Archive | Winter 2012

agIntCommish

Barbara Ballinger interviews Ag Commissioner Gregory Watson

Growing Interest in Agriculture:
Planting a Healthy Future for Massachusetts Farming

agIntCommish

Childhood backyard vegetable gardens and fruit trees can make an enormous difference in planting career roots. Just ask Gregory C. Watson, the state’s Department of Agricultural Resources Commissioner, who also served under Governors Michael Dukakis and William Weld. Watson’s long connection with the land and appreciation of agriculture began during his childhood with his grandmother’s vegetable garden and fruit trees and an uncle’s working farm. His own hands-on experience started in 1978 when he worked with urban community groups and rural farmers to develop a network of farmers’ markets in Boston. In his tenure as commissioner, he has helped to make Massachusetts the first state to establish a dairy pricing system. Here, he talks with Edible Berkshires writer Barbara Ballinger about state farming trends.

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How do you envision the state’s farming future?

Based on trends today, I think we’ll continue to forge creative partnerships that leverage funding, expertise and resources to benefit sustainable agriculture in rural as well as urban areas. Key components are best farming practices that “cultivate” soil conservation, disease/weather resistant hybrid plants and continued diversification so farmers can modify their business plans based on consumer, energy and environmental demands.… Read the rest

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Letter from the Publisher Winter 2012

It’s that time of year again when we prepare for what we hope won’t be a harsh or too long a winter.

The farmers have completed their fall cleanup, putting the fields to bed for the winter, stripping and preparing the greenhouses—if they are lucky enough to have those—for the limited winter growing. They gather up grazing animals from borrowed or rented fields and prepare to hunker down until spring. For Edible Berkshires, this is our first winter issue.

Deciding what to serve up in this issue presented us with a new opportunity: a chance to hopefully catch your attention and some of your down time as you go through the holidays and into the New Year.

You know the wonderful farmers’ markets that supply us with an abundance of fresh food—literally the fruits of our farmers’ labors. Some know those farmers, and maybe a few know their stories.

We thought this would be a good opportunity to offer our readers a little more insight into what the farmers do to keep their farms running and sustainable.

In “Plowing the Way to a New Crop of Farmers” (page 26) and “Bread and Butter” (page 20), we tried to shine a light on the reality of their businesses, as they are in fact businesses.… Read the rest

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How Green Is Your Grocer?

Grandsons of Italy deal in food—go figure!

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All photographs from the Masiero family collection

Long before the term “foodie” entered into American popular culture, two young second-generation Italian Americans from Manchester- on-the-Sea on Cape Ann, Massachusetts, decided that the central Berkshires desperately needed better-quality food. They started their store along Route 7 in south Pittsfield in 1979 as a seasonal enterprise, offering a limited section of fresh fruit and vegetables from early spring until mid-autumn.

The pent-up demand for high-quality produce was so great; however, that Chris and Matt Masiero moved to a year-round operation and in 1982 opened a brand-new store just north of the Lenox-Pittsfield town line. In addition to produce and groceries, the store carried meat, seafood and pasta sold by tenant businesses. The brothers use that same business model today, although the tenants have changed over the years. Chris and Matt called the store Guido’s, after their father, Guido Masiero, a school teacher in Manchester, MA, who had loaned Matt $2,500 to open his first business—a short-lived flower stand in Lenox. Guido had long wanted to go into business, but with a family of seven children to support found it necessary to stick with teaching and a variety of parttime jobs after school and in the summers.… Read the rest

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What’s Your Favorite Comfort Food?

When I behold breaded, pan-fried chicken cutlets sitting on a plate alongside mashed sweet potatoes and sautéed spinach, a warm, fuzzy feeling overcomes me. The mere presence of breaded, pan-fried anything triggers an emotional and psychological response in me that can only be described as comfort.

Comfort, as defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is “a satisfying and enjoyable experience, or consolation in a time of trouble or worry.” When this definition is applied to food, we can understand why foods that produce an emotional, nostalgic, cozy or safe feeling are known as comfort foods.

During the dark, cold days of winter we all seem to crave comfort foods. They warm our tummy and our soul.

But what is it exactly about breaded, pan-fried foods and me? Why do I feel so strongly that there could not be a more perfect food than Italian breaded chicken cutlets, veal cutlets, eggplant, flounder, or risotto cakes? Is it the seasoning and texture of the breadcrumbs? Is it the golden crunch of the crust?

The combination of the Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs that adorn the “subject,” along with the olive oil used to fry it to golden perfection, has the ability to break down any amount of will power or portion control that exists in my being.… Read the rest

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ITALIAN BREADED CHICKEN CUTLETS

italianCutletQuite possibly my favorite food in the universe! Great for dinner and they work nicely in sandwiches the next day.

  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup milk
  • 2–3 cups breadcrumbs (homemade are best, see recipe below)
  • 2 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced into cutlets
  • Olive oil for pan frying

Beat the egg and milk together. Set up the breadcrumbs in a plate next to the egg mixture like an assembly line. Dip the cutlet first in the breadcrumbs, then in the egg mixture, then back in the breadcrumbs until fully coated. Repeat until all are finished. (Hint: Do this ahead and refrigerate. It allows the batter to set up and makes the pan-frying easier. If you don’t have time, not to worry—it still comes out perfectly.)

Heat the olive oil over medium to high heat. You’ll have to adjust the heat—it’s a “feel” thing—you can tell if they are browning too slowly or too quickly. Fry until golden, transfer to an over-proof dish, and place in a 200° oven to keep them crispy until they are all done. Enjoy!

HOMEMADE BREADCRUMBS

  • 10–12 slices stale bread
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1¼ cups Pecorino Romano cheese

Heat oven to 250°F.… Read the rest

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HERILOOM TOMATO RISOTTO AND RICE BALLS OR CAKES

heirloomTomRisottoRisotto is one of the simplest and most versatile of dishes. Use this recipe as a guide, but feel free to try it without the white wine, with just onions if you don’t have shallots, with just butter or just olive oil, and with many different “add-ins.” If you are like me, winter bring on a craving for the flavors of summer, and this recipe does the trick, with rib-sticking comfort and a nod to summer.

  • 1 quart heirloom cherry tomatoes, halved, or 4 cups full-size heirloom tomatoes, quartered
  • 2–3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ basil, minced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 2–2½ tablespoons butter or olive oil (I use both, 1+ tablespoon butter, 1+ tablespoon olive oil)
  • ¾ cup mixed shallots and onions, chopped (I use 2 shallots and 1 small onion)
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Toss tomatoes with olive oil, garlic, basil, salt and pepper. Spread over a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast for 25 minutes.

While tomatoes are roasting, heat butter and oil in a large saucepan or risotto pot over medium flame.… Read the rest

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EDIBLE DISCOVERIES AND GIFT IDEAS WINTER 2012

Visiting a sick friend? Ha, it’s winter! The cure-all for whatever ails you, Jewish Penicillin! Great housewarming gift! Great Barrington Bagel Company & Deli,777 Main St.; 413-528-9053

Berkshire Mountain Bakery—Just for the holidays, panettone and Dutch-style stollen filled with rum-soaked golden raisins. Both available throughout December.367 Park St., Housatonic. 413-274-3412; BerkshireMountainBakery.com

Visit Spruce Ridge Alpaca Farm on 434 Route 13 in Old Chatham, New York. Their shop has exquisite coats, sweaters and hats, many made from the wool of their own alpacas. Open Sa– Su 10am–4pm and will also be at the Berkshire Botanical Gardens Holiday Market December 1–2. 518-794-6294; SpruceRidgeFarm.com

For those of you avoiding gluten, try the gluten- free (and vegan) cupcakes at Barrington Bites, 31 Railroad St. in Great Barrington— delicious! 413-528-0660

Dutch Desserts of Kinderhook— you’ve tasted their fruit and chocolates tarts at our local farmers’ markets—they make great gifts! Available at Guido’s in Pittsfield and Great Barrington. 518-758-8820; DutchDesserts.com

Sweet Girl Brownie Company, in Rhinecliff , New York, makes fantastic gluten-free “life-changing” brownies. SweetGirlBrownies.com

Chocolate Springs, purveyor of handcrafted European-style gourmet dark chocolates, made at their café in Lenox Commons, 55 Route 7. Chocolatier Joshua Needleman, in collaboration with Berkshire Mountain Distillers, has created a Bourbon Ganache in Dark Chocolate.… Read the rest

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EDIBLE NEWS AND NOTABLES WINTER 2012

Sunday night family meals are important, so Route 7 Grill is offering a farm-to-table special. Enjoy a three-course meal for $25, featuring local bounty such as pork roast with vegetables, and taste what your local farms are growing. The focus is on fun comfort food. Sundays 5–9pm. 413-528-3235; www.Route7Grill.com

The Meat Market, Route 7, Great Barrington, held a chili cook-off on Oct. 7, to help kick off Housatonic native Gina Hyams’ new kit, Chili Cook-Off in a Box. Eighteen contestants submitted homemade chili of every description. Jeff Blaugrund won first prize for his Jefe’s New Mexican Chile Rojo. Proceeds from the event went to Share the Bounty, a project of Berkshire Grown.

The Berkshire Cure-All Dinner on March 1, 2013, at James Beard Foundation, 167 W. 12th St., NYC, will feature chefs from the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge; John Andrews and Old Mill in Egremont; Allium, Bell and Anchor and the Meat Market in Great Barrington; and Firefly in Lenox. Says Chef Brian Alberg of the Red Lion Inn, “The Berkshires has the cure for what ails you, even in winter, as we practice the art of curing—wet, dry, salt, sugar, distilling, etc.”Call 212-627-2308 to reserve. www.JamesBeard.org

On November 8, Alan Chartock and the staff of National Public Radio’s WAMC, based in Albany, New York, took to the airwaves to raise money for the victims of Hurricane Sandy.… Read the rest

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