Eating Seasonally and Locally in Middleborough, Massachusetts
File this one away for next summer or do an indoor version, with our nature sounds playlist and transport you and your table guests to a warm summer evening in New England. Or, maybe you’re in the southern hemisphere counting down the days to your early summer harvest and want to transform your bounty, New England style?
Eats: Summery Fresh Pea Dip with Crudités & Homemade Seeded Rye Crackers | Grilled Spatchcocked Chicken, Grilled Veggies, Wheat Berry & Pea Salad | Kate’s “Farewell to Strawberries” Polenta Cake with Mixed Berries
Tunes: Natural al fresco dining sounds like the breeze and birds chirping at the Stone + Root farm in Middleborough, Massachusetts
Words: Local and seasonal as the original cultural/ethnic food
To set the mood for this Culture Capsule, put on the free Spotify playlist of natural sounds like those at the Stone + Root farm in Middleborough – breeze, birds, cicadas and the occasional tractor roaring by. J & K say that they are always amazed to hear how loud those sounds are in videos taken in their yard, because we take them for granted, but they are there and certainly set a fitting mood for such a meal.
They insist on updating this with a live recording next year when the cicadas are in full effect, and the Carolina warbler is back in town. For now, enjoy the approximation we have gathered on this free Spotify playlist:
As the New England seasons change, so do the meals at Stone + Root. J & K let the bounty of their own land and the surrounding areas drive what’s on their table – it’s always delicious.
Upon entering their spacious industrial-meets-farmhouse kitchen, we were greeted by this fabulous menu scroll, made from repurposed materials found in their inspiring home, which was originally built in the 1700s. The antique nails were found in the attic, the rod is an old fireplace poker and the bottom magnet was a wall magnet for knives that we took down when we painted. An appropriate welcome: using what’s available to create beauty and share it with friends and family.
They like to remind us that before we defined food by nationality, and long before supermarkets carried food from anywhere and everywhere, cuisine grew out of and was defined by what was available in in a given location.
On our most recent visit to Stone + Root Homestead was in early in July 2018. It was when strawberries were finishing up, a variety of peas were in overdrive and there were plenty of cucumbers, summer quash, zucchini, broccoli, and cauliflower. The polenta (in the cake) and rye (in the crackers) were from last year’s harvest, and the chicken came from Freedom Farm in a neighboring town Raynham.
Trying to eat seasonally might seem like a daunting task but they say it isn’t. They suggest that the easiest way to do it is by visiting a local farm or farmers market and simply buy what’s available. “The farmers are our best resource,” says J. “She will let you know what will likely be available in the coming weeks and also give you some suggestions on how to prepare her offerings.
He continued, “Flexibility is important because Mother Nature always has the final say. Be willing to try to substitute ingredients. We’ve never been disappointed when we have swapped ingredients and sometimes the new combination becomes the preferred one. I can think of a poached fish dish that called for cauliflower but the closest thing we could get was kale florets. The resulting dish was amazing and it was even better than the cauliflower version.”
That sounds delicious.
And speaking of delicious, when we eat in season our taste buds thank us. When my kids say that the strawberries they asked me to buy in New York City in December don’t taste good… there’s a reason! J & K agreed: “Eating food that has been grown locally and in season is delicious! It makes cooking easy because the fresh vegetables do all of the work.” He went on to explain that in addition to tasting better, the food is more nutritious. “It tastes better because your body is saying, there’s lots of nutrients in this … give me more!”
Fitting with the theme, the drinks were also local. Of course, this section should be adapted to what’s local for you, but for inspiration, here’s what we enjoyed.
With the appetizers we taste-tested form two growlers from IndieFerm (aka Independent Fermentations). The Rye and Sage Saison was the favorite.
We had a lovely white wine (Morphos Petillant Naturel 2016) from Oyster River Winegrowers with dinner – A dry bubbly white with light orchard fruits and good acidity.
While having Kate’s “Farewell to Strawberries” polenta cake, we enjoyed Rose from Bedell Cellars on Long Island. As the description claims, it was rich but dry berry/cherry, which made it a perfect pair for the berried polenta cake.
Note: To replicate the entire menu you will need some advance preparation.
- Plan to spatchcock and season the chicken the night before for best results (at least 8 hours prior and up to 2 days).
- The Rye Crackers can be made quite in advance since they keep well, and it’s always nice to have one less thing to do on the day of hosting.
- Fresh peas
- Herbs of choice: dill, mint, basil.
- Your choice of veggies and crackers to scoop the dip
- Wash/shuck the fresh peas from their pod and put in a food processor. (If the peas are not super fresh, blanch them for 45 seconds to freshen them up and soften some of the starchiness that can develop after harvest.)
- Wash your herbs and add to the food processor.
- Add yogurt and salt to the food processor and pulse until combined. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.
- Meanwhile, prepare the vehicles: for early July in Massachusetts, this meant cucumbers, snap peas, kohlrabi, and homemade rye crackers.
Adapted from: Food52
Makes 4 baking sheets of crackers
- 35 g (¼ cup) sunflower seeds
- 40 g (¼ cup) pepitas
- 20 g (3 tbsp) flaxseed
- 50 g (6 tbsp) sesame seeds
- 1-2 tbsp nigella seeds (optional)
- 120 g (1 cup) rye flour
- 105 g (¾ cup) whole wheat flour
- 1/3 tsp kosher salt
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp honey
- ¾ cup water
- In a spice grinder, pulse the sunflower seeds and pepitas to a fine powder. Transfer to large bowl. Pulse flaxseed to a fine powder and add to bowl. Add the flours, whole sesame seeds, nigella seeds, salt, oil, honey and water. Stir with wooden spoon for 1-2 minutes to form a firm, unsticky ball. Transfer dough to floured surface and knead briefly to make sure it holds together and ingredients are distributed. It will feel slightly tacky but not sticky.
- Heat oven to 300°F. Line a baking sheet(s) with parchment paper.
- Divide dough into four pieces. On a well-floured surface, roll out dough until it is relatively thin (1/16 of an inch). Check dough while rolling to be sure it is not sticking to the surface.
- Using knife or dough scraper, cut dough into crackers of your preferred size and shape. Transfer crackers to prepared baking sheets. (Crackers won’t spread, so they can be very close.)
- Bake for 25-35 minutes (rotating pans halfway through if doing 2 at once), until crackers are golden brown and seem well-dried and crisp. Remove from oven and let sit on baking sheet to crisp up more, about 5-10 minutes.
Wheat Berry & Pea Salad
- 1 generous cup wheat berries
- 2 cups (6 oz) of combination of peas, snap peas, snow peas, sliced and then blanched
- mix of fresh greens, washed
- ricotta salata, crumbled
- 1/3 cup mint leaves, torn
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
- 3 tbps olive oil
- Add wheat berries to boiling water and boil for 35 – 45 minutes until wheat berries are plump with the texture of al dente pasta.
- Blanch the peas.
- To make dressing: combine garlic, lemon juice, vinegar and olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Put the greens in a large serving bowl, and add the wheat berries and peas when cooled.
- Before serving, add cheese and mint to bowl, then add the dressing and toss well. Season with additional with salt and pepper to taste.
Spatchcocked and Herbed Grilled Chicken with Crushed Olives and Grilled Early Summer Veggies
Chicken recipe adapted from Bon Appetit, which has a great visual, step-by-step if you’ve not spatchcocked a chicken before.
For an indoor version, Bon Appetit has these recommendations.
Also, plan to prepare/marinate the chicken at least 8 hours prior to cooking!
- 1 3½–4-pound chickens, backbones removed
- Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
- 3 garlic cloves, finely grated
- 2 tbsp Aleppo-style pepper
- 2 tbsp finely chopped rosemary
- ¼ cup olive oil, divided
- ½ cup Castelvetrano or other green olives, pitted, torn
- 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 2 tbsp chopped oregano
- ¼ cup chopped parsley, plus leaves for serving
- The night before you plan to grill the chickens, spatchcock your chickens per this great tutorial on Bon Appetit. Season generously on both sides with salt and black pepper. Chill, uncovered, at least 8 hours and up to 2 days.
- Remove chicken from refrigerator and set out on your counter. Combine garlic, Aleppo-style pepper, rosemary, and ¼ cup oil in a small bowl. Rub chickens all over with mixture and let sit until room temperature, 1–2 hours.
- Prepare a grill for medium-high, indirect heat (for a charcoal grill, bank coals on one side of grill; for a gas grill, leave one or two burners off). Set chickens, skin side down, on grate over indirect heat. Cover grill, placing cover vent (if your grill has one) over chickens so it draws heat up and over them. Grill, rotating chickens as needed so that they color evenly, until skins are lightly browned, 15–20 minutes.
- Turn chickens and continue to cook, covered, until skins are deep golden brown and crisp and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of breasts registers 160°, 20–25 minutes. Transfer chickens to a cutting board and let rest at least 10 minutes before carving.
- Mix olives, lemon juice, oregano, chopped parsley, remaining ¼ cup oil, and any accumulated juices from chicken on the cutting board in a medium bowl. Season with salt.
- To serve, arrange carved chickens on a platter and top with olive mixture and parsley leaves.
Grilled Seasonal Veggies
- in season local veggies
- olive oil
- Wash and slice vegetables in a way that they a) don’t slip through the cracks of the grill and b) cook at relatively similar speeds. Per the above photo of the chicken and veggies on the grill, that means spears or thin slices of zucchini and summer squash and chunks or thick slices of broccoli and cauliflower.
- Place veggies in a large bowl and keep ready until just before ready to grill. Then toss with olive oil and salt until sufficiently covered, and add to the grill along with the chicken.
- Watch carefully, flipping when to desired done-ness
Strawberry Polenta Cake with Mixed Berries
Based on Emiko Davies’ Lemon Polenta Cakes
- 50 g almond meal
- 90 g fine polenta
- 70 g (about ½ cup) whole wheat flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- pinch of salt
- 100 g (generous ½ cup) sugar
- 3 eggs
- ½ cup olive oil
- zest of 1 lemon
- strawberries, halved or quartered, depending on size
- Your choice of seasonal fresh berries, cut up if needed (strawberries, for example)
- A little sugar, honey, or maple syrup
- Heat oven to 350°F. Oil cake pan and line bottom with parchment paper (or oil muffin tin for small cakes).
- In small bowl, combine almond meal, polenta, flour, baking powder, and salt.
- In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and olive oil until you have a creamy emulsion. Add the sugar and lemon zest.
- Fold the dry ingredients into the eggs and pour the batter into prepared pan. Arrange strawberries on top. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until tester comes out clean and the cake is golden and springy to the touch.
- For topping, mix berries with a little sweetener (sugar, honey, or maple syrup). The amount will depend on the amount of berries and their sweetness. Let sit out, or put in refrigerator for later.
- Serve sliced and topped with fresh berries.
Still with us? Here’s a bonus: do you know the origins of the unusual word “spatchcocked?”. It’s not entirely certain but it is believed to be a version of spitchcocked (“to split and broil an eel”) and likely a corruption of dispatch and cock.
And with that… over and out.