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Did you ever stop to taste a carrot? Not just eat it, but taste it? You can’t taste the beauty and energy of the earth in a Twinkie. — Astrid Alauda

Trio of Spring Bruschette

Now that goodies are popping out of the ground in rapid succession, it’s time to lather toasted baguettes with everything local. So disobey your mom and play with your food. Fool with anything farm fresh, from goat cheese and sun-ripened berries in June to roasted butternut squash puree with fresh sage in October.

I made these three tasty variations with what was on hand here — sweet radishes and young arugula from the market, rhubarb from my garden and goat cheese from Rawson Brook Farm. (Undoubtably you have a goat cheese farm in your region.)

Serve these either solo or as a trio with drinks after work to stave off hunger pangs until a late supper. We savored them outside on a lazy spring evening, surrounded by greenery and buoyed by the late evening sun.

Each recipe makes about 12 bruschette, serving 2-4 before dinner.

Goat Cheese & Rhubarb Chutney Bruschette

There were two old rhubarb patches in the backyard of my old home when I bought it 30 years ago. So, I was always looking for things to do with my tangy crop. I often made tons of simple chutney and froze it in ice cube trays to enjoy as a condiment with cheese. Delicious.

About 1 cup finely diced rhubarb (1-2 stalks)
1-1/2 tablespoon finely chopped shallot or onion
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon coarsely grated ginger, packed
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar
pinch of kosher or sea salt
12 slices of baguette
1/3-1/2 cup fresh goat cheese, room temperature

1-Slice rhubarb lengthwise 2-4 times, depending on its thickness, then across its length into a small dice. Measure 1 cup. Toss into a 2 cup glass measuring cup or small pot with the shallot or onions, sugar and ginger. Microwave or cook in a small pot over medium heat, stirring once or twice, until the rhubarb is soft, 1-2 minutes. (It’s nice if it still holds it shape, but don’t worry if it doesn’t.) Stir in the cider vinegar and salt. Set aside at room temperature or chill. (This can be made several days ahead of time if you wish.) If the chutney is watery, spoon off extra liquid.

2-Assemble just before serving: Toast 12 baguette rounds in a toaster or the broiler, turning once, until slightly crisp. Spread with goat cheese and top with the chutney. Serve immediately.

Spring Radish & Anchovy Butter Bruschette

This spring I seem to be tasting the classic combo of radishes and butter everywhere I go. The rich butter and crisp, slightly tangy radish complement each other perfectly. Spring radishes are ideal for this, as they can be overpowering and even bitter when it gets hot. And the anchovy gives it some salty style.

2-3 radishes
About 1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
4 anchovies, preferably salt-cured, rinsed and finely chopped or 2 teaspoons anchovy paste
12 slices of baguette
1 teaspoon chopped chives

1-Thinly slice radishes and soak in ice water. Mix the butter and the anchovies or anchovy paste in a small bowl to combine.

2-Assemble just before serving: Toast the baguette rounds in a toaster or the broiler, turning once, until slightly crisp. Spread each with the anchovy butter. Blot the radishes dry. Top each bruschetta with a radish round or two. Sprinkle with the chives. Serve immediately.

Arugula Pesto & Egg Bruschette

Enjoy the yin yang both in color and flavor — gentle farm eggs top the alert taste of arugula pesto. You can often find local eggs in the usual spots, like your local coop, farm stand or farmers market. Look in unlikely places too. I’ve spotted them in a bookstore and gas station. These local eggs were a happy surprise from my walk-away store, Serio’s Market in Northampton.

2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
Pinch salt or to taste
Very generous handful of fresh arugula leaves
3 tablespoons oil, or more to taste
2 tablespoons whole unblanched almonds
1 ounce hard Parmesan style grating cheese
12 slices of baguette

1-Chop the eggs by hand or pulse briefly in the food processor. Add a touch of salt to taste.

2-Add the arugula and oil to a food processor and pulse until well chopped. Add the almonds and cheese. (If the cheese is already grated, stir it later.) Pulse them all until coarsely chopped. Add salt to taste, if needed.

3-Assemble just before serving: Toast the baguette rounds in a toaster or the broiler, turning once, until slightly crisp. Spread the pesto on the bread. Top each round with a spoonful of egg. Serve immediately.

No Farms, No Food

Losing Farmland, State by State
Every minute of every day we lose two acres of farm and ranch land to development. Updated information on farmland loss during the last 25 years is in—with Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, New Jersey and Massachusetts topping the list of states losing the greatest percentage of prime farmland. Find out more about protecting our farmland at The American Farmland Trust.

One way to work on making your town farm friendly in Massachusetts is to join insure your town has a “right to farm” provision and to support your town’s agricultural commission. For more information contact Peter Westover: westover03@comcast.net

May Bites

Happy Belated Mommy’s Day Mommy (more below)
Ma  happy!

 

 

 

 

 

My next cooking class?
Mexican cooking this Monday.
Find out more here.

mole ingredients

Listen to my chive rap http://www.amycotler.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Chives.mp3">here. Chives are up everywhere!

images-1

16 ways to eat your spray-free dandelions here.

Shipping container Grocery Store as Farm…
Still mostly an idea, but an extraordinary one. Check it our here.

Slow Food Youth Network
Dogfish Kale Ravioli? Watch the sports of the local food movement to highlight our fish and seafood crisis and to encourage chefs to cook eco-friendly fish before there is no more fish left. Click here to watch.

Compostable Building Made of Mushroom Bricks?
Check it out here.

Happy Belated Mother’s Day
I may have lived a life in food, but my mom taught me more about cooking than all my years behind the stove. We snapped endless green beans at the counter, chatting about food (and life) We drove to a distant town to pick out perfect peaches at the farm stand.

In the summer, as the sky darkened, I watched her through our large kitchen window, grilling salmon teriyaki and smoking summer vegetables to serve with lamb kebabs. And she pulled off an Indonesian Rijsttafel.

Before she become a ceramicist, she got out her sculptural ya-yas by assembling multi-layered ice cream cakes. I can still taste one made with thin Famous chocolate cookies, coffee ice cream, Sarah Lee pound cake and chocolate syrup. And I remember her rushing into the kitchen to bring souffles out to her guests.

Wow, could she put on a party..

What did your mom teach you about food? Below: 1954, Entertaining right after my parents had our house built. My mom often gave dinner parties for 8-12. But thing again, she didn’t work outside the home. Sigh…..

new house ardsley friends of parents

 

 

A few nibbles...

eco villa greens

Below are nibbles from my facebook page here.

My kind of supermarket
Five business join forces for a fabulous new “good food” market in Dalton, MA on the former Burgner Farm — all under the roof of Berkshire Organics. (More here.) The emphasis is on local and organic food when possible, and the offerings are wonderfully wide.

Here is the list: Anchor business Berkshire Organics, already well-respected for retailing and delivering local/organic food; Cricket Creek Farm, a familiar face at many farmers markets, also providing world-class local cheese from their farm store in Williamstown; Red Apple Butcher, a much needed new business selling “clean” meat; Naturally Catering and Take Out, a new enterprise from Aura Whitman, owner of the now closed but extremely popular Reva’s Café in Pittsfield; and sugary treats from Bake Me Pretty. Lots of excitement and energy over this new business. Could this be the future?

Spring soups anyone? Here.
If you have chervil peaking out of your garden, this green soup will fit the bill, but there are plenty more to choose from.

New airport farm store?
Berkshire Farm and Table and Berkshire Farms Market meet Logan Airport in new farm store here.

Why American apples are banned in Europe here.
(or more great news about our food system.)photoItalian Spring Celebration class at the Different Drummer was full this week. Although spring’s late, it got us in the mood. For the main course: Risotto with Pancetta, Fresh Peas, Walnuts and Fried Sage; Chicken with Piquant Italian Green Sauce; Roasted Veggies (Asparagus are just around the corner.) The idea is to teach the techniques so students can use variations with whatever is in season…. (Join me on Monday, May 19th for a Mexican Feast class!)

New Vegetable Cookbook
Verdure: Vegetable Recipes from the Kitchen of the American Academy in Rome, Rome Sustainable Food Project.  Looks delicious.

Farmers Markets opening everywhere.
My Tuesday Northampton market opened this week, so I bought lot of greens, the rest of the roots and a slice of smokey wood oven cooked pizza. What are you buying at your market?

 

Fresh Chive Noodles with Early Spring Things

Fresh Chive Noodles with Arugula & Fiddlehead Ferns (More variations below)

On Sunday, my 8-year old niece, Sadie, and I popped over to my neighbor Ruth’s place to visit her parrot and chickens  and pick up a dozen fresh eggs. Black and white with deep red beaks, Ruth’s hens pecked grain out of Sadie’s small hands, while the rooster crowed and pranced about in this blue-black feathers. Now that her birds are outside in the Spring, foraging as well as eating locally grown grains, their eggs taste even better, more distinctive, with their rich orange yolks.

At home, we made egg pasta with garden chives, Sadie giggling as the wide flat noodles magically rolled out of my hand-cracked pasta machine.  She wolfed down hers tossed with butter and cheese, pronouncing them, “the best pasta ever.”  (No doubt, her pleasure was enhanced by their back story and a cook’s pride.) I tossed mine with fiddleheads and Equinox Farm’s baby arugula for a more adult version, but I liked them both ways equally. See more variations below. Serves about 4, easily halved

The pasta
2 large eggs
About 1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon olive oil, optional
1 tablespoon chives

Just to coat
Butter and a grated hard or fresh cheese
Or
Olive oil with a little garlic simmered in it
Early spring things, variations below


1-Add the flour and eggs to the food processor, with the optional olive oil, if you are using it. Pulse JUST until it combines into a ball, but not more. Turn onto lightly floured work surface and knead for about 3-5 minutes, until smooth and elastic, adding a touch of flour if needed only to prevent sticking. Wrap and chill for 30 minutes to 2 hours.

Making the pasta dough with fresh flour and eggs in the food processor

2-Cut dough into 4 equal pieces. Cover each well. Set pasta machine to widest setting. Flatten 1 dough piece into rectangle; run through machine, adding flour if necessary to prevent sticking. Fold in 3rds, press down with finger tips, and run through again, open side first. Do this 8 times.

3- Work with one piece at a time, feeding it through, adjusting machine to narrower settings, and dusting with flour as needed to keep from sticking, at the lowest setting. (Or next to lowest if you prefer a more rustic pasta.) Place each sheet on very lightly floured work surface or towel, covered with a cloth. Repeat with remaining pasta pieces.

The rolled out chive egg pasta before it was cut into noodles.

4. Uncover sheets and let stand until slightly dry but still pliable, about 20 minutes. Fit machine with the thick noodle sized cutter and run sheets through, dusting with flour to keep from sticking if needed only. Cut noodles into desired lengths. With lightly floured hands, toss strands to separate; spread out on towels. (If needed, you can let these dry.)

5- Decide which variation you are using. Cook pasta in pot of boiling salted water stirring occasionally, until tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Toss with butter and grated hard cheese or fresh cheese, freshly ground pepper, just to coat OR with garlic oil (anchovies optional), just to coat. Salt and pepper to taste.

Variations —
*Cleaned fiddleheads thrown in during the 1-1/2 minutes of boiling
*Baby arugula tossed with warm noodles to wilt slightly.
*Fresh peas thrown in during the last 30 seconds of boiling.
*Pea variation with chopped crisp bacon or pancetta
* Asparagus tips and diagonally sliced stems added to the boiling pasta. Add fresh lemon juice to the toss.
* Slivered or chopped young braising greens, to the water right before draining the pasta

The chive noodles before they were cooked.

A few tidbits this week:

What role should government play in local food? Love to hear what you think.

A funny riff on the way America eats and why we’re so fat.

Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution has helped wake America up to the tragedy of school lunches. If your school has lousy food, Oliver’s site, Renegade Lunch Lady Ann Coopers’ site, and my book, Massachusetts from to School Cookbook, which can be downloaded free from the lower right side of this link, are all great tools to improve school meals. And now it looks like Oliver wants to add farm fresh local food to his healthy food agenda, because last week his consultants called to my ask permission to use my recipes and link to my book. Cool.

Haston Free Public Library in North Brookfield, Massachusetts. Reading and signing of my new book, The Locavore Way. Part of a statewide community reading initiative, North Brookfield’s is titled: READ!, GROW!, EAT! – a celebration of Local Food, Farms and Gardens.

Fun from my facebook page...

A_29081173664_n* Home at last
Above picture is from the fabulous Grow Food Northampton: Welcome home. Crimson & Clover farmers have just purchased the original Bean Family farmhouse, so they finally able to live on the farm/ Congratulations Jen, Nate and baby Noah. Isn’t this house almost timeless?

* Fabulous tools for farm to school programs and their advocates here

* Vermont on its way to banning GMOs here. (The coolest state or what?)

* Best smoked fish in Oregon here

* Lunch anyone?
A lunch from the riches of Mexico. Organic tomatoes from Maya Monzies at the organic Saturday market tossed with black beans a handful of cilantro leaves from Rancho Toyan, along with Mexican oil oil, balsamic vinegar and plenty of salt. Cubed papaya and jicama,doused in fresh lime juice. All atop spinach and endive leaves, from Toyan and the market once more. It’s the kind of simple lunch that puts the froufrou stuff to shame…

lunch

Sucking down oysters

The 1st Annual Wareham Oyster Festival

eating oyster
Above: Me, sucking down a perfect oyster.
Below: Big Rock farmed oysters and wild clams

shucked oystersFor more about the oyster festival and oystering in general, see this post here.
Oyster recipe here.

Great oysters, but you’d have to a be an oyster nut to spend yesterday as we did and love it.

And we did.

We began our day with a 2-1/4 hour drive to the small town of Wareham MA — gateway to Cape Cod. Fueled by our in-the-car rock ‘n roll mix, but shivering in the miserably damp 42 degrees, we chose to look on the bright side: the rain had stopped.

After parking, we marched past the sweet craft vendors and non-profit tabling tents to the oyster parking lot, which featured two oyster farmers and their employees, shucking. Both were good, but the Big Rock Oysters ROCKED our world. So we sucked down 2 dozen, mostly standing up with a number of other food fanatics. (They get me high, how about you?)

Big Rock Oyster owner-oyster farmer Aaron Brochu, who I interviewed in an earlier post here, tells no lies. His oyster farm produces shockingly clean tasting oysters with just the perfect brininess. (Even better or at least equal to Wellfleet oysters.) But sadly we had to get in from the cold.

So, we walked past the kinda hot band and fragrant seafood bisque tent, which was almost impossible to resist, continuing on our way to the edge of tiny downtown Wareham. Really, it’s kind of Richard Russo setting by the sea. I mean that affectionately, as he does, meaning it’s small working class town peopled with characters that likely have known each other for years, each with an interconnected story.

We arrived, chilled, at Narrow’s Crossing Restaurant, which is right on the water. It’s more of a bar really, so we got Americana’d up, sitting two big sports-playing TVs, welcomed by sweet-as-hell waitress. We shared a plate of standard fries with superb fried oysters — hot and crunchy on the outside, soft with a taste of the sea inside. Wow.

Then home. A perfect outing, driving aside.

aaron with oysters
Aaron with his oysters

Join me for a May Cooking Class

A Mexican Feast

mole ingredients

Fixings for one of many kinds of mole. (Recipe here.)  This recipe, which I prepared in Mexico, was assembled using a combination of market mole paste and fresh ingredients. In class we’ll easily make it all from scratch.

Different Drummer Cooking School Northampton
Monday, May 19, 2014 6:15-8:45 PM
Sign up here
Fee: $69 including full meal

You’ll love my take on the flavors of Mexico featured in the full class meal. Inspired by my frequent travels south of the border, I’ll be sharing dishes you’ll want to make again and again — from Shrimp Quesadillas to the king of Mexican sauces, mole.

APPETIZER

Fresh Tomatillo Salsa
Seasonal tomatillos make a classic Mexican green sauce that will become a household staple, served with chips.

Shrimp Quesadillas with Cilantro Pesto
Cilantro, pecans, cheese, shrimp, chilies and more in tortillas, baked or sautéed until crisp.

MAIN COURSE

Chicken Mole with Mexicali Rice
Traditional mole sauce has many variations and a wonderfully complex flavor with ingredients ranging from chili to chocolate.

SALAD

Authentic Caesar Salad
Made right in the bowl, this Caesar will blow away the Caesar dressings you’ve been savoring.

DESSERT
Chocolate Smooches
Learn to make your own tin of imported chocolate treats, spiked with a touch of Mexico.

 

 

Oyster Festival!

 

images-2 I’m a sucker for local food-based small town events. So meet me at the 1st annual Wareham Oyster Festival this Sunday in Wareham, of course, which is in eastern Massachusetts.  (Info here.)

The festival will feature Wareham and other regional oysters, live music and artisans, as well as paddle boats and kayak rides on the beautiful Wareham River. Finish up your day at any restaurant along the oyster trail map — all serving oyster dishes. It’s here. (Gala tomorrow here. Read about the speaker series here.)
images-5
Tides out oyster farming.
(Busy oyster farmers out there, But better pictures are promised!)

Below are some fun oyster facts from farmer Aaron Brochu, owner and oyster farmer at Big Rock Oyster. He’ll be running one of the raw bars in Wareham at the Oyster Festival, where you’ll notice me (look for the redhead) slurping down oysters till I can’t anymore. (And clams of course too.)

So what’s the story with varieties?
These days, all east coast oysters, with rare exceptions, are the same variety, generally called the American or Eastern Oysters. So their distinctive flavor comes not from their variety but from their location, their terroir, literally giving them a taste of place. Aaron says his are tad saltier than most regional oysters with a clean taste that comes from tide turning over twice a day. (I look forward to tasting them.)

images-4Big Rock Oyster will be providing many of the festival’s oysters
Aaron Brochu started his business in 1999 when he says there weren’t many oyster farmers in the area. His beds are in Crowes Pasture in Dennis, a conservation area in Cape Cod Bay, where he raises 4-5 million oysters on 3 acres. (Yes, it’s packed.)

How do you farm oysters?
Aaron starts with baby oysters bought from a hatchery. Then the process is straightforward: Oysters are moved as they get bigger, first to mesh bags, then aqua trays and later to wire mesh cages.(The bigger the mesh the bigger they grow.)

In Dennis, the tide is such that these oysters spend lots of time out of water. So, strange as it sounds, trucks drive between the beds, using people and machines to cull and sort oysters by size. (Oysters grow better when they room with those the same size so they are all sucking water in and out similarly.) The oysters grow to edible size on this farm in 2 to 2-1/2 years, although in places where they’re in the water more, they grow much faster.

Today Aaron has 15 employees who work in 3 sections — farming, wholesaling and delivery. Meet the farmers here.

images-7How eco-friendly are oysters?
Oysters are nature’s water filters, each cleaning up to 15 gallons a day. Most carbon in the atmosphere is sucked into the sea. But oysters reduce some of it, using carbon to help build their shells.

Why is is hard to start up and/or expand oyster beds?
Aaron says one reason is: Oyster farming is always on prime real estate — oceanfront. Wealthy folks who live on the ocean are not interested in having their view obscured with commercial farming.

-Df0cVBj-LR3skwPIhFOq8L8-XkoK2cg1Bnr2DkMHdIvXizu9DdODDqkwB2uJHCbtycxxpo=s169-1

Video
From the Wall Street Journal. Not the typical oyster farmer, Jim Ferry moved from consulting, choosing outdoor life as a part-time worker at Big Rock Oyster. Video here.

Recipe?
Oysters with the last of the apples in a tart mignonette here.

 

 

 

 

Ramp it up!

Ramp Pesto

I bumped into two fellow foragers gathering ramps two miles from my house. Even from my car, I could see the woods were lousy with ramps as well as the red flowers topping endangered trillium. I scissored a large bowlful of ramp leaves, leaving their roots to regenerate next year’s crop, but also because I prefer the greens solo in ramp pesto.

A tad spicy and bright green with a slight edge of the wild, ramp pesto has become a forager’s classic. It’s extremely versatile, and freezes well in ice cube trays for later use, which is a good thing, because I’m just out of last season’s tomatillo salsa. 

Tips: If you can’t forage for ramps, many early farmers markets and hi-brow produce stores sell them. If you can, but live in an where there are ticks, take a shower and throw your clothes in the wash after your harvest. Lyme disease isn’t fun, but ramps are worth a walk in the woods. No ramps near you?  Some early farmers markets and high-brow produce departments sell them.

Makes about 2-1/4 cups

2 handfuls local nuts, walnuts or pecans halves or blanched almonds
2-1/2 ounces Parmesan or similar cheese, local if you can get it
2 very generous handfuls of ramp leaves (and some bulbs if you wish)
About 1/3 cup of olive oil
About 1/4 teaspoons kosher or sea salt, or to taste

1-Toast the nuts in a dry skillet, over medium heat, shaking the pan frequently, until lightly aromatic. (Bend over them and take a whiff. They should smell toasted.) Don’t go too far, as nuts burn easily. Pulse in a food processor until well chopped but not blended. Set aside.

2-Throw the cheese into the food processor. Pulse until it is finely chopped. (If the cheese is already grated, skip this step.) Add to the nuts.

3-Puree the leaves together with the oil, stopping and scraping down the bowl as necessary to combine. (Work in two batches if you have a small food processor.) Add to the bowl and stir to combine with the salt.

Note: If you don’t have a food processor,  prepare by blending the chopped and grated ingredients in a mortar and pestle.

***

How do I identify ramps in the wild?
Ramps, which are wild leeks, are easy to identify. Look for them in mixed  hardwood forests. The root is scallion-like bulb, topped with two broad green leaves that may be slightly purplish at their base. Before harvesting, crush them to make sure they omit an oniony smell. They often, but not always, grow near Trout Lilies, Blue Cohosh, Dutchman’s Breeches or Squirrel Corn.

How do you use this ramp pesto?
You are only limited by your imagination, but here are some ideas. Add a dollop to a vegetable or potato based soup. Spread on a sandwich or wrap. Toss to taste on warm pasta, adding a little water, oil or melted butter, as needed to thin it. Drizzle the thinned pesto (or spread it) on grilled meat, fish, chicken or vegetables. Stir a little into a local goat fresh cheese or dairy-based dip. Spread on toasted French bread rounds then top with sautéed shiitakes….

What else can you do with ramps?
If you pull them up by their roots, they’re great with a touch of olive oil and a pinch of salt, either wokked up or covered with foil and smoked on the grill. Chef Matthew Schweizer, at Haven, in Lenox, Massachusetts, pickles them, which I’m sure is super in sandwiches. The leaves are lovely slivered into omelets or risotto.I love them layered into Pommes Anna, a rich potato dish, but that’s for another post.

My old pal, Naomi Alson — acupuncturist and expert in both Chinese and Western herbs — serves a Vichyssoise, using the ramps instead of cultivated leeks. (Cook the bulbs with the potatoes, then add the chopped leaves towards the end of cooking.) Naomi also conducts eye-opening nature walks to identify edible and medicinal plants in the wild. So, if you live in the Berkshires, grab a group of 2 or more and use her! (naomifalson@yahoo.com)

Ramp Pesto (ramps wild and with roots below)

Hot week for sustainability talk in my neck of the woods
On Monday, I got to hear from Cheryl King Fischer, Executive Director of the terrific New England Grassroots Environment Fund about the ground-breaking work being done in Hardwick, Vermont to develop a vigorous local food system model. (The Town that Food Saved)

Tuesday, The Darrow School gave a Sustainabilty Symposium, where classes were held in topics ranging from local food (me) to radical simplicity (Jim Merkel). Students were empowered to consider how sustainable work that resonated with them could fit into a better future. Great work Darrow!

And last but not least, on Wednesday, Josh Viertel, president of Slow Food USA, gave a talk at Williams about farm to school work and held a tasty Slow Food Western Massachusetts powwow at The Nutrition Center in Great Barrington, where they also have a Wednesday farmers market all summer. At the meeting, members took a look at the direction of Slow Food USA as well as the local food system here in the Berkshires.

On the calendar?
Talk and signing on April 29, 7 PM
at Haston Free Public Library in North Brookfield. Part of a statewide community reading initiative, North Brookfield’s is titled: READ!, GROW!, EAT! – a celebration of Local Food, Farms and Gardens.

Ramps in the wild Please don’t ever over harvest!
We need to leave some for the next generation.

Cleaned ramps with their roots

Oysters on the Half Shell with Apple Mignonnette

Long live live food!

Pair oysters, long considered an aphrodisiac, with a dessert of chocolate for a romantic feast. Or, for a playful party, invite over a few fellow oyster lovers — only the most passionate. Shuck, giggle and slurp oysters from their shells. (And in the winter nestle them in a bowl of snow.)

Serve oysters with a choice of toppings — lemon wedges (my favorite), cocktail sauce  (ketchup, horseradish and lemon juice) and a mignonette, which is a vinegar-shallot combo. Here, I drummed up a locavore’s apple mignonette, a New England riff on the classic. Be sure to accompany it all plenty of sliced baguettes with sweet butter and your favorite bubbly, such as a regional sparkling  hard cider. A good time guaranteed.  This recipe is for at least 2 dozen oysters, if you use the mignonette on each. (We each easily ate 12 each.)

1/4 cup apple cider (not too sweet)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2-3 tablespoons finely diced apple (I used Northern Spy)
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
Pinches ground black pepper, or more to taste (I used 1/8 teaspoon)
2 teaspoons chopped parsley, optional
2 dozen of your favorite oysters or more, well rinsed

1. Mix all the ingredients but the oysters in a small bowl.

2. Shuck the oysters. It’s not difficult, but be patient. Think of the shucking as part of the fun. Set them in a bowl of snow if you have it on hand, crushed ice if you don’t or eat as you shuck.

3. Top each with a little of the mignonnette or another topping or eat straight. Eat immediately.

Where did I find my oysters?
We’re lucky to have some of the best oysters in the world in the Northeast, and you can pick them up almost anywhere.  I especially favor those from Wellfleet, which are as local as I can get in the landlocked Berkshires, but it’s fun to taste varieties and compare.  For my party, I ordered  Wellfleets, but they weren’t around, and so we shucked fabulous Maine Beausoleil, Winter Points, Norumbega , as well as Novia Scotias, which were small and especially glorious.

Shockingly, the oysters in my local supermarket were from California. But any good fish market should stock regional oysters. For our little Berkshire party, I ordered an assortment from Rubiner’s in Great Barrington. Each Monday, they email a list of available fish and seafood. You respond by Wednesday and pick up your order Friday. The price is high, but so is the quality, and the staff knowledgeable. I bought an excellent assortment that was well labeled. Regional oysters are also available at Guido’s.

Locavore Bites

Eliot Coleman’s perspective on the power of the small farm.

Watch Yes Men stick it to Archer Daniels Midland