In between all of the weddings and engagements, family portraits, architectural and editorial photo shoots that consume most of our days, it’s refreshing and rewarding to do something a little different. Enter Best of the Vineyard, a local event that celebrates the best and brightest in local food, shopping, entertainment, outdoor adventures, and more across Martha’s Vineyard.
Last week the Best of the Vineyard event went down at Farm Neck Cafe in Oak Bluffs, and we were there to take in all the action. A product of Martha’s Vineyard Magazine, the Best of the Vineyard serves as an official kick off to the summer season on Martha’s Vineyard and a chance to honor and recognize those businesses and organization on Martha’s Vineyard that make it what it is for all of us to enjoy.
For the last five years we’ve been lucky enough to photograph the event, and we just have the best time capturing all of the excitement and hoopla of the evening! Each year we look forward to the fun and fanciful affair, where we get to snap the smiles and expressions of pride that spread across the faces of our friends and colleagues. We love to get the winners in front of the camera and really play up their personalities, while highlighting their professional skills and accomplishments. For us it’s a chance to toast our peers and honor the talented individuals that help to weave the fabric of our community. Year after year it’s a memorable event and we’re honored to play a part in the festivities!
A full list of Best of the Vineyard winners can be found in the current issue of Martha’s Vineyard Magazine, on newsstands or available by subscription.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call 508-687-9062, space is limited.
We had a whirlwind of a summer, full of exciting shoots and memorable moments we’ll be thinking about again and again. One of our most inspiring and enjoyable shoots was with lifestyle blogger, entrepreneur, creative consultant, and all around great girl CeCe Olisa during her summer stay on Martha’s Vineyard.
And boy did she have fun! We photographed her enjoying ice cream in front of Scoops with her girlfriends, and snapped her along the hydrangea lined streets of Edgartown.
CeCe was a gorgeous subject to capture all over town, and a pleasure to work with. She’s built a career on making others feel more comfortable about their bodies and her confidence and charisma are something to admire–not to mention it makes her oh, so photogenic!
We accompanied her to aerial yoga at the Yoga Barn (what a workout!), out for morning coffee and a stroll along a beautiful north shore beach, making for a perfect summer day on Martha’s Vineyard. Be sure to check out her blog to read all about her time here, and follow along with her other adventures.
P.S. We just heard that she’s giving a TEDx Talk at Fresno State later this month and we can’t wait to see the video!
More about CeCe
CeCe has been named one of the “Top 10 New York Fashion Bloggers” by WhoWhatWear and a “person who proves you can be fit at any size” by MTV.com, CeCe Olisa is a Lifestyle Blogger and Co-Founder of theCURVYcon, a convention celebrating body positivity and plus size fashion during New York Fashion Week. CeCe creates wildly popular plus size workout videos on her YouTube channel and encourages women to workout because they love their bodies, not because they hate their bodies. CeCe Olisa has appeared on the Rachael Ray Show, The Wendy Williams Show, CNN, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Refinery29 and more. She adheres to her motto, “Don’t wait on your weight to live the life you want.”
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!)
4 large local egg yolks
1 ¾ cup Kosher salt
1 ½ cup sugar
Freshly ground black pepper
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.