Yesterday's Island Today's Nantucket
Nantucket
Cooking
Volume 40 Issue 10 • July 8-14, 2010
now in our 40th season

So Fresh

by Jenn Farmer
Chef, Bartlett’s Ocean View Farm 

I have the best job in the world!    Ok maybe not the best, but for me it is pretty close.  First I get to play with knives and fire all day long, and not get into trouble for it!  Second, I get to cook food that is as fresh as it gets.  It is grown and picked right where I work and I live!   What a rare and beautiful thing in this age of commercial production.   Right now is especially great, since the fields and greenhouses are bountiful, and this year the produce has been hands-down some of the best I have ever seen.  The broccoli is beautiful, summer squash plump and tender, beets sweet and flavorful.  All the lettuces, tomatoes, carrots, peas, cucumbers, herbs, and lettuces are so perfect!  It makes it easy create beautiful and delicious food.  In fact I am so inspired by all the produce, I have a tough time creating all the recipes I want to make.

The kitchen staff (and market too) takes the produce very seriously.  Frequently we will hear a whoop of joy from the delivery dock as our Executive Chef sprints down the hallway leading to the kitchen, cradling the first patty pan squash of the season or the first crate of beets.  It is not unusual to see one of us gently hugging gigantic bags of freshly picked basil, still warm from the sun, with a look of bliss.  You would think it was a guilty pleasure when the fresh herbs come in.  On holidays, I am one of the annoying people when unwrapping gifts gingerly, tries to save the paper. But at work when the bags of fresh herbs come in, I tear the bag immediately to savor what is inside.  Mint, chives, lemon thyme, basil, and parsley if it is especially beautiful that day the bundle of herbs is passed around, and admired by several of us, not unlike some precious gem, or rare work of art.  Not to mention aromatherapy at its finest!

The unsung heroes in this story are all the field and greenhouse workers, and their managers.  Many people don’t realize the long hours of planning that goes into growing the foods we eat.  Managing the crops and field planning is a year round event.  Crop rotations planned, and planting schedules created (many crops need to be planted repeatedly so that the summer bounty continues for more than a few days).  Seeds need to be ordered, machinery fixed or maintained.  Just when one thinks they have a handle on things, the weather may take a turn, or worse, machinery may break down.  This is only a fraction of the issues they need to deal with daily.

The field and greenhouse employees are also amazing.  They work from early the morning until late in the evening, doing tedious, and often, physical labor.  They are out planting or picking in every type of weather.  In the spring it is often damp, cold, and muddy.  In the summer it can be scorching hot and absurdly humid.  Incredibly, every time I see any of them, they have big genuine smiles on their faces.  I have the utmost respect for, and feel fortunate to work with such an amazing group of people!    I also have great admiration for the time, effort and energy it takes to create that one perfect tomato, or zucchini. 

The beets have been one of my favorite things to eat this year; I love the brilliant colors, and earthy flavor.  Beets are delicious roasted, but when it is hot outside, I like to boil them.  Using a little white wine vinegar to the poaching water helps the beets retain their brilliant color.  Apparently Chardonnay vinegar works the best according to my co-chef.  Thanks for the tip Neil!  Here is a recipe I threw together yesterday at work, and it was delicious.  The addition of tarragon was the suggestion of our charcutier, and she was right, it made this dish go from good to great!  If you can, select similar sized beets, so they cook evenly.  Also be aware that beets do stain—remember to wear gloves and to protect your clothes and any white countertops. 

Beet and Citrus Salad
Serves 4

  • 2-3 bunches beets, any variety (about 2 pounds)
  • 3 T. white wine vinegar- chardonnay if possible
  • 2 oranges, peeled and segmented
  • 2 sprigs tarragon
  • 2-3 ounces high quality ricotta cheese (optional)

Trim the tops off the beets, leaving the skins on.  Boil in water with vinegar added to it.  When the beets are cooked, remove them from the cooking water.  Let them cool a few minutes.  Peel the beets using either a paring knife, or by rubbing them with an old towel, the skins should slip off easily. Cut them into wedges, and put into a bowl along with the orange segments.  Chop the tarragon and add to the mixture.  If using ricotta, add and toss all the ingredients together, taste and add salt or pepper if necessary.  Enjoy!

Since zucchini are always in abundance at this time of year.  I like to select the smaller ones for sautéing, or salads, the larger zucchini are great for stuffing and baking or grilling.  The large zucchini are also wonderful grated and cooked, or made into bread or cake.  Since tomatoes are also in season the following is a great fast meal for anyone to make.

Zucchini Ribbons with Tomatoes and Pasta
Serves 4

  • 1 pound penne pasta
  • 2 small zucchini (one golden and one green if possible), washed with ends removed
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Olive oil
  • A few sprigs fresh basil
  • Fresh parmesan cheese

Cook the pasta al dente, according to the package directions, set aside.  Make zucchini ribbons by pulling a vegetable peeler down the length of the squash;   if you are fortunate enough to have a kitchen mandolin, cutting them on there may be easier.  Medium dice the tomato and set aside.  Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan.  Add the garlic and sauté for a couple minutes.  Add the zucchini and tomato.  Cook for a couple more minutes.  Toss the vegetables and basil with the cooked pasta, taste and season with Salt and pepper if necessary.  Garnish with freshly grated parmesan and enjoy

Gazpacho is one of the ultimate summer recipes. It is simple to make, cool and refreshing, and uses all the freshest produce of the season.  I love it with basil, but try substituting other herbs and spices and adding other vegetables.  The traditional version has bread in it to thicken it a bit, but I like it thickened with pureed vegetables.  A drizzle of great olive oil and a sprinkle of feta cheese can be lovely additions to gazpacho.  For a light meal serve it with crusty bread, and a big green salad. 

Easy Gazpacho
Serves 6

  • 3 cucumbers, small diced
  • 2 pound tomatoes, small diced
  • 1 red pepper, small diced
  • 1 yellow pepper, small diced
  • 1 green pepper, small diced
  • 1 small red onion, small diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
  • 3 cups tomato juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1/8 teaspoon horseradish
  • Hot sauce
  • Salt and pepper

Combine all the vegetables in a large bowl.  Remove about half the mixture and puree well in the blender with the tomato juice.  Combine back together, season and taste.  Chill well, taste again and re-season if necessary.

 

Nantucket’s most complete events & arts calendar • Established 1970 • © © 2017  Yesterday's Island • yi@nantucket.net