Eating Seasonally and Locally in Middleborough, Massachusetts

A portrait from Massachusetts

Capturing the tastes and sounds of a New England summer, as nature intends it.  After all, eating seasonally and locally is the original culture of everyone’s ancestors, long before geographic boundaries or even language.

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Eating Locally & Seasonally

Upon entering the spacious, industrial-meets-farmhouse kitchen at Stone + Root Homestead in Middleborough, Massachusetts, we were greeted by this fabulous menu scroll representing an appropriate welcome: using what’s available to create beauty, and then share it with friends and family.

They created the menu scroll from repurposed materials found in the 1700s farmhouse they call home: 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, which they took down when they painted the kitchen. 

Similarly, as the New England seasons change, so do the meals that J & K prepare at Stone + Root, allowing the bounty of their own land and the surrounding areas drive what’s on their table. It may change, but it is always delicious.

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 a given location.

ready for the main course
ready for the main course

Our most recent visit to Stone + Root Homestead was in early July 2018, and the entire feast was built around what was available then. At that time, the strawberries were finishing up, a variety of peas were in overdrive, and there were plenty of cucumbers, summer squash, 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.

“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 were kale florets. The resulting dish was amazing and it was even better than the cauliflower version.”

J, of Stone + Root

When we eat in season, our taste buds thank us. When my kids tell me that the strawberries they begged 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 are lots of nutrients in this. Give me more!”

music

Natural ‘Al Fresco’ Sounds

love the old birdhouse swinging in the breeze at stone + root
love the old birdhouse swinging in the breeze at stone + root

Staying true to celebrating what is found right around them, J & K did not have speakers blasting music into the backyard. Instead, they let the sounds of nature flood our ears. Breezes through the trees, birds, cicadas, and the occasional tractor roaring by.

Only after weeks had past did I realize we should have recorded the actual sounds that evening to complete this portrait. By then, the Carolina warbler had moved on, and the soundscape was different, so we vowed to capture it the first week of July 2019. In the meantime, we gathered appropriate nature sounds on a free Spotify playlist.

A 2019 update: We reconvened at Stone + Root on another early July evening for another spectacular dinner al fresco, and this time we recorded actual birdsongs. It had to be early July again because that’s when the Carolina warbler is in town. Here is a taste:

nature’s song, recorded at stone + root, july 2019
cicadas at stone + root, july 2019

Over the course of our evening we enjoyed so many brushes with nature from the family of turkeys pictured below, to bunnies, to shed cicada exoskeletons. We can not wait to go back!

a bunny and a family of turkeys at stone + root
a bunny and a family of turkeys

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Plan Ahead

delicious seasonal and local dinner in a delightful backyard
delicious seasonal and local dinner in a delightful backyard

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.

recipe

Drinks

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.

fresh local brews at stone + root
independent fermentations: fresh local brews to accompany appetizers

With the appetizers, we taste-tested two growlers from IndieFerm (aka Independent Fermentations). The Rye and Sage Saison was our favorite.

With dinner, we had a lovely white wine (Morphos Petillant Naturel 2016) from Oyster River Winegrowers – a dry, bubbly white with light orchard fruits and good acidity.

white wine with dinner
dessert wine

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.

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Pea Dip

pea dip with fresh local veggies cucumber beans

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Rye Crackers

K is well known for her cooking, especially her baking which extends from sweets to satisfying and delicious crackers like these.

seeded rye crackers fresh baked

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Wheat Berry & Pea Salad

pea and wheat berry salad with mint

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Spatchcocked and Herbed Grilled Chicken with Crushed Olives

stpatchcocked chicken on the grill with seasonal veggies roasting
seasonal veggies and a spatchcocked chicken cooking on the grill
seasonal veggies and a spatchcocked chicken getting started on the grill
seasonal veggies and a spatchcocked chicken getting started on the grill

recipe

Grilled Seasonal Veggies

hot off the grill: grilled seasonal veggies and a spatchcocked chicken
hot off the grill: grilled seasonal veggies and a spatchcocked chicken

recipe

Strawberry Polenta Cake with Mixed Berries

polenta cake with mixed seasonal berries from the garden for dessert
polenta cake with mixed seasonal berries from the garden for dessert
Devoured.
Training next year’s farm hands.

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!