Blog Category: Food Photography (Page 3)

We’re wild about wild edibles, April’s Harvest of the Month

Spring is upon us and we’re all hungry to get outside. After a long, dreary northeast winter we’re aching for some vitamin D and fresh food. Luckily our friends at Island Grown Schools are highlighting wild edibles as their Harvest of the Month and we’re happy to help them spread the word about delicious, locally available food you can find on Martha’s Vineyard–for free! Now’s the perfect time to get outside and get foraging, your mind and body will thank you.

There’s an air of secrecy that comes with foraging, similar to how the local fisherman are about revealing their spots–they’ll give you pointers and tell you what to look out for, but they’re not telling you exactly where to go. Likewise, we’ll share some tips and let you know what’s out there but it’s on you to hunt it down, plus the pursuit is half the fun! Just make sure you know exactly what you’re doing before you go eating things in the woods.

As a food activist I’ve always been a fan of foraging. Not only are there tremendous health benefits to locally sourced food, but foraging encourages resourcefulness and promotes food security. Plus a journey out to the beach or the woods to go picking brings you closer to the land and its offerings, as well as the seasons and our weather.

In Aquinnah foraging was a way of life, and for many it still is today. When we first moved to Martha’s Vineyard we resided in Gay Head and I became familiar with a lot of the locally available wild edibles. Resident gatherer Kristina Hook-Leslie is a local authority on wild edibles and has amassed a tremendous amount of knowledge since childhood, foraging for everything from wild carrots (Queen Anne’s Lace), to rose hips, grape leaves, sassafras, cranberries, beach plums and more. You can learn a lot just by watching this fantastic video of Kristina foraging in Aquinnah. Her advice for those who want to forage their own wild edibles is to do your homework–make sure you know what you’re picking and be respectful–take only what you need and give thanks to the plants before harvesting.

Personally, one of my favorite things to forage on-Island is stinging nettles. You’ve probably seen them, or accidentally brushed up against them (ouch!). They’re a prickly, leafy green that gets its name from the small, stiff hairs that cover them. They’re one of the first plants that arrive with spring and I’m always careful to wear gloves when picking. When cooked or dried, nettles completely lose their stinging property, making them perfectly safe for consumption. They’re high in vitamin A, C, full of calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium as well as being a high source of protein. They have an earthy wholesome flavor, making them the perfect addition to smoothies, eggs, omelettes, or quiches–you can basically use them in place of spinach or a similar leafy green.

Another thing I do in spring is scout out beach plum plants. They grow all over the Island, along our roadsides, backyards and beaches, and I take note of the most abundant flowers–this later translates to bearing the most plentiful fruit. I then return in late August or early September, when the fruits turn to a deep purple color. My husband Philippe and I use them to make cordial and jam for the holidays. Like most fruits they are rich in vitamin C and antioxidants, and can help strengthen the immune system and lower high blood pressure and cholesterol.

There really are so many wild edibles with impressive health benefits on Martha’s Vineyard, ready for the picking if you know where to look. Obviously we have our namesake grape vines, and there’s no shortage of wild grapes. The grape’s fruit can be eaten raw (just watch out for the seeds) or turned into jams, jellies or wine. And the bountiful grape leaves are perfect for stuffing–steam them and stuff with rice or fish. Rose hips are also scattered about, and the hearty fruit of the rose plant can be turned into jams, and jellies, as well as soup, tea or stewed with meat–plus they’re also a great source of vitamin C.

Rampant too on-Island is sassafras, popularly used for tea or root beer, while providing a boost to the immune system or anti-inflammatory properties when applied to the skin. Lastly, purslane and dandelions are two popular greens most people trample over without giving second thought, and they can both be eaten raw or added to salads and soups for an extra dose of vitamins.

Feeling inspired to step outside and get picking? Just make sure you always know what you are harvesting before you eat it. Island Grown Schools recommends “that you go with someone who is experienced, as some pictures of edible plants can be misleading. And make sure you know the rules about picking wild plants in your area. For example on Martha’s Vineyard fiddleheads should not be harvested because some species are rare and can be difficult to identify, but they are often available at Cronig’s.”

If you’re interested in learning more about wild edibles check out this story I collaborated on with Holly Bellebuono and Catherine Walthers for Martha’s Vineyard Magazine.

Feeling adventurous? Try this wild edible recipe from Island Grown Schools:

Watercress Chimichurri

Ingredients:

1 cup watercress, tightly packed (if foraged- wash well and discard stems)

1 garlic clove

1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

¼ cup sherry vinegar

½ cup olive oil

¾ tsp honey

½ tsp kosher salt or sea salt

¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Place watercress, garlic, red pepper flakes, honey and vinegar in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped, but not pureed (or you can finely chop everything by hand and combine with the vinegar.)

Transfer to a small bowl and add the olive oil, salt and pepper. Combine well. Store in refrigerator until ready to eat. Serve with your favorite sourdough bread or over roasted veggies, tofu, cooked fish, chicken or steak. Enjoy!

 

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.

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.

 

 

January’s Harvest of the Month: Get on board the whole grain train

The New Year is upon us and for many that means resolutions of healthy, clean eating. On Martha’s Vineyard we are fortunate to have access to dozens of local farms and purveyors that can provide us with the resources to help us stay true to our commitments of good health, while supporting the local food community.

Our friends at Island Grown Initiative (IGI) actively support a resilient and equitable food system on Martha’s Vineyard by providing food and agriculture education, and developing infrastructure to make a year-round local food system viable. As part of their mission they strive to educate Island children and families on the benefit of eating healthy, locally grown food, through Island Grown Schools (IGS), a community food education program.

Each month IGS designates a Harvest of the Month, highlighting a locally available crop in school cafeterias, restaurants and grocery stores across Martha’s Vineyard.

According to islandgrownschools.org Martha’s Vineyard was the first school system in Massachusetts to pioneer Harvest of the Month in 2012-3, and is now working with the Massachusetts Farm to School Project to spread their model across the state. Pretty incredible, huh? In efforts to help support this important cause we’ll be regularly promoting each month’s Harvest of the Month on our blog.

For January that means focusing on whole grains, a critical component to a healthy diet, that are packed with nutrients and fiber that have been proven to help reduce the risk of diabetes, cancer, and heart disease–just to name a few.  In Simple Green Suppers, the vegetarian cookbook I launched earlier this year with the incredibly talented Susie Middleton, an entire chapter was devoted to Susie’s appreciation for grains.

Foods like corn, wheat, rice, and oats are abundant in their versatility and can be easily incorporated into just about any meal! They can be prepared wholesomely and deliciously, to complement a hearty protein or antioxidant rich vegetarian meal, or used as a standalone snack. They’re a healthier alternative to pasta and other starch heavy foods and won’t leave you feeling bloated after you clear your plate.

Start off the New Year with theses healthy substitutions and you’ll quickly feel the difference, and see it too. Some of our favorites include farro, wheat berry, barley, and quinoa. Need some more inspiration? Try Island Grown Schools recipe for Overnight Oats and see just how sweet whole grains can be.

Whole Grains

Overnight Oats

Ingredients:

½ cup whole rolled oats

½ cup milk of choice (dairy, almond, coconut, soy)

1 tsp maple syrup (or you can mash ½ banana to replace sweetener)

1/8 tsp vanilla

Pinch of salt

Directions:

Place all ingredients in a coffee mug or 8oz mason jar and mix with a spoon until everything is combined. Cover with a lid and place in the refrigerator overnight.

When ready to eat, give it one last stir and top with your favorite fixings!

*Add-ins/toppings: cinnamon, fresh fruit, nuts, shredded coconut, dried goji berries, dollop of nut butter or yogurt, lemon zest, plain cooked quinoa for some extra protein and fiber!

*Tip: Use the last of your favorite nut butter jar as the container to make sure to use up all that hard-to-get peanut/almond butter!

 

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.

 

Randi Baird Photography | 508.505.5909 | info@randibaird.com

The making of ‘Simple Green Suppers’: My first cookbook

Tis the season for giving (and eating!). If you’re looking for a great gift for the veggie-loving foodie in your life pick up a copy of Simple Green Suppers: A Fresh Strategy For One-Dish Vegetarian Meals, my first cookbook with three time cookbook author and farmer Susie Middleton. Released earlier this year, Simple Green Suppers is chock full of helpful tips and recipes for preparing seasonal vegetables and plant-based meals, not to mention it was a blast to work with Susie. Once the holidays are behind us we’ll all be eager to jumpstart the New Year with good, clean, eating and Simple Green Suppers has you covered.

Even non-vegetarians will be impressed with the flavorful veggie-centric recipes that Susie compiled – I know I was. What I genuinely love about this book is that it educates people on how they can easily feature vegetables as the star of their meal, and pairing them with staple ingredients like noodles, grains, beans, greens, toast, tortillas, eggs, and broth. The book even offers tips on stocking your pantry, and streamlining your food preparation to save time. Ultimately, it’s a manual for enjoying vegetables in easy, delicious ways and her recipes are so, so tasty. The flavor these dishes deliver is truly remarkable; we ate all the food on the shoot so I know first hand!

I spent four seasons working on the book, regularly shooting at Susie’s farm and capturing many of the ingredients at peak season, ripe for the picking. I also had the opportunity to take many still life shots of the vegetables, highlighting the vibrant colors, interesting textures and unique variations of the main ingredients. The final eighty dishes featured in the book were prepared in the studio, shot with pottery by Leslie Freeman Designs and against beautiful, rustic, wooden backdrops by ReFabulous Decor, a local, upcycled home decor company. It was truly a labor of love.



I have long been committed to promoting local, sustainable food choices on Martha’s Vineyard, and using my work as a photographer to help educate and encourage social change and healthy habits. The book allowed me to showcase my food photography skills and celebrate the bounty of our Island’s local produce. Contributing to Simple Green Suppers was the perfect project; it married my love of photography and devotion to food activism, and enabled me to have a lot of fun working with an author I really admire.

Hungry yet? You can pick up a copy of Simple Green Suppers locally on Martha’s Vineyard at Bunch of Grapes bookstore or online from Shambhala Publications/Roost Books, Independent Booksellers, Barnes and Noble, or Amazon.

                         R A N D I  B A I R D  PHOTOGRAPHY  |  508.505.5909  |  info@randibaird.com
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Simple Green Suppers is on its way!

I’m excited to announce my first cookbook, Simple Green Suppers written by three time cookbook author and farmer Susie Middleton, will be released next Tuesday, April 11, 2017.

Susie and her genius strategy for turning seasonal vegetables into flavorful, inventive, one dish dinners—is the solution to the perennial question: what should I cook for supper tonight?

Each recipe is crafted to bring the best qualities of seasonal vegetables forward and to amp up their flavor with sauces, seasonings, and herbs. Chock full of tips for making the most of the food you have in your larder, pantry and fridge.

Please join us at our launch party this Sunday, April 9, 4 pm, at Morrice Florist in Vineyard Haven. Join us for an informal discussion led by Edible Vineyard Publisher and Author Ali Berlow. Q & A to follow and refreshments and nibbles, of course. We will be signing books after the discussion, thanks to our friends from Bunch of Grapes bookstore.