Local Strawberries

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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.

Strawberries

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.

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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.

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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.

Ingredients:

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

Method:

Puree all ingredients together. Strain if desired.

It’s Not Spring Yet!

not spring

From 4 days ago.

I know the calendar tells us spring has sprung, however, local ingredients are still telling us it’s late winter.  Right now, April 5, locally it’s still all about cellared root vegetables, cabbage and greenhouse greens.

Don’t let those restaurant menus filled with fiddlehead ferns, asparagus, ramps and peas fool you, none of it is local.  With the big snowfall last week and still chilly temperatures, it seems as though spring will be running a bit late this year.  Fiddleheads and ramps are still weeks away, asparagus a month maybe more, and peas closer to two months.   Every year is different and as soon as the real local spring ingredients are available our what-are-we-going-to-make-with-this-root-this-time anxiety is lifted, and the real local spring ingredients are plastered on our menu.

The first signs of spring are happening in our rooftop garden, the chives are about an inch out of the ground.  That’s it, the weeds haven’t even started yet.

making agnolotti

Making Agnolotti

The first food harbinger of spring is usually spring-dug parsnips, this root, wintered in  frozen soil, turning the starches into sugars.  What you end up with is an amazingly sweet full-flavored parsnip.  We received our first batch this week from Hutchin’s Farm, an organic farm located in Concord, MA.  We currently have them on our menu stuffed inside agnolotti pasta, fried chips at we are serving on a beef heart dish, and in a cake as a dessert served with smoked maple ice cream.  They are also roasted or pureed and make a great sweet or savory custard.

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Spring-dug Parsnip Cake with Smoked Maple Ice Cream

The recipe I am including for parsnip cake is really just an adaption of a traditional carrot cake, substituting parsnips for carrots.  I came up with this recipe when a writer from the Boston Globe asked me for an original recipe using parsnips.  At the time I had know idea how this would come out, knowing I just wanted to have a recipe included in her article.  I can’t say I was surprised with the results, they’re great, especially when using super sweet spring-dug parsnips.  As with carrot cake the better the carrot / parsnip tastes the better the cake will be.

Click Parsnip Cake for a link to the recipe.