Blog Category: Food Photography (Page 2)

Bringing the farm, and the sea, to school

If you ever have the opportunity to eat at the West Tisbury school for lunch you won’t be disappointed. The impressive food program, led by rockstar chef Jenny Devivo is quite the operation. And Jenny, well she’s the cherry on top.

Since 2011, the head chef and cafeteria director for the up-Island regional school district (West Tisbury School and Chilmark School), has made it her mission to source local food for the schools’ daily lunches. Part of Jenny’s dedication is fostering real relationships with local food purveyors, farmers, and fishermen; which enables her to enrich the developing palettes of Martha’s Vineyard with her farm-to-cafeteria-table menus.

Each Friday Jenny’s approach is more fish-to-table with her local “Catch of the Day” program, the first of its kind in the country. Since 2016, the program has been providing students with locally sourced and sustainably harvested fish through Menemsha Fish House and Boston-based regional seafood purveyor Red’s BestOur friends at Island Grown Schools are highlighting seafood as their Harvest of the Month for April, so it’s only fitting we spotlight Jenny’s incredible work that brings the bounty of our local waters directly to our Island’s most selective eaters.

Getting kids to eat fish sounds like a challenge but Jenny’s got it down. “Fish Friday is as popular as pizza day,” she states proudly. Not only do the students take the bait, literally, but they’re educated on the sourcing too. Red’s Best uses traceability software with quick-response (QR) codes on the packaging that Jenny can scan and track. With that information she can tell the school community who caught their fish, off what boat it came, and how and where it was caught. That’s just about as local, sustainable and transparent as you can get.

The first time we visited the West Tisbury kitchen Jenny was serving Roasted Pollack with Lemon, Capers and Butter. Other Friday favorites include her popular fish chowder made with locally sourced sustainable white fish like hake, cod, and haddock. The day we visited she was serving Fish Cakes and a special tasting treat of Blue Moon Oysters, harvested by fisherman Scott Castro from Katama Bay. These fresh bivalve mollusks were baked in the oven and then served on the half shell with turmeric butter…yummm! She’s also been known to serve up Paella, Mediterranean Fish Stew, Fish Tacos, Teriyaki Salmon, Baked Fish with Butter Cracker Crumb, and a Fish Sandwich.

Any day of the week you can find Jenny and her assistant chefs Maura Martin and Nisa Webster buzzing around the West Tisbury School kitchen preparing fresh, local lunch for up to 550 children and staff each day. That reflects an almost 100% participation rate in the program, up from close to 40% when she first took over the kitchen several years ago.

It all started in 2011, when the up-Island regional school district voted to opt out of using the corporate school lunch provider they had contracted, and hired Jenny instead. She, along with many supporters including Noli Taylor of Island Grown Initiative (IGI), helped salvage materials from the old Edgartown school, including the prep table, the roll-down window, the steam tables, even the sinks. The greater Island community helped her renovate the kitchen in two months, and she got to work. The mission was to cook healthier food and sourcing from as many local resources as possible. It’s safe to say it was the right choice, and there’s no looking back. “It’s been hard but rewarding,” says Jenny.

Children are offered a hot lunch option daily (think herb roasted chicken or local pollock and haddock chowder) as well as a daily offering of salad bar and egg, chicken or tuna salad sandwich and fresh vegetables. The ever-changing salad bar is a lavish offering all its own, with fresh local produce, and scratched cooked, freshly prepared salads that as Jenny says “push the boundaries of flavor.” You might find an apple fennel salad or beet hummus, along with several local grain options, and teachers and students alike load up their plates.

So how does she do it? By 9am each morning she has the orders in for the West Tisbury and Chilmark schools, which allows her to eliminate food waste as much as possible, and know what she’s up against for the day. Any food not consumed is either reused the following day or composted by IGI along with the help of the students, and it’s something they take seriously. “I’ll see kids fish things out of the garbage that should have been composted or call each other out for not doing it properly.” Clearly her methods are working.

Jenny prides herself on making approachable food that inspires the students to try new things, while setting limits on selections to encourage them to venture outside of their comfort zone. “If we eliminate 17 choices for lunch, the cost goes down, and it allows us to introduce the kids to new flavors.” Of course living on an island with access to fresh local food helps, and she readily takes advantage of it. In addition to locally caught seafood, Jenny is able to source meat and produce from Beetlebung Farm, The Good Farm, The Grey Barn, Morning Glory Farm, Thimble Farm, Cleveland Farm and Whippoorwill, and she genuinely appreciates everyone’s contributions to her kitchen.

According to Jenny it’s a community program that encourages participation, and sharing. She’s come to see how it has helped kids to take pride in the presentation of their food, and to know where it comes from. “When we’re in here cooking all day and they can smell it in the halls, it’s a sensory experience. They already feel connected to it, and it boosts enrollment.” And the kids aren’t only eating it, they’re cooking it too. “We have kids that ask to help us prepare food and we bring them back there and put them to work.”

Jenny’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. It’s obvious that the students and faculty love her and the rest of the country is taking note too. These days when she’s not in the kitchen she travels throughout New England consulting other schools on how to implement similar programs. “It’s all about getting the kids to eat real food… The options are endless when it comes to feeding kids.”

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.

The science behind fermented foods, and why we love them

It’s a brand New Year and our friends at Island Grown Schools (IGS) are back with another round of picks for their Harvest of the Month program. Each month, they highlight another locally available crop to feature in Martha’s Vineyard’s local schools, restaurants and grocery stores. This month they’ve set their eyes on fermented foods–and so have we. There’s been a lot of chatter about their health benefits lately, but what exactly are fermented foods and how do they help us? Allow us to divulge.

Fermented foods are just that–fermented. They’re made through the process of natural fermentation which converts carbohydrates to alcohol or organic acids using microbes—like yeasts or bacteria. Fermentation might sound like a jazzy new buzzword, but it’s a process that’s been around forever. Ideally, the helpful bacteria from local food and our natural surroundings would make its way to our digestive tract and help us live our best lives. Sadly, a lot of the good stuff is killed off through other cultural habits like antibiotics, pasteurization and sanitization–meaning we can benefit from fermented foods foods now more than ever.

Fermented foods contain the beneficial byproducts of fermentation and create live microbes that boost your gut diversity and support better mental and physical performance. The health benefits of fermented foods are pretty impressive, they can basically improve the function of almost every system in the body.

Have you ever noticed the label on the side of your yogurt that reads “live and active cultures?” It might sound weird but that refers to the living organisms that convert milk to yogurt during fermentation. And that probiotic bacteria that is created is what makes yogurt so good for you. Not only does it improve the health of your digestive system, but it also allows critical nutrients to be more easily utilized by your body. And yogurt isn’t the only winner. Other fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, and even sourdough bread can share the same love.

Generally speaking the additional health benefits of fermented foods include strengthening your overall immune system, detoxifying your body from dangerous chemicals and reducing inflammation throughout the body (a common issue often created by many of the sodium rich foods our culture’s diet is so reliant on).

So long story short, eat more fermented foods! On Martha’s Vineyard we’re lucky, yet again, to have access to some truly incredible ones. Make a quick stop at The Larder in Vineyard Haven and you’ll have access to a whole host of locally prepared fermented foods, including sauerkraut, kimchi, and other seasonal specialties prepared by Zephir Plume of Bakehouse Farm. Zephir’s favorite ferment is non-dairy drinking yogurt, which she started bottling herself this year. Look for it under the label Ediblewellness.

Another probiotic rich local favorite is Kulture Club Kombucha, the brainchild of Nina Gordon. Nina uses ethically sourced, locally farmed and foraged organic ingredients whenever possible to create a delicious and nutritious line of kombuchas. Asked how she first started selling it she said “I don’t try to sell the kombucha…I like to share it because kombucha brings me joy, and I’d love it if it brought you joy too. They say there is a gut-brain connection, so maybe all those probiotics are firing off all these good neurotransmitters in me so that I’ll replicate them!” We’ll drink to that.

Maybe you’ve tried kombucha and loved it, or maybe you couldn’t get a taste for it. To that we say, try another flavor. Nina adds “people who are sensitive to acid in general will have trouble with vinegary kombucha, also if you are sensitive to caffeine or have an alcohol allergy you may have trouble. Despite the fact that caffeine levels in kombucha are about one quarter as much as tea, and that there is more alcohol in an overripe banana than in a bottle of kombucha.” If you’re new to drinking kombucha you may want to ease yourself into it, as it effects can be be felt. Nina recommends starting with 2-4oz/day, and increase when you’re more tolerant. She adds “basically listen to your body.”

Need another way to enjoy the benefits of fermented foods? Sink your teeth into a loaf of bread, that’s right–bread. Of course not all breads are created equal, but the fermented sourdough loaves of local baker extraordinaire Olivia Patterson of Cinnamon Starship will do you a lot of favors (while packing a ton of flavor). For starters, Olivia uses local Island grains, from her friend Dan Sternbach of Lost and Found Grain. We asked her, and she explains “there are many benefits to fresh milled wheat, especially the flavor, but because it is so much closer to the source (and minimally processed) it also has more wild yeast present in the grain, providing much more nutrition than commercial flour.” Makes sense, right?

Olivia also uses sourdough starter only and no commercial yeast. Again her method is enlightening. “This means the dough is fermenting with a combination of wild yeast and bacteria, such as lactobacillus (which most people are familiar with as the key ingredient in yogurt). These microscopic friends are found in the air, the flour and on the bakers’ hands. Biodiversity is always beneficial, on farms, in forests and even in bread. Not only does the sourdough make the bread taste better, more complex and rich, but it also has more vitamins than standard bread, a benefit of the digestive process of the starter. The longer fermentation process of sourdough bread also makes in easier to digest because more of the gluten is broken down.” Hungry yet? Olivia’s bread is available at Scottish Bakehouse and Ghost Island Farm every Saturday this time of year. You can also find her at the West Tisbury Farmer’s Market in season.

If you’re inspired and want to get started with more fermented foods in your diet right away look in the refrigerated section of your local grocer for pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi and kefir. Check labels for any of the following terms including live, cultured, raw, probiotic, or active. You can also prepare many fermented foods quite easily at home by yourself. IGI recommends checking out Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz as a good DIY reference book for your own creations. Here’s a recipe to get you started.

 

Creamy Miso Dressing

3.5 tbsp white miso paste

3.5 tbsp fresh lemon juice

3 cloves of garlic

1/2 inch knob of fresh ginger, peeled

A few pinches of black pepper

1/4 cup water

1/2 cup avocado oil or regular olive oil

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Store in an airtight jar in the refrigerator.

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.

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.