As a child growing up on Cape Cod, “organic” and “local” were one and the same. We bought free-range chickens and fresh farm eggs from Joe Rigazio’s farm on the other side of the bridge.
Bill Atwood Jr., owner and chef of the Red Pheasant Inn in Dennis, chooses organic lettuces for his restaurant at the Seaweed & Codfish Herb & Flower Farm in West Dennis with farm owner Veronica Worthington.
(Staff photo by Kevin Mingora)
Most people had their own vegetable gardens in the back yard, free of pesticides and chemicals. I picked blueberries in the woods and sold them for carnival money. (Half the berries went into my bucket, half went into my mouth.) These were the ways of Sagamore’s Italian village by the bridge, now extinct except for a few older women who still remember the good old days, and the fresh produce we enjoyed.
Today ”organic” is a different story. With the exception of what is grown locally (and intentionally without pesticides) during the Cape’s short growing summer season, organic produce is flown in from faraway places, and we pay dearly for that transport. I say, let’s go local again. Many supermarkets import unripened produce from other regions or other hemispheres. By the time it reaches us, the produce may look good but it lacks most of its original, vibrant flavor and often has lost substantial nutrients en route. Plus, the amount of fuel required to transport produce adds to its cost, and wastes precious fuel. Buying locally connects us to the region where we live, bolstering the Cape’s economy and supporting our community. Buying local ensures that the money we spend goes directly to the farmers, helping them stay in business.
In researching this article, I talked to chefs and other people involved in the Cape’s food scene. I realized I am not alone. There is a movement toward changing our eating habits, reflected by a strong interest in local organic farming, an awareness of high-quality foods and having local ingredients served in restaurants, and a thrust to educate the public – mostly through leading by example. The ”slow food” movement that started in Europe also stresses this.
Edible Cape Cod
I began by interviewing Diane and Doug Langeland of Cummaquid. The Langelands’ passion for exploring, discovering and sharing the best of Cape Cod comes through clearly in their magazine, Edible Cape Cod, which they started in summer 2004.
Here are some places to buy Cape and islands produce:
The Seaweed & Codfish Herb and Flower Garden, 89 Fisk St., West Dennis, or at the Mid-Cape Farmers’ Market, starting June 14
Cape Cod Organic Farm, 4035 Main St. (Route 6A), Cummaquid
Buzzards Bay Farmers’ Market, Main Street, Bourne, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Fridays
Mid-Cape Farmers Market 500 Main St. Hyannis 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesdays, starting June 14
Nantucket Farmers’ Market Main & Federal streets 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily
Orleans Farmers’ Market, Old Colony Way in Orleans Center, 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays, starting May 21
Woods Hole Farmers’ Market, Water Street (at old fire station), 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays, starting June 17
Andrews Farmstand, 394 Old Meetinghouse Rd, East Falmouth. Bay End Farm (Saturdays only), 400 Head of the Bay Road, Buzzards Bay
Checkerberry Farm, 46 Tar Kiln Road, Orleans
Cloverfield Farm, 133 Cloverfield Way, Hatchville
Cricket Hill Farm, 69 Sandwich Road, East Falmouth
Crow Farm, 192 Route 6A, Sandwich
Elsie Mello’s Farmstand 42 Old Barnstable Road, East Falmouth
Fran’s Farm, Route 6A, Brewster
Green Hill Farm, 38 Church St., Yarmouthport
Hart Farm Nursery, 21 Upper County Road, Dennisport
Hillside Farms, Route 6A, Truro
Kelly Farm, 50 Marston Lane (at Route 6A), Cummaquid
Log Cabin Farm, Route 6A, Eastham
Matt’s Organic Garden, 40 Upper County Road, Dennisport
Tisbury Peachtree Circle Farm, 881 Palmer Ave., Falmouth
Pleasant Lake Farm Stand, 2 Birch Drive, Harwich
Rich’s Fruits & Vegetables, Route 6A, Wellfleet
Romiza’s Farm, 236 Carriage Shop Road, East Falmouth
Rose’s Farm, 271 Trotting Park Road, Teaticket
Satucket Farmstand, 76 Harwich Road (just of Route 6A,) Brewster
Teixeira’s Farm, 159 Fresh Pond Road, East Falmouth
Tobey Farm, 352 Main St., (Route 6A) Dennis
Webster Collins Farm, 1009 County Road Cataumet Martha’s Vineyard
West Tisbury Farmers’ Market, Grange Hall, 2:39 toi 5:30 p.m., Wednesdays, 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays
Whippoorwill Farm, Old County Road, West Tisbury
Allen Farm, 421 South Road, Chilmark
Middle Road Farm, 9 Middle Road, Chilmark
Morning Glory Farm, 290 West Tisbury Road, Edgartown
Murphy Blueberry Farm, State Road, Chilmark
Native Earth Teaching Farm, 94 North Road, Chilmark
Nip ‘n Tuck Farm, State Road, West Tisbury
Northern Pines Farm, Northern Pines Road, off Lambert’s Cove Road, Vineyard Haven
North Tabor Farm, 4 North Tabor Farm Road, Chilmark
Norton Farm, off Vineyard Haven-Edgartown Road, Oak Bluffs
Thompson Farm, Northern Pines Road (off Lambert’s Cove Road), Vineyard Haven
Their mission is to bring together the community’s farmers, fishermen, food artisans and chefs with consumers like you and me. In talking with the Langelands, I was struck by how these two people are doing what they love, and it shows. Their knowledge, responsiveness and involvement in all aspects of growing, publicizing and distributing local and organic foods on Cape Cod is extremely exciting – both to them and to many of us.
”To me, it’s extremely important to know where our food comes from,” Doug says. ”I prefer to eat a non-organic fresh peach from our area rather than an organic one grown in California.”
He went on to say, ”Bringing sustainability to the local organic food industry is only going to happen if people think it is a good thing. The food has to be delicious and tasty, but it has to work from an economic standpoint as well. The consumer has to demand – and be willing to pay a little bit more for – food that is local and high quality.
”Eric Janson at The Wicked Oyster (in Wellfleet) knows that local greens are substantially more expensive, but when he comes out of his kitchen and hears people raving about their salads, it gives him an indication that people are aware of the quality he is serving. Knowing this, he can price it a little differently and he can buy more and more of it.”
In December, the Langelands and Restaurant 902 Main in South Yarmouth hosted a meeting to bring together local farmers and chefs. Out of that meeting came the region’s ”Farmers & Chefs Collaborative.”
”The ultimate goal of the collaborative is to help develop best practices for farmers and chefs to work together in order to increase the use of local produce on Cape menus,” the Langelands write on their Web site, www.ediblecapecod.com.
Edible Cape Cod is affiliated with Edible Communities Inc., a member-driven organization with 16 food newsletters across the nation, from California to Maine. Published quarterly on the Cape, the magazine’s annual circulation is about 40,000, the Langelands estimate. The magazine is free and available through advertisers, specialty food stores, visitors’ centers, and farmers’ markets. Edible Cape Cod is also available by paid subscription for $28 per year.
”We don’t write reviews, and we don’t consider ourselves ‘experts.’ We come at it from the role of the passionate home cook,” Diane says. ”We write about people who make and sell food: the farmers, fishermen and artisans. We want our publication to be the definitive resource of information about where to find fresh local foods.”
Talking to chefs
When I interviewed several Cape chefs, I asked each to give me a recipe using local and organic products, in which the flavor of the food comes through rather than being camouflaged with spices, overpowering sauces or other ingredients. A salad of fresh greens need only be dressed with a good olive oil, a splash of your favorite vinegar and a dash of salt and pepper. A fresh piece of fish is best when sautéed quickly, drizzled with a little melted lemon butter and garnished with a few capers.
Chef Gilbert Pepin, owner with wife Kolleen of Restaurant 902 Main, provided an excellent example of ”less is more” with his simple, light and healthful spring recipe, ”Baked Native Haddock with Asparagus and Greens.”
The Pepins, who offer seasonal, local, organic cuisine, take it a step further when it comes to ensuring a steady supply of the best produce available. Working with local growers, Gilbert selects seeds from catalogs that the farmers plant so he can serve the selected produce at 902 Main the following season.”The farmers are very willing to work with me,” Gilbert says. ”We choose baby vegetables like beets, carrots and beans, as well as a variety of unusual and tasty greens.”
A few nights ago, I had dinner at 902 Main and was served a delicious salad of assorted greens Gilbert purchased from Veronica Worthington, owner of the Seaweed & Codfish Herb & Flower Farm in West Dennis. The salad was topped with a small wedge of a creamy Vermont goat cheese and a sprinkling of caramelized walnuts, and was tossed with a simple dressing that let the flavors of the fresh greens come through.
I had to meet the person who grew these unique lettuces. The next day I was off to see Worthington. I was escorted into the greenhouse where she grows everything from seed. ”I grow all winter,” she tells me. ”This is how I supply the restaurants. Chefs like Pepin will call and say, ‘Whatever you have, I’ll take it!”’
She keeps lists of what has been seeded so she knows what will be available when. ”The only things I grow are things I personally like to eat. They are all heirloom, unusual, colorful and tasty. If I don’t like something, I get rid of it. I don’t have enough land here to grow things I don’t like.”
Outside the greenhouse is a small lettuce garden filled with an array of beautiful greens.
”Are those the greens that were in the salad last night at 902 Main?”
”Yes,” she replies, as she cuts and describes three beautiful heads of unusual lettuce. ”This one is from Italy, called Cappuccino. This one is also an Italian, called Lolla bionda. But this is my favorite and the seed seller calls it, ‘Merveille de Quatre Saison.’ The original strain is direct from France and has not been polluted by other seed providers. All are European-certified organic,” she said as she hands them to me to take home.
Bill Atwood, chef/owner of The Red Pheasant Inn in Dennis, cooks with fresh herbs, strawberries and raspberries from his garden. His wife, Denise, also has a prolific English flower garden that contributes to creative menus in season.
”I like the freshness of herbs picked outside my door,” she says. ”I create a honey lavender glaze for an organic salmon, or a lavender beurre blanc, and when the nasturtiums overrun the garden, I bake them with native oysters. The peppery flavor of the flowers complements this simple oyster appetizer.”
When I talk to Michael Pirini, chef at Abbicci’s dramatic reconstructed space in Yarmouthport, set to open early next month, he shares a recipe for oysters on the half shell using Barnstable Seafarms Oysters, topped with lemon-and-chive-infused oil and fresh chive blossoms. All herb blossoms are edible and are wonderful mixed into salads. Besides adding flavor, they are beautiful. Once you’ve tried these recipes, I think you’ll agree that ”fresh and local” is the way to go
”For this dish I use Chatham day boat haddock (caught and brought to shore each day) and Tim Friary’s organic asparagus, arugula and fresh herbs. It is the perfect spring treat, accenting the fresh flavors of what can be found on the Cape,” says Gilbert Pepin, chef/owner of Restaurant 902 Main.
Baked Native Haddock with Asparagus and Local Greens
2 pounds select local haddock, cut into 4 pieces
1 pound asparagus, cleaned with ends cut off
1 pound organic arugula
For the dressing:
2 shallots, minced
Juice of 4 lemons
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and white pepper
5 to 8 sprigs fresh thyme, reserving a few sprigs for garnish
2 scallions, thinly sliced
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a baking dish large enough to hold the haddock with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Coat fish with a little oil, season with salt and white pepper, then place in baking dish. Bake about 12 to 15 minutes until fish flakes with a fork.
Meanwhile, steam asparagus and make the dressing.
In a small jar with a cover, add the shallots, lemon juice, olive oil, fresh thyme leaves, salt and pepper to taste; shake vigorously until well combined.
To assemble the plate:
In a large bowl, toss the arugula with half of the dressing then divide evenly between four plates. Place several stalks of asparagus over the greens, place fish across the asparagus and garnish with the scallions and a sprig of thyme. Makes 4 servings.
Wine suggestion: A crisp, light, dry Trimbach Pinot Gris.
”This is a great springtime dish as the chive blossoms are in season and growing in our gardens and the oysters from the Barnstable Seafarms are still at their peak. Any number of herbs could be substituted for the chives, such as basil in the summer and watercress in the fall. I believe the most important factor in a recipe such as this is the freshness of all the ingredients,” says Michael Pirini, chef at Abbicci.
Oysters on the Half Shell with Lemon- & Chive-infused Olive Oil
24 Barnstable Seafarms oysters
1 small bunch of chives, snipped finely
1 shallot – peeled and sliced
4 chive blossoms
3/4 cup high-quality Italian extra-virgin olive oil
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
Grate the lemon skins with a fine grater and squeeze the juice from both lemons. Place the grated skins and juice in a blender with the anchovy, shallot, chives & extra-virgin olive oil. Puree on high until the oil is emulsified. It should turn to a bright green color. Season with pepper. Don’t add salt as the oysters already have a naturally briny flavor.
Place crushed ice on a platter that can be garnished with lemon slices and radicchio leaves. Open each oyster by holding it in a folded towel and carefully inserting an oyster knife into the hinged part of the shell while twisting. When the shell pops open, scrape the top and bottom shells, being careful not to puncture the oyster. Leave the oyster on the bottom shell and place directly on the ice. Spoon infused oil over each oyster and sprinkle with picked chive blossoms.
Wine suggestion: A dry Prosecco or a Vemaccia di San Gimignano from Tuscany.
”This dish lets the flavor of the fish and the brightness of the herbs shine. I substitute other fish and use different herbs but the key is the incredibly fresh herbs. The recipe is simple, but I found it is important to chop the herbs at the last minute and then heat the vinaigrette just until it is barely warm so that it doesn’t break,” says Doug Langeland of Edible Cape Cod.
Grilled Striped Bass with Warm Herb Vinaigrette
1 small shallot, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 pounds striped bass in one or two fillets, preferably with skin
1 tablespoon EACH fresh tarragon, parsley, chives and chervil
Preheat gas grill or prepare a charcoal fire. Place shallot, mustard, vinegars, salt and pepper in a small bowl and stir briefly. Whisk in olive oil in stream to create an emulsion. Taste for seasoning and set aside. Clean and oil grate on grill. Lightly oil fish and grill skin side down with grill cover closed for about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove fish and hold while you warm the vinaigrette. Chop fresh herbs at the last minute and stir into vinaigrette. Immediately put dressing in a small sauce pan. Heat gently over medium-low heat for just about 2 minutes to barely warm it. Don’t heat too long or dressing will break apart. Remove from heat. Arrange fish on a serving plate, sprinkle with salt and drizzle with warm vinaigrette.
Wine suggestion: Un-oaked chardonnay would provide body to highlight the fish in this dish while also being light and crisp enough to avoid getting in the way of the fresh flavors of the herbs.
”Fluke, also known as summer flounder, is caught in Nantucket Sound and waters around the Cape … It is a firmer filet than other flat fish, and I like pairing it up with Tim Friary of Cape Cod Organic Farm’s native asparagus and peppery baby arugula, and simply dressed with a fresh herb vinaigrette made with my 8-year-old balsamic vinegar,” says David Kelly, chef at The Naked Oyster in Hyannis.
Sautéed Day Boat Fluke
2 pounds skinless boneless fluke fillets (1/4 pound per person)
4 tablespoons olive oil or clarified butter
1 pound asparagus, grilled
1/2 pound baby arugula
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
2 shallots minced
2 tablespoons fresh chopped herbs: basil, thyme, chives and parsley
Dredge the fish in a little flour, shaking shacking off excess. Heat a large sauté pan with oil or butter and once the pan is hot, add the fillets, a few at a time. Cook two minutes on one side until lightly browned, turn over and cook for another two to three minutes until lightly done. Transfer to a platter and keep warm.
Put the arugula in a saucepan, add 1 ounce vinaigrette, place pan over heat, tossing arugula until lightly wilted and warm.
Place a bed of arugula on each of four plates, top with grilled asparagus and top with fillets and drizzle with vinaigrette. Serves 4.
”This is a wonderful sauce to serve over any white fish like striped bass. It also works with lobster and shrimp. For the most flavor, I recommend picking the lavender early in the day just before the buds are fully open,” says Bill Atwood, chef/owner of The Red Pheasant Inn in Dennis.
Lavender Beurre Blanc
8 to 12 lavender sprigs
2 tablespoons chopped shallots
2 tablespoons white wine
Juice from 2 or 3 oranges and zest of one
1 small bay leaf
8 ounces unsalted butter, cut into cubes
2 ounces heavy cream
3 to 4 crushed black peppercorns
Pick the lavender flowers off of four sprigs and set aside to use with finished sauce.
In a small sauté pan, heat the orange juice with the zest over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes until zest is softened and juice has reduced to half.
In a small non-reactive sauce pot, add remaining orange juice, vinegar, white wine and remaining lavender sprigs, shallots, peppercorns and bay leaf; reduce until 2 to 3 ounces of liquid remains. Add cream and reduce slightly; lower heat to very low and gradually add cubes of butter, stirring or whisking constantly until all the butter is incorporated into the sauce. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, then strain through a fine sieve to remove shallots and whole sprigs. Whisk in the reduced orange juice with the zest and lavender flowers. Makes about 1 cup.
Grilled Local Asparagus, Organic Arugula, Spring Onion, and Aged Balsamic Vinaigrette
1 pound asparagus, washed and ends cut off
1 bunch spring onions, sliced
Salt and pepper
1/2 pound arugula, washed and dried
1 bunch basil
To make vinaigrette:
1 tablespoon grainy mustard
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots
4 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar
6 ounces extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
To make vinaigrette, mix together mustard, shallots, and vinegar in a small pot. Slowly whisk in olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Heat gas or charcoal grill to medium heat. Lightly coat spring onions and asparagus with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill onions quickly, about one minute, and remove.
Grill asparagus, about three minutes. During this time, dice onions and add to vinaigrette.
Heat vinaigrette slightly, and carefully toss with arugula, just enough to coat greens. Place on plate and set warm asparagus on top and garnish with basil leaves.
(Published: May 24, 2006)