Blog Category: Edibles

The Most Eggscellent Month of the Year

When’s the last time you’ve stopped to hail the almighty egg? These nutritious and delicious capsules of goodness are Island Grown School’s (IGS) Harvest of the Month for March and they’re personally one of my favorites. I start each day with a farm fresh egg that has been laid by my very own chickens. Here on Martha’s Vineyard keeping chickens is almost as common as keeping a dog or cat as a pet. It’s a way of life and one I’m grateful for–the difference in quality between a store bought egg and a local egg is exceptional.

First off a store bought egg might be months old! It’s pretty alarming but true. Eggs can have a long shelf life and may still be safe to eat but it’s not too appetizing to think about how long ago they were laid. Farm fresh eggs on the other hand are usually only days old when sold to you, meaning their more nutritious, as they lose some of their value as time passes by.

When it comes to food shopping some items are created equal, but eggs are one of those foods that’s worth paying extra for. Locally grown farm eggs can cost about $6 a dozen, but at about 50 cents per egg they are one of the most affordable sources of Island grown food, not to mention one of the most protein rich.

In fact eggs have 6 grams of high-quality protein, making them a protein packed breakfast that can help sustain your mental and physical energy throughout the day.  Unlike other breakfast foods like cereal or yogurt, eggs only contain one ingredient – “eggs.” They don’t contain sugar or carbs either. That means you can eat a well-rounded breakfast during the week without feeling too round yourself..

On top of the benefits that protein and choline provide, eggs are also packed with omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin a, riboflavin, vitamin B12, phosphorus and selenium. Eggs are considered a ‘complete’ source of protein as they contain all nine essential amino acids; the ones we can’t synthesize in our bodies and must get from our diet.

Remember not to skip the yolk! Over the years many people have shied away from eating egg yolks for fear of their high cholesterol. We now know that the cholesterol found in food has much less of an effect on our blood cholesterol than the amount of saturated fat we eat–so embrace the yolk!

Egg yolks also contain choline, which promotes normal cell activity, liver function and the transportation of nutrients throughout the body. It’s also key in the development of infant’s memory functions, so moms shouldn’t miss out on its vital nourishments when pregnant or breastfeeding. You’ll find that the yolk of a farm fresh egg is typically richer in color and taste while store bought egg yolks are usually a medium yellow. Not only do farm egg yolks have a deeper color, their yolk is creamier and doesn’t break as easily when cooked. 

Hungry for eggs yet? If you’re on Martha’s Vineyard you can buy fresh pasture-raised eggs from your local farm stand or at Cronig’s Market and the Scottish Bakery. In season you can also find eggs at one of our local farms including the Farm Institute, Morning Glory Farm, Black Water Farm, Ghost Island Farm, The Grey Barn, Mermaid Farm, North Tabor Farm and more. Check out this interactive map of local farms on Martha’s Vineyard and their offerings.

If you’re in need of some recipe inspiration read below for some tasty recipes from some of couple of our talented local chefs and friends. Remember, you don’t need to  limit your eggs to just breakfast, eggs make a great lunch or dinner option as well. 

Try this Shakshuka recipe from local chef Jamie Hamlin of V. Jaime Hamlin Catering and Party Design. She recommends it as a great for brunch option.  

 

*Makes 4 generous portions

Ingredients:

1/2 tsp cumin seeds( NOT powdered cumin)

1/4 cup olive oil

2 sliced onions

2 red peppers, sliced into strips

2 yellow peppers, sliced into strips

4 tsp sugar

2  fresh bay leaves

1 can crushed tomatoes

1/2 tsp saffron threads (reconstitute in a little hot water first)

pinch of cayenne

2 tbsp chopped parsley & 2 tbsp chopped cilantro (save some for garnish)

Salt & Pepper to taste

1 or so cups of water ( to keep the consistency saucy)

8 eggs (organic are best)

 

Method:

In a large frying pan dry toast the cumin seeds until fragrant, 1–2 minutes.

Add olive oil and onions, saute 5 minutes or so.

Add both red & yellow pepper strips, sugar and chopped herbs, saute another 5 minutes.

Add  tomatoes, cayenne, saffron, salt and pepper.

Cook all together for 5–8 minutes adding water to keep the consistency “saucy” and remove bay leaves before adding eggs. Taste for seasoning.

 

Make 8 indentations in the sauce – break the eggs into them, cover and cook on simmer for 10 minutes or so or until the eggs are just set. Sprinkle with cilantro to serve.

 

Have fun with this Spinach, Mushroom and Onion Frittata from private chef Gavin Smith of Food Minded Fellow. He recommends eating it for any meal of the day (or even a late night snack). He loves frittatas for their versatility, plus they can be prepared for immediate consumption the days before for an easy meal on the go.

 

Ingredients:

8-10 Large farm fresh eggs

1/2 cup red bell pepper (julienned)

1/2 cup onion (julienned)

1/2 cup mushrooms (sliced)

2-3 cups raw spinach

3 Tablespoons whole milk

1/2 Cup cheddar sliced thin or grated

1 tbsp olive oil

Pinch salt

 

Method:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F).

Beat eggs and milk together.

Add dd oil to a large deep skillet.

Soften onions and red pepper over medium heat, 2 minutes.

Add mushrooms and stir until softened.

Add spinach and salt and stir until spinach is wilted.

Pour egg and milk mixture over all ingredients evenly (do not mix or stir).

Evenly distribute cheese over the top of the egg mixture.

Place in the oven and cook until edges of the frittata start to brown, 10–12 minutes.

 

Let cool slightly then cut and serve.

 

Hungry for more? Check out this simple Avocado Egg Salad recipe from IGS’s chef Gabrielle Chronister.

There’s something to be said about those magical beans

These cold winter days are ideal for spending more time inside preparing meals and perfecting recipes. One of the most versatile foods to experiment with is beans. Dry beans store well and canned beans can be quickly added in a pinch to many of our favorite dishes.

It’s only fitting that our friends at Island Grown Schools (IGS) have selected beans as their featured food for February’s Harvest of the Month. Beans can be incorporated into just about anything, yielding creative comfort foods for now, and light and fresh options for the warmer months.

Beans may sound like an afterthought or a filler food to some, but their actually one of our most diverse forms of food, not to mention affordable. Did you know that there are more than 18,000 species of legume plants that yield the vibrant, edible seeds we call beans? On Martha’s Vineyard Morning Glory Farm pumps out some pretty tasty and pleasing varieties. This year they grew Kenearly Yellow Eye, a traditional choice for baked beans, and Cranberry Beans, a beautiful tan bean with scarlet freckles famous for storing well. Next year, they’re planning to grow Black Turtle Beans, too.

When you think about it, beans have actually been providing us with nourishment since the beginning of time. We also use them to feed to our animals, so in essence they’re responsible for even more of our diet than we think about. Plus they have a nitrogen fixing growth cycle which means they have the unique ability to “fix” nitrogen in the soil, making soil more fertile once the plants are tilled under. Sounds pretty magical, right? They’re also relatively easy to grow since they’re self pollinating, they’re resilient since they can hold up to drought and have a long-term shelf life, and they’re health benefits are lengthy.

“Beans, beans, the magical fruit…” we’ve all heard the catchy nursery rhyme. Even though beans are not the kind of fruit you’re used to, they are the fruits (or seeds) of a family of plants called Fabaceae, and your body loves them. The magical power of beans means they’re high in fiber, folate, protein, iron, potassium, zinc and manganese. They’re packed with antioxidants which could reduce the risk of cancer and inflammation. They’re also good for your heart health and can contribute to lower cholesterol too. Beans are actually somewhat of a superfood which is why they have been integrated into virtually every cuisine in the world.

With so many variations and benefits adding beans to your diet is a no brainer. Start by picking up some dry beans and adding them to your favorite dishes. As a reminder dry beans need to be soaked and then boiled. The practice of soaking beans overnight has been debated but you can do a quick soak in boiling water for just a few minutes. Alternatively, canned beans are dried beans that have already been cooked so they’re more convenient but the canning process can omit starches, proteins, and plant solids, which often results in a less potent flavor and texture. If you can cook them yourself we recommend it, the rewards are worth it. Look for these varieties of dry beans: garbanzo (chickpeas), black eyed peas (cowpeas), lentils, navy, lima, pinto, kidney, and black beans. Choose loose, dry beans that have similar size and color and store dry beans in an airtight container in a cool, dry, and dark place.

In my cookbook Simple Green Suppers with author Susie Middleton, she expresses her love  of dried lentils–especially black beluga lentils and green-blue French or du Puy lentils. According to Susie, these little jewels cook up quickly, maintain their shape well, and offer a firm texture and pleasing peppery flavor that marries beautifully with citrusy vinaigrettes, leafy greens and tangy cheeses. Susie also raves about home-cooked chickpeas, and swears by having them around the house to add to your favorite dishes. Plus, unlike other beans, chickpeas can be sautéed and roasted until brown and crisp.

When you’re shopping for canned beans look for ones that are organic with no preservatives, and those that are low in sodium or and in BPA-free cans. While not as robust as dried beans, canned beans are great to have around the pantry. Eden and Westbrae Natural canned brands check all the boxes, and as a reminder always rinse canned beans before using.

When it comes to cooking with beans your options are endless. The most obvious ways to incorporate them into your diet is to add them to your soup, salads, dips and sauces (we recommend curry!). Next time you make a casserole consider using lentil as a meat substitute, or add black beans to your pizza for an unexpected fiber rich topping. One of the easiest and tastiest ways to get your bean benefits is to make homemade hummus with chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, salt and herbs.

In Simple Green Suppers Susie devoted a whole chapter to beans, and she offers some pretty simple yet savory recipes including: Sugar Snap, Spring Onion and Chickpea Stir-Fry with Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce; White Beans and Artichoke Hearts with Chard, Lemon, Thyme, and Bread Crumbs; Baby Potato, Greens, Garlic and Chickpea Hash; Layered Black Bean, Zucchini, Corn and Avocado Salad; Grill-Roasted Bell Peppers with Lentil Salad and Goat Cheese; Indian Curry with Chickpeas, Cauliflower, Spinach, Tomatoes, and Coconut Milk, and many more. Needless to say there’s no excuse for leaving them off your plate!

Get started experimenting with the wonderful world of beans with this sweet chickpea recipe from Harvest of the Month chef Gabrielle Chronister.

 

Chickpea Flour Cinnamon Maple Crackers

1 cup chickpea  flour, sifted

*See below on how to make your own

3 tbsp olive oil

(or avocado oil / melted coconut oil)

4.5 tbsp maple syrup

1.5 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp vanilla

Pinch of salt

 

Preheat oven to 350F. Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix together with a spatula or your hands until well combined and you can form into a dough ball. Dough should be sticky and wet.

A behind the scenes look at shooting ‘Whole in One’ a new cookbook by author Ellie Krieger

If you’re a health conscious foodie you’ve likely heard of Ellie Krieger. Ellie is a world renowned nutritionist and New York Times bestselling cookbook author, plus she’s host and executive producer of the Public Television cooking series Ellie’s Real Good Food, and host of Food Network’s hit show Healthy Appetite. On top of that she’s also a James Beard Foundation media award winner, and a regular contributor to the Washington Post–needless to say she’s a dominant presence in the food world! I’ve personally known Ellie for years, and I’ve watched her develop an honest, approachable brand, while remaining devoted to educating her fans on great food and good health–two things I hold in high regard.

Ellie and I have been diligently waiting for the right opportunity to work together and it fortunately came earlier this year when she reached out to me to photograph the images for Whole in One, her new cookbook that will be released in 2019. It will make Ellie’s seventh cookbook and my third, and for me the process has been unparalleled. Working with Ellie has truly been an honor. If you follow her work you know she is a consummate professional, who brings a deep passion and palpable energy to every project (and plate!) she takes on.

We recently wrapped an intensive shoot for the book in her New York City test kitchen and I couldn’t be more excited with what we produced. Along with a very strong, professional team we worked tirelessly, sometimes capturing up to 15 different recipes a day. We visited a local prop house where we scoured through a seemingly endless supply of textiles, ceramics, surfaces and backdrops until we found the perfect design aesthetic for the book.

With the help of our talented prop stylist Maeve Sheridan and skilled food stylist Suzanne Lenzer, we pored over each dish, careful to capture the most mouth watering shots, while maintaining a careful balance between our own creativity and the attainable nature of Ellie’s dishes that she’s come to be known for.

With Whole in One, Ellie focuses on delicious, healthy meals that can be made in a single pot, sheet pan or skillet, ensuring a good meal with limited clean up, that can be easily integrated into your dinnertime routine. Our creative challenge was to showcase both the convenience of these singular meals along with the simple, yet dynamic and thoughtful ingredients at play.

Whole in One is Ellie’s modern take on healthy cooking that’s intended to be approachable and inviting, and we worked hard to represent that visually in every shot. As a chef, dietitian and trusted voice in the world of healthy cooking people turn to Ellie for her expertise and I’m deeply fortunate she turned to me for mine.

Stay tuned for updates on the release of Whole in One, currently scheduled to publish Fall 2019.

*Photo of Ellie Krieger and Randi Baird above, plus all black and white production stills taken by Arletta Charter.

Not all is quiet on Martha’s Vineyard: IGI’s Farm Hub keeps much alive through the dead of winter

There’s a common misconception about the “off-season” on Martha’s Vineyard. Many visitors think we simply shut off a switch and the Island lays dormant throughout the winter months, only to awaken in the spring once talks of summer vacations return. Despite a welcomed quietness and a relatively slower change of pace, the winter season is still very productive on-Island. No program makes good use of the colder months better than Island Grown Initiative’s (IGI) Winter Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).

IGI’s winter CSA means that Island families can still look forward to farm fresh produce, even when local farm stands have called it quits for the season, and access to local produce is limited to what’s available at Cronig’s or the indoor West Tisbury Farmers Market (which wraps up for the season mid December). For those families lucky enough to score one of forty spots on the CSA, winter is just as nutritious and delicious as summer.

Members of the winter CSA are entitled to weekly allotments of mixed greens, herbs and sometimes even a fresh pint of strawberries. CSA food distribution takes place at IGI’s massive Farm Hub, where members pick up their bounty, and where most of the winter produce originates. The Farm Hub is the headquarters for IGI’s growing operation which encompasses forty acres in Vineyard Haven. Tucked back off of an unassuming bumpy Island road, the magnificent property at Thimble Farm features a sprawling acre-sized hydroponic greenhouse that allows the magic of local, thoughtful food production to take place all year long.

The massive greenhouse was originally designed by a previous owner to grow tomatoes on the hydroponic system, but IGI uses it to produce a wide variety of food crops as well as fish. During the peak seasons of spring and fall more than 4000 hydroponic plants are in the system. Tomatoes, arugula, peppers and more are harvested for IGI’s free community lunch program, which served 3,000 meals this past summer alone. Its plethora of produce is also sold through the organization’s Mobile Market, a truck stocked with affordable, locally grown fruits and vegetables, available to everyone on-Island in pursuit of fresh, local food.

During the winter months however, the greenhouse is sectioned off and the staff of the Farm Hub focuses on growing cold weather crops that can easily benefit from solar gain, including strawberries, lettuce, cucumbers and salad greens, among others. IGI’s hydroponic system allows plants to grow in a water based, nutrient-rich solution, and peat is used to allow the plants to constantly be in contact with the water below it. The water comes from four tanks of rainbow trout that are also farmed on the property (and occasionally included in the CSA allotment), and the water is efficiently repurposed for the hydroponic system. This means that even in the dead of winter there is always water running and new food being cultivated at the Farm Hub. It’s an impressive operation any day of the year and one we’re especially grateful for it now when other options are so limited.

In addition to the CSA, crops grown during the colder season are sold to the schools at deeply discounted prices, and to those in need through a partnership with the Vineyard Food Equity Network. For more about IGI’s winter CSA check out “The Green Green Fields of Winter” by Nicole Grace Mercier, and photos by yours truly, in the latest issue of Martha’s Vineyard Magazine. To sign up for the CSA email office@igimv.org or call 508-687-9062, space is limited.

Give it up for the gleaners, the dedicated volunteers picking for progress

October is School Gleaning Month and we’re celebrating just how great and impactful the gleaning program is here on Martha’s Vineyard. So far this year over 200 volunteers have lent their time to Island Grown Initiative’s (IGI) gleaning program, an impressive number and one that reflects a 50% increase since January. With the help of those four hundred plus hands 21,500 pounds of produce have already been recovered already in 2018, putting the program on track to meet (or exceed) last year’s record-breaking harvest–now that’s something to celebrate!

Gleaning is an incredibly useful and sustainable practice that can help offset hunger here on-Island and around the world. Gleaning provides a solution to both hunger and crop waste. Nationwide, 40% of the food that is grown is never eaten, yet one in six Americans suffer from food insecurity. Let that statistic just sink in for a minute. Almost half of all the food we grow is completely wasted and almost 17% of Americans do not have reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. Crazy, huh? And yes, we here on Martha’s Vineyard are affected by that too.

 

Luckily, our team at Island Grown Initiative (IGI) is doing something about it–and they’re doing a lot. In 2009, IGI began a gleaning program to capture crop waste and unsaleable produce from local farms, and there’s dozens of them. Since the program’s inception IGI has rescued 166,000 pounds of produce and counting. Now let that statistic sink in. That’s 166,000 pounds of food that otherwise would have been left to spoil or be tilled over. That otherwise would’ve been wasted and unused, on an Island where food equity is a very real issue.

We can all understand that food waste and hunger go hand in hand. While food scraps and unspoiled produce is being thrown into the trash and hauled to landfills, many families remain desperate for access to fresh food. By gleaning our local farms we are decreasing both hunger and crop waste, and sharing the delicious and nutritious bounty of our friends’ and neighbors’ land. More food gets used, more people get fed, it’s a win-win.

So how does IGI do it? With a lot of help and a lot of hands, and they’re always looking for more. Local gleaners work with farmers to capture excess quality produce that may be a little over ripened, or not as beautiful as what you see in the market. It might be the tail end of the season when farmers need to start making space for the next season’s crop, so “out with the old” it goes. Through the gleaning program that extra food is farmed, picked, and otherwise captured, and delivered for free to those in need, including our elders and children, our schools, and social service agencies like Serving Hands and the Island Food Pantry. No food left behind, and more mouths that can be fed.

The gleaning program requires a lot of work and a lot of time from dedicated volunteers. IGI is always in need of volunteers to help them recover their goal of 30,000 pounds of food his year, and about 1,000 hours of seasonal volunteer time are needed to keep the program viable. The commitment can be as big or as small as you make it. If you only have an hour here and there that time can still make a difference. Whether you come once a week or once a year they’d love to have you, and we’re pretty confident you’ll be happy you did. Many of IGI’s current volunteers have been doing the work for years because of the satisfaction they get for helping their neighbors and the joy of being with others who are doing the same.

Interested in volunteering yet? Click here to sign up to glean. Participating farms include The Allen Farm, Ghost Island Farm, Morning Glory Farm, North Tabor Farm, The Good Farm, Slip Away Farm, Quanaimes Gardens and Whippoorwill Farm.