What’s Cooking: Keeping it local in January

Okay so it’s late January and nothing is growing in the fields of New England. What does a restaurant that prides itself on really being farm-to-table do to maintain a menu that is true to their ideals during a long cold winter?


Local cellared roots

Well, fortunately for us more and more local farms either have, and are now using or they have installed root cellars.  These farms are able to supply us with all the root vegetables, winter squashes and cabbages we need.  Great local carrots, beets, turnips, parsnips, radishes, kohlrabi and potatoes are easy to come by.  Many farms also have have heated greenhouses that provide us with lettuce, arugula, spinach, pea greens and even some herbs.  Getting local  sustainable livestock is not a problem, all of the land-based proteins used at EVOO year round are from independent small family-owned farms.

red fire green house

A greenhouse at Red Fire farm in Granby, Ma

However, the most important thing we do is plan for it.  Throughout the local growing season starting in the late spring and finishing well after the hard frost we pickle, can, preserve, dehydrate and freeze.  This is a lot of work and it comes at great expense to us.  But, we made a commitment to ourselves and our community, to be as local and sustainable as possible.

Some of the items we pickled this year include: asparagus, rhubarb, fiddlehead ferns, garlic scapes, cucumbers, onions, garlic, okra, beets, green beans, peppers, jalapenos, cauliflower and green tomatoes.  Some of the pickles are sweet, some are dill and some are fermented.  Many pickles are canned in glass mason jars, while others are in big buckets finding their way to the inner depths of our walk-in refrigerators.


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We make gallons upon gallons of apple butter, which we use in our apple crisp at EVOO, on a winter squash pizza at Za and whatever other way(s) we can come up with.  Big vats of jalapeno and habanero hot sauces are made, processed and put-up. Many flats of local berries and grapes, at the peak of their ripeness are made into jellies and jams, and we canned more cherries than anyone would ever want to pit.



We oven-dry and vacuum seal cases of plum tomatoes, so that in the dead of winter we are still able to have local tomatoes on our menu.






We shuck, vacuum seal and freeze bushels of corn. We had local corn salsa on our menu last week with a pastured MA beef empanada.






Kohlrabi Kimchi

We also make buckets of kimchi, some using the traditional napa cabbage, while others are made with kohlrabi and still others are with zucchini or butternut squash.

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Dried mint and basil from our Rooftop garden

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Dried chives from our Rooftop Garden








Our rooftop garden often provides us with more herbs than we can use, so we dry them for use in the winter months.










We dry and grind locally grown chile peppers, using them wherever a little bit of heat is needed.

Running a sustainable restaurant in Massachusetts has its challenges and we have been taking them head-on for years.  During our 20 year tenure it has gotten a whole lot easier, the local movement has helped us immensely.  Farmers who used to look at winter as a time for a short break and planning for the upcoming season are now figuring out ways to grow, store and sell more to restaurants and at winter farmers markets.  We have also learned how to plan better for the winter, making sure we take the time to preserve our short growing season’s bounty for use throughout the whole year.

If you’re into root vegetables, pickles, preserves and greenhouse greens, come on in and see how we are serving them, at the same time you will be supporting us and your local farming community.

A link to our menu:


Mason Jars

During the local growing season we fill a great quantity of Mason jars.  In an effort to prolong the local growing season, we pickle, can and preserve a variety of local ingredients; keeping us stocked-up with locally grown produce through New England’s long winter.  We make sweet pickles, dill pickles, pickled cauliflower, pickled peppers, pickled onions, pickled garlic, pickled okra, pickled rhubarb, pickled fiddlehead ferns, pickled ramps and pickled scapes.  In addition to all of the pickles we make a variety fruit jams, this year we made grape jelly, raspberry jam, strawberry jam and plum jam.  We also canned cherries soaked in spiced red wine, and we finish our canning season with many jars of apple butter.  Having all of these pickles and preserves available to us allows us to add locally grown sweet, spicy, acidic and interesting flavors to our menu.  Making all of the pickles and preserves is no small feat, many man (or woman) hours are used every week to stock up our inventory.

At the end of September when habanero pepper season is in full swing, and carrots, onions, garlic and tomatoes are all still readily available, we make enough hot sauce to last us the entire year; this year we made 15 gallons.  We use the hot sauce in our habanero coleslaw, it often finds it’s way into hollandaise, tartar sauce and wherever we need to add some heat.

EVOO Habanero Hot Sauce

Habanero Hot Sauce

Our most popular and most utilized Mason jar fodder is jalapenos.  We fill more than 200 quart sized Mason jars with our sweet – spicy pickled jalapenos.  During the local growing season, which runs from July through first frost, Kimball Fruit Farm in Pepperell, MA, supplies us with a bushel or two each week.  Fredy, our prep cook extraordinaire slices the peppers, rinses them with cold water to remove excess seeds; which contributes to the spicy heat, and then he prepares the brine.  He sterilizes the jars, fills them with the rinsed peppers and hot brine and finally he processes them in a hot water bath.  We set them up in hopes that we have produced enough for the full year, until we can make more.  I don’t want to run out of these peppers they are too popular.  At every family or friend  gathering I get hounded for these peppers.  I make sure a bring several jars with me to keep everyone from twitching.  I get it, I personally go through three to four Mason Jar quarts a year. They are really that good.

At EVOO we always have our pickled jalapenos on our lunch menu, served on our chicken sausage sandwich.  At Za our sister we use them as a pizza topping and in as an ingredient in our avocado salad.  Any recipe that I write that calls for jalapenos we use our home made pickles. Just like any of the other pickles you find on our menu they are all made in house, with recipes that we have spent a long time perfecting. We never use store bought pickles.



Seasonal Fruit Crisp

Blackberry - nectarine crisp with corn crisp

Blackberry – Nectarine Crisp with Sweet Corn Ice Cream

At EVOO we almost always have a fruit crisp on our menu.  Starting in the spring with raspberries usually paired with rhubarb, moving into strawberries, blackberries, cultivated blueberries and then my favorite wild blueberries.  Peaches and nectarines are often in the summer mix of crisps sometimes mixed with berries and at times mixed with basil from our rooftop garden.  Going into autumn we like to make pear filled crisps, some years it’s just pears flavored with a little brandy, as is on our current menu; recipe is below.  Other years we pair the pears with dry fruit such as raisins, currants and / or dry cranberries.  Later into the fall and through the winter we are able to get apples cellared at local farms for use in our apple crisp.

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The recipes for all of the crisps are quite similar; fruit mixed with some sugar and flavors topped with an oatmeal – nut topping, baked and served with our in-house made ice cream.  The ice cream flavors depend on which fruit is filling the crisp.  The berry and stone fruit crisps often get creamy, yet mild flavored ice creams such as vanilla, sour cream, buttermilk or even sweet corn.  The pear crisp that is on our current menu is topped with ginger – brown sugar ice cream and our apple crisp is almost always paired with salted caramel ice cream.



Pear Crisp with Ginger – Brown Sugar Ice Cream

EVOO’s Pear Crisp



¾ cup         Granulated Sugar

¾ cup         Light Brown Sugar

¾ lb           ½” cubed Butter

1½ ts           Vanilla Extract

1½ ts           ground Cinnamon

½ ts            Kosher Salt

3 cups        All Purpose flour

¾ cups       Rolled Oats

1½ cups     toasted slivered Almonds


5 cups        peeled, cored, large diced Pears

1 TB           Brandy

2 TB           Lemon Juice

1 ts             Vanilla Extract

1 ts             Ground Cinnamon

1 ts             fresh ground Nutmeg

1/3 cup      Granulated Sugar

1/2 ts                   Kosher Salt

3 TB           Corn Starch

1/8th lb       1/4″ diced Butter




In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment combine the sugar, brown sugar, butter, vanilla extract, cinnamon and salt until smooth and creamy. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until just combined.


In a large bowl combine all of the ingredients.


Pre-heat oven to 310 degrees. Fill individual portion sized ceramic ramekins with the filling. Place filled ramekins on a sheet pan. Top each ramekin with 1/3 cup of topping. Bake for 25 minutes. Top each crisp with an additional 3TB of topping and bake for an additional 25 minutes. The filling should be bubbling over the sides and the topping nicely browned. Let cool a bit and serve with ice cream.

Local Strawberries


Strawberries from Kimball Farm in Pepperell, MA

I think of Strawberries in the same I think of tomatoes.  The best of the best are grown locally, here in New England.  At some point in June every year we start with berries from Connecticut, then Massachusetts working there way through New England, ending once we see berries coming from Quebec.  Though the Quebecois berries are still quite good they no longer fit our standard of serving locally grown ingredients.  Just like tomatoes, at EVOO we only serve strawberries when they are in season locally.  Like tomatoes most of the strawberries you find in the grocery store are crap.  Like tomatoes they are grown in chemical laden soil, picked unripe, so they will travel better, they ripen, well turn red anyway, during transport.  Not ripening on the vine they do not have a chance to develop any flavor.  Buy local berries in season directly from your local farms.  Enjoy the treat, overindulge on them for a short period of time each year, it will make Strawberry season as special as it should be.


A couple of weeks ago we received our first case of Connecticut berries.  I was excited to see them available, I put them on our menu in a strawberry – rhubarb crisp.  The next day I ordered more and California berries were delivered instead.  More crisps were made using the California berries before any of the chefs noticed (including me).  The difference was astounding, the California berries were awful. They lacked any real flavor, they had a tart-mineraly flavor not at all reminiscent of a real strawberry.  They were red on the outside and Styrofoam white on the inside, unlike the local berries which are red all the way through.  When the crisps were cooked, the liquid that oozes over the top of and down the sides of the baking dishes, which is usually bright red was more of a caramelized dirt pink color, not at all appetizing.  Needless to say, we did not serve these substandard crisps to our guests.


Strawberry – Rhubarb Crisp

Now the local strawberry season is going strong we are using them in the previously mentioned crisp as well as a strawberry gazpacho (recipe below) a nicely seasoned chilled soup which receives rave reviews every year.  At both Za locations we are offering a Strawberry – Arugula Salad.  Support your community by eating locally.


EVOO’s Strawberry Gazpacho

EVOO’s Strawberry Gazpacho

At EVOO we garnish the gazpacho with diced strawberries, seedless cucumbers, cilantro, red onion, EVOO  and toasted almonds.


3 qts         halved Strawberries

1½ cups    Orange Juice

2 TB        Lime Juice

2 TB        Rice Vinegar

1 cup       Water

3 TB        Agave Nectar / Honey

¼ cup       EVOO

1 ts           Tabasco

2 ts           Kosher Salt

1 ts           Fresh Ground Black Pepper


Puree all ingredients together. Strain if desired.