Blog Category: Editorial (Page 2)

What’s hot this summer: Can’t miss happenings on Martha’s Vineyard

It’s finally here! The season we’ve all been waiting for, well most of us anyway. Some Islanders actually get discouraged this time of year but I absolutely love it. I wait all year for summer and thrive off of the faster tempo of the Island. There’s an energy in the air that you can’t find anywhere else. On top of that loving feeling, I get to reconnect with summer friends and get outside in the beautiful weather and take advantage of this dynamic place. There’s nothing more electric than a Vineyard summer.

Each year I’m bombarded with news of the latest parties, events and activities. I want to do it all but time is precious, so I’ve drilled down my summer bucket list of the absolute can’t-miss things to do on Martha’s Vineyard this summer. Prepare yourself for fresh food, unique Island experiences and a whole lot of time outdoors–fingers crossed for a season of perfect days.

Maker’s Table series from Farm. Field. Sea. Take your pick from a variety of “dynamic dining adventures” that highlight the Island’s best resources and the talents of local chefs, farmers, shellfish cultivators, fishers, educators, authors, musicians, and visual artists during this summer’s Maker’s Table series, a new initiative from Farm. Field. Sea. Known for offering the summer’s most unique and authentic Island experiences Farm. Field. Sea. has organized several pop-up events that are thoughtfully curated around delicious food and inspiring activities at secret locations around the Island.


Kayak and Stand Up Paddle Board adventures. I love all things water and try to get my exercise outdoors whenever I can, after all I’ve waited all year for this weather! A great outlet is Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary in Edgartown, where they offer self guided kayak and stand up paddleboard quest by day or moonrise kayak tours by night on Sengekontacket Pond. See nesting shorebirds feed and frolic, explore the salt marsh and search for pond wildlife, or witness the sun set, the stars twinkle, and the moon rise from the water. Check out their full line up of summer events.

Load up on local goodies and eat your veggies at the Farmer’s Market. Nothing beats a trip to the West Tisbury Farmer’s Market where you can pick up a variety of local produce and food products all in one place. Every Wednesday and Saturday from 9am–12pm our local farmers and food purveyors set up shop at the Grange Hall in West Tisbury to deliver you a true taste of the Vineyard, plus live music too! Be sure to bring reusable bags and try a little bit of everything.

Explore Polly Hill Arboretum. Polly Hill in West Tisbury is one of my favorite places because of its diverse landscape and gorgeous gardens– I often want to go there just to relax. I always learn about a new plant or species every time I go, it’s a living breathing museum. You’ll find rare trees and shrubs from around the world set among stone walls, meadows, and fields, including Polly’s famous North Tisbury azaleas, the national stewartia collection, camellias, hollies, rhododendrons, crabapples, conifers, magnolias, and many more. Pack a picnic and a good book and escape to a place of absolute serenity for the afternoon.

Oyster tours in Vineyard Sound. Experience the magic of our local briny bivalves first hand from the guys of Cottage City Oysters. Purveyors Dan and Greg Martino will introduce you to their nursery and you’ll see the harvest process in action. Complete with a tasting of the Island’s best oysters and a shucking demonstration so you can go home and impress your friends.

Dine overlooking the Aquinnah Cliffs. Even if you’ve ventured up to the Cliffs before there’s nothing quite like dining at the Aquinnah Shop restaurant, and taking in the view over a relaxing meal. Located at the Gay Head Cliffs in Aquinnah, it’s one of the oldest restaurants on the Vineyard with some of the best outdoor dining on-Island. They serve dinner Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and offer lunch and breakfast too.

Be mesmerized by Built on Stilts. Now in it’s 22nd year, the Built on Stilts festival is an annual showcase of some of the most talented dancers on-Island, and guest performers from all over. Each year the festival takes over the Union Chapel in Oak Bluffs and amazes spectators of all ages. And the best part–there’s no tickets or reservations required, all shows are free to the public and audiences may come and go as they please, so there’s no reason to not check it out. Look for it this summer, happening August 9–11 and 18–21.

Pop Up Dinners at the Beach Plum. Another magical place to enjoy dinner is the Beach Plum Inn in Chilmark. Their picturesque patio looks out over Menemsha harbor and is home to some of the most spectacular sunsets you’ll ever see. This summer chef John Thurgood is hosting a series of pop up dinners celebrating the bounty of the Island with local guest chefs throughout the season. Be sure to mark your calendars and prepare for the finest food around.

Go take a hike. I recently partnered with Sheriff’s Meadow to help them launch their TrailsMV app, an iOS app that helps hikers and outdoor enthusiasts better navigate over 100 Martha’s Vineyard trails and conservation properties, it’s a great tool to help you from getting lost in the Island’s more out-of-the way locales. Be sure to download the app and discover some of the Island’s most scenic locations. Our favorites include Menemsha Hills Reservation and Cedar Tree Neck Sanctuary. Is there anywhere more beautiful than this?

Take a tour of Thimble Farm, with Island Grown Initiative. Since 2011 Island Grown Initiative has operated Thimble Farm as their Farm Hub, an education resources site for farmers and growers, offering demonstration aquaponic and hydroponic greenhouse production, workshops and trainings, a community garden, and an orchard. Tour the Vineyard Haven farm every Tuesday and Thursday and check out the impressive farm and learn more about the work of this incredible organization. And their farm stand is open everyday (but Wednesday) from 9am to 3pm.



 

Give peas a chance: June’s Harvest of the Month

Generally speaking peas still get a bad rep. Like Brussels Sprouts, some people never warmed up to them, or are burned by childhood memories of their parents trying to force feed them green vegetables. Not on Martha’s Vineyard. Here peas are celebrated and admired, especially among the youth of our community.

This month we’re helping Island Grown Schools (IGS) highlight peas as their Harvest of the Month (HOM). It’s the perfect crop to represent the essence of the HOM program and the value and importance of better connecting kids to their locally available produce. I like to consider peas a gateway vegetable. If you can get your kids to take part in the growing process, and feast on peas (especially easy with the sugar snap variety), you can get them hooked on vegetables all together.

I recently attended a grand tasting event (so to speak) at the West Tisbury School. 

Throughout the month IGS hosts several “taste tests” where they serve the Harvest of the Month as an ingredient in the local school cafeterias, to encourage students to taste it in a new or creative way and understand its flavor potential. 

The farm-to-school movement at the West Tisbury School is an especially impressive program, and Jenny DeVivo, West Tisbury School cafeteria director and rockstar head chef (she used to be a traveling recording artist so that title is two-fold) always makes it fun and interactive.

Morning Glory Farm offers another clever way to encourage participation in pea harvesting with their annual pea contest. Each year the Island’s largest operating farm hosts a “First Peas to the Table” contest inspired by Thomas Jefferson. In the 18th century Jefferson led a contest among his neighbors at Monticello garden every spring to see who could be the first to grow a cup of shelling peas, and the tradition continues on Martha’s Vineyard today.

Now in its fifth year at Morning Glory, the first person to bring a measured cup of mature shelled peas receives a Morning Glory Farm gift certificate, a voucher for a free trip to the salad bar and a delicious risotto prepared by chef Meg Athearn from the winning peas, plus bragging rights of course.

The winner is also crowned, sashed and photographed for Morning Glory’s archives–and posterity–and left to bask in the glory of their delicious achievement! This year Katie Ruppel took the prize.

What’s not to love about peas? Peas are my favorite vegetable to grow in my garden, and are one of the first things I plant once the ground thaws. They get me excited for spring, and the potential of the new season, plus they’re delicious and packed with vitamin K, A, C and fiber, folate, thiamine, protein and iron. They’re easy to throw in salad raw, or simply sautéed with garlic, ginger and sesame oil. Sugar snap peas provide a welcome crunch in rice or stir fry, and shelled peas make a good addition to pasta and risotto.

Tis the season for potlucks, BBQs, and beach picnics, so don’t forget about the powerful pea next time you’re preparing your menus. Try this easy Pea Pesto Salad recipe, prepared by Harvest of the Month chef Gabrielle Chronister, for a fresh, savory side to celebrate the season’s palatable peas.

Pea Pesto Potato Salad

Ingredients:

1 cup green peas (fresh and blanched for 1 minute or frozen and thawed)

1 cup fresh basil

2 ½ tbl nutritional yeast

1 tbl fresh lemon juice

1 medium garlic clove, chopped

1 tsp kosher salt

¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tbl extra virgin olive oil

1 ½ lbs baby or new potatoes (quartered or sliced in half if small)

Directions:

Place potatoes and ½ tsp of kosher salt in a medium pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer 10-15 minutes until fork tender. Drain potatoes and set aside.

While potatoes are cooking, place remainder of ingredients except olive oil, in a food processor and pulse ingredients until everything is combined and evenly ground. With the machine running, slowly pour olive oil into the mixture and blend until smooth and creamy.

Combine the potatoes with the pesto in a serving dish, making sure all potatoes are coated in pesto. Salt if needed. Top with more nutritional yeast and fresh torn basil. Serve with a dollop of sour cream or plain Greek yogurt. Enjoy!

 

Selling seafood by the seashore on Martha’s Vineyard

Life on Martha’s Vineyard revolves around our relationship with the sea. We worry about making time to get to the beach, making boat reservations to get off-Island, and most importantly, making the most of the resources the ocean provides for us. This month we’re helping Island Grown Schools (IGS) highlight seafood as their Harvest of the Month–a sustainable and viable part of our Island economy and history, and a delicious and nutritious addition to our plates.

Hundreds of Island fishermen work through every season, in often dangerous conditions, to guarantee stocked local fish markets and restaurants. These men and women work to assure the livelihood of commercial fishing, and the future of Island fishing families and the trade.

If you don’t personally fish on Martha’s Vineyard you likely know someone that does. Drive by the Menemsha jetty most days and you’ll find fishing enthusiasts of all ages, ‘dropping lines’ into the water, maybe catching mackerel or fluke that they’ll use for lobster bait or that they’ll bake or bread for an easy fish fry. Drive by Edgartown harbor after sundown and you’ll see another contingent of locals jigging for squid. They’ll take it home, clean it, cut it, sauté it and have it for dinner, or even serve to their guests.


Scup is another commonly found fish, but it hasn’t historically been a popular fish to eat here. I was happy to see it recently featured on the menu at Port Hunter in Edgartown–an indication of the restaurant’s creativity and commitment to offering a local catch.  Conch has the same stigma, but Chef Deon Thomas is working to change that with the launch of his new cookbook, Chef Deon’s Island Conch Cookery, which will explore the range of  possibilities of cooking the affordable, sustainable mollusk.

As a food activist I was especially happy to provide my photography services for the book, part of my ongoing commitment to promoting sustainable food practices on Martha’sVineyard.


You can do your part to support the Island seafood economy by asking for the local catch at Island fish markets and restaurants. Quahogs, oysters, scallops, and mussels are especially important aquaculture and make for a delicious and nutritious dinner. IGS’ featured farm, the Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group, works to preserve and expand the Island’s traditional shellfisheries by farming shellfish from from seed, and we thank them for it. Not only do we benefit from the food and economic boost, but these useful bivalves help provide us with cleaner seas–they serve as a sort of water filtration system, unintentionally ridding water of any pollutants present like herbicides or harmful bacteria.

 

Recently the group also began experimenting with sugar kelp, or seaweed, in hopes of bringing about a new enterprise on the Vineyard, it’s available in limited quantities on-Island so if you see it available you’re in luck!

Stay tuned for my new cookbook Chef Deon’s Island Conch Cookery by Chef Deon Thomas for more inspiration on enjoying local seafood.

 

Enjoy this Simple Fish Ceviche recipe from IGS

Ingredients:

3 haddock, sea bass or any white flakey fish filets

½ cup sweet onion, finely chopped

¼ cup fresh ripe mango, chopped

¼ cup fresh chopped cilantro

¼ cup lime juice

¼ cup lemon juice

½ tsp sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

 

Directions:

If using raw fish: Soak the fish in the lemon juice, lime juice, salt and pepper for 30 minutes – 1 hour. Then cut the fish into small ½ inch bites.

If using cooked fish: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and place fish filets in a lightly oiled baking dish. Sprinkle with some salt and pepper and bake for 12-15 minutes until fish is flaky and moist. When fish is done let it cool completely and cut into small ½ inch bites.

Place remaining ingredients in a medium bowl and toss together with the fish until well combined. Place in refrigerator to marinate until ready to eat. Serve with tortilla chips and sliced avocado and enjoy!

What spring brings: Life, light and love!

Spring has officially arrived, and I couldn’t be happier–there’s actually a spring in my step. The weather hasn’t quite caught up yet but I’m patiently waiting for the temperatures to rise and the flowers to start blooming. The solitude of winter on Martha’s Vineyard has begun to dissipate, and a noticeable shift in the tempo of the Island is upon us. Spring brings new life and new opportunities, and as far as I’m concerned this is the most wonderful time of the year. Here’s what I’m looking forward to this season:

1. Planting my garden – While the temperatures are still too cold to be planting outside, I’ve been getting things going indoors. Fortunately I have access to an unheated greenhouse, or tunnel, that allows me to begin planting seeds in preparation for moving them outdoors once the weather turns. The tunnel is available to our entire neighborhood and I take full advantage of it, especially during the winter months, by eating kale, mache, chard and arugula.


At the beginning of the month I began by planting spinach, leeks and lettuce–vegetables that can withstand the cooler temperatures. If you’re looking to get your own seeds started I’m a big fan of Johnny Seeds and Fruition Seeds, online retailers of organic, non-GMO seeds that yield beautiful, healthy plants. On Martha’s Vineyard you can also pick up seed packs at our local nurseries including Donaroma’s, SBS, Middletown, and Vineyard Gardens.


Get your own seeds started by referencing Johnny Seeds helpful seed-starting date calculator, which figures out when it’s safe to plant early crops outside based on your area’s last frost date. I’d also recommend picking up a copy of Simple Green Suppers, my cookbook with author Susie Middleton, to get inspired by all of the delicious, veggie based meals she shares. Before you know it the plants will be thriving and I’ll be enjoying a fresh, colorful summer salad with my bounty.

2. Flowers in bloom – I just love when I’m out walking or driving around and bursts of daffodils start to appear, and the purple climbing vines of wisteria, or the arching branches and bright yellow buds of forsythia pop up around town. And the lilac, oh the lilac. It grows like weeds on Martha’s Vineyard and the fragrant, sweet smell is intoxicating.


There’s just something so peaceful and comforting about spring flowers, especially after a harsh New England winter–these natural pops of color simply spread a smile across my face. When I want a real flower fix I head to Polly Hill Arboretum in West Tisbury, one of my favorite places to visit and shoot in the spring. I could spend a whole day just walking the grounds snapping photos of their diverse collection, like their famous North Tisbury azaleas, crabapples, rhododendrons, and magnolias. It’s a great place to breathe deeply, connect with nature, and go to recharge. While the season is still in flux I get my indoor flower fix at Morrice Florist in Vineyard Haven, during their Tulip Tuesday events. Every Tuesday through April they offer fresh bunches of tulips for only $10, a simple pleasure and the price is right! 


3. Shedding some layers – Sure, I love the cozy comforts of winter fashion, but I’ll happily shed my warm sweaters and scarves for lighter, more colorful layers. I’m especially looking forward to the new spring fashion designs from my friend Stina Sayre, a talented, Swedish designer who’s known for the form, function and quality of her versatile pieces. Stina’s spring collections often focus on bright colors and vivid patterns, and after a season of drab, dark colors a few new pieces will be a refreshing addition to my wardrobe.


Another spring fashion treat calls for a scenic drive up to Menemsha to Pandora’s Box, an eclectic boutique of fabulous finds, where beachy meets Vineyard chic and my inner shopaholic let’s loose. Pandora’s Box doesn’t reopen until May but I’m already counting down.


4. Longer days and more light – We can all appreciate the longer days, but as a photographer prolonged, natural light is critical to me and my work. I’m in constant pursuit of the best quality light for my subjects. I love the light in the mornings and late afternoons, as the sun is still rising up and then making its way back down. The added daylight just makes me happier in general, not to mention the warmer temperatures of spring make for tolerable, frequent outdoor shoots.


5. Wedding season – The Island continues to be a sought-after destination for weddings and our popular wedding seasons are typically spring and fall, known as the “shoulder seasons.” As Martha’s Vineyard wedding photographers, our spring wedding season typically gears up in April and this year we’re looking forward to seeing what’s the latest in wedding trends and meeting new couples that are lucky in love. The rebirth of spring corresponds nicely to the new beginnings of the many couples who marry this time of year. Spring is life and life is love!



March’s Harvest of the Month: The Incredible Edible Egg

Some of you might remember “The Incredible, Edible Egg,” a marketing slogan created for the American Egg Board back in the 70s to help consumers discover the value of eggs. Now more than ever the jingle still holds true, especially as protein rich diets continue to dominate nutrition chatter and we look to more sustainable methods of food production. This March our friends at Island Grown Schools (IGS) are highlighting eggs as their Harvest of the Month and we couldn’t be happier to help them celebrate this incredible, edible superfood.

I’ve always loved eggs but my affinity has grown even deeper over time. About fifteen years ago our family was inspired to keep chickens so we could be guaranteed the freshest eggs available. Surprisingly, chickens are relatively easy to care for, as long as you have the space and equipment–and aren’t too afraid to get up close and personal with those fine, feathered friends. We assure you, it’s worth it for the eggs.

Keeping chickens has helped us eliminate scraps and they produce a natural fertilizer which is a plus for our compost. Additionally, we get to enjoy the peacefulness of the animals on our property and above all the eggs, you really can’t beat a fresh egg with that vibrant, orange yolk. Our neighbors love it too, whenever we’re out of town they’re quick to “chicken sit” so they can yield the eggs themselves, it’s a win-win for the neighborhood.

 

We all know eggs pack a lot of protein, but they’re also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin A and B-12, riboflavin, phosphorus, and selenium. In addition to being nutritious, they’re tasty too, and oh so versatile. I start most days with a soft boiled egg over greens with a pinch of sea salt and a teaspoon of flax or olive oil. If it doesn’t make it into my breakfast it makes it into my salad for lunch, sometimes both. A hard boiled egg is a great snack on the go and sometimes I’ll even add an egg to my soup for added richness and texture. My teenage son Miles loves eggs too, he’ll add them on top of his burgers for extra protein and flavor.

It seems everyone has their own strategy when it comes to enjoying eggs, and we don’t discriminate. Our friends at IGS suggest a six-minute boiled egg for the perfect salad topping, and veggie loaded frittatas for a quick breakfast or dinner. They also praise salt cured egg yolks (see recipe below), an easy preparation that can add an incredible umami flavor and a bright dash of color to virtually any dish. By simply covering yolks in a salt mixture to draw out the moisture you can transform its flavor and texture, similar to curing meat and fish. Once the yolk is cured and hardened it can be grated or shaved on to onto pasta, salad, crostini, or anything else you might top with parmesan cheese.

Luckily for those on Martha’s Vineyard (even those of you without your own chickens) there’s access to local, farm fresh eggs throughout the year. The Farm Institute in Katama produces a total of about 80,000 eggs a year!

 

You can also find fresh eggs (depending on seasonality and availability) at Ghost Island Farm, Grey Barn Farm, Morning Glory Farm, Mermaid Farm, and North Tabor Farm, and at Cronig’s Market and Tisbury Farm Market. Here’s a tip from IGS: if fresh eggs are unwashed, they retain a special protective coating on the shell, and you can store on the counter for up to two weeks. Be sure to wash eggs before you use them. Washed eggs must be kept in the fridge. Locally-grown farm eggs can cost about $6/dozen, but at 50 cents per egg, they are one of the most affordable sources of Island-grown protein.

 

Cured Egg Yolks (Next time your recipe calls for just egg whites – save the yolks!)

Ingredients:

4 large local egg yolks

1 ¾ cup Kosher salt

1 ½ cup sugar

Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Combine the salt and sugar in a medium bowl and mix well. Spread ½ of the mixture in a small glass baking dish.

Using the back of a spoon, make 4 evenly spaced indentations into the salt mixture. Sprinkle some pepper into each indentation. Carefully place the egg yolks in each of the indentations making sure no egg is sitting directly on the glass. Gently cover yolks completely with the remaining salt mixture. Seal lid on glass baking dish or tightly cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 4 days.  

Preheat oven to 150/170 degrees F (whatever the lowest setting is on your oven). Remove egg yolks from the salt mixture. The yolks should now have a gummy-like texture. Gently brush the salt mixture off each yolk and carefully rinse in cold water to remove excess salt. Discard remaining salt mixture.  

Place yolks on a cooling rack (sprayed with non-stick spray) on top of a cookie sheet and bake for 1.5 – 2 hours until yolks are firm through. Turn off oven and let yolks remain in the oven until completely cooled. Store yolks in the fridge in an airtight container.

Randi Baird is a founding member and president of Island Grown Initiative’s Board of Directors and has long been committed to promoting local, sustainable food choices on Martha’s Vineyard.