t expect to do as many people as we did, and it’s really hard to predict how many people will show up.
What is the most popular item on the menu?
The chicken sandwich is definitely the number one seller, though the falafel is pretty close, but I would say definitely the chicken sandwich, we probably do somewhere around 40 a day.
Can people call ahead for big orders?
Yes, or even for single orders. The phone number is designed more for texting than calling. We are hoping that they will see the menu online or through Twitter or whatever and order ahead of time. It helps us to be prepared especially when a lot of the construction workers are up here and they don’t have the time to be waiting around, so we try to go as fast as we can.
Any new specials on the horizon?
We’ve been using some of the old standbys that we had from the Menemsha Café. We will probably do a sausage sub and a steak and cheese. We are going to do a burger tomorrow [this past Tuesday]. We are playing it by ear, we are going by how much we sell. If we’re sold out of something, then we need to make something new tomorrow.
Are you having a good time doing it?
Yeah, it’s fun.
Visit The Food Truck Facebook page or follow them on twitter @thefoodtruckmv for the daily menu. To order ahead, call or text: 508-560-5581. The Food Truck is cash only.
I have always eaten copious amounts of cake during the month of February. As a child, I may have been on a permanent sugar high for 28-29 days in a row. February kicks off with my mother’s and brother’s birthdays two days apart, which equaled cake for a week, with all of the leftovers. Valentine’s Day usually brought some sort of confection: cupcakes, chocolates, or a combination of both. One week later, my birthday resulted in two cakes, one to be eaten with my family and one for my usually themed party. Classmates’ and friends’ birthdays brought more cake into my belly. I would consume it right until last day of the month, at my friend Catie’s birthday, who was born on leap year.
Some say that cakes are served at special occasions because they represent the pinnacle of culinary talent, and only the best should be served during a celebration. Traditionally, cakes were made from ingredients that were expensive and difficult to obtain, (such as sugar and spices) and could only be afforded once or twice a year. They have long been associated with ceremonial occasions such as weddings and birthdays, and have become an integral component of these rituals. To this day, my mother insists that you eat cake and blow out candles on your birthday.
With my big day quickly approaching, I have received multiple phone calls from my parents asking what kind of cake I want. It got me thinking about the cakes that I have eaten and made over the years, and which I enjoyed the most.
There was the Nickelodeon green slime cake that my friend Alison had at one of her birthdays: whipped cream sandwiched between yellow cake, topped with vanilla pudding dyed green with food coloring. October meant a Dairy Queen ice cream cake at Erin’s party, a favorite of mine, with the chocolate cookie crumbs and gel icing. In high school, Eleni would get a strawberry white chocolate cake from M.V. Gourmet Café & Bakery in Oak Bluffs, topped with glistening strawberries and white chocolate stalagmites, a tradition that still exists today.
Over the years I have eaten my fair share of Black Dog Bakery creations, including their trademark “Triple Chocolate Mousse” majesty of white, milk, and dark chocolate mousse, whipped cream and chocolate ganache. Or the “Black-Out” Cake: dense chocolate cake with fudge and chocolate frosting, topped with chocolate cake cubes and powdered sugar. And, of course, their moist, dense traditional birthday cakes enveloped by rich buttercream.
Many birthday meals have ended with confections from Cakes by Liz. Past favorites include white cake with hazelnut crunch filling and a raspberry frangipane tart. Last year I remember drooling over Leslie Hewson’s pineapple upside down cake at a co-worker’s birthday. I have heard great things about the custom made cakes from Scottish Bakehouse — I’m excited to try their pumpkin cake with caramel cream cheese frosting and their pineapple cake with coconut frosting.
Bake your cake and eat it too
I love the challenge of baking a cake, and I’m not talking about with help from Duncan Hines or Betty Crocker. Here is a peek into the process of mastering the art of cake making (or at least my adventures along the way):
In culinary school, we were asked to make a buche de noel, the classic French rolled cake decorated to resemble a Yule log. I remember it taking forever, baking the chocolate genoise sponge cake, melting the chocolate with hot cream for the ganache, whipping the coffee Swiss buttercream, making and assembling the meringue mushrooms, and decorating the cake. But it was so much fun to make, reminiscent of arts and crafts as a youngster.
This Christmas, I decided to try and conquer a cake that I have wanted to make for 20 years. I flipped to the back of my parents’ dog-eared, stained copy of “Mrs. Field’s Cookie Book.” There it was — the chocolate macadamia cream satin cake — what I’d considered the most magical of desserts as a child. The labor-intensive recipe took all day to make and was a disappointment to me, after spending years of fawning over the glossy photo, but at least my parents liked it.
The thing with making a cake is it’s not just one or two steps. You usually have to bake the cake, let it cool, make the filling and frosting, assemble, then frost and decorate it, and sometimes, refrigerate it for multiple hours.
In one of my articles from last year, Liz Kane of Cakes by Liz gave great advice to home cooks looking to make the perfect cake. She said, “don’t try to make a cake and ice it all in the same day. Putting it in the freezer for a couple of days adds moisture.” Then you frost it.
Unfortunately, I have yet to take Ms. Kane’s advice. I spend the whole day slaving in the kitchen over a recipe I swear said took one hour to make, but doesn’t account for letting the cake cool or refrigerating the filling for two hours.
This happened to me again, two weeks ago. My mother is obsessed with mascarpone cheese, so for her birthday I decided to make her a chocolate mascarpone tart with pistachios in olive oil, a recipe from “The A.O.C. Cookbook.” The four-page recipe should have been an indicator that I needed more than the time that I allocated, but it didn’t look too difficult.
Another tip: read the recipe and ingredients carefully before you make it. I didn’t account for how long it would take to roll out the dough, form it in the tart pan, bake, and cool it. Or the amount of time it took to unwrap and chop bars of chocolate and shell almost a cup of pistachios.
The tart was a bit weepy; it should have had a few more hours to set in the refrigerator, but I was at the birthday candles’ beck and call. It ended up being a new and interesting dessert that my mother said she enjoyed, and that’s what mattered.
So for you amateur cake makers, learn from my mistakes. Make sure to read and re-read the recipe and make the cake the day before. If it is a disaster, at least you’ll have time to run to one of our great Island bakeries for some reinforcements.
Layer cake tips
Cakes tend to dome when you bake them, so after they have cooled, make them level by cutting off the tops with a serrated knife. This will prevent a lopsided cake. When the cakes have been leveled, and the cut side of the bottom cake is topped with filling, invert the cakes on top of each other — so that the cut sides are facing each other — and brush off any loose crumbs. Next is a thin coat of icing called a crumb coat. Use an offset spatula to apply a small amount of icing all over the cake, to lock in the crumbs. Freeze the cake until the icing is set and then frost with remaining icing. This will leave you with a smooth surface.
The Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown was packed with oyster lovers last night for Romancing the Oyster, a benefit for the Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group and the Edgartown Growers Association.
“It’s really fantastic to see this turnout,” said Rick Karney, director of the Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group. “People that are leaving are saying they are coming back next year.”
More than 200 people attended the sold out event. They slurped, gulped and ate over 3,000 oysters donated by the Edgartown Growers Association. Chef Nathan Gould of the Harbor View Hotel prepared a spread of hot buffet items that highlighted this local treasure, including oyster stew, beignets, po’ boys and grilled oysters.
Raw bars flanked the room with ice boats constantly being replenished with fresh oysters. Ten growers spent the night shucking their prized bivalves, while guests loaded up their plates, comparing and sharing with their friends which oysters they enjoyed the most.
“Part of the culture on the Island is the world class shellfish that we have here, and it should be celebrated,” said Mr. Karney.
Romancing the Oyster kicks off a new campaign of the Shellfish Group called “Bivalvify the Vineyard.” The 3rd annual Shellfish Extravaganza will take place on April 15 at the Chilmark Community Center and will feature a chowder contest, silent auction and music by Johnny Hoy. In July, be on the lookout for a shellfish art show at the Spring Building in Tashmoo.
The article originally published online incorrectly identified Ryan Smith of Katama Bay Oysters. Mr. Smith is associated with Signature Oysters.
During the winter we yearn for bursting cherry tomatoes, snappy green beans, sweet golden kernels of corn, and earthy fingerling potatoes. Our minds and appetites are filled with the not-too-distant memories of crisp apples and wrinkled squash and we look forward to the future arrival of vibrant peas and syrupy strawberries. One flip through Susie Middleton’s new cookbook, “Fresh from the Farm: A Year of Recipes and Stories,”gets you in the mood for foods from any season.
Part cookbook, part memoir, “Fresh from the Farm” chronicles the adventures in farming and cooking that Ms. Middleton shares with her partner, Roy Riley, his daughter Libby, and their rescue black Lab named Farmer, as well as the parade of various critters and creatures along the way. The book is full of seasonal recipes highlighting fresh local food all year long and features breakfast items, soups, salads, veggie centric sides, hearty main dishes, and desserts.
This is the third book for Ms. Middleton, who moved to Martha’s Vineyard in January 2008 after living in Connecticut for 11 years and acting as editor-in-chief of Fine Cooking Magazine (she is now editor at large for the magazine). Ms. Middleton had previously visited the Island in the summer and fall, and when she decided to go on sabbatical she knew exactly where she wanted to be.
“Something just resonated with me, in terms of the natural beauty and peace of the Island,” she said. “I really don’t know why I came here in the middle of the winter, but I really needed to decompress. So I came here to relax and start writing.” Her first cookbook, “Fast, Fresh & Green,” dedicated to preparing vegetables using easy cooking techniques to develop complex flavors, was born that winter on the Island.
Like most wash-a-shores who decide to brave the offseason, Ms. Middleton was hooked; she had found a place to put down roots. She was introduced to farmers and people involved with the local food system on the Island. “I had this longing to connect better to the source of my food,” she said. “I got out here and was in awe of what people were doing to support local food.” And that’s when the transformation began.
First it was with a tiny vegetable garden, then she met a boy named Roy, actually a man, who is a builder and carpenter, and they decided to rent a plot at Native Earth Teaching Farm in Chilmark to use as a market garden. Next came a 19th century farmhouse, and a little farm stand built by Roy using salvaged materials. Fifty chickens arrived, and a bigger market garden was planted. Then came 200 laying hens, followed by 300 more, a hoop house, and tilled fields ready to be sown. Green Island Farm was open for business.
“The Fresh & Green Table,” Ms. Middleton’s second cookbook, moved vegetables to the center of the plate, making them the main attraction of the meal. In “Fresh from the Farm,” vegetables still play a starring role, but they are supported by meat and fish.
“Vegetables are so versatile and incredibly fun to cook with,” she said. “For me they are more creative than meat is. While I like meat, I think vegetables are beautiful, the colors, the textures, the flavors. I try to bring my enthusiasm for them and I try to create vegetable dishes that everybody is going to like.”
Ms. Middleton and Mr. Riley pride themselves on their award-winning blue ribbon green beans, cherry tomatoes, fingerling potatoes, lettuce and salad mixes, as well as baby bok choy, peas, and playful veggie varieties like fairy tale eggplant. And of course their eggs, which they sell at their farm stand 365 days a year, and which are also available at Up-Island Cronig’s.
“One day you wake up and your fantasy has become reality, and you are more surprised than anyone at what you’ve managed to pull off,” she writes in the introduction to “Fresh from the Farm.” Her journey and transition from writer and trained chef, to market gardener and then to farmer, is told in a story that borders the recipes and photos of the farm and her food, photos taken by herself and photographer Alexandra Grablewski. Cooks’ tips are scattered throughout the pages, teaching the reader how to boil eggs and what to substitute for ingredients they may not have on hand.
The 125 accessible recipes have been tested by a home cook as well as a professional chef, using both fresh vegetables off the farm and those found in the grocery store. The recipes feature food harvested from the farm, focusing on eggs, berries, and vegetables.
“My recipes are detailed but designed to work; people will want to cook them again,” Ms. Middleton said. “There are still some trademark-Susie really killer vegetable focused dishes, but it also has a really good meatloaf, French toast with berry syrup, a roasted tomato rustic tart, and all kinds of fun stuff.”
Deciding what to write for the book was easy. “I think cookbooks have to be personal, there has to be something really close to your heart, that you’re either living or doing well that’s different,” she said. “We’re living this incredible story, creating this small farm out of nothing, having a total blast doing it — and it’s becoming our lives.”
Ms. Middleton will speak about her new cookbook on Saturday, Feb. 15, at 3 pm at the Bunch of Grapes Bookstore in Vineyard Haven. Enjoy an author’s talk, cooking demonstration, drinks, and a tasting of recipes from her cookbook.
Green Island Farm is located down a dirt road directly across from the new Ag Hall on State Road in West Tisbury. Look for the chalkboard sign. The farm stand is open seven days a week from 8 am to 7 pm.
Visit sixburnersue.com for more information on Susie Middleton and Green Island Farm.
Favorite recipes from “Fresh from the Farm”:The farmhouse French toast with backyard berry syrup. It means a lot to me that every Sunday Libby asks for that and we sit at our little table in our tight kitchen after chores and eat it. It’s family time, I love the fact that I’m able to make recipes that Libby asks for and enjoys and that we get to share at the table together as a family.
A little more complicated but also really delicious is the Summer Veggie-Palooza Paella. A good friend of mine is married to a Spaniard, and she taught me to make authentic paella. It’s so fun and so delicious. She came up to the farm with her kids and made it and Roy fell in love with it. I decided for the book to honor that great memory, of Sarah making it for us and plunking it down in the middle of the table and everyone sharing from the pan which is the tradition with paella.
Favorite cooking technique: Roasting really concentrates the flavor of vegetables. Caramelizing brings out subtle flavors. It’s a great way to preserve vegetables. Roasted tomatoes are my favorite.
Favorite ingredient: Other than garlic, fresh ginger, and lemon and lime zest for perking up a vegetable dish. I’m really big on using a little acid on most vegetables, caramelizing them and hitting them with vinegar or lemon juice. It’s the sweet tart thing.
Favorite kitchen tool: Circulon non-stick stir frying pan. It has a bowl shape with surface area that can brown and steam at the same time. If you cut vegetables small, you can make delicious dishes quickly with only a little oil and high heat. It’s good for grain dishes like fried rice. I also love my Kyocera ceramic knife.
Favorite cookbook: I grew up on “The Joy of Cooking” and “The Silver Palate Cookbook,” but I love British cookbooks right now, they are doing really cool things with vegetables. “River Cottage Veg” by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, “Tender” by Nigel Slater, and “Plenty”by Yotam Ottolenghi are a few favorites.
Recipe: Roasted Beet “Jewels” with Cranberries, Toasted Pecans, and Balsamic Butter
This easy and delicious side dish is a great way to introduce people to roasted beets — or beets in general. You’ll love it, too, because the small-diced beets cook in only 25 minutes — no boiling or long, slow roasting here. This is also the kind of dish that’s as nice in winter as it is in summer. If you can find golden beets, use a mix of colors here. Or you can also substitute carrots for half of the beets.
Recipe copyright Susie Middleton, 2014, from Fresh From the Farm: A Year of Recipes and Stories (The Taunton Press)
1 1/2 pounds beets (preferably half red and half golden), topped and tailed but not peeled
extra virgin olive oil
1 tbs orange juice
1 tbs seedless red raspberry jam
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tbs unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces and chilled
1/4 cup very finely chopped dried cranberries
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans
small fresh parsley or mint leaves for garnish (optional)
Heat the oven to 450°F. Cover two heavy-duty sheet pans with parchment paper. Keeping the red and golden beets separate (if using both colors), cut them into medium-small dice (no more than about ½ inch). Put each color in a bowl and toss with 2 teaspoons olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Transfer each bowl of beets to separate sheet pans and spread in one layer. Roast until the veggies are tender and shrunken, about 25 minutes. Transfer to a mixing bowl.
Put the orange juice, raspberry jam, and balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir or whisk continuously until the jam is completely melted and the sauce is slightly more viscous (it may be steaming, but it should not boil), about 2 to 4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and immediately add the cold butter. Swirl the pan until the butter is melted and the sauce is slightly creamy. Add the cranberries and thyme and stir. Pour and scrape the balsamic butter with the cranberries over the roasted beets and mix and toss gently. Add most of the pecans and stir gently again. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with the remaining nuts and herb leaves (if using).
February is one of those months when people don’t want to leave their house. They hunker down with stocked fridges and pantries and catch up on past seasons of hit T.V. shows, bestselling books, and Oscar-nominated movies.
People claim that there’s nothing to do on Martha’s Vineyard in the winter, that it’s too cold to go outside, that the light dusting of snow prohibits them from driving for the rest of the day. But the reason why a lot of us choose to live here is because we like being part of our small Island community. During the winter, various organizations and groups make sure there are plenty of activities to keep Island living vibrant. There are also numerous fundraisers and benefits that count on the support of the community.
Make February the month to try something new. Check out all the Island has to offer, and be on the lookout for community events centered around the Olympics, Valentine’s Day, Mardi Gras, or Black History Month. Here is just a selection of what’s happening in the next week.
Local Farmer’s Brunch
This Sunday, Feb. 9, from 10 am to 1 pm, join Island farmers over brunch at the Chilmark Community Center to hear tales about the joys and challenges of raising food on Martha’s Vineyard. This intimate event, hosted by Slow Food Martha’s Vineyard, will feature local ingredients paired with stories from local farmers. All you can eat offerings include organic buckwheat waffles, greens, frittata from Island eggs, Mermaid Farm yogurt, Massachusetts apple crisp, and Chilmark Coffee. The feast of local food will be served from 10 to 10:45 am.
Featured farmers who will share their stories include Jim Athearn of Morning Glory Farm and Liz Packer of SBS, who will speak on family farming; Richard Andre of Cleveland Farm who will talk about poultry processing and slaughtering; and Mike Holtham of Menemsha Fish House who will address the farmers of the sea.
This is a zero waste event, so make sure to bring your own plate, mug, utensils, and napkin. The cost for the brunch is $12 per person, $10 if you are a Slow Food member. To purchase tickets in advance, visit slowfoodmarthasvineyard.org.
Calling all oyster lovers
On Wednesday, Feb. 12, head to the Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown at 6 pm for Romancing the Oyster, a benefit for the Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group and the Edgartown Growers Association.
Executive chef Nathan Gould will create oyster inspired dishes highlighting this treasure from the waters of Martha’s Vineyard. There will be a buffet as well as passed hors d’oeuvres and for the purists, more than five raw bars. Meet your local growers and help support the shellfish industry on the Island. The cost is $45 per person and $80 per couple. Tickets are available at romancingtheoyster.brownpapertickets.com.
Valentine’s Day staycations
Many restaurants and hotels are offering special menus and overnight packages for Valentine’s Day. Here is just a selection:
Visit Water Street at The Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown for a three-course dinner and overnight stay on Friday, Feb. 14. The indulgent menu, created by executive chef Nathan Gould, features a choice of appetizers, entrées, and desserts with ingredients ranging from oysters and sous-vide local lobster, to porcini-dusted petit rib eye and pan roasted pork tenderloin. For dessert, make the tough choice between the pastry chef’s “tasting for two” of chocolate macaroons, mousse, and truffles; or the tasting of sorbets and chocolates. Dinner is $48 per person, excluding tax and gratuity. Those wanting to make a night of it can reserve a guest room starting $179, which includes Valentine’s Day dinner for two. For more information, call 508-627-3761.
Stay the night at the Hob Knob in Edgartown on Valentine’s Day and enjoy a three-course dinner. The menu features celery root veloute, local bay scallops and saffron, surf and turf of petite prime filet with exotic mushroom ragout, Menemsha lobster ravioli, and warm chocolate cake with strawberry gelato and almond brittle.
Seatings begin at 6 pm. The cost for dinner is $75 per person, excluding liquor, tax, and gratuity. Or make it an overnight affair. Purchase a room for the night and for an additional $150 per couple, enjoy dinner for two, and welcome amenities including six roses, a split of Champagne, and oysters on the half shell. For reservations, call 508-627-9510. For more information, visit hobknob.com.
It starts with a tickle in your throat, then you start to sneeze, and before you know it your glands swell to the size of hard-boiled eggs. It seems as though everyone I talk to is feeling under the weather or coming down with something. The common cold plague is slowly sweeping Martha’s Vineyard, so be sure to wash your hands, boost your immunity, and stock up on the necessities in case you catch it.
During Classical and Medieval times, theory held that the four bodily humours — blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile — determined one’s temperament and health. The humours were kept in relative balance to maintain well-being, but if the balance was upset, food was often used as a remedy to bring a person back to equilibrium. Cold, moist, hot, and dry qualities were assigned to foods. If you were deficient in one of the humours, you could eat a food associated with it to restore your health.
Either this was one of the earliest fad diets or these folks from the middle ages were on to something. I’m not a doctor, but I love to cook and eat, and when I’m sick, I try to listen to what my body is craving.
At the first sign of symptoms I dug out my Airborne and Emergen-C with the hope that it would nip it in the bud. As I prepared my morning smoothie, I excitedly dumped in each ingredient, naming their so-called curative properties: blueberries, high in antioxidants; banana, packed with potassium; kale, the healthiest food in the world; yogurt, probiotics and good bacteria; coconut water, electrolytes; chia seeds, omega-3; orange juice, full of vitamin C. I thought that I was good to go.
As the day progressed, I started feeling worse, so I decided to go out for oysters. Thinking back, I should have stayed home on the couch, but in my mind, oysters would surely cure me. I knew these bivalves were packed with zinc; isn’t that supposed to be good for you? After eating about a dozen, I returned home and started to cook.
The last thing you want to do when feeling under the weather is shop for food and cook. But there is nothing worse than being sick with nothing to eat at your house. I keep a bag of bones (I know it’s creepy) in my freezer for just this reason. When I cook chicken, I debone it, and save the carcass for stock. I also have a bag filled with vegetable scraps. So that night, when I was congested and coughing, I filled a pot with water, dumped in the remnants from the freezer along with some parsley stems, carrots, garlic, onion, and celery, and lay on the couch as it worked its magic.
My culinary professors would most likely scoff at my impromptu stock, but it did the trick. After spending the night in the fridge, I skimmed the fat off the strained stock and had my cure-all.
The modern-day restaurant began in France when a shop owner began to serve a simple nutritious broth called a “restorative” that was meant to boost one’s health. For centuries, meat broths were served to invalids to give them strength, and everyone knows that Grandma’s chicken noodle soup makes everything better.
With my curative broth I could make one-cup soups, adding greens or pasta or whatever I had on hand. One of my favorite concoctions was simmered garlic, ginger, soy sauce, chilies, and red miso with thinly sliced beef, topped with scallions. I felt better by the spoonful.
“One of my quintessential [foods to make you feel better] is chicken soup,” said Prudence Athearn Levy of Vineyard Nutrition. She recommends making your own bone broth soup ahead of time and having it in the freezer for when you feel under the weather. Ms. Levy also recommends eating small frequent meals that include protein. “Reducing calories can help you feel better. A less calorie load can help you rest and won’t over-stress your body.” Hydration is also imperative; she suggests soup, water, and smoothies. Ultimately, “Reducing the bulk of food and increasing hydration,” is Ms. Levy’s key to feeling better.
In addition to sipping on broth, I tried to drink, drink, drink. I was always told that to stay hydrated and push liquids was the most important thing to beat a cold. I started with ginger, known for its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. I steeped it in hot water, making ginger tea, and juiced it with carrots and oranges. The hot tea was soothing and helped break up my congestion and I felt rejuvenated after the juice.
Another panacea is local raw honey. When my throat begins to get scratchy I eat it by the spoonful. The thick syrupy sweetener coats the back of the throat, temporarily alleviating any discomfort. It also has antimicrobial properties.
A few years back someone introduced me to Bragg’s Organic Apple Cider Vinegar. The vinegar is raw and unfiltered and contains part of the mother vinegar. I use it to make vinaigrettes, as a facial cleanser, and it is my secret weapon when I get sick. I mix it with hot water and honey. Although it doesn’t taste the best, it is said to leave you sniffle free.
Everyone has their tricks when they get sick, swearing by an old wives’ tale or whatever is in vogue. People swear by different potions, gargling this, not eating that, loading up on OTC medicines or herbal remedies. I believe that being a couch potato is the cure, eating whatever you crave and getting plenty of rest. And if all else fails, eat a box of popsicles.
But don’t take my word for it, try it out for yourself.
Fad diets come and go. Atkin’s, South Beach, and Mediterranean are just a few that make their presence known on bookshelves across America.
January is when people usually dust off these book covers and try their hand at losing a few pounds. These diets tell you how to eat a certain way to lose weight and live a healthier lifestyle, by not eating fat or eating bacon by the boatload, by staying away from carbs or focusing on incorporating more whole grains into your diet. One can’t help do-si-do-ing around these conflicted viewpoints, trying on each diet as you would a new pair of shoes, to see if it fits their lifestyle.
Currently, the Paleo diet is all the rage. The idea is to eat like your ancestors, focusing on foods that can be hunted or gathered, a diet based upon lean, grass-fed meats, fish, eggs, healthy fats, berries, roots, nuts, and vegetables. Basically, any food that pre-dates agriculture.
On Martha’s Vineyard, many people practicing Paleo also do CrossFit, a worldwide strength and conditioning program. I have recently joined the CrossFit cult, but have yet to drink the Paleo Kool-Aid, which technically would not be allowed, since you can’t have refined sugar. People swear by Paleo. At Crossfit M.V., 23 members are doing a month-long Paleo challenge, a competition based on combining CrossFit workouts with Paleo eating, where the winner takes home a cash prize.
Some are quick to criticize Paleo, asking why follow a diet of a civilization where the average life expectancy was 25 years. Others question the emphasis on meat, especially the supermarket meat of today, stating that our ancestors weren’t consuming cows fed with grain and processed meats. But some studies have shown increased health benefits of Paleo eating, such as a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, lower blood pressure, and weight loss.
Sarah Hill Mass, owner and coach at CrossFit M.V., has been practicing a modified version of Paleo for the past three years. When she competes at CrossFit regionals, she sticks to six months of strict Paleo.
“When you eat Paleo, you trim down and feel good, breaking the mental barrier. With the 30-day challenge, people understand what it can do. After they are done, they can go back to a modified version,” Ms. Hill Mass said. “People think they will eat twigs, but I don’t feel like I’m wanting anything. The food is really good.”
“I’m over bread,” said Nicole Curelli, winner of the first CrossFit M.V. Paleo challenge last October. “The first challenge you could have one cheat.” This time is different, with cheats losing you points. “This challenge I’ll probably be dreaming of what I can’t eat, but when I do cheat, I’ll have a lobster roll without the bun. You lose the taste for bad things, you don’t want.”
Ms. Curelli recently brought in Paleo lemon blueberry bread, and Paleo chocolate chip cookies made with Enjoy Life dairy- and soy-free chocolate chips, proving that primal eating isn’t all about meat and vegetables. “Other CrossFits may not agree with the chocolate, but we are trying to make it bearable,” said Ms. Hill Mass.
Preparation for Paleo eating is key, both buying food and making sure that you have Paleo-appropriate meals on hand. “I tried Paleo before the first challenge and lasted 36 hours,” Ms. Curelli said. “I didn’t stock the fridge with Paleo foods, I just had regular food.”
“I like cooking ahead,” said Ms. Hill Mass. “Sweet potatoes take forever, so I will dice them up and season them, bake them on a cookie sheet and have a huge amount. In the morning I’ll crack two eggs on top and cook them with turkey bacon.”
A lot of Paleo foods take time to prepare. The grab-and-go mentality of our current food system isn’t always successful with Paleo.
“I have some things ready and prepared when I get ‘hangry’ (the point when you are so hungry you become angry),” Ms. Hill Mass said. “It gives me energy right away that you burn through. The food doesn’t sit in your belly; you don’t get a food coma from Paleo.”
One of her recent meals was spaghetti squash with marinara and turkey meatballs. Usually when “you think of spaghetti and meatballs, you think you have to take a nap,” she said. Not with this gluten-free version.
With Paleo you also need to develop new shopping habits, such as sticking to the outer walls of the grocery store. “Eating paleo is a lot more expensive,” said Ms. Curelli. “I go off to Trader Joe’s once a month to shop” (see her shopping list below). She follows pinterest.com users, and likes the books “Against All Grain” and “Practical Paleo” for recipes and ideas.
For those who don’t cook, eating Paleo proves to be more difficult. “Back in the day, I would get a rotisserie chicken and a bag of carrots for dinner. I learned from my wife how to cook some awesome food,” Ms. Hill Mass said. “If from the Paleo challenge you learn how to cook, and that’s all you get out of it, it’s a life lesson learned.”
CrossFit M.V. provides a platform for those wanting to eat Paleo. “We have a great community of people coming in, sharing recipes and bringing in food to try,” Ms. Hill Mass said. She encourages people to stay with it, sharing that the first few days are usually difficult. “You put your mind to something and anyone can do it. People are stuck in their routines: ‘I can’t give up cheese, I can’t give up bread.’ You think of it as an experiment, and in three to four days you feel it immediately.”
Jenn French eats Paleo, but does not belong to CrossFit. She is doing it to get ready for vacation. “I feel a lot better,” Ms. French said. “I feel like I have more energy.” She started eating Paleo last year when a girl she worked with, who did CrossFit, recommended it. “I lost a bunch of weight in two months,” she recalled, but then, “I started cheating and it phased out.”
This time, Ms. French is doing it with her boyfriend, Seth Abbott, as a competition to see who can lose the most weight. “I think it definitely helps to have someone doing it with me,” she said. “And I’m definitely winning.”
For breakfast Ms. French eats eggs, omelets with vegetables, smoked salmon, fruit, bacon, and sausage. “Almost everything we eat has some sort of bacon on it, you are allowed to have it and it makes everything better.” She gets a lot of her recipes on two websites: everydaypaleo.com and nomnompaleo.com.
Lunch and dinner usually consists of salad with meat or a protein, and lots of fish. “I miss having cheese sometimes,” Ms. French said. “If I’m going to cheat, I’ll have a piece of pizza. We also cheat with little things, like canola oil. The brand of nuts we like has a little.”
If you have a food craving that’s not allowed, there is usually some Paleo version of it. For rice and mashed potatoes, Ms. French recommends substituting cauliflower. “You can make stuff with Paleo-friendly foods that aren’t exactly as good, but you can satisfy your craving.”
Flourless Mocha-Bacon Brownies
Courtesy of “Practical Paleo” by Diane Sanfilippo
4 ounces dark chocolate (85% cacao suggested)
1/2 cup butter or coconut oil, melted and cooled
1/2 cup pure maple syrup (grade B is best)
1/2 cup + 2 Tbs. unsweetened cocoa power
2 Tbs. very strong coffee
2 Tbs. fine coffee grinds
2 slices baked bacon, chopped
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine melted dark chocolate, butter or oil, maple syrup, and eggs. Slowly sift the cocoa powder over wet ingredients, whisking it evenly. Add coffee and grinds and stir until well combined.
Line a 9×9 inch square pan with parchment paper and fill pan with brownie batter. Top batter with chopped bacon pieces and bake for approx. 25 minutes or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Do not open the oven door until you absolutely have to check them.